Why is disgraced ex-NSA troll John Schindler promoting a wildly unsubstantiated accusation against current NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander "Sandy" Vershbow? Why now?
Schindler is a frequent contributor to Business Insider and is a trusted source on Twitter for the team of Michael D. Weiss, James Miller, and Catherine A. Fitzpatrick who produce Interpreter Mag in New York
Does Vershbow, a former US Ambassador to Russia, perhaps disagrees with NATO's blatant war-mongering in Eastern Europe?
It's often said that conspiracy theories are a crutch for small minds that cannot cope with a complex and ever-changing world.
So what is one to make of a man notorious for insulting critics of the United States' National Security Agency as paranoid idiots when he accuses a high-ranking US diplomat of treason without providing any evidence to support it?
Is there an unwritten rule somewhere that says 'it's never a conspiracy theory if you say the Russians are involved?'
We're speaking of course, about John R. Schindler, the most notorious former NSA officer on Twitter, now a private citizen after his resignation from a teaching position at the United States Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island this August.
At the time of his resignation Schindler insisted that he had never been under investigation for any crime, and Schindler's defenders led by Bob Cesca of the Daily Banter claimed he'd been forced to resign over a private sexual indiscretion that had been leaked onto Twitter by a vengeful woman.
Catherine A. Fitzpatrick, the leading translator and writer for the Khodorkovsky-funded Institute for Modern Russia's Interpreter Mag, went further, claiming the Russian security services had brainwashed the young American woman in question into entrapping Schindler in a nefarious honey trap. Fitzpatrick admitted in her lengthy blog rants on the subject that she had no proof, but Schindler's public humiliation through social media and widespread reporting of his imbroglio just felt like a Russian 'op' to her.
However, when Gawker reporter J.K. Trotter used the US Freedom of Information Act to dig in to Schindler's case, he discovered that Schindler had been the subject of multiple complaints alleging misconduct against military regulations, including rules that bar Department of Defense employees from campaiging for or against members of Congress -- including NSA critics like Sen. Rand Paul or Rep. Justin Amash -- while on base or on duty.
One written complaint submitted to the US Navy's Inspector General Office accused Schindler of spearphishing, a cybercrime whereby bogus emails are sent to a target's inbox in order to get the recipient to open an attachment that 'phones home' revealing the recipient's IP address and approximate location, if not identity. In Schindler's case, the alleged target for 'doxing' was the proprietor of a Twitter account, @5150Committee, that had mocked Schindler and his cult-like following on Twitter for months.
Which brings us to this month, where on November 3rd Schindler posted the headline "Is a Top American Diplomat a Russian Agent?".
Schindler -- who has never shied from uncritically repeating whatever Ukraine's SBU security service claims, however far-fetched -- cited a crazy story on a Ukrainian news site that accuses NATO's Deputy Secretary General Alexander "Sandy" Vershbow of being a Russian spy.
The story is said to originate with a former State Duma deputy turned crackpot anti-Putin activist, Konstantin Borovoy, who has been out of Russian politics for years. Borovoy essentially accuses Vershbow of being a Russian mole who is destroying NATO from within. Borovoy cites as proof the fact that as a US Ambassador to Russia appointed by President Bush, Vershbow met with many diplomats who were likely intelligence officers working under diplomatic cover -- an unsurprising activity for many US diplomats and ambassadors irrespective of posting.
Schindler himself provides no evidence to corroborate Borovoy's claims and in fairness, gets some pushback in the comments of his blog over this.
This columnist decided to use Schindler's enthusiasm for this nutty Ukrainian propaganda piece as a 'teaching moment'.
Schindler's foolishness and the notable silence about it among his promoters at Business Insider (such as Michael B. Kelley or Paul Szoldra) and Interpreter Mag once again demonstrates: if you're backing the mainstream media narrative about Ukraine and 'Putin's aggression', you can be #tinfoilhat to your heart's content.
If you challenge mainstream media narratives about Ukraine and Russia, you're always going to be a 'conspiracy theorist' or 'useful idiot' for the Kremlin, irrespective of the actual evidence surrounding events such as the Maidan sniper killings, the Odessa pogrom, or the downing of MH17.
For the record, this columnist has no love for Alexander Vershbow. As part of the Obama Administration, Vershbow claims to be defending the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine from 'Russian aggression' but had no problem with unprovoked and illegal (under the 1973 War Powers Resolution) NATO aggression against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia that killed hundreds of Serbian civilians in 1999. Indeed, Vershbow's role in the NATO bombing of Serbia likely enhanced his career and led to his current high level status.
Nonetheless, if there's one thing we can't stand, it's McCarthyistic accusations by professional paranoids who've spent too much time in what the late spymaster James Jesus Angleton called 'the wilderness of mirrors' being excused or coddled by a corrupt press corps desperate for NSA talking points.
While Business Insider or Interpreter Mag cannot be faulted for Schindler's crackpot promotion of SBU disinformation, they can be rightly mocked for having put this mentally unbalanced ex-NSA analyst on a pedestal for far too long -- and the larger problem their promotion of Schindler is symptomatic of.
Any journalist is only as good as his sources. For Business Insider's Michael B. Kelley, Paul Szoldra and others who cited Schindler without researching his background -- maybe it's time to back away slowly from the 'ex' NSA man mumbling to himself in the corner on Twitter.
Perhaps Western MSM should learn from the Associated Press' diplomacy reporter Matthew Lee and question the supposed rock solid 'social media' proofs certain websites are peddling to journalists.
Here's an easy example of what we mean: how did Eliot Higgins instantly go from being an expert on munitions used during the Syrian Civil War to being an expert capable of distinguishing fuselage damage from gunfire versus surface to air missiles using just a handful of cherry picked photographs of the MH17 wreckage?
Because RT is bad and Business Insider's editors want to believe whatever Higgins says?
At some point, mainstream media cannot laugh at Russian media as propaganda when they're prepared to accept any 'expertise', however unsubstantiated, when it supports their own governments' agendas.