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June 7, 2017

Inquiries about alleged Russian U.S. election interference are relevant to world affairs. How the United States' competitors are portrayed, the United States' own image in the world: these are important in various struggles. Pressure about Russia has already led to attacks and threats against multiple countries.

Some people really do think they have noble intentions in anti-Russia patriotism. There is what people think, and then there is what happens outside people's heads in reality. It affects both Americans and non-Americans.

However, this writer hesitates to spend much time on U.S. politics right now. There are too many people playing dumb or stupid. Seemingly everything Trump does is pro-Russia if some comments after his overseas tour last month are to be believed. Now, celebrating a spy agency leak that is presumed to be true and accuses the Russian government of hacking a voting software company is about truth and justice, even "whistleblowing" to expose some wrongdoing in the U.S. government somewhere. Americans are supposed to be believe that what they are supposed to accept as real whistleblowing can somehow lead to wasting their tax money on interventions and other militarism arguably related to Russian influence hysteria.

Not giving AmeriKKKans every report claiming an attack against them is apparently some crime even when there is no allegation of collusion in it.

Julian Assange is still stuck in a room in London, is being treated inhumanely and illegally, and was involved in the publication of leaked diplomatic cables, but it's not entirely clear why Assange would want to flatter a Russian election hacking leaker as a whistleblower. Assange has demonstrated independence from the Democratic Party more than many have, but maybe Assange has noticed bookies saying Trump has close to a 50% chance of leaving office before 2020. Assange recently said U.$. students were "working class." Some other recent tweets come off as suggesting Amerikans are victims of foreign powers and that isolating Muslim countries for alleged terrorism involvement is more important than ending interventions.

When words have lost their meaning for the sake of supporting a certain legal defense of one individual deliberately described by supporters as a "young woman," and the defense requires an assumption that the white female couldn't have made a mistake about the leak content or its helpfulness -- or that the "quality" of leaks doesn't matter even when they are selective -- it's hard to enter into the conversation head-on. On the other hand, to compartmentalize Qatar, Iran and the Middle East, for example, as if what's going on there had no connection to Americans' Russia hysteria would also be ignorant or foolish.

Some repeating Democratic Party talking points are trying to justify doing so in terms opposing fascism. Somehow, anti-fascism involves bolstering the reputation of huge military and federal intelligence agencies of the world's #1 prison state and aggressor, and defending selective leaks that are against those agencies' own policies but happen to serve militaristic purposes.

Of course, even so-called leftists in the United States have long fantasized about wielding U.S. military, spy and police power and using U.S. hegemony to spread their own version of evil throughout the world. Why would these fascists do anything that really opposes U.S. fascism?

One leak after another gratifies anti-Russian warmongers and does nothing to help Iran, Palestine, Korea, or Syria.

Both the U.S. military and the Intelligence Community could benefit in terms of budgets and standing though the NSA and the FBI are accused of hiding evidence of Russia's alleged interference in elections.

At the moment, many different Americans on "the left" are trying to use former FBI Director James Comey's firing and anticipated testimony tomorrow before Congress -- one part of a larger story of events and disclosures related to alleged Russian influence -- for political gain.

According to short biographies, Comey never served in the military or as a civilian in the Department of Defense. And, FBI budget advocates may not benefit from Russia hysteria in particular, not more than the Pentagon does. Under both Obama and Trump and despite the 2010 Russian spy ring story and current Russia concerns, maybe things like computer-related crime in general, ISIS, alleged American extremists, and white-collar crime, have together been much more important than Russia for justifying the FBI's US$8 billion budget. What is clear, however, is that Pentagon budget advocates do benefit from Russia hysteria.

Military origins and economic interests

Also clear is that Reality Leigh Winner, the alleged source of a leak of NSA information about alleged Russian election-related hacking, is ex-military. (Less than 0.2% of U.S. female adults are currently in their country's military.) There is no doubt that Winner was in the U.S. Air Force, and the NSA itself belongs to the Department of Defense. With the NSA different budgets are involved, but Winner's employer, NSA contractor Pluribus International Corporation, has financial interests overlapping in some aspects with the Pentagon's.

