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Thursday, August 1, 2019

UPDATED: Is It Possible The FBI Genuinely Believed The Russia Hoax?

That's a question that has to be seriously considered, since it bears on the issue of intent when considering prosecution. I raise this having just read a Yahoo story: FBI document warns conspiracy theories are a new domestic terrorism threat (h/t GP). This document has to be seen to be believed--and thanks to Yahoo it can be seen (here), even though you may still have difficulty believing it.

First of all, here's Yahoo's summary of the main thrust of the document, dated May 30, 2019. And bear in mind that the FBI's Director, Chris Wray (yes, he's a waste of space) has recently stated that Antifa is not a terrorist organization because he doesn't think it's an organization. So:

The FBI for the first time has identified fringe conspiracy theories as a domestic terrorist threat, according to a previously unpublicized document obtained by Yahoo News. (Read the document below.) 
The FBI intelligence bulletin from the bureau’s Phoenix field office, dated May 30, 2019, describes “conspiracy theory-driven domestic extremists,” as a growing threat, and notes that it is the first such report to do so. It lists a number of arrests, including some that haven’t been publicized, related to violent incidents motivated by fringe beliefs. 
The document specifically mentions QAnon, a shadowy network that believes in a deep state conspiracy against President Trump, and Pizzagate, the theory that a pedophile ring including Clinton associates was being run out of the basement of a Washington, D.C., pizza restaurant (which didn’t actually have a basement). 
“The FBI assesses these conspiracy theories very likely will emerge, spread, and evolve in the modern information marketplace, occasionally driving both groups and individual extremists to carry out criminal or violent acts,” the document states. It also goes on to say the FBI believes conspiracy theory-driven extremists are likely to increase during the 2020 presidential election cycle.

So, anti-Establishment type conspiracy theories are now a terrorist threat, a growing threat, likely to emerge, spread, and evolve, and likely to increase during the 2020 election cycle. Yikes! That's really concerning! Maybe it's time to abrogate most of the Bill of Rights and drastically increase the FBI's budget!


But wait, shall we first look at the evidence that the Bureau's Phoenix office has assembled?

The document lists conspiracy theory type incidents extending from 2013 to 2018--5 years. How many? Eight (8). Does that sound like an emerging, spreading, and evolving terrorist threat to you? Me neither. And you really have to read the individual examples to get the full flavor for what the FBI sees as conspiracy theory based terrorism. Historian David Garrow jumps all over this hanging curve ball:

Historian David Garrow, the author of a Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of Martin Luther King Jr. who has worked extensively with FBI archives, raised doubts to Yahoo News about the memo. He says the FBI’s default assumption is that violence is motivated by ideological beliefs rather than mental illness. “The guy who shot up the pizza place in D.C.: Do we think of him as a right-wing activist, or insane?” Garrow asked.
Garrow was similarly critical of the FBI’s use of the term “black identity extremists” and related attempts to ascribe incidents like the 2016 shooting of six police officers in Baton Rouge, La., to black radicalism. He said the shooter, Gavin Long, had a history of mental health problems. “The bureau’s presumption — the mindset — is to see ideological motives where most of the rest of us see individual nuttiness,” he said.

Read the examples and you'll see where Garrow is coming from.

Of course, the FBI has an answer for critics like Garrow:

The FBI acknowledges conspiracy theory-driven violence is not new, but says it’s gotten worse with advances in technology combined with an increasingly partisan political landscape in the lead-up to the 2020 presidential election. “The advent of the Internet and social media has enabled promoters of conspiracy theories to produce and share greater volumes of material via online platforms that larger audiences of consumers can quickly and easily access,” the document says.

But we've seen that 8 incidents over 5 years is hardly a trend--and that quality of the evidence is no stronger than the quantity. Here's what one expert said about that:

Joe Uscinski, an associate professor of political science at the University of Miami, whose work on conspiracy theories is cited in the intelligence bulletin, said there’s no data suggesting conspiracy theories are any more widespread now than in the past. “There is absolutely no evidence that people are more conspiratorial now,” says Uscinski, after Yahoo News described the bulletin to him. “They may be, but there is not strong evidence showing this.”

