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‘Trust Me’ Doesn’t Cut It on Russian Hacking: This one-sided report smells like a political hatchet job

Here’s the real problem with the joint intelligence report on alleged Russian hacking: without the classified details, we ordinary citizens are supposed to take the breathless allegations, presented as “high confidence” intelligence judgments, on faith.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and CIA Director John Brennan are crossing their fingers and saying, “Trust us.”

Since both are political appointees – Brennan in particular came directly out of the Obama White House, where he is believed to have orchestrated secret arms smuggling through Libya to Syrian rebels that led directly to the Benghazi disaster – excuse me if I remain skeptical.

Has Russia been engaged in sophisticated disinformation operations in the United States? Well, duh. That’s been going on for decades. During the Cold War, as General Clapper reminded the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday, we had a separate United States Information Agency (USIA) at the State Department to combat Soviet intelligence desinformatziya and, to a lesser degree, maskirovka.

The USIA regularly issued bulletins on Soviet deception operations, and traced how they were laundered through predominantly Third World media (India was a big favorite in the 1980s) until they made it into the United States, generally as part of left-wing conspiracy outlets.

A few examples were fabricated stories that the CIA had invented AIDS, or that Korean Air Lines Flight 007, which was shot down by Soviet fighters in 1983, had been flying a covert U.S. intelligence mission. The KGB also planted forged documents to smear American politicians and then “leaked” them to (usually) unwitting journalists.

But that’s not what happened here. If we are to believe the unclassified Russian hacking report, released on Friday, Russian intelligence agents hacked into the DNC and into the Hillary Clinton campaign servers and then turned over emails it exfiltrated to DCleaks.com and to Wikileaks.

“Moscow most likely chose WikiLeaks because of its self- proclaimed reputation for authenticity. Disclosures through WikiLeaks did not contain any evident forgeries,” the report stated.

Note that statement: the Russians didn’t spread obvious falsehoods or sophisticated disinformation. They disseminated the truth – stolen documents, yes. But true.

That is one reason why many Americans are having a hard time getting steamed at the Russians for exploiting the stupidity of John Podesta, who responded to a spearphishing attack by emailing his password, which was the word “password.”

Dumber than that, you die… of ridicule.

RNC Chairman Reince Priebus told FoxNews that the RNC reported similar attempts to penetrate its email to the FBI, and was never successfully penetrated. Why? Because they already had common sense security protocols in place.

Nations spy on each other. Democrat operatives need to get over it – or perhaps, just set aside the roach and revive their collective memories. After all, it was just two years ago that President Obama sent his 2012 campaign field director, Jeremy Bird, and four other political operatives to Israel, with orders to help defeat Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu in his March 2015 re-election effort.

That was direct, overt, U.S. government interference in the election of a U.S. ally. But because it was Obama and Netanyahu, Democrats just didn’t get steamed.

By the way, if the Russians could penetrate the Clinton campaign server, what’s to say they didn’t also penetrate the private email server Mrs. Clinton set up to mask her “private” dealings while she was Secretary of State? And yet, the U.S. hacking report never alleges that this happened, nor does it allege that the Russians disclosed classified U.S. documents.

Perhaps that was a red line the Russians didn’t want to cross? Leaking unclassified emails that revealed the hypocrisy of the Clinton team and the Democrat party could arguably be construed as doing the work the U.S. news media failed to do. Leaking classified documents is another matter entirely.

Fully half of the unclassified U.S. report details the activities of RT television, formerly known as Russia Today.

It’s hard to believe that anyone watching RT is not aware of its strong Russia connection. The U.S. report accurately describes how RT unsurprisingly coordinated its propaganda with the Russian state.

What about MSNBC and CNN coordinating their propaganda with a political party, the DNC?

The U.S. report criticizes Russia because “RT coverage of Secretary Clinton throughout the US presidential campaign was consistently negative.” Somehow I missed the report’s criticism of MSNBC, CNN, the New York Times and the Washington Post for their “consistently negative” coverage of Donald Trump.

But I get it: that’s because RT is controlled by a foreign state, and those U.S. media organizations are privately owned.

So why doesn’t the U.S. intelligence report criticize other foreign state-owned media organizations, such as the BBC, or TF1 and France 2 in France, that not only broadcast coverage of Donald Trump that was “consistently negative,” but portrayed him as “emotionally unbalanced,” “unhinged,” “incompetent,” “unqualified to be President,” “racist,” “misogynist,” etc.?

