Weekly Roundup (6 March-10 March)

Trump Met Russian Ambassador During Campaign at Speech Reception

7 March 2017, Washington D.C., United States – Bloomberg – President Trump remains adamant that his 2016 presidential campaign was not ‘helped along’ by ties to Russian intelligence.

Currently, these claims are the subject of an ongoing Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation. So far, the Trump campaign’s links to Russia have already claimed the political scalp of Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, Trump’s choice as National Security Adviser, while recently US Attorney General Jeff Sessions distanced himself from the DOJ investigation. He had twice met with the Russian Ambassador to the US, Sergei Kislyak, in 2016.

There seems to be enough evidence that people close to the Trump White House and who worked on getting him elected to the presidency, had ‘reached out’ to Moscow, though to what level is still far from clear. If the DOJ keeps finding evidence linking Russian interference to Trump’s win, irrespective whether Trump knowingly recruited Russian intelligence services or not, it is unlikely that the US President will survive in office for long; especially now that it is public knowledge that Trump had indeed met with the Russian Ambassador to the US in April 2016.

Brexit: Prime Minister Theresa May defeated as UK Parliament demands power to reject final Brexit terms

8 March 2017, London, United Kingdom – ABC News – In a decisive vote, the UK Parliament (House of Lords) has given the institution the power to reject the final terms of Prime Minister May’s plans for Brexit. The vote passed 366 to 268.

This demonstrates that among Britain’s political elite, there remains a deep sentiment toward the European Union (EU), in spite of the close national referendum that showed the British people are more in favor of leaving the EU.

Whatever happens, the trigger to leave the EU is bound to be messy. None the less, May is in a strong domestic position. The Labor Party leadership is in total disarray, with Jeremy Corbyn unwilling to alter his hard Left policies that seem out of step with 21st Century Britain, harking back to the more turbulent period of Union militancy in the 1980s. May, however, has her own problems. Not all of her Conservative Party colleagues are sold on the idea of leaving the EU and are quite willing to fight her on Brexit.

In a supreme twist though, the EU’s survival is far from guaranteed. Even though the EU has moved away from a centralized model, which up to now was the object of greatest resistance among Euro-skeptics across the Continent; the very economic problems in Greece, Spain, Portugal Germany, France and Italy that threatened the EU up to now, have not disappeared. In fact, if May triggers Brexit and this option is destroyed by the British parliament, in two years from now there might not be a viable EU for the UK to rejoin.

Russia Turns WikiLeaks CIA Dump Into Disinformation

8 March, Washington D.C., United States – The Daily Beast – The Vault 7 WikiLeaks document dump hit the CIA hard. The dump explained the details of the operational hacks the CIA uses to gain access to personal information.

Vault 7 details the vulnerabilities of smart phones, IOS and Android, smart televisions (Samsung) to covertly record audio, text and visual information.

The release of this information will not surprise those familiar with total intelligence collection today (as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden have already indicated). It will however, anger many who perhaps thought that their personal technologies could not be so easily spied on and – without a warrant.

While the CIA and its defenders are at great pains to argue that only persons of interest are targeted by the agency, the operational goings on of intelligence services are deliberately kept secret from the public – in the national interest of course. Therefore, whether or not an agency like the CIA can ever be held to account is ultimately, ‘unknowable’.

Backdoors to our everyday technologies show the importance of keeping democratic government from sliding into the abyss of illiberal, unaccountable, semi-autocratic behaviors by an increasingly uncaring political elite – driven largely by their service to ‘self’ before their communities which they are selected and elected to serve.

Centrist Emmanuel Macron set to win French elections halting Marine Le Pen path to victory

9 March 2017, Paris, France – ibtimes.co.uk – In a blow to the fortunes of National Front leader Marine Le Pen, according to recent polling, centrist Emmanuel Macron is set to win the first and second round of the French presidential election due to be held in the months of April and May.

This would be a welcome reprieve for both the left and moderate center of politics in France. It would also bring about relief to those who still believe in the EU, an institution that is struggling under the weight of its own internal contradictions.

However, while the right wing insurrection for the Élysée Palace seems to have been thwarted for now, the problems besetting the French economy and the ongoing problems with the assimilation of Muslim immigrants will remain for the foreseeable future.

The inability or unwillingness of the French political centre under Macron to deal with legitimate public concerns over where France is heading, may well see future challenges by Le Pen, or like-minded figures – inside or outside the system.

This surge for Macron may well be fragile because the political situation in France is highly combustible. All it would take is an ill-timed terrorist incident leading up to the polls and Le Pen’s chance of winning the French presidency may get a second wind.

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