Archive for the ‘Obama and Russian hacking’ category

An Epidemic of Lawlessness

June 24, 2017

An Epidemic of Lawlessness, Power LineScott Johnson, June 24, 2017

Taking the story at face value, we can conclude that the Post and its sources have done great damage to the national security of the United States. The Post attributes the leaks on which the story is based to “three dozen current and former U.S. officials in senior positions in government, including at the White House, the State, Defense and Homeland Security departments, and U.S. intelligence services. Most agreed to speak only on the condition of anonymity…”

Again, taken at face value, the story buries this bombshell. Three dozen current and former U.S. officials in senior government positions have undertaken a campaign of gross lawlessness for their own purposes undermining the national security of the United States beyond anything Vladimir Putin can do.

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Yesterday’s Washington Post carried the Russia story of the day. Post reporters Greg Miller, Ellen Nakashima and Adam Entous purport to deliver the goods on “Obama’s secret struggle to punish Russia for Putin’s election assault.” It’s a long, long story that is of interest from a variety of perspectives.

The Post purports to give us the inside story on the collection of intelligence on Russian interference in the presidential election and serve up the apologetics explaining the Obama administration’s passive response. Based on highly classified intelligence related to the Post, the CIA discovered Russian interference in the election while it was in process within months of the election in the last year of the Obama administration. According to the CIA intelligence, the interference came on the order of Vladimir Putin and furthered Putin’s desire to aid the election of Donald Trump as president.

The Post dates the critical intelligence “bombshell” obtained by the CIA to August 2016. The Post reports that CIA Director John Brennan deemed it so confidential that he withheld it from the President’s Daily Brief and conveyed it directly in writing to Obama by hand delivery.

The intelligence provided Obama administration officials plenty of time to do foil Putin’s plans. Indeed, administration officials concocted plans to punish and deter Russia from interference. The Post reports that “Obama administration secretly debated dozens of options for deterring or punishing Russia, including cyberattacks on Russian infrastructure, the release of CIA-gathered material that might embarrass Putin and sanctions that officials said could ‘crater’ the Russian economy. But in the end, in late December, Obama approved a modest package” (emphasis added). In other words, President Obama declined to take any action while it might still have done some good.

One might infer from story that President Obama “colluded” with Putin to defeat Hillary Clinton and elect Donald Trump. One might support the inference with Obama’s own comment open mic comment to Dmitri Medvedev that during Obama’s second term he would have more “flexibility” to cooperate with Putin.

To be fair, we might consider the explanation that Obama was just a pusillanimous pussy disinclined to protect the interests of the United States from our enemies. Perhaps Obama’s passivity was overdetermined and several of the possible explanations apply. Certainly some explanation beyond any offered by the Post’s sources is called for. The possibilities are endless.

By contrast, however, the Post’s reportage offers no evidence of Trump’s “collusion” with the Russian interference intended to assist Trump’s election. Zero. Nada. Not even by inference.

Perhaps evidence of Trump “collusion” is beyond the scope of the Post’s story. If the Post had obtained such evidence from its numerous sources, however, it would be in the story.

So far as I can tell, sophisticated commenters on the story take it at face value and consider it on the terms presented by the Post. See, for example, David French’s NRO column and Tom Rogan’s Examiner column.

The story comes complete with this revelation: “Obama also approved a previously undisclosed covert measure that authorized planting cyber weapons in Russia’s infrastructure, the digital equivalent of bombs that could be detonated if the United States found itself in an escalating exchange with Moscow. The project, which Obama approved in a covert-action finding, was still in its planning stages when Obama left office. It would be up to President Trump to decide whether to use the capability.”

I’m sure Putin is grateful for the heads-up from the Post. You don’t have to be a CIA officer of analyst to figure that out.

Now like much of the Post story, this is a piece of highly classified intelligence whose disclosure violates the oaths of those who gave it to the Post. The violation of a solemn oath by a witness is commonly taken to detract from the credibility of the witness’s testimony. Consider, moreover, that the Post did not place its sources were not under oath when they confided in Greg Miller, Ellen Nakashima and Adam Entous. The intelligent reader would be well within his rights not to believe a word they say.

If we believe it, however, this pertinent fact should be added. The disclosure of highly classified intelligence by government officials seriously violates the espionage laws of the United States. It is in all likelihood felonious several times over in the case of each of the Post’s numerous anonymous sources.

The Post and its reporters are accomplices to the crimes committed by their sources. They have disseminated highly classified intelligence to the enemies of the United States — as the left has lately discovered Putin and Russia to be.

