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.

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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.

Also see:

Gorka: Left Cares About Alinsky Tactics and Political ‘Triangulation’ More Than Safety of Americans

Scott Olson/Getty Images

Scott Olson/Getty Images

Breitbart, by John Hayward, February 13, 2017:

Deputy Assistant to the President Dr. Sebastian Gorka, formerly National Security editor for Breitbart News, addressed the controversy over National Security Adviser Mike Flynn’s pre-inauguration phone calls to Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak on Monday’s Breitbart News Daily.

“I can’t comment on what was said, or what wasn’t said, on those telephone calls even though the good general himself says that he can’t remember all the details,” Gorka said. “All I can tell you is my personal experience. I spent several months working very closely with General Flynn and the transition team, in his National Security Council transition team. He’s a man you would trust with your life. He’s a great patriot, man of honor, worn the cloth of the Republic.

“The bottom line is, he shook things up in the DIA, and there are a lot of people who want to take revenge on him. Names I’m not going to list across the airwaves right now, but people who do a little bit of research can work out. The Establishment doesn’t like General Flynn, and for me, that’s a good thing,” he told SiriusXM host Alex Marlow.

Marlow proposed that Flynn was but the latest target of the Left’s “pick a target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it” strategy, as defined by Saul Alinsky in Rules for Radicals.

“You’re absolutely correct,” Gorka said. “Whether it’s Steve Bannon, whether it’s Stephen Miller, whether it was Monica Crowley, or whether it’s General Flynn now. Important point for the listeners, and this is what has to be grasped: it’s never about the issues. It’s not about Russia, it’s not about the safety of Americans, it’s not about preventing attacks like Paris or Nice happening in America. It’s the triangulation. We have to isolate and take down the individuals, separate them from their community, pillory them, and then just make their position untenable. It’s classic Alinsky, and I’m sorry, they’re just picking on the wrong guy, because this guy is as hard as nails.”

[CJR: I feel very bad about Monica Crowley. She deserves her reputation back. Read this – Rising to Monica Crowley’s defense ]

Turning to President Donald Trump’s meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Gorka said “the message that has to be taken home by everybody – our allies, our partners, and our competitors and our potential enemies – is that our relationship with Japan is back on track.

“Do you remember the ‘Asia pivot’ that wasn’t a pivot, that ended in China intimidating all her neighbors, building fake atolls with military installations on top of them? That age is over. Whether it’s sending a message to put Iran on notice, or whether it’s rekindling one of our closest ties in the region with Japan, this is a new age for America in foreign policy.”

Gorka said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s upcoming visit to the White House would cover the “obvious issues,” such as “what can we do, as the outside potential interlocutor, to bring stability, to bring some kind of lasting peace to the region?”

“As part of that, it’s going to have to be a discussion of settlements, what is the status of settlements,” he said. “On top of that, one of the things that we are very keen on is to represent an understanding to the world that Israel isn’t alone. It’s not the threat to Israel from local terrorists. It’s the same thing as Orlando, as the attacks in New York, in Boston. There is this, what I like to call the global jihadi movement, and Israel is as much on the frontline – if not more – than any other country. So we want to bring that international recognition that Israel isn’t just our strongest partner in the region, it’s also really on the frontline of the war against the global jihadists.”

Gorka said the White House was not so much “shifting policy” with its latest statements on Israeli settlements, but offering a “nuanced explication of what our policy is.”

“I’m not part of that team, but I’ve spoken to the people that are working that issue, and it’s a fine line,” he said. “What we have suggested is that when it comes to the settlements, you can build on what you’ve already got. So if you’ve got a building, and you want to go up another story, it’s fine. But going to new territories is not going to help anybody. So we’d like to see a little bit of a snapshot in time. Let’s not have any more territory taken as part of the settlements, so that we can get down to some serious negotiations right now.

“That’s a nuanced policy statement from the team, but I think it bears recognition as acting in good faith, so we can bring the partners to the table.”

Another imminent presidential meeting will involve Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, described by Marlow as “pretty much the anti-Trump” for being “a young man who is very photogenic,” raised in an atmosphere of deep left-wing politics for his entire life.

Gorka thought the two leaders might find common ground by acknowledging “there are issues that have to be dealt with in every country,” including “the tension with regard to the terrorist threat internally.”

