Obama used NSA & FBI to spy on Trump – veteran CIA officer Gary Berntsen

RT – SophieCo, March 17, 2017: (go to RT for video)

The mighty CIA has fallen victim to a major breach, with WikiLeaks revealing the true scope of the Agency’s ability for cyber-espionage. Its tools seem to be aimed at ordinary citizens – your phone, your car, your TV, even your fridge can become an instrument of surveillance in the hands of the CIA. How does the CIA use these tools, and why do they need them in the first place? And as WikiLeaks promises even more revelations, how is all of this going to shape the already tense relationship between new president and the intelligence community? A man who has spent over two decades in the CIA’s clandestine service – Gary Berntsen is on SophieCo.

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Sophie Shevardnadze: Gary Berntsen, former CIA official, welcome to the show, great to have you with us. Now, Vault 7, a major batch of CIA docs revealed by Wikileaks uncovers the agency’s cyber tools. We’re talking about world’s most powerful intelligence agency – how exactly did the CIA lose control of its arsenal of hacking weapons?

Gary Berntsen: First off, I’d like to say that the world has changed a lot in the last several decades, and people are communicating in many different ways and intelligence services, whether they be American or Russian, are covering these communications and their coverage of those communications has evolved. Without commenting on the specific validity of those tools, it was clear that the CIA was surely using contractors to be involved in this process, not just staff officers, and that individuals decided that they had problems with U.S. policy, and have leaked these things to Wikileaks. This is a large problem, for the U.S. community, but just as the U.S. is having problems, the Russia face similar problems. Just this week you had multiple members of the FSB charged with hacking as well, and they have been charged by the U.S. government. So both services who are competitors, face challenges as we’ve entered a new era of mass communications.

SS: So like you’re saying, the leaker or leakers of the CIA docs is presumably a CIA contractor – should the agency be spending more effort on vetting its own officers? Is the process rigorous enough?

GB: Clearly. Look… There have been individuals since the dawn of history. Espionage is the second oldest occupation, have conducted spying and espionage operations, and there have been people who have turned against their own side and worked for competitors and worked for those opposing the country or the group that they’re working with. It’s been a problem from the beginning, and it continues to be a problem, and the U.S. clearly is going to have to do a much better job at vetting those individuals who are given security clearances, without a doubt.

SS: The CIA studied the flaws in the software of devices like iPhones, Androids, Smart TVs, apps like Whatsapp that left them exposed to hacking, but didn’t care about patching those up –  so, in essence the agency chose to leave Americans vulnerable to cyberattacks, rather than protect them?

GB: I think you have to understand, in this world that we’re operating and the number one target of our intelligence community are terrorists. Since the attacks of 9\11, 16 years ago, the obsession of the American intelligence community is to identify those planning terrorist attacks, collecting information on them and being able to defeat them. These individuals are using all these means of communication. I have spoken with many security services around the world, since my retirement back in 2005-2006, a lot of them have had problems covering the communications of somebody’s very devices and programs that you’ve talked about – whether they be narcotraffickers or salafist jihadists, they are all piggybacking off of commercial communications. Therefore the need for modern intelligence services to sort of provide coverage of all means of communications. And there’s a price that you pay for that.

SS: One of the most disturbing parts of the leaks is the “Weeping Angel” program – CIA hacking into Samsung Smart TVs to record what’s going on even when the TV appears to be turned off. Why are the CIA’s tools designed to penetrate devices used by ordinary Western citizens at home?

GB: Look, I wouldn’t say it has anything to do with Western homes, because the CIA doesn’t do technical operations against American citizens – that’s prohibited by the law. If the CIA does anything in the U.S., it does it side-by-side with the FBI, and it does it according to FISA – the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act laws. It’s gotta go to the judge to do those things. Those tools are used primarily against the individuals and terrorists that are targeting the U.S. or other foreign entities that we see as a significant threat to the U.S. national security, which is the normal functioning of any intelligence service.

SS: Just like you say, the CIA insists it never uses its investigative tools on American citizens in the US, but, we’re wondering, exactly how many terrorist camps in the Middle East have Samsung Smart TVs to watch their favorite shows on? Does it seem like the CIA lost its direction?

GB: Plenty of them.

SS: Plenty?…

GB: I’ve travelled in the Middle East, Samsungs are sold everywhere. Sophie, Samsung TVs are sold all over the world. I’ve spent a lot of time in the Middle East, I’ve seen them in Afghanistan, I’ve seen them everywhere. So, any kind of devices that you can imagine, people are using everywhere. We’re in a global economy now.

SS: The CIA has tools to hack iPhones – but they make up only around 15 % of the world’s smartphone market. IPhones are not popular among terrorists, but they are among business and political elites – so are they the real target here?

GB: No. The CIA in relative terms to the size of the world is a small organisation. It is an organisation that has roughly 20 or more thousand people – it’s not that large in terms of covering a planet with 7 billion people. We have significant threats to the U.S. and to the Western world. We live in an age of super-terrorism, we live in an age when individuals, small groups of people, can leverage technology at a lethal effect. The greatest threats to this planet are not just nuclear, they are bio. The U.S. needs to have as many tools as possible to defend itself against these threats, as does Russia want to have similar types of tools to defend itself. You too, Russian people have suffered from a number of terrible terrorist acts.

SS: Wikileaks suggest the CIA copied the hacking habits of other nations to create a fake electronic trace – why would the CIA need that?

GB: The CIA, as any intelligence service, would look to conduct coverage in the most unobtrusive fashion as possible. It is going to do its operations so that they can collect and collect again and again against terrorist organisations, where and whenever it can, because sometimes threats are not just static, they are continuous.

SS: You know this better, so enlighten me: does the he CIA have the authorisation to create the surveillance tools it had in the first place? Who gives it such authorisation?

GB: The CIA was created in 1947 by the National Security Act of the U.S. and does two different things – it does FI (foreign intelligence) collection and it does CA – covert action. Its rules for collection of intelligence were enshrined in the law that created it, the CIA Act 110, in 1949, but the covert action part of this, where it does active measures, when it gets involved in things – all of those are covered by law. The Presidential finding had to be written, it had to be presented to the President. The President’s signs off on those things. Those things are then briefed to members of Congress, or the House Permanent Subcommittee for Intelligence and the Senate Select Committee for Intelligence. We have a very rigorous process of review of the activities of our intelligence communities in the U.S.

SS: But you’re talking about the activities in terms of operations. I’m just asking – does CIA need any authorisation or permission to create the tools it has in its arsenal? Or it can just go ahead…

GB: Those tools         and the creation of collection tools falls under the same laws that allowed the CIA to be established. And that was the 1949 Intelligence Act. And also, subsequently, the laws in 1975. Yes.

SS: So, the CIA programme names are quite colourful, sometimes wacky –  “Weeping Angel”, “Swamp Monkey”, “Brutal Kangaroo” – is there a point to these, is there any logic, or are they completely random? I always wondered…

GB: There’s absolutely no point to that, and it’s random.

SS:Okay, so how do you come up with those names? Who… like, one says: “Monkey” and another one says: “Kangaroo”?…

GB: I’m sure they are computer-generated.

SS: Trump accused Obama of wiretapping him during the campaign… Could the CIA have actually spied on the president? It seems like the agency doesn’t have the best relationship with Donald Trump – how far can they go?

GB: Let me just say this: the President used the word “wiretapping” but I think it was very clear to us that have been in the intelligence business, that this was a synonym for “surveillance”. Because most people are on cellphones, people aren’t using landlines anymore, so there’s no “wiretapping”, okay. These all fall under the Intelligence Surveillance Act, as I stated earlier, this thing existing in the U.S.. It was clear to President Trump and to those in his campaign, after they were elected, and they did a review back that the Obama Administration sought FISA authorisation to do surveillance of the Trump campaign in July and then in October. They were denied in July, they were given approval in October, and in October they did some types of surveillance of the Trump campaign. This is why the President, of course, tweeted, that he had been “wiretapped” – of course “wiretapping” being a synonym for the surveillance against his campaign, which was never heard of in the U.S. political history that I can remember, I can’t recall any way of this being done. It’s an outrage, and at the same time, Congressional hearings are going to be held and they are going to review all of these things, and they are going to find out exactly what happened and what was done. It’s unclear right now, but all we do know – and it has been broken in the media that there were two efforts, and at the second one, the authorisation was given. That would never have been done by the CIA, because they don’t do that sort of coverage in the U.S.. That would either be the FBI or the NSA, with legal authorities and those authorities… the problem that the Trump administration had is they believed that the information from these things was distributed incorrectly. Any time an American –  and this is according to the U.S. law – any time an American is on the wire in the U.S., their names got to be minimized from this and it clearly wasn’t done and the Trump administration was put in a bad light because of this.

