U.S. Confirms Authenticity of Secret Iran Nuclear Docs, Officials See Game Over for Deal

Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a speech on Iran’s nuclear program / Getty Images

Trump administration officials praise Netanyahu’s ‘powerful presentation’

Washington Free Beacon, by Adam Kredo, April 30, 2018:

U.S. officials and congressional insiders view the disclosure Monday by Israel of Iran’s ongoing efforts to develop a nuclear weapon as game over for the landmark nuclear deal, telling the Washington Free Beacon that new evidence of Iran’s top secret nuclear workings makes it virtually impossible for President Donald Trump to remain in the agreement.

Senior Trump administration officials confirmed the findings as authentic and praised Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s for disclosing thousands of secret documents proving Iran lied about its past work on a nuclear warhead, telling the Free Beacon the revelation was a “powerful presentation” by Israel outlining why the Iran deal must be fixed or killed.

U.S. officials who reviewed the secret documents confirmed their authenticity and said that Israel has shared the information fully with the United States, most likely to help build the case for Trump to abandon the nuclear deal, rather than try to fix what the White House views as a series of insurmountable flaws.

Multiple sources who spoke to the Free Beacon say that Monday’s presentation by Netanyahu resulted from a recent conversation between the prime minister and Trump, who has expressed his opposition to remaining in the deal.

During his presentation, Netanyahu disclosed that Israel had obtained some 100,000 secret documents that provide “conclusive proof” Iran lied to the world about its past nuclear work. The Israeli leader further presented information from these documents purporting to show that Iran continues to build on its nuclear know-how in pursuit of a fully functioning weapon.

While Trump has not made a final decision on whether to scrap the deal, sources close to the president say he is increasingly wary of the deal itself, as well as proposed fixes to the deal currently being discussed by the Europeans.

One senior administration official, speaking only on background, confirmed to the Free Beacon that the United States assessed the secret documents obtained by Israel to be fully authentic.

“All the materials we have reviewed are in our assessment authentic,” the official said, praising Netanyahu for presenting the evidence to the world.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu gave a powerful presentation today of compelling new evidence documenting Iran’s determined pursuit of a nuclear weapon,” the senior official said. “It certainly would have been helpful to have this information when the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] was negotiated but the Iranians decided to lock it away in a secret vault for future reference.”

The cache of documents showing that Iran has retained the infrastructure and know-how to produce a nuclear weapon has cast further doubts on U.S. efforts to broker a series of fixes to the landmark agreement.

“Only the regime knows what else they’re hiding, but the revelations today don’t give us much confidence in their protestations that they have never had interest in militarizing their nuclear program,” the official said. “They’re showing us in Syria how they plan to deploy their existing arsenal—we would be foolish to think that behavior is going to change because of a deal that was implemented two years ago that was based on a lie.”

Following Netanyahu’s remarks, Trump emphasized his opposition to the deal.

Those familiar with the president’s thinking said that he has soured on efforts to fix the deal and would prefer to see a wholly new agreement, a demand Iran has rejected in recent days.

Trump “made a clear signal today that he’s not confident in the JCPOA,” said the senior administration official. “The decision is with him and I don’t think he’s made it, but he seemed to indicate he’s more open to a new deal then to try to fix something this broken.”

A senior congressional official who has worked closely with the White House on the Iran issue told the Free Beacon the news has sent shockwaves through Capitol Hill.

“Everything the Obama administration told us about the Iranian nuclear program was a lie,” said the source, who was not authorized to speak on record. “They assured us that we knew everything about Iran’s nuclear weapons program, that it was put on ice, and that the intelligence community had full insight into what was going on.”

“Now we find out the Iranians have warehouses of nuclear weapons designs. People are in shock,” the source said. “Forget the policy implications, which get to the heart of the deal, this shows how the whole sale was built on a lie. Expect to see momentum build in Congress for just scrapping the whole thing.”

The White House National Security Council and the State Department have yet to comment formally on Netanyahu’s disclosures. The Free Beacon will update this report as more information becomes available.

