Michael Ross: Richard Silverstein Confuses Concept of “Tikkun Olam” with Reckless Endangerment, Cyber-Bullying, Defamation, and Mendacity.

michaelross sm 150x150 Michael Ross: Richard Silverstein Confuses Concept of Tikkun Olam with Reckless Endangerment, Cyber Bullying, Defamation, and Mendacity.Michael Ross was born in Canada and served as a soldier in a combat unit of the Israel Defence Forces prior to being recruited as a “combatant,” (a term designating a deep-cover operative tasked with working in hostile milieus) in Israel’s legendary secret intelligence service, the Mossad. In his 13 year career with the Mossad, Ross was also a case officer in Africa and South East Asia for three years, and was the Mossad’s counterterrorism liaison officer to the CIA and FBI for two-and-a-half years. Ross is a published writer and commentator on Near Eastern affairs, intelligence and terrorism. He is the author of The Volunteer: The Incredible True Story of an Israeli Spy on the Trail of International Terrorists.

For several months my personal and professional reputation has been under attack by what I can only assume are politically motivated voices in the blogosphere and social media. For a public figure this is part of the game. However, one writer in particular, has acted with such irresponsible maliciousness that I have been forced to respond through both legal and public arenas.

Richard Silverstein wrote not one, but two, very malicious and extremely defamatory blog posts about me based on a “source” whose well-documented run-in with the internet “Hacktivist” known as “The Jester” speaks for itself.

This is the part where I announce that I have retained the services of Vorys, Sater, Seymour, Pease LLP, leaders in the field of internet defamation. All documents and statements contained in this piece can be verified through their offices.

Armed with this background and disclaimer, let us move forward.

Richard Silverstein makes all kinds of heavy weather about exposing my true name “Burrows”. It is indeed a true name, and nothing short of criminal to reveal it to be sure, but unbeknownst to Richard Silverstein one that I have only been using since 2002. Until that point, I had been living under two separate identities; one Israeli and one Canadian. The notarized copies of according alias passport and supporting documentation are lodged with my lawyers and I will be making copies available to a number of select national security journalists.

In a letter sent to my lawyers from my friend and colleague, Ishmael Jones – a long serving and distinguished non-official cover veteran of the CIA’s National Clandestine service – had this to say:

The most troubling act by Mr. Silverstein is that he reveals Mr. Ross’s true name. This places Mr. Ross and his family at physical risk. Because it involves a former member of an allied intelligence service, slander and libel laws may be the only options for responding to Mr. Silverstein. If Mr. Silverstein had done this to an American intelligence officer, however, he would be subject to criminal prosecution.

I don’t care about being “exposed”. I do however, find it nothing short of criminal to do so in full knowledge that I have a wife and children.

Dear public, how is that even remotely excusable? This isn’t exercising a First Amendment right, it’s reckless endangerment.

Jones continues:

Through my service with the CIA and through contact with friends and colleagues within the CIA, I have confirmed the truth of Michael Ross’s biography as described in his book. Mr. Silverstein’s blog posts are slanderous and unfounded.

Now for some other refutations of his blog posts:

I posted a photo of Steve Nash’s high school jersey’s at St. Michael’s University School and (apparently not content with questioning my professional background alone) Richard Silverstein asserts that I claim to have attended the school. I have existing close family ties to the school and my uncle is an alumnus. I took the photo as Steve Nash made a surprise visit, as he does on occasion, to the school that day. I attended a perfectly good public school with its own notable alumni including Steve Nash, who attended my school and switched to St. Michaels later on.

Richard Silverstein also claims that I wasn’t in the Canadian military and states he couldn’t locate me through the Department of National Defence (as if they hand out personnel files to anyone who asks). As I pointed out, my Canadian identity prior to 2002 was not “Burrows”. After basic training at CFB Cornwallis, NS, I was selected to serve in a combat arms regiment at CFB Petawawa in the Canadian Special Service Brigade from 1979 to 1983. A small contingent of my regiment also served in an exchange program with a similar U.S. unit based in Fort Hood, Texas. Parenthetically, an acquaintance who resides in my neighborhood is a retired Major-General in the Canadian military who in his past, commanded a sister regiment; we have a number of former colleagues in common.

As for my Mossad career. I was recruited in 1988 and served in three operational divisions until December 2001, when I retired with the equivalent military rank of Lieutenant-Colonel and in the position of Branch Head. Hardly a low-level under-achiever, I left the Mossad because I was tired of the work, the region as a whole, and wanted to return to my home in Canada. I put in the hard time and nobody is more aware of this than my family, who were the ones who endured the real hardship of being part and parcel of my Mossad career. It’s worth noting that one of my sons recently served in a special operations force unit of the type that, were Richard Silverstein’s accusations true, would have precluded him from eligibility in such a unit.

