From Britain with love
Special Council Robert Mueller’s report has roundly dismissed “allegations that members of the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump …. conspired with the Russian government in its efforts to interfere in the 2016 U. S. Presidential election” (letter from the US Attorney General, March 24 2019). This is obviously a huge blow for Trump’s opponents in the US mainstream media and political and defence establishments.
What is less obvious, but nonetheless well documented, is how much of a blow it is for the UK foreign affairs establishment, and in particular MI6, whose (allegedly former) agent, Christopher Steele, provided the dossier which seems to have played a key role in Mueller’s investigation. What has not been reported at all, however, is the role played in this sinister fake news by the UK’s national broadcaster, the BBC.
Steele: how the Brits helped the FBI spy on Trump
Steele’s dossier – whose contents were entirely discredited when Mueller’s report was unable to find any evidence of the collusion between Trump and Russia which it alleged – seems to have been what enabled the FBI to gain the FISA warrant it used to spy on the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential campaign, or at the very least contributed to its success in obtaining one:
The heavily redacted copy of the Carter Page FISA surveillance warrant shows that it was granted on the basis of an allegation that Page was in collusion with the Russian government to influence the 2016 US election – an allegation whose source was the Steele dossier (see here for former chief Assistant Attorney General Andrew C. McCarthy‘s write up of this story).
Opponents of Trump have attempted to downplay the role of the Steele dossier in the investigation. But even they admit that it was used as evidence and only claim that there were other factors which also contributed to the court’s decision to grant the FBI its FISA warrant (CNN’s article here is a good example of this position). [Update: Judicial Watch recently obtained summary memos of the FBI’s interviews with Bruce Ohr which reveal the key role played by Steele’s dossier in enabling the FBI to spy on the Trump campaign].
(For Steele’s alleged involvement in the Skripal case, in particular the hypothesis that Skripal was poisoned to hide his role as a source for some of the material in the dossier, and Wood’s connections to Fusion GPS and involvement in the BBC’s conviction for libel against Petro Poroshenko, each worthy of several blogs in their own right, you can find information here, here, here and here).
The name is Wood. Paul Wood.
As I have written elsewhere (see here and here), the BBC has been consistently anti-Trump throughout his campaign and his presidency. It was therefore no surprise that when the Steele memo surfaced the BBC’s journalists went out of their way to puff up its credibility and that of its author.
Chief among the cheerleaders for the dossier was the BBC’s Paul Wood. Wood’s remit when the dossier’s existence was revealed in the media was (and, according to his official BBC profile, still is) Syria, not the US, so the fact that he led this story was surprising. Wood is described as a “war correspondent” by Justin Webb (whose left wing bias is analysed here) in the radio broadcast of the Today Programme (the BBC’s flagship news programme, of which Webb is one of the presenters) transcribed below, but as a “defence correspondent” in his official profile.
Webb’s apparent confusion of “war” (offence) for “defence” is certainly suggestive. But what is particularly noteworthy about Wood is that, while on the BBC’s books as a war (or defence) correspondent, he is also working for a US think tank. Two days after the Steele dossier story broke, Webb introduced Wood and the dossier in these terms:
The BBC war correspondent Paul Wood has contacts in the intelligence world and has been working this year at a Washington think tank and investigating allegations of Russian involvement in the US election [my emphasis]. He’s been telling me about the British former spy, Christopher Steele, who is said to have compiled the original dossier (BBC Radio 4 Today Programme, 12 January 2017).
It’s odd that Webb does not name New America, the think tank in question, but merely refers to it as a “Washington think tank.” Was he worried that if people heard the name they might look into New America in more depth? Whatever the case, it is likely that New America, for which Paul Wood is currently working while also working for the BBC, wouldn’t be best pleased that Webb incontinently revealed what Wood was doing at New America, which their official profile of him describes in completely different terms:
According to New America, far from “investigating allegations of Russian involvement in the US election,” as Webb claimed on air, he is there to write a book about Syria. As we know, US defence establishment support for the Jihadists it used as proxies to effect regime change in Syria and for the CIA’s attempt to frame Trump as a Russian asset are deeply connected. But the coincidence of those two agendas in Paul Wood was never explicitly acknowledged by either of his joint employers, the BBC and New America. For both, he was officially reporting or writing on Syria.
