FBI Investigating Radical Terrorists in All 50 States as Threats Hit Peak

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly / Getty Images

Robert Spencer has a very good comment on this article. I’m wondering why the word “radical” needs to be used as a qualifier for  the word terrorist.

Washington Free Beacon, by Adam Kredo, April 18, 2017:

Federal authorities have open investigations into radical Islamic terrorists in all 50 states, according to the Department of Homeland Security, which is warning that the threat of terrorism in the United States has reached an all time high with radicalized individuals in the country plotting to strike “each and every single day.”

The FBI has “open terrorist investigations in all 50 states,” according to DHS Secretary John Kelly, who disclosed on Tuesday that there have been at least 37 “ISIS-linked plots to attack our country” since 2013, a number that shows no signs of diminishing.

Kelly, in his first wide-ranging public address on the threat of terrorism in America since taking office, warned that America’s borders remain wide-open and that there is evidence terror-linked individuals are exploiting these national security weaknesses and entering the United States.

“We don’t know their intentions,” Kelly said during an address at George Washington University. “We don’t know why they’re here or why they’re coming. We are completely blind to what they’re capable of.”

Terrorist also continues to sprout inside American communities across the country, according to Kelly, who said that in just the past year, there have been “36 homegrown terrorist cases in 18 states.”

“We’ve seen an unprecedented spike in homegrown terrorism,” Kelly disclosed. “These are the cases we know about—homegrown terrorism is notoriously difficult to predict and control.”

Terrorists in the United States are plotting attacks “every single day,” according to Kelly.

“I tell you, without exaggeration, they try to carry out this mission each and every single day and no one can tell you how to stop it. No one,” he said.

The United States, he continued, is “under attack” from a wide variety of bad actors, including “failed states, cyber-terrorists, vicious smugglers, and sadistic radicals.”

“And we are under attack every single day,” he said. “The threats are relentless.”

Those who slip over the border undetected, including criminals and potential radicalized terrorists, pose an unparalleled threat to the country.

“We don’t get to vet them,” Kelly said. “We don’t know their intentions. We don’t know they’re here. They slip into our country unnoticed, living among us, and we are completely blind as to what they are capable of.”

These threats just scrape the surface of the danger posed to America by terrorists inside and outside of the country, Kelly said.

“This is all bad news, but it gets much worse,” he explained. “Experts estimate that perhaps 10,000 citizens of Europe have joined the caliphate in Syria and Iraq. Thousands more are from nations in Asia, Africa and the Western Hemisphere. They have learned how to make IEDs, employ drones to drop ordnance, and acquired experience on the battlefield that by all reports they are bringing back home.”

These highly trained terrorist fighters are likely to return to their countries of origin and “wreak murderous havoc” across Europe, Asia, and the United States, among other countries.

America lacks the ability to properly vet these individuals when they attempt to enter the country, according to Kelly, who warned that scores of radicalized individuals are trying each day to enter America.

“Many are citizens of countries in our Visa Waiver Program, they can more easily travel to the United States which makes us a prime target for their exported violence,” he said.

The threat to America “has metastasized and decentralized, and the risk is as threatening today as it was that September morning almost 16 years ago,” Kelly warned.

“We are under attack from terrorists both within and outside of our borders,” he said. “They are without conscience, and they operate without rules. They despise the United States, because we are a nation of rights, laws, and freedoms. They have a single mission, and that is our destruction.”

FBI Sting Nets Two Chicago Area ISIS Supporters

IPT, by John Rossomando  •  Apr 13, 2017

Two Chicago area men face up to 20 years in prison if convicted of providing material support to ISIS Joseph D. Jones and Edward Schimenti, both 35, were arrested Wednesday morning. They tried to provided ISIS cellphones and personnel, an FBI affidavit alleges.

The supplies were given instead to an FBI informant. Jones, aka “Yusuf Abdulhaqq,” and Schimenti, aka “Abdul Wali,” thought the phones would be used to detonate improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Jones told an undercover FBI employee he declared his allegiance – or bayah – to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

They also worked to help the informant travel overseas to fight for ISIS and encouraged him to get into fighting shape, the affidavit said. Jones and Schimenti told the informant to be careful and avoid law enforcement detection.

The sting began in September 2015, when Jones met an undercover FBI employee. The meeting took place inside the Zion Police Department, where Jones was being interviewed about a friend’s recent murder. Both Jones and Schimenti expressed support when the undercover later said he wanted to join ISIS.

Other undercover agents tricked Jones and Schimenti into thinking their new friend did make it to Syria.

A year ago, Jones and Schimenti posed for pictures holding an ISIS flag at the entrance to the Illinois Beach State Park in Zion, Ill. Jones sent the picture to another undercover FBI agent with whom he communicated online. ISIS supporters also posted the image after a fourth undercover FBI employee asked Jones’ permission to share it via social media.

Jones also made numerous statements endorsing violent jihad on his Google+ account under the name “Yusuf Abdulahad,” the complaint said. Among other things, Jones called moderate Muslims “weak minded material loving sellouts.” He also called jihad the “best deed” and praised martyrdom.

Schimenti made similar posts using the Google + account “Ed Schimenti.” “Kuffar [unbelievers], we are coming to slay you,” Schimenti wrote in an April 2015 post.

In February, Schimenti and Jones met the informant for a workout at a Zion gym. When the informant said the workout would help prepare for fighting, Schimenti responded, “Right, right, right…it’s about that strength and that endurance.”

Jones and Schimenti worked with the informant last month to collect cellphones.  They believed the phones would be sent to ISIS and used as bomb detonators.  Last week, the two drove the informant to O’Hare Airport, thinking he was traveling to Syria to fight for ISIS.

