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On the New (and Not-So New) Claims about Guccifer 2.0

The initial files released by the persona Guccifer 2.0 on June 15, 2016 included — in addition to graffiti paying tribute to Felix Dzerzhinsky, the founder of Russia’s secret police — metadata deliberately set to Cyrillic (the metadata had previously been interpreted, implausibly even at the time, to be a mistake).

And a file later released on September 13, 2016 purportedly from Guccifer 2.0 but released via a magnet site and never linked on his WordPress site, was probably copied, locally, to a Linux drive somewhere in the Eastern time zone on July 5, 2016; the files were then copied to a Windows file on September 1, 2016.

Those are the fairly uncontroversial findings from two separate research efforts that have recently renewed debate over whether the conclusion of the intelligence community, that Russia hacked the DNC, is valid.

I’m going to do a two part post on this issue.

What to Read

As you might be able to figure out, nothing about those two conclusions at all dictates that the Intelligence Community conclusions that Russia is behind the hack of Democratic targets are wrong. The reason they’re so controversial is because they’ve been used, in tandem, to support claims that the IC conclusion is wrong, first in a (to me) unconvincing letter by the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (chiefly Bill Binney, Kirk Wiebe, Ed Loomis, and Ray McGovern), and then in some even sloppier versions, most notably at the Nation. In between the original analysis and these reports are some other pieces making conclusions about the research itself that are in no way dictated by the research.

In other words, it’s all a big game of telephone, some research going in the front end and a significantly distorted message coming out the back end.

So before I get into what the two studies do show, let’s talk about what you should read. The first argument has been made by Adam Carter at his G2-space, which is laudable as a resource for documents on Guccifer 2.0, no matter what you think of his conclusions. There’s a ton in there, not all of which I find as persuasive as the argument pertaining to the Russian metadata. Happily, he made two free-standing posts demonstrating the RSID analysis (one, two). I first discussed this analysis here.

The RSID analysis showing that the cyrillic in Guccifer 2.0’s documents was actually intentional relies, in part, on the work of someone else, posting under the name /u/tvor_22. His post on this is worthwhile not just for the way it maps out how people came to be fooled by the analysis,  but for the five alternative explanations he offers. In in no way think those five possibilities are comprehensive, but I appreciate the effort to remain open about what conclusions might be drawn from the evidence.

Between those three posts, they show that the first five documents released by Guccifer 2.0 were all copied into one with certain settings set, deliberately, to the Russian language. That’s the first conclusion.

The forensics on copying was done by a guy posting under the name The Forensicator, whose main post is here. Note his site engages in good faith with the rebuttals he has gotten, so poke around and see how he responds.  He argues a bunch of things, most notably that the first copy of files released in September was copied locally back in July, perhaps from a computer networked to the host server. That analysis doesn’t rule out that the data was on some server outside of the DNC. I raised one concern about this analysis here.

Finally, for a more measured skeptical take — from someone also associated with VIPS who did not join in their letter — see Scott Ritter’s take. I don’t agree with all of that either, but I think a second skeptical view is worthwhile.

All of which is to say if you want to read the analysis — rather than conclusions that I think go well beyond the analysis — read the analysis. Assuming both are valid (again, I think the RSID case is stronger than the copying one), the sole conclusions I’d draw from them is that the Guccifer 2.0 figure wanted to be perceived as a Russian — something he succeeded in doing through far more than just metadata, though the predispositions of researchers and the press certainly made it easy for him. And, some entity that may associated with Guccifer 2.0 (but may also be a proxy)  is probably in the Eastern Time Zone, possibly (though not definitely) close to the DNC (or some other target server). That’s it. That’s what you need to explain if you believe both pieces of analysis.

Whatever explanation you use to explain the inclusion of Iron Felix in the documents (which is consistent with graffiti left in the hacked servers) would be the same one you use to explain why the metadata was set to Cyrillic; the IC and people close to the hack have explained that the hackers liked to boast. And the only explanation you need for the local copy is that someone associated with the Russians was close to DC, such as at the Maryland compound that got shut down.

Guccifer and the DNC … or DCCC … or Hillary

Since we’re examining these claims, there’s another part of the presentation on the RSID data (and Carter’s site generally), that deserves far more prominent mention than the current debate has given, because it undermines the framing of the debate. We’ve been arguing for a year about Russia’s tie to Guccifer 2.0 based on the persona’s claim to have provided DNC documents to WikiLeaks. But the documents originally released in the initial weeks by Guccifer 2.0 were, by and large, not DNC documents. As far as I know/u/tvor_22 was the first to note this. He describes that the Trump document first leaked only appears via other sources as an attachment to a Podesta email, though there are alterations in the metadata, as are three of the others, with the fifth coming from an unidentified source.

Let’s take the very first document posted by Guccifer2.0, which some security researchers have cited as ‘an altered document not properly sanitised.’ If we diff the raw copy — pasted into text documents — of both the original Trump document found in the Podesta emails and the Guccifer 2.0 version, ignoring white-spaces and tabs (diff -w original.txt altered.txt):

  • the table of contents has been re-factored.
  • many of the links are naked in the Guccifer2.0 version. (Naked as in not properly behind link titles, indicating Guccifer2.0’s version may have been an earlier draft.)
  • the error messages are in Russian.
  • None of the above quirks could be found in comparing 2,3, or 5.doc to their originals (100% textually equivalent). 4.doc could not be found on WikiLeaks for a comparison.

None of the textual content in any of these four ‘poorly sanitised’ documents has been altered, removed, or doctored. In other words all the differences you would expect from a copy and paste from one editor to another. So why bother copy and pasting into a new document at all? I wonder.

[1.doc’s original, 2.doc’s original, 3.doc’s original, 5.doc’original. 4.doc could not be found in Wikileaks. The bare texts of 2,3, and 5 are checksum equivalent.]

G2-space has posted an expansion of this analysis, by JimmysLlama. It provides a list for where the first 40 documents (covering Guccifer 2.0’s first two WordPress posts) can — or cannot — be found. The source for (roughly) half remains unidentified, the other half came from Podesta’s emails. At the very least, that reporting makes it clear that even for documents claimed (falsely) to be DNC documents, Guccifer had a broader range of documents than what WikiLeaks published.

