Mr. President, Declassify Documents on Russia Collusion Now

The Spectator, by R. Emmett Tyrrel, Jr. July 18, 2018:

Now that FBI agent Peter Strzok has appeared before the Congress and told us nothing that we did not know, it is time for President Donald Trump to act. Strzok looked like a cocky crook testifying to Congress about a failed con job. His appearance was utterly astounding. He actually smirked at the assembled elected officials of government. He smirked from morning until late in the afternoon when the Congress finally adjourned, though admittedly by late in the afternoon the wind was pretty much out of his sails, and his smiling face most assuredly ached. He looked deflated, and if he was eager for anything it was for the exit and the arms of his FBI paramour Lisa Page.

His demeanor was not that of a stalwart FBI agent appearing before the Congress of the United States to inform the citizenry, but like that of John Gotti or one of the other hoods whom a better generation of FBI agents than Strzok’s once put behind bars.

At some point in the near future a reflective Congress might — in a bipartisan moment — investigate how the FBI became a tool of elitist interests in our nation’s capital. Then too the Congress could offer suggestions as to what can be done to repair the damage. For federal law enforcement to become so flagrantly political is genuinely alarming.

I think President Trump has subtly brought the left and the right in this country together, at least on one point. The time has come for the citizenry to see all the documents held by the government in the so-called Russian collusion scandal. Was there collusion? Who was involved? The President has it in his power to declassify the documents. Use your faithful weapon, Mr. President, your trusty black felt pen. Sign the declassifying order now.
Pressure is building from both ends of the spectrum. Last weekend the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal called for declassifying the documents. Strzok did tell his intrepid inquisitor, Congressman Jim Jordan, that over at the Justice Department one Bruce Ohr did serve as the quiet conveyor of opposition research from the Clinton front group Fusion GPS to the FBI. Oh yes, and Ohr’s wife worked for Fusion and, by the way, Ohr and perhaps a dozen others involved in this Camorra to discredit Trump go back years, many to their college days as young socialists at Cambridge and select American universities. That revelation means that as the Journal pointed out, “… Fusion, an outfit on the payroll of the Clinton campaign, had a messenger on the government payroll to deliver its anti-Trump documents to the FBI.” Confirming that, “the FBI relied on politically motivated sources as part of its probe, even as Mr. Strzok insists he showed no political bias….” Strzok is even more brazen than members of the Cosa Nostra.

Specifically the Journal called for the release of FISA applications. They will show how heavily the FBI relied on Christopher Steele’s dirty dossier. They will also show how candid the Justice Department and the FBI were in seeking the FISA subpoenas from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. The Journal also called for release of documents related to the Woods procedures, which will show how the FBI verified evidence it used to justify eavesdropping on the Trump campaign. There are also documents called 302s and 1023s, documents that would show how the FBI dealt with Steele, Fusion GPS, and other informants, for instance Dan Jones and my old friend Stef Halper.

I have my own set of questions about the Russian collusion investigation that might be answered if the President orders the above documents declassified. Working with my indefatigable chief investigator, George Neumayr, here are a few of the questions that we have prepared once President Trump has declassified the documents.

  • The President should declassify all communications between Strzok and John Brennan, President Barack Obama’s director of CIA. Their shared hatred for Trump lies at the root of the Obama administration’s decision to spy on the Trump campaign. Declassify the documents and let the questioning begin.
  • He should also declassify any documents that shed light on Brennan’s “working group at Langley.” When did the group begin its work? Who participated?
  • He should declassify any documents that shed light on the internal discussions or debates about whether or not to open up a probe of the Trump campaign: Did any FBI officials dissent from the decision? If so, who are the officials?
  • He should declassify any documents related to the Brennan-generated leak to then Senator Harry Reid. My guess is that Brennan has a lot of questions to answer as this week’s tweets suggest.

Strzok’s appearance before the Congress was very amusing. Now it is time to come up with answers to the question of Russian collusion or collusion by anyone else in the 2016 election. Mr. President, you can do it.

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“They are prosecuting people on a partisan basis, and that, is the beginning of tyranny”

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Also see:

Analysis: Pentagon continues to underestimate al Qaeda, downplay ties to Taliban

Screenshot from video produced by the Taliban in Dec. 2016 that emphasized the ties between al Qaeda and the Taliban. Al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden and Taliban founder Mulla Omar (center, top) are shown side by side in an image that promotes the martyrs of jihad.

Long War Journal, by Bill Roggio, July 5, 2018:

The US Department of Defense continues to ignore fundamental facts in spinning its latest narrative. Yet again, the Pentagon underestimates al Qaeda’s strength in Afghanistan while downplaying the group’s ties to the Taliban. The Pentagon claimed that al Qaeda’s “core members are focused on their own survival” and “there is no evidence of strategic ties” between al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Except, the Pentagon and the US intelligence community has consistently been wrong about al Qaeda’s strength in Afghanistan, and evidence of strategic ties between the two groups does indeed exist.

The Pentagon made these latest claims in the “Threats from Insurgent and Terrorist Groups” section (pages 25 & 26) of its most recent biannual report, Enhancing Security and Stability in Afghanistan. The report was released earlier this week. The paragraph discussing al Qaeda and the Taliban is excerpted in full below [emphasis added]:

The al-Qa’ida threat to the United States and its allies and partners has decreased, and the few remaining al-Qa’ida core members are focused on their own survival. The remnants of the organization likely reside along the southeast Afghanistan border with Pakistan with a smaller element in isolated areas of northeast Afghanistan. Some lower- and mid-level Taliban leaders provide limited support to al-Qa’ida; however, there is no evidence of strategic ties between the two organizations and the Taliban likely seeks to maintain distance from al-Qa’ida. In addition, al-Qa’ida’s regional affiliate, AQIS, has a presence in south and southeast Afghanistan, and in Pakistan, and is composed primarily of militants from within the broader South Asia region.