SS: If what you’re saying is true, how does that fall under foreign intelligence? Is that more of the FBI-NSA expertise?

GB: It was FBI and NSA – it was clearly the FBI and the NSA that were involved, it would never have been the CIA doing that, they don’t listen to telephones in the U.S., they read the product of other agencies that would provide those things, but clearly, there were individuals on those phone calls that they believed were foreign and were targeting those with potential communications with the Trump campaign. Let’s be clear here – General Clapper, the DNI for President Obama, stated before he left office, that there was no, I repeat, no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. This has been something that has been dragged out again, and again, and again, by the media. This is a continuing drumbeat of the mainstream, left-wing media of the U.S., topaint the President in the poorest light, to attempt to discredit Donald Trump.

SS: With the intelligence agencies bringing down Trump’s advisors like Michael Flynn – and you said the people behind that were Obama’s loyalists – can we talk about the intelligence agencies being too independent from the White House, playing their own politics?

GB: I think part of the problem that we’ve seen during the handover of power from President Obama to President Trump was that there was a number of holdovers that went from political appointee to career status that had been placed in the NatSec apparatus and certain parts of the intelligence organisations. It is clear that President Trump and his team are determined to remove those people to make sure that there’s a continuity of purpose and people aren’t leaking information that would put the Administration into a negative light. That’s the goal of the administration, to conduct itself consistent with the goals of securing the country from terrorism and other potential threats – whether they be counter-narcotics, or intelligence agencies trying to breach our… you know, the information that we hold secure.

SS: Here’s a bit of conspiracy theories – could it be that the domestic surveillance agencies like the NSA or the FBI orchestrated the Vault 7 leaks  – to damage CIA, stop it from infringing on their turf?

GB :I really don’t think so and that is conspiracy  thinking. You have to understand something, in the intelligence communities in the U.S., whether it be the CIA and FBI, we’ve done a lot of cross-fertilizations. When I was in senior position in CIA’s counterterrorism center, I had a deputy who was an FBI officer. An office in FBI HQ down in Washington had an FBI lead with a CIA deputy. There’s a lot more cooperation than one would think. There are individuals that do assignments in each other’s organisations to help foster levels of cooperation. I had members of NSA in my staff when I was at CIA, members of diplomatic security, members of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and it was run like a task force, so, there’s a lot more cooperation than the media presents, they always think that there are these huge major battles between the organisations and that’s rarely true.

SS: Generally speaking – is there rivalry between American intel agencies at all? Competition for resources, maybe?

GB: I think, sometimes, between the Bureau and the CIA – the CIA is the dominant agency abroad, and the FBI is the dominant agency in the U.S. What they do abroad, they frequently have to get cleared by us, what we do domestically, we have to get cleared by them, and sometimes there’s some friction, but usually, we’re able to work this out. It makes for great news, the CIA fighting FBI, but the reality is that there’s a lot more cooperation than confrontation. We are all in the business of trying to secure the American homeland and American interests globally.

SS: I’m still thinking a lot about the whole point of having this hacking arsenal for the CIA since you talk on their behalf – the possibility to hack phones, computers, TVs and cars – if the actual terrorist attacks on US soil, like San Bernardino, Orlando are still missed?

GB: Look. There are hundreds of individuals, if not thousands, planning efforts against the U.S. at any  time. It can be many-many things. And the U.S. security services, there’s the CIA, the FBI, NSA – block many-many of these things, but it is impossible to stop them all. Remember, this is an open society here, in America, with 320 million people, here. We try to foster open economic system, we allow more immigration to America than all countries in the world combined. This is a great political experiment here, but it’s also very difficult to police. There are times that the U.S. security services are going to fail. It’s inevitable. We just have to try the best we can, do the best job that we can, while protecting the values that attract so many people to the U.S.

SS:The former CIA director John Brennan is saying Trump’s order to temporarily ban travel from some Muslim states is not going to help fight terrorism in ‘any significant way’. And the countries where the terrorists have previously come from – like Saudi Arabia, or Afghanistan, it’s true – aren’t on the list. So does he maybe have a point?

GB: John Brennan is acting more like a political operative than a former director of CIA. The countries that Mr. Trump had banned initially, or at least had put a partial, sort of a delay – where states like Somalia, Libya, the Sudan, Iran – places where we couldn’t trust local vetting. Remember something, when someone immigrates to the U.S., we have what’s called an “immigration packet”: they may have to get a chest X-ray to make sure they don’t bring any diseases with them, they have to have background check on any place they’ve ever lived, and in most of these places there are no security forces to do background checks on people that came from Damascus, because parts of Damascus are totally destroyed – there’s been warfare. It is actually a very reasonable thing for President Trump to ask for delay in these areas. Look, the Crown-Prince, the Deputy Crown-Prince of Saudi Arabia was just in the United States and met with Donald Trump, and he said he didn’t believe it was a “ban on Muslims”. This was not a “ban on Muslims”, it was an effort to slow down and to create more opportunity to vet those individuals coming from states where there’s a preponderance of terrorist organisations operating. A reasonable step by President Trump, something he promised during the campaign, something he’s fulfilling. But again, I repeat – America allows more immigration into the U.S., than all countries combined. So, we really don’t need to be lectured on who we let in and who we don’t let in.

SS: But I still wonder if the Crown-Prince would’ve had the same comment had Saudi Arabia been on that ban list. Anyways, Michael Hayden, ex-CIA…

GB: Wait a second, Sophie – the Saudis have a reasonable form to police their society, and they provide accurate police checks. If they didn’t create accurate police checks, we would’ve given the delay to them as well.

SS: Ok, I got your point. Now, Michael Hayden, ex-CIA and NSA chief, pointed out that the US intelligence enlists agents in the Muslim world with the promise of eventual emigration to America – is Trump’s travel ban order going to hurt American intelligence gathering efforts in the Middle East?

GB: No, the question here – there were individuals that worked as translators for us in Afghanistan and Iraq and serving in such roles as translators, they were promised the ability to immigrate to the United States. Unfortunately, some of them were blocked in the first ban that was put down, because individuals who wrote that, didn’t consider that. That has been considered in the re-write, that the Trump administration had submitted, which is now being attacked by a judge in Hawaii, and so it was taken into consideration, but… the objective here was to help those that helped U.S. forces on the ground, especially those who were translators, in ground combat operations, where they risked their lives alongside American soldiers.

SS:You worked in Afghanistan – you were close to capturing Bin Laden back in 2001 – what kind of spying tools are actually used on the ground by the CIA to catch terrorists?

GB: The CIA as does any intelligence service in the world, is a human business. It’s a business where we work with local security forces to strengthen their police and intelligence forces, we attempt to leverage them, we have our own people on the ground that speak the language, we’re trying to help build transportation there. There’s no “secret sauce” here. There’s no super-technology that changes the country’s ability to conduct intelligence collections or operations. In Afghanistan the greatest thing that the U.S. has is broad support and assistance to Afghan men and women across the country. We liberated half of the population, and for women were providing education, and when the people see what we were doing: trying to build schools, providing USAID projects – all of these things – this makes the population willing to work with and support the United States. Frequently, members of the insurgence groups will see this and sometimes they do actually cross the lines and cooperate with us. So, it’s a full range of American political power, whether it’s hard or soft, that is the strength of the American intelligence services – because  people in the world actually believe – and correctly so – that American more than generally a force of good in the world.

SS: Gary, thank you so much for this interesting interview and insight into the world of the CIA. We’ve been talking to Gary Berntsen, former top CIA officer, veteran of the agency, talking about the politics of American intelligence in the Trump era. That’s it for this edition of SophieCo, I will see you next time.

***

While searching for the RT video on YouTube I found this recent interview with Gary Berntsen by Newsfirst Sri Lanka:

Surprise: At the End, Obama Administration Gave NSA Broad New Powers

(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

PJ MEDIA, BY MICHAEL WALSH, FEBRUARY 15, 2017

This story, from the Jan. 12, 2017, edition of the New York Times, was little-remarked upon at the time, but suddenly has taken on far greater significance in light of current events:

In its final days, the Obama administration has expanded the power of the National Security Agency to share globally intercepted personal communications with the government’s 16 other intelligence agencies before applying privacy protections.

The new rules significantly relax longstanding limits on what the N.S.A. may do with the information gathered by its most powerful surveillance operations, which are largely unregulated by American wiretapping laws. These include collecting satellite transmissions, phone calls and emails that cross network switches abroad, and messages between people abroad that cross domestic network switches.

The change means that far more officials will be searching through raw data. Essentially, the government is reducing the risk that the N.S.A. will fail to recognize that a piece of information would be valuable to another agency, but increasing the risk that officials will see private information about innocent people.

