TBy Steven Nelson The Washington Examiner May 20, 2018
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein asked the Justice Department’s inspector general Sunday to review whether there was improper politically motivated surveillance of the Trump campaign in 2016.
Rosenstein made the request shortly after a tweet from President Trump saying that he would “officially” ask “that the Department of Justice look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes.”
In a statement, Rosenstein said: “If anyone did infiltrate or surveil participants in a presidential campaign for inappropriate purposes, we need to know about it and take appropriate action.” The attorney general, Jeff Sessions, has recused himself from Russia-related matters.
Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores added, “The Department has asked the Inspector General to expand the ongoing review of the FISA application process to include determining whether there was any impropriety or political motivation in how the FBI conducted its counterintelligence investigation of persons suspected of involvement with the Russian agents who interfered in the 2016 presidential election.”
“As always,” Flores said, “the Inspector General will consult with the appropriate U.S. Attorney if there is any evidence of potential criminal conduct.”
White House spokespeople did not immediately respond to requests for comment Sunday afternoon on what probe Trump would like to see.
In March, Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz said he would review the FBI’s use of an opposition research dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele to get a 2016 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court order to surveil former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, though Horowitz referenced neither by name.
Horowitz said the review initiated in March was “in response to requests from the Attorney General and members of Congress” following the February release of a memo by House intelligence Committee Republicans outlining what they consider abuse of surveillance powers against Page.
In a series of tweets this weekend, Trump blasted special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of possible Trump campaign collusion with Russia as a “witch hunt,” alleged a double standard with the FBI’s treatment of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, his 2016 election rival, and demanded that the Justice Department provide congressional Republicans documents on surveillance of his campaign.
Following initial reports of an FBI informant linked to his campaign, Trump wrote on Twitter last week that it would be “bigger than Watergate” if there was an “embedded informant” on the campaign, and tweeted a quote that “Apparently the DOJ put a Spy in the Trump Campaign.”
Subsequent reporting indicated the informant was a Cambridge University professor, who was not embedded in the campaign but sought out meetings with campaign advisers Page and George Papadopoulos, and with Trump campaign co-chair Sam Clovis.
In what looks to us like confirmation that the US has officially kicked the can down the road, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Sunday that China and the US were putting a trade war “on hold” as the two sides work to hammer out a comprehensive trade agreement that will be acceptable to both sides.
Mnuchin, who was in Beijing last week for trade talks with top Chinese officials, emphasized that Trump isn’t giving up on holding China accountable – the process is just taking longer than some had hoped.
“Right now Chris we’re going to put the trade war on hold…we made very meaningful progress and we agreed on a framework. The framework includes their agreement to substantially reduce the trade deficit by increasing their purchases of goods,” Mnuchin said, adding the two sides have agreed to numerical targets but the he didn’t want to disclose them.
“We’re putting the trade war on hold, right now, we have agreed to put the tariffs on hold while we try to executive the framework,” Mnuchin said.
Mnuchin’s comments come after China and the US on Saturday released a joint statement in which China proposed to “significantly increase purchases” of US goods.
Moving on to the subject of ZTE, which President Trump said he’d work to get ZTE “back into business” at the request of Chinese President Xi Jinping, Mnuchin said that “President Xi asked President Trump” to look into the situation at the Chinese telecoms giant, which isn’t a surprise, he said. Still, Mnuchin insisted that Trump wants us to be “very tough” on ZTE.
“The president wants us to be very tough on ZTE. And all he did was ask the secretary to look into this,” Mnuchin said, referring to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.
Of course, while “no trade war with China” is the headline that the Trump administration wants investors to focus on, the real news is that there might not be a Nafta deal until next year as Mnuchin says we’re still “far apart” on Nafta.
Mnuchin added that Trump is more concerned with striking a good deal on Nafta than rushing something through this year.
“The president is more determined to have a good deal than he’s worried about any deadline…So, whether we pass it in this Congress or we pass it in the new Congress, the president is determined that we renegotiate NAFTA.”
