CIA’s Pompeo rips WikiLeaks as ‘hostile intelligence service’ abetted by Russia

Fox News, April 13, 2017:

CIA Director Mike Pompeo, in his first speech since taking over the agency, lambasted WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange — calling the group a “non-state hostile intelligence service” that is often abetted by “state actors like Russia.”

Speaking Thursday at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Pompeo called Assange a “fraud,” someone with no “moral compass” and a “narcissist who has created nothing of value.”

He asserted that Assange and former National Security Agency staffer and famed leaker Edward Snowden “seek to use that information to make a name for themselves” and they “care nothing about the lives they put at risk or the damage they cause to national security.”

Asked why he would focus on WikiLeaks rather than other issues, Pompeo said he felt it was vital to inform the American people about the threat they pose.

In the case of Snowden, Pompeo said the detrimental impact of his leaks was expansive and that more than 1,000 foreign targets attempted to change their means of communication as a result of the Snowden disclosures.

“The bottom line is that it became harder for us in the intelligence community to keep Americans safe. It became harder to monitor the communications of terrorist organizations that are bent on bringing bloodshed to our shores.  Snowden’s disclosures helped these groups find ways to hide themselves in the crowded digital forest,” he said.

Last week, WikiLeaks released the latest chapter in its ongoing “Vault 7” series of cyber and hacking tools that it claims were stolen from the CIA.

According to its release, the new leaked information contains 27 documents from the CIA’s Grasshopper Framework, which is allegedly the software tools used by the CIA to infiltrate Microsoft’s Windows platform.

The former Kansas congressman began his speech by telling the story of Philip Agee, a founding member of the magazine Counterspy, which advocated for the exposure of intelligence agents.

In September 1974, Agee’s magazine publicly identified Richard Welch as the CIA chief of station in Athens, Greece and published his address. One year later, Agee was assassinated.

“Today, there are still plenty of Philip Agees in the world, and the harm they inflict on U.S. institutions and personnel is just as serious today as it was back then,” said the director.

In an op-ed published in The Washington Post on Wednesday, Assange said he shared the goal of the Post and The New York Times “to publish noteworthy content.”

The director also came to the defense of his agency and CIA agents who cannot “speak up for themselves” given their positions.

He said that “regardless of what you see on the silver screen, we do not pursue covert action on a whim without approval or accountability” and that when covert action takes place, “there is oversight and accountability every step of the way.”

Did the Obama Administration’s Abuse of Foreign Intelligence start before Trump?

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

Tablet Magazine, by  Lee Smith, April 5, 2017:

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.

“According to a senior U.S. government official,” Ignatius wrote in his Jan. 12 column, “Flynn phoned Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak several times on Dec. 29, the day the Obama administration announced the expulsion of 35 Russian officials as well as other measures in retaliation for the hacking. What did Flynn say, and did it undercut the U.S. sanctions?”

Nothing, the Times and the Post later reported. But exposing Flynn’s name in the intercept for political purposes was an abuse of the national-security apparatus, and leaking it to the press is a crime.

This is familiar territory. In spying on the representatives of the American people and members of the pro-Israel community, the Obama administration learned how far it could go in manipulating the foreign-intelligence surveillance apparatus for its own domestic political advantage. In both instances, the ostensible targets—Israel and Russia—were simply instruments used to go after the real targets at home.

In order to spy on U.S. congressmen before the Iran Deal vote, the Obama administration exploited a loophole, which is described in the original Journal article. The U.S. intelligence community is supposed to keep tabs on foreign officials, even those representing allies. Hence, everyone in Washington knows that Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer is under surveillance. But it’s different for his American interlocutors, especially U.S. lawmakers, whose identities are, according to NSA protocol, supposed to be, at the very least, redacted. But the standard for collecting and disseminating “intercepted communications involving U.S. lawmakers” is much less strict if it is swept up through “foreign-foreign” intercepts, for instance between a foreign ambassador and his capital. Washington, i.e. the seat of the American government, is where foreign ambassadors are supposed to meet with American officials. The Obama administration turned an ancient diplomatic convention inside out—foreign ambassadors were so dangerous that meeting them signaled betrayal of your own country.