“We may be from different political communities, but the bottom line, it’s our northerly neighbor. They share a lot of the same issues that we share, especially when it comes to national security,” he observed. “President Trump is the master of the deal, and he can negotiate with people who even have different political opinions. So let’s see what the day brings, but I think it will be a substantive meeting for both parties.”

Gorka said President Trump will soon decide how to proceed on his immigration executive order, after the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a judicial restraining order against it. He praised the analysis Breitbart News has offered on the decision.

“Let’s not talk about the fact that the Ninth Circuit Court has been reversed 82 times. That’s their batting average. What Breitbart has very, very rightly revealed is that of the seven nations on the list that came from the Obama administration, 72 nationals of those nations have been convicted of jihadi terrorist activity in America since September the 11th,” he said.

“This narrative, this politicized narrative that it’s Islamophobic, and it has nothing to do with terrorism, and nobody from those countries has ever committed terrorist acts in America is so totally and utterly fallacious that we need to reset the standard of the discussion. It’s about national security. Seventy-two people – think about that. That’s more than five times the number of hijackers that did September the 11th. So we are going to maintain our commitment to that executive order and those seven countries being on a temporary halt.”

Same interview:

Gorka: Radical Islam Has Grown ‘Much, Much Stronger’ Since 9/11

On Monday’s Breitbart News Daily, SiriusXM host Alex Marlow asked for Deputy Assistant to the President Dr. Sebastian Gorka’s assessment of radical Islam and its position in the world today, compared to its influence on the morning of September 11, 2001. “Is radical Islam stronger now as a movement, or has it been weakened since 9/11?” he asked.

“Superb question,” Gorka replied. “And the answer is unequivocally, without a doubt, much much stronger.”

“Just think about one metric. Let’s look at ISIS. ISIS, the Islamic State, has achieved that which no other jihadi group has been able to do in 90 years since the dissolution of the Caliphate by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in 1924. He fired the caliph, he dissolved the Caliphate, when he created the secular republic of Turkey. For 90 years, the bad guys – al-Qaeda included – have tried to re-establish a theocratic Caliphate. ISIS didn’t talk about it. They did it,” he noted.

“They did it in 2014 from the pulpit of the Grand Mosque in Mosul,” he continued. “According to our own counterterrorism center – this is open source – ISIS has 18 operational affiliates around the world. Compare that to just three years ago, when they had seven. They are getting stronger.”

“This is why it’s very important to understand, we’re not at war with Islam, but there is a war inside Islam, for which version is going to win. And right now, it’s the wrong version,” he warned. “It’s the seventh-century atavistic bloodcurdling version that is represented by the Islamic State. The version that is portrayed by Jordan, by Egypt, by the Emiratis, that needs our support because we cannot see the Islamic State expand any more. That is why the president used the phrase, ‘We are going to eradicate the Islamic State.’”

Gorka said there were two important conclusions to draw from the foreign policy speech President Trump gave in Youngstown, Ohio, during the campaign, principles that continue to shape his policy outlook since the election.

“Number one, it’s very clear, he’s given the generals 30 days to come up with a war plan to defeat the Islamic State, as the epitome of the threat right now – destroy it in theater with our allies, with our partners,” he said. “But that’s the smaller part. We’re the most powerful nation the world has ever seen. We can do that relatively easily.”

“Long-term victory, if you read General Flynn’s book, you’ll see this explicitly laid out,” he continued, referring to The Field of Fight: How We Can Win the Global War Against Radical Islam and Its Allies by retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who is now national security adviser to President Trump’s. “Long-term victory comes when people don’t want to become jihadis anymore.”

He said this would require a longer and more difficult second-stage strategy to “delegitimize the narrative of jihad.”

“Just as Ronald Reagan undermined the narrative of the communists, we have to help our allies, the Sunnis of the region, make the totalitarian ideology of the jihadists look hollow and crumble in upon itself,” Gorka urged. “The larger part of our task is to have a very, very full-throated counter-propaganda campaign, which means the Islam of our allies against the Islam of groups like the Islamic State.”

Dr. Sebastian Gorka is the author of the best-selling book Defeating Jihad: The Winnable War and was national security editor for Breitbart News before joining the Trump administration.

UN Ambassador Invokes Reagan While Failing to Protect Israel with Veto

Members of the United Nations Security council vote Dec. 23, 2016, in favor of condemning Israel for West Bank and east Jerusalem settlements. (Manuel Elias/The United Nations via AP)

Members of the United Nations Security council vote Dec. 23, 2016, in favor of condemning Israel for West Bank and east Jerusalem settlements. (Manuel Elias/The United Nations via AP)

PJ Media, by Bridget Johnson, December 23, 2016:

WASHINGTON — The United States turned its back on Israel during a United Nations Security Council vote on settlements in what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called a “shameful” vote.

