the CIA Times as > than Hearst News Yellow Journalism

‘The New York Times fabricates Russian murder plot’, 3 July 2020, Patrick Martin,  (w/permission to repost all content)

“Not since William Randolph Hearst cabled his correspondent in Havana in 1898 with the message, “You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war,” has a newspaper been so thoroughly identified with an effort to provoke an American war as the New York Times this week.

The difference—and there is a colossal one—is that Hearst was fanning the flames for the Spanish-American War, a comparatively minor conflict, the first venture by American imperialism to seize territory overseas, in Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines. The Times today is seeking to whip up a war fever directed against Russia, one that threatens to ignite a third world war fought with nuclear weapons.” [snip]

“The Times reporters spearheading this campaign are not journalists in any real sense of the term. They are conduits, passing on material supplied to them by high-level operatives in the CIA and other intelligence agencies, repackaging it for public consumption and using their status as “reporters” to provide more credibility than would be given to a press release from Langley, Virginia. In other words, the CIA has provided the plot line, and the newspaper creates the narrative framework to sell it to the American people.” [snip]

In this week’s “Russian bounties” campaign, Schmitt and Sanger are at it again. A front-page article published Thursday under their joint byline carries the headline, “Trump’s New Russia Problem: Unread Intelligence and Missing Strategy.” This article is aimed at advancing the claim that Trump was negligent in responding to allegations against Russia, either being too lazy to read the President’s Daily Brief—a summary of world events and spy reports produced by the CIA—or choosing to ignore the report because of his supposed subservience to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The political line of the article is set early on, when the authors claim that “it doesn’t require a high-level clearance for the government’s most classified information to see that the list of Russian aggressions in recent weeks rivals some of the worst days of the Cold War.” The list is ridiculously thin, including “cyberattacks on Americans working from home” (no evidence presented) and “continued concern about new playbooks for Russian actors seeking to influence the November election” (this is a description of the state of mind at the CIA, not of any actual steps taken by Russia). The purpose is to place the current allegations about Russian bounties in the context of the long-running effort to portray Russian President Vladimir Putin as the evil genius and puppet master of world politics.

Schmitt, in an article co-authored with Michael Crowley, refers to “intelligence reports that Russia paid bounties to Taliban-affiliated fighters to kill American soldiers in Afghanistan,” as though this was an established fact. The article cites various unnamed “former officials” of the Trump and Obama administrations who claim that such an allegation would certainly have been brought to Trump’s attention, and that his failure to take action in response must be seen as negligence.

The article suggests that there is “supporting evidence” for the CIA claims of a Russian bounty plot, citing, among other things, “detainee interrogations, the recovery of about $500,000 from a Taliban-related target and intercepts of electronic communications showing financial transfers between the Russian military intelligence unit and Afghan intermediaries.” In point of fact, every item on this list represents an assertion by unnamed intelligence sources, not evidence: no actual detainees, cash hoards or electronic intercepts have been produced.

Another article by Schmitt, along with three Afghan-based reporters, focuses on the alleged role of an Afghan businessman, Rahmatullah Azizi, a former drug smuggler and US government contractor, in whose home investigators found a cash hoard of half a million in US dollars. [*see below]  Again, “US intelligence reports” are cited, claiming Azizi was “a key middleman between the GRU and militants linked to the Taliban.” Again, there is no actual evidence cited, and Azizi himself cannot be found. As for the alleged cash hoard, this suggests more the proceeds of narcotics trafficking than anything else, an enterprise in which Azizi was supposedly engaged.

The article asserts that the Russian government organized the bounty scheme as “payback” for decades of humiliation in Afghanistan at the hands of the United States, although how killing a handful of US soldiers would accomplish such a goal is a mystery. Moreover, the Times also admits, citing an unnamed congressman who participated in a White House briefing on the allegations, that the intelligence briefing did not “detail any connection to specific US or coalition deaths in Afghanistan,” and that “gaps remained in the intelligence community’s understanding of the overall program, including its precise motive …”

In other words, the Russian “bounties” program has no identifiable victims and no credible motive. This makes the unanimity of the media chorus that much more damning a self-indictment. Why is there not a single article or commentary in the corporate media challenging the claims being peddled by the CIA? It is not that these claims are particularly convincing in and of themselves. Far from it. It is the source of the claims that is decisive: if the US intelligence apparatus says it is so, the American media obediently salutes.

The real question to be answered about the latest anti-Russian provocation is this: what political considerations are the driving force of this episode of media fabrication?

