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Philip Giraldi

The Spy Business

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I have been following the story regarding the arrest of the sub-source who reportedly provided much of the apparently fabricated “intelligence” that went into the Christopher Steele dossier that was commissioned by Hillary Clinton and the DNC to get the dirt on GOP candidate Donald Trump. The real story is, of course, that the Democrats used their incumbency in the presidency to illegally involve various national security agencies in the process of defaming Trump, but for the time being we have to be content with the detention of Russian born Virginia resident Igor Danchenko for the crime of lying to the FBI.

My problem is that apart from the lying, which might be categorized in a file labeled “Everyone Lies to the Police,” I can’t quite figure out what the poor sod did that was criminal. I have reconstructed the sequence of events as follows: A business intelligence research firm Fusion GPS originally began researching Trump’s possible ties with Russia during the primary elections on behalf of a conservative who wanted to damage Trump’s campaign. After Trump became the Republican nominee, the original funder discontinued the search, but Fusion GPS was hired to keep going by the Perkins Coie law firm, which was working for the Hillary Clinton campaign. Christopher Steele, former MI-6 officer with a good reputation and reported access to information coming from Russia among other places, was sub-contracted by Fusion to assist in the effort by compiling a dossier containing defamatory material on Trump. As he had limited access to the kind of sleaze that was being sought, Steele contacted a known intelligence researcher who appeared to have such access. That was Danchenko, an analyst who specialized in Russia, whom Steele subsequently described as his “primary sub-source.” Danchenko had worked for the Washington DC based and Democratic Party linked Brookings Institution from 2005 until 2010 and was considered reliable.

Steele tasked Danchenko with finding out details about Trump and the Russians, to include possible contacts with the Kremlin’s intelligence services during a trip to Moscow in 2013 where the Trump Organization was hosting the Miss Universe contest. Danchenko did just that to Steele’s satisfaction, which also pleased Steele’s clients. The information collected subsequently was incorporated into what became the notorious Steele Dossier and was used by the FBI among others to make a case against Donald Trump and his associates.Among other initiatives, the Bureau used the file, which it knew to be largely innuendo, as justification to obtain a secret surveillance court order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Court (FISA) which authorized a wiretap targeting former Trump adviser Carter Page.
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The New American Leadership: Biden Tells the World What He Wants It to Know

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It is sometimes difficult to absorb how much the United States has changed in the past twenty years, and not for the better. When I was in grade school in the 1950s there was a favorite somewhat simplistic saying much employed by teachers to illustrate the success of the American way of life that prevailed at that time. It went “What’s good for General Motors is good for America” and it meant that the US version of a robust and assertive capitalist economy generated opportunity and prosperity for the entire nation. Today, having witnessed the devastation and offshoring of the domestic manufacturing economy by those very same corporate managers, such an expression would be rightly sneered at and considered risible.
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Silencing Julian Assange: Why Bother With a Trial When You Can Just Kill Him?

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An English friend recently learned about the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) plan to either kidnap or kill journalist Julian Assange and quipped “I’ll bet he’s happy to be safe and sound in Belmarsh Prison if he has a chance to read about that!” I replied that his time in Belmarsh has been made as demeaning as possible by an English judge and the British are just as capable of executing a Jeffrey Epstein suicide or “accident” if called upon to do so by their American “cousins.”
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General Milley Strikes Out Demonstrating What Is Wrong With the American Military

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Most Americans do not know that in the United States currently there are approximately 900 Active-duty generals and flag officers to lead 1.3 million troops in the combined armed forces. During World War II, an admittedly different era, there were roughly twice as many flag and general officers for a little more than 12 million active duty troops a ratio of one to 6,000. In the Navy there are 32 flag officers for each ship currently in commission. In 1944, there was one flag officer for every 24 ships.
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Why Have Embassies?

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President Joe Biden’s departure from Afghanistan was the right thing to do even if it was handled disastrously. And he now has the opportunity to do some other “right things” that are in some ways related to the recently concluded fiasco in Central Asia in that the White House for too long has believed that it has the authority to intervene globally given its often cited authority as both “exceptional” and “Leader of the Free World.” One thinks immediate of the sanctions regime which is used repeatedly to punish foreign governments that do not conform to American and Western European norms on issues like homosexuality, “choice,” and even immigration. The current edition of sanctions, naming individuals, businesses and government entities, runs to hundreds of pages. It is updated and added to regularly by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.

It has repeatedly been demonstrated that sanctions do not accomplish anything and they in fact disproportionately punish the most vulnerable people in the country being targeted, depriving them of food and medicine while their leaders have plenty of both. Sanctions do not compel countries to change their foreign and domestic policies and, in fact, frequently generate a measure of sympathy, producing popular support for regimes that are perceived as being unfairly attacked by the United States. Many argue that the authoritarian regime in Cuba has largely survived because many Cubans despise the extensive US imposed sanctions on their country.
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Here Come the Terrorists. Again

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President Joe Biden is being praised in some circles because he finally ended the war in Afghanistan that in all likelihood should never have begun. President George W. Bush initiated the conflict on a series of lies about 9/11 and the Taliban role in that attack and what followed. After bringing about regime change, he decided to remake the country into a western style democracy. President Barack Obama subsequently allowed a “surge” which actually increased the militarization of the conflict and made things worse. The joint effort produced no free elections but delivered instead tens of thousands of deaths and a huge hole in the US Treasury. 

