Monday, November 29, 2010

Climate Change: Dire Predictions from the U.K. Royal Society

The U.K. Guardian (11-29-10) reports:

A hellish vision of a world warmed by 4C within a lifetime has been set out by an international team of scientists, who say the agonisingly slow progress of the global climate change talks that restart in Mexico today makes the so-called safe limit of 2C impossible to keep. A 4C rise in the planet's temperature would see severe droughts across the world and millions of migrants seeking refuge as their food supplies collapse.

"There is now little to no chance of maintaining the rise in global surface temperature at below 2C, despite repeated high-level statements to the contrary," said Kevin Anderson, from the University of Manchester, who with colleague Alice Bows contributed research to a special collection of Royal Society journal papers published tomorrow. "Moreover, the impacts associated with 2C have been revised upwards so that 2C now represents the threshold [of] extremely dangerous climate change."

The new analysis by Anderson and Bows takes account of the non-binding pledges made by countries in the Copenhagen Accord, the compromise document that emerged from the last major UN climate summit, and the slight dip in greenhouse gas emissions caused by the economic recession. The scientists' modelling is based on actual tonnes of emissions, not percentage reductions, and separates the predicted emissions of rich and fast-industrialising nations such as China. "2010 represents a political tipping point," said Anderson, but added in the report: "This paper is not intended as a message of futility, but rather a bare and perhaps brutal assessment of where our 'rose-tinted' and well-intentioned approach to climate change has brought us. Real hope and opportunity, if it is to arise at all, will do so from a raw and dispassionate assessment of the scale of the challenge faced by the global community."

A rise of 4C could be seen as soon as 2060 in a worst case scenario, according to research in the same journal, led by the Met Office's Richard Betts and first revealed in the Guardian last year. Betts accepts the scenario is extreme but argues it is also plausible given the rapidly rising trend in emissions. [See full text.]

Wikileaks: "Russia and Its Intelligence Agencies Are Using Mafia Bosses to Carry Out Criminal Operations"

The U.K. Guardian (11-28-10) reports that Wikileaks provided the newspaper with "[allegations that Russia and its intelligence agencies are using mafia bosses to carry out criminal operations, with one cable reporting that the relationship is so close that the country has become a "virtual mafia state."

That Russia has been and is a "virtual mafia state" is not exactly news; and in any case, the nature of the Russians' criminal operations are not detailed. The Guardian is constrained by the U.K. libel laws, and some Russian moguls live in the U.K; maybe this explains why the Guardian passed copies of what Wikileaks gave them to the N.Y. Times.

I don't think that newspapers reveal much about what the criminal structures that have co-opted Russian intelligence agencies are up to, at least intentionally.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

U.S. State Department Warns Wikileaks

"State Department legal adviser Harold Koh wrote that if any of the materials 'you intend to publish were provided by any government officials, or any intermediary without proper authorization, they were provided in violation of U.S. law and without regard for the grave consequences of this action.'"---RFE/RL (11-28-10) [See State Department legal adviser's letter to Wikileaks and the U.K. Guardian's "WikiLeaks U.S. embassy cables: live updates (11-28-10)."]

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (11-28-10) carries the latest U.S. State Department warning to Wikileaks:

The U.S. State Department has warned the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks that its expected release of classified U.S. documents will endanger "countless" lives, jeopardize U.S. counterterrorism operations, and hurt international cooperation on global security issues.

Washington has also rejected talks with WikiLeaks over its planned release of classified State Department cables.

The State Department set out its position in a letter to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and his attorney that was released to the media.

State Department legal adviser Harold Koh wrote that if any of the materials "you intend to publish were provided by any government officials, or any intermediary without proper authorization, they were provided in violation of U.S. law and without regard for the grave consequences of this action."

Koh said the department has learned that WikiLeaks provided about 250,000 documents to "The New York Times," British daily "The Guardian," and the German magazine "Der Spiegel."

Some reports indicated the media outlets would post stories on the documents as early as today...[See full text and links to related articles on right sidebar.]

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Will WikiLeaks Expose Corruption in Russia?

The Lubyanka, the historic headquarters of the Soviet KGB

"The U.S. State Department has said that whistle-blower website WikiLeaks' plans to post masses of confidential U.S. government are 'irresponsible.'"---RFE/RL (11-27-10)

The media has been reporting that the "whistleblower" website WikiLeaks, which was founded by the former computer hacker Julian Assange, may be about to reveal some information about corruption in Russia as soon as Friday (tomorrow).

[UPDATES] Here is the spin from Alisher Usmanov's Kremlin-friendly, climate-scientist-bashing, Russian business daily Kommersant (11-26-10), and here is an overview of the latest Wikileaks kompromat from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (11-26-10), which notes:

[T]he imminent new WikiLeaks expose promises to be especially revelatory because, simply put, the Americans have dirt on everyone. Assange and company's logic is as elegant as it's unsettling: by revealing the secrets of the world's leading superpower, the secrets of the world -- namely, the all-too-often dirty web of interconnections between governments, corporations, intelligence and media agencies, and key personalities -- are also revealed.

Time (11-1-10) has an an older story, but the newest wrinkle in the tale connects a raid on a bank owned by the billionaire newspaper mogul and former Soviet and Russian foreign intelligence service officer Alexander Lebedev to the upcoming leak.

I wonder if the recent denunication of Russia's foreign intelligence service, the SVR, in Alisher Usmanov's business daily Kommersant may have been precipitated by these expected leaks.

The Daily Mail (11-14-10) reports:

Billionaire newspaper magnate Alexander Lebedev could have been targeted in a raid by secret service agents as a warning against co-operating with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to expose Russian corruption.

Sources in Moscow believe that Mr Lebedev, owner of The Independent and the London Evening Standard in the UK and the Novaya Gazeta in Russia, was being sent a ‘message’ not to threaten powerful interests.

The Mail on Sunday told last week how Mr Lebedev’s National Reserve Bank was raided by dozens of heavily armed law-enforcement officers, on the pretext of a fraud investigation, leaving the former KGB spy fearing he would be arrested.

Last night, Mr Lebedev said that one of his Russian journalists met Mr Assange at his base in Sweden – but it was ‘just a guess’ that the move provoked the raid...

Last month it announced that it was planning to make public classified documents about the ‘despotic’ Moscow regime.

There is speculation the papers focus on hidden business links and fortunes of government figures, top-level corruption or covert espionage operations.

