Bureau said to have been allowed to monitor Pages communication during the election because it believed he was acting as a Kremlin agent
The FBI obtained a secret court order last summer to monitor the communications of Carter Page, an adviser to the then presidential candidate Donald Trump, over suspicions he was a Russian agent , the Washington Post has reported.
Page is among the Trump associates under scrutiny as the FBI and congressional committees investigate whether any of them colluded with Moscow to skew the 2016 election in Trumps favour. Both Page and Trump have denied any wrongdoing and portrayed the investigations as a witch-hunt. But the investigations continue to haunt the Trump administration.
The Post, citing unnamed law enforcement and other US officials, said on Tuesday that the government surveillance application laid out the basis for believing that Page had knowingly engaged in intelligence activities on Russias behalf. The newspaper said the application included contacts Page had with a Russian intelligence operative in 2013.
However the report noted that Page had not been charged with any crime, and that FBI counter-intelligence investigations frequently do not lead to criminal prosecutions.
Pages contacts with Moscow are detailed in a 2015 court filing involving a case against three men charged in connection with a cold war-style Russian spying ring. According to the filing, a man described as Male-1 provided one of the men documents about the energy industry. Earlier this month, Page confirmed to Buzzfeed he was the unnamed male. He said he had been approached by a man presenting himself as a diplomat at the UN and did not hand over sensitive documents. He was not charged as part of that case.
Trump surprised campaign observers in March when he named Page, a previously obscure businessman who had worked in the energy sector in Russia, as a foreign policy advisor to his campaign. However, after reports surfaced in September of his alleged contacts with senior Russian officials, the Trump team distanced itself from him.
Page, who has denied having improper ties to Russia, told the Associated Press on Tuesday he was happy that the court order had been revealed and blamed the Obama administration for trying to suppress dissidents who did not fully support their failed foreign policy.
It will be interesting to see what comes out when the unjustified basis for those Fisa requests are more fully disclosed over time, said Page, using an acronym to refer to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
The Fisa court and its orders are highly secretive. Judges grant permission for surveillance if they agree theres probable cause that the target is an agent of a foreign power. Though the standard is a high bar to meet, applications are hardly ever denied.
The Post reported that a 90-day warrant was issued for Page and had been renewed more than once by the Fisa court.
Trump aides insist the president has no relationship with Page and did not have any dealings with him during the campaign.
Pages relationship with Russia began to draw scrutiny during the campaign after he visited Moscow in July 2016 for a speech at the New Economic School. While Page said he was traveling in a personal capacity, the school cited his role in the Trump campaign in advertising the speech.
Page was sharply critical of the US in his remarks, saying Washington had a hypocritical focus on ideas such as democratization, inequality, corruption and regime change.
Days later, Page talked with Russias ambassador to the US at an event on the sidelines of the Republican national convention. Jeff Sessions, now the US attorney general, spoke with the Russian envoy at the same event, a conversation he failed to reveal when asked about contacts with Russians during his Senate confirmation hearings.
The campaign began distancing itself from Page after his trip to Russia, saying he was only an informal adviser. By the fall, he appeared to have cut ties to the Republican campaign.
It is unclear how Page got connected with the Trump campaign. One campaign official said Page was recruited by Sam Clovis, an Iowa Republican operative who ran the Trump campaigns policy shop and is now a senior adviser at the agriculture department. Those who served on the campaigns foreign policy advisory committee also said they had limited contact with Page.
But in a letter Page sent to the Senate intelligence committee last month, he cast himself as a regular presence in Trump Tower, where the campaign was headquartered.
I have frequently dined in Trump Grill, had lunch in Trump Cafe, had coffee meetings in the Starbucks at Trump Tower, attended events and spent many hours in campaign headquarters on the fifth floor last year, Page wrote. He also noted that his office building in New York is literally connected to the Trump Tower building by an atrium.
In the letter, Page claimed that his mobile phone had been tapped. The former Merrill Lynch investment banker who worked out of its Moscow office for three years, now runs Global Energy Capital, a firm focused on energy sectors in emerging markets. According to the companys website, he has advised on transactions for Gazprom and RAO UES, a pair of Russian entities.
The long read: They pick up the dead and wounded from burning buildings, terrorist attacks and gun battles. And they get paid 1 a day
The impact of the explosion sent Muhammad Safdar flying backwards. He looked up from where he had landed and saw that the windows of his parked ambulance had shattered. As he tried to pick himself back up, fellow volunteer drivers working for the Edhi ambulance service gathered around him; it looked as if Safdar was bleeding. But he had not suffered any external injuries. Human flesh got stuck to me, he recalls now, as we sit in the ambulance control centre in downtown Karachi. My friends were checking me for injuries, but it was pieces of other people. I was trembling hard and I couldnt hear my own voice when I spoke. It sounded juddering. I could only hear whistles.
