Wednesday, July 25, 2018


The Discovery

 So I was in the middle of responding via email to a friend of mine about the recent release of the Carter Page FISA warrant.  
I was commenting that I was shocked to find that there was disagreement on what it revealed.   My usual conservative sources claimed that the FISA release vindicated everything that the Nunes Memo said, while an episode of Meet the Press with Katie Tur on MSNBC yesterday afternoon claimed just the opposite. I said that the stark difference prompted me to start reading the actual FISA release, and that so far, my conservative sources had been vindicated, and Katie Tur and MSNBC had been exposed as partisan hacks and totally unworthy of the trust my friend routinely places in them.
I then went on to list some of the inaccuracies and downright misrepresentations Katie Tur was guilty of.

I still believe I am correct in that assessment, but I got sidetracked trying to document with links to sources a particular erroneous claim about Carter Page. The left is fond of pointing out that the FBI had interviewed Page in June of 2013 in reference to a Russian attempt to recruit him as a resource. This is true. They tried. The FBI had been surveilling the Russians who attempted the recruitment, and they eventually indicted them. Page was not believed to have known that he had been a target of recruitment and was never charged with any crime. Still, the left continues to refer to this incident as somehow providing evidence that the later surveillance of Page was justified.

Well I remember reading an article from February 2018 that tried to make the case that not only was Carter Page's behavior completely innocent during this episode, but that Page actually assisted the FBI in making their case against the spies by delivering some binders of energy related information to the spies that concealed hidden microphones.
The recordings from these hidden microphones were instrumental in making the case against the Russians. There is no doubt that the hidden microphones were used in collecting the evidence.  The article to which I am referring made a very convincing case that two people referred to in the indictment of the Russian spies, Male #1 (Carter Page by his own acknowledgement) and Undercover Employee #1 who planted the microphones, were the same person.  The story was quite convoluted. I remember spending hours at the time tracing the various documents and news articles to which the author had referred to confirm for myself that this was indeed true. As a result, I have believed since February that Carter Page has been particularly hard done by in the media. Not only was his attempted recruitment by the Russians no reflection on his character, but the press never mentioned his cooperation in the case and his critical role in indicting the spies. I had often wondered why this never got any coverage in the press. I was attempting to use this as one of my talking points in my email to my friend as to why Katie Tur and MSNBC were full of s**t. In an attempt to document this claim in my email, I revisited the original article and the sources to which the author had referred. I was trying to reproduce the evidence for my friend in a simpler, more concise format. As I said, when I first read the article, I spent hours on the project. I couldn't subject my friend to that sort of a demand to make my point. Not if it could be simplified. So I retraced the steps that had led to the conclusion that Carter Page was a hero, not a goat. Eventually I constructed a time line of events. To my dismay, I discovered two things:

1) The claim that Carter Page was the one who planted the microphones is not supported by the time line, and what's worse,

 2) It appears that the author of the article in question intentionally misrepresented the substance of a NY Times story to support his proposition. He provided a quote which took two sentences that did actually appear in the NYT article. But in the original NYT piece, the sentences were separated by several paragraphs. In his article, he juxtaposed the two sentences next to one another. In the process, he entirely altered, in a critical way, the meaning of the two sentences. He separated the two sentences with a […] implying that he had left out some extraneous verbiage in between. But clearly, the verbiage in between was anything but extraneous. The context totally alters the meaning of the paragraph. The author might claim that he honestly disclosed that he had abbreviated the wording by the use of the […] device. That is simply not true. I think it was done to provide the author with plausible deniability if caught in his fraud. My take? The author's denial of his fraud is not plausible.

This author is quite prolific. I read his stuff regularly. He has disclosed any number of narratives in the past that I had not previously been aware of.  I never simply accepted what I read without examining the sources of the information and whether the logic employed passed the sniff test, but even so, I am now left wondering what other misrepresentations he has made in the past? What else do I believe as a result of my reliance on this website that I should now re examine?

The Details

On January 23, 2015 an indictment was filed in the Southern District of New York against three Russians.  Two of the Russians had diplomatic status and one was working for a Russian Bank in Manhattan under what is referred to as Non Official Cover, or NOC.  In reality, all three worked for the the Russian Federation's Foreign Intelligence Service, the SVR.  The banker, Evgeny Buryakov, also known as Zhenya, was arrested in January 2015.  The two diplomats, Igor Sporyshev and Victor Podobnyy were not arrested as they had already left the country.