Taking the story at face value, we can conclude that the Post and its sources have done great damage to the national security of the United States. The Post attributes the leaks on which the story is based to “three dozen current and former U.S. officials in senior positions in government, including at the White House, the State, Defense and Homeland Security departments, and U.S. intelligence services. Most agreed to speak only on the condition of anonymity…” As for the requirement of anonymity imposed by the Post’s sources, see the paragraph above.

Again, taken at face value, the story buries this bombshell. Three dozen current and former U.S. officials in senior government positions have undertaken a campaign of gross lawlessness for their own purposes undermining the national security of the United States beyond anything Vladimir Putin can do.

Tom Fitton gives updates on Obama Spying Scandal, Unmasking Scandal, Rep. Adam Schiff, & Seth Rich

May 26, 2017

Tom Fitton gives updates on Obama Spying Scandal, Unmasking Scandal, Rep. Adam Schiff, & Seth Rich, Judicial Watch via YouTube, May 26, 2017

(This video covers a lot of ground and is very much worth watching. — DM)

 

Obama Did Wiretap Trump: It’s Like Putting Together a Russian Nesting Doll

March 26, 2017

Obama Did Wiretap Trump: It’s Like Putting Together a Russian Nesting Doll, American ThinkerClarice Feldman, March 26, 2017

(Please see also, We Need an Independent Investigation of the Trump Leaks Mystery Now. — DM)

No matter how many dolls are hidden in the nest — Comey, Clapper, Brennan, Lynch — it is undeniable that they all fit under the big one — Obama. It was he who authorized the surveillance and multiagency distribution of intelligence — in Bob Woodward’s reading, “highly classified gossip” — about political opponent Trump and his team — invading their privacy in violation of the law. If you were inclined to want Americans to lose faith in their intelligence community and media you couldn’t have done a better job than they did themselves. The Russians didn’t have to do a thing.

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Matryoshkas are Russian nesting dolls. Inside each doll are several others, smaller but identically shaped characters, until you get to the smallest one inside. Studying what we have learned of the timeline — and we still don’t have the entire story — we see Wikileaks, the smallest, at the core, and Obama as the largest piece in what is the most historically outrageous misuse of the people and institutions of government for partisan advantage.

Wikileaks

During the campaign, Wikileaks posted a number of email messages from the DNC — largely Podesta, but Hillary as well. The communications (not well reported, but, in any event, more embarrassing tittle tattle) had been on unsecured accounts, poorly guarded and easily accessed because of carelessness on the part of the Hillary team. Assange, who published them, denied the source of this information was Russian hackers. This now has been confirmed by the heads of our intelligence community, but the Clinton camp claim that the Russians did it set the stage for the notion that her opponent was the favored candidate of the Russians.

Apart from the fact that our intelligence services have denied the claim, there are a number of reasons to believe that the Russians would have preferred Hillary to Trump. For one thing, Russia is in terrible financial shape and relies on its sales of oil and gas to Europe to stay afloat. Is it sensible to believe that the Russians would prefer Trump, who made clear he wanted to vastly increase U.S. oil and gas production, over Hillary, who gave every indication of keeping it down and the worldwide price of oil and gas higher? (I can’t imagine — for the same reason — that Iran and OPEC wouldn’t prefer her as well.) Why you do suppose the Russians have been funding “green” groups in Europe — and possibly here — who oppose fracking?

Secondly, for eight years Russian businesses and businessmen closely aligned with Putin pumped millions into the Clinton Foundation slush fund, paid her husband a half-million dollars for a single speech, and got in return a substantial portion of our uranium assets when, as Secretary of State, Hillary okayed their purchase. Finally, John Podesta, chair of Hillary’s presidential campaign wasclosely aligned with Russian interests. His brother was hired by the Russians to lobby for the uranium sale. He was on the board of a company closely aligned with Putin.

As the crack investigative reporter Richard Pollock notes:

John Podesta, national chairman of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, may have opened himself up to a Russian “influence campaign” designed to temper his views of the Kremlin, The Daily Caller News Foundation (TheDCNF) Investigative Group has learned.

Influence campaigns are conducted by many governments — including the United States — with the aim of influencing decision makers in other countries to realign their geopolitical worldviews more closely to the influencing country.

Some national security experts interviewed by The DCNF wonder if Podesta may still be a target of Russian influence. They trace the campaign back to his company board membership, in which one-third of the board were top Russian businessmen with direct ties to the Kremlin.

The last time Podesta talked negatively about Russia was Dec. 18, 2016, when he charged in an NBC “Meet the Press” interview the 2016 election was “distorted by the Russian intervention.”

The former Clinton national campaign chairman has since been silent, even as other former top Clinton aides, such as Robby Mook, Brian Fallon and Jim Margolis have repeatedly aimed high-decibel rhetoric at President Donald Trump about Russian “meddling” in the 2016 presidential race.