Jones said he was ashamed not to be going, too. Schimenti said he wanted the informant to “drench that land with they, they blood.”

Did the FBI Want Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller Dead?

Front Page Magazine, by Robert Spencer, March 30, 2017:

60 Minutes ran a feature Sunday night about the FBI curious role in the May 2015 Garland jihad attack at a free speech event co-organized by Pamela Geller and me. It was, predictably enough, viciously biased, sloppy, and incomplete, but it was nonetheless illuminating in raising a hard and unanswerable question: did the FBI want Pamela Geller and me dead?

Despite the fact that the jihad attack took place at our event, neither Geller nor I appear, except in one still photo, in the 60 Minutes piece. All they say is that “a self-described free speech advocate named Pamela Geller was holding a provocative contest.”

The contempt fairly leapt from the screen. “A self-described free speech advocate”? Did 60 Minutes mean that Pamela Geller didn’t have the requisite degree in free speech advocacy? Or that she wasn’t really a free speech advocate? What they really mean, of course, is that she is not on the Left, and so cannot be celebrated as a free speech advocate the way the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists, who were all Leftists, can be.

60 Minutes also gave a nod to Sharia blasphemy laws by describing the contest as “provocative.” It was an art exhibit, featuring historical and modern images of Muhammad, some created by Muslims. It was only provocative to Muslims who believe in Islam’s death penalty for blasphemy (and brainwashed dhimmis). Was 60 Minutes implying endorsement of that death penalty? Why, yes. If our event was provocative, the shooters were justifiably provoked.

Meanwhile, CBS gave a lot of space to Usama Shami, the imam of the Islamic Community Center of Phoenix, from which the jihadis came, allowing him to exonerate the mosque of any responsibility for “radicalizing” the jihad attackers. 60 Minutes didn’t mention what Simpson’s friend Courtney Lonergan told the Arizona Republic: “Simpson would never waver from the teachings he picked up in the mosque and elsewhere….He was one of those guys who would sleep at the mosque. The fact that he felt personally insulted by somebody drawing a picture had to come from the ideological rhetoric coming out of the mosque.”

60 Minutes also doesn’t challenge Shami on his lies right after the attack, when he said that the jihadis were not regular members of the mosque.

Despite all the predictable politically correct whitewashing and appeasement, CBS did a good job of highlighting a curious and still unexplained aspect of the attack: the FBI clearly knew the attack was coming (although it didn’t bother to inform us or our security team), as the FBI agent was right there, following behind the jihadis, whom he had encouraged to “tear up Texas.” But even though they knew the attack was coming, they didn’t have a team in place to stop the jihadis. They had one man there, and one man only. The jihadis were not stopped by FBI agents, but by our own security team. If the jihadis had gotten through our team, they would have killed Pamela Geller and me, and many others. (They would no doubt have loved to kill Geert Wilders, but he left before they arrived.)

The Daily Beast wrote in August 2016 about how this undercover FBI agent encouraged the jihadis. The Beast’s Katie Zavadski wrote: “Days before an ISIS sympathizer attacked a cartoon contest in Garland, Texas, he received a text from an undercover FBI agent. ‘Tear up Texas,’ the agent messaged Elton Simpson days before he opened fire at the Draw Muhammad event, according to an affidavit (pdf) filed in federal court Thursday.”

This was not entrapment. Simpson and Soofi were determined jihadis who had scouted out other targets. Simpson, along with Soofi and Abdul Malik Abdul Kareem, who supplied weapons to the pair and helped them train, sought information about pipe bombs and plotted to attack the Super Bowl, and planned to go to Syria to join the Islamic State (ISIS), long before anyone told him to “tear up Texas.”

But what was the FBI’s game in telling them to do that? Why didn’t they have a phalanx of agents in place, ready to stop the attack? Or did they want the attack to succeed, so that Barack Obama’s vow that “the future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam” would be vividly illustrated, and intimidate any other Americans who might be contemplating defending the freedom of speech into silence?

We twice asked the FBI for an investigation into this matter. They have ignored us. Of course. After all, it isn’t as if this happened to someone important, like Linda Sarsour.

Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and author of the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book is The Complete Infidel’s Guide to Iran. Follow him on Twitter here. Like him on Facebook here.

’60 Minutes’ Whitewashes Massive FBI Failure in 2015 ISIS Texas Terror Attack

PJ Media, by Patrick Poole, March 26, 2017:

“Complexities.”

That’s the excuse invoked at the end of a 60 Minutes segment that aired Sunday evening to explain why the FBI failed to stop two ISIS-inspired terrorists in direct contact with two ISIS terror recruiters. The attackers rolled up in a car loaded with guns and ammunition to the “Draw Mohammad” cartoon contest event in Garland, Texas, on May 3, 2015:

What 60 Minutes, fronted by Anderson Cooper and echoed in an interview with Seamus Hughes of George Washington University’s Program on Extremism, explains is that FBI sources are stretched so thin that there’s no possible way to devote resources to every single potential threat.

I’ll grant that FBI counter-terrorism resources are overloaded WAY BEYOND capacity. That’s an appropriate and warranted discussion for policymakers to address. Also, in the real world of law enforcement, there are indeed many “complexities” during a case that lead to some very important investigative clues being missed — especially when FBI resources are overstretched beyond capacity.

But these “complexities” don’t even remotely begin to explain the massive failure by the FBI in this particular case. Like a blanket that’s too short that you can never turn the right way to cover everything, invoking “complexities” to explain the FBI failure in the attempted Garland attack doesn’t cover the very issues raised by 60 Minutes in their own report. Yet “complexities” is all that 60 Minutes, Anderson Cooper, and Seamus Hughes give viewers.

