Streetwise Professor

February 13, 2017

The Intelligence Community Coup Continues

Filed under: History,Military,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 8:27 pm

Update (2239 CST, 2/13/17). The pack has caught its quarry: Flynn has resigned. The taste of blood will just excite their appetite for more. Further, this will show that leaking works. Unless this is rooted out ruthlessly, this administration will die the death of 1000 leaks. Regardless of what you think of Trump, the ramifications of this are disturbing indeed.

The hounds are baying at the heels of National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. Flynn’s sin was to discuss sanctions with the Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak before inauguration. Flynn denied this when the issue was allegedly raised.

Flynn’s denial has been challenged by the Washington Post, which relied on descriptions of intercepts of Flynn’s communications with the Russian ambassador. Flynn’s alleged dishonesty has allegedly led Trump to “evaluate” his status.

The substance of Flynn’s conversation with the Russian ambassador was benign. The WaPoo reports it thus:

Two of those officials went further, saying that Flynn urged Russia not to overreact to the penalties being imposed by President Barack Obama, making clear that the two sides would be in position to review the matter after Trump was sworn in as president.

“Kislyak was left with the impression that the sanctions would be revisited at a later time,” said a former official.

“Cool your jets.” Wow. How incendiary. Even if the interpretation placed on Flynn’s alleged words is correct, he did nothing more to say that sanctions would be part of broader discussions with Russia. This is a surprise why, exactly?

I further note that the WaPoo is basically serving as a ventriloquist’s dummy, dutifully mouthing “a former official’s” interpretation. (My nominee for the “former official”: Ex-CIA director and all around slug John Brennan.) Everything about “making clear” and “left with the impression” is the “former official’s” interpretation. Does he read minds? Kislyak’s in particular?

If Flynn is to be axed because he dissembled, every figure from every past administration should be sanctioned in some way. It’s almost amusing how the WaPoo is SHOCKED! SHOCKED! at the thought. FFS. Ben Rhodes comes out and says that the Obama administration lied to the media and the public as a matter of policy, and the WaPoo shrugged its shoulders so hard it took months of chiropractic treatment to straighten out.

And none of this is the real story. The real story is that this is just another act in the intelligence community’s attempted coup of the duly elected president of the United States. Consider the facts here. First, the intelligence community was surveilling Flynn’s communications. Second, it leaked those communications in order damage him and the president of the United States over a matter of policy disagreement.

The chin pullers seriously intone that Flynn may have violated the Logan Act, i.e., that he was conducting diplomacy as a private citizen. But if he was a private it was unlawful to surveil him without a warrant, or if his communications were intercepted while communicating with a legitimate target of surveillance, his communications had to be discarded/minimized, and certainly NOT leaked. (Exceptions include those communicating with Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations. Russian ambassadors don’t count.)

If he was not a private citizen, the Logan Act allegation is bullshit. In that case, Flynn had some official status, and his communications were almost certainly classified, which would make leaking them a crime.

So whatever way you cut this, someone in the intelligence community has committed a crime, or multiple crimes.

This episode also gives the lie to the IC’s justification for not providing anything more than a Wikipedia entry to document alleged Russian hacking of the election. Recall that the IC claimed that releasing specific communications was impossible, because it would compromise sources and methods.

Um, this leak about Flynn doesn’t?

Evidently–and not surprisingly–the IC’s concerns about “sources and methods” are oh-so-situational, aren’t they?

This is all beyond the pale. Yet anti-Trump, pro-IC fanboyz (e.g., the execrable John Schindler) think it’s just great! Trump is the security risk, so everything’s fair! The ends justify the means!

Um, no. If these IC people have a basis to believe that they should resign publicly. They are not judge and jury. To arrogate those roles is a violation of the constitutional order, and they should be terminated forthwith, and prosecuted if they are revealing classified information. (Funny how Schindler was all for hanging Hillary from the highest tree for jeopardizing classified information on her server, but he’s all in with these leaks.)  Those who are currently outside government should be prosecuted as well.

