Who Spied on Whom?

The evidence is in,” say gleeful Democratic Party cheerleaders. Donald Trump was elected president because his Russian spy collaborators stole 20,000 secret e-mails from Democratic National Committee (DNC) computer servers, including e-mails from Hillary Clinton’s national campaign chair, John Podesta.

The stolen e-mails demonstrated proof positive that the Democratic Party, violating its own charter and signed statements of “neutrality” by DNC leaders, went all out to thwart the Bernie Sanders primary campaign, including laundering money raised for all Democrats to fund Clinton’s picks only. So blatant were the Democrats’ crimes that top party functionaries, including DNC head Debbie Wasserman Schultz, were forced to resign and the party itself was compelled to defend itself from lawsuits claiming fraud while publicly apologizing to Sanders.

An obliging Sanders, playing the sheepherding “lesser evil” fiddle to the end, insisted that Hillary Clinton had adopted his program. He endorsed her campaign and stumped the realm for Hillary.

When the DNC computer hacking was first discovered, Democrats found themselves in a dilemma when the FBI demanded access to their systems to ascertain whether Vladimir Putin’s Russian government was directly involved. There is still no proof from anyone that it was. WikiLeaks insists that it got the DNC files from an internal government leaker and not the Russian government.

Whether to expose their base internal corruption, maneuvers, and dirty tricks to steal the primary or to use the incident to expose a possible Trump connection to the Russians was a tough choice. Caught in its own scandal, the DNC first opted for the cover-up route and refused the FBI entry. Today, Democrats have shifted gears to redeem and resurrect their racist, anti-immigrant, warmongering, sexist party of Wall Street billionaires and their corporate/banking empire as they prepare for the 2018 election cycle, refurbished a bit, with the likes of Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Minnesota congressman and DNC deputy chair Keith Ellison in tow.

Capitalist elections

A note on capitalist elections is in order here in case any readers might still believe that we are discussing any semblance of democratic process in the periodic charade that is presented to the world wherein two billionaires and their corporate sponsors and media vie for the nation’s top office. Democracy in capitalist America is for the rich only, whether it be in the electoral arena or in the rarified one percent world of big capital, in which the Obama administration bailed out the nation’s leading and virtually bankrupt banks and related institutions to the tune of $32 trillion.

Many outraged voters rejected the most obvious candidate of the ruling rich, Hillary Clinton, who received, according to the Wall Street Journal, $23 million from Wall Street’s elite in direct election contributions. In recent years, Bill and Hillary Clinton have raked in $153 million from Wall Street speaker fees. They charge $225,000 a pop. And yet, their speeches, especially Hillary’s to Goldman Sachs, are still banned from public scrutiny. We note here that U.S. elections are today billion-dollar affairs, with Hillary Clinton spending $1.4 billion as compared to Trump’s “paltry” $958 million.

FBI/NSA side with Democrats

In mid-March the FBI and the National Security Agency broke with their longstanding “code” to publicly announce that they were undertaking a long, perhaps multi-year investigation to determine if Trump and/or his associates had collaborated with the Russians to rig the U.S. election or to otherwise interfere with the workings of U.S. “democracy.”

This departure from the agency’s (feigned) secrecy as to their investigations, said FBI Director James Comey, was in the “public interest.” In truth, it amounted to an open declaration of war against the Trump administration—a sign of emerging deep divisions within the U.S. ruling class, wherein important sectors are increasingly concerned that Trump and company cannot be trusted to serve broader ruling-class interests. The latter includes maintaining a semblance of public civility in the workings of government, as compared to Trump, who has effectively torn off the thin veneer of rationality from a crisis-ridden U.S. capitalism whose ugly deeds need to be shielded from public view.

The implication of an FBI/NSA investigation finding Trump guilty of a conspiracy to undermine U.S. elections in collaboration with Russia can only lead to future measures to remove him from the presidency.

