I let the previous post stay up a couple of days because I wanted to give people a chance to read THAT dossier beyond the first few pages. There is much more in there beyond the watersports allegation. You know: Treason, bribery, kickbacks. Stuff like that.
Alas, you can't get people to care about such matters. Everyone in this country goes crazy whenever the talk turns to wee-wee issues.
. A couple of days ago, I heard Chris Matthews blather on about this dossier, even though he clearly has not read it. He said that it was filled
with salacious allegations.
Nope. It isn't. Not if you define "salacious" as "having to do with sex." Aside from the brief Ritz Carlton episode, most of this dossier is about money and intelligence.
Matthews also said repeatedly that the CIA had officially defined those 36 pages as "disinformation." Balderdash.
And even if someone at CIA had
used that term, the label would be wrong -- and yes, I would be cheeky enough to repeat that statement to Brennan or Clapper. What's more, I'd win the argument.
Words have definitions. Too many people use the label "disinformation" without understanding it. "Disinformation" is not a word you should feel free to toss at any claim you happen to dislike or to doubt.
is the cunning admixture of truth and untruth by an adversarial intelligence agency
(At least, that's the definition I was given a couple of decades ago. Perhaps the meaning of the word has evolved over time.)
If you say that this dossier is "disinformation," then I must ask you: Which
adversarial intelligence agency is involved?
Is Matthews alleging that the Russian FSB created this dossier? A ridiculous idea. It was created by Orbis, a private firm founded by a respected former member of the British intelligence establishment. Chris Matthews is using the word "disinformation" without regard for its meaning.
Am I saying that the dossier is accurate in all of its parts?
No. Too many people have made the mistake of viewing this dossier in journalistic terms. It's not journalism; it's raw intelligence
Every intelligence service produces raw intelligence of this sort all the damned time. Agents go into the field, they make contacts, they file reports: Source A says this, Source B says that
, Source C says the other thing.
Analysts go over these reports and come to conclusions about the reliability of the various sources -- a process best accomplished by those who know the real names and histories of the sources. An analyst may suggest that Souce A is 70% reliable and Source B is 40% reliable. Analysis also correlates HUMINT (human intelligence) with SIGINT (signals intelligence, such as electronic eavesdropping).
What the analysts produce is finished intelligence
That's how it works, folks. This is the process on which every major nation relies in order to learn about the rest of the world. For obvious reasons (such as lack of access to SIGINT), a private intelligence firm cannot hope to produce the kind of finished intelligence one would expect from MI6 or CIA.
Killing the messenger.
In their discussion of this issue, pundits have become lost in an otiose game of "kill the messenger."
For example, Trump accused CNN of peddling fake news. Hardly! CNN simply reported -- accurately -- that the intelligence community had discussed this dossier with Trump.
Trump also blamed the intelligence community for leaking this dossier. They did no such thing. Journalists got hold of the thing months ago; I'm stunned that they did not release it before the election. You know damned well that they would have done so if the target were named Clinton.
In the weeks leading up to the election, we would occasionally hear reporters make vague references to the Orbis dossier. David Corn did so, and even confirmed Christopher Steele's bona fides with his intelligence sources. I recall hearing guests on CNN and MSNBC discuss how Putin lost faith in Trump after Team Trump insulted a gold star family. That revelation, we now know, came from this dossier.
Always keep in mind that the ultimate source for the watersports claim is not CNN or Buzzfeed or even Orbis. It's three people whose names we do not know: Source D and Source E and the little-discussed Source F.
So what do we know about these people?
Well, we know that Christopher Steele did not want this dossier to get out into the wild because the dossier contains identifying information, for those who know how to read it.
Beyond that, we face an old-fashioned logic puzzle, like the ones you wrestled with in school.
We are told that Source F is someone who works at the Ritz Carlton, and that Orbis learned about F by way of Source E.
Of Source D the dossier says: "According to Source D, where s/he had been present, TRUMP's (perverted) conduct in Moscow included hiring the presidential suite of the Ritz Carlton Hotel..." I'm not sure what the phrase "where s/he had been present" means in this context. Present in the hotel?
