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on the lam

Per Ex-KGB Agent: Snowden was in Moscow’s sights six years before leaking U.S. secrets

Yes, I know it’s the Daily Mail. But in the U.S., the National Enquirer has developed something of a rep as a source actually more reliable than the MSM papers, so maybe it’s the same with the Daily Mail. (Note, however, that Robert Baer did not — to the best of my knowledge — change his name to Jack Bauer halfway through his remarks.)

So maybe it’s only the God’s truth, or half-truth, which would not surprise me. Of course, it says more about the Bear in its Den than about the Snow.

Or maybe it’s a KGB plant. Or a KGB attention-seeker seeking attention.*

And/or a pack of lies. Should we set up a pool? Our great-great grandchildren might be the lucky winners….

Edward Snowden was in Moscow’s sights six years before leaking U.S. secrets claims former KGB agent

Moscow identified Edward Snowden as a possible defector in 2007
Former KGB chief Boris Karpichkov said Moscow ‘tricked’ Snowden
Russians began monitoring Snowden, 30, in Geneva while at the CIA
US officials trying to establish whether Snowden as a double agent

By Darren Boyle

Published: 06:05 EST, 8 June 2014 | Updated: 14:34 EST, 8 June 2014

Russian spies ‘tricked’ US whistleblower Edward Snowden into asking Moscow for asylum by posing as diplomats after spending six years targeting him, a former major in the KGB has claimed.

Boris Karpichkov, who fled Russia after 15 years serving with the KGB said Snowden had been identified as a potential defector as far back as 2007.

. . .

Karpichkov told the Sunday People that Russian security agents leaked information concerning Snowden’s arrival in Moscow to provoke the US into action.

. . .

The US cancelled Snowden’s passport before he could get a connecting flight out of Moscow, forcing him to seek asylum.

According to Karpichkov: ‘It was a trick and he fell for it. Now the Russians are extracting all the intelligence he possesses.’

. . .

Former CIA official Robert Baer has said the US has began investigating whether Snowden had been turned by the Russians in 2007.

[Snip]

See the rest, including the photos of our very own Bond wannabe (or whatever he is), with and without Brian Williams, and of Karpichkov, at the source. And the 162 comments of course.

The Sunday People story is much the same, but with a shot of Karpichkov in an alley, and of the Head Bear imitating an Executive, in a blue suit and dark-red Power Tie.

*Speaking of which paper, its story also says this about Karpichkov:

Karpichkov, 55, fled Moscow on a false passport in 1998 after spying on his native Latvia for the KGB and its successor, the FSB.

He fell out with FSB bosses when he wanted to retire.

Well, Well, Well. Snowden in the CIA?

Now this, from the NYT. (The video is from UT, but seems to be the same as the one the NYT posts with its story.)

SecState relieves himself of what he pretends are his feelings:

“He should man up and come back to the United States if he has a complaint….”

This from John Kerry! I didn’t think anybody could match T. Kennedy for hypocrisy, but this walking talking elephant patty may have him beat.

Snowden Says He Was Spy, Not Just an N.S.A. Analyst

By DAVID S. JOACHIM and SCOTT SHANEMAY 28, 2014

Snowden’s Interview With Brian Williams

Edward J. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who leaked classified documents, said he was “trained as a spy” in his first interview with an American television network.

Credit NBC News, via Reuters

WASHINGTON — Edward J. Snowden said he was not merely a “low-level analyst” writing computer code for American spies, as President Obama and other administration officials have portrayed him. Instead, he said, he was a trained spy who worked under assumed names overseas for the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency.

Mr. Snowden’s claims were made in a television interview to be broadcast Wednesday evening by NBC News. They added a new twist to the yearlong public relations battle between the administration and Mr. Snowden, who is living under asylum in Moscow to escape prosecution for leaking thousands of classified files detailing extensive American surveillance programs at home and abroad.

