Out Like Flynn

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The America Spectator, by Scott McKay, February 15, 2017:

“House Atreides took control of Arrakis 63 standard days into the year 10,191. It was known that the Harkonnens, the former rulers of Arrakis, would leave many suicide troops behind. Atreides patrols were doubled.”
— From the 1984 David Lynch movie Dune, as adapted from the Fran Herbert novel.

You’ve got to read, if you haven’t yet, the piece by Adam Kredo in the Washington Free Beacon about the circumstances surrounding the resignation of Michael Flynn on Monday.

Kredo weaves together the statements of several confidential sources to create an alarming tapestry that views not unlike the classic 1980s sci-fi film referenced above — it seems reasonably clear that leftovers from the Obama administration are actively sabotaging the new president.

A quick excerpt or two…

The effort, said to include former Obama administration adviser Ben Rhodes—the architect of a separate White House effort to create what he described as a pro-Iran echo chamber—included a small task force of Obama loyalists who deluged media outlets with stories aimed at eroding Flynn’s credibility, multiple sources revealed.

The operation primarily focused on discrediting Flynn, an opponent of the Iran nuclear deal, in order to handicap the Trump administration’s efforts to disclose secret details of the nuclear deal with Iran that had been long hidden by the Obama administration.

Kredo’s piece isn’t the only one pointing to Iran as the real enemy of interest here rather than Russia. It’s worth watching Obama’s fundraising for his presidential library and other “philanthropic” activities with interest in the identities of his benefactors.

And there’s more…

“It’s actually Ben Rhodes, NIAC, and the Iranian mullahs who are celebrating today,” said one veteran foreign policy insider who is close to Flynn and the White House. “They know that the number one target is Iran… [and] they all knew their little sacred agreement with Iran was going to go off the books. So they got rid of Flynn before any of the [secret] agreements even surfaced.”

Flynn had been preparing to publicize many of the details about the nuclear deal that had been intentionally hidden by the Obama administration as part of its effort to garner support for the deal, these sources said.

Flynn is now “gone before anybody can see what happened” with these secret agreements, said the second insider close to Flynn and the White House.

Sources in and out of the White House are concerned that the campaign against Flynn will be extended to other prominent figures in the Trump administration.

Read the whole thing. It’s well worth your time.

But let’s understand what actually happened here. Yes, Mike Flynn had a conversation with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak on Dec. 29 regarding American policy toward that country. Yes, there is an ancient and little-known piece of legislation, the Logan Act, which makes it illegal for private citizens to conduct foreign policy, and yes, that law was put forth to justify accusations Flynn had committed a crime in his conversation with Kislyak.

But as a national security advisor designate it’s hardly realistic to have considered Flynn a private citizen, and he wasn’t going to be charged with anything for that conversation. Which gives rise to the mistake which ultimately cost him his job — pressed about the conversation, Flynn told Vice President Mike Pence that he and Kislyak did not discuss the lifting of Obama administration sanctions against Russia, which was apparently true. What Flynn had discussed, per an interview he did with the Daily Caller before he was forced out, was the status of the 35 Russian diplomats Obama had expelled from the country. He contends Kislyak raised the issue and was told it would be reviewed after the inauguration — but he made no promises to the Russian.

The expulsions were considered part of the sanctions, and therefore Flynn’s representation to Pence would go down as inaccurate — and the resulting media scandal following Pence’s reliance on Flynn’s statements to pass the adviser’s contention on in a TV interview ultimately made Flynn too hot to handle.

But this goes far beyond the Beltway scandal machine which is now running at top gear after largely idling for the past eight years spitting out its first Trump administration victim. What blew Flynn out of the water were leaks from the intelligence community — his conversation with Kislyak was recorded by the FBI, pursuant to a FISA warrant which had to come from the highest levels, possibly high enough to have reached Obama himself, and then a transcript was provided to the media in order to refute Flynn’s contention he hadn’t discussed the sanctions.

Mike Walsh called this troubling pattern a “rolling coup attempt, organized by elements of the intelligence community, particularly CIA and NSA, abetted by Obama-era holdovers in the understaffed Justice Department (Sally Yates, take a bow) and the lickspittles of the leftist media, all of whom have signed on with the ‘Resistance’ in order to overturn the results of the November election.”

He’s not wrong. He goes further and is also not wrong…

Welcome to the Deep State, the democracy-sapping embeds at the heart of our democracy who have not taken the expulsion of the Permanent Bipartisan Fusion Party lightly. They realize that the Trump administration poses a mortal threat to their hegemony, and so have enlisted an army of Democrats, some Republicans, the “neverTrumpumpkin” conservative die-hards, leftist thugs, Black Lives Matter and anybody else they can blackmail, browbeat or enlist. They mean business.

What to do if you’re Trump? Fight.

It’s not enough to send Sean Spicer out to complain about the leaks, or to back his press conference statements up with early-morning tweets.

He must fight.

Trump clearly has not taken the sound advice of any executive engaged in a hostile takeover of a large organization — which is to fire everyone. There should be no holdovers from the Obama administration left in the federal government beyond what the law forces on the president.

Which includes the CIA, NSA, and other agencies clearly infested with Harkonnens seeking to impose the same fate on Trump and his administration which befell Duke Leto Atreides.

Trump went to Langley and spoke about inaugural crowds, and received warm applause from some of the same people concocting schemes to destroy his presidency. That was a mistake, and it must be recognized as such. Trump is late in drumming Obama’s people out of the government, and those people are now a cancer on his administration. He must clean out the intelligence community and the rest of the deep state, and he must drain the swamp in Washington. And he’s in a race against time in doing so.

All new administrations, particularly those taking over from predecessors in the opposite party, will struggle to find loyal servants within the bowels of the federal government. But no administration has politicized the bureaucracy and the intelligence community the way Obama did, and the government has never been so corrupted as it is now. The political assassination of Mike Flynn proves that, and Flynn will certainly not be the last. This administration is in a death struggle with the deep state, and only one will survive.

The Latest Rundown on the Mike Flynn Deep State Hit Job

mike-flynn_-hit_-job_-run_-down_-sized-770x415xc-1PJ MEDIA, BY PATRICK POOLE, FEBRUARY 15, 2017:

Obama officials and the establishment media continue to wave the scalp of resigned National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and trying to squeeze every last drop of anti-Trump controversy out of the matter.

As I had said privately, Flynn was not long for remaining as NSA. It’s not because he’s a bad guy, and accusations that he was compromised by Russian intelligence are absurd as the Trump dossier Buzzfeed published last month. It’s just that Flynn wasn’t ready for prime time. Hopefully his replacement will be.

So here’s the latest.

The New York Times published a report last night claiming “Trump associates” had repeated contacts with Russian intelligence, which the media in turn breathlessly hyped.

Trying to spin this as definitive proof that Trump was involved in “hacking the election,” they failed to recognize the NYT report proved no such thing:

American law enforcement and intelligence agencies intercepted the communications around the same time they were discovering evidence that Russia was trying to disrupt the presidential election by hacking into the Democratic National Committee, three of the officials said. The intelligence agencies then sought to learn whether the Trump campaign was colluding with the Russians on the hacking or other efforts to influence the election.

The officials interviewed in recent weeks said that, so far, they had seen no evidence of such cooperation.

OK, there goes that theory.

The other big story last night from Adam Kredo at the Washington Free Beacon was that the hit job on Flynn was driven by former Obama officials concerned about protecting the disastrous Iran deal:

A third source who serves as a congressional adviser and was involved in the 2015 fight over the Iran deal told the Free Beacon that the Obama administration feared that Flynn would expose the secret agreements with Iran.

“The Obama administration knew that Flynn was going to release the secret documents around the Iran deal, which would blow up their myth that it was a good deal that rolled back Iran,” the source said. “So in December the Obama NSC started going to work with their favorite reporters, selectively leaking damaging and incomplete information about Flynn.”

“After Trump was inaugurated some of those people stayed in and some began working from the outside, and they cooperated to keep undermining Trump,” the source said, detailing a series of leaks from within the White House in the past weeks targeting Flynn. “Last night’s resignation was their first major win, but unless the Trump people get serious about cleaning house, it won’t be the last.”

It’s curious then that the architects of the Iran deal are enthusiastic about the front runner to replace Flynn, former Vice Admiral Robert Harward, including former Obama NSC spox Tommy Vietor:

And the Iran deal must be preserved at all costs:

Our former PJ Media colleague Richard Pollock had the last interview with Flynn before his resignation reporting on what was actually discussed during that phone call with the Russian ambassador:

Flynn insisted that he crossed no lines in his telephone conversation with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak: “If I did, believe me, the FBI would be down my throat, my clearances would be pulled. There were no lines crossed.”

Flynn said there was a brief discussion of the 35 Russian diplomats who were being expelled by Obama in retaliation for Moscow’s alleged interference in the 2016 campaign.