[snip]

Podesta’s silence is particularly striking, according to retired Air Force Col. James Waurishuk.

“We haven’t heard very much from Podesta lately, particularly on the subject of Russia’s interference in the elections,” Waurishuk told the DCNF. He served on the National Security Council and worked on “information operations” for military intelligence.

The suggestion is that he’s staying out of it because the Russians want this chatter about their influence silenced.

In any event, Russia has now been cleared of the claim, yet in the recesses of the dimmer voters’ minds the charge remains a cogent explanation of why their candidate lost the election.

The National Security Agency and the FISA

The NSA engages in global monitoring for foreign intelligence and counterintelligence. It does by passive means (signals Intelligence) and active means like physically bugging systems and through subversive software. It assists and coordinates SIGINT elements at other government organization like the DIA.

Domestic communications can be intercepted under two circumstances: in the first instance to protect us against sabotage or international terrorism or sabotage. In such a case, when authorized by the president through the attorney general, it can be done without a court order provided that it is for only one year and only to acquire foreign intelligence information and there is real likelihood that a U.S. person is a party to the communication. Even then it must be done in such a way to minimize the impact on the U.S. person. The attorney general must report such surveillance under seal to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and report their compliance to both the House and Senate Intelligence Committees.

Surveillance can also be done on a court order from FISA when the attorney general persuades the court that there is probable cause (i.e. a reasonable suspicion) that the target is a “foreign power” or an “agent of a foreign power” and the minimization requirements for information pertaining to U.S. persons will be followed. Such orders may be approved for 90 days,120 days, or a year.

FISA court authorization is almost always granted. Reliable reports indicate that the Obama administration sought authorization in July of last year when Trump appeared a likely opponent (the application is still secret) and it was denied. These reports also state that a pared-down application was sought in October and granted by the court. We have no idea on what basis the Department of Justice sought these warrants nor who the purported target was.

From the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, we learned this week that Trump team’s conversations were caught in the surveillance, that for over nine months this was never reported to his committee. Moreover, it is public knowledge that three days before the inauguration in January, for no legitimate purpose, President Obama authorized wide distribution of the surveillance reports to 16 other agencies, the names of U.S. persons involved in the conversations were not redacted, the contents were of no intelligence value and they were widely leaked — a perfectly predictable consequence of spreading the raw data so widely in contrast to normal redaction and dissemination patterns. Suspicious minds like mine think may well be to further hamper the incoming administration by leaks designed to embarrass members of his team. Nunes also reported the post-election spying “had nothing to do with Russia.”  By January 20, for example, the New York Times reported that Trump had been wiretapped.

We learned this week from Nunes’ work that the investigation is continuing.

On his own Mike Rogers, head of NSA, met privately with Trump shortly after the inauguration. We have no details of their discussion, but my guess is he told him what had happened and how. At the moment, Rogers appears to be the sole white hat in our intelligence network. But he may not be the only one, which, I think, would mean a number of former Obama officials have to be looking for lawyers.

Tom Lipscomb, a former reporter and online friend, thinks the white hats in the intelligence community fed the truth about the wiretapping directly to Trump so he could weed out from their ranks the Obama confederates. Like him, I think the Trump tweet that he was wiretapped was smart. He’s giving “fair warning to what is coming,” and the claims that Trump was engaged in some “crazy conspiracy” are evaporating just as had the earlier nonsense that he and the Russians were conspiring via Wikileaks.

Christopher Steele and John McCain

Christopher Steele is a former British intelligence agent of dubious character and credibility. He had been hired early by the Clinton camp to dig up dirt on Trump. When Hillary ended that agreement, unnamed Republicans engaged him to continue, and when they stopped paying him, the FBI — for as yet unexplained reasons — took him up. His “dossier” is preposterous, based on accounts to his aides from unnamed and thus unverifiable sources. In the rare instance when they provide recognizable details, they have been proven false. As incredible as the “dossier” was, it was used to tar Trump with salacious nonsense and to further encourage the ridiculous notion that he and his team were Russian agents.

There are three different versions of how John McCain, a bitter #NeverTrumper always seeking media cuddles and enamored by globalization, came to get the dossier — he says, in December.  In one version, he got it from a member of the McCain Institute, in other published accounts he dispatched someone abroad to get it, and in a third he first heard of it from a former British ambassador while at a meeting in Halifax. That he’s offered various tales in itself suggests some dissembling on his part. Nevertheless, he concedes he widely distributed the scurrilous dossier to the media and members of Congress. He was either a useful dupe of those determined to bring down Trump or a willing partner of theirs. Right now, he’s flailing about abroad, attacking the president and moaning that Trump hasn’t yet met with him.