“I was trained as a spy in sort of the traditional sense of the word in that I lived and worked undercover overseas — pretending to work in a job that I’m not — and even being assigned a name that was not mine,” Mr. Snowden told Brian Williams of NBC News, in an excerpt released in advance of the full interview.

The N.S.A., which has described Mr. Snowden as an information technology contractor, has not commented on the new claims. But Secretary of State John Kerry, in a CBS News interview on Wednesday, suggested that Mr. Snowden’s refusal to return to the United States amounted to cowardice.

“The bottom line is this is a man who has betrayed his country, who is sitting in Russia, an authoritarian country, where he has taken refuge,” he said. “He should man up and come back to the United States if he has a complaint about what’s the matter with American surveillance, come back here and stand in our system of justice and make his case. But instead he is just sitting there taking potshots at his country, violating his oath that he took when he took on the job he took.”

See source for the rest of the story. Also, there’s a 6-minute video on UT that appears to entertain us with both Mr. Kerry and Mr. Snowden. (Being on limited bandwidth for the nonce, I haven’t watched either video. Not to mention that I can’t stand any of the principals!)

On the worship of little tin gods

St. Edward of Snowden, patron saint of whistleblowers

In part this comes down to SAoT’s recent post on the death of Nelson Mandela, but mainly from an argument with Perry de Havilland over at Samizdata who appears to be so utterly blinded by the “what” of St. Edward of Snowden’s revelations that he is unable to ask the fundamental question of “why” did he do what he did.

Don’t get me wrong, I am happy that the truth has come out about the NSA’s activities and if Snowden honestly felt that the way he did it was the only way that it could have been done then fair enough.

The problem is I find that the way that Snowden has gone about his revelations has been distinctly dubious.

This may be just the capricious nature of fate ruining the best laid plans of mice and men, but I consider that Snowden’s deliberately outing himself on the front page of the Guardian (when he could have revealed the necessary information without doing so), to be somewhat questionable.

I am uncomfortable with the fact that he is hiding under the coat tails of a country which would probably have killed him if he had committed the same offence there (as they did with Alexander Litvinenko)

I am uncomfortable that he has potentially carried US state secrets into Russia and, if so,  potentially revealed them to their state security apparatus in return for asylum in Russia.

I am uncomfortable about the sheer volume of information that he has in his possession, which he now appears to be either releasing in dribs-and-drabs to keep himself newsworthy or alternately holding back in some vain attempt to keep out of the clutches of the US Government by blackmailing the NSA from a safe haven in Russia.

Now I am, as some of you will know, a paranoid and suspicious son-of-a-bitch by nature and so it is entirely possible that my natural scepticism is preventing me from seeing the inherent beatitude of our glorious brother Snowden who shines his light of truth into the dark corners of the world.

If the general consensus is that I am being unreasonable, I promise to make amends by wearing a tinfoil hat and sitting in the corner murmuring quietly for a week (as if! Can you imagine…? :-) )

The Statutory Rape of Justin Bieber…

… sounds like the sort of ghastly play (possibly with Daniel Radcliffe in the eponymous role – well the boy wizard did get his wand out in ‘Equus’ on the London stage a bit back) that wins Olivier awards…

Well, as RAB said earlier I have been in Poland so missed the “Cats-astrophy” he mentions but that doesn’t mean I’ve existed merely in a Silesian bubble of pierogi and pilsner without any news of the outside world. Well, it was mainly about Eurozone Bubbles and Grief* and that bores me senseless now but the Justin Bieber story caught me right out of left field.

In case you are not aware of the works of the Canadian boy-wonder and his terrible (and alas much emulated – even in a provincial town in Poland!) barnet then here is the laddy himself…

Not exactly Elvis in his hip-swinging, lip-curling prime is he? I mean as something for lasses to swoon over he doesn’t even look gay does he? He looks like the ganger version of Barbie the un-nippled’s Ken. It goes without saying that his ‘music’ makes Hanson sound like the Sex Pistols. He sounds like Paul McCartney’s “Frog Chorus” on helium. What is wrong with the teenagers of today when a 38 year-old git like me is objectively cooler? I mean in the past kids outraged their parents by being, well, outrageous (Teds, Rockers, Punks, Goths, Metallers, Madchester, Grunge and all that) and now they do it by being stuuningly bland (or in the case of Emos – sort of dismal sprogs of the Goths and the Indy Kids – utterly pathetic). What happened to the gobbing and swearing, the fighting, the shagging and the puking? The thrills, pills and bellyaches?

