UK’s former Moscow ambassador on Trump dossier

Outside of the current mess of US media and politics, where it’s difficult to know who is faking what, the dossier on Trump/Russia is getting attention also in the UK, which is also deeply involved.

And a former UK ambassador to Russia is giving some credence to the spy who put the dossier together.

The Guardian: UK’s former Moscow ambassador in spotlight over Trump dossier

Sir Andrew Wood says he rates judgment of report author Christopher Steele, who ‘would not make things up’

It could depend on whether Steele’s sources are making things up or not though.

Cool, unruffled and polite, Sir Andrew Wood is every inch the Foreign Office mandarin, and not a diplomat ordinarily associated with the kind of cold war-style alleged sex scandal currently embroiling the president-elect, Donald Trump.

Yet to his evident discomfort, Wood has found himself thrust front and centre of a story that has generated global interest and sent shudders around Washington and Whitehall on the eve of an inauguration that will be stained by the furore.

Wood, 77, knew and respected Christopher Steele, the ex-MI6 officer who wrote the 35-page dossier that contained lurid allegations about Trump. Wood also spoke to the Republican senator John McCain about the claims.

The two men had met at an “international security forum” in Canada last November – Wood addressed delegates about Ukraine, McCain about Syria. But it was their private discussion about Russia that set in train this week’s remarkable events.

Wood shared with the veteran senator what he knew about the dossier and warned that if any of its central claims were true, Trump could be blackmailed by Russia. McCain was worried enough to seek out a copy of the documents for himself – which he then passed to the FBI.

So Wood and McCain both thought it was serious enough to do something about it (but it should be noted that McCain has been a strong opponent of Trump since before this broke).

Wood, the UK ambassador to Moscow between 1995 and 2000, explained the sequence of events in various media interviews on Friday – using the kind of moderated language that no doubt helped persuade McCain, and then the heads of the US intelligence agencies, that both President Obama and the brash incumbent, needed to know what was being circulated.

At a point when the British government was hoping the story would go away, Wood lobbed the ball back into the billionaire’s court.

He told the Guardian the report’s key allegation – that Trump and Russia’s leadership were communicating via secret back channels during the presidential campaign – was eminently plausible.

“I think it has to be disproved, rather than anything else,” he said.

I don’t think it should be entirely that way, if at all. It would make a big difference to the story if some proof was produced.

Of Steele, who compiled the dossier last year at the behest of Trump’s political enemies, Wood told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Friday morning he knew him to be a “very competent professional operator … I do not think he would make things up. I don’t think he would necessarily always draw the correct judgment, but that’s not the same thing at all.”

Later, Wood was more generous in his assessment of Steele, telling the Guardian he “rated his judgment”.

“I take the report seriously. I don’t think it’s totally implausible. It’s conceivable he [Steele] has been duped or has exaggerated what his sources have been telling him. But I can’t really believe the dupe argument. Why would they [the Kremlin] bother?”

This is likely to help give the story some legs.

All of which suggests the debate about the dossier and its unsubstantiated claims are likely to rumble on in the US and the UK – which is likely to frustrate Downing Street as it tries to build bridges with a new, unpredictable administration.

It was GCHQ that tipped off the US about Russia hacking the Democratic Convention, and it was an MI6 officer whose work on Trump has caused the combustible businessman such embarrassment this week.

The UK is inextricably linked with the US and Russia over both the hacking and the dossier issues. And on the hacking:

Wood told the Guardian it was Trump’s own erratic behaviour on the campaign trail that had raised questions about his links with Russia. Trump originally denied that Putin had anything to do with hacking – only to say at his press conference earlier this week he thought Moscow was indeed guilty.

Confronted with serious hacking allegations, a presidential candidate would more usually call for a full inquiry, Wood said. Trump didn’t. “It colours the perception. Trump has encouraged the idea that there were meetings [between Trump aides and the Russian leadership],” Wood said, adding: “On the other hand, Trump says the first thing that comes into his head.”

If there were allegations of hacking being used by a major foreign power to try to influence a US election I would have thought that any responsible presidential candidate would have wanted it investigated properly.

Regardless of the facts or lack of facts Trump’s erratic behaviour and statements raise substantial doubts about his credibility.

US mess gets murkier

Claims have surfaced that Donald Trump has potentially been compromised by Russians. These are unverified, and not surprisingly Trump  tweeted “FAKE NEWS – A TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT!”

