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Archive for January 6th, 2018

The Republican Party Is in Full-On Panic Mode, and We Get to Watch

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Cogent post by Kevin Drum on the implacable decline of the Republican Party, which is right now at an inflection point (going down). A must-read.

Written by LeisureGuy

6 January 2018 at 8:44 pm

Posted in GOP

The Complex Legacy of James Angleton, CIA Counterintelligence Chief and Godfather of Mass Surveillance

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Jefferson Morley writes in The Intercept:

VETERAN CIA OFFICER Cleveland Cram was nearing the end of his career in 1978, when his superiors in the agency’s directorate of operations handed him a sensitive assignment: Write a history of the agency’s Counterintelligence Staff. Cram, then 61, was well qualified for the task. He had a master’s and Ph.D. in European History from Harvard. He had served two decades in the clandestine service, including nine years as deputy chief of the CIA’s station in London. He knew the senior officialdom of MI-5 and MI-6, the British equivalents of the FBI and CIA, the agency’s closest partners in countering the KGB, the Soviet Union’s effective and ruthless intelligence service.

Cram was assigned to investigate a debacle. The Counterintelligence Staff, created in 1954, had been headed for 20 years by James Jesus Angleton, a legendary spy who deployed the techniques of literary criticism learned at Yale to find deep patterns and hidden meanings in the records of KGB operations against the West. But Angleton was also a dogmatic and conspiratorial operator whose idiosyncratic theories paralyzed the agency’s operations against the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War, and whose domestic surveillance operations targeting American dissidents had discredited the CIA in the court of public opinion.

In December 1974, CIA Director William Colby fired Angleton after the New York Times revealed the then-unknown counterintelligence chief had overseen a massive program to spy on Americans involved in anti-war and black nationalist movements, a violation of the CIA’s charter. Coming four months after the resignation of Richard Nixon, Angleton’s fall was the denouement of the Watergate scandal, propelling Congress to probe the CIA for the first time. A Senate investigation, headed by Sen. Frank Church, exposed a series of other abuses: assassination conspiracies, unauthorized mail opening, collaboration with human rights abusers, infiltration of news organizations, and the MKULTRA mind-control experiments to develop drugs for use in espionage.

The exposure of Angleton’s operations set off a political avalanche that engulfed the agency in 1975 and after. The post-Watergate Congress established the House and Senate intelligence committees to oversee covert operations. The passage of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act required the CIA to obtain warrants to spy on Americans. And for the first time since 1947, the agency’s annual appropriation was slashed.

Cram’s mission — and he chose to accept it — was to soberly answer the questions that senior CIA officials were asking in their private moments: What in the name of God and national security had Jim Angleton been doing when he ran the Counterintelligence Staff from 1954 to 1974? Did his operations serve the agency’s mission? Did they serve the country?

With his porkpie hat and trenchcoat, the portly Cram bore a passing resemblance to George Smiley, the fictional British spymaster as played by Alec Guinness in the BBC’s production of John le Carré’s classic “Smiley’s People.” There was some professional similarity as well. In le Carré’s novels, Smiley is introduced as a veteran counterintelligence officer called on by his superiors to assess a covert operation gone disastrously wrong. He is drawn into a hunt for a mole in the British intelligence service.

Cram’s task in 1978 was to investigate a covert career that culminated in a disastrous mole hunt. Like Smiley, Cram was a connoisseur of files, their connections and implications, their deceptions and omissions. Like Smiley, he embarked on a Cold War espionage odyssey that would fill more than a few volumes.

When Cram took the assignment, he thought his history of the Counterintelligence Staff would take a year to write. It took six. By 1984, Cram had produced 12 legal-sized volumes about Angleton’s reign as a spymaster, each running 300 to 400 pages — a veritable encyclopedia of U.S. counterintelligence that has never before been made public. With professional thoroughness, Cram plumbed the depths of a deep state archive and returned with a story of madness that the CIA prefers to keep hidden, even 40 years later.

LAST JUNE, I received a phone call from a Los Angeles area code. Half expecting a robocall, I tapped the green icon.

“I’ve heard you are interested in a man named Cleve Cram,” the caller said in a British accent. “Is that so?”

Was I ever. I had just sent in final changes to the manuscript of “The Ghost,” my biography of Angleton. I thought of Cleve Cram the way a fisherman thinks of the Big One that got away. I had focused on Cram in 2015, as soon as I started to research “The Ghost.” He had written an article, published in an open-source CIA journal, about the literature of counterintelligence, which gave some insight into his classified conclusions about Angleton. To learn more, I sought out his personal papers, more than a dozen cartons of correspondence and other documents that his family had donated to Georgetown University Library after his death in 1999. The library’s finding aid indicated that the bequest contained a wealth of material on Angleton.