During the long and contentious lead-up to the Iran Deal the Israeli ambassador was regularly briefing senior officials in Jerusalem, including the prime minister, about the situation, including his meetings with American lawmakers and Jewish community leaders. The Obama administration would be less interested in what the Israelis were doing than in the actions of those who actually had the ability to block the deal—namely, Senate and House members. The administration then fed this information to members of the press, who were happy to relay thinly veiled anti-Semitic conceits by accusing deal opponents of dual loyalty and being in the pay of foreign interests.

It didn’t take much imagination for members of Congress to imagine their names being inserted in the Iran deal echo chamber’s boilerplate—that they were beholden to “donors” and “foreign lobbies.” What would happen if the White House leaked your phone call with the Israeli ambassador to a friendly reporter, and you were then profiled as betraying the interests of your constituents and the security of your nation to a foreign power? What if the fact of your phone call appeared under the byline of a famous columnist friendly to the Obama administration, say, in a major national publication?

To make its case for the Iran Deal, the Obama administration redefined America’s pro-Israel community as agents of Israel. They did something similar with Trump and the Russians—whereby every Russian with money was defined as an agent of the state. Where the Israeli ambassador once was poison, now the Russian ambassador is the kiss of death—a phone call with him led to Flynn’s departure from the White House and a meeting with him landed Attorney General Jeff Sessions in hot water.

Did Trump really have dealings with FSB officers? Thanks to the administration’s whisper campaigns, the facts don’t matter; that kind of contact is no longer needed to justify surveillance, whose spoils could then be weaponized and leaked. There are oligarchs who live in Trump Tower, and they all know Putin—ergo, talking to them is tantamount to dealing with the Russian state.

Yet there is one key difference between the two information operations that abused the foreign-intelligence surveillance apparatus for political purposes. The campaign to sell the Iran deal was waged while the Obama administration was in office. The campaign to tie down Trump with the false Russia narrative was put together as the Obama team was on its way out.

The intelligence gathered from Iran Deal surveillance was shared with the fewest people possible inside the administration. It was leaked to only a few top-shelf reporters, like the authors of The Wall Street Journal article, who showed how the administration exploited a loophole to spy on Congress. Congressmen and their staffs certainly noticed, as did the Jewish organizations that were being spied on. But the campaign was mostly conducted sotto voce, through whispers and leaks that made it clear what the price of opposition might be.

The reason the prior abuse of the foreign-intelligence surveillance apparatus is clear only now is because the Russia campaign has illuminated it. As The New York Times reported last month, the administration distributed the intelligence gathered on the Trump transition team widely throughout government agencies, after it had changed the rules on distributing intercepted communications. The point of distributing the information so widely was to “preserve it,” the administration and its friends in the press explained—“preserve” being a euphemism for “leak.” The Obama team seems not to have understood that in proliferating that material they have exposed themselves to risk, by creating a potential criminal trail that may expose systematic abuse of foreign-intelligence collection.

Another Attempt at “Extreme Vetting”

By Daniel Pipes, April 4, 2017, Cross-posted from National Review Online

McMaster staffing NSC with traditional GOP foreign policy hands

Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster looks on as President Trump announces him as his national security adviser at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla., on Feb. 20. (NICHOLAS KAMM/Agence France-Presse via Getty Images)

McMaster chose GOP foreign policy expert Nadia Schadlow to be senior director for strategy and charged her with drafting the administration’s new national security strategy.

Washington Post, by Josh Rogin, April 4, 2017:

National security adviser H.R. McMaster is continuing to fill out his national security staff with conservative foreign policy experts from the establishment think-tank world, preferring them to the military intelligence types favored by his predecessor, retired Gen. Michael T. Flynn.

Two White House officials confirmed that McMaster has offered the post of senior director for South and Central Asia to Lisa Curtis, a well-known conservative expert and senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation. Curtis has accepted the offer and is going through the entry process now. Curtis has been a leading voice on the GOP side of the South Asia expert community for decades, having worked at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as an adviser to the State Department during the George W. Bush administration and as an analyst with the CIA.

What’s illuminating about the pick is that McMaster decided to scuttle Flynn’s choice for the post, Brig. Gen. Robin Fontes, who is currently the defense attaché at the U.S. embassy in New Delhi. The Pentagon had already announced that Fontes was going to the NSC to take the senior director job, as she was offered the post by Flynn before his firing.

“General McMaster is doing the hiring and it reflects his priorities but it’s not a reaction against [Flynn],” one White House official told me. “This is going to give us significant person-power in an area where we need it.”