“The Obama administration not only failed to protect Israel against the UN’s obsession with Israel, it collaborated with the UN behind Israel’s back,” the statement continued.

The vote on the resolution drafted by Egypt, which demands Israel “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the ‘occupied’ Palestinian territory, including east Jerusalem,” was 14 in favor and the U.S. abstention.

Netanyahu immediately began taking countermeasures, canceling foreign aid to Senegal as well as nixing a planned visit to the Security Council member. He also recalled Israeli ambassadors from Senegal and New Zealand for consultations.

During the Friday meeting, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power quoted President Reagan from 1982 saying settlements were “in no way necessary for the security of Israel”; she added that “a routine vote for the U.S. to allow the passage of a resolution with the elements in this one” would be consistent with “familiar, well-articulated components of U.S. policy.”

“It is because this resolution reflects the facts on the ground – and is consistent with U.S. policy across Republican and Democratic administration throughout the history of the State of Israel – that the United States did not veto it,” Power said, even though the administration used its veto power in 2011 to kill a similarly worded resolution.

“The United States has consistently said we would block any resolution that we thought would undermine Israel’s security or seek to impose a resolution to the conflict,” she said. “We would not have let this resolution pass had it not also addressed counterproductive actions by the Palestinians such as terrorism and incitement to violence, which we’ve repeatedly condemned and repeatedly raised with the Palestinian leadership, and which, of course, must be stopped.”

Power added that despite refusing to veto the resolution “Obama and this administration have shown an unprecedented commitment to Israel’s security because that is what we believe in.”

Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes told reporters on a conference call today that the administration decided to take the course it did because “one of our grave concerns is that the continued pace of settlement activity, which has accelerated in recent years.”

“We therefore thought that we could not in good conscience veto a resolution that expressed concerns about the very trends that are eroding the foundation for a two-state solution,” Rhodes said. “…For us, the question here has always been about what is the best way to pursue the security that the Israeli people deserve.  And we cannot simply have a two-state solution be a slogan while the trend lines on the ground are such that a two-state solution is becoming less and less viable.”

“…But, in fact, I’d take umbrage at language that suggests that this was our preferred course of action and that we initiated it.  The fact of the matter is, we’d been warning — President Obama and Secretary Kerry publicly and privately for years — that the trend line of settlement construction and settlement activity was just increasing Israel’s international isolation.”

The administration’s action drew scorn from the soon-to-be highest-ranking Democrat in Congress. “Extremely frustrating, disappointing & confounding that the Administration has failed to veto the UN resolution,” tweeted Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).

Schumer was on the phone as recently as this morning trying to persuade the White House to use America’s veto power.

“Since the days of ‘Zionism is racism,’ the UN has long shown its anti-Israel bias, and the U.S. government — both Democrats and Republicans — have admirably kept the UN out when it comes to negotiations. That tradition should continue,” Schumer said before the vote. “…An abstention is not good enough.”

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), who has been at odds with the administration on Iran and Cuba policy, said he was “disappointed but not surprised that the administration chose to go along with this maneuver, walking away from longstanding principles and practices that advance the goal of peace and stability.”

“The United States must use its influence and posture at the United Nations to promote our values and support our allies,” Menendez said. “It has long been a bipartisan sensible policy of the United States to support direct bilateral negotiations between the parties to find an agreement. We have long stood beside Israel in the face of these kind of politicized resolutions whose only goal is to undermine confidence in a negotiated peace process.”

House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) noted that “Israel can’t get a fair shake at the UN, and that is why Israel has relied on the United States to protect it from the anti-Israel tendencies of some UN Security Council members.”

“This abstention represents a clear departure from convention, and I consider this a break in the Obama administration’s word that they would veto biased or one-sided anti-Israel resolutions,” Engel said.

Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations said this morning that the Jewish State knew the resolution condemning settlement construction was coming because the Palestinians “want to take advantage of the transition period” in the United States.

“Instead of negotiating with us, it’s easier for them to come to New York, to come to the Security Council,” Ambassador Danny Danon told MSNBC a day after an expected vote on the resolution was tabled.

