Andrew C. McCarthy writes: In Senate testimony last week, Attorney General William Barr used the word “spying” to refer to the Obama administration, um, spying on the Trump campaign. Of course, fainting spells ensued, with the media-Democrat complex in meltdown. Former FBI Director Jim Comey tut-tutted that he was confused by Barr’s comments, since the FBI’s “surveillance” had been authorized by a court.
(Needless to say, the former director neglected to mention that the court was not informed that the bureau’s “evidence” for the warrants was unverified hearsay paid for by the Clinton campaign.)
The pearl-clutching was predictable. Less than a year ago, we learned the Obama administration had used a confidential informant — a spy — to approach at least three Trump campaign officials in the months leading up to the 2016 election, straining to find proof that the campaign was complicit in the Kremlin’s hacking of Democratic emails.
As night follows day, we were treated to the same Beltway hysteria we got this week: Silly semantic carping over the word “spying” — which, regardless of whether a judge authorizes it, is merely the covert gathering of intelligence about a suspected wrongdoer, organization or foreign power.
There is no doubt that the Obama administration spied on the Trump campaign. As Barr made clear, the real question is: What predicated the spying? Was there a valid reason for it, strong enough to overcome our norm against political spying? Or was it done rashly? Was a politically motivated decision made to use highly intrusive investigative tactics when a more measured response would have sufficed, such as a “defensive briefing” that would have warned the Trump campaign of possible Russian infiltration?
Last year, when the “spy” games got underway, James Clapper, Obama’s director of national intelligence, conceded that, yes, the FBI did run an informant — “spy” is such an icky word — at Trump campaign officials; but, we were told, this was merely to investigate Russia. Cross Clapper’s heart, it had nothing to do with the Trump campaign. No, no, no. Indeed, the Obama administration only used an informant because — bet you didn’t know this — doing so is the most benign, least intrusive mode of conducting an investigation.
Me? I’m thinking the tens of thousands of convicts serving lengthy sentences due to the penetration of their schemes by informants would beg to differ. (Gee, Mr. Gambino, I assure you, this was just for you own good . . .) And imagine the Democrats’ response if, say, the Bush administration had run a covert intelligence operative against Obama 2008 campaign officials, including the campaign’s co-chairman. Surely David Axelrod, Chuck Schumer, The New York Times and Rachel Maddow would chirp that “all is forgiven” once they heard Republicans punctiliously parse the nuances between “spying” and “surveillance”; between “spies” and “informants”; and between investigating campaign officials versus investigating the campaign proper — and the candidate. Read the rest of this entry »
The former CBS correspondent says the current DOJ is “stonewalling” her.
Paula Bolyard reports: Former CBS correspondent Sharyl Attkisson accused the Department of Justice (DOJ) of monkeying around with her hard drive while her computer was in their possession. She tweeted on Thursday, “What would you think if I told you the hard drive of one of my personal computers was secretly switched out w/another while in custody of the Justice Dept. Inspector General– before they gave it back to me?”
Re: My govt. computer intrusions…What would you think if I told you the hard drive of one of my personal computers was secretly switched out w/another while in custody of the Justice Dept. Inspector General– before they gave it back to me? (Tick-tock.) #GettingCloserToAnswers
— Sharyl Attkisson (@SharylAttkisson) March 1, 2018
You may recall that Attkisson’s computer was hacked back in 2012 while she was working for CBS and reporting on the Benghazi scandal. CBS News spokeswoman Sonya McNair said at the time that a cybersecurity firm hired by CBS News “has determined through forensic analysis” that “Attkisson’s computer was accessed by an unauthorized, external, unknown party on multiple occasions in late 2012.”
“Evidence suggests this party performed all access remotely using Attkisson’s accounts,” McNair said. “While no malicious code was found, forensic analysis revealed an intruder had executed commands that appeared to involve search and exfiltration of data.
