Althouse | category: FBI



an endless succession of beans and nuts.

"The FBI lacked 'any actual evidence of collusion' between the Trump campaign and Russia when it violated its standards and jumped over several steps..."

"... to initiate a full investigation, including probes into four members of the Trump campaign. The pretext for the probe -- a random conversation between unpaid Trump adviser George Papadopoulos and an Australian diplomat -- was so flimsy that FBI agents complained it was 'thin' and British intelligence was incredulous. The FBI opened the probe without doing interviews, using any 'standard analytical tools,' or conducting intelligence reviews -- which would have shown that not a single U.S. agency had evidence of collusion...."

From "Why the Durham Report Matters/It is a damning account of the corruption of the FBI and its accomplices" by The Editorial Board of The Wall Street Journal.

"The report lays out several instances in which the FBI was concerned that agents of foreign governments were seeking influence by donating to the Clinton campaign or the Clinton Foundation. Yet in one case in 2014 the FBI dawdled over obtaining a warrant from the secret FISA court because -- according to an agent -- '[T]hey were pretty "tippy-toeing" around HRC because there was a chance she would be the next President" and the FBI was concerned about interfering with a coming presidential campaign.'...The report lays out numerous examples of the FBI ignoring evidence that it was being used by the Clinton campaign to execute a political dirty trick. This included intelligence the government received in July 2016 alleging that Mrs. Clinton had approved "a proposal from one of her foreign policy advisors to vilify Donald Trump by stirring up a scandal claiming interference by the Russian security services." Former CIA director John Brennan briefed this material to President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Mr. Comey, yet the FBI ignored it. It did the same when it learned that collusion dossier author Christopher Steele was working for the Clinton campaign and that Mr. Steele and oppo-research team Fusion GPS were spreading disinformation to the press."

ALSO in today's WSJ, a column by Holman W. Jenkins, Jr., "Durham and a Presidency in Crisis."

If there wasn't a "Clinton plan" -- the phrase used 65 times in Monday's published report by Justice Department special counsel John Durham -- to tar then-rival Donald Trump as a Russian agent, there may have been a plan about what to say if anybody asked if there was a Clinton plan. "Ridiculous" was the word used by campaign chairman John Podesta when interviewed by the special counsel. "Ridiculous," said foreign-policy adviser Jake Sullivan. Mrs. Clinton at least mixed it up, calling the notion of a deliberate smear campaign "very sad" and a "rabbit hole."

For a plan that didn't exist, it was remarkably effective. The Steele dossier was a tissue of lies made up by a Clinton-paid investigator who "simply fabricated" sources and information....

"A simple but obvious fact has been lost over the past few years, amid Trump’s direct attacks on the FBI, and liberal defenses of the FBI against those attacks..."

"... FBI agents are cops. Law-enforcement officers, including the FBI, have long been disproportionately conservative, but in the past few decades, like the rest of the nation, they have also become far more polarized by party, a reality reflected in the rhetoric and positioning of advocacy groups such as the Fraternal Order of Police. There are liberal and moderate cops, but they are not close to comprising a majority. Simply put, the FBI is full of people who would prefer not to investigate Donald Trump. He remains under federal investigation only because of his own inability to stop criming...."

"Steven D’Antuono, one of the former top FBI officials described in the Post story as reluctant to carry out the search, also said a few days after January 6 that there had been 'no indication' of potential violence that day. A moderately active news consumer would have understood that the risk of violence was real; perhaps the only people unaware of that potential worked at the FBI or as regular columnists for elite publications. I am not alleging any malignant intent here. But the partisan lean of law-enforcement officers has consequences, producing ideological blind spots and an institutional bias in favor of conservative individuals."

"It is not clear what is more chilling: the menacing role played by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in Twitter’s censorship program..."

"... or its mendacious response to the disclosure of that role. This week saw another FBI 'nothing-to-see-here' statement to the release of files detailing how it actively sought to suppress the Hunter Biden story before the 2020 election, gave millions to Twitter, and targeted even satire or tiny posts that did not conform with its guidelines. The releases document what some of us have long alleged: a system of censorship by surrogate or proxy. The FBI has largely shrugged and said that there is nothing concerning about over 80 agents working on the censoring of posters, including many American citizens...."

Writes Jonathan Turley.

"'The men and women of the FBI work every day to protect the American public. It is unfortunate that conspiracy theorists and others are feeding the American public misinformation with the sole purpose of attempting to discredit the agency.' What is striking about this statement is that the FBI is now adopting the language of pundits on the left that any objections to its role in censorship is a 'conspiracy theory.' Rather than acknowledge the concerns and pledge to work with Congress to guarantee transparency, it is attacking free speech advocates who are raising the concern that Twitter had become an agent of the government in censorship."

