Truths, Lies, Actions, and Consequences, Part 1: Since 16th March 2016, there has been continuous discussion of leaks, without any regard of how counter espionage catches spies, simply calling for it to happen instead of thinking how. This article explains some basic principles of counter espionage; cites indications it is occurring right now; spells out the actual implications that have been totally unconsidered for almost a year now; and considers how we should respond to the circumstance.
Earlier in the week, President Trump complained of the number of leaks in one of his tweets. Also during the Press conference, he repeatedly complained that the leaks were hindering him. A number of pundits have stated the White House 'has to do something about the leaks'--but only in abstract. No one has discussed what actually can be done to find them.
So what Mr. Trump needs is counter espionage, and this method is a very old trick. The first time I read it was in Latin when I was 9 years old, in an old myth of Vulcan trying to find a lover of his wife Venus (although I believe it originated from an ancient Greek story about Aphrodite and Hephaestus, so the myth is far older). Here I put aside the rest of the myth until Part 2. The point is, this is a very old ploy. Most journalists probably don’t know how old it is, and certainly have not been thinking about it all their lives, because a classical education is so rare in America these days. So maybe it is not surprising most have never considered what this very ancient myth really means.
It does remain surprising that there is so much discussion of leaks, with no consideration at all of how spies are actually caught. And the point here is that the following is not some obscure, newfangled scheme of the CIA or something, but a very ancient trick that has probably been around for three thousand years. Yet still, almost no one understands its direct implications and eventual consequences. The ruse starts like this:
STANDARD COUNTER ESPIONAGE TECHNIQUE:
If you know one of three people is a spy,
give each one a unique secret.
The fact which the other side learns identifies the spy.
So, when Vulcan first questioned his wife, he knew from secrets he had previously shared with others that Mars was her lover. It really is that simple. Putting aside the rest of the ancient myth and fast forwarding three thousand years...the White House has a problem with leaks. Hence, it is highly likely that it is deliberately disseminating unique false facts to each of the suspects, in order to find the leak. That is the first basic fact of counter espionage, and it is nothing but a straightforward logical deduction that should not require a rocket scientist to understand.
This also implies NSA head Flynn was not really fired. He is likely running some 'black ops' operation, in modern nomenclature, to nail the leaks from the White House before the stories reach the press, so as to minimize collateral damage. This is because the problem, in this case, is that the fake news stories have to be serious enough for the leaks to send them to the press. So it has been a big job for White House Chief of Staff, Reince Priebus, to invent sufficiently newsworthy fake stories that are plausibly deniable. And while a few will focus on the deniability, there will be far more lowly thoughts aired on their severity.
There are indications that the fake stories from the White House have been around for some time. When President Trump was asked about the Flynn 'story' on his plane in the prior week, Mr. Trump responded by asking “WHICH story is that?” instead of the more natural question "WHAT story is that?" The journalists hesitated slightly, but the media never recognized the indication that there could be many fake stories, and Mr. Trump's primary interest was to identify which fake story had got out. The President himself probably does not know the stories in specific, because, if any 'go South,' he can rightly state it wasn't his fault. So he said "I don't know that story, I'll have to check on it."
Since the onset of the Flynn farce, Mr. Trump has persistently defended Flynn as only doing his job, despite the claimed treason. And NSA Security Adviser Flynn was not asked to write a resignation letter because he is believed guilty of treason, but because he did not inform the Vice President of all the facts. Naturally, the FBI has declared it will not be investigating Mr. Flynn, which some media has used to condemn the bureau of political corruption. Such simplistic thought is rather surprising, considering that the FBI is a prime agent of counter espionage itself. Or this still too complicated to understand? So, let's consider the indications now.
So the White House is dishing out different fake stories to possible leaks, in order to find out whom they are. Trump could later be accused of deluding the public on purpose. So he actually told the Press Corps he was doing it:
“THE LEAKS ARE ABSOLUTELY REAL. THE NEWS IS FAKE.”
- President Trump (News Conference, 2/16/2017)
The entire White House press corps immediately interpreted it as another insult, so Trump played along with that, saying:
"I am enjoying this...But I am changing (what we are talking about), We're now not talking about 'fake' news. We're talking about 'very fake' news."
Which everyone has taken as a joke. It wasn't. Trump was genuinely pointing out that media bias was a different subject. So the discussion entirely turned to the quality of the free press, and his counter espionage is still running.
The President did have to say something as he did, in case it was discovered that the White House is deliberately disseminating false information. Now he can simply say he really did tell the media he was making fake news, and the press was too stupid to understand (which currently appears true). No wonder he has such a low opinion of the press. He has been playing journalists like a checkers game, while the politicized media continue to attack each other.
In the last week, several more stories have emerged which the White House totally denies. After one story, which the White House described as 'denied at the highest levels,' reached the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, half a dozen staffers were fired without explanation.
So far, not one statement or event has contradicted the observation that the White House is obviously involved in counter espionage, and is now disseminating false facts. On the other hand, the White House chief of staff, did appear on Fox & Friends, who were sensible enough to ask where the leaks are really coming from. He replied by first complaining how many leaks there are, then said:
"I spend half my day putting out phony stories"
- Reince Priebus, White House Chief of Staff (Fox & Friends, 2/17/2017)
Which is a very wise double entendre, given his current circumstance. Then he channeled questioning to his other obligations, which have been negatively impacted by the continuing effort to find leaks. I had written this to Fox & Friends pointing out that he would tell them that, but have so far received no reply from them.