So here’s the real clarity in this story: at the time of the Garland attack, as the two terrorists, Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi, were traveling in their car loaded with guns and ammo, they were being closely tailed by an undercover FBI agent (not an informant — an actual FBI agent) whom they had previously been in contact with on social media.

The undercover agent even snapped pictures of the attack site just seconds before Simpson and Soofi jumped out of their car with guns blazing:

60 Minutes helpfully provides the undercover FBI agent’s picture taken seconds before the attack showing two individuals, including a police officer, who were shot at by the pair:

And they provide a helpful graphic of how close the undercover FBI agent was tailing Simpson and Soofi (see the terrorists’ car turning into the Curtis Culwell Center, and the FBI undercover agent following immediately behind):

And yet, according to a statement provided to 60 Minutes, the FBI claims they had no advanced knowledge of the attack:

We wanted to ask the FBI those same questions. But the bureau would not agree to an interview. All the FBI would give us was this email statement. It reads: “There was no advance knowledge of a plot to attack the cartoon drawing contest in Garland, Texas.”

This is not even remotely believable.

The information about the undercover FBI agent being at the scene was already known before the 60 Minutes broadcast, given some details were included in court documents for a related terrorism case in Ohio this past August:

I noted that here at PJ Media, while mentioning the (at that point) dozen “Known Wolf” terror cases during the Obama administration:

But the FBI undercover agent being at the Garland attack site was more than coincidence. In fact, the FBI agent had been in contact with Simpson on social media in the three weeks prior to the attack, and at one point had even told Simpson to “tear up Texas,” as the attorney in the Ohio case explained to 60 Minutes:

Anderson Cooper: After the trial, you discovered that the government knew a lot more about the Garland attack than they had let on?

Dan Maynard: That’s right. Yeah. After the trial we found out that they had had an undercover agent who had been texting with Simpson, less than three weeks before the attack, to him “Tear up Texas.” Which to me was an encouragement to Simpson.

The man he’s talking about was a special agent of the FBI, working undercover posing as an Islamic radical.  The government sent attorney Dan Maynard 60 pages of declassified encrypted messages between the agent and Elton Simpson — and argued “Tear up Texas” was not an incitement. But Simpson’s response was incriminating, referring to the attack against cartoonists at the French magazine Charlie Hebdo: “bro, you don’t have to say that … ” He wrote “you know what happened in Paris … so that goes without saying. No need to be direct.”

Again, this is information that was reported months ago:

The FBI isn’t too interested in answering questions about their undercover agent’s encrypted communications with would-be Garland killer Elton Simpon, as Daily Beast reporter Katie Zavadski found out when she asked them directly:

Press officers for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Ohio, the Cleveland FBI Office, and the Department of Justice declined to comment beyond the affidavit. FBI spokeswoman Carol Cratty hung up on The Daily Beast after being asked about the “tear up Texas” text.

Complexities. But as the late Billy Mays would say: “But wait! There’s more!”

Unmentioned in the 60 Minutes report: the FBI sent a bulletin to Garland police hours before the event warning that Simpson — whom the Justice Department had already unsuccessfully prosecuted previously for his role in a terror cell — might be on his way to the Garland event, even including his photo and his license plate number:

FBI Director James Comey even admitted they had information, saying:

We developed information just hours before the event that Simpson might be interested in going to Garland.

Garland police claim they never saw the FBI’s bulletin. But 60 Minutes never bothers to mention it at all.

Also unmentioned was the considerable online chatter in ISIS circles about the event, and in some cases directly threatening it.

As I reported exclusively here at PJ Media at the time, what initiated most of the chatter was the attempt by the only two Muslim members of Congress — Keith Ellison and Andre Carson — to prevent Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders from attending the event:

The chatter began when news broke that two Muslim congressmen, Keith Ellison and Andre Carson, had appealed to Secretary of State John Kerry to deny entry into the U.S. for Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders.

Wilders was scheduled to be the featured speaker at Sunday’s cartoon contest.

One law enforcement source who was monitoring potential threats to the event told PJ Media the following:

[Ellison and Carson] clearly set things off. Nothing was being said until that news story came out, and then the usual suspects began to talk about it. By the time the weekend rolled around, there were clear and identifiable incitements calling for an attack on the event.

So there was considerable ISIS chatter about the event, even incitement calling for an attack on the event. That concerned the Texas Department of Public Safety so much they committed considerable resources, including creating what one Texas DPS described to me as “a death trap” for anyone who attempted to attack the event.

The online chatter caused no concern for the FBI or any other federal agency. Again, as I reported exclusively, the FBI and Department of Homeland Security sent out a “Joint Intelligence Bulletin” to law enforcement four days before the Garland event dismissing any threat:

Their reasoning was astounding:

Although past events involving the alleged defamation of Islam and the prophet, Muhammad, have resulted in threats or overt acts of violence overseas, we have not yet seen such violence in the United States. The most frequent reaction among US-based homegrown violent extremists (HVEs) is discussion and verbal disapproval via online communication platforms, including websites with violent extremist content and social media sites.† We assess it is unlikely that any one event perceived to defame Islam would alone mobilize HVEs to violence.

Because such an attack had not happened here yet, as it had just four months prior in the attack on the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris, it was unlikely to happen here, the FBI and DHS said.

The FBI and virtually all federal agencies were following a narrative enforced by the Obama White House that ISIS was the “JV team” and posed no domestic terror threat to the United States. That’s not where the facts led, but it was the narrative blinders that the FBI and Director James Comey were willing to assume.

How much of that narrative enforcement is still in place? No one really knows, and 60 Minutes doesn’t bother to ask.