"The FBI and other law enforcement organizations treated Twitter as a 'subsidiary,' flagging numerous accounts for purportedly harmful 'misinformation'..."

"... since January of 2020, according to the sixth installment of the 'Twitter Files' released Friday. Independent journalist Matt Taibbi described the FBI’s relationship with Twitter as having a 'master-canine quality' with 'constant and pervasive' contact between the bureau and the social media giant.... Friday’s Twitter Files also revealed that the company participated in monthly meetings with not only the FBI and Department of Homeland Security, but also with the Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.... Instead of chasing child sex predators or terrorists,' Taibbi summed up in a tweet following the file drop, 'the FBI has agents — lots of them — analyzing and mass-flagging social media posts. Not as part of any criminal investigation, but as a permanent, end-in-itself surveillance operation. People should not be okay with this.' The FBI told the Post on Friday that it... 'regularly engages with private sector entities... [which] independently make decisions about what, if any, action they take on their platforms and for their customers after the FBI has notified them'...."

The NY Post reports.

ALSO: There's this other article in the NY Post: "Twitter’s top ranks riddled with ex-FBI employees" ("More than a dozen former feds flocked to the company in the months and years prior to Elon Musk’s purchase of the social network in October").

How elite media is covering Elon Musk's dumping of information about how Twitter helped the Democratic Party in the 2020 election.

First, let me say, I would like a well-written, organized, comprehensive piece of writing explaining this material. Alternatively, show me everything — all the raw material.

Instead, Elon Musk directed us to the Twitter account of Matt Taibbi, and we were expected to receive a long series of tweets and to puzzle through it. Was that to drive massive traffic to Twitter? Was it supposed to be better all fragmented like that?

It certainly wasn't a way to get quick updates to news that was suddenly breaking. It's an old story: Twitter was skewed to favor Democrats. Now, presumably, there's impressive proof. Present the proof in a clear organized fashion!

Musk enlisted Matt Taibbi, so why couldn't Matt Taibbi create a readable document and then just tweet a link to that document?

We were all supposed to cobble the story together on our own. I tried, but I couldn't even figure out how to just get a straight line of Taibbi's tweets. I couldn't move all the responses out of the way. The path was cluttered with other people's tweets — memes about waiting for the next tweet, laughs about how this is just what everybody already knew anyway. What a confusing mess!

After a full night's sleep, I want to do a post, and I can't even figure out where to click to get the Taibbi tweets lined up in order! I do see a lot of blue checks homing in on Tweet #10: "10.Both parties had access to these tools. For instance, in 2020, requests from both the Trump White House and the Biden campaign were received and honored. However:"

"However:" sets up the next tweets, the ones that (supposedly) show the Democrats using the tools and receiving a sympathetic response from Twitter insiders. Most of this seems to be about the suppression of the Hunter Biden laptop story.

What I'd like to see this morning is a clear presentation of what was dribbled out last night. I look first to my favorite source for half a century: The New York Times.

There's nothing at the top of the home page, so I search the page for Twitter.

I get one article: "Twitter Keeps Missing Its Advertising Targets as Woes Mount." That's been a theme at the NYT: Twitter is doing badly under Musk. Woes Mount! But it doesn't say advertising is crashing or even down at all, just that there were "targets" and then those targets were missed. These were internal targets, so maybe they were very aggressive. I can't easily tell how woeful it is that these targets were missed.

I search the whole site for "taibbi" and "twitter" and easily see that the story I'm looking for is, at least at the moment, nonexistent.

I relocate to The Washington Post. Its home page is loaded with Twitter stories: "Gio Reyna has played seven minutes. This World Cup, he's the talk of Soccer Twitter," "TikTok, not Twitter, is the real menace," "From quitting to blocking: How to protect yourself on Musk’s Twitter," "Elon Musk says Kanye West suspended from Twitter after swastika tweet," "Twitter needs Apple more than Apple needs Twitter." 

Five stories, but not the one I'm looking for. I do the site search for "taibbi" and "twitter." Nothing!

I try NPR, BBC, CNN. Nothing. Nothing. Aha!

CNN comes through for me: "Released Twitter emails show how employees debated how to handle 2020 New York Post Hunter Biden story" by Brian Fung:

For days, Twitter owner Elon Musk had teased a massive bombshell disclosure based on internal company documents that he claimed would reveal “what really happened” inside Twitter when it decided to temporarily suppress a 2020 New York Post story about Hunter Biden and his laptop.