It is no coincidence that the Afghanistan “bounties” story has surfaced just at the point where the Trump administration is visibly reeling in the face of the twin crises of the coronavirus pandemic and the popular upsurge against police violence. The American ruling class has been deeply shaken by the outraged protests by large interracial crowds, particularly of young people, that have swept virtually every American city and town. And the financial aristocracy is well aware of the deep-seated popular opposition to its drive to force workers back to work under conditions where every large factory, warehouse and office is a potential epicenter for the ongoing resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The response to this crisis by the political and media representatives of the ruling elite is twofold: seeking to split the working class along racial lines and seeking to divert domestic social tensions into a campaign against foreign antagonists, particularly China and Russia.

The New York Times acts as a political mouthpiece of the Democratic Party, which is determined to block any mass radicalization of workers and youth. In the event that former Vice President Joe Biden is elected in November and takes office in January 2021, an incoming Democratic administration will carry out policies no less reactionary than those of Trump.

The campaign against Trump’s alleged “dereliction of duty”—a phrase used by Biden three times during his Tuesday press conference—is nothing more than a continuation of the campaign by the Democrats to attack Trump from the right, as too “soft” on Russia and too unwilling to intervene in the Middle East. This began with the anti-Russia campaign that triggered the two-year-long Mueller investigation, continued with the Ukraine phone call that led to impeachment, and now emerges in the form of increasingly vehement demands that the US government “retaliate” for an entirely fabricated Russian effort to kill American soldiers.”

Trump’s New Russia Problem: Unread Intelligence and Missing Strategy; High-level clearance is not required to see that the list of Russian aggressions in recent weeks rivals some of the worst days of the Cold War’, David E. Sanger and Eric Schmitt, July 1, 2020  (I’ll add these bolded hilarities: the Slimes loves Bolton now!):

“There are at least two Russia strategies in this divided administration. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, usually so attuned to Mr. Trump, speaks for the hawkish wing: He came to the State Department podium a few weeks ago to declare that Crimea, annexed by Russia six years ago, will never be recognized as Russian territory.

Then there is the president, who “repeatedly objected to criticizing Russia and pressed us not to be so critical of Russia publicly,” his former national security adviser, John R. Bolton, notes in his recent memoir. A parade of other former national security aides have emerged, bruised, with similar reports.” [snip]

“And in this case, there was another element: concern inside the White House about any intelligence findings that might interfere with the administration’s announcement of a peace deal with the Taliban.

After months of broken-off negotiations, Mr. Trump was intent on announcing the accord in February, as a prelude to declaring that he was getting Americans out of Afghanistan. As one senior official described it, the evidence about Russia could have threatened that deal because it suggested that after 18 years of war, Mr. Trump was letting Russia chase the last American troops out of the country.

The warning to Mr. Trump appeared in the president’s briefing book — which Mr. Bolton said almost always went unread — in late February. On Feb. 28, the president issued a statement that a signing ceremony for the Afghan deal was imminent.”

Also on July 1st: Afghan Contractor Handed Out Russian Cash to Kill Americans, Officials Say; A small-time businessman became a key middleman for bounties on coalition troops in Afghanistan, U.S. intelligence reports say. Friends saw him grow rich, but didn’t know how’, Mujib Mashal, Eric Schmitt, Najim Rahim and Rukmini Callimachi,

Now Rahmatullah Azizi stands as a central piece of a puzzle rocking Washington, named in American intelligence reports and confirmed by Afghan officials as a key middleman who for years handed out money from a Russian military intelligence unit to reward Taliban-linked fighters for targeting American troops in Afghanistan, according to American and Afghan officials.

As security agencies connected the dots of the bounty scheme and narrowed in on him, they carried out sweeping raids to arrest dozens of his relatives and associates about six months ago, but discovered that Mr. Azizi had sneaked out of Afghanistan and was likely back in Russia. What they did find in one of his homes, in Kabul, was about half a million dollars in cash.”

(cross-posted from Café Babylon)

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Afghan Bounty Scandal Comes at Suspiciously Important Time for US Military Industrial Complex

The latest scandal, like others before it, is based on scant testimony by anonymous officials and has had the effect of pushing liberal opinion on US foreign policy into a far more hawkish direction.

"..If Russia is paying the Taliban to kill Americans they are not doing a very good job of it. From a high of 496 in 2010, U.S. losses in Afghanistan have slowed to a trickle, with only 22 total fatalities in 2019, casting further doubt on the scale of their supposed plan.

Ironically, the United States is accusing the Kremlin of precisely its own policy towards Russia in Syria. In 2016, former Acting Director of the C.I.A. Michael Morell appeared on the Charlie Rose show and said his job was to “make the Russians pay a price” for its involvement in the Middle East. When asked if he meant killing Russians by that, he replied, “Yes. Covertly. You don’t tell the world about it. You don’t stand up at the Pentagon and say, ‘We did this.’ But you make sure they know it in Moscow.”