It was 5 February 2010 and Safdar had already dealt with the fallout of one explosion that day: an hour before, a motorbike laden with explosives had slammed into a bus carrying Shia Muslims to a religious procession. Safdar had raced to the scene to load the dead and injured into his ambulance and take them to the nearby Jinnah hospital. With more than people 30 injured and 12 dead, the emergency room was in a state of chaos, filled with crying and screaming as doctors struggled to cope. He was still inside the hospital when the second bomb exploded just outside the entrance.
Safdar did not realise until later that he had suffered head injuries. At the time, he followed his first instinct, which was to get up and continue to help. A further 13 people were dead, with scores more injured. Everything was a mess, there was blood everywhere, he remembers.
The hospital entrance was badly damaged and there were fears of a third bomb. Ambulance drivers took those with the worst wounds to other nearby hospitals for treatment. Three ambulances were destroyed in the explosion, so they worked with what they had.
Across the crowds of casualties, Safdar kept his eyes on his boss, Abdul Sattar Edhi, the founder of the service, who was sitting inside one of his own ambulances. As the head of a huge charitable organisation offering services to the poor, Edhi made a point of remaining at the frontline of rescue work. He had been collecting the dead and injured alongside his staff. Safdar ran over to him. I came to pick him up in case of a third blast, but he said, I am not going. Wherever I am, there isnt a blast, so I am not moving. Safdar continued to haul bodies to ambulances parked outside. Amid the dirt and blood, he spotted something suspicious: a very clean-looking motorbike in the car park with a TV set strapped to the back. Safdar ran back to Edhi to tell him what he had seen. Edhi alerted police and stayed put as experts defused what turned out to be a third bomb.
In 13 years as an Edhi ambulance driver, Safdar has lost count of the rescue jobs he has done. He has entered burning buildings, dived into water after shipwrecks, retrieved survivors after terror attacks and industrial accidents, and navigated running gun battles.
Sporting red T-shirts emblazoned with bold white letters reading EDHI, these workers are a familiar sight at Pakistans all-too-common disaster scenes. Here in Karachi, a megalopolis of around 20 million people, there is no state ambulance service.
Karachi has suffered through decades of violence. Ethnic tensions have been simmering since the 1950s, ramping up as conflict and natural disasters elsewhere in Pakistan pushed more and more people into the city. For years, gang war raged in the slum of Lyari, and as terrorism increased in Pakistan in 2001 following the 9/11 attacks and the declaration of the war on terror,Karachi became a key militant operating ground. Since 2014, a crackdown led by the army has brought a semblance of calm, but violence still simmers below the surface.
Safdar, in his rudimentary ambulance, has been at the frontline of the shifting conflicts consuming his city, placing himself at huge personal risk for very little money.
Safdar first stumbled into the Edhi Foundations main office in 2003, shouting that his brother had waited too long for an ambulance. Safdar was around 22 years old (it is common in Pakistan for people to be unsure of their exact birth date), and his brother Adil was roughly 20. The ambulance driver on duty, Muhammad Liaqat, remembers, Our reaction was not to reply in any aggressive way. He has a very good heart, but he is hot-headed.
Adil had contracted polio as an infant, and the disease still endemic in Pakistan left him disabled. He needed a series of painful leg operations. With no car and limited funds, the family relied on the Edhi ambulances.
Despite Safdars anger, he was impressed by the operation. I saw other people waiting at the hospital for hours for transportation, he recalls. Edhi Sahib [a term of respect] alone was trying to help. Safdar had dreamed of joining the army, but needed to stay at home because of Adils illness. So, he got a driving licence and joined the ambulance service. Now he creates trouble for us every day, says Liaqat.
On his first day,Safdar went with another driver to collect one of the unclaimed bodies frequently found on the streets of Karachi. He couldnt look. The other driver slapped him in the face. What do you think this is? he said. Its a human being. What are you? A human being. Why are you behaving like this? Safdar picked up the corpse.
It takes time to get used to this work, he says. A lot of people leave after a week or so as they cant take it. They have fear in them.
Safdar is a thin man with a meticulously stylish haircut, equally quick to laugh as to fly into a rage. His boss, Anwar Kazmi, ironically introduces him to newcomers as our most polite driver. Safdar constantly chews a betel nut derivative, which has a stimulant effect a common habit among drivers in Pakistan. He is outspoken and talks a million miles a minute, his rapid hand movements expressing a range of emotions. He refuses to enter a government hospital where the boss was once rude to him. But he cannot stand to see suffering, sometimes getting in trouble for using his siren for non-emergency call-outs, and stopping to help if he spots anyone injured or lost on the road.