Underestimating al Qaeda, yet again

The Pentagon report employed language that was used consistently during the Obama administration that downplayed al Qaeda’s strength. Phrases such as “few remaining” (General Joseph Dunford, 2013), “remnants” (President Barack Obama, 2014), and “focused on their own survival” (General John Campbell, 2015), were uttered by the President and his top commanders for Afghanistan numerous times.

Beginning in 2010, CIA Director Leon Panetta claimed that al Qaeda had only “50 to 100, maybe less”leaders and operatives based in Afghanistan. FDD’s Long War Journal repeatedly refuted this estimate and even used the US military’s own press releases on raids against al Qaeda in Afghanistan to rebut the claims. Panetta’s estimate was repeated numerous times by intelligence and military officials, unchanged, for nearly six years. Additionally, the US military claimed that al Qaeda was confined to the northeastern provinces of Kunar and Nuristan.

This incorrect assessment of al Qaeda’s was proven wildly inaccurate when in Oct. 2015 US forces killed more than 150 al Qaeda operatives in an attack on two al Qaeda training camps in the Shorabak district in the southern province of Kandahar. After the raid on the al Qaeda camps, US military spokesman Brigadier General Wilson Shoffner described the raid as “one of the largest joint ground-assault operations we have ever conducted in Afghanistan.” It took US and Afghan forces more than four days to clear the two camps, with the aid of 63 airstrikes. Shoffner’s description of the al-Qaeda facilities indicated that they had been built long ago.

“The first site, a well-established training camp, spanned approximately one square mile. The second site covered nearly 30 square miles,” Shoffner said. “We struck a major al-Qaeda sanctuary in the center of the Taliban’s historic heartland,” he added.

After the Shorabak raid, the US military was ultimately forced to concede its estimate of al Qaeda’s strength in Afghanistan was wrong. In April 2016, Major General Jeff Buchanan, Resolute Support’s deputy chief of staff, told CNN that the 50 to 100 estimate was incorrect based on the results of the Shorabak raid.

“If you go back to last year, there were a lot of intel estimates that said within Afghanistan al-Qaeda probably has 50 to 100 members, but in this one camp we found more than 150,” he said.

The estimate of al-Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan was revised upwards to about 300.

Yet, in mid-December 2016, General John Nicholson admitted that the US military killed or captured 50 al-Qaeda leaders and an additional 200 operatives during calendar year 2016 in Afghanistan. And in Sept. of 2016, Nicholson said that US forces were hunting al Qaeda in seven of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces.

The US continues to hunt al Qaeda leaders to this day. Most recently, in late April the US announced that it killed a dual-hatted al Qaeda and Taliban leader in an airstrike in the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar. The jihadist was described as “a senior AQIS [al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent] and Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) commander” who “controlled fighting forces in both Pakistan and Afghanistan.”

Additionally, al Qaeda’s leaders do not appear to be “focused on their own survival.” Al Qaeda’s propaganda arm, As Sahab, has increased its production of videos and other materials since mid-2015. Al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri and his heir apparent, Hamza bin Laden, have released numerous statements during this timeframe, while al Qaeda central has dispatched leaders to direct the fight in other theaters, such as Syria. These are not the actions of a group that is focused on survival.

Clearly, the US intelligence community and the military has consistently underestimated al Qaeda and its strength in Afghanistan, and continues to do so to this day.

“Strategic” al Qaeda and Taliban ties

The Pentagon report also stated that “there is no evidence of strategic ties between the two organizations and the Taliban likely seeks to maintain distance from al-Qa’ida].” The groups have long been tied and there is indeed evidence to prove it.

In December of 2016, the Taliban issued a video that emphasized its continuing alliance with al Qaeda. The video, entitled “Bond of Nation with the Mujahideen,” is replete with imagery and speeches that promote the enduring Taliban-al Qaeda relationship. In one section which promoted the martyrs of the Afghan jihad, al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden and Taliban founder Mulla Omar (see image above) were shown side by side. Also shown is Nasir al Wuhayshi, Osama bin Laden’s aide de camp who was promoted to lead al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Wuhayshi was killed in a US drone strike in Yemen, not in Afghanistan.

“Bond of Nation with the Mujahideen” also included clips of a speech by Sheikh Khalid Batarfi, a senior official in Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. LWJ believes he is likely part of al Qaeda’s global management team. Batarfi praised the Afghan jihad and stressed that the ties between al Qaeda and the Taliban remain strong.

The video is clear evidence that the Taliban, as recently as Dec. 2016, did not seek to “maintain distance from al-Qa’ida,” as the Pentagon claims.

Al Qaeda leaders’ oaths to the Amir-ul-Mumineen [“Emir of the Faithful”], or the head of the Afghan Taliban, is solid evidence of continuing ties between the two groups. Osama bin Laden’s pledge to Mullah Omar was maintained up until the US killed Osama in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in May 2011. Both the Taliban and al Qaeda have noted multiple times that the oath endured the Taliban’s loss of control of Afghanistan after the US invasion in 2001.

Zawahiri swore allegiance to Omar after Osama was killed, and again swore an oath to Mullah Mansourafter the Taliban announced Omar’s death in 2015. Mansour publicly accepted Zawahiri’s pledge in an official statement released on Voice of Jihad. After the US killed Mansour in May 2016, Zawahiri again issued a public pledge to his successor, Mullah Haibatullah, who is the Taliban’s current emir. While Haibatullah did not publicly accept Zawahiri’s oath, he also did not reject it. Haibatullah is considered to be far more radical than his predecessor, and he served as the Taliban’s chief judge for Mansour, so he would have given approval for Mansour’s acceptance of Zawahiri’s oath.

Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, al Qaeda’s branch in south and central Asia, also has publicly declared its allegiance to the Taliban.

