Why did the FBI drag out its email investigation on Hillary Clinton for so long?

Michael T Flynn, the former Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, a 33-year career military intelligence officer and currently a close adviser to Donald Trump, tweeted this following the FBI’s notification that its review of emails has been completed and its July conclusion remains unchanged:


This is the level of dismay one might expect from someone who is completely ignorant about information technology.

Perhaps this is how Flynn pictures the FBI’s email review process:

 

Or maybe not.

Flynn followed up with an indication he is aware some highfalutin “smart machines” could have been at work, but he remains skeptical about the lightning speed of the analysis:


Let’s see… If it takes one year to review 60,000 emails it should take a decade to review 650,000 — is that what you’re thinking, general?

It turns out, the FBI has a whole division devoted to Operational Technology with stacks and stacks of smart machines at its headquarters in Quantico, Virginia. The bureau acknowledges, “While OTD’s work doesn’t typically make the news, the fruits of its labor are evident in the busted child pornography ring, the exposed computer hacker, the prevented bombing, the averted terrorist plot, and the prosecuted corrupt official.”

The Washington Post drills deep into the information retrieval technicalities of the latest investigation and confirms that it did indeed involve the use of “special software.” (Lead investigator to Comey: “How can we go through 650,000 emails fast enough?!” Comey: “You’ll need to use the special software.”)

We live in an era where roughly two billion people have access to Google. The content of about 50 billion web pages is continuously being indexed by the search giant and information from that index can be retrieved in a fraction of a second. Most people haven’t the faintest idea how search technology works, but everyone knows this: it’s super fast.

So Flynn is right: something doesn’t jive.

If 650,000 emails could be reviewed in 8 days, why did the FBI dawdle for a year over its analysis of 60,000 emails?

It turned out that the recent review was mostly an exercise in matching duplicate documents, i.e. it was highly suited to automated data processing.

The first sweep was much more analytical and interpretative and clearly required more eyeballs and deliberation, considering both content and intent.

Nevertheless, what has become evident over the last ten days is that the FBI is a highly politicized government agency. It appears that among its ranks there are a significant number of individuals who believe they are entitled to use their considerable power to influence the outcome of a presidential election.

For that reason, it’s fair to ask now whether the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server was dragged out for as long as possible precisely so that it could yield the greatest damage to her campaign — irrespective of the investigation’s findings.

If that was the intention, it seems likely this effort will ultimately fail. Instead, the FBI has profoundly damaged its own credibility as a politically impartial institution serving the interests of the American people.

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How to rig an election

Paul Krugman writes: It’s almost over. Will we heave a sigh of relief, or shriek in horror? Nobody knows for sure, although early indications clearly lean Clinton. Whatever happens, however, let’s be clear: this was, in fact, a rigged election.

The election was rigged by state governments that did all they could to prevent nonwhite Americans from voting: The spirit of Jim Crow is very much alive — or maybe translate that to Diego Cuervo, now that Latinos have joined African-Americans as targets. Voter ID laws, rationalized by demonstrably fake concerns about election fraud, were used to disenfranchise thousands; others were discouraged by a systematic effort to make voting hard, by closing polling places in areas with large minority populations.

The election was rigged by Russian intelligence, which was almost surely behind the hacking of Democratic emails, which WikiLeaks then released with great fanfare. Nothing truly scandalous emerged, but the Russians judged, correctly, that the news media would hype the revelation that major party figures are human beings, and that politicians engage in politics, as somehow damning.

The election was rigged by James Comey, the director of the F.B.I. His job is to police crime — but instead he used his position to spread innuendo and influence the election. Was he deliberately putting a thumb on the electoral scales, or was he simply bullied by Republican operatives? It doesn’t matter: He abused his office, shamefully.

The election was also rigged by people within the F.B.I. — people who clearly felt that under Mr. Comey they had a free hand to indulge their political preferences. In the final days of the campaign, pro-Trump agents have clearly been talking nonstop to Republicans like Rudy Giuliani and right-wing media, putting claims and allegations that may or may not have anything to do with reality into the air. The agency clearly needs a major housecleaning: Having an important part of our national security apparatus trying to subvert an election is deeply scary. Unfortunately, Mr. Comey is just the man not to do it. [Continue reading…]

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FBI Director James Comey is unfit for public service

Kurt Eichenwald writes: James Comey should not simply be fired as director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He must be barred forever from any form of public service.

In the last 10 days, Comey has whipsawed the election for president of the United States. Now we know he did it for no reason. When his agents found information that suggested there were emails on a laptop that might have relevance to the investigation of Hillary Clinton and her email servers, Comey did not wait until he knew even a scintilla of information before announcing it to the world. Reasonably, lots of voters assumed there must be a there there — who could imagine a person with the power of the FBI director would turn the election on its head for no particular reason, on the basis of nothing?

