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22 February 2020

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Joe

This interview is deep. The red threat goes back many years and has many paths.


J

So Nellie Ohr has a 'soft spot' for Stalin. Hmmm. She has apparently never conversed with scores of Russians while she was in Russia who hated Stalin for his persecution of anyone who Stalin did not like, those he felt was a threat to his seat of power, and those Stalin persecuted because of his prejudices.

Nellie Ohr apparently never looked at the numbers of the dead who were murdered by Stalin. How many people died as a result of Stalin's policies. Estimates of the death toll vary widely, from 3.5-8 million at the low end to 60 million (according to A Solzhenitsyn).

The 'Red thread', IMO defiantly exists, from Ohr to Brennan who should have registered as Communists, or at the least registered as agents for a Foreign Government. How Brennan remained at CIA and eventually made DCI, makes me scratch my head, and wonder who was protecting him within the Agency.

Ohr, seems aloof to the comments by Putin who called the time of Stalin's rule as a dark period of Russian history.

turcopolier

J

I knew Brennan when he was in his first assignment for CIA. That was in Saudi Arabia where he was a junior flunky analyst in residence within Alan Feiers' DO station. He was always a sullen brute. I was the DATT and he would lurk in corners staring at me. Your question is valid. Who protected this communist sympathizer?

Amir

Do you REALLY believe that US intelligence was infiltrated by Communists? Why would we blame ourselves, when one can blame a communist for it?

turcopolier

amir

yes.

David Habakkuk

All,

I have not yet had time to watch the interview with Diana West, however, I did read her ‘A Radical Suggestion’ piece when it appeared in April last year.

(See http://dianawest.net/Home/tabid/36/EntryId/3862/A-Radical-Suggestion.aspx .)

I have difficulty understanding why the CIA should have recruited someone who had voted for Gus Hall. There are people who have silly opinions when students, but then turn perfectly sane, and others who either do not change, or move from one form of inanity to another.

Unless however one had very strong reasons to be confident that someone like Brennan had turned sensible, and they had some qualifications not present in candidates who had done nothing to raise questions about their loyalty and/or judgement, why on earth take the risk?

As regards Christopher Steele, and the comparison between his recruitment and that of Philby, however, I think that Ms. West may not know the British context well enough, either in relation to the ‘Thirties or the ‘Eighties of the last century.

On the background to Philby’s success, a key discussion is in the 1968 essay ‘The Philby Affair’ by his wartime MI6 colleague, the historian Hugh Trevor-Roper.

I went into some of the history in a piece of ‘neo-conservative’ theories of intelligence, and the malign influence on these of ideas drawn from the political theorist and intellectual historian Leo Strauss, which Colonel Lang posted here back in November 2005.

(See https://turcopolier.typepad.com/sic_semper_tyrannis/2005/11/habakkuk_onleo_.html .)

A great deal of confusion, unfortunately has derived from John Le Carrés’s ‘Smiley’ novels.

It is material that their author (aka David Cornwell) had worked for both MI6 and MI5. Without getting into arcane questions of models for Smiley, there are features of his portrayal which echo three rather significant – not to say legendary – figures in those organisations.

The background in arcane academic study and the unprepossessing physical appearance clearly hark back to Maurice Oldfield, who was in charge of MI6 when the first ‘Smiley’ novel was published in 1974.

Far from being recruited by ‘a talent spotter’ at Oxford or Cambridge, however, he was a tenant farmer’s son educated at Manchester, who came into MI6 as a result of becoming involved in Army counterintelligence in the Middle East during the war. Unlike other figures in the organisation, he clearly suspected Philby early on.

The unhappy marriage to a woman who was socially a ‘cut above him’ echoes Guy Liddell, and the prewar work in Germany Dick White.

Both these figures, however, made their careers in MI5 - until White was transferred over to sort out MI6 after the Commander Crabb affair in 1956.

Before the war, in conjunction with Sir Robert Vansittart, leader of the ‘anti-appeasement’ faction at the Foreign Office, which Chamberlain successfully marginalised, MI5 had developed extremely effective ‘humint’ networks in Germany. Among other things, they received advance warning of the possibility of a Nazi-Soviet Pact, which, had it been heeded, might just possibly have prevented the war.

During the war, exploiting the cryptographic successes of Bletchley Park, which in turn built on the work of Trevor-Roper and Walter Gill in the initial identification and decoding of the Abwehr hand ciphers, MI5, in conjunction with the Naval Intelligence Division under Admiral John Godfrey, largely ran the ‘double cross’ system.

The fact that the spies whom the Germans considered reliable were actually feeding them disinformation was crucial in making possible the successful invasion of Sicily and ‘D-Day.’