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Netanyahu to announce ‘significant’ new info on Iran’s nuclear program

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, on April 29, 2018. (Amit Shabi/Pool/Flash90)

PM to speak live at 8 p.m.; TV reports say he will reveal intel, based on trove of documents obtained by Israel, that proves Tehran is not adhering to accord with world powers

Times of Israel, by Alexander Fulbright, April 30, 2018:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will announce a “significant development” regarding Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers in a live speech at 8 p.m. Monday, his office said.

Netanyahu will give the statement at the Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv.

According to Hadashot news and Channel 10 news, Netanyahu will reveal intelligence information, based on a large cache of documents recently obtained by Israel, which he believes proves Iran has duped the world regarding the state of its nuclear program.

Channel 10 reported that Netanyahu will speak in English, in order for the announcement to reach a worldwide audience.

Ahead of his remarks, Netanyahu cancelled a speech he was to make at the Knesset and his Likud party called off its weekly faction meeting due to the security tensions. The opposition Zionist Union and Yesh Atid parties withdrew their proposed no-confidence vote in the government. Given the “sensitive” security situation, it was appropriate to “show a unified front,” said Zionist Union MK Yoel Hasson.

Earlier Monday, Netanyahu convened an unscheduled meeting of Israel’s decision-making security cabinet at the Defense Ministry HQ.

Netanyahu’s announcement will come a day after he met with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who said US President Donald Trump will withdraw from the nuclear accord on May 12 barring significant changes.

Both Trump and Netanyahu have harshly criticized the 2015 nuclear deal, taking aim at its “sunset” clauses and saying it does not address Iran’s ballistic missile program or involvement in numerous regional conflicts.

The premier also spoke with Trump by phone Sunday, with the White House saying the two discussed Iran’s “destabilizing activities” in the region.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L) is seen with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ahead of a press conference at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv on April 29, 2018. (AFP Photo/Thomas Coex)

The imminent Netanyahu announcement also comes after an airstrike in Syria early Monday, attributed by some to Israel. The strike destroyed some 200 surface-to-surface missiles and killed 16 people, including 11 Iranians, according to a New York Times report.

Iran denied that any of its soldiers were killed or that its bases had been targeted in the raids, although Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei later warned the Islamic Republic’s foes they will be “hit multiple times” if they attack Iran.

That attack came after an earlier airstrike this month on an Iranian military facility in Syria that was blamed on Israel, in which Iran acknowledged seven of its soldiers were killed and vowed to respond to the attack.

Screen capture from video purporting to show a missile strike in Syria, April 29, 2018. (Twitter)

In the wake of Iran’s warning, Israeli officials have informed the United States and Russia that Israel will respond to any attack from Syria by Iran or its proxies, the Haaretz daily reported Monday.

According to the officials quoted by the newspaper, Israel could launch a widespread attack on Iranian sites in Syria if attacked, with the main targets being bases established by Tehran for weapons transfer and storage.

The report said the extent of a response by Israel to any attack on its territory by Iran or its proxies has been debated recently in Israeli political and security circles, with political elements favoring attacking targets in Iran itself, while the security establishment opposes expanding the battlefield against the Islamic Republic.

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NSC Purge: McMaster ‘Deeply Hostile to Israel and to Trump

Andrew Harnik / Associated Press

Breitbart, Aug. 3, 2017:

Jerusalem Post columnist Caroline Glick wrote Wednesday evening that National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster is purging pro-Israel staff from the National Security Council (NSC), turning the administration against President Donald Trump’s policies.

In a Facebook post, Glick noted that “all of these people” whom McMaster has fired this week — Rich Higgins, Derek Harvey, and Ezra Cohen-Watnick — “are pro-Israel and oppose the Iran nuclear deal, positions that Trump holds.”

She noted that the firings were the latest evidence that NSA McMaster is “deeply hostile to Israel and to Trump”:

According to senior officials aware of his behavior, he constantly refers to Israel as the occupying power and insists falsely and constantly that a country named Palestine existed where Israel is located until 1948 when it was destroyed by the Jews.