The irony meter has exploded from being overloaded, but I will mention another irony: Schindler, Brennan, and other critics of Snowden constantly said that he should have taken his concerns through channels, rather than leaking classified material based on his own political views. More situational “ethics”: apparently this “go through channels” dictum is not operative when Trump or Flynn are involved.

Yet another irony: those baying the loudest here also constantly intone ominously about the threat that Putin and the siloviki pose. But what is the siloviki (one component of it anyways) but senior intelligence personnel acting outside the law in order to exercise power and decapitate political enemies and rivals? So those who warn of the danger of the Russian siloviki grab their pom-poms and lead the cheers for American siloviki.

Why is this happening? I think the problem is overdetermined, but there are a couple of primary drivers.

First, there is intense bad blood between Flynn and the CIA. This apparently goes back to Flynn’s opposition to the CIA’s glorious endeavors in Syria, most notably his incredibly prescient prediction of the rise of ISIS, and his insinuation that this would be the direct result of US policy (acting largely at behest of the oil ticks in the Gulf), either intentionally or unintentionally. This is payback, and also an attempt by the CIA in particular to defend its prerogatives against someone who is deeply skeptical of its (disastrous) machinations.

Second, it is a well known strategy of those who want to attack the king to strike at his trusted retainers first. This isolates the king; makes him reluctant to rely on others (because in so doing he makes them targets too); and sends message to those who dare to support the king.

It is for this reason that I believe that Trump will not throw Flynn to the hounds, at least not now when the baying and panting is at its most intense. He knows that it would just encourage his enemies to select a new fox once they tear this one to pieces. And he also knows that eventually they will be emboldened to go after him directly.

Regardless, this is an extremely dangerous turn of events. The intelligence community (which has a litany of failures to its “credit”) cannot be allowed to use leaks and surveillance to undermine the legal order, either because of a policy disagreement, a dislike of the man elected president, or to protect its institutional interests (including protecting it from being held accountable for past failures). Once upon a time the left–the Washington Post prominent among them–told us the same. But that was then, and this is now.

PS. I suggest you also read Spengler’s take on this, which is similar to mine.

 

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13 Comments »

  1. On the plus side, law historians are going to have a lot of fun flinging accusations of violating of antebellum laws at the current administration for the next four years.

    Comment by FTR — February 13, 2017 @ 9:20 pm

  2. @FTR. Yes. They are lamenting that the Alien and Sedition Acts are no longer in force.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — February 13, 2017 @ 9:33 pm

  3. What does it say about the prez’s touted management acumen?

    Comment by job — February 13, 2017 @ 11:02 pm

  4. What’s good for Joe Sixpack is good for Michael Flynn. Don’t set up a surveillance state if you don’t want your phone calls to become public and used by the government to blackmail you.

    Comment by aaa — February 13, 2017 @ 11:56 pm

  5. So we have the score for the first round of what could turn out to be a 15-round epic:

    Trump Administration 0 – 1 Deep State

    Wow! That was quick. A roundhouse to the jaw takes out Flynn. Flynn apparently was not as smart or as alert as his reputation promised: what kind of klutz gabbles on a mobile with the Russian ambassador whose phone he should have known was being tapped? Also evidence of rank amateurism on the part of Flynn: lying to Pence (unwise to lie to an apparently sincere, dyed-in-the-wool, super-pious Bible-thumper … or at least to get caught in an outright lie).

    Next up: Deep State gonna take out Bannon (a much shrewder, juicier and more challenging target). This will be an enthralling bout.

    Good news for everyone (and as unyet commented upon): Pence has no appetite for alt facts! Good for him too!

    Comment by Simple Simon — February 14, 2017 @ 8:48 am

  6. Krauthammer called this a “cover-up without a crime.” But what was being covered up? “Conversations.” The plot thickens?

    News from a very biased source – and, look, 9 sources told WaPoop something.

    https://www.yahoo.com/news/nsa-concerned-over-donald-trumps-111359981.html

    A website that until very recently was published by Donald Trump’s son-in-law has claimed that US spies are withholding their most sensitive intelligence from the White House.