So at this point we have:

  • An undercover FBI agent tailing the Garland terror attackers to the Draw Muhammed event
  • The FBI agent in direct communication with Elton Simpson telling him to “Tear up Texas”
  • The FBI sending Garland police a bulletin with Simpson’s picture and license plate warning he may show up hours before the attack
  • Considerable online chatter by ISIS operatives, including direct incitement calling for an attack on the event

For those outside the political/media establishment bubble, these might seem to be really important investigative clues that raise serous concerns about the FBI’s claims they had no prior warning to the Garland attack. But for 60 Minutes and Seamus Hughes of GWU’s Program on Extremism, all their viewers are left with in conclusion are … “complexities”:

The FBI’s actions around this foiled attack offer a rare glimpse into the complexities faced by those fighting homegrown extremism. Today, the battle often begins online where identifying terrorists can be the difference between a massacre, and the one that never occurred in Garland, Texas.

Anderson Cooper: People brag about stuff. People talk big. One of the difficulties for the FBI is trying to figure out who’s just talking and who actually may execute an attack.

Seamus Hughes: That’s the hardest part when you talk about this, right. There’s a lot of guys who talk about how great ISIS is. It’s very hard to tell when someone crosses that line. And in most of the cases, you see the FBI has some touchpoint with those individuals beforehand. There had been an assessment, a preliminary investigation or a full investigation. It’s just very hard to know when somebody decides to jump.

It should come as no surprise that Seamus Hughes trains FBI officials in knowing when somebody decides to jump.

Yes, that’s right. 60 Minutes turned to, as its sole outside “expert,” one of the FBI’s own advisers and terrorism training instructors.

That said, let me suggest that when one of your undercover agents is tailing a car with two ISIS operatives, including one you’ve already tried unsuccessfully to put in prison on previous terrorism charges, loaded with guns and ammunition and headed towards an event that has been targeted by ISIS supporters on social media: that might be an indication that somebody is prepared to jump.

Ironically, after their Garland attack whitewash, 60 Minutes continued their broadcast with a segment on “Fake News”:

However, Hughes’ colleagues over at the GWU “Project on Extremism” seemed pretty happy with how it all turned out:

No doubt a contract for FBI training is on its way to GWU right now.

Obama used NSA & FBI to spy on Trump – veteran CIA officer Gary Berntsen

RT – SophieCo, March 17, 2017: (go to RT for video)

The mighty CIA has fallen victim to a major breach, with WikiLeaks revealing the true scope of the Agency’s ability for cyber-espionage. Its tools seem to be aimed at ordinary citizens – your phone, your car, your TV, even your fridge can become an instrument of surveillance in the hands of the CIA. How does the CIA use these tools, and why do they need them in the first place? And as WikiLeaks promises even more revelations, how is all of this going to shape the already tense relationship between new president and the intelligence community? A man who has spent over two decades in the CIA’s clandestine service – Gary Berntsen is on SophieCo.

Follow @SophieCo_RT

Sophie Shevardnadze: Gary Berntsen, former CIA official, welcome to the show, great to have you with us. Now, Vault 7, a major batch of CIA docs revealed by Wikileaks uncovers the agency’s cyber tools. We’re talking about world’s most powerful intelligence agency – how exactly did the CIA lose control of its arsenal of hacking weapons?

Gary Berntsen: First off, I’d like to say that the world has changed a lot in the last several decades, and people are communicating in many different ways and intelligence services, whether they be American or Russian, are covering these communications and their coverage of those communications has evolved. Without commenting on the specific validity of those tools, it was clear that the CIA was surely using contractors to be involved in this process, not just staff officers, and that individuals decided that they had problems with U.S. policy, and have leaked these things to Wikileaks. This is a large problem, for the U.S. community, but just as the U.S. is having problems, the Russia face similar problems. Just this week you had multiple members of the FSB charged with hacking as well, and they have been charged by the U.S. government. So both services who are competitors, face challenges as we’ve entered a new era of mass communications.

SS: So like you’re saying, the leaker or leakers of the CIA docs is presumably a CIA contractor – should the agency be spending more effort on vetting its own officers? Is the process rigorous enough?

GB: Clearly. Look… There have been individuals since the dawn of history. Espionage is the second oldest occupation, have conducted spying and espionage operations, and there have been people who have turned against their own side and worked for competitors and worked for those opposing the country or the group that they’re working with. It’s been a problem from the beginning, and it continues to be a problem, and the U.S. clearly is going to have to do a much better job at vetting those individuals who are given security clearances, without a doubt.

SS: The CIA studied the flaws in the software of devices like iPhones, Androids, Smart TVs, apps like Whatsapp that left them exposed to hacking, but didn’t care about patching those up –  so, in essence the agency chose to leave Americans vulnerable to cyberattacks, rather than protect them?

GB: I think you have to understand, in this world that we’re operating and the number one target of our intelligence community are terrorists. Since the attacks of 9\11, 16 years ago, the obsession of the American intelligence community is to identify those planning terrorist attacks, collecting information on them and being able to defeat them. These individuals are using all these means of communication. I have spoken with many security services around the world, since my retirement back in 2005-2006, a lot of them have had problems covering the communications of somebody’s very devices and programs that you’ve talked about – whether they be narcotraffickers or salafist jihadists, they are all piggybacking off of commercial communications. Therefore the need for modern intelligence services to sort of provide coverage of all means of communications. And there’s a price that you pay for that.

SS: One of the most disturbing parts of the leaks is the “Weeping Angel” program – CIA hacking into Samsung Smart TVs to record what’s going on even when the TV appears to be turned off. Why are the CIA’s tools designed to penetrate devices used by ordinary Western citizens at home?

GB: Look, I wouldn’t say it has anything to do with Western homes, because the CIA doesn’t do technical operations against American citizens – that’s prohibited by the law. If the CIA does anything in the U.S., it does it side-by-side with the FBI, and it does it according to FISA – the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act laws. It’s gotta go to the judge to do those things. Those tools are used primarily against the individuals and terrorists that are targeting the U.S. or other foreign entities that we see as a significant threat to the U.S. national security, which is the normal functioning of any intelligence service.

