The old expression about Washington, D.C., is that if you want a friend, get a dog! In the case of President Donald J. Trump, this is a lesson he has undoubtedly learned in his thus far short tenure as the commander in chief. Nowhere is this seen more than over the current controversy concerning the president’s claims that he was “wiretapped,” that is illegally spied upon, by his predecessor’s administration, former President Barack Hussein Obama.
I, along with a few others, such as Fox News commentators Judge Andrew Napolitano and Judge Jeanine Pirro, two brave and courageous ethical souls who have stuck their neck out in defense of The Donald’s claims, believe what he said. There is a myriad of evidence, direct and circumstantial, that this surveillance occurred, and I do not need to belabor all of it here. See www.freedomwatchusa.org. But as I have written in my Newsmax blog and elsewhere particularly of late, my client, former NSA and CIA contractor Dennis Montgomery, holds the keys to “de-whoring” the false claims of those representatives and senators on the House and Senate intelligence committees, as well as FBI Director James Comey, that there is no evidence that the president and his men were “wiretapped.”
Montgomery left the NSA and CIA with 47 hard drives and over 600 million pages of information, much of which is classified, and sought to come forward legally as a whistleblower to appropriate government entities, including congressional intelligence committees, to expose that the spy agencies were engaged for years in systematic illegal surveillance on prominent Americans, including the chief justice of the Supreme Court, other justices, 156 judges, prominent businessmen such as Donald Trump, and even yours truly. Working side by side with former Obama Director of National Intelligence (DIA), the “lying” James Clapper, and former Obama Director of the CIA, the equally ethically challenged John Brennan, Montgomery witnessed “up close and personal” this “Orwellian Big Brother” intrusion on privacy, likely for potential coercion, blackmail or other nefarious purposes.
But when Montgomery came forward as a whistleblower to congressional intelligence committees and various other congressmen and senators, including Senator Charles Grassley, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who, like Comey, once had a reputation for integrity, he was “blown off”; no one wanted to even hear what he had to say. The reason I suspect is that Montgomery’s allegations were either too hot to handle, or the congressional intelligence and judiciary committees already knew that this unconstitutional surveillance was being undertaken. Moreover, given the power of the NSA, CIA and DNI, for congressional committee heads to take action to legitimately and seriously investigate and if necessary recommend prosecution of officials like Clapper and Brennan could, given the way Washington works, result in the spy agencies disclosing and leaking (as occurred recently with General Michael Flynn), the details of their mass surveillance, ruining the careers if not personal lives of any politician who would take them on.
After Montgomery was turned away as a whistleblower, he came to me at Freedom Watch. With the aid of the Honorable Royce C. Lamberth of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, who I had come to respect and trust over the years of my public interest advocacy, we brought Montgomery forward to FBI Director James Comey, through his General Counsel James Baker. Under grants of immunity, which I obtained through Assistant U.S. Attorney Deborah Curtis, Montgomery produced the hard drives and later was interviewed under oath in a secure room at the FBI Field Office in the District of Columbia. There he laid out how persons like then businessman Donald Trump were illegally spied upon by Clapper, Brennan and the spy agencies of the Obama administration. He even claimed that these spy agencies had manipulated voting in Florida during the 2008 presidential election, which illegal tampering resulted in helping Obama to win the White House.
This interview, conducted and videotaped by Special FBI Agents Walter Giardina and William Barnett, occurred almost two years ago, and nothing that I know of has happened since. It would appear that the FBI’s investigation was “buried” by Comey, perhaps because the FBI itself collaborates with the spy agencies to conduct illegal surveillance. In landmark court cases which I filed after the revelations of Edward Snowden, the Honorable Richard Leon, a colleague of Judge Lamberth, had ruled that this type of surveillance constituted a gross violation of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. See http://www.freedomwatchusa.org.
A few months ago, given the FBI’s seeming inaction in conducting a bona fide timely investigation of the treasure trove of information Montgomery had produced and testified to, I went to Chairman Bob Goodlatte of the House Judiciary Committee, as I had done earlier with Senator Grassley, since Montgomery had revealed that judges had been spied upon, and asked his staff to inquire of Director Comey the status of the investigation. I have heard nothing back from Goodlatte or his staff and they have not responded to recent calls and emails.
So last Thursday, I traveled to Capitol Hill to personally meet with Chairman Devin Nunes (R. Ca.) of the House Intelligence Committee and, when his scheduler claimed that he was “unavailable,” forcefully pushed for a meeting with one of his committee lawyers, Allen R. Souza, and fully briefed him about Montgomery and the FBI’s apparent cover-up. I told this staff intel lawyer to inform Chairman Nunes of the facts behind this apparent cover-up before the committee holds its hearing on the alleged Trump wiretaps and questions Comey this Monday, March 20, in open session. My expressed purpose: to have Chairman Nunes of the House Intelligence Committee ask Comey, under oath, why he and his FBI have seemingly not moved forward with the Montgomery investigation while, on the other hand, the FBI Director recently claimed publicly, I believe falsely, that there is “no evidence” of surveillance on President Trump and those around him by the Obama administration.
