Latest from the Twitter Files: FBI, others 'discredited factual information about Hunter Biden’s foreign business dealings'

Oh boy. If Michael Shellenberger‘s latest tranche from the Twitter Files gets corroborated, the FBI didn’t just target speech on social-media platforms in a presidential election. The files released today suggests that the FBI acted to preemptively suppress an accurate news report even before it got published — with no actual evidence that it was part of an intelligence operation.

Shellenberger released part 7 of the "Twitter Files" on Monday, delving into how the FBI and intelligence community "discredited factual information about Hunter Biden’s foreign business dealings."

The lengthy Twitter thread reveals what Shellenberger calls an "influence campaign" by the FBI that eventually "worked" when Twitter censored Hunter Biden’s scandalous laptop. 

Elon Musk had been vocal about being transparent when it comes to Twitter's past and present actions curating content on the platform, including censored content. The Twitter owner has enlisted independent journalists to slowly release evidence of these actions in a series dubbed the "Twitter Files" that continue to expose once-secret communications. 

"In Twitter Files #6, we saw the FBI relentlessly seek to exercise influence over Twitter, including over its content, its users, and its data," Shellenberger wrote, later adding, "We have discovered new info that points to an organized effort by the intel community to influence Twitter & other platforms."

"In Twitter Files #7, we present evidence pointing to an organized effort by representatives of the intelligence community (IC), aimed at senior executives at news and social media companies, to discredit leaked information about Hunter Biden before and after it was published," he continued. "The story begins in December 2019 when a Delaware computer store owner named John Paul (J.P.) Mac Isaac contacts the FBI about a laptop that Hunter Biden had left with him On Dec 9, 2019, the FBI issues a subpoena for, and takes, Hunter Biden's laptop."

"It's important to understand that Hunter Biden earned *tens of millions* of dollars in contracts with foreign businesses, including ones linked to China's government, for which Hunter offered no real work," Shellenberger wrote.

"During all of 2020, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies repeatedly primed Yoel Roth to dismiss reports of Hunter Biden’s laptop as a Russian ‘hack and leak’ operation," he wrote, screenshotting a sworn declaration by Roth discussing years of weekly meetings warning of such an operation happening right before the 2020 election.

Shellenberger noted that Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg once said the FBI approached Facebook and also warned of Russian "propaganda" ahead of the 2022 election. 

"Were the FBI warnings of a Russian hack-and-leak operation relating to Hunter Biden based on *any* new intel? No, they weren't," Shellenberger wrote in a tweet sharing comments from FBI agent Elvis Chan. 

"Through our investigations, we did not see any similar competing intrusions to what had happened in 2016," Chan wrote. 

Shellenberger also noted that Twitter executives "repeatedly" indicated there was "very little" Russian activity on the platform. 

Shellenberger wrote that Twitter even "debunked false claims by journalists of foreign influence on its platform," including polarizing NBC News reporter Ben Collins who reported White nationalists posing as Antifa called for violence on Twitter. 

"We haven't seen any evidence to support that claim," former Twitter exec Yoel Roth wrote to Chan on June 2, 2020. 

"It's not the first time that Twitter's Roth has pushed back against the FBI. In January 2020, Roth resisted FBI efforts to get Twitter to share data outside of the normal search warrant process," Shellenberger wrote before noting "pressure had been growing" and sharing an email in which a Twitter executive told Roth the intelligence community wanted the company to share more information and change API policies.

"They are probing & pushing everywhere they can (including by whispering to congressional staff)," Twitter's director of policy and philanthropy wrote. 

"Time and again, FBI asks Twitter for evidence of foreign influence & Twitter responds that they aren’t finding anything worth reporting," Shellenberger wrote. "Despite Twitter’s pushback, the FBI repeatedly requests information from Twitter that Twitter has already made clear it will not share outside of normal legal channels."

"Then, in July 2020, the FBI’s Elvis Chan arranges for temporary Top Secret security clearances for Twitter executives so that the FBI can share information about threats to the upcoming elections," Shellenberger wrote, proving email evidence. 

"On August 11, 2020, the FBI's Chan shares information with Twitter's Roth relating to the Russian hacking organization, APT28, through the FBI's secure, one-way communications channel, Teleporter," Shellenberger wrote.

Roth recently said during an interview that the Hunter Biden laptop set off his "finely tuned APT28 hack-and-leap campaign alarm bells." Shellenberger provided video of Roth's comments in the 24th portion of the lengthy thread. 