But I was too late. The CIA had quietly re-possessed Cram’s papers in 2014. I was told that representatives of the agency had informed the library that the CIA needed to review the material for classified information. All that had been publicly available vanished into the CIA’s archives. By withdrawing the Cram papers from view, the agency effectively shaped my narrative of Angleton’s career. Without Cram’s well-informed perspective, my account of Angleton would necessarily be less precise and probably less critical. I wrote about the experience for The Intercept in April 2016.

The caller said his name was William Tyrer. He had read my article. He told me he had visited the Georgetown library a few years earlier, while developing a screenplay about a mole in Britain’s MI-5. He had gone through the Cram papers, photographed several hundred pages of material, and become fascinated by the man. “He’s like an American George Smiley, no?” Tyrer said.

I agreed and said I would be most interested to see what he had found. He questioned me closely about my views on Angleton, Cram, and the CIA, and said he would be in touch. A quick web search revealed that Tyrer is a British-American movie producer, the man behind “Memento,” a brilliant and unforgettable backward-running thriller, the cult favorite “Donnie Darko,” and scores of other movies. He was a serious man and a credible source. A few days later, Tyrer started emailing me 50 pages of material about Angleton that he had found in Cram’s personal papers.

The Cleveland Cram File, portions of which are published here for the first time, contains a sample of the primary source materials that the veteran CIA official used to write his Angleton study. The documents were photographed in Georgetown University’s Booth Family Center for Special Collections. A Georgetown archivist did not respond to The Intercept’s request for comment; the CIA also declined to comment.

The Cram file illuminates a pregnant moment in the history of America’s secret government, when the CIA began to reckon with the legacy of James Angleton, a founding father of the deep state, a master of mass surveillance, a conspiracy theorist with state power.

PERHAPS THE MOST complex and contested Angleton story that Cram had to untangle concerned two KGB officers who defected to the United States and offered their services to the CIA in the early 1960s. Angleton insisted the men’s conflicting stories had enormous implications for U.S. presidents and policymakers, and indeed for U.S. policy toward the Soviet Union. For the CIA, the question was, which defector was the more reliable source?Anatoly Golitsyn, the chief of the KGB station in Finland, bolted to the West in December 1961. He was a heavyset man with hazel eyes and a methodical and manipulative mind. Yuri Nosenko, a career KGB officer embedded in the Soviet delegation to a U.N. disarmament conference in Geneva, started selling information to the Americans in June 1962 to pay back official funds blown in the company of dubious women. Eighteen months later, he approached the CIA and struck a deal to defect in return for a $50,000 cash payment. Among other things, Nosenko had firsthand knowledge that the KGB had not recruited accused presidential assassin Lee Harvey Oswald when he lived in the Soviet Union from 1959 to 1962.

Golitsyn, resettled in upstate New York by the CIA, convinced Angleton that Nosenko was a false defector sent by the KGB. Under Golitsyn’s influence, Angleton came to believe that in 1959, the KGB had launched a massive deception operation designed to lull the U.S. government into believing Soviet propaganda about “peaceful coexistence” between capitalism and communism, with the goal of prevailing over the complacent West.

Nosenko’s purpose, Golitsyn said, was to protect a Soviet “mole” already working inside CIA headquarters. “He is a provocateur, who is on a mission for the KGB,” Golitsyn told Angleton, according to a memo found in the agency’s declassified online database known as CREST, or the CIA Records Search Tool. “He was introduced to your agency as a double agent in Geneva in 1962. During all the time until now he has been fulfilling a KGB mission against your country.”

Angleton reneged on the payment and ordered that Nosenko be held in what would now be known as a “black site,” a secret CIA detention facility in southern Maryland. Nosenko was not tortured, but he was fed a minimal diet, denied all possessions, and, he said later, dosed with LSD. He was held in solitary confinement for the next four years, all the while protesting his innocence.

In 1968, Angleton lost out to the institutional consensus within the agency that Nosenko was in fact a bona fide defector. . .

Continue reading. There’s a lot more.

Written by LeisureGuy

6 January 2018 at 9:31 am

Posted in Government

Commander in Thief: Distinguishing the sleazy from the unconstitutional

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Nicole Narea writes in the Washington Monthly:

No story has gripped Washington’s attention over the last year more than the Russia investigation. Robert Mueller’s inquest draws ever closer to the president. Three congressional committees are at least going through the motions of conducting their own probes. One breathtaking media scoop follows another. The question at the heart of it all is whether Donald Trump violated the law or the Constitution—and, ultimately, whether those violations merit his impeachment.