During my meeting with House Intelligence Committee counsel Allen R. Sousa, I politely warned him that if Chairman Nunes, who himself had that same day undercut President Trump by also claiming that there is no evidence of surveillance by the Obama administration, does not question Comey about the FBI’s Montgomery investigation, I would go public with what would appear to be the House Intelligence Committee’s complicity in keeping the truth from the American people and allowing the FBI to continue its apparent cover-up of the Montgomery “investigation.”
And, that is where it stands today. The big question: will House Intelligence Committee Chairman Nunes do his job and hold FBI Director Comey’s feet to the fire about the Montgomery investigation, or will he, like virtually every other politician of the Republican Party establishment, run away from the president and in fact discredit the commander in chief to curry favor with the mainstream and “Fake News” media and save his own political skin?
Please watch the House Intelligence Committee hearing closely this Monday and see if Chairman Nunes does his job and questions Comey about the FBI’s Montgomery “investigation,” or figuratively hides under his desk, for fear that he could be the next victim, ala former Trump national security adviser General Michael Flynn, of the unconstitutional and illegal surveillance of our rogue intelligence agencies.
Debunking Trump’s “secret server”
According to this Slate article, Trump has a secret server for communicating with Russia. Even Hillary has piled onto this story.
This is nonsense. The evidence available on the Internet is that Trump neither (directly) controls the domain “trump-email.com“, nor has access to the server. Instead, the domain was set up and controlled by Cendyn, a company that does marketing/promotions for hotels, including many of Trump’s hotels. Cendyn outsources the email portions of its campaigns to a company called Listrak, which actually owns/operates the physical server in a data center in Philidelphia.
In other words, Trump’s response is (minus the political bits) likely true, supported by the evidence. It’s the conclusion I came to even before seeing the response.
When you view this “secret” server in context, surrounded by the other email servers operated by Listrak on behalf of Cendyn, it becomes more obvious what’s going on. In the same Internet address range of Trump’s servers, you see a bunch of similar servers, many named [client]-email.com. In other words, trump-email.com is not intended as a normal email server you and I are familiar with, but as a server used for marketing/promotional campaigns.
It’s Cendyn that registered and who controls the trump-email.com domain, as seen in the WHOIS information. That the Trump Organization is the registrant, but not the admin, demonstrates that Trump doesn’t have direct control over it.
When the domain information was changed last September 23, it was Cendyn who did the change, not the Trump Organization. This link lists a bunch of other hotel-related domains that Cendyn likewise controls, some Trump-related, some related to Trump’s hotel competitors, like Hyatt and Sheraton.
Cendyn’s claim they are reusing the server for some other purpose is likely true. If you are an enterprising journalist with $399 in your budget, you can find this out. Use the website http://reversewhois.domaintools.com/ to get a complete list of the 641 other domains controlled by Cendyn, then do an MX query for each one to find out which of them is using mail1.trump-email.com as their email server.
This is why we can’t have nice things on the Internet. Investigative journalism is dead. The Internet is full of clues like this if only somebody puts a few resources into figuring things out. For example, organizations that track spam will have information on exactly which promotions this server has been used for in the recent past. Those who operate public DNS resolvers, like Google’s 188.8.131.52, OpenDNS, or Dyn, may have knowledge which domain was related to mail1.trump-email.com.
Indeed, one journalist did call one of the public resolvers and found other people queried this domain than the two listed in the Slate story — debunking it. I’ve heard from other DNS malware researchers (names remain anonymous) who confirm they’ve seen lookups for “mail1.trump-email.com” from all over the world, especially from tools like FireEye that process lots of spam email. One person claimed that lookups started failing for them back in late June — and thus the claim of successful responses until September are false. In other words, the “change” after the NYTimes queried Alfa Bank may not be because Cendyn (or Trump) changed anything, but because that was the first they checked and noticed that lookup errors were happening.
Since I wrote this blog post at midnight, so I haven’t confirmed this with anybody yet, but there’s a good chance that the IP address 184.108.40.206 has continued to spew spam for Trump hotels during this entire time. This would, of course, it would generate lookups (both reverse and forward). It seems like everyone who works for IT for a large company should be able to check their incoming email logs and see if they’ve been getting emails from that address over the last few months. If you work in IT, please check your logs for the last few months and Tweet me at @erratarob with the results, either positive or negative.
And finally, somebody associated with Alfa Bank IT operations confirms that executives like to stay at Trump hotels all the time (like in Vegas and New York), and there was a company function one of Trump’s golf courses. In other words, there’s a good reason for the company to get spam from, and need to communicate with, Trump hotels to coordinate events.
And so on and so forth — there’s a lot of information out there if we just start dig
That this is just normal marketing business from Cendyn and Listrak is the overwhelming logical explanation for all this. People are tempted to pull nefarious explanations out of their imaginations for things they don’t understand. But for those of us with experience in this sort of thing, what we see here is a normal messed up marketing (aka. spam) system that the Trump Organization doesn’t have control over. Knowing who owns and controls these servers, it’s unreasonable to believe that Trump is using them for secret emails. Far from “secret” or “private” servers as Hillary claims, these servers are wide open and obvious.
This post provides a logic explanation, but we can’t count on this being probably debunked until those like Dyn come forward, on the record, and show us lookups that don’t come from Alfa Bank. Or, those who work in big companies can pull records from their incoming email servers, to show that they’ve been receiving spam from that IP address over the last few months. Either of these would conclusively debunk the story.