Anyway, back to the story. Basically when Bieber was 16 (he’s now 17 – bless!) he allegedly had sex with an older woman. The allegations are coming from the older woman who has given birth to a child (in July). And if you’re thinking “Here’s to you Mrs Robinson!” then forget it because the “older woman” is now twenty so was nineteen when the deed was done.

As the teen heartthrob’s obsessed fans, known as “Beliebers”, vented their anger towards Miss Yeater, 20, Californian police were poised to launch an investigation into the dramatic claims.

Pop-star shags groupie! Yes, that’s dramatic isn’t it? I mean it’s a “perk” of the job like temps having access to the stationary cupboard. And “Beliebers”… Dear Gods upon Olympus! It’s like Beatlemania for the educationally sub-normal branch of the twitter generation.

[An aside I also heard that Lindsay Lohan - ask Cats about her! may serve 1-2 days of a 30 day sentence due to the 'Golden State's' prison over-crowding for yet another parole violation and California's law agencies are investigating this!]

He is claimed to have told the fan that it was his “first time” before quickly removing his clothes. The liaison is said to have lasted about 30 seconds in a backstage lavatory.

I don’t buy the “removing clothes” angle (and perhaps light some candles and pour a rather cheeky vintage…) because that is not lavatorial sex as I am given to understand it – zip down, tackle out and that’s foreplay done and dusted. Anyway, 30 seconds in the bogs – he certainly was (allegedly) “Just in Beaver”.

Obviously Yeater is after a massive slice of pie in terms of child-support monies but now let us muddy the waters further…

If Miss Yeater’s claims are true she leaves herself vulnerable to possible prosecution for statutory rape of a minor. Now that is surreal. I know a bit about statutory rape law in the US and how vile that legal framework is. It’s a sort of strict liability thing isn’t it? Two teenagers shagging may in many circumstances be inadvisable but to define it as criminal is cruel and unusual. Apparently the age of consent in California is 18 which quite surprised me.

Bieber is currently dating Selena Gomez, a 19-year-old actress best known for her Disney Channel appearances.

Interesting. And the difference is? Well according to the Beliebers there is only one of the two they want to kill in a sort of Dionysian orgy…

One young female fan ‘BeccaLindsay’ tweeted: “I could kill this b—-, really she messes with my baby!!! SHE IS SOOO DEAD.

“Don’t mess with the Beliebers and don’t make us go REALLY protective over Justin Bieber! Marian Yeater, really leave him alone, we don’t want you … She is such a s—. F*** her … She is just a whore.”

And much more like that. Bitchy isn’t it? I mean either these teen girls want to make him apple pies and mother him or they dreamed of getting the first bite of Bland Canadian Cherry themselves. Probably, I would guess, a strange mix of the two. A mash-up that follows like an Aristotelian syllogism in the mind of a fourteen year-old girl but makes absolutely no sense to anyone else whatsoever. I remember when Bros split-up and the weeping and wailing and the rending of garments and the gnashing of the teeth.