I was recruited because I had an established anglo-saxon background with no previous ties to Israel or Judaism. I made it through the Mossad’s lengthy vetting and stringent selection process for an operational deep-cover role. I was a decent athlete and could think on my feet. I could travel unhindered by Israeli characteristics. I was not an analyst. I had no background in military intelligence nor in academia so I served 11.5 years in the field and 2.5 in HQ. I retired with a pension that is still paid out monthly. I have notarized translations of documents attesting to these facts. I even retained the invitation to my retirement ceremony held in the presence of the Mossad Director-General in December 2001.

Were I to fabricate a book about my experiences, it would cover a much shorter period of my life and be a hell of a lot more exciting than it actually was. I never claimed I was an uber-spy. My career was more Le Carre than Ludlum.

Another highly erroneous statement in Richard Silverstein’s blog posts is his assertion that in a liaison role, I would have had no contact with the FBI. The FBI opened their Tel Aviv Legal Attache (LEGATT) in 1996 during an inaugural visit by then Director Louis Freeh. I came on board the Liaison and Special Political Operations Division’s North America Department two weeks later. The Mossad is responsible for all liaison relationships with representatives of all foreign intelligence services without exception. There are a number of former FBI agents on Twitter who can attest to this fact. Of course, Richard Silverstein would never think to ask.

As it happens, the real predator and poseur in this whole tawdry little drama is Richard Silverstein. He preys on people to whom he is ideologically opposed while posing as a “journalist”. My understanding is that one of the basic tenets of journalism is to conduct research and interview the subject of your article to obtain all the facts. I received no communication from Silverstein requesting clarification or my side of the story. He did write my publisher however, who shared the contents of his email with me and promptly referred it to Random House’s legal department due to its threatening tone. It’s not surprising that Richard Silverstein’s accuracy and the quality of his reporting has been called into question.

Richard Silverstein then goes on to compare me to Anthony Weiner. That is as highly defamatory as it is obscene. I am and have been married for nearly ten years to a beautiful, accomplished, and wonderful woman. I dedicated my book to her and she appears at the end of my acknowledgements. We are best friends and soul-mates. We recently spent time together in SE Asia where I was able to show her some of my former haunts. My wife followed me on Twitter and knew exactly from whence this salacious cancer originated. So do many others. Surprise.

Despite two letters to cease and desist unlawful conduct from my lawyers, Richard Silverstein will not remove his defamatory and libelous blog posts. So be it. My lawyers have prepared the formal complaint and I am prepared to sue Richard Silverstein in a Seattle court at the time of my choosing. In the interim, I will spare no effort in defending my good name and record of service.

I formally challenge Richard Silverstein to come out from behind the safety of his keyboard and debate me in any public forum; radio, TV, or the internet, I’m good to go.

In closing, I offer this advice to Richard Silverstein: Spend less time trolling the internet and engaging in toxic, spiteful, and malicious character assassination. Try reading former Navy SEAL Rob DuBois’ excellent book, “Powerful Peace: A Navy SEAL’s Lessons on Peace from a Lifetime at War” and think about what it is to be a mensch instead of a cyber-bully.

Karma, Richard Silverstein, karma.

Julia Tatiana Bailey: Art as Espionage in Cold War America

headshot 150x150 Julia Tatiana Bailey: Art as Espionage in Cold War AmericaJulia Tatiana Bailey is an art historian researching art as propaganda and diplomacy in Cold War America. She is currently completing her PhD as a Predoctoral Fellow at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. She blogs twice-weekly on Cold War art at ESPIONART and is on Twitter at @espionart and @tattyjewels.

When in 1979 Sir Anthony Blunt, Professor of History of Art at the Courtauld Institute in London and Surveyor of the Queen’s Pictures, was publicly exposed as a member of the ‘Cambridge Five’ Soviet spy ring, the worlds of art and espionage sensationally collided. Although the artist as a spy is a largely fictional phenomenon – save for a fantastical revelation in 2002 that Israeli spies had posed as art students in an attempt to gain access to US federal departments – the Cold War brought art and espionage closer than ever before.

ab2 Julia Tatiana Bailey: Art as Espionage in Cold War America

Anthony Blunt with Queen Elizabeth IIas Art surveyor

From scenes of military victories on the tomb walls of Ancient Egypt, to the ghostly self-portraits of Felix Nussbaum produced during his years in hiding from the Nazis, the narrative of the artist at war, as witness or propagandist, has a long and distinguished history. With the advent of the Cold War, the relationship between art and war shifted. This new kind of confrontation, where armed conflict was replaced by psychological warfare, pushed culture to the front line. On both sides, art was increasingly cultivated as a weapon to be waged against the enemy, with artists recast as messengers of ideological dogma.