The U.S. report announces on page 1 that it “covers the motivation and scope of Moscow’s intentions regarding US elections and Moscow’s use of cyber tools and media campaigns to influence US public opinion.” Perhaps it’s just me, but I find it odd that U.S. intelligence analysts would put their analysis of Russian motivation before the facts. But that’s the way it reads throughout.

One curious omission: the report contains no assessment of the impact that Russian activities had on the outcome of the 2016 election. While the report claims this is because it’s not the job of the intelligence community to “analyze US political processes or US public opinion,” I can guarantee you that if they had detected a clear impact of the Russian hacking, they would have spread it like butter on toast.

Michael Moore may have influenced more voters in a YouTube clip from his one-man show in Michigan, than RT did in all of its election coverage. The five-minute segment went viral when it was first released; many people thought they were actually watching left-wing ideologue Moore endorse Donald Trump.

Moore of course had no intention of endorsing Trump, but wanted to show his audience that he “understood” the motivation of Trump voters, and that they were “good” people. From the astonished look on the faces of people in the audience, it’s easy to imagine many of these Michigan voters suddenly realizing it was “okay” for them to vote for Trump, even if they traditionally had identified with Democrats.

The omission of any context in the unclassified version of this report, coupled to the breathless tone of its “high-confidence” conclusions and total lack of factual evidence in the public version, makes it appear like a political hatchet job. That in itself does a disservice to the honest, hard-working intelligence gatherers and analysts of the U.S. intelligence community.

EDITORS NOTE: This column first appeared on FrontPage Magazine.

Will Marc Rich rise from the grave to topple Hillary?

On the very day that  tax evader and renegade oil speculator Marc Rich died  on June 26, 2013 in Lucerne, Switzerland, Judicial Watch filed a Freedom of Information Act  (FOIA) request. Rich was pardoned on the very last day of former President Clinton’s second term in January 2001 in a series of pardons shepherded  by current US Attorney General Eric Holder. President Clinton had been entreated by Rich’s, ex-wife, Denise, a major Democrat fundraiser, aided by representations from ADL director, Abe Foxman, who was reported to have earned a large fee for facilitating the pardon. Despite Marc Rich engaging in back door oil deals with the late Saddam Hussein, the apartheid South African government and the Palestinian Authority, President Clinton had signed off. He has subsequently rued granting Rich’s pardon.

Judicial Watch finally received the results of the FOIA request and published the redacted copy on its website, yesterday.  Reading it, one can only surmise whether this  might prove to be a problem for several people; former US Ambassador to Israel during the Clinton era, Martin Indyk and then Israeli Foreign Minister, now President , Shimon Peres.and possibly ex-Mossad head, Efraim Halevy.

Peres assumed  the Israeli Premiership after PM Rabin’s tragic assassination by an Israeli extremist in November 1995.The period referenced in the Judicial Watch post followed  the arrival back of the PLO-Fatah under the late Yassir Arafat  in furtherance of the ill-fated Oslo Accords signed in September 1993 at the  White House under Clinton’s auspices. Arafat became the first President of the PA and, in 1996 began a series of attacks on Israeli joint patrols in the disputed territories the period of a near decade long  Palestinian violence against Israel. Indyk is currently  Secretary Kerry’s Special Envoy facilitating negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority on a purported final status agreement. This redacted cable could be problematic for Hillary Clinton’s possible candidacy for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 2016?

Here is the Judicial Watch report:

Clinton’s Marc Rich Pardon – the Tell-Tale Cable

For years, there has been conjecture as to why Bill Clinton, in the waning moments of his presidency, suddenly and unexpectedly granted a full pardon to fugitive financier Marc Rich. Even the New York Times, normally a shameless cheerleader for the Clintons, excoriated the president, saying “Bill Clinton’s last-minute pardon of Marc Rich … was a shocking abuse of presidential power … Mr. Clinton’s irresponsible use of his pardoning authority has undermined the pursuit of justice.” And Clinton himself later described the pardon as “terrible politics. It wasn’t worth the damage to my reputation.”

Questions about the scandal are resurfacing in light of Judicial Watch’s obtaining a confidential cable from the U.S. Department of State that had been under tight wraps since 1995. The cable – from Clinton’s ambassador to Israel to his high-ups at State – reveals high-level Israeli efforts to persuade State Department officials to intercede with Department of Justice (DOJ) to enable Rich to conduct Israeli business affairs worldwide directly relating to Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.

