Friday, January 19, 2018

Same Pillar, Different Day: New Look, Old Content for The Guardian

A Liberal Pillar of the Establishment - 'New Look' Guardian, Old Style-Orthodoxy

by Media Lens


January 19, 2018

As Noam Chomsky has often remarked: 'liberal bias is extremely important in a sophisticated system of propaganda.' One major news outlet that Chomsky had in mind was the New York Times, but the same applies in the UK.

As a senior British intelligence official noted of the 2001 US-led invasion of Afghanistan:

'It is always helpful for governments who want to get the Guardian readers of the world on board to have a humanitarian logic.'

This suggests that respected liberal media like the New York Times and Guardian are key battlegrounds in the relentless elite efforts to control public opinion.

On January 15, the Guardian was relaunched as a tabloid with a 'new look'. Katharine Viner, the paper's editor, proclaimed in all seriousness:

'we have a special relationship with our readers. This relationship is not just about the news; it's about a shared sense of purpose and a commitment to understand and illuminate our times. We feel a deep sense of duty and responsibility to our readers to honour the trust you place in us.'

Those words - 'shared sense of purpose and commitment', 'duty', 'responsibility', 'honour', 'trust' - imply an openness to readers' comments, even to criticism; an important point to which we return below.

Viner continued:

'We have grounded our new editions in the qualities readers value most in Guardian journalism: clarity, in a world where facts should be sacred but are too often overlooked; imagination, in an age in which people yearn for new ideas and fresh alternatives to the way things are.'

The grand declaration to honour the yearning of its readers 'for new ideas and fresh alternatives to the way things are' rings hollow. This, after all, is a paper that fought tooth-and-nail against Jeremy Corbyn. As Rob Newton pointed out via Twitter, linking to a lengthy series of screenshots featuring negative Guardian coverage:

'The "left liberal" Guardian's campaign against @JeremyCorbyn was as relentless as the right-wing Daily Mail & The Sun. Here's the proof'

Vacuous phrases continued to pour forth from the editor on the 'new look' paper:

'Guardian journalism itself will remain what it has always been: thoughtful, progressive, fiercely independent and challenging; and also witty, stylish and fun.'

'Fiercely independent and challenging'? When the Guardian Media Group is owned by The Scott Trust Limited, a 'profit-seeking enterprise'? (In other words, it is not a non-profit trust, with many readers still mistakenly holding a romantic vision of benign ownership.) When the paper is thus owned and run by an elite group of individuals with links to banking, insurance, advertising, multinational consumer goods, telecommunications, information technology, venture investment, corporate media, marketing services and other sectors of the establishment? When the paper remains dependent on advertising revenue from corporate interests, despite the boast that 'we now receive more income from our readers than we do from advertisers'. When the paper has actually ditched journalists who have been 'fiercely independent and challenging'?

However, it is certainly true that the Guardian 'will remain what it has always been': a liberal pillar of the establishment; a gatekeeper of 'acceptable' news and comment. 'Thus far, and no further', to use Chomsky's phrase. But, as mentioned, the Guardian will not go even as far in the political spectrum as Corbyn: a traditional left Labour figure, rather than a radical socialist proclaiming 'Revolution!' or an anarchist itching to bring down global capitalism.

Meanwhile, readers can expect the 'new look' Guardian to continue its attacks on Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, such as the recent smear piece by ex-Guardian journalist James Ball that began scurrilously:

'According to Debrett's, the arbiters of etiquette since 1769: "Visitors, like fish, stink in three days." Given this, it's difficult to imagine what Ecuador's London embassy smells like, more than five-and-a-half years after Julian Assange moved himself into the confines of the small flat in Knightsbridge, just across the road from Harrods.'

Ball went on, dripping more poison:

'Today, most of those who still support Assange are hard-right nationalists – with many seeing him as a supporter of the style of politics of both Trump and Vladimir Putin.'

When we challenged Ball via Twitter for evidence of these foolish claims, he was unable to provide any. His facile response was:

'The WikiLeaks twitter feed is a pretty good start tbh [to be honest]'

That Katharine Viner's Guardian would happily publish such crude propaganda in an ostensibly 'serious' column speaks volumes about the paper's tumbling credibility as well as conformity to power.

No doubt, too, this liberal 'newspaper' will continue to boost Tony Blair, the war criminal whose hands are indelibly stained with the blood of over one million people in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere. But, for the Guardian, he will forever be a flawed hero, someone they have worked hard to rehabilitate in recent years, constantly seeking out his views and pushing him as a respectable elder statesman whose voice the public still needs to hear.

The essence of the Guardian was summed up by satirical comedian reporter Jonathan Pie on the day of the relaunch:

'New design. Same old virtue signalling, identity politics obsessed, champagne socialism (minus the socialism), barely concealed contempt for the working classes bullshit I presume though.'


The Empty Rhetoric Of Seeking 'Uncomfortable' Views 

 

One of the Guardian stalwarts helping to project an illusion of consistent challenge to authority is long-time columnist George Monbiot. We were once admirers of Monbiot, and we still respect his environmentalist writing, particularly on the imminent dangers of climate disruption...up to a point (for instance, he never properly addresses the key issue of the corporate media, including the role of his own paper).

But well over a decade ago, we first started challenging Monbiot on his serious blind spots and establishment-friendly ignorance when it came to foreign policy.

In more recent years, we have even been smeared by him, in a pitiful manner akin to that of Oliver Kamm of Murdoch's Times, an inveterate supporter of Western 'interventions', on whom Monbiot often seems to rely for his slurs.

A recent piece by Jonathan Cook, once a Middle East Guardian reporter, is a skillful skewering of Monbiot's stance. Monbiot has repeatedly attacked those who dare question Washington-approved narratives on Syria, Rwanda and the Balkan Wars. Anyone who challenges Western government propaganda claims about Syria, for example, is condemned as an Assadist or conspiracy theorist. His targets have included Noam Chomsky, Edward Herman, John Pilger, university professors Tim Hayward and Piers Robinson, and Media Lens.

On Twitter last month, Monbiot alleged that Hayward and Robinson 'have disgraced themselves over Syria'. But when has Monbiot ever excoriated Guardian columnists Jonathan Freedland and Natalie Nougayrède, Nick Cohen of the Observer, David Aaronovitch of The Times and John Rentoul of the Independent, all of whom have 'disgraced themselves' over US-UK wars of aggression?

And why is Monbiot's focus so skewed to 'their' war crimes rather than 'our' war crimes? The editor of the Interventions Watch blog searched Monbiot's Twitter timeline in December 2017 and found he had mentioned 'Syria' in 91 tweets and 'Yemen' in just three tweets. With rare exceptions, virtually the entire UK political and media system has disgraced itself over Yemen – currently the world's greatest humanitarian catastrophe. This should be a key central concern for any honest dissident commentator today.

Cook writes of Monbiot:

'Turning a blind eye to his behaviour, or worse excusing it, as too often happens, has only encouraged him to intensify his attacks on dissident writers, those who – whether right or wrong on any specific issue – are slowly helping us all to develop more critical perspectives on western foreign policy goals than has been possible ever before.'

He adds that the many leftists:

'who defend Monbiot, or turn a blind eye to his hypocrisy, largely do so because of his record on the environment. But in practice they are enabling not only his increasingly overt incitement against critical thinkers, but also undermining the very cause his supporters believe he champions.'

