Thursday, April 11, 2019

Day before Assange indictment, Chelsea Manning claimed she chatted 'with multiple people' at WikiLeaks, but her 2013 statement referred to 'an individual'

Hours after WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was arrested in London today, a March 6, 2018 indictment was unsealed by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, which stated, "On or about March 8, 2010, Assange agreed to assist [former US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea] Manning in cracking a password stored on United States Department of Defense computers connected to the Secret Internet Protocol Network, a United States government network used for classified documents and communications.” Manning was jailed one month ago for refusing to testify before a grand jury about her contacts with WikiLeaks. A day before the indictment, on March 5, 2018, Manning responded to a question after a lecture she gave at UCLA, which asked about her "interactions" with Assange.

"No idea," Manning claimed roughly 56 minutes into the posted video of the lecture. "Whomever I was communicating with...I mean it was...I can say this...It was multiple people I was communicating with."

She added, "That is the thing about the Internet...and the tools that we're using...because I don't want to be identified...and they sure as hell don't want to be identified."

"But it was multiple people," Manning insisted. "It was not one person."

However, in her March 13, 2013 statement during her court martial, Manning seemed to suggest that she was speaking with "an individual."

"Almost immediately after submitting the aerial weapons team video and rules of engagement documents I notified the individuals in the WLO IRC to expect an important submission," Manning's statement said. "I received a response from an individual going by the handle of 'Ox' - at first our conversations were general in nature, but over time as our conversations progressed, I accessed this individual to be an important part of the WLO."

Manning noted, "Due to the strict adherence of anonymity by the WLO, we never exchanged identifying information."

"However, I believe the individual was likely Mr. Julian Assange, Mr. Daniel Schmidt, or a proxy representative of Mr. Assange and Schmidt," Manning's statement continued. "As the communications transfered from IRC to the Jabber client, I gave 'Ox' and later 'pressassociation' the name of Nathaniel Frank in my address book, after the author of a book I read in 2009."

Manning added, "After a period of time, I developed what I felt was a friendly relationship with Nathaniel. Our mutual interest in information technology and politics made our conversations enjoyable. We engaged in conversation often. Sometimes as long as an hour or more. I often looked forward to my conversations with Nathaniel after work."

A chatlog of Manning's communications reveals that on March 17, 2010, "Nathaniel Frank" told her, "will be doing an investigative journo conference in Norway this week end, so may be out of contact most of the time."

As this picture shows, Assange attended the Norwegian conference on investigative journalism (SKUP) on March 20, 2010. A statement by Assange released on March 26, 2010, noted, "On Thursday March 18, 2010, I took the 2.15 PM flight out of Reykjavik to Copenhagen–on the way to speak at the SKUP investigative journalism conference in Norway."

Earlier today, I tweeted, "On 12/6/13, after I criticized @kpoulsen for not reporting for @wired that it may be tough to prove Assange was or always was "Nathaniel Frank" in convos with @xychelsea, @WikiLeaks tweeted that Manning's statement suggested as much, too. I presume JA will stick to that defense."

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Former "senior Trump campaign official" Steve Bannon was "directed" by Breitbart editor Matt Boyle, not Trump, to contact Roger Stone

Many media accounts based on the January 24, 2019 indictment of dirty trickster Roger Stone might be misinterpreting a phrase in paragraph 12, and some are wrongly presuming that the Special Counsel investigation is suggesting that "a senior Trump Campaign official was directed to contact STONE" by the president. However, it most likely refers to "a reporter who had connections to a high-ranking Trump campaign official", which is mentioned in paragraph 16.

"After the July 22, 2016 release of stolen DNC emails by Organization 1, a senior Trump Campaign official was directed to contact STONE about any additional releases and what other damaging information Organization 1 had regarding the Clinton Campaign," the indictment stated. "STONE thereafter told the Trump Campaign about potential future releases of damaging material by Organization 1."

Dan Mangan reported the next day, "Organization 1 refers to WikiLeaks. A source has told CNBC that the senior campaign official was Steve Bannon, who later served as senior advisor to Trump once he was elected president."

But Mangan quotes a tweet by Washington Post White House reporter and CNN political analyst Seung Min Kim quoting Democratic House Intel Chair Rep. Adam Schiff's statement that the "Committee will be eager to learn just who directed a senior campaign official to contact Stone about additional damaging information held by Wikileaks, one of the publishing arms of Russian government hackers."

"It’s difficult to dismiss that as some coincidence, drafting error or a careless choice of words. The people who write these things parse them endlessly, and had to know that line would stick out," Washington Post reporter Aaron Blake argues, before adding, "Considering that, some have theorized it’s a reference to Trump himself."

