RealClearInvestigations' Picks of the Week

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RealClearInvestigations' Picks of the Week
February 21 to February 27, 2021



Featured Investigation:
60 Years After Eisenhower's Warning,
Distinct Signs of a 'Digital-Intelligence Complex'

Evidence points to the morphing of the “military-industrial complex” – which President Dwight D. Eisenhower presciently warned about in 1961– into a “digital-intelligence complex,” Eric Felten reports for RealClearInvestigations. He offers striking illustrations from the "revolving door" between Washington and the private sector -- now featuring Silicon Valley:

  • As a U.S. top intelligence official, Susan Gordon repeatedly praised Amazon Web Services as a contractor -- before leaving government to join a consultancy with Amazon ties and a defense contractor with extensive AWS business.
  • While still in office, Gordon had told Wired that she favored what the magazine described as “more of a revolving door” – “a new paradigm for sharing talented workers between the government and the private sector.”
  • Gordon is not alone. Sally Donnelly moved from a top Defense job to form a consultancy and advise AWS on how to pitch the Pentagon.
  • Donnelly then rejoined the Pentagon as senior adviser to Trump Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. A colleague at her consultancy joined her.
  • While the pair were working for Mattis, competitors with AWS for the Pentagon's $10-billion JEDI cloud-computing contract complained of being denied a fair shot at the work. 
  • They complained about a private 2017 dinner Mattis attended in London – attended by Donnelly; an Amazon Web Services Vice President; and the head of the company that absorbed Donnelly’s Amazon-tied business.
  • The dinner’s host, an ex-British general, was a strategic partner at the latter Amazon-connected company.
  • Next, Pentagon eyebrows arched at a meeting of Mattis and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. But Donnelly had argued in favor of it, with the same argument Gordon made speaking at Amazon conventions: The CIA, after all, uses Amazon’s cloud.
  • Microsoft ultimately won the JEDI contract, but Amazon now spends more to lobby than such traditional “beltway bandits” as Lockheed Martin and Raytheon.

Featured Investigation:
With Ashli Babbitt's Killing Shrouded in Mystery,
Officer Who Shot Her Is in Hiding for His Own Safety

Some describe as completely justified a plainclothes officer’s fatal shooting of Ashli Babbitt during the Capitol siege on Jan. 6. Others call it murder. Drawing on sources, documents and video, Paul Sperry of RealClearInvestigations pieces together details of the shooting and a sketch of the shooter -- a black Capitol Police lieutenant who has gone into hiding out of fear for his safety. Sources tell Sperry:

  • The officer worries that some riot arrestees have declared “open season” on whoever killed Babbitt, a fellow rioter and now a martyr in their cause.
  • He is a longtime veteran of the protective detail in the Speaker’s Lobby, a highly restricted area.
  • Authorities won’t release his name, and media aren’t clamoring for it -- in contrast with other high-profile police shootings of unarmed civilians.
  • He was put on paid administrative leave pending an internal investigation. The Justice Department is involved.
  • Video footage shows the lieutenant carefully advancing, aiming and shooting Babbitt as she tries to climb through a smashed window.
  • Babbitt, 35,  a decorated Air Force veteran, was unarmed.
  • The fatal shot was the only shot fired during the 4½-hour siege.
  • “It was an assassination,” said an ex-Pentagon official. “He stepped into it [the shot]."
  • Mark Schamel, the officer’s lawyer, told RCI his client warned Babbitt and other rioters to keep back.
  • But in the video, the officer appears to issue no commands to stop nor any verbal warning that he would shoot.

Biden, Trump and the Beltway 

Featured Investigation:
In Final Days, Trump Gave Up on Forcing Release
of Key Russiagate Files, Nunes Prober Says

President Trump relented to uncooperative U.S. intelligence leaders in his final days in office by not forcing them to finally release secret Trump-Russia files, a former top congressional investigator tells Aaron Maté of RealClearInvestigations. The investigator, Kash Patel, spoke in his first in-depth interview since ending his subsequent work for the Trump administration last month.

Patel, who helped GOP Rep. Devin Nunes unearth Russiagate abuses, said senior intelligence officials "continuously impeded" efforts to release files, usually by slow-walking their reviews of the material.

The full interview is here. Highlights:

  • Trump's CIA Director, Gina Haspel, was instrumental in blocking one of the most critical documents, Patel said.
  • That document is a March 2018 House report detailing "significant intelligence tradecraft failings" in the CIA’s assessment that Russia, on Vladimir Putin's orders, ordered a sweeping and systematic interference 2016 campaign to elect Trump.
  • The same House report found that important qualifications to another key claim – that the Kremlin ordered a cyber-hacking campaign to help Trump – were drowned out by partisan insistence that Russia was the culprit.
  • Also withheld: reports by Democratic National Committee cyber-contractor CrowdStrike that the FBI relied on to accuse Russia of hacking the DNC. The FBI bowed to the DNC’s refusal to hand over its servers for analysis. 
  • Also withheld: more revelations from the fraudulent surveillance warrants on Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, including "the underlying source verification reporting" the FBI used to justify them, despite relying on the discredited Steele dossier. 

Files Reveal Wide Operation to Spy on Team Trump
Just the News
Once-secret reports show the FBI effort to spy on the Trump campaign in 2016 was nothing more than a fishing expedition searching for evidence that might tie the GOP to the hack of DNC servers. They show that almost immediately after the FBI opened a Russia collusion probe narrowly focused on the foreign lobbying of a single Trump campaign aide named George Papadopoulos – who reportedly had been told that the Russians had dirt on Hillary Clinton – agents dispatched a confidential informant named Stephan Halper to find dirt on numerous Trump associates. They included future Attorney General Jeff Sessions, foreign policy adviser Sam Clovis, campaign chairman Paul Manafort, economic adviser Peter Navarro, future National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and campaign adviser Carter Page. Halper found significant exculpatory evidence that the FBI never disclosed to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court – including transcripts of conversations he recorded of targeted Trump advisers providing statements of innocence. The FISA courts approved a year of surveillance targeting the Trump campaign, and specifically Page.

