This occurred over what the Washington Post and the New York Times suggest was President Trump’s inadvertent disclosure of highly classified intelligence from Israel in the Oval Office when Trump received Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
The disclosure, the Times quoted American officials as representing, “could expose the source of the information and the manner in which it was collected.” At one moment Wednesday, the Times had on its home page something like 18 pieces on this or related scandals.
What a contrast to, say, 2006. That’s when the Gray Lady thumbed its nose for news at President George W. Bush’s pleadings that the paper refrain from disclosing how the government, in its hunt for terrorists, was mining data of the Swift banking consortium.
The Bush administration had begged the Times not to proceed. Yet it did so. Bush called it “disgraceful,” adding that the “fact that a newspaper disclosed it makes it harder to win this war on terror.” Treasury said it would hamper the pursuit of terrorists.
Such a hullabaloo arose from long-suffering Times readers that the paper’s executive editor, then Bill Keller, issued a 1,400-word “personal response.” In it, he suggested that if conservative bloggers were so worried, they should stop calling attention to it. Read the rest of this entry »
Below is my column in USA Today on President Donald Trump’s disclosure of highly classified information to the Russians in his controversial meeting after the firing of James Comey. While the Administration issued a series of categorical denials of the underlying stories as “false,” the next day it appeared to acknowledge that Trump did in fact reveal the information. As discussed below, it was a wise decision not to repeat the initially misleading statements to Congress. The intelligence was reportedly generated by Israel, which did not give permission to the President to make the disclosure to the Russians. Since the New York Times and Washington Post did not say that Trump released “sources and methods,” it now appears that the White House is not claiming that the stories were false. It is the latest example of denials from the White House which then lead to embarrassing reversals over the…
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Loose Lips Sink Presidencies.
The state of the Trump Presidency has been perpetual turbulence, which seems to be how the principal likes it. The latest vortex is over Mr. Trump’s disclosure of sensitive intel to the Russians—and whatever the particulars of the incident, the danger is that Presidencies can withstand only so much turbulence before they come apart.
The Washington Post reported Monday night that in an Oval Office meeting last week Mr. Trump relayed high-level “code word” classified material obtained from an ally to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Cue another Washington meltdown. The President took to Twitter on Tuesday morning to defend himself, claiming an “absolute right” to disclose “facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight safety.”
National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster put a finer point on it at a Tuesday press conference, though without denying key details. He said Mr. Trump’s disclosure was “wholly appropriate” and didn’t expose intelligence sources and methods.
Presidents sometimes share secrets with overseas leaders—even to adversaries such as the Soviets during the Cold War—if they conclude the benefits of showing what the U.S. knows will aid diplomacy or strategic interests. From media accounts and his tweets, Mr. Trump said something about Islamic State’s laptop bomb threat to airlines. He may well have been trying to convince the envoys of the menace ISIS poses to Russian lives and foreign-policy goals, like the Russian airliner that exploded over Sinai in 2015. Read the rest of this entry »
I have previously been critical of the stance taken by former acting Attorney General Sally Yates. I remained unconvinced that Yates had the ethical basis to order for the entire Justice Department to stand down and not to assist the president in the defense of his first executive order on immigration. I also questioned Yates’ decision to voluntarily testify before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. She was testifying as someone who was recently in a prosecutorial position about subjects related to an ongoing investigation where no one has yet to be indicted. Now those concerns have been magnified by Yates’ appearance in the media to talk about matters center to the ongoing investigation at the Justice Department and other related subjects.
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Charles Krauthammer said during a previous segment that Trump would probably not be affected by the reported intelligence slip during a meeting with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, but in this clip he pointed out that incidents with Russia are a recurring problem for the administration:
Nobody thinks that the president actually sat down with the Russkies and said, “Look this is exactly how we collect information from al Qaeda in Yemen and ISIS in Syria.” Of course he didn’t. It would have been a slip in which he might have mentioned an ally in place, and that would not be good. I am sure the ally is understanding. I don’t think this is going to cause a rift as a matter of principle, but out of perhaps concern and prudence, they may want to pull back for a short while. Again, if the story is true and if they were compromised. You have got to ask yourself: Why do the Russians keep turning up every three days in the Trump administration? It seems as if Trump has a recurring cold and the Russkies are involved in that. I mean, of all the countries, it didn’t have to be Russia.
Source: National Review
Remember last time an oil economy crashed catastrophically?
Anders Aslund writes: Venezuela is not the first developed country to put itself on track to fall into a catastrophic economic crisis. But it is in the relatively unusual situation of having done so while in possession of enormous oil assets. There aren’t many precedents to help understand how this could have happened and what is likely to happen next.