In 1951 the CIA declared in a classified report that ‘culture, like religion, generally permeates the souls of those imbued with it to such an extent that it is one of the last elements of independence purged out of the individual man under a totalitarian regime’ – and then proceeded to suggest how American art could be used to disseminate the nation’s ideals around the world. During the ‘50s, the visual arts reflected the polarised position of the two superpowers in diametrically-opposed styles of art: in the Soviet corner, Socialist Realism, a centralised doctrine that unequivocally reformulated all art as propaganda intended to inspire the populace to build a communist utopia; and in the American corner, Abstract Expressionism, seemingly untouchable by outside influence, so indecipherable as to be ineffective as propaganda and therefore credible as the ‘free’ art of a nation that held the rights of the individual above all else. With his smouldering stare and anti-establishment demeanour reminiscent of James Dean, Jackson Pollock was the poster boy for this new American art. Yet success forced Pollock and his fellow abstractionists into the covert employ of intelligence agencies with hidden agendas.

Jackson Pollock Julia Tatiana Bailey: Art as Espionage in Cold War America

Jackson Pollock works in his Long Island studio, 1949. Photograph by Martha Holmes for Life © Martha Holmes – Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

As McCarthyism raged in the United States, fears were raised of a communist conspiracy in the art world. Michigan congressman, George Dondero, led attacks against ‘subversive’ modern art and accused artists of being ‘soldiers of the revolution in smocks’. This condemnation prevented the United States from establishing an effective programme of international artistic display for most of the 1950s. Instead, organisations such as the Paris-based Congress for Cultural Freedom acted on America’s behalf. As part of their efforts to prevent the spread of communist ideology amongst the Western intellectual community, the Congress planned events such as the Masterpieces of the 20th Century exhibition in 1952 at the Musée National D’Art Moderne, intended ‘to illustrate the vigour with which art is flourishing in a free world’. When in 1967 the CIA was revealed as a covert funder of the Congress for Cultural Freedom, the line between art and espionage was one again blurred. Even when a treaty was finally signed in 1958 to enable official Soviet-American cultural exchange, sections of the media expressed their concern that this would open the door for the KGB ‘to send their espionage agents into this country posing as artists’. These fears had some validity, as staff on both sides of the exchange used their time in the rival country to gather intelligence on cultural and technological developments. Meanwhile, these visits also enabled a number of artists to defect across the Iron Curtain.

William Gropper Julia Tatiana Bailey: Art as Espionage in Cold War America

William Gropper, Senate Hearing, 1950. Oil on canvas. De Young Museum, San Francisco

During World War II a group of eminent American painters were called upon to travel to the theatres of war to provide an interpretation of the ‘essence of war’ in order to encourage ‘the spiritual and psychological participation of the whole people’. The Art Advisory Committee of the US War Department declared: ‘the only psychic communication we have is through the arts’. Yet having signed government contracts and made travel preparations, three of those artists were unceremoniously removed from the project. Anton Refregier, William Gropper and Philip Evergood were found to be of unsatisfactory character according to the Hatch Act, due to their previous communist affiliations.

After their dismissal from the project in 1943, Refregier, Gropper and Evergood gravitated towards the National Council of American-Soviet Friendship in New York. Founded that year on the wave of the Soviet-American wartime alliance, the Council suffered a rapid drop in fortunes in the post-war era and was indicted for ‘subversive activities’ in 1947. Yet the group remained active and increasingly popular among social realist painters rejected by the powerful New York art museums in the 1950s. In 1957 Rockwell Kent, a prominent painter and illustrator and the Council’s new chairman, became the first post-war American artist to hold a solo exhibition in the Soviet Union. His example led to a growing desire for disenfranchised realist artists to exhibit their work in the country. Artists associated with the National Council of American-Soviet Friendship became fanatical opponents of abstraction and mouthpieces for the post-Stalinist Soviet policy of ‘peaceful coexistence’. Encouraged by material and financial support from the cultural authorities in Moscow, these artists willingly took on the role of agents for the USSR to breed animosity within the United States.

