Spies like us (or do they?)

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As the lead singer for the punk rock band “Dead Kennedys” once put it, “if we really want to get serious about helping all the people living in the street…, we could just hire half the people in the country to spy on the other half.” Today’s FBI seems to have taken that counsel very much to heart, at least in so far as its relationship to the Trump presidency is concerned. But have our national spooks really been spying on this president since the earliest days of his campaign? Or were they merely sending agents to “inform” on Trump and his associates?

According to the New York Times Adam Goldman et. al. (May 18, 2018), there is a crucial distinction to be made over this point. According to Goldman, “President Trump accused the FBI…without evidence, of sending a spy to secretly infiltrate his 2016 campaign ‘for political purposes.'” But in reality, the article assures us, FBI agents “merely sent an informant to talk to two campaign advisers….” Which reminds me of that time we sent airplanes to deliver those two packages to Japan. (But let’s not quibble about semantics!)

Days later, on May 24, Politifact went to some pains to clarify what may seem to some a distinction without a difference. Quoting Robert Litt, who served as general counsel for the Director of National Intelligence under Obama, Politifact explained, “There’s clearly a difference between planting a person inside a campaign to observe and report back, and simply asking someone to meet with people and report back….” To punctuate that nuance, Politifact then quoted law professor Emily Berman to explain that while spying vs. informing may be a “judgment call,” it was all intended to help Trump by “disrupting Russian efforts to influence the campaign, rather than catch Trump associates in unlawful activity.”

Trump must have been greatly reassured to learn that the Obama Justice Department was so concerned about the health of his campaign. But which was it? Did the FBI actually send spies into the Trump campaign to gather information? Or did they merely send informants into the campaign to spy on Trump and his associates? This is an important fine point, you see, because the integrity of our national intelligence apparatus dangles in the balance. So with your permission I will spare you the suspense. Those agents who contacted George Papadopoulos and Carter Page and Sam Clovis – all members of the Trump campaign – were strictly speaking neither informants nor spies. They were involved in a plot far more sinister, something altogether different from and far more insidious than mere spying. They were engaged in a notorious and highly problematic historical specialty of the FBI. But before elaborating on that I should probably provide some background.

For the sake of brevity, let us deal solely with the espionage activities directed against one fringe associate of the Trump campaign, the hapless George Papadopoulos. You may remember George as that ambitious dupe whose drunken ramblings to an Australian diplomat ostensibly provoked the Trump “collusion” investigation. But long before that investigation is acknowledged to have commenced, Papadopoulos had already been contacted by at least three different individuals representing the FBI. And those three had one thing conspicuously in common. They all, in one way or another, informed George or emphasized to him that “the Russians” had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton which, they implied, could be of value to the Trump campaign.

The first such contact was made by the FBI in the person of one Joseph Mifsud, a Maltese professor and global gadabout with wide-ranging connections. Margot Cleveland at The Federalist provides the full details of Mifsud’s shady background and his curious contacts with Papadopoulos here. But briefly, during the week following Papadopoulos’ first contact with the Trump campaign, during that period before he had actually joined the campaign, he was contacted by Mifsud, who intimated that he had extensive Russian connections. At that point Mifsud seems to have been so impressed with George that he also offered him a job at the London Center of International Law Practice. Soon after that first contact Mifsud introduced Papadopoulos to a woman claiming to be Vladimir Putin’s niece, and then to an ostensible associate of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The thrust of these contacts and Mifsud’s other ongoing outreaches to Papadopoulos was that Mifsud was in a position to help the Trump campaign should it decide to pursue better relations with Russia, something Trump had openly promised to do.

But then Mifsud’s emphasis suddenly took a new direction. According to Papadopoulos’ confession statement (he plead guilty to a single count of lying to the FBI about the timing of this contact), Mifsud told George that he “had just returned from a trip to Moscow where he had met with high-level Russian governmental officials.” On that trip, according to Papadopoulos, Mifsud said that he had learned that the Russians had “dirt” on Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. To wit, Mifsud related that “the Russians had emails of Clinton.” “Thousands of emails,” he insisted! Shortly after that Joseph Mifsud disappeared, and he has not been seen since.

Was this a chance meeting? Joseph Mifsud was a close friend and business partner of Gianni Pittella, president of Italy’s Socialists and Progressive Democrats. In 2016 Pitella flew to Philadelphia, as Time Magazine reported, to “take the unprecedented step of endorsing and campaigning for Hillary Clinton because the risk of Donald Trump is too high.” Admittedly, this does not prove that Joseph Mifsud had a political interest in undermining the Trump campaign. But I’ll let the reader decide what it suggests.