One of the central questions behind the Mike Flynn flap that should have been asked but largely wasn’t is: who was wiretapping the general? The answer, we know now, was the National Security Agency, formerly known as No Such Agency, the nation’s foremost signals-intelligence (SIGINT) collection department.

Once compartmentalized to avoid injuring private citizens caught up in the net of the Black Widow (as we all are already) and her technological successors, the NSA was suddenly handed greater latitude in what it could share with other, perhaps more politicized bodies of the intelligence community. Why?

Let’s call the roster of the bad guys:

Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch signed the new rules, permitting the N.S.A. to disseminate “raw signals intelligence information,” on Jan. 3, after the director of national intelligence, James R. Clapper Jr., signed them on Dec. 15, according to a 23-page, largely declassified copy of the procedures.

Previously, the N.S.A. filtered information before sharing intercepted communications with another agency, like the C.I.A. or the intelligence branches of the F.B.I. and the Drug Enforcement Administration. The N.S.A.’s analysts passed on only information they deemed pertinent, screening out the identities of innocent people and irrelevant personal information.

Now, other intelligence agencies will be able to search directly through raw repositories of communications intercepted by the N.S.A. and then apply such rules for “minimizing” privacy intrusions.

“This is not expanding the substantive ability of law enforcement to get access to signals intelligence,” said Robert S. Litt, the general counsel to Mr. Clapper. “It is simply widening the aperture for a larger number of analysts, who will be bound by the existing rules.”

Throwing the BS flag on this one. “Widening the aperture,” my old granny. One of the things about the IC is that “existing rules” are made to be broken whenever one of its unaccountable minions feels like it; these are people who lie and cheat for a living. And the genius of the Democrats — something for the GOP to think about next time — is that they were able to leverage the transition in order to change as many rules and embed as many apparatchiks as possible before formally turning over the reins to the new kids.

But Patrick Toomey, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, called the move an erosion of rules intended to protect the privacy of Americans when their messages are caught by the N.S.A.’s powerful global collection methods. He noted that domestic internet data was often routed or stored abroad, where it may get vacuumed up without court oversight.

“Rather than dramatically expanding government access to so much personal data, we need much stronger rules to protect the privacy of Americans,” Mr. Toomey said. “Seventeen different government agencies shouldn’t be rooting through Americans’ emails with family members, friends and colleagues, all without ever obtaining a warrant.”

Correct. But the Fourth Amendment went out the barn door along with all the pretty horses long ago. Google and Facebook and Amazon know more about you than the CIA or FBI ever used to. And most of the personal information is provided by… you. Think about that, the next time you “check in,” post pictures of your loved ones and talk about your travel plans.

Following me on Twitter @dkahanerules

New Report: The Purge of US Counterterrorism Training by the Obama Administration

purged-rpt

February 7, 2017, New Unconstrained Analytics Report:

On June 28, 2016, the Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Oversight, Agency Action, Federal Rights and Federal Courts held a hearing chaired by Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) investigating a series of policies established by the Obama Administration during 2011-2012 that effectively neutered FBI counterterrorism training and blinded our nation’s national security, defense and intelligence agencies to the threat from Islamic terrorism.

In what some experts have termed a hostile “political warfare campaign” driven by an alliance between the administration, Islamic organizations and cooperating media figures, analysts and subject matter experts were blacklisted, and books and training materials were purged from official counterterrorism training programs government-wide.

This “purge” has contributed to clues being missed by the FBI in major terrorism cases, including the April 2013 bombing of the Boston Marathon, and more recently the June 2016 massacre at The Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, by Omar Mateen, who had been the target of previous FBI investigations in 2013 and 2014.

Patrick Poole of Unconstrained Analytics has written a new report detailing how this counterterrorism training purge happened, the players involved, the surprising but overlooked findings by a GAO report, and the consequences of having our law enforcement/military/intelligence professionals intentionally denied important training on the threat doctrine of the enemy, As a result, they have been blinded, losing any ability to identify, and then defeat, the enemy.

REPORT – Purged: A Detailed Look at ‘The Purge’ of US Counterterrorism Training by the Obama Administration (pdf)

The New Bin Laden Documents

his undated file photo shows al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan. (AP Photo, File)

his undated file photo shows al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan. (AP Photo, File)

Why the public needs to see most of Osama bin Laden’s files.

Weekly Standard, by Thomas Joscelyn, January 19, 2017:

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) released 98 additional items from Osama bin Laden’s compound today. If the ODNI has its way, then these files will be the last the American people see for some time. The accompanying announcement is titled, “Closing the Book on bin Laden: Intelligence Community Releases Final Abbottabad Documents.” The ODNI says today’s release “marks the end of a two-and-a-half-year effort to declassify several hundred documents recovered” during the Abbottabad raid.

But the total number of files released thus far, including today’s document dump, is just a drop in the bucket compared to what was found in the al Qaeda master’s compound. And if the public and the media care about transparency, then they should push to see more.

As THE WEEKLY STANDARD has reported in the past, more than 1 million documents and files were recovered in Abbottabad. Some of the documents (e.g. blanks, duplicates, scans of publicly available media, etc.) are basically worthless. But many thousands more illuminate how al Qaeda has operated.

On May 8, 2011, Tom Donilon, who was then President Obama’s National Security Adviser, explained that bin Laden’s documents and files would fill a “small college library.” Donilon elaborated further that the recovered intelligence demonstrated Osama bin Laden’s active role. At the time of his death, the al Qaeda founder oversaw a cohesive international network, receiving updates from around the globe on a regular basis.

In 2012, the Washington Post reported that U.S. officials “described the complete collection of bin Laden material as the largest cache of terrorism files ever obtained, with about 100 flash drives and DVDs as well as five computer hard drives, piles of paper and a handwritten journal kept by the al-Qaeda chief.”

To date, the ODNI has released or listed just 620 “items” found in bin Laden’s home. Only 314 of these are “declassified material.”

That is an insignificant fraction of the total collection.

President Obama’s White House also released 17 files via West Point’s Combating Terrorism center in 2012. And a handful of additional documents made their way to the public during a terror-related trial in Brooklyn in 2015. But even including those files, the public has still only seen a small number of documents, as compared to the total cache.

Gen. Michael Flynn, who will serve as the National Security Adviser to President Trump, has read and been briefed on some of the bin Laden files. Gen. Flynn also fought to have the documents fully exploited. Last year, Flynn wrote that only a “tiny fraction” had been released to the public. That was before today’s release. But the 98 new items hardly mark an appreciable increase.

Transparency is important for a number of reasons. Consider the ODNI’s own statement on today’s release, and how it provides a remarkably incomplete picture regarding al Qaeda’s decades-long relationship with Iran.

Why would ODNI attempt to portray bin Laden’s views as fixed and negative—”hatred, suspicion”—when documents written by bin Laden himself tell a more nuanced, yet troubling story?

There’s no question that some of bin Laden’s files document the tensions and problems in al Qaeda’s relationship with Iran. Bin Laden worried that members of his family would be tracked by Iranian intelligence. At one point, al Qaeda even kidnapped an Iranian diplomat in order to force a prisoner exchange. Some senior al Qaeda leaders have been held in Iranian custody for years.

But there is much more to the story, including the documents detailing Iran’s longtime collusion with al Qaeda. The ODNI is essentially asking readers to focus on the bad days in al Qaeda’s marriage with Iran, while ignoring the good days.

One previously released document, apparently authored by bin Laden himself, summarized his views on Iran. In a letter dated Oct. 18, 2007, Bin Laden warned one of his subordinates in Iraq not to openly threaten attacks inside Iran. Bin Laden explained why (emphasis added):

You did not consult with us on that serious issue that affects the general welfare of all of us. We expected you would consult with us for these important matters, for as you are aware, Iran is our main artery for funds, personnel, and communication, as well as the matter of hostages.

Bin Laden was pragmatic when it came to dealing with Iran for reasons that are not hard to understand: Iran was the “main artery” for his organization. Why would ODNI attempt to portray bin Laden’s views as fixed and negative—”hatred, suspicion”—when documents written by bin Laden himself so plainly contradict this?

Since July 2011, President Obama’s Treasury and State Departments have repeatedly made it clear that Iran hosts senior al Qaeda leaders. Echoing bin Laden’s letter, the State Department has even described al Qaeda’s network inside Iran as its “core pipeline.”

The Treasury and State Departments publicly accused the Iranian regime of allowing al Qaeda to operate inside Iran in: July 2011, December 2011, February 2012, July 2012, October 2012, May 2013, January 2014, February 2014, April 2014, August 2014, and July 2016.

In addition, during congressional testimony in February 2012, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper described the relationship as a “marriage of convenience.”