The Media

John Nolte, writing for the Daily Caller, highlights how it is apparent that the media knew of the spying operation and later covered it up:

“Of course the media knew what the Obama administration had done. First off, when they thought the news would hurt Trump, the national media publicly reported on the fact that the Obama administration had spied on Team Trump. It was only after that knowledge became a liability for Precious Barry that the media pretended otherwise. In other words, they LIED.”

Jim Geraghty at National Review cites a specific example of the media-leaker waltz:

On January 12, the Washington Post columnist David Ignatius wrote:

According to a senior U.S. government official, Flynn phoned Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak several times on Dec. 29, the day the Obama administration announced the expulsion of 35 Russian officials as well as other measures in retaliation for the hacking. What did Flynn say, and did it undercut the U.S. sanctions? The Logan Act (though never enforced) bars U.S. citizens from correspondence intending to influence a foreign government about “disputes” with the United States. Was its spirit violated? The Trump campaign didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

This is a leak of classified information. Michael Flynn was not, as far as we know, a target of any U.S. government surveillance. He was one of the figures whose conversations was “incidentally” recorded, presumably as part of the regular monitoring of Kislyak.

People within the U.S. government are not supposed to take the information that is incidentally recorded and then run to David Ignatius because they don’t like the American citizen who was recorded. That’s not the purpose of our domestic counterintelligence operations. Even if Flynn had violated the Logan Act — which, as we all know, no one has never been prosecuted for violating — there are legitimate avenues for dealing with that, namely going to law enforcement and a prosecutor.

(Invoking the Logan Act in this circumstance is particularly nonsensical, because the interpretation Ignatius floats would criminalize just about any discussion between a presidential candidate, a president-elect or his team and any representative of a foreign government on any matter of importance. If you ask a foreign official if his country would make a concession on Issue X in exchange for a U.S. concession on Issue Y, BOOM! Call out the SWAT teams, we’ve got a Logan Act violation!)

There are a lot of reasons not to like Michael Flynn, but that doesn’t change the fact that somebody broke the law and leaked classified information in an effort to get him in trouble. That is wrong and that is illegal, and Nunes is right to point out we’re going down a dangerous road when information collected by U.S. intelligence agencies about American citizens starts getting strategically leaked for partisan purposes.

No matter how many dolls are hidden in the nest — Comey, Clapper, Brennan, Lynch — it is undeniable that they all fit under the big one — Obama. It was he who authorized the surveillance and multiagency distribution of intelligence — in Bob Woodward’s reading, “highly classified gossip” — about political opponent Trump and his team — invading their privacy in violation of the law. If you were inclined to want Americans to lose faith in their intelligence community and media you couldn’t have done a better job than they did themselves. The Russians didn’t have to do a thing.

Highly Classified National Security Information Must Not be Leaked

February 20, 2017

Highly Classified National Security Information Must Not be Leaked, Dan Miller’s Blog, February 20, 2017

(The views expressed in this article are mine and do not necessarily reflect those of Warsclerotic or its other editors. — DM)

Evidence of political corruption should be.

It has been obvious since the early Republican primaries that most media coverage of a Trump presidency would be adverse and presented out of context. Perhaps a recent editorial at The Week Magazine explains why, albeit inadvertently. Or maybe this cartoon better explains the media view:

Trump and Putin as seen by the lamebrain media

Trump and Putin as seen by the lamebrain media

According to The Week Magazineall leaks are equal. However, we approve of those which fit our politics and disapprove of those which don’t.

Live by the leak, die by the leak. When WikiLeaks was releasing a steady stream of embarrassing emails hacked from Democratic officials during the presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton and her supporters cried foul, and urged the press not to report their contents. Donald Trump applauded every new revelation, saying the leaks provided voters with important information, and gleefully invited the Russians to find and publish emails she had deleted. “Boy, that WikiLeaks has done a job on her, hasn’t it?” Trump exulted. Now that it’s Trump who is being tortured by leaks, he’s complaining they’re illegal and “un-American.” Democrats, meanwhile, are welcoming the torrent like a rainstorm after a long drought. (See Main Stories.) When it comes to leaks, everyone is a hypocrite. “Good” leaks are ones that damage our opponents. “Bad” leaks are those that hurt Our Side. [Emphasis added.]

But let’s set partisanship aside for a moment. Is it always in the public interest for government officials to leak, and for the media to publish leaked material? Crusading journalist Glenn Greenwald—who angered the Obama administration by publishing Edward Snowden’s trove of stolen NSA documents—argues in TheIntercept.com this week that all leaks exposing “wrong-doing” are good ones, regardless of the leaker’s motives. “Leaks are illegal and hated by those in power (and their followers),” Greenwald says, “precisely because political officials want to be able to lie to the public with impunity and without detection.” The implication of this argument, of course, is that governments, politicians, and organizations should not keep any secrets—that when people in power conceal documents, emails, or information that could embarrass them, they are by definition deceiving the public. Radical transparency certainly sounds noble—but I suspect it’s a standard no public official, or indeed most of us, could survive. It’s so much more convenient to have a double standard: Transparency for thee, but not for me.