Another key indicator that the Taliban’s relationship with al Qaeda remains strong to this day is the ascendance of Sirajuddin Haqqani to serve as one of the top two deputies to the Taliban’s emir as well as its commander of military operations. Sirajuddin is closely allied to al Qaeda. The Pentagon, in a previous section of the Enhancing Security and Stability in Afghanistan report, noted that “Sirajuddin Haqqani’s role as a Taliban deputy probably increased Haqqani influence within the Taliban leadership.”

The Haqqani Network, which is a powerful and influential faction of the Taliban, is known to have very close ties to al Qaeda, and maintains these ties to this day. Numerous designations of Haqqani Network commanders detail the close ties to al Qaeda. (Designations of other Taliban leaders not part of the Haqqani Network also detail close ties to al Qaeda.) The US, in its covert drone campaign in Pakistan, has killed multiple al Qaeda leaders who were sheltering in areas controlled by the Haqqanis.

The Pentagon cannot explain how the Taliban seeks to distance itself from al Qaeda while promoting Sirajuddin to the top echelon of its leadership cadre.

The US military has demonstrated time and time again that is unable to properly assess al Qaeda’s strength in Afghanistan as well as its close and enduring ties to the Taliban.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.

Andrew C. McCarthy on Russiagate, Clinton-Trump Investigation Double Standards, Mueller’s Mandate, DOJ-FBI-CIA Politicization (Part II)

My Guest

Andrew C. McCarthy (@AndrewCMcCarthy) is senior fellow at the National Review Institute, contributing editor of National Review and author most recently of essential books on the threat of Islamic supremacism including Willful Blindness: A Memoir of the JihadThe Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America and Spring Fever: The Illusion of Islamic Democracy.

In Part II of my in-depth interview with Andy, we discussed Russiagate, the pervasive unethical and at times lawless behavior of law enforcement and the intelligence community with respect to Donald Trump and Russia versus Hillary Clinton and her e-mail server, the apparently limitless mandate of Robert Mueller’s special counsel, obstruction of justice and much more.

If you missed Part I of my conversation with Andy on his experience prosecuting the jihadist mastermind of the first World Trade Center attack and what it taught him about the Islamic supremacist threat America faces, the primacy of religion and why Islamic supremacists choose jihadist savagery over assimilation, willful blindness in American national security and foreign policy, folly in American foreign affairs from Syria to Libya, and the imperative to collapse the Khomeinist Iranian regime, be sure to catch up here.

What We Discussed

  • Russia’s historical attempts to “interfere” with U.S. elections, and its imperceptible impact on the 2016 U.S. presidential vote
  • McCarthy’s dissection of the double standard in the DOJ/FBI’s handling of its investigation of Hillary Clinton versus that of Donald Trump, and the unwillingness to bring Clinton to justice over Clinton Foundation impropriety if not worse and destruction of State Department emails
  • Former FBI Director James Comey’s monumental error in testimony on the counter-intelligence investigation implicating the Trump campaign that ultimately served as the basis for Robert Mueller’s special counsel
  • Mueller’s limitless special counsel mandate and brazen tactics against Paul Manafort
  • Politicization of law enforcement and the intelligence apparatus, and its detrimental long-term impact on American national security
  • How to root out corruption in the FBI, CIA and DOJ, and the suspicious if not lawless acts of Obama DNI Chief James Clapper and CIA Director John Brennan
  • The disingenuous nature of the Intelligence Community Assessment on Russian meddling in the 2016 election
  • The double standard in the treatment of Paul Manafort versus Hillary Clinton and her email server
  • McCarthy’s obliteration of the obstruction of justice theory
  • President Obama’s involvement in Russiagate

Full Transcript (go there for the audio also)

Also see McCarthy’s article at NRO yesterday: 

The Swamp Strikes Back

Gatestone Institute, by J. Christian Adams, June 7, 2018:

  • The culture of the D.C. metropolitan area is one of wealth, privilege and self-proclaimed sophistication. The bureaucrats and insiders know what is best for you, best for your business, best for themselves, and they can make a nice living without being disrupted. Trump campaigned on disrupting this comfortable power perch; that is what they most hate about him.
  • The Russian collusion investigation has not found any collusion because the investigation was never about collusion. It was always about an out-of-control federal government, emboldened by the lawless age of Obama, and flexing its newfound muscle. The Russian collusion investigation is about a clash of cultures, with one culture being the culture of D.C. insiders, and the other being the folks who pay their salaries.

Each week, Robert Mueller’s Wonderlandian investigation into “Russian Collusion” appears “curiouser and curiouser”. Each week, it appears that the entire investigation never really had anything to do with Russian collusion, at least in the Trump campaign; only in the Hillary Clinton campaign, where all the investigators have been conscientiously not looking.

First, Mueller indicted General Michael Flynn for not telling the truth to an FBI squad that appeared unexpectedly at the White House to question him, when now it turns out that Peter Strzok, who interrogated him, said he had not lied. It also now turns out that former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe may later have altered Strzok’s interrogation notes, and then destroyed the evidence.

Mueller then indicted Paul Manafort for allegedly laundering money through an Alexandria, Virginia, oriental rug store — a “process crime”. Notably absent from it in any indictment was mention of Russia, collusion or even elections.

Moreover, the order from the Department of Justice, signed by Rod Rosenstein, stipulated one more directive:

“(ii) any matters that arose or may arise directly om the investigation; and

(iii) any other matters within the scope of 28 C.F.R. § 600.4(a).

As well as:

“(d) Sections 600.4 through 600. l 0 of Title 28 of the Code of Federal Regulations”

As Judge T.S. Ellis said to Mueller on May 4:

“You don’t really care about Mr. Manafort’s bank fraud. You really care about getting information that Mr. Manafort can give you that would reflect on Mr. Trump and lead to his prosecution or impeachment or whatever.”