Emails then revealed how Jim Baker, who previously served as the FBI's general counsel and was involved in the Russia probe, but was working for Twitter ahead of the 2020 election, got involved. 

Journalist Matt Taibbi went viral with the first installment in early December with his "Twitter Files" focusing on Twitter's internal discussions leading to it censoring the Hunter Biden laptop story during the 2020 presidential election, with some officials struggling to explain how it violated its "hacked materials" policies.

It was later revealed that the first batch of "Twitter Files" were vetted without Musk's knowledge by Baker. Musk fired Baker shortly thereafter.

Baker was swept up by Taibbi's reporting about the suppression of the Hunter Biden story, telling his colleagues at the time, "I support the conclusion that we need more facts to assess whether the materials were hacked" but added, "it's reasonable for us to assume that they may have been and that caution is warranted."

Additionally, Taibbi initially reported, "Although several sources recalled hearing about a ‘general’ warning from federal law enforcement that summer about possible foreign hacks, there’s no evidence - that I've seen - of any government involvement in the laptop story." It is unclear whether Baker's involvement in vetting the "Twitter Files" led Taibbi to draw that conclusion and whether Baker omitted files that would have shown the federal government intervening in Twitter's suppression of the Hunter Biden laptop story.

Shellenberger continued to put a spotlight on Baker. 

"As of 2020, there were so many former FBI employees — ‘Bu alumni’ — working at Twitter that they had created their own private Slack channel and a crib sheet to onboard new FBI arrivals," Shellenberger wrote. 

Shellenberger indicated that efforts "continued to influence" Roth.

"In Sept 2020, Roth participated in an Aspen Institute ‘tabletop exercise’ on a potential ‘Hack-and-Dump’ operation relating to Hunter Biden," Shellenberger wrote. "The goal was to shape how the media covered it — and how social media carried it."

Shellenberger wrote that "Chan & Roth had set up an encrypted messaging network so employees from FBI & Twitter could communicate" by September 2020 and they even agreed to create a "virtual war room." 

Eventually, the FBI asked Twitter for a "classified briefing for Jim Baker, without any other Twitter staff, such as Yoel Roth, present," Shellenberger wrote. 

"On Oct 14, shortly after @NYPost publishes its Hunter Biden laptop story, Roth says, ‘it isn’t clearly violative of our Hacked Materials Policy, nor is it clearly in violation of anything else,’ but adds, ‘this feels a lot like a somewhat subtle leak operation.’"

Hours later, emails indicate "Twitter execs had bought into a wild hack-and-dump story," with Baker pushing that claim.  

"There is evidence that FBI agents have warned elected officials of foreign influence with the primary goal of leaking the information to the news media. This is a political dirty trick used to create the perception of impropriety," Shellenberger wrote. "In 2020, the FBI gave a briefing to Senator Grassley and Johnson, claiming evidence of ‘Russian interference’ into their investigation of Hunter Biden. The briefing angered the Senators, who say it was done to discredit their investigation."

"Notably, then-FBI General Counsel Jim Baker was investigated *twice,* in 2017 and 2019, for leaking information to the news media," Shellenberger wrote, proving a Politico report as evidence. 

"In the end, the FBI's influence campaign aimed at executives at news media, Twitter, & other social media companies worked: they censored & discredited the Hunter Biden laptop story," Shellenberger wrote. 

Shellenberger noted that Rep. Jim Jordan recently said he’s concerned that the government was "running a misinformation operation on We the People," before ending the seventh edition of the Twitter Files. 

"Anyone who reads the Twitter Files, regardless of their political orientation, should share those concerns," he wrote. 

The second installment of Twitter Files previously published by Weiss revealed Twitter's "blacklisting" of prominent conservatives, including Fox News host Dan Bongino, Turning Point USA's Charlie Kirk, as well as Stanford University's Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, a longstanding opponent of COVID groupthink during the pandemic who expressed opposition to lockdowns.

Internal communications also reveal Twitter staffers admitting that the popular account Libs of TikTok never violated its "hateful conduct" policy despite being punished several times for allegedly doing so.

Those revelations appear to contradict what former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey told Congress in 2018, saying under oath that Twitter did not censor or shadowban conservatives.

The third, fourth and fifth installments of the "Twitter Files" focused on the permanent suspension of former President Trump around the Capitol riot events in January 2021.