CNN broke this story: Intel chiefs presented Trump with claims of Russian efforts to compromise him

Classified documents presented last week to President Obama and President-elect Trump included allegations that Russian operatives claim to have compromising personal and financial information about Mr. Trump, multiple US officials with direct knowledge of the briefings tell CNN.

The allegations were presented in a two-page synopsis that was appended to a report on Russian interference in the 2016 election.

The FBI is investigating the credibility and accuracy of these allegations, which are based primarily on information from Russian sources, but has not confirmed many essential details in the memos about Mr. Trump.

One reason the nation’s intelligence chiefs took the extraordinary step of including the synopsis in the briefing documents was to make the President-elect aware that such allegations involving him are circulating among intelligence agencies, senior members of Congress and other government officials in Washington, multiple sources tell CNN.

These senior intelligence officials also included the synopsis to demonstrate that Russia had compiled information potentially harmful to both political parties, but only released information damaging to Hillary Clinton and Democrats. This synopsis was not an official part of the report from the intelligence community case about Russian hacks, but some officials said it augmented the evidence that Moscow intended to harm Clinton’s candidacy and help Trump’s, several officials with knowledge of the briefings tell CNN.

The two-page synopsis also included allegations that there was a continuing exchange of information during the campaign between Trump surrogates and intermediaries for the Russian government, according to two national security officials.

The raw memos on which the synopsis is based were prepared by the former MI6 agent, who was posted in Russia in the 1990s and now runs a private intelligence gathering firm.

His investigations related to Mr. Trump were initially funded by groups and donors supporting Republican opponents of Mr. Trump during the GOP primaries, multiple sources confirmed to CNN. Those sources also said that once Mr. Trump became the nominee, further investigation was funded by groups and donors supporting Hillary Clinton.

Spokespeople for the FBI and the Director of National Intelligence declined to comment. Officials who spoke to CNN declined to do so on the record given the classified nature of the material.

Some of the allegations were first reported publicly in Mother Jones one week before the election.

New York Times: Trump Received Unsubstantiated Report That Russia Had Damaging Information About Him

The memos suggest that for many years, the Russian government of Mr. Putin has looked for ways to influence Mr. Trump, who has traveled repeatedly to Moscow to investigate real estate deals or to oversee the Miss Universe competition, which he owned for several years. Mr. Trump never completed any major deals in Russia, though he discussed them for years.

The memos describe sex videos involving prostitutes with Mr. Trump in a 2013 visit to a Moscow hotel. The videos were supposedly prepared as “kompromat,” or compromising material, with the possible goal of blackmailing Mr. Trump in the future.

The memos also suggest that Russian officials proposed various lucrative deals, essentially as disguised bribes in order to win influence over Mr. Trump.

The memos describe several purported meetings during the 2016 presidential campaign between Trump representatives and Russian officials to discuss matters of mutual interest, including the Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee and Mrs. Clinton’s campaign chairman, John D. Podesta.

This is all unverified.

The former British intelligence officer who gathered the material about Mr. Trump is considered a competent and reliable operative with extensive experience in Russia, American officials said. But he passed on what he heard from Russian informants and others, and what they told him has not yet been vetted by American intelligence.

Whatever the Russians have done deliberately or inadvertently, they appear to have played a significant role in the election, and what is emerging is highly embarrassing to the United States.

It has become a murky mess, and it’s quite likely to get worse.

UK tipped off US over Russian hacking

From Missy on claims that UK Intelligence services tipped off the US that Russia was attempting political hacks.


Apparently it was the UK Intelligence services that first tipped the US off to Russia’s campaign to influence the election. The reports suggest that the UK were aware in the Autumn of 2015 that Russia were responsible for a breach in the DNC, and tipped off the US. There are also claims that Russia had attempted a similar hack in the UK in the lead up to the 2015 election by targeting Whitehall computers, however it was thwarted by GCHQ.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jan/07/russia-us-election-hacking-uk-intelligence

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/01/06/vladimir-putin-accused-us-intelligence-report-ordering-broadinfluencecampaign/

The question would have to be, why didn’t the US act on this information? I have no reason to believe that the UK did not provide the information as soon as they learned of it, so the US intelligence agencies would have known by the end of 2015, why didn’t they do something then?

