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RealClearInvestigations' Picks of the Week

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RealClearInvestigations' Picks of the Week
May 16 to May 22, 2021


Featured Investigation:
Accused Russigate 'Spy' Kilimnik Speaks
-- and Evidence Backs His 'No Collusion' Account

Konstantin Kilimnik, the Ukrainian-Russian cast as a linchpin of debunked Trump-Russia collusion theories, is breaking his silence to vigorously dispute the U.S. government’s renewed efforts to brand him a Russian spy and put him behind bars.

In an exclusive interview from Moscow with RealClearInvestigations, the onetime employee of ex-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort stated, "I have no relationship whatsoever to any intelligence services, be they Russian or Ukrainian or American, or anyone else."

Highlights from Aaron Maté’s report:

  • Kilimnik shared with RealClearInvestigations photos and video of a Russian passport and U.S. visa in his name that appear to disprove Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s claim that Kilimnik traveled on a Russian "diplomatic passport" in 1997, which might be a strong tipoff he was a spy. The images are of a common red passport, not a green diplomatic one.
  • Despite his centrality in multiple Russia investigations and a new FBI bounty on his head, Kilimnik says no U.S. official has ever tried get in touch with him. 
  • The $250,000 bounty is larger than most rewards the FBI offers to capture violent fugitives, including accused child murderers.
  • Although the U.S. government has targeted Kilimnik as a Russian spy, he has never been charged with anything related to espionage, Russia, collusion, or the 2016 election.
  • Kilimnik denies passing 2016 polling data to Russian intelligence, or any Russian. Manafort colleague Rick Gates backs him up. He told RCI that the Mueller team "cherry-picked" his testimony about Kilimnik to spread a misleading, collusion-favorable narrative.

Biden, Trump and the Beltway

Hidden Ties Between Private Spies and Journalists 
New York Times
As Paul Sperry reported for RealClearInvestigations in March, declassified secret testimony by the FBI official in charge of corroborating the now-notorious Steele dossier revealed that neither he nor his team of intelligence analysts could ever confirm any of the allegations in the document, which was central to warrant applications used to monitor former Trump adviser Carter Page. The bombshell "intelligence" of ex-British spy Christopher Steele alleging that Donald Trump was compromised by Russia had proven a dud. This  article, adapted from former New York Times reporter Barry Meier’s forthcoming book “Spooked: The Trump Dossier, Black Cube and the Rise of Private Spies,” serves as something of a media mea culpa for having foisted the dubious Steele dossier on the public. The author catalogues how its most explosive claims never materialized or proved false. He suggests that the news business’s hyperpartisanship in part blinded it to the dossier’s defects. And he seemingly laments that despite this “media debacle of epic proportions,” it will not own up to its culpability for pushing Steele’s “slush pile.”

But the author also positions members of the media themselves as victims of manipulation. The Steele dossier was a byproduct of the booming, renegade, billion-dollar industry of private spying. While acknowledging the long-time symbiotic relationship between reporters and private investigators, Meier writes that in “the shadow lands of intelligence … reporters often can’t independently confirm what their sources are saying.” The lack of scrutiny of the Steele dossier, he suggests, was exacerbated not only by animus toward Trump, but the fact that the intelligence of a prominent ex-spy was laundered through an outfit run by ex-journalists turned confidence men, Fusion GPS, creating a perfect storm. Meier concludes that to learn from the dossier episode, news organizations would have to examine their ties to private intelligence agents, including why they so often granted them anonymity. But as long as the media allows private spies to set the rules, he contends, journalists and the public will continue to lose.

This is true enough. Meier should be commended for calling out journalistic malfeasance. It's also notable that the article was published by the New York Times, one of the two major purveyors of the Russiagate narrative along with the Washington Post. Readers can judge for themselves how to divvy the blame between the media and the unreliable sources on which news outlets chose to rely, and whether the media’s failure was more a case of willful blindness than of being genuinely duped. But speaking of deception, it's noteworthy that something like this outside contribution was not instead staff-produced and published forthrightly as a Page 1 correction, as the Times might have done in past when it was less busy recasting the history of the United States as racist.

The Eerie, Unsolved Case of the Jan. 6 Pipe Bombs 
For four months, the FBI and reporters have posted silent, eerie, looping security footage of an “unknown individual” in a hoodie and Nike Air Max Speed Turfs, walking the nighttime streets of Capitol Hill — in an alley, then out, stopping, then gone. Authorities believe this person placed pipe bombs at both the Republican National Committee and Democratic National Committee headquarters on the evening of Jan. 5. There are urgent ads with grainy screengrabs of the person around the city asking for information, and escalating rewards alongside direct-to-camera appeals. This article reports that investigators have still yet to make any arrests, identified any suspects, and that it is still unclear whether the explosives had anything to do with what transpired on Capitol Hill.

