Our Counter-Intelligence System Is Broken

Canada Free Press, by James A. Lyons, July 23, 2018:

There is no question that the United States is the number one target of every potential enemy hostile intelligence service in the world.  Yet, as recently exposed, there is no national-level effort to counter this threat.  Our free and open society is a spy’s paradise, and actually facilitates our enemies’ penetration.  Michael Waller of the Center For Security Policy stated this about our lead counter-intelligence organization: “with few exceptions, the FBI has very little to show that it has the strategy and leadership to cut off much more than low-hanging fruit.”  A perfect example of this is Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s recent indictment of 12 Russian intelligence agents who are safely tucked away in Russia and will never be brought to trial.

Handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation

The FBI is the United States’ lead counterintelligence (CI) organization.  The CIA also has a key role but is not focused on domestic CI issues, but rather on our hostile enemies.  The National Security Agency (NSA) also has an important role to play, focusing on our potential enemies.  However, it was recently learned that while NSA is not supposed to be spying on Americans, they recently deleted two-thirds of a “trillion” intercepts on American citizens using the lame excuse of “technical irregularities.”  It is not a stretch to imagine that among those trillion intercepts are Hillary Clinton’s emails from her unsecured server, which not only contained Top Secret but “special access” material that should have set off alarm bells at Fort Meade.  However, due to political bias, it was ignored.  The same situation most likely occurred with the discovery of several hundred thousand of Hillary’s emails found on Anthony Weiner’s laptop. Weiner was the husband of Clinton’s top aide, Huma Abedin.

Due to the tenacity of House Intelligence Committee Chairman, Devin Nunes, astounding revelations have been uncovered and verified in the report by Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General (IG) Michael Horowitz on the handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation.  The text messages between the FBI’s leading CI agent Peter Strzok and his paramour, Lisa Page, showing that he was willing to use his official CI position to stop candidate Trump from becoming President, is more than a dereliction of duty, it borders on criminal activity.

China had gained access to Hillary Clinton’s unsecured server

According to recent testimony by Lisa Page before the House Judiciary Committee, it has been reported that she revealed that a foreign entity, China, had gained access to Hillary Clinton’s unsecured server. That information was reportedly presented to the FBI’s leading CI agent, Peter Strzok, but he chose to ignore it!  Unbelievable if proven to be accurate!

The case of the Awan brothers alleged spy ring on Capitol Hill and their IT work for the 44 Democratic Congressional Representatives is another prime example of a failed CI effort.  According to many articles by Luke Rosiak of the Daily Caller News Foundation (DCNF), the House Office of the Inspector General (IG) claimed in 2016 that the Awan family logged into members’ servers that they had no business accessing, in some cases even after they had been fired.  The IG report, from September 2016, indicates that they logged into servers of offices they did not work for thousands of times, even after the House was warned that the server was being used for nefarious purposes.

Awan’s Pakistani connections

With the Awan’s Pakistani connections, it is not a stretch to connect the information flow to the Pakistani intelligence service and then on to China.  This activity should have been fully investigated by the FBI’s CI division.  Amazingly, the DOJ/FBI prosecutors could find no such evidence.  Clearly, our CI system is broken.

The inability of our national CI organization to handle these basic cases brings into sharp focus the success of sophisticated cyber-war penetration by both China and Russia.  While Russia is getting all the current CI attention, FBI Director Christopher Wray recently declared that Chinese espionage is the most significant spy threat facing the United States.  One former CIA analyst put it bluntly: Beijing agents in this country aim “to turn Americans against their own government interests and their society’s interests.”  Russia has the same objectives.

China has a state-sponsored program to obtain advanced technologies with both military and commercial applications

China has a state-sponsored program to obtain advanced technologies with both military and commercial applications.  China uses many points of entry into our open society to achieve their objectives.  Beijing is infiltrating our universities by funding language and cultural centers called “Confucius Institutes.”  They are being used as a cover for technology theft.  China is also using 350,000 Chinese students in the U.S. for intelligence activity.  Beijing pursues a program to buy small cutting edge technology companies that remain under the radar.  This hemorrhaging of our technology must be stopped.