    For the past three weeks, according to a former National Security Agency (NSA) analyst and counter-intelligence officer, some the America’s spy agencies have begun withholding intelligence from the Oval Office amid fears “the Kremlin has ears inside” the White House situation room.

    The claims follow reports that National Security Adviser Michael Flynn discussed lifting sanctions against Moscow with a Russian diplomat before Mr Trump took office.

    An NSA official told the New York Observer it was holding back some of the “good stuff” from the White House, while one Pentagon worker said: “There’s not much the Russians don’t know at this point. Since January 20, we’ve assumed that the Kremlin has ears inside the [situation room].”

    The FBI is still investigating Gen Flynn’s conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

    Nine sources told the Washington Post the pair had discussed sanctions imposed on Russia by outgoing President Barack Obama, despite Gen Flynn twice saying “no” in response to interview questions when asked if the sanctions, over Russia’s interference in the US election, were brought up.

    In the past Mr Trump has been criticised for a perceived lack of respect for the intelligence community, while as President-elect he called the storm over Russian hacking of the election a “political witch-hunt”.

    Comment by elmer — February 14, 2017 @ 9:42 am

  7. > Exceptions include those communicating with Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations. Russian ambassadors don’t count.

    That may be the letter of the law, but the distinction seems rather arbitrary indeed. How is the KGB “state” not the most powerful terrorist organization out there?

    Comment by Ivan — February 14, 2017 @ 9:52 am

  8. […] State security services to conduct surveillance on a private citizen without a warrant.  See Streetwise Professor for more details on that. But either way, this looks more like a matter of internal discipline of […]

    Pingback by Trump and Russia | White Sun of the Desert — February 14, 2017 @ 11:49 am

  9. The Swamp Strikes Back

    14 February 2017 Michael J Totten

    Mike Flynn is finished as President Donald Trump’s national security advisor. He lied to the administration and to the public and denied telling Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak that the Trump administration would roll back the Obama administration’s sanctions against Russia. Flynn is admitting now that he “may have” actually said that in a phone call last month, apologized to everybody, and resigned.

    How do we know Flynn did it? Because the CIA taped the call and leaked the details. (The CIA was eavesdropping on the Russians, by the way, not on Flynn. It’s what the CIA does.)

    The CIA also rejected Flynn deputy Robin Townley’s security clearance, terminating the deputy’s job on the National Security Council.

    “They believe this is a hit job from inside the CIA on Flynn and the people close to him,” one anonymous source told Politico. Why might that be happening? Perhaps because, as another anonymous source who is apparently close to the president says, Flynn had been waging “a jihad against the intelligence community.” Trump hasn’t played well with the intelligence community either. You may recall that he compared the CIA and the FBI to Nazi Germany before he was even inaugurated.

    The swamp—permanent bipartisan Washington—doesn’t want to be drained. Not by Donald Trump. Not by anybody. And the swamp can strike back—especially the intelligence agencies.

    Last November, shortly after Trump won the election, Eli Lake wrote a stirring defense of the Washington swamp for Bloomberg.

    But before writing off the swamp entirely, it’s worth thinking for a minute about the man we just elected president. While many Americans are no doubt elated, Trump campaigned at times like an authoritarian. He threatened his accusers with lawsuits. He banned members of the press from his events. He promised to jail his opponent, Hillary Clinton. He encouraged, at times, his audience to rough up protesters.

    It may be that all of this banana republic bravado was for show. But if this is truly who Trump is, the country will need the permanent political and governing class to stop him. The leaks, slow-rolling and backstabbing that in normal times infuriate those who try to reform Washington will be the first line of defense.

    That is exactly what’s happening now, and there is no sign that it’s going to stop.

    And this is not strictly about some “jihad” Flynn and Trump have been waging against the intelligence agencies. Plenty of others in Washington outside the CIA are fighting back too over the administration’s chumminess with Russia.