People can debate various aspects of the election hacking document story all day along; it will remain a fact the leak originated in some military context. Where the information came from and who the alleged leaker worked for aren't in dispute.

It seems that, in other cases, sources or people confirming leaked info could be current or former high-ranking military or civilian DOD officials -- or people who may benefit in the future, in the private sector. For example, the Washington Post in February cited "nine current and former officials" "who were in senior positions at multiple agencies at the time of the calls" between retired general and former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.(1) How likely is it that none of these are Defense sources or people representing military interests?

Certainly, Flynn himself, arguably an important cause in some sense of the phone call leaks, is former-military. Flynn's army background involves specials ops and intelligence extensively. Perhaps more noteworthy here is Flynn's post-retirement intelligence business and not just because of any foreign contacts. It isn't unusual for retired high-ranking military leaders, and civilian officials and leaders in the government, to end up in kinds of businesses that can benefit from advice previously given, and policies established, on possible adversaries. The admission of former senior leaders as sources is important in this context.

The problem with the Winner leak is twofold. There is the problematic approach of activists and journalists relying on leaks in a context that is generally pro-war despite both Democrats and Republicans expressing some caution. It is now unsurprising to see mainstream newspapers welcoming leaks and encouraging leak submissions as easy journalistic gold, but most of the papers doing so aren't antiwar and are in fact involved in building for war. Some outlets regularly cite military sources and so may have a financial interest in publishing and discussing leaks in a way that doesn't conflict with military interests (of individuals, or of the U.S. military as an institution funded and led by people representing the reactionary U.S. population). That's true even if some of the information selected for leaking and publication are DOD agency leaks. It would also be true even if the leaks weren't of information from the military and the leakers themselves didn't have a financial interest.

Reportedly Reality Winner had said some words against invading Iran, and Trump did give an anti-Iran speech a few weeks ago. Since being anti-Russian could now involve attacking and isolating Iran, though, a Russia leak may not help Iran or anyone else except people with career or financial interests connected to the Department of Defense or the Democratic Party. Winner apparently didn't find anti-Iran information worth leaking despite speaking Farsi and expressing sympathy for Iran. Winner may have contacted The Intercept weeks before publication, but it seems to the present writer that a Washington Post article published last week, asserting Trump is both pro-Russian and pro-Saudi,(2) could have contributed to a mistaken belief that a Russia leak would weaken an anti-Iran coalition or a perceived pro-Saudi-Arabia policy.

The other problematic aspect of the Winner leak has to do with corruption. Democrats will defend what Winner allegedly did as patriotism, civil disobedience, or being for a righteous purpose; despite the whistleblower defense, it's hard to deny that something illegal happened for The Intercept to have the NSA information. Whether Winner is ultimately responsible or not, a law (wrong or not) was broken and the effect may be to benefit financial and career interests of people and organizations within and around the Defense Department. The leaker(s) themselves may be military, or in the government and with a potential to benefit from a relationship with the military in the future.

This writer disagrees with the populist and conspiracy theory premises and conclusions in most discussions of "deep state" in the U.S. context and even "military-industrial complex," but for anyone in government to break the law to benefit themselves financially or professionally meets most definitions of corruption. Many are preoccupied with Winner's biography, social identities, and name, but if someone high-ranking were revealed as the source of the NSA leak what may be going on would be more clear. Repeatingly noting Winner's age and sex and glorifying Winner could be obscuring someone else's responsibility for a corrupt act that is the exact opposite of whistleblowing though it may also be viewed as altruistic patriotism in their own eyes.

Perhaps it would be helpful to think about a case of activity that at least appears to involve potential for corruption without there needing to be a smoking gun with an individual and bribery in an ordinary sense.