Today’s statement by the ODNI says nothing about this “convenience.”

The bin Laden files are an invaluable resource for checking the U.S. Intelligence Community’s assessments. The CIA’s erroneous assessment of al Qaeda’s strength in Afghanistan is a case in point.

In June 2010, then CIA Director Leon Panetta told ABC’s This Week that al Qaeda’s footprint in Afghanistan was “relatively small,” totaling “50 to 100” members, “maybe less.”

A memo written by Osama bin Laden’s chief manager that same month told a different story. In the memo, bin Laden’s henchman explained that al Qaeda was operating in at least eight of Afghanistan’s provinces as of June 2010. In addition, just one al Qaeda “battalion” based in Kunar and Nuristan had 70 members by itself. In other words, just one al Qaeda “battalion” exceeded the lower bound of the CIA’s figures for all of Afghanistan—all by itself. U.S. officials have been forced to concede in recent months that there are far more al Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan than previously estimated. If they had accurately assessed bin Laden’s files, then they would have already known that.

Osama bin Laden’s files are a crucial resource to understanding the 9/11 wars, and al Qaeda’s strengths and weaknesses. The American public should be able to see as many of them as possible.

No Surprise Classified Report on Russia Leaked to Media to Hurt Trump

524204248-1Center for Security Policy, by Fred Fleitz, January 6, 2016:

The same day that a classified 50-page intelligence report was delivered to President Obama on alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, its findings were immediately leaked to the Washington Post by “U.S. officials” – probably senior Obama officials at the National Security Council.  Making this worse, the leakers may have compromised sensitive intelligence sources and methods by revealing that the report was based on intercepted communications.

According to the Post story, the classified intelligence report says senior officials in the Russian government celebrated Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton as a geopolitical win for Moscow.  So-called “actors” involved in providing Democratic emails to WikiLeaks reportedly are identified.  The report also is said to discuss “disparities in the levels of effort Russian intelligence entities devoted to penetrating and exploiting sensitive information stored on Democratic and Republican campaign networks.”

After the Washington Post story was posted online, a senior U.S. intelligence official discussed the classified report with NBC News.  The intelligence official agreed to talk to NBC because he or she disagreed with the focus of the Post story and believes the Post overemphasized alleged Russian celebration of Trump’s win and did not focus on the thrust of the report.

Two other intelligence officials also leaked details of the classified report to NBC.  According to the NBC story, “Two top intelligence officials with direct knowledge told NBC News that the report on Russian hacking also details Russian cyberattacks not just against the Democratic National Committee, but the White House, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the State Department and American corporations.”

It’s no surprise that Obamas officials would immediately leak to the news media details about the intelligence report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election since they have a history of leaking highly classified intelligence to the press – including sensitive intelligence sources and methods – to advance their political agendas.

For example, in 2012 then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates reportedly told the Obama NSC staff to “shut the f— up” after they leaked sensitive details about the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound as part of a victory lap for the president’s foreign policy.

Not only do I believe the Obama White House raced to the phone to leak the new intelligence report on Russian hacking to the press, I believe this is why Mr. Obama requested this report in the first place – the president wanted an intelligence assessment undermining Trump’s election that his staff could leak to the news media before he left office.

But as bad as the leaking of classified reports to the press for political reasons by White House officials is, leaks about the Russia report by intelligence officers are far more serious, especially at a time of growing tension between President-elect Donald Trump and the U.S. Intelligence Community.  Trump’s team has attacked the accuracy of intelligence assessments and accused intelligence officers of leaking to the news media against Trump and politicizing intelligence.  Regardless of whether these accusations have merit (I believe they do), press leaks by intelligence officials on the Russia report will only widen the rift between Trump and U.S. intelligence agencies.  Trump tweeted in response to the NBC story:

How did the intelligence officials who leaked to NBC expect Mr. Trump to react?  Did they give any thought to the damage these leaks would cause to relations between their agencies and the president-elect?

President Trump will need and deserve a U.S. Intelligence Community that provides him with hard hitting and objective analysis devoid of politics.  It’s time for Director of National Intelligence Clapper and other intelligence officials to stop complaining about Donald Trump “disparaging” U.S. intelligence agencies and demand that intelligence officers stop trying to undermine our new president.  I am certain that the vast majority of intelligence officers welcome the opportunity to support Mr. Trump.  If the handful of intelligence officers who have been leaking against Trump cannot accept his election and their responsibility to loyally serve the next president, they need to resign immediately.

MB/Hamas Orgs in Chicago Using Interfaith Outreach to Surveil Churches

Understanding the Threat, by John Guandolo, December 20, 2016:

After UTT published it’s article yesterday (12/19/16) revealing Muslims are conducting pre-operation surveillance in American churches, UTT was contacted by law enforcement, intelligence sources and others.

From these discussions it was revealed that members of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago (CIOGC) are using interfaith outreach with Christian churches and Jewish synagogues for the purpose of (1) studying them internally to determine how to best influence their congregations to soften them towards Islam, and (2) to conduct pre-operational surveillance of the churches and synagogues.

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Law enforcement officials are aware CIOGC is tied directly to the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood, and is heavily influenced by Hamas doing business as the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR).

It is UTT’s professional opinion the Executive Director of CAIR, Nihad Awad, is the Muslim Brotherhood’s General Masul – the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in the United States.

The CIOGC is considered by some in the Chicago community as a “moderate” organization working to “bring the community together.”  In fact, they are using and manipulating non-Muslim religious leaders to intentionally weaken their positions so Muslims will have an easier time controlling public opinion and the opinion of the Christian/Jewish congregations so when violence strikes the Christians and Jews will rely on – not break from – the jihadis posing as friends.

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An example of how this will work here in America is the killing of a Catholic priest in France in July 2016. Muslims killed the priest during Mass, and within days, Christian and Jewish leaders were standing arm in arm with the leaders of the jihadi muslim community who support jihad and killing priests.

Exactly the objective of the efforts of the Islamic leaders.

Relatedly, UTT also received reports Monday confirming other churches in the U.S. are experiencing similar episodes as described in UTT’s article about churches being surveilled by Muslims.

UTT stands ready to assist church leadership to provide consultation, briefings, and training.

Because of the increased threat to U.S. churches, UTT has changed it fee for programs in churches, and for the time being will conduct briefings for churches on the Islamic threat for a significantly reduced rate. Please contact us at info@understandingthethreat.com for more information.

On a day when a muslim Turkish policeman assassinated the Russian Ambassador to Turkey and two muslims plowed a truck into a crowded Christmas market in Berlin, Germany killing at least 12 and wounding approximately 50 others, American religious leaders need to get attentive quickly and face the wolf inside their house.

Obama to NatSec Agencies: Increase Diversity, Train on ‘Implicit or Unconscious Bias’

President Obama, joined by Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Vice President Joe Biden speaks at CIA Headquarters in Langley, Va., on April 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

President Obama, joined by Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Vice President Joe Biden speaks at CIA Headquarters in Langley, Va., on April 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

PJ Media, by Bridget Johnson, October 5, 2016:

WASHINGTON — President Obama issued a memo to heads of government agencies today on increasing diversity in the national security workforce to make the diplomacy, development, defense, intelligence, law enforcement, and homeland security complex “more effective at problem solving than homogeneous groups.”

The national security workforce in the federal government consists of more than 3 million workers from agencies such as the Intelligence Community, USAID, Treasury Department, State Department, Justice Department, and the Department of Homeland Security.

Obama said data collected on the departments “indicate that agencies in this workforce are less diverse on average than the rest of the federal government,” and in 2015 only the State Department USAID Civil Services “were more diverse in terms of gender, race, and ethnicity than the federal workforce as a whole.”

The president reminded agency heads of his 2011 directive to “promote diversity and inclusion” in the federal workforce as a whole, and directed national security leaders to “ensure their diversity and inclusion practices are fully integrated into broader succession planning efforts and supported by sufficient resource allocations and effective programs that invest in personnel development and engagement.”

Agencies will be required yearly to provide their demographic breakdown to the general public. Applicant data will be analyzed for “fairness and inclusiveness” in the recruitment process and “agencies shall develop a system to collect and analyze applicant flow data for as many positions as practicable in order to identify future areas for improvement in attracting diverse talent, with particular attention to senior and management positions.” Agencies will expand the categories of voluntary information current employees can provide to include details “such as information regarding sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Obama directed interviews with current employees and exit interviews to be studied by leaders for “if and how the results of the interviews differ by gender, race and national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability status, and other demographic variables” with any resulting policy recommendations.

National security agencies were also told to “prioritize resources to expand professional development opportunities” and “consider the number of expected senior-level vacancies as a factor in determining the number of candidates to select for such programs.”