But on Friday, instead of releasing a trove of documents to the public, Musk’s big reveal pointed to a series of tweets by the journalist Matt Taibbi, who had been provided with emails that largely corroborated what was already known about the incident.

That closely tracks my perception of what happened.

Attracting thousands of retweets, Taibbi’s winding tweet thread reaffirmed how, in the initial hours after the Post story went live, Twitter employees grappled with fears that it could have been the result of a Russian hacking operation.

Grappled with fears? Or did they desperately search for a justification to suppress the story and trump up the "Russian hacking" ground?

It showed employees on Twitter’s legal, policy and communications teams debating – and at times disagreeing – over whether to restrict the article under the company’s hacked materials policy, weeks before the 2020 election.... While some questioned the basis for the decision and warned that Twitter would be inviting allegations of anti-conservative bias, others within the company, including senior officials, said the circumstances surrounding the Post story were unclear and recommended caution, according to screenshots of internal communications shared by Taibbi.

(Then-CEO Jack Dorsey – whom Taibbi said was not involved in the decision – has told US lawmakers that in hindsight, suppressing the story was a mistake.)....

The Taibbi posts undercut a top claim by Musk and Republicans, who have accused the FBI of leaning on social media companies to suppress the Hunter Biden laptop stories.

Musk tweeted Friday night, amid the Taibbi posts, that Twitter had acted “under orders from the government.” Taibbi said in his series of tweets that “there is no evidence - that I’ve seen - of any government involvement in the laptop story.”

That's big! Does Musk not have legal advisers? He was trying to make a giant splash. Why didn't he do it right?

Hypothesis: He didn't really have the story he wanted, so he went all out to churn traffic on Twitter.

Maybe he intentionally gets things wrong so his antagonists will tweet to correct him. And then everyone can fight about that. What a happening place Twitter is! Let's all go tweet little bits and pieces and see who wins or who's funnier or meaner. And that's how Musk wins. It's not about getting to the truth, but getting everyone on Twitter, tweeting one thing after another. 

How wearisome! I'm just hoping this CNN piece — a normal article — will be reasonably organized and professional:

Lawyers for Facebook parent company Meta have made similar comments in recent weeks, disputing claims from Republicans that the FBI coerced Facebook to suppress the laptop stories.

Taibbi said the material he reviewed referenced general FBI warnings about potential attempted Russian interference in the elections, which also dovetails with Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s public account of Facebook’s handling of the New York Post story and affirms how Twitter was on high alert for possible foreign meddling.

In the wake of the article’s suppression, Taibbi said one Democratic congressman, California Rep. Ro Khanna, wrote to Twitter’s chief legal officer suggesting it was a bad look and a departure from First Amendment ideals to suppress a news report containing details that affect a presidential candidate....

Twitter is a private company, but you can still argue that it ought to behave consistently with free speech ideals. This is a difficult concept for many people to understand, and I appreciate the precision of the language CNN is using here.

The tweet thread also highlighted how officials from both political parties routinely wrote to Twitter asking for specific tweets to be removed.... Taibbi said the contact from political parties happened more frequently from Democrats, but provided no internal documents to back up his assertion. He also did not say that Democrats requested that Twitter suppress the Post story, and his account did not suggest that the US government had ever pressured Twitter to suppress the story.

Thanks, CNN! That strikes me as a clear and balanced summary. If it's wrong, tell me exactly why. It's my touchstone at this point.

And, yes, I've known all along that I could find coverage in The New York Post.

The New York Post is all over it:

How elite media is covering Elon Musk's dumping of information about how Twitter helped the Democratic Party in the 2020 election.  

I had little hope this is going to be the kind of story I want. But the story in writing is not as sensationalistic as the front page graphics, and it helpfully brings out aspects that are missing from the CNN presentation. Highlights:

The chaos and confusion behind closed doors at Twitter in the immediate aftermath of the October 2020 Hunter Biden expose show that a small group of top-level execs decided to label the Post’s story as “hacked material” without any evidence — behind the back of then-CEO and founder Jack Dorsey. ...

According to Taibbi, Twitter’s former head of legal, policy, and trust Vijaya Gadde played a “key role” in the censorship decision. Damning emails and comments from former Twitter employees showed that “everyone knew” the social media giant’s suppression of The Post’s scoops about Hunter Biden’s infamous laptop. “was f—ed.”...

Hacking was the excuse, but within a few hours, pretty much everyone realized that wasn’t going to hold. But no one had the guts to reverse it,” the ex-employee added. “They just freelanced it,” a former employee told Taibbi about how the decision came about.