Cook sums up:

'All indications are that Monbiot lacks the experience, knowledge and skills to unravel the deceptions being perpetrated in the west's proxy and not-so-proxy wars overseas. That is fair enough. What is not reasonable is that he should use his platforms to smear precisely those who can speak with a degree of authority and independence – and then conspire in denying them a platform to respond. That is the behaviour not only of a hypocrite, but of a bully too.'

We will return later to that point of dissidents being denied a platform to reply. Meanwhile, Monbiot has not responded to Cook, as far as we are aware.

Ironically, of course, the Guardian sells itself as a fearless supporter of 'open' journalism, delivering 'the independent journalism the world needs'. But, once again, there are always safe limits. Tim Hayward, mentioned above, is Professor of Environmental Political Theory at Edinburgh University. He recently recounted what happened after the Guardian published a long piece by Olivia Solon, a senior technology reporter for Guardian US in San Francisco. Solon argued that critical discussion of the White Helmets in Syria had been 'propagated online by a network of anti-imperialist activists, conspiracy theorists and trolls with the support of the Russian government'.

After publishing this hit piece, the Guardian essentially shut down all discussion, refusing even to grant a right of reply to those who had been maligned, including independent journalists. Hayward described what happened after publication:

'What the Guardian did next:
• quickly closed its comments section;
• did not allow a right of reply to those journalists singled out for denigration in the piece;
• did not allow publication of the considered response from a group of concerned academics;
• did not respond to the group's subsequent letter, or a follow up email to it;
• prevaricated in response to telephone inquiries as to whether a decision against publishing either communication from the group had or had not been taken;
• failed to respond to a message to its Readers' Editor from Vanessa Beeley, one of the journalists criticised in the article.'

George Monbiot played his part too, says Hayward:

'tweeting smears against critics and suggesting they read up about "the Russian-backed disinformation campaign against Syria's heroic rescue workers".'

This was disreputable behaviour from a 'progressive' journalist who claims that:

'I believe that a healthy media organisation, like a healthy university, should admit a diversity of opinion.'

The Guardian journalist added that newspapers, including his own, 'should also seek opposing views and publish them too, however uncomfortable this might be.' Monbiot's own behaviour exposes these words as empty rhetoric.

Guardian Looks Beyond Corbyn To The Next 'Centrist' Candidate


Meanwhile, the Guardian is looking beyond the time when Corbyn is Labour leader. A recent article by Ian Sinclair in the Morning Star argues that the Guardian is putting its weight behind Emily Thornberry, Corbyn's shadow foreign secretary.

A Guardian interview with her was, unusually, advertised well over a week in advance of publication. It was a major feature in which she was described as 'a key architect of Labour's comeback, and widely tipped to be the party's next leader'. But there was very little in the piece about the policies she espouses, not least foreign policy issues.

One such issue is the Middle East, which was wholly absent from the Guardian interview. Last November, Sinclair observes, Thornberry proclaimed that Israel 'stands out as a beacon of freedom, equality and democracy'. And, in a December speech to Labour Friends of Israel, she described former Israeli prime minister Shimon Peres as 'a hero of the left, of the state of Israel and of the cause of peace.'

Sinclair points out:

'In contrast, in 2005, US dissident Noam Chomsky called Peres "an iconic mass murderer," presumably for his role in the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians that led to the creation of Israel and for being head of government when Israel shelled a United Nations compound in Lebanon in 1996, killing over 100 civilians.'

Thornberry's comments on Israel, says Sinclair, 'are a cause for concern for those who want to see an anti-imperialist, humane attitude towards international affairs'. He continues:

'Thornberry is the perfect candidate for Guardian "centrist" types who would like to neuter Corbynism — someone who can gain the backing of significant numbers of Corbyn supporters while at the same time diluting the movement's relative radicalism by returning the Labour Party to safer, Establishment-friendly ground.'

The indications are that the 'new look' Guardian will be happy to promote a potential Labour leader who soft-pedals Israel's crimes. This is part of a bigger picture of the paper offering little more than token criticism of elite Western power.

We should not be surprised. No amount of redesign can gloss over the structural issues that ensure the Guardian remains very firmly a liberal pillar of the establishment and essentially a guardian of the power-friendly status quo.

DC & DE

Two Requests


1. Access to newspaper databases to conduct searches is crucial to the work of Media Lens. We are looking for an academic who is able to provide us with an account to use LexisNexis or ProQuest, please.

2. We are looking for someone with good web skills, in particular Joomla, to work alongside our current webmaster to maintain/update our website.

If you are able to help, please email us: editor@medialens.org

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Choosing Precious Battles: Resistance Is Futile

Least Resistance: No Liberal Outrage at New Regime Change Op

by Chris Floyd - Empire Burlesque


January 19, 2017

The US has passed another historic week focused on some of the most burning issues of our time, complex and contentious matters that have rightfully provoked many hours of nuanced analysis and intellectual discussion throughout every form of news media: print, video and digital.

We refer, of course, to those twin peaks of public concern, embodied in a pair of vital but mystery-shrouded questions that might never fully be resolved:


Newly minted progressive
liberal hero Doug Jones

1. Is Trump fatter than he says he is?
2. Is Trump a foul-mouthed, knee-jerk racist?

Loath as I am to turn anyone’s attention away from these unfathomable enigmas, I would like, with your pardon, to point out a bit of news that is of course far less important than Trump’s pants size or the question of whether, after 40 years of repeatedly belching crude bigotry in public forums, he could perhaps be said to hold somewhat less than completely enlightened views on racial equality. But I do think it is worth noting, at least in passing, that this week also saw the United States commit itself to an open-ended military occupation of territory in a foreign country with which it is not at war — in a region which has been turned into a tinderbox of violence and extremism by open-ended US military invasion, occupation and intervention.

This week, Secretary of State Rex Ex-Exxon Tillerson made a formal announcement that the United States — which has several thousand troops on the ground in Syria — will keep its forces there until the government of President Bashar al-Assad is overthrown. In other words, the United States has now embarked on a military regime change operation in Syria — in flagrant contradiction of Donald Trump’s repeated promises not to do such a thing. (I’m sure you join me in astonishment at the idea that Donald Trump would ever lie or break his word about anything.)

As Buzzfeed reports:

“The speech represents the most comprehensive case Tillerson has ever made for a lasting US military presence in the war-torn country and marks a departure from language drafted between the US and Russian officials in Vietnam in November.
“The remarks also are a significant departure from President Donald Trump's campaign rhetoric, which maintained that the only objective the US should have in Syria is fighting ISIS, and are likely to revive debates in Congress between staunch advocates of regime change and those who fear an open-ended commitment to a US presence in Syria.

“What we should do is focus on ISIS. We should not be focusing on Syria,” Trump said in October 2016. “You’re going to end up in World War III over Syria if we listen to Hillary Clinton.”

Tillerson said this week that the “regime is corrupt, and its methods of governance and economic development have increasingly excluded certain ethnic and religious groups.” Well, he should know; he’s a leading player in just such a regime. And he and Trump work in close partnership with another such regime — Saudi Arabia — especially in their extensive collusion with the Saudis (first launched by Obama) to wage a war of berserking aggression against Yemen, killing many thousands of innocent people and plunging millions into starvation and famine. But in this case, Tillerson was apparently talking about the Syrian regime, which is indeed full of bad hombres, but is nowhere near as exclusionary and corrupt — and dangerous to the world — as our bipartisan elite’s buddies in Riyadh.