It then becomes interesting to look at some references to MI6 in a review in the ‘Guardian’ of the diaries of Liddell, when they were finally published in full in 2002:

‘The diaries contain disastrously inaccurate information from the secret intelligence service MI6, suggesting its agents in turn may have been compromised by the Nazi secret service. In October 1939, they report Italy will remain neutral for fear of internal revolution.

‘They became convinced Hitler was preparing to step down in favour of Göring. On 12 November, Liddell gives detail of the 'Venlo' incident when two MI6 officers were kidnapped by the Gestapo on the Dutch border after being duped into a fake coup plot.’

It was the utter incompetence of MI6 that led Trevor-Roper, who had ended up in the organisation due to an unfortunate accident, to reflect years later that Venlo might have been one of the luckier things that happened to British intelligence in the war. He wrote:

‘Indeed, in retrospect, I regard that disaster as a blessing in disguise. It swept away a rotten system of venal spies, which, had it been maintained, would have been controlled by the Germans just as their spies were controlled by ours – though less effectively, since they had not an open window like ours.’

Among the many aspects of the problem was that by contrast to MI5 and the NID, both of which recruited a lot of people who came from very different backgrounds, but were seriously bright, the aggressive anti-intellectualism of MI6 meant that its intellectual level was low.

A key point about Philby was his father. In addition to having been a key figure in British machinations in the Middle East – a principal architect of our ‘devil’s pact’ with Saudi Wahhabism – St John Philby was someone of impeccable right-wing credentials.

So, for the kind of people who were leading MI6, his son appeared acceptable, in the way that the other more ‘intellectual’ people they were compelled to absorb during the war were not.

It may be interesting to look at the background of Cornwell/LeCarré. From an interview last October in the ‘Guardian’:

‘For all his sufferings under the educational system of the day, boarding school was for le Carré “one route in the search for some sort of clarity about behaviour”. Then came “the glide into the secret world”: at Oxford he was approached by the security services and did some spying, and informing, on his fellow students of the left-leaning sort, something of which he does not repent.’

(See https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/oct/11/john-le-carre-truth-was-what-you-got-away-with )

As to the background of Christopher Steele, a closer look at his ‘WikiPedia’ entry gives I think food for thought.

( See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christopher_Steele .)

I remember very well the scale of the fear of the ‘Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament’ in very large sections of British élites in 1986, the year that Steele was recruited by MI6 straight out of Cambridge.

Good ‘counterintelligence’, like many other things, has a great deal to do with readiness to look at the full range of possible explanations.

While I would not want to be categorical, I think it would help if Ms. West had considered the possibility that the notion that MI6 was either ignorant of or complacent about Steele's professed allegiances as a student is not the only, or indeed the most obvious, hypothesis in this case.

As to the competence of the organisation, and Steele personally, however, I can see no reason to revise my judgement back in 2005 that the maladies that Trevor-Roper diagnosed and Dick White was supposed to have sorted out have returned.

turcopolier

David H

It does not seem to me to be a good argument to argue from the basis of the disintegration of British upper class culture any more than it is here. The elites were indoctrinated from early life in elite schools.

Keith Harbaugh

For the connection between Paul Tillich and the Frankfurt school,
the following is of interest:
https://www.wilmingtonfavs.com/popular-culture/tillich-and-the-frankfurt-school.html
It is both fascinating and frightening to me
to discover how many of the "big names" of the American media and intellectual culture of the 1950s and 60s in which I grew up were associated in some way with the Frankfurt school.
Clearly there were some in "high culture" who were pushing it.

Keith Harbaugh

At about 41:10 in the video Diana West says
"We don't have any concept of an enemy."
That certainly depends on who "we" is.
During the 1970s at least
a popular slogan among left-wing women was
"No sleeping with the enemy"
(along with "the personal is the political").

J

With Brennan being 'protected' by parties within the Agency, and collusion by parties within the Agency to usurp a sitting President, I have to dare to ask the inconvenient question -- how many 'Red Cells' are operating 'inside' the Agency at this moment? They haven't disappeared just because Brennan is no longer DCI.

David Habakkuk

Pat,

I probably was not explicit enough.

When the dossier was published, and Steele was identified as its supposed author, I found myself, in attempting to avoid rushing to conclusions, having to try to suppress a visceral dislike.

And the more his ‘amen corner’ attempted to defend him, the more difficult it became to do this (even leaving aside the hairstyle!)

In March 2018, a – gushing – profile by Jane Mayer appeared in the ‘New Yorker’, headlined: ‘Christopher Steele, The Man Behind the Trump Dossier; How the ex-spy tried to warn the world about Trump’s ties to Russia.’

From her account of his time as a student:

‘He soon set his sights on becoming the president of the Cambridge Union, the prestigious debating society. It is such a common path for ambitious future leaders that, according to one former member, its motto should be “The Egos Have Landed.”’