Now, obviously, Justin Bieber is a ‘devout Christian’ (and indeed has at gigs cautioned against casual sex) but even if you didn’t know that you really did at some level didn’t you? Otherwise why the hoo-hah? It’s like the music industry has had an “Oops! I did it again”** moment (yet again). At the risk of sounding philosophical I find it superficially truly bizarre that there is clearly a market for the virgin/whore essential tension (now with added male/female ‘equality’!) in pop music because it is placing ancient (and still current) themes from classical and Judeo-Christianity culture right at the heart of post-modern disposable culture. In that sense it at least seems to involve a curious marriage of the deeply continuous and the shallowly temporal I obliquely compared the Beliebers to Beetlemania. Anyone likely to be around then care to wager a Coke that people will be listening to the Beatles 50 years from now but Bieber will be long forgotten? Not all of the Beatles stuff – obviously. I suspect what will last of them will be earlier stuff. The songs with sass, attitude, wit and charisma. Four things which Justin Bieber (despite his undoubted many ‘endearing’ – possibly to grannies – “Such a nice boy” qualities) singularly lacks. Yet the Beatles didn’t really mine the same seam did they? To mix metaphors (sort of) they paddled their own canoe and built their own mythos within the context of perhaps the most heavily mythologized decade in (at least recent) history. In this context I can’t help but quote Larkin,

Sexual intercourse began in 1963 (which was rather late for me) — Between the end of the Chatterley ban and the Beatles first LP.

My point here is not to score the low-hanging-fruit (Miss Yeater apparently got to Master Bieber’s plums first anyway so put those suds in your pipes and blow bubbles with it Beliebers) of saying the Beatles were better than Bieber but to make the perhaps peculiar point that in a strange sense (in terms of the ‘personalities’ if not the music or lyrics) that the contemporary bubble-gum machine churns out there is a desperate need to have ‘archetypes’ rather than ‘characters’. I guess it makes sense if taken in the context of a Worholian conception of fame in which it surely follows all stars must now be high concept*** and the virgin/whore thing is very high concept. It has to be to push the ‘sleb cycle all the way around in the statutory fifteen minutes. Interestingly Andy Worhol was brought up Catholic as was Madonna Ciccone. Even more interestingly their works seem to have a lastability about them. Perhaps that is because they play (played in the case of Worhol) with concepts they understand (understood) viscerally and perhaps just on sheer talent and application. Arguably Madonna took the virgin/whore archetypes to such dizzying heights as to become the archetype.

I dunno. This post opens up more questions for me than it answers and naturally of course the ‘rape’ and ‘fatherhood’ of Master Bieber**** is most likely possibly nonsense but there are other quesions about the nature of sexual mores this century, the state’s involvement in such and why the current music scene is dull. Unfortunately as far as how to be truly rock ‘n’ roll Mr Keith Richards was unfortunately unavailable for comment.

Now perhaps you’re wondering (I bet you are not) why I took my quotes on this story from The Telegraph? Well, Google took me their first(ish) (It’s now 15 seconds of fame Andy and the clock was ticking!) and because of the first paragraph of the article which is truly an odd gem…

Justin Bieber’s fanatical followers have issued online death threats against Mariah Yeater, the older woman who claims to have fathered his love child after a backstage encounter.

That is either perverse genius or a staggering indictment of Telegraph sub-editors’s woeful knowledge of the absolute basics of mammalian reproduction.

*That’s quite clever that is.
** A reference of course to the crashed and burned Virgin Goddess, Britney. Like Bieber’s ‘proper girlfriend’ another alumni of Disney.
***For me the summit of high concept is the movie “Snakes on a Plane”. I mean just from those four words (and two of them not ‘proper words’) you or I could hack out a script. I mean you just know at one point someone will sit down on the lavvy and get bitten on the asp.
**** I was so tempted to call him “Master Beaver” to vaguely reff “Narnia: Uncut”.

The End of News in the Orient

A couple of hours ago I landed back at Manchester from Istanbul. I have an idea to write up a multi-part travelogue of my adventures in Turkey. Let me know in the comments if you’d be interested in reading it – it’ll mainly be pictures anyway! I’ll probably do it anyway for my own edification and to cement the memories of a fine holiday in my butterfly mind.

But… Before I do any of that. I have a more general observation to make inspired by my holiday.