It would seem that New America’s official profile of Paul Wood is there to provide cover for his real remit (as we shall see further below), which he probably only mentioned to Webb verbally before they went on air. Luckily for Webb, the interview’s contents aren’t searchable and the Today Programme (unlike some Radio 4 news bulletins) is only available on catch-up for 30 days after broadcast, so New America and indeed most people won’t have spotted his massive fumble. Unluckily for Webb, having transcribed the whole discussion between him and Wood at the time, we can now put the record straight.
Who is (New) America?
To misquote Sacha Baron Cohen, who is New America? Its CEO and President is Anne-Marie Slaughter:
Slaughter (pictured) was Hillary Clinton’s former director of policy planning at the State Department:
New America’s donors when Paul Wood was appointed are also significant:
Along with Eric and Wendy Schmidt of Google (more of whom below), we find George Soros’ son’s foundation among the donors. So the think tank for which Paul Wood was working was funded by the Soros’s, supporters of global government and open borders – to which Trump’s presidency is in visceral opposition.
Funded by Google
Moreover, Wood’s fellowship at New America is funded by Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google’s parent company Alphabet, and his wife Wendy. Being funded by the head of Google is significant. Google executives were secretly filmed lamenting Trump’s victory over Clinton in the 2016 presidential election and analyses of its search results (referred to in this article), among them one by Harvard University, found them to be politically biased against Republicans. Schmidt himself was revealed by Wikileaks to have drafted strategic plans for Clinton during her campaign:
Eric Schmidt’s donations to New America seem to have been responsible for the firing of Barry Lynn, a New America staffer who criticised Google. The linked article also contains an interesting description of how the think tank changed from its apparently disruptive, consensus-challenging roots to the partisan organisation it is today as it became the recipient of funding from big tech and the State Department.
The agent’s handlers
Innocent listeners to the Today Programme wouldn’t know this about New America. In the absence of such information, the natural thing to do would be to trust Paul Wood as a BBC reporter and, indeed, to think that his work for “a Washington think tank” gave him useful connections in the American defence and security establishment which enhanced his credentials as an expert on the subject of Trump’s potential status as a Russian asset. Although they are not difficult to find, very few people have the time or the knowledge to investigate New America’s background. However, once you do investigate, you find that New America, far from being objective, is a highly partisan organisation. BBC listeners might react differently to Wood’s claims if they knew his boss at New America had been a key aid to Hillary Clinton, or that her think tank was funded by key figures in the Clinton campaign like Eric Schmidt or advocates of open borders globalism like Soros – all of whom are sworn enemies of Trump. For the BBC to use Wood as a purportedly objective, expert source without clearly stating the highly partisan nature of the think thank he was working for is highly misleading.
Like lambs to the Slaughter
As we wrote, the key issue which divided Trump from Clinton in the 2016 election was intervention in Syria, with Clinton being in favor and Trump against. In that respect, Slaughter provides a revealing link between Wood’s support for the Steele dossier and his previous Syria role. Slaughter (in what might be cited as a strong piece of evidence for nominative determinism) is an arch interventionist and warmonger. This can easily be seen from a casual perusal of her comments. Her praise (alongside most Trump opponents) for his bombing of the Syrian army, is cited in this post:
I’m not the first person to spot this, as this perceptive comment in a Mondoweiss comment thread shows:
“It is time to change Putin’s calculations, and Syria is the place to do it.” These are frightening comments. Not only does Slaughter want the US to bomb Syria, but she wants them to do it as a show of strength to intimidate Russia over the Ukraine. She specifically calls for “secret drone attacks.” What’s more, she is prepared to throw all the lessons from the Iraq war in the bin and attack without UN approval. Even by the normal standards of US hawks and of Clinton’s inner circle, these are eye watering levels of belligerence. Slaughter is like an updated version of Madeleine Albright, who said of the killing of half a million children in the Iraq war, “the price is worth it.” As for her comment that US military intervention will change the calculus in Russia, “not to mention …. Tokyo,” I am at a loss. She is so aggressive she’s even trying to rattle America’s quiet ally Japan. She’s the sort of person who could start a war on an uninhabited planet.