I disagree. Leaks of unclassified materials demonstrating corruption of the political process by either party are necessary for an effectively functioning democracy. Leaks of highly classified national security information — particularly in the area of foreign policy — endanger our democracy, are crimes and the perpetrators should be dealt with accordingly. When the media sensationalize leaks of the latter type, they are complicit and must be criticized vigorously.

The press has long served as an objective fail-safe to protect the public from the powers-that-be. That objectivity is now absent and the media’s role in our democratic society is in jeopardy. Rather than self-reflect as to how they got off course, the press have opted to label the man who exposed this derailment as un-American.

What’s un-American is the belief that the press should be unaccountable for its actions. What’s un-American is the belief that any attempt to criticize the press should be viewed as heresy. What’s un-American is the belief that the press is akin to a golden calf that compels Americans, presidents included, to worship the press.

Two very different types of leaks

a. DNC and Podesta e-mails:

The DNC and Podesta e-mails were released as written and posted by DNC officials and Podesta for transmission on unsecured servers easily hacked by modestly competent teenage hackers. I have seen no suggestion that the e-mails were classified. The intelligence community opined that Russian agents had done the hacking, but offered no significant proof beyond that the methods used by the hacker(s) were comparable to those used by Russian hackers in the past.

They found no discrepancies between the original e-mails and those posted by WikiLeaks (which denied that Russia had been the source). The e-mail leaks damaged the Clinton campaign because they portrayed, accurately — and in their own words —  dishonest efforts of high-level DNC and Clinton campaign personnel to skew the Democrat primary process in Ms. Clinton’s favor. They did not involve American foreign policy until Obama — who had previously done nothing of significance to halt Russia’s hacking of highly classified information from our intelligence establishment beyond asking, “pretty please, stop” — decided that Russia must be punished for Hillary’s loss of the general election through sanctions and by the expulsion of thirty-five of its diplomats.

Russian president Vladimir Putin had been expected to respond in kind, with the expulsion of US diplomats from its territory.

However, he later said he would not “stoop” to “irresponsible diplomacy”, but rather attempt to repair relations once Donald Trump takes office.

Mr Trump praised the decision as “very smart.”

b. Flynn telephone conversations:

Neither transcripts nor audio recordings of the Flynn telephone conversations were released. Instead, conclusions of the leakers were released. According to House Intelligence Chair Devin Nunes,

“I think there is a lot of innuendo out there that the intelligence agencies have a problem with Donald Trump. The rank and file people that are out doing jobs across the world — very difficult places — they don’t pay attention to what is going on in Washington,” the California representative told CBS “Face the Nation” host John Dickerson.

“What we have is we do have people in the last administration, people who are burrowed in, perhaps all throughout the government, who clearly are leaking to the press,” Nunes added. “And it is against the law. Major laws have been broken. If you believe the Washington Post story that said there were nine people who said this, these are nine people who broke the law.” [Emphasis added.]

Nunes said the FBI and other intelligence agencies ought to investigate who has leaked information to the press because so few people in the administration knew these secrets, that it would have had to have been someone at the “highest levels of the Obama administration” who is an acting official until Trump replaces him or her.

Did the leaker(s) try to present the conversations honestly, or to damage President Trump’s efforts to deal with Russia in matters of foreign policy where American and Russian interests coincide? To disrupt America’s badly needed “reset” with Russia which seemed likely to succeed under President Trump after Clinton’s and Obama’s efforts had failed?

resetbutton

Remember the Obama – Romney debate when Romney characterized Russia as America’s greatest geopolitical threat and Obama responded that the cold war was over and that “the 1980’s are calling and want their foreign policy back”?

The position now asserted by the Democrats and the media seems rather like the position that Obama rejected. If the position(s) of the Democrats and the media are now correct and Russia is again our enemy, might it be due to actions which Obama took or failed to take over the past eight years?

It is unfortunate that there has been a resurgence of Democrat (and some Republican) Russophobia when Russia is reassessing her relationship with Iran and America.

On January 22, 2017, the Russian media outlet Pravda.ru published an analysis on Russia-Iran relations. According to the article’s author, Dmitri Nersesov, Iran is becoming a problem for Russian interests. Nersesov also added that Iran wants Russia to choose between Iran and Washington. “Iran wants Russia to recognize that Teheran holds the key to the regulation of the Syrian crisis. Should Russia decide that the real strategy is built on the cooperation between Moscow and Washington, rather than Moscow and Teheran; the Islamic Republic will be extremely disappointed,” Nersesov wrote. [Emphasis added.]