No doubt Comey and his spy agency associates had a hand in leaking whatever information they deemed helpful to begin the process of undermining Trump’s legitimacy. Today, Democrats are the chief beneficiaries, with various leakers, including top unnamed officials, anonymously providing them with the names of various Trump campaign associates who had dealings in one form or another with Russians. In truth, such contacts are the norm with regard to virtually all contacts between the business and political representatives of all foreign governments and U.S. officials. “Big Brother” monitors all!

Democrats today rely on the world’s most extensive surveillance/spy apparatus, whose porous operations always manage to reach the public eye when political advantage is to be had. This is the same corrupt and murderous spy apparatus that was exposed by WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange, as well as Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning, all honest leakers and heroes, today deemed criminals by capitalist America, while unnamed government leakers who reveal Trump or Clinton affairs are taken for good coin.

WiliLeaks exposes CIA cyberweapons 

In the middle of the “who spied on whom?” Democrat-Republican spectacle, the CIA suffered yet another devastating blow when WikiLeaks revealed, according to the March 8 New York Times, the most massive trove of deadly cyberwar spying in history. The CIA’s cyberweapons/malware included, “instructions for compromising a wide range of common computer tools for use in spying: the online calling service SKYPE; Wi-Fi networks; documents in PDF format; and even commercial antivirus programs of the kind used by millions of people to protect their computers.”

The WikiLeaks trove includes 700 million lines of secret computer code aimed at hacking smartphones, televisions, the security applications of Google and Apple, and more. WikiLeaks affirmed that this was the first installment in a more massive trove of secret CIA material, including 7818 web pages with 943 attachments.

WikiLeaks reported that the CIA and allied intelligence services had compromised both Apple and Android smartphones, thus providing their own hackers the capability to bypass the encryption systems on popular services such as Signal, WhatsApp, and Telegram. According to WikiLeaks government sleuths can now penetrate smartphones and collect “audio and message traffic before encryption is applied.”

Another CIA program called Wrecking Crew “explains how to crash a targeted computer, and another tells how to steal passwords using the autocomplete programs on Internet Explorer.” WikiLeaks revealed that NSA hackers could now masquerade as Russian hackers! Patriotic to be sure, WikiLeaks redacted the actual CIA “cyberwar codes.” One can only imagine if it had published them as well, perhaps allowing the world’s few whacked-out thrill seekers as well as governments everywhere to play with computer-driven mechanisms that include nuclear missiles and other such weapons of mass destruction. Not unaware of such possibilities, the most recent issue of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists noted past breaches in various U.S. missile systems.

At least for the moment, until the next hacker discovers these cyberweapon codes, we can be reassured in the knowledge that they remain in the “safe” hands of the world’s sole superpower, with 110 military bases around the world and at present conducting wars of mass murder and destruction in seven countries. No doubt the U.S. drone killers make good use of their ever more sophisticated cyberwar toys. The same superpower has intervened some 140 times with military force in other nations since 1880 to advance U.S. imperialist interests. (See: Evergreen State College’s Dr. Zoltan Grossman’s “From Wounded Knee to Syria: A Century of U.S. Military Interventions.”)

Obama spies on Trump

The latest media hullabaloo revolves around President Trump’s repeated twitter allegations that the Obama administration tapped his Trump Tower phones or otherwise spied on him and his associates. On this one, I side with Trump 100 percent! The notion that the top surveillance operation in the world would stop at spying on a U.S. president-elect is patently absurd! We already know that in the name of “national security” President Obama and his predecessors authorized NSA spying on virtually everyone on earth, provided, so his recently expanded spying rules say, the spying is authorized by a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) judge.

Virtually all Russian officials or businesspeople working in the U.S.—including their hundreds, if not thousands, of lobbyists, UN and Washington, D.C., functionaries and the Russian ambassadorial staff—are subject to U.S. government spying, based on the explicit thesis that they are all “foreign agents.” Indeed, as we shall see, “foreign agents” are everywhere; they include the agents of “enemy” and “allied” nations alike.