This party also used sophisticated methods to remove all possible indications of unauthorized activity, and alter system times to cause further confusion. CBS News is taking steps to identify the responsible party and their method of access.” Read the rest of this entry »
[VIDEO] Steyn: Maintream Media in Overdrive to Disprove Rice Story: ‘Media Annoyed Someone has Outfaked their Fake News’Posted: April 7, 2017 | |
Radio host and commentator Mark Steyn on liberal media dismissing the revelation of Susan Rice unmasking Trump associates under surveillance, decrying the story as a ‘diversion’ from the Russian collusion scandal.
One clue: The Russia story is a replay of how the former White House smeared pro-Israel activists in the lead-up to the Iran Deal.
Lee Smith writes: The accusation that the Obama administration used information gleaned from classified foreign surveillance to smear and blackmail its political opponents at home has gained new traction in recent days, after reports that former National Security Adviser Susan Rice may have been rifling through classified transcripts for over a year that could have included information about Donald Trump and his associates. While using resources that are supposed to keep Americans safe from terrorism for other purposes may be a dereliction of duty, it is no more of a crime than spending all day on Twitter instead of doing your job. The crime here would be if she leaked the names of U.S. citizens to reporters. In the end, the seriousness of the accusation against Rice and other former administration officials who will be caught up in the “unmasking” scandal will rise or fall based on whether or not Donald Trump was actively engaged in a conspiracy to turn over the keys of the White House to the Kremlin. For true believers in the Trump-Kremlin conspiracy theories, the Obama “spying and lying” scandal isn’t a scandal at all; just public officials taking prudent steps to guard against an imminent threat to the republic.
But what if Donald Trump wasn’t the first or only target of an Obama White House campaign of spying and illegal leaks directed at domestic political opponents?
In a December 29, 2015 article, The Wall Street Journal described how the Obama administration had conducted surveillance on Israeli officials to understand how Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli officials, like Ambassador Ron Dermer, intended to fight the Iran Deal. The Journal reported that the targeting “also swept up the contents of some of their private conversations with U.S. lawmakers and American-Jewish groups.”
Despite this reporting, it seemed inconceivable at the time that—given myriad legal, ethical, political, and historical concerns, as well as strict National Security Agency protocols that protect the identity of American names caught in intercepts—the Obama White House would have actually spied on American citizens. In a December 31, 2016, Tablet article on the controversy, “Why the White House Wanted Congress to Think It Was Being Spied on By the NSA,” I argued that the Obama administration had merely used the appearance of spying on American lawmakers to corner opponents of the Iran Deal. Spying on U.S. citizens would be a clear abuse of the foreign-intelligence surveillance system. It would be a felony offense to leak the names of U.S. citizens to the press.
Increasingly, I believe that my conclusion in that piece was wrong. I believe the spying was real and that it was done not in an effort to keep the country safe from threats—but in order to help the White House fight their domestic political opponents.
“At some point, the administration weaponized the NSA’s legitimate monitoring of communications of foreign officials to stay one step ahead of domestic political opponents,” says a pro-Israel political operative who was deeply involved in the day-to-day fight over the Iran Deal. “The NSA’s collections of foreigners became a means of gathering real-time intelligence on Americans engaged in perfectly legitimate political activism—activism, due to the nature of the issue, that naturally involved conversations with foreigners. We began to notice the White House was responding immediately, sometimes within 24 hours, to specific conversations we were having. At first, we thought it was a coincidence being amplified by our own paranoia. After a while, it simply became our working assumption that we were being spied on.”
This is what systematic abuse of foreign-intelligence collection for domestic political purposes looks like: Intelligence collected on Americans, lawmakers, and figures in the pro-Israel community was fed back to the Obama White House as part of its political operations. The administration got the drop on its opponents by using classified information, which it then used to draw up its own game plan to block and freeze those on the other side. And—with the help of certain journalists whose stories (and thus careers) depend on high-level access—terrorize them.
Once you understand how this may have worked, it becomes easier to comprehend why and how we keep being fed daily treats of Trump’s nefarious Russia ties. The issue this time isn’t Israel, but Russia, yet the basic contours may very well be the same.