In an article by Bill Gertz, 12 April, 2018, he reports that Michelle Van Cleave, a former national CI executive, stated that after the creation of the office of Director of National Intelligence in 2004, a national counterspy program against foreign spies was restricted under the George W. Bush administration.  Unfortunately, it continued under President Obama.  Van Cleave stated that a directive issued by then-DNI James Clapper in 2013, and still in force, reduced the national CI program authority by directing all counterspy programs to be run by individual departments and agencies.  The net result was the end of “any dedicated strategic CI program while elite pockets of proactive capabilities died of neglect.”

In short, there is no national level CI effort left.  Immediate corrective action must be taken.  This cannot be left to the agencies with their known political bias and questionable agents seeded during John Brennan’s term as CIA Director.  Therefore, President Trump should appoint a 9/11-type commission to identify the corrective actions necessary to fix our broken CI organization on an expedited basis.

FISA Applications Confirm: The FBI Relied on the Unverified Steele Dossier

One-time advisor of Donald Trump Carter Page addresses the audience during a presentation in Moscow, Russia, December 12, 2016. (Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters)

A salacious Clinton-campaign product was the driving force behind the Trump–Russia investigation.

National Review, by Andrew C. McCarthy, July 23, 2018:

On a sleepy summer Saturday, after months of stonewalling, the FBI dumped 412 pages of documents related to the Carter Page FISA surveillance warrants — the applications, the certifications, and the warrants themselves. Now that we can see it all in black and white — mostly black, as they are heavily redacted — it is crystal clear that the Steele dossier, an unverified Clinton-campaign product, was the driving force behind the Trump–Russia investigation.

Based on the dossier, the FBI told the FISA court it believed that Carter Page, who had been identified by the Trump campaign as an adviser, was coordinating with the Russian government in an espionage conspiracy to influence the 2016 election.

This sensational allegation came from Christopher Steele, the former British spy. The FISA court was not told that the Clinton campaign was behind Steele’s work. Nor did the FBI and Justice Department inform the court that Steele’s allegations had never been verified. To the contrary, each FISA application — the original one in October 2016, and the three renewals at 90-day intervals — is labeled “VERIFIED APPLICATION” (bold caps in original). And each one makes this breathtaking representation:

The FBI has reviewed this verified application for accuracy in accordance with its April 5, 2001 procedures, which include sending a copy of the draft to the appropriate field office(s).

In reality, the applications were never verified for accuracy.

What ‘Verify’ Means
Consider this: The representation that the FBI’s verification procedures include sending the application to “appropriate field offices” is standard in FISA warrant applications. It is done because the FBI’s Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide (DIOG) mandates that the bureau “ensure that information appearing in a FISA application that is presented to the [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court] has been thoroughly vetted and confirmed.” (See House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes March 1, 2018, letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, embedded here.) The point is to assure the court that the FBI has corroborated the allegations in the warrant application in the usual way.

A hypothetical shows how this works. Let’s say that X, an informant, tells the FBI in Washington that Y, a person in St. Louis, told him that Z, the suspect, is plotting to rob the bank.

X’s story is unverified; he doesn’t know anything firsthand about Z — he only knows what Y has told him. Obviously, then, the FBI does not instantly run to court and seek a warrant against Z. Instead, the bureau sends an investigative “lead” from headquarters in Washington to the FBI field office in St. Louis. FBI agents in St. Louis then go find and interview Y. Based on that interview, the FBI gathers supporting information (perhaps physical surveillance of Z, scrutiny of available documents and records about Z, etc.). Only then, after debriefing the witness with competent knowledge, do the Justice Department and FBI seek a warrant against Z from the court. In the application, they explain to the judge that they have verified X’s information by interviewing Y and then corroborating Y’s version of events. In fact, if they get solid enough information about Z from Y, there may be no reason even to mention X, whose tip to the FBI was sheer hearsay.

But that is not what happened with the Carter Page FISA warrants.