There is, however, at least one — the Soviet Union’s similar devastation in the late 1980s. Its fate may be instructive for Venezuela — which is not to suggest Venezuelans, least of all the regime of Nicolás Maduro, will like what it portends.
Venezuela has been ailing ever since the decline in oil prices that started in June 2014, and there is no reason to think this trend will shift anytime soon. Energy prices move in long quarter-century circles of one decade of high prices and one decade of low prices, so another decade of low prices is likely. Similarly, the biggest economic blow to the Soviet Union was the fall in oil prices that started in 1981 and got worse from there.
“Maduro seems intent on printing money like crazy, so the next step will be hyperinflation.”
But the deeper problem for the Soviet Union wasn’t the oil price collapse; it’s what came before. In his book Collapse of an Empire, Russia’s great post-Soviet reformer Yegor Gaidar pointed out that during the long preceding oil boom, Soviet policymakers thought that they could walk on water and that the usual laws of economic gravity did not apply to them. Soviet policymakers didn’t bother developing a theory to make sense of their spending. They didn’t even bother paying attention to their results. The math seemed to work out, so they just assumed there was a good reason.
This is as true of the current Venezuelan leaders as it was of the Soviet leaders. The Venezuelan government, though it doesn’t claim to be full-fledged in its devotion to Marxism-Leninism, has been pursuing as absurd an economic policy mix as its Soviet predecessor. It has insisted for years on maintaining drastic price controls on a wide range of basic goods, including food staples such as meat and bread, for which it pays enormous subsidies. Nonetheless the Venezuelan government, like the Soviet Union’s, has always felt it could afford these subsidies because of its oil revenues.
But as the oil price has fallen by slightly more than half since mid-2014, oil incomes have fallen accordingly. And rather than increase oil production, the Venezuelan government has been forced to watch it decline because of its mismanagement of the dominant state-owned oil company, PDVSA.
And now Venezuela seems intent on repeating the Soviet folly of the late 1980s by refusing to change course. This is allowing the budget deficit to swell and putting the country on track toward ultimate devastation.
The Soviet Union in its latter years had a skyrocketing budget deficit, too. In 1986 it exceeded 6 percent of GDP, and by 1991 it reached an extraordinary one-third of GDP. Venezuela is now following suit. The Soviet Union used its currency reserves to pay for imports, but when those reserves shrank, the government financed the budget deficit by printing money. The inevitable result was skyrocketing inflation.
It seems as if President Nicolás Maduro has adopted this tried-and-failed combination of fiscal and monetary policy. Venezuela already is dealing with massive shortages as a result of its controlled prices, because the government can no longer afford its own subsidies. But it will get worse from here.
Maduro seems intent on printing money like crazy, so the next step will be hyperinflation. Inflation is already believed to have reached 700 percent a year, and it is heading toward official hyperinflation, that is, an inflation rate of at least 50 percent a month. Read the rest of this entry »
The FBI spied on a Trump associate. Do they have evidence that Trump colluded with Russians, or was this a rampant abuse of power?
These latest leaks of classified information appear to be in response to Sen. Charles Grassley’s inquiry to FBI Director James Comey on behalf of the Senate Judiciary Committee he chairs. Grassley noted a February 28 Washington Post report, which used anonymous sources to report the FBI had made plans to pay dossier author Christopher Steele to continue investigating Trump before the election.
Paying an opposition researcher to investigate the Republican nominee for president in the run-up to the election “raises further questions about the FBI’s independence from politics, as well as the Obama administration’s use of law enforcement and intelligence agencies for political ends,” Grassley wrote.
Grassley demanded that the FBI turn over all records relating to the agreement, interviews of Steele, information on any government officials outside the FBI discussing the agreement with Steele, information on how the FBI obtained the dossier, any official reports that used Steele-collected information, any indication the FBI used the information before verifying it, and various other information, including:
9. Has the FBI relied on or otherwise referenced the memos or any information in the memos in seeking a FISA warrant, other search warrant, or any other judicial process? Did the FBI rely on or otherwise reference the memos in relation to any National Security Letters? If so, please include copies of all relevant applications and other documents.
These latest leaks answer that question. And the leaks about what intelligence agencies were doing during the presidential campaign begin to answer questions about whether the U.S. government has hard evidence that the Trump campaign had foreknowledge of Russian meddling and coordinated with Russians about that meddling, or whether there was rampant abuse of power in stripping an innocent U.S. citizen of his right not to be surveilled by his own government. Read the rest of this entry »
Upstart Jon Ossoff’s failure to win the Ga. congressional seat, triggering a runoff – despite an $8.3 million war chest, must have Democrats wondering when they’ll win again. And what has happened to their conspiracy theories on Trump and Russia?