Russia’s domestic security service, the FSB – formerly the KGB – reacted angrily to the threat.

Mr Lebedev, who has campaigned against corruption for more than a decade, said a ‘young, talented and brave’ reporter from Novaya Gazeta visited the WikiLeaks boss – an assignation the FSB is likely to have known about.

The Lebedev connection is also reported by Moscow Times (11-16-10):

Billionaire Alexander Lebedev said a police raid on his bank might be connected with a series of interviews his Novaya Gazeta newspaper has held with Wikileaks' founder, who has promised to publish sensitive information about Russian officials.

"It is just a guess — one of the possibilities," Lebedev told Britain's Mail on Sunday newspaper.

Lebedev said a "young, talented and brave" reporter had met Wikileaks founder Julian Assange in Sweden and conducted several telephone interviews with him.

He did not identify the reporter or provide information about the interviews.

Masked and armed police officers raided Lebedev's National Reserve Bank on Nov. 2.

Lebedev spokesman Artyom Artyomov said the banker was unavailable for comment Monday but said any link between the raid and Novaya Gazeta's interviews with Assange was unlikely.

Artyomov hung up without elaborating further.

Moscow News (11-15-10) reports:

Anti-corruption campaigning is the reason behind a crackdown on Alexander Lebedev, the businessman believes.

After recent raids at the Moscow HQ of his National Reserve Bank and his elite hotel in Ukraine, the Novaya Gazeta owner fears he is being sent a warning to keep his mouth shut over dodgy dealings in Russian business.

In particular he suggested that links between his newspaper and the controversial whistelblowing website WikiLeaks have prompted the sudden interest in his own companies.

The day before the raid on Lebedev’s bank, one of his Novaya Gazeta reporters met WikiLeaks boss Julian Assange in Sweden, gzt.ru reported.

And after the site caused international outrage with reports on the operations of British and American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan Assange has hinted that Russia could be his next target.

For Lebedev, who once said that the “the fight against corruption should be compared to the fight against apartheid,” the WikiLeaks connection is one potential explanation for the raids.

But in an interview with Britain’s Daily Mail he warned Assange to tread carefully around the Russian business scene.

“Mr. Assange should be looking for allies – people who can look into computers in the banks,” Lebedev said. “But I would advise him against going to Russia after announcing that he is going to tackle its corruption.”

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Russian Mogul Alisher Usmanov

"I had known from my own intelligence sources while British Ambassador in Uzbekistan that Usmanov was in charge of Gazprom bribery and slush funds."---Craig Murray (6-1-07)

"As well as heading Metalloinvest, [Alisher Usmanov] is general director of Gazprominvestholding, an investment subsidiary of Russia's gas monopoly, Gazprom, and also owns Kommersant, a business newspaper."---U.K. Guardian (11-19-07)

This is a photo of the Russian-based, Gazprom-affiliated, Uzbek mogul Alisher Usmanov, one of the richest men in the world. The U.K. Guardian reports that Usmanov "studied at the Moscow State Institute for International Relations - known for producing diplomats and spies."

According to Gazprom, as cited by Wikipedia:

[Usmanov] is chairman of Gazprominvestholdings, the investment holding subsidiary of Russia's state-owned gas company Gazprom, where his role is to manage what Gazprom calls its "most difficult and sensitive financial transactions."

Usmanov's newspaper Kommersant (Businessman) attacked the British climate scientists on 12-16-09. Usmanov's Kommersant (11-11-10) also published an article that mocked the Russian foreign intelligence service, the SVR. The businessman is close to the head of the ruling United Russia Party, Prime Minister Putin.

The U.K. Guardian (11-19-07) has profiled Usmanov:

He studied at the Moscow State Institute for International Relations, a university renowned in Soviet days for churning out diplomats and spooks and the odd foreign correspondent. It was here that he forged many of the alliances that would assist his extraordinarily successful post-Soviet business career, friendships with people like Sergey Yastrzhembsky, former press attache for Boris Yeltsin and aide to Putin.

On graduating he returned to Tashkent, where he was appointed director of the Foreign Economic Association of the Soviet Peace Committee. This is an intriguing detail of his CV, as it is now widely suspected that the Peace Committee was a front for the KGB.

There have been several other occasions when Usmanov can be seen to have enjoyed close connections with members of Russia's intelligence community. His friends include Yevgeny Primakov, who was the director of Russia's foreign intelligence service, the SVR, before being appointed prime minister. For a couple of years he was first deputy chairman of a financial institution called the MAPO bank, once described as "the spies' bank" because of its links with Russian intelligence agencies.

In his email, Usmanov described questions about the Soviet Peace Committee as being "based on misinformation", and added that he has never served in the KGB, or any other Russian or Uzbek intelligence agency...

He also developed a number of banking interests before tapping into the real source of wealth in Russia - its natural resources - acquiring steel, timber and mining concerns. Today he is the 142nd richest man in the world, according to Forbes magazine.

As well as heading Metalloinvest, he is general director of Gazprominvestholding, an investment subsidiary of Russia's gas monopoly, Gazprom, and also owns Kommersant, a business newspaper. In 2003 he began investing in Corus, the Anglo-Dutch steelmaker, eventually acquiring 13.5% before selling his stock.

Over the years, Usmanov has been dogged by allegations that he is a less-than-legitimate businessman, and that he has connections with Russian and Uzbek criminals. In particular, questions have been asked about Gafur Rakhimov, a man who has repeatedly been named as an Uzbek mafia boss and who was once banned from entering Australia because of his alleged connections to organised crime. [See the full text.]

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Coneheads Return: Why is "Respected Kommersant" Trashing Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR)?

"[D]ismissing the latest spy scandal as indication the Russians are ineffectually still fighting the Cold War is to miss the big picture. In fact, Moscow is skillfully advancing its interests in the West, not through intelligence but business, often supported by crafty industrial espionage, influence-buying, and under-the-table deal-making...

In Western Europe, Moscow has operated by making lucrative arrangements with foreign energy companies that become de facto lobbyists for the Kremlin within their own countries."---"Why The Russia Spy Story Really Matters" (RFE/RL, 7-9-10)

The farcial Russian illegal aliens collared last summer by the FBI were only charged with money laundering and failing to register with FARA as agents of a foreign government [See "DOJ Dusts Off Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA)"].