Then, Sunday, Comey handed down another missive from on high: Never mind. His agents had looked through the emails and decided they were piffle. His majesty, the FBI director, has not yet deigned to officially inform his subjects — the American people — whether the emails related to the Clinton case or what they were. (However, people involved in the case tell Newsweek that almost all of them were duplicates of what the bureau already had or were personal.) He just said “nothing to see here” and waived us on our way. [Continue reading…]

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On election eve, a Brexistential dread

Simon Critchley writes: The mood of nausea at the world, a disgust at the entirety of existence, is familiar to those of us who cut our teeth reading existentialist fiction. Novels like Sartre’s 1938 “Nausea” captured a feeling of disgust with the world and disgust with ourselves for going along with a world so seemingly blissfully happy with itself for so long. For Sartre, the dreadful had already happened, with the rise of National Socialism in the early 1930s, and it was a question of learning to face up to our fate. This is the mood that I want to bring into focus by exploring the concept of Brexistentialism.

For I must admit that I’ve become a Brexistentialist of late, thinking back to that evening on June 23 when I watched the entirety — eight hours or more — of the BBC’s live coverage of the referendum on whether Britain would leave the European Union or choose to remain.

I was home in New York. As the coverage began, the pollsters, the experts and the markets seemed confident that the good people of Britain would act rationally and vote to remain. And then, with the news of early results from postindustrial northern cities like Sunderland and Newcastle (which are strikingly similar to cities in upstate New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania), one became slowly and dreadfully aware that something else was taking place, something was shifting before one’s eyes. By the early hours of the morning on June 24 that smug, smiling, awful face of Nigel Farage was declaring a new dawn, and a day of independence for Britain. The supposedly decent, honest, ordinary people of Britain had spoken. The unthinkable had happened.

Will the same thing happen across the Atlantic? No one knows, least of all me. But the parallels are evident and the anxiety is there, the same nameless dread, that the country that you thought you knew is actually something and somewhere else entirely. That one’s country has unraveled morally and spiritually in such a terribly painful, deeply divisive way. [Continue reading…]

Might I add that us Brits have perhaps an over-developed capacity for existential dread.

But fear that produces paralysis is no better than no fear at all.

My hope in the hours before polls close tomorrow evening is that a sense of dread in the face of a possible Trump presidency cripples no one. On the contrary, it should provide all the more compelling reason to vote.

This isn’t about saying who you like. If that was the basis for voting, the Oval Office would end up vacant. It’s about choosing the next president.

A vote for Jill Stein is a vote for Trump. A vote for Gary Johnson is a vote for Trump. A spoiled ballot is a vote for Trump. Staying home is a vote for Trump.

There is only one way of stopping Donald Trump becoming president: by electing Hillary Clinton.

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‘Dear Americans’ … a warning from Germany

The Washington Post reports: In an interview conducted via Twitter, the author of the letter [shown in the tweet above] that went viral over the weekend defended his comparison on Sunday, saying exaggeration was necessary to raise attention in the United States.

“Of course it appears arrogant to claim to speak for the whole Germany. Of course it provokes ridicule if a German, of all people, says these things. That’s fine. But I just had to say SOMETHING,” explained the German author, who published his letter under a pseudonym and did not want to give his real name because he feared a negative impact on his business relations.

Born in 1972, the man said he was frequently asked during trips abroad why his grandparents had not prevented Hitler’s rise to power. “When I traveled outside Germany in the past, I’ve often been asked how the German people could have fallen for Hitler back in the ’30s and ’40s. ‘How could your people NOT have known?’ they often asked. I don’t get that question much lately,'” he wrote in a follow-up letter published on Twitter Sunday. [Continue reading…]

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Violence has long been a feature of American elections

By Jesse Rhodes, University of Massachusetts Amherst

The 2016 American presidential campaign has renewed concerns about the specter of violence in American electoral politics. The campaign has been marked by tense – and occasionally violent – altercations between supporters and critics of Republican nominee Donald Trump.

Trump encouraged his supporters to “knock the crap” out of protesters, and even suggested he would pay the legal fees of followers who assaulted his critics.

By refusing to commit to accepting the results of the election, he has confirmed the doubts among his supporters about the integrity of American elections. Thereby, he has increased the risk of possibly violent resistance by hard-core Trumpists.

It would be comforting to conclude that the menace of violence surrounding the 2016 presidential election is unique. But my research on the history of voting rights in the United States suggests that this is far from the case. Indeed, the threat and execution of violence around elections has a long, sad history in American politics.