A March 23 New York Times article entitled, “Trump Buoyed In New Version Of Surveillance,” commented on Republican chair of the U.S. House Intelligence Committee Devin Nunes’ revelation of documents secretly leaked to him by his own informants in a U.S. spy agency. The documents pointed to Obama administration spying on Trump and his campaign associates, a charge that Obama and all spy agencies have, until now, categorically denied. The Times blithely commented, “the incidental intelligence gathering on Trump associates—during the presidential transition late last years, when Mr. Obama was in office—was not necessarily unlawful or inappropriate.”

The Times continued, “American intelligence agencies typically monitor foreign officials of allied and hostile countries, and they routinely sweep up Americans who may be taking part in the conversation or are being spoken about.”

The Times added, “The real issue Mr. Nunes told reporters was that he could figure out the identity of Trump associates from reading [secret] reports about intercepted communications that were shared among administration officials with top security clearances. He said some Trump associates were also identified by name in the reports. Normally intelligence agencies mask the identities of American citizens who are incidentally present in intercepted communications.” (Emphasis added). In this case, Obama employed his own changes in surveillance rules to “unmask” the names of those on the Trump team that had contacts with Russians. It was likely all “lawful,” says The Times, even though Obama and company denied doing it.

Nunes’ revelations also exposed as a blatant lie FBI Director Comey’s official statement before Congress two days earlier. Said Comey, “I have no information that supports those [Trump’s] tweets.’’ In the same vein, President Obama had previously issued a statement saying that neither he “nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on any U.S. citizen.” Lies, lies, and more lies!

In dirty politics, “two can play the same game.” In this case while the Democrats lambast Trump, based on their leaked documents, Nunes, like the Democrats, used his own “anonymous” sources to obtain incriminating “evidence.”

“I have seen intelligence reports,” said Nunes, “that clearly show that the president-elect and his team were at least monitored and disseminated out [unmasked] in intelligence,’’ he said, adding that he hoped to ascertain who in the government had sought details about the Trump team and had asked for their identities to be “unmasked.”

When the sound and fury of today’s bipartisan corruption scandals subsides, what will be left is whether or not Trump’s presidency will be allowed to run its four-year course. We have not heard the last of these government spying scandals. Indeed, Trump himself, if he so chooses, has the “legal” right to demand to know if his phones were tapped.

Demonization of Vladimir Putin

Today’s Cold War demonization of Russia and President Putin has qualitatively less to do with any overtures by Trump for a rapprochement with Russia than it does with the defense and advancement of U.S. military, political, and economic interests in general, including the marginalization of Russia as the world’s leading fossil-fuel exporter and as a minor but still significant player in world affairs. U.S. interests in Ukraine regarding oil pipeline routes and control over Eastern Ukraine’s vast coal resources were dominant in the 2014 European Union-U.S./Ukraine-Russia events. Replacing Europe’s dependency on Russian oil exports with U.S.-controlled pipelines, as well as U.S.-fracked natural gas, stood high on U.S. imperialism’s priority list, not to mention NATO’s ongoing military encirclement of Russia itself.

To date Trump’s policies have differed little, if at all, from Obama’s on these key issues, despite Trump’s rhetoric, if not his personal identification with Putin’s courting of right-wing and neo-fascist groups across Europe and elsewhere. But in its essentials Trump has neither made nor proposed any changes in U.S.-Russia policy. Punishing sanctions stemming from the Ukraine/Crimea events remain intact.

Readers will recall that in 2014 the U.S. backed a neo-fascist-led coup that removed the Ukrainian president and replaced him with a corrupt and murderous regime replete with U.S.-backed officials who do the bidding of the European Union and U.S. imperialism. Russia’s annexation of Crimea, accomplished in a referendum in which 86 percent voted to secede, was accomplished without the slightest resistance and in a context where Ukrainian fascists in the coup government moved to virtually outlaw the Russian language in the majority Russian-speaking portions of the country. Virtually the entire Ukrainian army in Crimea peacefully surrendered, with the majority joining the Russian army. (For a full account, see Socialist Action’s “Ukraine in Turmoil” by Michael Schreiber and this writer.)