The hotel room had sat TV so I saw bits of CNN pretty much everyday. Judging by the time checks it gave this appeared to be CNN’s Central/Eastern Europe and Near East service so what I’m about to say might not be true of the network globally but I’m going to say it anyway because I suspect it is. I haven’t seen CNN for years and I have to say it appears to be, as my brother would put it, on it’s arse. It cycled 1.5 stories until we started bombing Libya in desultory fashion at which point it switched to cycling 2.5 stories. Story #1 was of course the Japanese earthquake, tsunami and the resultant nuclear tribulations. Now obviously this is a big story but it is by no means the only story. CNN didn’t seem to either comprehend this fact or have the ability to report on any others and cycled the same footage of grieving and homeless Japanese and wrecked houses and cars and such ad nauseum until I switched to Al Jazeera which for all it’s many flaws at least didn’t think rolling news was sticking the same old on “shuffle” ’till Hell freezes over.

But what of the 0.5 of a story? Ah, yes… This was wild speculation by the likes of Wolf Blitzer (crazy name, crazy guy utter moron) and chums as to what this would mean for US nuclear power stations and plans to build more. The nadir was reached when some anchor (a dense object dropped to the bottom of the sea – alas not the redoubtable Mr Blitzer* – some other twonk) opened a question to someone (I forget who) with, “Now I don’t know anything about nuclear engineering but it seems to me that…”** CNN is based in Atlanta of course and I know some rather nice bars around that city. If they had walked into say the The Treehouse in Peachtree Hills at 2am on any given Friday night with a mic and a camcorder they would have got more cogent commentary than CNN actually managed. Suffice to say the general tone of the coverage was ridiculous and at one point a guy who worked at a Californian nuclear plant looked like he was struggling manfully not to clock the CNN wonk who was obsessed with the idea that this Californian plant was not proof against the maximum quake you could get on the San Andreas fault. Several times the engineer attempted to make the point that whilst that may be the case his plant was located quite a way off from that fault and that the force of an earthquake diminishes with distance***. This to little avail. To put it bluntly the CNN wonk would not have been happy if the engineer could demonstrate his facility was proof against not just Godzilla but an entire army of Godzillas (and indeed Godzookies). (Stomach) churnalism worthy of Michael Moore himself though, to be fair, at least not done by someone who looked like a tramp’s mate.

The pièce de résistance though must go to CNN’s attempt to find mutants in Pennsylvania (I thought that was Mulder and Scully’s job?). Instead just next to the plant at Three Mile Island**** they found a middle-aged lady who had lived and raised her children “under the shadow of the plant*****”. She seemed like whatever about the whole thing which rather took the wind out of the CNN distorter’s reporter’s sails. The lady’s profession? Nurse. It was delicious to watch.

I have little to say about CNN’s reportage on the bombing of Libya (now up to 2.5 stories on the carousel) except to say that their presenters spent a lot of time talking to each other all over the world saying the situation was “confused”. More telling as to the plight of CNN perhaps were the ad breaks which by and large consisted of advertising CNN itself and things about its campaign against “modern slavery” or having their United Colours of Benetton (flag?) staff muttering vaguely metaphysical platitudes about “going beyond borders”. But what of real news news-type news? They didn’t even seem to have sports results and seeing as last Friday I blithely wandered into Taksim Square in Istanbul during the build-up to the Istanbul derby between Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe I rather wanted to know how that match panned out because the atmosphere was sufficiently electric that all my previous musings here on electricity generation are moot. A copper rod and some cabling and I could have got the Large Hadron Collider up to 11 (that’s one quantumier). Anyway that story is for my up-coming travelogue. As is how I later came to know about the result…

So am I right? Is CNN up a creek without a paddle? It happens to a lot of companies who get there first and then rest on their laurels. It just seems to me as schlerotic, pointless and irrelevant as dear old Wolfie himself.

Look on my works, ye Mighty, and… reach for the remote.

