Presidential politics is about the imperial exercise of power, but this year, agents from a much older empire have seemingly penetrated the deepest realms of America’s ruling establishment, scattering secrets both profound and embarrassing across the global landscape.
“In some respects, our political process really takes care of the work for foreign intelligence agencies,” Michael Kofman, a professional observer of Russia and veteran of the U.S. military’s National Defense University, told Ozy.com last month.
“Why spend lots of your own money going after political intelligence? You have two very large, powerful machines — the Democratic Party and the Republican Party — that are going to each spend several million in this election, right?
“And they are going to do the research on the candidates. So instead of you reinventing the wheel, you just hack the Hillary Clinton campaign to get everything on Donald Trump, and vice versa.”
He added, “In 2014, Russia hacked the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s servers. If the U.S. military has trouble stopping them, what chance does a campaign have?”
During the Cold War, San Diego, home to atomic submarines, nuclear aircraft carriers, support vessels, and brainpower, was ground zero for Soviet military mappers, who targeted their doomsday missiles at North Island’s Navy base as well as what was then the Naval Training Center at Point Loma.
Charts, maps, and related intelligence from the 1980s unearthed in Russia during the post-Soviet era revealed a keen interest in the details of San Diego daily living and weather conditions, as well as its sprawling defense establishment, as if preparing for infiltration — or ultimate invasion and occupation.
“San Diego is a city in the south-west of the USA, California. Together with numerous inter-grown suburbs and satellite towns (Coronado, National City, Imperial Beach, etc.), San Diego is a major US defense center and an important industrial hub; it hosts the main national naval and air force base on the Pacific Coast,” said a rough translation of the documents by Wired magazine in July of last year.
“There are such training centers there as the Naval Center, Marine Corps Center, Pacific Navy Air Defense Center, and the Navy Electronic Equipment Laboratory. San Diego accommodates the headquarters of the 11th Naval District and the Pacific Navy Surface Forces.
“Naval Amphibious Base Coronado have [sic] mooring berths and a roadstead which admit moorage of small landing ships and other landing craft; there are barracks, training blocks and warehouses.”
Says a description of weather conditions, as translated from the Russian Cyrillic by Wired: “During the dry season (June to September), almost all rivers dry up, and in spring, during rainfalls, they turn into impetuous impassable torrents.”
Regarding the civilian population, the legend says, “The most comfortable residential quarters in San Diego are located to the north of Balboa Park, while the poor people live in the southern and eastern parts of the city. The industrial facilities are concentrated mainly within the coastal area along San Diego Bay.”
During this fall’s presidential campaign, Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks has been the funnel for an almost daily release of American political intelligence, ostensibly gleaned by Russian hackers from the email archive of John D. Podesta, the chairman of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
The Clinton campaign has seized on reports by U.S. national intelligence director James Clapper, Jr. and private security contractors, including an assessment by Atlanta-based Dell SecureWorks that a hacker-collective named Fancy Bear, tied to Russian security service GRU, has been responsible for attacks against Podesta.
He reportedly made the mistake of responding to a so-called email that sent him to a fake Google log-in, into which he entered his password, allowing the Russians access to his gmail account.
In San Diego’s case, the torrent of Podesta emails posted by WikiLeaks has furnished an unprecedented glimpse into the city’s elite world of pervasive power and influence, occupied by super-rich campaign donors along with the peculiar Encinitas rock star Tom DeLonge.
The former Blink-182 frontman, who left the Poway-bred group (again) after it splintered last year to pursue a literary career, has been in regular touch with Podesta regarding the pair’s mutual interest in UFOs and other forms of extraterrestrial life, the leaked emails show.
In an interview with Rolling Stone this past April, DeLonge spilled the beans on his lifelong obsession with flying saucers. “They went across the country and landed in certain cities, and mayors and senators met with the pilots,” he said, describing an 1897 blimp invasion of the west.
“It was national news. And then they completely disappeared. No one knows who they were.”
Recounts Rolling Stone, “The guitarist has made several aircraft-spotting pilgrimages himself, driving his Airstream trailer to Nevada test sites like Area 51 and Tonopah, bringing spotting scopes, satellite phones, and night-vision goggles (‘They’re registered with the State Department — I can’t leave the country with them’).”