Still, that doesn’t mean Trump won’t follow through on threats to withdraw from the pact or take other action, if he decides that’s the best option, Mnuchin indicated.
“He has all his alternatives. I’m just saying right now we’re focused on negotiating a good deal and we’re not focused on specific deadlines,” Mnuchin said.
“We’re still far apart, but we’re working every day to renegotiate this agreement.”
The Trump administration blew a Thursday deadline set by House Speaker Paul Ryan for finishing the agreement. Ryan had said the Office of the US Trade Representative would need to wrap up negotiations by May 17 in order for Congress to vote on it this year because of various statutorily mandated notification and consultation periods involved in the consideration of trade deals. However, Ryan later said there might be some “wiggle room”, hinting at a two-week extension of Congress’s Nafta deadline.
That represents a significant de-escalation from when the US had threatened to slap $150 billion in tariffs on Chinese imports to punish Beijing for violating American intellectual property. China has vowed to retaliate by slapping tariffs on everything from US soybeans to airplanes. Yet a meeting between Vice Premier Liu He and President Trump in Washington, as well as the meeting between Mnuchin and other US officials with senior Chinese officials in Beijing, has significantly dampened tensions as the US has likely realized that it can’t just strong-arm China into doing what it wants.
I used to be a doubter who would cringe, just a little, at any mention of “the deep state.” I admit it, it all seemed a little far-fetched to me that there was this cabal of careerists conspiring from within the government to harm President Donald Trump when I first heard it. I never doubted there were individuals doing it, but a wide net of conspirators seemed like something out of a bad movie more than anything that could actually happen in the United States. I was wrong, very wrong, the deep state is real. But there is much more than just this small group of powerful people working toward a common goal, there is an entire infrastructure created by the left not only to destroy Trump, but to indoctrinate unsuspecting Americans into their agenda.
As the curtain is pulled back on the Obama administration’s unprecedented efforts to spy on the Trump campaign, there is a good possibility many of the perpetrators could face criminal charges, or at least should. But it’s important to understand that liberals didn’t just create this out of the blue in 2016, it’s the culmination of everything they’ve worked toward for decades.
The infrastructure they used to spy on the Trump campaign was something inherently governmental, simply planting a mole in the campaign couldn’t tap phones or access emails. But the ability to cover up that fact requires a level of media complicity that takes time to create.
Getting the desired message out is only part of the battle, it has to be believed by a significant percentage of the public for it to really matter. Conditioning the public to be receptive to that message, without questioning how it came about or why they should care required subtle indoctrination over a lifetime.
As it stands, liberals have that infrastructure in place, they had that support system ready to go. And, not to get all Scooby-Doo on you, they would’ve gotten away with it were it not for the existence of conservative media.
The Rush Limbaughs, Matt Drudges, Sean Hannitys and Tucker Carlsons, Townhalls, Daily Callers, Free Beacons, and Washington Examiners of the world questioning the official story, even when it seemed crazy to do so, is helping to expose what was done in the case of the Trump campaign. But there’s so much more that needs to be exposed, like how this could happen and why so many people were eager to believe it in the first place.
That the media is in the tank for liberals is as shocking as the sun rising in the east, how they find a receptive audience is the real problem. An educated and skeptical public wouldn’t have so many people who so easily swallow the liberal’s hook, let alone the line and sinker.
But liberals have conditioned people to accept what they’re told through a corrupt public education system that offers political spin as fact and focus the idea liberal thought as “tolerant.”
Through so-called experts, elevated by simply putting them on TV and giving them impressive sounding titles like “analyst” or “strategist,” the public can be led to believe just about anything. After all, to be an “expert” on TV means you have expertise, right? Not even close.
