Seems like some people will go to any length to create confrontations with Russia. Do they want war? With nuclear weapons? Are they crazy?
Russian to Judgement
The same people who assured you that Saddam Hussein had WMD’s now assure you Russian “novochok” nerve agents are being wielded by Vladimir Putin to attack people on British soil. As with the Iraqi WMD dossier, it is essential to comb the evidence very finely. A vital missing word from Theresa May’s statement yesterday was “only”. She did not state that the nerve agent used was manufactured ONLY by Russia. She rather stated this group of nerve agents had been “developed by” Russia. Antibiotics were first developed by a Scotsman, but that is not evidence that all antibiotics are today administered by Scots.
The “novochok” group of nerve agents – a very loose term simply for a collection of new nerve agents the Soviet Union were developing fifty years ago – will almost certainly have been analysed and reproduced by Porton Down. That is entirely what Porton Down is there for. It used to make chemical and biological weapons as weapons, and today it still does make them in small quantities in order to research defences and antidotes. After the fall of the Soviet Union Russian chemists made a lot of information available on these nerve agents. And one country which has always manufactured very similar persistent nerve agents is Israel. This Foreign Policy magazine (a very establishment US publication) article on Israel‘s chemical and biological weapon capability is very interesting indeed. I will return to Israel later in this article.
Incidentally, novachok is not a specific substance but a class of new nerve agents. Sources agree they were designed to be persistent, and of an order of magnitude stronger than sarin or VX. That is rather hard to square with the fact that thankfully nobody has died and those possibly in contact just have to wash their clothes.
From Putin’s point of view, to assassinate Skripal now seems to have very little motivation. If the Russians have waited eight years to do this, they could have waited until after their World Cup. The Russians have never killed a swapped spy before. Just as diplomats, British and otherwise, are the most ardent upholders of the principle of diplomatic immunity, so security service personnel everywhere are the least likely to wish to destroy a system which can be a key aspect of their own personal security; quite literally spy swaps are their “Get Out of Jail Free” card. You don’t undermine that system – probably terminally – without very good reason.
It is worth noting that the “wicked” Russians gave Skripal a far lighter jail sentence than an American equivalent would have received. If a member of US Military Intelligence had sold, for cash to the Russians, the names of hundreds of US agents and officers operating abroad, the Americans would at the very least jail the person for life, and I strongly suspect would execute them. Skripal just received a jail sentence of 18 years, which is hard to square with the narrative of implacable vindictiveness against him. If the Russians had wanted to make an example, that was the time.
It is much more probable that the reason for this assassination attempt refers to something recent or current, than to spying twenty years ago. Were I the British police, I would inquire very closely into Orbis Intelligence.
There is no doubt that Skripal was feeding secrets to MI6 at the time that Christopher Steele was an MI6 officer in Moscow, and at the the time that Pablo Miller, another member of Orbis Intelligence, was also an MI6 officer in Russia and directly recruiting agents. It is widely reported on the web and in US media that it was Miller who first recruited Skripal. My own ex-MI6 sources tell me that is not quite true as Skripal was “walk-in”, but that Miller certainly was involved in running Skripal for a while. Sadly Pablo Miller’s LinkedIn profile has recently been deleted, but it is again widely alleged on the web that it showed him as a consultant for Orbis Intelligence and a consultant to the FCO and – wait for it – with an address in Salisbury. If anyone can recover that Linkedin entry do get in touch, though British Government agencies will have been active in the internet scrubbing.
It was of course Christopher Steele and Orbis Intelligence who produced for the Clinton camp the sensationalist dossier on Trump links with Russia – including the story of Trump paying to be urinated on by Russian prostitutes – that is a key part of the “Russiagate” affair gripping the US political classes. The extraordinary thing about this is that the Orbis dossier is obvious nonsense which anybody with a professional background can completely demolish, as I did here.
Dark secrets of Porton Down: Inside controversial defence lab which developed VX nerve agent and used human ‘guinea pigs’
It is one of Britain’s most secretive sites, remaining shrouded in mystery for more than 100 years.