Mueller’s only indictments that did relate to Russia were directed at a nest of Russian sock-puppets who, in an apparent effort to influence public opinion, pushed pro-Trump tweets during the 2016 election. The crimes alleged were that the sock-puppets were foreign agents trying to influence American elections through social media. In other words, the Russians were doing what they have internationally for decades — attempting to influence domestic American politics through fronts and propaganda. When the sock puppets, incidentally, had the nerve to ask for proof, Mueller asked for a delay, which the judge refused to grant. As Andrew McCarthy, former Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, noted, “as all prosecutors are taught from their first day on the job: Never indict a case unless you are prepared to try the case.”

Robert Mueller III. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

If the Democrats seem suddenly concerned about foreigners influencing an election, that is what the previous administration did as recently as 2015 — to Israel. Then, the Obama State Department funneled $350 thousand U.S. taxpayer dollars to OneVoice, an anti-Netanyahu political operation during Israel’s parliamentary elections. OneVoice used American tax dollars to build a political voter database, train activists, and hire a political consulting firm with ties to President Obama’s campaign apparatus.

American tax dollars were funneled through Netanyahu’s foes and eventually ended up back in the pockets of Obama’s political machine. Now the same gang that used American power to try to bring down the Israeli Prime Minister is sanctimoniously objecting to Russian interference-by-tweeting.

The frenzy about the Russian tweets also has a sinister side.

The singular lesson for history of the seemingly widespread corruption at the senior levels of the FBI, Department of Justice, and the State Department is that a phony “dossier” about then-presidential candidate Donald Trump was used to obtain — by misrepresenting its contents to a judge — Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants against private citizens. The dossier was cooked up and paid for by Democrat political operatives with ties to the presidential campaign of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee.

When Representative Devin Nunes (R-CA) suspected that the admittedly “unverified” phony dossier was used to obtain wiretap warrants of American citizens, he was right. But it gets worse.

After the warrants were obtained and telephone calls of private citizens were tapped by the FBI, Obama Department of Justice officials, and some people yet unnamed inside the Obama White House, authorized the unmasking of the content of those conversations. Unmasking means that the transcripts and identities of Americans were revealed, violating their Fourth Amendment right to privacy. For good measure, Obama officials even changed the rules about how widely those unmasked transcripts could be distributed inside the DOJ, thus expanding the universe of potential leakers.

And leak they did.

In short, Democrats produced a phony document to make candidate Trump look creepy, then Obama DOJ officials working with sympathetic FBI staff and outside political operatives, obtained FISA search warrants by lying to FISA judges four times in order to target the Trump campaign in an apparently unlimited fishing expedition for a crime — none ever having been specified as is required by law — even after the president was duly elected.

If all of this were not enough, a small core of powerful FBI senior staffers — as opposed to the FBI’s remarkable rank and file — was steering this entire affair, while simultaneously texting each other about their hatred for candidate Donald Trump.

The central item to understand is that Swamp actors inside the DOJ and FBI used their powers first to do what could be done to exonerate at least 13 possible crimescommitted by Hillary Clinton. That, at least was the number committed beforeinformation emerged that her campaign and the DNC had funded the dossier; later findings must have added a few more.

The Swamp actors’ other objective was apparently to sabotage Trump’s presidency if Trump won. Peter Strzok wrote, “I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy’s office—that there’s no way he gets elected—but I’m afraid we can’t take that risk. It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40…” by using their powers in the Russia probe to destroy the president politically.

It is precisely the sort of subversion that takes place in banana republics — where political differences are criminalized and weaponized — and is fundamentally anti-Constitutional. It appears to be — on the part of some of the heads of the FBI, the Department of Justice, the State Department and President Obama’s White House— part of a criminal conspiracy to obstruct justice and abuse power in order — as former U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Joseph diGenova put it, “to illegally exonerate Hillary Clinton and, if she didn’t win the election, to then frame Donald Trump with a falsely created crime.”

The fraud on the court, and by extension, on the American people, appears an attempt to convert power over the ministerial state into political power.

Instead of graciously allowing his successor to get his sea legs and govern — a courtesy traditionally extended by Presidents of both parties — former President Barack Obama lingers and supports the “Resistance” movement.

What you see happening when Rep. Nunes threatens to hold Justice Department officials in contempt for hiding the basis for the FBI to obtain FISA warrants, when you read indictments about Russian sock puppets, it is something more than the good old-fashioned Beltway scandal.

What you are seeing is Constitutional political warfare unleashed by the bureaucracy against a President the bureaucracy apparently loathes.

The bureaucracy seems now to believe that it is in charge, not the president. The bureaucrats make a good living, have comfy retirement plans, can buy life insurance at rates more reasonable than a private sector employee can, and likely think that Trump is a threat to their power. The bureaucrats have created a culture in Washington D.C. that extends beyond the hallways of their Departments.

The culture of the D.C. metropolitan area is one of wealth, privilege and self-proclaimed sophistication. The bureaucrats and insiders know what is best for you, best for your business, best for themselves, and they can make a nice living without being disrupted. Trump campaigned on disrupting this comfortable power perch; that is what they most hate about him.

The Russian collusion investigation has not found any collusion because the investigation was never about collusion. It was always about an out-of-control federal government, emboldened by the lawless age of Obama, and flexing its newfound muscle. The Russian collusion investigation is about a clash of cultures, with one culture being the culture of D.C. insiders, and the other being the folks who pay their salaries.

J. Christian Adams is the President of the Public Interest Legal Foundation, a 501(c)(3) public interest law firm dedicated to election integrity and preserving the Constitutional structure of American elections.

Also see:

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Watergate Done Legally: The Predictable Truth About Spying

American Greatness, by Angelo Codevilla, May 24, 2018:

The tug-of war (and it is a war) between Fox News alongside a handful of Republicans on one hand, and the solid front of U.S. government agencies, the Democratic Party, and the mainstream media (Google included) on the other, is focused on who in the Department of Justice and the FBI did what and why to start the July 31, 2016 “Crossfire Hurricane” counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign, to secure a FISA warrant for electronic intercepts of Trump advisers, and to vector Stefan Halper and possibly others to spy on them directly beginning around July 11. These details are so few and so jumbled as to obscure the considerably larger extent of the intelligence community’s involvement against Trump.