SS: Just like you say, the CIA insists it never uses its investigative tools on American citizens in the US, but, we’re wondering, exactly how many terrorist camps in the Middle East have Samsung Smart TVs to watch their favorite shows on? Does it seem like the CIA lost its direction?

GB: Plenty of them.

SS: Plenty?…

GB: I’ve travelled in the Middle East, Samsungs are sold everywhere. Sophie, Samsung TVs are sold all over the world. I’ve spent a lot of time in the Middle East, I’ve seen them in Afghanistan, I’ve seen them everywhere. So, any kind of devices that you can imagine, people are using everywhere. We’re in a global economy now.

SS: The CIA has tools to hack iPhones – but they make up only around 15 % of the world’s smartphone market. IPhones are not popular among terrorists, but they are among business and political elites – so are they the real target here?

GB: No. The CIA in relative terms to the size of the world is a small organisation. It is an organisation that has roughly 20 or more thousand people – it’s not that large in terms of covering a planet with 7 billion people. We have significant threats to the U.S. and to the Western world. We live in an age of super-terrorism, we live in an age when individuals, small groups of people, can leverage technology at a lethal effect. The greatest threats to this planet are not just nuclear, they are bio. The U.S. needs to have as many tools as possible to defend itself against these threats, as does Russia want to have similar types of tools to defend itself. You too, Russian people have suffered from a number of terrible terrorist acts.

SS: Wikileaks suggest the CIA copied the hacking habits of other nations to create a fake electronic trace – why would the CIA need that?

GB: The CIA, as any intelligence service, would look to conduct coverage in the most unobtrusive fashion as possible. It is going to do its operations so that they can collect and collect again and again against terrorist organisations, where and whenever it can, because sometimes threats are not just static, they are continuous.

SS: You know this better, so enlighten me: does the he CIA have the authorisation to create the surveillance tools it had in the first place? Who gives it such authorisation?

GB: The CIA was created in 1947 by the National Security Act of the U.S. and does two different things – it does FI (foreign intelligence) collection and it does CA – covert action. Its rules for collection of intelligence were enshrined in the law that created it, the CIA Act 110, in 1949, but the covert action part of this, where it does active measures, when it gets involved in things – all of those are covered by law. The Presidential finding had to be written, it had to be presented to the President. The President’s signs off on those things. Those things are then briefed to members of Congress, or the House Permanent Subcommittee for Intelligence and the Senate Select Committee for Intelligence. We have a very rigorous process of review of the activities of our intelligence communities in the U.S.

SS: But you’re talking about the activities in terms of operations. I’m just asking – does CIA need any authorisation or permission to create the tools it has in its arsenal? Or it can just go ahead…

GB: Those tools         and the creation of collection tools falls under the same laws that allowed the CIA to be established. And that was the 1949 Intelligence Act. And also, subsequently, the laws in 1975. Yes.

SS: So, the CIA programme names are quite colourful, sometimes wacky –  “Weeping Angel”, “Swamp Monkey”, “Brutal Kangaroo” – is there a point to these, is there any logic, or are they completely random? I always wondered…

GB: There’s absolutely no point to that, and it’s random.

SS:Okay, so how do you come up with those names? Who… like, one says: “Monkey” and another one says: “Kangaroo”?…

GB: I’m sure they are computer-generated.

SS: Trump accused Obama of wiretapping him during the campaign… Could the CIA have actually spied on the president? It seems like the agency doesn’t have the best relationship with Donald Trump – how far can they go?

GB: Let me just say this: the President used the word “wiretapping” but I think it was very clear to us that have been in the intelligence business, that this was a synonym for “surveillance”. Because most people are on cellphones, people aren’t using landlines anymore, so there’s no “wiretapping”, okay. These all fall under the Intelligence Surveillance Act, as I stated earlier, this thing existing in the U.S.. It was clear to President Trump and to those in his campaign, after they were elected, and they did a review back that the Obama Administration sought FISA authorisation to do surveillance of the Trump campaign in July and then in October. They were denied in July, they were given approval in October, and in October they did some types of surveillance of the Trump campaign. This is why the President, of course, tweeted, that he had been “wiretapped” – of course “wiretapping” being a synonym for the surveillance against his campaign, which was never heard of in the U.S. political history that I can remember, I can’t recall any way of this being done. It’s an outrage, and at the same time, Congressional hearings are going to be held and they are going to review all of these things, and they are going to find out exactly what happened and what was done. It’s unclear right now, but all we do know – and it has been broken in the media that there were two efforts, and at the second one, the authorisation was given. That would never have been done by the CIA, because they don’t do that sort of coverage in the U.S.. That would either be the FBI or the NSA, with legal authorities and those authorities… the problem that the Trump administration had is they believed that the information from these things was distributed incorrectly. Any time an American –  and this is according to the U.S. law – any time an American is on the wire in the U.S., their names got to be minimized from this and it clearly wasn’t done and the Trump administration was put in a bad light because of this.

SS: If what you’re saying is true, how does that fall under foreign intelligence? Is that more of the FBI-NSA expertise?

GB: It was FBI and NSA – it was clearly the FBI and the NSA that were involved, it would never have been the CIA doing that, they don’t listen to telephones in the U.S., they read the product of other agencies that would provide those things, but clearly, there were individuals on those phone calls that they believed were foreign and were targeting those with potential communications with the Trump campaign. Let’s be clear here – General Clapper, the DNI for President Obama, stated before he left office, that there was no, I repeat, no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. This has been something that has been dragged out again, and again, and again, by the media. This is a continuing drumbeat of the mainstream, left-wing media of the U.S., topaint the President in the poorest light, to attempt to discredit Donald Trump.