“It wasn’t about sanctions. It was about the 35 guys who were thrown out,” Flynn said. “So that’s what it turned out to be. It was basically, ‘Look, I know this happened. We’ll review everything.’ I never said anything such as, ‘We’re going to review sanctions,’ or anything like that.”

It’s important to recall what Flynn was accused of doing:

There has yet to be any evidence that anything in Flynn’s discussion with the Russian ambassador was illegal.

The heavy breathing by the media about supposed Logan Act violations is totally overwrought, as there has never been a successful Logan Act prosecution in two centuries.

But it bears recalling that in 2008 as the Bush admin was trying to negotiate on the Iran nuclear program, those efforts were scuttled by the Obama campaign without any complaint from the media or calls for Logan Act prosecutions.

As our own Michael Ledeen reported here at PJ Media back in 2014:

During his first presidential campaign in 2008, Mr. Obama used a secret back channel to Tehran to assure the mullahs that he was a friend of the Islamic Republic, and that they would be very happy with his policies. The secret channel was Ambassador William G. Miller, who served in Iran during the shah’s rule, as chief of staff for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and as ambassador to Ukraine. Ambassador Miller has confirmed to me his conversations with Iranian leaders during the 2008 campaign.

It is remarkable that invocations of the Logan Act (e.g. the letter from 47 Senate Republicans to the Iranian leader in 2015) only occurs when it is targeting Republicans.

Another issue coming out of the Flynn affair is the politicization of intelligence.

House Intel Committee Chairman Devin Nunes is demanding to know what Flynn’s conversations were being wiretapped. As one of the congressional “Big 8” if there were a covert program targeting Flynn, he would be one of the few to know.

“Any intelligence agency cannot listen to Americans’ phone calls,” Nunes told reporters Tuesday night. “If there’s inadvertent collection that you know is overseas there’s a whole process in place for that.”

He explained, “It’s pretty clear that’s not the case, so then they could have been listening to someone else and inadvertently picked up an American. If that happens, there’s a whole process in place to where they have to immediately get rid of the information unless it’s like high level national security issue and then someone would have to unmask the name — someone at the highest levels.”

“So in this case it would be General Flynn and then how did that happen. Then if they did that, then how does all that get out to the public which is another leak of classified information,” Nunes added. “I’m pretty sure the FBI didn’t have a warrant on Michael Flynn.”

Former House Homeland Security Chairman Rep. Peter King says the intelligence disclosures to the press were clearly illegal.

No wonder then that many in the media are warning about the implications of former Obama officials leaking highly classified signals intelligence intercepts involving U.S. persons.

Eli Lake at Bloomberg:

There is another component to this story as well — as Trump himself just tweeted. It’s very rare that reporters are ever told about government-monitored communications of U.S. citizens, let alone senior U.S. officials. The last story like this to hit Washington was in 2009 when Jeff Stein, then of CQ, reported on intercepted phone calls between a senior Aipac lobbyist and Jane Harman, who at the time was a Democratic member of Congress.

Normally intercepts of U.S. officials and citizens are some of the most tightly held government secrets. This is for good reason. Selectively disclosing details of private conversations monitored by the FBI or NSA gives the permanent state the power to destroy reputations from the cloak of anonymity. This is what police states do.

In the past it was considered scandalous for senior U.S. officials to even request the identities of U.S. officials incidentally monitored by the government (normally they are redacted from intelligence reports). John Bolton’s nomination to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations was derailed in 2006 after the NSA confirmed he had made 10 such requests when he was Undersecretary of State for Arms Control in George W. Bush’s first term. The fact that the intercepts of Flynn’s conversations with Kislyak appear to have been widely distributed inside the government is a red flag.

Damon Linker at The Week:

Unelected intelligence analysts work for the president, not the other way around. Far too many Trump critics appear not to care that these intelligence agents leaked highly sensitive information to the press — mostly because Trump critics are pleased with the result. “Finally,” they say, “someone took a stand to expose collusion between the Russians and a senior aide to the president!” It is indeed important that someone took such a stand. But it matters greatly who that someone is and how they take their stand. Members of the unelected, unaccountable intelligence community are not the right someone, especially when they target a senior aide to the president by leaking anonymously to newspapers the content of classified phone intercepts, where the unverified, unsubstantiated information can inflict politically fatal damage almost instantaneously.

And John Podheretz at the New York Post:

This information might have come because the US intelligence community has an active interest in the Russian official to whom he talked.

Or it could have come because the FBI had been pursuing some sort of secret investigation and had received authorization to monitor and track his calls and discussions.

If this was intelligence, the revelation of the Flynn meeting just revealed something to the Russians we shouldn’t want revealed — which is that we were listening in on them and doing so effectively.

And if it was an FBI investigation, then the iron principle of law enforcement — that evidence gathered in the course of an investigation must be kept secret to protect the rights of the American being investigated — was just put through a shredder.

Keeping our intelligence-gathering assets hidden from those upon whom we are spying is a key element of our national security.

And as for playing fast and loose with confidential information on American citizens: No joke, people — if they can do it to Mike Flynn, they can do it to you.

But still, there are some who are loving them some deep state totalitarian tactics:

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Report: Obama Loyalists, Led by Ben Rhodes, Orchestrated Flynn Ouster

 

US-Russian steps vs Iran await new NSC chief

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DEBKAfile, February 14, 2016

Michael Flynn’s abrupt resignation as National Security Adviser Monday night, Feb. 13, was a crippling blow to Donald Trump’s foreign policy strategy, less than a month after he entered the White House. Flynn was the architect and prime mover of the president’s plans for close cooperation with Russian President Vladimir Putin. He was brought down by misinforming Vice President Mike Pence – and very likely the president too – on the content of the conversation he held with the Russian ambassador before Trump’s inauguration.

Although retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg takes over as acting NSA, the White House is urgently considering a permanent replacement to fill Flynn’s large shoes. Former CIA Director David Petraeus’ name has come up, but his indiscretions over state secrets still count against him. Vice Admiral Robert Harward, a former Navy SEAL, is a strong contender, although more may emerge.

Even before picking his next national security adviser, Trump will need to determine how to proceed with his détente with Putin, the highly sensitive details of which were managed personally and confidentially by Mike Flynn as the centerpiece of the new administration’s foreign policy.

His contacts with Moscow were under heavy fire from the president’s friends and foes alike, both before and after the November election. It was defended stalwartly by Trump himself, Pence and Flynn. However, neither the president nor the vice president can tell exactly what Flynn promised the Russians and to what deals he committed them. Therefore, his successor will be required to start building Washington’s ties with Moscow from scratch.

While Flynn’s departure has caused havoc in the Trump administration, it is a catastrophe for the Middle East, because a core objective of the US-Russian partnership, which he shaped as a model for other regions, was to have been to clip Iran’s wings and cut down its standing down as premier Middle East power conferred by Barack Obama.

(How the Flynn mechanism was to work plus detailed analysis of the fallout from his departure will be covered exclusively in the coming issue of DEBKA Weekly out next Friday).

Flynn alone was privy to arrangements concluded with Saudi King Salman in Riyadh, Jordan’s King Abdullah in Amman, President Putin in Moscow, Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara, Abdel-Fatteh El-Sisis in Cairo and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.

Some of his output began taking shape on the day he stepped down, when Syrian rebel groups led by Jordanian special operations officers attacked Syrian army positions in the southern town of Daraa. This was the start of an operation to drive Syrian government forces and their Iranian and Hizballah allies from the lands bordering on Jordan and Israel.

In Cairo, too, President Michel Aoun of Lebanon and his host, El-Sisi were hashing out a plan for the Egyptian army and Gulf forces to go into action against Hizballah in Syria and Lebanon.
Wednesday, Feb. 15, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is to visit the White House for his first meeting with Trump as president. They too were scheduled to discuss US operations against Hizballah and the role Israel would play.

In the coming hours, Trump will have to decide whether to go ahead with these initiatives in the absence of Flynn and his detailed knowledge of how they should go forward, or simply put them on hold until his successor is in place and has time for a full study of their complicated ins and outs. At the same time, a different national security adviser in the White house might have different plans to those laid out by his predecessor.

Flynn Resignation Raises Tough Questions for FBI, Intel Services

Michael Flynn

Breitbart, by Joel Pollak, February 14, 2017:

The resignation of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn on Monday evening raises troubling questions about the role of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the intelligence services.

Flynn ostensibly resigned because he provided Vice President Mike Pence with “incomplete information” about a conversation he had with the Russian ambassador, which turned out to include a discussion of recent sanctions, contrary to his earlier denials. Trust is crucial; the resignation was warranted.

That said, the sanctions were largely bogus, and were applied not just to punish Russia for spying on the U.S. (both countries clearly spy on each other), but to substantiate the Democratic Party’s sore-loser conspiracy theory that Russia was responsible for electing Donald Trump.

There is no concrete evidence to support that theory, and there is no evidence (yet) that Flynn did anything but discuss sanctions in the most general terms. He did not break the Logan Act, nor any other law, apparently.

