Russiagate Open Thread: Into the Wayback Machine…

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Yeah, but at least the Democrats aren’t actively abetting our foreign enemies…



Cleanup on Aisle 1600

Shortly after 7:30 AM ET today, Trump tweeted the following:

As he frequently does, Trump was live-tweeting Fox & Friends, the show featuring the three sofa squatters who have a symbiotic relationship with the White House, wherein the program runs pro-Trump propaganda every morning in exchange for Trump serving as their social media director.

But adult daycare supervisor John Kelly may have to alter the terms of that agreement. The F&F story caused Trump to target a surveillance policy the Trump admin and GOP support. Kelly must’ve received the cleanup notice fairly quickly, because a couple of hours later, Trump walked it back with a self-congratulatory flourish:

Fox News is the Trump state propaganda channel. But like most Trump-branded endeavors, it is staffed by low-quality people and is wildly dysfunctional.

If I were Putin or another evil oligarch who wants to control U.S. policy, I’d find three operatives who resemble the F&F sofa squatters (they’re as interchangeable as light bulbs, so that shouldn’t be difficult), recreate the set and beam a fake F&F show into the White House each morning. It would be a simple matter to lace the program with flowery tributes to Trump and bait it with favored policy tidbits.

Not only would this strategy result in getting my preferred policies championed by the nominal POTUS, it would probably generate all sorts of positive press for Trump by people like Maggie Haberman and Dana Bash, who would be bowled over by Trump’s newfound independence. I wonder how long it would take Kelly to figure out what was going on?



Excellent Read: ‘The World’s Biggest Terrorist Has a Pikachu Bedspread’

I’ll probably get clipped for saying this — I may even deserve it! — but after reading Kerry Howley’s NYMag profile, I think Reality Winner and Heather Heyer (killed by a Nazi in Charlottesville) would’ve been friends. “Not every leaker is an ideological combatant like Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning. Reality Winner may be the unlikeliest of all”:

Reality Winner grew up in a carefully kept manufactured home on the edge of a cattle farm 100 miles north of the Mexican border in a majority-Latino town where her mother, Billie, still lives. From the back porch, a carpet of green meets the horizon, and when a neighbor shoots a gun for target practice, a half-dozen local dogs run under the trailer to hide. Billie worked for Child Protective Services, and in Ricardo, Texas, the steady income made her daughters feel well-off; the fact that they had a dishwasher seemed evidence of elevated social standing. Billie, a chatty redhead with the high-pitched voice of a doll, supported the family while her husband, Ronald, she says, “collected degrees.” It was Ronald who named Reality. The deal had been that Billie got to name their first — Brittany — but their second was his to choose. He noticed, on a T-shirt at their Lamaze class, the words I COACHED A REAL WINNER. He wanted a success story and felt that an aspirational name would increase his chances of producing one. Billie did not object; a deal is a deal.

Ronald was intellectually engaged, though never, during his marriage, employed, and Reality’s parents separated in 1999, when she was 8. Two years later, when the Towers fell, Ronald held long, intense conversations about geopolitics with his daughters. He was careful to distinguish for them the religion of Islam from the ideologies that fueled terrorism. “I learned,” says Reality, “that the fastest route to conflict resolution is understanding.” She credits her father with her interest in Arabic, which she began studying seriously, outside school and of her own accord, at 17. It was this interest in languages that eventually drew her into a security state, unimaginable before 9/11, that she chose to betray. Fifteen years after those first conversations with her father, Reality’s interest in Arabic would be turned against her in a Georgia courtroom, taken as evidence that she sympathized with the nation’s most feared enemies…

No one was surprised when Reality’s sister, Brittany, went on to college, absurd amounts of college, such that she walked out of Michigan State with a Ph.D. in pharmacology and toxicology last year. But Reality had then, and has now, a skepticism of academic degrees, which she recently described to me as “hundred-thousand-dollar pieces of paper that say you’ve never had a job.” (“It’s interesting,” her mother notes, “because of her father?”) She wanted her life to start. She wanted to make the biggest difference she could, as soon as she could. It wasn’t until she was getting on the bus for basic training that she told her mother she’d applied to engineering school at Texas A&M–Kingsville, received a full scholarship, and turned it down.

Based on her test scores, Reality was selected to be a cryptolinguist, which is to say she was tapped to help the military eavesdrop on people speaking languages other than English. She wanted Arabic, but the ones assigned to her were Dari and Farsi — languages of use to a military vacuuming up conversations from Afghanistan and Iran. She would spend two years becoming fluent and another year in intelligence training before she was sent to Maryland’s Fort Meade. Along the way, she’d be one of a few students admitted to a selective program in Pashto, yet another language in which she would become fluent.

In Maryland, her life, according to those closest to her, involved an exceptionally punishing exercise regimen, volunteer work, and 12-hour shifts listening to the private conversations of men and women thousands of miles away. There was also anxiety. Reality worried about global warming. She worried about Syrian children. She worried about famine and poverty all over the globe. Highly critical of her carbon-spewing, famine-ignoring fellow citizens, she nevertheless thought her humanitarian impulses were compatible with the military’s mission, and wished her fellow Airmen were not just more competent in their jobs but more motivated to do them well, to save the vulnerable from acts of terror…
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Open Thread: Speaking of Security Theatre…

EVACUATION PROTOCOLS BREACHED!

I’m just happy to know it’s not only us Balloon-Juice jackals always have a few dog-poop quips ready…



Russiagate Open Thread: Meanwhile, What News of the Prince of Amway?

Erik Prince, brother of Betsy deVos, founder of Blackwater (now Academi), testified before the US House of Representatives Select Committe on Intelligence on November 30th. A 105-page transcript of his testimony has been released, and is providing much fodder for specialists…

Also…


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Entertaining Russiagate Read: “The Recruitables”

If you have to tell people you’re ‘very intelligent’, you’ve already proved you aren’t. Alex Finley explains to Politico “Why Trump’s Team Was Easy Prey for Putin”:

By now, it should be clear to anyone following the news that Russian intelligence made a formidable effort to approach the Trump campaign and assess the potential to manipulate its members. As a former officer of the CIA’s Directorate of Operations, I can tell you that Russian security services would have been derelict not to evaluate the possibility of turning someone close to Trump. While the question of collusion remains open, it’s beyond dispute that Russia tried to get people around the president to cooperate. The June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower is indication enough, but other encounters bolster the argument.

How do you get someone to do something they should not do?

Generally, an intelligence officer looks for a person’s vulnerabilities and explores ways to exploit them. It usually comes down to four things, which—in true government style—the CIA has encompassed in an acronym, MICE: Money, Ideology, Coercion, Ego. Want to get someone to betray his country? Figure out which of these four motivators drives the person and exploit the hell out of it…

From an intelligence point of view, the people surrounding Trump, and Trump himself, make easy targets for recruitment. This is not to say these people have definitely been recruited by Russian intelligence—and they’ve all denied it repeatedly—but you can be sure that Russia’s intelligence services took these factors into consideration when they approached the campaign…

Paul Manafort: Money
Anyone who has lobbied on behalf of leaders ranging from Zaire’s Mobutu Sese Seko to the Philippines’ Ferdinand Marcos to Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang likely has no set ideology or moral compass and is motivated primarily by making money. People like this make very good targets. There is no emotion involved. Getting the person to do something is a fairly straightforward transaction…

Donald Trump Jr.: Money, Ego
Junior is a lot like dad in his need to feel important. He was certainly a target because he manages access to his father, and his arrogance makes him easy to read…

Donald Trump: Ego
Ego is clearly the best way to get Trump to do anything. The Saudis certainly understood this, feting him with gold and orbs and displaying his enormous portrait on the side of a hotel, right next to the king’s portrait…

Trump’s ego wanted to win and, he figured, everyone else wanted him to win, too. He was under the impression that everyone loved him and appreciated his greatness. Of course everyone wanted to help him win. If he accepted help from Russia, it’s possible he didn’t realize there was anything wrong with doing so. Why wouldn’t they help him win, he might have thought, and why shouldn’t he accept that help? For an experienced chekist like Putin, manipulating his ego is almost too easy…



Late Night Open Thread: NRA Fairy Tales of Dark Monsters

Trump’s unearned “success” has made the NRA’s plumpest pigeons complacent. SAD!