That explains reporting from last summer that indicated the FBI wasn’t sure if WikiLeaks’ documents had come from Russia/Guccifer 2.0.

The bureau is trying to determine whether the emails obtained by the Russians are the same ones that appeared on the website of the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks on Friday, setting off a firestorm that roiled the party in the lead-up to the convention.

The FBI is also examining whether APT 28 or an affiliated group passed those emails to WikiLeaks, law enforcement sources said.

Now we know why: because they weren’t the same set of files as had been taken from the DNC (though the FBI did already know some Hillary staffers had been hacked.) See this post from last summer, in which I explore that and related questions.

The detail that Guccifer 2.0 was actual posting Hillary, not DNC, documents is somewhat consistent with what John Podesta has said. He revealed that he recognized an early “DNC” document probably came from his email.

And other campaign officials also had their emails divulge earlier than October 7th. But in one of those D.N.C. dumps, there was a document that appeared to me was– that appeared came– might have come from my account.

Podesta he has always been squirrelly about thus stuff and probably has reason to hide that the Democrats’ claims that Guccifer 2.0 was releasing DNC documents were wrong (indeed, that’s something that would be far more supportive of skeptics’ alternative theories than this Guccifer 2.0 data, but it’s also easily explained by Democrats’ understandable choices to minimize their exposure last summer). Importantly, Podesta also suggests that “other campaign officials also had their emails divulged earlier than October 7th,” without any suggestion that that is just via DC Leaks.

On top of a lot of other implications of this, it shifts the entire debate about whether Guccifer 2.0 was WikiLeaks’ source, which has always focused on whether the documents leaked on July 22 came from Guccifer 2.0. Regardless of what you might conclude about that, it shifts the question to whether the Podesta emails WikiLeaks posted came from Guccifer 2.0, because those are the ones where there’s clear overlap. Russia’s role in hacking Podesta has always been easier to show than its role in hacking the DNC.

It also shifts the focus away from whether FBI obtained enough details from the DNC server via the forensic image it received from Crowdstrike to adequately assess the culprit. Both the DNC and Hillary (as well as the DCCC) servers are important. Though those that squawk about this always seem to miss that FBI, via FireEye, disagreed with Crowdstrike on a key point: the degree to which the two separate sets of hackers coordinated in targeted servers; I’ve been told by someone with independent knowledge that the FBI read is the correct one, so FBI certainly did their own assessment of the forensics and may have obtained more accurate results than Crowdstrike (I’ve noted elsewhere that public IC statements make it clear that not all public reports on the Russian hacks are correct).

In other words, given that the files that Guccifer 2.0 first leaked actually preempted WikiLeaks’ release of those files by four months, what you’d need to show about the DNC file leaks is something entirely different than what has been shown.

New Yorker’s analysis on coordination

That’s a task Raffi Khatchadourian took on, using an analysis of what got published when, to argue that Russia is WikiLeaks’ source in his recent profile of Assange (I don’t agree with all his logical steps, particularly his treatment of the relationship between Guccifer 2.0 and DC Leaks, but in general my disagreements don’t affect his analysis about Russia).

Throughout June, as WikiLeaks staff worked on the e-mails, the persona had made frequent efforts to keep the D.N.C. leaks in the news, but also appeared to leave space for Assange by refraining from publishing anything that he had. On June 17th, the editor of the Smoking Gun asked Guccifer 2.0 if Assange would publish the same material it was then doling out. “I gave WikiLeaks the greater part of the files, but saved some for myself,” it replied. “Don’t worry everything you receive is exclusive.” The claim at that time was true. None of the first forty documents posted on WordPress can be found in the WikiLeaks trove; in fact, at least half of them do not even appear to be from the D.N.C., despite the way they were advertised.

But then, on July 6th, just before Guccifer 2.0 complained that WikiLeaks was “playing for time,” this pattern of behavior abruptly reversed itself. “I have a new bunch of docs from the DNC server for you,” the persona wrote on WordPress. The files were utterly lacking in news value, and had no connection to one another—except that every item was an attachment in the D.N.C. e-mails that WikiLeaks had. The shift had the appearance of a threat. If Russian intelligence officers were inclined to indicate impatience, this was a way to do it.

On July 18th, the day Assange originally planned to publish, Guccifer 2.0 released another batch of so-called D.N.C. documents, this time to Joe Uchill, of The Hill. Four days later, after WikiLeaks began to release its D.N.C. archive, Uchill reached out to Guccifer 2.0 for comment. The reply was “At last!”

[snip]

Whatever one thinks of Assange’s election disclosures, accepting his contention that they shared no ties with the two Russian fronts requires willful blindness. Guccifer 2.0’s handlers predicted the WikiLeaks D.N.C. release. They demonstrated inside knowledge that Assange was struggling to get it out on time. And they proved, incontrovertibly, that they had privileged access to D.N.C. documents that appeared nowhere else publicly, other than in WikiLeaks publications. The twenty thousand or so D.N.C. e-mails that WikiLeaks published were extracted from ten compromised e-mail accounts, and all but one of the people who used those accounts worked in just two departments: finance and strategic communications. (The single exception belonged to a researcher who worked extensively with communications.) All the D.N.C. documents that Guccifer 2.0 released appeared to come from those same two departments.

The Podesta e-mails only make the connections between WikiLeaks and Russia appear stronger. Nearly half of the first forty documents that Guccifer 2.0 published can be found as attachments among the Podesta e-mails that WikiLeaks later published. Moreover, all of the hacked election e-mails on DCLeaks appeared to come from Clinton staffers who used Gmail, and of course Podesta was a Clinton staffer who used Gmail. The phishing attacks that targeted all of the staffers in the spring, and that targeted Podesta, are forensically linked; they originated from a single identifiable cybermechanism, like form letters from the same typewriter. SecureWorks, a cybersecurity firm with no ties to the Democratic Party, made this assessment, and it is uncontested.

Now, I’d like to see the analysis behind this publicly. It should be expanded to include all the documents leaked by Guccifer 2.0. It should include more careful analysis of the forensics behind the phishes (security companies have done this, but have not shown all their work). Moreover, it doesn’t rule out a piggyback hack, though given that Guccifer 2.0 was leaking Hillary emails from the start, it’s unclear how that piggyback would work. All that said, it provides a circumstantial case that these were the same two sets of documents.