Whether Flynn deliberately concealed the contents of his conversation from Vice President Pence, or merely forgot what had been said, he was “caught” because the Department of Justice had been eavesdropping on the conversation. And one of the officials responsible for ordering the eavesdropping was none other than Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, who forced President Trump to fire her when she defied her duty to enforce his executive order on immigration, however, controversial.

Four possibilities emerge. One, which the media and the Democrats (largely one and the same) clearly believe, is that Flynn really was a potential Russian plant, perhaps indicating much deeper Russian penetration of the campaign and administration.

A second possibility is that things really are what they seem, on the surface, to be. Russia’s unusual response to the sanctions — declining to retaliate — was so bizarre that it warranted investigation, which then raised legitimate suspicions about Flynn.

The remaining possibilities are more worrying. The third explanation is that President Obama deliberately, and cleverly, used the bogus sanctions as a “blue dye” test to expose which strings Russia might try to pull to relieve them. Flynn, with a prior relationship with the Russian government, may have been a natural, innocuous point of contact — or perhaps something more.

The fourth and most worrying explanation is that the government was not merely monitoring the communications of Russian diplomats, but of the Trump transition team itself. The fact that the contents of Flynn’s phone conversation — highly sensitive intelligence — were leaked to the media suggests that someone with access to that information also has a political axe to grind.

Democrats are clamoring for a deeper investigation of Russian ties to Trump. But the more serious question is whether our nation’s intelligence services were involved in what amounts to political espionage against the newly-elected government.

We know that there are hundreds and perhaps thousands of federal bureaucrats already using shadow communications systems. How far does that “shadow government” go?

The FBI, CIA and other agencies ought to reassure Congress, or come clean.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. His new book, How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

Also see:

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

Scott Olson/Getty Images

Scott Olson/Getty Images

Breitbart, by John Hayward, February 13, 2017:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Same interview:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gorka: Trump ‘Incredibly Pragmatic’ About Relations with Russia, Iran

AP

AP

Breitbart, by John Hayward, Feb. 7, 2017:

White House Deputy Assistant Dr. Sebastian Gorka, author of Defeating Jihad: The Winnable War and former national security editor for Breitbart News, defended President Trump’s criticism that the media do not cover terrorism adequately.

On Breitbart News Daily, Gorka said the issue is not “how much coverage” terrorism gets, but rather, “the nature of the coverage and how much of it is spin.”

LISTEN:

“Do you recall, after the Orlando attack – 49 Americans massacred in the Pulse nightclub – the mainstream media, for almost two weeks, what was their spin on that attack? Not terrorism. Omar Mateen was clearly a repressed homosexual who was involved in some kind of act of revenge against his Latin lover,” he recalled. “For almost two weeks, that was the message, until the FBI said this is utterly fallacious, not true. But it got to a point where even the transcripts of his calls to the 911 dispatcher were doctored by the administration.”

“There was this kind of complicit relationship between the former administration and the media, downplaying how bad the terrorist threat is. And then when something occurs, just simply misrepresenting it. So that’s what we have a problem with in the White House,” he said.

SiriusXM host Alex Marlow argued that the president’s critique made it sound as if terrorism was not covered at all, prompting the media to respond by listing the stories they wrote about terror attacks throughout the years – a different dispute than Dr. Gorka’s point about misattribution and downplaying of motives in the coverage.

“I’m working on my own list that I’m going to run through the White House of all the attempted attacks,” said Gorka, pointing to another area where he felt media coverage has been insufficient. “We have dozens and dozens of attacks that really are jihadi-motivated, but don’t get reported as such, or are very simply, very rapidly dropped.”

“Let’s just talk about a couple of figures,” he suggested. “Breitbart listeners are, of course, different, but how many general members of the U.S. population know that we have arrested or killed 125 ISIS terrorists in America since the Caliphate was declared? One hundred and twenty-five. And how many people know that in the recent IED attack in New York and New Jersey, when that individual deployed a pressure cooker bomb and some pipe bombs, that only two exploded, but in one weekend, he’d actually deployed almost a dozen devices? A dozen devices in 48 hours – that’s like Beirut in the 1980s.”

“It’s quality of the reporting. It’s the spin and trying to explain it away that is the real issue,” he emphasized.

Marlow asked for Gorka’s take on President Trump’s exchange with host Bill O’Reilly of Fox News, in which O’Reilly referred to Russian President Vladimir Putin as a “killer,” and Trump replied, “We’ve got a lot of killers. What, do you think our country’s so innocent?”

“If you want to know what the White House policy is with regards to Russia or the Kremlin, you can do no better than to listen to the president himself,” said Gorka. “I don’t know if you recall, a few weeks ago, he held a press conference in Trump Tower, and during the Q&A, he was asked explicitly this question about what are our relationships going to be like with Vladimir Putin. And he was very honest. It wasn’t some half-sentence ‘gotcha’ moment on a television interview. He said, ‘Look, there are problems with Russia, I would like to be able to work with Vladimir Putin. I’m not sure if I can, and if I can’t, so be it.’”

“The real answer is, we have a Commander-in-Chief who is incredibly pragmatic. You don’t get to be as successful a businessman as he is without being eminently pragmatic. And his attitude to how we’re going to get along with Russia is, ‘Look, we’d like to, but if we can’t, that’s also a reality.’ We’ve been very clear about that from the beginning,” he said.

Marlow asked if it was fair to say the Trump administration is backtracking on its support for Israel’s construction of settlements.

“There’s a nuanced approach to this, and sometimes I think that gets missed,” Gorka responded. “The policy right now of the White House is, we want to have a little snapshot in time. If there is building to be done, it shouldn’t be on new territories. You can do building to go upwards or to add to something that’s already there, but any new settlements in new territories would be counterproductive to any kind of settlement between the parties.”

“We are very, very vested in bringing some kind of resolution to these issues. We have somebody that’s named as a negotiator who’s going to work on them. But right now, we don’t want to see any new territories with new buildings because otherwise, that’s going to make any kind of long-term resolution very difficult,” he said.

When Marlow asked if there has been any movement on relocating the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, Gorka replied, “Just wait and see.” He agreed with Marlow and with others, such as frequent Breitbart News Daily guest John Bolton, that moving the embassy is a “simple” process to execute physically, and “the president is committed to that decision,” so “you can take that one to the bank.”

Marlow pointed to news about a surge in anti-Christian attacks in France and asked if the White House was following the “drastically under-reported story” of anti-Christian bigotry around the world.

“Absolutely,” Gorka said. “It goes back to the original story we were discussing. It’s the misrepresentation – one of the most powerful things, one of the greatest powers the media has is not to write stories, but to not write stories about things that are happening.”

“In addition to the spinning or misrepresentation of terrorist attacks, there’s this giant story for the last 15 years. It’s not just about bombs going off in Boston. It’s not just about murder in Orlando. It’s about genocide. It’s about the systematic extermination of religious minorities – not just the Yazidis running up Mount Sinjar; it is the Christians,” he said.

“If you look at what ISIS did after they took over Mosul, they marked every house in that city where a Christian lived with a sign for ‘follower of Nazareth.’ And they gave those Christians a very simple option: convert to Islam, or be killed, or be punished as an infidel, and pay a special infidel tax. That’s systematic genocide,” he contended.

“As you see in Europe and elsewhere, it’s not just in the Middle East. The murder of a priest saying Mass, a Catholic priest, in France – this is what the media should be talking about if they wish to give a truly honest depiction of how serious the global jihadi threat is, Alex,” he said.

Gorka said it was “great news” that Iran has taken to insulting the new U.S. President as a “newcomer” to geopolitics and rattling its ballistic-missile saber.

“They realize that it’s not just about being a newcomer. It’s about the new sheriff in town,” he said. “This is not business as usual. We are not going to underpin and support a theocratic dictatorship – that is the Iranian Republic. The Obama administration’s policy of making the mullahs in Tehran stronger and stronger, in some kind of regional balancing act, those days are over. So for all the bluster, I think the underlying message is, hopefully, they understand it’s not business as usual with regards to Washington.”

Marlow relayed a question from fellow Breitbart News Daily host and Breitbart London editor Raheem Kassam about U.K. House of Commons Speaker John Bercow effectively banning President Trump from addressing both houses of Parliament during an upcoming state visit.

Gorka expressed “disappointment,” speaking as a proud American who grew up in the United Kingdom.

“I can’t recall a Speaker making such an incredibly partisan comment about a duly, democratically elected chief executive, of one of the most important – if not the most important – allies to the United Kingdom,” he said.

He recalled British Prime Minister Theresa May having an “amazing” visit with President Trump recently and said he expected “things to be executed as planned” when Trump makes his visit to London.

Turning to the legal battle over President Trump’s executive order for an immigration pause from seven nations with severe security problems, Gorka insisted the order is “completely constitutional,” adding that the president is completely in his powers to do so, but we are doing this as a preventative measure.”