Fox News did put the issue of the White House deliberately making fake news to catch spies in front of a panel today, saying it is 'probably too nasty.' The panelists said nothing on the implications, instead using the question as an opportunity to restate their own prior opinions without any further thought on it whatsoever. Fox then moved on to repeat an AP report on massive armed roundups of immigrants as if it were a totally unrelated event, followed by its own reporting that the White House absolutely denies it. Big surprise?
Since 16th March 2016, when wikileaks first appeared, the media has discussed leaks continuously. But no thought has been given to counter espionage, and its actual implications, at all.
After almost a year of leaks now, it's time for the USA to grow up
and think through the implications of counter espionage,
especially when there is definitive indication that it should be happening,
regardless whether the above interpretation of administration statements is correct or not.
When there is known reason for counter espionage to be occurring, no leak can really be trusted without independent corroboration. The independent corroboration is necessary to verify that the claimed facts were not deliberately planted as unique secrets, and are actually false. Until such time it is clear there is no reason for counter espionage, unratified disclosure is unreliable.
Those planting the false facts have no reason to reveal it directly, although in this case, they can be expected to say such things that would divert their accountability for deluding the public. It remains true, in this case, that those leaking information might be less likely to circulate the fake news, if they knew falsities could have been deliberately planted to find them--in the short term. However, it is more in the interests of the administration to catch the leaks and prosecute later--in the long term. This is because the people who are not trustworthy would otherwise go dark, and there would be no way to know whom they are while they remain as 'moles.' Notwithstanding, the more intelligent know how counter espionage works, so the fake story has to be very convincing to catch them.
Thus one can only expect find only mild and dubious indication of the possible deception until there is reason for disclosure. By making remarks that indicate counter espionage is happening while in a scenario where they could be interpreted otherwise, the fake news instigators have placed themselves above criticism should the deception be discovered later. The reason for complete disclosure may be betrayal, or termination of the need for the deception, or there may be error in execution found by discrepancies in data. Until such time, leaks by themselves are unreliable, and proper analysis should be a search for discrepancy, rather than opinionation on the leaked information.
This equally applies to leaks so frequently repeated to criminalize Hillary Clinton (which additionally arose from sources with external interests in influencing the election). Note that almost a dozen intelligence agencies have been involved in trying to find the DNC and Clinton leak source, so counter espionage is indubitably in process.
Yet despite these being only basic facts in intelligence gathering, they have been naively and totally ignored for almost a year now, which is why I am spelling it out here.
Due to counter espionage, leaked secrets are untrustworthy without independent corroboration, simply because higher-level deception is possible. Proof one way or another as to counter espionage being the cause is not required.
Fox Anchors have noticeably reduced their extreme criticism of fake news on liberal networks. I had suggested it does that, as it will eventually reverse to hurt Fox and the administration. This is because Fox News would be blaming other journalists for false facts that the administration actually invented, Hence, attacks on other media channels only hurts Fox News itself. I have also tried to find some way to caution the liberal media, but they have so many complaints now, it is difficult to find a clear avenue for the communication.
It is possible that Mr. Trump would like the networks to stop spending so much time criticizing each other. I have also pointed out to the media that the news profession has lost as many jobs as coal miners since the promulgation of open-access Internet. That has caused immense workloads for journalists and a severe drop in reporting quality. Mr. Trump is adamant to save coal miners, but has done nothing to help the media at all, and meanwhile even public broadcasting services have continued to suffer attrition.
Analysts would be far better served to raise the decline of the news business to Mr. Trump's attention, asking that he regard journalism as a profession which needs more help, just like the coal miners, rather than continued derision and insults of each other. And Mr. Trump would be far better served to fund more education (on journalism and subjects related to understanding the truth, such as epistemology), and to sponsor public media to the same level when it was of a quality that met his approval, rather than continually complaining about the consequences of his own vicious attacks now.
After all, the smokescreen is gone. People are reading this and thinking about it. Finally.
So the White House is more than likely making false stories to catch spies. What happens next depends how mature the USA, and its leaders, decide to be.
Next could be a war, only started to avoid increased calls for impeachment.
Or we could seek a subtle peace, rather than blatant truth.
What do we actually want, and are we even capable of making a choice?
The real questions should be not whether the administration is deliberately deceiving the public, but how do we want the future to be, who are we, and what will we follow? Could a subtle peace actually be better than the blatant truth? Going back to that ancient myth at the beginning of this essay: will we follow Mercury, or Vulcan, or Mars, or Venus, or Jupiter? To see what I mean by that, please see the next essay: "Values of the Media, Trade, and War in the United States." Thank you for your attention, and please feel free to contact me.
- "Trump threatens ‘low-life leakers’ will be caught," Politico
- "It’s a Trap! Was National Guard Deportation Force Memo Designed to Catch WH Leaks?," New Hampshire Review
- "Judge Jeanine: Trump Has to Prosecute Obama ‘Leftovers’ Behind Leaks," Breitbart
- "Did Trump’s White House Use the Associated Press to Invent a “Fake News” Story?" Spin
- "Conspirator in chief: 14 fake news stories created or publicized by Donald Trump," Salon
First, I have been required to state this is my website, it is a private website, and I am neither a member of any political organization nor receiving anything whatsoever for what I share. I am an American citizen now living in California. My father was a foreign correspondent in London for the Washington Post, and on the editorial board of the New York Times. I grew up in Europe. I was fluent in Latin and ancient Greek at the age of 12. I was a scholar at Stowe, just after Richard Branson left there. I studied philosophy and psychology at Oxford University. Due to an interest in logic, I later worked as a digital technology journalist, then in engineering and technical communications in silicon valley. I worked on products for AT&T, Intel, Comcast, Apple, and others. When Steve Jobs died, I did not want to die of stress-induced disease like him, and retired. You will find other my contributions to the humanities, arts, and science on this site.