    “Putin’s Russia is our adversary and moral opposite,” Republican senator John McCain wrote in an op-ed for USA Today on Monday this week. “It is committed to the destruction of the post-war, rule-based, world order built on American leadership and the primacy of our political and economic values…There is no placating Putin. There is no transforming him from a gangster to a responsible statesman. Previous administrations have tried and failed not because they didn’t try hard enough, but because Putin wants no part of it.”

    “It’s as if a hostile foreign power has seized the US government and is by remote control steering it toward the maximum possible catastrophe,” former Bush administration official David Frum tweeted over the weekend.

    Representative Elijah Cummings (D-MD) says Flynn should lose his security clearance, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi says “we have a National Security Advisor who cannot be trusted not to put Putin before America. National security demands that General Flynn be fired immediately.”

    That’s a bit much, and neither Pelosi nor Cummings are convincing national security hawks. One could be forgiven for assuming they are simply whacking the Trump administration with whatever partisan stick is at hand.

    There should be no question, however, that the Trump administration, including Mike Flynn, is far too cozy with Russia. Even before Flynn said his boss could roll back American sanctions against Moscow, he was a guest on Kremlin propaganda channel RT (Russia Today). He sat next to Vladimir Putin at RT’s anniversary celebration, and he says he wants to partner with Russia in Syria.

    Flynn is not, however, naïve, and contrary to Pelosi he does not put Putin’s interests before America’s.

    I read Flynn’s book in November so you don’t have to. In it, he divides the world into two camps of hostiles—radical Islamists and what he calls “the alliance,” which includes Russia, Syria, North Korea, China, Iran, Cuba, Bolivia, Venezuela and Nicaragua. He understands perfectly well that Vladimir Putin is an enemy of the United States but wants to team up with the Russians anyway to fight ISIS. It’s a defensible position, but it’s of a piece with the Trump administration’s brazenly pro-Russian position.

    Last year on “CBS This Morning,” Trump surrogate Newt Gingrich said “[NATO] countries ought to worry about our commitment. They ought to worry about commitment under any circumstances. Every president has been saying that the NATO countries do not pay their fair share…If Russia were to invade Estonia, I’m not sure I would risk a nuclear war over some place which is the suburbs of St. Petersburg.”

    Unlike some countries in Europe, Estonia does “pay its fair share” of the NATO expense burden, which requires member states to spend at least 2 percent of their GDP on defense. Estonia spends 2.16 percent while the US spends 3.61 percent. If Gingrich or his boss were to leave the responsible Estonians out to dry in the face of a Russian invasion, NATO would disintegrate overnight and Europe would face its greatest crisis since World War II.

    Last summer, Trump said he may be willing to recognize Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region and lift American sanctions against Moscow. If the United States were to recognize Crimea as Russian, we would join a dubious club of rogue states that includes North Korea, Cuba and Venezuela but not a single Western democracy.

    Putin, Trump says, is “very smart.” “I think in terms of leadership, he’s getting an A.” “It is always a great honor to be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond.” He effectively told NBC’s Matt Lauer that Putin was no worse than Barack Obama. “Do you want me to start naming some of the things that President Obama does at the same time?” he said when Lauer rattled off a list of Putin’s crimes.

    Earlier this month on Fox News, Bill O’Reilly asked the president if he respects Putin. “I do respect him,” Trump said.

    “Why?!” O’Reilly said, visibly shocked. “Putin’s a killer.”

    “There are a lot of killers,” Trump said, sounding like a leftist who has read Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky and little else. “You think our country’s so innocent?”

    Trump has been defending and even fawning over Vladimir Putin for a year now with remarkable consistency.

    Little Estonia, meanwhile, is digging in and preparing to fight an anti-Russian insurgency by itself.

    In 2013, Vladimir Putin gave our new Secretary of State Rex Tillerson Russia’s Order of Friendship award. That prize may not be as meaningful as some critics fear, but Tillerson’s experience up until now has been strictly limited to his time at the helm of ExxonMobil, a job he was selected for in part because of his close relationship with Russia.