Khatchadourian doesn’t dwell on something he alluded to here, which is that all the DNC documents were email focused, collected from just 10 mailboxes. That’s the nugget that, I suspect, Assange will point to (and may have shared with Dana Rohrabacher) in an effort to rebut the claims his source was Russia (one thing Khatchadourian gets wrong is what Craig Murray said about two different sources for WikiLeaks, but then he points to a WikiLeaks claim they got the emails in late summer and September 19 date on all of them — not long before Murray picked something up in DC — so that’s another area worth greater focus). For now, I’ll bracket that, but while I suspect it points to really interesting conclusions, I don’t think it necessarily undermines the claim that Russia was Assange’s source. More importantly, none of the things people are pointing to in this new analysis — the metadata in files released by Guccifer 2.0, the metadata in files released on a magnet site but never directly by Guccifer 2.0 — affects the analysis of how completely unrelated emails got to WikiLeaks at all.

All of which is to say that the these two pieces of analysis actually miss the far more interesting analysis that got done with it.

Update: Turns out the Nation issued a correction today, which reads in part,

Subsequently, Nation editors themselves raised questions about the editorial process that preceded the publication of the article. The article was indeed fact-checked to ensure that Patrick Lawrence, a regular Nation contributor, accurately reported the VIPS analysis and conclusions, which he did. As part of the editing process, however, we should have made certain that several of the article’s conclusions were presented as possibilities, not as certainties. And given the technical complexity of the material, we would have benefited from bringing on an independent expert to conduct a rigorous review of the VIPS technical claims.

It added an outside analysis by Nathanial Freitas of the two reports, a rebuttal from VIPS members who did not join the letter, and a response from those who did. Freitas provides a number of other possibilities to get the throughput observed by Forensicator. The VIPS dissenters raise some of the same points I do, including that this server may be somewhere outside of DNC.

It is important to note that it’s equally plausible that the cited July 5, 2016, event was carried out on a server separate from the DNC or elsewhere, and with data previously copied, transferred, or even exfiltrated from the DNC.

However, independent of transfer/copy speeds, if the data was not on the DNC server on July 5, 2016, then none of this VIPS analysis matters (including the categorically stated fact that the local copy was acquired by an insider) and simply undermines the credibility of any and all analysis in the VIPS memo when joined with this flawed predicate.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

The Nameless Non-Agents Arranging Rohrabacher’s Trump Meeting

Sean Hannnity, who himself met with Julian Assange early this year, then went on to champion the Seth Rich hoax, had Dana Rohrabacher on to push Rohrabacher’s efforts to broker a pardon for Assange in exchange for an alternative source for Wikileaks. When asked if he had a specific message for the president, Rohrabacher dodged, saying only, “We discussed what I would tell the president.”

But the funniest dodge came when Hannity asked Rohrabacher about meeting with the president. The congressman answered,

It is my understanding from other parties who are trying to arrange the rendezvous that a rendezvous with myself and the President is being arranged for me to give him the firsthand information from [Assange]

Not only do these other parties not have names, but ultimately, this meeting “is being arranged” like a loveless marriage.

You’d almost think Rohrabacher recognizes the legal problems here.

One wonders whether those nameless non-agents do?

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

Dana Rohrabacher Brokering Deal for Man Publishing a CIA Exploit Every Week

Yesterday, right wing hack Charles Johnson brokered a three hour meeting between Dana Rohrabacher and Julian Assange. At the meeting, Assange apparently explained his proof that Russia was not behind the hack of the DNC. In a statement, Rohrabacher promises to deliver what he learned directly to President Trump.

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange on Wednesday told Rep. Dana Rohrabacher that Russia was not behind leaks of emails during last year’s presidential election campaign that damaged Hillary Clinton’s candidacy and exposed the inner workings of the Democratic National Committee.

The California congressman spent some three hours with the Australian-born fugitive, now living under the protection of the Ecuadorian embassy in the British capital.

Assange’s claim contradicts the widely accepted assessment of the U.S. intelligence community that the thousands of leaked emails, which indicated the Democratic National Committee rigged the nomination process against Sen. Bernie Sanders in favor of Clinton, were the result of hacking by the Russian government or persons connected to the Kremlin.

Assange, said Rohrabacher, “emphatically stated that the Russians were not involved in the hacking or disclosure of those emails.” Rohrabacher, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats, is the only U.S. congressman to have visited the controversial figure.

The conversation ranged over many topics, said Rohrabacher, including the status of Wikileaks, which Assange maintains is vital to keeping Americans informed on matters hidden by their traditional media. The congressman plans to divulge more of what he found directly to President Trump.

I’m utterly fascinated that Assange has taken this step, and by the timing of it.

It comes not long after Rod Wheeler’s lawsuit alleging that Fox News and the White House worked together to invent a story that murdered DNC staffer Seth Rich was in contact with WikiLeaks. Both that story and this one have been promoted aggressively by Sean Hannity.

It comes in the wake of the VIPS letter that — as I’ve begun to show — in no way proves what it claims to prove about the DNC hack.

It comes just after a very long profile by the New Yorker’s Raffi Khatchadourian, who has previously written more sympathetic pieces about Assange. I have a few quibbles with the logic behind a few of the arguments Khatchadourian makes, but he makes a case — doing analysis on what documents got released where that no one else has yet publicly done (and about which numerous people have made erroneous claims in the past) — that Assange’s claims he wasn’t working with Russia no longer hold up.

But his protestations that there were no connections between his publications and Russia were untenable.

[snip]

Whatever one thinks of Assange’s election disclosures, accepting his contention that they shared no ties with the two Russian fronts requires willful blindness. Guccifer 2.0’s handlers predicted the WikiLeaks D.N.C. release. They demonstrated inside knowledge that Assange was struggling to get it out on time. And they proved, incontrovertibly, that they had privileged access to D.N.C. documents that appeared nowhere else publicly, other than in WikiLeaks publications. The twenty thousand or so D.N.C. e-mails that WikiLeaks published were extracted from ten compromised e-mail accounts, and all but one of the people who used those accounts worked in just two departments: finance and strategic communications. (The single exception belonged to a researcher who worked extensively with communications.) All the D.N.C. documents that Guccifer 2.0 released appeared to come from those same two departments.