The following considers additional facts (not in dispute) from the perspective of my eight years of experience with the CIA, NSA, FBI, etc. as a senior staff member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and as part of the group that drafted the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (over my opposition).

The events of the past two years have confirmed the objections to FISA I stated in 1978: pre-clearance of wiretaps by a court that operates secretly, ex parte, and that is agnostic on national security matters, is an irresistible temptation to the party in power and its friends in the intelligence agencies to use the law to spy against their political opponents—that is, to do Watergate legally.

The Spying Legacy of 9/11
FISA was a bad idea, made worse after 9/11 by the addition of Section 702. It is a license to collect and use electronic data on Americans, so long as that collection is claimed to be “incidental” in the collection of data relating to foreigners. Since the claiming is done in secret, and the yearly court review can be finessed, officials’ self-restraint is all that keeps Section 702 itself from being an abuse. Item 17, “about queries,” specifically authorizes the collection of emails and phone calls of “U.S. persons.”

The first evidence that Obama Administration officials and their friends in the Community had used intelligence to try thwarting a political challenge came on November 17, 2016, when Donald Trump abruptly moved his transition headquarters from Trump Tower to Bedminster, New Jersey. The previous day, he had been visited by Admiral Mike Rogers, director of the National Security Agency. Rogers earlier had delivered the yearly Section 702 certification to the FISA court, saying that the Justice Department had improperly used that portion of the law to direct the NSA to listen in on Trump campaign headquarters. Just prior to Rogers’ delivery, John Carlin, head of the Justice Department’s national security division, tendered his resignation. Rogers was not happy. Trump even less so.

When the Section 702 abuse began is not public knowledge. We do know, however, that a FISA court in June 2016 rejected the Justice Department’s request for traditional FISA authority to monitor some members of the Trump campaign. Since ginning up such documents takes time, the process probably started in May or late April—roughly the time when Trump locked down the Republican nomination. Having failed to get explicit FISA authority, Justice Department officials may well have used the implicit authority of Section 702.

Who Employed Stefan Harper?
Something else unusual happened around that time: Trump associate Carter Page got an invite to an elite and cushy conference in Cambridge, England for Stef Halper. Turns out, Halper was acting on behalf of U.S. Intelligence. According to then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, Halper was not “spying”—just gathering information. Page and Halper met at the conference on July 11, a conference for which Page was paid a sizable honorarium for attending.

The commentariat has been atwitter (please excuse the term) about how this squares with the fact that the FBI’s formal “Crossfire Hurricane” investigation (revealed to the New York Times as part of the advance spin on the much-anticipated Justice Department inspector general’s report) began only on July 31. Did the FBI jump the gun? Not by a few days but when the invitation was sent months earlier? Was this another “malum prohibitum” on its part?

Most probably not. At most, searches of FBI documents may turn up information showing that this was, most likely, a CIA operation.

First, dispatching informants outside of formal investigations is not part of FBI’s culture. Sending informants through old-boy networks is the essence of CIA’s culture. Stef Halper is a Boomer generation old boy, having married into the Agency family and lived directly and indirectly from his connections with it. To anyone familiar with CIA’s sponsorship of cultural-academic activities in the postwar period, thereafter transmuted into a long (secret) and pricey list of contracts with personages and institutions in this field, the very name of Cambridge’s Center for Research in the Arts Social Sciences and Humanities shouts CIA!

Most likely, Halper and perhaps others were vectored, authoritatively but semi-formally, by then-CIA director John Brennan. It could hardly have been done except by his authority. Did Brennan’s friend Barack Obama know?  Neither that authorization nor that knowledge would break any laws.

But, boy, oh boy, how many bright red lines likely have been crossed!

How the Intelligence Community Became Corrupted
Recall that in 1947 the main objection to establishing the CIA was the widespread fear that, someday, its espionage would be used against Americans. That is why CIA was given no powers of arrest, why its agents would operate only abroad, and only against foreign targets. But from the very first, CIA officials, from the top down, have thought of themselves as entitled to transcend the role of lookouts for the ship of state. They have identified with and built relationships with policymakers, and placed their hands on the wheel as best they could.

The FBI used to be very different. CIA people looked down on the bureau’s “cop mentality.” But, gradually, the top levels of FBI started thinking of themselves as do those up the river: as partners with policymakers, fellow policymakers.

Just as important, a large part of these agencies—certainly the most personally successful one—absorbed and was absorbed by the ethos of the ruling class, the chief item of which is a sense of rightful superiority over the rest of Americans. The sense of entitlement to power, of the right and duty to do whatever it takes to defend it against bad people whom despicable Americans might elect or have elected, followed naturally.

Now the alternatives are all too clear: either those who have taken America across these red lines are punished severely, and with bipartisan approval—in which case we may return to a politically neutral national security establishment. If they are not, the national security apparatus is sure to become the queen in the nation’s political chessboard.

It would not be the first time in history in which government power started flowing from whoever controlled the security forces. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, too.

Photo credit: iStock/Getty Images

Angelo M. Codevilla is a senior fellow of the Claremont Institute, professor emeritus of international relations at Boston University and the author of To Make And Keep Peace(Hoover Institution Press, 2014).

Also see:

Mueller Year One: The Real Heroes in Journalism

Photo credit: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images

American Greatness, by Julie Kelly, May 16th, 2018:

Part one of a two-part series.

The American media are broken.

After eight years of feeding the Obama cult of personality—swooning over his suave personal traits, covering for mistakes and misconduct, applying little if any scrutiny to his policies or performance—the news media suddenly developed a keen interest in presidential accountability and integrity on November 9, 2016.