Marcy Wheeler says that D is "A close associate of Trump who knows that the Ritz Carlton is under control by FSB."
(Roger Stone? Yeah, I know: I'm always
pointing the finger at Stone. You have your idée fixe
s and I have mine. But let's face it -- Stone is
The watersports allegation was confirmed by Source E, who plays a major role in this report. A large amount of this dossier -- not just the sex claims, which comprise just a small portion of the whole -- trace back to E.
Unfortunately, the primary description of Source E is redacted. From context, he or she seems to be Russian.
Added note: The WP says that Source E is an "ethnic Russian" close to Trump. My understanding is that these words better describe Source B. At any rate, it should be easy enough to narrow this one down: How many "ethnic Russians" are there in Trump's inner circle?
Source E also "acknowledged" that Russia hacked the DNC and channeled the haul through Wikileaks for purposes of plausible deniability.
E was a font of information about the anti-Clinton effort.
Source E claimed that the intelligence network being used against CLINTON comprised three elements. Firstly there were agents/facilitators within the Democratic Party structure itself; secondly Russian emigre and associated offensive cyber operators based in the and thirdly, state-sponsored cyber operatives working in Russia. All three elements had played an important role to date. On the mechanism for rewarding relevant assets based in the US, and effecting a two-way flow of intelligence and other useful information, Source E claimed that Russian diplomatic staff in key cities such as New York, Washington DC and Miami were using the emigre 'pension' distribution system as cover.
E also spoke of intel traveling from
Team Trump to Russia. Apparently, Trump was in a position to know what certain Russian oligarchs were up to in the United States. Putin was very keen to learn about this.
Was it treasonous for Trump to pass intel to the leader of Russia? Not in this instance, because the intel was about the wheelings and dealings of Russian citizens.
Most intriguingly, E claimed that the real Trump scandal involved Der Donald's secret business deals with China -- deals in which bribes and kickbacks figure heavily.
Pay attention to this. This is an area that deserves further research.
The BBC analysis.
The best discussion of this report known to me is Paul Wood's analysis for the BBC
. Like David Corn, he had access to this material before the election. Wood confirms that Steele is highly regarded, that the CIA considers at least some of his material to be credible, and that Orbis' original client was a Trump opponent (or collection of opponents) within the Republican party.
(Who? Maybe Jeb. Maybe the Kochs. Hell, maybe the RNC.)
One Russian specialist told me that Vladimir Putin himself sometimes says there is kompromat on him - though perhaps he is joking. The specialist went on to tell me that FSB officers are prone to boasting about having tapes on public figures, and to be careful of any statements they might make.
A former CIA officer told me he had spoken by phone to a serving FSB officer who talked about the tapes. He concluded: "It's hokey as hell."
I think that this passage gives us some perspective on the claimed sex tape. Apparently, the Russians love to "talk big" about such things.
However, it should be noted that Orbis says that they got the story from three
separate sources, including one person -- F -- who worked at the hotel. This fact indicates that we're dealing with something more than mere scuttlebutt or "hokey" braggadocio. Either the claim has truth behind it, or three separate people deliberately lied to Orbis.
(Would Orbis itself deliberately lie? Highly
doubtful. Steele is a professional. Private intelligence firms don't survive if they lie to clients.)
Wood claims that he himself learned about the sexual "kompromat" on Trump independently, from his own
Back in August, a retired spy told me he had been informed of its existence by "the head of an East European intelligence agency".
Later, I used an intermediary to pass some questions to active duty CIA officers dealing with the case file - they would not speak to me directly. I got a message back that there was "more than one tape", "audio and video", on "more than one date", in "more than one place" - in the Ritz-Carlton in Moscow and also in St Petersburg - and that the material was "of a sexual nature".
The Orbis dossier also speaks -- vaguely -- of kompromat acquired in St. Petersburg.
(In a subsequent post, I'll discuss Trump's claim that he always knew that his hotel rooms in Russia were bugged.)
Did the FISA court elect Donald Trump?
To my mind, the real
scandal involves money, not sex.
Last April, the CIA director was shown intelligence that worried him. It was - allegedly - a tape recording of a conversation about money from the Kremlin going into the US presidential campaign.
It was passed to the US by an intelligence agency of one of the Baltic States. The CIA cannot act domestically against American citizens so a joint counter-intelligence taskforce was created.
The taskforce included six agencies or departments of government.
Alas, the Obama Justice Department was not very diligent in its pursuit of the truth: After receiving an initial rejection from the FISA court in June, the task force was stalled. Another rejection occurred in July. Finally, they got the go-ahead in October -- shortly before election day.
This is extraordinary. For many years now, we've been told that the FISA court grants these requests routinely
. Almost automatically. We've been told that, when it comes to allegations of terrorism, FISA never impedes the FBI or any other government agency.
Yet when it comes to Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, the FISA court suddenly became very, very, very
We need to know who this obstuctionist judge is.
And we need to know why the Obama DOJ did not fight harder. We are told that there were only three attempts made to get FISA authorization -- in June, July, and October. Only three?
unless that joint task force made a deal with Britain's GCHQ. Such things have been known to happen.)
To be frank, throughout the campaign, I always believed -- naively -- that the Obama administration must
have acquired electronic intelligence on Trump's dealings with Russia. I was hoping against hope that Mr. O would divulge the dirt just before election day.
It never occurred to me that FISA stood in the way!
David Ignatius addresses a related question
in the WP: Why did the Obama administration dawdle?
Why did the Obama administration wait so long to deal with Russia’s apparent hacking? This is the Hamlet puzzle in our drama. Like the prince of Denmark, President Obama delayed taking action even as evidence mounted of dastardly deeds. The first stories about Russian hacking broke in the summer. In September, the “Gang of Eight” — the top congressional leadership on intelligence — was getting detailed briefings on the hacking. The FBI by then had obtained the British ex-spy’s dossier.
The intelligence community issued a statement Oct. 7 charging that “Russia’s senior-most officials” had sought to “interfere with the U.S. election process.” Given that, why didn’t Obama do more? Marcy Wheeler
raises an excellent point. Supposedly, John McCain told the FBI about the contents of the Orbis dossier on December 9, after the election. But the FBI was the lead agency in that task force, which went into business in June
. Thus, we can conclude that the intelligence community learned about Trump and Putin independently; the CIA got there first.
In other words, it is useless for Trump supporters to try to discredit the dossier by flinging mud at Orbis. Orbis is NOT the only source for these allegations, although right now they are the only source most people are discussing.
Once again, I must remind the reader that the American intelligence community took the Orbis dossier very, very seriously. They may not have vouched for every allegation, but at the same time they did not dismiss it out of hand -- which is precisely what they would have done if this dossier were filled with the kind of fake news we associate with Alex Jones and Breitbart.
Conclusion: What Orbis found must have coincided with material independently acquired by our CIA.
Donald Trump has claimed that the watersports allegation cannot be true because he is a notorious germophobe. That's not exactly an airtight argument.
In the first place, the dossier does not claim that the prostitutes urinated on Trump; it says that they symbolically defiled a bed on which Barack Obama had slept. If the claim is true -- and let's face it, everyone knows that Trump really is small-minded enough to do such a thing -- it is fair to presume that Mr. Germophobe slept elsewhere that night.
Even if the dossier did contain the claim that Trump played catcher (so to speak), we should not dismiss the idea out of hand.
Many authors have stated that Adolf Hitler was a germophobe, much like Der Donald. Other authors dispute this claim. Ralph Waite's "psychohistory" of Hitler certainly left me with the impression that the man was an unusual combination of the bohemian and the ultra-fastidious.
Walter Langer's wartime psychological assessment of Hiter
contains the startling claim that Der Fuehrer like women to urinate and to defecate on him. This claim was not
propaganda; the report was classified until 1972.
The obvious question: Who was Langer's source? I've heard that he got the information second or third hand from a Nazi defector. The ultimate (claimed) source was either Geli Raubel or Renata Mueller -- both of whom had the misfortune to be in a position to know about Adolf's private proclivities. If memory serves, this book
reveals that Geli privately complained that her uncle made her do unspeakable things.
At any rate, I am convinced that even a germophobe may indulge in disgusting sexual practices. Sex compels us to do extraordinary things.