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By John Helmer, Moscow

US prosecutors pursuing Julian Assange continue to add evidence for the British courts that they are concealing charges in a dummy indictment they intend to change as soon as Assange is extradited. This means the Americans are turning the Assange case for freedom of the press into a cause for British freedom from American domination.   

Read the legal issues at stake in this report.  Listen to today’s Gorilla Radio interview. (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

On April 16, 2019, the New York Times made a mistake. The newspaper acknowledged it swiftly, publishing a three-line correction. “Correction: April 16, 2019 – An earlier version of this article misstated the C.I.A. tenure of Nicholas Dujmovic. He served as an intelligence officer for 26 years, not 23.”

The mistake was in an unusually lengthy profile of the CIA Director Gina Haspel, written by an unusually large group of five journalists based on sources they claim to have been “more than a dozen current and former intelligence officials”.  The problem they identified in the relationship between President Donald Trump and Director Haspel (she was Deputy CIA Director, February 2, 2017 – May 21, 2018)  is that he doesn’t always believe what he’s been told. “Her voice,” the newspaper sums up, “is not always heeded. For all of Ms. Haspel’s ability to stay in Mr. Trump’s good graces, there is little evidence she has changed his mind on major issues…Unusually for a president, Mr. Trump has publicly rejected not only intelligence agencies’ analysis, but also the facts they have gathered. And that has created a perilous situation for the C.I.A.”

Miscounting an ex-agent’s career by three years is the only mistake the journalists and the newspaper’s management admit to making in their analysis of the facts Haspel presented to Trump, and of  the “perilous situation for the CIA” resulting from the president’s disbelief.

The newspaper editorializes through an ex-CIA analyst source in the final paragraph of the publication: “as [Haspel]  continues to present facts and analysis that differ from what the president wants to hear, especially on high-profile issues like Russia and North Korea, her influence will wane.”

The newspaper claims that in one case, in March of 2018, Haspel overcame Trump’s scepticism by presenting evidence that in the Skripal case, “Ms. Haspel also tried to show him that Mr. Skripal and his daughter were not the only victims of Russia’s attack. Ms. Haspel showed pictures the British government had supplied her of young children hospitalized after being sickened by the Novichok nerve agent that poisoned the Skripals. She then showed a photograph of ducks that British officials said were inadvertently killed by the sloppy work of the Russian operatives…Mr. Trump fixated on the pictures of the sickened children and the dead ducks. At the end of the briefing, he embraced the strong [sanctions] option.”

“The outcome was an example, officials said, of how Ms. Haspel is one of the few people who can get Mr. Trump to shift position based on new information.”

The problem is obvious. The “new information” – dead ducks, sickened young children in hospital, British Government photographs – was false and the photographs faked.  Haspel knew before she presented to Trump. She then lied to Trump.

The five reporters – Julian Barnes, Adam Goldman, Eric Schmitt, Michael Schmidt, Matthew Rosenberg – did not check the details. Questioned since their publication, they will not clarify what they reported as true. The newspaper management refuses to publish a correction. (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Emmanuel Macron does not recognize that he has been elected to be the president of a secular state.

France, according to Article One of the French Constitution,  is “ a Republic indivisible, secular (laïque),  democratic and social.”

Though he often mistakes the same constitutional point, Vladimir Putin made no mistake when he sent his message of condolence to Macron on the catastrophic fire at Notre-Dame Cathedral this week. (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

For the second time in as many months President Vladimir Putin has publicly endorsed India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi to win the Indian national election now under way.

On April 12, in a four-and-a-half-line posting,  the Kremlin announced that Modi had been awarded the Order of St. Andrew the Apostle the First-Called “for outstanding achievements in the development of a particularly privileged strategic partnership between Russia and India and friendly relations between the Russian and Indian peoples.”  That day the President also met with the chief executive of Volkswagen, Herbert Diess, which was reported in English. The  Kremlin communiqué of the Modi award has not been translated into English.

The announcement went almost unremarked in the Russian press except for Vzglyad, the only independent publication on Russian strategy and security.  A report by regular analyst Pyotr Akopov acknowledged “this is the first time that the head of the Indian government was awarded our highest award – none of the Nehru dynasty was awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union.” The significance of the award to Modi, he added, is not the timing of the Indian elections. “Forecasts mostly agree that Modi will hold power… It is clear that in the choice of 600 million Indian voters, the Russian award for Modi will have almost no impact.”

The Russian significance is personal and strategic. It is recognition by Putin that Modi has stood up to the US threat to sanction India for buying the S-400 missile system. “Despite the fact that Washington continues actively courting Delhi, Narendra Modi is not going to exchange Russia for the United States. Yes, the number of India’s military contracts with the US has increased over the past decade – but Russian-Indian military ties are not disappearing and are becoming more diverse (for example, India bought the S-400).” (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

The case for and against Julian Assange (lead image, 3rd from left) will keep him in the UK for at least eighteen months, probably two years, possibly three, according to leading London lawyers.  The UK will have a new government by then; the US too.

In the interval, Assange’s lawyers are preparing to prove the US indictment for conspiracy to commit computer hacking will be superseded by espionage charges. That, they will argue, requires the Westminster Magistrates’ Court to throw the US extradition application out. In addition, their  evidence for American  political motivation in the prosecution of Assange, and of US violations of the UK and European standards for a fair trial in an independent and impartial court, will be presented. The Chief Magistrate, Emma Arbuthnot, is likely to preside. The hearing is unlikely to start before December of this year.

The more UK and US Government officials take sides in public against Assange and support the allegations in the indictment, the stronger his case will be in court. The announcement by public letter  to the Home Secretary last week that seventy-one members of the British parliament oppose Assange’s extradition to the US cuts even more of the ground from under UK prosecutors and the lawyers who will appear in court for the US. 