“Good counter-terrorism is done before an attack, to prevent an attack,” he explained. “The whole logic of this EO, this executive order, is the following: we are going to destroy ISIS. The president has made that commitment to eradicate the Islamic State. But as we ramp up in the near future our approach to ISIS, what’s going to happen? We are going to see an increase in the movement of jihadis further west, further north, into Europe and across the ocean into America.”

“We don’t want to see them use the immigration streams to insert their people into America so they can do things like the Berlin attack, like the Nice attack, like the Paris attacks. This is purely and solely about national security and protecting the citizens of this great nation,” Gorka declared.

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Sebastian Gorka: Trump Order About Safety, Not Religion

Also see:

Civil War 2017, First Episode of 5 Part “America Under Seige”

america-under-siege

New Zeal Blog, by Teresa Monroe-Hamilton, January 19, 2017:

“Civil War 2017” is the first episode in a five-part “America Under Siege” documentary web-series to be released over the course of 2017. Each episode will profile the influence of radical Marxists on various segments of American society.

They’ve fought to stop the inauguration…

They’re fighting to destroy our nation…

While 700,000 protesters are converging on Washington D.C. for Inauguration Day — in addition to anti-Trump rallies planned in dozens of cities across the country — the political groups behind the protests remain shrouded in mystery. As Fox News Channel first reported, Civil War 2017 uncovers an extensive network of neo-Marxist operatives coordinating highly disruptive and potentially violent protests from coast to coast.

Working with Dangerous Documentaries, director Judd Saul and conservative commentator Trevor Loudon have compiled a team of researchers and undercover operatives to probe the roots of the anti-Trump movement, highlighting the ultimate goals and ulterior motives. Mr. Loudon, a regular contributor to Glenn Beck’s online programming, is the foremost expert on the left-wing organizers of mass protests.

The ‘Trump Report’ Is a Russian Provocation

putin920x537It is part of Russia’s strategy to disrupt U.S. politics and institutions for years to come.

National Review, By David Satter, January 12, 2017:

Politicized Mishandling of Russian Cyberattacks Undermines Long-Term Security

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Daily Caller, by William J. Murphy, January 12, 2017:

The Obama Administration’s politicized mishandling of the Russian-orchestrated email hack of U.S. political organizations has distracted from even larger Kremlin cyber threats to American interests. Mr. Obama’s partisan clumsiness has fomented mistrust and confusion among Americans, undermining the ability of the U.S. to formulate an effective response to these dangers.

It is regrettable that the President and his associates have demonstrated more interest in using Moscow’s electoral cyber-activities to undermine the legitimacy of President-elect Trump, than in laying the foundation for an effective, long-term response to this significant, national security threat.

Mr. Obama couldn’t be bothered with involving the President-elect and Congress in a reasonable conversation about how to address Russian cyber-attacks. Instead, the Administration leaked the disputed CIA report asserting Moscow tried to help Mr. Trump win, which nicely set up the stunts to disrupt the Electoral College. In place of what would have been more statesmanlike courtesy and consultation with the incoming president, Mr. Obama displayed his customary petulant unilateralism.

Furthermore, the administration botched the delivery to Congress of the flawed CIA report, releasing it before sufficient evidence had been marshalled to support its proposition that Moscow desired to assist Trump’s election. FBI and ODNI officials contradicted the CIA estimate as soon as it was delivered, transforming the report into a public relations fiasco that raised more questions than it answered.

The peculiar timing of the President’s order for a “full review” of the Kremlin’s cyber-meddling as well as his decision to retaliate before completion of this intelligence review — particularly after neglecting for so long to take any action — likewise suggests greater interest in partisan, anti-Trump initiatives than in shutting down the Russian cyber threat.

But, the President’s focus on the claim that Moscow intended to help Trump win the election is not just unfortunate, it’s dangerous. This rhetoric trivializes the true scope and intensity of the Russian cyber threat, and has compromised the ability of the U.S. to respond effectively.

The fundamental goal of the Kremlin’s cyber-intervention in U.S. politics is to subvert national unity — to impair the U.S.’ ability to promote its interests in world affairs or interfere with the Kremlin’s strategic designs.  Americans should recognize these Russian tactics as contemporary cyber manifestations of KGB Cold War operations to support and manipulate U.S. political interest groups.

An even more important lesson Americans should take from the Kremlin’s 2016 electoral mischief is that Moscow’s cyber-political operations are but one weapon in a formidable arsenal of cyber-attack capabilities Russia has developed to cripple U.S. power. Moscow possesses, and in some cases, has already used, potent cyber-attack capabilities against critical national infrastructure including the electric grid, water utilities, financial system, transportation sector, government agencies, and corporations.

Americans should take careful note that Vladimir Putin and his government view the U.S as a rival foreign power capable of thwarting Moscow’s ability to realize its national interests and have already proven themselves willing and able to wield their cyber-power.

The U.S. has badly underinvested in its cyber-defenses and has failed to develop an appropriate response to the magnitude of the threat. An effective response must prioritize vastly improved cyber-defenses, integrate diverse cyber and conventional retaliatory options to deter future attacks, and strengthen government capacities to promote cyber security.

The partisan pettiness that has characterized President Obama’s approach to the Kremlin’s cyber-electioneering has squandered a valuable opportunity to inform the American people about the gravity of the Russian cyber-threat as well as to build public support for effective countermeasures.

Now that he has been given the appropriate courtesy of a formal intelligence briefing, President-elect Trump has acknowledged the danger and indicated he will bring forward a plan to address cyber threats. Americans would do well to hope Mr. Trump’s proposal is comprehensive, bold, and unifying. Nothing could bode better for the future than reversal of the partisan rancor and dysfunction observed to date.

Dr. William J. Murphy is an Associate Professor of Social Science at the New England Institute of Technology where he teaches courses on Terrorism and National Security, American Government, and Economics.  He is also a Policy Advisor with the Center for Constitutional Reform at the Heartland Institute.  He can be reached at @wjmurphy2.

Also see this: Ukrainian efforts to sabotage Trump backfire via David Shideler on Facebook where he comments:

An interesting little story on election influence that hasn’t received as much attention as some others.

The reality is that foreign actors of all stripes are seeking to manipulate U.S. policy every day through all available means. Many of them are aided and abetted by politicians who see only the next political target, and by law firms and lobby groups whose business is selling influence, no matter who the client is.

We have a responsibility as citizens to be wary, skeptical consumers of information, and to demand better from our politicians.

Also of note:

Russia’s new favorite jihadis: The Taliban

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Long War Journal, by Thomas Joscelyn, January 4, 2017:

Note: This article was first published by The Daily Beast.

More than 15 years into America’s war in Afghanistan, the Russian government is openly advocating on behalf of the Taliban.

Last week, Moscow hosted Chinese and Pakistani emissaries to discuss the war. Tellingly, no Afghan officials were invited. However, the trio of nations urged the world to be “flexible” in dealing with the Taliban, which remains the Afghan government’s most dangerous foe. Russia even argued that the Taliban is a necessary bulwark in the war against the so-called Islamic State.

For its part, the American military sees Moscow’s embrace of the Taliban as yet another move intended to undermine NATO, which fights the Taliban, al Qaeda, and the Islamic State every day.

After Moscow’s conference, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova spoke with reporters and noted that “the three countries expressed particular concern about the rising activity in the country of extremist groups, including the Afghan branch of IS [the Islamic State, or ISIS].”

According to Reuters, Zakharova added that China, Pakistan, and Russia agreed upon a “flexible approach to remove certain [Taliban] figures from [United Nations] sanctions lists as part of efforts to foster a peaceful dialogue between Kabul and the Taliban movement.”

The Taliban, which refers to itself as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, quickly praised the “Moscow tripartite” in a statement posted online on Dec. 29.

“It is joyous to see that the regional countries have also understood that the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is a political and military force,” Muhammad Sohail Shaheen, a spokesman for the group’s political office, said in the statement. “The proposal forwarded in the Moscow tripartite of delisting members of the Islamic Emirate is a positive step forward in bringing peace and security to Afghanistan.”

Of course, the Taliban isn’t interested in “peace and security.” The jihadist group wants to win the Afghan war and it is using negotiations with regional and international powers to improve its standing. The Taliban has long manipulated “peace” negotiations with the U.S. and Western powers as a pretext for undoing international sanctions that limit the ability of its senior figures to travel abroad for lucrative fundraising and other purposes, even while offering no serious gestures toward peace.

The Obama administration has repeatedly tried, and failed, to open the door to peace. In May 2014, the U.S. transferred five senior Taliban figures from Guantanamo to Qatar. Ostensibly, the “Taliban Five” were traded for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, an American who reportedly deserted his fellow soldiers and was then held by the Taliban and its jihadist allies. But the Obama administration also hoped that the exchange would be a so-called confidence-building measure and lead to more substantive negotiations. The Taliban’s leaders never agreed to any such discussions. They simply wanted their comrades, at least two of whom are suspected of committing war crimes, freed from Guantanamo.