More Biden, Trump and the Beltway

Hunter Biden Emails Mapped Post-VP Wealth Deals for Dad Daily Wire
Biden's Venmo Exposes His Private Payment Ties BuzzFeed
Excerpt: How Joe Biden Decided to Run Atlantic
Ex-FBI Chief Freeh Gave $100K to Biden Grandkids Trust Daily Mail
Hunter Biden-Tied Group and Chinese Communist Front Free Beacon
Trump’s Push to Oust FBI Chief Wray Politico
'Impartial' Luntz Paid by Cruz in 2018 Texas Race Salon

Other Noteworthy Articles and Series

The U.S. Military's Secret Undercover Army
This article reports on what it calls “the largest undercover force the world has ever known”: the Pentagon’s 60,000-strong secret army. The culmination of an extensive two-year investigation, the article reveals a force more than ten times the size of the CIA’s clandestine contingent, which carries out domestic and foreign assignments, both in military uniforms and under civilian cover, in real life and online, sometimes hiding in private businesses and consultancies, some of them household name companies. What’s more, some 130 private companies administer the new clandestine world. Dozens of little known and secret government organizations support the program, doling out classified contracts and overseeing publicly unacknowledged operations. The companies pull in over $900 million annually to service the clandestine force—doing everything from creating false documentation and paying the bills (and taxes) of individuals operating under assumed names, to manufacturing disguises and other devices to thwart detection and identification, to building invisible devices to photograph and listen in on activity in the most remote corners of the Middle East and Africa. Half of the force is comprised of special operations forces, and much of its recent focus concerns cyberwarriors and intelligence collectors. The article suggests that signature reduction is part of the Pentagon's shift towards great power competition with Russia and China. It raises troubling aspects of the program as well, namely that per one source, no one is fully aware of the extent of the program, nor has much consideration been given to the implications for the military institution. In a related article, The Intercept reports that the Pentagon is planning to launch a pilot program for screening social media content for extremist material to “continuously” monitor military personnel for “concerning behaviors,” part of the Biden administration’s crackdown on “domestic extremism.” In a further related article, Yahoo News reports that the U.S. postal service’s recently revealed effort to track Americans’ social media posts and share it with law enforcement agencies is much broader than previously known. It includes analysts who assume fake identities online, use sophisticated intelligence tools, and employ facial recognition software. 

How Apple Bows to China in Its Domestic Spying
New York Times
Apple’s Ethics and Compliance page quotes CEO Tim Cook as saying, “We do the right thing, even when it’s not easy.” This article reports that when it comes to the computer company’s China dealings -- including the manufacture of nearly all of its products and sales accounting, for a fifth of its revenue -- it may deviate from this mission. According to the article, despite Apple’s CEO resisting the demands of Chinese General Secretary Xi Jinping in a number of instances, it has kept on the right side of Chinese regulators by putting the data of its Chinese customers at risk, aiding government censorship in the Chinese version of its App Store, and even removing “Designed by Apple in California” from the backs of iPhones after Chinese employees complained. The company responded that it follows China’s laws and “has never compromised the security of our users or their data in China or anywhere we operate.” The article suggests that Apple’s courtship of China in recent years shows a disconnect between America’s richest company and an increasingly hawkish federal government. In a related article, Breitbart reports that Michael Bloomberg and his top associates at Bloomberg LP have regularly met with top Chinese Communist Party officials and propagandists. The article reveals a number of photos documenting those meetings. In another related piece, Wired unpacks the 2011 hack of corporate security giant RSA by Chinese spies, a story that can now be told comprehensively because many company executives’ 10-year nondisclosure agreements have lapsed. The hack, the worst of its kind -- a so-called supply chain attack akin to the recent SolarWinds intrusion -- impacted tens of millions of users in government and military agencies, defense contractors, banks and countless corporations around the world. 

The Strange Story of the Scrooge McDuck Bandit
New Yorker
In the 1990s, a frustrated artist in Berlin went on a crime spree—building bombs, extorting high-end stores, and styling his persona after Scrooge McDuck, the money-grabbing duck from Disney’s “Uncle Scrooge” comics and “DuckTales” TV show. This article reports on the exploits of real-life character Arno Funke, a German artist who turned extortionist to fund his painting habit. According to the article, Funke’s elaborate plots involved bombs, voice changers, a treasure hunt, ingenious gadgets, and demands that money be thrown from trains, seeming to take inspiration from McDuck capers, which led the authorities to refer to him as Dagobert, the German name for the character. As Funke continued his extortions, and the press caught wind, a Dagobert mania gripped Germany. The article discusses the hunt for Dagobert, and what became of this cultural phenomenon.

Coronavirus Investigations

60-Year-Old Scientific Screwup Helped Covid Kill
In April 2021, the World Health Organization quietly updated a page on its website. In a section on how the coronavirus gets transmitted, the text stated that the virus could spread via aerosols as well as larger droplets. In early May, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made similar changes to its guidance, now placing the inhalation of aerosols at the top of its list of how the disease spreads. These announcements came with little fanfare, and yet, as this article reports, the revisions were among the biggest news of the coronavirus pandemic, correcting a six-decade-long scientific error to deadly effect. The article tells the story of this error -- centering on whether the coronavirus was transmitted via droplets or through the air -- and the scientists who fought to expose it.

Other Coronavirus Investigations

Lab Leak Theory Gets Serious Attention Just the News
In Post-Pandemic Clover, States Still Get Huge Bailouts Reason
Hundreds of PPP Loans Went to Fake Farms ProPublica
Major Hospital Chain Sued Patients During the Pandemic CNN

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