According to the media, the eleven Russian "illegals" could not manage even one act of espionage, although some of them were here for ten years; and America had a good laugh at Russia's expense. Of course, it may be that the U.S. government could have charged them with more serious offenses but chose to keep these quiet for diplomatic or investigative reasons.

Now the Kremlin-friendly Russian business daily owned by the Gazprom-connected billionaire Alisher Usmanov and known on the World Wide Web by the ubiquitous stock epithet "respected Kommersant" is also publically trashing Russia's foreign intelligence agency for its spectacular and very public failures.

"Respected Kommersant" is claiming that a mysterious turncoat SVR officer named Colonel Shcherbakov, who was in charge of Russia's illegals' operations in the U.S., was working for the CIA. "Illegals" are Russian citizens who pose as Americans.

I knew that Alisher Usmanov's Kremlin-friendly Kommersant specialized in made-to-order hatchet jobs on British climate scientists because Gazprom is not on board with global warming, but now "respected Kommersant" is encouraging the whole world to laugh at their foreign intelligence service (SVR) for being ineffectual relics of the cold war.

It's a pretty good guess that the SVR is about to be purged and cease to exist. [See the early predictions about this purge from Brian Whitmore, RFE/RL (7-28-10) "Resurrecting The Old Lubyanka."]

During the Soviet era, the foreign intelligence service was a directorate of the KGB. When communism ended, Yeltsin separated the foreign and domestic services. Some observers predict that the SVR may be folded back into the domestic state security, the Federal Security Service (FSB).

Or maybe not. One observer, Andrei Soldatov, claims that "the FSB [is already] building its own foreign intelligence arm." That is by far the most interesting tidbit I have heard in connection with last summer's riotous Russian spy scandal.

Moscow Times (11-12-10) reports on Kommersant's kompromat campaign:

Kommersant said the Shcherbakov scandal might lead the SVR to be put under the Federal Security Service, an idea previously proposed by former FSB head Nikolai Patrushev, who heads the Security Council.

During Soviet times, the KGB had both the domestic counterintelligence and foreign intelligence directorates under its wing. Foreign intelligence became a separate agency during Boris Yeltsin's presidency.

But [journalist Andrei Soldatov, head of the Agentura.ru research centre] expressed doubt that such a merger was possible, noting that the FSB was now building its own foreign intelligence arm.

Gregory Feifer of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty suggests that the perception that Russia's spies have gone to seed may miss the point about how Russia advances its interests.

Last July Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty wrote an article titled: "Why The Russia Spy Story Really Matters" (7-9-10).

Interestingly, the RFE/RL article—supposedly about those Russian spies who wandered off the set of "The Coneheads" and ended up pruning hydrangeas in suburbia—is actually not about those spies at all. Instead, the article is all about corruption in the energy industry.

RFE/RL (7-9-10) explains:

"[D]ismissing the latest spy scandal as indication the Russians are ineffectually still fighting the Cold War is to miss the big picture. In fact, Moscow is skillfully advancing its interests in the West, not through intelligence but business, often supported by crafty industrial espionage, influence-buying, and under-the-table deal-making...

In Western Europe, Moscow has operated by making lucrative arrangements with foreign energy companies that become de facto lobbyists for the Kremlin within their own countries.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Why Is Kommersant Attacking Russia's Foreign Intelligence?

"The news [of the defection of the mysterious "Colonel Shcherbakov"] has prompted speculation the Kremlin wants to fold the SVR into the domestic Federal Security Service, the FSB."---Gregory Feifer RFE/RL (11-12-10)

I reported earlier on Kommersant's expose' of Russia's foreign intelligence service, the SVR. The journalist Gregory Feifer at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (11-12-10) has now written about Kommersant's expose' of the SVR:

[S]ome believe the Kremlin leaked this week's news that they were exposed by a top Russia intelligence officer to justify taking a real step back toward the Soviet Union by reconstituting a security service that would closely resemble the communist-era KGB.

That's one of the possible moves discussed in Moscow about what's expected to be a major shake-up of the foreign intelligence service, the SVR.

"Kommersant" newspaper broke the story on November 11, reporting that a "Colonel Shcherbakov" defected to the United States after exposing 11 so-called illegal agents, who worked without diplomatic cover and legal protection. One escaped after disappearing in Cyprus.

The news has prompted speculation the Kremlin wants to fold the SVR into the domestic Federal Security Service, the FSB. They were the two major agencies created when the KGB was split after Boris Yeltsin came to power in 1991, in what was seen as a major step toward dismantling the Soviet security system.

Intelligence expert Leonid Velikhov of the Sovershenno Secretno publishing house told RFE/RL's Russian Service the two "Kommersant" reporters who reported the defection this week had previously never written about intelligence affairs.

"All of a sudden they conduct a grandiose research project, citing several unnamed sources who all say the same thing," he says. "In fact, there was probably only one source who made the leak for domestic political purposes."

Legislators have demanded SVR chief Mikhail Fradkov be sacked. Some believe the calls are meant to clear the way for presidential administration chief Sergei Naryshkin, a reputed former KGB officer with close ties to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, to replace him. [See the full text.]

The Washington Post (11-12-10) also suggests that Russia's business daily, which the media constantly identifies with the the ubiquitous stock epithet "respected Kommersant," is close to the Kremlin and that the story was a deliberate leak aimed at compromising the SVR. I also think this was a case of kompromat, but I am not sure about the motives. Folding the SVR back into the FSB may weaken the position of the President, because the President appoints the chief of the SVR, and the SVR chief reports directly to the President.

I don't see this attack on the SVR as an example of independence, "free speech," or authentic investigative journalism on the part of Kommersant. Russian reporters often allow themselves to be used by people with agendas in warring mafia clans, and sometimes they get caught in the crossfire and murdered. Of course, real journalists who try to get to the bottom of a story also get murdered.

A Kommersant reporter was recently assaulted and reportedly nearly killed, but it's not clear to me what that was all about. I feel sorry for any person who is assaulted, but this incident doesn't make me respect the Kremlin-friendly business daily ubiquitously identified in the media with the stock epithet "respected Kommersant."

Kommersant smeared British climate scientists in a propagandistic article that was recycled in RIA Novosti. The Novosti article is being used as evidence in Attorney General Cuccinelli's suit against the EPA. The so-called "respected" Kommersant has little credibility with me. I think the observation that Kommersant is close to the Kremlin is probably accurate.

