Habakkuk on metadata

Habakkuk

As some commenters on SST seem still to have difficulty grasping that the presence of ‘metadata’ alluding to ‘Iron Felix’ in the ‘Guccifer 2.0’ material is strong evidence that the GRU were being framed over a leak, rather than that they were responsible for a hack, an update on the British end of the conspiracy seems in order.

If you look at the ‘Lawfare’ blog, in which a key figure is James Comey’s crony Benjamin Wittes, you will find a long piece published last Friday, entitled ‘Russia Indictment 2.0: What to Make of Mueller’s Hacking Indictment.’

Among the authors, in addition to Wittes himself, is the sometime GCHQ employee Matt Tait. It appears that the former head of that organisation, the Blairite ‘trusty’ Robert Hannigan, who must know where a good few skeletons are buried, is a figure of some moment in the conspiracy.

(See https://www.lawfareblog.com… .)

It was Matt Tait who, using the ‘Twitter’ handle @pwnallthethings, identified the name and patronymic of Dzerzhinsky in the ‘metadata’ of the ‘Guccifer 2.0’ material on 15 June 2016, the day after Ellen Nakashima first disseminated the BS from ‘CrowdStrike’ in the ‘WP.’

The story was picked up the following day in a report on the ‘Ars Technica’ site, and Tait’s own account appeared on the ‘Lawfare’ site, to which he has been a regular contributor, on 28 July.

(See https://arstechnica.com/inf… ; https://www.lawfareblog.com… .)

According to the CV provided in conjunction with the new article:

‘Matt Tait is a senior cybersecurity fellow at the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law at the University of Texas at Austin. Previously he was CEO of Capital Alpha Security, a consultancy in the UK, worked at Google Project Zero, was a principal security consultant for iSEC Partners, and NGS Secure, and worked as an information security specialist for GCHQ.’

As I have noted before on SST, a cursory examination of records at ‘Companies House’ establishes that ‘Capital Alpha Security’, which was supposed to have provided Tait with an – independent – source of income at the time he unearthed this ‘smoking gun’ incriminating the GRU, never did any business at all. So, a question arises: how was Tait making ends meet at that time: busking on the London underground, perhaps?

(See https://beta.companieshouse… .)

Actually, there has been a recent update in the records. Somewhat prematurely perhaps, there is an entry dated 24 July 2018, entitled ‘Final Gazette dissolved via compulsory strike-off This document is being processed and will be available in 5 days.’

The document, when available, may clarify a few loose ends, but the general picture seems clear. Last November, Tait filed ‘dormant company accounts’ for the company’s first year in existence, up until February 2017. One can only do this if one has absolutely no revenue, and absolutely no expenditure. Not even the smallest contract to sort out malware on someone’s computer, or to buy equipment for the office.

He then failed to file the ‘Confirmation statement’, which every company must is legally obliged to produce annually, if it is not to be struck off. This failure led to a ‘First Gazette notice for compulsory strike-off’ in May.

It is, of course, possible that at the time Tait set up the company he was genuinely intending to try to make a go of a consultancy, and simply got sidetracked by other opportunities.

However – speaking from experience – people who have set up small ‘one man band’ companies to market skills learnt in large organisations, and then go back into such organisations, commonly think it worth their while to spend the minimal amount of time required to file the documentation required to keep the company alive.

If one sees any realistic prospect that one may either want to or need to go back into the big wide world again, this is the sensible course of action: particularly now when, with the internet, filing the relevant documentation takes about half an hour a year, and costs a trivial sum.

However, Tait may well anticipate that there is there will never be any call for him to go back into the big wide world, as the large organisation in which he has now found employment is part of a ‘Borgist’ network. So much is evident from another entry on the ‘Lawfare’ site:

‘Bobby Chesney is the Charles I. Francis Professor in Law and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the University of Texas School of Law. He also serves as the Director of UT-Austin's interdisciplinary research center the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law. His scholarship encompasses a wide range of issues relating to national security and the law, including detention, targeting, prosecution, covert action, and the state secrets privilege; most of it is posted here. Along with Ben Wittes and Jack Goldsmith, he is one of the co-founders of the blog.’