Paul Ryan: Assange a ‘sycophant for Russia’

The Republicans will dominate all of the presidency, the Senate and Congress in the new term, but the way the year has started suggests it may not be unbridled power – the horses seem to be hitched and pulling in different directions.

There was an attempt to slash oversight of Congress, followed by a Trump frowning via Twitter a rapid u-turn – see The Swamp fights back.

Now Paul Ryan calls Julian Assange a ‘sycophant for Russia’.

Mr. Assange reiterated this week in an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity that Russia was not the source behind the internal communications from Democratic officials that WikiLeaks released during the campaign.

In a series of Wednesday morning tweets, President-elect Donald Trump touted Mr. Assange’s recent testimony and questioned why Democratic officials were so “careless” with their communications.

But…

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan on Wednesday told radio host Hugh Hewitt that he really has no opinion on Mr. Assange, “other than I think the guy is a sycophant for Russia.”

Also:

@Evan_McMullin
.@SpeakerRyan on Julian Assange: “He leaks. He steals data and compromises national security.”

All Press Corps eyes will probably be atwitter and atrump.

 

US retaliates against Russian hacking

After weeks of accusations that Russia was involved in political hacking and interfering in last month’s US election last month President Obama has now launched retaliatory actions.

Washington Post: Obama administration announces measures to punish Russia for 2016 election interference

The Obama administration announced sweeping new measures on Thursday in retaliation for what U.S. officials characterized as Russian interference in this fall’s presidential election, ordering the removal of 35 Russian government officials and sanctioning state agencies and individuals tied to the hacks.

The FBI and CIA have concluded that Russia intervened in the 2016 election in part to help Donald Trump win the White House. Thursday’s announcement comes several weeks after President Obama promised to respond to Russian hacking with both public and covert actions,“at a time and place of our own choosing.”

The president said the new actions followed repeated warnings to the Russian government and were “a necessary and appropriate response to efforts to harm U.S. interests” contrary to international norms.

Obama said Americans should be “alarmed” by Russian actions, which he said included the interference in the election and harassment of U.S. diplomats overseas. “Such activities have consequences,” he said in a statement.

The new measures include sanctions on two Russian intelligence agencies, three companies that are believed to have provided support for government cyber operations, and four Russian cyber officials. The administration will also shut down Russian-owned facilities in Maryland and New York that Obama said where used for intelligence activities and would declare 35 Russian operatives “persona non grata,” meaning they would be required to leave the United States.

The State Department said it is taking action against these 35 individuals in response to Russia’s interference in the U.S. election and to the harassment of U.S. diplomats overseas over the last four years.

“The harassment has involved arbitrary police stops, physical assault, and the broadcast on State TV of personal details about our personnel that put them at risk,” according to a statement from State Department spokesperson Mark C. Toner.

The executive order released by the White House

The Russians dismiss these actions.

“Any anti-Russian sanctions are fruitless and counterproductive,” said Konstantin Dolgov, the Russian foreign ministry official in charge of democracy and human rights, according to Interfax. “Such one-sided steps have the goal of damaging relations and complicating their restoration in the future.”

I think that one sided steps such as hacking foreign political parties and leaking hacked information to political activists intent on influencing an election also risks damaging relations and complicating the restoration of good relations (if the US claims are true).

Trump encourages Russian political hacking

The big news in the US campaign is Donald Trump’s encouraging of Russian hackers to further interfere in the US election.

BuzzFeed: Trump Expressly Asks Russia To Hack Clinton’s Emails

Trump denied there was any evidence that Russia was behind the attack, but also said the hacking showed a lack of respect of the US.

“But if it is Russia, it’s really bad for a different reason, because it shows how little respect they have for our country when they would hack into a major party and get everything,” he said, before immediately asking Russia to hack Clinton’s emails.

Just after denying he had colluded with Russian President Vladimir Putin to leak Democratic National Committee emails, Donald Trump on Wednesday expressly asked Russia to find “missing” emails belonging to Hillary Clinton.

“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” he told reporters in Doral, Florida. “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press. Let’s see if that happens. That will be next.”

That has caused quite a stir.

Hillary Clinton’s campaign has responded:

JakeResponsetoTrump

Can this campaign get any more bizarre and outlandish? Probably.

Slater proud of political hack

Cameron Slater suggests he is proud of being the victim of a political hack, but has moved from playing down to ignoring his own involvement in an attempted political hack.