Russian politicians do purge their special services. Beria's secret police were denounced after Stalin died; the "Doctors' Plot" was exposed as a fabrication, and Beria was even shot. According to this Soviet conspiracy theory, "killer doctors" had "dishonored the holy banner of science" by using their scientific expertise in a dastardly attempt to exterminate the Soviet leadership. This was in the early 1950s, before regime's propagandists had any Western climate scientists to sink their teeth into.

Khrushchev was probably not being very sincere when he claimed that Stalin's secret police henchman Lavrenty Beria was an agent of a foreign intelligence agency; never-the-less, Khrushchev did admit that the regime had fabricated the doctors' plot out of thin air. [See "Nikita Khrushchev Denounces Stalin's Paranoid Persecution of Doctors in his "Secret Speech" to the 20th Congress of the Communist Party."]

Sometimes, the Russian intelligence agencies even expose their own operations and throw their media stooges under the bus. For example, Izvestia (3-19-92) reported:

The head of the Foreign Intelligence Service [KGB General Yevgeni Primakov] made a number of really sensational announcements. He mentioned the well-known articles printed a few years ago in our central newspapers about AIDS supposedly originating from secret Pentagon laboratories. According to Yevgeni Primakov, the articles exposing the U.S. scientists’ 'crafty' plot against mankind were fabricated in KGB offices.

The Washington Post (11-12-10) reports:

[A] number of observers, particularly Russians, considered [Kommersant's] story fishy on several counts.

Kommersant, said Dimtry Sidirov, the paper’s former Washington bureau chief, “is very close to the Kremlin.” Its story, he speculated, was “an intentional leak,” most likely a thinly-veiled attack on Mikhail Fradkov, head of the SVR, as the foreign intelligence service is known, since 2007, who had recently been “very much under attack” by rivals.

“The whole point of the story was to make the SVR a joke,” Sidirov said.

Its likely beneficiary, he added, would be Sergey Naryshkin, the Kremlin’s chief administrator and “right-hand man” to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

“There’s nothing for him in the Kremlin after 2012,” when Medvedev’s term ends, Sidirov said. Replacing Fradkov could extend Medvedev’s control of the powerful spy service...

The SVR’s defenders quickly struck back, casting doubt on the Kommersant account in other media, said Andrei Soldatov, a prominent Russian journalist and co-editor of a Web site that tracks domestic and foreign security services.

“It was said by sources inside that Shcherbakov is even not a real name,” said Soldatov, who is also co-author of The New Nobility: The Restoration of Russia’s Security State and the Enduring Legacy of the KGB.

“I have some doubts about that because the allegation that Shcherbakov is a fake name appeared only after the publication and it was aired by sources inside the SVR…who might think it's a good way of compromising the story to say such things.”

But Soldatov said he had “some doubts about the Kommersant story as well,” pointing to its allegation that one of the SVR spies arrested last summer “was beaten in an American prison,” which he called “ridiculous.”

Kommersant's report that the Kremlin might dispatch a "hit team" to assassinate Shcherbakov also seemed far-fetched, but a CIA counterintelligence veteran called it "nothing to trifle over."

The CIA declined to comment, as did a senior White House National Security Council official and a spokesman for the Senate Intelligence Committee.

“I think that the only real fact we have," said Soldatov, "is that someone with the name Shcherbakov fled to the U.S., and that's all we have for sure.” [See the full text.]

FBI Busts Prince George's County Executive

"The FBI is singularly situated to combat this corruption, with the skills and capabilities to run complex undercover operations and surveillance."---FBI on the menace of public corruption

The Washington Post (11-13-10) is reporting that Jack Johnson, the county executive of Prince George's county, and his wife, Leslie, were arrested by the FBI on Friday morning. Leslie Johnson stuffed almost 80,000 dollars into her bra.

How the mighty are fallen. Mr. Johnson's site notes his achievements, which are now tarnished:

Born in Charleston, South Carolina, April 3, 1949. Benedict College, B.S. (business administration), 1970; Howard University School of Law, J.D., 1975. Served in U.S. Army, 1970-76. Associate Professor (tax law), North Carolina Central University School of Law, 1984-87. Admitted to Maryland Bar. Board of Directors, Maryland State's Attorneys' Association. Member, National Bar Association, 1995-. Member, National District Attorneys Association, 1995-; National Black Prosecutors Association, 1995-; International Association of Police Chiefs, 1995-. Delegate, Democratic Party National Convention, 2004, 2008. President Pro Tem, County Executives of America, 2008-. Presidential Award, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Patriot Award, U.S. Army. Man of the Year, Washington Annual Conference, Second Episcopal District, African Methodist Episcopal, 2006. Alumni Achievement Award, Howard University, 2007. Member, Shiloh Baptist Church. Married; three children, one grandchild.

An affidavit signed by FBI agent Wendy H. Monoz describes the events that led up to the arrest.

The FBI notes on their website that public corruption is their "top priority among criminal investigations":

Public corruption poses a fundamental threat to our national security and way of life. It impacts everything from how well our borders are secured and our neighborhoods protected…to verdicts handed down in courts…to the quality of our roads, schools, and other government services. And it takes a significant toll on our pocketbooks, wasting billions in tax dollars every year.

The FBI is singularly situated to combat this corruption, with the skills and capabilities to run complex undercover operations and surveillance.

Global Warming Denialism: The Elephant in the Room

"Nobody dared fight the flames. Attempts to do so were prevented by menacing gangs. Torches, too, were openly thrown in, by men crying that they acted under orders. Perhaps they had received orders. Or they may just have wanted to plunder unhampered."---the Roman historian Tacitus, who made a convincing circumstantial case that Nero ordered the fire that burned Rome in 64 A.D. [Text]

"The head of the Foreign Intelligence Service [KGB General Yevgeni Primakov] made a number of really sensational announcements. He mentioned the well-known articles printed a few years ago in our central newspapers about AIDS supposedly originating from secret Pentagon laboratories. According to Yevgeni Primakov, the articles exposing the U.S. scientists’ 'crafty' plot against mankind were fabricated in KGB offices."---Izvestia, March 19, 1992

Some American politicians are betraying the American people for fossil fuel money and endangering the future of civilization by telling lies about the so-called “hoax” of global warming. I think that a lot of the money that sponsors this vicious and cynical disinformation campaign has grown out of the lucrative collaboration of Western energy companies and Russia’s government-controlled energy companies.

