As much as I would like to talk about my newest book I’m going to have to hold off for just a bit – largely due to my frustration over certain current events. Before I jump into that I have to say that – for a change – what is known as the main stream media is doing a great job at covering what I will be discussing in my next couple of posts.  They are interviewing people with real experience, doing some strong fact checking and really working at getting their heads around the larger story rather than just giving into sound bytes.

Unfortunately the same cannot be said of the White House and worse yet of its national security principals, in particular the SecDef and the Director of Homeland Security (the National Security Advisor had gone so silent he’s not even making the uniformed statements we are getting from the first two principals mentioned).

Where to start, well first lets take their position that “back channels” are nothing special and nothing to be concerned about – even when they involve a major player in the Trump campaign and administration who was repeatedly in contact with Russians who are well known to the intelligence community to play point in Putin’s covert political action campaigns. As reference they cite President’s Kennedy and Nixon using back channels and make vague references to it being a common practice.

For those who have not been following the media deconstruction of such remarks, lets delve into that a bit.  It is true that JFK was developing a significant back channel to Fidel Castro at the time of his assassination.  However he was doing so with the full knowledge of the Secretary of State and using state department employees in what was intended to be an effort to undermine Russian influence in Cuba, very possibly taking Cuba neutral in the process. I’ve blogged and written about this and it should be known that from its inception that back channel contact (originated by Castro) had been known to the CIA as well as other senior administration figures.

What is less discussed is that one of the main reasons for that back channel approach was that both leaders were very well aware of the extent of Russian intelligence collection operations and cautious about the Russians finding out and moving to abort the contact.  At that point Castro was very upset with the Russians and had begun actively suppressing the Communist Party within Cuba itself. It has to be stressed that American intelligence was quite well aware of the very active Russian electronic spying operations conducted by their residencies in New York and Washington D.C. and Castro was more than a concerned about huge electronic collections site they had developed in Cuba itself.

In the case of Nixon, Kissinger and the back channel contacts with China, the story was actually quite comparable to that of JFK and Cuba.  Nixon was making a move to separate China from Russia, to at least partially deconstruct the alliance known as the Communist bloc and to take advantage of Chinese and Russian territorial enmities that had been developing.

Once again both sides were quite well aware of Russian intelligence and Kissinger went to absurd lengths to hide his communications with the Chinese.  However, absurd or not, it was a sanctioned outreach, carried out with due diligence to communications security and most often using secure White House facilities and communications channels.

In no way can the JFK and Nixon back channel communications be compared to what President elect Trump’s son-in-law was doing. Even in the most generous terms his independent contacts have to be considered as what Russian intelligence, both the the FSB and GRU, would view as an invitation to accelerate their “active measures” practices against the American political environment and specifically against the incoming administration. Nothing could be more attractive than seeing “business people” operating in international policy with no advice from intelligence professionals.  The Russians have been playing the “Great Game” for centuries. We one can only imagine the glee that would have been expressed over this type of “back channel” into a new administration – especially with the extent to which the Russians had already had access to others involved in the campaign, individuals obviously destined to be playing major roles in forming American policy.

As a footnote, its important not to confuse these sort of back channel contacts with the routine back channels that exist internally in any ongoing administration.  Those sorts of back channels involve attempts to use personal contacts to cut through the formal, official and filtered reporting that occurs within the government.  We have numerous examples of that, including JFK’s efforts to get the real story out of Vietnam in the face of overly enthusiastic progress reports from personnel in country.

However this sort of back channel is totally domestic, and generally one directional.  It involves no dialogs or discussions or potential quid pro quos – it is for information purposes only and all parties are ostensibly on the same side. Of course it would be naive to think that the principals of any Administration do not establish their own similar back channels, its safe to say that each of them wants the advantage of having the most current and realistic data.  LBJ’s back channels into Vietnam come to mind in that context.