Early on, we were told that US warplanes were attacking Syria to root out the ISIS forces trying to take over the country, but there would be no “boots on the ground.” Then we were told a small number of boots (and the soldiers wearing them) would be required to help target the air attacks. Then we were told, belatedly, that at least 2,000 (many put the figure as high as 5,000) pairs of US boots (with accompanying soldiers) had somehow been installed on Syrian territory while no one was looking. (Or rather, while everyone was looking at the latest emissions from Trump’s nightly sessions of playing with his Tweeter on the toilet.) But all of this, we were told — first by Obama, then by Trump — was simply in service of a single goal: defeating ISIS in Syria.

To accomplish this singular mission, the US supported rebel fighters made up largely of Islamic fundamentalists, some of whom were even from Syria. The US-backed militias often worked closely with another rebel group, Al-Nusra, a franchise of al-Qaeda. It’s undisputed that millions of dollars worth of US weaponry somehow ended up in the hands of al-Qaeda during the course of the war, most of it passed through or sold by the rebel groups backed directly by the US. This particular noble effort of aligning with al-Qaeda and other extremists to overthrow yet another secular government in the Muslim world (Iraq, Libya, and reaching back to the days of good old godly Jimmy Carter, Afghanistan) began under the noble administration of the entirely scandal-free Obama, and has been accelerated by Trump.

Despite these efforts, ISIS (which also somehow ended up with scads of US weaponry) was not defeated until Russian forces combined with the Syrian army in a brutal, mass-slaughtering campaign very reminiscent of the US invasion of Iraq under the now-huggable George W. Bush. In any case, ISIS is pretty much gone — but Trump has planted his rump firmly on the Syrian sand irregardless.

So indefinite intervention and occupation are now on the cards. I’m so old I can remember when cynical nay-sayers were taken fiercely to task by the most thoroughly vetted and verified true-blue liberals for suggesting that this was the intention all along — even during the days of Obama, who has such a nice family and loves dogs and who was (as the NYT solemnly told us) as prayerful and mindful and godly as St. Thomas Aquinas when he met with his security apparatchiks in the White House every blessed week to go over the lists of people to be assassinated around the world on the basis of secret “intelligence” whose provenance and credibility remains forever shrouded in mystery. (Although I think we can safely assume it was at least as credible as the “intelligence” that led to the aforementioned mass-slaughtering war of aggression launched by the noted portrait painter George Bush.)

I suppose it’s not really surprising that our vetted and verified professional progressive liberals were largely untroubled by the fact that their hero and champion was running a death squad out of the Oval Office; as we all know, partisanship is thicker than blood. (Although to be fair, our verified progressives weren’t really all that bothered even when Bush was running the presidential death squad.) But given such thick, oozing partisan gooeyness, I guess it’s no surprise they didn’t object to Obama’s ever-expanding intervention in Syria. (Just as they said doodly squat about Obama’s essential role in the Saudi assault on Yemen — the second greatest war crime of this atrocity-choked century.)

But given their revulsion to every aspect of Trump’s corporeal being, you’d think they would find — or at least fake — a modicum of outrage over Tillerson’s announcement of an armed regime change operation in the white-hot center of the Middle East cauldron, with the armies and militias of Russia, Syria,Turkey, Iran, the Kurds and various Saudi-backed extremists all thrashing around in the pot: a situation that some trenchant analysts say could easily “end up in World War III.”

Yet once again, it’s all quiet on the progressive front. Democratic leaders — I’m sorry, “Resistance” leaders – like Nancy Pelosi, Adam Schiff, Dianne Feinstein, Mark Warner and newly minted progressive liberal hero Doug Jones have all found ample time to give Trump (and that cute-as-a-little-bug enforcer of his, Jeff Beauregard Yezhov Sessions) vastly expanded surveillance powers over American citizens. But thus far the Democratic resistance has not said one word about this new declaration of a permanent commitment to use US military power to force regime change on yet another nation.

Why, it’s almost as if their “Resistance” is mostly just for show, a profusion of poses and soundbites, signifying nothing. It’s almost as if they are trying to do the barest minimum possible to get back into power without really offending or threatening the elite interests — corporations, Wall Street and, above all, the ever-growing, all-devouring, insatiable maw of the War Profiteering Complex — in which the Democratic Party now lives and moves and has its being.

But I’ve taken up enough of your time with such minor concerns. Yes, the new Syrian policy will exacerbate and extend the continually widening circles of death, hatred, extremism, revenge and corruption that our bipartisan elites have set in motion — a horrific, ruinous legacy that will doubtless bring even more evil fruit to bear for ourselves, our children and grandchildren, and the unnumbered and ignored multitudes of our victims in shattered countries across the world … but forget all that! Did you hear the latest? It turns out that the porn star Trump paid to keep quiet about their affair said she used to spank him with a rolled-up copy of Forbes magazine! Now watch the mighty Resistance spring into action with outrage and umbrage and hilarious memes! That’ll show the Trumpster Dumpster!!

Freedom of the Press Foundation to Neuter Julian Assange and Cut-Off Wikileaks' Vital Funding Stream

FBI Whistleblower on Pierre Omidyar and His Campaign to Neuter Wikileaks 

by Whitney Webb - MintPress News


January 18, 2018

FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds asserts Pierre Omidyar decided to create The Intercept to not only take ownership of the Snowden leaks but also to continue his blockade against WikiLeaks and create a “honey trap” for whistleblowers.


Mid-November, 2017 – The Daily Beast ran an exclusive report detailing how the Freedom of the Press Foundation (FPF) was set to break ties with WikiLeaks amidst concerns among the foundation’s board, which includes such well-known figures as Daniel Ellsberg, Edward Snowden, Laura Poitras, John Cusack and Glenn Greenwald, among others.

The news was confirmed less than a month later when the nonprofit’s board officially voted to stop accepting U.S. donations for WikiLeaks, which had been blacklisted for years by Visa, MasterCard and PayPal after publishing leaked U.S. government documents provided by Chelsea Manning.



[Can billionaires be trusted with the media?]

Even though the FPF had been founded to allow WikiLeaks to circumvent the banking blockade — which, according to WikiLeaks, sapped nearly 95% of the transparency organization’s funds — the board’s decision to end its founding mission was unanimous.

Last Monday, the FPF made it official, severing its ties with WikiLeaks, leaving it to rely on cryptocurrencies and other esoteric means of funding in order to get around the banking blockade. Journalist Trevor Timm, the FPF’s director, told WikiLeaks’ editor-in-chief Julian Assange in an email that the foundation’s reason for ending the partnership was “that the financial blockade by the major payment processors is no longer in effect, and as such, we will soon cease processing donations on behalf of WikiLeaks readers.” 

“The financial censorship of WikiLeaks is ongoing in various ways, as is our litigation in response,” Assange told Timm in response, adding that:

“The FPF faces criticism for receiving donations on our behalf, but that is its function. If it bows to political pressure it becomes part of the problem it was designed to solve and yet another spurious free-speech organization — of which there are plenty.”

Assange had made the exchange public by publishing it on his personal Twitter, but it has since been deleted.

Indeed, the pressure against WikiLeaks has reached fever pitch, with Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ calling Assange’s arrest a “priority” and CIA Director Mike Pompeo labeling it a non-state hostile intelligence service. Last Thursday, former CIA analyst and whistleblower John Kiriakou stated his belief that “the Americans want Assange’s head on a platter.” All of this has followed Wikileaks’ publication of the Podesta emails and DNC leaks in 2016 prior to that year’s U.S. presidential election, as well as its more recent publication of CIA hacking secrets in the “Vault 7” and “Vault 8” releases.