The Russian petrostate makes lucrative arrangements with foreign energy companies and politicans who can be relied on to promote the petrostate’s economic and political agenda within their own countries. This is nothing new. As the Bolshevik revolutionary Lenin rightly observed, some capitalists donate the rope.

Russian ships are sailing to China through the Arctic Ocean. Russian scientists employed by state universities study the thawing of the permafrost which is releasing the powerful greenhouse gas methane and accelerating the warming. The analytical side of the Russian state security hires outside specialists to predict the consequences of global warming. Ordinary Russians are asking if global warming may have contributed to the hundreds of fires that took thousands of lives in Russia last summer.

Russians have noticed global warming, in spite of the ridiculous Russian “expert” cited as an authoritative source by denialists such as Senator Inhofe, Attorney General Cuccinelli, and others.

Who is the big “expert” on global warming cited by these fossil-fuel financed politicians and fossil-fuel financed “think tanks” like the Cato Institute? Whom does the “respected” Russian business daily Kommersant and Russia’s official press agency RIA Novosti quote about global warming nanoseconds after the EPA comes out with its finding that CO2 is a health risk?

These American politicians, “think tanks,” and Russian media outlets (often owned by Russian energy companies such as the government-controlled Gazprom) unanimously cite the Russian economist, Andrei Illarionov, a former Putin adviser. They cite the Russian economist, Andrei Illarionov, who worked for Chernomyrdin, the former head of the Soviet Gas Ministry and its post-Soviet reincarnation Gazprom. I guess they can't get any reputable scientist to compromise himself.

Has any scientist written about llarionov and his "former" bosses in an op-ed?

Virginia's Attorney General Cuccinelli is attacking the Nobel-Prize winner Dr. Michael Mann and his scientific research on climate change and global warming. Cuccinelli actually cites Andrei Illarionov's denialist Russian "think tank," the Institute for Economic Analysis (IEA), in his suit against the EPA. Does Virginia's subversive, mendacious Attorney General actually imagine that our scientific agencies will take their marching orders from the petrostate's propaganda outfits?

Cuccinelli cites RIA Novosti as a credible scientific source in his lawsuit against the EPA when it is actually the press agency of the Russian government. RIA Novosti is not where Russian scientists publish their research on climate change and global warming. This summer, RIA Novosti even published the paranoid claims of a Russian Ph.D. in history who suggested that U.S. scientists were causing global warming by beaming "secret climate weapons" at Russia. This gaff, which sailed across the blogosphere at warp-speed, probably embarrassed the authorities, who suddenly began reporting an amazing truth in RIA Novosti: NASA was helping Russia spot the terrible fires.

Has any scientist written an op-ed noting the fact that Cuccinelli’s dad is a career gas lobbyist who donates to his son’s campaign? Has any scientist written an op-ed that asks who the dad’s “European” clients are?

Since Attorney General Cuccinelli refuses to disclose the facts about his father’s clients, citizens are entitled to their suspicions. I wonder if the elder Cuccinelli’s “European” clients include Russian companies such as Gazprom, its many “gas trading” cover companies, or its media and Internet businesses. Gazprom owns a lot, and more than half of Gazprom belongs to the Russian government.

I have not seen one newspaper ask if the fact that Cuccinelli’s dad is a career gas lobbyist might have something to do with his son’s persecution of climate scientists and the University of Virginia. It’s really kind of creepy that nobody even asks Cucinelli for some kind of response to this question.

Famous climate scientists won’t even confront their persecutors with questions about Cuccinelli's financial sponsors, even though the global warming denialists funded by fossil fuel interests use the media to characterize our great scientists as greedy liars in vicious, propagandistic attacks redolent of Stalinism that metasticize in the blogosphere. The despicable Marc Morano's mendacious site comes to mind in this context.

A denialist “think tank” hypocritically filed a lawsuit and accused NASA scientists of blogging during working hours. What a joke! I suspect the global warming denialists are blogging on the government’s dime, too. It’s just not our government’s dime.

Attorney General Cuccinelli claims he is for “states’ rights” and compares President Obama to King George the Third. I think the Attorney General is a subversive who is using “states’ rights” as a wedge to destroy the federal agencies that protect our people. I think the Attorney General is getting money from European companies that formally pay his dad for professional services, but really pay for the services of our meretricious Attorney General.

Cuccinelli can’t protect our people from anything, yet he evokes the American Revolution in his quest to subvert the federal agencies that actually do protect our people. I think that Virginians fought a revolution because they didn’t like being ruled by the stooges of European tyrants. Doesn't Cucccinelli worry that his calls for revolution may backfire on him?

Attorney General Cuccinelli and other politicians have hijacked the name “conservative.” There is nothing conservative about the radical, subversive Cuccinelli. He is persecuting and repressing our scientists and our flagship university under the color of the law. That’s not conservative. He should be protecting and encouraging our scientists so they can do the important work which will help us learn how to meet the challenges of global warming. If Cuccinelli were really a conservative, he would want to help us conserve our planet for our children and grandchildren by encouraging the development of renewable energy sources.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Roman Kupchinsky: "Gazprom's European Web"

"For over a decade the proliferation of so-called "Gas Trading" companies in Europe has destabilized the EU energy market and possibly criminalized it as well ... all linked in some fashion to Russia’s state-owned gas monopoly, Gazprom, [these so-called "gas trading companies"] have not added any value to gas transactions in the EU. Furthermore, these companies have been linked to numerous scandals and conflict of interest cases involving high-level officials in the EU."---Gazprom's European Web (February 2009)

Roman Kupchinsky, an expert on Russia and Ukraine with the Jamestown Foundation, has written an interesting booklet titled Gazprom's European Web (February 2009).

Mr. Kupchinsky's biography notes:

From 1990-2002 was Director of the Ukrainian service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. From 2002-2008 was a senior analyst at RFE/RL. He is the author of numerous articles 0n ... Russian energy and international politics. He edited RFE’s Organized Crime and Corruption Watch...

The executive summary of Gazprom's European Web (February 2009, p. 2-3) observes:

For over a decade the proliferation of so-called "Gas Trading" companies in Europe has destabilized the EU energy market and possibly criminalized it as well. The appearance of such companies as RosUkrEnergo, the Centrex group of companies, Gazprom Germania, YugoRosGas, Eural Trans Gas, Overgas, and others, all linked in some fashion to Russia’s state-owned gas monopoly, Gazprom, have not added any value to gas transactions in the EU. Furthermore, these companies have been linked to numerous scandals and conflict of interest cases involving high-level officials in the EU.