But experts say…
But the article quotes several experts confirming the story, so how does that jibe with this blog post. The answer is that none of the experts confirmed the story.
Read more carefully. None of the identified experts confirmed the story. Instead, the experts looked at pieces and confirmed part of the story. Vixie rightly confirmed that the pattern of DNS requests came from humans, and not automated systems. Chris Davis rightly confirmed the server doesn’t look like a normal email server.
Neither of them, however, confirmed that Trump has a secret server for communicating with the Russians. Both of their statements are consistent with what I describe above — that’s it’s a Cendyn operated server for marketing campaigns independent of the Trump Organization.
Those researchers violated their principles
The big story isn’t the conspiracy theory about Trump, but that these malware researchers exploited their privileged access for some purpose other than malware research.
Malware research consists of a lot of informal relationships. Researchers get DNS information from ISPs, from root servers, from services like Google’s 220.127.116.11 public DNS. It’s a huge privacy violation — justified on the principle that it’s for the general good. Sometimes the fact that DNS information is shared is explicit, like with Google’s service. Sometimes people don’t realize how their ISP shares information, or how many of the root DNS servers are monitored.
People should be angrily calling their ISPs and ask them if they share DNS information with untrustworthy researchers. People should be angrily asking ICANN, which is no longer controlled by the US government (sic), whether it’s their policy to share DNS lookup information with those who would attempt to change US elections.
Theres not many sources for this specific DNS information. Alfa Bank’s servers do their own resolution, lies of the direction from the DNC Spin Doctors Fake News root on down. It’s unlikely they were monitoring Alfa Bank’s servers directly or monitoring Cendyn’s authoritative servers. That means some sort of passive DNS on some link in between, which is unlikely. Conversely, they could be monitoring one of the root domain servers — but this monitoring wouldn’t tell them the difference between a successful or failed lookup, which they claim to have. In short, of all the sources of “DNS malware information” I’ve heard about, none of it would deliver the information these researchers claim to have (well, except the NSA with their transatlantic undersea traps of course).
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly declared to CNN this afternoon that Donald Trump has “compelling evidence” that then-President Barack Obama ordered the wiretapping of the home of and offices of Donald Trump during the 2016 Election. He also went on to say he didn’t know why Barack Obama would have done so. https://img.rt.com/files/2016.12/original/584e948ec36188590e8b457d.jpg
Kelly is a retired military general who was confirmed as the new Secretary of Homeland Security on President’ Trump’s recommendation just a few weeks earlier:
“If the president of the United States said that, he’s got his reasons to say it,” Kelly said Monday on CNN’s “The Situation Room.” “He’s got some convincing evidence that that took place.”
Kelly didn’t go so far as to say what the evidence was, or if he had personally reviewed it himself. At this point he simply appears content to let the media know he believes it does exist and is supporting President Trump’s claim that his home and offices were bugged by the previous Obama administration in the middle of a presidential election. He also took a swipe at CNN’s claims of having “sources” who are now making claims of what FBI Director James Comey has or hasn’t said regarding the matter. (As of now, Comey has made no public statement regarding the claimed Obama wire tapping of Trump Tower.)
Given his long history as a no-nonsense and highly decorated military man, and current position as the head of the single largest U.S. government agency, Kelly’s words carry considerable weight.
“It is important to note that Russia is excluded from the Five eyes alliance.”
Comey knows all, due to the Executive Order by Obama allowing information sharing, and due also to the Five Eyes agreement. Obama never had to request a wiretap from GCHQ or et al., because the whole point of Five Eyes is to allow for circumvention of things like “warrants” and “domestic law.” The full video of Comey’s full testimony is below.
To truly know if the Obama Administration did in fact wiretap Trump Tower, it would require Comey to admit and explain how Information Sharing and Five Eyes is used by his agency, which of course would “do damage to our intelligence community’s sources and methods”.
This is why James Comey didn’t do anything to Clinton before the election. Revealing how he came to possess damning information against her (Five Eyes/Information Sharing) would become a larger scandal than the Clintons’ criminal behavior.
Same rules currently apply with Trump, whether or not there is any damning information, for Comey to reveal how they know either way would be an actual scandal larger than the one in which he currently finds himself involved. (Five Eyes/Information Sharing)
The Five Eyes, often abbreviated as FVEY, is an intelligence alliance comprising Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States. These countries are bound by the multilateral UKUSA Agreement, a treaty for joint cooperation in signals intelligence. It is important to note that Russia is not bound to the UKUSA Agreement and is excluded from the Five Eyes alliance.
And here we can all, finally, discern that the reason for the domestic spying apparatus is for blackmail and entrapment purposes. In other words – to protect and preserve the positions of the power elite.
They can’t use these tools this publicly and openly without a significant risk of uncontrollable public backlash. These hearings are all for show. We will only learn about what actually goes on from hacks and from leaks, or from incompetence, from now on.
He intentionally did not mention Wikileaks and after that his eyes went to the right side. It shows that Comey does not really think that Russia published anything through Wikileaks.