Reversing their campaign to block the Swedish extradition warrant between 2010 and 2012, Assange’s lawyers are also mobilizing to have the Swedish prosecutors return to London with a new warrant, so that this can stretch out the legal wrangling in London for long enough to reach a new British election. If won by Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party forms a new government, Assange may benefit from a decision to move Assange’s prosecution to the UK courts, and then to release him.

“The anger for and against this man is extraordinary”, explains a leading London lawyer on extradition cases. “You need very technical lawyering now, and Assange will have to pay for it.  But in parallel there will be the PR campaign amplifying the political issue, principally for the Labour Party. The Assange case will stand for every British voter’s idea of what [President Donald] Trump and the Americans are doing to the world.  [Chief Magistrate Emma] Arbuthnot is not afraid to make decisions that would be unpopular. But as independent as she is, the pressure on her will be huge not to rule against the US.”

“And so it is for the British court system. Either the courts are bending to the US or to the anti-American movement. It’s going to take a bloody long time and a bloody waste of public money” (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Russia has grown up; Derk Sauer (lead image), boy scout for American, Dutch and NATO plots for Kremlin regime change since Boris Yeltsin left office, can’t.

Under cover of Russian frontmen, he has bought back the Moscow Times, and put his son Pyotr in charge of opinion. The opinion is the same as it was when Sauer started in Moscow in 1992. Mark Ames, the scourge of Moscow Times duplicity then, says now: “They’re trying to make the MT even more boring than it ever was, with just a hint of standard Moscow liberal politics. Right now Derk seems like a garden gnome I dreamed about long ago.” (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

“Always George’s problem,” John le Carré (lead image, left) has written in his latest resurrection of his best-known MI6 officer, George Smiley (right), “seeing both sides of everything. Wore him out.”

“Breathtaking”, claimed an Irish novelist with no government experience, in a London newspaper review. “Gripping”, chimed a BBC journalist whose only official secret was an affair with another journalist he tried to stop other journalists reporting. “An unexpected treat”, blurbed one of Rupert Murdoch’s newspaper employees. “A nostalgic comparison between espionage then and now”, blurbed another. The Los Angeles Times was religious about le Carré’s theme —  “the toll exacted on the individual’s [spy] soul  by serving institutions that fail to live up to their professed values  will resonate as [readers] consider past and present  covert actions of British and US governments.”  This is a bite-back for the virulent hatred for the US and its intelligence services le Carré has written into his story, including disclosure of the MI6 document handling code, GUARD, which is so secret the British Government doesn’t mention it in its classification guidelines.   It means keep secret from Americans.

David Ignatius, a career-long mouthpiece for the US services at the Washington Post, warns his readers.  Le Carré “is at his worst describing characters he doesn’t like (in his recent books, many of the heavy-handed, unconvincing figures are American intelligence officers).”

Since the majority of le Carré’s readers are Americans,  le Carré is asking them to pay money and wear themselves out seeing both sides of everything. Only le Carré’s intelligence officers never see the Russian side of anything. What they do see – le Carré makes the point repeatedly in A Legacy of Spies, now in its fifth printing   – is the pointlessness of the intelligence they target, and the worthlessness of their methods for going about it. (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Jonathan Haslam, an Englishman employed by Anglo-American universities to report Soviet and Russian political, military and espionage history for the past century until now, suffers from a tic.  That’s tic as in fanatic, the adjective Haslam applies to everyone who is a target of his history. But look again: Haslam’s tic turns out to be a symptom of the one-eyed man who believes he’s king (professor) in the kingdom (university) of the blind.   (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

This week, desperate for attention in New York’s overstocked literary market, a biographer of Vladimir Nabokov’s wife and of the witches of Salem, has reported the one-hundred year anniversary of the departure of the Nabokov family from Crimea in April 1919. “Amid frantic, last-minute negotiations, under a spray of machine-gun fire, Vladimir Nabokov fled Russia 100 years ago this week,” reported Stacy Schiff for the New York Times.   “His family had sought refuge from the Bolsheviks in the Crimean peninsula; those forces now made a vicious descent from the north.”

Schiff and her newspaper make a foot fault on that line. “At the time of the evacuation he [Vladimir] had spent 16 quiet months in the Crimea, the last speck of Russia in White hands. Already the Bolsheviks had murdered any number of harmless people.”

If Crimea was Russia then, if only a “speck” and no matter how “vicious” the Bolsheviks from the “north” turned out to be, how on earth could Crimea be otherwise now? (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

The indictment of ex-minister Mikhail Abyzov is a clear signal; the arrest of former Khabarovsk Governor and ex-presidential representative Victor Ishayev is another

The system of high-level administrative protection, on which these two notoriously corrupt figures have relied for the past twenty years, has ceased protecting them. There is a legion to follow them; they no longer have the telephone number to call for early warning to quash investigations before they close in, or if they do, to escape in time to the US or London.  

When Abyzov recognizes he is doomed, he will start to testify against Anatoly Chubais and others.  When Alexei Kudrin, chairman of the Accounting Chamber, realizes his game is up, he will start sounding more like the accountant he was in St. Petersburg than the candidate for selection to the highest national office he has aspired to be.  Whether Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev will be replaced before the next State Duma election falls due in September 2021, or before the election campaign commences, he is going; none of his men will be left in power.   

President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman announced after Abyzov’s arrest: “The President received the report [on the Abyzov case] in advance [of his arrest].” That is precisely what happened, not because Putin gave the order to commence the prosecution of Abyzov, but because Putin wants no one to realize he didn’t. Putin has lost the initiative; he cannot protect those who have counted on his protection for two decades.

(more…)