Not only is Paul Wood working for a think tank deeply tied to Hillary Clinton, the head of that think tank is one of the most aggressive advocates of the militaristic regime change policy espoused by Clinton and opposed by Trump. Slaughter’s shrill advocacy of military intervention in Syria of course takes us back to Wood’s official role as a Syria reporter. Slaughter, with her keen interest in invading …. I mean bringing democracy to Syria, may well have been impressed by Wood’s reporting, which, like that of most BBC journalists, is highly sympathetic to the Jihadist rebels. As an equally keen Clinton supporter, she may have selected Wood, based on his official work on the Syrian conflict, to come and do the unofficial work on the alleged (and, we now know after the publication of Mueller’s report, fictional) Russian influence on the Trump campaign.
The role of McCain
Justin Webb: “And what does the intelligence community, and indeed, what do members of Congress do now with this information swirling about, with Donald Trump having said what he has said about it, what happens next?”
Paul Wood: “Well some Republicans, such as Senator John McCain, no friend of Donald Trump’s but a Republican, are talking about hearings in the intelligence committee or the armed services committee, that gives the groundwork for what some Democrats have been talking about for some time which is impeachment. Incredible to be talking about this ten days before the inauguration. You know we use this word ‘unprecedented’ about Donald Trump, about his campaign so many times, we really ought to stop using it.”
Paul Wood is clearly on the inside of a lot of information which was only confirmed long after this January 2017 broadcast. The direct role of the late Senator John McCain, who oversaw the ousting of Colonel Ghadaffi in Libya in alliance with Hillary Clinton, in using the Steele report to frame Carter Page, only came out into the open in a book he published in 2018.
Wood seems to have already known this two years earlier in 2016.
Wood the FISA agent
The fact that the Steele dossier played a role in the application for a FISA surveillance warrant on the Trump campaign first began to reach the wider public with the declassification in February 2018 of a January 2018 memo by Republican Senator and Trump supporter Deven Nunes. The memo alleged improprieties by the FBI, which, it claimed, had obtained a FISA order on Carter Page in October 2016.
Later, in September 2018, a memo from the White House refers to an application in June 2017 to the FISA court in connection with Carter Page (reported in Zerohedge). This is probably an application under title VII, from which the Nunes memo distinguishes the earlier probable cause application.
The October 2016 date is significant, as it was around that date that Wood tells Webb that he first saw the Steele report (the part of the broadcast where Wood makes the admission quoted here is transcribed and discussed in more detail below, in another section of this post):
I was shown the report at the end of October, beginning of November, and I was able, through an intermediary, to ask the CIA what they thought of it. The case officers wouldn’t speak to me themselves, but they said they thought it was credible …
The fact that the FISA order was granted so soon after the Steele report was published strongly suggests that the report was used by the FBI in its probable cause application. Wood’s equivocation, “the end of October, beginning November,” when he knows perfectly well when he saw the report, can be understood in this context. He is nervous of the link being drawn between the FISA warrant grant and the dossier and so tries to muddy the waters as to when he saw it.
But, later in the broadcast, Wood makes a surprising disclosure:
Justin Webb: You also mentioned in that answer the funding of his campaign, and the suggestion that’s been around for some time that there was some sort of link with the, the Russians. Do we know now that the FBI investigated whether or not there were improper links between the Trump campaign and the Russians, during the course of the election?
Paul Wood: We absolutely know that to be true: ah I had confirmation from a very senior ah I will call him member of the intelligence community, who verified things I was hearing from a number of sources, but the key fact here is that there was a secret warrant granted by court, it’s called the FISA court in the US, to look at the activities of two Russian banks, the other half of which is being conducted by the FBI, into some named associates of Donald Trump’s. Now I spoke to all three of the people who my sources told me were the subject of this investigation, they roundly denied any wrongdoing, thought it was utter nonsense, but my sources were telling me that ultimately Donald Trump himself was the subject of that investigation. What we don’t know is if they are continuing it today, and what they will do, when Mr Trump takes office in ten days time [my emphasis].
This is quite remarkable. Long before the US media and over a year before the Nunes memo was declassified, Paul Wood reports on a FISA warrant being granted on three Trump associates. We can’t exactly match the “activities of two Russian banks” with what has subsequently transpired in the various investigations into the alleged Russian collusion, but it is likely that one of the individuals was Mannafort. Nonetheless, it seems Paul Wood was reporting on there being a FISA warrant in an investigation of which “ultimately Donald Trump himself was the subject” long before the topic surfaced in the US mainstream media. Until the Nunes memo, there was certainly speculation on social media that Steele had enabled the FBI to obtain a FISA warrant on the Trump campaign. But even the hysterical Trump-hating David Corn, reporting on the then undeclared FBI investigations into the Trump campaign on 31 October 2016, does not mention the granting of any FISA warrant. Corn most probably knew about the FISA warrant but was careful not to mention that he knew it had been granted, as that would attract suspicion. Wood, over a year before the Nunes report, was confidently reporting to the BBC that a FISA warrant had been awarded as an established fact. How on earth did he manage that??
Reporting or making news?
But we should pause before recommending Wood for a Pullitzer, which his many fans seem to think he deserves:
There is something very fishy about how he obtained his scoop. The Steele dossier, it later transpired, had been funded by the Clinton campaign, to which Wood’s funder and boss at New America were deeply connected. Wood, in other words, was working for an organisation intimately linked to the organisation which encouraged Steele to produce his report. Officially, Wood was just sitting in the same building, innocently writing about Syria. But what his colleague Webb let slip was that he was active in the very part of New America involved with the Russia probe. Wood was, apparently, “embedded with the US marines for the assault on Fallujah in 2004” (Shropshire Star). It seems that he was later also deeply embedded in the attempt to use the Steele dossier to discredit Donald Trump. Rather than being a credit to him as a journalist, his early look on the Steele dossier shows that he was too close to the story, working for those who were making the news on which he was reporting.
Paid on both sides
This underlines the quite scandalous nature of Wood’s dual employment. It is very disturbing that the BBC’s “war reporter” should be employed by a think tank so actively involved in promoting war. Through Wood, New America is able to influence the BBC – which is supposed to report impartially – with its clear and undisguised advocacy for regime change and aggressive support for confrontation with countries like Russia and China (“not to mention Japan”!). How can the BBC allow an internal employee to have such a monumental conflict of interest?
But perhaps the scandal cuts the other way. Steele is an Englishman, from MI6. The UK is more than an ally of the US in Syria. It is in many ways leading the US with an independent agenda in the region. Its establishment has been critical of Trump every time he called for the US to withdraw from Syria:
The British establishment feels threatened by Trump’s America First policy, which would allow the US to spend money domestically rather than invest in projecting its influence internationally through inter-governmental coalitions and supra-national bodies in which the UK establishment has an influence (for more on the British establishment’s anti-American and anti-Trump activities see here and here as well as here for an interesting take on Cambridge Analytica, which, contrary to Carole Cadwalladr’s many conspiracies, was in cahoots with Steele). In Syria, the White Helmets, who are the main propaganda vehicle for the Western intervention supported by the UK and opposed by Donald Trump, work hand in hand with Medics under Fire, headed by a former UK soldier, Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, who often acts as their spokesman. Wood therefore may have been undermining Trump to advance the cause of the UK establishment.
Is New America using Wood to influence the BBC? Or is Wood acting as a UK special agent for passing the Steele dossier to US intelligence agencies through the conduit of New America? What Webb revealed in his fumble is that Wood is a double agent. The BBC’s profile of Wood makes no mention of his work for New America. It is therefore impossible to know how much time he still spends at the BBC, if he is even still reporting for them or whether he is still officially on their books. Over two years is a long sabbatical. This kind of semi-official status is the classic front for spying. It allows Wood to advance whatever agenda he is pursuing without leaving a trace. Whoever it is he serves first, the BBC or New America, the UK or the US intelligence world, his dual role is emblematic of an incestuous and unhealthy relationship between the media and a small group of influential politicians and organisations (like the FBI) promoting a very particular agenda.
Credible double agent
For those intrigued by Paul Wood the double agent, it’s worth looking at the techniques he used on air for the BBC, back in January 2017, to build up the “credibility” of the Steele dossier and the Trump investigation. Although the broadcast only took place just over two years ago, it feels like a time capsule of the breathless atmosphere in which the BBC and other MSM opponents of Donald Trump eagerly latched onto any potentially negative story about him. Here is Webb’s introduction of Wood, an extract of which is quoted above:
It feels as though Donald Trump’s battle with the US intelligence services is shaping up to be a life or death struggle, for him or for them. At his simply jaw dropping news conference, the president elect was absolutely adamant that the allegations that the Russians had lurid tapes and other material damaging to him was totally untrue. But he added that he thought the allegations were now public because the US intelligence services had leaked them. Of course he might be telling the truth, it wouldn’t be the first time so called intelligence turned out to be nonsense. But the case is being made this morning by some spies that this is more than just idle gossip. The BBC war correspondent Paul Wood has contacts in the intelligence world and has been working this year at a Washington think tank and investigating allegations of Russian involvement in the US election. He’s been telling me about the British former spy, Christopher Steele, who is said to have compiled the original dossier (BBC Radio 4 Today Programme, 12 January 2017).
Webb relies to a great extent on hyperbole: the news conference is “jaw dropping,” while Trump’s battle with the intelligence services is a matter of “life or death.” Webb is careful to acknowledge that the intelligence he is reporting on can be “nonsense,” but lends credibility to this particular story by appealing to the authority of anonymous insiders, whom he casually refers to as “some spies.” Those spies are nameless, so there is no way of knowing if they exist and, if they do, whether they are credible. But the claim that they are spies makes them seem authoritative on the subject of the accusation levelled at Trump – that he is in cahoots with spies and double agents. Webb can thus anticipate the potential objection from Trump supporters – and indeed many Radio 4 listeners with no particular view on Trump – that this is just “idle gossip,” by claiming that the credible insiders, the spies, think there’s more to it. Still, this is an odd trick. On one hand the claim is lent solidity and credibility by an appeal to the authority of insiders, but, on the other, the existence and identity of those insiders, and therefore any means to determine whether they exist or are credible, is kept secret.
Paul Wood is introduced in this context as having “contacts in the intelligence world” and therefore as the BBC’s link to the anonymous insiders who lend a cloak of respectability to the allegations against Trump on which it reports. This is what Wood said about Christopher Steele in response to Webb’s introduction:
Well let’s not forget that the central allegation here is that Donald Trump is vulnerable to blackmail by the Kremlin, and this originates in a report written by Mr Steele, so it all rests on his credibility. I’m told by people in the intelligence world that he’s extremely highly regarded, thought of as competent, and the fact that it was him writing this report and the detail he went into went a long way to it being regarded as credible by American Intelligence Institutions [my emphasis (and Wood’s)].