Like RussiaGate, the new scandal has had the effect of pushing liberal opinion on foreign policy to become far more hawkish, with Biden now campaigning on being “tougher” on China and Russia than Trump would be. Considering that the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists recently set their famous Doomsday Clock — an estimation of how close they believe the world is to nuclear armageddon — to just 100 seconds to midnight, the latest it has ever been, the Democrats could be playing with fire. The organization specifically singled out U.S.-Russia conflict as threatening the continued existence of the planet...."

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wendy davis's picture


good journalism, doesn't he? this is all getting to be over-the-top ludicrous self-parody by way of the CIA Times two rubbish agitprop pieces on july 1.

i can't say how many of the usual suspects have picked up these last two as verifiable fact innuendo, no Q's: bloomberg, WaPo, CNN and so on, but i loved this new title witlessly (just in case their last eight hadn't been clear enough:

Trump’s New Russia Problem: Unread Intelligence and Missing Strategy

and quotin' joltin' bolton's book was priceless, wasn't it? and it gave dementia joe all the cues he needed. even dr. jill was furious about it, he spake.

i also loved their feint at Fair and Unbiased journalism:

...the Times also admits, citing an unnamed congressman who participated in a White House briefing on the allegations, that the intelligence briefing did not “detail any connection to specific US or coalition deaths in Afghanistan,” and that “gaps remained in the intelligence community’s understanding of the overall program, including its precise motive …”

i laughed out loud when i'd popped into consortium news and saw again ray mcGovern's june 29: 'Russiagate's Last Gasp', although he does have a newer on up as well.

biden's oct. 31 presser: (arrrgh; 49 minutes) i made it thru a few minutes while i was fixing lunch, and i admit he seemed fairly compus mentis from that distance.

commentary and quotes from the hill.

Biden did not face many difficult questions on Tuesday. He was primarily asked to respond to controversies involving Trump, allowing him to pivot to criticism of the president over his handling of the coronavirus and reports that the president did not act on intelligence showing that Russia offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants targeting U.S. troops.
Biden said he was struck by his wife, Jill Biden, asking him how he would feel if he had found out that the president had ignored a Russian bounty on U.S. soldiers at a time when their son Beau Biden was in the Army. Beau Biden, a former Army officer, died of brain cancer in 2015.

"I don't see [Jill] get outraged very often," Joe Biden said. "She said, what would you do Joe? What are those parents thinking out there? What are those sons and daughters, husbands and wives? It's an absolute dereliction of duty."

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Lee Camp: How the Media Used the Bounty Scandal to Stop the ‘Threat’ of Peace in Afghanistan

Peace seems to have exceedingly, ridiculously, laughably bad timing, this latest time in Afghanistan, says Lee Camp.

"We could talk about the context of the fact that the Taliban does not need to be paid to kill American soldiers because their entire goal for the past twenty years has been to kill American soldiers. Paying them a bounty would be like offering the guy sleeping with your wife twenty bucks to sleep with your wife..."

"...Now, I’m not implying Trump is some kind of hippy peacenik. (He would look atrocious with no bra and flowers in his hair.) No, the military under Trump has dropped more bombs than under Obama, and that’s impressive since Obama dropped more bombs than ever before.

However, in certain areas of the world, Trump has threatened to create peace. Sure, he’s doing it for his own ego and because he thinks his base wants it, but whatever the reason, he has put forward plans or policies that go against the military industrial complex and the establishment war-hawks (which is 95 percent of the establishment).

And each time this has happened, he is quickly thwarted, usually with hilarious propaganda. (Well, hilarious to you and me. Apparently believable to people at The New York Times and former CIA intern Anderson Cooper.)..."

He good examples, here is but one....

April 4, 2018: President Trump orders the Pentagon to plan to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria.

This cannot be allowed because it goes against the U.S. imperial plan. So what happens within days of Trump’s order?

April 7, 2018: Reports surface of a major chemical weapons attack in Douma, Syria.

What are the odds that within days of Trump telling the Pentagon to withdraw, Bashar al-Assad decides to use the one weapon that will guarantee American forces continue attacking him? Assad may not be a chess player, but I also don’t think he ate that many paint chips as a kid. And sure enough, over the past two years we’ve now heard from four whistleblowers at the Organization for The Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) saying the so-called chemical attack didn’t happen. (Notice that the number “four” is even bigger than the numbers “one,” “two,” and “three.”)

But establishment propaganda beats peace any day and twice on Sunday. The false story succeeded in keeping America entrenched in Syria."