Since the day Donald Trump won the election over their strenuous objections, the media have been out to get the man they deem unworthy of the presidency. They have teamed up with the Left of and the NeverTrump Right to campaign for his removal from office. (Victor Davis Hanson recently documented #TheResistance’s full list of tactics.) Trump’s family, aides, and cabinet members have been harassed and reviled in despicable ways.

Reporters eagerly transcribe salacious stories pitched by unnamed sources to incite an already inflamed body politic. Events are twisted in grotesque ways to fuel the anti-Trump hysteria. (Look no further than this week’s reporting on the Hamas-led “protest” during the opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem.)

At the same time, the American media arrogantly portray themselves as martyrs—even heroes—for acting as bulwarks against a purportedly devious, inept and cruel administration. The self-puffery on display at last month’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner sounded like war veterans commending each other for bravery on the battlefield, although veterans are far more modest than your average cable news anchor or political pundit.

But it took the self-assured comfort that comes from getting too comfortable with such puffery to draw the media out, unwittingly perhaps, at that very event. For it was at the White House Correspondents dinner that they acknowledged their sycophancy to #TheResistance, their gullibility in being snookered by Obama loyalists, their flat-on-their-back willingness to be used by anti-Trump pimps.

CNN won an award for its January 2017 report about President-elect Trump being briefed on the bogus Steele dossier. While we now know the story was improperly leaked by former Director of National Intelligence (and virulent Trump foe) James Clapper to shotgun the Trump-Russia collusion plotline days before the inauguration—and the celebrated CNN reporters did little more than regurgitate talking points spoon-fed to them by political operatives (one is known to have close ties to Fusion GPS)—the network was applauded for its “depth of reporting.”

The reality is that there are only a handful of reporters bravely bucking the media’s status quo and conducting real investigative journalism to expose what, quite possibly, is the biggest political scandal in U.S. history: How top officials in an outgoing administration colluded with a presidential candidate’s campaign and a major political party for the purpose of  discrediting the rival presidential candidate and then stage a soft coup against him after he won.

Out of thousands of reporters in the United States, fewer than a dozen journalists have dared to cover the ways in which the world’s most powerful law enforcement and intelligence apparatus leveraged its authority to try and destroy Trump’s candidacy, then his presidency. The courageous group includes NRO’s Andrew McCarthy, The Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway and Sean Davis, Tablet’s Lee Smith, The Daily Caller’s Chuck Ross, the Wall Street Journal’s Kimberley Strassel, Washington Examiner’s Byron York, Fox News’ Catherine Herridge, and independent journalist Sara Carter.

Unlike the self-proclaimed heroes in the mainstream media who either have willfully ignored or purposefully diverted coverage away from this scandal, these writers have not squandered their integrity or credibility in order to make nice with the ruling political class.

While each one deserves accolades and yes, legitimate awards, for their work, let’s focus on a few here first:

Andrew McCarthy: The former federal prosecutor who once worked for ex-FBI Director James Comey is arguably the most influential writer in this group, and has risked the most in terms of jeopardizing personal and professional relationships. “In the eyes of many of my former colleagues, I’m one of the bad guys. I’m sad about that, because I know things never really go back to the way they were,” he told me via email.

McCarthy, 59, is a Bronx native with a solid record of fighting organized crime and international terrorists. A law-and-order Republican, McCarthy contributed to National Review’s “Against Trump” issue where he wrote, “the [terrorist] threat against us has metastasized in our eighth year under a president who quite consciously appeases the enemy. But the remedy is not a president oblivious of the enemy.” His scrutiny of the Trump-Russia scheme is by not rooted in a deep affection for the president.

But his legal expertise and working knowledge of Justice Department protocols have been an invaluable guide, as the average person (like me) attempts to make sense of the various investigations and indictments. McCarthy also acknowledges that his bias toward law enforcement and some people at the center of this scandal have influenced his approach.

“I’ve been validly criticized for giving him [Comey] the benefit of many doubts that I would not give to others whom I don’t know well, or at all. It’s been a good—if excruciating—lesson in humility,” he told me.

He detected as far back as December 2016 that the Russian collusion story was a farce. He opposed both Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recusal and the appointment of a special counsel, although he applauded the choice of Robert Mueller (while predicting his probe “could be wrapped up within a few months.”)

Since then, he has been a fierce critic of the Mueller team, particularly of the prosecutions of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. And he has plenty of harsh words for Comey, someone for whom he has “genuine affection.” In his latest piece, he takes a deep dive into the text messages between FBI lovers Peter Strzok and Lisa Page and once more questions why his former colleagues are concealing information from the public.

Mollie Hemingway and Sean DavisThe Federalist has been a major target of #TheResistance for its unflinching coverage of the Trump-Russia scandal and exposure of an Obama Administration rife with corruption. (Even though publisher Ben Domenech was also a contributor to NR’s “Against Trump” issue.)

Hemingway was the first to suggest in great detail—just days after the award-winning CNN story—that Obama’s intelligence community had declared war against Donald Trump. “Far from discrediting Trump, [the allegation of Russian election interference]  paints a worrisome portrait of the deep state gone rogue, desperate to stop a man who, whatever his considerable flaws, is an outsider to Washington.” She started to piece together how the politically sourced Steele dossier was used to obtain FISA warrants on Trump campaign volunteer Carter Page, and gave extensive coverage to the work of the House Intelligence Committee.

After the Comey memos were released last month, Hemingway suggested the January 6, 2017 briefing orchestrated by top Obama intelligence officials was designed to set up the incoming president: “This briefing, and the leaking of it, legitimized the dossier, which touched off the Russia hysteria. That hysteria led to a full-fledged media freakout.” And she’s spared the media no criticism for burying huge developments in the emerging corruption scandal.