Jennifer Griffin and Lucas Tomlinson report: The United States launched nearly five dozen cruise missiles at a Syrian airfield early Friday in response to a chemical weapons attack that killed dozens of civilians, the first direct assault on the Damascus government since the beginning of that country’s bloody civil war in 2011.
“It is in the vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons,” President Donald Trump said in a statement. “Tonight I call on all civilized nations to join us in seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria, and also to end terrorism of all kinds and all types.”
Fifty-nine Tomahawk missiles targeted an airbase at Shayrat, located outside Homs. The missiles targeted the base’s airstrips, hangars, control tower and ammunition areas, officials said.
Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said initial indications were that the strike had “severely damaged or destroyed Syrian aircraft and support infrastructure and equipment … reducing the Syrian Government’s ability to deliver chemical weapons.” There was no immediate word about any casualties.
Trump said the base was used as the staging point for Tuesday’s chemical weapons attack on rebel-held territory, which killed as many as 72 civilians, including women and children.
“Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children,” Trump said from Mar-a-Lago, Fla. “Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack. No child of God should ever suffer such horror.”
National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said the strike should cause a “big shift in Assad’s calculus.”
“Obviously the regime maintains a certain capability to commit mass murder with chemical weapons beyond this air field,” McMaster said. “But it was aimed at this airfield because we could trace that attack back to this facility. It was not a small strike.”
The U.S. missiles hit at 8:45 p.m. Eastern time, 3:45 a.m. Friday morning in Syria. Syrian state TV called the attack an “aggression” that lead to “losses.”
U.S. military officials said they informed their Russian counterparts of the impending attack in an effort to avoid any accident involving Russian forces. Nevertheless, Russia’s Deputy U.N. ambassador Vladimir Safronkov warned that any negative consequences from the strikes would be on the “shoulders of those who initiated such a doubtful and tragic enterprise.”
Davis, the Pentagon spokesman, confirmed that “there are Russians at the base,” but said they had been warned “multiple times” to leave. He did not know whether Russian aircraft were at the base when the missiles hit. Read the rest of this entry »
Do you suspect that the noise over Trump campaign contacts with the Russians is just a political hit arranged by Obama insiders before they left?
You got fresh evidence of that Monday, with news that then-national security adviser Susan Rice was behind the “unmasking” of Trumpites in transcripts of calls with Russian officials.
Again, nothing on the public record so far shows that anyone on Team Trump said anything improper on those calls.
It’s no surprise that US spooks intercept foreign officials’ calls. But intelligence community reports don’t disclose the names of US citizens on the other end. To get that info, a high official must (but rarely does) push to “unmask” the Americans’ names.
Bloomberg’s Eli Lake now reports that Rice started doing just that last year.
That was perfectly legal. But we also know that the Obama administration later changed the classification of the “unmasked” transcripts, and other similar material, in order to spread the information as widely as possible within the government.
The motive for that was (supposedly) to prevent Team Trump from burying it all once it took over. But the result was that it made it relatively safe for someone (or someones) to leak the info to the press.
Which made it likely somebody would leak. So Team Obama’s “spread the info” initiative certainly broke the spirit of the laws. Read the rest of this entry »
The Defense Department still uses 8-inch floppy disks and computers from the 1970s to coordinate nuclear forcesPosted: April 3, 2017
Mackenzie Eaglen writes: Dale Hayden, a senior researcher at the Air Force’s Air University, told an audience of aerospace experts earlier this month that proliferation of antisatellite technology has put America’s communications networks at risk. “In a conflict, it will be impossible to defend all of the space assets in totality,” he said. “Losses must be expected.”
It has never been easier for America’s adversaries—principally Russia and China, but also independent nonstate actors—to degrade the U.S. military’s ability to fight and communicate. Senior military officials have expressed grave doubts about the security of the Pentagon’s information systems and America’s ability to protect the wider commercial virtual infrastructure.
The U.S. Navy, under its mission to keep the global commons free, prevents tampering with undersea cables. But accidents—and worse—do happen. Last year a ship’s anchor severed a cable in the English Channel, slowing internet service on the island of Jersey. In 2013 the Egyptian coast guard arrested three scuba divers trying to cut a cable carrying a third of the internet traffic between Europe and Egypt. “When communications networks go down, the financial services sector does not grind to a halt, rather it snaps to a halt,” warned a senior staffer to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke in 2009. Trillions of dollars in daily trading depends on GPS, which is kept free by the Air Force.