*Sort of like David Frost without the wit or charm or incisiveness.
**There is a highly technical term for people who use such phraseology. It’s “twat”.
***OK, purely, geometrically that’s got to be something like 1/r2 (all other things being equal and then you’ve got to take into account dispersion (an exponential decline?)
****A non-event if ever there was one. When I switched to Al Jazeera I heard about an explosion in a Pakistani mine that has maybe killed about over fifty people.
Compare and contrast and tell me honestly which form of energy is objectively more dangerous?
*****For “plant” please feel free to substitute “death”.

Future Past

I have spent the best part of the last week rusticated in the Lake District sans net and with only sporadic Freeview (UK digital terrestrial) telly (is Freeview ever anything but sporadic?).

Anyway, I expect you’re expecting to be regaled with tales of the beauty of the English countryside and how it rained all the time. Well, it is beautiful and yes, it did rain quite a lot. But… I’m not going to go on about that now am I? No. You’ve all heard those sort of tales. To those that are interested in such things piccies of our greatest National Park will appear in due course courtesy of flickr or some such (and be flagged here).

Instead I’m going to write about one of Cumbria’s less well known attractions – Michael Moon’s Bookshop in Whitehaven. It doesn’t look much from the outside but it just goes on and on. It’s huge and packed to the rafters with old books, magazines and prints. It’s incredible and utterly perplexing because it is not well ordered which is quite annoying because whilst mooching there I’m sure there were loads of books I’d have loved to have bought but finding anything (or even just browsing) is utterly daunting – it’s biblio-overload. It’s a great shop though and the proprietor, Mr Moon, is the very model of an antiquarian book-dealer. Surrounded by grimoires and ancient paperbacks he looks rather out of place with his wifi Toshiba laptop.

Anyway, I did get a couple of things there. Here is one of them:

mw1

Reminders of how the future is an object of the past and the cities on the moon that were never built are poignant for me. It’s the full magazine and I shall frame it (and the other one about the British Army’s 1939 amphibious “wonder tank” – they cost two quid each – dreams are cheaper than spit) to always remind me… Well… I suppose we got Facebook instead.

It wasn’t that long ago that we had a future. I mean, we have one now; the world isn’t going to crash into the Sun or anything like that. What I mean is that we had a future that we could clearly imagine. The future wasn’t tomorrow, next week, next year, or next century. It was a place with a form, a structure, a style. True, we didn’t know exactly what the future would be like, but we knew that it had to be one of a few alternatives; some good, some very bad. The future was a world with a distinct architecture. It had its own way of speaking. It had its own technology. It was for all intents and purposes a different land where people dressed differently, talked differently, ate differently, and even thought differently. It was where scientists were wizards, where machines were magically effective and efficient, where tyrants were at least romantically evil rather than banal, and where the heavens were fairyland where dreams could literally come true.

That’s from this most excellent website.

One day I hope that that heaven shall be accessible and I still (at 35) have an outside chance of seeing attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. Or something. I wanna (at the least) see Phobos and Deimos setting over Valles Marineris at the least from my nano-tech bath chair.

Because beautiful as it may be this planet is beginning to bore me.

Per Ardua Ad Astra!

Prague

palach.jpg

I’m currently holidaying in Central Europe.

On my last night in Prague, a few days ago, I was hurrying through Wenceslas Square to get onto the Metro for my train to Poland and I clocked the memorial to Jan Palach and Jan Zajic. I’d missed it the first time round and was so glad that just before I left the city that I’d caught it (almost) by chance.

Palach had self-immolated upon that very spot in 1968 to protest against the Soviet invasion of Czechoslvakia. Jan Zajic followed his lead shortly afterwards.

It is quite a modest memorial compared to the massive, heroic equine statue of Wenceslas himself and the imposing facade of the Czech National Museum but I don’t think that matters. As I looked at it whilst the neon of Tesco, Nike, Breitling and McDonalds burned around me a thought occurred…

In St Paul’s Cathedral is Christopher Wren’s epitaph, “Reader, if you seek his memorial, look around you.” And thus also for Jan Palach and Jan Zajic.  Their memorial is not just that humble stone but the whole city and nation around it and that nation’s current prosperity, freedom and happiness.