The Curtis appointment is only the latest McMaster choice that steers the NSC staff away from Flynn’s penchant for military intelligence officers he happened to know well. Last month, McMaster chose GOP foreign policy expert Nadia Schadlow to be senior director for strategy and charged her with drafting the administration’s new national security strategy.

Officials also confirmed that Fiona Hill, a Brookings Institution scholar and traditional GOP Russia hawk, will be senior director for Russia and Europe, a newly combined directorate that brings both regions under one chain of command. Originally, Flynn had selected Tim Shea, the defense intelligence officer for Eurasia at the Defense Intelligence Agency. Shea actually decided to go back to the DIA before Flynn was fired, a DIA spokesperson said.

Several other Flynn hires have also left since his departure, for a variety of reasons. Senior director for strategy Dave Horan left the same day as Flynn. Senior director for the Western Hemisphere Craig Deare, a former Marine intelligence officer, was shown the door after it was revealed he criticized Trump in a private think-tank meeting. Robin Townley, another former Marine intelligence officer, was forced to leave his post as senior director for Africa after the CIA denied him his security clearance.

Replacements for both of those regional senior director roles are in the works, officials said. The officials also confirmed reports that K.T. McFarland, the deputy national security adviser who arrived before McMaster, has been offered other roles outside the NSC, including a possible foreign ambassadorship. No transfer has been decided and McFarland might end up staying at the NSC, officials said.

McMaster wanted to get rid of Flynn’s senior director for intelligence programs, Ezra Cohen-Watnick, but top White House officials reportedly intervened on his behalf. Now that Cohen-Watnick is part of the controversy over the alleged unmasking of Trump transition officials who were caught up in incidental collection by American spy agencies, the White House is even more determined to keep him in place, officials said.

As for Curtis, she will soon be the only senior official appointed in the Trump administration who deals with the South Asia region, which includes the strategically important countries of India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, among others. There’s no permanent assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs, no Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan at the State Department and no assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific Affairs at the Pentagon.

“It’s rather disheartening I’m sure for the people in the region,” said Shuja Nawaz, distinguished fellow at the Atlantic Council. “They are still fumbling for some direction as to how the Trump administration will deal with this region.”

No world leader from the region has visited the White House and the Trump administration has said very little about its plans for the region. It’s been particularly quiet about Afghanistan, where thousands of U.S. troops are stationed.

Also up in the air is whether the NSC staff will play a major role in foreign policymaking. In the recent visit of the Saudi crown prince and the upcoming visitof Chinese President Xi Jinping, senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner has taken the lead. Also, several senior GOP foreign policy hands interviewed for top administration jobs have been rejected by the White House because they expressed some anti-Trump views during the campaign, shrinking the pool from which candidates can be chosen.

McMaster’s filling out of the NSC staff with experts and professionals rather than Flynn’s battle buddies is a positive step toward normalizing the foreign policymaking process in the Trump administration. But that effort still has a very long way to go.

***

On Watch: Episode 11 – “Corrupt Weaponizing of Intelligence Collection”

Judicial Watch, March 28, 2017:

Dear Editor/Broadcaster,

Below, you will find the video/transcript for On Watch: Episode 11 – “Corrupt Weaponizing of Intelligence Collection”

***After the On Watch transcript please watch the extremely relevant MSNBC interview with former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Dr. Evelyn Farkas regarding the Obama administrations surveillance of the Trump transition team. Dr. Farkas revelations provides further support of Mr. Farrell’s disclosure’s.

Transcript: I’m Chris Farrell . . . and this is “On Watch

If you’re paying attention to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence – and you should be – you’re seeing a titanic struggle for the future of the United States play out.

I am not exaggerating.

I know a great deal about intelligence collection, retention and dissemination.  I have personally conducted intelligence missions involving electronic surveillance, concealed monitoring and physical surveillance – and I am well-versed in the authority and reporting requirements to do all those things against both US persons and foreigners, in the United States and overseas.   As a commissioned officer and Special Agent of Army Counterintelligence, I commanded both of the two Army Intelligence detachments responsible for physical, technical and aerial surveillance supporting counterintelligence and human intelligence operations.  I understand, and have had access to Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) and the subset intelligence discipline of Communications Intelligence or COMINT.