The decision left high-level executives puzzled. “I’m struggling to understand the policy basis for marking this as unsafe,” Trenton Kennedy, a communications official wrote in an apparent internal email to colleagues.

To which former Twitter Deputy General Counsel Jim Baker responded that it is “reasonable” to assume materials were hacked and that “caution is warranted.”

“Can we truthfully claim that this is part of the policy?” former Twitter Vice President of Global Communications Brandon Borrman asks in another missive.

“Everyone knew this was f–ked,” a former worker told Taibbi about Twitter’s official stance of on the Hunter story. According to Taibbi, the social media company “took extraordinary steps to suppress”...

Twitter’s censorship of the story led to then-White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany getting locked out of her account with just weeks to go before the 2020 election.... 

Taibbi also tweeted: “Both parties had access to these tools. For instance, in 2020, requests from both the Trump White House and the Biden campaign were received and honored.” But the former Rolling Stone writer said the “system wasn’t balanced” and “was based on contacts.”

Some will rob you with a six-gun/And some with an autopen.

I'm reading "Bob Dylan Fans Who Bought $600 ‘Hand-Signed’ Books With Replica Autographs Will Receive Refunds From Publisher/Fans compared notes online to realize that the books advertised as personally signed had autographs reproduced using 'autopen,' generally considered value-less in the collectors' world, even as eBay sellers were asking thousands of dollars for copies" (Variety).

The post title is adapted from a line from the Woody Guthrie song "Pretty Boy Floyd" — lyrics here — which Dylan sang sometimes.... 


The song is about Pretty Boy Floyd, a bank robber who died in 1934, and Woody Guthrie died in 1967, so the song has nothing to do with George Floyd, despite the labeling on that video. The song portrays Pretty Boy Floyd as a thief who was generous to the poor.

Here's the actual lyric:

Yes, as through this world I've wandered
I've seen lots of funny men;
Some will rob you with a six-gun,
And some with a fountain pen.

For what it's worth: The FBI named Pretty Boy Floyd "Public Enemy #1" after they killed John Dillinger, who'd been "Public Enemy #1. Three months later, the FBI shot Pretty Boy Floyd to death. The new "Public Enemy #1" was Baby Face Nelson, and he lasted about a month after that.

The term "public enemy" goes back to Roman times:

The Senate declared emperor Nero a hostis publicus in AD 68....

The words "ennemi du peuple" were extensively used during the French revolution. On 25 December 1793, Robespierre stated: "The revolutionary government owes to the good citizen all the protection of the nation; it owes nothing to the Enemies of the People but death." The Law of 22 Prairial in 1794 extended the remit of the Revolutionary Tribunal to punish "enemies of the people," with some political crimes punishable by death, including "spreading false news to divide or trouble the people."

The modern use of the term was first popularized in April 1930 by Frank J. Loesch, then chairman of the Chicago Crime Commission, in an attempt to publicly denounce Al Capone and other organized crime gangsters....

The phrase was later appropriated by J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI, who used it to describe various notorious fugitives they were pursuing throughout the 1930s. Unlike Loesch's use of the term, the FBI's "Public Enemies" were wanted criminals and fugitives who were already charged with crimes....

"But then I also saw other cases where the individual was simply walking into the Capitol building with the permission of Capitol police officers..."

"... and had told the FBI that very same fact, and, on occasion, there was surveillance video to support it. Kind of seemed to me that it was a waste of our valuable resources to pursue even an interview with that individual if we had them on video not committing any crime and just walking into the Capitol building, which is their right to do as an American citizen."

From "FBI Whistleblower: Capitol Police Letting Peaceful Protesters Inside Building On January 6 'Smelled Like Entrapment'" (RCP).

"If you find yourself mad as hell and you don’t want to take it anymore—for the sake of what you hold dear, stand down."

Writs Liberal Guy, addressing Republicans, at "Don’t Take the Bait" (The American Mind)
You should be suspicious of anyone calling for kinetic action. There is good reason to think that that person is an FBI agent. Big Tech and the FBI are watching, waiting, and enabling. They want a super-sized Ruby Ridge. Don’t give it to them. 
An eyes-wide-open understanding of this asymmetrical distribution of power calls for a civil disobedience response—peaceful, nonviolent resistance. Let them show their illiberal nature. Don’t give them a diversion that distracts from the consequences of their horrible policies. 
This is the path to short- and long-term Republican gains. For all that we have at stake, please commit to this path. We rise and fall together.
How elite media is covering Elon Musk's dumping of information about how Twitter helped the Democratic Party in the 2020 election. Some will rob you with a six-gun/And some with an autopen.

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