Thu, 12 Jan 2017 16:50 UTC
The 'Trump Dossier' is clearly the work of a clever fabricator. The real question is how much influence in originating and shaping the whole hacking scandal has it had?
That the so-called "dossier" on Donald Trump, which Buzzfeed has published in full, is largely the inventions of a single individual is easily established by reading its contents.
The author of the dossier - a former British intelligence agent who now claims to run his own 'intelligence gathering' network - claims to have inside knowledge of private discussions in the Kremlin and of the contents of confidential FSB files. He claims to have been provided this information by a number of high placed Russian insiders. Were all this true one would have to conclude that the Russian government - historically one of the world's most secretive - leaks like a sieve.
That idea is frankly preposterous, and I doubt that there is anyone who is genuinely familiar with the way the Russian government operates who believes it.
In fact the dossier bears all the hallmarks of invention: the multiple sources whose identities are not revealed, the sex orgies the occurrence of which can neither be confirmed nor easily refuted, the extraordinary amount of circumstantial detail intended to suggest that the author is genuinely well-informed and to make the narrative feel plausible, the weaving into the narrative of actual events (Sergey Ivanov's resignation in August), the contradictions as the author struggles to reconcile the narrative with developing events (in July it is Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov who is frightened of being sacked as he is blamed by Sergey Ivanov for the Clinton leaks scandal; in August it is Sergey Ivanov who is instead sacked as he is blamed by Putin for the scandal), the factual errors (eg. the misspelling of the name of Alfa Bank) etc.
As regularly happens when concoctions of this kind are exposed to the light of day, the falsehoods start to become evident and the narrative falls apart. For example an exceptionally detailed description of a secret conversation Donald Trump's attorney is supposed to have had with a Russian government agent in Prague has been exposed as a complete fabrication following the revelation that the attorney in question has never in fact been to Prague.
The big question is not whether the facts in this dossier are true or not; it is the extent to which the paranoid claims made in the dossier have shaped and might even have been the origin for the whole Russian hacking scandal.
I say this because media reports confirm that the dossier or extracts from it have circulated amongst US politicians (including Hillary Clinton and John McCain), US intelligence agencies, and within the media for weeks if not months. The earliest reports in the dossier are dated to July, which suggests that some of its claims - which include circumstantial details of who supposedly within the Russian government was behind the Clinton leaks - were already circulating early in the summer. That is a very early point in the Russian hacking story, making it at least possible that the dossier at least influenced the thinking of some of the people in the US intelligence community and in the media who have been pushing the Russian hacking scandal most aggressively.
Many have remarked on the absence of evidence in the ONDI report which was published last Friday. Even Masha Gessen - one of President Putin's most relentless critics - has pointed this out.
Publication of this dossier looks like an attempt to provide "evidence" which the ODNI report failed to do. If so then that at least gives rise to the possibility that the dossier is the "evidence" - or more correctly a part of the evidence - that formed the background to the ONDI report but which the ODNI report omitted.
Whatever the truth of this, the fact that an obviously concocted dossier like this has circulated for weeks if not months with its source apparently still considered "unimpeachable" and "reliable" by the West's intelligence agencies shows how wildly paranoid and ignorant about Russia the West's intelligence agencies and its politicians and journalists have become.
Fantasy has replaced truth, and it seems that a clever fabricator out to make money has successfully cashed in on it, quite possibly doing serious harm along the way.