And he seems to be promoting political hacking as just a part of elections here in New Zealand – but uses a news report on US presidential campaigning as an example.

Yesterday he posted It appears that hacking as part of elections is here to stay.

I would say I am proud to have been the first in New Zealand, but that would ignore the Hollow Men hack, and perhaps others that have been just as effective and less public.

He has often complained about much of a victim he was, but now seems to be proud of the hacker’s attention.

Politically motivated hacking seems to be alive and well in New Zealand.  And judging by the news story, it’s here to stay. 

The news story has got nothing to do with New Zealand.

Would it be unfair to say it’s most, if not all, done by or for the left? 

Considering that Slater admitted to police and court that he was guilty of trying to procure a hack (for political purposes) it is disingenuous denial to say that only the left do it.

Let’s face it, hacking is a great leveling tool.  It can bring National’s millions to its knees by just a few people with a computer and the Internet.

But…

The good thing is that once they had all my emails, they bungled it.   The electorate may not have liked Dirty Politics, but they liked the way the left had packaged it and were trying to make a molehill into a mountain even less. Bless the voters and bless the left for thinking they would care about a beltway issue such as a blogger writing stories or handing leads to media.

He seems to be claiming hacking is a great levelling tool except that it didn’t bring National to it’s knees, it was ineffective. Who can tell what he means.

It is the same reason I can’t get any traction on getting justice for the hack – people don’t care.

Really? I thought it looked like the police failed to identify the hacker or find evidence of who the hacker was.

Stater has claimed to know who the hacker was and who financed the hack and who was involved in using the hacked information but still fails to substantiate any of his claims. Last week he tried to dump accusations on Ben Rachinger, saying he wasn’t claiming anything himself.

There have always been the infiltration of campaigns, spying and going through rubbish bins after political meetings.  But it is time to both realise and accept that hacking is now a standard part of campaigning.

It happened once. It backfired. Slater tried to do it. That backfired. Doesn’t that make it look stupid?

So why is Slater trying to normalise it as ‘a standard part of campaigning’? Does he think he will get away with it next time?

He also takes a swipe, again, at Hager and the media.

But now, Hager’s even managed to get the media to work with him.  Some, because they are idiots, and others I suspect due to the fact he’s got information on them.  All the media have done is cut off their links to right wing sources and are all-in on the left wing ones. 

All the media have done is cut off their links to Slater. Despite his belief in his importance he can hardly have been the sole right wing source.

Sources like Matthew Hooton, David Farrar and David Seymour still seem to have relationships with the media. And John Key and National Ministers and MPs seem to still be an occasional source for the media.

Kind of awesome, if it wasn’t for their incompetence.

Kind of ironic given Slater’s incompetence.

The only thing that tickles me pink about this is that the Media Party will inevitably end up being hacked as well.   If they haven’t already.

Is that wishful thinking? Or is it a veiled threat?

As well as threatening to reveal all about the Rawshark hacking and all those alleged to be involved Slater has threatened to reveal embarrassing information about media complicity with the hack and with himself. Like many of his promises of revelations he keeps failing to deliver.

Slater is all over the place here. On the Rawshark hack he flip flops between being proud (‘yay, me!’) to self pity (‘poor me!’).

What seems to be lacking is any remorse for getting busted – he now seems to be suggest hacking is an acceptable political tactic.

Slater versus NZ Herald and “inherent dishonesty”

When I posted Slater cleared of hacking claims yesterday I left out trivial side issues that the Herald chose to highlight, like a couple of spelling mistakes in the police report, in Dirty Politics: Police clear blogger over Labour hacking claims.

That seemed to be irrelevant to the story apart from being a dig at the police, and as was pointed out on Twitter, it’s almost inevitable that those complaining about spelling and grammar make mistakes in doing so.

. I mean, if you’re going to take a cheap crack at the Police’s spelling – don’t cock it up.

Embedded image permalink

The article now says:

NZH010815

But there was a more serious mistake according to Cameron Slater. in THE INHERENT DISHONESTY OF DAVID FISHER.

Yesterday David Fisher wrote an article in a newspaper about me.

At the bottom of the article he said this:

Slater – who did not wish to comment – has denied any wrongdoing.

There is a problem with that statement…I never said I did not wish to comment.

I saw that comment. I also noticed later that it had changed to:

Slater, who has denied any wrongdoing, said he would be seeking an apology from Andrew Little over the accusations.