Somewhat like the 2016 election – which has revolved around issues of race and immigration – efforts by disadvantaged (and often nonwhite) citizens to secure greater political influence have been met with violent repression by those already enjoying power (usually more affluent whites) throughout American history.

[Read more…]

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From the outset of this FBI inquiry, because of the email accounts involved, the conclusion was already clear

Newsweek reports: The night of the disclosure [Oct 28], Newsweek reported that the emails were from as many as three accounts — one through Yahoo, one on the domain clintonemail.com, and one from an account Abedin used in support of one of Weiner’s campaigns for office. Last week, Newsweek learned that that account was through Gmail. In other words, Abedin’s personal account provided by the State Department for non-classified emails was not involved. Abedin, who did not know Clinton used a private server for her emails, told the bureau in an April interview that she used the account on the clintonemail.com domain only for issues related to the secretary’s personal affairs, such as communicating with her friends. For work-related records, Abedin primarily used the email account provided to her by the State Department.

From the information obtained that first day by Newsweek, it was already clear that, because of the accounts involved, almost all of the documents were going to be duplicates or personal emails. In other words, from the opening moments of this inquiry, there were people in government who already knew what the outcome of this new FBI effort would be, yet it took the bureau another nine days to confirm those details. [Continue reading…]

Time reports: For the last 10 days, the cloud of a renewed investigation hung over Clinton and her campaign as FBI agents scoured yet more emails looking at whether Clinton had committed a crime via BlackBerry. The FBI decided, yet again, that she had not. “Based on our review, we have not changed our conclusions that we expressed in July with respect to Secretary Clinton,” Comey wrote.

But damage was done by Comey’s unprecedented disclosure that they were even going back to the matter in the first place. Clinton’s poll numbers in many states sank, and some of her supporters found themselves again questioning Clinton’s honesty. The October Surprise that fizzled may have had a lasting effect on the election: Voters in many states were already casting early ballots informed by little more than speculation at that point. [Continue reading…]

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A muted alarm bell over Russian election hacking

Liz Spayd, Public Editor for the New York Times, writes: Last winter, as primary voters in Iowa and New Hampshire headed to the polls, a covert and cunning Russian plot was underway to disrupt the American political process. With aliases like Guccifer 2.0 and Fancy Bear, Russian hackers were targeting critical computer systems.

In June, they struck, hitting the Democratic Party, and by July its chairman was ousted in the fallout. Soon embarrassing emails were spilling from the computers of Hillary Clinton and her staff. Republican officials were hit, too. So was the National Security Agency. Now, hackers are meddling with the voting systems in several states, leaving local officials on high alert. Come Election Day, they’ll find out what, if anything, the cyberspies have in store.

This is an act of foreign interference in an American election on a scale we’ve never seen, yet on most days it has been the also-ran of media coverage, including at The New York Times.

The emails themselves — exposing the underside of the Democratic political machinery, and the conflicts, misjudgments and embarrassing communications of its top ranks — have received bountiful attention. What rarely makes the main narrative is the spy-versus-spy cyberwarfare: the tactics, the players and the government efforts to tame it. In a calamitous campaign unlike any in memory, it’s not surprising that other story lines get squeezed out. But one of the most chilling chapters of this election is the role of Russian intelligence and the growing threat of digital espionage. With days to go, readers have been shortchanged on this part of history. [Continue reading…]

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How Putin became the Che Guevara of the Right

Peter Pomerantsev writes: “He’s a Kremlin puppet!” has been a clarion call for those rallying to stop U.S. presidential hopeful Donald Trump.

But his public pro-Putin positions, and a few unfounded Kremlin links thrown in by his detractors, haven’t hurt Trump in the polls. And he’s not alone. Similar charges have been thrown at the successful campaign to leave the European Union and at right-wing movements gaining traction in Europe.

So is accusing your opponent of being Putin’s pal a good strategy? What if accusing someone of colluding with the Kremlin actually helps their cause?

Imagine, for a moment, you are the leader of an “anti-establishment” political movement. You thrill your followers by sticking it to the “liberal elites” and the “global order.” There’s nothing more “anti-establishment” than showing two fingers to such elite, aloof projects as NATO or the EU, and giving props to the man who wants to undermine them — Vladimir Putin.

What better way to milk the outrage of the “liberal” media than by siding with a Kremlin that has made attacking “liberal values” its motto? And wouldn’t you welcome attacks from liberal elites for associating you with the sort of disruption you wish to emulate?