(See https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/03/12/christopher-steele-the-man-behind-the-trump-dossier .)

In my own undistinguished and mildly irreverent student time at Cambridge, I came across such people. After I went into television, a decade later, I had a great deal more to do with them.

Characteristically, what they care about above all else is ‘insiderdom.’ This overriding concern is not generally conducive to developing either independence of thought or empathy, be it ‘soft’ or ‘hard’, with human beings outside the worlds from which they come or into which they are trying to climb.

I was strongly averse to hiring this kind of ‘let’s slide up the greasy pole’ type as television researchers, and in my view any intelligence organisation that employs such people is asking for trouble of one kind or another.

In relation to Steele, however, the more I have thought about him, the more puzzled I have become.

The school from which he went to Cambridge, Wellington College in Berkshire, was originally founded as a memorial to the ‘Iron Duke’, with the intention of providing education for the orphaned children of officers. Obviously, it has changed beyond recognition, but I think a good deal of the original ethos survives.

Also interesting is the account of Steele’s background given by another member of his ‘amen corner’, Luke Harding, in his November 2017 study ‘Collusion.’

Having played the ‘prolier than thou’ game, describing the family as ‘blue collar’, he goes on to explain that the parents met working at the Metereological Office in London. And he goes on to write:

‘Dad was forecaster to the military and Royal Air Force. The family lived on army bases in Aden, where Steele was born, on the Shetland Isles, and – twice on Cyprus.’

In fact, at the time when Steele was born, in 1964, we were two years into a civil war in Yemen in which we were facing off against rebels strongly supported by Nasser, in a conflict which was clearly heavily intertwined with Cold War geopolitics.

I do not know precisely what functions the elder Steele performed, but it looks as though he was probably doing work of some importance in relation to some actual military operations as well as more routine military functions.

Obviously, there is nothing in all this that I consider remotely dishonourable.

However, if indeed a ‘let’s slide up the greasy pole’ type had chosen to start his career by making himself the champion of left-wing causes, and above all CND, it would seem likely that it would have been likely to represent a repudiation, or at least a distancing from, his background.

What is puzzling is not a drastic transition – people from ‘right’ backgrounds not uncommonly have turned ‘left’, and the other way round. It is rather to find someone who appeared to have made such a transition away from the kind of world one would expect MI6 to like recruited by them straight from university.

So it becomes interesting to look at accounts of his this happened.

These are contradictory. According to Harding, in November 2017: ‘It’s unclear who recruited Steele. Traditionally, certain Cambridge tutors were rumoured to identify promising Cambridge candidates.’

According to Mayer, in March 2018:

‘Steele graduated in 1986, with a degree in social and political science, and initially thought that he might go into journalism or the law. One day, though, he answered a newspaper ad seeking people interested in working abroad. The advertiser turned out to be M.I.6, which, after a battery of tests, recruited Steele into its Russian-language program. By the time he was in his mid-twenties he was living in Moscow.’

It then becomes material that the situation in 1986 was not remotely comparable to that when Burgess, Maclean and Philby infiltrated the Foreign Office and MI6.

At both periods, the latter organisation was not run by people who were in any sense ‘left-wing.’ But there was no conceivable sense in which the British ‘right’, in the wake of their experience with student radicalism in the ‘Sixties and ‘Seventies, were complacent on the subject.

And if there was one thing that obsessed them in the ‘Eighties, when students were no longer rioting, it was the threat they perceived from the ‘Peace Movement’, who they saw as either subversives or ‘useful idiots’ of the Soviet ‘active measures’ campaign they took Gorbachev’s ‘new thinking’ to be.

The notion that in 1986 some latter-day equivalent of ‘Jebedee’, the tutor who recruits Smiley, would have recommended someone they believed to be a committed supporter of CND to MI6, as Harding seems to suggest, seems to me not obviously plausible.

Likewise, I would be wildly surprised if someone who had applied ‘blind’ to an advert – and Mayer’s account seems to me improbable enough, as well as contradicting Harding’s – would not have had his, or her, student career checked out, probably with the assistance of ‘Jebedee’ figures.

Accordingly, while I cannot completely rule out the explanation Diana West provides, I think that we need at least to consider an alternative. It could be that Steele was judged a suitable recruit for MI6, because he had ‘won his spurs’ in a successful infiltration operation as a student.

Fred

Keith,

I noticed that line about not having an enemy, but while I understand her point I would disagree as well. The left defeated America in the late sixties and are trying to do so again. Obama spent two terms gutting the concept of an inspirational America by attacking what our host once called the "cultural mythos". Bernie will only make that worse. I can't wait to see what Antifa, Black Lives Matter and assorted groups do as the general election gets closer.

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