An American – Russian realignment in areas of mutual concern — which as suggested below had seemed to be progressing well until General Flynn ceased to be involved — would be good, not bad. We have many areas of mutual concern, and Iran is one of them. The war in Syria is another. When were Russians last directed to yell Death to America? Or to refer to America as the “Great Satan?”

c. General Flynn, Russia and Iran

General Flynn had, at President Trump’s request, been dealing with Russia concerning the future roles of Iran, Russia and America in the Syria debacle:

Overlaying US President Donald Trump’s extraordinary, hour-long skirmish with reporters Thursday, Feb. 16, was bitter frustration over the domestic obstacles locking him out from his top security and foreign policy goals. [Emphasis added.]

Even before his inauguration four weeks ago, he had arranged to reach those goals by means of an understanding with President Vladimir Putin for military and intelligence cooperation in Syria, both for the war on the Islamic State and for the removal of Iran and its Lebanese surrogate Hizballah from that country. [Emphasis added.]

But his antagonists, including elements of the US intelligence community, were turning his strategy into a blunderbuss for hitting him on the head, with the help of hostile media.

Thursday, in a highly unconventional meeting with the world media, he tried to hit back, and possibly save his strategy.

That won’t be easy. The exit of National Security Adviser Mike Flynn, the prime mover in the US-Russian détente, sent the Kremlin a negative signal. The Russians began unsheathing their claws when they began to suspect that the US president was being forced back from their understanding. The SSV 175 Viktor Leonov spy ship was ordered to move into position opposite Delaware on the East Coast of America; Su-24 warplanes buzzed the USS Porter destroyer in the Black Sea.

Before these events, Washington and Moscow wre moving briskly towards an understandingdebkafile’s intelligence sources disclose that the Kremlin had sent positive messages to the White House on their joint strategy in Syria, clarifying that Moscow was not locked in on Bashar Assad staying on as president. [Emphasis added.]

They also promised to table at the Geneva conference on Syria taking place later this month a demand for the all “foreign forces” to leave Syria. This would apply first and foremost to the pro-Iranian Iraqi, Pakistani and Afghan militias brought in by Tehran to fight for Assad under the command of Revolutionary Guards officers, as well as Hizballah. [Emphasis added.]

Deeply troubled by this prospect, Tehran sent Iran’s supreme commander in the Middle East, the Al Qods chief Gen. Qassem Soleimani, to Moscow this week to find out what was going on.

Flynn’s departure put the lid on this progress. Then came the damaging leak to the Wall Street Journal, that quoted an “intelligence official” as saying that his agencies hesitated to reveal to the president the “sources and methods” they use to collect information, due to “possible links between Trump associates and Russia.. Those links, he said “could potentially compromise the security of such classified information.”

A first-year student knows that this claim is nonsense, since no agency ever share its sources and methods with any outsider, however high-placed.

What the leak did reveal was that some Washington insiders were determined at all costs to torpedo the evolving understanding between the American and Russian presidents. The first scapegoat was the strategy the two were developing for working together in Syria. [Emphasis added.]

Defending his policy of warming relations with Moscow, Trump protested that “getting along with Russia is not a bad thing.” He even warned there would be a “nuclear holocaust like no other” if relations between the two superpowers were allowed to deteriorate further.

It is too soon to say whether his Russian policy is finally in shreds or can still be repaired. Trump indicated more than once in his press briefing that he would try and get the relations back on track.

Asked how he would react to Russia’s latest provocative moves, he said: “I’m not going to tell you anything about what responses I do. I don’t talk about military responses. I don’t have to tell you what I’m going to do in North Korea,” he stressed.

At all events, his administration seems to be at a crossroads between whether to try and salvage the partnership with Russia for Syria, or treat it as a write-off. If the latter, then Trump must decide whether to send American troops to the war-torn country to achieve his goals, or revert to Barack Obama’s policy of military non-intervention in the conflict. [Emphasis added.]

Substantially more is generally involved in matters of foreign policy than is facially apparent or than government officials should discuss publicly, particularly while negotiations with foreign powers are underway. Leaks by held-over members of the intelligence community did much to reveal the opinions of the leakers but little to reveal what General Flynn had been doing, while upsetting the chances of better American – Russian relations in areas of mutual concern.

Conclusions — The Administrative State

The Federal Government has grown far too big for its britches, giving the unelected “administrative state” substantially more authority, and hence power, than is consistent with a properly functioning democracy. As they have been demonstrating in recent months, holdovers from one administration can succeed, at least partially, in paralyzing a new and democratically elected president. Holdovers with political appointee status can generally be fired. Few others who should be can be.

Getting rid of the obstructionist “civil servants” who have become our masters should rank very high on President Trump’s “to do” list and should be accomplished before it’s too late. The task may be difficult but is not impossible. Perhaps some particularly obnoxious Federal agencies (or departments within those agencies) can be relocated to places less congenial than Washington. Inner City Chicago comes to mind. So do otherwise pleasant cities in California, where housing prices are much higher than in the Washington, D.C. area. How many Federal employees faced with the choice of relocating or resigning would choose the latter option?

There are likely other and probably better ways to get rid of the fatheads. President Trump’s administration should devise them.

Nunes’s Notes & Queries

January 8, 2017

Nunes’s Notes & Queries, Power LineScott Johnson, January 8, 2017

(As to the likely relationship between Trump and Russia, please see also, Why Trump and US intel clash over Russia. — DM)

Devin Nunes is the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Appearing on FOX News Sunday this morning, he had a few heterodox observations about the news surrounding the story of Russian interference in our election (video below, about 10 minutes). The interview captures a few of the dissonant notes that have generally been ignored in the hysterical din to which we are now subject. Rep. Nunes knows what he is talking about and is not a man to be trifled with. The interview in its entirety is worth your time.

Rep. Nunes refers in the course of his interview to the “gang of eight.” This particular gang of eight comprises the eight congressional leaders who are briefed on classified intelligence matters by the executive branch.

Quotable quote 1: “…so this has been going on for a long time, that Russia is a very sophisticated, bad actor in the cyber realm. Many members of Congress, not just members of the House Intelligence Committee, have been warning the Obama administration about Russia’s continued cyber attacks on this country and they did nothing. And so now as you look forward they lose an election and it appears that they want to change this narrative [by promoting the line] that Russia was responsible for Hillary Clinton losing this election.”

Quotable quote 2: “I am not happy that this report that we were briefed on — just the gang of eight was briefed on Friday morning — yet many news media outlets already had the information that was just briefed to the gang of eight. So this looks like the political rollout of a narrative just a couple of weeks before Donald Trump’s inauguration…by the Obama administration….How does the news media have this information before it’s briefed to the gang of eight?”

U.S. Intelligence Report Contradicts Donna Brazile In Email Scandal

January 7, 2017

U.S. Intelligence Report Contradicts Donna Brazile In Email Scandal, Jonathan Turley’s Blog, Jonathan Turley, January 7, 2017

(Those damn Ruskies — or whoever — put the truth before the American public about the “dishonest, disloyal, and often despicable” conduct of the Dems. What jerks! It’s no wonder that Obama is so angry with them.  — DM)

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The report states that the email material did not contain “any evident forgeries.” In other words, they were real emails not forged.

The emails showed how the Washington establishment — including the press corp — misled the public and colluded behind the scenes. It is a hard sell to tell the public that they should be disgusted by Russia showing them how their leaders are dishonest, disloyal, and often despicable in their conduct.

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We discussed earlier how Donna Brazile, the interim chair of the Democratic National Committee, denied the legitimacy of emails that showed her leaking a question to Hillary Clinton that would be asked verbatim at the CNN downhill event. The media has largely declined to investigate the claim, including confirming the receipt of the earlier email from the Clinton staffer. Now additional emails allegedly show Brazile secretly feeding information to the Clinton campaign. Again, there has been relatively little media attention to the story and CNN issued a remarkably weak response that it was “uncomfortable” with the new disclosures on Brazile’s actions while a CNN commentator. While CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker called Brazile’s actions “disgusting” and others have denounced her actions, the DNC has stuck with Brazile and, despite the ease of questioning the other recipients to confirm or disprove Brazile’s claims. Now, the declassified intelligence report appear to directly dispute what Brazile has said but it is unclear if anyone in the media is willing to pursue the story against one of the most powerful figures in Washington Democratic circles.

The report states that the email material did not contain “any evident forgeries.” In other words, they were real emails not forged. Yet, Brazile repeatedly insisted that the emails were doctored or forged. She dismissed the email and told Megyn Kelly that “I have seen so many doctored emails. I have seen things that come from me at 2 in the morning that I don’t even send. I will not sit here and be persecuted, because your information is totally false.” At the time, I noted that no one seemed even remotely interested in questioning the recipient: Clinton Campaign Adviser Jennifer Palmieri. Media could have asked to see the original emails since both Brazile and Palmieri had them. Instead, it was complete silence.

Now the question is whether the Washington media corp will confront Brazile and demand to see these emails to determine whether she knowingly lied to the public and the press.