Blake concludes, "Who else would direct a 'senior Trump Campaign official,' after all?" However, the email sent by Boyle certainly could be characterizing as a form of direction, and the word "directed" has two definitions.

Most readers are focused on the first definition - "control the operations of; manage or govern" - but the second definition doesn't insist on the director of having a authoritative position: "aim (something) in a particular direction or at a particular person."

On January 11, 2018 the NY Times published the email from Matt Boyle to his former boss, Steven Bannon.

Former Breitbart News White House reporter Lee Stranahan, who now hosts a radio show on the Kremlin-funded Sputnik noted the theory that it was Boyle during a video shot at a Roger Stone hearing on January 25th.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Russian 'troll factory' lawyer represented Breitbart News companies in libel case

A US attorney has garnered a lot of media attention for defending a Russian troll factory accused of allegedly interfering in the 2016 presidential election, but his prior work for the Trump-friendly website Breitbart News - which has been accused of publishing fake news - has been ignored by the press.

In April of 2018, it was revealed in court filings, that "[a] Russian company charged with helping fund a Russian propaganda operation that allegedly tampered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election has retained two Washington lawyers to handle its defense." Reuters reported,"Concord Management and Consulting LLC, will be represented by Eric Dubelier and Katherine Seikaly of the law firm Reed Smith, the filings say." Concord was one of three firms located in Russia that were accused by Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller "in a February indictment of a conspiracy to defraud the United States."

The indictment stated, "Defendants CONCORD MANAGEMENT AND CONSULTING LLC and CONCORD CATERING are related Russian entities with various Russian government contracts. CONCORD was the ORGANIZATION's primary source of funding for its interference operations. CONCORD controlled funding, recommended personnel, and oversaw ORGANIZATION activities through reporting and interaction with ORGANIZATION management." Russian businessman Evgeny Prigozhin who is suspected of being the owner of Concord was also indicted, and he reportedly has close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"Prigozhin, nicknamed 'Putin’s cook' because of his catering business that has organized banquets for Russian President Vladimir Putin and other political figures, has been quoted by the RIA news agency as saying he was unfazed by the indictment," Reuters reported.

As John Simerman reported for the Advocate on May 20, 2018, "the Tulane University graduate had a hand in some controversial cases," and "also played a key role in a case that featured perhaps the most infamous episode of prosecutorial misconduct in New Orleans in a generation."

Dubelier was blamed by a judge for withholding a confession in a point-shaving college basketball case in 1985, and "led the trial team that helped ship John Thompson off to death row" that same year. "Thompson was staring at an execution date in 1999 when a defense investigator unearthed a lab report that undermined his conviction in an earlier armed robbery trial that Dubelier had also prosecuted," Simerman reported. "Dubelier, the lead prosecutor in Thompson's subsequent murder trial, used the earlier armed robbery conviction to persuade a jury to hand Thompson a death sentence."

As Simerman noted, Dubelier gained a lot of media attention "for his feisty courtroom advocacy", and has "presented an aggressive challenge to the indictment." He has accused prosecutors of lying and claimed that Mueller was "conjuring up a 'make-believe' crime in the indictment for political reasons."

In October, ABC News reported that Dubelier argued Mueller's indictment was an attempt to "regulate what people say on the internet.” Ironically, President Trump has tweeted many times that mainstream media stories he considers "fake news" should be regulated, and the press is the "enemy of the people."

Earlier today, Tierney Sneed reported for Talking Points Memo, "A federal judge on Monday reamed the American lawyers for a Russian firm charged by special counsel Robert Mueller for the lawyers’ 'unprofessional, inappropriate, and ineffective' court filings." Dubelier accused Judge Dabney Friedrich of "some bias" after she told him to "knock it off."

In an October 5, 2013 court filing, Dubelier represented Susannah Breitbart, after attorneys for former U.S. Department of Agriculture official Shirley Sherrod substituted Andrew's widow in a defamatory lawsuit, a year-and-a-half after he suddenly died. Josh Gerstein referred to him "as Breitbart companies lawyer Eric Dubelier" in a Politico article published on July 21, 2014. In late 2015, Sherrod settled her case over a "selectively edited" video which cost her her job with the Obama Administration, but the terms have remained confidential.

According to, Eric A. Dubelier also represented BREITBART HOLDINGS, INC., BREITBART NEWS NETWORK LLC, BREITBART.COM LLC, and BREITBART.TV LLC in the Sherrod case. A notice of appearance was filed by Dubelier on July 17, 2014 for all four of the Breitbart companies.