“Agencies shall track the demographics of program participants as well as the rate of placement into senior-level positions for participants in such programs, evaluate such data on an annual basis to look for ways to improve outreach and recruitment for these programs consistent with merit system principles, and include such data in the report.”

Obama added that “for agencies in the national security workforce that place assignment restrictions on personnel or otherwise prohibit certain geographic assignments due to a security determination, these agencies shall ensure a review process exists consistent with the Adjudicative Guidelines for Determining Eligibility for Access to Classified Information, as well as applicable counterintelligence considerations.”

“Agencies shall ensure that affected personnel are informed of the right to seek review and the process for doing so,” he wrote.

Senior leadership and supervisors, the president directed, should “reward and recognize efforts to promote diversity and inclusion… consistent with merit system principles, such as through participation in mentoring programs or sponsorship initiatives, recruitment events, and other opportunities.”

“Agencies shall expand their provision of training on implicit or unconscious bias, inclusion, and flexible work policies and make implicit or unconscious bias training mandatory for senior leadership and management positions, as well as for those responsible for outreach, recruitment, hiring, career development, promotion, and security clearance adjudication,” he added.

That training “may be implemented in a phased approach commensurate with agency resources” and “should give special attention to ensuring the continuous incorporation of research-based best practices, including those to address the intersectionality between certain demographics and job positions.”

The first progress report on the new guidelines will be due to the president in 120 days — when there will be a new occupant in the Oval Office.

Also see:

If you don’t believe what the radicals think you should believe, you must be taught to believe something different — on the government’s dime, of course. Hillary wants to fund the retraining, and the NAACP wants to make it mandatory — complete with sanctions if your perceived biases don’t disappear.

How will the thought police know the actual police are biased? If they don’t believe the “right” things. Spend any time on campus, in diversity training, or on progressive websites, and you’ll see that disagreement with leftist cultural critiques is all the proof anyone needs of racism and other forms of bigotry. Evidence, experience, and probabilities are completely irrelevant when it comes time to cleanse the mind of “bias.”

There are those on the Left who simply refuse to look at a case on the facts. They insist that they have knowledge about the inner lives and motivations of the relevant parties that is unknown even to the parties themselves. They use this alleged knowledge to stoke unrest and violate civil liberties. And they have an ally in Hillary Clinton. She’ll fund all the re-education we need.

Why FBI Suspects Keep Attacking Americans

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The reason our authorities don’t take pre-emptive action against Islamic terror — even after solid intelligence warnings.

Front Page Magazine, by Matthew Vadum, Sept. 21, 2016:

Why does the Obama administration keep failing to thwart Muslim terrorist attacks in the U.S. after receiving apparently good intelligence warning of those attacks?

It turns out that Americans keep turning in budding Muslim terrorists to the Obama administration and the administration keeps on doing nothing. For example, the alleged mastermind of the weekend pressure-cooker bombing in New York City was turned in by his own father but the Federal Bureau of Investigation failed to do much of anything about him.

These intelligence failures have become a recurrent theme in the Obama era, with deadly results. Excluding the events of the last few days, there have been 89 Muslim terrorist plots and attacks in the United States since Sept. 11, 2001 and 25 of those have taken place since the beginning of 2015, according to David Inserra of the Heritage Foundation.

Counterterrorism expert Sebastian Gorka, vice president at the Institute of World Politics, blamed political correctness for the FBI’s inability to do something about Rahami before he acted.

“There are certain sensitivities,” Gorka said on the “O’Reilly Factor” last night.

“A certain political matrix is being forced upon our operators and investigators,” he said. Usually this kind of political pressure originates not from the FBI, but from the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, he said.

The FBI is also hindered by inadequate human resources, Gorka said. There are reportedly 900 active terrorist investigations in all 50 states and the bureau can only do so much, he said.

The FBI has indeed been handcuffed in terrorist investigations by President Obama whose administration has worked with terrorist front groups like the Council for American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). The law enforcement agency has also become increasingly politicized in the Obama era.

The pressure-cooker terrorist was apprehended after he injured a score of New Yorkers on the weekend but not through brilliant police work. He was caught during a shootout with cops.

Ahmad Khan Rahami, a.k.a. Ahmad Rahimi, was charged yesterday with use of weapons of mass destruction and bombing a place of public use. Rahami was born in Afghanistan but became a U.S. citizen.

Prosecutors say Rahami planted a pipe bomb and triggering cellphone Saturday morning in Seaside Park, N.J., before a scheduled U.S. Marine Corps charity run. Later that day he placed a pressure cooker bomb in the Chelsea neighborhood in Manhattan that the complaint states caused injuries and “multiple-million dollars of property damage across a 650-foot crime scene.” Twenty-nine people were wounded. He was previously charged with multiple counts of attempted murder of police officers and other offenses arising from a gun battle when he was captured Monday.

Police also discovered and safely detonated a pipe bomb at a train station in Elizabeth, N.J. Although it is unclear if Rahami is connected to that bomb, his family did sue the city of Elizabeth in 2011 claiming harassment and religious discrimination related to their family restaurant, First American Fried Chicken.

Rahami came to the attention of the FBI two years ago when his father suspected his son was involved in terrorism. Mohammad Rahami told reporters he contacted federal authorities after Ahmad stabbed Nasser, another one of his sons, and attacked another family member, which led to a criminal investigation.

The FBI apparently performed a superficial examination of the case at the time.

 “In August 2014, the F.B.I. initiated an assessment of Ahmad Rahami based upon comments made by his father after a domestic dispute that were subsequently reported to authority,” the agency said in a press release. “The F.B.I. conducted internal database reviews, interagency checks, and multiple interviews, none of which revealed ties to terrorism.”

It would seem the fact that Rahami made a three-month trip to Quetta, Pakistan, in 2011, and visited Quetta again during an 11-month trip beginning in 2013, were ignored by the FBI. Quetta is a Taliban stronghold and a hotbed of Salafi jihadism.

About two miles from the Chelsea attack, President Obama gave a speech at the United Nations in which he said the U.S. should take more immigrants like Rahami and implicitly attacked GOP candidate Donald Trump. Obama blamed America for the world’s problems as he jabbed at Trump’s promise to secure the border, crack down on illegal aliens, and change our asylum policies.

“The world is too small for us to simply be able to build a wall,” Obama said. “We have to open our hearts and do more to help refugees who are desperate for a home,” he said. He added, “today a nation ringed by walls would only imprison itself.”

Obama also suggested that Americans and Europeans are racist for not wanting to be swamped by outsiders from hostile cultures. “And in Europe and the United States, you see people wrestle with concerns about immigration and changing demographics, and suggesting that somehow people who look different are corrupting the character of our countries,” he said.

Meanwhile, Rahami isn’t the first Islamic terrorist law enforcement agencies have failed to do anything about after receiving tips.

Omar Mir Siddique Mateen, who in June killed 49 innocent victims at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., was reported to the FBI in 2014. The massacre has been called the worst mass shooting in American history and the worst domestic terrorist attack since 9/11. Mateen, shot dead by police during the episode, had been under FBI investigation.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack after it took place. Mateen himself “claimed allegiance to the Islamic State and praised the Boston Marathon bombers,” before being killed by police on the scene, the New York Times reported at the time.

In December 2015, President Obama ignored FBI-procured evidence that the terrorist attack in San Bernardino, Calif., was an Islamic terrorist operation and ordered federal officials to mislead the public about the true nature of the assault.

Although the FBI knew immediately that the mass-casualty event was a Muslim terrorist attack, Obama and FBI Director James Comey reportedly clashed over why Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, opened fire Farook’s municipal government workmates, leaving 14 dead. They left a trail of social media evidence that went unused before the attack.

Whistleblower Phil Haney, an investigator who helped to create the Department of Homeland Security, revealed the government shut down a database he created that might have helped to prevent the attack. Haney says he looked into groups that had ties to Farook and Malik as far back as 2012. But civil rights officials accused him of unfairly profiling Muslims, removed his security clearance, and destroyed the data he collected. (Haney tells his story in Trevor Loudon’s powerful new documentary film about leftist and jihadist influence in the U.S. government, The Enemies Within.)

And don’t forget the 2013 Boston Marathon bombers, Tamerlan and Dzhokar Tsarnaev. The FBI had been investigating Tamerlan and Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) warned the Obama administration about his jihadist sympathies.

But Barack Obama doesn’t like reality intruding on his preferred narrative. Islam is a religion of peace, and Muslims have to be given the benefit of the doubt in his view.

Matthew Vadum, senior vice president at the investigative think tank Capital Research Center, is an award-winning investigative reporter and author of the book, “Subversion Inc.: How Obama’s ACORN Red Shirts Are Still Terrorizing and Ripping Off American Taxpayers.”