SS: With the intelligence agencies bringing down Trump’s advisors like Michael Flynn – and you said the people behind that were Obama’s loyalists – can we talk about the intelligence agencies being too independent from the White House, playing their own politics?

GB: I think part of the problem that we’ve seen during the handover of power from President Obama to President Trump was that there was a number of holdovers that went from political appointee to career status that had been placed in the NatSec apparatus and certain parts of the intelligence organisations. It is clear that President Trump and his team are determined to remove those people to make sure that there’s a continuity of purpose and people aren’t leaking information that would put the Administration into a negative light. That’s the goal of the administration, to conduct itself consistent with the goals of securing the country from terrorism and other potential threats – whether they be counter-narcotics, or intelligence agencies trying to breach our… you know, the information that we hold secure.

SS: Here’s a bit of conspiracy theories – could it be that the domestic surveillance agencies like the NSA or the FBI orchestrated the Vault 7 leaks  – to damage CIA, stop it from infringing on their turf?

GB :I really don’t think so and that is conspiracy  thinking. You have to understand something, in the intelligence communities in the U.S., whether it be the CIA and FBI, we’ve done a lot of cross-fertilizations. When I was in senior position in CIA’s counterterrorism center, I had a deputy who was an FBI officer. An office in FBI HQ down in Washington had an FBI lead with a CIA deputy. There’s a lot more cooperation than one would think. There are individuals that do assignments in each other’s organisations to help foster levels of cooperation. I had members of NSA in my staff when I was at CIA, members of diplomatic security, members of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and it was run like a task force, so, there’s a lot more cooperation than the media presents, they always think that there are these huge major battles between the organisations and that’s rarely true.

SS: Generally speaking – is there rivalry between American intel agencies at all? Competition for resources, maybe?

GB: I think, sometimes, between the Bureau and the CIA – the CIA is the dominant agency abroad, and the FBI is the dominant agency in the U.S. What they do abroad, they frequently have to get cleared by us, what we do domestically, we have to get cleared by them, and sometimes there’s some friction, but usually, we’re able to work this out. It makes for great news, the CIA fighting FBI, but the reality is that there’s a lot more cooperation than confrontation. We are all in the business of trying to secure the American homeland and American interests globally.

SS: I’m still thinking a lot about the whole point of having this hacking arsenal for the CIA since you talk on their behalf – the possibility to hack phones, computers, TVs and cars – if the actual terrorist attacks on US soil, like San Bernardino, Orlando are still missed?

GB: Look. There are hundreds of individuals, if not thousands, planning efforts against the U.S. at any  time. It can be many-many things. And the U.S. security services, there’s the CIA, the FBI, NSA – block many-many of these things, but it is impossible to stop them all. Remember, this is an open society here, in America, with 320 million people, here. We try to foster open economic system, we allow more immigration to America than all countries in the world combined. This is a great political experiment here, but it’s also very difficult to police. There are times that the U.S. security services are going to fail. It’s inevitable. We just have to try the best we can, do the best job that we can, while protecting the values that attract so many people to the U.S.

SS:The former CIA director John Brennan is saying Trump’s order to temporarily ban travel from some Muslim states is not going to help fight terrorism in ‘any significant way’. And the countries where the terrorists have previously come from – like Saudi Arabia, or Afghanistan, it’s true – aren’t on the list. So does he maybe have a point?

GB: John Brennan is acting more like a political operative than a former director of CIA. The countries that Mr. Trump had banned initially, or at least had put a partial, sort of a delay – where states like Somalia, Libya, the Sudan, Iran – places where we couldn’t trust local vetting. Remember something, when someone immigrates to the U.S., we have what’s called an “immigration packet”: they may have to get a chest X-ray to make sure they don’t bring any diseases with them, they have to have background check on any place they’ve ever lived, and in most of these places there are no security forces to do background checks on people that came from Damascus, because parts of Damascus are totally destroyed – there’s been warfare. It is actually a very reasonable thing for President Trump to ask for delay in these areas. Look, the Crown-Prince, the Deputy Crown-Prince of Saudi Arabia was just in the United States and met with Donald Trump, and he said he didn’t believe it was a “ban on Muslims”. This was not a “ban on Muslims”, it was an effort to slow down and to create more opportunity to vet those individuals coming from states where there’s a preponderance of terrorist organisations operating. A reasonable step by President Trump, something he promised during the campaign, something he’s fulfilling. But again, I repeat – America allows more immigration into the U.S., than all countries combined. So, we really don’t need to be lectured on who we let in and who we don’t let in.

SS: But I still wonder if the Crown-Prince would’ve had the same comment had Saudi Arabia been on that ban list. Anyways, Michael Hayden, ex-CIA…

GB: Wait a second, Sophie – the Saudis have a reasonable form to police their society, and they provide accurate police checks. If they didn’t create accurate police checks, we would’ve given the delay to them as well.

SS: Ok, I got your point. Now, Michael Hayden, ex-CIA and NSA chief, pointed out that the US intelligence enlists agents in the Muslim world with the promise of eventual emigration to America – is Trump’s travel ban order going to hurt American intelligence gathering efforts in the Middle East?

GB: No, the question here – there were individuals that worked as translators for us in Afghanistan and Iraq and serving in such roles as translators, they were promised the ability to immigrate to the United States. Unfortunately, some of them were blocked in the first ban that was put down, because individuals who wrote that, didn’t consider that. That has been considered in the re-write, that the Trump administration had submitted, which is now being attacked by a judge in Hawaii, and so it was taken into consideration, but… the objective here was to help those that helped U.S. forces on the ground, especially those who were translators, in ground combat operations, where they risked their lives alongside American soldiers.