Breitbart News was co-founded by Steve Bannon in 2007, and five years later, after Andrew Breitbart died, Bannon took over as executive chair of Breitbart News LLC. Bannon left Breitbart News to advise Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential race, but after serving as the White House Chief Strategist for seven months in 2017, he returned to the website, which has almost unconditionally supported Trump, and dismissed the Russia probe as a "witch hunt."

Last October, Samantha Cole reported for Motherboard, that editors for Wikipedia voted that Breitbart "should not be used, ever, as a reference for facts, due to its unreliability.”

"Breitbart, a far-right conservative media website, has come under scrutiny—such as when it vehemently supported Alabama politician and alleged pedophile Roy Moore, when it shilled for scam cryptocurrencies through its newsletter, or when it fueled racist narratives about black NFL players," Cole wrote. "Wikipedians decided that because fact checkers have found much of Breitbart’s coverage to be 'misleading, false or both,' they won’t abide it as a source of fact anymore."

"Right-wing news site Breitbart News has apologized to German football star Lukas Podolski after publishing a photo of the 32-year-old former international player accompanying a story about human traffickers operating between Morocco and Spain," Haaretz reported on August 21, 2017. Breitbart admitted, "There is no evidence Mr Podolski is either a migrant gang member, nor being human trafficked."

(Editor's Note: I've worked on a few articles published at Breitbart News, including this story, where I'm named, but I've never been paid by them. Or Russia, as far as I know.)

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Progressive radio host regrets texting Roger Stone about 'big news' regarding Hillary Clinton

On late Wednesday evening, Anna Schecter reported for NBC News that "Roger Stone exchanged text messages with his alleged WikiLeaks back channel about imminent 'big news' harmful to Hillary Clinton's campaign six days before WikiLeaks released hacked emails from former Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, according to new messages released by Stone."

However, progressive radio host/comedian Randy Credico claimed on Twitter that the "story regarding NBC News was meant to divert attention from" a Wall Street Journal article written by Shelby Holliday and Aruna Viswanatha published on Wednesday. "Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office is exploring whether longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone tried to intimidate and discredit a witness who is contradicting Mr. Stone’s version of events about his contacts with WikiLeaks, according to people who have spoken to Mr. Mueller’s investigators," Holliday and Viswantha reported.

Earlier today, Credico told me - via direct messages on Twitter - that the former campaign adviser for President Donald Trump was "cherry picking information" in order to pretend that the radio host who interviewed Julian Assange for WBAI Radio in August of 2016 was a "back channel" for WikiLeaks.

According to texts that Roger Stone shared with NBC News, Credico texted the "political hitman" on October 1, 2016 that there would be “[b]ig news Wednesday" and, as a result, “Hillary’s campaign will die this week."

Credico explained that he "started out as a [Bernie] Sanders supporter and was upset," and that he had switched to Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein after the Vermont senator dropped out and endorsed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

"I was hoping that Hillary would not win by 20 points," Credico added. "[T]he day that Trump won I was at a Stein event and when I started seeing results favoring Trump I knew he was going to win and I walked home more depressed than I've ever been in my entire life." The progressive radio host who supports WikiLeaks called his interactions with Stone a "big mistake."

NBC News also reported that Credico texted Stone on October 3, 2016, "Why can't you get Trump to come out and say that he would give Julian Assange Asylum[?]"

Credico argues, "I wasn't doing it for a pardon", and that "it was a bad calculation." If "you want to look at the state of the nation under Trump I'll probably never get over it."

"I was not a back-channel and I stand by my testimony in front of the grand jury," Credico said. "Stone is cherry picking information." Credico then compared himself to French officer Alfred Dreyfus, who was falsely convicted of treason in 1894, but wasn't fully exonerated until 1906, even though evidence suggested that another officer had actually acted as a spy for Germany. Like Credico, Dreyfus was of Jewish descent, and many French journalists suspected that anti-semitism played a factor in his wrongful conviction.

"I'm ready and I've told my lawyer this to revoke my 5th Privileges and go before the house Intel committee and tell them everything," Credico said.

Credico then provided details about his actions during the late September to early October of 2016 time period. "I was in London the 28th, 29th and 30th and came back on the 1st to New York. I spent 3 days with a fellow by the name of Barry Crimmins, a political satirist who died 5 months ago. I dropped off a letter from the station that I was working for WBAI at the embassy. And left on the 1st."

He said he "never had any information" regarding any WikiLeaks-related drops regarding Clinton, and that he would "swear on the soul of [his] grandchildren" that he is telling the truth.

"Stone had been talking about a back channel for ages," Credico said. "So he put me in that role." Credico explained, "I was basing my prediction on public statements made by WikiLeaks that they would do something in October. So I said wow this is going to be a bad week for Hillary. Cuz I was expecting them to do something."