Yet all the while, official Washington has tolerated an entire other class of corrupt and potentially unconstitutional behavior being carried out in plain sight, as Trump uses the presidency to enrich himself and his family. He has installed immediate relatives at the helm of the Trump Organization, continued to accept payments from foreign governments and private interests, and lavishly billed the government for using his own properties—all without guaranteeing that he will prioritize his duties as president over his own bottom line.

No president ever entered office with the type of immense personal fortune and ongoing business interests that Trump has. Trump’s vast business empire spans more than 500 companies in twenty-five countries and has earned him an estimated net worth of $3.1 billion. Traditionally, on taking office, presidents have placed their assets in a “blind trust” whose trustee is legally barred from telling the beneficiary about the trust’s holdings. Jimmy Carter famously placed the family peanut business into a blind trust in 1977. Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush all followed suit.

Trump’s trust agreement is a little different. For one thing, it’s not blind—Trump’s children have admitted to providing their father with regular business updates. For another, the agreement allows him to withdraw profits and assets from the trust at any time. That means Trump has a direct and ongoing financial interest in any policy decision that could affect his businesses.

Much of this has happened in broad daylight. The mainstream media has covered Trump’s conflicts doggedly. But the steady drip-drip-drip of evidence hasn’t captured the public’s attention like Russia has, or motivated any serious response by the government—no investigations are under way, either in Congress or the executive branch. This despite the fact that the infractions raise the same terrifying possibility as Trump’s possible collusion with Russia: the sacrificing of American interests in the service of the president’s personal gain.

The only active effort to investigate Trump’s profiteering is happening through civil lawsuits in New York, D.C., and Maryland federal courts. The plaintiffs challenging Trump’s behavior include the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW); some 200 Democrats in Congress, led by Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal; attorneys general in Washington, D.C., and Maryland; and hotel and restaurant owners who compete with Trump. They all argue that Trump is in blatant violation of a provision in the Constitution meant to ensure that the president can’t exploit his office for profit. (Update: just before Christmas, but after this article went to press, a federal judge in New York dismissed one of the suits on the grounds that the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue. An appeal is likely.)

But aside from these civil suits, which may take years to resolve, Trump just keeps getting away with it. One reason this hasn’t generated more outcry is that the infractions have been a steady accumulation, rather than one smoking gun. So we thought now, one year into Trump’s presidency, would be a good time to pull everything together and document the full scope of what’s known about his corrupt behavior. (A more comprehensive list of the improper perks Trump has received can be found here.) Clearly, the Republican-
controlled Congress has no interest in holding Trump to account. But if the Democrats retake Congress, they should start an investigation on their first day. This is their background reading.

Full ListHere’s every time Trump has profited off the presidency.

Corruption Type 1: Foreign Emoluments

Foreign interference in our political system was of grave concern to the framers of the Constitution. They knew that when a federal officeholder receives gifts, money, or other benefits from foreign governments, his judgment is compromised and his loyalties are divided. So they wrote a strict rule into the text of the Constitution, the Foreign Emoluments Clause, which provides that federal officeholders may not “accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state” without Congress’s approval.

Unlike with bribery statutes, a violation of the Foreign Emoluments Clause doesn’t require proof that an official gave something in return. It’s designed to protect against not just quid pro quo corruption, but also the mere appearance of improper influence on government officials.

With that understanding, CREW argues in its suit that Trump’s business interests are “creating countless conflicts of interest, as well as unprecedented influence by foreign governments, and have resulted and will further result in numerous violations of the Constitution.” As an example, the group cites foreign governments’ lavish spending at Trump’s hotel and restaurants, particularly at the Trump International Hotel just steps away from the White House, in some cases at the prodding of Trump’s agents. After the election, the Trump International hosted more than 100 foreign diplomats for a tour, sending them home with goody bags and brochures in an attempt to encourage their patronage. Former Mexican diplomat Arturo Sarukhan has said that the State Department urged diplomats to stay at the Trump International while on official visits.

Delegations from at least eight countries have obliged. In September, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and other members of his administration were seen hobnobbing in meeting rooms at the hotel, bringing in what is estimated to be hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue. Saudi Arabia has spent more than a quarter of a million
dollars—$190,000 on lodging, $78,000 on catering, and $1,600 on parking—at the hotel in connection with its lobbying against legislation that would allow American citizens to sue foreign governments over terrorist attacks.

And the Kuwaiti embassy suddenly changed the venue for its National Day celebration last February from the Four Seasons to the Trump International, paying an estimated $40,000 to $60,000. A source with knowledge of the conversations between the hotel and the embassy told ThinkProgress that Trump Organization members had pressured the Kuwaiti ambassador to cancel the embassy’s “save the date” reservation at the Four Seasons, where it had held the event in the past. Perhaps it’s purely a coincidence that neither Saudi Arabia nor Kuwait were among the Muslim-majority nations singled out by Trump’s travel ban.