(See https://www.lawfareblog.com… .)

Also relevant here is the fact that, rather transparently, this placing of the GRU centre stage is bound up with the attempt to suggest that there is some kind of ‘Gerasimov doctrine’, designed to undermine the West by ‘hybrid warfare.’

Unfortunately, the original author of this claptrap, Mark Galeotti, who, I regret to say, is, like Tait, British, has now recanted and confessed. In March, he published a piece on the ‘Foreign Policy’ site, under the title: ‘I’m Sorry for Creating the ‘Gerasimov Doctrine’; I was the first to write about Russia’s infamous high-tech military strategy. One small problem: it doesn't exist.’

(See https://foreignpolicy.com/2… .)

If anyone wants to grasp what the Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, General Valery Gerasimov, was actually saying in the crucial February 2013 article which Galeotti was discussing, and how his thinking has developed subsequently, the place to look is, as so often, the Foreign Military Studies Office at Fort Leavenworth.

Informed discussions by Charles Bartles and Roger McDermott are at https://www.armyupress.army… ; http://www.worldinwar.eu/wp… ; and https://jamestown.org/progr… .

In relation to the ongoing attempt to frame the GRU, it is material that, in his 2013 piece, Gerasimov harks back to two pivotal figures in the arguments of the interwar years. Of these, Georgy Isserson, the Jewish doctor’s son from Kaunas who became a Civil War ‘political commissar’ and then a key associate of Mikhail Tukhachevsky, was the great pioneer theorist of ‘deep operations.’

The ideas of the other, Aleksandr Svechin, the former Tsarist ‘genstabist’, born in Odessa into an ethnically Russian military family, who was the key opponent of Tukhachevky and Isserson in the arguments of the ‘Twenties, provided key parts of the intellectual basis of the Gorbachev-era ‘new thinking.’

The ‘Ars Technica’ article in which Tait’s claims were initially disseminated opened:

‘We still don’t know who he is or whether he works for the Russian government, but one thing is for sure: Guccifer 2.0 – the nom de guerre of the person claiming he hacked the Democratic National Committee and published hundreds of pages that appeared to prove it – left behind fingerprints implicating a Russian-speaking person with a nostalgia for the country’s lost Soviet era.’

In his 2013 article, Gerasimov harks back to the catastrophe which overcame the Red Army in June 1941. Ironically, this was the product of the Stalinist leadership’s disregard of the cautions produced not only by Svechin, but by Isserson. In regard to the latter, the article remarks that:

‘The fate of this “prophet of the Fatherland” unfolded tragically. Our country paid in great quantities of blood for not listening to the conclusions of this professor of the General Staff Academy.’

As it happens, while both Svechin and Tukhachevsky were shot by the heirs of ‘Felix Edmundovich’, the sentence of death on Isserson was commuted, and he spent the war in prison and labour camps, while others used his ideas to devastating effect against the Germans.

Quite clearly, the ‘Guccifer 2.0’ persona is a crude fabrication by someone who has absolutely no understanding of, or indeed interest in, the bitter complexities of both of the history of Russia and of the ‘borderlands’, not only in the Soviet period but before and after.

Using this criterion as a ‘filter’, the obvious candidates are traditional Anglo-Saxon ‘Russophobes’, like Sir Richard Dearlove and Christopher Steele, or the ‘insulted and injured’ of the erstwhile Russian and Soviet empires, so many of them from the ‘borderlands’, of the type of Victoria Nuland, or the various Poles, Ukrainians and Balts and Jews who have had so much influence on American policy.

(I should note that other Jews, not only in Russia, but outside, including in Israel, think quite differently, in particular as they are very well aware, as Isserson would have been, of the extent to which ‘borderlands’ nationalists were enthusiastic collaborators with the Germans in the ‘Final Solution’. On this, there is a large and growing academic literature.)

It is not particularly surprising that many of the victims of the Russian and Soviet empires have enjoyed seeing the tables turned, and getting their own back. But it is rather far from clear that this makes for good intelligence or sound policy.

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