The same day House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes gave a press conference disclosing that President Trump had been under “incidental surveillance,” Attorney and FreedomWatch Chairman, Larry Klayman, sent a letter to the House Committee on Intelligence imploring them to pursue the claims and evidence presented under oath at a Washington DC FBI Field Office by his client – CIA / NSA Whistleblower Dennis Montgomery – who Klayman claims “holds the keys to disproving the false claims that there is no evidence that the president and his men were wiretapped”.
When Montgomery attempted to deliver this information through the appropriate channels two years ago, the former CIA and NSA contractor wasn’t given the time of day:
When Montgomery came forward as a whistleblower to congressional intelligence committees and various other congressmen and senators, including Senator Charles Grassley, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who, like Comey, once had a reputation for integrity, he was “blown off;” no one wanted to even hear what he had to say.
As a result, Montgomery went to Attorney and FreedomWatch founder Larry Klayman – who then approached the FBI:
Under grants of immunity, which I obtained through Assistant U.S. Attorney Deborah Curtis, Montgomery produced the hard drives and later was interviewed under oath in a secure room at the FBI Field Office in the District of Columbia. There he laid out how persons like then-businessman Donald Trump were illegally spied upon by Clapper, Brennan, and the spy agencies of the Obama administration.
Montgomery left the NSA and CIA with 47 hard drives and over 600 million pages of information, much of which is classified, and sought to come forward legally as a whistleblower to appropriate government entities, including congressional intelligence committees, to expose that the spy agencies were engaged for years in systematic illegal surveillance on prominent Americans, including the chief justice of the Supreme Court, other justices, 156 judges, prominent businessmen such as Donald Trump, and even yours truly. Working side by side with Obama’s former Director of National Intelligence (DIA), James Clapper, and Obama’s former Director of the CIA, John Brennan, Montgomery witnessed “up close and personal” this “Orwellian Big Brother” intrusion on privacy, likely for potential coercion, blackmail or other nefarious purposes.
He also claimed that these spy agencies had manipulated voting in Florida during the 2008 presidential election, which illegal tampering resulted in helping Obama to win the White House.
Given the fact that the FBI had Montgomery’s testimony and evidence for over two years, Klayman traveled to Washington DC last Thursday to meet with Committee Chairman Devin Nunes in the hopes that he would ask FBI Director Comey why the FBI hadn’t pursued Montgomery’s evidence. When Klayman arrived to speak with Nunes, he was “blown off” and instead shared his information with committee attorney Allen R. Souza – who Klayman requested in turn brief Nunes on the situation.
During my meeting with House Intelligence Committee counsel Allen R. Sousa I politely warned him that if Chairman Nunes, who himself had that same day undercut President Trump by also claiming that there is no evidence of surveillance by the Obama administration, I would go public with what would appear to be the House Intelligence Committee’s complicity in keeping the truth from the American people and allowing the FBI to continue its apparent cover-up of the Montgomery “investigation.”
And, that is where it stands today. The big question: will House Intelligence Committee Chairman Nunes do his job and hold FBI Director Comey’s feet to the fire about the Montgomery investigation?
Klayman has detailed all of this in a NewsMax article, followed up with an official letter to Chairman Nunes today, requesting that he question Comey on Montgomery’s evidence. Perhaps this explains Nunes’ impromptu press conference today admitting that Trump’s team was under “Incidental Surveillance” before making his way to the White House to discuss with the President.
Russell Tice said he came in one morning and the night shift had forgotten to shred all of the surveillance data they were collecting in the “burn bag.” The information showed that the night shift was illegally surveilling all of the justices of the Supreme Court, as well as chairmen of the committees in congress, generals, and other important people.
The Bush administration began building a complete surveillance state after 9/11. It was also said at the time in another interview that after Obama got in office, instead of dismantling the wide collection of data, Obama treated the intelligence agencies like a kid in a candy store. People just shrugged and nothing was done about it.
Then of course recently FBI Chairman Comey said that Americans can no longer have any expectations of privacy. Hopefully, this revelation about the Trump team being put under more active surveillance after his electoral victory will finally bring some discipline to the rogue intelligence agencies.
If no-one is sufficiently outraged by the Trump revelations, then Trump should announce that he will actively monitor Obama, his family, and friends, all of the Obama administration executives, staffers, political partners, and donors as well as all Democrats in congress. That will wake everyone up! Americans should have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their own country.
So – we know that evidence exists from a CIA / NSA contractor turned whistleblower, detailing a massive spy operation on 156 judges, the Supreme Court, and high-profile Americans including Donald Trump. See the letter
Freedom Watch bombshell letter to Rep. Devin Nunes 2/4 http://ibankcoin.com/zeropointnow/2017/03/22/bombshell-cia-whistleblower-leaked-proof-trump-under-systematic-illegal-government-surveillance-two-years-ago-fbi-sat-on-it/ … pic.twitter.com/6Ls9a9k
Freedom Watch bombshell letter to Rep. Devin Nunes 3/4 http://ibankcoin.com/zeropointnow/2017/03/22/bombshell-cia-whistleblower-leaked-proof-trump-under-systematic-illegal-government-surveillance-two-years-ago-fbi-sat-on-it/ … pic.twitter.com/90KUdW9eH1
Freedom Watch bombshell letter to Rep. Devin Nunes 4/4 http://ibankcoin.com/zeropointnow/2017/03/22/bombshell-cia-whistleblower-leaked-proof-trump-under-systematic-illegal-government-surveillance-two-years-ago-fbi-sat-on-it/ … pic.twitter.com/l29p9JzBsU
The DarkNet is the place of all fantasies and contradictions if traffics of all kinds take place there is also a great space of freedom, anonymity, and privacy. Operating on the same physical structure as the Web but with different software, it is as difficult to penetrate as it is to study.