The Podesta e-mails only make the connections between WikiLeaks and Russia appear stronger. Nearly half of the first forty documents that Guccifer 2.0 published can be found as attachments among the Podesta e-mails that WikiLeaks later published.

The Assange-Rohrabacher meeting also follows a NYT story revealing that the author of a piece of malware named in the IC’s first Joint Analysis Report of the DNC hack, Profexor, has been cooperating with the FBI. The derivative reports on this have overstated the connection Profexor might have to the DNC hack (as opposed to APT 28, presumed to be associated with Russia’s military intelligence GRU).

A member of Ukraine’s Parliament with close ties to the security services, Anton Gerashchenko, said that the interaction was online or by phone and that the Ukrainian programmer had been paid to write customized malware without knowing its purpose, only later learning it was used in Russian hacking.

Mr. Gerashchenko described the author only in broad strokes, to protect his safety, as a young man from a provincial Ukrainian city. He confirmed that the author turned himself in to the police and was cooperating as a witness in the D.N.C. investigation. “He was a freelancer and now he is a valuable witness,” Mr. Gerashchenko said.

It is not clear whether the specific malware the programmer created was used to hack the D.N.C. servers, but it was identified in other Russian hacking efforts in the United States.

But Profexor presumably is describing to the FBI how he came to sell customized access to his tool to hackers working for Russia and who those hackers were.

In other words, this bid by Assange to send information to Trump via someone protected by the Constitution’s Speech and Debate Clause, but who is also suspected — even by his Republican colleagues! — of being on Russia’s payroll, comes at a very interesting time, as outlets present more evidence undermining Assange’s claims to have no tie to Russia.

Coming as it does as other evidence is coming to light, this effort is a bit of a Hail Mary by Assange: as soon as Trump publicizes his claims (which he’ll probably do during tomorrow’s shit-and-tweet) and they get publicly discredited, Assange (and Trump) will have little else to fall back on. They will have exposed their own claims, and provided the material others can use to attack Trump’s attempts to rebut the Russia hack claims. Perhaps Assange’s claims will be hard to rebut; but by making them public, finally, they will be revealed such that they can be rebutted.

I’m just as interested in the reporting on this, though, which was first pushed out through right wing outlets Daily Caller and John Solomon.

The story is presented exclusively in terms of Assange’s role in the DNC hack, which is admittedly the area where Assange’s interests and Trump’s coincide.

Yet not even the neutral LAT’s coverage of the meeting, which even quotes CIA Director and former Wikileaks fan Mike Pompeo,mentions the more immediate reason why Assange might need a deal from the United States. Virtually every week since March, Wikileaks has released a CIA exploit. While some of those exploits were interesting and the individual exploits are surely useful for security firms, at this point the Vault 7 project looks less like transparency and more like an organized effort to burn the CIA. Which makes it utterly remarkable a sitting member of Congress is going to go to the president to lobby him to make a deal with Assange, to say nothing of Assange’s argument that Wikileaks should get a White House press pass as part of the deal.

Dana Rohrabacher is perhaps even as we speak lobbying to help a guy who has published a CIA hack of the week. And that part of the meeting is barely getting notice.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

The Collective Yawn at America’s “Weaponization of Information”

You know you’re in trouble when Dana Rohrabacher is the voice of reason.

That’s what happened in Wednesday’s House Foreign Relations Committee hearing on “Russia’s Weaponization of Information,” which was basically an attempt to claim RT is a tremendous weapon in Putin’s efforts to conquer the world. It included Liz Wahl complaining about the “conspiracy theories” tolerated and encouraged at RT.

While some of the theories peddled are outright absurd, there are a surprising amount of people prone to being manipulated that think it’s hip to believe in any alternative theory, feeling proud of perceiving themselves to be enlightened and even prouder when they amass sizable social media followers that hang on every misguided and outright false theory that is propagated. Russia is aware of this population of paranoid skeptics and plays them like a fiddle.

Those that challenge any narrative against Russia are branded CIA agents, of being puppets for neo-conservatives intent on reigniting a cold war, and face the ire of seemingly countless online trolls or hecklers on the internet that hijack online discussions.

In response, Rohrabacher suggested the US media has its own limits. (after 1:25) “I would hope that we are honest enough with one another to realize that we have major flaws in our dissemination of facts and information in the United States as well.” Rohrabacher went on to criticize those seeking to restart the Cold War, suggesting that Putin is Brezhnev or even Hitler. “There’s a little bit of fanaticism on both sides. … If we’re going to have peace in this world we’ve got to be disciplined in searching for that truth.” He complained that most narratives of Ukraine ignore the violent overthrow of an elected leader.

Wahl pushed back, arguing that in Russia, unlike in the US, “there’s an attempt to manipulate and advocate a war to achieve an authoritarian leader’s objectives, and fabricating facts, twisting truths, making up lies.” Wahl continued, coming close to suggesting that  “Look at Brian Williams, he makes some mistakes and he’s assassinated on Twitter.”

Notably, the hearing was led by climate change denier Ed Royce and included climate change denier Scott Perry, both men adhering to fictions that their donors and craziest supporters want to hear, talking about Communists telling people what they wish to hear.

Then, the next day, the NYT caught up to Moon of Alabama, As’ad AbuKahlil, and the Daily Beast’s  about Richard Engel’s claim to have been kidnapped by Assad loyalists in 2012. And while the NYT (and the HuffPo) don’t criticize Engel, who was in real danger, the NYT does include damning details about NBC’s own awareness that the story Engel was telling was not true.

NBC executives were informed of [Free Syrian Army tied Sunnis] Mr. Ajouj and Mr. Qassab’s possible involvement during and after Mr. Engels’s captivity, according to current and former NBC employees and others who helped search for Mr. Engel, including political activists and security professionals. Still, the network moved quickly to put Mr. Engel on the air with an account blaming Shiite captors and did not present the other possible version of events.

[snip]

NBC’s own assessment during the kidnapping had focused on Mr. Qassab and Mr. Ajouj, according to a half-dozen people involved in the recovery effort. NBC had received GPS data from the team’s emergency beacon that showed it had been held early in the abduction at a chicken farm widely known by local residents and other rebels to be controlled by the Sunni criminal group.