Voting WikiLeaks off the investigative island


Though Timm’s explanation seemed benign enough, WikiLeaks took to Twitter to suggest that something more nefarious was behind the board’s decision to cut ties. Once the news became public, WikiLeaks and its associated accounts linked the FPF’s decision to the fact that many of its members now work for organizations financed by eBay billionaire and PayPal owner Pierre Omidyar. In addition, the FPF itself has received large sums of money from Omidyar and his various businesses and foundations.

WikiLeaks, in recent tweets, has suggested that Omidyar’s influence was responsible not only for the FPF’s decision but also for the unusual attacks that some FPF members have launched against WikiLeaks, particularly Assange, in recent months. The most outspoken of these members has been FPF director Micah Lee, who is employed by the Omidyar-owned publication, The Intercept.

In February of last year, Lee called Assange a “rapist, liar & ally to fascists” in a tweet — despite the fact that Assange was never charged with rape, his alleged accusers have also claimed that Assange had not sexually assaulted them, and there is abundant evidence suggesting that the rape investigation was a means of ensnaring Assange to ensure his extradition to the United States. Based on Lee’s other tweets, the “ally to fascists” charge ostensibly refers to Lee’s belief that Wikileaks’ publications of emails from the DNC and Clinton campaign chair John Podesta was done explicitly, with Assange’s blessing, to aid the Trump campaign.

Lee has also claimed that Assange is a “Putin fanboy” who doesn’t care “about government transparency if the government in question is Russia,” even though WikiLeaks has published information damaging to the Russian government while Putin was president. Lee also intimated that Assange may have a direct relationship to the Kremlin, an outlandish claim for which there is no basis.

Lee, in other tweets, has also perpetuated the “Russiagate” conspiracy in attempts to link Assange to Trump to Putin.

This same conspiracy theory, which has produced no concrete evidence to support its claims after more than a year, was initiated by top government officials such as the former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former CIA director Michael Morell, among others.

Other members of FPF as well as some other Intercept writers (see here and here) have echoed these claims as well, attacking Assange for allegedly siding with Trump over Clinton in the 2016 election even though Assange never declared support for Trump. Ironically, many of these same journalists have themselves proven to be very partisan in their writings and on social media, undermining the claim of Lee and others that the FPF is “non-partisan.”

Sibel Edmonds, FBI whistleblower and founder of the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition, told MintPress News that the FPF has a reputation for being a “very, very partisan organization and populated with ideologues.” She further asserted that the “number one reason” for the FPF’s decision was directly related to Wikileaks’ releases in 2016, namely the DNC leaks and the Podesta emails.

Edmonds added :

Assange violated their criteria and this is basically their pay-back. All of the individuals [on the FPF] are known to be ideologues, are into this game of divide and conquer. Their role is to represent the left and Julian Assange challenged this. Before the election, many of the members of this organization supported Assange. It’s important to ask why this changed over night.”

Despite the slander and demonstrably false claims, other FPF members who have historically defended WikiLeaks and Assange were silent regarding Lee’s accusations, including Glenn Greenwald, Daniel Ellsberg and Edward Snowden. Though FPF members have denied that Omidyar’s influence has had a role in these attacks, as well as in the board’s decision to cut ties with WikiLeaks, a closer examination of Omidyar and his ties to the U.S. political establishment — as well as his apparent influence on some of the FPF’s most prominent members — gives credibility to WikiLeaks’ concerns.

Omidyar’s connections and agenda


Pierre Omidyar, prior to the founding of The Intercept, was known not for any commitment to journalism or free speech but rather for his connections to the U.S. government and his role in the financial blockade of WikiLeaks that began in 2010.

Indeed, publicly available records reveal Omidyar’s close connections to the U.S. political establishment. For example, Omidyar made more visits to the Obama White House between 2009 and 2013 than did Google’s Eric Schmidt, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg or Amazon’s Jeff Bezos. He has also donated $30 million to the Clinton global initiative. He directly co-invested with the State Department, funding groups – some of them overtly fascist – that worked to overthrow Ukraine’s democratically elected government in 2014. He continues to fund USAID, particularly its overseas program aimed at “advancing U.S. national security interests” abroad.

Omidyar has a vested interest in advancing the interests of the U.S. political establishment for a variety of reasons. Sibel Edmonds, who was among the first to note Omidyar’s background upon The Intercept’s founding, noted that the PayPal executive “has been in bed with the CIA and NSA” and even the Department of Defense — further noting that the Snowden documents that The Intercept, and thus Omidyar, controls “contain information about PayPal’s direct partnership not only with the Treasury Department but also the CIA.”

Edmonds further stated that Greenwald had confirmed Omidyar’s long-running partnership with the CIA and other government agencies on Twitter during a heated exchange between the two in 2013.

Omidyar is also well-connected to Snowden’s former employer Booz Allen Hamilton, a major government contractor known as the “world’s most profitable spy organization,” whose former executives include James Clapper, former Director of National Intelligence, and Michael McConnell, former Director of the NSA. Omidyar’s Ulupono Initiative, a venture capital fund that operates in his home state of Hawaii, cosponsors one of the Pentagon’s most important contractor expos, in which Booz Allen Hamilton – and the Department of Defense – have a major stake. In addition, a former Booz Allen Hamilton vice president, Kyle Datta, is General Partner of Omidyar’s Ulupono Initiative.

Also striking was Omidyar’s decision to accept Snowden’s former boss at Booz Allen Hamilton, Robert Lietzke, into the Omidyar Fellows program in 2015 after personally interviewing Lietzke as part of the program’s application process. What was unusual in Lietzke’s case was that Omidyar also oversees The Intercept, which has exclusive publishing rights over the Snowden cache – which was taken from under Lietzke’s nose at Booz Allen Hamilton by his former employee, Edward Snowden. Snowden himself has remained silent on Omidyar’s decision, despite the mixed signals it sent and continues to serve as the president of the FPF — which, as mentioned, is also funded by Omidyar.

The Intercept was founded in 2014 with some $250 million in seed money from Omidyar. Its first hires were Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, the only journalists in possession of the full Snowden cache. According to former Intercept writers, Omidyar – despite funding and founding an enterprise dedicated to “fearless” and “adversarial” journalism – is “shockingly [un]interested in the actual journalism” of the paper. If this portrayal of Omidyar’s interest — or rather, lack of interest — in journalism is accurate, it is strange that he would also fund organizations — like the FPF, the Center for Public Integrity, and ProPublica — ostensibly dedicated to investigative journalism, transparency, and the First Amendment.

Omidyar’s supposed devotion is also hard to square with the fact that he and PayPal were a major part of the financial blockade against WikiLeaks, which – as mentioned above – deprived WikiLeaks of 95% of its revenue at the time. Though Omidyar –- and now the FPF -– have argued that the blockade has long been lifted, WikiLeaks has publicly disagreed, maintaining that it remains in effect. Interestingly, when Omidyar was asserting that the blockade had ended, the FPF – at the time – had also publicly disagreed with his assessment and claimed that the blockade was still in full effect.

Omidyar has also, in the past, been rather candid about his views on leakers. He asserted in 2009 that organizations that publish stolen — or leaked — information “should help catch the thief” and shouldn’t publish such information in the first place. Omidyar even defended this view after The Intercept’s founding and refused to speak in “absolutes” about whether or not a source should be turned in — a troubling perspective to have in light of The Intercept’s debacle in the Reality Winner case.

What then caused him to create The Intercept, only a few years after making that assertion? Given Omidyar’s connections to the U.S. government, particularly the NSA, and top government contractors, including Snowden’s former employer, it was likely an effort to privatize and thus thwart or slow the publication of the Snowden leaks in which PayPal is allegedly implicated — and not a sudden change of heart.