In January 2009 one such company, RosUkrEnergo, played an instrumental role in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine that led to a gas blockade of Europe, causing considerable human suffering and financial damage to the economies of those countries most affected. It is highly likely that had this company not been inserted into the Russian-Ukrainian gas supply-transit chain, the "Gas War" of January 2009 would not have taken place.

The lack of transparency, the practice of hiding the names of beneficiaries, the use of off-shore nameplate companies, and the secretive nature of Gazprom’s contracts with it clients all bode ill for the EU.

In brief, the major findings of this paper are:

The existence of dozens of non-transparent "gas trading" companies established throughout Europe by the Russian state-controlled natural gas monopoly, OAO Gazprom, constitutes a serious threat to the energy security of the European Union.

Some of these middlemen companies have been linked to organized crime groups in Russia and in Europe while others are suspected of laundering millions of dollars into the accounts of high-level Russian, Ukrainian, and other officials. The huge sums involved have a corrupting influence on local government officials and deprive the citizens of their countries of the honest services they deserve and expect from their elected and appointed officials.

Some Austrian and Russian banks have been negligent in conducting due diligence before entering into commercial relationships with such companies and in some cases appear to have been used to launder vast sums of money by these companies.

The highest officials of Gazprom, Gazprom Export, and Gazprombank have been directly linked to these opaque schemes. In some cases they serve on the boards of such companies as directors or as members; in other cases the relationship of such entities to Gazprom management is hidden or explained as an informal "personal relationship."

The EU Commission has failed to recognize the danger that these companies present to the energy security of the EU and has not made any attempt to convince the member states to investigate what role these companies play in the gas supply chain, what value they add to gas transactions, and which, if any, elected officials are linked to these companies.

Russian law enforcement agencies and government anti-corruption watchdogs have consistently refused to investigate the links that suspected Russian mobsters might have to Gazprom and its managers and to the managers and beneficiaries of these intermediary companies.

Leaders of Central Asian countries have long played a role in allowing these companies to be middlemen between their countries, Gazprom, and European consumers. The lack of transparency in these relationships is tolerated by these leaders and other officials and makes them vulnerable to charges of corruption. [Read the full text.]

Thursday, November 11, 2010

John Abraham: "Scientists Have a Duty to Engage with the Public on Climate Change"

Dr. John Abraham, an associate professor in the school of engineering at the Catholic University of St. Thomas in Minnesota, has penned an op-ed in the U.K. Guardian (11-8-10):

Two new campaigns have been launched by scientists that aim to improve the communication of climate science. One effort is the American Geophysical Union's 700 scientists who are on staff to answer questions centered around the Cancún climate conference. Another initiative is one that I am personally involved in, the formation of a "rapid response" team of scientists for media inquiries related to climate change. Scientists have not been effective communicators; these projects are our effort to get better.

The main motivation for forming the climate rapid response team is to provide high-quality information to the media and the public. Each year, the science supporting human-caused global warming gets stronger, as the consequences of climate change become more extreme. If we don't take meaningful action soon, we will be committed to significant environmental damage.

It is important for people to recognise that while this problem is complex, a lot is known about it. The vast majority of top climate scientists understand climate change is a serious threat – in fact, approximately 97% of the top climate scientists believe we have a problem. Though there is little disagreement, it is helpful to have scientists working to find fault in the science. However, the public should know that the handful of scientists who disagree have not, in more than 20 years, been able to find a major fault in the science and they have not been able to propose an alternative explanation for the marked warming of this planet.

On the other hand, the general public and members of government are split on this issue. Half are concerned about global warming, half are not. Why is that? A major reason is that there is a great deal of bad information which typically germinates in the blogosphere and is created by people with little or no real expertise.

We know that solving this problem will require real effort. We are on a path to cause real destruction to our planet and even if we were only interested in self-preservation we should take action.

We are also not naive in recognising that there is a political aspect to this. It is well known, at least in the United States, that conservatives tend to be much more sceptical about climate change than liberals. We need to move beyond partisanship toward co-operation. Conservatives care about the environment too and there have been many who have made comments about the need to act on climate change. History will look unkindly on those who have stood in the way of saving the planet, which will be an enormous political liability – although by then it will be too late to fix things. [See the full text.]

Kommersant Reports That the Russian Spies Collared by the FBI Were Exposed by Colonel Shcherbakov of the SVR


UPDATE: Why Is Kommersant Attacking Russia's Foreign Intelligence?

The Russian business daily Kommersant (11-11-10) is reporting that a colonel who served in the Russian foreign intelligence service Служба Внешней Разведки (Sluzhba Vneshney Razvedki or SVR) named Shcherbakov betrayed the "bumbling" Russian spies arrested last June by the FBI.

Some observers characterize Kommersant as a "respected business daily," but I have noticed that Kommersant published Andrei Illarionov's global warming denialist propaganda. I would take what Kommersant reports based on its annonymous official sources with a grain of salt.

The daily spells its name "Коммерсантъ" with a final "hard sign," ("Ъ") as it was spelled prior to the Soviet era. The hard sign is an archaic letter that was dropped after the Bolshevik Revolution. In the Kommersant article, I think that the paper refers to itself simply as as "Ъ." If you use the Google translation tool, this will be rendered as a small "b." Perhaps Kommersant is alluding to its pre-revolutionary, capitalist roots by using this archaic letter.

Russia's official press agency RIA Novosti (11-11-10), Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (11-11-10), and various media are picking up the Kommersant story about Shcherbakov's betrayal.

Based on what I could glean from the Kommersant story, this scandal may be used as a justification to put the SVR back under the roof of a unitary state security organization like the Soviet-era KGB. Kommersant claims that the authorities are going to investigate the circumstances of the mysterious Col. Shcherbakov's betrayal and decide what should be done with the SVR. The Director of the SVR is appointed by and reports directly to the President of Russia, so it is possible that returning the SVR to the control of the domestic Federal Security Service (FSB) signals a diminution of President Medvedev's powers. It's hard to say.

The L.A. Times (11-11-10) also suggests that the Kommersant article may herald the reunification of the Foreign Intelligence Service with the Federal Security Service:

Some Russian experts said the story of betrayal may be another attempt by the government to present the spy mission as a heroic effort — President Dmitry Medvedev also honored the group in October — rather than a shameful failure, as many Russians see it.