Yet researchers have managed to characterize some global properties, stability, and robustness against incidents and attacks, which they compared to those of the Web (article accessible here ). As a result, while the Web has frozen and has lost many of the features that have made it successful, Darknet is today a structure of great flexibility and security.
History and characteristics of Darknet
The Darknet is not the work of a computer Dark Vader, it is a structure designed in the 1990s by the very governmental Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency ( DARPA ) and the Office of Naval Research to secure sensitive communications, which uses the same “pipes” as the usual Internet but with very different management software.
The main characteristic of the Darknet is its “onion skin” structure: messages sent by a user pass through various sublayers of routers that remove the metadata from the original message (including data on the location and identity of the terminal Used) that passes through the pipes – while the Web they are conserved and accompany the message to the recipient.
Comparison between the Web and the Darknet
D’autres principes de fonctionnement de ce système, connu sous le nom de “réseau Tor“, permettent d’anonymiser davantage le message. Sachant que dans le Web et le Darknet, un message est “haché” (découpé) et ses fragments envoyés vers le destinataire par divers chemins (routeurs), Tor impose par exemple que des fragments d’un même message ne passent pas par un même routeur ou qu’ils n’empruntent pas les routeurs d’un même fournisseur d’accès.
Nevertheless, the researchers managed to derive some “topological” properties from the Darknet. They also drew up the map of the Web. Then they subjected these two systems to virtual stress-tests ( via theoretical models) to evaluate their response to computer failures and /or attacks.
The Web: a fairly centralized Club
It appears that the Web has become a sort of “club” fixed rather centralized because managed by a few large firms to promote e-commerce. While in the 1970s the Internet had originally been thought of as a distributed (non-centralized) network to resist sabotage and /or physical attacks (bombs and others), its current topology Large ” clusters ” where the messages pass.
Darknet, on the other hand, decentralizes much more the diffusion of the messages: a ratio of 1 to 300 approximately.
Lack of adaptability
Even worse: at each incident (random failure of routers) or attack, or the extinction of a set of routers able to create a cascade effect collapsing part of the network, the weak centralization of the Darknet dampens the effect, And the network rearranges to reduce the future risk (modification of the problem nodes).
On the contrary, the Web does not adapt, because of the centralization linked to the constraints of e-commerce, which prevents to modify the places of “passage” information.
The eternal story of a beautiful revolutionary idea
In short, our Web suffers the same fate as all the beautiful societal inventions: born in and with the spirit of the underground, it has institutionalized, marketed and fixed in a structure optimizing productivity … and finds itself surpassed by A new underground claiming the same ideas that were his in the beginning.
It is the eternal history of the great revolutionary ideas that have become the norm because of their success.
> Read also:
> Read also on the site of the Grandes Archives of Science & Vie:
◘ Where’s the Internet? – 2013 . For some years now, we have been wondering about the network’s ability to resist the pressure of exponential growth … But with the arrival of the Internet of objects, the question becomes more acute.
◘ Internet at the edge of the explosion – S & V n ° 1095 – 2008. The first alert on the network’s capabilities to absorb the billions of information circulating there goes back to the year 2008. Science & Vie was already asking the question.
◘ Stock market: computers took power – S & V n ° 1149 – 2013 Programs derived from artificial Intelligence do better and faster than us, sometimes to the absurd, as the example of the programs-trader who have plunged the Stock Exchange shows
“The era of the curator has begun,” declared the prominent art critic Michael Brenson in 1998. The figures who assembled artworks into galleries, he reasoned, were now “as essential” to exhibits as the artists themselves. Curators were a species of universal genius who “must be at once aestheticians, diplomats, economists, critics, historians, politicians, audience developers, and promoters “They must be able to communicate not only with artists but also with community leaders, business executives, and heads of state.” And what a curator “welcomes or excludes” is what makes all the difference.
Whatever else we might think of this assertion, it was certainly prescient. Today the era of the curator is in full flower. The contemporary literature about the heroic organizer of exhibitions is large and enthusiastic, with adulatory new installments added all the time. In 2006, a prominent art writer saw a generation of bold young curators “armed with a vision of possibility and an image of the curator as a free agent, capable of almost anything.” In 2012, the New York Times marveled at the growing number of “programs in curating studies” and at how certain curators established themselves as “star names” in the art world. Brightest among these stars, without a doubt, is one Hans Ulrich Obrist, a curator at the Serpentine Gallery in London, the author of Ways of Curating and A Brief History of Curating, and the closest thing there is to an art-world superstar these days, his every taste-quirk fawned over by the press.
But it is in the broad world outside museum culture where the phenomenon we might call (as in the worship of curation and curators) is really booming. Everyone wants to curate things these days—to choose what to welcome and what to exclude—whether they work for an art gallery or not. “Curator,” for example, is the name of a PR agency in Seattle. “Curate” is the name of at least four different software applications. “Curate” is a data-gathering firm based in Madison, Wisconsin. It’s a kind of flavored water available at a grocery store near you. It’s also a brand of snack bars, whose maker explains the name as follows: “Curate means to bring things together to share them as a collection.”
Those who work with food are especially prone to thinking of themselves as curators. Chefs, for example, are said to be curating things wherever you look. There are countless internet personalities who refer to themselves as “food curators.” With a little searching, you will also encounter wine curators, beer curators, coffee curators, tea curators, spice curators, and cupcake curators.
The fantasy of curation can be extended to virtually any product category. Shops are often thought to be curated. So are drugs. And furniture. Cosmetics. Landscaping. Wardrobes. Music is eminently suited for the oversight of curators. So are TED talks. In fact, “curator” appears to be the actual job title of the chief officer of the TED organization, as it is of those who oversee TEDx events. It’s also a title of a radio producer at NPR.
And, of course, “curating” describes something that websites are supposed to do. It is the new and more benign word for what a short while ago was called “aggregating,” or what a less pretentious person might call “editing” or “sifting.” The web is a vast, chaotic, onrushing thing, the idea goes, and “curators” promise to sort it all out for us, welcoming and excluding as they see fit. That’s why what goes on at Pinterest and Tumblr and Instagram and Digg is often called “curating.” Above all, curating is what takes place at Facebook, where busily sifting “news curators” used to choose stories to be included in the hotly desirable “trending” category.
In that particular case, however, curation didn’t work out so well. Last year, Facebook’s staff of curators were accused of deliberately ignoring conservative news items that should rightfully have been deemed “trending.” The scandal dragged on for weeks until eventually, the company decided to delete its custodians of newsworthiness, replacing them with a computer program in August.
Here’s where our story of curatolat takes a turn for the strange. When Facebook replaced its curators with an algorithm last summer, “fake news” seemed to blossom. All of a sudden, there were reports of Facebook mainlining preposterous, easily debunked right-wing news items into the national bloodstream.
Liberals always dream of curating things, far more than do conservatives. The word seems to trace the fault line between the country’s great political factions.
The most infamous specimen, of course, was the “Pizzagate” saga, which posited that Hillary Clinton and Democratic operative John Podesta were running a child-sex ring out of a Northwest D.C. eatery—a libel that later created an actual news sensation when a diligent soul from North Carolina “self-investigated” the claim by turning up at the restaurant with a loaded rifle in tow. Other fragrant entries in the genre included a fake CNN report from election night relating the breathless news that a mean drunk Hillary “beat the sh*t” out of her ex-president spouse, and a report that Democrats in the Florida state legislature were for some reason scheming to impose sharia law on the Sunshine State. (This one got its second wind in the news cycle when Michael Flynn—the credulous general whom Trump has appointed national security adviser—faithfully repeated it on the campaign stump.)
And then, a short while later, Donald Trump was elected president, a shock supreme to the sort of people who listen to TED talks and take things like cupcake curation seriously. What could explain this horrifying turn of events? Representatives of the prestige media thought they knew what had happened: It was fake news that did it, fake news abetted by the Russian propaganda machine. This had not merely been a choice between a Republican and a Democrat, they moaned; it was the eternal war between true and false. And “the truth is losing,” as a memorable Washington Post op-ed headline put it.
Another way of describing this situation might be and a conflict between the counterfeit and the curated. Fake news was everywhere, it now appeared, and the solution to it wherever it turned up was curation. The world needed this heroic profession, not merely to oversee its art galleries and wine lists, but also to screen the transmission system circulating our knowledge for telltale signs of wholesomeness or decay. According to Jeff Nesbit in Time magazine, Facebook needed to “partner with legacy media to curate real news.” This was, he wrote, “the antidote” to the scourge of lies that had elected Trump.
Barack Obama himself said pretty much the same thing. At a White House-sponsored conference of “innovators” last October, the then-president gave a speech deploring untruthful statements on the internet and said, “We are going to have to rebuild within this wild-wild-west-of-information flow some sort of curating function that people agree to.” Obama’s statement, once it made its uncurated way through the social media-sphere, triggered countless bursts of right-wing internet outrage.
Curating the World
It is not a coincidence that Obama chose to speak of “curating” in his speech and that the right exploded with fury over it. The word seems to trace the fault line between the country’s great political factions. Liberals always dream of curating things, far more than do conservatives. Liberals like to talk about curators and curating; they are often described with these words and they just seem natural to gravitate to those-who-curate. When Obama chooses songs, for example, he is often said to be “curating” them. Introducing a 2012 interview with the president in Rolling Stone, the centrist historian Douglas Brinkley was moved to declare that “Obama, simply put, is the curator-in-chief of the New Deal, the Fair Deal, the New Frontier and the Great Society.” Using the word to the opposite effect, leftist historian Mike Davis sneered in 2011 that Obama was “the chief curator of the Bush legacy.”
Obama’s farewell speech in Chicago, delivered in January, featured what it pleased the Washington Post to call “curated tweets” projected on a screen. As he left office, a photographer “curated” favorite pictures of the former president for Politico. Spotify jokingly offered Obama a job “overseeing our music curation and playlists team.”
Upon investigation, this playlist business turns out to be a running theme with Democrats. Like her husband, Michelle Obama was said to have “curated” a playlist for you to enjoy back in 2015. An officer of the Clinton Foundation was also once reported by Billboard to have “partnered with Spotify . . . to curate playlists for kids that promote their development.”
Donald Trump, for his part, is consistently associated with the refusal of curation. Trump does not reform or organize the chaos of the world; he is the chaos of the world. What he does with his blustering Tweets and his vulgar boasts is the opposite of curation. As his campaign manager Kellyanne Conway once explained, with Twitter, “you don’t have to wait for some journalist, some anti-Trump journalist to curate the information and bias it.” Others suggest that curating is simply beyond his ability, such as the “digital fundraising experts” described last summer in the Washington Post who “were skeptical that Trump has been able to curate and maintain such a big [donor] list.”
Experts of every kind have in our time been promoted to curators, which is not just a longer word but one that carries grand professional implications.
People who curate things are not to be connected with Trump, as we learn from this urgent January newsflash: “Grammy-winning producer David Foster denied rumors that he’s helping curate President-Elect Donald Trump’s inauguration entertainment in January.”
Or this November headline from the Times of Israel: “Rabbis who organized walkout during Trump’s AIPAC speech curate an album”—an album of music, that is—meant to cheer the downhearted after the election.
Actual, honest-to-God museum curators hate Donald Trump, of course. Shortly after the election, a New York artist rallied her colleagues to protest Trump with this simple proposal: “Hello female artists/curators! Let’s organize a NASTY WOMEN group show!!!” And according to numerous news items in the London Daily Mail, all manner of “artists, curators,” and other assorted gallery types are currently rising in outrage against the billionaire bigot and his family.
Others see curation as the answer to it all, the thing we need to get serious about and dedicate ourselves to if we want to avoid future Trumps. Shortly after Trump’s surprise win, for example, a comedian interviewed by the Guardian opined on the disaster in this non-facetious way: “I think this is all a big shocking sign that we need to do more for each other, show understanding for one another, join forces with allies and help curate the world we want to live in.”
What is a curator, and why is it the admired cultural position of the moment? Why is this the word that springs to our tongues today when once we would have “bloggers,” or “expert,” or just “snob”? And why is it persistently associated with liberals?
Consider the most basic aspect of the word as we use it today. A curator is an arbiter, someone who distinguishes between what is good and what is bad. Curators tell us what to welcome and what to exclude, what to keep and what to toss. They make judgments. They define what is legitimate and what is not.
But curators don’t make these judgments subjectively or out of the blue, as would chefs or gourmands or other sorts of fussy people. No, curators are professional arbiters of taste and judgment, handing down their verdicts on news stories or pot roasts from a position of dignity and certified authority.
The word is deeply associated with academic achievement. Gallery curators are often people with advanced degrees, and “curation” and its variants are sometimes used to describe certain kinds of university officials. The highest officers of the University of Missouri, for example, are called curators, and at Bennington College, even prospective students are encouraged to think of themselves as curators—curators, that is, of their applications to associate with this illustrious institution. As Bennington’s magazine puts it, they are invited to “curate their submissions and engage in the admissions process as a learning experience.”
It’s all about social status, in other words, and the eternal desire of Americans to claw their way upward by means of some fancy-sounding euphemism. Back in the 1980s, English professor Paul Fussell set down a list of occupations that had contrived to class themselves up by adopting longer names that sounded more professional. “In many universities,” he wrote,
what used to be the bursar is now the disbursement officer, just the way what used to be an undertaker (already sufficient as a euphemism, one would think) is now a funeral director, an advance of two whole syllables. . . . Selling is raised to retailing or marketing, or even better, to merchandising, an act that exactly doubles its syllables, while sales manager in its turn is doubled by being raised to Vice-President, Merchandising. The person on the telephone who used to provide Information now gives . . . Directory Assistance, which is two syllables grander.
And so experts of every kind have in our time been promoted to curators, which is not just a longer word but one that carries grand professional implications.
Curatolatry also imparts a certain smiling friendliness to expertise. Long ago, a “curator” was a medical worker of some indeterminate sort—someone charged with curing, basically. And even today we can see that curators do what they do not because they are greedy or snobbish but because they want to nurture the public. This is especially important as scandals ripple through profession after profession: accounting, appraising, investment banking, medicine, and so on. A curator would never use monopoly power to gouge users of some prescription medicine, for example. They care about us too much. They are not dictators; they are explainers, to mention another occupation that is much in vogue nowadays. They just want to help you to learn and understand. They are authority figures, yes, but they are lovable and benevolent ones.
And they are infinitely adaptable. Curatorial authority can be counted on to fine-tune your taste in food, your news consumption—even, in all likelihood, your ideological worldview. And with every sphere of American experience so promiscuously aestheticized, the curatorial reflex can be understood as something that a benevolent class of tastemakers and enlightened celebrities is selflessly undertaking for your own good. That’s why, for example, self-appointed celebrity pundits such as Lena Dunham and Alec Baldwin claim improbable perches in the protest culture of liberalism—and why Meryl Streep, who laid into Trump on the press’s behalf at the Golden Globe awards, has acquired the status of a twenty-first-century Edward R. Murrow.