NBC had sent an Arab envoy into Syria to drive past the farm, according to three people involved in the efforts to locate Mr. Engel, and engaged in outreach to local commanders for help in obtaining the team’s release. These three people declined to be identified, citing safety considerations.

Ali Bakran, a rebel commander who assisted in the search, said in an interview that when he confronted Mr. Qassab and Mr. Ajouj with the GPS map, “Azzo and Shukri both acknowledged having the NBC reporters.”

Several rebels and others with detailed knowledge of the episode said that the safe release of NBC’s team was staged after consultation with rebel leaders when it became clear that holding them might imperil the rebel efforts to court Western support.

Perhaps NBC had good reason for reporting a story they had reason to believe was false. Perhaps they agreed to blame Shiites as part of the deal to get Engel back safely. If they do, they would do well to make that clear now.

But then, why would they? Aside from Democracy Now and Glenn Greenwald, this story has not received that much attention.

In both Syria and Ukraine, the US press has largely been as obedient as the press is forced to be in Russia, telling convenient narratives that justify our armed intervention. The notion that US Congressmen who themselves spew propaganda are squealing about Putin’s great power of propaganda is almost pathetic in the face of all that.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

With Over Half of Chemical Weapons-Related Stockpile Removed, Russia Says Syrian CW Potential Near Zero

Yesterday, in describing how Russia has played the US media regarding “threats” to the P5+1 negotiations on Iran’s nuclear technology, I mentioned that continued progress on Syria’s removal of its chemical weapons-related materials was further evidence that Russia intends to cooperate on the Iranian and Syrian nonproliferation issues separately from disputes over the Crimea annexation. Today, with news out that removal of the CW-related materials from Syria has crossed the 50% level, Russia has praised that accomplishment while pointing out that Syria now has virtually no capability of using chemical arms. Oh, and if we need any further confirmation that Russia is ready for the recriminations over Crimea to end, Putin himself has now said that there is no further need for retaliation against US sanctions (although I’m guessing that Dana Rohrabacher is in mourning that he wasn’t included in the list of ten US figures sanctioned by Russia since he even played dress-up and “fought” against the Soviets in Afghanistan).

A press release put out by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons yesterday put the removal of materials from Syria at just under 50%:

The OPCW-UN Joint Mission has verified the delivery of another consignment of Priority 1 chemicals today to Latakia and their removal from the port on a cargo ship, raising the amount of Syrian chemicals that are now out of the country to nearly half of the total stockpile.

The confirmation came on the heels of an announcement late yesterday by the Joint Mission of two other consignments of chemicals that were delivered to Latakia and removed during the past week. A total of 11 consignments of chemicals have now been transported out of Syria for destruction outside the country. The updated cumulative figures are as follow:

Priority 1 chemicals removed:             34.8 %*
Priority 2 chemicals removed:             82.6 %
Total chemicals removed:                   49.3 %

/snip/

* Includes all sulfur mustard, the only unitary chemical warfare agent in Syria’s arsenal

But the UN has slightly different figures, putting the removal over 50%:

More than half of Syria’s declared chemical weapons arsenal has been shipped out or destroyed within the country, the head of the international team overseeing the disarmament process said on Thursday.

Sigrid Kaag, head of the joint mission of the United Nations and Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), said 54 percent of the toxins had been removed or eliminated.

The process, which President Bashar al-Assad’s government agreed to after a chemical attack killed hundreds of people around Damascus last year, is months behind schedule but Kaag said the new momentum “would allow for timely completion”.

“The joint mission welcomes the momentum attained and encourages the Syrian Arab Republic to sustain the current pace,” Kaag said in a statement.

Russia welcomed this news and added that Syria now has almost no capability of carrying out an attack with chemical weapons:

The Syrian government has reduced its chemical weapons potential close to zero, state-run RIA news agency quoted an unnamed official at the Russian Foreign Ministry as saying on Friday.

“Chemical weapons production facilities, equipment for mixing (chemicals) and operating (the weapons), as well as the means of their delivery have been destroyed,” the official said, adding that the only gas that had been ready for use in weaponry had been completely removed from the country.

“At the moment, Damascus has de facto reduced its military chemical weapons potential to almost zero.”

Sadly, those who relish a restart of the Cold War are unlikely to stop now, so we are left to wonder what Putin will do in response if the US (especially Congressional meddlers) takes further steps claimed to be in response to the annexation of Crimea. Putin’s statement today that he sees no need for further retaliation can be viewed as reining back in the “threat” delivered by Ryobkov after the P5+1 negotiations ended Wednesday. Further action by the US, though, could end Russian cooperation in both the P5+1 process and the Syrian CW situation, seriously hurting current nonproliferation efforts.

It is my hope that Cold War fans will restrict their threats against Russia to the realm of what would happen should Putin try to grab more territory beyond Crimea.

Many years ago, Jim got a BA in Radiation Biophysics from the University of Kansas. He then got a PhD in Molecular Biology from UCLA and did postdoctoral research in yeast genetics at UC Berkeley and mouse retroviruses at Stanford. He joined biosys in Palo Alto, producing insect parasitic nematodes for pest control. In the early 1990’s, he moved to Gainesville, FL and founded a company that eventually became Entomos. He left the firm as it reorganized into Pasteuria Biosciences and chose not to found a new firm due a clash of values with venture capital investors, who generally lack all values. Upon leaving, he chose to be a stay at home dad, gentleman farmer, cook and horse wrangler. He discovered the online world through commenting at Glenn Greenwald’s blog in the Salon days and was involved in the briefly successful Chris Dodd move to block the bill to renew FISA. He then went on to blog at Firedoglake and served a brief stint as evening editor there. When the Emptywheel blog moved out of Firedoglake back to standalone status, Jim tagged along and blogged on anthrax, viruses, John Galt, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He is now a mostly lapsed blogger looking for a work-around to the depressing realization that pointing out the details of government malfeasance and elite immunity has approximately zero effect.

Putin’s Congressional Puppets

I have to give this to Michele Bachmann. Unlike most of the members of Congress she traveled to Russia with last week, she has not (at least not apparently) been suckered by Vladimir Putin to play his patsy.

