Tag Archives: spying

President Trump withholds Democratic rebuttal memo to Nunes memo

I told you not to hold your breath on President Trump authorizing the release of the Democratic rebuttal memo to the Nunes memo. Trump will not release Democrats’ memo on FBI surveillance:

President Trump will not immediately agree to release a Democratic memo rebutting GOP claims that the FBI abused its surveillance authority as it probed Russian meddling in the 2016 election, but he has directed the Justice Department to work with lawmakers so some form of the document could be made public, the White House counsel said Friday night.

In a letter to the House Intelligence Committee, White House counsel Donald McGahn wrote that the Justice Department had identified portions of the Democrats’ memo that it believed “would create especially significant concerns for the national security and law enforcement interests” if disclosed. McGahn included in his note a letter from Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher A. Wray supporting that claim.

McGahn wrote in his letter that Trump was “inclined to declassify” the Democrats’ memo, but given its sensitive passages, he was “unable to do so.” McGahn wrote that the president had instructed the Justice Department to work with Congress to mitigate those risks.

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Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement: “The President’s double standard when it comes to transparency is appalling. The rationale for releasing the Nunes memo, transparency, vanishes when it could show information that’s harmful to him. Millions of Americans are asking one simple question: what is he hiding?” He was referring to the GOP memo, which was produced by the staff of Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.).

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The White House is stonewalling the Trump-Russia investigations (Updated)

A highly anticipated House Intelligence Committee interview with Stephen Bannon has been postponed until next week the committee said on Tuesday, as negotiations continue over the terms of his appearance. Bannon’s House Intel testimony postponed:

Bannon, the former White House chief strategist, was expected to skip his scheduled appearance Tuesday before the House Intelligence Committee, according to sources familiar with his plans. The move sets the stage for a showdown with lawmakers who had issued a bipartisan subpoena for his testimony.

“This is unacceptable, and the Committee remains united on this matter — the Committee’s subpoena remains in effect and his interview has been rescheduled for next week. Testifying before the Special Counsel does not obviate Mr. Bannon’s obligations under the subpoena issued by the Committee,” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-California, the committee’s ranking Democrat said on Tuesday in a statement. “Should Bannon maintain his refusal to return and testify fully to all questions, the Committee should begin contempt proceedings to compel his testimony.”

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(Update) Analysis by former FBI agent of Nunes Memo

In an earlier post, House Intelligence Committee releases controversial Nunes Memo – and an analysis that destroys it, I included a link to an analysis by Asha Rangappa, a former FBI agent who has been through the process of obtaining these kinds of warrants under the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Act (FISA), written before the release of the Nunes Memo. Five Questions the Nunes Memo Better Answer.

Asha Rangappa has updated her analysis in an op-ed at the Washington Post after the Nunes Memo has been released. Devin Nunes tried to discredit the FBI. Instead, he proved it’s onto something.

The point of the memo written by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and released Friday afternoon was supposed to be to expose corruption at the highest levels of the FBI. But what the memo actually did — albeit surely not intentionally — was exactly the opposite. In a brief 3½ pages, Nunes managed to confirm that the investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible ties with Russia has a very solid basis and that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III must keep looking into the case.

As a former special agent for the FBI working on counterintelligence, I used to obtain Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants, so I’m familiar with the procedures Nunes implies the FBI abused in this case. To initiate surveillance on former Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page in October 2016, the government would have had to demonstrate that Page was “knowingly engaging in clandestine intelligence gathering activities for or on behalf of” Russia. Importantly, the “knowingly” requirement applies only to “U.S. persons” such as Page, not to foreign nationals — which means the government had a slightly higher burden in his case. It takes months and even years to obtain enough relevant evidence for a FISA application, which can include details from physical surveillance, phone and financial records, items recovered from the target’s trash and intelligence obtained from other sources. So the FISA application would probably have outlined the bureau’s efforts going all the way back to 2013, when Page was approached by the FBI, which warned him, based on recordings of Russian intelligence officers, that he was being targeted for recruitment as a Russian spy. (That same year, Page also reportedly wrote in a letter to an academic publisher that he was an “informal advisor to the staff of the Kremlin.”) In counterintelligence investigations, this kind of interview would have been intended to “neutralize” the Russians: The idea is that anyone who was being unwittingly developed as a spy, as Page appeared to be, would be dismayed to realize what was happening and would immediately cease further contact with their intelligence contacts.

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The Grand Obstruction Party – abuse of power and corruption of the independence of the Department of Justice

Donald Trump’s general election campaign was built around two conspiracy theories that came from his chief political strategist Stephen Bannon’s partner at Breitbart and the Government Accountability Institute, Peter Schweizer, and his book “Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich.” Schweizer made unsubstantiated claims that foreign interests curried favor with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by paying huge speaking fees to her husband, former President Bill Clinton.

The second line of attack was the private email server used by Secretary of State Clinton, and the claim that she recklessly exposed highly classified state secrets to computer hackers.

The FBI conducted an investigation into both matters and closed its investigations without any charges being filed against the Clintons. (For Trump, this only became evidence of FBI bias and “deep state” support for the Clintons. It was one motivating factor behind his firing of FBI Director James Comey).

These conspiracy theories, nevertheless, were daily fodder in the conservative media entertainment complex and the Trump campaign, with Trump’s characterization of “crooked Hillary” and chants of “lock her up” at Trump campaign rallies.

During the second presidential debate, Trump went so far as to threaten to jail Clinton if he wins the election: “If I win, I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your (missing email) situation,” Trump said, “because there has never been so many lies, so much deception.”

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(Update) Congressional Republicans are running interference on the Russia investigation

There are no limits to the extremes to which Tea-Publicans will go as accessories to a cover-up and obstruction of justice in the Russia investigation in order to protect their Dear Leader and attempt to spin their alternate reality conspiracy theory concocted by the GOPropaganda conservative media entertainment complex that this is really a conspiracy between Democrats, the Russians, the FBI and the media.

We have crossed the Rubicon into bizzaro world today with the latest developments. Republican Senators Recommend Charges Against Author of Trump Dossier:

More than a year after Republican leaders promised to investigate Russian interference in the presidential election, two influential Republicans on Friday made the first known congressional criminal referral in connection with the meddling — against one of the people who sought to expose it.

Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a senior committee member, told the Justice Department they had reason to believe that a former British spy, Christopher Steele, lied to federal authorities about his contacts with reporters regarding information in the dossier, and they urged the department to investigate. The committee is running one of three congressional investigations into Russian election meddling, and its inquiry has come to focus, in part, on Mr. Steele’s explosive dossier that purported to detail Russia’s interference and the Trump campaign’s complicity.

The decision by Mr. Grassley and Mr. Graham to single out the former intelligence officer behind the dossier — and not anyone who may have taken part in the Russian interference — was certain to infuriate Democrats and raise the stakes in the growing partisan battle over the investigations into Mr. Trump, his campaign team and Russia.

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Putin and his puppets are ‘sowing discord and confusion that destabilizes our system’ of democracy

While Americans were enjoying a long weekend Christmas holiday, the Washington Post did some important reporting on Russia’s ongoing cyber war against the United States that few people probably saw.

The hard reporting is a lengthy investigative report, Kremlin trolls burned across the Internet as Washington debated options. You really should read this report for background and context.

Michael Morell, former deputy director and twice acting director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 2010 to 2013, and Mike Rogers, a Republican congressman from Michigan who served in the House from 2001 to 2015 and was chairman of the Intelligence Committee from 2010 to 2015, write in an op-ed at the Post, Russia never stopped its cyberattacks on the United States:

[T]he United States has failed to establish deterrence in the aftermath of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. We know we failed because Russia continues to aggressively employ the most significant aspect of its 2016 tool kit: the use of social media as a platform to disseminate propaganda designed to weaken our nation.

There is a perception among the media and general public that Russia ended its social-media operations following last year’s election and that we need worry only about future elections. But that perception is wrong. Russia’s information operations in the United States continued after the election and they continue to this day.

This should alarm everyone — Republicans, Democrats and independents alike. Foreign governments, overtly or covertly, should not be allowed to play with our democracy.

Russia’s information operations tactics since the election are more numerous than can be listed here. But to get a sense of the breadth of Russian activity, consider the messaging spread by Kremlin-oriented accounts on Twitter, which cybersecurity and disinformation experts have tracked as part of the German Marshall Fund’s Alliance for Securing Democracy.

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