Many of you will remember that a few days before Trump’s visit to Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – בנימין נתניהו and his advisers were blindsided when the Americans suddenly told them that no Israeli official was allowed to accompany Trump to the Western Wall.

What hasn’t been reported is that it was McMaster who pressured Trump to agree not to let Netanyahu accompany him to the Western Wall. At the time, I and other reporters were led to believe that this was the decision of rogue anti-Israel officers at the US consulate in Jerusalem. But it wasn’t. It was McMaster.

And even that, it works out wasn’t sufficient for McMaster. He pressured Trump to cancel his visit to the Wall and only visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial — ala the Islamists who insist that the only reason Israel exists is European guilt over the Holocaust.

Glick noted that the three latest firings were not McMaster’s first attack on pro-Israel officials, or those critical of radical Islam. Two others had already been assigned to other jobs outside the National Security Council, she said.

Meanwhile, she noted, McMaster has replaced pro-Israel officials with anti-Israel, anti-Trump officials, and he allowed anti-Israel Obama holdovers to continue in their jobs:

[McMaster] fires all of Trump’s loyalists and replaces them with Trump’s opponents, like Kris Bauman, an Israel hater and Hamas supporter who McMaster hired to work on the Israel-Palestinian desk. He allows anti-Israel, pro-Muslim Brotherhood, pro-Iran Obama people like Robert Malley to walk around the NSC and tell people what to do and think. He has left Ben (reporters know nothing about foreign policy and I lied to sell them the Iran deal) Rhodes’ and Valerie Jarrett’s people in place.

(Malley was notoriously fired by Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign for meeting with the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas and advocating negotiations with them. He was later brought into President Obama’s administration to negotiate with Iran, and advised Obama — evidently poorly — on how to fight the Islamic State.)

Glick noted that “McMaster disagrees and actively undermines Trump’s agenda on just about every salient issue on his agenda,” including the Iran deal: “As for Iran, well, suffice it to say that McMaster supports the deal and refuses to publish the side deals Obama signed with the Iranians and then hid from the public.”

She also noted the irony that Trump had only hired McMaster, under pressure, because he was recommended by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ):

Finally, there is the issue of how McMaster got there in the first place. Trump interviewed McMaster at Mara Lago for a half an hour. He was under terrible pressure after firing Flynn to find someone.

And who recommended McMaster? You won’t believe this.

Senator John McCain. That’s right. The NSA got his job on the basis of a recommendation from the man who just saved Obamacare.

Glick expressed disbelief that Trump could fire former General Michael Flynn as NSA “essentially for nothing,” while allowing McMaster to attack Israel, and undermining the rest of the Trump administration’s foreign policy, with impunity.

She suggested that Trump replace McMaster — or else Israel might begin to reconsider its embrace of Trump:

If McMaster isn’t fired after all that he has done and all that he will do, we’re all going to have to reconsider Trump’s foreign policy. Because if after everything he has done, and everything that he will certainly do to undermine Trump’s stated foreign policy agenda, it will no longer be possible to believe that exiting the nuclear deal or supporting the US alliance with Israel and standing with US allies against US foes — not to mention draining Washington’s cesspool – are Trump’s policies. How can they be when Trump stands with a man who opposes all of them and proves his opposition by among other things, firing Trump’s advisers who share Trump’s agenda?

She said that Trump should not fear criticism for firing another adviser:

One source claims that Trump’s political advisers are afraid of how it will look if he fires another national security adviser. But that makes no sense. Trump is being attacked for everything and nothing. Who cares if he gets attacked for doing something that will actually help him to succeed in office? Why should fear of media criticism play a role here or anywhere for this president and this administration?

Glick added, wryly: “Obviously, at this point, Trump has nothing to lose by angering McCain. I mean what will he do? Vote for Obamacare?”

Read Glick’s full post here.