"It is aimed at a significant part of the Russian public that is still skeptical over the whole spy affair despite the fact that both Putin, a former KGB agent, and Medvedev heartily welcomed the spies," Alexei Kondaurov, a retired KGB counterintelligence general, said in an interview.

Konstantin Preobrazhensky, a former KGB officer who now lives in Boston, said in an interview that the story may signal the government's desire to address intelligence issues, to prepare the public for the planned reunification of the Foreign Intelligence Service with the Federal Security Service. The agencies were separated by then- President Boris Yeltsin in the 1990s in an effort to prevent the re-creation of the dreaded KGB and to bring the secret services more under presidential control.

"A mysterious Col. Shcherbakov is a red herring concocted by the Russian special services together with the Kremlin," Preobrazhensky said. "They are little by little re-creating the Soviet Union institutions ... including the KGB." [See full text.]

An unnamed Kremlin official reportedly quoted in Kommersant boasts that a hit squad has "already" been dispatched to the United States to murder the Russian traitor, who is allegedly the former head of the U.S. department of "Directorate S," the SVR's “illegal” spying operations.

The New York Daily News (11-11-10) reports the highlights from Kommersant:

"We know who he is and where he is," a Kremlin official told Kommersant.

"Do not doubt that a Mercader has been sent after him already," the official told the paper, referring to Russian agent Ramon Mercader, who murdered exiled Bolshevik Leon Trotsky with an ice axe in 1940 in Mexico.

The newspaper reported that Shcherbakov had been spirited out of Moscow to the United States just days before the FBI announced its spy ring sting in late June.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

"Climate Rapid Response Team" to Defend the Scientific Consensus on Global Warming

Dr. John Abraham of St. Thomas University in the Twin Cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota

UPDATE: The American Geophysical Union responded to the L.A. Times article quoted below with this press release: "Inaccurate news reports misrepresent a climate-science initiative of the American Geophysical Union" (11-8-10)

"On Monday, the American Geophysical Union [AGU], the country's largest association of climate scientists, plans to announce that 700 climate scientists have agreed to speak out as experts on questions about global warming and the role of man-made air pollution...

[In a separate effort,] John Abraham of St. Thomas University in Minnesota, who last May wrote a widely disseminated response to climate-change skeptics, is pulling together a "Climate Rapid Response Team," which so far has more than three dozen leading scientists to defend the consensus on global warming in the scientific community. Some are also pulling together a handbook on the human causes of climate change, which they plan to start sending to U.S. high schools as early as this fall."---L.A. Times (11-7-10)

The L.A. Times (11-7-10) reports on our brave and patriotic climate scientists who are speaking up on behalf of our people:

Faced with rising political attacks, hundreds of climate scientists are joining a broad campaign to push back against congressional conservatives who have threatened prominent researchers with investigations and vowed to kill regulations to rein in man-made greenhouse gas emissions.

The still-evolving efforts reveal a shift among climate scientists, many of whom have traditionally stayed out of politics and avoided the news media. Many now say they are willing to go toe-to-toe with their critics, some of whom gained new power after the
Republicans won control of the House in last Tuesday's election.

On Monday, the American Geophysical Union, the country's largest association of climate scientists, plans to announce that 700 climate scientists have agreed to speak out as experts on questions about global warming and the role of man-made air pollution...

John Abraham of St. Thomas University in Minnesota, who last May wrote a widely disseminated response to climate-change skeptics, is pulling together a "Climate Rapid Response Team," which so far has more than three dozen leading scientists to defend the consensus on global warming in the scientific community. Some are also pulling together a handbook on the human causes of climate change, which they plan to start sending to U.S. high schools as early as this fall...

During the recent election campaigns, skepticism about climate change became a rallying cry for many Republican candidates. Of the more than 100 new Republican members of Congress, 50% are climate-change skeptics, according to an analysis of campaign statements by the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank.

Prominent Republican congressmen such as Darrell Issa (R-Vista), Joe L. Barton (R- Texas) and F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.) have pledged to investigate the Environmental Protection Agency's regulation of greenhouse gas emissions. They say they also intend to probe the so-called Climategate scandal, in which thousands of e-mails of leading climate scientists were hacked and released to the public late last year.

Climate-change skeptics argued that the sniping in some e-mails showed that scientists suppressed research by skeptics and manipulated data. Five independent panels subsequently cleared the researchers involved and validated the science...

The American Geological Union plan has attracted a large number of scientists in a short time because they were eager to address what they see as climate misinformation, said Jeffrey Taylor, research fellow at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado and manager of the project...

In the week that Abraham and others have been marshaling the rapid-response team, 39 scientists agreed to participate, including Richard Feely, senior scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; Kevin Trenberth, head of the climate analysis section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research; and Michael Oppenheimer professor of geosciences and international affairs at Princeton University.

"People who've already dug their heels in, we're not going to change their opinions," [Professor Scott] Mandia said. "We're trying to reach people who may not have an opinion or opinion based on limited information." [Read the full text.]

The Koch Brothers

"President Obama took aim at the Kochs’ political network. Speaking at a Democratic National Committee fund-raiser, in Austin, he warned supporters that the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in the Citizens United case—which struck down laws prohibiting direct corporate spending on campaigns—had made it even easier for big companies to hide behind 'groups with harmless-sounding names like Americans for Prosperity.' Obama said, 'They don’t have to say who, exactly, Americans for Prosperity are. You don’t know if it’s a foreign-controlled corporation'—or even, he added, 'a big oil company.'”---The New Yorker (8-30-10)

The New Yorker (8-30-10) has published an article about the Koch brothers---two subversive, fossil-fuel billionaires who secretly fund global warming denialism, attack our great scientists, and use their wealth to prevent the American people from learning what our scientists say about climate change and global warming. The Kochs even used their money to build a misleading exhibit at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History that censors information about the causes and consequences of global warming.

The physicist Dr. Joseph Romm explains on Youtube what is wrong with this exhibit. Dr. Romm also has a blog called Climate Progress. Here is Dr. Romm's Wikipedia.

The Supreme Court has made a ruling that makes it possible for corporations to spent as much as they wish to engage in political advocacy for or against political candidates on the grounds of "free speech."