Specifically, the cable, obtained through a Judicial Watch June 2013 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, provides details of 1995 efforts by apparently top Israeli officials to pressure their counterparts at the State Department to intervene with the DOJ to withdraw outstanding arrest warrants against Rich on charges he had violated America’s 1981 domestic oil-price along with 64 other crimes, including racketeering and “trading with the enemy.” Israel, it turns out, had recruited Rich, then living in Switzerland, to travel internationally in order to raise funds to finance economic deals between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority. Rich died on June, 26, 2013, and Judicial Watch filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request about him with the Department of State on the same day.

While the Israeli official who interceded on Rich’s behalf is not identified in the cable obtained by Judicial Watch, he or she was in a sufficiently high-level position to confer directly with then-U.S. Ambassador Martin Indyk and Clinton administration Middle East envoy Dennis Ross. The official was also able to persuade Indyk to meet with Rich’s lawyer, Isaac Herzog, just three days after requesting that he do so. The confidential classification of the cable was extended by the State Department on February 10, 2014 for an additional 15 years, following the Judicial Watch FOIA request, in an apparent effort by the State Department to keep the names of the Israeli official confidential. Ambassador Indyk is now President Obama’s Special Envoy for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations.

In the cable, entitled “[REDACTED] REQUEST FOR INTERVENTION WITH DOJ ON BEHALF OF MARK [SIC] RICH,” Indyk writes:

•    During August 29 [1995] meeting with Dennis Ross and I, [REDACTED] raised the issue of Mark Rich, a wealthy businessman now resident in Switzerland, whom [REDACTED] has recruited to head up an effort to promote private sector involvement in Palestinian economic development. [REDACTED] asked me to see Rich’s lawyer, Isaac Herzog, to be briefed on the subject. He further requested that Dennis and I follow up in Washington to try to resolve the problem.

•    Rich paid a large fine and according to Herzog, DOJ is no longer pursuing the matter … Nevertheless, there are still international warrants outstanding for Rich’s arrest. This severely restricts his travel … [REDACTED] request is that State consider the project and, if it is regarded as worthwhile, contact DOJ and communicate its interests in enabling Rich to engage in these activities – specifically that:  … The GOI [Government of Israel] has notified State that it is in the GOI’s interest to facilitate the travel on behalf of Marc Rich to advance the ‘Economic Solution’ … The U.S. has a legitimate interest in fostering these objectives.

Interestingly, the Indyk confidential memo claims that the U.S. ambassador, who at the time had been a key figure in American-Israeli affairs for more than a decade, had no knowledge of Rich or the activities that had led to the commodities trader’s 1983 indictment. According to Indyk’s confidential memo, “We have never heard of Mark [sic] Rich and have no way of evaluating his ability to contribute to this effort by bringing in foreign investors.” The ambassador added, “However, [REDACTED] is pushing him hard.”

On January 20, 2001, just hours before leaving office, President Clinton granted Rich a highly controversial presidential pardon. It was widely alleged at the time that Rich’s pardon had been the result of Denise Rich having given more than $1 million to the Democratic Party, including more than $100,000 to the Senate campaign of Hillary Clinton and $450,000 to the Clinton Library foundation. As far back as 2009, journalist Joe Conason, writing in Salon had conjectured, “Winning the pardon was a top priority for Israeli officials because Rich had long been a financial and intelligence asset of the Jewish state …” But the confidential cable obtained by Judicial Watch is the first solid evidence of close ties between the Israeli government and the fugitive financier.

The bottom line is that the cable raises salient new questions about the depth and breadth of the relationship between Marc Rich and the Israeli government. And they suggest possible new insights into the motivations behind the scandalous last-minute pardon granted by Bill Clinton. Ambassador Indyk should now disclose what he knows about the Rich pardon. As should John Podesta, Eric Holder, and Hillary Clinton – all high-level Obama appointees embroiled in the Rich pardon scandal.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on The New English Review. The featured photo is courtesy of Ionel141. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Common Core: George Soros and Hillary Clinton want your kids

“Conceived as the Democratic answer to the Heritage Foundation,” the George Soros-founded and funded Center for American Progress (CAP) was considered Hillary Clinton’s think-tank at its inception in 2003.  President and CEO John Podesta, once Bill Clinton’s chief of staff, was seen as its nominal head.