The indictment claims the three men had been operating in New York since 2012.   Starting on page 12 of the indictment, paragraph 32, the documents describe the efforts of the Russians to recruit a person referred to as Male-1 as an intelligence resource.  Male-1 is described as an energy consultant.  The following is a transcription of a clandestinely recorded conversation held by the two defendants with diplomatic cover.  From the indictment:

Paragraph 32.
Also on or about April 8, 2013, IGOR SPORYSHEV and VICTOR PODOBNYY, the defendants, discussed PODOBNYY's efforts to recruit a male working as a consultant in New York City ("Male-1") as an intelligence source:

VP: [Male-1] wrote that he is sorry, he went to Moscow and forgot to check his inbox, but he wants to meet when he gets back.  I think he is an idiot and forgot who I am.  Plus he writes to me in Russian [to] practice the language. He flies to Moscow more often than I do. He got hooked on Gazprom thinking that if they have a project , he could be rise up. Maybe he can. I don't know, but it's obvious that he wants to earn lots of money...

IS: Without a doubt.

VP: He said that they have a new project right now, new energy boom.

VP: He says that it is about to take off.  I don't say anything for now.

IS: Yeah, first we will spend a couple of borrowed million and then . . . .

VP: [UI] [laughs] it's worth it .  I like that he takes on everything. For now his enthusiasm works for me. I also promised him a lot : that I have connections in the Trade Representation, meaning you that you can push contracts [laughs].  I will feed him empty promises.

IS: Shit, then he will write me. Not even me, to our clean one.

VP: I didn't say the Trade Representation . . . I did not even indicate that this is connected to a government agency. This is intelligence method to cheat, how else to work with foreigners? You promise a favor for a favor. You get the documents from him and tell him to go fuck himself. But not to upset you, I will take you to a restaurant and give you an expensive gift . You just need to sign for it . This is ideal working method.  

 Then, in paragraph 34, the indictment states that the FBI agents interviewed Male-1

Paragraph 34

On or about June 13, 2013, Agent-2 and I interviewed Male-1. Male-1 stated that he first met VICTOR PODOBNYY, the defendant, in January 2013 at an energy symposium in New York City. During this initial meeting, PODOBNYY gave Male-1 PODOBNYY's business card and two email addresses. Over the following months, Male-1 and PODOBNYY exchanged emails about the energy business and met in person on occasion, with Male-1 providing PODOBNYY with Male-1's outlook on the current and future of the energy industry. Male-1 also provided documents to PODOBNYY about the energy business. 

 Male-1 has been revealed to be Carter Page.  The description as an energy consultant with connections to Russia fits Page's profile.  His identity was outed in an Ali Watkins article in Buzzfeed from April 3, 2017 and also in an ABC News article by Brian Ross from April 4, 2017.  Page has acknowledged that he is the Male-1 referred to in the 2015 Southern District of New York indictment of the three Russians.

On a fascinating side note: 

Ali Watkins is the journalist who was sleeping with James Wolfe, head of security for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) and allegedly received documents from Wolfe.  Wolfe is currently under indictment.  Watkins has since come up in the world and has moved from Buzzfeed to the New York Times.  Brian Ross also allegedly received documents from Wolfe, but he hasn't fared so well.    Ross got fired from ABC in early July of this year for a mistake he made about dates.  Ross incorrectly reported in December 2017 that Donald Trump, while a candidate for president, had directed Michael Flynn to make contact with the Russians. Instead, the request to Flynn, who was briefly national security adviser, came when Mr. Trump was president-elect.  And how's this for irony?   One source I read has speculated with a very convincing argument that the document that Wolfe leaked to both Watkins and Ross which revealed Carter Page to be Male-1 from the 2015 indictment was none other than the secret Carter Page FISA Application which was the subject of my recent email to my friend and, in a round about way, the genesis of this very article.  If that isn't ironic enough for you, the source of the speculative article suggesting that the document that Wolfe leaked to Ross and Watkins was in fact the Carter Page FISA Application is none other than The Conservative Treehouse.  The website that published the February2018 article I am currently writing about which I believe to be a fraud.  Looks like I've some more work to do once I finish this article!

No mention is made in the indictment of microphones being clandestinely smuggled into the Russians' office in the binders of energy related documents.  That information appears in a Reuters article from March 9, 2016 and a press release from the US Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York dated two days later on March 11, 2016.
Here are the relative paragraphs from the Reuters article:

"NEW YORK (Reuters) - The FBI eavesdropped on meetings involving Russian intelligence personnel in New York City, including a suspected spy posing as a trade representative, by hiding recorders in binders containing supposedly confidential information about the energy sector, U.S. prosecutors said." 
"According to prosecutors, in April 2012, Sporyshev met an undercover FBI employee posing as an analyst at a New York energy firm at an oil and gas industry conference.
Over the next two years, they met to discuss the industry and other economic and political issues, prosecutors said, with Sporyshev providing gifts and cash for information.
In 2013, the FBI employee began providing Sporyshev with the binders containing purported industry analysis he wrote, supporting documents, and “covertly placed recording devices,” prosecutors wrote."
"As the undercover employee said his company would fire him if it learned he disclosed confidential information, Sporyshev would promptly return the binders after reviewing them, prosecutors said.  The recordings that resulted captured statements of Sporyshev, Podobnyy, and other Russian intelligence personnel from January to May 2013, prosecutors said"

And here is the relevant statement from the press release:

"The FBI obtained the recordings after Sporyshev attempted to recruit an FBI undercover employee (“UCE-1”), who was posing as an analyst from a New York-based energy company.  In response to requests from Sporyshev, UCE-1 provided Sporyshev with binders containing purported industry analysis written by UCE-1 and supporting documentation relating to UCE-1’s reports, as well as covertly placed recording devices.  Sporyshev then took the binders to, among other places, the Residentura."

Notice that the descriptions of Male-1 and UCE-1 are similar.   From the indictment, Male-1 is described as follows:

"[T]he defendants, discussed PODOBNYY's efforts to recruit a male working as a consultant in New York City ("Male-1") as an intelligence source:"

And from the Reuters article, the person who planted the microphones (labeled UCE-1 in the SDNY Press Release) is described thusly:

"[I]n April 2012, Sporyshev met an undercover FBI employee posing as an analyst at a New York energy firm at an oil and gas industry conference."
 One could be forgiven for mistakenly wondering if Male-1 from the indictment (Carter Page) is the same person as UCE-1 from the press release, the person who planted the microphones.  The article from The Conservative Treehouse claims they must be.  Not only that, but the author provides that (deceptive) excerpt from the April 4, 2017 New York Times article (pay wall) in support of that claim.  Let me show you how the Conservative Treehouse author presented the information from the New York Times:

Russian intelligence operatives tried in 2013 to recruit an American businessman and eventual foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign who is now part of the F.B.I. investigation into Russia’s interference into the American election, according to federal court documents and a statement issued by the businessman. 

The businessman, Carter Page, met with one of three Russians who were eventually charged with being undeclared officers with Russia’s foreign intelligence service, known as the S.V.R.  The F.B.I. interviewed Mr. Page in 2013 as part of an investigation into the spy ring, but decided that he had not known the man was a spy, and the bureau never accused Mr. Page of wrongdoing.

The court documents say that Mr. Page, who founded an investment company in New York called Global Energy Capital, provided documents about the energy business to one of the Russians […] To record their conversations, the F.B.I. inserted a listening device into binders that were passed to the Russian intelligence operatives during an energy conference, according to a former United States intelligence official. 

 These three paragraphs are the first three paragraphs of the NY Times article.  The third paragraph is interrupted before the end by the [...] device.  The three line sentence which follows immediately in the Conservative Treehouse version doesn't appear in the original NYT version until several paragraphs later (bolded and highlighted in yellow).  It is displayed in its proper position with its proper context below:
According to the court documents filed in 2015, the F.B.I. secretly recorded Mr. Podobnyy and another Russian operative named Igor Sporyshev discussing efforts to recruit Mr. Page, who was then working in New York as a consultant.
To record their conversations, the F.B.I. inserted a listening device into binders that were passed to the Russian intelligence operatives during an energy conference, according to a former United States intelligence official. The Russians then took the binders into a secure room where they thought they could evade American intelligence eavesdropping attempts.
In a transcript of the conversation included in the court documents, Mr. Podobnyy tells his Russian colleague that Mr. Page frequently flies to Moscow and is interested in earning large sums of money. Mr. Page was apparently interested in striking a deal with Gazprom, the Russian state-run oil firm, according to the transcript. Mr. Podobnyy called Mr. Page an “idiot” but said he was enthusiastic.
 As you can see, context is everything.  Yes, the descriptions of Page and UCE-1 sound similar, but they are decidedly not identical.  And while the deceptive quote from the New York Times implies that the two people are one in the same, the accurate quote in the proper context shows nothing of the kind.

 Also, the descriptions of when the Russians first encountered Male-1 and UCE-1 are not consistent with them being the same person.  From paragraph 34 of the indictment, referencing Page's June 13, 2013  FBI  interview:

"Male-1 stated that he first met VICTOR PODOBNYY, the defendant, in January 2013 at an energy symposium in New York City"

 UCE-1, on the other hand is referenced in the Reuters article thusly:

"According to prosecutors, in April 2012, Sporyshev met an undercover FBI employee posing as an analyst at a New York energy firm at an oil and gas industry conference"
So the real UCE-1 met the Russians in April of 2012, and Male-1 (Page) didn't meet them until January, 2013.  