The corporations still cannot legally give money directly to politicians, but they can advocate independently for or against federal candidates.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (7-9-10) reports on Russia's political influence activities in Europe:

In Western Europe, Moscow has operated by making lucrative arrangements with foreign energy companies that become de facto lobbyists for the Kremlin within their own countries.

Here is a snip from The New Yorker (8-30-10):

The David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins, at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, is a multimedia exploration of the theory that mankind evolved in response to climate change. At the main entrance, viewers are confronted with a giant graph charting the Earth’s temperature over the past ten million years, which notes that it is far cooler now than it was ten thousand years ago. Overhead, the text reads, “HUMANS EVOLVED IN RESPONSE TO A CHANGING WORLD.” The message, as amplified by the exhibit’s Web site, is that “key human adaptations evolved in response to environmental instability.” Only at the end of the exhibit, under the headline “OUR SURVIVAL CHALLENGE,” is it noted that levels of carbon dioxide are higher now than they have ever been, and that they are projected to increase dramatically in the next century. No cause is given for this development; no mention is made of any possible role played by fossil fuels. The exhibit makes it seem part of a natural continuum. The accompanying text says, “During the period in which humans evolved, Earth’s temperature and the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere fluctuated together.” An interactive game in the exhibit suggests that humans will continue to adapt to climate change in the future. People may build “underground cities,” developing “short, compact bodies” or “curved spines,” so that “moving around in tight spaces will be no problem.”

Such ideas uncannily echo the Koch message. The company’s January newsletter to employees, for instance, argues that “fluctuations in the earth’s climate predate humanity,” and concludes, “Since we can’t control Mother Nature, let’s figure out how to get along with her changes.” Joseph Romm, a physicist who runs the Web site ClimateProgress.org, is infuriated by the Smithsonian’s presentation. “The whole exhibit whitewashes the modern climate issue,” he said. “I think the Kochs wanted to be seen as some sort of high-minded company, associated with the greatest natural-history and science museum in the country. But the truth is, the exhibit is underwritten by big-time polluters, who are underground funders of action to stop efforts to deal with this threat to humanity. I think the Smithsonian should have drawn the line”...

The Kochs have long depended on the public’s not knowing all the details about them. They have been content to operate what David Koch has called “the largest company that you’ve never heard of.” But with the growing prominence of the Tea Party, and with increased awareness of the Kochs’ ties to the movement, the brothers may find it harder to deflect scrutiny. Recently, President Obama took aim at the Kochs’ political network. Speaking at a Democratic National Committee fund-raiser, in Austin, he warned supporters that the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in the Citizens United case—which struck down laws prohibiting direct corporate spending on campaigns—had made it even easier for big companies to hide behind “groups with harmless-sounding names like Americans for Prosperity.” Obama said, “They don’t have to say who, exactly, Americans for Prosperity are. You don’t know if it’s a foreign-controlled corporation”—or even, he added, “a big oil company.” [See the full text.]

DOJ Dusts Off Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA)

"FARA requires any individual or entity who attempts to assist a foreign government, division of a foreign government, foreign political party, or foreign individual with influencing U.S. domestic or foreign policy to register with DOJ as an “agent of a foreign principal.” (Foreign corporations also are treated as foreign principals, but they generally may avoid registering under FARA by registering under the less onerous Lobbying Disclosure Act.) Examples of agents of foreign principals would be individuals who represent foreign governments in lobbying U.S. government officials, public relations consultants who run public advocacy campaigns for foreign governments, and political consultants who advise foreign governments on political strategy."---"Department of Justice launches a wave of Foreign Agents Registration Act ("FARA") Audits" (Covington and Burling, 10-20-10)

The Department of Justice can prosecute people for violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). The DOJ has reportedly launched a series of audits of registrants under the FARA act.

Maybe the DOJ will also investigate foreigners and their American enablers who don't register in the first place, because foreign entities can mask their political operations in our country by paying collaborating American companies for "professional services" that seem unrelated to political advocacy.

I think that FARA should be enforced against violators who give money to both Republican and Democratic politicians as well as to other organizations or "think tanks."

I would like to see the DOJ investigate if foreign entities are illegally funding propaganda and sponsoring legal actions in the United States against our greatest scientists who study global warming. The U.S. law that covers FARA is linked on the FARA homepage.

According to the FARA site:

The Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) was enacted in 1938. FARA is a disclosure statute that requires persons acting as agents of foreign principals in a political or quasi-political capacity to make periodic public disclosure of their relationship with the foreign principal, as well as activities, receipts and disbursements in support of those activities. Disclosure of the required information facilitates evaluation by the government and the American people of the statements and activities of such persons in light of their function as foreign agents. The FARA Registration Unit of the Counterespionage Section (CES) in the National Security Division (NSD) is responsible for the administration and enforcement of the Act.

The law firm of Covington and Burling has issued a press release titled "Department of Justice launches a wave of Foreign Agents Registration Act ("FARA") Audits" (10-20-10).

Covington and Burling claims:

This year, for the first time in recent memory, the Department of Justice’s Foreign Agents Registration Act (“FARA”) Unit appears to have launched a series of audits of FARA registrants. FARA authorizes DOJ to conduct sweeping audits of records maintained (and required to be maintained) by FARA registrants. In past years, such FARA audits have been quite rare. But, it appears that the FARA Unit has decided to step up its auditing activities generally.

In broad terms, FARA requires any individual or entity who attempts to assist a foreign government, division of a foreign government, foreign political party, or foreign individual with influencing U.S. domestic or foreign policy to register with DOJ as an “agent of a foreign principal.” (Foreign corporations also are treated as foreign principals, but they generally may avoid registering under FARA by registering under the less onerous Lobbying Disclosure Act.) Examples of agents of foreign principals would be individuals who represent foreign governments in lobbying U.S. government officials, public relations consultants who run public advocacy campaigns for foreign governments, and political consultants who advise foreign governments on political strategy.

Every six months following registration, a FARA registrant is required to file a report with DOJ detailing receipts from the foreign principal, disbursements made relating to activities for the foreign principal, specific contacts and other activities engaged in to further the foreign principal’s interests, and all political contributions made in the U.S. at any level of federal, state, or local government.

In addition, anytime an agent of a foreign principal distributes “informational materials,” it must file those materials with DOJ within 48 hours, and the materials must include a disclaimer reflecting that they were produced by a foreign agent. [See the full text.]