By Ray McGovern
January 01, 2020 “Information Clearing House” – Can the FBI be trusted? You decide, but only after you learn about the Bureau’s most recently revealed fraud on the court.
Establishment media are ignoring the latest FBI flip-flop (surprise, surprise); they are reporting instead that incoming president Joe Biden wants Christopher Wray to stay on as FBI director? What’s that all about?
Again, you decide after reading what follows. The latest known FBI caper involves hiding materials regarding the neuralgic, (dont-even-think-about-it) issue of why the Democratic National Committee 27 year-old insider, Seth Rich, was murdered on July 10, 2016.
Media coverage of L’Affaire Rich has been so scant in recent years that some background seems needed to grasp the facts, their relevance, and the implications for the ever-increasing immunity enjoyed by the Security (aka Deep) State. Those generally aware of some of the detail may find this background a helpful refresher. Those who wish to can scroll down for a discussion of the most recent episode of FBI malfeasance.
— On June 12, 2016, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange announced he had “emails related to Hillary Clinton which are pending publication.” Those emails had been copied in late May 2016 onto an external storage device (probably a thumb drive) and given to WikiLeaks.
— On July 10, 2016, Seth Rich was shot and killed. The motive was said to be robbery, but nothing is known to have been taken from him.
— On July 22, 2016, three days before the Democratic National Convention began, WikiLeaks published the DNC emails.
There was speculation at the time that Seth Rich was involved in the leak of the damaging emails (which showed how the DNC had stacked the deck against Bernie Sanders), and that perhaps the leaker had been identified by DNC cyber-sleuths.
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Adding fuel to the fire, on August 9 2016, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange publicly implied that Rich may have been a WikiLeaks’ source. ( See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-G21u6YnLoA ) That same day, WikiLeaks announced “a $20,000 reward for information leading to conviction for the murder of DNC staffer Seth Rich”. (See: https://www.businessinsider.com/wikileaks-20000-seth-rich-dnc-2016-8 )
An Insider, Not Russia
On Dec. 12, 2016, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) formally ruled out, on technical grounds, the possibility that the Russians “hacked” those DNC emails. Drawing on the expertise of former technical directors at NSA, material revealed by Edward Snowden, and applying the principles of physics, VIPS concluded that:
“… the emails were leaked by an insider – as was the case with Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning. Such an insider could be anyone … with access to NSA databases, or perhaps someone within the DNC.” (See: https://consortiumnews.com/2016/12/12/us-intel-vets-dispute-russia-hacking-claims/ )
A year later on Dec. 5, 2017, Shawn Henry, the head of the cyber-security firm CrowdStrike hired by the DNC (and highly touted by then-FBI Director James Comey) to do the forensics, testified under oath that there was “no concrete evidence” the emails were hacked — by the Russians or by anyone else.) (See: https://consortiumnews.com/2020/05/09/ray-mcgovern-new-house-documents-sow-further-doubt-that-russia-hacked-the-dnc/ )
( https://intelligence.house.gov/uploadedfiles/sh21.pdf ). The supplementary “circumstantial” evidence that Mr. Henry adduced to blame Russia could not pass a smell test by anyone with a nose in working order.
But House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff did not release Henry’s testimony until May 7, 2020. Establishment media picked up where Schiff left off and have been hiding Henry’s testimony since May 7.
By almost all accounts, Seth Rich had excellent access to DNC computers. But the possibility that he played a role in leaking the DNC emails to WikiLeaks, and then paid for it with his life, proved too much for Official Washington to handle. Besides, the “Russian hack” canard was not only a handy way to attribute Mrs. Clinton’s loss to Russian interference and to prove Donald Trump wrong on Russia.
It also proved a convenient way to divert attention from the fate that befell Rich. What would happen to the Russia-did-it story that media hacks were pushing, if it became widely known that there was a simpler way to explain how the DNC emails got to WikiLeaks. (Julian Assange had denied strongly that any state actor was involved.)