Slater explains what happened:

At 4:19pm David Fisher emailed me for comment.

Fisher-email

I responded to him:

Please provide me a copy of the Police advice to the Labour party, then I will consider a response.

Little did I know that David Fisher had already published the story a mere 9 minutes after he emailed me for comment.

He provides evidence of that:

Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 5.01.18 pm

.The article still shows that time of publication, despite at least two edits since then.

Inherent dishonesty? Or hurried and sloppy plus lax editing protocols?

Slater talks to Fairfax, contradicts

It appears that Cameron Slater has talked to Fairfax regarding the Rachinger accusations – Cameron Slater denies hacking allegations.

Some of what he is reported to have said seems very odd – why would someone who has admitted to being financially stressed keep handing out generous loans? And some of it is contradictory, with Slater saying he knows nothing of any police investigation but has “given them everything” (the police).

Controversial blogger Cameron Slater is denying allegations that he offered to pay for a hack into left-wing blogThe Standard.

IT consultant Ben Rachinger told TV 3’s The Nation Slater offered him $5000 to get the website’s internal mailing list.

Rachinger said he declined the right-wing blogger’s offer.

Rachinger told The Nation the offer was made by text where Slater said he wanted “all MPs outed”.

“He asked me, ‘I want you to focus on this job of getting into The Standard, I’ve got $5000 available for it’,” he said.

However, Slater has denied these claims, saying “it’s total and utter bulls***”.

Slater said he was not surprised by the allegations but they were not true.

In the past Rachinger had asked Slater for money when he was in a tough spot, he said.

Slater said he did not recall the exact amount he gave to Rachinger.

“It would be $500 here and $500 there.

So Slater has admitted giving Rachinger money. This looks very odd, considering the financial pressure Slater has admitted to being under, and the amount of fund raising Whale Oil has been doing. It may be true but it would surprise me.

“I’m a generous person, I help people out when they’re in trouble but sometimes people bite the hand that helps them out.”

How many people does he drip feed $500 loans to while at the same time claiming he’s broke on Whale Oil?

However, the loans given to Rachinger had been taken out of context, he said.

The context is now even muddier now.

Rachinger said the pair discussed the plan but Slater would not name who was funding the hack.

He said he was only told the “funders aren’t the Nats”.

There appears to be evidence of ‘funders’ being involved in the communications. So this doesn’t add up; with the claims of loans. Who would fund Slater to dish out loans to people?

A police spokesman said police received a complaint regarding an alleged attempt to procure the hacking of a computer system and it was being investigated by Counties Manukau CIB.

“There are a number of complexities to the investigation, including the posting online of documentation which has already compromised the investigation, which is making our inquires more difficult.”

Police were taking a “cautious approach” and any decision on charges was “some way off”, he said.

Slater said he was not aware of any police investigation and he had not been contacted by police in relation to these allegations.

Ok. But…

“I’ve got nothing to hide from any police investigation.”

“I’ve been totally open with the police…I’ve given them my computer, I’ve given them my phone, I’ve given them everything voluntarily.”

This needs clarifying, it just doesn’t make sense. Slater is reported as saying “he was not aware of any police investigation” but has “been totally open with the police” and “I’ve given them everything voluntarily” – without being aware of any investigation?

That’s contradictory. This raises more questions than it answers.

Rachinger tweets Slater statement on his claims

Cameron Slater has released a statement on the claims made by Ben Rachinger, as announced by Rachinger on Twitter. Rachinger had first tweeted:

Thanks for giving me a chance to put the evidence and my side of the story in public arena. The story speaks for itself.

Thank you for your words Mr Slater. You were somewhat kind. Below is Mr Slaters last word on my allegations.

SlaterStamentRachinger

Slater has made this all about Rachinger. He has not addressed any of the claims, not any of the communications that have been revealed, nor any of the payments made to Rachinger. Slater has not denied any specifics about trying to solicit hacking of The Standard. He refuses to respond, while trying to dump all of the attention on Rachinger. More from Rachinger:

I will prepare my own statement and release this in due course. For now I’m taking some time out to be with my loved ones. Thanks.

Interesting to see his pinned tweet from  several days ago

Do you believe whistleblowers should be protected by law except if they’ve committed heinous crimes? RT if you do.

He seems to see himself as a whistleblower.