Also see:

Republicans and Democrats Agree: CENTCOM Cooked ISIS War Intel

49032597.cachedDaily Beast, by Nancy A. Youssef, Aug. 111, 2016:

Senior officials at U.S. Central Command manipulated intelligence reports, press statements, and congressional testimony to present a more positive outlook on the war against the so-called Islamic State, a House Republican task force concluded in a damning report released Thursday.

The report, written by the members of the House Armed Services and Intelligence committees and the Defense Appropriations subcommittee, confirmed more than a year of reporting by The Daily Beast about problems with CENTCOM analysis of the war against ISIS.

House Democrats, who conducted their own separate investigation, reached a similar conclusion as their Republican colleagues, finding that CENTCOM “insufficiently accommodated dissenting views,” Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement.

The altering of intelligence reports, which included information that made its way into briefings to President Obama, was systematic, lawmakers found.

“There was a consistent trend that across four specific campaigns against [ISIS] in Iraq throughout 2014 and 2015, assessments approved by the J2 [CENTCOM’s Joint Intelligence Center] or leadership were consistently more positive than those presented by the [intelligence community],” the report found.

The lawmakers noted, for instance, that the CIA publicly portrayed ISIS as a more resilient and powerful organization than CENTCOM’s analysis—which was not publicly shared—suggested.

The lawmakers were limited in the amount of reporting they could review, but focused their attention on the period when ISIS expanded its reach to Iraqi cities like Fallujah, Tikrit, and Irbil in the Kurdish north. They found that senior CENTCOM intelligence officials gave a “deference to operational reporting,” including reports on the number of ISIS targets that were hit in airstrikes each day. But these incremental, day-to-day reports didn’t fully capture the trajectory of the overall war effort, which analysts said was not leading towards a U.S. victory over the terrorist group.

The Daily Beast had previously reported that CENTCOM intelligence leaders demanded significant alterations to analysts’ reports that questioned whether airstrikes against ISIS were damaging the group’s finances and its ability to launch attacks. Reports that showed the group being weakened by the U.S.-led air campaign received comparatively little scrutiny.

The congressional report confirmed those earlier allegations. The result of the altered reports was “analysis that was more positive regarding the capabilities of the [Iraqi Security Forces] and the progress of the fight against [ISIS]” than analysts felt could be justified.

“According to multiple interviewees, operational reporting was used as a justification to alter or ‘soften’ an analytic product so it would cast U.S. efforts in a more positive light,” the report found.

Lawmakers pinned the blame for the doctored reports—which prompted more than 50 analysts to complain to the Defense Department inspector general—on the top two leaders in CENTCOM’s intelligence directorate, Maj. Gen. Steven Grove, the head of the organization, and Gregory Ryckman, his civilian deputy. (Neither were mentioned by name in the report, but it makes clear that the problems coincided with their tenure and leadership.)

But for all the congressional report’s troubling findings, there is one important question that remains unanswered: Why did senior leaders alter the intelligence about ISIS? The report doesn’t answer whether Ryckman or Grove were acting on orders from higher up or suggestions of their leadership, whether changes in analysis were politically driven, or whether there was a climate that encouraged a positive assessment of the war effort.

The report doesn’t find any evidence that the White House ordered reports to be changed to present a rosier picture.

But Rep. Mike Pompeo, who was part of the task force, said the group believes that there was an unspoken understanding within the administration of how the war against jihadists was going and that drove decision makers within CENTCOM.

“The most senior leaders in Central Command and the J2 had a deep understanding of the political narrative the administration was putting forth,” Pompeo said in an interview with The Daily Beast. “The culture was one where you were rewarded for embracing that political narrative.

“The president was out talking about the same fight, the success of defeating the jihadist threat. The messaging from the [National Security Council] and the White House was all in one direction. So there is no alternative explanation for why they would behave this way they did,” Pompeo said.

Indeed, there’s little doubt that the rise of ISIS was a political embarrassment as well as a security challenge for the White House. It came one year after President Obama’s re-election, in a campaign that celebrated the wind down of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In early 2014, Obama infamously described ISIS as the “J.V. team” among terrorist groups. U.S. troops left Iraq at the end of 2011 and, at the time, were supposed to be mostly out of Afghanistan by 2015.

“Despite nearly nine months of review, we still do not fully understand the reasons and motivations behind this practice and how often the excluded analyses were proven ultimately to be correct,” Republican Rep. Brad Wenstrup, a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve and member of the task force, said in a statement.

But Wenstrup noted the effects have been damaging regardless.

“We cannot win a war against ISIS with incomplete intelligence,” he wrote.

The Republican report attributed the problems at CENTCOM in part to a change in leadership and in the process by which intelligence reports are created. In the weeks after ISIS took control of Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul, in June 2014, intelligence leaders were given a more direct say in how lower-level analysts’ reports were produced and then sent along to the military brass. That irked some analysts who, while outranked by the CENTCOM leaders, had been studying ISIS and other terrorist groups for years and thought their expert views weren’t being given full weight.

In May 2015, CENTCOM analysts formally complained to the inspectors general for the Defense Intelligence Agency and for the intelligence community, which passed the complaints on to the congressional committees. Seven months later, an internal survey of intelligence analysts revealed that 40 percent of respondents “had experienced an attempt to distort or suppress intelligence in the past year,” the report found.

“The survey results alone should have prompted CENTCOM and [intelligence community] leaders to take corrective action without other inducements. During interviews, however, multiple Intelligence Directorate senior leaders challenged the legitimacy of the survey results rather than taking responsibility for them,” the report found.

The amount of damage such misleading reports had on the Obama administration’s and the military’s overall understanding of the war on ISIS remains unclear. But the report noted that Ryckman and Grove had several secure conference calls with top civilian intelligence officials, including the director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, and that such access gave CENTCOM’s reports “outsized influence on the material presented to the president outside of formal coordination channels.”

“The impact was that you have a false signal being sent to officials,” Pompeo told The Daily Beast. “They had information what wasn’t true. It difficult to wind back and say what would have happened had they had different information.”

As part of a normal personnel rotation, Grove left CENTCOM’s intelligence directorate this summer and now is stationed at the Pentagon as director of the Army Quadrennial Defense Review Office. He has been replaced by Maj. Gen. Mark R. Quantock. Ryckman remains in the same position.

“U.S. Central Command has seen the Congressional Joint Task Force initial report and we appreciate the independent oversight provided,” Navy Cmdr. Kyle Raines, a CENTCOM spokesman, said in a statement to The Daily Beast. “We are reviewing the findings of the initial report; since the Joint Task Force investigation is ongoing, as is the [Defense Department Inspector General’s] investigation, we will refrain from further comment at this time.”

The Defense investigation is expected to be released by the end of this year.

The task force investigation in ongoing, Pompeo said, and he hopes to release a final report by the end of the year.

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ISIS Intel Was Cooked, House Panel Finds

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A leading U.S. general pressured his intelligence analysts into playing down the ISIS and al Qaeda threats, according to a Congressional task force.

Daily Beast, by Nancy Youssef, Aug. 9, 2016:

A House Republican task force has found that officials from the U.S. military’s Central Command altered intelligence reports to portray the U.S. fight against ISIS and al Qaeda in a more positive light than lower-level analysts believed was warranted by the facts on the ground, three officials familiar with the task force’s findings told The Daily Beast.

A roughly 10-page report on the controversy is expected to be released by the end of next week, two officials said. While it contains no definitive evidence that senior Obama administration officials ordered the reports to be doctored, the five-month investigation did corroborate earlier reports that analysts felt the leaders of CENTCOM’s intelligence directorate pressured them to conclude that the threat from ISIS was not as ominous as the analysts believed, the officials said.

“The investigation is ongoing but the report substantiates the claims” that intelligence reports were altered, one official familiar with the report explained to The Daily Beast. Another official said that the investigation could remain open even after report is released.

The task force, led by members of the House Armed Services and Intelligence committees and the  Defense Appropriations subcommittee, was created after The Daily Beast first reported that more than 50 analysts had filed a formal complaint alleging their reports on ISIS and al Qaeda’s branch in Syria were being inappropriately altered by senior officials. Some told to The Daily Beast they felt they were working in a hostile, toxic office where they felt “bullied” to draw conclusions not supported by the facts.

Some of the intelligence made its way into briefings presented to President Obama. However, administration officials have consistently said that they have confidence in CENTCOM’s reports and that they don’t believe White House policy was guided by false or misleading analysis.

The House committee cannot directly punish officials found to have acted inappropriately. But the fact that the appropriations committee was part of the investigation implies that if the military doesn’t respond to the findings, lawmakers could punish CENTCOM by curtailing funds.