Iran’s Lebanese Missile Factories in “New and Very Dangerous Phase”

by Yaakov Lappin
Special to IPT News
July 18, 2017

Recently-built Iranian missile factories in Lebanon can produce powerful weapons for Hizballah and are part of a wider trend that could set the region on fire, a senior former Israeli defense source has told the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT).

“There is no doubt that this is a new and very dangerous stage,” the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said about the fact that Iran has for the first time placed military production industries directly in Hizballah’s possession.

“It points to the fact that Lebanon is not a state, but a branch of Iran that is controlled by Hizballah, and that Iran, after the nuclear agreement, feels that it can do everything because no one dares harm it,” he added.

Tehran’s alliance with Moscow gives the Islamic Republic “extraordinary power, and hence, Iran allows itself to do what it has not dared do without the alliance with Russia,” the source said.

Russia depends on Iran to safeguard the Assad regime in Syria, the source noted. Iran is testing Israeli red lines by arming the radical Shi’ite Iranian proxy, Hizballah, with potentially dire consequences.

“When Israel is forced to act after Iran and Hizballah cross all of the red lines, Lebanon will be destroyed, because Iran and Hizballah have turned it into one big weapons storage facility, and the world is silent,” the source said.

“Anyone who dreams about Israel accepting, in a future arrangement [with the Palestinians], any kind of international force that will have any kind of role, should examine the utter uselessness of UNIFIL [the United Nations force stationed in southern Lebanon], which has yet to report on a single rocket or missile out of the 120,000 that exist in Lebanon. For Israel, UNIFIL is more of a nuisance than a benefit,” the source said.

Earlier this month, France’s Intelligence Online magazine reported that one factory was under construction in northern Lebanon, with the second being built on Lebanon’s southern coast.

The production center in northern Lebanon was designed to make Fateh 110 medium-range missiles, which puts most of Israel in range and carries a warhead of 500 kilograms, according to the report.

The IPT interviewed defense experts about the factories in March, and noted the sites represent a disturbing boost in the Shi’ite terrorist army’s ability to self-produce weapons.

Israeli officials have gone on record in recent weeks to confirm the factories’ existence, including Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Chief of Staff, Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eizenkot, and the chief of Israel’s Military Intelligence, Maj.-Gen. Herzl Halevi. Hizballah is “establishing a military industry in Lebanon with Iranian support,” Halevi said.

Eizenkot told the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee earlier this month that the Israeli military had placed the Iranian “precision project” – the drive to produce new guided projectiles, and to improve the accuracy of existing projectiles – at “the top of our priority list.”

The program is “mainly ongoing in factories in Iran and Syria, and they are trying to promote it in Lebanon,” Eizenkot said.

He also seemed to suggest there was a difference between the current threat posed by Iran’s guided missile program and the future potential threat, if left unchecked.

The IDF was not resting on its laurels in the face of Iran’s efforts to manufacture and spread these weapons, Eizenkot said. Currently, “these abilities are very limited, and therefore, we must remain proportionate and not be alarmed. The IDF is working in regards to the [Iranian precision] project all of the time, through a wide range of tools that are best not talked about. We are working with the intention of avoiding a deterioration [of the security situation].”

Emily Landau, head of the Arms Control and Regional Security Program at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, told the IPT that the factories “signal a new escalation in Iran’s weapons proliferation in the region.”

Not only do they serve Iran’s objective of continuously arming Hizballah, they are also designed to “overcome the vulnerability of transport vehicles transferring weapons from Iran via Syria, to Lebanon,” Landau said, in reference to international media reports about repeated Israeli strikes on Iranian-Hizballah weapons convoys in Syria.

Iran seems to hope that setting up missile factories in Lebanon would eliminate opportunities to attack future international weapons trafficking runs.

“All of these activities are in blatant violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701 [which called on making southern Lebanon a weapons free zone, with the exception of Lebanon’s official army],” Landau said. “The world seems to ignore this violation. The international community should be called out on turning a blind eye to what Iran is doing. This should not be Israel’s problem alone.”