Regardless, Russia is now enabling the Taliban’s disingenuous diplomacy by pretending that ISIS is the more worrisome threat. It’s a game the Russians have been playing for more than a year.

In December 2015, Zamir Kabulov, who serves as Vladimir Putin’s special representative for Afghanistan, went so far as to claim that “the Taliban interest objectively coincides with ours” when it comes to fighting ISIS head Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s loyalists. Kabulov even conceded that Russia and the Taliban have “channels for exchanging information,” according to The Washington Post.

The American commanders leading the fight in Afghanistan don’t buy Russia’s argument—at all.

During a press briefing on Dec. 2, General John W. Nicholson Jr., the commander of NATO’s Resolute Support and U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, discussed “the malign influence of external actors and particularly Pakistan, Russia, and Iran.” Gen. Nicholson said the U.S. and its allies are “concerned about the external enablement of the insurgent or terrorist groups inside Afghanistan, in particular where they enjoy sanctuary or support from outside governments.” Russia, in particular, “has overtly lent legitimacy to the Taliban.”

According to Nicholson, the Russian “narrative” is “that the Taliban are the ones fighting the Islamic State, not the Afghan government.” While the Taliban does fight its jihadist rivals in the Islamic State, this is plainly false.

The “Afghan government and the U.S. counterterrorism effort are the ones achieving the greatest effect against Islamic State,” Nicholson said. He went on to list the U.S.-led coalition’s accomplishments over the past year: 500 ISIS fighters (comprising an estimated 25 to 30 percent of the group’s overall force structure) were killed or wounded, the organization’s “top 12 leaders” (including its emir, Hafiz Saeed Khan) were killed, and the group’s “sanctuary” has been reduced from nine Afghan districts to just three.

“So, this public legitimacy that Russia lends to the Taliban is not based on fact, but it is used as a way to essentially undermine the Afghan government and the NATO effort and bolster the belligerents,” Nicholson concluded. While Nicholson was careful not read too much into Russia’s motivation for backing the Taliban, he noted “certainly there’s a competition with NATO.”

There’s no doubt that ISIS’s operations in Afghanistan grew significantly in the wake of Baghdadi’s caliphate declaration in 2014. However, as Nicholson correctly pointed out, Baghdadi’s men are not adding to the territory they control at the moment. Their turf is shrinking. The same cannot be said for the Taliban, which remains the most significant threat to Afghanistan’s future. At any given time, the Taliban threatens several provincial capitals. The Taliban also controls dozens of Afghan districts and contests many more. Simply put, the Taliban is a far greater menace inside Afghanistan than Baghdadi’s men.

Regardless, the Russians continue to press their case. Their argument hinges on the idea that ISIS is a “global” force to be reckoned with, while the Taliban is just a “local” nuisance.

Kabulov, Putin’s special envoy to Afghanistan, made this very same claim in a newly-published interview with Anadolu Agency. Kabulov contends that “the bulk, main leadership, current leadership, and the majority of Taliban” are now a “local force” as a “result of all these historical lessons they got in Afghanistan.”

“They gave up the global jihadism idea,” Kabulov adds. “They are upset and regret that they followed Osama bin Laden.”

Someone should tell the Taliban’s media department this.

In early December, the Taliban released a major documentary video, “Bond of Nation with the Mujahideen.” The video included clips of the Taliban’s most senior leaders rejecting peace talks and vowing to wage jihad until the end. It also openly advertised the Taliban’s undying alliance with al Qaeda. At one point, an image of Osama bin Laden next to Taliban founder Mullah Omar is displayed on screen. (A screen shot of this clip can be seen above.) Photos of other al Qaeda and Taliban figures are mixed together in the same shot.

An audio message from Sheikh Khalid Batarfi, an al Qaeda veteran stationed in Yemen, is also played during the video. Batarfi praised the Taliban for protecting bin Laden even after the Sept. 11, 2001 hijackings. “Groups of Afghan Mujahideen have emerged from the land of Afghans that will destroy the biggest idol and head of kufr of our time, America,” Batarfi threatened.

A narrator added that the mujahideen in Afghanistan “are the hope of Muslims for reviving back the honor of the Muslim Ummah [worldwide community of Muslims]!” The Afghan jihadists are a “hope for taking back the Islamic lands!” and a “hope for not repeating defeats and tragedies of the last century!”

The Taliban’s message is, therefore, unmistakable: The war in Afghanistan is part of the global jihadist conflict.

All of this, and more, is in one of the Taliban’s most important media productions of 2016. There is no hint that the Taliban “regrets” allying with al Qaeda, or has given “up the global jihadism idea,” as Kabulov claims. The exact opposite is true.

There is much more to the Taliban-al Qaeda nexus. In August 2015, al Qaeda honcho Ayman al Zawahiri swore allegiance to Mullah Mansour, who was named as Mullah Omar’s successor as the Taliban’s emir. Mansour publicly accepted Zawahiri’s fealty and Zawahiri’s oath was prominently featured on the Taliban’s website. After Mansour was killed earlier this year, Zawahiri pledged his allegiance to Mansour’s replacement, Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada. Zawahiri and other al Qaeda leaders regularly call upon Muslims to support the Taliban and reject the Islamic State’s Afghan branch.

In his interview with Anadolu Agency, Kabulov concedes that not all of the Taliban has “given up” the global jihadist “ideas.” He admits that within the Taliban “you can find very influential groups like the Haqqani network whose ideology is more radical, closer to Daesh [or ISIS].”

Kabulov is right that the Haqqanis are committed jihadi ideologues, but he misses the obvious contradiction in his arguments. Siraj Haqqani, who leads the Haqqani network, is also one of the Taliban’s top two deputy leaders. He is the Taliban’s military warlord. Not only is Siraj Haqqani a “radical” ideologue, as Kabulov mentions in passing, he is also one of al Qaeda’s most committed allies. Documents recovered in Osama bin Laden’s compound show that al Qaeda’s men closely cooperate with Siraj Haqqani on the Afghan battlefields.

Kabulov claims that the Islamic State “operates much more smartly” than al Qaeda and has “learned from all the mistakes of al Qaeda.” He says Baghdadi’s enterprise has “brought more advanced and sophisticated people to design, plan, and [execute] policy.” Once again, the exact opposite is true.

Al Qaeda has long known the pitfalls of the Islamic State’s in-your-face strategy, and has smartly decided to hide the extent of its influence and operations. Zawahiri and his lieutenants have also used the Islamic State’s over-the-top brutality to market themselves as a more reasonable jihadi alternative. And both the Taliban and al Qaeda are attempting to build more popular support for their cause as much of the world remains focused on the so-called caliphate’s horror show.

Al Qaeda’s plan has worked so well that the Russians would have us believe that the Taliban, al Qaeda’s longtime ally, should be viewed as a prospective partner.

Kabulov says that Russia is waiting to see how the “new president, [Donald] Trump, describe[s] his Afghan policy” before determining what course should be pursued next.

Here’s one thing the Trump administration should do right away: Make it clear that the Taliban and al Qaeda remain our enemies in Afghanistan.

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

Missing from the Intelligence Report: The Word ‘Podesta’

podestaDisclosure of embarrassing information should not be confused with disinformation.

National Review, by Andrew C. McCarthy, January 8, 2017:

There is a word missing from the non-classified report issued Friday, in which three intelligence agencies assess “Russia’s Influence Campaign Targeting the 2016 US Presidential Election.” The FBI, CIA, and NSA elide any mention of . . . “Podesta.”

Seems like a pretty significant omission — not just because of how the 2016 campaign played out but also in light of the intelligence community’s recent history of politicizing its analyses.

The report is replete with references to Russian “cyber espionage,” “covert intelligence,” “false-flag,” “propaganda,” and “influence” operations by which Vladimir Putin is alleged to have tried to put his thumb on the electoral scale. Very sinister stuff, to be sure. But when the public hears these terms, it thinks of spies, misdirection, disinformation campaigns — i.e., schemes intended to deceive the target audience. People don’t instantly think, “Oh, you mean an effort to publicize true but embarrassing information”; they don’t read “covert operation” and say to themselves, “That must mean they subjected only one side of a political contest to a high level of scrutiny.” That’s the kind of behavior people associate with the American media, not the Kremlin.

The three intelligence agencies’ report pointedly declines to tell us what specific information gives them such “high confidence” that they know the operation of Vladimir Putin’s mind. They plead that the nature of their work does not allow for that: To tell us how they know what they purport to know would compromise intelligence methods and sources.

Fair enough. The problem, though, is that if you’re essentially going to say, “Trust us,” you have to have proven yourself trustworthy over time.