CAP was viewed as “a kind of Clinton White-House-in-exile – or a White House staff in readiness for President Hillary Clinton,” according to Nation reporter Bob Dreyfuss in his illuminating 2004 article entitled, “An Idea Factory for the Democrats.” Many of those mentioned have since populated the Obama administration, while CAP has become the president’s favorite think-tank.

Dreyfuss, who quotes Hillary Clinton, writes, “We’ve had the challenge of filling a void on our side of the ledger for a long time, while the other side created an infrastructure that has come to dominate political discourse. The center [CAP] is a welcome effort to fill that void.”

Podesta who has fulfilled the need for a “progressive counterpart” to the conservative Heritage Foundation is now back at the White House as presidential advisor.  Neera Tanden the former aide to Senator Clinton is now CAP’s president. Before Podesta’s recent departure, the policy initiative known as Common Core became a major public education project for CAP.

Explaining the Plummet in Test Scores under Common Core

But students’ test scores are plummeting under Common Core, especially in New York State. What is the solution proposed by the Center for American Progress?  A longer school day, of course. Never considering that the standards themselves might be flawed, they make the unsubstantiated assertion that drops in test scores show that the standards are more “rigorous” and therefore require more time.  That’s their argument in their recently released report called “Redesigning and Expanding School Time to Support Common Core Implementation.”

One thing is for sure: the standards have never been tested, and even proponents like Dr. Dana Rickman, director of policy and research at the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education, have admitted that “It isbelieved they will lead to improvement.”

Are we to trust the beliefs of those promoting Common Core, like the authors of the report?  One of them, Tiffany D. Miller, associate director for school improvement, has among other things been a fundraiser for the Democratic Party.

Two of the report’s authors come from the National Center on Time & Learning (NCTL): David A. Farbman, a senior researcher, and David J. Goldberg, vice president for national policy and partnerships.  NCTL itself, however, is an outgrowth of the Center for American Progress.  It was “launched in October 2007 at an event at the Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C. featuring Senator Ted Kennedy,” and grew out of the work of a Boston-based nonprofit, Massachusetts 2020, which led the first statewide expanded learning time grant program in the country, according to Wikipedia.  NCTL was formed to expand that work to more states and to develop policies at the federal level.

The report serves this effort: to expand the role of public schools, fulfilling Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s vision of “community schools” on a national scale.  These would pretty much replace home life by offering such things as homework help, three square meals, and health clinics.

The “report” masquerades as a legitimate report.  But when one looks at the sources and methods used, it is clear that there is no real review of evidence.

Questionable Sources and Grandiose Claims

The first paragraph signals more hype than evidence with the grand claim, “Implementation of the standards, as currently planned in 45 states and the District of Columbia . . . means that the vast majority of students will soon be held to the highest set of English language arts and math literacy expectations in U.S. history.”  This grandiose statement comes from the Fordham Foundation, itself a promoter of Common Core and recipient of funds from the biggest Common Core funder, the Gates Foundation.

The report is full of such sweeping, unsupported assertions and such frequently bandied terms like “deep” and “deeper,” as well as “critical thinking.”  In Common Core promotional material such terms have become commonly accepted truisms; they are repeated by proponents as if they were proven measurements. (These are unstated references to Bloom’s taxonomy.)

The generalities abound: “Replacing lectures with interactive learning between teachers and students, especially learning to a richer and higher level, will require more classroom time, as teachers will have to personalize their attention to individual and small groups of students.”

The report’s authors quote a Chicago teacher who has been told that she needs to be a “facilitator” instead of a teacher in order to properly teach the Common Core standards.  The source for the quotation is Catalyst Chicago, published by the Community Renewal Society, another progressive advocacy organization.

The report’s authors continue to bandy about terms that imply intellectual sophistication: “High-quality expanded-time schools are already using the opportunities inherent in longer classes to build in individualized instruction, critical thinking, and problem solving. . . .”

The authors refer to a report by the “policy group Achieve”: “Teachers will likely need more instructional time in order to teach more rigorous, higher-level content in more depth and to integrate literacy skills into their lessons.”  Achieve is the well-connected non-profit that was the architect for Common Core.