Hemingway has taken her battle to the airwaves. A regular Fox News contributor, Hemingway has become fan favorite by going toe-to-toe with anti-Trump journalists to raise serious questions about the veracity of the Trump-Russia investigation. (I personally admire her smackdowns of National Review’s Jonah Goldberg.)

Sean Davis (if you don’t follow him on Twitter, do it now), the site’s co-founder, had one of the past year’s most explosive scoops when he reported that Obama’s PAC paid nearly $1 million in 2016 to the law firm that was funneling money to Fusion GPS, and that the husband of one of Obama’s top communications advisors went to work for Fusion shortly after the 2016 election.

Just last month, Davis outed a former staffer to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif) who has raised $50 million from a few wealthy Democratic donors to continue Fusion GPS’s dirty work against the Trump Administration. He also amplified an overlooked conclusion in the House Intelligence Committee report: Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper lied to Congress when he testified that he did not discuss the dossier with any journalists when in fact he leaked the information to CNN’s Jake Tapper for the “award-winning” story. (Clapper, naturally,  is now a CNN intelligence analyst.)

Lee Smith: Few writers wield the literary blowtorch that Smith does. An expert on the Middle East, Smith noticed that the election collusion story sounded familiar: “The Russia story is a replay of how the former White House smeared pro-Israel activists in the lead-up to the Iran Deal,” he wrote in April 2017.

Most of his work is published in Tablet, a liberal, Jewish publication, but he views this scandal as nonpartisan. “We are now starting to understand more clearly, this is not simply a Democratic scandal, it’s a scandal that in many ways ties together both political establishments,” he told me by email. “Thus it threatens voters who tend to vote for Democrats as much as it does Republicans.”

He’s been a frequent critic of Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson and routinely blasts the media for their self-serving complicity in pushing the phony Trump-Russia story. “Buy into a storyline that turns FBI and CIA bureaucrats and their hand-puppets in the press into heroes while legitimizing the use of a vast surveillance apparatus for partisan purposes, and you’re in. Dissent and you’re out, or worse—you’re defending Trump.”

But it was his withering takedown of Robert Mueller in March 2018 that scorched the ruling class. Smith called the Mueller investigation a cover-up to “obscure the abuses of the U.S. surveillance apparatus that occurred under the Obama administration.” He disassembled the Washington narrative that Mueller is above reproach, an unimpeachable public figure who should be allowed to conduct his investigation untethered.

Mueller, according to Smith, is the prototypical swamp creature, a hanger-on who’s been held unaccountable for his egregious failures. “The problem is that by using the justice system as a political weapon to attack the enemies of the country’s elite, Robert Mueller and his supporters in both parties are confirming what many Americans already believe. That in spite of all the fine rhetoric, we are not all equal under one law.”

Smith takes an almost patriotic approach to his reporting. “What all of us want is the restoration and rehabilitation of the key American institutions that have inflicted so much damage on the American public as well themselves with Russiagate—I am thinking primarily here of the media,” he told me. “Left and right, we need a free and honest press in order to debate and discuss how we best live together and influence others abroad.”

PART TWO: The rest of the Trump-Russia truth-tellers and media influencers.

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The CIA’s Gina Haspel Deserves America’s Gratitude

CIA director nominee Gina Haspel arrives for a meeting on Capitol Hill, May 7, 2018. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

National Review,  by Deroy Murdock, May 9,  2018:

Haspel and the CIA confronted al-Qaeda after 9/11 and prevented fresh mass murders.

I have just two words for accused waterboarder and CIA-director nominee Gina Haspel:

Thank you.

“Enhanced interrogation” programs in general, and waterboarding in particular, generated the dots that CIA officers and other intelligence professionals connected in order to stop the deadly bloodshed of al-Qaeda.

Al-Who?

As the U.S. and its allies have hammered this vicious, militant-Islamic terrorist group into apparent oblivion, it’s easy to forget that al-Qaeda kept America and the rest of Civilization wide awake every night, asking, “What happens next?” Could Osama bin Laden and his cave-dwelling savages stage another September 11 massacre? After they murdered 2,996 people and wounded 7,356 others among the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and United Airlines Flight 93’s crash site in Shanksville, Pa., Americans fretted that al-Qaeda would return for more carnage — possibly even with chemical, biological, or atomic weapons.

As the ruins of the Twin Towers and the Defense Department’s headquarters smoldered for months, Americans and our leaders — from Capitol Hill to the White House — demanded that the butchers of September 11 be picked up, punished, and prevented from perpetrating fresh mayhem.

So, brave people like Gina Haspel got busy. The 33-year veteran CIA officer (whose U.S. Senate confirmation hearings begin this morning) and her foreign counterparts tracked down al-Qaeda members. Some were killed straight away. Good. Others were captured alive. Even better.

As the righteous desire for vengeance was stilled, intelligence personnel pumped these killers for information: Who were they? Who sent them? Who else did they know? What else did they have in the works?

Some al-Qaeda murderers who were caught spoke readily. Others did so after facing such disincentives to silence as hot or cold detention cells, tobacco smoke in their faces, sleep deprivation, loud music, and — according to one report — “a forced bath using a stiff brush.”

Others resisted, which required additional inducements for them to share their knowledge. This is where waterboarding came in.

Despite what the Left would like Americans to believe, the CIA and other U.S. authorities did not waterboard random Muslim men who were nabbed while strolling home from their local mosques. Nor was footage of their waterboarding hand delivered to the White House so that President G. W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney could enjoy it, along with soda and Jiffy Pop.

According to the CIA, a grand total of three al-Qaeda leaders were waterboarded: Abu Zubaydah, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, and Khalid Sheik Mohammed (KSM). And how beautiful that they were. Those three, who most likely wanted you dead, sang like Grammy winners after interrogators held them down and poured water over their rag-covered faces — a procedure that produces neither injury nor permanent physical damage. What it does yield is invaluable information:

Zubaydah was an al-Qaeda operations specialist and aide to Osama bin Laden. He dummied up during questioning, but waterboarding loosened his lips. He then surrendered the names and whereabouts of USS Cole bomber al-Nashiri (17 Americans dead, 40 wounded), 9/11 conspirator Ramzi bin al-Shibh, and KSM — helping snare all three.