Secretary of State John Kerry issued a statement calling himself “a lifelong friend of Israel” and said the U.S. “acted with one primary objective in mind: to preserve the possibility of the two state solution, which every U.S. administration for decades has agreed is the only way to achieve a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.”

“That future is now in jeopardy, with terrorism, violence and incitement continuing and unprecedented steps to expand settlements being advanced by avowed opponents of the two state solution,” Kerry said. “That is why we cannot in good conscience stand in the way of a resolution at the United Nations that makes clear that both sides must act now to preserve the possibility of peace.”

StandWithUs CEO Roz Rothstein said that “while both sides in this conflict are subject to criticism, placing most of the blame on Israel while shielding Palestinian leaders from accountability is not a path to peace or justice for either side.”

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee called it “particularly regrettable, in his last month in office, that the president has taken an action at odds with the bipartisan consensus in Congress and America’s long history of standing with Israel at the United Nations.”

“Unfortunately, the UNSC today irresponsibly adopted a ruinous resolution that can only make the goal of peace even more elusive,” the AIPAC statement added.

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Also see:

Netanyahu: The U.N. Is a Global ‘Moral Farce’

netanyahu-unWashington Free Beacon, by Jack Heretic, Sept.22, 2016:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu castigated the United Nations on Thursday in a speech to the U.N. General Assembly, calling the organization a “moral farce.”

After stating that he believes Israel has a bright future with the U.N., Netanyahu gave a scathing indictment of the international institution for having a bias against the Jewish state.

“Year after year, I’ve stood at this very podium and slammed the U.N. for its obsessive bias against Israel and the U.N. deserved every scathing word,” Netanyahu said. “For the disgrace of the General Assembly, that last year passed 20 resolutions against the democratic state of Israel and a grand total of three resolutions against all the other countries on the planet. Israel: 20, rest of the world: three.”

Netanyahu then lambasted two other U.N. entities, the Human Rights Council and the Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

“And what about the joke called the U.N. Human Rights Council, which each year condemns Israel more than all the other countries of the world combined. As women are being systematically raped, murdered, sold into slavery across the world, which is the only country that the U.N.’s Commission on Women chose to condemn this year? Yep, you guessed it, Israel,” Netanyahu said. “Israel, where women fly fighter jets, lead major corporations, head universities, preside, twice, over the Supreme Court, and have served as speaker of the Knesset and prime minister.”

“And this circus continues at UNESCO. UNESCO, the U.N. body charged with preserving world heritage,” he continued. “Now, this is hard to believe, but UNESCO just denied the 4,000-year connection between the Jewish people and its holiest site, the Temple Mount. That’s just as absurd as denying the connection between the Great Wall of China and China.”

Before addressing why he believes Israel has an optimistic future, citing in part the country’s robust technology sector and growing diplomatic ties around the world, Netanyahu delivered another scathing line against the international body.

“Ladies and gentlemen, the U.N., begun as a moral force, has become a moral farce.”

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READ: Full text of Netanyahu’s speech to UN General Assembly (jpost.com)

Did the White House Use the NSA to Spy on Congress about the Iran Deal?

1636300814Center for Security Policy, by Fred Fleitz, Dec. 30, 2015:

According to a bombshell Wall Street Journal article by Adam Entous and Danny Yadron, published online late Monday, the National Security Agency provided the White House with intercepted Israeli communications containing details of private discussions between Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. lawmakers and American Jewish groups on the Iran nuclear deal. If true, this could be the biggest scandal of the Obama presidency.

The Journal article explains that President Obama decided to stop NSA collection against certain foreign leaders after the backlash against Edward Snowden’s disclosure that the NSA had eavesdropped on German chancellor Angela Merkel’s cellphone and monitored communications of the heads of state of other close U.S. allies.

According to the Journal story, President Obama did not halt NSA spying against Netanyahu. This is not a surprise, given the president’s chilly relations with the Israeli leader and Israel’s aggressive spying against the United States. It’s also not a surprise that the Obama administration sought intelligence on Netanyahu’s efforts to undermine the nuclear deal. But it is stunning to learn that NSA sent the White House intelligence on private discussions with U.S. congressmen on a major policy dispute between the White House and Congress.

According to the Journal article, to avoid a paper trail that would show that they wanted the NSA to report on Netanyahu’s interactions with Congress, Obama officials decided to let the agency decide how much of this intelligence to provide and what to withhold. The article cited an unnamed U.S. official who explained, “We didn’t say, ‘Do it.’ We didn’t say, ‘Don’t do it.’”

This suggests major misconduct by the NSA and the White House of a sort not seen since Watergate. First, intercepts of congressmen’s communications regarding a dispute between Congress and the White House should have been destroyed and never left the NSA building. The Journal article said a 2011 NSA directive requires direct communications between foreign intelligence targets and members of Congress to be destroyed, but gives the NSA director the authority to waive this requirement if he determines the communications contain “significant foreign intelligence.”

Netanyahu’s discussions with members of Congress on a policy dispute between Congress and the president do not qualify as foreign intelligence. Destroying this kind of information should not have been a close call for NSA. Congress should immediately ask NSA director Michael Rogers and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper to verify the Journal story and explain why intercepts of private discussions of members of Congress were provided to the White House. If this did happen, both officials should resign.

Second, the White House bears significant responsibility for this scandal. By encouraging and accepting this intelligence, the White House used the NSA as an illegitimate means to undermine its legislative opponents. This represented a major abuse of presidential power, since it employed the enormous capabilities of an American intelligence service against the U.S. Congress. It also probably violates the U.S. Constitution’s separation-of-powers principles and the Fourth Amendment, since surveillance may have been conducted against U.S. citizens without a warrant.

The claim that Obama officials did not directly instruct the NSA to collect this information but simply accepted what the NSA sent them is preposterous. If the Journal article is accurate, Obama officials knew they were receiving intelligence on the private conversations of U.S. congressmen on a major policy dispute. These officials knew they were not supposed to have this intelligence but did not cut it off, because they wanted to use it to defeat efforts by Netanyahu and Congress to derail the Iran nuclear deal. This story is another indication of how desperate the Obama administration was to get a nuclear deal with Iran.

It is truly bizarre that Obama officials would be parties to such a gross misuse of U.S. intelligence after the controversy caused by NSA collection of phone records under the metadata program and so-called warrantless wiretaps by the Bush administration. These initiatives might have pushed the envelope of the law and intelligence charters, but they were carried out to defend the nation against terrorism and targeted terrorist suspects. By contrast, the Journal article discusses domestic intelligence activities that clearly are prohibited: targeting U.S. citizens over a policy dispute, and targeting the legislative branch of government.

Congress should be outraged over this story, especially in light of how narrow the votes were in September to disapprove the Iran deal. The Obama administration won these votes because it did a better job than the congressmen and American Jewish groups who opposed the Iran deal of persuading Democratic members to support it. The Journal story suggests that NSA collection against American opponents of the deal may have helped the Obama administration win this battle for Democratic support.

Congressional anger over the Journal story might force intelligence officials to resign. However, I believe there is no chance anyone in the Obama White House will be held accountable, since the Obama Justice Department will refuse to investigate and Obama officials probably will feign ignorance. Still, I hope the congressional intelligence committees will conduct full investigations.

The story will damage relations between the Obama White House and Congress, but since these relations are already so poor, it is hard to see how much farther they can sink. The Journal story could inflict serious damage on the reputation of the U.S. intelligence community, which has been struggling to defend itself against unfair and misleading attacks by privacy advocates, liberals, and libertarians, sparked by the Snowden leaks.

I am one of many conservatives who have fought over the last few years to defend U.S. intelligence agencies against these attacks, which have weakened U.S. intelligence programs and undermined the morale of intelligence personnel. But the Journal article describes a bona fide abuse of intelligence for which I can offer no defense.

If it is true that the NSA provided intercepts of the private discussions of congressmen with Netanyahu on the Iran deal, this will be a huge gift to the U.S. intelligence community’s critics, who will say this story confirms their claims about how American intelligence agencies routinely violate the law and the privacy rights of Americans. It also could cause the U.S. intelligence community to lose congressional support, and Congress to pass more legislation restricting important counterterrorist intelligence programs.

National-security-minded Americans should call on Congress to fully investigate this matter and hold the Obama administration and intelligence officials accountable to the greatest extent possible. But the best response to this outrage will be to make it a top issue in the 2016 presidential campaign. This fiasco represents a serious lack of leadership and ethics by the Obama administration that will never be fixed by the ethically challenged Hillary Clinton. It may be the best reason yet why we need a new president who will implement comprehensive government reform and hold himself and his administration to a much higher ethical standard.

Netanyahu’s Mufti Firestorm