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Since being named special counsel, John Durham has investigated and indicted unscrupulous anti-Trump informants – but none of the FBI agents who handled them and went along with their lies, Paul Sperry reports for RealClearInvestigations. That’s raising suspicions he’s letting investigators off the hook in his waning investigation of misconduct in the Russiagate probe. 

  • In recent court filings, Durham has portrayed the G-men as naive recipients of bad information tricked into opening improper investigations targeting Donald Trump and obtaining invalid warrants to spy on one of his advisers. 
  • But as the cases against the informants have gone to trial, defense lawyers have revealed evidence that undercuts that narrative. FBI investigators look less like guileless victims and more like willing partners. 
  • Case in point: Igor Danchenko, key fabulist behind the infamous Steele dossier, including its “pee tape” yarn. According to Durham, the nation’s premiere law enforcement agency was misled by a serial liar and con man – even though the evidence shows it knew of Danchenko’s dishonesty for years and said nothing as it pursued court spy authorizations. 
  • In fact, after learning of Danchenko’s fabrications, the bureau put him on its payroll. 
  • Sperry reviews chapter and verse of Durham’s tenure to reveal a pattern of pulled punches. The special counsel has even made excuses for the misconduct of FBI investigators, providing them a ready-made defense against any possible future prosecution, according to legal experts. 
  • Durham legal critic: “He started with a bang and is ending with a whimper.”

 

Featured Investigation
Opioids @ Work:
The Hidden Scourge Sapping the Economy

Opioids are taking an immeasurable toll on the American workforce, James Varney reports for RealClearInvestigations, exploring a largely invisible crisis sustained by fentanyl smuggling from China and likely to haunt the nation’s economic well-being for years if not decades to come.  The only thing certain is that the costs are staggering, according to physicians, counselors, economists, workers, and public officials:

  • First, record fatal overdoses of workers in their prime years mean untold years of lost productivity from the economy.
  • Next, opioid addiction’s rise in the U.S. has exerted strong downward pressure on the workforce participation rate – although precise causality is difficult to establish.
  • It’s similarly difficult to calculate just how much drug abuse has caused absenteeism and tardiness and swelled state disability rolls, but the connection is strong, experts say.
  • Opioids are a dirty secret that employers and workers are reluctant to talk about.
  • A neighborhood social media thread about opioids’ dire impact in the workforce unleashes a barrage of horror stories. Homeowners speak of an inability to find reliable handymen, painters, landscape workers, etc.
  • Tree service operator in suburban New Orleans: “If I’m lucky enough to have an employee that can pass a [urine analysis] the chances of them doing so after the first check is slim.”
  • The staying power of the crisis is suggested by other lasting national challenges, including the porous southern border – a major conduit for smuggled, Chinese-made fentanyl – and economic and social traumas set in motion by the pandemic.

Biden, Trump and the Beltway

Postal Service Surveilled Pro-Gun, Anti-Biden Protesters Washington Times
Intimidation? Forceful FBI Arrest of Pro-Life Protester National Review
FBI Misled Judge, Rifled Thousands of Safe Deposit Boxes LA Times
How GOP Leaders Secretly Kneecapped Trump Allies Washington Post
Border Surge Under Biden Sends Smuggling Prices Soaring Washington Times
DoJ Gives $41M to Group Fighting Illegal-Alien Deportation Fox

Other Noteworthy Articles and Series

Vulnerable CIA Websites Blamed for Deaths
Guardian

The CIA used hundreds of websites for covert communications that were so severely flawed that they led to the death of more than two dozen U.S. sources in China in 2011 and 2012 and also reportedly led Iran to execute or imprison other CIA assets. The findings, based on research conducted by security experts at the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto, “raise serious doubts about the intelligence agency’s handling of safety measures,” this article reports.

Using just a single website and publicly available material, Citizen Lab said it identified a network of 885 websites that it attributed “with high confidence” as having been used by the CIA. It found that the websites purported to be concerned with news, weather, healthcare and other legitimate websites.

“Knowing only one website, it is likely that while the websites were online, a motivated amateur sleuth could have mapped out the CIA network and attributed it to the US government,” Citizen Lab said in a statement. … Citizen Lab began investigating the matter when it got a tip from [Reuters reporter Joel] Schectmann of a CIA asset in Iran who had been captured and served seven years in prison after using what Citizen Lab later determined was a “fatally insecure network.”

In a separate article for Reuters, Schectmann and Bozorgmehr Sharafedin report the case of Gholamreza Hosseini, a U.S. source in Iran who spent more than a decade in a Tehran prison for spying:

Hosseini was the victim of CIA negligence, a year-long Reuters investigation into the agency’s handling of its informants found. A faulty CIA covert communications system made it easy for Iranian intelligence to identify and capture him. Jailed for nearly a decade and speaking out for the first time, Hosseini said he never heard from the agency again, even after he was released in 2019. … Hosseini’s experience of sloppy handling and abandonment was not unique. In interviews with six Iranian former CIA informants, Reuters found that the agency was careless in other ways amid its intense drive to gather intelligence in Iran, putting in peril those risking their lives to help the United States.