KSM masterminded 9/11. He also bragged, “I decapitated with my blessed right hand the head of the American Jew Daniel Pearl in the City of Karachi, Pakistan.” Before his ultimately fatal kidnapping, Pearl was a well-regarded Wall Street Journal correspondent.

Interrogators initially got nowhere with KSM. He replied to their questions with Koranic verses. Eventually, he was waterboarded, reportedly for 90 seconds.

KSM “didn’t resist,” one CIA veteran explained in the August 13, 2007, issue of The New Yorker. “He sang right away. He cracked real quick.” Another CIA official told ABC News: “KSM lasted the longest under water-boarding, about a minute and a half, but once he broke, it never had to be used again.”

Among others, KSM ratted on Hambali, the organizer of the October 2002 Bali nightclub explosions. That attack killed seven Americans, 88 Australians, and 107 others, and injured 209 more. KSM outed Iyman Faris, who was caught plotting to use acetylene torches to sever the Brooklyn Bridge’s cables, so that the landmark would tumble into the East River. KSM gave up Yazid Sufaat. Page 151 of The 9/11 Commission Report elaborates: “Sufaat would spend several months attempting to cultivate anthrax for al Qaeda in a laboratory he helped set up near the Kandahar airport.”

KSM also pointed authorities to the 17-member Guraba Cell. These Malaysia-based Jemaah Islamiyah agents planned to commandeer jets and pilot them into Los Angeles’s 1,018-foot Library Tower (now called the U.S. Bank Tower). The goal: Roast the men and women inside the West Coast’s tallest skyscraper, in a de facto 9/11 West.

“The most important source of intelligence we had after 9/11 came from the interrogation of high-value detainees,” Robert Grenier, former chief of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, told The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer. He called KSM “the most valuable of the high-value detainees, because he had operational knowledge.”

As the Washington Post reported on January 25, 2017, “senior current and former CIA officials said the agency’s interrogation program, including the use of waterboarding, had produced actionable intelligence that among other things led to the identification of Osama bin Laden’s hideout in Abbottabad, Pakistan.”

Gina Haspel’s role in these priceless efforts is, by definition, ill-defined. Most of her work was clandestine and should remain so. News reports indicate that she ran four overseas CIA stations, managed covert operations, and closely watched Russia. If approved, Haspel will become the first CIA chief in 52 years to have climbed the ladder from, metaphorically, the mail room to the office of Director of Central Intelligence.

One might expect that Senate Democrats, reputedly the vanguard of “the Party of Women,” would help Haspel shatter the glass ceiling at the CIA, an historically male-dominated institution in an historically male-dominated profession. But Democrats are all too eager to lock arms and block this highly qualified and widely praised woman so that they can high-kick President Donald J. Trump in the teeth. So, high-kick the donkeys do. If that means that the first woman nominated to run the CIA never does so, then too bad for Gina.

Democrats now weep like widows over how terribly mean Haspel was to those poor, defenseless al-Qaeda volunteers. But soon after the September 11 slaughter, Democrats’ eyes were drier than Dubai. Rather than the retroactive mercy that they now show al-Qaeda, these very same Democrats back then wanted to squeeze these Islamofascist scum until they squealed.

As early as September 2002, top congressional leaders from both parties and chambers, were given “graphic and detailed” briefings on the CIA’s interrogation techniques — including waterboarding, the Washington Post reported on December 9, 2007. Participants included House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California. During one key update, according to the Post, “No objections were raised. Instead, at least two lawmakers in the room asked the CIA to push harder.”

“With one known exception,” the Post added, “no formal objections were raised by the lawmakers briefed about the harsh methods during the two years in which waterboarding was employed, from 2002 to 2003, said Democrats and Republicans with direct knowledge of the matter.” Then-representative Jane Harman (D., Calif.) advised caution. Otherwise, the idea was to keep calm and waterboard on.

“Among those being briefed, there was a pretty full understanding of what the CIA was doing,” Porter Goss, who was then-chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and later the director of Central Intelligence (2004 to 2006), told the Post. “And the reaction in the room was not just approval, but encouragement.”

One official at these congressional briefings recalled that “there was no objecting, no hand-wringing. The attitude was, ‘We don’t care what you do to those guys as long as you get the information you need to protect the American people.’”

Jose Rodriguez, the CIA’s then-director of clandestine services, told Chris Wallace about these Capitol Hill sit-downs on the December 14, 2014, edition of Fox News Sunday. Rodriguez said that members of Congress told him: “You got to go out and use the authorities that you’re given to protect America.’. . . So, all of these people knew exactly what we were doing.” Rodriguez estimated that congressional leaders attended at least 40 briefings about these interrogations between 2002 and 2009.

None other than Senator Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) said in May 2002, that when it came to smashing al-Qaeda: “We have to do some things that historically we have not wanted to do to protect ourselves.”

On waterboarding, Democrats have gone from pom poms yesterday to brickbats today. Such naked hypocrisy — fueled by an unbridled, white-hot hatred for President Trump, America’s national security be damned — leaves Democrats in an increasingly typical state of disgrace.

On the morning of September 11, I witnessed a low-flying American Airlines jet roar over my balcony in Manhattan’s East Village. Within hours, I learned that the man at the controls was not a star-crossed aviator struggling to keep his aircraft aloft. Rather it was Mohamed Atta guiding a missile full of innocent travelers into a skyscraper full of innocent workers.

That was as close an encounter with militant Islam as I hope ever to experience. If so, I — like 325 million Americans — will be grateful to Gina Haspel.

DEROY MURDOCK — Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor and a contributing editor of National Review Online.

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