Edmonds went a step further, stating that:

The Intercept is a continuation of that blockade [of WikiLeaks]. [It] was set up with that purpose. Specifically, it was set up to block true, real information and put forth narrative that has already gotten the approval of special interests including the U.S. government. It made perfect sense for him [Omidyar] to move from that to setting up a news organization and posing as an outlet for investigative reports depending on whistleblowers.”

The fine line between curation and censorship


Omidyar’s view on leaks and leakers seem to have influenced the opinions of some of the FPF’s most prominent members. For instance, Glenn Greenwald, following the publication of the Podesta emails, suggested in a conversation with Naomi Klein that the Podesta emails should have been “curated” prior to their release in order to prevent the outing of potentially sensitive personal information. Specifically, Greenwald stated:

“I think WikiLeaks more or less at this point stands alone in believing that these kinds of dumps are ethically — never mind journalistically — just ethically, as a human being, justifiable.”

Listen to Greenwald’s conversation with Naomi Klein



The idea of “curation” in the publication of leaked documents is quizzical. Though one’s privacy is important, it is highly problematic to leave to one person the ability to decide what is and what isn’t in the public interest. “Curating” leaks gives those who are in possession of the leaked documents the power to decide what the public sees and doesn’t see instead of giving the public the right to decide what is relevant. In many cases, finding a “balance point” would present a challenge to even the most ethical and disinterested curator. Such power can easily be abused and used to shield key information contained in leaks or to hide crucial context.

For example, in the case of Chelsea Manning, Wired journalist Kevin Poulsen published parts of the chat logs between Manning and former hacker Adrian Lamo in which Manning allegedly admitted having given the leaked documents to WikiLeaks. However, Poulsen published only a quarter of the correspondence, claiming that he had not released the remainder as it contained “personal information” and “national security secrets” — concerns that were also raised upon the release of the DNC and Podesta emails.

Yet, the information Poulsen chose not to publish contained crucial context that showed that Manning leaked the documents to instigate reforms and inform the public – not to “cripple the United States’ foreign relations for the foreseeable future,” as Lamo had suggested in interviews before the chat logs’ full release. Ironically, it was Glenn Greenwald who publicly skewered Poulsen for journalistic malice.

However, Poulsen was merely “curating” the logs as he saw fit – albeit with the agenda of protecting Adrian Lamo, his long-time associate. Three years later, Greenwald found himself in a position similar to that of Poulsen when he came into possession of the Snowden leaks and became the “curator” of this collection. Now, nearly four years after receiving the cache, less than 2 percent of the estimated 58,000 files have been made public. If the releases continue at this snail’s pace, most of those reading this article will have been dead long before the Snowden cache is made fully public.

Perhaps this is why Greenwald, despite possessing hundreds of thousands of secret government documents he received from Snowden, has been able to travel to and from the United States without issue. Edmonds pointed this out, stating that “after Greenwald worked with so many whistleblowers and even though he has technically ‘aided and abetted’ this supposed illegal, major leak, he’s not touched. He can come and go [from the United States] as he pleases.” Meanwhile, Julian Assange has remained arbitrarily detained in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for seven years, unable to leave.

Also troubling is that Snowden – the man who ostensibly risked his life and freedom to make this information public – has offered no complaints concerning the glacial pace of the documents’ release, nor about Omidyar essentially taking ownership of the leaks through The Intercept.

Former NSA Intelligence Analyst and Capabilities Operations Officer Russell Tice once said the following regarding The Intercept and its possession of the Snowden leaks:

“I would be outraged and highly vocal if I were in Edward Snowden’s shoes. For a journalist whom I had placed my trust in to go and withhold documents meant for the public?! For the journalist to make fortune and fame based on my sacrifices and disclosure?! Forming a lucrative business partnership with entities who have direct conflicts of interest?! No. That wouldn’t have been acceptable.”

It’s possible that Snowden himself may approve of what has amounted to the censoring of these leaks, as he has also called for the “curation” of leaked material following the release of the Podesta emails. Unsurprisingly, this drew a sharp response from WikiLeaks.

While Edmonds has made the case that Omidyar likely founded The Intercept to clamp down on the Snowden leaks before they could cause further damage to the U.S. government — or to his own business — another motivating factor could well have been a desire to surreptitiously continue his blockade against WikiLeaks, but by different and more easily concealed means.

Omidyar certainly isn’t the only PayPal linked billionaire involved in such efforts to undermine and discredit WikiLeaks. As Part II of this investigative series will show, Peter Thiel — a PayPal co-founder with close ties to the Trump administration — has also been involved in the creation of an “attack plan” that seeks to undermine WikiLeaks through a media disinformation campaign and by working to turn WikiLeaks’ former allies against it. Given the FPF’s recent decision and the attacks levied against WikiLeaks by Intercept writers, this plan seems to be well underway.

Correction: a previous version of this article stated that Pierre Omidyar is a co-founder of PayPal. While he did not found PayPal, he acquired it when eBay bought PayPal in 2002.

Whitney Webb is a staff writer for MintPress News. She has written for several news organizations in both English and Spanish; her stories have been featured on ZeroHedge, the Anti-Media, and 21st Century Wire among others. She currently resides in Southern Chile. 


Republish our stories! MintPress News is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 International License. 
 

Passing: Shiv Chopra - Scientist, Whistleblower, Public Servant

In Memoriam: Dr. Shiv Chopra, Public Servant

by CBAN


January 18, 2018

“I was speaking out, but it was my duty to speak out.”
                                  – Dr Shiv Chopra, Sept 2017


We mourn the death and celebrate the life and lasting contributions of Dr. Shiv Chopra, a strong and vibrant champion of science in the service of the public good.

He has left behind a loving family and a legacy of committed, courageous campaigning for justice and accountability.

Dr. Chopra was a dedicated public servant who shed light on how our food is regulated in Canada and the dangerous influence that corporate power can have on government decision-making, if public servants are not willing to speak up.

Dr. Shiv Chopra was a veterinary scientist with a Ph.D. in microbiology. He was a senior scientist at Health Canada (Canada’s food safety regulator) where he worked from 1969 until 2004.

Dr. Chopra was one of three Health Canada veterinary scientists who spoke out in the 1990s about pressure to approve animal drugs despite their concerns about animal health and food safety. They questioned carbadox, a drug used in pigs, and Baytril, which was used to promote growth in cows and chickens. Most prominent were their concerns over Monsanto’s genetically engineered veterinary drug Bovine Growth Hormone (BGH). Their public criticisms of BGH were met with gag orders from their employers at Health Canada but finally led to Senate hearings and a 1999 decision not to approve the drug.

Dr. Chopra defied instructions from his employers not to speak publicly about his concerns, and about the pressure he was under at Health Canada. In 1998, Dr. Chopra and his colleague Dr. Margaret Haydon were interviewed on national television and asked why they thought they were under pressure to approve drugs quickly. Dr. Chopra replied,

“Well, what do you think? Money. For multinational companies that produce those things."

Dr. Chopra and his colleagues Dr. Margaret Haydon and Dr. Gérard Lambert were eventually fired in 2004 for insubordination. Dr. Chopra challenged his dismissal in court and continued to fight in the courts for thirteen years, until the latest verdict in September 2017.

He concluded,

“If today I had won, I would get compensated for my loss of salary. But the issue of public food safety would still remain.”

“These three scientists are perfect examples of public service professionals putting the interests of the public first, ahead of their own interests. They are leading the way in the protection of the public good and they are pioneers in whistleblowing,” said Gary Corbett, former president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, 2011.