The second FBI agent to contact George Papadopoulos during the 2016 presidential campaign was a Cambridge professor by the name of Stefan Halper. (You can read a full description of Professor Halper, his various connections, his attitude toward Trump, and his odd and deliberate outreach to George Papadopoulos at https://www.americanthin Stefan Halper had strong ties to the CIA and a long record of working with both US and British intelligence. But his history went deeper than that. He was a professional dirty-tricks artist with more than 30 years’ experience. For instance it has been widely reported and long believed that Dr. Halper was the mole who collected dirt on Jimmy Carter’s foreign policy during the 1990 presidential campaign. And while Halper contacted several Trump campaign staffers ostensibly to assist them, his public position was decidedly pro-Clinton. “I believe Clinton would be the best for US-UK relations,” he is quoted as saying, “(because) she is… predictable (and) will be less disruptive over time.”

Stefan Halper first contacted George Papadopoulos in September of 2016, several months after Joseph Mifsud had planted in him the seeds of Russian dirt. He sent George an email, asserting as bona fides an alleged connection with campaign staffer Sam Clovis, and offered George $3000 plus expenses to write a policy paper on the Leviathan natural gas field in the Middle East. George accepted the offer, whereupon Halper intensified his recruitment, meeting with him repeatedly.

But then, like Mifsud before him, Halper suddenly turned the conversation to a new direction. “George,” he asked earnestly and quite out of the blue, “you know about hacking the emails from Russia, right?” Evidently George had forgotten about the bomb Joseph Mifsud had strapped on his back some months before, because he told Halper he knew nothing whatever about Hillary emails or Russian hacking. According to the Daily Caller, “Halper “grew agitated and pressed Papadopoulos on the topic. Papadopoulos believes that Halper was recording him during some of their interactions….” Halper at this point apparently abandoned the effort to cement the thought of Russian hacking into George’s fragile memory, despite receiving payments totaling nearly $400,000 from the Defense Department for this work and apparently even more than that from other government sources. But that was not the end of it.

The third FBI agent to contact George Papadopoulos in the months leading up to the 2016 election was Stefan Halper’s “personal assistant” Azra Turk. (See at ) According to Papadopoulos’ statement, which was taken at a time before he could possibly have realized the broader significance of this, the winsome Ms. Turk “flirted with him during their meetings” and “later tried to meet with him in his home town of Chicago.” She also followed up on that flirtation by email. But more to the point, like Halper and Mifsud before her she asked George about those damning Hillary emails allegedly hacked by “the Russians.”

Enter Alexander Downer, Australia’s High Commissioner to the UK and coincidentally the man who had earlier arranged a $25 million donation from Australia to the Clinton Foundation. As luck would have it, Commissioner Downer just happened to bump into George Papadopoulos at a Kensington Wine Room in London, where he extracted from the drunken Trump campaign staffer some mumbled ramblings in reference to the story of Hillary’s emails and Russian hacking that had been planted by Mifsud, Halper and Turk. (Details at The American Spectator here: ) Downer then dutifully contacted the FBI, and according to the official story, that is how the Trump-Russia collusion investigation began.

But how did a highly placed Australian official like Alexander Downer find himself slumming in London with a drunken low level campaign staffer the likes of George Papadopoulos in the first place? The answer is simpler than you might imagine. According to the Gateway Pundit, Alexander Downer and Stefan Halper go way back. They have known each other at least since October 18th of 2010, when they shared the podium at a seminar on “The War Economy” at Emmanuel College. . It was a set up. That is what the FBI does. Mifsud and Halper and Turk and Downer were what they call in the trade agents provocateurs. Rather than attempt to explain what is meant by that fancy French, I will quote directly from Wikipedia.

“An agent provocateur (inciting agent) is a person who commits, or who acts to entice another person to commit an illegal or rash act or falsely implicate them in partaking in an illegal act.” Further, “An agent provocateur may be a police officer or a secret agent of police who encourages suspects to carry out a crime under conditions where evidence can be obtained…. A political organization or government may use agents provocateurs against political opponents. The provocateurs try to incite the opponent to do counterproductive or ineffective acts to foster public disdain or to provide a pretext for aggression against the opponent.” This might include acts, one would imagine, like seeking to obtain Hillary’s purloined emails from a supposed Russian agent.