Two inquiries now underway on Capitol Hill, conducted by the Senate intelligence committee and the House intelligence committee, may discover the extent to which Obama administration officials unmasked the identities of Trump team members caught in foreign-intelligence intercepts. What we know so far is that Obama administration officials unmasked the identity of one Trump team member, Michael Flynn, and leaked his name to the Washington Post’s David Ignatius. Read the rest of this entry »
Charles Krauthammer argued that the Russian investigation now involves multiple issues, and that it is a partisan maneuver to say that one or another is the only one that matters.
Stephen Miller writes:
…As the facts about who surveilled whom during the transition get sorted out, it is useful to remember why Trump’s team and his supporters have reason to be suspicious, thanks to a long documented history of Obama using shady surveillance tactics on both political opponents and international allies. Rhodes himself knows this history but that doesn’t seem to matter as he once again attempts to make people believe he fell out of the sky and onto Twitter on January 21st, 2017.
To help jog Rhodes’ memory, below are all the documented instances of the Obama administration using and in some cases abusing surveillance.
1. Fox News reporter James Rosen
In 2013 the news broke that Eric Holder’s Justice Department had spied on James Rosen. Obama’s DOJ collected Rosen’s telephone records as well as tracked his movements to and from the State Department from where he reported. Rosen was named as a possible co-conspirator in a Justice Department affidavit. Rosen claims that his parents phone line was also swept up in the collection of his records and DOJ records seem to confirm that. Despite the targeting of Rosen, there were no brave calls to boycott the White House Correspondents Dinner.
2. Senate Intelligence Committee and the CIA
CIA officers penetrated a network used to share information by Senate Intel committee members, including Sen. Diane Feinstein, the committee’s Democrat chair. The bombshell New York Times report went on to disclose:
The C.I.A. officials penetrated the computer network when they came to suspect that the committee’s staff had gained unauthorized access to an internal C.I.A. review of the detention program that the spy agency never intended to give to Congress. A C.I.A. lawyer then referred the agency’s suspicions to the Justice Department to determine whether the committee staff broke the law when it obtained that document. The inspector general report said that there was no “factual basis” for this referral, which the Justice Department has declined to investigate, because the lawyer had been provided inaccurate information. The report said that the three information technology officers “demonstrated a lack of candor about their activities” during interviews with the inspector general.
The Obama White House defended CIA director John Brennan’s actions and response. Imagine that.
In 2013, it was revealed how the Obama administration and NSA were facilitating a secret government mass surveillance program called Prism, because the name Orwell would have been too obvious, I guess. Read the rest of this entry »
“It’s not everyday you see someone admit on TV they have committed a felony & have given classified info to media”
Who is Obama administration official who spilled beans?
“I was urging my former colleagues and, frankly speaking, the people on the Hill… get as much information as you can. if [Trump staffers] found out how we knew what we knew about their … the Trump staff dealing with Russians – that they would try to compromise those sources and methods, meaning we no longer have access to that intelligence.”
Evelyn Farkas was once considered the most senior policy officer for Russia within the Pentagon, and she is now apparently defending the leaks that have been coming out of the Trump White House.
“We have good intelligence on Russia… that’s why you have the leaking. People are worried.”
— Evelyn Farkas
Now an MSNBC analyst and senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, Farkas has “advised three secretaries of defense on Russia policy,” according to a senior defense official quoted in Politico. She has served on the Council on Foreign Relations and the Senate Armed Services Committee, among others, and was executive director of the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism in 2008-2009.
In an appearance on MSNBC earlier this month, Farkas told Mika Brezinski about her role in the efforts to collect intelligence on Trump’s team, and their alleged ties with Russia, in the Obama adminstration’s final days.
“I was urging my former colleagues and, frankly speaking, the people on the Hill… get as much information as you can,” Farkas said, adding that her big fear was “if [Trump staffers] found out how we knew what we knew about their … the Trump staff dealing with Russians – that they would try to compromise those sources and methods, meaning we no longer have access to that intelligence.”
