In Multipolarity, Nov 1, 2016

internet-spying-image-by-pedro-nunesFBI officials say their investigation into links between U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Russia has been unable to uncover any so far, according to the New York Times.

The bureau has been trying to find evidence showing that the Russian government is trying to influence the U.S. presidential campaign since the beginning of summer. FBI agents have put advisers close to GOP candidate Donald Trump under close scrutiny, searching for financial connections that some have alleged exist between the nominee and Russian financial figures. They even followed up on a lead hinting that there had been a secret email correspondence between Trump’s Organization and Russia’s Alfa-bank. All the while, the bureau has been searching for the hackers that breached the computers of the Democratic camp and leaked emails that became the source of many scandals damaging to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Nonetheless, the FBI still cannot say that any of its investigations have uncovered direct links between Trump and Russian authorities, the New York Times reported on Monday, citing recent interviews and its own bureau sources. “No evidence has emerged that would link [Trump] or anyone else in his business or political circle directly to Russia’s election operations,” writes the NYT.

Officials also anonymously told the NYT that whoever the hackers were, the attacks were aimed at disrupting the presidential race on the whole, and not boosting Trump’s chances of getting into the Oval Office, as the Western media and Democrats have been claiming.

In explaining why Russia would want to interfere in the campaign, one senior official was cited as saying, “It isn’t about the election… It’s about a threat to democracy.”

The FBI’s inquiries will continue, however. In interviews over the past several weeks, intelligence officials have signaled that they have opened a larger probe to look into suspicions over connections between Trump aides and Moscow.

In the most recent lead, an anonymous computer scientist going by the name Tea Leaves found some 2,700 “look-up” messages that tied a server being used by one of Donald Trump’s companies to those of Russia’s Alfa Bank.

Still, the FBI found that there was no two-way communication, and these messages could have been marketing emails or spam. Both the Trump campaign and Alfa Bank issued statements denying that they had been in communication.

The FBI is also probing Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, whose foreign business and political dealings have come under scrutiny since reports surfaced claiming he was involved with a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine, NBC reported, citing intelligence sources.

Russia hacking’ vs Clinton emails

A separate report from CNBC citing a former FBI official claims that the bureau’s director, James Comey, was privately reluctant about naming Russia as the entity responsible for meddling in the U.S. election campaign, reportedly saying it was too close to the November 8 Election Day.

In the beginning of October, Comey allegedly concluded that “a foreign power was trying to undermine the election,” but arguing against putting it out before the election itself.

He also allegedly made sure that the Federal Bureau of Investigation was not mentioned in the document compiled by the U.S. government on October 7, which officially accused Russia of “authorizing” the hacking of emails accounts of U.S. officials and organizations, out of concern that the FBI would be seen as interfering with the election if it was included.

However, last Friday, with the election mere days away, Comey announced that the bureau was reopening its investigation into Hillary Clinton because several hundred thousand new emails that may be related to the private server used by the Democratic nominee had allegedly been discovered.

The announcement, which left many in the government puzzled, has already resulted in official complaints and attacks from the entire U.S. political spectrum. On Monday, some 100 former federal prosecutors and senior Department of Justice officials, including Attorney General Eric Holder, signed a letter expressing concern over Comey’s decision to reopen the case “on the eve of a major election,” as “the mere disclosure of information may impact the election’s outcome” at this stage.

Clinton’s supporters have accused Comey of deliberately hiding “explosive” information about Trump’s alleged ties to Russia, demanding that he discuss them publicly, just as he did with the new batch of Clinton-related emails.

Hillary Clinton and her supporters have repeatedly criticized Trump for praising Russian President Vladimir Putin, while Trump has retorted that he has “nothing to do” with Russia and doesn’t know its leader personally.

Putin on accusations of meddling: ‘rubbish’

Russia, in turn, has denied having any links to the Trump camp on numerous occasions, while refuting accusations that it had been behind the hacking attacks on the Democrats, with Russian President Vladimir Putin calling them “rubbish” last week.

“The image [that Russia supports a candidate in the U.S. presidential election] was created by the media,” Putin said at the Valdai Discussion Club in Sochi last Thursday, stressing that this had been done deliberately.

“This is complete and utter rubbish, and it is just a method of internal political struggle, as well as a way of manipulating the public consciousness ahead of the U.S. presidential elections,” he added, while explaining that Russia does not prefer any particular candidate and is ready to work with either of them. Russia’s president also stressed that friendly words and intentions to normalize relations between the U.S. and Russia are always welcome, “whoever expresses them.”

FBI Director Comey’s disclosures set stage for a public interest exception to secrecy

By Alex Emmons, The Intercept, Oct 31, 2016

When FBI Director James Comey decided in July to violate Justice Department guidelines and publicly announce that the FBI would not recommend charges against Hillary Clinton, he explained that he was taking such an exceptional step because the “American people deserve those details in a case of intense public interest.”

Comey’s decision last week to inform Congress that the FBI is now reviewing additional emails that apparently originated from Clinton’s private server has ignited an even more furious debate, with Democrats accusing him of election interference and law breaking.

There’s a reason that the Justice Department has nondisclosure rules about ongoing or closed investigations. Lots of things emerge in investigations that are not true, or do not amount to crimes. Disclosing those things can ruin reputations. So it is typically left to prosecutors to decide what accusations to make public, in the form of an indictment.

Among the people criticizing Comey for his latest foray into radical transparency were former attorney generals Alberto Gonzales and Eric Holder, who both pointed out that it is against Justice Department policy to comment on ongoing investigations, certainly within 60 days of an election.

Comey’s actions have raised lasting questions about when the public interest outweighs the current policy, and whether there should be a “public interest” exception to the Justice Department’s secrecy rules.

In his July announcement, Comey said that “given the importance of the matter, I think unusual transparency is in order.” Part of his goal was clearly to reassert the FBI’s independence from political pressure. “No outside influence of any kind was brought to bear,” he said.

If there were a public interest exception, there are many other high-profile investigations that the Justice Department could be encouraged to discuss.

In 2012, for instance, the Justice Department closed a three-year investigation into CIA torture. The investigation reportedly found that the CIA tortured multiple detainees to death but did not lead to the prosecution of any Bush administration officials. Due to suspicions of meddling by the Obama administration, perhaps the Justice Department should explain why it chose not to prosecute anyone.

In September, Elizabeth Warren noted Comey’s new chattiness and called for a similar level of transparency about why the Justice Department had not brought cases against bankers responsible for the 2008 financial crisis.

“You explained these actions by noting your view that ‘the American people deserve those details in a case of intense public interest,’” Warren wrote in a letter to Comey. “If Secretary Clinton’s email server was of sufficient ‘interest’ to establish a new FBI standard of transparency, then surely the criminal prosecution of those responsible for the 2008 financial crisis should be subject to the same level of transparency.”

A public interest exception could help the government explain why it so often fails to bring powerful people to justice. But so far, Comey only seems interested in applying that exception to Hillary Clinton.


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