The Oxford Dictionary of Law defines agent provocateur more succinctly as “one who purposefully lures or persuades someone into breaking the law when that person may not have done so alone, and then turns them over to the police.” Poor Papadopoulos! They couldn’t pay him to break the law, so they indicted him for incorrectly remembering a date – the date upon which he first spoke with their own agent, the slippery Mifsud.

And this takes us back to the main point. Why would I suggest that our very own FBI might employ agents provocateurs to entice low level Trump campaign staffers into repeating the claim that the Russians had hacked Hillary Clinton’s emails? Simple! Under its COINTEL Program the FBI has done exactly that sort of thing many times in the past. And in this case it would provide the pretext for a full scale investigation of Trump and his associates including myriad forms of electronic surveillance, warranted and even warrantless searches, subpoenas, grand juries, informants (not spies – heaven forbid) and many other methods otherwise foreclosed by law.

Returning to Wikipedia, “COINTELPRO… was a series of covert, and at times illegal, projects conducted by the (FBI) aimed at surveilling, infiltrating, discrediting and disrupting domestic political organizations. FBI records show that COINTELPRO resources targeted organizers, activists of civil rights movements…. The FBI has used covert operations against domestic political groups since its inception…. COINTELPRO tactics are still used to this day, and have been alleged to include discrediting targets through psychological warfare, smearing individuals and groups using forged documents and by planting false reports in the media (here I am thinking of the salacious and unverified Steel Dossier); harassment; wrongful imprisonment” etc.

In 1976 the Church Committee under Senator Frank Church investigated the FBI’s COINTEL Program. The Committee found that “the domestic activities of the intelligence community at times violated specific statutory prohibitions and infringed the Constitutional rights of American citizens. The legal questions involved in intelligence programs were often not considered. On other occasions, they were intentionally disregarded in the belief that because the programs served the ‘national security’ the law did not apply…. (The) most serious breaches of duty were those of senior officials, who were responsible for controlling intelligence activities and generally failed to assure compliance with the law. Many of the techniques used would be intolerable in a democratic society even if all of the targets had been involved in violent activity, but COINTELPRO went far beyond that…. The Bureau conducted a sophisticated vigilante operation…on the theory that preventing the growth of dangerous groups…would protect the national security….”

Broadly speaking, according to the Church Report, the methods of COINTELPRO included variants of the following:

  • Infiltration “…to undermine trust and scare off supporters (and to) smear genuine activists as agents.”
  • Psychological warfare including “dirty tricks” to undermine movements, “false media stories and published bogus leaflets and other publications in the name of targeted groups. They forged correspondences, sent anonymous letters (and) spread misinformation about meetings and events (and) set up pseudo movement groups run by government agents….”
  • Harassment via the legal system. “They…abused the legal system to harass.., gave perjured testimony and presented fabricated evidence as a pretense for false arrests and wrongful imprisonment… (and) used grand jury subpoenas in an effort to intimidate…and silence….”
  • Illegal force including break ins, vandalism, assaults, beatings and assassinations.
  • Undermine public opinion. “One of the primary ways the FBI targeted organizations was by challenging their reputations in the community and denying them a platform to gain legitimacy.”

J. Edgar Hoover himself provided the original operational doctrine for these sorts of FBI activities. “The purpose of counterintelligence action is to disrupt…, and it is immaterial whether facts exist to substantiate the charge.” The final report of the Church Committee concluded: “The Government has often undertaken the secret surveillance of citizens on the basis of their political beliefs, even when those beliefs posed no threat of violence or illegal acts on behalf of a hostile foreign power. The government, operating primarily through secret and biased informants, but also using other techniques such as wiretaps (and) microphone ‘bugs’…has swept in vast amounts of information about…American citizens. Investigations of groups deemed potentially dangerous – and even of groups suspected of associating with potentially dangerous organizations – have continued for decades despite the fact that those groups did not engage in unlawful activity.”

Do not buy the lie that the Comey FBI was simply using “informants” to “obtain information” about Russian attempts to hack our elections. The FBI investigation of Trump, and the Mueller investigation it spawned, have from the start been COINTELPRO operations, or if you prefer the Church Committee’s characterization, vigilante actions conducted by anti-Trump agents provocateurs with strong financial and emotional ties to the Hillary camp. In other words, we have been witnessing a witch hunt. And it is still going on.

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