'Spygate' Professor Told FBI Rumor About Flynn and Svetlana Daily Caller
Biden Team Had Iran Backchannel to Thwart Trump Washington Times
Trump Loses Supreme Court Bid to Shield Tax Records New York Times
Anti-Gerrymandering Pelosi Funds Gerrymandering Free Beacon
Biden Interior Nominee Failed to Report Casino Pay Just the News


Other Noteworthy Articles and Series 

'Let's Play Strip Poker': Working With Crude Governor Cuomo
Lindsey Boylan
In this first-person account, a former chief of staff for New York State’s economic development agency alleges that “Andrew Cuomo abused his power as Governor to sexually harass me, just as he had done with so many other women.” Lindsey Boylan, who is married, claims Cuomo kissed her, asked her to play strip poker and “would go out of his way to touch me on my lower back, arms and legs. His senior staff began keeping tabs on my whereabouts.” She also writes that “the Governor’s pervasive harassment extended beyond just me. He made unflattering comments about the weight of female colleagues. He ridiculed them about their romantic relationships and significant others. He said the reasons that men get women were ‘money and power.’” In response to her charges, she says “parts of [my] supposed confidential personnel file (which I’ve never seen) were leaked to the media in an effort to smear me. The Governor’s loyalists called around town, asking about me.” Cuomo, who has previously said that all women who allege sexual harassment should be believed, has said Boylan is lying. This controversy comes on the heels of another scandal in which the Cuomo administration is accused of trying to hide the true number of nursing home deaths in his state due to the coronavirus.

Texas: His Lights Stayed on During Storm. Bill: $16,752.
New York Times
Some Texans pay market-based utility rates that rise and fall with demand, so when much of the grid was shut down earlier this month, costs went through the roof. Just ask Scott Willoughby, a 63-year-old Army veteran who lives on Social Security payments in a Dallas suburb, and he’ll show you his $16,752 electric bill. This article reports that Willoughby is among scores of Texans who have reported skyrocketing bills as the price of keeping lights on and refrigerators humming shot upward. Willoughby buys his power from Griddy, a company that passes the wholesale price directly to customers, charging an additional $9.99 monthly fee. Much of the time, it’s a good deal. But the model can be risky: As a massive cold spell locked-up much of the state’s grid, Griddy knew prices would rise as demand far outstripped supply and encouraged all of its customers – about 29,000 people – to switch to another provider. But many were unable to do so. 

A Battle Over Race, Class and Power at Smith College
New York Times
Imagine how different our culture might be if outfits such as the New York Times hadn’t largely abandoned traditional journalist principles to become advocates of social justice. This richly detailed, nuanced article about a racial incident at Smith College gives us a glimpse. It centers on an incident in which an elderly white janitor at the elite, all women’s school in Massachusetts followed school guidelines and called security when he saw a student eating lunch in an off-limits area. The responding officer recognized the student, who is from Mali. “They had a brief and polite conversation,” the Times reports. The officer “apologized for bothering her and she spoke to him of her discomfort: ‘Stuff like this happens way too often, where people just feel, like, threatened,’” she told the officer. The student soon posted accusations of racism on social media, which, the article reports, created a furor at the school. The New York Times, Washington Post and CNN picked up the story of a young female student harassed by white workers. The American Civil Liberties Union, which took the student’s case, said she was profiled for “‘eating while Black.’” A cafeteria worker and janitor implicated by the student were demonized and harassed and the school required all of them to undergo mandatory sensitivity training. When the school’s official report on the incident found no sufficient evidence of discrimination by anyone involved, Smith’s president, Kathleen McCartney, said the report validated the student’s lived experience, notably the fear she felt at the sight of the police officer. “‘I suspect many of you will conclude, as did I,’” she wrote, “‘it is impossible to rule out the potential role of implicit racial bias.’” Reading this fine article, it’s as if Times reporter Michael Powell jumped into a time machine and travelled back about 10 years to write the kind of fair and thorough take the Times once excelled at.

Unpacking Wikipedia's Leftist Bias: Communist Atrocities Buried
Fox News
Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger says, "The days of Wikipedia's robust commitment to neutrality are long gone," as its encyclopedia entries increasingly embrace leftwing narratives. This article reports:

The two main pages for "Socialism" and "Communism" span a massive 28,000 words, and yet they contain no discussion of the genocides committed by socialist and communist regimes, in which tens of millions of people were murdered and starved. "The omission of large-scale mass murder, slave labor, and man-made famines is negligent and deeply misleading," economics professor Bryan Caplan, who has studied the history of communism, told Fox News.

The pages include plenty of history, Caplan noted, and are not confined to just philosophical claims. But the history focuses on flattering claims.Wikipedia’s Socialism page announces: "The Soviet era saw some of the most significant technological achievements of the 20th century." It ignores a man-made famine in which Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin commandeered the food from regions like Ukraine and Kazakhstan, leaving millions to starve to death even as the Soviet Union exported grain to foreign countries.

Coronavirus Investigations

The Disease-Resistant Patients Exposing Covid's Weak Spots BBC
DC's Secret Covid Morgue Washingtonian
Why Vaccine Can't Be Made Faster ProPublica
Border Crossings a Test Lab for Unregulated Spy Tech Walrus 

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