Jim already described Dana Rohrabacher’s posturing with Steven Seagal while he attempted to replay his glory days palling around with the mujahadeen. Subsequent to that, Rohrabacher defended Putin’s abuse of power in fighting his former soulmates.

“If you are in the middle of an insurrection with Chechnya, and hundreds of people are being killed and there are terrorist actions taking place and kids are being blown up in schools, yeah, guess what, there are people who overstep the bounds of legality,” he said.

While the rule of law is important, Rohrabacher added, “We shouldn’t be describing people who are under this type of threat, we shouldn’t be describing them as if they are Adolf Hitler or they’re back to the old Communism days.”

Meanwhile, both Rohrabacher and Steve King bravely defended Putin’s prosecution of Pussy Riot.

“It’s hard to find sympathy for people who would do that to people’s faith,” King said.

But I’m most amused by the script William Keating (who represents parts of Boston and its southwest suburbs) is speaking from, parroting FSB’s assurances that the Marathon attack could have been prevented if only FBI had been more responsive to the tip they had provided the FBI and CIA.

Keating said the letter contained a lot of details about Tamerlan Tsarnaev, including his birthday, telephone number, cellphone number, where he lived in Cambridge and information about his wife and child. He said it also referenced the possibility that Tsarnaev might be considering changing names.
The Russians also had information about his mother, including her Skype address, Keating said.
Keating told the AP that the Russians believed Tsarnaev wanted to go to Palestine and engage in terrorist activities, but was unable to master the language.
‘‘That was the level of detail they were providing in this letter,’’ Keating said.
Keating said the intelligence officials believed that if Russia and the U.S. had worked together more closely, the bombings might have been averted. He said a top Russian counterintelligence official told the delegation that ‘‘had we had the same level of communication as we do now, the Boston bombing may never have happened.’’

Note Keating doesn’t make clear whether the details from the texts on Palestine were included in what the Russians sent us (the Russians translated the letter for the CODEL), or whether they only now shared it with the CODEL.
Read more

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

Steven Seagal Helps Rohrabacher in Failed Quest to Visit “Chechnyans”

It is a bit surprising Russia would allow a visit from a man who took up arms against the Soviets in Afghanistan.

It is a bit surprising Russia would allow a visit from a man who took up arms against the Soviets in Afghanistan.

Proving once again that he has the reasoning skills of a termite-infested and rotting fence post, Dana Rohrabacher had the bright idea that he and fellow geniuses Michele Bachmann and Steve King should go to Russia to get to the bottom of why Russian and US intelligence agencies did not jointly predict and prevent the Boston Marathon bombing. From the announcement of the trip on Rohrabacher’s website (oh, wait, it looks like Rohrabacher just crossposted the ABC News story transcribed from what Rohrabacher’s office fed them):

A delegation of American lawmakers will travel to Russia next week in part to investigate last month’s Boston Marathon bombings, ABC News has learned.

The group, led by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., wants to find out why a 2011 Russian request that the United States investigate Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one of the suspected Boston bombers, did not raise more red flags.

The Russians  offered a vague warning that Tsarnaev planned to link up with extremist groups abroad, but an FBI investigation yielded no evidence to support those claims at the time. The lawmakers also want to know why  subsequent U.S. requests for additional information about Tsarnaev went unanswered by the Russians.

“If there was a distrust, or lack of cooperation because of that distrust, between the Russian intelligence and the FBI, then that needs to be fixed and we will be talking about that,”  Rohrabacher, the chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs’ Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats, told ABC News by telephone.

“Our goal is to use Boston as an example, if indeed there was something more, that should’ve been done that wasn’t because of a bad attitude,” Rohrabacher added.

Remarkably, the ABC News transcription goes on to cite Rohrabacher wanting to overcome any “lingering mistrust between the former Cold War rivals”. And yet, neither ABC News nor Rohrabacher seem to give any thought to the fact that back in the heady days when the US was backing Osama bin Laden and other mujahideen fighters against the Soviets in Afghanistan, Rohrabacher himself decided to play dress-up, grab a gun and go to Afghanistan to join the fun in hunting Russkies. Oh well, forgive and forget, I guess.

Unlike when he tried to visit Afghanistan and was denied entry because of his rabble-rousing past and continued meddling, Rohrabacher was allowed entry to Russia. Rohrabacher’s goal wasn’t only to talk to Russians, however. Since the Boston bombers were ethnic Chechens, it appears that the great Congressman decided he had to visit himself some “Chechnyans”. That’s right, in a reprise of Rohrabacher’s infamous Congressional hearing on Balochistan where he mangled the pronunciation of the region, Rohrabacher now has shown his cultural sensitivity once again by mangling another name: Read more

Many years ago, Jim got a BA in Radiation Biophysics from the University of Kansas. He then got a PhD in Molecular Biology from UCLA and did postdoctoral research in yeast genetics at UC Berkeley and mouse retroviruses at Stanford. He joined biosys in Palo Alto, producing insect parasitic nematodes for pest control. In the early 1990’s, he moved to Gainesville, FL and founded a company that eventually became Entomos. He left the firm as it reorganized into Pasteuria Biosciences and chose not to found a new firm due a clash of values with venture capital investors, who generally lack all values. Upon leaving, he chose to be a stay at home dad, gentleman farmer, cook and horse wrangler. He discovered the online world through commenting at Glenn Greenwald’s blog in the Salon days and was involved in the briefly successful Chris Dodd move to block the bill to renew FISA. He then went on to blog at Firedoglake and served a brief stint as evening editor there. When the Emptywheel blog moved out of Firedoglake back to standalone status, Jim tagged along and blogged on anthrax, viruses, John Galt, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He is now a mostly lapsed blogger looking for a work-around to the depressing realization that pointing out the details of government malfeasance and elite immunity has approximately zero effect.

Pakistan Signs Gwadar Port Over to China Despite Rohrabacher’s Meddling

Detail of CIA Pakistan transportation map showing region around Gwadar. Click on map for a larger image.

Detail of CIA Pakistan transportation map showing region around Gwadar. Click on map for a larger image.