For math, the authors write, “Common Core will bring a shift in focus from briefly and superficially covering many topics to studying fewer topics in much greater depth.”  The authorities they cite are Common Core proponents: Educational Testing Service and EngageNY, of the New York State Department of Education, which has adopted Common Core.

For math, the authors claim that fractions will be introduced at earlier ages, but that as time goes on students will draw upon their accumulated knowledge to solve increasingly complex problems—hardly a new practice in education.  What they don’t mention is that algebra is being moved to ninth grade from eighth grade, and that the standards impose tasks on young children far above their maturity levels.

Masking the Real Aims

Part of the overall (but often unstated) goal of Common Core is closing the “achievement gap.”  Proponents like to hide the fact that slower learners will have endless opportunities to learn the material under the cover of “deeper learning.”  Consider these two sentences in the report:

“Allowing students to both try and fail and requiring them to find more than one route to success will mean providing them with more time to explore and learn on their own than is the norm in today’s classrooms. Students will then be asked to explain their reasoning, a process that consumes time but fosters still deeper learning.”

Such demands to demonstrate deeper learning have led to bizarre math.  Much of the parental opposition to Common Core has been instigated by the math homework. To truly understand how convoluted the new math is one needs to see the examples.  One sign at an anti-Common Core rally at the Georgia state capitol, on February 4th, did this and exclaimed, significantly, “Parents Can’t Help.”  Indeed, parents are being cut out in more ways than one.

The sign set side-by-side a long multiplication problem under traditional math and then under the new Common Core math.  One glance will show how math is being unnecessarily complicated in the demand to have students “explain their reasoning,” while allowing credit for those students who get the wrong answer but provide pleasing explanations.  (In English Language Arts, more time is to be spent on “deep reading” and “deep discussion.”)  This is one way to close the “achievement gap.”


Cherokee Tea Party Patriots-Woodstock, GA’s Photos

Indeed, the CAP report states that the aim of a longer school day is to close the achievement gap: underprivileged students need time to catch up.  However, the authors also claim that a longer school day is needed to teach the more rigorous standards.  They want it both ways.

“Collaboration”: More Money for Failed Progressive Teaching Methods

Another reason for the longer school day is for time to “collaborate”—hardly a new idea in education,” as references to such practices as “cooperative reading” in the 1990s indicate. “Intra-student communication and collaboration” will presumably prepare students for what they will encounter in higher education and the work force.  But this requires more time, even as the students seem to be left to themselves: “Having regular opportunities for student collaboration necessitates many group projects and the continuous integration of a technique known as ‘turn and talk,’ where students discuss the topic at hand with each other and seek to gain insights from their peers.”

Teachers are supposed to be “facilitators” to their students, and spend their time analyzing student data and determining which teacher fits best with which “cohort” of students.  Extra time is needed for teacher collaboration and “professional development,” presumably to improve teaching.  But as is the common wisdom among teachers, such “collaboration” is a means to control teachers, to make sure they don’t go off script and improvise.

Of course, the longer school day means spending more tax-payer money for keeping schools open and more pay for teachers. According to the report, the Department of Education is already spending money on longer school days through School Improvement Grants.  Flexibility waivers allow funding to be set aside for tutoring under the Supplemental Educational Services program for “whole-school expanded learning time.”  The 21st Century Community Learning Centers waiver also allows in-school expanded learning time.  No doubt, there are cases where students require extra time and extra help.  But it seems that the longer school day will mean for most students time to sit in groups endlessly discussing preselected topics with their peers, devising byzantine ways to explain through drawings and stories their thinking on otherwise straightforward math problems—all while gaining little actual knowledge.

Collaboration, facilitation, critical thinking, etc., are the hallmarks of progressive, student-centered teaching methods that have long been demonstrated to be counterproductive.  As Jeanne S. Chall stated in her 2000 seminal survey, The Academic Achievement Challenge, “The major conclusion of my study in this book is that a traditional, teacher-centered approach to education generally results in higher academic achievement than a progressive, student-centered approach.”  She found this to be particularly true for students who came from low-income and middle-income families, and had less school preparation.  Unlike the authors of the CAP report and the reports which appear in their bibliography, Chall was a scholar, a Harvard University education professor and was recognized in the New York Times as “having written the definitive analysis of reading research.”

The traditional teaching methods that Chall describes are also much more efficient.  But then again, efficiency and real education are not what the Center for American Progress is about.