His usual base is the Edhi ambulance services main control centre in Kharadar in Karachis bustling old town. The office is open to the street, with a kiosk at the front for donations.
In a city where media companies and hospitals have armed guards, this accessibility is unusual. Inside, drivers sit and chat in between shifts, the overhead fan whirring and causing the dim electric light to flicker over their faces. Their standard work shifts are 18, 24 or 36 hours. At night, some nap on their stretchers. High up on a wall, stuck to peeling paintwork, are photographs of eight drivers killed in service. The bosses sit in this room too, behind two large desks. Kazmi, the general manager and spokesman, is always stationed at the right-hand desk, two phones and a mobile in front of him.
Googles billion-dollar belief that it can crack the DNA code to immortality reveals a dangerous mindset
In this world, wrote Benjamin Franklin, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes. This proposition doesnt cut much ice in Silicon Valley, where they take a poor view of paying taxes. Whats interesting is that they are also coming to the view that perhaps death is optional too, at least for the very rich.
You think I jest? Well, meet Bill Maris, the founder and former CEO of Google Ventures, the investment arm of Alphabet, Googles owners. Three years ago, Maris decided to create a company that will solve death. He pitched the idea to Googles co-founders, Sergey Brin and Larry Page and, according to a lovely piece by Tad Friend in the New Yorker, Brin, who has a gene variant that predisposes him to Parkinsons disease, loved the idea and Page declared that Google should do it.
Thus was born Calico, which is short for the California Life Company, in 2013. It started with a billion dollars in the bank and is extremely secretive. All thats known, Friend writes, is that its tracking 1,000 mice from birth to death to try to determine biomarkers of ageing biochemical substances whose levels predict morbidity; that it has a colony of naked mole rats, which live for 30 years and are amazingly ugly; and that it has invested in drugs that may prove helpful with diabetes and Alzheimers.
Calico is a typical product of the reality distortion field that is Silicon Valley. Its a salutary illustration of how sudden and unimaginable wealth can warp minds. There are people in Palo Alto, Mountain View and Cupertino who truly believe they are living in the Florence of Renaissance 2.0. Their religion is what Neil Postman called Technopoly and their prevailing mindset is what the technology critic Evgeny Morozov describes as solutionism, the belief that all problems have technological solutions.
It turns out that death is now perceived as just such a problem. Friend quotes a hedge-fund manager waxing lyrical on this. I have the idea, he burbles, that ageing is plastic, that its encoded. If something is encoded, you can crack the code. If you can crack the code, you can hack the code! Cue loud applause from the elite audience gathered in a Californian drawing room to discuss the secrets of longevity.
Thats not to say that longevity isnt important or relevant. In most societies, people are living longer and thats now giving rise to acute social, psychological and economic stress. Just ask anyone who works in the NHS. Dementia and Parkinsons disease are laying waste to an increasing number of human minds, while heart disease, cancer and diabetes are making our bodies progressively enfeebled. We live longer but our closing years can be miserable, lonely and largely pointless.
So its worth pouring resources into understanding and eventually curing these diseases. But the point of that is not to abolish death but to make the natural process of ageing more tolerable towards the end. And thats what the majority of scientists and doctors are trying to achieve. They want us to have healthier lives and compressed morbidity, which is a polite term for a quick and painless death at the end.
The Silicon Valley crowd want something else, though: they seek to make death optional. And they think it can be done. After all, as some wag put it decades ago: Death is natures way of telling you youre fired. Once we have mated and brought up some children, evolution regards us as disposable, past our sell-by date. So it has arranged that somewhere in our DNA are genes that will progressively trigger ageing processes, eventually causing our bodies to fail. To computer people, DNA is just code and code can always be hacked. So all we have to do is find the offending genes, edit them using Crispr and bingo! immortality beckons.
You have to marvel at the one-dimensionality of minds that can think like this. Apart from anything else, death is what gives meaning to life. Its also the process that ensures human vitality: young people arrive with ideas that their elders never had and death makes room for them to grow, thrive and die in their turn. Thats why elite US universities, which do not have a retirement age for tenured professors, are increasingly desperate to find ways to incentivise them to quit.
Given that Silicon Valley billionaires are smart, they must know all this. So could it be that what underpins this strange new obsession with ensuring immortality is something more straightforward? Could it be that they all became wealthy at such a young age? So they have these unimaginable riches and have suddenly realised that they dont have an infinite time to enjoy them. Ones heart bleeds for the poor lambs. Not.