At the end of the interview, Farkas said, “we have good intelligence on Russia… that’s why you have the leaking. People are worried.”
Farkas was responding to a report in The New York Times suggesting the “Obama Administration Rushed to Preserve Intelligence of Russian Election Hacking.”
Farkas notably served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia/Ukraine/Eurasia under President Obama, and parted ways with the White House in 2015 after some five years amid the ongoing debate over how to respond to Russia’s role in the unfolding conflict in Ukraine. Farkas reportedly supported Ukraine’s request for weapons in the fight against Russian-backed rebels. The White House opted to send millions in “nonlethal” aid.
On May 6, 2014, Farkas told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that Russia’s actions threatened to upend the international peace “that we and our allies have worked to build since the end of the Cold War.”
News of her resignation broke just over a year later, at the end of September 2015. It was on Sept. 28, 2015, that President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin met on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. Read the rest of this entry »
Series: Moving Images Relating to Intelligence and International Relations, 1947 – 1984
Record Group 263: Records of the Central Intelligence Agency, 1894 – 2002
Production Date: 1960. Scope & Content: This film discusses Soviet spy school training and covers surveillance and audio contact.
National Archives Identifier: 896138
Local Identifier: 263.3153
Series: Moving Images Relating to Intelligence and International Relations, 1947 – 1984
‘This essentially gives our enemies a playbook on how we go about our clandestine cyber-operations.’
Bruce Golding, Jamie Schram and Mark Moore report: CIA software can secretly turn everyday electronics like smartphones and high-tech TVs into listening devices to spy on unsuspecting users, WikiLeaks claimed in a massive document dump Tuesday.
Some of the computer programs target the iOS software that runs Apple iPhones as well as Google’s Android operating system, which does the same for phones built by Samsung, HTC and Sony, WikiLeaks said.
The “weaponized” software also reportedly provides techniques to defeat the encryption abilities of popular apps including WhatsApp, Signal, Telegram and Wiebo, which claim to supply users with secure and private communications.
One program, known as “Weeping Angel,” can even be used to infect Samsung “smart” TVs and covertly activate their built-in microphones to record conversations and then transmit them over the internet, WikiLeaks said.
The documents also reveal that the CIA as of 2014 was “looking at infecting the vehicle control systems used by modern cars and trucks,” WikiLeaks said.
“The purpose of such control is not specified, but it would permit the CIA to engage in nearly undetectable assassinations,” WikiLeaks suggested.
Although it posted online nearly 9,000 documents and files related to the Orwellian tools — a cache it called “Year Zero — WikiLeaks said it had decided to hold off on releasing the actual software.
“WikiLeaks has carefully reviewed the ‘Year Zero’ disclosure and published substantive CIA documentation while avoiding the distribution of ‘armed’ cyberweapons until a consensus emerges on the technical and political nature of the CIA’s program and how such ‘weapons’ should be analyzed, disarmed and published,” the hack clearinghouse said in a press release.
There is nothing in the WikiLeaks documents to suggest that the CIA — which is charged with obtaining foreign intelligence for national security purposes — uses any of these devices to spy on American citizens.
The CIA refused to confirm or deny the authenticity of the WikiLeaks information, and White House press secretary Sean Spicer wouldn’t comment, saying it “has not been fully evaluated.”
A retired CIA operative told The Post that the WikiLeaks disclosure could cripple the agency’s high-tech surveillance capabilities.
“This essentially gives our enemies a playbook on how we go about our clandestine cyber-operations,” the former agent said.
“This will be bad for the agency. They will have to re-examine its procedures for doing this type of work.”
Cybersecurity experts said the material appeared genuine.
Jake Williams of Rendition InfoSec, who has experience dealing with government hackers, noted the files’ repeated references to operation security.