The Wall Street Journal reported, "Prosecutors also are examining messages between Messrs. Stone and Credico that involve the radio personality’s decision to assert his Fifth Amendment before Congress, according to a person familiar with the probe...In emails sent to Mr. Credico and reviewed by the Journal, Mr. Stone threatened to 'sue the f—' out of him, called him 'a loser a liar and a rat' and told him to 'prepare to die c— sucker.'"

On November 2nd, CNN reported, "Investigators have been examining the text messages and emails and questioning witnesses about whether there was an attempt to harass or intimidate Credico, according to people familiar with the matter."

"The messages raise the possibility that Mueller could pursue obstruction or witness tampering charges against Stone," the CNN story by Sara Murray added."

Monday, October 9, 2017

Firm tied to consultant who obtained stolen data from Guccifer 2.0 scrubbed FLA GOP from client list

(Editor's note: I wrote this story on June 1st, and it's mostly based on prior blog posts. I'm working on a follow-up story, but I think this is probably the best version of what I've reported, so far. However, I still need to add some screenshots.)

A consulting firm's website tied to a blogger who collaborated with Guccifer 2.0 - the alleged DNC hacker that has been accused by many US intelligence officials of working for Putin and Russia to help sway the 2016 election for Trump - was scrubbed to remove the Republican Party of Florida as a client, perhaps on election eve. His name and biography were also erased, along with the firm's president and founder.

According to his LinkedIn resume, the once-anonymous blogger from who the Wall Street Journal outed last week as "a Republican political operative in Florida named Aaron Nevins" has been a partner at Richardson Partners, since November of 2012..

At some point in the last week, Nevins updated it, and it now says he left the firm in April. But his LinkedIn page still lists as his company website.

As an link from October of 2013 reveals, the website once claimed the Republican Party of Florida was one of "[p]ast and current Richardson Partners clients" that "include a diverse group of corporations and candidates throughout Florida and across the nation."

However, at some time between April 1st, 2016 and November 7, 2016, the website was scrubbed to remove the Florida GOP as a client. There aren't any saved screenshots between those dates, so it's possible that the reference was removed on the day before the 2016 election.

Before it vanished, the Guccifer 2.0 collaborator's biography stated: "Aaron Nevins is founder and managing partner of Chelsea Road Consulting. He brings to Richardson Partners almost a decade of experience serving in senior level positions in both bodies of the Florida Legislature. His relationships with key policy makers in both chambers of the Legislature, as well as local government, helps to provide our clients with a direct line of communication with legislative, executive, and municipal leaders, and their staff."

"He has a candid ability to review, evaluate, and provide an assessment of upcoming legislative actions, and his extensive knowledge of the Legislative process provides our clients with a critical advantage when dealing with governmental entities," it said.

Currently, the About page only shows a message stating, "No Results Found."

Nevins and Richardson haven't responded to queries over Twitter asking why all these changes were made to their website before last year's election, and the HelloFla! blogger wouldn't explain why he made the change to his LinkedIn page.

It wasn't until December 13, 2016 that the New York Times reported that "Guccifer 2.0's most important partner was an obscure political website run by an anonymous blogger called HelloFLA!, run by a former Florida legislative aide turned Republican lobbyist," and he "sent direct messages via Twitter to Guccifer 2.0 asking for copies of any additional Florida documents." The May 25th WSJ article adds that "Nevins confirmed his exchanges after The Wall Street Journal identified him first as the operator of the HelloFLA blog and then as the recipient of the stolen DCCC data", which included documents that "analyzed specific Florida districts, showing how many people were dependable Democratic voters, how many were likely Democratic voters but needed a nudge, how many were frequent voters but not committed and how many were core Republican voters—the kind of data strategists use in planning ad buys and other tactics."

Nevins claims to the WSJ journalists, that "he didn’t use any in his consulting business, which includes running grass-roots-style campaigns for corporations and wealthy landowners seeking to influence local politics."

According to his Twitter profile, Todd L. Richardson is the "[p]resident of Richardson Partners, a South Florida based public affairs & communications firm". In 2014, a Tampa Bay, Florida third-party political organization tied to Richardson called "Floridians for Integrity in Government" released flyers against a Florida candidate, who allegedly rejected a bid by Todd to handle his city council campaign. "It has received nearly $1.4 million in donations since it started in 2012," and "[m]ost of its recent donations have come from the "Florida Leadership Committee", the Sun-Sentinel reported.

In another 2014 race, Republican Ellyn Bogdanoff lost to Democratic state Sen. Maria Sachs, even though Richardson's group helped pay for advertising that "blanketed the airwaves", since the Florida GOP gave her "no direct support", and she entered the race late. "The Floridians for Integrity in Government political committee got most of its funding from another PAC, the Florida Leadership Committee," Dan Sweeney reported for the Sun-Sentinel on November 11, 2014. "And that PAC, in turn, is closely associated with state Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater."

At his LinksTraveler website, Richardson blogged that he "had an opportunity to visit Trump Turnberry two days before the opening round of the 2016 Open Championship at Royal Troon." He said new renovations "easily puts this legendary links course, on the west coast of Scotland, into one of the top courses in the world."

On January 17, 2017, Richardson Partners collected $2,500 and on February 3, 2017 was paid over $3550 for communications for the successful Scott Singer City Council 2016 campaign in Boca Raton. Singer won his seat unopposed three years ago, and his "challenger" last year, was - according to a Sun-Sentinel editorial endorsing him - "Patti Dervishi, a mostly retired Realtor who rants about development and whose rambling, unfocused answers show that she has not prepared herself for a council race," who was "unqualified."

The firm also earned over $9,000 working for the unsuccessful Joseph JB Bensmihen for Congress campaign in Palm Beach County in 2015.

On November 12, 2016, in response to a question "Could hackers hack each state's voting system so that Donald Trump is elected president?" posted in August, Nevins responded, "The fact that it would be much harder to hack 50 separate state systems, or even enough of them in the key places where it would matter (and not get caught) is reason enough to keep the electoral College."

He added, "If we went with the national popular vote, you would only need to ballot stuff in one sympathetic state to cheat."

On October 20, 2016, Brittany Wallman reported for the Sentinel, "Aaron Nevins, a 35-year-old Republican voter in Broward and former staffer for ex-state Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, said he's going to shut down U.S. 441 on Election Day for an automobile race."

Before the shut down was canceled, Nevins told the newspaper he wasn't a supporter of Trump, and that he is "not coordinating with the Republican Party or Roger Stone or any of those people." The Wall Street Journal reported that Guccifer 2.0 "sent a link to the blog article to Roger Stone, a longtime informal adviser to then-candidate Donald Trump, along with Mr. Nevins’ analysis of the hacked data." Nevins told the Sun-Sentinel that "he didn’t have any dealings with Stone about the material," but "he had a group dinner with Stone three or four years ago and hasn’t seen or spoken to him since."

The Florida paper also noted that Nevins "doesn’t believe he is facing any legal jeopardy over the matter, and he has not been contacted by any investigating authorities." He said, “The way I look at it, I was acting as a journalist," and that he forwarded the stolen data to journalists, not to political campaigns", because he "felt forced to publish it.”

But Nevins does believe that if he "used it for a political campaign without releasing it" or only sent "it to political operatives around the state we would be having a different conversation, probably from a jail cell.”

Monday, June 12, 2017

Updates To Stories

There are many recent updates to my last few articles, but the biggest one is to a December 1, 2015 story I published called "New York Times journalist Michael Schmidt wrongly reports on Hillary Clinton emails again."

Although the original article should be read to learn more about Schmidt's misreporting, this is the entire new update I added over the last few days due to recent news events and more research I completed. If you appreciate my hard work, please contribute to my PayPal account, since I keep working hard on this story - for years - but have never earned a dime for it.

(Updates added from June 8 to June 12, 2017, in light of recent news events.)

6/8/17 Update: Why is the following significant? Essentially, the adviser to former FBI Director James Comey - who once worked with him in US Attorney's office - has been a source for New York Times reporter Michael S. Schmidt for at least nine years. Schmidt reported many things incorrectly about Hillary Clinton during her unsuccessful 2016 presidency campaign, but he also got a lot of great scoops. Some Clinton supporters believe Comey may have violated the Hatch Act just before the election, and - one of the reasons - he was fired by President Trump as FBI director was due to wrongful testimony regarding her longtime aide, Huma Abedin.

On November 2, 2016, a NYT article - Schmidt co-wrote - reported, "Daniel C. Richman, an adviser to Mr. Comey and a Columbia University law professor, argued that despite the backlash, Mr. Comey’s decision to inform Congress preserved the F.B.I.’s independence, which will ultimately benefit the next president."

Defending Comey, Richman told the paper: "Those arguing that the director should have remained silent until the new emails could be reviewed — even if that process lasted, or was delayed, until after the election — give too little thought to the governing that needs to happen after November. If the F.B.I. director doesn’t have the credibility to keep Congress from interfering in the bureau’s work and to assure Congress that a matter has been or is being looked into, the new administration will pay a high price."

Schmidt and Richman appeared as guests during alternate halves of a PBS NewsHour broadcast last Halloween, three days after Comey sent his October 28 letter - to eight Republican chairmen of Congressional committees, seven Democratic ranking members and vice chairman of the Select Committee of Intelligence Sen. Dianne Feinstein - in order to "supplement [his] previous testimony" that the FBI had "completed its investigation of former Secretary Clinton's personal email server." The letter was very brief, but reverberated at the end: "I believe it is important to update your Committees about our efforts in light of my previous testimony."

"In connection with an unrelated case, the FBI has learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation,” Comey wrote. "I am writing to inform you that the investigative team briefed me on this yesterday, and I agreed that the FBI should take appropriate investigative steps designed to allow investigators to review those emails to determine whether they contain classified information, as well as to assess their importance to our investigation."

On May 3, 2017, editor-in-chief Nate Silver claimed at FiveThirtyEight - which is now owned by ESPN, but had a "partnership agreement" and was published at the NY Times from 2010 to 2012 - that this letter "upended the news cycle and soon halved Clinton’s lead in the polls, imperiling her position in the Electoral College." Silver also noted, "The article that led The New York Times’s website the morning after the election did not mention Comey or 'FBI' even once — a bizarre development considering the dramatic headlines that the Times had given to the letter while the campaign was underway."

On the October 31st NewsHour show, New York Times reporter Schmidt - who was criticized a few times by the Clinton campaign for misreporting that had to be corrected - brought up the "classified" word first, and didn't note that there weren't any emails that were marked classified before they were sent by the Democratic presidential candidate and her former State Department staffers to private accounts. "That’s the real question here, whether any of the e-mails they’re in possession of are ones they had before that they know are classified or they know they looked at or if these are entirely a new batch," Schmidt said.

Schmidt defended the letter and wrongly predicted: "I sort of find it hard to believe that the FBI would go with such an aggressive step of telling Congress without really having some idea of what is truly here. If these end up to be just a bunch of duplicates, then this will have been a big hubbub over nothing." Politico's Josh Gerstein countered that "Comey might have violated Justice Department policy," and said, "We know from our other reporting that Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates strongly advised Comey against sending the letter, but he felt he needed to, so he did it anyway."

Without realizing that her next guest had been a Schmidt source for many articles, host Judy Woodruff asked him, "Is it your understanding from your reporting that FBI officials already know what’s here or are they truly looking for something unknown?" The New York Times journalist responded, "If you look at Director Comey’s letter to Congress, he basically says, we haven’t had a chance to look at these I wonder what the FBI really knows here. And did that lead them to push as far as they did?"

When asked if "Comey acted because of pressure of some sort from FBI agents who felt that he wasn’t being tough enough on Hillary Clinton", Schmidt said, "I find that hard to believe."

"I think that the line FBI agents who really knew what was going on with the e-mail investigation understood why Director Comey came out and said that the bureau wasn’t recommending charges," Schmidt said, before adding, "I think they realized that there wasn’t criminal intent there," and "So the idea that Director Comey would do this facing some insurrection by FBI agents, I think, is probably not true."

In the following half of the NewsHour broadcast, Woodruff welcomed Richman, introducing him as a "professor at Columbia Law School...a former federal prosecutor, himself, and current policy adviser to Director Comey." Richman sounded much like Schmidt, when he said that Comey was "protecting the credibility of the organization and of his own credibility with Congress," and had been "confronted with very little notice with a trove of e-mails that appeared to be pertinent."

Woodruff's other guest, Arent Fox attorney and partner Peter Zeidenberg - who "spent 17 years at the Justice Department as a federal prosecutor" and "also joined 100 others in an open letter critical of Comey’s actions" - said he thought the then FBI director was "premature to notify Congress before he had had a chance to actually examine these e-mails," that "it was a mistake," adding, "And, frankly, I think it was irresponsible to do it and drop this bomb."

"And, as Josh Gerstein mentioned, it’s very possible, if not likely, that all these e-mails have been looked at already," Zeidenberg told Woodruff. "They could all be duplicates."

Woodruff asked Comey's spokesman if there was "inconsistency", since, that day "the Clinton campaign and others pointed out that there is now new reporting that Director Comey didn’t want it to be known that the administration had confirmed that the Russians were behind the hacking of the Democratic National Committee, arguing that it was too close to the election, that this would influence the election."

Five months before Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway would catch heat over "alternative facts", Richman said, "There is only inconsistency, in the sense that there are really different facts."

Richman added: "And I certainly don’t know all the facts with regard to the internal deliberations with regard to the Russian hacking. But, yes, it certainly is the norm that the department doesn’t confirm or deny investigations and doesn’t confirm or deny the focus on any particular party."

"James Comey told a Senate committee on Thursday he was behind the leak of a memo he wrote that said President Donald Trump asked him to stem the FBI’s investigation to former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn," Max Kutner reports for Newsweek. "The account appeared in The New York Times in May, days after the president fired Comey as FBI director."

Kutner adds: "Comey did not name the friend, but Columbia Law School professor Daniel Richman reportedly confirmed he is that person to the Financial Times and CNN. In an email to Newsweek, he declined to comment."

"Richman’s faculty webpage says he is 'currently an adviser to FBI Director James B. Comey.' The New York Times previously quoted Richman in multiple articles about the former FBI director, around the same time the newspaper published the Flynn article. A New Yorker article in May quoted him and described him as Comey’s 'unofficial media surrogate.'"
"The professor is a former federal prosecutor and served as chief appellate attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, where Comey also worked," Kutner notes. NBC News adds: "Richman and Comey’s ties run deep, and the pair has been friends for 30 years, the law professor told NBC News last fall."

Schmidt's byline appears on multiple Comey stories that quote Richman, including "F.B.I.’s Email Disclosure Broke a Pattern Followed Even This Summer" (1/11/16), "Comey Tried to Shield the F.B.I. From Politics. Then He Shaped an Election." (4/22/17), and "‘Enough Was Enough’: How Festering Anger at Comey Ended in His Firing" (5/10/17).

Schmidt has cited Richman as a source - on the record - for his New York Times articles going back at least nine years to 2008, when he reported many stories related to drugs and baseball.

Some examples include: "Canseco Is Said to Seek Favor to Omit Name" (1/24/08), "Motion Would Take Aim At Clemens's Top Lawyer" (2/26/08), "Balco Prosecutors Target Trainer’s Wife" (2/20/08), and "Contradictions in Kirk Radomski’s Book Could Benefit Clemens" (1/25/09).

Schmidt has apparently ducked questions from multiple media organizations regarding his outed relationship with Richman, but he probably isn't the only journalist at the Times and other outlets that has used the former FBI director's friend, colleague, advisor and spokesman as an unnamed source for articles that have been published regarding Russian interference in the 2016 elections, Clinton and Abedin controversies surrounding the use of a private email server, and the presidential race itself.

However, Schmidt got a lot of things wrong in his reporting for the New York Times and in other media appearances, such as the PBS broadcast, but doesn't seem to care or ever apologize for his role in creating - arguably - "fake news". Despite being part of the story, on June 8th, Schmidt conducted a Facebook Live discussion video for the New York Times called "Key Takeaways From Comey's Testimony." One reader asked if Comey would face any "legal repercussions" for "leaks" from himself and "friends" to the media. Schmidt never mentions his source by name.

"Comey explained today how he had instructed one of his friends to put out to the media the contents of one of these memos," Schmidt said, then placed both hands against his chest to add, "I was the recipient of that memo." On May 16, Schmidt had reported, "The New York Times has not viewed a copy of the memo, which is unclassified, but one of Mr. Comey's associates read parts of it to a Times reporter." Schmidt said he didn't think Comey would face any "legal jeopardy" because the "contents of the memo were not classified."

Schmidt claimed "Comey went to great lengths to make sure that the memos were not classified I believe, in part, because if he ever needed to get them out there, that made it much easier." He added, "If they were classified it would have been very difficult to declassify them and get information from them out."

As noted above, the original article can be found at this link.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Trump FBI Director Nominee Christopher Wray Defended Library Record Probes

During an October 21, 2003 Congressional hearing concerning US Terrorism prevention efforts, President Trump's FBI Director nominee Christopher Wray defended the controversial Patriot Act section related to library record borrowings.

According to a 2003 Congressional Quarterly Press article referring to the (perhaps now revised) Section 215 of the Patriot Act, Kenneth Jost wrote, "The section has been dubbed the 'angry librarian' provision because it could be used to obtain records of a person's library borrowings," and that "Justice Department officials appearing as witnesses at the hearing also rejected criticisms of the law."

"The various misperceptions that have been perpetuated about the Patriot Act are disturbing and simply wrong," Jost noted Christopher Wray, who was then the "assistant attorney general for the criminal division", said at the hearing.

Declaring, "We should not allow libraries or any other businesses to become safe havens for terrorist planning, financing, or communication," Wray told Congress in his opening statement that day:
"As you know, several groups including the ACLU, have claimed that Section 215 of the Patriot Act allows the government to investigate the library habits of ordinary citizens. This misinformation has apparently led a number of librarians to warn patrons needlessly of possible government monitoring. This overreaction has only led to further public confusion and misunderstanding about the scope of the Patriot Act.

The suggestion that federal agents are snooping on innocent citizens' reading habits is inflammatory and simply untrue. First, the Patriot Act explicitly protects Americans' First Amendment rights by providing that an investigation may not be conducted 'of a United States person solely upon the basis of activities protected by the first amendment to the Constitution of the United States.' Second, terrorism investigators have no interest in the reading habits of ordinary Americans. As the Attorney General pointed out recently, as of September 18, 2003, this provision had never been used. The House Judiciary Committee also concluded in its October 17, 2002, press release that its 'review of classified information related to FISA orders for tangible records, such as library records, has not given rise to any concern that the [government's] authority is being misused or abused.'

But historically, terrorists and spies have used libraries to plan and carry out activities that threaten our national security. For example, Brian Patrick Regan, who was convicted last February of offering to sell U.S. intelligence information to Iraq and China, used a computer at a local public library to look up addresses for Iraqi and Libyan embassies overseas. Similarly, in a recent domestic terrorism criminal case, a grand jury served a subpoena on a bookseller to obtain records showing that a suspect had bought a book giving instructions on how to build a particularly unusual detonator that had been used in several bombings. This was important evidence identifying the suspect as the bomber. We should not allow libraries or any other businesses to become safe havens for terrorist planning, financing, or communication.

The Patriot Act ensures that business records can be obtained in a national security investigation with the approval of a federal judge. Under the Patriot Act, the government can now ask a federal court to order production of the same type of records available through grand jury subpoenas, but only after the government shows that the records are sought for an authorized foreign intelligence investigation or to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities. Moreover, Congress also exercises careful and ongoing oversight: Every six months, the Attorney General must 'fully inform' Congress of how Section 215 has been used."
Jost's article added: "Echoing Attorney General Ashcroft's speeches in defense of the law, Wray pointed out that the law required judicial approval for records searches and delayed notification search warrants. He also noted that no library borrowing records have been sought under the law, but said that such information could be useful in some cases in identifying and thwarting suspected terrorists."

"For example, you could easily have -- and this is a hypothetical based on the kinds of things that come up on a day-to-day basis at the FBI and the Justice Department, CIA and other places -- you could have a foreign intelligence service that has a raid in a safe house overseas somewhere, and in the course of that raid, comes up with records that -- for example, there might be rental-car records or job applications, tenancy documents of some sort," Wray said at the hearing (which can be viewed on the CSPAN clip below). "There might even be a library book, for example, from the DC library."

CSPAN video from the same hearing shows former Democratic Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold noting, "Secondly, I do acknowledge that the administration has indicated that they have not used the Section 215 library provisions, provisions that they describe as essential to the fight against terrorism."

But Feingold wondered: "Now, which is it? That they never used them or that they are essential? And what is the objection then to reasonable modifications if they haven't even been used?"

Reporting for ProPublica in 2013, Justin Elliott wrote, "Civil liberties groups and librarians’ associations, which have long been fiercely protective of reader privacy, quickly raised fears of the FBI using that authority to snoop on circulation records."

Elliott added, "Even before the Patriot Act passed, the American Library Association warned members of Congress that the business records provision under consideration would 'eviscerate long-standing state laws and place the confidentiality of all library users at risk.'"

"So has the government ever used Section 215 to get library records?" Elliott asked, before answering his own question: "We don’t know."

Elliott's 2013 story continued: "Testifying before Congress in March 2011, a Justice Department official said Section 215 'has never been used against a library to obtain circulation records.' But as with so much else about the Patriot Act, how often or even whether the government has obtained library records is secret. Section 215 imposes a gag order on people or businesses who are compelled to produce records."

"The FBI has also used a separate Patriot Act provision, issuing what is known as a national security letter, to seek library patron records," Elliott reported in 2013. "One such episode prompted a successful court challenge by Connecticut librarians in 2005-06."

In his April 7, 2003 New York Times article, - "Some Librarians Use Shredder to Show Opposition to New F.B.I. Powers" - Dean E. Murphy wrote, "In a survey sent to 1,500 libraries last fall by the Library Research Center at the University of Illinois, the staffs at 219 libraries said they had cooperated with law enforcement requests for information about patrons; staffs at 225 libraries said they had not."

On June 7, 2017, after Trump tweeted about picking Wray, Reason's Scott Shackford blogged: "On the negative side of the ledger, Wray has been a major defender of the Patriot Act and the expansion of surveillance authority that it granted the federal intelligence community. In Senate Judiciary Committee testimony in 2003, he praised the act as a tool for fighting terrorism and pushed back against 'myths' that the law would be used to authorize surveillance against U.S. citizens. It's interesting to read that old defense in light of what we know now. Remember when one of the bigger worries was that the feds would use the Patriot Act to track what library books we were checking out?."