There are various ways in which the Pentagon spends taxpayer money on meetings and appearances in which current and former military personnel and civilian officials explicitly refer to Russia to justify budget increases and spending taxpayer money on expensive weapons, upgrades, and people with certain skills. Cyber threats are specifically invoked. They do this in front of the public, and even shamelessly in front of representatives of companies they are negotiating with. No conspiracy there. This may weaken the Pentagon's own bargaining position and waste money, and encourage industry to support war, and it seems to invite corruption.

Retired or former DOD officials could end up becoming involved in DOD-related corruption in this way after leaving that department.

There is a gray area where people who say things about Russia or China, and don't disobey their superiors to act independently and don't accept gifts, still might encourage wasteful deals or spend taxpayer money on influencing the public to support wars or military buildups. Many retired generals and former DOD officials end up working in the private sector and using their military knowledge and connections there. A line would be crossed if anyone facilitates or illegally provides or confirms a leak that supports military budget proposals and benefits arms manufacturers that hire former high-ranking officials and personnel. This doesn't have to involve obvious bribery.

Many illegal acts by people in government, supporting justifications connected to career and financial interests of a large number government workers, aren't viewed as corruption in a criminal sense. There could an environment, however, for Russia hysteria related to leaks to have an effect. Even half of the current Pentagon budget would be too much, enabling many interventions, but some members of the U.S. Congress are supporting military spending increases larger than Trump's proposal.(3) Despite recent ISIS attacks in the First World and discussion of ISIS using some high-tech electronics, ISIS is often described as "desperate," while Russia is claimed to be an ascendant adversary competing with the United States in military capability.

Trump, one of whose strongest relationships is with the Pentagon, would not be without complicity in a Russia NSA leak benefiting the Pentagon. Trump's speech in Riyadh blatantly connected warmongering against Russia's ally Iran, with an arms deal benefiting U.S. arms exporters and their employees. It was as if people should die, money should be wasted and noninterventionism should be rejected so some U.$. workers can have jobs in that industry.

Structural considerations

The 25-year-old former junior Air Force enlistee Reality Winner obviously isn't a current or former high-ranking military official or leader. Structurally speaking, however, things seems to be arranged -- intentionally or unintentionally -- for there to be leaks blamed on individuals who seem to have only ideological motives like Winner is supposed to have. Winner may go to prison for years, but others may benefit. To say Winner isn't going to benefit, and perhaps couldn't have benefited discernibly as an individual, raises the question of whether there is corruption in the structure of organizations, information, and an environment in which questions about alleged foreign adversary influence have become highly politicized.

The NSA at least got and kept the information and somehow enabled the leak. Files can contain false information by accident or design -- but true or false, actually it may not matter, as some of Winner's defenders have said for different reasons. Winner, who was supposedly so computer illiterate as to email The Intercept directly from a work computer, would have somehow been able to access a document Winner may not have needed access to without any reported expertise on Russia, the Russian language, or hacking. It seems recent NSA contactor hires can come across secrets that might support military spending as a whole if the secrets were disclosed, secrets that are unfavorable to a participant in an intense political battle.

If Winner should be supported, it should be for that reason: someone else in the NSA or representing military interests may have allowed and encouraged the leak for which Winner is being blamed. Even if there is just a problem on a structural level, Winner is a distraction. This has nothing to do with the fact that Winner is a young female or other than a heterosexual white cisgender male.

It's not that Winner did some kind of worthy service. The liberals suggesting -- some more openly -- that the leak should be embraced because Winner looks like a white girl-next-door should instead be thinking about whether there is a corruption problem and how it could be addressed. The "fascist" libertarians and conservatives in the U.S. Congress talking about cutting the intelligence budget now, because of the leaks -- responding to a structural problem others are refusing to acknowledge for their own political reasons -- are making liberals look like shit. ◊

1. “National security adviser Flynn discussed sanctions with Russian ambassador, despite denials, officials say,” 2017 February 9.
2. “Trump’s pro-Saudi, pro-Russia, anti-Europe foreign policy,” 2017 May 31.
3. “Trump budget fails to live up to ‘historic’ defense promises, analysts say,” 2017 May 22.

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