“I can’t fathom anyone fabricated that amount of operational security concern,” he said. “It rings true to me.” Read the rest of this entry »
‘The IC is becoming more like the Praetorian Guard’
Kerry Picket reports: NSA surveillance program architect and later whistleblower Bill Binney told Sean Hannity on his radio program Monday that the intelligence community routinely listens in on Americans’ conversations without court ordered FISA warrants.
President Donald Trump accused former President Barack Obama on Twitter Saturday of wiretapping Trump Tower during the election.
“Under executive order one two triple three, they do surveillance of everybody in the United States without warrants and that’s done through various upstream programs Fairview, Stormbrew, Blarney and also in cooperation with other countries in terms of collection worldwide,” said Binney.
“So it’s all done without warrants and that was testified to by Adrian Kinney and David Murfee Faulk, who were transcribing at Fort Gordon George. They were transcribing conversations between U.S. citizens with no warrant at all.”
ABC News reported in in early October 2009, Murfee Faulk, a Navay Arab linguist, said he and other NSA intercept operators in Baghdad’s Green Zone from late 2003 to November 2007 listened to hundreds of Americans’ private phone conversations.
“Calling home to the United States, talking to their spouses, sometimes their girlfriends, sometimes one phone call following another,” said Faulk.
“Hey, check this out,” Faulk says he would be told, “there’s good phone sex or there’s some pillow talk, pull up this call, it’s really funny, go check it out. It would be some colonel making pillow talk and we would say, ‘Wow, this was crazy’.”
Binney, who resigned from the NSA in 2001 out of disgust wit how the program was being abused, told Hannity, “I will put it this way. The IC is becoming more like the Praetorian Guard. You know, where they’re trying to determine who the emperor is and also influence what the emperor does, so I just think that this is getting out of hand.” Read the rest of this entry »
As Barack Obama bids farewell to his presidency, keep in mind these five scary powers that President Trump will inherit from him.
Remember when those pesky other branches of government wouldn’t bow down to Obama’s whims, and the president famously bragged about going it alone? Now Obama’s out and it will soon be Donald Trump wielding his pen and phone.
As Barack Obama bids farewell to his presidency this week, keep in mind these five scary powers that President Trump will inherit from him.
1. War Without Congress
During the Libya intervention, Obama decided that he didn’t need Congress to approve massive bombing campaigns and regime change.
Obama has done legal gymnastics to justify using the same authorizations that George W. Bush got to fight al Qaeda and the Taliban to send our armed forces to places like West Africa, Somalia, Yemen, and Syria —not to mention staying in Pakistan and Afghanistan and going back to Iraq—all without Congress.
So if the Mexicans won’t pay for his wall, President Trump could just as well decide to bomb them.
2. Kill Lists
Obama made up his own rules on targeted killings, denying that courts could review his “kill list” and only paying lip service to drone guidelines when he thought Mitt Romney might win in 2012. That never actually happened, and even in his last months in office, Obama has continued to expand the reach of our flying robots and special operations forces.
In the last year of Barack Obama’s presidency, the U.S. dropped 26,171 bombs in seven countries.
— UberFacts (@UberFacts) January 16, 2017
So President Trump can now vaporize any person he puts on his kill list, even American citizens, even outside of acknowledged battlefields, even if civilians die—all without due process.
3. Access to All of Your Information
Obama expanded the powers of secret courts that provide little more than a rubber-stamp for mass surveillance of Americans.
He supports weakening encryption, general warrants that cover millions of people, and a host of powers with the ultimate goal of giving spooks what the NSA has called “Total Information Awareness“—access to your every word, move, purchase, and relationship, all without your knowledge.
Orwell would have been impressed, and Trump certainly will be.
4. Prosecuting Whistleblowers and Journalists
The leader of the self-anointed “most transparent administration” in history has prosecuted more whistleblowers under the Espionage Act than all other presidents in history, put together. His administration exploded the number of classified documents and fought the ACLU and New York Times in court to keep its legal interpretations secret.
Oh, and Obama’s Justice Department spied on journalists and investigated them as co-conspirators.