SS:You worked in Afghanistan – you were close to capturing Bin Laden back in 2001 – what kind of spying tools are actually used on the ground by the CIA to catch terrorists?

GB: The CIA as does any intelligence service in the world, is a human business. It’s a business where we work with local security forces to strengthen their police and intelligence forces, we attempt to leverage them, we have our own people on the ground that speak the language, we’re trying to help build transportation there. There’s no “secret sauce” here. There’s no super-technology that changes the country’s ability to conduct intelligence collections or operations. In Afghanistan the greatest thing that the U.S. has is broad support and assistance to Afghan men and women across the country. We liberated half of the population, and for women were providing education, and when the people see what we were doing: trying to build schools, providing USAID projects – all of these things – this makes the population willing to work with and support the United States. Frequently, members of the insurgence groups will see this and sometimes they do actually cross the lines and cooperate with us. So, it’s a full range of American political power, whether it’s hard or soft, that is the strength of the American intelligence services – because  people in the world actually believe – and correctly so – that American more than generally a force of good in the world.

SS: Gary, thank you so much for this interesting interview and insight into the world of the CIA. We’ve been talking to Gary Berntsen, former top CIA officer, veteran of the agency, talking about the politics of American intelligence in the Trump era. That’s it for this edition of SophieCo, I will see you next time.

***

While searching for the RT video on YouTube I found this recent interview with Gary Berntsen by Newsfirst Sri Lanka:

Flynn Resignation Raises Tough Questions for FBI, Intel Services

Michael Flynn

Breitbart, by Joel Pollak, February 14, 2017:

The resignation of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn on Monday evening raises troubling questions about the role of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the intelligence services.

Flynn ostensibly resigned because he provided Vice President Mike Pence with “incomplete information” about a conversation he had with the Russian ambassador, which turned out to include a discussion of recent sanctions, contrary to his earlier denials. Trust is crucial; the resignation was warranted.

That said, the sanctions were largely bogus, and were applied not just to punish Russia for spying on the U.S. (both countries clearly spy on each other), but to substantiate the Democratic Party’s sore-loser conspiracy theory that Russia was responsible for electing Donald Trump.

There is no concrete evidence to support that theory, and there is no evidence (yet) that Flynn did anything but discuss sanctions in the most general terms. He did not break the Logan Act, nor any other law, apparently.

Whether Flynn deliberately concealed the contents of his conversation from Vice President Pence, or merely forgot what had been said, he was “caught” because the Department of Justice had been eavesdropping on the conversation. And one of the officials responsible for ordering the eavesdropping was none other than Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, who forced President Trump to fire her when she defied her duty to enforce his executive order on immigration, however, controversial.

Four possibilities emerge. One, which the media and the Democrats (largely one and the same) clearly believe, is that Flynn really was a potential Russian plant, perhaps indicating much deeper Russian penetration of the campaign and administration.

A second possibility is that things really are what they seem, on the surface, to be. Russia’s unusual response to the sanctions — declining to retaliate — was so bizarre that it warranted investigation, which then raised legitimate suspicions about Flynn.

The remaining possibilities are more worrying. The third explanation is that President Obama deliberately, and cleverly, used the bogus sanctions as a “blue dye” test to expose which strings Russia might try to pull to relieve them. Flynn, with a prior relationship with the Russian government, may have been a natural, innocuous point of contact — or perhaps something more.

The fourth and most worrying explanation is that the government was not merely monitoring the communications of Russian diplomats, but of the Trump transition team itself. The fact that the contents of Flynn’s phone conversation — highly sensitive intelligence — were leaked to the media suggests that someone with access to that information also has a political axe to grind.

Democrats are clamoring for a deeper investigation of Russian ties to Trump. But the more serious question is whether our nation’s intelligence services were involved in what amounts to political espionage against the newly-elected government.

We know that there are hundreds and perhaps thousands of federal bureaucrats already using shadow communications systems. How far does that “shadow government” go?

The FBI, CIA and other agencies ought to reassure Congress, or come clean.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. His new book, How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

Also see:

Comey Is Not the One Whose Unorthodox Actions Are Casting a Cloud over the Election

(Reuters photo: Brian Snyder)

(Reuters photo: Brian Snyder)

National Review, by Andrew C. McCarthy, October 31, 2016:

How rich of Hillary Clinton to complain now that FBI director James Comey is threatening the democratic process by commenting publicly about a criminal investigation on the eve of an election.

Put aside that Comey did not say a single thing last week that implicates Clinton in a crime. The biggest coup for Clinton in the waning months of the campaign has been Comey’s decision not to prosecute her — a decision outside the responsibilities of the FBI director and publicly announced in a manner that contradicts law-enforcement protocols. There has been nothing more irregular, nothing that put law enforcement more in the service of politics, than that announcement. Yet, far from condemning it, Mrs. Clinton has worn it like a badge of honor since July. Indeed, she has contorted it into a wholesale exoneration, which it most certainly was not.

Just to remind those whose memories seem so conveniently to fail, Comey is the FBI director, not a Justice Department prosecutor, much less the attorney general. The FBI is not supposed to exercise prosecutorial discretion. The FBI is not supposed to decide whether the subject of a criminal investigation gets indicted. The FBI, moreover, is not obligated to make recommendations about prosecution at all; its recommendations, if it chooses to make them, are not binding on the Justice Department; and when it does make recommendations, it does so behind closed doors, not on the public record.