The report also highlights the difficulty that many in Washington are facing in trying to rally the public against Russian hacking. Many citizens may not be as mortified that Russia revealed how their leaders were lying to them. The emails showed how the Washington establishment — including the press corp — misled the public and colluded behind the scenes. It is a hard sell to tell the public that they should be disgusted by Russia showing them how their leaders are dishonest, disloyal, and often despicable in their conduct.

Why Trump and US intel clash over Russia

January 6, 2017

Why Trump and US intel clash over Russia, DEBKAfile, January 6, 2017

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The furious clamor keeping the alleged Russian hacking scandal on the boil is being orchestrated by the outgoing president and his intelligence chiefs to ramp up US-Russian friction to an eve-of-cold war pitch.

It is important to note that Trump and his advisers, including designated Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, don’t propose rushing into détente with Moscow or any sort of honeymoon. They are acting to restore relations to an even keel and end the disequilibrium of the past eight years, during which Obama just talked and Putin did what he wanted, especially in East Europe and the Middle East.

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America’s intelligence chiefs may have been singing their swan’s song Thursday and Friday (Jan. 5-6) when they hurled allegations of election-meddling “ordered at the highest Kremlin level” against Russia at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing in Washington. The committee’s chair John McCain picked up the ball and declared that Russian hacking was “an act of war,” after hearing grim testimony from the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and the National Security Agency head Adm. Michael Rogers.

They disclosed that they had compiled a confidential intelligence report that demonstrated how President Vladimir Putin interfered in the US election campaign in favor of the winner, Donald Trump. They declined to divulge its contents but promised to release a shorter, censored version to the public next Monday, Jan. 9.

CIA chief John Brennan and Homeland Secretary Jeh Johnson then proceeded to the White House to present the confidential report to President Barack Obama.

It will be put before President-elect Trump Friday.

The furious clamor keeping the alleged Russian hacking scandal on the boil is being orchestrated by the outgoing president and his intelligence chiefs to ramp up US-Russian friction to an eve-of-cold war pitch.

DEBKAfile’s Washington and intelligence sources find that the campaign is prompted by five motives:

1. The president-elect not only proposes to put relations with Moscow on a new and different footing, his transition teams are already at work with Putin’s advisers to chart areas of cooperation between the two powers, ready for the Trump administration to go forward when he moves into the White House on Jan. 20.

The most prominent area is the war on the Islamic State; another – the conflicts in Syria and Iraq. They are also exploring a joint US-Russian effort to resolve the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian dispute.

2. Obama, who has decided to retain a team for monitoring Trump’s policies, has plunged into a dogged fight against his successor’s decision to reset US-Russian ties.

Battling to salvage a part of his “legacy” is, Obama, exceptionally for departing American presidents, is determined to cast a long shadow over his successors’ actions and policies.

In the next four years, Barack Obama will keep hammering at the Russian hacking affair in order to keep the flames high against Trump’s “Russian steps.”

3. It is important to note that Trump and his advisers, including designated Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, don’t propose rushing into détente with Moscow or any sort of honeymoon. They are acting to restore relations to an even keel and end the disequilibrium of the past eight years, during which Obama just talked and Putin did what he wanted, especially in East Europe and the Middle East.

If the effort to restore balance to the relationship works, cooperation in common areas of concern might follow. But if not, the rivalry will continue, except that henceforth America will operate from a position of strength.

4. Working together in the war on Islamic terror will call for a large measure of cooperation between US intelligence agencies and the Russian secret services.

Sixteen years ago, after 9/11, Putin proposed this kind of cooperation to President George W. Bush in the fight against Al Qaeda.

In 2011, he stepped in again with an offer of assistance to Obama in the Libyan war.

Putin was rebuffed by both presidents rebuffed him. Donald Trump is the first US leader ready to seriously explore Putin’s intentions.

The US intelligence community is up on arms at this prospect, mainly because its clandestine branches were purpose-built to confront Russia, America’s historic Cold War enemy. It is hard for them to wrench the wheel round and head in the opposite direction at the bidding of the Trump administration.

5, Notwithstanding denials by administration officers, the president elect has every intention of overhauling the character and operational methods of America’s intelligence services. His overarching goal is to cut down the vast numbers off officers, analysts and computer operations, which turn out mountains of intelligence reports most of which he claims no one reads.

Trump plans to focus more on the product of secret agents in the field, and so save the hundreds of billions of dollars spent on desk staff and high-tech computer systems. His administration will prefer to rely more on human intelligence and less on technology-based input.

Trump encapsulated his approach to intelligence and computers in a remark to reporters on New Year’s day: “No computer is safe. You want something to really go without detection, write it out and have it sent by courier.”