Oddly, President Obama himself was not fully persuaded by the rump, misnomered “Intelligence Community Assessment” (written by “hand-picked” analysts from FBI, CIA, and NSA), that pinned the “hack” on Russia. At his last press conference, less than two weeks after being fully briefed on the Assessment’s “high-confidence” findings, Obama pointed out that one of its conclusions — how the DNC emails reached WikiLeaks — was “inconclusive”. ( See: https://consortiumnews.com/2017/01/20/obama-admits-gap-in-russian-hack-case/ ).
As to the killing of Rich, there was no official investigation worthy of the name — despite a host of anomalies and unanswered questions. Those who did try to look into it, and were willing to raise speculative hypotheses anathema to the official narrative, were branded “conspiracy theorists”. The same thing happened to highly experienced scientists who applied the principles of physics and took advantage of highly relevant information revealed by Edward Snowden. Here’s one telling example of swords drawn by pundit mercenaries enlisted to promote the Establishment narrative — the (Democratic) party line, if you will — on Russia’s 2016 “hack”.
Risen on “Rising”
Erstwhile investigative journalist James Risen, now apparently a self-styled expert on the forensics of hacking, brought up Seth Rich during an interview on “Rising” on Aug. 5, 2019. Risen charged that VIPS’s widely respected former NSA Technical Director Bill Binney (primary author of the Dec. 12, 2016 VIPS Memo) had gone into “conspiracy theory mode”.
The charitable explanation is that Risen had not performed due diligence by doing his homework before the interview. Had he taken the trouble to read the December 12, 2016 VIPS Memo (with its revealing embedded charts from Edward Snowden), Risen would have known that it is not a matter of what Binney and the other NSA alumni in VIPS believe, it is what theyproved in writing four years ago — proved, as in QED. (See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5OxZEhN9RBY
(The relevant part of Risen’s remarks runs from minutes 2:34 to 4:00.) Risen, by the way, is still at it ( See: https://theintercept.com/2020/12/23/assange-snowden-whistleblower-pardons-espionage/ AND https://theintercept.com/2020/10/21/trump-presidency-summary/ ).
Question Most Awkward: If It Wasn’t the Russians …
By late last year, Seth Rich’s family was suing just about anyone who wrote or implied that Seth might have played a role in leaking the DNC emails. As VIPS kept reporting new technical evidence that the culprit was not Russia, the avoid-at-any-cost, awkward question kept raising its ugly head. “If it wasn’t the Russians, then who gave those emails to WikiLeaks?” There was only one known insider candidate, but mentioning his name could get you sued by a family with seemingly unlimited funds to pay lawyers close to the Democratic party.
There were even … dare I say conspiracy theorists? … like an erstwhile British investigative reporter in the mold of the latter-day James Risen, who implied that we were — whether witting, or duped — agents of the Kremlin. And so began a witch hunt into the computers of those VIPS members most directly involved. In the fall of 2019, several VIPS members were served highly intrusive subpoenas on the Russian hacking issue.
I shall confess that, for a couple of months I had a touch of subpoena envy. Then, alas, I was served — not once but twice. In my initial response last December to the first subpoena, I took some pains to lay out, as concisely as I could, what VIPS had proven and why. And I added enough links to help anyone seriously interested in learning the longer story. Readers may wish to skim through my response to the first subpoena. ( See: https://raymcgovern.com/?s=subpoena.)
FBI Comes Clean — John Ehrlichman-Style
The expression “modified limited hangout” coined by Nixon adviser John Ehrlichman seems an apt description for what the FBI did two weeks ago when it blithely reversed an earlier sworn FBI Declaration that it had no records on Seth Rich. Readers of the barren Establishment media will be surprised to learn that, after three years of denial — the last two under Director Christopher Wray — the FBI has now admitted that it does, after all, have thousands of records relating to Seth Rich. Its “initial search” has identified “approximately 50 cross-reference serials, with attachments totaling over 20,000 pages, in which Seth Rich is mentioned”, as well as “leads that indicate additional potential records that require further searching.”