CENTCOM officials told The Daily Beast they cannot comment on the report as they have yet to receive it. There also is separate Department of Defense Inspector General investigation into the claims which is ongoing and could release its findings as early as this fall, one official said. The DoD IG report could make recommendations that CENTCOM must act on.

But some of CENTCOM’s intelligence analysts already are concerned that the DoD IG report will not have as much teeth as the House Republican task force report. These military analysts told The Beast that the head of CENTCOM’s intelligence directorate, Maj. Gen. Steven Grove, and his civilian deputy, Gregory Ryckman, had deleted emails and files from computer systems before the inspector general could examine them.

Even the House Republican investigation faced obstacles to its work. Analysts told The Daily Beast, that CENTCOM officials were, at times, in the room while they spoke to House investigators, making some feel they could not speak candidly.

What remains unclear is what led CENTCOM to call for more positive conclusions. Was it a decision by Grove or Ryckman or did come from higher up?

As part of a normal deployment rotation, Grove left CENTCOM’s intelligence directorate this summer and now is stationed at the Pentagon as director of the Army Quadrennial Defense Review Office. He has been replaced by Maj. Gen. Mark R. Quantock. Ryckman remains in the same position.

After the analysts’ complaints emerged publicly, President Obama, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and current CENTCOM commander Army Gen. Joseph Votel have called for what Carter described as “unvarnished intelligence.”

Obama Did Not Ask for an Intel Brief the Day After the Benghazi Attack

 (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

And other revelations from the House Select Committee’s report.

Weekly Standard, by Stephen F. Hayes, June 28, 2016:

Among the many revelations that will emerge from the voluminous majority report of the Benghazi Select Committee when it is released Tuesday is this one: Barack Obama skipped his daily intelligence briefing one day after the Benghazi attacks on September 11, 2012. The president’s briefer handed a written copy of the presidential daily briefing to a White House usher and then briefed Jack Lew, who was then serving as White House chief of staff. But Obama, who sometimes avails himself of the oral briefing that is offered along the written intelligence product, did not ask for such a briefing the day after the attacks on U.S. facilities in Libya.

That disclosure came during the Benghazi committee’s transcribed interview with the executive coordinator of Obama’s presidential daily briefing (or PDB, for short), a veteran intelligence officer who rose through the ranks in Army intelligence and then the Defense Intelligence Agency before serving as the president’s top briefer. It is buried deep in the committee’s report, in Appendix H—a 14-page examination of how that briefer came to include an assessment in the PDB that the Benghazi attacks were likely a planned attack and not a protest gone awry. It’s not unusual for Obama to skip his oral briefing, but his decision to pass on the PDB on September 12, 2012, will no doubt generate additional questions.

The disclosure also sheds some additional light on the president’s engagement during and after the attacks—an area that has remained something of a black hole throughout previous Benghazi investigations. The White House has provided little detail on Obama’s activities throughout the Benghazi attacks and their aftermath, refusing to answer to questions from journalists about the president’s whereabouts and actively working to keep information from investigators with the Select Committee. During the interview with the president’s briefer, a lawyer from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, who sat in on the session, twice ended exchanges between committee staff and the briefer.

The first time, Obama’s briefer was describing in general terms how Obama asks questions during his oral briefings:

Executive Coordinator: If he has questions—usually the only questions he usually asks—

Lawyer: We’re not going to talk about what the President said or your conversations with him.

The second time, a committee staffer asked about what information was briefed to the White House chief of staff from the original situation report prepared by the CIA:

Committee staffer: Okay. And with Mr. Lew, did you talk about this SITREP?

Lawyer: We’re not going to discuss what specific information was provided to any White House staff in any PDB.

The appendix explores a fascinating intra-intelligence community dispute over language that appeared in that PDB, which the Select Committee calls “the very first written piece produced by CIA analysts regarding the Benghazi attacks.”

The dispute centered on this line: “…the presence of armed assailants from the outset suggests this was an intentional assault and not the escalation of a peaceful protest.” That assessment would prove accurate—the Benghazi attack was an intentional, planned assault and was not the escalation of a peaceful protest, because no such protest took place. But that conclusion did not come from the work product prepared by CIA analysts in the early morning hours of September 12, 2012. Rather, it was a line added by the executive coordinator herself.

The executive coordinator testified to the committee that she made the call in part based on her “gut feeling” that the attacks were too sophisticated to have been spontaneous. The executive coordinator told investigators that she spoke to others on the PDB team and they agree with her assessment. She said she would never include such an assessment based solely on intuition and she testified that others on her team spoke with individuals on the ground and that this information helped shape her views. The CIA analyst who prepared the report that the executive coordinator rewrote to include in the PDB, however, “was pretty convinced that this was a spontaneous attack, that it was, you know, as a result of this confluence of events – the 9/11 anniversary, the video being released, the protest in Cairo,” the executive coordinator testified.

CIA officials interviewed by the committee testified that the inclusion of this “bottom line” was highly inappropriate and highly unusual. The executive coordinator, however, told the committee that while the intensity of the dispute with the CIA analysts was unusual, such judgment calls were not uncommon as she and her team prepared PDBs for executive branch officials.

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Gowdy: Obama Administration Was More Worried About Libyans’ Feelings Than Benghazi Consulate

Intel Analysts: We Were Forced Out for Telling the Truth About Obama’s ISIS War

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Daily Beast, by Shane Harris and  Nancy A. Youssef, April 3, 2016:
The growing scandal over cooked ISIS intelligence just got much worse. Now, analysts are saying they’re being forced out for not toeing the Obama administration’s line on the war.

Two senior intelligence analysts at U.S. Central Command say the military has forced them out of their jobs because of their skeptical reporting on U.S.-backed rebel groups in Syria, three sources with knowledge of their claim told The Daily Beast. It’s the first known instance of possible reprisals against CENTCOM personnel after analysts accused their bosses of manipulating intelligence reports about the U.S.-led campaign against ISIS in order to paint a rosier picture of progress in the war.

One of the analysts alleging reprisals is the top analyst in charge of Syria issues at CENTCOM. He and a colleague doubted rebels’ capabilities and their commitment to U.S. objectives in the region. The analysts have been effectively sidelined from their positions and will no longer be working at CENTCOM, according to two individuals familiar with the dispute, and who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The analysts’ skeptical views put them at odds with military brass, who last year had predicted that a so-called moderate opposition would make up a 15,000-man ground force to take on ISIS in its self-declared caliphate. An initial $500 million program to train and arm those fighters failed spectacularly. And until the very end, Pentagon leaders claimed the operation was more or less on track. Lawmakers called the plan a “joke” when Gen. Lloyd Austin, the CENTCOM commander, finally testified last September that there were just “four or five” American-trained fighters in Syria.

Earlier allegations from CENTCOM, the military command responsible for overseeing the Middle East, had focused on leaders there fudging intelligence reports about U.S. efforts to attack ISIS and undermine its financing operations. That analysts are now raising red flags around reporting on Syrian rebel groups suggests that, at least from the analysts’ perspective, there is a broader systemic problem than was previously known.

The Pentagon inspector general and a congressional task force are investigating allegations of doctored intelligence reports about ISIS.

The working environment at CENTCOM has been described as “toxic” and “hostile.” As The Daily Beast previously reported, more than 50 CENTCOM analysts have said that senior officials gave more scrutiny and pushback on reports that suggested U.S. efforts to destroy ISIS weren’t progressing. Analysis that took a more optimistic view of the war effort got comparatively less attention from higher-ups.

In a separate development, the head of Iraq analysis at CENTCOM, Gregory Hooker, is being reassigned to a position in the United Kingdom, three sources knowledgeable of the transfer told The Daily Beast. Hooker was identified last year by The New York Times as leading the group of analysts that raised objections about the ISIS reports.

There was no evidence that Hooker’s reassignment was a retaliatory move by his superiors, rather some suggested he had requested the change.

But for the analysts who have accused their bosses of improper behavior, the climate has become anxious, particularly as now some fear for their jobs.

“[They] are scared all the time,” one official told The Daily Beast.

The Syria analysts spoke out after Austin directed his subordinates last year not to retaliate against anyone who voiced concerns about political influence or bias being brought to bear on intelligence analysis, said one individual knowledgeable of their complaints. More than 1,000 analysts work at CENTCOM headquarters in Tampa, Florida, and their reports are meant to help senior U.S. officials and policymakers understand the facts on the battlefield.

Investigators from the congressional task force have met with analysts at both CENTCOM headquarters and, last month, in Washington, half a dozen sources with knowledge of the meetings said.