But this week Porton Down found itself at the centre of one of the biggest diplomatic crises the UK has faced in recent years.
The top secret defence base in Wiltshire was instrumental in helping identify the nerve agent used to poison a former Russian spy in Salisbury.
Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned with a weapons grade nerve agent in the city last week, leaving them fighting for their lives in hospital.
And, not only have scientists from the specialist laboratory been at the centre of a clean-up operation following the attack, but its helped identify Russia as the source of the poison.
Is the Steele Dossier Full of ‘Russian Dirt’ – or British?
With text messages between US Justice Department (DOJ) conspirators Peter Strzok and his adulterous main squeeze Lisa Page now revealing that then-President Barack Obama “wants to know everything we’re doing,” it now appears that the 2016 plot to subvert the rule of law and corrupt the US organs of state security for political purposes reached the very pinnacle of power. To call the United States today a “banana republic” increasingly may be seen as a gratuitous insult to the friendly spider-infested nations to our south.
Still, don’t expect to see Barry Hussein Saetoro doing the perp walk anytime soon or even being deported back to Kenya. Don’t expect to see orange prison suits on Strzok, Page, former FBI Director James Comey, former Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr, former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, and others implicated in putting a political thumb on the scales to, first, get Hillary Clinton elected, and then, when that failed, to neuter Donald Trump’s presidency with a phony Russiagate probe. Officials’ getting “former-ed” is one thing, their getting prosecuted quite another. (Just imagine if a GOP administration had similarly skewed the supposedly non-political law enforcement and intelligence services for partisan reasons. We’d have Watergate on steroids. The New York Times, Washington Post and CNN would be calling for hanging, drawing, and quartering.)
Indeed, it’s not even clear the Russiagate investigation itself will be impacted. After all, the narrative may have flipped on one variable – from Trump campaign collusion to Democratic and FBI collusion – but the constant remains the same: Russia. Trump’s defenders are as insistent as his detractors that the real culprit is Russia! Russia! Russia!
Sean Hannity of Fox News has been particularly hyperventilative that the entire Steele Dossier lying at the black heart of the mess consists of “phony, fake-news Russian propaganda” and “Russian intelligence lies” from British MI6 (supposedly “former”) spymaster Christopher Steele’s “Russian sources.” Even level-headed observers like Paul Sperry and Patrick Buchanan characterize the file as a “Kremlin-aided smear job” and “Russian dirt [that] Steele was spoon-fed by old comrades in the Kremlin’s security apparatus.”
Christopher Steele is not Russian
But what do we really know about Steele’s claimed sources? Not much.
Report: CIA Gave $100k To Russian Offering Dirt On Trump, Including The Sex Video
The CIA paid $100,000 last year to a Russian operative who claimed to have derogatory information about President Trump, including a video tape of the Republican engaged with prostitutes in a Moscow hotel room.
If the video showed Trump, it would support claims made in the infamous Steele dossier, the salacious opposition research report financed by the Clinton campaign and DNC.
But U.S. intelligence officials have reason to doubt the veracity of the video and other information about Trump associates provided by the Russian, according to a fascinating report from The New York Times.
[Update: The CIA is contesting The Times story and a similar one that appeared in The Intercept.
“The people swindled here were [Intercept reporter] James Risen and [New York Times reporter] Matt Rosenberg. The fictional story that CIA was bilked out of $100,000 is patently false,” CIA spokesman Dean Boyd told The Daily Caller News Foundation after this article was published. Boyd was unable to provide additional details because of the sensitivity of the topic.]
American spies made contact with the Russia early in 2017 after he offered to sell the Trump material along with cyber hacking tools that were stolen from the National Security Agency that year, according to The Times.
U.S. intelligence officials told The Times they were so desperate to retrieve those tools that they negotiated with the operative for months despite several red flags, including indications that he was working in concert with Russian intelligence.