The FBI also admitted to having custody of Seth Rich’s long-gone-missing laptop. These confessions came in an unapologetic Dec. 9, 2020 letter to attorney Ty Clevenger (See: Clevenger’s informative blog post, “FBI changes story, finally admits it has thousands of pages of documents about Seth Rich” at https://lawflog.com/?p=2410.)
In admitting to having thousands of records relating to Rich, the FBI ipso facto conceded that its Oct. 3, 2018 “Declaration”, sworn “under penalty of perjury”, was — at best — misleading. The FBI fall guy is David M. Hardy, who swore that he could find no records on Rich. (See: https://lawflog.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Hardy-Declaration.pdf .) Hardy was FBI Section Chief, Record/Information Dissemination Section, Information Management Division. Those working for Hardy — the Hardy Boys & Girls, if you will — number in the hundreds; they appear well trained in how not to find information responsive to Freedom of Information Act requests, when zero results are the objective.
Ty Clevenger’s client, Brian Huddleston, had filed an FOIA request on April 9, 2020 for information regarding Seth Rich and Seth’s brother Aaron but initially was stiff-armed by the FBI. Now, eight months later, thousands of records are to be made available. But wait.
Still Slow-Rolling: FBI Wants 3 More Months
“Can’t wait to find out what those magically appearing records on Seth Rich reveal,” you may be saying to yourself.
Not so fast, says the FBI which explained in its letter to Clevenger how it intends to proceed:
“At this time, FBI anticipates processing only the pages where Seth Rich is mentioned, along with perhaps another page or two in each situation to provide context. The issue right now with this batch of documents is the amount of labor required to ingest all of the material so that the responsive pages will, first, be in a page format, secondly, can be identified from among the thousands of non-responsive pages, and finally, be processed. The FBI is also currently working on getting the files from Seth Rich’s personal laptop into a format to be reviewed. As you can imagine, there are thousands of files of many types.”
Pouring more cold water on eager anticipation, the FBI letter added, “Unfortunately, these efforts are hampered by FBI FOIA office’s reduction to a 50% staffing posture due to Covid.”
And here is an additional wet blanket for those still waiting:
“In light of the status of this search and the work left to be done, we propose an additional three months [Emphasis added] to complete the tasks described above. At that time, we will propose a production schedule and briefing schedule.” If that were not enough to dampen spirits, the FBI adds that it “will continue to evaluate the responsiveness of these files under the FOIA.”
And one can certainly anticipate copious redactions of any politically/bureaucratically/embarrassing material.
Waiting for Godot …
Director Wray seems to have ordered the Hardy Boys & Girls to continue dragging their feet. Let’s see; three months will take us well into the Biden administration with the Democrats calling the shots. If, as has been reported, Joe Biden lets Christopher Wray remain as FBI director, well, Godot is likely to arrive before any significant material on Seth Rich.
… and for John Durham
In his blog entry ( See: https://lawflog.com/?p=2410 ), Ty Clevenger includes a link to an important October 12, 2020 letter ( See: https://lawflog.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/2020.10.12-Letter-to-Barr-Durham-redacted-v.1.pdf ) he sent to Attorney General William Barr, US Attorney John Durham (who for the past year and a half has been investigating the FBI inquiry into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia), and Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz. Clevenger writes that he has learned that “Durham will not be investigating whether former Democratic National Committee employee Seth Rich provided DNC emails to WikiLeaks in 2016.” [Emphasis added.]
Mr. Clevenger says former FBI agent John Eckenrode explained to him that inquiry into a possible internal, non-Russian, source for the emails leaked to WikiLeaks does not have a direct bearing on Mr. Durham’s investigation. Clevenger registered strong dissent, pointing out that “Robert Mueller himself acknowledged the possibility that the DNC emails were not transmitted remotely by email to Wikileaks, but were provided by hand delivery from someone originating in the United States.”