He continued to speak out on the wider issues of food and public health safety, including at the invitation of many communities in Canada and internationally, and he set up an organization called the Canadian Council on Food Safety & Health.

Dr. Chopra detailed his saga in his book, “Corrupt to the Core: Memoirs of a Health Canada Whistleblower” (2010) and some of his work and history is documented on his website http://shivchopra.com/
 
A summary of what happened in Canada over Bovine Growth Hormone and the role Dr. Chopra played is posted on CBAN's site at https://cban.ca/the-story-of-bovine-growth-hormone-in-canada/
Whistleblower Shiv Chopra remembered for ‘speaking truth to power’, Ottawa Citizen, Jan 11, 2017.

A public memorial will be held in February.

Tributes


"The tragic experience of Shiv Chopra as a whistleblower should be required reading, not just in institutions of higher learning but at every level of government in Canada. His chilling story centre’s on Monsanto’s flagship genetically engineered product rBST, commercialized as Posilac, but more broadly, profiles the ongoing conflict between corporate influence and government policy in Canada. Canada joined most of the rest of the world in declining to approve Posilac for injecting into Canadian dairy cows to increase milk production. For this, Canadians can thank the integrity of Shiv Chopra, and his colleagues Margaret Hayden and Gerard Lambert at Health Canada, despite terrible costs to themselves. It is difficult to see how the public good has been served by the decades-long government effort to stifle the well-founded concerns of these courageous whistleblowers. We must remember, and celebrate, these true Canadian heroes.” – E. Ann Clark, associate professor (ret.), University of Guelph, Canada
“One of the first public events on genetic engineering that I ever organized was with Dr. Chopra almost two decades ago. We invited him to speak about how genetically engineered foods were regulated, but on the day of the event he got a fax, email and registered letter from his employer telling him he could lose his job at Health Canada if he spoke at our event. He spoke anyway – and started a wave of influential events that continue to challenge corporate power to this day. He was astonishingly courageous, committed and persistent. His dedication to his public duty continues to be an inspiration.” – Lucy Sharratt, Coordinator, Canadian Biotechnology Action Network
“I think of him often and admire Shiv’s courage, integrity and tenacity in speaking out on matters of great importance to Canadians — food safety, human health, and well-being of farmers and their cows. He expected the federal government to uphold the laws of our country and blew the whistle with his colleagues when the rules were not followed.” - Peter Dowling, dairy farmer and National Farmers Union activist
“Dr. Shiv Chopra challenged each and every one of us to get active, to organize and hold our regulators accountable. Shiv-ji set an enormously high bar for science in the public service- a bar every single scientist taking a public paycheque ought to strive to achieve. As a mentor Shiv-ji implored me to work with eaters and farmers in Canada and in India to develop direct relationships and work around the broken food system. Together we can fulfill Dr. Chopra’s legacy. His guidance will be missed and faith in our efforts must not be misplaced.” – Jodi Koberinski, 2015 Oak Fellow for Human Rights

NFU Remembers Shiv Chopra” National Farmers Union, Press Release, January 10, 2017

Speaking Truth in Power: Tulsi Gabbard and Why North Korea Will Not Cede Its Nukes

Rep. Gabbard Speaks Truth to Power About the Real Reason Korea Has Nukes

by Dave Lindorff - CounterPunch


January 18, 2018    


We knew Tulsi Gabbard was courageous, when the Democratic congresswoman from Hawaii resigned from her position as vice chair of the Democratic National Committee in disgust during the primary season in 2016, declaring publicly what we now know to have been true — that the DNC was manipulating the primaries to favor Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders.

Now as basically the only member of Congress with the guts to call out the US as the cause of our current knife-edge threat of a nuclear war, she’s demonstrated her courage again.

Photo by AFGE | CC BY 2.0 

 Gabbard, on ABC News, declared unambiguously[1] the reason North Korea worked so diligently to develop nuclear weapons and missiles capable of delivering them to the US is that the US over several decades and under a number of presidents, has had a policy of “regime change,” and a history of violently attempting to overthrow governments it doesn’t like.


As she put it in an interview over the weekend with ABC news host George Stephanopolos,

“Our country’s history of regime-change wars has led countries like North Korea to develop and hold on to these nuclear weapons because they see it as their only deterrent against regime change.”

Rep. Gabbard, who has been calling for the US to negotiate directly “and without pre-conditions” with North Korea to resolve the crisis, says the US also needs to recognize the reality that North Korea already has nuclear weapons and is not going to give them up unless it feels secure from US attack.

She is firm in saying that the US history of overthrowing Libyan leader Muamar Gaddafi after first convincing him that if he dropped his efforts to develop a nuclear weapon they would not attempt to overthrow his government, and then invading and overthrowing him, and of invading and overthrowing Saddam Hussein after trumping up a fake claim that he was attempting to develop nuclear weapons, will make it all the harder to convince North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to agree to halt or scale back, much less eliminate his nuclear weapons and missile arsenal. She adds that President Trump’s current threat to cancel an agreement reached by his predecessor, President Barack Obama and the leaders of Iran to terminate their nuclear fuel enrichment program in return for the US dropping sanctions on that country will also undermine any future efforts by the US to reach negotiated agreements on weapons and nuclear disarmament with Kim and any other countries that might seek to go nuclear.

It was all a little more than Stephanopolos, once a press spokesman for the administration of President Bill Clinton, who asked her, feigning incredulity,

“Just to be clear, are you saying that Kim Jong-un’s nuclear arsenal is our fault?”

That’s the point in an interview where your typical American pol would backpedal like mad to defend the sanctity of American exceptionalism, but Gabbard remained as forthright and direct as her analysis was correct, replying,

“What I’m saying is the Democratic and Republican administrations for decades, going back over 20 years, failed to recognize the seriousness of this threat, failed to remove it, and we know that North Korea has these nuclear weapons because they see how the US in Libya, for example, guaranteed Gaddafi ‘We’re not going to go after you. You should get rid of your nuclear weapons.’ He did, and then we went ahead and led an attack that toppled Gaddafi.”

Of course Rep. Gabbard is correct. A country that acts unilaterally, violating international law by overthrowing the governments of sovereign nations and that lies about its intentions when negotiating, is a country that will never be able again to negotiate to solve international problems. It will only have force remaining as a tool (and we’ve seen in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria how costly and ineffective a tool US force is these days). But as Gabbard also says, pointing to the chaos and panic that ensued when Hawaiians were given what appeared to be an alert about an actual nuclear missile attack on the islands by North Korea, when dealing with a nuclear power — even one as small as North Korea — force is simply not an option. There is only negotiation. And because nuclear weapons are so destructive, the size and power of the parties is irrelevant in such negotiations — it is inevitably a negotiation between equals.

Brava for this singularly courageous and outspoken member of Congress! Once again she has proven that she stands head and shoulders above her colleagues, Republican and Democrat, in the Capitol, just as she did when she quit the DNC and outed it for its perfidy in stealing the primaries for Hillary Clinton.

This Samoan American, elected to the House in 2013 from Hawaii, also, by the way, has been courageously calling for the US to “get out of Syria,” where she correctly notes it has been supporting Al Qaeda-linked terrorist groups — another position that puts her at odds with almost all of her congressional colleagues who are afraid to challenge US militarism. At the same time, she also happens to be a major in the US Army, a member of the Hawaiian National Guard, and is a member of the House Armed Services Committee. She served a tour in Iraq in 2006 and volunteered for a second tour in the Middle East in 2009, again making her a standout among all the chicken hawks of both parties in Congress and the White House.