 

Intercepted Calls Reveal
A Russian Army in Disarray

New York Times

Russian soldiers have made thousands of calls from the battlefield in Ukraine to relatives at home – many of which have been intercepted Ukrainian law enforcement agencies and obtained exclusively by the New York Times. This article reproduces snippets from these conversations in which the soldiers describe a crisis in morale and a lack of equipment, and say they were lied to about the mission they were on — all conditions that have contributed to the recent setbacks for Russia’s campaign in the east of Ukraine. “No one told us we were going to war. They warned us one day before we left,” one fighter said. “I didn’t know this was going to happen. They said we were going for training. These bastards didn’t tell us anything,” said another.

Soldiers complain about strategic blunders and a dire shortage of supplies. They confess to capturing and killing non-combatants, and they openly admit to looting Ukrainian homes and businesses. Many say they want to terminate their military contracts, and they rebut the propaganda broadcast by Russian news media back home with the stark realities of the war around them. … Soldiers describe tactical blunders and complain about their lack of weaponry and basic equipment, like night vision devices and proper bulletproof vests. Our own forces fucking shelled us,” [one soldier told his girlfriend]. 

Back home in Russia, the phone calls reveal that the mounting deaths are beginning to reverberate in military towns, where tight-knit communities and families exchange news of casualties. Relatives described rows of corpses and coffins arriving in their cities, as soldiers warn that even more bodies will soon return. One woman told her husband that a military funeral was held every day that week. In shock, some families say they have begun to see psychologists.

Hospital Chain Gamed Feds’ Drug Aid
New York Times

Ringed by public housing projects, Richmond Community Hospital in Virginia consists of little more than a strapped emergency room and a psychiatric ward. It does not have kidney or lung specialists, or a maternity ward. Its magnetic resonance imaging machine frequently breaks. And yet, this article reports, the hollowed-out hospital – owned by Bon Secours Mercy Health, one of the largest nonprofit health care chains in the country – has the highest profit margins of any hospital in Virginia, generating as much as $100 million a year. Much of its profit comes from …

… a federal program that allows clinics in impoverished neighborhoods to buy prescription drugs at steep discounts, charge insurers full price and pocket the difference. The drug program was created with the intention that hospitals would reinvest the windfalls into their facilities, improving care for poor patients. But Bon Secours, founded by Roman Catholic nuns more than a century ago, has been slashing services at Richmond Community while investing in the city’s wealthier, white neighborhoods, according to more than 20 former executives, doctors and nurses. “Bon Secours was basically laundering money through this poor hospital to its wealthy outposts,” said Dr. Lucas English, who worked in Richmond Community’s emergency department until 2018. “It was all about profits.”

 

Regulation-Heavy U.S.
Running Short of Land for Housing

Wall Street Journal

The United States, a country of wide-open spaces, is short on land. Or at least land where people can live, this article reports:

Land-use restrictions and a lack of public investment in roads, rail and other infrastructure have made it harder than ever for developers to find sites near big population centers to build homes. As people keep moving to cities such as Austin, Phoenix and Tampa, they are pushing up the price of dirt and making the housing shortages in these fast-growing areas even worse.

This historic land boom has provided a windfall for homeowners. Land now accounts for 47% of U.S. home values, up from 38% in 2012 and less than 20% in the early 1960s. The rising value of land is responsible for almost all of the surge in home values in recent decades, he said.

Paradise Lost:
Illegal Gold Mining Ravages Peru

NBC News

Highly organized crime syndicates have ravaged parts of the Peruvian Amazon mining for gold. As the mining operations expanded, so has the ecological devastation. In this exclusive report filled with stark illustrations, NBC News reports that the miners chopped down huge swaths of rainforest in what was once one of the most biologically diverse places on the planet. The toxic chemical they use to separate gold from the sediment – mercury – wreaked havoc on the land. Acre by acre, pristine vegetation was replaced by clay-colored sand and pools of contaminated water that poisoned fish and permeated the soil.

U.S. military and government officials told NBC News that these criminal organizations originating in countries that include not only Peru but Venezuela, Ecuador and Brazil have more people, hold more territory and possess about five times as much money as the collective militaries in the region. One group, the Brazil-based Red Command, is now believed to be trafficking gold as well as guns in Madre de Dios, the section of Peru that encompasses La Pampa.

As with most crimes, success depends on the cooperation of seemingly honest partners. Most of the illegal lucre reaches Switzerland, which refines around 70% of the world’s gold. Along the way, it’s melted down into bars and often mixed with gold that’s been extracted legally, making it impossible to trace, officials say. Some portion of the illegal gold from Peru arrives in the U.S., largely in the suitcases of smugglers traveling by plane, law enforcement officials said. It’s then sold to refineries in and around Miami that have a history of looking the other way.

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