Yet, in the Clinton e-mails investigation, it was Comey who made the decision not to indict Clinton. Comey, furthermore, made the decision in the form of a public recommendation. In effect, it became The Decision because Attorney General Loretta Lynch had disgraced herself by furtively meeting with Mrs. Clinton’s husband a few days before Comey announced his recommendation. Comey, therefore, gave Mrs. Clinton a twofer: an unheard-of public proclamation that she should not be indicted by the head of the investigative agency; and a means of taking Lynch off the hook, which allowed the decision against prosecution to be portrayed as a careful weighing of evidence rather than a corrupt deal cooked up in the back of a plane parked on a remote tarmac.

Now, suddenly, Mrs. Clinton is worried about law-enforcement interference in politics. And her voice is joined by such allies as Jamie Gorelick (President Bill Clinton’s deputy attorney general) and Larry Thompson (Comey’s predecessor as President George W. Bush’s deputy attorney general and an outspoken opponent of Donald Trump). Like Mrs. Clinton, Ms. Gorelick and Mr. Thompson were delighted by Director Comey as long as his departures from orthodoxy were helping Clinton’s candidacy. But now, as they wrote in the Washington Post on Saturday, they are perturbed by the threat Comey purportedly poses to “long-standing and well-established traditions limiting disclosure of ongoing investigations . . . in a way that might be seen as influencing an election.”

I will repeat what I said yesterday (at PJ Media) about the Justice Department’s received wisdom that the election calendar should factor into criminal investigations:

Law-enforcement people will tell you that taking action too close to Election Day can affect the outcome of the vote; therefore, it should not be done because law enforcement is supposed to be apolitical. But of course, not taking action one would take but for the political timing is as political as it gets. To my mind, it is more political because the negatively affected candidate is denied any opportunity to rebut the law-enforcement action publicly.

The unavoidable fact of the matter is that, through no fault of law enforcement, investigations of political corruption are inherently political. Thus, I’ve always thought the best thing to do is bring the case when it’s ready, don’t bring it if it’s not ready, and don’t worry about the calendar any more than is required by the principle of avoiding the appearance of impropriety.

Now, as I also discussed in that same column, the problem with which we are currently grappling is caused by Comey’s initial flouting of protocol back in July — the one that thrilled the Clinton camp. There should never be any law-enforcement commentary at any time about a criminal investigation in which charges have not been filed publicly. The FBI and Justice Department should resist confirming or denying the existence of investigations; and if (as frequently happens) it becomes publicly known that an investigation is being conducted, law enforcement should still refuse to comment on the status of the investigation or any developments in it.

The public does not have a right to know that an investigation is under way. The subjects of an investigation do not have a right to know whether the investigation is continuing or has been “closed” — a status I must put in quotes because any dormant investigation can be revived at the drop of a hat if new information warrants doing so.

As Director Comey and the rest of us are being reminded, the demands of ethical law enforcement are forever in tension with the currents of partisan politics. In law enforcement, one is always required to correct the record if a representation made to a court, Congress, or some other tribunal is rendered inaccurate by new information. To put it kindly, correcting misrepresentations is not a habit of our politicians.

There is a very good argument — I would say, an irrefutable argument — that Comey should never have pronounced that the Clinton e-mails investigation was closed (in fact, it would have been appropriate if he had made no public statement about the investigation at all). But having made that pronouncement — which, again, Mrs. Clinton was thankful to have and which she has ceaselessly exploited — he was obliged by law-enforcement principles to amend it when it was no longer true. What if he hadn’t done so? Then, after the election, when it inevitably emerged that the investigation was actually open, those who had relied on his prior assertion that it was closed would rightly have felt betrayed.

For now, everyone ought to take a deep breath. All we have here is a statement that an investigation is ongoing. No charges have been filed, and none appear to be on the horizon, let alone imminent.

The Clinton camp is in no position to cry foul about anything. In announcing his recommendation against indictment, Comey not only gave Clinton the benefit of every doubt (preposterously so when one reads the FBI’s reports). He also based his decision primarily on his legal analysis of a criminal statute, which is far removed from the responsibilities of the FBI. Indeed, Comey gilded the lily by claiming that no reasonable prosecutor would disagree with his analysis — which was a truly outrageous claim coming from an investigator with no prosecutorial responsibilities, even if it did not inspire a lecture from Ms. Gorelick and Mr. Thompson on Justice Department traditions.

On the other hand, Comey hasn’t said anything more than that the investigation of the mishandling of classified information by Mrs. Clinton and her underlings remains pending. That is a true statement. Again, it does not mean charges will be filed. Indeed, I didn’t hear Director Comey say he had changed his mind about the requirements for proving guilt under the espionage act. The fact that I think he is dead wrong on that subject is beside the point, since the Justice Department has endorsed his reasoning. So it’s not like the recovery of additional classified e-mails from a Weiner/Abedin computer — if that happens, which we are not likely to know for a while — would automatically result in indictments.

It is fair enough to say that Director Comey should not have started down the wayward road of making public comments about pending investigations in which no charges have been filed. Such comments inexorably lead to the need to make more comments when new information arises. Not that the director needs advice from me, but at this point, he ought to announce that — just as in any other investigation — there will be no further public statements about the Clinton investigation unless and until charges are filed, which may never happen.

As for the election, Mrs. Clinton is under the cloud of suspicion not because of Comey but because of her own egregious misconduct. She had no right to know back in July whether the investigation was closed. She has no right to know it now. Like any other criminal suspect, she simply has to wait . . . and wonder . . . and worry.

There were other worthy Democrats, but the party chose to nominate the subject of a criminal investigation. That is the Democrats’ own recklessness; Jim Comey is not to blame. And if the American people are foolish enough to elect an arrantly corrupt and compromised subject of a criminal investigation as our president, we will have no one to blame but ourselves.

— Andrew C. McCarthy is a policy fellow at the National Review Institute. His latest book is Faithless Execution: Building the Political Case for Obama’s Impeachment.

Also see: