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Hints of Ukrainian Fascism and CIA Spying Rise From Blacklist Case
Posted on Dec 9, 2016
Last month, the Washington Post gave a glowing front-page boost to an anonymous online blacklist of hundreds of American websites, from marginal conspiracy sites to flagship libertarian and progressive publications. As Max Blumenthal reported for AlterNet, the anonymous website argued that all of them should be investigated by the federal government and potentially prosecuted under the Espionage Act as Russian spies, for wittingly or unwittingly spreading Russian propaganda.
My own satirical newspaper was raided and closed down by the Kremlin in 2008, on charges of “extremism”—akin to terrorism—which I took seriously enough to leave for home for good. What the Washington Post did in boosting an anonymous blacklist of American journalists accused of criminal treason is one of the sleaziest, and most disturbing (in a very familiar Kremlin way) things I’ve seen in this country since I fled for home. The WaPo is essentially an arm of the American deep state; its owner, Jeff Bezos, is one of the three richest Americans, worth $67 billion, and his cash cow, Amazon, is a major contractor with the Central Intelligence Agency. In other words, this is as close to an official US government blacklist of journalists as we’ve seen—a dark ominous warning before they take the next steps.
It’s now been a few days, and the shock and disgust is turning to questions about how to fight back—and who we should be fighting against. Who were the Washington Post’s sources for their journalism blacklist?
Square, Site wide
The WaPo smear was authored by tech reporter Craig Timberg, a former national security editor who displayed embarrassing deference to the head of the world’s largest private surveillance operation, billionaire Eric Schmidt—in contrast to his treatment of his journalism colleagues. There’s little in Timberg’s history to suggest he’d lead one of the ugliest public smears of his colleagues in decades. Timberg’s father, a successful mainstream journalist who recently died, wrote hagiographies on his Naval Academy comrades including John McCain, the Senate’s leading Russophobic hawk, and three Iran-Contra conspirators—Oliver North, John Poindexter, and Robert McFarlane, whose crimes Timberg blames on their love of country and sacrifices in Vietnam.
WaPo’s key source was an anonymous online group calling itself PropOrNot (i.e., “Propaganda Or Not”). It was here that the blacklist of American journalists allegedly working with the Kremlin was posted. The Washington Post cited PropOrNot as a credible source, and granted them the right to anonymously accuse major American news outlets of treason, recommending that the government investigate and prosecute them under the Espionage Act for spreading Russian propaganda.
Featured alongside those anonymously accused of treason by PropOrNot, among a long list of marginal conspiracy sites and major news hubs, is Truthdig. This news and opinion site was co-founded by Zuade Kaufman and the veteran journalist Robert Scheer, who is a professor of USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and former columnist for the LA Times. It would not be the first time Scheer has come under attack from dark forces. In the mid-late 1960s, Scheer made his fame as editor and reporter for Ramparts, the fearless investigative magazine that changed American journalism. One of the biggest bombshell stories that Scheer’s magazine exposed was the CIA’s covert funding of the National Student Association, then America’s largest college student organization, which had chapters on 400 campuses and a major presence internationally.
The CIA was not pleased with Scheer’s magazine’s work, and shortly afterwards launched a top-secret and illegal domestic spying campaign against Scheer and Ramparts, believing that they must be a Russian Communist front. A secret team of CIA operatives—kept secret even from the rest of Langley, the operation was so blatantly illegal—spied on Scheer and his Ramparts colleagues, dug through Ramparts’ funders lives and harassed some of them into ditching the magazine, but in all of that they couldn’t find a single piece of evidence linking Scheer’s magazine to Kremlin agents. This secret illegal CIA investigation into Scheer’s magazine expanded its domestic spying project, code-named MH-CHAOS, that grew into a monster targeting hundreds of thousands of Americans, only to be exposed by Seymour Hersh in late 1974, leading to the creation of the Church Committee hearings and calls by Congress for the abolition of the Central Intelligence Agency.
It’s one of the dark ugly ironies that 50 years later, Scheer has been anonymously accused of working for Russian spies, only this time the accusers have the full cooperation of the Washington Post’s front page.
PropOrNot’s Ukrainian fascist salute
Still the question lingers: Who is behind PropOrNot? Who are they? We may have to await the defamation lawsuits that are almost certainly coming from those smeared by the Post and by PropOrNot. Their description sounds like the “About” tab on any number of Washington front groups that journalists and researchers are used to coming across:
“PropOrNot is an independent team of concerned American citizens with a wide range of backgrounds and expertise, including professional experience in computer science, statistics, public policy, and national security affairs.”
The only specific clues given were an admission that at least one of its members with access to its Twitter handle is “Ukrainian-American”. They had given this away in a handful of early Ukrainian-language tweets, parroting Ukrainian ultranationalist slogans, before the group was known.
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