This writer recently came across an article in Foreign Policy titled, “The Mystery Man in the Senate Russia Report.” No, it is not about Misfud or Halper or any other “mystery man” that started the whole Russia hoax that has plagued the Trump administration since day one. In a real way, an article like this serves no purpose other than to perpetuate a now largely disproved idea- that the Russians had as their motivation ensuring that Trump won the election. [The link to the actual article may require a subscription. They allow only so many free views per month]
The article believes they have found a smoking gun. The article begins:
When the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee released the first volume of its report on Kremlin interference into the 2016 presidential election, it included a Russian name never before publicly mentioned in connection with the investigation. A section on “Russian Efforts to Research U.S. Voting Systems, Processes and Other Elements of Voting Infrastructure” is entirely redacted except for one sentence that reads: “It is unknown if Tarantsov attended the events…
From an “entirely redacted” paragraph, one name is mentioned, and only their last name. The article claims that Tarantsov is an “uncommon name” (without any citation of that fact) and then makes the connection that this particular Tarantsov is Dmitry Vladimirovich Tarantsov. He was the Russian Air Force military attache at the US Embassy in Washington.
Of course, we do not know what “events” they are talking about, where the events took place, how many Tarantsovs there are in Russia, or even if the Tarantsov mention in the report has a first name, Dmitry. As the article later suggests, if it is this same Air Force attache, then it proves that Russian attempts to hack electoral infrastructure were coordinated by the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence organization.
The article also makes the point that 12 GRU people were indicted for hacking their way into the Clinton campaign’s emails and those of the DNC. As has been discussed on these pages, that narrative is based on the DNC’s own reports after they hired Crowdstrike to investigate the hacks and then refusing to have either the FBI or anyone else examine the servers. We are simply to believe what Crowdstrike, the DNC and Hillary Clinton said without independent confirmation.
The article does note that no GRU official had been indicted for election interference activities that occurred on US soil. If there was such election interference going on and it was occurring on US soil and, as the article suggests, possibly coordinated by this Tarantsov, then surely an indictment would be in order. But, alas, there is none. One would think this would be the big fish caught and prove that this was a Kremlin-directed effort. What better way to draw a direct line from election interference directly into the Kremlin office of Putin than naming and indicting a GRU officer masquerading as a military attache?
From there, the article descends into the litany of indictments against Trump campaign officials, largely for process crimes in the investigation, and certainly not conspiracy, collusion or whatever else Nadler and Schiff dream about at night. They quote Obama-era State and Justice Department officials, including Evelyn Farkas, to perpetuate the narrative. Farkas is hardly an innocent bystander in this hoax.
Since leaving the Defense Department, she has secured a job at a Left-wing think tank and has numerous comments since that Trump has bribed Putin-connected people in Moscow. Like all of Russiagate, there is no hard evidence for the accusation, but she- like others- throws out the wild conspiracy theory because she can. Citing dubious officials simply because they once held a title in the Defense Department is an attempt to give the article some gravitas. It would be akin to accepting every word ever uttered by Comey, Brennan, and Clapper.
It is an indisputable fact that foreign intelligence services often work to sway elections in other countries through propaganda and misinformation. It is what intelligence services do (so-called “active measures”) and in that regard, Russia would be no different than China, Mexico, or even the United States (as in Ukraine and elsewhere).
The key difference here, however, is that those efforts largely become public well after the fact. We are still learning how the Clinton-era State Department affected changes in Ukraine. Yet, in the case of the GRU, they acted so sloppily and left so many fingerprints that it amounts to espionage malpractice.
If so, then the Russian GRU are the Keystone Cops of election interference and espionage. This leads to a couple of conclusions. First, the GRU and Putin are inept and any future attempts will be easily caught. Hence, their ability to sway any election is negligible. The second logical conclusion is perhaps there was a rogue element within the GRU doing that of which they are accused (the 12 indicted officials), but there was no coordination with the Kremlin and Putin himself. Of course, there is the third possibility that the DNC and Clinton campaign hacks were not attributable to the GRU since the only evidence we have is that provided by the DNC and the Clinton campaign through Crowdstrike.
Regardless, the article is simply a jumping-off point to rehash a series of silly plea deals and indictments of Manafort, Papadopolous, and others and is a bad attempt to make a connection where none likely exists.
Foreign Policy is hardly a neutral site when it comes to foreign policy. On the same page as this headline, for example, is an article arguing that Trump’s asylum policy- “and the troops who enforce them-” are violating domestic and international law and can (and should) be prosecuted. There is also another article about banks stepping up efforts to stamp out the scourge of climate change. In short, they are hardly a go-to site for neutrally-delivered analysis. Here, they believe they have found smoking gun #212 based simply on an unknown Russian’s last name.
This is what passes for journalism in the age of Trump- speculation disguised as “expert analysis.”