For the “anti-establishment” Right, giving Putin the thumbs-up has become the equivalent of what pulling on a Che T-shirt has long meant for the Left. [Continue reading…]

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Trump receives praise from Ayatollah Khamenei

Masoud Kazemzadeh writes: Although for many Americans, [Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei’s words [in a recent speech in which he described Donald Trump as a truth-teller] may appear as straightforward recitation of Trump’s words, they are perceived by the Iranian public as unusual words of praise of Trump. Khamenei usually uses terribly harsh words for the officials of the U.S. whom he regards as “the Great Satan.”

For example, in this very speech, Khamenei refers to American officials (e.g., Secretary John Kerry and President Obama) who are involved in negotiations with Iran in the following words: “The other side is a liar, is a deceiver, is a breaker of agreements, is a back stabber, while is shaking your hand with one hand, in their own words is holding bunch of stones in the other hand to hit the head of the other side.”

Why is Khamenei, who has been using terribly harsh words for President Obama, making such relatively complimentary remarks about Trump?

First, Khamenei hates Hillary Clinton. The ideology of the Islamic Republic and its constitution are explicitly and extremely misogynist. The fundamentalist constitution has enshrined de jure discrimination against women: top leadership positions are explicitly reserved for males only.

A female as the President of the sole super power, poses a terribly powerful threat to the ideological justifications of the fundamentalist regime. The fundamentalist regime already suffers from serious legitimation crises, particularly among women. A female president of the U.S., particularly one who has said “Women’s rights are human rights, human rights are women’s rights,” presents a serious threat.

Second, Hillary Clinton, while Secretary of State in 2009-2010, publically supported the pro-democracy Green Movement. This stood in stark contrast to the almost total silence of President Obama, who privileged his open and secret outreach to Khamenei to the democratic aspirations of the Iranian people. [Continue reading…]

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The FBI looks like Trump’s America

Politico reports: The typical Federal Bureau of Investigation special agent is white, male, and middle-aged, often with a military background — in short, drawn from the segment of the U.S. population most likely to support GOP nominee Donald Trump.

That demographic reality explains much of the heat FBI Director James Comey is taking from his own work force at the moment for his handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation and inquiries into the Clinton Foundation.

Days before the presidential election, FBI finds itself at the center of a political maelstrom, with Comey being sharply criticized by Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and even President Barack Obama, who’ve faulted the FBI director for going public with word of new evidence in the Clinton email probe.

That furor has exposed dissension in the FBI’s ranks, prompting a flurry of leaks about alleged efforts to impede the Clinton-related inquiries and exposing lingering anger among agents about Comey’s July decision not to recommend any charges in the email probe.

Incendiary, politically charged remarks from former FBI officials — with one prominent ex-FBI leader publicly calling the Clintons a “crime family” — are also endangering the law enforcement agency’s reputation for sober, nonpartisan investigation.

Largely overlooked in the imbroglio is how the fact that the FBI doesn’t look much like America is complicating Comey’s effort to extricate himself and his agency from the political firestorm.

According to numbers from August, 67 percent of FBI agents are white men. Fewer than 20 percent are women. The number of African-American agents hovers around 4.5 percent, with Asian-Americans about the same and Latinos at about 6.5 percent.

If Trump were running for president with an electorate that looked like that, he’d win in a landslide. [Continue reading…]

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FBI examining fake documents targeting Clinton campaign; intelligence warning on fictional evidence of voter fraud

Reuters reports: The FBI and U.S. intelligence agencies are examining faked documents aimed at discrediting the Hillary Clinton campaign as part of a broader investigation into what U.S. officials believe has been an attempt by Russia to disrupt the presidential election, people with knowledge of the matter said.

U.S. Senator Tom Carper, a Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security Committee, has referred one of the documents to the FBI for investigation on the grounds that his name and stationery were forged to appear authentic, some of the sources who had knowledge of that discussion said.

In the letter identified as fake, Carper is quoted as writing to Clinton, “We will not let you lose this election,” a person who saw the document told Reuters.

The fake Carper letter, which was described to Reuters, is one of several documents presented to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Department of Justice for review in recent weeks, the sources said.

A spokeswoman for Carper declined to comment.

As part of an investigation into suspected Russian hacking, FBI investigators have also asked Democratic Party officials to provide copies of other suspected faked documents that have been circulating along with emails and other legitimate documents taken in the hack, people involved in those conversations said.

A spokesman for the FBI confirmed the agency was “in receipt of a complaint about an alleged fake letter” related to the election but declined further comment. Others with knowledge of the matter said the FBI was also examining other fake documents that recently surfaced.

U.S. intelligence officials have warned privately that a campaign they believe is backed by the Russian government to undermine the credibility of the U.S. presidential election could move beyond the hacking of Democratic Party email systems. That could include posting fictional evidence of voter fraud or other disinformation in the run-up to voting on Nov. 8, U.S. officials have said. [Continue reading…]

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