Spokespersons for the task force declined to comment.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes previously told The Daily Beast that investigators were unable to obtain certain documents germane to the analysts’ allegations about altered ISIS reports, and that congressional staff had to interview the analysts in the presence of CENTCOM personnel, whom Nunes referred to as “minders.”

“They’re having a tough time talking to us,” Nunes said of the analysts whom congressional staff have interviewed in Tampa.

The Defense Department inspector general is also looking into the ISIS reports. The watchdog’s office has said the investigation, which is expected to be finished soon, “will address whether there was any falsification, distortion, delay, suppression, or improper modification of intelligence information,” as well as “personal accountability for any misconduct or failure to follow established processes.”

At CENTCOM’s intelligence unit, there’s growing anticipation for the results of the Defense Department inspector general’s investigation. Some have said they hope it will hold those they feel are responsible for altering reports, but there’s also concern that the findings will seek to downplay the severity of the problem and won’t lead to any significant changes.

At least one change is in the works. Last week, the Pentagon announced that Maj. Gen. Mark R. Quantock, currently the intelligence director of the U.S.-led military effort in Afghanistan, will take over as the head of intelligence at CENTCOM. Two officials described Quantock as a “straight shooter” who could help relieve tensions at the command headquarters.

Quantock, who is expected to arrive this summer, will replace Maj. Gen. Steven Grove, whom analysts have said is chiefly responsible for altering the ISIS reports. Grove and his civilian deputy, Gregory Ryckman, have also been accused of deleting emails and files from computer systems before the inspector general could examine them, three individuals familiar with the investigation told The Daily Beast.

Investigators from Capitol Hill and the Pentagon’s watchdog have pulled analysts away from work to ask them questions. Their colleagues try to glean insights about the course of the investigation by keeping note of who is being queried and for how long.

And in another sign of rising anxiety, some believe that that military leadership is trying to piece together which analysts have made allegations about Grove, and to whom, whether they be investigators or journalists.

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Source: Islamic State intel got rosier the closer it got to Obama

t1larg.obamapdbWashington Examiner, by  JOEL GEHRKE, March 7, 2016:

Military intelligence reports on the threat posed by the Islamic State were softened after leaving the original authors’ desks at U.S. Central Command, a congressional task force has found.

“There’s an emerging pattern that as the intelligence reports move higher in the chain-of-command, they become more rose-colored with respect to the threat from radical Islamic terror, from ISIS,” a source familiar with the investigation, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the Washington Examiner.

A congressional task force was established in December to investigate the Central Command intelligence reports after whistleblowers alleged that their analysis of the Islamic State was being manipulated to make the threat seem less severe. They haven’t established why the intelligence was skewed — whether it was due to faulty assumptions or more pernicious meddling — but they’ve found that the bureaucracy had a corrosive effect on the intelligence reports.

It’s not clear when the task force will be able to complete its work. Late last month, Republicans accused officials of deleting emails they were seeking as part of the investigation.

But the source told the Examiner that the task force has already reviewed “scores” of reports and found a clear trend. “There’s a pattern that demonstrates that [the reports] get weaker,” according to the source.

A whistleblower told Congress that military brass have been ignoring warning signs about terrorism in Iraq since the death of Osama bin Laden in 2011. “They’ve spent more money and time trying to push down this intelligence … than they have actually spending time and effort on real security,” retired Army Sgt. 1st Class William Kotel said in September.

About 50 analysts have alleged that their reports were manipulated, sparking an investigation by the Defense Department inspector general. “The cancer was within the senior level of the intelligence command,” a defense official told The Daily Beast.

A former head of military intelligence defended Central Command and said the analysts gave President Obama “very, very clear” warnings about the rise of the Islamic State. “Intelligence doesn’t stop at Central Command,” retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn said on Fox in November. “There are 16 intelligence agencies, five large ones and two that provide what we call all-source intelligence assessments. Those are the most important ones that go to the White House.”

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Hillary Emails: Intelligence Report Said Hezbollah Has Base in Cuba

Hezbollah-in-South-America-Reuters-640x480

Breitbart, By Jordan Schachtel, Feb. 18, 2016:

A private intelligence report from Hillary Clinton’s confidant, Sid Blumenthal, claimed that Hezbollah, the Iran-backed terrorist organization, had set up shop in Cuba, according to an email released by the State Department over the weekend.

The group was actively “casing” facilities related to U.S. interests, the intelligence report also says.

The dispatch read:

During the week of September 5, 2011 extremely sensitive sources reported in confidence that the Israeli Intelligence and Security Service (Mossad) has informed the leadership of the Israeli Government that Hezbollah is establishing an operational base in Cuba, designed to support terrorist attacks throughout Latin America.

The confidential intelligence report from Blumenthal to Clinton continued:

These sources believe that Hezbollah supporters have been instructed to also begin casing facilities associated with the United States and the United Kingdom, including diplomatic missions, major banks, and businesses in the region. These individuals believe that the Hezbollah military commanders in Lebanon and Syria view these U.S. and U.K. entities as contingency targets to be attacked in the event of U.S. and British military intervention in either Syria or Iran, at some point in the future.

Breitbart News has reported extensively on Hezbollah’s encroachment into the western hemisphere, noting the group’s rapid rise in the west in recent years.

U.S. officials, members of Congress, and defense experts continue to warn that Iran is utilizing Hezbollah to expand its influence in the region, and is utilizing cultural centers and mosques to spread the message of the Shia Islamic revolution.

Moreover, a recent report alleged that Hezbollah is now “moving freely” throughout the United States and Latin America.

When reached by Breitbart News, the intelligence services of Canada and Mexico wouldnot confirm or deny reports that Hezbollah had extensive operations already set up within the United States.

A State Department official recently acknowledged in a statement to Breitbart News:“Hizballah receives funding from supporters around the world who engage in a host of licit and illicit activities, some of which takes place in the Western Hemisphere.”

Western Intelligence Services Overwhelmed by Jihadist Propaganda

Published on Feb 25, 2015 by EnGlobal News World

By JACK MOORE,

“You are strong, smart, beautiful and we are hoping you will make the right decision. We miss you more that you can imagine. We are worried and we want you to think about what you have left behind. You had a bright future, so please return home.”

That was emotional plea to Amira Abase from her devastated family after they learned that the 15-year-old had got on a flight from Gatwick to Turkey with two friends Kadiza Sultana and Shamima Begum, 16 and 15, in what police think is an attempt to travel to Syria to join Islamic State as ‘jihadi brides’.

However, along with the sadness, there was also anger after it emerged that the three girls, all pupils at London’s Bethnal Green Academy, had been contacted on Twitter by Aqsa Mahmood, 20, another woman who had flown to Syria from Glasgow in 2013 to join the terror group. with the Mahmood family saying that the British intelligence services, who had been monitoring Aqsa’s account, having “serious questions to answer”.

“Sadly, despite all the government’s rhetoric on ISIS,” the Mahmood family said in a statement, “if they can’t even take basic steps to stop children leaving to join ISIS, what is the point of any new laws?”

That the radicalisation of three teenagers by a known jihadist on a major platform such as Twitter points to major flaws in the strategies being employed by Western intelligence services, with experts saying that they are being overrun by the sheer scale of extremist propaganda online.

The UK Home Office admits the problem, saying that such propaganda “can directly influence people who are vulnerable to radicalisation”. To tackle this perceived bedroom radicalisation, the Home Office say they are cooperating with social media companies and civil society groups, divulging figures that reveal the takedown of unlawful terrorist material online has almost tripled.

While the Home Office could not divulge government spending figures on the battle against online extremism, it revealed that, from 2010 to 2013, 19,000 pieces of online extremist material were removed from websites by the British government’s Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit (CTIRU) in comparison with 56,000 pieces since December 2013 alone, marking an almost 300% rise. Other members of the US-led coalition against ISIS are also increasing their online counter-terror efforts. Australia’s attorney general, George Brandis, announced last week that Canberra would be dedicating $18m (€12.38m) to the closure of websites and social media accounts which proliferate terrorist propaganda.

The British government is also obtaining more information from tech companies – with 194 information requests made to Twitter last year compared to 82 the year before, and 1,906 data requests to Facebook in the second half of 2013 in comparison with 2,110 in the first half of last year. Home Secretary Theresa May called on tech and social media companies to do more to prevent material being circulated on their platforms at a summit on extremism at the White House last week.

“All companies should take a zero-tolerance approach to the use of their systems by extremists,” she told the conference. “I firmly believe that they have a social responsibility to ensure that their platforms are not being abused for extremist or terrorist purposes.”

However, experts argue that, while more and more pieces of extremist material are being removed from the eyes of impressionable Brits, Britain’s security services are overwhelmed to the point that this “cat and mouse” strategy is being rendered ineffective.

Read more at Newsweek

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