Mysteries generate hypotheses. And the latest hypothesis generated to explain the mystery surrounding the who and why of the Mossack Fonseca document leak is this tasty treat, produced for us by Clifford Gaddy of the Brookings Institution (and who happens to work as an economist).
It’s a great think-piece, and I’m pleased to say that Clifford is clever and aware enough to notice that one of the most important things about the leak is what isn’t included in it, so far as we know – where are the names of the powerful and wealthy Americans?
I recommend you read the whole thing, but for those who are time poor I’ve snipped a couple of excerpts and placed them here:
The “Panama Papers”—does this strike anyone else as a very fishy story? It’s like something out of a cheap spy movie.
Right from the get-go, Cliff.
As many have already pointed out, it’s curious that the Panama Papers mention no Americans. But it’s possible that they do and that the ICIJ hasn’t revealed that information. Perhaps, since the ICIJ is funded by Americans, they’re not going to bite the hand that feeds them. But suppose the ICIJ actually doesn’t have information on Americans—that calls into question the original data, which if actually real and uncensored would most probably include something on Americans. There are undoubtedly many American individuals and companies that have done business with the Mossack Fonseco crew, and it wouldn’t make sense for a collection of 11.5 million documents involving offshore finances to omit Americans entirely. Perhaps, then, someone purged those references before the documents were handed over to the German newspaper. The “someone” would, following my hypothesis, be the Russians—and the absence of incriminating information about Americans is an important hint of what I think to be the real purpose of this leak.
The Panama Papers contain secret corporate financial information, some of which—by far not all—reveals criminal activity. In the hands of law enforcement, such information can be used to prosecute companies and individuals; in the hands of a third party, it is a weapon for blackmail. For information to be effective as a blackmail weapon, it must be kept secret. Once revealed, as in the Panama Papers case, it is useless for blackmail. Its value is destroyed.
Therefore, I suggest that the purpose of the Panama Papers operation may be this: It is amessage directed at the Americans and other Western political leaders who could be mentioned but are not. The message is: “We have information on your financial misdeeds, too. You know we do. We can keep them secret if you work with us.” In other words, the individuals mentioned in the documents are not the targets. The ones who are notmentioned are the targets.
In sum, my thinking is that this could have been a Russian intelligence operation, which orchestrated a high-profile leak and established total credibility by “implicating” (not really implicating) Russia and keeping the source hidden. Some documents would be used for anti-corruption campaigns in a few countries—topple some minor regimes, destroy a few careers and fortunes. By then blackmailing the real targets in the United States and elsewhere (individuals not in the current leak), the Russian puppet masters get “kontrol” and influence.
If the Russians are behind the Panama Papers, we know two things and both come back to Putin personally: First, it is an operation run by RFM, which means it’s run by Putin; second, it’s ultimately about blackmail. That means the real story lies in the information being concealed, not revealed. You reveal secrets in order to destroy; conceal in order to control. Putin is not a destroyer. He’s a controller.
A most interesting hypothesis, with significant and grave consequences if true.
My original hypothesis was that this was just another operation by the US Deep State to blow-up offshore tax havens in the interest of promoting its own onshore tax havens in such places as Nevada and South Dakota (and there may be others). From what I can see, over the last four years the mask has come off: the US has stopped pretending that it is the defender of western civilisation, what we’re now getting – from Switzerland to Syria to Somalia to the South China Sea – is a full-court press aimed at entrenching and extending US hegemony, and either eliminating or muscling-up to any person, institution or group that even dares to speak out against it.
But the inclusion of information about such people as David Cameron, a strong friend of the US leading a country strongly allied to the US, and the nitwit in Iceland, doesn’t fit with this hypothesis. The US might have taken the velvet glove off its iron fist, but publicly bullying and belting its friends and allies in public is a level of brutality that is unusual even for it -indeed my main worry, on considering my hypothesis, was that the US really had gone over the top and now everyone was fair game.
This hypothesis provides an alternative to that view, which is somewhat comforting, given where I had been (ie, ‘US turns itself and its alliance network into Orwell’s Oceania’), but what we now confront is a different set of concerns. Mike Krieger of Liberty Blitzkrieg sums them up well:
At this point, I want to make something perfectly clear. I do not profess to know the “real story” behind the Panama Papers. The truth is, nobody knows, except for John Doe and the people he was working for (or with). The only thing I feel fairly confident about is that the story we are being fed is not the real story. The more I read and reflect upon the very minor consequences of the leak thus far, the more I become convinced this was a geopolitical play by a powerful intelligence agency. At first, I assumed it was U.S. intelligence, but Mr. Gaddy puts forth a compelling theory. If this was the work of the CIA, it was an extremely sloppy and obvious hit job. On the other hand, if this was the work of Putin for the purposes of blackmail, it’s one of the most ingenious chess moves I’ve ever seen played on the global stage.
I want to conclude with a very important observation. If Clifford Gaddy’s theory is correct, it’s the worse case scenario for American citizens. It means that Putin essentially has the goods on the U.S. elite and he can now blackmail them for his purposes. Indeed, perhaps Iceland was put forward as an example of what can happen if truly damaging information makes it to the public.
So if Putin is behind this, and does have the goods on the U.S. elite, not only do we not get rid of the these corrupt oligarchs, we now have to live with them in an even more compromised state than they were before. For all of our sakes, I hope Mr. Gaddy is wrong.
‘Things’, from developments in financial markets, to the political situations in the US and Europe (which appear to be on the verge of revolution, 1989 eastern Europe style), to the world military situation, to geopolitics, just keep getting more interesting.
We’re in for great spectacle over the next few years, so long as you can survive long enough to watch.