The factories feed “into Iran’s very problematic regional profile,” Landau said, “which is connected to the nuclear deal as well, and should all be on the table in the Trump administration’s Iran policy review.”

For now, Israel appears to trying to deter Iran from starting up the factories, and has reportedly issued explicit warnings to Tehran to that effect.

Meanwhile, Israeli media reports say that Iran wants to create an airbase in neighboring Syria. Iran’s plans include the leasing of a ground military base for thousands of Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias and a naval base.

“These steps represent a move by Iran to establish a long-term presence in Syria and pose a threat to Israel,” Israel’s daily Yedioth Ahronoth reported.

On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a dramatic statement, rejecting the ceasefire in southern Syria brokered by the United States and Russia, saying it fails to suppress Iranian attempts to consolidate its military power in the war-torn country.

“Israel is aware of Iran’s expansionist goals in Syria, Netanyahu’s office said in a statement.

Yaakov Lappin is a military and strategic affairs correspondent. He also conducts research and analysis for defense think tanks, and is the Israel correspondent for IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly. His book, The Virtual Caliphate, explores the online jihadist presence.

Also see:

Why a Middle East peace deal is difficult

Middle East Peace Dove Illustration by Greg Groesch/The Washington Times

Washington Times , by Bridget Johnson, May 87 2017:

President Trump is intent on achieving the Middle East peace deal that President Obama sorely wanted as the linchpin of his legacy, and warmly welcomed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to the White House with praise for his new peace partner.

But the realities that have prevented an agreement include roadblocks that even the best boardroom negotiator won’t be able to deal-make away.

And though Mr. Trump said he’ll “do whatever is necessary to facilitate the agreement” and declared a such a pact “maybe not as difficult as people have thought,” Israel should not be pressured to take the plunge if the security risks remain as they are now.

Yes, those risks are many despite Mr. Abbas‘ smooth talk at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., where he proclaimed “a new opportunity, a new horizon.” He publicly heaped praise on Mr. Trump for his “leadership,” “determination,” “courageous stewardship,” “wisdom” and “great negotiating ability,” and the “Art of the Deal” negotiator gobbled up the adulation.

At a press conference alongside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last month, Mr. Trump declared “the Israelis are going to have to show some flexibility” and asked the prime minister to “hold back on settlements for a little bit,” while the Palestinians “have to get rid of some of that hate.” With Mr. Abbas, Mr. Trump said, “Hopefully, there won’t be such hatred for very long.”

Here’s how that hate manifests, and why it’s not so easy to sing kumbaya. Just before the Trump-Abbas sit-down, Hamas released an ostensibly softer version of their principles document with the same jihadi fine print stressing their duty to seize all of Israel. “Hamas rejects any alternative to the full and complete liberation of Palestine, from the river to the sea,” the terror group said before suggesting openness to an initial 1967 borders agreement to pique the gullible giddiness of those who crave an agreement at any cost.

Hamas leader Khaled Mashal then appealed to Mr. Trump to seize the “historic opportunity to pressure Israel,” telling CNN that the president has a “greater threshold for boldness” than his predecessors.

Hamas, of course, controls Gaza and is a terrorist organization with nefarious ties and a mission to destroy Israel, regardless of the new PR campaign. If a peace deal is forged with only Mr. Abbas‘ Fatah party, then you’ve only dealt with the West Bank and Hamas will not abide by the security agreements. If you manage to bring Hamas in on the deal, then you’ve automatically created a state that is a state sponsor of terrorism. As difficult as people have thought, and more.

Not that Mr. Abbas exactly has his hands clean in the terror market: Can a peace deal be forged with a government paying monthly stipends to the families of terrorists? Can a territory hospitable to Hezbollah, al Qaeda and ISIS ever be a partner in providing the kind of security needed to ensure the safety of Israelis and the Jewish state’s existence? No wonder Mr. Abbas did enough of a song-and-dance that Mr. Trump praised him as being a faithful fellow foe of ISIS.