So, how did DeLonge procure his top-secret access and gear? He isn’t saying, and neither Podesta nor the Clinton campaign will confirm or deny the provenance of the leaked emails.
DeLonge told Rolling Stone that background for Sekret Machines Book 1: Chasing Shadows, a novel he wrote with Andrew James Hartley, a British-born fantasy writer, was based on information from “sources within the aerospace industry and the Department of Defense and NASA.”
He continued, “That sentence, specifically, was approved for me to say,” and added, “I have 10 people that I’m working with that are at the highest levels of the Department of Defense and NASA and the military.”
Following the WikiLeaks dumps of the Podesta files in June, DeLonge briefly took to Instagram October 21 to imply that all the publicity had interfered with his mission. “I am still here. WikiLeaks really messed some important stuff up.”
He added, “What seems like ridiculous subject matter to most, is of massive importance to admirable National Security Leadership. It’s easy to poke fun about the topic from an armchair, but unless you’re invited to the meetings I have been a part of, then... no more laughing. Big things are coming. Project is still on, believe it or not, things just got bigger.”
To house his out-of-this-world mania, DeLonge created To the Stars, a retail-cum-lobbying headquarters on South Coast Highway in Encinitas to sell his outer-space theories, along with skateboards, mugs, hats, T-shirts, used amps, and historic guitars.
“Brand new!!! Rare as hell…the actual one made for me during Enema [of the State, Blink’s third album, released in 1999],” says the To the Stars website of a Fender Custom Shop Strat offered for $10,000. “Comes with Certificate of Authenticity signed by Tom DeLonge.”
How DeLonge originally linked up with Podesta is not clear, though the longtime Clinton and Obama aide is reportedly a fan of The X-Files and eager to ease release of top-secret UFO files if he returns to the White House in a putative new Clinton administration.
Another motive for Podesta’s cooperation with DeLonge, some skeptics suggest, is a longtime U.S. policy of disinformation that encourages public speculation about the existence of UFOs to obscure the real details of super weapons being developed in the deserts of the Southwest by the likes of Lockheed and other big military contractors.
The emails from WikiLeaks provide a one-sided version of DeLonge’s communications with the onetime DC lobbyist, but indicate that Podesta had provided his email and maintained contact with DeLonge following an interview for DeLonge’s video documentary project based around Sekret Machines Book 1.
In an October 16, 2015, email, Delonge wrote Podesta about a deal with director Steven Spielberg: “Hi John — Tom DeLonge here, The one who interviewed you for that special documentary not to [sic] long ago. Things are moving with the project.
“The Novels, Films and Non Fiction works are blooming and finishing. Just had a preliminary meeting with Spielberg’s Chief Operating Officer at DreamWorks.
“More meetings are now on the books — I would like to bring two very ‘important’ people out to meet you in DC. I think you will find them very interesting, as they were principal leadership relating to our sensitive topic.
“Both were in charge of most fragile divisions, as it relates to Classified Science and DOD topics. Other words, these are A-Level officials. Worth our time, and as well the investment to bring all the way out to you. I just need 2 hours from you. Just looking to have a casual, and private conversation in person.”
That November 16, DeLonge relayed a message to Podesta through Hillary Clinton campaign aide Milia Fisher regarding a video he had recently posted online.
“I created this teaser as a way to open conversations and excite Spielberg’s people. It worked. I just left my meeting at DreamWorks, and they are very, very interested.
“On another note, I have somebody important that is willing to fly out and meet with Mr. Podesta. A member of my Committee. I am awaiting a time in January that might work for Mr. Podesta.
“My goal is for Spielberg to be there, too. And if not him, somebody of his stature. Please show Mr. Podesta this private teaser. Let him know that I am spending all afternoon interviewing a scientist that worked on a spacecraft at Area 51 tomorrow.”
On January 26, DeLonge emailed Podesta, “I am honored to be able to work on this with important Men like yourself. Get some sleep out there on that campaign trail, by the way — If I can help I am happy to do it. Hillary’s office called me twice in the past to help her run for the Senate. I met her while I was campaigning for John Kerry. Always loved her. Always wanted a female leader.”
Podesta forwarded DeLonge’s message to Adrienne K. Elrod, director of Strategic Communications & Surrogates for the Clinton campaign, saying of DeLonge, “Don’t think the band is still together, but I think he would do stuff.”
Per a January 24, 2016, email from the WikiLeaks dump, Podesta had arranged an online video conference with DeLonge and four others for January 25. Participants were to include Michael Carey. Though not identified as such in the email, Michael J. Carey is a retired Air Force major general whose endorsement is featured on the book’s Amazon page.
“Sekret Machines scratches at the surface of ‘who do’ we trust with our classified technology — certainly our adversaries are aware of our undertakings, as they are doing the same, but what of our citizens, our politicians, even our own military.”
Continues Carey, “Tom DeLonge and A.J. Hartley create a convincing narrative describing the ‘cat and mouse’ game that is timeless between strategic adversaries. It has existed under the sea, on the surface of the earth and in its skies, why wouldn’t we believe it occurs in space. Our military leaders have been saying space is a contested environment for years now, perhaps we should believe them!”
Another intriguing component of the invitee list was the email address of Rob Weiss, executive vice president and general manager of Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Development Programs, famously known as the Skunkworks, the top-secret developer of the U-2 spy plane and a host of stealth technology used by the nation’s military.
In an email on February 22, 2016, Delonge wrote Podesta, “Mr. Weiss from Lockheed SkunkWorks just emailed me asking if there were any updates. I am not expecting much, but if there is anything I can tell him and the General, however small, I would like to respectfully pass it along.”
Another email address of those invited to the online meeting is widely reported to have belonged to retired Air Force major general William Neil McCasland, associated with some of the U.S. government’s most surreptitious high-tech operations, including the Air Force Research Laboratory at Kirtland Air Force Base, outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico, where many UFO sightings have been reported over the decades, most famously the 1947 Roswell incident.
“He mentioned he’s a ‘skeptic’, he’s not,” Delonge wrote Podesta regarding McCasland in a January 25 email.
“He just has to say that out loud, but he is very, very aware — as he was in charge of all of the stuff. When Roswell crashed, they shipped it to the laboratory at Wright Patterson Air Force Base. General McCasland was in charge of that exact laboratory up to a couple years ago.”
As the release date of his novel approached, DeLonge sought Podesta’s assistance planting stories in the media, per a February 16 email from the WikiLeaks collection.
“This first piece is going to be with Rolling Stone, they’re flying a journalist out to sit with me for two days and do an in-depth printed feature on this,” wrote DeLonge.
“We like Rolling Stone, right?”
He added, “We are planning on doing the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, or the Washington Post,” and asked Podesta for help.
“My question is this: Do you know anybody at those institutions that you can put in a good word to consider the story? I think we can do fine on our own, but knowing a good journalist, somebody that would get the hint if you put out an email, we can set up the entire project credibly. I remember Leslie Keane, but I can’t remember who she writes for... Or somebody else more elevated than her, that they can get this in the right publication.”
In a February 23 update, DeLonge boasted that his inside connections with the government were paying off in Hollywood.
“I met with ScottFree (Ridley Scott’s company) last week — they did The Martian film that has won incredible acclaim over this past year. They were blown away by what I am doing, they need a couple weeks to dig through the Novel. Like everybody else I meet with, their faces drop halfway through the meeting and can’t believe that I am spearheading a project that has support from the shadows. They look comatosed... Ha. But they it’s so [sic] incredibly excited that this topic may start to come out.”
In an apparent reference to McCasland, Delonge said, “The General (from Wright Patt R&D) and I talk every other day. He and I talked on the phone the other night and he is excited, he really thinks that the DOD is going to embrace my project because I am out to show all the positive things great people have done on this topic. And I am eager to take direction from leadership to do a good and needed public service.”
From outer space to the exclusive wards of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, leveraging money and Washington influence played a key role in efforts on behalf of a cancer-stricken Texas super-lawyer and Democratic power broker in 2008 to obtain an experimental drug from what was then known as Biogen Idec Pharmaceuticals of La Jolla.
“Fred Baron of Dallas, good friend, is in Mayo now with Multiple Myeloma,” wrote Mary Pat Bonner to Podesta in an October 14, 2008, email.
Known as the “King of Toxic Torts,” Baron made a considerable fortune as plaintiffs’ lawyer suing corporations who had exposed his clients to deadly asbestos in the workplace.
He became most famous for his role in funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars in alleged hush money to the mistress of Democratic ex-senator John Edwards, of whose failed 2008 presidential campaign Baron was finance chief.
According to a 2015 New York Times account, Bonner is one of Hillary Clinton’s biggest professional fundraisers, receiving more than $6 million in consulting fees from Clinton-related nonprofits and super PACS in the form of a 12.5 commission on the money raised.
In San Diego, Clinton’s major cash-raising target has been La Jolla Democratic billionaire Irwin Jacobs, who has given millions of dollars to her support groups and reportedly became upset when the Times revealed the commission arrangements in a February 2015 report.
“I was not aware that consultants might be paid a percentage of the political contributions that they raise,” the Times quoted Jacobs as saying in an email to the paper regarding another Clinton fundraiser. For her part, Bonner told the Times that she disclosed her cut to those she solicited on behalf of Clinton.
In Baron’s case, Bonner’s target was La Jolla–based Biogen Idec, a drug maker created by UCSD physician and immunologist Ivor Royston and San Diego bio-entrepreneur Howard Birndorf, that was known as Idec until its 2003 merger with Biogen.
“There is a drug — Tysabri — made by Biogen that is given for multiple sclerosis, but is now in clinical trials for use on Multiple Myeloma,” Bonner continued on behalf of Baron.
“Fred’s [doctors] at Mayo think this drug is his only chance, but Biogen won’t approve for Fred because he is too sick and if it fails him, it could skew the outcome of the trials (this told to me by his wife).”
Bonner’s message quoted Baron’s wife as saying, “It’s bullshit. If I am unable to get drug, I will take out [a full-page advertisement] in Boston Globe to CEO and board members. Fred is running out of time. He’s so sick and needs this drug.”
The email alludes to pressuring Biogen Idec’s then–chief executive through the company’s lobbyists.
“Fred needs a compassionate use release from the company, whose CEO is James Mullen,” the email quotes an unidentified “friend” as saying.
“I would like to call [Mullen] on Monday to argue that they could release this drug for Mayo [doctors] to administer to Fred, and have the FDA ‘carve’ it out of being factored in the clinical trials. See what info you can get me on him, and who represents them in DC.”
The email subsequently quotes another person regarding unsuccessful contacts with the company’s lobbyists, “It is my understanding that they have all tried, but that this CEO is unrelenting.”
Former San Diego Democratic congresswoman and Clinton ally Lynn Schenk, then and now a member of Biogen’s board, was also asked to intercede. “She already called the company,” according to the email.
Other political influentials pulled into the mix on behalf of Baron, the emails show, were secretary of state John Kerry, then a Democratic senator from Massachusetts, Montana Democratic senator Max Baucus, and ex-president Bill Clinton.
Podesta himself replied to Bonner in an October 14, 2008, email, describing his contacts on Baron’s behalf with Capitol Hill influence-peddlers and alluding to the continued hold-out of Biogene’s Mullen. “I’ve worked the dutko, foley hoag and partners angles. Don’t know that it will mean anything given the pressure he’s already resisted, but hope it helps.”
The campaign ultimately resulted in contacts between Biogen’s Mullen and then–Food and Drug Administration commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach, but it reportedly took the intervention of then–House speaker Nancy Pelosi to get the drug administered to Baron, according to an August 2010 account in the Dallas Morning News.
During the fall of 2008, as Baron lingered near death, his wife Lisa Blue and stepson Andrew Baron waged a final fight with Biogen for the drug.
“The younger Baron posted an open plea online to Biogen, noting that Bill Clinton, Sens. John Kerry and Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa, and even the head of the Food and Drug Administration had urged the company to reconsider,” the paper reported.
Then, per the Morning News account, “Somehow — Blue still isn’t sure how — Pelosi cajoled the FDA to find a legal justification that let Mayo administer the drug, even without Biogen’s consent.”
Baron, who had donated more than a million dollars to Mayo, died a week prior to Election Day 2008 at age 61.
“One thing he taught me was politics matters. What a personal experience for me to understand how politics matters,” Blue told the paper.
“It’s not fair that other people can’t pick up the phone and make the government give them a drug.... It was just such an awakening about how the drug companies have so much power.”