There are now an estimated 17.6 billion devices around the world connected to the internet, including more than six billion smartphones. The tech industry expects those numbers to double by 2020. That growth is dependent, however, on secure and reliable access to intercontinental undersea fiber-optic cables, which carry 99% of global internet traffic, and a range of satellite services.
The U.S. military is working on ways of making them more resilient. For instance, the Tactical Undersea Network Architectures program promises rapidly deployable, lightweight fiber-optic backup cables, and autonomous undersea vehicles could soon be used to monitor and repair cables. In space, the military is leading the way with advanced repair satellites as well as new and experimental GPS satellites, which will enhance both military and civilian signals. Read the rest of this entry »
The Interfax news agency cited an unidentified law-enforcement official as saying that Nikolai Volkov was killed on March 27.
Volkov was the head of the Interior Ministry’s Renovation and Construction Department.
The Interfax report said police believe the motive was robbery, suggesting that the killing was not directly related to Volkov’s job.
A Russian spy ship that made a foray near a U.S. Navy submarine base in Connecticut in February is once again in international waters off the East Coast of the United States, presumably to monitor activity at American Navy bases.
The Viktor Leonov spy ship is now 50 miles east of the U.S. Navy’s submarine base at Kings Bay, Georgia, according to a defense official. The ship traveled there from a port in Havana, Cuba, where it docked for five days.
The Leonov’s earlier visit off the Eastern Seaboard in mid-February drew international attention although American officials noted at the time that the visits have become a regular occurrence in recent years.
For one day in February the ship was offshore of the U.S. Navy submarine base in New London, Connecticut, the furthest north the Russian intelligence ship had ever traveled up the East Coast of the United States.
Tucker Carlson: NBC did more to meddle in 2016 election than Russia by being behind the worst of all leaks – the infamous Access Hollywood Trump tape to WaPo, which could have swayed the elections more than Russian hackers. #Tucker
Moscow (AFP) – It was the year that ended centuries of royal rule, brought two revolutions, ushered in Soviet domination and changed the course of Russian history irrevocably.
A century later, the country seems unsure how to treat the tumultuous events of 1917 that saw it hurtle from the abdication of the last tsar Nicholas II to a Communist dictatorship in a matter of months.
During seven decades of Soviet rule the seizure of power by the Bolsheviks was celebrated with pomp by the Kremlin and the tsarist regime was demonised.
But after the collapse of the USSR in 1991 there was a u-turn that saw the royal family canonised and public opinion increasingly view the upheavals not as a triumph but as a tragedy that sparked generations of bloodshed and suffering in Russia.
Some 500 conferences, round tables, exhibitions and art festivals are planned to mark the centenary — but so far, at least, there are no signs that there will be any major fanfare.
“Russian society needs an objective, honest and profound analysis of these events,” Putin said in a speech last year.
“The lessons of history are needed primarily for reconciliation, to strengthen society,” he said, adding that it is “impermissible to let the splits, malice, resentment and bitterness of the past into our life today.”
A former Soviet-era intelligence officer, Putin has turned himself into what many see as a kind of modern tsar and surrounded himself with a new super-wealthy elite.
His mantra has been restoring stability, strength and unity to the country after the upheaval that followed the end of the Soviet Union, and returning Russia to the conservative values of the past.
Following mass anti-Kremlin rallies in 2011-12 and the ouster of the Russian-backed leader of Ukraine by protesters in 2014, authorities have been increasingly wary of any popular revolt that could impact their grip on power. Read the rest of this entry »
Journalist Marvin Kalb moderates a discussion on the espionage case of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. The panel will examine how the Soviet spy network that Julius Rosenberg set up worked and how it helped the Soviets.
Panelists include Ronald Radosh, co-author of The Rosenberg File; Mark Kramer, director of Cold War Studies, Harvard University, and Senior Fellow of Harvard’s Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies; Harvey Klehr and John Earl Haynes, co-authors of Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America; Steven Usdin, author of Engineering Communism: How Two Americans Spied for Stalin and Founded the Soviet Silicon Valley; and Allen Hornblum, author of The Invisible Harry Gold: The Man Who Gave the Soviets the Atom Bomb.
Creator(s): Central Intelligence Agency. 12/4/1981- (Most Recent)
Record Group 263: Records of the Central Intelligence Agency, 1894 – 2002
Date: ca. late-1950s
Description: This film features a conversation about different forms of Communist propaganda between George V. Allen, director of the United States Information Agency, Ernest K. Lindley of Newsweek, U.S. Army Colonel John C. Weaver, U.S. Navy Captain John Leeds, U.S. Air Force Colonel Bascom Neal, and U.S. Marine Corps Colonel Raymond G. Davis. It includes several clips from Soviet propaganda films.
Local Identifier: 263.1078
National Archives Identifier: 592764