In his letter Clevenger notes: “Shawn Henry of Crowdstrike has testified under oath that Crowdstrike did not observe any exfiltration of emails from the DNC, but that had observed “preparation for exfiltration’, which would be consistent with a local download to a DNC user”. Taking the gloves off, Clevenger claims that “the failure of the relevant agencies to investigate thoroughly the possibility of an internal source is an indication of the type of result-driven, error-ridden and highly damaging investigative work identified by Inspector General Horowitz in his review of various FISA abuses.”
Seymour Hersh Deposed
In his indictment of the Justice Department’s lackadaisical approach to the Seth Rich issue, Clevenger cites what Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh asserted in a deposition in a pending court case. Hersh stated that it was “absolutely true that his source told him that Seth Rich transmitted emails to Wikileaks and requested payment”. Hersh described his source as “very, very knowledgeable”, someone “senior” in the intelligence community, and a person Hersh had known for over 30 years.
The information provided by Hersh’s source cries out for either confirmation or denial. Such could readily come from the National Security Agency which collects everything on the Internet. Has NSA not been asked?
Hersh said during his deposition that he had not been contacted by anyone from Robert Mueller’s team, nor from Durham’s team, nor from the Attorney General’s office. Clevenger added the following footnote, which speaks for itself:
“Likewise, no one from the Office of Special Counsel made any attempt to interview Julian Assange”, even though Assange had hinted that Seth Rich might have been a source for the DNC emails: “As far as I can determine, nobody from Mr. Durham’s team, the FBI, nor the Justice Department has made any attempt to interview Mr. Assange … even though Mr. Assange would know better than anyone else how and from whom he obtained the emails.” VIPS called attention to this strange anomaly as soon as the Mueller report was released ( See:
“VIPS Fault Mueller Probe, Criticize Refusal to Interview Assange”, https://consortiumnews.com/2019/04/16/vips-fault-mueller-probe-criticize-refusal-to-interview-assange/ ).
Attorney General William Barr, who jumped ship on Dec. 23, has left John Durham to an unenviable, uncertain future. ( See: https://original.antiwar.com/mcgovern/2020/12/04/barr-kicks-durham-can-down-the-street/ .)
So, Were the “Investigations” a Sham?
Seems so, from the looks of it. By all appearances, the top officials at the Justice Department, the FBI, and intelligence agencies who — for political purposes — conjured up the “Russian hack”, emasculated Trump, and led the U.S. into a new Cold War with Russia will walk free. Section Chief David Hardy may get a slap on the wrist or a letter of reprimand in his personnel file. And it is a safe bet that FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith, who committed an earlier fraud on the court, by altering a consequential email relating to a FISA application, is not likely to face much, if any, jail time.
Presumably, many senior law enforcement and intelligence officials eagerly await the arrival of President Joe Biden, who has zero incentive to hold them accountable for what they did over the last four years. (As if any president would be courageous or foolish enough to try to hold them accountable, in any case).
Biden has been on the Washington scene for so many years that he does not need Sen. Chuck Schumer to warn him — as Schumer warned President-elect Donald Trump indirectly via Rachel Maddow on Jan. 3, 2017 — not to get crosswise with the “intelligence community”, noting that it has six ways to Sunday to get back at you. (See: https://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow/watch/schumer-trump-being-really-dumb-to-fight-with-intel-agencies-847022147815 .)
President Donald Trump’s weird combination of arrogance, ineptitude, and naïveté made him an easy target. As the years went by, it became clearer and clearer that the president was not really in charge. The Security State is riding higher than ever. And that’s not good.
Ray McGovern. Former longtime CIA officer, who served as chief of the CIA’s Soviet analysts division, chaired National Intelligence Estimates, and prepared the President’s Daily Brief. He is also the co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity. https://raymcgovern.com/