The FBI presented the court with allegations posited by Steele. He is in the position of X in our hypothetical. He is not the source of any of the relevant information on which the court was asked to rely for its probable-cause finding that Page was a clandestine agent of Russia. In this context, source means a reliable witness who saw or heard some occurrence on which the court is being asked to base its ruling.

Steele has not been in Russia for about 20 years. In connection with the dossier allegations, he was merely the purveyor of information from the actual sources — unidentified Russians who themselves relied on hearsay information from other sources (sometimes double and triple hearsay, very attenuated from the supposed original source).

In each Carter Page FISA warrant application, the FBI represented that it had “reviewed this verified application for accuracy.” But did the bureau truly ensure that the information had been “thoroughly vetted and confirmed”? Remember, we are talking here about serious, traitorous allegations against an American citizen and, derivatively, an American presidential campaign.

When the FBI averred that it had verified for accuracy the application that posited these allegations, it was, at best, being hyper-technical, and thus misleading. What the bureau meant was that its application correctly stated the allegations as Steele had related them. But that is not what “verification” means. The issue is not whether Steele’s allegations were accurately described; it is whether they were accurate, period. Were the allegations thoroughly vetted and confirmed by proof independent of Steele before being presented to the FISA court — which is what common sense and the FBI’s own manual mean by “verified”?

No, they were not.

There Is No Reason to Believe the Redactions Corroborate Steele
I have been making this point for months. When I made it again in a Fox and Friends interview on Sunday morning, critics asked how I could say such a thing when the warrants are pervasively redacted — how could I be so sure, given all we concededly don’t know, that the redactions do not corroborate Steele?

The critics’ tunnel vision on the redactions ignores the months of hearings and reporting on this core question, which I’ve continuously detailed. Here, for example, is what two senior Judiciary Committee senators, Charles Grassley and Lindsey Graham, wrote in a classified memo early this year after reviewing FISA applications (the memo was finally declassified and publicized over the objections of the FBI):

The bulk of the [first Carter Page FISA] application consists of allegations against Page that were disclosed to the FBI by Mr. Steele and are also outlined in the Steele dossier. The application appears to contain no additional information corroborating the dossier allegations against Mr. Page.

The senators went on to recount the concession by former FBI director James Comey that the bureau had relied on the credibility of Steele (who had previously assisted the bureau in another investigation), not the verification of Steele’s sources. In June 2017 testimony, Comey described information in the Steele dossier as “salacious and unverified.”

Moreover, the FBI’s former deputy director, Andrew McCabe, told Congress that the bureau tried very hard to verify Steele’s information but could provide no points of verification beyond the fact that Page did travel to Russia in July 2016 — a fact that required no effort to corroborate since the trip was unconcealed and widely known. (Page delivered a public commencement address at the New Economic School.) Furthermore, in British legal proceedings, Steele himself has described the information he provided to the FBI as “raw intelligence” that was “unverified.”

I freely acknowledge that we do not know what the redactions say. But we have been very well informed about what they do not say. They do not verify the allegations in the Steele dossier. I have no doubt that they have a great deal to say about Russia and its nefarious anti-American operations. But the FBI has been taking incoming fire for months about failing to corroborate Steele. No institution in America guards its reputation more zealously than does the FBI. If Steele had been corroborated, rest assured that the bureau would not be suffering in silence.

Plus, do you really think the FBI and Justice Department wanted to use the Steele dossier? Of course they didn’t. They undoubtedly believed Steele’s allegations (the applications say as much). That is no surprise given how much their top echelons loathed Donald Trump. But they were also well aware of the dossier’s significant legal problems — the suspect sourcing, the multiple hearsay. If they had solid evidence that verified Steele’s allegations, they would have used that evidence as their probable cause showing against Page. Instead, they used the dossier because, as McCabe told the House Intelligence Committee, without it they would have had no chance of persuading a judge that Page was a clandestine agent.

Whatever is in the redactions cannot change that.