Wood’s point here is to establish Steele’s “credibility.” If Steele is “credible,” then his report is “credible” and so Trump can “credibly” be suspected of being a Russian agent. He makes this point by using the same technique as Webb: an appeal to the authority of anonymous insiders: the (nameless) “people in the intelligence world.” But, on closer inspection, the claims made on Steele’s behalf are bland and superficial, amusingly so. The “people in the intelligence world” allegedly say Mr Steele is “extremely highly regarded.” This kind of platitude is the sort of filler comment people put in references when they can’t think of something specifically positive to say about the person whose reference they are writing. The next comment is even more damning in its faint praise: “thought of as competent.” This is like restaurants saying they use fresh eggs in their breakfasts: the idea that you have to say your eggs are fresh somehow implies that you would consider using eggs that had gone off, or, God forbid, powdered egg. It would be shocking if the opposite were true, if Steele were “thought to be incompetent by the people in the intelligence world.” You would assume that if he worked for MI6 he needed to be sane, able bodied, capable of spelling his name and endowed with basic competence in the matter of spy craft. To say he’s “competent” as if that were somehow an impressive fact is a hollow claim.
The most amusing remark, for me, is Wood’s claim that “the detail he went into went a long way to [his report] being regarded as credible by American Intelligence Institutions.” The problem with arguing that something is more credible if it’s more detailed is that a lot of fiction is incredibly detailed. Take this from Jonathan Swift:
I turned back, and perceived a vast opaque body between me and the sun, moving forwards towards the island: it seemed to be about two miles high, and hid the sun six or seven minutes, but I did not observe the air to be much colder, or the sky to be more darkened, than if I had stood under the shade of a mountain. As it approached nearer over the place where I was, it appeared to be a firm substance, the bottom flat, smooth and shining very bright from the reflection of the sea below.
The reader can hardly conceive my astonishment, to behold an island in the air, inhabited by men, who were able (as it would seem) to raise, or sink, or put it into a progressive motion as they pleased.
I could see the sides of it, encompassed with several gradations of galleries, and stairs, at certain intervals, to descend from one to the other. In the lowest gallery, I beheld some people fishing with long angling rods, and others looking on.
Gulliver’s Travels (1726), “A Voyage to Laputa”
If the Steele dossier were revealed to be more detailed than this I would be as surprised as Lemuel Gulliver was when he saw the island of Laputa hovering toward him over the waves. Swift’s description is richly, deeply detailed. But it is a description of an island floating in the air.
The comparison is not a flippant one. One of the most common techniques used by good fiction to allow the reader to suspend disbelief and inhabit another, fictional space, is to render it in great detail. This gives the reader the appearance of a living, internally consistent and coherent world. It is the detail with which J. K. Rowling describes the different houses of Hogwarts that allows countless children (and even, sadly, some adults) to imagine that they belong to one of those imaginary houses. The quality which Paul Wood attributes to Steele’s dossier in order to claim that it is credible is precisely the quality which much of the most successful fiction uses in order to pass itself off as realistic, even though it is entirely imaginary.
“Be under no illusion”
Wood continues his tale:
I was shown the report at the end of October, beginning of November, and I was able, through an intermediary, to ask the CIA what they thought of it. The case officers wouldn’t speak to me themselves, but they said they thought it was credible, ah further, that there was more than one tape, there was audio as well as video, it wasn’t in just one place, it was St Petersburg as well as Moscow, ah and they thought that it was certainly worthy of consideration. And, in fact, that’s why it ended up on President Obama’s desk last week. This is now being framed [sic!] and James Clapper, the director of national intelligence came out with a statement late last night saying that they just thought Mr Trump and President Obama should be informed this is what people were talking about. But be under no illusion, things do not get to the President’s desk, unless ah the people giving these intelligence briefing [sic] think that they are, at the very least, credible, worthy of further investigation [my emphasis].
Wood knows exactly when he was shown the report and so his equivocation about the date is significant, as outlined above. The FBI was touchy, as we saw above, on the role that the Steele dossier played in the FISA warrant they obtained on Carter Page. It is likely that if Wood gave a more precise date for his reception of the dossier this might have helped external observers to triangulate the date at which it began to play a role in the FBI’s investigation.