As far as I’m concerned, Gabbard, not Oprah, is the person Democrats should be talking about as the ideal candidate for 2020 to give Trump the boot.
 
Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).
More articles by: Dave Lindorff
Links: [1] http://abcnews.go.com/ThisWeek/video/rep-tulsi-gabbard-responds-false-alarm-incoming-missile-52339440 

Senate Judiciary Committee Follows Trump 'Peegate' Trail

Glenn Simpson Chases His Shadow into a Black Hole

by John Helmer - Dances with Bears


January 18, 2018

Moscow - American reporters are so mesmerized by Russia-related investigations of the Trump family, Trump businesses, his election campaign and the presidential transition, they can no longer see the obvious.

The recently released Senate Judiciary Committee interrogation and testimony of Glenn Simpson (lead image) proves — if it proves anything at all – that Glenn Simpson and Christopher Steele, authors of the Golden Showers Dossier, are liars who fabricated claims about Russians which they then promoted to reporters and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) without double-checking or independent verification.

Simpson appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee on August 22, 2017.

His interrogation by senators and their staff lasted almost eight hours, beginning at 9:34 in the morning, and ending at 7:04 in the evening. Lunch took forty minutes. There were nine toilet breaks, one every hour, averaging just 6.9 minutes. Long enough to empty bladders; too short for golden showers.

The verbatim transcript of Simpson’s testimony runs for 311 pages; click to read in full. A week ago on January 9, it was released publicly by Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, over the objections of the Republican senators on the committee. They were trying to prevent disclosure of Simpson’s negative portrayal of President Donald Trump’s business practices, company losses, tax optimization and borrowing schemes.


The Simpson hearing was closed, so there are no photographs of his 
appearance at the witness table. The Judiciary Committee members 
shown in this later photograph included Senators Lindsey Graham ( R),
and (l-r) Orrin Hatch( R), Charles Grassley ( R) and Dianne Feinstein ( D). 
Their staff are seated against the wall. Source

In the testimony Simpson identified the New York Times as one of the newspapers which agreed to promote his fabrications. In an opinion piece published in the same newspaper early this month, the week before Feinstein released the transcript, Simpson declared himself to be a partisan foe of Trump’s. According to Simpson and a business partner,

“[W]e’re extremely proud of our work to highlight Mr. Trump’s Russia ties. To have done so is our right under the First Amendment. It is time to stop chasing rabbits. The public still has much to learn about a man with the most troubling business past of any United States president. Congress should release transcripts of our firm’s testimony, so that the American people can learn the truth about our work and most important, what happened to our democracy.”

Analyses, commentaries and glosses of what Simpson’s testimony means to the campaigns for and against impeachment of President Trump are legion. Allowing for the fact that so many politicians, pundits and reporters for and against Trump believe Simpson was telling the truth about Trump, here are the facts testified to by Simpson on oath — “the truth about our work” which all commentary on the Simpson transcript has so far ignored.

For analysis, unverified source by unverified source, unchecked claim by unchecked claim in the Steele dossier on Russian links to Trump, read this. The report was published a year ago, on January 18, 2017.

In subsequent London court filings Steele and his firm, Orbis Business Intelligence Ltd., have been sued for defamation by Aleksej Gubarev, one of the dossier’s purported Russian targets, accused of being a hacker who had penetrated the Democratic Party’s computer files. Steele has testified in his defence that his allegations came from “unsolicited intelligence” and “raw intelligence” that “needed to be analyzed and further investigated/verified.” In short, Steele no longer vouches for the truthfulness of his sources, claims, or conclusions.

Steele has also claimed in his London court defence that Simpson is to blame, not Steele, for promoting the claims as if they were true, and leaking them to the media. “At all material times Fusion [Fusion GPS, Simpson’s consulting firm] was subject to an obligation not to disclose to third parties confidential intelligence material provided [by Steele and Orbis].”

Steele made these claims in court in April 2017. In August, four months later, Steele went into US District Court in Miami to try to stop being subpoenaed for cross-examination of his truthfulness and his claims in the dossier; read the details here. In the Miami court Buzzfeed, first publisher of the dossier, is being sued by Gubarev who is charging the dossier references to him were false, and had been faked with the intention of planting disinformation in the press. Click to read Gubarev’s reply to Buzzfeed’s defence.

Others accused in the dossier are following Gubarev with US federal court lawsuits charging Buzzfeed, its reporters and foreign news editor Miriam Elder (right) with fabricating their allegations “without attempting to determine the veracity of these reports.”

Elder, an American, began her career in veracity reporting on Russia at the Moscow Times a decade ago, followed by the London Guardian.

In his Senate Committee appearance, Simpson wasn’t questioned directly about Gubarev’s court challenge. Instead, Simpson was pursued on the question of who did the leaking – Simpson or Steele. Asked if there was a confidentiality agreement between himself and Steele, Simpson replied:

“That’s hard for me to answer. There’s a mutual expectation of confidentiality, and if that’s what you read that as saying, then yes, there’s a mutual expectation of confidentiality.” 

When pressed to say clearly if there had been a contractual requirement preventing one of them leaking material without the other’s approval, Simpson answered: “I don’t really understand the question.” His lawyer then interrupted to say Simpson would not answer questions about contracts with Steele or Orbis on the ground of legal privilege.

Simpson was then read Steele’s statement to the London court that he and his firm “did not … provide any of the pre-election memoranda to any of the media or journalists, nor did they authorize anyone to do so”. Simpson was stupefied. “I’m not sure I can answer this in — I’m not sure I know the answer to this. It’s a little confusing.”

Greeted with disbelief by the committee staff, Simpson then tried to say Steele wasn’t telling the whole truth. Leaking Steele’s memoranda to the press they didn’t do, Simpson claimed; planting information based on the memos they did decide between themselves. “I think what I would like to say is that we had discussions about, you know, information as opposed to memos and, you know, at various times in talking to reporters about the Trump-Russia connection… Some of what we discussed was informed by Chris’s reporting. So whether that was — I don’t think there’s any sense that that was an unauthorized thing to do.”

At no point in the 311-page record was the question asked directly of Simpson — was he sure during the election campaign of 2016, or later, that the information he leaked to the press was true or false. Instead, he was asked to explain what he had done before he arranged the leaks. “Did you do any independent verification of these facts?” he was asked. “I did some work on aspects of this,” Simpson replied.

“We were separately — you know, my team and myself were separately investigating various things in here. So I can’t talk about this as a verification, but I was analyzing this.”

He went on to confirm that he and Steele agreed on a plan of direct briefings for reporters as Election Day, November 8, 2016, approached. Simpson acknowledged the reporters he chose were from the New York Times, Washington Post, ABC, Mother Jones, and Yahoo News. Simpson’s lawyers claimed the names of the reporters could not be revealed because they were protected by the First Amendment, the US Constitution’s protection of the press.

Simpson also testified that he and Steele had collaborated on a plan to make their allegations appear credible by putting them in the mouth of the former British Ambassador to Russia, Sir Andrew Wood, and arranging for Wood to relay them to US Senator John McCain.


(L): Christopher Steele in front of the Orbis Business Intelligence office, London.
(R): Sir Andrew Wood, former British ambassador to Russia. Wood currently
titled Associate Fellow of the Russian and Eurasia Programme of Chatham House, a London think-tank.