Furthermore, Page could not have planted the microphones that picked up the Russians talking about their attempts to recruit him.  The time line is all wrong.  According to the Reuters article, the recordings were made from January through May, 2013.  The indictment's transcript of the taped conversation of the Russians discussing the attempts to recruit Page comes from April 8, 2013.  But we know from paragraph 34 of the indictment that the FBI didn't interview Page until June 13, 2013.    Presumably Page could not have planted the microphones before he had even been interviewed by the FBI.

Here's the timeline pieced together from the relevant articles and documents:

April 2012, Sporyshev met an undercover FBI employee (UCE #1) posing as an analyst at a New York energy firm at an oil and gas industry conference.  Over the next two years, they met to discuss the industry and other economic and political issues, prosecutors said, with Sporyshev providing gifts and cash for information. (Reuters)

2013, the FBI employee [UCE-1] began providing Sporyshev with the binders containing purported industry analysis he wrote, supporting documents, and “covertly placed recording devices,” prosecutors wrote. (Reuters, Press Release)

January, 2013 Page first meets Podobnyy at an NYC energy symposium per Pages FBI interview (Indictment)

January to May 2013 The recordings that resulted from the microphone placement by UCE-1 captured statements of Sporyshev, Podobnyy, and other Russian intelligence personnel.  (Reuters) 

April 8, 2013 Russians recorded having conversation about attempted recruitment of Male #1 (Indictment)

13 June, 2013  FBI interviews Carter Page re contacts with Russians (Indictment)

Jan 2015   Buryakov arrested (Reuters)

 23 Jan, 2015  Date of indictment filed under seal (Indictment)

 8 Mar, 2016   Papers filed in federal court and announced (Reuters)

 9 March, 2016 Reuters article published.

11 March, 2016 SDNY Press Release announcing Buryakov guilty plea

4 April, 2016  Original scheduled trial date before guilty plea.  (Reuters)


The Conservative Treehouse made a very convincing case in February that Carter Page was not only Male-1 in the Buryakov indictment, but also UCE-1, the guy who planted the microphones.  It turns out that he was Male-1, but not UCE-1.  The distinction is important.  As Male-1, his character has been impugned by the left wing media even though it appears by all accounts that he was just an innocent businessman trying to advance in the Russian oil and gas industry.  The fact that he was targeted by the Russians is no reason to question his patriotism.  The FBI saw no reason to charge him of any wrongdoing.  If he had been UCE-1, he'd actually be a bit of a hero.  As it is, we're left with the Russians' assessment of him as a bit of an idiot.  I'll admit, he comes across as somewhat clueless in the TV interviews I've seen.

But the real subject of this piece isn't Carter Page, but the Conservative Treehouse.  I have come to look forward to the latest from this author.  His articles are usually very detailed and complex, but often insightful.  They frequently offer interesting perspectives that I had not previously considered.  And they usually prove credible after a thorough evaluation on my part.  But not this time.  The flaws in this article will prompt me to be more skeptical in the future.  I could excuse this if it was a mistake.  Especially this mistake in light of the fact that the descriptions of Male-1 and UCE-1 were vaguely similar.  But this wasn't a mistake.  It's not just that he got it wrong, but he deceived his readers to do it.  There is little chance that this occurred by accident.  I don't see how the critical New York Times citation can be explained as anything other than an intentionally misleading quote.  In other words, a fraud!  What could have been his motive for such a breach of integrity.  Has he been willing all along to make whatever claims were convenient just to sell a pro Trump narrative.  That is what concerns me, and that is what I will have to be on the lookout against in the future.  As I stated in the title of this piece, you can't believe everything you read on the internet.  I always knew that was true, but usually the errors can be attributed to stupidity or sloppiness.  But as this Conservative Treehouse article illustrates, sometimes it can also occur through fraud and malice.  Lesson learned!


January 23, 2015  indictment  

The Conservative Treehouse Article:  In March 2016 Carter Page Was an FBI Employee – In October 2016 FBI Told FISA Court He’s a Spy…

Reuters article from March 9, 2016

 Press Release US Attorney for the Southern District of New York dated 11 March, 2016

Ali Watkins article in Buzzfeed from April 3, 2017.

Brian Ross Article for ABC News from April 4, 2017

NY Times Article from April 4, 2017 ( Behind a pay wall.  Try opening in a private window)

 Conservative Treehouse article Speculating that James Wolfe leaked the Carter Page FISA application to Watkins and Ross

Carter Page FISA warrant.