Bush and Obama were followed by President Donald Trump who actually promised to end the war but lacked the conviction and political support to do so, handing the problem over to Biden, who has bungled the end game but finally done the right thing by ending the fiasco. Biden also has been right to accede to a withdrawal of the last US combat troops from Iraq by year’s end, a move that will considerably ease tension with the Baghdad government, which has been calling for such a move since last January.

But America’s war on those parts of the world that resist following its self-defined leadership is not about to go away. An interesting recent article in the foreign policy establishment The Hill written by a former senior CIA operations and staff officer Douglas London sees an Orwellian unending war against major adversaries Russia and China. Derived from his own experience, he concludes that sustained and enhanced clandestine actions should now replace conventional military forces confrontation, which has been somewhat outdated as an option due to the development of relatively cheap missile technologies that have undermined classic conventional weapons.
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Washington’s Clueless Ambassadors: Damaging American Interests Is Their Legacy

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Whenever one gets into discussions about the decline of America’s ability to positively influence developments around the world a number of issues tend to surface. First is the hubristic claim by successive presidents that the United States is somehow “exceptional” as a polity while also serving as the world’s only superpower and also the anointed Leader of the Free World, whatever that is supposed to mean. Some critics of the status quo also have been willing to look a bit deeper, recognizing that it is the policies being pursued by the White House and Congress that are out of sync with what is actually happening in Asia, Africa and Latin America, being more driven by establishing acceptable narratives than by genuine interests.

The problem starts at the top. One can hardly have a great deal of respect for presidents who appointed neocon or neoliberal ideologues Condoleezza Rice, Madeleine Albright, Hillary Clinton, Mike Pompeo or current incumbent Tony Blinken as Secretaries of State, but when all is said and done the area where the US fails is most egregiously is in the personnel it actually sends overseas. It has far more non-professional ambassadors than any other country in the world.

Does the American public know, for example, that fully 44% of American Ambassadors sent overseas under Donald Trump were political appointees, whose sole distinction in many cases is that they contributed large sums of money to the Republican National Committee? Though such individuals can sometimes turn out to be surprisingly effective, many frequently know nothing of the country that they have been assigned to and do not speak the local language. To cite my own experience, in my 21 years as an intelligence officer spent mostly in Europe I did not once work for an ambassador who was a Foreign Service Officer career diplomat and few of the political appointees I knew never bothered to learn the local language.
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Washington’s Terrorist Friends: Prominent Americans Continue to Support a Murderous Cult

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One might ask if Washington’s obsession with terrorism includes supporting radical armed groups as long as they are politically useful in attacking countries that the US regards as enemies? It is widely known that the American CIA worked with Saudi Arabia to create al-Qaeda to attack the Russians in Afghanistan and the same my-enemy’s-enemy thinking appears to drive the current relationships with radical groups in Syria.
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Whither Afghanistan? Getting Out Is Harder Than Getting In

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The inability of the United States to comprehend what it was becoming involved in when, in the wake of 9/11, it declared a Global War on Terror, has to be reckoned one of the singular failures of national security policy over the past twenty years. Not only did the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq make bad situations worse, but the fact that no one is Washington was able to define “victory” and think in terms of an exit strategy has meant that the wars and instability are still with us. In their wake has been hundreds of thousands of deaths and trillions of dollars spent to accomplish absolutely nothing.

As a result, Iraq is unstable and leans more heavily towards America’s adversary Iran than it does to Washington. The Iraqi Parliament has, in fact, asked US forces to leave the country, a request that has been ignored both by Donald Trump and Joe Biden. Trump actually threatened to freeze Iraqi bank assets to pressure the Iraqis into accepting the continued US occupation. At the same time, American troops illegally present in neighboring Syria, continue to occupy that country’s oil fields to deprive the government in Damascus of much needed resources. Neither Iraq nor Syria threatens the United States in any way.

Given that history, it should be no surprise that the withdrawal from the twenty year-long nation building project in Afghanistan, long overdue, is not quite going as smoothly as the Pentagon and White House apparently planned. US forces pulled out of their principal base in the country, Bagram Air Base, in the middle of the night without informing the incoming Afghan base commander. A frenzy of looting of the left behind equipment followed.
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Bomber Joe Biden Strikes Iraq and Syria: Retaliation Breeds More Incidents

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In less than six months in office President Joe Biden has already developed a national security policy that appears to lean strongly towards proactive use of military force in questionable circumstances, as if war is the answer to every problem. Biden should nevertheless be applauded for his persistence in withdrawing from Afghanistan after twenty years of ill-considered nation building, but even the departure from that country appears to be characterized by a lack of coordination, rather reminiscent of helicopters taking off from the embassy roof in Saigon in 1975.
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