But the current smoke screen being created to obfuscate the significance of Trump campaign – Russian back channel contacts is only part of the picture. Even if none of those figures had a clue to what was going on,  their Russian contacts most certainly understood the potential of the contacts. In that sense I disagree with the current trend to describe it as checker players competing with chess players; I see it more as marble players going up against Russian chess Grand Masters.

Next post I’ll turn my attention to the denial of Russian information warfare in the 2016 campaign, now even something which Putin laughingly admits – calling it an action by individual “patriotic” Russians. The fact that he is taunting the American intelligence community is obvious; the fact that the White House and its senior security principals refuse event to acknowledge that possibility or comment on it is absolutely dangerous.

You actually need to listen to Putin himself to appreciate how much he is enjoying it all:

http://www.cnn.com/2017/05/30/politics/clapper-russia-election-meddling-cnntv/index.html

 

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About Larry Hancock

Larry Hancock is a leading historian-researcher in the JFK assassination. Co-author with Connie Kritzberg of November Patriots and author of the 2003 research analysis publication titled also Someone Would Have Talked. In addition, Hancock has published several document collections addressing the 112th Army Intelligence Group, John Martino, and Richard Case Nagell. In 2000, Hancock received the prestigious Mary Ferrell New Frontier Award for the contribution of new evidence in the Kennedy assassination case. In 2001, he was also awarded the Mary Ferrell Legacy Award for his contributions of documents released under the JFK Act.

2 responses »

  1. Anthony M says:

    Watching this saga unfold from across the pond is fascinating, puzzling and alarming in almost equal measure ( with depressing getting high on the scale too).
    There is always a temptation to assume events form part of some grand plan to a greater extent than is usually the case and the degree of chaos around this administration has given me pause for thought. For some time though I’ve been wondering if the common denominator in some of this might be oil.
    The worlds three largest producers are Saudi Arabia, Russia and the USA. The USA has considerable capacity to flex production rapidly. Russia meanwhile needs western technology to open up Arctic and other resources. Saudi is increasingly embroiled in a Sunni -Shia confrontation.
    How could a conflict in the Middle East play out between the Sunni and Shia forces? If Russia could be separated from Iran the latter would be in a perilous position but the effect would probably also be disruptive to oil and gas supplie from the region with the US in a position to to ramp up production and market share. With market share goes power (and great wealth for some).

    Hopefully I am way off the mark and the overtures to Russia, Trump’s first overseas visit being to Saudi, the heightening rhetoric against Iran and moves to reduce regulation in the oil industry, topped off by pulling out of Paris all have different underlying motivations.
    I guess we’ll find out if moves towards war against Iran build up. Nothing like a war for boosting poll ratings too.

    So hope I’m wrong.

    • To some extent I would almost be comforted if I thought there were some broader strategy involved with our President’s international agenda at the moment – but I don’t. If you look at his shifts over time you find that he is simply a classic opportunist (strangely the issue of politicians flipping on positions was a big one prior to Trump – now his supporters are not aware of or simply do not know of his history of dramatic flips). While the same could be said for Putin (in terms of opportunism), my impression is that Putin is a practiced tactician while Trump is simply a practiced salesman, offering up whatever he thinks will get him the deal he wants at a particular point in time.

      My view of Trump is that he is simply looking at what policies and alliances will be best for him personally, both financially and to inspire his fans. He does not know or appreciate enough of American history to integrate it into his actions – which is where there is a real contrast with Putin who does act in the context personal gain, political base building and Russian tradition – in his case traditional Russian geopolitical hegemony.

      I doubt that Trump wants a war, but he certainly does want military sales and military spending…and the sort of posturing that provides the appearance of leadership.

      Thanks for the remarks about the new book, I think it will deliver something very different to that particular subject and I’m eager to get the book out there and get discussions started. In addition to being a historical study it is also an intelligence study and examines some key scenarios. If my assessment of those scenarios stands up, the implications are pretty far ranging.

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