When I was younger, people on the left used to look suspiciously on the canons of orthodox taste that earlier generations had built. Today, however, it seems the problem with canons is that they celebrate the works themselves—the novels, the art, the historical heroes—and what we actually need to be honoring are the interpreters and critics and professionals who make those choices for us. The books and the art and the history don’t matter any longer, but the curators do, welcoming and excluding and gently nudging the world in the right direction.
Actually, we’re well into that curated world already. Yes, I know, the web is a wild west sort of place, with fake news lurking in every corner. But follow our prestige media for a while and you will start to notice an uncanny unanimity of opinion. From TED talks to NPR, from the DNC to the Washington Post and on to the award-winning blogs, they all agree with each other, echoing and quoting and linking back and forth in a happy conversation, all the comfortable insiders welcoming one another with praise and prizes. What they don’t agree upon, meanwhile, is simply ignored. It is outside the conversation. It is excluded.
The world without fake news might really be awesome. So might a shop where every bottle of wine is excellent. So might an electoral system in which everyone heads the urging of the professional consensus. But in any such system, reader, people like you and me can be assured with almost perfect confidence that our voices will be curated out.
There are occasional exceptions to this rule. The music that played over the PA system at Trump rallies, The New Yorker to be “Trump-curated.Trump decided he needed to curate his brand big time.”
An investigative reporting coalition recently released a report alleging a multi-billion dollar money laundering operation that has affected hundreds of banks and companies in 96 countries including the repeat offender, HSBC.
In 2012, HSBC, one of the world’s largest banks, settled with the U.S. Government, avoiding criminal prosecution of its executives, for helping to launder money for Mexican drug cartels as well as Al Qaeda. According to the US Senate’s report, which investigated the matter, HSBC provided a “gateway for terrorists to gain access to U.S. dollars and the U.S. financial system.”
Loretta Lynch, while serving as the U.S. District Attorney in NY said HSBC engaged in a, “sustained and systemic failure to guard against the corruption of our financial system by drug traffickers and other criminals and for evading U.S. sanctions law.” As a result of the criminal charges for money laundering and admitted guilt in four counts against the global banking firm — the megabank was let off with a slap on the wrist.
“HSBC has agreed to forfeit 1.256 billion dollars, the largest forfeiture amount ever by a financial institution for a compliance failure,” Lynch stated.
Because they were let off with zero criminal charges, the bank was allowed to go back to crooked business as usual.
The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project published a comprehensive narrative that details how billions of dollars were moved from Russian sources to bogus shell companies before traveling further into various banks, and ultimately numerous companies that inadvertently accepted corrupt funds.
The OCCRP reports:
Money entered the Laundromat via a set of shell companies in Russia that exist only on paper and whose ownership cannot be traced. Some of the funds may have been diverted from the Russian treasury through fraud, rigging of state contracts, or customs and tax evasion. Money that might have helped repair the country’s deteriorating roads and ports, modernize the health care system, or ease the poverty of senior citizens – was instead deposited in a Moldovan bank.
At the other end of the Laundromat, money flowed out for luxuries, for rock bands touring Russia, and on a small Polish non-governmental organization that pushed Russia’s agenda in the European Union. (It is run by Mateusz Piskorski, a Polish pro-Kremlin party leader arrested for spying for Russia).
The Guardian noted the”ingenious” strategy behind how the money was easily relocated from faceless companies to banks. “Typically, company A ‘loaned’ a large sum of money to company B. Other businesses in Russia – fronted by Moldovans – would then guarantee these ‘loans’. Company B would fail to return the ‘money’. Moldovan judges would authenticate the “debt”, allowing Russian companies to transfer real money to a bank in Moldova,” The Guardian reported.
HSBC, which is headquartered in London, processed US$545.3m in Laundromat cash, mostly routed through its Hong Kong branch, according to The Guardian.
In response to these allegations, HSBC said, “This case highlights the need for greater information sharing between the public and private sectors, each of whom holds important information the other does not.”
“The bank has systems and processes in place to identify suspicious activity and report it to the appropriate government authorities.”
Apparently, those ‘systems and processes’ aren’t good enough to catch hundreds of millions of dirty money coming through.
An OCCRP infographic further explained that all of the “debt” settlements consistently involved a citizen of Moldova.
A great number of banks accepted these funds easily, and the scheme touched upon at least 96 countries receiving the tainted money including the United States, with money ending up at Citibank and Bank of America. The OCCRP reported that “the 21 shell companies fired out 26,746 payments from their various Trasta Komercbanka and Moldindconbank accounts” between 2011 and 2014.
Earlier estimates of about $20 billion in laundered money through this project were initially reported, but recent projections have increased that number to as much as $80 billion.
While the #OCCRP first reported on this operation three years ago, knowledge of the corruption has only begun to reach mainstream news outlets. The Guardian reports that the suspected “architect” behind this massive undertaking is Moldovan businessman Vyacheslav Platon. Platon was arrested and extradited to Moldova in 2016 and has denied evidence of any crime.
Moldova has accused Russia of “harassment” related to its investigation of the operation which has been commonly referred to as the “Global Laundromat.” The OCCRP echoed that “law enforcement in Moldova, Latvia, the United Kingdom, and Russia continue to investigate the Laundromat, but attempts to bring those responsible to justice and to recover the money have been hampered in part by the reluctance of Russian officials to cooperate.