Even though he was unsure of its pronunciation, Representative Dana Rohrabacher mounted what was initially a one-man campaign that he claimed was for a free and independent Balochistan. He did eventually enlist top-notch intellectual luminaries Louie Gohmert and Steve King in his effort, but the lingering question I had regarding his efforts on this front boiled down to:

Does Rohrabacher want to help the Baloch, or does he merely want US control of the port of Gwadar and an end to the planned gas pipeline from Iran to Pakistan through Balochistan?

We now have the opportunity to answer that question, as Rohrabacher’s attempts to arrange US control of Gwadar and to prevent the gas pipeline have failed. Pakistan officially transferred control of the port of Gwadar to China today from the Port of Singapore Authority. The final agreement relating to construction of the gas pipeline through Pakistan (Iran claims to have completed 900 kilometers of the pipeline within its borders already) was expected to be signed last Friday, but it appears a last-minute disagreement of gas pricing has delayed those signatures for a week. Here is Dawn on the transfer of Gwadar:

China took control of Pakistan’s Gwadar port on Monday as part of its drive to secure energy and maritime routes that also gives it a potential Arabian Sea naval base, sparking Indian concern. “The contract of operation of Gwadar port is formally given to China. Today, the agreement is transferred from the Port of Singapore Authority to China Overseas Ports Holding Company Limited,” President Asif Ali Zardari announced. “The award of this contract opens new opportunities for our people… It gives new impetus to Pakistan-China relations,” added Zardari in a speech broadcast live on television.

As the article notes, China had funded the bulk of the construction of the port, so it should come as no surprise that they would eventually gain control:

China paid about 75 per cent of the initial $250 million used to build the port but in 2007 PSA International won a 40-year operating lease. Then-ruler Pervez Musharraf was reportedly unwilling to upset Washington by giving control of the port to the Chinese.

I have to wonder whether Rohrabacher’s outright hostility shown to Pakistan over the Balochistan freedom movement and the issue of Dr. Shakeel Afridi played into their willingness to go against US wishes in signing Gwadar over to the Chinese. Perhaps Representative Rohrabacher can enlist a new ally in his battles with Pakistan since he is such an adherent to “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” approach. It appears that Iran is finding it necessary to build their own naval base very close to Gwadar so that they can keep an eye on what transpires there:

Iran’s Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari says the country is establishing a new base in the Sea of Oman near Pakistan’s border to boost the Islamic Republic’s defense capabilities. “The naval base, which is under construction, is situated in the Gwatr Gulf on our country’s farthest eastern shores bordering Pakistan,” Sayyari said on Sunday.

“The Iranian navy has so far had no military presence in the area, but now, we will be present in the region to defend the interests and maritime resources of our country and exercise a tighter control over the traffic in the region,” Sayyari noted.

Just as he took up arms to fight alongside Osama bin Laden’s Mujahideen movement against his arch-enemies from the Soviet Union, maybe Rohrabacher will decide to team up with Iran’s navy near Gwadar in an attempt to punish Pakistan for daring to thwart his wishes.

Many years ago, Jim got a BA in Radiation Biophysics from the University of Kansas. He then got a PhD in Molecular Biology from UCLA and did postdoctoral research in yeast genetics at UC Berkeley and mouse retroviruses at Stanford. He joined biosys in Palo Alto, producing insect parasitic nematodes for pest control. In the early 1990’s, he moved to Gainesville, FL and founded a company that eventually became Entomos. He left the firm as it reorganized into Pasteuria Biosciences and chose not to found a new firm due a clash of values with venture capital investors, who generally lack all values. Upon leaving, he chose to be a stay at home dad, gentleman farmer, cook and horse wrangler. He discovered the online world through commenting at Glenn Greenwald’s blog in the Salon days and was involved in the briefly successful Chris Dodd move to block the bill to renew FISA. He then went on to blog at Firedoglake and served a brief stint as evening editor there. When the Emptywheel blog moved out of Firedoglake back to standalone status, Jim tagged along and blogged on anthrax, viruses, John Galt, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He is now a mostly lapsed blogger looking for a work-around to the depressing realization that pointing out the details of government malfeasance and elite immunity has approximately zero effect.

Kerry Resists Rand Paul on Pakistan Funding Question

At his confirmation hearing yesterday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, John Kerry, who has been nominated by President Obama to be the next Secretary of State, engaged in nearly ten minutes of discussion with Senator Rand Paul (R-KY). Paul managed to come off as not nearly as batshit insane as he sounds while campaigning (although Kerry did have to say “let me finish” several times), and actually came very close to making a good and substantial point. While discussing the issue of providing arms to Egypt, Paul mentioned the long history of the US supporting and providing arms to a series of groups including the mujahideen and even Osama bin Laden. I say Paul came close to making a good point because this part of his commentary was framed around these groups coming back to pose a threat to Israel. Paul could have made a very important point had he framed the discussion as part of the bigger issue of the blowback when these groups, especially bin Laden, set their sites sights on the US after being funded by us as “the enemy of my enemy”. Kerry did a fine job of ending this part of the exchange, by stating that answer to the issue of arming various parties is to “make peace”.

In the final third of the video above, Paul moves to the question of relations with Pakistan. I didn’t get to watch the hearing live and haven’t yet found a transcript, but at least in the questions Paul had about Pakistan, I find myself wishing different questions had been asked. Regarding Pakistan, I would have asked Kerry if his idea of diplomacy is represented by his actions in the Raymond Davis affair, when Kerry went to Pakistan to lobby for Davis’ release and smuggled out of Pakistan the driver of the diplomatic vehicle that struck and killed a Pakistani civilian while attempting to rescue Davis from the site where he had shot and killed two Pakistanis. I also would have asked Kerry what steps he had taken personally to follow up on his pledge to Pakistan that Davis would be subject to a criminal investigation for the killings in Lahore.

Instead, Paul asked Kerry whether he would condition financial aid to Pakistan on the release of Dr. Shakeel Afridi. Neither Paul nor Kerry mentioned or condemned the vaccination ruse in which the CIA employed Afridi or the damage that ruse has done in terms of reduced polio vaccination rates and murdered health workers who were administering the polio vaccine. Instead, both lamented that someone who had helped the US to find bin Laden would find himself in jail. Kerry, however, stated that withholding aid would be the wrong approach. From the New York Times:

On Pakistan, Mr. Kerry said he had talked to Pakistani leaders about the Pakistani doctor who has been imprisoned for assisting the C.I.A.’s effort to track Osama bin Laden.