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wendy davis's picture


and the excerpts. i'm not a big fan of lee camp after Occupy days, but i'll read it when i have some time, and i'd imagine others will, too.

one fun thing here is that the first fawn on our place was born yesterday, still damp and jiggly-legged learning to walk. and today she/he was an old pro already, bleating while following mum up the hill. ; )

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wendy davis's picture


and am still iffy about him. while i agree w/ most of what he wrote, as well as his deep-state tick-tock, i was going to say that yes, the US military pays the taliban, but to guard their supply lines and opium poppy fields, which i did find at the Nation once i switched browsers and could read it.

remember the endless numbers of wooden pallets of cellophane-wrapped stacks of $100 bills being loaded onto crgo planes back in the day?

but his courthouse news link did not convey what the title' promised, in any event. but he still finds the need, as he did as self-appointed comedian to Occupy, to be a shock jock in the spirit of howard stern with his potty mouth. less so here, but i'm not into it.

he'd have been on safer ground noting the the US and UK had paid the mujahadeen to fight the soviets in the 'graveyard of empires', afghanistan. ; )

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wendy davis's picture

at consortium news july 3: If It Were So Urgent, Why Didn’t Haspel Demand an Oval Office Meeting?

The “evidence” for the story that Russia paid the Taliban to kill U.S. soldiers came from interrogation of Afghan detainees. If the interrogations were “enhanced” the evidence is even more unreliable.

But this raised the immediate question: If this were such an urgent matter that Trump had ignored for more than three months, why hadn’t CIA Director Gina Haspel demanded, in all that time, an immediate Oval Office meeting with Trump to urge him to act? After all, isn’t the CIA’s job supposed to be to protect Americans?

“If this was even close to being confirmed, Haspel would have briefed directly given the sensitivity of the subject,” Scott Ritter, a former U.S. counterterrorism officer, told me by email. Haspel, distancing herself from the controversy, put out a statement condemning the leaks to the Times, saying they “compromise and disrupt the critical interagency work to collect, assess, and ascribe culpability.”
Clearly the purpose of this leaked story was not to protect the lives of American soldiers.

The story is being ginned-up with small leaks everyday despite denials from the Taliban, Moscow and statements from the National Security Council, the National Security Agency, the Pentagon and the director of national intelligence that undermine its credibility. National Security Council officials said the information had not been sufficiently corroborated to be brought to Trump’s attention.

“Because the allegations in recent press articles have not been verified or substantiated by the Intelligence Community, President Trump had not been briefed on the items,” said Robert O’Brien, the national security advisor.

“We are still investigating the alleged interference referenced in media reporting and we will brief the President and Congressional leaders at the appropriate time,” said John Ratcliffe, director of national intelligence.

Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement: “The Department of Defense continues to evaluate intelligence that Russian GRU operatives were engaged in malign activity against United States and coalition forces in Afghanistan. To date, DOD has no corroborating evidence to validate the recent allegations found in open-source reports.”
Ray McGovern, the former CIA analyst, said: “I helped prepare The President’s Daily Brief for Presidents Nixon, Ford, and Reagan, and personally conducted the one-on-one morning briefings in the Oval Office from 1981 to 1985. In those days we did our best to corroborate reporting — especially on highly sensitive issues — and did not try to cover our derrieres by alerting the president and his top aides to highly dubious reporting, however sexy.”

he’d also linked to this LA times piece with this information, FWIW:

WASHINGTON — Top U.S. commanders believe they have tentative White House approval to leave just over 4,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan beyond November, delaying a full American pullout until after the presidential election.

The plan, worked out at a meeting between Pentagon and White House officials late last month, would represent an about-face for President Trump. He has pushed for a complete withdrawal of the 8,600 troops now in Afghanistan by the election, seeing a pullout as a much-needed foreign policy achievement as his reelection prospects have deteriorated.

Trump had only recently told advisors that a full and rapid pullout could blunt the controversy over intelligence reports that Russia has paid militants to kill American service members, one official said. The president, who has made clear that he cares little about conditions in Afghanistan, could still order a full withdrawal by November if he decides it would help him in the election, officials said.

but let’s hear from rachel madcow and CNN:

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column at Consortium News has these great points as well:

... The initial story has been followed up by new leaks nearly every day. First we heard from the Times of an electronic transfer from a bank account controlled by the GRU, Russian military intelligence, to the Taliban.

... Anyone who knows anything about intelligence operations knows that such payments would be made by cash on the ground in Afghanistan and not by leaving a discoverable paper trail. The cash would come from Russian officials in Afghanistan, not wired to a Taliban account. This is the same portrayal of a bumbling, unprofessional Russian intelligence service that supposedly left Cyrillic letters and the name of the first Soviet secret police chief in the metadata of its alleged hacks of the DNC. At the same time we are meant to be deathly afraid of these amateurs...

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wendy davis's picture

@Linda Wood

they are great points, linda wood.

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