Israel says recognition of the Jewish state is a must-have in any peace deal.

The Palestinians have made clear this is a no-go. If Israel gives in on this demand over its very definition, then the Palestinian jihad wins a battle that will reverberate through and give empowerment to the global terrorist community. Even a limited victory will further empower those who insist all of Israel is theirs for the taking.

Learn from Gaza: If you give jihadism an inch, be prepared for terrorists to take a mile. No matter what good will leads up to any future partition, the rockets can start flying the day after the pullout. And a truly workable deal needs to be backed up with international support: with the United Nations still unabashedly anti-Israel, who would enforce Palestinian violations of a peace pact?

It’s also foolish to believe that jihad doctrines, kids’ shows or school textbooks in the territories will stop calling for the destruction of what’s left of the Jewish state if the Palestinians win 1967 borders. Thus, the painful round of facepalms when Mr. Abbas assured Trump that Palestinians “are raising our youth on a culture of peace.”

The time is not now until the Palestinian Authority has leaders who want peace instead of what their textbooks preach, who combat violence instead of rewarding terrorists, who are willing to change the culture of never-ending jihad and refuse to welcome terror groups who vow “al-Aqsa, we are coming.”

Mr. Abbas, whose Fatah party lauded the killer who stabbed to death 13-year-old Israeli-American citizen Hallel-Yaffa Ariel last year as she slept and whose government cuts a monthly check to the killer’s family, is not that leader.

Hopefully the president sees through his sweet talk before Khaled Mashal gets the next White House invitation between Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Rodrigo Duterte.

• Bridget Johnson is a senior fellow with the Haym Salomon Center and D.C. bureau chief for PJ Media.

***

Watch: Netanyahu Tosses New Hamas Charter into Trash

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.

Trump Speech Offered America Cathartic Moment of Mourning

Mandel Ngam / AFP / Getty

Mandel Ngam / AFP / Getty

Breitbart, by Joel Pollack, March 1, 2017:

Amidst the overwhelmingly positive message of President Donald Trump’s first address to a joint special session of Congress on Tuesday night, there was a poignant, tearful moment as the president led the room in a sustained standing ovation for the widow of Navy SEAL William Ryan Owens.

Carryn Owens moved from tears to smiles and back again as she glanced heavenwards and whispered to her late husband, then took in the room and silently thanked the country for its applause.

It was a moment that Americans have long awaited — an opportunity to mourn the heroes of the long war against terror, who have rarely been honored publicly or properly, largely because that war has been so politicized for so long.

In 2011, after the Navy SEAL raid that killed Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, for example, President Barack Obama took some credit, but did not allow the public to celebrate. Crowds of students and young people who gathered outside the White House that night, waving American flags and cheering, showed the intense desire Americans shared to enjoy the victory, but there was never a moment where they joined their leaders in doing so.

The first opportunity came weeks later — ironically, during a speech by a foreign leader, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In a special joint session of Congress, Netanyahu told America:

Israel has no better friend than America, and America has no better friend than Israel. (Applause.) We stand together to defend democracy. We stand together to advance peace. We stand together to fight terrorism. Congratulations, America. Congratulations, Mr. President: You got bin Laden. Good riddance! (Cheers, applause.)

The transcript does not convey the tone of relief in that applause: finally, it was all right to cheer.

President Trump’s speech offered another long-awaited opportunity: the chance to celebrate those who have died in a cause largely unseen and unknown, and sometimes abandoned and even denigrated.

President Barack Obama was at his best when offering medals to those who displayed their heroism on the battlefield, but he sometimes faltered at paying his respects to those who had made the ultimate sacrifice. His legacy will be forever marred by his administration’s effort to blame the deaths of four Americans at Benghazi on a YouTube video, and to downplay their role in saving the diplomats there.

That moment on Tuesday night transcended politics. It was a moment of unity in grief, and grace. It was what America needed, to move forward.

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.

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