    And let’s not forget that Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort spent years working for Vladimir Putin’s Ukrainian pawn Viktor Yanukovych until he was toppled in the 2014 revolution, and that Trump’s former foreign policy advisor Carter Page has close ties to the Kremlin and Russian gas giant Gazprom.

    “If you’re not familiar with Gazprom,” Josh Marshall writes, “imagine if most or all of the US energy industry were rolled up into a single company and it were personally controlled by the US President who used it as a source of revenue and patronage. That is Gazprom’s role in the Russian political and economic system. It is no exaggeration to say that you cannot be involved with Gazprom at the very high level which Page has been without being wholly in alignment with Putin’s policies. Those ties also allow Putin to put Page out of business at any time.”

    So with all that as prologue, news that Flynn discussed lifting the Obama administration’s sanctions against Russia and lied about it is, shall we say, a tad more sensitive than if he’d lied about something relatively innocuous like discussing a new NAFTA agreement with Canada.

    Neither the intelligence agencies nor journalists nor the Democratic Party nor the Republican members of Congress who aren’t on the Trump Train are going to put up with this.

    Comment by Peter M Todebush — February 14, 2017 @ 2:33 pm

  10. One of the CNN reporters today was talking about the Flynn resignation and mentioned that Trump was showing his naivete about how government works saying “He was wrong to cross the intelligence community. This is what the intelligence community does against those who challenge it.” What the reporter was stressing asserting was Trump incompetence, not the fact the intelligence community is out of control. And the reporter didn’t seem to believe the activities of the intelligence community were anything worthy of discussion.

    People talk about Watergate as the rightful exposure of a corrupt president. What we know how is that Mark Felt was pissed off that Nixon had the gall to nominate an outsider to head the FBI after Hoover’s death and, because someone other than himself was chosen to head the FBI, Felt decided to take down the sitting president of the U.S.

    Watergate was as much a coup by the intelligence community as anything. Had Felt been picked to head the FBI, none of what he knew about Nixon would have ever been leaked to the press. But this aspect of the story is never discussed.

    The vested interests are going to fight tooth and nail to ensure Trump has a failed presidency and that control of the government is soon passed back to the ruling class and the vested interests. This will get far worse before it gets any better.

    Comment by Charles — February 14, 2017 @ 3:04 pm

  11. In your post on the 10th of December, you said that it is the substance of revelations that matters, not the manner of their discovery. I cannot fathom why you think that emails leaked as a result of criminal activity, probably by Russian intelligence, are fair game, but this revelation by US intelligence is an affront? In any event, US intelligence was probably legally monitoring the Russian ambassador’s phone and not monitoring Flynn’s. Why did Flynn lie about the nature of his conversation to Pence?

    Comment by Person_XYZ — February 14, 2017 @ 3:24 pm

  12. You lack of understanding the situation is stunning. They were likely monitoring the Ambassadors communications to Putin etal. That is why they had the goods on Flynn.

    Comment by Websterman — February 14, 2017 @ 4:09 pm

  13. Even if “they” had the “goods” on Flynn

    – Flynn acted before Trump became prez, but morons like Maxine Waters are trying to scream – yet again – about Trump; recall that Maxine Waters, poor baby, thinks that Trump is invading N. Korea

    – “they” revealed the capabilities of the US to intercept and monitor conversations with Roosha – thank you very much for the sabotage

    – WaPoop, owned by Jeff Bezos, has leaked information it should not have leaked

    The incredible “justification” for this that I heard today from yet another Harvard moron, Representative Ruben Gallego, Dimwitcrat from Arizona, Harvard 2004, is that this type of leaking is OK “when there is no oversight”!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    And Matt Liar, oh so serious investigative journalist, is once again pooping his pants, this time about “possible blackmail by the Rooshans”!!!!!!!!

    Comment by elmer — February 14, 2017 @ 9:24 pm

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