Here, we are talking about a community whose own analysts have complained that their superiors distort their reports for political purposes. In just the past few years, they have told us that they had “high confidence” that Iran suspended its nuclear weapons programs in 2003; that the NSA was not collecting metadata on millions of Americans; and that the Muslim Brotherhood is a moderate, “largely secular” organization. We have learned that the Obama administration intentionally perpetrated a disinformation campaign — complete with a compliant media “echo chamber” — to sell the public on the Iran nuclear deal (and the fiction that Iran’s regime was moderating). We have seen U.S. intelligence and law enforcement complicit in the Obama administration’s schemes to convince the public that “violent extremism,” not radical Islam, is the explanation for terrorist attacks; that a jihadist mass-murder attack targeting soldiers about to deploy to Afghanistan was “workplace violence”; that al-Qaeda had been “decimated”; that the threat of the ISIS “jayvee” team was exaggerated; and that the Benghazi massacre was not really a terrorist attack but a “protest” gone awry over an anti-Muslim video.

I can attest that the intelligence agencies overflow with patriotic Americans who do the quiet, perilous, thankless work that saves American lives. We can acknowledge this incontestable fact and still observe that, on this record, the intelligence community as an institution cannot very well expect that “Trust us” is going to get them very far.

Which brings us back to what the new report studiously avoids mentioning.

The vaporous assertion that Putin’s regime was up to “espionage” and “covert ops” in order to “denigrate” Mrs. Clinton might naturally be presumed to imply that Putin was promoting smears. Such an impression — if that’s what the agencies were aiming to create — would have been contradicted by mentioning “Podesta,” as in John Podesta, the top Obama White House and Clinton-campaign official whose private e-mails were hacked. To bring up Podesta might remind the public that this was not a disinformation campaign. What was revealed here was true information that Podesta and his correspondents would understandably have preferred to keep private.

As President Obama likes to say, let me be clear. I am not endorsing hacking, cyber-theft, and the publication of private information. Unlike some conservatives now infatuated with scoundrels like Julian Assange (and even Putin!), I continue to regard enemies of the United States as, well, enemies of the United States. They are not to be trusted, regardless of whose ox they happen to be goring as their allegiances and calculations twist and turn.

My point is that Putin did not plant a slanderous story that top Clinton aides were, say, spouting anti-Catholic bigotry. What he did was orchestrate the release of authentic e-mails, in one of which top Clinton aides were in fact spouting anti-Catholic bigotry.

I will give Democrats the benefit of the doubt that, if the shoe were on the other foot, they would condemn the theft — a benefit they probably do not rate given their praise of Edward Snowden and their historic efforts (the Carter administration, Ted Kennedy) to seek Soviet interference in the American political system when it stood to help their electoral prospects. But I am quite certain Democrats would have no sympathy for Republicans over any political damage if the latter were caught saying unsavory things. In such an instance, victorious Democrats would not tolerate a suggestion that the “the election had been hacked”; they’d say, “Republicans got caught being Republicans.”

The new report may be entirely right — I think it is — that Putin tries to meddle in American and European elections and that he has preferences about the outcomes. Yet it is written in a way that enables the Left to spin it as support for the fallacy that Putin “hacked the election.” It gives Democrats ammunition to continue prattling about how the Russians used “espionage” and “covert operations” “aimed at the US election” in order to “influence” the result; and that Putin wanted Trump to win, according to our “highly confident” agencies. The Left can even cite the agencies’ intriguing but inchoate conclusion that the Kremlin “accessed elements of multiple state or local electoral boards” — a conclusion that a cynic, believing the intelligence community might be just a teensy bit political, might figure was included in the report to undercut Trump’s refrain that the hacking had nothing to do with the electoral process.

The agencies, of course, would deny any political agenda. And perhaps they don’t have one — personally, I don’t have “high confidence” that I can read their minds as well as they can apparently read Putin’s. Nevertheless, when you read the report carefully, it is like a media report: It feeds the “hack the election” theme, but it does not actually say Putin hacked the election.

Indeed, when you look for the fire under all the smoke, you find the agencies saying, “We did not make an assessment of the impact that Russian activities had on the outcome of the 2016 election.” And while the report repeatedly asserts that Russia wanted to “influence” the election, it elaborates that Russia’s main aim is to “undermine the U.S.-led democratic order” and “faith in the US democratic process” (an unremarkable finding that, by the way, is of a piece with the contention of Trump national-security adviser Mike Flynn that the Russian regime is anti-American principally because it opposes democracy).

The report concludes that while Putin appears to have been rooting for Trump, the Russians assumed Clinton was going to win and were mainly trying to undermine the effectiveness of her anticipated presidency, not swing the election to Trump. And even the conclusion that Putin was rooting for Trump is partially based on speculation (“Putin most likely wanted to discredit Secretary Clinton because” he blames her for protests against his regime), along with heavy doses of hypothesis (Putin is said to have: liked “Trump’s stated policy to work with Russia”; seen Trump’s election as a potential pathway “to achieve an international coalition against the Islamic State”; “had many positive experiences working with Western political leaders whose business interests made them more disposed to deal with Russia”; etc.).

Note: all this agency guesswork appears to be based on publicly available information that you and I — without any access to super-secret intelligence sources and methods — could have done on our own. It doesn’t really tell us anything we didn’t already know, or couldn’t already have surmised.

And what about those dark suggestions about Russian penetration of “multiple state or local electoral boards,” and that “since early 2014, Russian intelligence has researched [ooh!] US electoral processes and related technology and equipment”? Well, if you read on, you find that the report is at pains to concede that the Department of Homeland Security “assesses that the types of systems we observed Russian actors targeting or compromising are not involved in vote tallying.”

In other words, Putin did not hack the election.

In light of the report’s emphasis on Mrs. Clinton as the “espionage” victim, it is worth noting a couple of other nuggets. The agencies acknowledge that Kremlin spies “conducted cyber operations against . . . targets associated with both major US political parties” (emphasis added). In fact, Russia “collected against” anyone and everyone “viewed as likely to shape future US policies” — including “US primary campaigns, think tanks, and lobbying groups.”

In making the concession that “Russia collected on some Republican-affiliated targets,” the agencies are quick to caveat that, whatever Putin may have done to Republicans, it was not “comparable” to his “disclosure campaign” against Democrats. But is that necessarily because he wanted the Republicans to win?

Again, reading the report closely, we learn that while the Russians apparently “targeted” the Republican party, they actually succeeded in “gain[ing] access to Democratic National Committee (DNC) networks” — access they maintained for about a year. And note that, just as the agencies refrain from any discussion of the Podesta motherlode, they also choose not to tell us anything about the quantity or quality of the information obtained from Republicans. We’re just vaguely told that Russia’s Republican disclosures were not “comparable” to its Democratic disclosures. But that might be indicative of a motive only if the information acquired from each party was comparable. Isn’t it possible that the disclosures were not comparable because the stuff Putin got on the GOP was not nearly as copious or juicy as what he got on the Dems?

Or . . . let’s assume for argument’s sake that the information Russia acquired was comparable — let’s assume that they have something on Trump, or on some Republican as relatively high-level as Podesta, that would stoke the same kind of press frenzy as the tens of thousands of Podesta e-mails. If the report is correct that Putin was convinced Hillary would win and wanted to cripple her presidency from the start, wouldn’t it be logical that he’d more heavily disclose what he had on the Dems? What would be the point of trying to cripple the anticipated Republican loser? Wouldn’t Putin keep his powder dry on the GOP — hold whatever he’s got for future damage or blackmail purposes, save it for a time when it would be more useful?

I’m speculating about Putin’s motives, and I don’t have “high confidence” that I know what they were. But that’s kind of the point, isn’t it?

Before the agencies’ report was issued, most of us knew that Russia is an adversary obsessed with America, that it aggressively spies against us and endeavors to influence any aspect of American affairs that could advantage it. We also knew Russia did not “hack the election.” The underwhelming intelligence report on Russia’s meddling in our election changes none of that.

— Andrew C. McCarthy is a senior policy fellow at the National Review Institute and a contributing editor of National Review.

Also see:

U.S. Intel Report Says Putin Led ‘Cyber-Enabled Disclosure Operation’ to Help Elect Trump, Discredit Clinton

AP

AP

Washington Free Beacon, by Bill Gertz, January 6, 2017:

The CIA, FBI, and National Security Agency concluded in a report made public Friday that Russian President Vladimir Putin directed a covert intelligence campaign to boost the election of Donald Trump while seeking to discredit Hillary Clinton.

The 23-page unclassified report is part of a longer secret study into a wide-ranging cyber and disinformation campaign similar to the activities during the Cold War of the Soviet KGB intelligence service.

“We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election,” the report said.

“Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency.”

The combined cyber and intelligence operation “reflected the Kremlin’s recognition of the worldwide effects that mass disclosures of U.S. government and other private data—such as those conducted by WikiLeaks and others—have achieved in recent years, and their understanding of the value of orchestrating such disclosures to maximize the impact of compromising information,” the report said.