Otherwise, the techniques used by Wood here are more of the same. The anonymous CIA case officers, speaking through an intermediary to Wood (himself the holder of an intermediary position between New America and the BBC and acting as intermediary between the BBC and the intelligence insiders on which its broadcast is based) say that “they thought it was credible” (that word again) and “it was worthy of consideration.” Just in case you entertained any doubt as to the (remember, now discredited) dossier’s “credibility,” Wood bludgeons you into submission with repetition. But repeating that something is “credible” over and over again does not make it credible. People thought the reports of Iraqi soldiers throwing babies from incubators were “credible.” Indeed, the more someone feels the need to insist that a claim is “credible” the more one tends to suspect it is anything but; indeed, these claims have recently been revealed to be entirely incredible, inter alia by the Mueller report.
We also have more use of detail: “there was more than one tape, there was audio as well as video, it wasn’t in just one place, it was St Petersburg as well as Moscow.” Not just multiple tapes, but audio and video tapes! Not just Moscow but St Petersburg too! All of these details prime the listener to believe the story, as if each one were another piece of evidence in a trial, adding to the richness and depth of the picture in their mind. But, as with Swift’s description of Laputa or Rowling’s of Hogwarts, the fact that there are many details does not make the account any more real. We have no idea what is on those tapes, whether audio or video, or if they even exist. For all we know they might be Harry Potter audio books or VHS tapes of Bruce Lee movies. Whether you have one audio tape or seven audio tapes and five video tapes, it doesn’t matter if they’re all imaginary or none of them contain any information convicting Trump.
Wood appeals to another authority here, using the word “credible” one more time, and this time it’s not an anonymous one: “things do not get to the President’s desk, unless the people giving these intelligence briefing [sic] think that they are, at the very least, credible, worthy of further investigation.” The fact that the report made it onto Obama’s desk is claimed by Wood as some kind of litmus test of its authenticity. But it may well be that the report was put on Obama’s desk for entirely political reasons. Whether it had any “credibility” or not, it may have been put on his desk by the highly partisan James Clapper simply to cast doubts on Trump.
With this claim, Wood is simply conforming to the political prejudices of his New America employers and funders.
Wood later goes on to give an account of Steele going into hiding and of his friends’ preservation of his precious report which is like a Le Carré plot rendered into prose by Geoffrey Archer:
I was told that he left his house yesterday morning or the day before, telling his neighbor to look after his cats, and has gone into hiding. When I was first shown this report, ah, I was shown it by the people who commissioned it. They wouldn’t let me speak to Mr Steele, and they said that he was literally, in their words, in fear of his life, worried about the consequences of speaking out against supposed Russian involvement in Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. Um he thought he was in some danger. That might sound a bit hysterical, but it was a warning I was given, with utter seriousness, and it’s certainly consistent with the fact that he has now disappeared.
More detail (“his cats”), more intrigue (“they wouldn’t let me speak to Mr Steele” “literally in fear of his life”) and more solemn credibility (“with utter seriousness,” “certainly consistent with the fact”). All the artifices of a good yarn, albeit delivered in a fairly pedestrian manner.
But the pick of Wood’s speech is the way he introduces his highly political use of President Obama as validation for the dossier’s credibility with an adjuration to the listener and Webb to “be under no illusion.” Everything Wood has done in this piece has been to create an illusion of credibility for the Steele dossier. But any credibility it may have had now lies in ruins. The Mueller report has revealed the Steele dossier to be just that, an illusion. Wood’s adjuration is therefore a pure rhetorical trick. It tries to pass off the fact that his story is an illusion by telling you that any doubts you may have about it are … just an illusion.
I would like to thank the individual tweeting under the handle @navsteva for the insight into the UK’s anti-US and anti-Trump agenda which helped me make sense of the narrative and provided this post with its guiding thread. Over the years, my appreciation of his analysis keeps growing. His take on US foreign policy is almost invariably correct and a few steps ahead of most other commentators.