If the FBI is seriously churning out such dodgy "analysis" as this--and, as I say, you really have to read it--the possiblity has to be considered that your average FBI employee is capable of believing just about anything. In fact, if you read the rantings of a non-average former FBI employee like Andrew McCabe--who inspired such loyalty on the 7th floor of the J. Edgar Hoover Building--it's hard to avoid that conclusion. Consider, for example, his texts with Brit spook Jeremy Fleming, then of MI5, now head of GCHQ. Those two seemed to think Brexit and Trump were part of some global Putin led intel offensive! That looks like a reflexive turn to conspiracy explanations for anything anti-Establishment political movement.

So I ask the question: Is it possible that the FBI itself has devolved into a conspiracy driven organization--a sort of Deep State guardian cult that sees its enemies everywhere, emerging, spreading, and evolving in terrorist directions? Could this explain the readiness of people like Strzok and Page to buy into conspiracy theories about Russia and Putin and Trump and adopt an end-justifies-the-means approach to their duties?

That's a scary thought. What is Chris Wray doing to address this?

UPDATE 1: Zerohedge picked up on this very quickly: FBI: Conspiracy Theories Are Now A Domestic Terrorism Threat. He's quick to point out that one confirmed false conspiracy theory that seems to be pretty explicitly excluded from consideration is ... the Russia Hoax! Yeah, I know, you guessed that already.

UPDATE 2: Oh my! It turns out that the FBI was citing sources such as Snopes and Wikipedia in their "analysis". Not too impressive. I have no problem with almost any initial source, but in a report of that sort you must follow to the origin and verify that.

33 comments:

  1. The FBI actually did, literally, operate against Trump on the Theory he Conspired with Russia to win the election.
    But the FBI isn't full of conspiracy theorists? It's everybody else?
    The FBI has become quite a clown show.

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  2. More muddled and confused thinking from the FBI. My growing suspicion is that a lot of stupid people work at the FBI, that imbecile Chris Wray being one of them. My regard for the integrity and ability of this once prized organization has disintegrated. The FBI needs to be completely redone--or done away with. The good forensic work the Bureau does can be farmed out.

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    1. Bill Haydon said something like, the health of a country's intel service reflects the health of a country. Problem there for us.

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    2. The "good forensic work" was shown to be incompetent by OJ Simpson's lawyers. I watched that fiasco, and remembered back to my childhood days when I believed the FBI was a highly competent organization because I used to watch a TV show extolling the FBI. (Effrem Zimbalist Jr?)

      Real life has shown the FBI to be incompetent, and now corrupt.

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    3. I think that's a bad combination.

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  3. I halfway through this FBI "document" and all the focus is on the far-right. There's a lot more violence on the Left and it's never mentioned. There's more violence in the black community but that is taboo to say so we talk about white supremacy.

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  4. Also, the Ku Klux Klan was not a right-wing group. It was the Dems. Now the new targets are Christians, whites, white men and Jews.

    Some things never change.

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  5. My agency is no better. The powers that be swear loyalty to all the modern trends pushing equity, equality, LGBT, they wear their pins, they talk up the special emphasis groups and tell us to bring in our "authentic selves."

    That is until a Christian expresses his beliefs; or a conservative. Then they don't want us to bring in our authentic selves.

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  6. This story is a propaganda piece designed to deflect criticism toward the FBI in the event that Horowitz and Durham come down hard on them for their role in the coup against Trump. Wray is prepping the media battlespace with a ready-made excuse for all the criminality that occurred under Comey's watch. Wray will deny that anything illegal ever occurred, and if it did occur, it was justified because of the mortal threat of conspiracy theory driven domestic terrorism.

    At some point Barr has to realize just how far off the rails his DOJ/FBI departments have gone and do something significant to right the ship. If this continues much longer, the FBI is going to have a very difficult time recruiting honest and capable LEOs in the future. It only goes downhill from there.