The report warned that Russia will continue “cyber-enabled disclosure operations” to achieve foreign policy goals with relative ease and without causing significant damage to Russian interests.

“We assess Russian intelligence services will continue to develop capabilities to provide Putin with options to use against the United States, judging from past practice and current efforts,” the report said.

The report noted that immediately after the Nov. 8 election, Russia launched an email spearphishing campaign targeting U.S. government employees and Americans at think tanks and non-governmental organizations involved in national security, defense, and foreign policy.

“This campaign could provide material for future influence efforts as well as foreign intelligence collection on the incoming administration’s goals and plans,” the report said.

The report is based in part on top-secret NSA electronic intercepts and analysis of Russian spy tradecraft and other aspects of the operation by CIA and FBI intelligence analysts.

The report also states specifically that the three agencies “did not make an assessment of the impact that Russian activities had on the outcome of the 2016 election.”

President-elect Trump, who was briefed on the top-secret report on Friday, stated on Twitter that he left the briefing convinced that Russian covert action had no impact on the election.

“While Russia, China, other countries, outside groups and people are consistently trying to break through the cyber infrastructure of our governmental institutions, businesses and organizations including the Democrat National Committee, there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election including the fact that there was no tampering whatsoever with voting machines,” Trump said.

He noted that Russian attempts to hack the Republican National Committee were unsuccessful as a result of better cyber security than used by the DNC.

The declassified report is titled “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent U.S. Elections” and will likely fuel the political debate among some Democrats who have sought to discredit Trump’s election victory.

According to the report, Russia and Putin sought to influence the presidential election in a bid to “undermine the U.S.-led liberal democratic order.”

However, the effort in 2016 began with major cyber intrusions in the summer and “demonstrated a significant escalation in directness, level of activity, and scope of effort compared to previous operations.”

Regarding Trump, the agencies concluded that Putin and the Russian government developed a clear preference for Trump, a judgment the three agencies gauged with “high confidence.”

U.S. officials familiar with the classified version of the report said intelligence indicated Russian officials celebrated Trump’s stunning Nov. 8 election upset, Reuters reported.

The influence program involved “discrediting” Clinton through leaking information obtained from hacks against the DNC and political figures like John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign manager.

The report also said the Russians “aspired” to boost Trump’s election prospects by discrediting and contrasting Clinton unfavorably with Trump. In that judgment, the CIA and FBI voiced high confidence, but the NSA said it had only moderate confidence.

The operation evolved over the course of the election campaign and intensified when it appeared Clinton was likely to win. The report said at that point the Russians’ influence campaign sought to focus on undermining her future presidency.

“Moscow’s influence campaign followed a Russian messaging strategy that blends covert intelligence operations—such as cyber activity—with overt efforts by Russian Government agencies, state-funded media, third-party intermediaries, and paid social media users or ‘trolls,’” the report said.

The main conduits for Russian intelligence, specifically the GRU military intelligence service, were hackers using the online persona Guccifer 2.0 and the website DCLeaks.com. Another main conduit for hacked “victim data” was the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks that the report says cooperated closely with Russia’s main propaganda outlet, RT, formerly Russian Television.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange told Fox News this week that Russia was not the source of the information published by the website. Assange did not reveal who the source was that provided the leaked information.

The report provides details on WikiLeaks close ties to RT.

Additionally, Russian hackers broke into multiple state and local election boards, but did not penetrate systems involved in vote tallying.

The entire influence campaign was orchestrated by senior Kremlin officials and disseminated to Russia’s state-run “propaganda machine,” a combination of both traditional media outlets and social media, including St. Petersburg group Internet Research Agency, to operate a troll network. The operation is funded by a Putin ally with ties to Russian intelligence.

The report concluded that Moscow will use the lessons of the campaign in future influence operations worldwide, including U.S. allies and their elections.

The campaign to influence the election represented a “significant escalation” compared to past Russian influence operations in terms of directness, level of activity, and scope of effort over past election meddling.

Russian deep cover “illegal” intelligence operatives expelled from the United States in 2010 revealed Moscow’s bid to influence the 2008 election.

Also, during the 1970s, the Soviet KGB “recruited a Democratic Party activist who reported information about then-presidential hopeful Jimmy Carter’s campaign and foreign policy plans,” the report said.

Putin’s motive for the campaign was part ideological and part revenge for what the Russian leader believes is U.S. backing for mass democratic protests against his regime in 2011 and 2012. Putin also “holds a grudge for comments he almost certainly saw as disparaging him,” the report said.

Putin in June avoided directly praising Trump as part of the campaign in order to avoid having the campaign backfire in the United States.

Still, Putin during the presidential campaign voiced preference for Trump because he believes the president-elect is more willing to work with Russia and because he perceived Trump would adopt policies more favorable to Russia related to Syria and Ukraine.

By contrast, Putin criticized Clinton for her “aggressive rhetoric,” the report said.

Moscow also believed Trump as president would assist Moscow’s plan to build an international coalition against the Islamic State terror group.

“Putin has had many positive experiences working with western political leaders whose business interests made them more disposed to deal with Russia, such as former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder,” the report said.

Russian diplomats also were employed in publicly denouncing the U.S. electoral process and were ready to question the results if Clinton had been elected.

On social media, pro-Kremlin bloggers also had prepared a Twitter campaign using the hashtag #DemocracyRIP on election night.

The disinformation and influence operation was based on “years of investment” by the Russians and based on experiences used in influencing former Soviet states that Moscow is seeking to control in what is termed the “near abroad.”

“By their nature, Russian influence campaigns are multifaceted and designed to be deniable because they use a mix of agents of influence, cutouts, front organizations, and false-flag operations,” the report said.

An example was the takeover of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014 that used a combination of military forces and information warfare operations.

In the presidential campaign operations, leaks from cyber attacks, intrusions into state and local election networks, and overt propaganda were used. Russian intelligence agencies “both informed and enabled the influence campaign,” the report said.

In addition to the DNC and Podesta’s email, the Russians targeted the primary election campaigns, think tanks, and lobbying groups likely to be involved in shaping future policies.

For the DNC, Russian intelligence gained access from July 2015 until at least June 2016, with the GRU launching aggressive attacks beginning in March 2016.

“By May, the GRU had exfiltrated large volumes of data from the DNC,” the report said.

The information was provided to Guccifer 2.0 who claimed to be a Romanian hacker who the report says was likely Russian and probably more than one person.

DCLeaks.com began spreading GRU hacked data in June.

Contrary to Assange’s claims this week, the report said: “We assess with high confidence that the GRU relayed material it acquired from the DNC and senior Democratic officials to WikiLeaks.”

“Moscow most likely chose WikiLeaks because of its self-proclaimed reputation for authenticity,” the report said. “Disclosures through WikiLeaks did not contain any evident forgeries.”

The report noted that in September Putin denied state-level involvement in the Russian campaign to hack the election and stated publicly that it was more important to focus on the leaked data than the source of the leaks.

On Russian ties to WikiLeaks, the report said the Kremlin’s main international propaganda outlet, RT, “actively collaborated with WikiLeaks.”

“RT’s editor-in-chief visited WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in August 2013, where they discussed renewing his broadcast contract with RT,” the report said.

RT also had an exclusive partnership with WikiLeaks that involved access to secret information. Additionally, RT provided sympathetic coverage of Assange and “provides him a platform to denounce the United States,” the report said.

Sputnik, an online outlet, along with a network of social media trolls are also part of the Moscow propaganda machine.

According to the report, Russian media viewed Trump’s election victory as validating Putin’s advocacy of global populist movements and an example of Western liberalism’s “collapse.”

Negative Russian propaganda coverage of Clinton included highlighting her bout with pneumonia in August.

An RT interview with Assange in August also suggested that Clinton and the Islamic State were funded by the same money. Additional reporting by RT focused on the Clinton Foundation and how all of the foundation’s funds went to the Clintons.

***

Also see:

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.

Trump Must Up The Ante On Russian Subversion In America

Trump should welcome a comprehensive probe into Hillary Clinton's allegations of Russian subversion. (Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images)

Trump should welcome a comprehensive probe into Hillary Clinton’s allegations of Russian subversion. (Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images)

Forbes, by J. Michael Waller, January 4, 2017:

The real scandal about Russian subversion of the American political process is that the nation’s leadership has known about it for years and done nothing.

Now is the time to put an end to it.

Candidate Hillary Clinton uncharacteristically decried “Russian subversion” during the campaign. She called opponent Donald Trump a “puppet” of Russian strongman Vladimir Putin. In so doing, the Clinton team unleashed a wave of unsubstantiated accusations—about which the intelligence community remains divided—that Putin wanted Trump to win the election. This has morphed into a widespread misperception that the Russians “hacked” the election itself.

Clinton’s allegations of Russian subversion must undergo the most rigorous investigation. Trump should welcome a comprehensive probe.