Moreover, foreign governments continue to hold leases on units in Trump buildings. Trump Tower’s largest commercial tenant is the state-owned Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, which pays nearly $2 million per year for office space—and whose lease is up for renewal in 2019. Other governments, including Saudi Arabia, India, Afghanistan, and Qatar, continue to pay collective charges of at least $225,000 annually on units purchased prior to Trump’s election.

The full extent of these arrangements, of course, is unknown. If Congress or the Justice Department investigated, they could very well uncover many more examples.

In an ostensible attempt to mitigate such impropriety, Trump has pledged to donate the profits he receives from foreign governments to the U.S. Treasury, forfeiting funds earned in 2017 sometime in 2018. But it’s an empty promise, because there is no way to know if he’s following through unless he provides transparency into his business operations. Instead, Trump has gone to great lengths to keep his dealings secret, refusing to disclose his tax returns and leaving the public to wonder just how enmeshed with foreign governments he really is. It’s possible that he plans to donate all the proceeds, but his pattern of secrecy leaves little reason to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Curiously, Trump has an easy way to protect himself from running afoul of the Constitution while still profiteering from foreign governments. The Founding Fathers inserted flexibility into the Emoluments Clause by allowing public officials to disclose foreign emoluments and request the approval of Congress. Yet Trump has not even bothered to make this request, and Congress, controlled by the GOP, hasn’t demanded that he do so. The question is, why not just do this simple paperwork? Is it arrogance? Sloppiness? Or the fear that once the process of disclosing the foreign payments starts, facts will come out that Trump doesn’t want shared?

Moreover, Trump’s emoluments from foreign governments may extend beyond traceable cash payments. The Trump Organization has earned regulatory benefits like intellectual property rights in a number of foreign countries, most notably China, Russia, Mexico, and Indonesia.

In the decade before he became president, the Chinese government granted Trump seventy-seven trademarks. In the last year alone, it has granted at least thirty-nine, some of which it had previously rejected. The now-protected marks include those for spa and massage services, golf clubs, hotels, insurance, finance and real estate companies, restaurants, bars, and more. In one case, the Chinese green-lighted a Trump trademark application in February only days after he spoke with President Xi Jinping, pledging to uphold the “One China Policy” and maintaining the U.S.’s position that Taiwan is part of China (the opposite position from the one he campaigned on). “If this isn’t a violation of the Emoluments Clause,” noted Senator Dianne Feinstein, “I don’t know what is.” (First daughter Ivanka Trump pulled a similar trick last April, hosting, with her husband, Jared Kushner, a surf-and-turf dinner with the Chinese president at Mar-a-Lago the same day her company won provisional monopoly rights to sell Ivanka brand merchandise and spa services in the world’s second-largest market.)

The framers, with their eighteenth-century understanding of economics, may not have foreseen a world in which emoluments take the form of intellectual property rights in a foreign market. But they could envision scenarios in which the president might be tempted to accept a foreign policy deal sweetened with direct personal benefits—precisely the kind of conflict of interest they aimed to prevent with the Emoluments Clause.

Corruption Type 2: Domestic Emoluments

The framers weren’t just worried about foreign influences. They intended the Domestic Emoluments Clause to ensure that Congress, other parts of the federal government, and the states “can neither weaken [the president’s] fortitude by operating on his necessities, nor corrupt his integrity by appealing to his avarice,” as Alexander Hamilton wrote in the Federalist Papers. It entitles the president to receive a salary (currently $400,000 a year) and benefits fixed by Congress, but prohibits him from taking any other profits from the public—whether from the federal government or from any of the states.

Trump violates this provision, many constitutional scholars have argued, when state or federal entities patronize his properties and spend taxpayer money. Although the full extent of these violations is unknown, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

6 January 2018 at 8:15 am

Mühle silvertip, Phoenix Artisan Briar, iKon 102, and Barrister & Mann Spice Reserve: Great shave

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I have to say that I reall like Phoenix Artisan’s shaving soaps. They have interesting fragrances, make extremely good lather, and leave my skin feeling very nice indeed. Briar’s fragrance: Tobacco, Oakwood, Vanilla, Animilac Musk, Labdanum, Rose, and dried leaves. Probably the initial appeal for me is the vanilla, but the overall fragrance goes well beyond vanilla.

The 102 is a razor that I can use without care or concern, gliding easily and fairly rapidly over my face. It doesn’t work for all (I doubt that any razor will), but if it does work for you, it will probably become your favorite razor. Three passes -> BBS.

A splash of Barrister & Mann Reserve Spice and the weekend begins on a very nice note.

Written by LeisureGuy

6 January 2018 at 7:50 am

Posted in Shaving

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