If the misuse and abuse of national intelligence collection systems and procedures, for partisan political purposes by the Obama Administration cannot just slide on by.  Hillary Clinton’s national security crimes included running the most highly classified material the U.S. possesses across her outlaw server without legal consequence.   If Communications Intelligence is used as a partisan political weapon without people going to jail, we will have crossed the point of no return for institutional corruption in our government, our intelligence services and law enforcement.
It might not seem that way, but believe me, it is exactly that way.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes has confirmed in writing, and to the press, that the Obama Administration conducted the following activities against President-Elect Trump and his team between November 2016 and January 2017 . . .

  • On numerous occasions, the Intelligence Community “incidentally” collected information about U.S. citizens involved in the Trump transition.
  • Details about U.S. persons associated with the incoming Trump administration — details with little or no apparent foreign intelligence value—were widely disseminated throughout the government, and apparently leaked to Obama administration allies in the media.  Those leaks are felonies.
  • Names of Trump transition team members were “unmasked” – their identities revealed and circulated – again, more felonies.
  • None of this surveillance was related to Russia or any investigation of Russian activities or of the Trump team.

This is illegal domestic political espionage on a scale never before imagined.  It is, however, totally consistent with the Obama Administration’s weaponizing of the IRS, as well as other unlawful manipulations of government programs to fund the operations of political allies and non-governmental organizations with tax-payer money – just think about the group ACORN.

In a classic effort to deflect the publics’ attention, Rep. Adam Schiff, has tried to controversialize and sensationalize the actions of Committee Chairman Nunes.   Schiff scrupulously avoids discussing the felonies – the actual crimes we all know have been committed – and instead, attempts to smear the committee chairman for briefing the commander-in-chief.

Political ideologues of The Left have criminally betrayed their oaths and violated national security to attack President Trump and his staff.

Here are the questions that MUST be answered:

  • Who was aware of what was going on?
  • Why was it not disclosed to Congress?
  • Who requested and authorized the unmasking?
  • Who directed the intelligence community to focus on Trump associates?

I’m Chris Farrell –  On watch.

***

Also see:

Some Quick Thoughts on WikiLeaks’s Release of CIA Hacking Documents

National Review, by Fred Fleitz, March 7, 2017:

President Trump Blasts European Security: ‘Take a Look at What’s Happening in Germany, Take a Look at What’s Happening in France’

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Breitbart, by Oliver JJ Lane, Feb. 24, 2017:

Speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland Friday morning President Donald Trump took a swipe at the security situation in Europe, which has seen a number of bloody terror attacks in recent years.

Vowing that he would not allow the same attacks to take place in the United States, and that his administration would “keep radical Islamic terrorists the hell out of our country”, President Trump at first made light of press coverage he’d received over his comments on Sweden earlier in the week.

Referring to the Swedes who spoke out against the widespread perception that the migrant crisis has been well handled by their nation, among them Sweden Democrats leader Jimmie Åkesson, President Trump said that his comments were quickly vindicated by civil unrest and criminality in Sweden itself. He said:

“By the way, take a look at what’s happening in Europe. I took a lot of heat on Sweden, and then a day later, I said ‘has anyone reported what’s going on?’.

“And it turned out that not so many of them did. Take a look… I love Sweden, great country, great people. They understand, the people over there understand I’m right”.

Turning to other European nations struggling with the impacts of the migrant crisis and the Islamist terrorists it has enabled to gain access to Europe, President Trump also namechecked Germany and France. Germany saw an unprecedented two years of Islamist terror to the end of December 2016, when a Berlin Christmas market was ram-raided by a terrorist driving a stolen truck. 12 were killed.

Speaking of Nice, France — also attacked by an Islamist driving a truck at high speeds to mow down pedestrians — and of the French capital, the American president relayed an anecdote of a friend who once regularly visited Paris for pleasure. With the deteriorating security situation in the city, President Trump said his friend no longer visited at all.

The remarks come just days after the latest Paris tourism figures show visitors fell 1.5 million in 2016, which cost the French economy some €1.3 billion.

Looking at these problems in Sweden, Germany, France, and elsewhere, the President promised he wouldn’t allow the same fate to befall the United States. He said:

“Take a look at what is happening to our world, folks. We have to be smart, we can’t let it happen to us. Let me state this as clearly as I can, we are going to keep radical Islamic terrorists the hell out of our country.

“We will not be deterred from this course, and in a matter of days, we will be taking brand new action to protect our people and keep America safe. I will never, ever apologise for protecting the safety and security of the American people”.

Watch: The President Trump CPAC 2017 Speech in Full