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  7. Conspiracy theory as evidence of a threat is pretty thin gruel, i.e. theory as evidence is not actual evidence (facts)--it's a theory.

    Now, conspiracy to commit violence is another matter as the fact of the conspiracy is the actual evidence.

    The FBI seems to be concluding that conspiracy theory nut-jobs are a new threat, but the tinfoil hat crowd squawking about black helicopters, aliens, zombies, and Area 51 is not a new phenomena. It's the same types with too much time on their hands off their meds--or in needs of meds...

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  8. As to the FBI actually believing the Russia hoax.. I suppose that needs clarification as to "who" it is at the FBI doing the believing, i.e., who is "the FBI"?

    Both the perpetration of the hoax, and the "investigation of collusion" required compartmented lines of communication, with persons acting separately, resulting in few people knowing or in a position to see the wider picture. If you can control information and limit access, then it becomes ripe for speculation as people fill-in the blanks. The structure (compartmentation, tight lips, select media leaks) is ripe to manipulate the public's perception.

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  9. I have not read a thing in this post but yes, the FBI, like most of my connected acquaintances, believed it before they read it. It fit all stereotypes and checked all of their boxes. The percentage of their mind that said maybe not this; was filled with 99.9% certainly that if not those crimes there were others just waiting to be uncovered.

    Funny thing though, having hung out with men of substantial means, it occurred to me the first time I read the Steele charges that men of Trump’s worth would never risk their station in life for even the Presidency. Three Billion dollars???

    Where were the sane folk?

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    1. I think that's the answer--and it goes to the kind of people they've been hiring. People who think along very conventional lines, as told to them in the MSM. Not independent thinkers at all.

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    2. The best of the best of our education system. I'm thinking there is now an .gov app to replace wetting a finger and holding it up.

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    3. Yes, what passes for education now.

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  10. Now I've read the post, and I stand behind the previous comment wholeheartedly. But I would add, that it seems that the folks who are writing this fiction are depending much on their friends in the media to push this and push it hard.

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    1. And I wrote my comment above before reading this comment of yours. :-)

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  11. The Intelligence Community awards contracts to companies that write studies warning about various threats.

    If a company proposes to write a study warning, for example, that conspiracy theories are a threat, then that company might win a government contract to write such a threat.

    On the other hand, if a company proposes to write a study warning that making a big deal about conspiracy theories is stupid, then that company never will get a government contract to write it.

    In order to get government contracts, companies must write scary studies that will justify more money, manpower and resources for the government agencies that award the profitable contracts.

    You can't get a contract by proposing to write a study that is likely to conclude that some supposed threat is nothing to worry about.

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    1. My understanding of this is that the "study" was written by the FBI's own analysts--like the CIA they now have a virtual army of them. Outside contractors are called in to help with political use of NSA databases.

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    2. You can be sure that the FBI's analysts contracted some think-tanks to provide "independent" threat analyses.

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    3. When I was a USAF Intelligence Officer, I served a year in a long-term planning office in the Pentagon. There I was involved somewhat in contracts for long-term analyses.

      I would not say that the awarding of such contracts is corrupt, but I did see that the contractors were desperate to please the government officials who award and renew the contracts. The contractors are strongly motivated to write conclusions that will please the government officials. In turn, those officials want to please their own supervisors by obtaining studies that warn of threats that will justify more money, manpower and resources for the agencies.

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    4. I can't say what the practice is now, but in my day the FBI did its own "analysis" and didn't contract out. Quite frankly, I have to suppose that a product this amateurish was done in-house.

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  12. As soon as Donald Trump announced his candidacy in mid-2015, the Trump-haters in the US Intelligence Community's leadership assumed (I think) that Russian Intelligence must have some incriminating information about his business and personal activities in Russia.

    Furthermore, Trump could be -- or already had been -- blackmailed by Russian Intelligence.