There Is No Vicarious Credibility
To repeat what we’ve long said here, there is no vicarious credibility in investigations. When the government seeks a warrant, it is supposed to show the court that the actual sources of information are reliable — i.e., they were in a position to see or hear the relevant facts, and they are worthy of belief. It is not sufficient to show that the agent who assembles the source information is credible.

The vast majority of our investigators are honorable people who would never lie to a judge. But that is irrelevant because, in assessing probable cause, the judge is not being asked to rely on the honesty of the agent. The agent, after all, is under oath and supervised by a chain of command at the FBI and the Justice Department; the judge will generally assume that the agent is honestly and accurately describing the information he has gotten from various sources.

The judge’s main task is not to determine if the agent is credible. It is to weigh the reliability of the agent’s sources. Are the sources’ claims supported by enough evidence that the court should approve a highly intrusive warrant against an American citizen?

Here, Steele was in the position of an investigative agent relaying information. He was not a source (or informant) who saw or heard relevant facts. Even if we assume for argument’s sake that Steele is honest and reliable, that would tell us nothing about who his sources are, whether they were really in a position to see or hear the things they report, and whether they have a history of providing accurate information. Those are the questions the FBI must answer in order to vet and confirm factual allegations before presenting them to the FISA court. That was not done; the FBI relied on Steele’s reputation to vouch for his source’s claims.

The FISA Judges
In my public comments Sunday morning, I observed that the newly disclosed FISA applications are so shoddy that the judges who approved them ought to be asked some hard questions. I’ve gotten flak for that, no doubt because President Trump tweeted part of what I said. I stand by it. Still, some elaboration, which a short TV segment does not allow for, is in order.

I prefaced my remark about the judges with an acknowledgment of my own personal embarrassment. When people started theorizing that the FBI had presented the Steele dossier to the FISA court as evidence, I told them they were crazy: The FBI, which I can’t help thinking of as myFBI after 20 years of working closely with the bureau as a federal prosecutor, would never take an unverified screed and present it to a court as evidence. I explained that if the bureau believed the information in a document like the dossier, it would pick out the seven or eight most critical facts and scrub them as only the FBI can — interview the relevant witnesses, grab the documents, scrutinize the records, connect the dots. Whatever application eventually got filed in the FISA court would not even allude en passant to Christopher Steele or his dossier. The FBI would go to the FISA court only with independent evidence corroborated through standard FBI rigor.

Should I have assumed I could be wrong about that? Sure, even great institutions go rogue now and again. But even with that in mind, I would still have told the conspiracy theorists they were crazy — because in the unlikely event the FBI ever went off the reservation, the Justice Department would not permit the submission to the FISA court of uncorroborated allegations; and even if that fail-safe broke down, a court would not approve such a warrant.

It turns out, however, that the crazies were right and I was wrong. The FBI (and, I’m even more sad to say, my Justice Department) brought the FISA court the Steele-dossier allegations, relying on Steele’s credibility without verifying his information.

I am embarrassed by this not just because I assured people it could not have happened, and not just because it is so beneath the bureau — especially in a politically fraught case in which the brass green-lighted the investigation of a presidential campaign. I am embarrassed because what happened here flouts rudimentary investigative standards. Any trained FBI agent would know that even the best FBI agent in the country could not get a warrant based on his own stellar reputation. A fortiori, you would never seek a warrant based solely on the reputation of Christopher Steele — a non-American former intelligence agent who had political and financial incentives to undermine Donald Trump. It is always, always necessary to persuade the court that the actual sources of information allegedly amounting to probable cause are believable.

Well, guess what? No one knows that better than experienced federal judges, who deal with a steady diet of warrant applications. It is basic. Much of my bewilderment, in fact, stems from the certainty that if I had been so daft as to try to get a warrant based on the good reputation of one of my FBI case agents, with no corroboration of his or her sources, just about any federal judge in the Southern District of New York would have knocked my block off — and rightly so.

That’s why I said it.

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‘Jeff Sessions, Where Are You?’: Hannity Calls Dossier News ‘Biggest Single Scandal in US History’

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Also see:

Click on this  tweet and read the thread:

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: