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Sunday, January 22, 2017

MATTHEW JAMISON -- Intelligence Wars

Intelligence Wars
MATTHEW JAMISON | 20.01.2017 | OPINION

Intelligence Wars

There has been much in the media of late regarding the claims of Russian cyber hacking to influence the outcome of the recent American Presidential election. However, just as the Russian cyber hacking storyline has dominated the American and Western media, the bigger story here is the dubious activities of both American and British intelligence services and the politically partisan conflict that has engulfed the American intelligence community with the nakedly political interventions of both the FBI and CIA in the American political process. Indeed, it was American intelligence in the form of the FBI that did more to influence the outcome of the US Presidential election than the speculated machinations of any external foreign power. The latest twist, that the FBI is to be investigated by the Inspector General of the US Justice Department with regards to its handling of the investigation into the private email server run by Hillary Clinton while she was Secretary of State is quite astonishing.
Whether or not Russian intelligence was involved in a campaign of cyber espionage to influence the American Presidential election is beside the point. There as yet has been no hard, concrete evidence presented on this issue to back up the argument articulated by the Obama administration. Yet, what is very clear, is the FBI acted in a nakedly partisan and irregular fashion during the election campaign to inflict as much political damage on the Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton as possible. It wasn't the Russians that did Mrs. Clinton in, it was the FBI. Quite clearly from the actions of the FBI Director Comey, the FBI is a highly politicised, Republican/conservative leaning organisation, which is not politically impartial and which acted in a partisan political manner regarding its investigation into Mrs. Clinton's private email server. I for one could not believe it that the FBI Director Comey decided to write to Congress a week out before the Presidential vote was held to regurgitate the email scandal. What Comey did was a political hit job, far more damaging and destablising that anything Wikileaks did. Mr. Comey knew exactly what he was doing when he wrote to Congress on October 28th with the political bombshell that the FBI was reopening its investigation into Mrs. Clinton's email server and in doing it inflicted far more damage on Mrs. Clinton's campaign than the hacked and leaked emails from the DNC or the Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.
As Hillary Clinton herself has acknowledged and many members of her campaign, it was the Comey letter that cost her the election. The hacking and leaking of the DNC emails and John Podesta's emails pale into insignificance compared with what the FBI Director did. As one of the most respected election gurus Nate Silver stated: «I'll put it like this: Clinton would almost certainly be President-elect if the election had been held on Oct. 27 (day before Comey letter)». In writing to Congress a week out from the Presidential election Comey violated the principle that US intelligence and law enforcement agencies do not make interventions in election campaigns during a sixty day time frame before election day. He did this without consulting the Justice Department and did it deliberately to cast doubt on Mrs. Clinton's integrity and trustworthiness a week before the vote, which had always been her Achilles Heel with a large section of the American public. It was even more farcical that it only took the FBI roughly a week or so to sort through and examine 650,000 emails and then two days before the election exonerated Mrs. Clinton for a second time that she had done nothing criminal. Yet that second exoneration came too little, too late as it was designed to be and the damage had already been done with the Clinton campaign on the defensive during the final week and rumour, intrigue and speculation dominating the headlines. This is what Comey and the FBI had intended. It is clear from the actions of the FBI Director that he and his organisation were against Hillary Clinton becoming President. Why he did not recommend criminal charges back in July 2016 after a year long investigation is because the FBI really could not find grounds to recommend criminal charges which could be prosecuted against Mrs. Clinton. So they opted for the next best thing. Political death by a thousand cuts not one fatal slash.

First came Comey's bizarre press conference in July 2016 at which he announced that there would be no criminal charges recommended against Hillary Clinton, yet she and her staff had been «extremely careless» in the handling of sensitive, classified information. This press conference in and of itself was highly unusual and a break with protocol. Normally FBI officials do not make any public comment on investigations and there outcomes. They most certainly do not hold press conferences and then go before Congress to discuss the matter. Then, with a week to go before votes were cast Comey ignited a political firestorm with his infamous letter to Congress. As John Podesta, the former Chairman of the Clinton Campaign made clear in an opinion piece shortly after the election: «something is deeply broken at the FBI». As the former Democratic Senate Leader Harry Reid put it: «In fact, to show how awful this situation is, this man (Comey) ignored precedent that had been going on for decade after decade after decade. The FBI does not get involved in politics -- except Comey did. Had he not written that letter a week or so before the election, she (Hillary Clinton) would have won; we (Democrats) would have picked up at least two more Senate seats».
Then there has been the CIA's involvement with regards to the alleged Russian cyber hacking. To brief the incoming President, Donald Trump, on such a flimsy and dodgy dossier as the one put together by the British spy Christopher Steele, and then leak to the press that the President-elect had been briefed on such a document was indeed what Mr. Trump said referring to a phone call he received from the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper: «James Clapper called me yesterday to denounce the false and fictitious report that was illegally circulated. Made up, phony facts. Too bad!» The problem with the Steele dossier is there is simply no hard, concrete evidence to back up what are simply assertions, opinions, speculation and claims». Furthermore, the involvement of British intelligence in amassing information on the incoming President and circulating it around Congress and the US and UK intelligence agencies is disturbing. As the Russian Embassy in London made clear in a tweet: «Christopher Steele story: MI6 officers are never ex: briefing both ways – against Russia and US President». Indeed, MI6 agents are never really ex-agents and it is highly doubtful that the British Government did not know what Mr. Steel was up to. 
And again, just as with the dodgy dossier over Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction which turned out to be a pile of garbage, so to is the Steele dossier completely unsubstantiated riddled with wild and salacious claims but in no way backed up by raw evidence. What is clear from the fracas over the American election with the FBI's handling of the Clinton email issue and the CIA's briefing on claimed Russian hacking and Trump's supposed ties to Moscow, that both American intelligence and British in the form of the Steele dossier, is a mess of partisan politics, innuendo and shabby professionalism. American and British intelligence have no one to blame but themselves for the confusion and cynicism which has enveloped their reputations. As John Podesta stated something is deeply broken in the FBI and not just the FBI but the wider Anglo-American intelligence community. Before pointing the finger at other intelligence agencies the US-UK intelligence world needs to get a grip, get its house in order and stop acting in such a nakedly politically partisan manner. Standards have clearly slipped in how the US-UK intelligence community does its business. Whether it be Comey's violations, the Steel dossier or the leaking of the briefing on that dossier which Mr. Trump received, the game of smoke and mirrors and dirty tricks is getting out of control and eroding confidence in the integrity, non-political impartiality and rigorous intellectual and procedural professionalism of Anglo-American intelligence agencies.

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