James Rosenquist Julia Tatiana Bailey: Art as Espionage in Cold War America

James Rosenquist, F-111 (detail), 1964-5. Oil on canvas with aluminum, 23 sections © James Rosenquist. Museum of Modern Art, New York

The overlap of art and espionage in the 1950s abated in the next decade. As skepticism built on either side of the Iron Curtain, state control of the arts faltered. In the United States, growing discontent with the Vietnam War and the rise of New Left activism inspired artists to express themselves in new ways which challenged political appropriation. Pop Art emerged as the leading artistic movement for the post-Kennedy generation. Andy Warhol produced multi-coloured prints of Chairman Mao and atomic bombs, while James Rosenquist depicted the F-111 fighter-bomber ‘flying through the flak of consumer society to question the collusion between the Vietnam death machine, consumerism, the media, and advertising’. In the Soviet Union, Khrushchev’s Thaw emboldened artists to push the boundaries of Socialist Realism, and Pop Art was mirrored in the anti-totalitarian satire of Sots Art. Despite the efforts of the authorities to crush the spirits – and the paintings – of this new generation of artists, the Nonconformist Art movement that developed in the 1960s would outlast the Soviet regime. Meanwhile, in Germany, Gerhard Richter and Sigmar Polke defected from East to West and established Capitalist Realism to mock the effect of Cold War politics on the visual arts. American art was finally infiltrating the Soviet Bloc – but not in the way the government had envisaged.

Theodore W. Weaver: It’s Cold Out There

tww Theodore W. Weaver: Its Cold Out ThereTheodore W. Weaver is a former Intelligence Officer within the CIA’s National Clandestine Service and the Directorate of Science and Technology. He has close to a decade working as a Special Agent with several Federal agencies and has worked against counter proliferation, human trafficking/smuggling, child exploitation, Intellectual Property Rights violations and narcotics. You can follow him on Twitter or via the nascent Inglorious Amateurs website.

I was going to try and respond to the recent Associated Press / Washington Post article (authored by Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo) related to Robert Levinson and my views on news organizations breaking stories related to American citizens who are being held in captivity with as little condescension as I could possibly muster. The fact that I find myself having to contemplate this scenario at all leaves me severely disappointed. The truth is I have very little to add to that specific story. More over, the release of their article has opened the floodgates to a wash of stories from several other sources

I don’t want to come off sounding like some government crony who is completely anti-media. I believe the media has an incredible amount of power, especially in this current climate of sensitive information leaks and the inevitable post 9/11 – GWOT blowback. The fact that some journalists held their stories for over six years tells me however, they did know this was and is an extremely sensitive subject.

The essence of the debate and my heated response to the Levinson story can be distilled to one point. Robert Levinson is still out there; an American citizen and public servant for what turns out to be three decades. Exposing any info about him for personal gain is reprehensible. This isn’t a scandal; this is a crisis for him and his family. The basis of his employment and trip to Iran can be debated and pushed around the litter-box after he has been freed, but anything short of that is a self-serving, heartless mistake.

That out of the way, I’d also like to add that for once it would be nice to read a story that does not involve the words “speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized…” especially when it relates to matters of National Security (and obviously US citizens being held in captivity overseas).

Can we all agree that journalists are not national security professionals? I’m not saying they don’t have good contacts, or have a grasp of NatSec and related subject matter. What I am saying is they are not suited to decide what sensitive or classified information should be published for the entire world to read. When publishing stories I highly doubt the first thing out of an editor’s mouth is “how will this damage US intelligence assets and officers in the field?” or “would posting this get anyone killed?”

I’m not so callus as to say they don’t utter those words at all. Hell, I’ve seen HBO’s The Newsroom, I know there must be heated debates in glass walled offices about all this. After all, TV is like real life, right

So what about those “anonymous senior officials” who so gallantly dish scoops to the media? I suppose I wouldn’t be too popular if I said I’d like to see them uncloaked and held accountable would I? Personally I think anyone who gives classified or sensitive information to the media is just as likely to give it to a foreign intelligence service. And in some cases, its pretty much the same damage done.

I won’t be so dire and drab as to say, “loose lips sink ships” and put a clamp down on anyone talking without offering up an olive branch here. Could it be that the US Government has created this rampant use of “anonymous” conditional sources? If this is the case, I do believe our penchant for over-classification could be the culprit.

Its embarrassing to say, but during my time at the CIA, I’m not sure I ever really understood the how’s and why’s for our classification rules. If I am remembering correctly, we even had to fill in classification markings on inter-office emails. The system was/is bulky and pretty much everything needed to be classified. Obviously I can’t speak to specifics, but I know there were things I classified that did not need it. Somewhere there is likely a Lotus Notes server with gigabytes of classified “Meet at Woodie in 10?” and “Starbucks after the meeting?”…

So if I concede that there is a problem with over-classification in the government, can we all agree that the news media needs to seriously look in the mirror and figure out whose greater good they are trying to serve with their stories?

Back on topic, Robert Levinson is still being held in captivity. I cannot think of a viable or productive reason for the Associated Press, Washington Post, New York Times, et al to release their stories at this time. No doubt, if any of it were true, there would have been good reason to publish it after Levinson was released. Prior to securing his release it reeks of nothing but self-serving media masturbation. I for one am sick of the rub and tug.