    This assumption was not based on any information at all, but the Trump-haters in US Intelligence were absolutely certain that it was true.

    Furthermore, if the US Intelligence Community applied all its resources to that assumption, then proof certainly would be obtained.

    By about March 2016, however, no proof was obtained, and so the Trump-haters in the US Intelligence Community's leadership had to resort to concocting evidence. For example, they began to frame George Papadopoulos and Carter Page.

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    1. Perfectly illustrates the danger to the nation when conspiracy theory replaces reality based analysis in our Deep State "Intel Community". They are prone to blindly interpret all real world phenomena in light of their conspiracy theories and to propagate them to both the public and the governing elite. The process feeds on itself and leads to real world action that seeks to disrupt the falsely created version of reality, leading to massive disruption.

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    2. Since Brennan, Clapper and Comey have left office, they have expressed publicly their contempt for Donald Trump. While they still were in office, their immediate subordinates surely recognized that contempt. Those subordinates surely figured that they could please those chiefs by providing information that would confirm that contempt toward Trump.

      Brennan, Clapper and Comey did not have to issue explicit orders to investigate Trump. Their immediate subordinates made it happen. If some analyst wrote some report that contained some information about Trump, then that analyst and report were recognized and praised. Gradually, everyone in those agencies figured it out and did what they could to follow the unspoken guidance.

      -----

      I read a three-volume biography of Adolf Hitler written by Ian Krenshaw. One of the biography's important concepts is that Hitler did not have to issue explicit orders to, for example, exterminate the Jews. Rather, Hitler's followers perceived his desires, and they themselves took initiatives to fulfill those desires. Krenshaw calls that concept "Working Towards the F├╝hrer".

      Of course, Brennan, Clapper and Comey should not be compared to Hitler, but that same bureaucratic mechanism -- figure out and please the chiefs' unspoken desires -- seems to have been working in the US Intelligence Community's concerted effort to cause trouble for Trump.

      We never will find any explicit orders issued by Brennan, Clapper or Comey to cause trouble for Trump. However, those three chiefs' direct subordinates understood that trouble should be caused for Trump, and then many officials in those agencies contributed their own small, individual initiatives to contribute to agency efforts that became coordinated organically.

      Nowhere was it written that Trump has to be defeated, but everyone significant in the agencies understood that this was a major goal of the agencies.

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    3. As it happens, I was puzzling over this exact question yesterday--wondering whether Barr and Durham would be able to work up the ladder till they got the people giving explicit orders or whether it was all implicit, as you suggest.

      As you say, we can't suppose that subordinates of people on the level of Brennan/Clapper/Comey would "work toward them" at the risk of serious jail time--not unless they had some CYA strategy in place. That usually means, orders from higher up. That's a working assumption, of course, not written in stone.

      One indication of this, however, can be found in Trisha Anderson's testimony. She was the attorney at the FBI who signed off on the FISA before it went to the final approvers, but she claimed she never even read the Carter Page FISA. She said there was no point in reading it because when it got to her--contrary to guidelines--it had already been approved by McCabe and Sally Yates.

      I assume she would have read it anyway, out of curiosity. However, that was her way of pointing the finger of blame at those above her. Now they have to answer the question, why not follow procedure, and Anderson (and others) will be available to point their fingers at them.

      It's not ironclad, but a jury would probably find it convincing beyond a reasonable doubt--that they knew what they were doing was approving false affidavits because they had taken control of the process and were therefore responsible for vetting that would normally have been done at lower levels.

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    4. The biographer's name was Kershaw (not Krenshaw).

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  13. Its both.
    Subordinates do whatever they can to please superiors to curry favor and promotion.
    Subordinates (unless rogue) will rarely venture off the reservation without the implicit or explicit approval of superiors.
    This thing goes all the way to the top. The problem, as always, will be proving it.

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    1. However, when you can ID superiors who have changed the rules to fasttrack actions that lack predication--opening of investigations, submission or renewal of FISA warrants, etc.--the likelihood that someone will be able to testify to actual instructions increases.

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