Taibbi reported how Twitter circulated election-related tweets from various users leading up to the 2020 election that were "flagged" by the FBI as being problematic.

Shellenberger revealed that Dorsey was phoning it in as he was on vacation while his deputies were pushing to deplatform Trump, with Roth spearheading efforts to censor other users pertaining to tweets about the 2020 election. It became known that Roth met on a weekly basis with the FBI, DHS as well as the office of DNI in the weeks leading up to the election.

Weiss addressed the pressure Twitter management was facing from its employees who called for Trump's permanent suspension, though the Free Press editor also revealed several Twitter staffers who enforce policies did not believe Trump's tweets from Jan. 6 actually violated its rules.

However, it was Vijaya Gadde, then-Twitter's head legal chief, who asked if Trump's tweets could be "coded incitement to further violence." Moments later, the so-called "scaled enforcement team" suggested that based on how Twitter interprets Trump's tweets, it could violate the violence incitement policies.

Part six of the "Twitter Files" put a spotlight on Twitter's close ties with the FBI. Taibbi alleged the law enforcement agency was acting like a "subsidiary" of the tech giant revealing communications that showed the FBI, as many as 80 agents, systemically flagged Twitter users for tweets that included "possible violative content" pertaining to the election.

In response to the "Twitter Files," a spokesperson for the FBI told Fox News Digital, "The FBI regularly engages with private sector entities to provide information specific to identified foreign malign influence actors’ subversive, undeclared, covert, or criminal activities. Private sector entities independently make decisions about what, if any, action they take on their platforms and for their customers after the FBI has notified them."

The FBI's routine contact with Twitter regarding users that would ultimately face punishment for their tweets has raised major flags about potential First Amendment violations.

Before we go much further, let’s ask ourselves this question: what the hell is the FBI doing in these transactions at all? They do have authority over domestic counter-intelligence, but that doesn’t give them carte blanche to surveil domestic communications, let alone control them. The FISA statutes make that very clear; they have to have some sort of probable cause to get warrants from a FISC judge to surveil domestic communications — and nothing in those statutes allows the FBI to censor those.

That is a question that Congress needs to ask. The federal government — and government in general — has no business interfering with public speech in this manner. They certainly could have said that evidence says some story line is really a product of a disinformation campaign, and recommend that people ignore it. This, however, amounts to an unconstitutional, Big Brother-esque intrusion on free speech, especially given the obvious chilling effect their “partnership” with platforms would have.

The FBI didn’t rely on public advisories, however. They tried doing this secretly, and in the end, on the basis of nothing at all.

The obvious implication here is that the FBI knew that the Hunter Biden laptop story was coming and wanted to stuff it for their own reasons. What were those? We still don’t know, but it wasn’t because they had any evidence that it came from a Russian intel operation, let alone the level of evidence that would have been needed for a FISA warrant.

Speaking of pressure, the FBI kept increasing their efforts to co-opt Twitter executives into acting as proxies for their counterintel operations. At one point, the FBI issued top-secret security clearances to some Twitter managers, including Yoel Roth, and then briefed them on “disinformation” campaigns to sensitize Twitter to the problem.

Where in the Constitution or in federal statute does the FBI or Homeland Security — also involved in similar efforts — have the authority to do that? And just how did the FBI decide to use a Hunter Biden “test case” for its training a few weeks before the New York Post reported on it? 

Furthermore, since when do American news organizations willingly sign up to suppress information from the public on behest of the FBI? It’s one thing to cooperate on publication of leaked information if it puts someone in physical danger, but it’s another entirely to act as the FBI’s censor on reported material.

At Twitter, the FBI virtually set up shop to operate this censorship by proxy less than a month before it would succeed in suppressing the Hunter Biden story.

Did the New York Times, Washington Post, and Facebook use similar methods to coordinate censorship with the FBI? Why haven’t these “news” organizations disclosed these connections to FBI supervision of their news output before now?

This is not just a disgrace, it’s a political scandal that may rival or even surpass Watergate. It may have had more impact on a presidential election, for one thing, and this time the conspirators include the media — especially the newspaper that blew the lid off Watergate back then and which lectures us today that “democracy dies in darkness.” The new Congress needs to put an end to Big Brother, identify everyone who participated in this government censorship combine, and put together cases for impeachment and prosecution of those involved.

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