A final note on U.S. interests in Russia and the former Soviet Republics is in order. Trump and associates are far from the key U.S. investors in these regions. Despite the sanctions, Russia’s dealings with the U.S. still amount to at least $9 billion annually, with major U.S. corporations contractually relying heavily on Russian metallurgy and mining industries for the manufacture of U.S. airplanes and a broad range of other products.

Indeed, U.S. billionaire capitalists, Democrats and Republicans alike—not limited to ex-Exxon Mobil chief Ross Tillerson, today Trump’s Secretary of State—have long before invested in or collaborated with Russia and everywhere else a handsome profit can be made or influence peddled. Viktor Vekselberg, for example, the Russian billionaire head of the Renova Group and the head of a partnership called the “Russian Silicon Valley,” donated between $50,000 and $100,000 to the Clinton Foundation, according to donor records. Renova, whose offices were raided by U.S. government officials, is under criminal investigation for bribery. Renova’s interests in mining, oil, and telecommunications boosted Vekselberg’s fortunes, making him one of Russia’s richest individuals.

Russia’s largest bank, Sherbank, confirmed that it hired the consultancy firm of Tony Podesta, the elder brother of Hillary Clinton’s former presidential campaign, John Podesta, “to lobby its interests in the United States and proactively seek the removal of various Obama-era sanctions,” according to the Russian press agency, TASS. “Standard business,” said a Sherbank official. None of the above is aimed at demonstrating Clinton’s or her associates’ illegal action! Just business as usual.

Trump/Obama military policies

With regard to Syria, U.S. war policy remains intact, with the Trump administration sending more than 1000 troops to Northern Syria in an effort to bolster U.S. negotiating influence in a future Syria. Under Obama, U.S./NATO coalition forces, Gulf state monarchies, U.S. and Turkish-trained jihadists and U.S. secretly approved Nusra Front/al-Qaeda terrorists led an unsuccessful six-year imperialist war aimed at imposing a pro-Western regime in Syria. The Obama administration previously spent $1 billion annually in a failed effort to secretly train and supply its own mercenary army to oust the Assad government.

While the Trump administration calls for a $54 billion, 10 percent increase in military spending, Todd Harrison, director for defense budget analysis at the Center for Strategic and International Studies informs us that “there were at least 10 higher increases since 1977 and four since 2002.”

No solutions to capitalist crisis

The present rift between Democrats and Republicans reflects their sometimes conflicting approaches to world capitalism’s ever-deepening crisis. Their common denominator, however, is how to most effectively transfer the wealth created by working people to themselves. Today’s financialization of capital, wherein “profits” are increasingly generated in highly speculative stock market and related uncontrolled money manipulation, as opposed to commodity production, is a sure sign of a system in crisis, with bubbles galore waiting to burst, e.g., the Dow Jones current astronomic 20,600 mark.

Similarly, the globalization of capital, aimed at increasing ever flagging average profit rates, has slowed considerably as competing capitalists scramble to shore up their bottom lines by the super exploitation of the world’s poorest people. Trump’s anti-globalization rhetoric reflects the fact that imperialist foreign competition in previously U.S.-dominated near slave-labor markets, as in China, has cut deeply into U.S. corporate profit rates. His solution, far from incompatible with that of the Democrats, is to increase the rate of exploitation in the U.S. in an environment free of unions and social benefits, replete with robot-automation-driven production and distribution centers, while ever shifting the tax burden from the wealthy one percent to the broad population.

Today’s capitalist crisis has graphically exposed the inherent horrors of a predatory social system incapable of meeting the basic needs of the vast majority. Capitalism has brought unprecedented millions into the streets who reject its scapegoating the working-class majority in all its manifestations—immigrants, oppressed national minorities, women, the LGBT community, etc.

Capitalism’s victims, as never before in the modern era, are in search of new forms of organization and a fighting leadership capable of winning back and expanding what has been stolen by the twin parties of plunder.

Jeff Mackler is a staffwriter for Socialist Action. He can be reached at jmackler@lmi.net  socialist action.org