I try to keep a certain distance from the anti-Trump circus. But I do want to put some thoughts on record, given the obsession with Trump’s Russia connection and what I see is a determined effort to minimize the British/NATO angle in the attack on Trump.
My personal feeling is that there are significant swaths of the European establishment that derive their mission and meaning from serving as allies to the United States in an anti-Trump effort: the British government and intelligence services, NATO, various right-leaning European governments, their think tanks, in other words, the Atlanticists.
They didn’t like Trump because he was more interested in dealing directly and positively with Russia on matters of US strategic concern in the Middle East and Asia and much less interested in perfecting the Atlanticist Euro-centric anti-Russian containment/deterrence apparatus and backing crazy EU/NATO expansion stunts like the Ukraine operation.
Perhaps similar to Trump’s interest in dealing with China instead of doing pivot. Difference is, Atlanticist lobby is much more entrenched in Washington, the NATO alliance is miles ahead of the “box of sand” Asian containment network, and Great Britain is America’s primary intelligence partner.
So I think people over the pond, particularly in Europe, were interested in feeding documentation on Trump’s murky Russia connections to his opponents, and especially on behalf of Hillary Clinton, who is very much an Atlanticist fave. Effort was pretty low key at first because nobody expected Trump to get anywhere, but things picked up when he got the nomination, and then shifted into apesh*t crazytime when he got the presidency.
The British link is there for all to see in the notorious Steele dossier. What people don’t want to see is the inference that Steele was either getting dirt from MI5/GCHQ or is simply a cut-out for a British effort.
I should say the possibility that the UK intelligence service may have been deeply involved in preparing the brief against Trump does not elicit an urge from me to spontaneously genuflect concerning the accuracy of the evidence. I daresay psyops—packaging and releasing selective intel and innuendo at opportune times through deniable channels for maximum effect--is a core mission of British spookdom, as is making up utter crap, like the notorious “dodgy dossier” on Saddam Hussein.
An interesting datapoint is the Guardian leg-humping a story about Michael Flynn having conversations with a Russian-English historian causing “concern” to “US and UK officials”. The only useful conclusion from this farrago, as far as I can tell, is that a) investigating Things Flynn was an official US-UK joint and not just Christopher Steele lunching Russian emigres in Grosvenor Square and b) the UK press is doing a similar tag teaming with US media to sell Trump/Russia like it pitched in with the US to sell Saddam/Iraq.
And the Guardian is doing it this time! You’ve come a long way, baby!
The mega-uproar over the “GCHQ tapped Trump” story was, to me, quite interesting, for the massive full-court pushback it elicited and the grudging backdown from the Trump administration.
If the story proved out true, it would be a disaster for the UK.
On the institutional level, confirmation that US investigatory and intel outfits resorted to GCHQ to, shall we say, supplement collection related to US citizens and *ahem* circumvent US laws would lead to demands for that bane of all spook prerogatives, oversight and perhaps a committee to review requests for intel exchange between the US and GCHQ before they happened (I recall reading that currently the NSA can reach into Five Eyes servers and pull out whatever it wants whenever it wants; it would be fun to find out in open testimony if that actually happens!).
On the political level, it would be hard to escape the imputation that Great Britain was conducting politically-motivated collection/querying/handover of intel concerning disfavored US politicians and officials, and that the English bulldog was INTERFERING IN AMERICA’S SACRED ELECTIONS, you know, like a certain country, name begins with R ends with A led by a guy name begins with P ends with N is allegedly doing.
It would be interesting to see how the public relations fracas on terms of “Putin trolls pushed fake news on Facebook” vs. “GCHQ pushed fake news into the FBI” would play.
GCHQ/MI5’s powerful capabilities and their slavish eagerness to put them at the service of the US are the glittering jewels in the tattered collar of the British poodle. If GCHQ becomes a “normal” intelligence interlocutor of the US—with the added stigma of having engaged in politicized active measures on behalf of US factions—then the UK risks dropping to parity with *gasp* Germany as another arm’s length partner.
Fox’s alacrity in yanking some guy called “Judge Nap” for publicizing the GCHQ surveillance allegations was interesting. You might expect Fox would be keen to push this rather provocative and open-ended talking point to provide some aid and comfort to Trump and ride a ratings-boosting angle. But Fox shut Nap down!
Wonder if Rupert Murdoch got the call from the UK government that any encouragement of this kind of tittle-tattle would call down the wrath of the British government on Rupert’s extensive media holdings in Britain.
Well, with Judge Nap in the cooler, I doubt any other Fox commentators will be too interested in pursuing that allegation.
And maybe the US intel community told Trump he’d be gone in a heartbeat if he threatened to compromise the US-GB special spook relationship to save his skin. So he backed off.
If Trump falls on his ass I expect that will provide the political cover for some discrete “now it can be told” bragging about how the Atlanticist band of brothers joined hands to defeat the Russian menace. If Trump hangs on, it just goes into the secret museum of US-UK ratf*cking operations.
The statement from GCHQ was a giveaway.
"Recent allegations made by media commentator Judge Andrew Napolitano about GCHQ being asked to conduct 'wiretapping' against the then president elect are nonsense. They are utterly ridiculous and should be ignored."
"...about GCHQ being asked to..." translates to one of the following:
1. We were already doing it, so there was no need to ask.
2. We volunteered to do because we knew there were "elements" in Washington that needed our "help".
3. We were ordered to do it.
I suspect it was 1 - GCHQ were already monitoring elements within the Moscow establishment when certain Americans contacted them and they felt certain organizations in Washington would be interested. This most likely included the White House and explains why Obama greatly expanded the distribution of very sensitive information in the dying days of his presidency. By doing so he shut down supposedly valuable sources of intelligence because the Russians now have a clearer picture of GCHQs operations against Russia and are probably cleaning up right now. I'm disappointed but not surprised that no-one's pointed out the damage that Obama has done to western intelligence gathering capabilities for obviously political motives.
The part in the GCHQ statement about "...conduct 'wiretapping' against the then president elect are nonsense. They are utterly ridiculous and should be ignored.", can be interpreted as "don't be ridiculous, wiretapping is soooooo last century, we have far better ways of doing it now", but far more likely means that GCHQ had a tap but nowhere near Trump Towers that happened to pick up communications involving Trump's election team and other associates.
Was this some nefarious scheme to bring down Trump? I don't think so because the consequences of being caught are too damaging and as soon as Washington is involved, leaks become inevitable. More likely GCHQ were monitoring some Russians, some Americans communicated with them and some jobsworth followed his standing orders and forwarded the information to certain organizations in Washington without thinking about or understanding the consequences. The Americans then picked up on it and away they went...
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