Defending himself as the go-between, Wood was reported by the Guardian in January 2017 as claiming he “knew and respected Christopher Steele”. Wood also endorsed Steele’s veracity, telling the newspaper Steele is a “very competent professional operator … I do not think he would make things up. I don’t think he would necessarily always draw the correct judgment, but that’s not the same thing at all… I take the report [Golden Showers Dossier] seriously. I don’t think it’s totally implausible.”

Wood claimed “I didn’t work with him [Steele] in a professional capacity.” That was misleading, Simpson’s Senate testimony implied, if not intentionally false. In the transcript, Simpson acknowledged that Wood and Steele worked together in the Orbis consulting business, and that Wood was “an associate” of Steele’s firm. In Wood’s Chatham House résumé he says he is “adviser to various enterprises on Russian affairs.”

Simpson also testified that Steele had told him Wood “was someone that he worked with in the past who was a former UK government official with experience in Russia.” Simpson admitted he and Steele arranged for their version of the anti-Trump dossier to be passed by Wood to McCain through a former State Department official working for the McCain Institute for International Leadership at Arizona State University.

The Wood subterfuge wasn’t the only information scheme Simpson acknowledged that he and Steele devised. Another was for Steele to brief the FBI on the dossier allegations, and then for Simpson to tell US media reporters to get the FBI to confirm they were investigating. “[Steele] proposed to — he said we should tell the FBI, it’s a national security issue. I didn’t originally agree or disagree, I just put it off and said I needed to think about it. Then he raised it again with me.”

“[Question]. And who was involved in discussions about whether it was appropriate to take either the memo or the information in the memo to the FBI?” “[Simpson]. It was Chris and me. I mean, that’s the only ones I remember, the two of us. The only ones I know of.”

“[Question]. With regard to providing — what was the goal — as you understood it, what was the purpose of the kind of goal in taking this to the FBI from Mr. Steele’s perspective?” “[Simpson]. I mean, for him it was professional obligations. I mean, for both of us it was citizenship. You know, people report crimes all the time.”

“[Simpson]. “…you know, we began getting questions from the press about, you know, whether they were also investigating Trump and, you know, we encouraged them to ask the FBI that question. You know, I think — I’m not sure we’ve covered this fully, but, you know, we just encouraged them to ask the FBI that question… Sometime thereafter the FBI — I understand Chris severed his relationship with the FBI out of concern that he didn’t know what was happening inside the FBI and there was a concern that the FBI was being manipulated for political ends by the Trump people and that we didn’t really understand what was going on. So he stopped dealing with them.”

“[Question]. Did Mr. Steele ever indicate to you whether the FBI had asked him not to speak with the media?” “[Simpson]. I remember Chris saying at some point that they were upset with media coverage of some of the issues that he had discussed with him.”

“[Question]. Sorry. I didn’t hear.” “[Simpson]. He never said they told him he couldn’t talk to them.”

Simpson pictured on November 14, 2017, as he arrived for a closed-
door interrogation by the House Intelligence Committee. A Committee
vote on whether to release that transcript is due this week.

Simpson also acknowledged that when Steele used Wood to pass the same allegations on to Senator McCain, the objective was that McCain would then go to the FBI at a higher level than Simpson and Steele had reached, and Simpson would again take the story of the FBI investigation to the press. “He says he wants information to give to Senator McCain so that Senator McCain can ask questions about it at the FBI, with the leadership of the FBI. That was essentially — all we sort of wanted was for the government to do its job and we were concerned about whether the information that we provided previously had ever, you know, risen to the leadership level of the FBI.”

“[Question]… in your briefings with journalists you did reference his interactions — Mr. Steele’s interactions with the FBI, correct?” “[Simpson]. At some point that occurred, but I don’t believe it occurred until very late in the process.” “[Question]. Can you estimate when in the process?” “[Simpson]. It was probably the last few days before the election or immediately thereafter.”

“[Question]. So in your meetings with journalists in September [2016] you didn’t reference Mr. Steele’s interactions with the FBI or passing on of information to them?”

“[Simpson]. I don’t recall.”

Several well-known Russian officials, accused in the dossier of participating in Russian schemes to target the US election, were brought up in Simpson’s interrogation – Igor Sechin, Rosneft president; Sergei Ivanov, former Kremlin chief of staff; and Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman. What evidence did Simpson or Steele gather in 2016, and what did Simpson believe he had in August 2017, on specific Russian business deals, intelligence operations, or disinformation schemes targeting the presidential candidates, Simpson was asked.

“Do you have the records of those [Sechin] business deals that you had collected?” “Yeah. I don’t think so.”

“[Question]. Is there information that either you had in your possession that corroborated and verified this or even went beyond what was in this and amplified information on any of these individuals relevant to Russia’s interference or possible ties with the Trump campaign?”

“[Simpson]. Yes. I’m trying to be as helpful as I can. …in the course of saying who is this Ivanov guy, you know, we looked at Ivanov and found journal articles and other public information about his long history of intelligence. He’s a veteran of the FSB, his long history with Vladimir Putin, and his role atop this internal operation…In particular I remember reading a paper by a superb academic expert whose name is Mark Galeotti, G-A-L-E-O-T-T-I, who’s done a lot of work on the Kremlin’s black operations and written quite widely on the subject and is very learned. So that would have given me comfort that whoever Chris is talking to they know what they’re talking about.”

(L): Sergei Ivanov; (R): Mark Galeotti.

“[Question]. Was there any information there that you either independently verified or had independent research on any of the individuals mentioned in there? It mentions Sergei Ivanov, Dmitry Peskov.” Simpson did not answer on Peskov.

“[Simpson]. You know, disinformation is an issue that Chris wrestles with, has wrestled with his entire life. So if he believed any of this was disinformation, he would have told us.”

“[Question]. And did he ever tell you that information in any of these memos, that he had concerns that any of it was disinformation?

“[Simpson]. No. What he said was disinformation is an issue in my profession, that is a central concern and that we are trained to spot disinformation, and if I believed this was disinformation or I had concerns about that I would tell you that and I’m not telling you that. I’m telling you that I don’t believe this is disinformation.”

“[Question]. Did you take any steps to try to assess the credibility of his sources, his unnamed sources in the material that he was providing to you?’

“[Simpson]. Yes, but I’m not going to get into sourcing information.”

“[Question]. So without getting into naming the sources or anything like that, what steps did you take to try to verify their credibility?”

“[Simpson]. I’m going to decline to answer that.”

London due diligence firms say the record of Simpson’s firm Fusion GPS and Steele’s Orbis Business Intelligence operations in the US has discredited them in the due diligence market. The London experts believe the Senate Committee transcript shows Simpson and Steele were hired for the black job of discrediting the target of their research, Trump; did a poor job; failed in 2016; and now are engaged in bitter recriminations against each other to avoid multi-million dollar court penalties.

A source at a London firm which is larger and better known than Steele’s Orbis says,

“[S]tandard due diligence means getting to the truth. It’s confidential to the client, and not leaked. There are also black jobs, white jobs, and red jobs. Black means the client wants you to dig up dirt on the target, and make it look credible for publishing in the press. White means the client wants you to clear him of the wrongdoing which he’s being accused of in the media or the marketplace; it’s also leaked to the press. A red job is where the client pays the due diligence firm to hire a journalist to find out what he knows and what he’s likely to publish, in order to bribe or stop him. The Steele dossier on Trump is an obvious black job. Too obvious.”

Another leading figure in London due diligence adds about Simpson, with whom he’s worked in the past:

“If one considers Glenn to be, on a good day with a following wind, an unreliable witness, the material is at best only about his memories and impressions. I am just going to wait for the movie.”