Based on what Trump thinks of the media, reporters should take care not to violate any secret laws going forward, especially in secret drone zones.
5. Screwing Immigrants
Many undocumented immigrants trusted Obama with their personal information in exchange for his promise not to deport them. That may have been a huge mistake. First off, he’s deported more people than any president in history, so that should have been a red flag. Read the rest of this entry »
The long-awaited public report on Russia’s role in the DNC hack accused the Kremlin of working to elect Trump—without providing much new information to prove it.
Kimberly Dozier, Noah Shachtman, Michael Weiss report: U.S. spy chiefs presented their case at Trump Tower on Friday that Russia was behind the hacks that rocked the 2016 presidential election. But they didn’t help themselves by releasing a strongly-worded report that is scant on new evidence—and is, in some cases, a literal rehash of outdated information.
“The unclassified report is not particularly impressive. It basically confirms what those who had been paying attention already know. It may serve to limit Trump for purposes of plausible deniability. But this is a highly risk-averse document that shows deference to the protection of sources and methods over informing the American people. That’s a shame, as certainly more detail could have been safely provided.”
— Susan Hennessey, former NSA official, to The Daily Beast, in an email
“There was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election including the fact that there was no tampering whatsoever with voting machines,” President-elect Trump said in a statement right after he met with Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, CIA Director John Brennan, FBI Director Jim Comey, and NSA chief Adm. Michael Rogers.
“Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election [and with]… a clear preference for President-elect Trump,” the intelligence chiefs announced through an unclassified report released after the meeting that sounded like it was coming from an alternate universe.
The night-and-day report and reaction hint at either a difficult relationship to come between the president and America’s spies, or a cagey response by a future commander in chief who is only beginning to realize how the chess masters in the Kremlin play the game of geopolitics.
The unclassified report is unlikely to convince a single skeptic, as it offers none of the evidence intelligence officials say they have to back it up—none of those emails or transcripts of phone calls showing a clear connection between the Russian government and the political intrusions. The reason—revealing how U.S. spies know what they know could endanger U.S. spy operations.
“There was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election including the fact that there was no tampering whatsoever with voting machines.”
And it contains some out-dated information that seems slapdash considering the attention focused on it. Errors in the report were almost inevitable, because of the haste in which it was prepared, said one U.S. official briefed on the report. The report comes in three levels—unclassified, classified and then one so top secret that only a handful of intelligence professionals was able to view the whole thing. That most classified report is the one that went to President Barack Obama, and to Trump. The merely classified version will be briefed to lawmakers in the coming days. The classification issues alone meant it was “hard to transmit around” to be fact-checked, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
“The unclassified report is not particularly impressive,” Susan Hennessey, a former NSA official, told The Daily Beast in an email. “It basically confirms what those who had been paying attention already know. It may serve to limit Trump for purposes of plausible deniability. But this is a highly risk-averse document that shows deference to the protection of sources and methods over informing the American people. That’s a shame, as certainly more detail could have been safely provided.”
That lack of specificity makes it easier for Trump to stay in the “see no, hear no, speak no evil” column. His post-spy-summit statement seemed to cherry-pick the intelligence, only mentioning parts of the briefing that confirmed his belief that election vote tallies were not tampered with, rather than the part that described how the Democratic National Committee and key Hillary Clinton campaign officials were hacked, and their emails released to devastating result.
Then again, maybe the scales did fall from his eyes behind those closed doors, and he did believe the “forensic evidence” the spies had gathered, as described by current and former U.S. intelligence officials, including emails between Russian officials celebrating the results of the election, and intercepted conversations showing they’d hoped to sow discord and doubt, whoever got elected.
Perhaps the president-elect just got a crash course in “Moscow Rules,” and is beginning to understand the world-class hacking machine at Russian President Vladimir Putin’s disposal. The rules, established for U.S. spies working in Moscow during the Cold War, include: Don’t harass the opposition; lull them into a sense of complacency; and pick the time and place for action.