Friday, January 13, 2017

Factual errors

The Buzzfeed disinfo memo is frustrating as almost all of the 'facts' provided to us come from some intelligence operation (i.e., known professional liars).  About the only thing we know for sure is that there are a lot of Ukrainians in and around the operation, and a few glimpses we can get with meta-analysis.

"John McCain passes dossier alleging secret Trump-Russia contacts to FBI":
"Despite glowing references from US and foreign officials who have worked with the source, there are some errors in the reports. One describes the Moscow suburb of Barvikha as “reserved for the residences of the top leadership and their close associates”, but although it is a very expensive neighbourhood, there are no restrictions on who can own property there. The document also misspells the name of a Russian banking corporation." 

and (date altering complicates the analysis):
"Some of the reports – which are dated from 20 June to 20 October last year – also proved to be prescient, predicting events that happened after they were sent." "

"10 key Donald Trump allegations from the classified Russia dossier":
"The documents contain some clear factual errors

Top level Russian official confirms current closeness of Alpha Group-Putin relationship. Significant favours continue to be done in both directions and Fridman and Aven still giving informal advice to Putin, especially on the US.

COMMENT: The company is named Alfa Group, not Alpha Group as it appears throughout the documents. Elsewhere, according to BuzzFeed News, the unnamed author describes the settlement of Barvikha, outside Moscow, as “reserved for the residences of the top leadership and their close associates”. It is not reserved for anyone, and it is also populated by the very wealthy, BuzzFeed News reports."
Steele is a former top-level MI6 counterintelligence agent specializing in Russia. He would not make these mistakes.  I have to conclude that somebody else wrote the material - educated guess, Ukrainians who would make these mistakes - and Steele sold his name to put on them and act as a spokesman in order to give them credibility.

"How the Trump dossier came to light: secret sources, a retired spy and John McCain" (my emphasis in red; what possible reason would there be to hide the city?):
"In mid-November, the documents took another route into Washington that ultimately led to them being mentioned in the joint intelligence report on Russian interference that was delivered to President Obama and President-elect Trump. On 18 November, the annual Halifax International Security Forum opened in the Canadian city, bringing together serving and former security and foreign policy officials from around the world.

Senator John McCain, a hawkish Republican, was there and was introduced to a former senior western diplomat who had seen the documents, knew their source and thought him highly reliable. McCain decided the implications were sufficiently alarming to dispatch a trusted emissary, a former US official, to meet the source and find out more.

The emissary hastily arranged a transatlantic flight and met the source at the airport as arranged. (The Guardian has agreed not to specify the city or country where the meeting took place.) The meeting had a certain cold war tradecraft to it, as he was told to look for a man with a copy of the Financial Times. Having found each other, the retired counter-intelligence officer drove the emissary to his house, where they discussed the documents and their background."

McCain is probably helping his neo-Nazi pals in Ukraine, as this whole operation had been a dud up to McCain's involvement:  "BuzzFeed Posts Unverified Claims on Trump, Igniting a Debate":
"But BuzzFeed’s move was welcomed by some people, who expressed concern that news outlets and government officials with access to the allegations had not disclosed them sooner. Almost immediately, the report’s publication prompted questions from Hillary Clinton’s camp about why the claims had not surfaced earlier.

“Today has brought a gush of reporting that outlets knew about and sat on prior to November 8,” Brian Fallon, Mrs. Clinton’s chief campaign spokesman, wrote on Twitter. He added, in a second message: “I repeat: certain media outlets were told this prior to November 8.”

Mother Jones, a left-leaning publication, published an article in late October about the existence of the information. Newsweek also published some of the allegations.

Immediately after BuzzFeed’s publication, some reporters volunteered that they, too, had received copies of the report. “Raise your hand if you too were approached with this story,” Julia Ioffe, a journalist who has written extensively on Russia, wrote on Twitter, adding that she had not reported on the information in the document “because it was impossible to verify.”

Writers at the blog Lawfare, which covers national security issues, said they had been in possession of the document “for a couple of weeks” but opted not to publish because the allegations were unproven."
It appears that the material was widely disseminated in mid to late October to the kind of 'journalists' who might take the bait.  The Corn piece from October 31 (which also refers to Harry Reid's vague allegations in his August 27 letter to Comey probably inspired by 'Steele's' first memo or memos in summer 2016):
"But Reid's recent note hinted at more than the Page or Manafort affairs. And a former senior intelligence officer for a Western country who specialized in Russian counterintelligence tells Mother Jones that in recent months he provided the bureau with memos, based on his recent interactions with Russian sources, contending the Russian government has for years tried to co-opt and assist Trump—and that the FBI requested more information from him.

"This is something of huge significance, way above party politics," the former intelligence officer says. "I think [Trump's] own party should be aware of this stuff as well."
Does this mean the FBI is investigating whether Russian intelligence has attempted to develop a secret relationship with Trump or cultivate him as an asset? Was the former intelligence officer and his material deemed credible or not? An FBI spokeswoman says, "Normally, we don't talk about whether we are investigating anything." But a senior US government official not involved in this case but familiar with the former spy tells Mother Jones that he has been a credible source with a proven record of providing reliable, sensitive, and important information to the US government.

In June, the former Western intelligence officer—who spent almost two decades on Russian intelligence matters and who now works with a US firm that gathers information on Russia for corporate clients—was assigned the task of researching Trump's dealings in Russia and elsewhere, according to the former spy and his associates in this American firm. This was for an opposition research project originally financed by a Republican client critical of the celebrity mogul. (Before the former spy was retained, the project's financing switched to a client allied with Democrats.) "It started off as a fairly general inquiry," says the former spook, who asks not to be identified. But when he dug into Trump, he notes, he came across troubling information indicating connections between Trump and the Russian government. According to his sources, he says, "there was an established exchange of information between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin of mutual benefit."

This was, the former spy remarks, "an extraordinary situation." He regularly consults with US government agencies on Russian matters, and near the start of July on his own initiative—without the permission of the US company that hired him—he sent a report he had written for that firm to a contact at the FBI, according to the former intelligence officer and his American associates, who asked not to be identified. (He declines to identify the FBI contact.) The former spy says he concluded that the information he had collected on Trump was "sufficiently serious" to share with the FBI.

Mother Jones has reviewed that report and other memos this former spy wrote. The first memo, based on the former intelligence officer's conversations with Russian sources, noted, "Russian regime has been cultivating, supporting and assisting TRUMP for at least 5 years. Aim, endorsed by PUTIN, has been to encourage splits and divisions in western alliance." It maintained that Trump "and his inner circle have accepted a regular flow of intelligence from the Kremlin, including on his Democratic and other political rivals." It claimed that Russian intelligence had "compromised" Trump during his visits to Moscow and could "blackmail him." It also reported that Russian intelligence had compiled a dossier on Hillary Clinton based on "bugged conversations she had on various visits to Russia and intercepted phone calls."

The former intelligence officer says the response from the FBI was "shock and horror." The FBI, after receiving the first memo, did not immediately request additional material, according to the former intelligence officer and his American associates. Yet in August, they say, the FBI asked him for all information in his possession and for him to explain how the material had been gathered and to identify his sources. The former spy forwarded to the bureau several memos—some of which referred to members of Trump's inner circle. After that point, he continued to share information with the FBI. "It's quite clear there was or is a pretty substantial inquiry going on," he says."



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