“That bothers every American,” said Mr. Kerry, who said that he was nonetheless opposed to cutting aid. “We need to build our relationship with the Pakistanis, not diminish it,” he said.

Dawn went into more detail on the exchange:

It was Senator Rand Paul, a new Republican face in the committee, who suggested cutting US aid to Pakistan “if they do not release Dr Shakil Afridi” who, he said, was imprisoned for helping the CIA in locating Osama bin Laden. The Al Qaeda leader was killed in a US military raid on his compound in Abbottabad on May 2, 2011.

Mr Kerry informed the senator that he had discussed this issue directly with President Asif Ali Zardari and Pakistan’s Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kayani and like most Americans found it “incomprehensible if not repugnant, that somebody who helped us find Osama bin Laden is in jail in Pakistan”.

And “that bothers every American,” he added.

The senior US lawmaker, who stayed engaged with both Pakistan and Afghanistan as President Obama’s informal emissary during his first term, urged Senator Paul to also look at what the Pakistanis say.

“Pakistanis make the argument Dr Afridi did not know what he was doing, who he was specifically targeting … it was like a business for him,” he said, adding that this was no excuse for keeping the physician in jail.

But he said that he would stay engaged with Pakistan rather than resorting to “a pretty dramatic, draconian, sledge-hammer” approach of cutting US aid to the country Senator Paul had suggested.

This discussion by Paul and Kerry of Afridi is the first time in several weeks that Afridi’s name has resurfaced. I still think it likely that Afridi will disappear from the jail where he is now held. The only question is whether he will reappear in the US (where people like Rand Paul and Dana Rohrabacher will certainly want to take him on tour with them in a victory lap) or just disappear entirely.

Many years ago, Jim got a BA in Radiation Biophysics from the University of Kansas. He then got a PhD in Molecular Biology from UCLA and did postdoctoral research in yeast genetics at UC Berkeley and mouse retroviruses at Stanford. He joined biosys in Palo Alto, producing insect parasitic nematodes for pest control. In the early 1990’s, he moved to Gainesville, FL and founded a company that eventually became Entomos. He left the firm as it reorganized into Pasteuria Biosciences and chose not to found a new firm due a clash of values with venture capital investors, who generally lack all values. Upon leaving, he chose to be a stay at home dad, gentleman farmer, cook and horse wrangler. He discovered the online world through commenting at Glenn Greenwald’s blog in the Salon days and was involved in the briefly successful Chris Dodd move to block the bill to renew FISA. He then went on to blog at Firedoglake and served a brief stint as evening editor there. When the Emptywheel blog moved out of Firedoglake back to standalone status, Jim tagged along and blogged on anthrax, viruses, John Galt, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He is now a mostly lapsed blogger looking for a work-around to the depressing realization that pointing out the details of government malfeasance and elite immunity has approximately zero effect.

A Tale of Two Senators: Feinstein Calls for Apology to Pakistan, Paul Attempts to Defund

You know that things are truly screwed up regarding US policy on Pakistan when the “best of Senators” is Dianne Feinstein, but it’s hardly surprising that Rand Paul would step up in the Senate to carry Dana Rohrabacher’s sentiments forward and attempt to cut all funding from Pakistan until Dr. Shakeel Afridi is released.

First, the good news from Feinstein. While many in Washington were getting overheated in response to a cost estimate finally being attached to the closure of NATO supply routes through Pakistan ($100 million a month), Dianne Feinstein made the courageous observation that the US could likely move ahead through the current diplomatic standoff with Pakistan by issuing a simple apology over the Salala raid:

A senior US lawmaker said on Wednesday that apologising to Pakistan over the Salala incident would improve Washington’s relations with a key ally.

“National security of the US will be better served with a positive relationship with Pakistan,” Senator Dianne Feinstein told a Senate hearing on budget priorities for 2013.

The Senator, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, observed that both sides made mistakes in handling the Nov 26 incident, which caused the death of 24 Pakistani soldiers in a US air raid.

/snip/

Senator Feinstein noted that the dispute over the supply lines could be solved “with some civilian acceptance of the mistakes” the US had made.

Such an acceptance could also lead to the reopening of Nato supply lines, she said, adding that “it would do well to apologise” for the mistakes made.

Pakistan’s ambassador to the US was very quick to respond to this overture:

“We appreciate Senator Feinstein for showing the way forward in normalising ties in a relationship that is important to both sides and critical for stabilising the region,” said Pakistan’s Ambassador Sherry Rehman while welcoming the gesture.

Rehman’s time in Washington this week has been difficult, as seen by Rand Paul’s attempt at “diplomacy”:

US Senator Paul Rand was blocked from attaching an amendment to the farm bill that would withhold US aid to Pakistan.

The amendment would have defunded US aid to Pakistan until the country frees an imprisoned doctor, who worked for CIA in hunt for al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.

Rehman was happy for the move to block Paul’s action, but it appears that her task is doomed: Read more

Many years ago, Jim got a BA in Radiation Biophysics from the University of Kansas. He then got a PhD in Molecular Biology from UCLA and did postdoctoral research in yeast genetics at UC Berkeley and mouse retroviruses at Stanford. He joined biosys in Palo Alto, producing insect parasitic nematodes for pest control. In the early 1990’s, he moved to Gainesville, FL and founded a company that eventually became Entomos. He left the firm as it reorganized into Pasteuria Biosciences and chose not to found a new firm due a clash of values with venture capital investors, who generally lack all values. Upon leaving, he chose to be a stay at home dad, gentleman farmer, cook and horse wrangler. He discovered the online world through commenting at Glenn Greenwald’s blog in the Salon days and was involved in the briefly successful Chris Dodd move to block the bill to renew FISA. He then went on to blog at Firedoglake and served a brief stint as evening editor there. When the Emptywheel blog moved out of Firedoglake back to standalone status, Jim tagged along and blogged on anthrax, viruses, John Galt, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He is now a mostly lapsed blogger looking for a work-around to the depressing realization that pointing out the details of government malfeasance and elite immunity has approximately zero effect.