But limiting the scope of “Russian subversion” to the 2016 campaign is a trap. Trump must raise the ante. He must broaden any investigation to cover all foreign subversion of American politics and policies. It’s time to drain the fetid swamp of foreign espionage, subversion and corruption aimed at compromising decision-makers in Washington.

Congress must do the same. For almost 60 years after our involvement in World War I, Congress had bipartisan, standing committees and subcommittees to investigate foreign-sponsored subversion that manipulated or undermined our democracy. Congress shut them down in the 1970s and never replaced them. Occasionally a congressional panel would hold hearings about “active measures,” as the Soviets called their political warfare technique, welcoming classified and unclassified testimony from the FBI and CIA and an occasional outside expert, but generally Congress pretended not to see the problem and surrendered its investigative role to the intelligence community. Private-sector support for continued research and reporting practically dried up.

Documentation and testimony from those old congressional hearings and reports, defector accounts and internal Soviet documents unearthed over the past 25 years show that the Kremlin tried to influence or manipulate the American political process in every presidential election from 1924 to 1952, and from 1968 to 1988. It did so by directly and indirectly funding American political and policy groups amid relentless active measures, campaigns and espionage offensives.

Edward Snowden speaks via video link at a news conference for the launch of a campaign calling for President Obama to pardon him on September 14, 2016 in New York City. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Edward Snowden speaks via video link at a news conference for the launch of a campaign calling for President Obama to pardon him on September 14, 2016 in New York City. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

The nation can come to no conclusive understanding of whether or how Moscow tried to manipulate the recent elections—and decades of foreign and defense policy—unless it re-learns the bigger picture and historical context.

By expanding the investigative focus, we can learn from cases like the FBI’s Operation Ghost Stories, a brilliant, decade-long effort that broke up a network of deep-cover Russian spies in 2010. The agents’ assignment was to get close to influential American academic, business and political figures. Mostly under false identities, the agents lived as normal-looking Americans. Russian tradecraft terms them “illegals” because they went without diplomatic protection. The network of 11 known illegals operated primarily in the Boston-New York-Washington, D.C. corridor, with the heaviest concentration in New York City.

One of the Russian spies, federal prosecutors said, worked as a financial advisor to the 2008 presidential campaign chairman of then-senator Hillary Clinton. Another was connected to a New York-based confidant of an unnamed “cabinet member” in 2009 whose identity, though redacted from declassified Justice Department documents, was understood to be then-secretary of state Hillary Clinton. The purpose of the massive intelligence operation may not have been only to steal secrets. Like some of Moscow’s most successful human intelligence coups, a purpose may have been to subvert American decision-making at crucial times.

When the FBI wrapped up the network on June 27, 2010, after one of the illegals escaped, Clinton moved with unusual speed over an extended Independence Day weekend to whisk the remaining ten spies back to Russia. On July 9, a Friday, the U.S. swapped them in Vienna, Austria for four Russians who had been convicted of spying for the United States.

Clinton’s office pooh-poohed the magnitude of the Russian illegals operation. “There is no reason to believe that the secretary of state was a special target of this spy ring,” Clinton spokesman P.J. Crowley said at the time.

Senator Chuck Schumer, the outspoken New York Democrat whose job on the Judiciary Committee is to oversee U.S. counterintelligence, also showed little concern. He expressed no interest in doing a damage assessment of Russian penetration, whether of America itself or the political machine in his home state. Few in the Republican-controlled Congress made much an issue of either the spying or Clinton’s cavalier attitude toward it. Everyone seemed to forget about the matter. It didn’t come up in the 2016 campaign.

Operation Ghost Stories and other cases help us understand the foreign subversion threat. Congress and the executive branch must spare no effort to get to the bottom of hacking American institutions and subverting or manipulating our politicians. But the recent proposal of Senators Schumer and John McCain (R-AZ) to restrict the investigation to this election’s campaign-related cyber espionage won’t safeguard the nation’s interests. Investigations need to go broad and deep. Both houses of Congress should create new, bipartisan standing committees to investigate, hold hearings and report on all foreign subversion in the U.S.—not only from Russia but from any foreign individual, government or movement. Such a call should elicit widespread resistance from special interests dependent on foreign sources of cash, which is exactly the point.

As part of making America great again, the Trump administration must smack down foreign covert political warfare once and for all. It should instruct the entire intelligence community to prepare a definitive annual National Intelligence Estimate, or NIE, to reach the most accurate professional consensus on the scope and cumulative effects of foreign subversion of the United States and its allies. The NIE timeframe should begin at least as far back as the longest-serving federal official has been in office. Separately, Trump should assemble an interagency task force to develop a strategy to identify, monitor and neutralize foreign propaganda, political warfare and subversion from any source. A special hybridized team should provide the president with effective strategies and methods of deterrence and retaliation.

Trump should handle America’s foreign adversaries the way he treats some of his personal opponents: through the specter or acts of exposure, humiliation and destruction. This is where Russia, China, Saudi Arabia and others are especially vulnerable. An easy, off-the-shelf tool is the Magnitsky Act, which the U.S. has used to put the financial squeeze on individual figures close to the Kremlin. The best way to check against foreign misbehavior is to squeeze the ruling inner circles financially. That will make powerful oligarchs pay high personal prices for their regimes’ meddling in American internal affairs, and incentivize them to pressure their leaders to become more accommodating to the new American leadership.

Gertz: ‘America Is Extremely Vulnerable’ to Cyber Threats

iwarBY: Washington Free Beacon Staff
January 3, 2017

Washington Free Beacon senior editor Bill Gertz said that the United States is “extremely vulnerable” to cyber attacks during a radio interview with Sean Hannity on Tuesday evening. Gertz appeared on Hannity’s radio show to discuss his newly released book, iWar: War and Peace in the Information Age.

To begin the interview, Hannity asked Gertz what he thought of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s assertion that he did not receive hacked emails of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign from Russian sources.

“We’re going to have to wait to see what the [Obama] administration’s investigation of the Russian influence operation is,” Gertz responded.

Hannity then referenced his previous interview with Assange in which the WikiLeaks founder claimed to have hacked into NASA at the age of sixteen, prompting Gertz to explain how vulnerable the U.S. is to what he described as information attacks.

“America is extremely vulnerable, and I think that’s the bottom line of this book, iWar. We’re getting killed in the information space,” Gertz said.

Gertz defined the information space as twofold: one part encompasses the use of cyber and technical attacks and the other involves information and content.

In the second chapter of his book, Gertz details the sophistication of North Korean cyber attacks, including the 2014 Sony breach after the entertainment company released a comedic movie that made fun of the North Korean regime. Gertz described an interview with a North Korean defector who “issued a dire warning” that the American government needs to do something to “counterattack North Korean information warfare operations.”

Continuing on this point, Gertz asserted that the CIA needs “dire reform.” Under the leadership of current CIA Director John Brennan, the organization, Gertz noted, has focused too heavily on drone strikes instead of clandestine information operations.

Hannity then played a brief snippet of his interview with Assange in which he repeatedly denied that the Russian government was behind the leaked Clinton and DNC emails during the 2016 election. Hannity asked Gertz what he thought of Assange’s adamant denials of receiving the hacked emails from Russian sources.

“On Assange I think it’s clear until he reveals where he obtained the information that he leaked, then I think the onus is going to be on him,” Gertz said. “And if he doesn’t reveal it, that’s going to be a problem.”

Later discussing America’s relationship with Russia and the country’s president, Vladimir Putin, Gertz declared that “we are definitely entering a new Cold War.” Gertz explained that in his new book he lays out Putin’s strategy to “reestablish the Soviet Union without communism.”

Hannity then asked Gertz what the new Trump administration can do to confront Iran after what he described as President Obama’s capitulation to Tehran with the Iran nuclear deal and the $1.7 billion payment early last year to the Iranian regime to free American hostages.

“We’ve got to use an information warfare campaign against Iran,” Gertz said, adding that the Obama administration missed a golden opportunity to do so during the Green Revolution in Iran in 2009.

Gertz suggested that the American government could establish a new institution to combat foreign enemies and administrations by using information and political warfare to spread American messages of freedom and democracy.

iWar can be purchased today in print or as an e-book from Amazon and a variety of other booksellers. It can be downloaded as an audiobook through iTunes and Audible.

Gertz is the author of seven books, including the New York Times best-selling Betrayal: How the Clinton Administration Undermined American Security.

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Bill Gertz’s ‘iWar’ Now Available as Audio Book

The new book by Free Beacon Senior Editor Bill Gertz, iWar: War and Peace in the Information Age, is now available in print and as an audio book.

Gertz is a long-time national security correspondent and columnist for the Free Beacon and Washington Times. He is the author of seven books, including the New York Times best-selling Betrayal: How the Clinton Administration Undermined American Security.

Gertz published iWar to explain the digital battle being waged between the United States and foreign adversaries like Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran.

A five-minute excerpt of the audio book is embedded below.

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The following is an excerpt from the book

Chinese Information Warfare: The Panda That Eats, Shoots, and Leaves