And lurking, always there, is Hollywood, churning out “message movies” and “documentaries” that would make Leni Riefenstahl blush over their blatant propaganda value. Take a look at the documentary offerings on Netflix and you’ll see stories about how climate change is going to kill us all, our food is poisoned, businesses and private property are evil, only surpassed by Republicans corruption and the granddaddy of them all – how Donald Trump is history’s greatest monster.
It reminds me of the old saying, “You can’t buy that kind of publicity.” But you can, or at least you can manufacture it.
None of this is by accident, and it didn’t start on November 8, 2016, it just sprang into action. Nearly every aspect of life, to one degree or another, has been or is ready to be weaponized against anyone who dares to stand up to the liberal agenda. And none have stood up to it in a more threatening way than Donald Trump.
Derek Hunter is Washington, DC based writer, radio host and political strategist. He has previously worked for several prominent conservative non-profits as an analyst in health, education, technology and judicial policies, as well as a press secretary in the US Senate
Longtime Trump confidant Roger Stone said Sunday that he does not believe the Democratic National Committee was hacked during the 2016 campaign.
“I don’t even believe the Democratic National Committee was hacked,” Stone said during an interview Sunday on NBC’s “Meet The Press.” He began to cite a “more likely” scenario after reading an article from The Nation, but was cut off by host Chuck Todd.
The comment came as he was being asked about WikiLeaks, which published emails stolen from the DNC and Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta in the summer of 2016.
Stone attracted scrutiny he appeared to anticipate a WikiLeaks document release, saying in 2016 on Twitter that Podesta’s “time in the barrel” would soon occur, after which Podesta’s hacked emails were published by WikiLeaks. He, however, has denied ever having any early-access knowledge from WikiLeaks about the release of Podesta’s emails, claiming instead the statement was based on his own investigations.
In April, Stone was named in a multimillion-dollar DNC lawsuit against the Russian government, the Trump campaign, and WikiLeaks alleging a conspiracy between the three entities to disrupt the 2016 presidential campaign in order to get Donald Trump elected.
“In the unlikely event that your politically motivated lawsuit survives the pleading stages, we demand that the Democratic National Committee (‘DNC’) immediately preserve the DNC’s database servers and electronic equipment,” Stone’s attorney, Robert Buschel, wrote in a letter last month to Michael Eisenkraft, an attorney representing the DNC.
Buschel said the letter had two purposes: To inform the committee they plan on investigating the DNC’s claims that Russians hacked their servers, and to demand they preserve equipment to defend Stone against various claims made against him in their new lawsuit.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley has sent a letter (full pdf below) and list of questions to Asst. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein asking about the appointment, instructions and power of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
The primary question within the letter is: under what authority, and within what statute, is the AAG authorized to assign a counterintelligence investigation to a special counsel:
“More specifically, section 600.1 states the Attorney General “will appoint a Special Counsel when he or she determines that criminal investigation of a person or matter is warranted.” The omitted regulations do not authorize counterintelligence investigations.”
One of the questions within the letter is additionally interesting. SEE:
What an odd framework for a question.
Did Rod Rosenstein refuse to answer the question on May 18th, 2017?
Why would Senator Grassley make note of that question, and then ask that exact same question again in this letter?
If Robert Mueller has the independent autonomy to request and receive FISA surveillance warrants; against the backdrop of DOJ and FBI admissions of massive abuse of the FISA(702)(16)(17) database searches; and considering there is an actual OIG investigation into FBI conduct and engagement with the FISA court; such independent authority would be an alarming scope of power granted to the Special Counsel’s office by Rod Rosenstein.
It will be interesting to see how Rosenstein responds. Here’s the full letter:
We wuz robbed. That’s the theme Democrats and their media allies are working hard to cement into conventional wisdom. And robbed in a very specific way: The 2016 presidential election, we’re to believe, was stolen from Hillary Clinton by disparate treatment. As Democrats tell it, the FBI scandalized their candidate while protecting Donald Trump.
You might think peddling that story with a straight face would be a major challenge. But they figure it may work because it was test-driven by the FBI’s then-director, James Comey, in his now infamous press conference on July 5, 2016 — back when the law-enforcement and intelligence apparatus on which we rely to read the security tea leaves was simply certain that Mrs. Clinton would win.
If you or I had set up an unauthorized private communications system for official business for the patent purpose of defeating federal record-keeping and disclosure laws; if we had retained and transmitted thousands of classified emails on this non-secure system; if we had destroyed tens of thousands of government records; if we had carried out that destruction while those records were under subpoena; if we had lied to the FBI in our interview — well, we’d be writing this column from the federal penitentiary in Leavenworth. Yet, in a feat of dizzying ratiocination, Director Comey explained that to prosecute Mrs. Clinton would be to hold her to a nitpicking, selective standard of justice not imposed on other Americans.
So it was that the New York Times, in this week’s 4,100-word exposé on the origins of the FBI’s Trump–Russia probe, recycled the theme: Government investigators were savagely public about Clinton’s trifling missteps while keeping mum about the Manchurian candidate’s treasonous conspiracy with Putin.
As we contended in rebuttal on Thursday, the Times’ facts are selective and its narrative theme of disparate treatment is hogwash: Clinton’s bid was saved, not destroyed, by Obama’s law-enforcement agencies, which tanked a criminal case on which she should have been indicted. And the hush-hush approach taken to the counterintelligence case against Donald Trump was not intended to protect the Republican candidate; it was intended to protect the Obama administration from the specter of a Watergate-level scandal had its spying on the opposition party’s presidential campaign been revealed.
But let’s put that aside. Let’s consider the disparate-treatment claim on its own terms.
The DNC Server
It has now been confirmed that the Trump campaign was subjected to spying tactics under counterintelligence law — FISA surveillance, national-security letters, and covert intelligence operatives who work with the CIA and allied intelligence services. It made no difference, apparently, that there was an ongoing election campaign, which the FBI is supposed to avoid affecting; nor did it matter that the spy targets were American citizens, as to whom there is supposed to be evidence of purposeful, clandestine, criminal activity on behalf of a foreign power before counterintelligence powers are invoked.
But what was the rationale for using these spying authorities?
The fons et origo of the counterintelligence investigation was the suspicion — which our intelligence agencies assure us is a fact — that the Democratic National Committee’s server was hacked by covert Russian operatives. Without this cyber-espionage attack, there would be no investigation. But how do we know it really happened? The Obama Justice Department never took custody of the server — no subpoena, no search warrant. The server was thus never subjected to analysis by the FBI’s renowned forensics lab, and its evidentiary integrity was never preserved for courtroom presentation to a jury.
How come? Well, you see, there was an ongoing election campaign, so the Obama Justice Department figured it would be a terrible imposition to pry into the Democrats’ communications. So, yes, the entire “Russia hacked the election” narrative the nation has endured for nearly two years hinges on the say-so of CrowdStrike, a private DNC contractor with significant financial ties to the Clinton campaign.
In Investigations 101, using foreign-intelligence authorities to spy on Americans is extraordinary, while taking custody of essential physical evidence is basic. By the way, the government’s failure to ensure the evidentiary integrity of the DNC server by taking possession of it and performing its own rigorous testing on it makes it practically impossible to prosecute anyone for “colluding” in Russia’s cyber-espionage. It’s tough to prove that anyone conspired in something unless you can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the something actually happened the way you say it happened. To do that in a courtroom, you need evidence — a confident probability analysis by your intelligence agencies won’t do.
The Espionage Act v. the Logan Act
Here is then-director Comey’s explanation of why Mrs. Clinton should not be indicted for patent felony violations of the Espionage Act’s provisions on mishandling classified information:
Although there is evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information, our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case. Prosecutors necessarily weigh a number of factors before bringing charges. There are obvious considerations, like the strength of the evidence, especially regarding intent. Responsible decisions also consider the context of a person’s actions, and how similar situations have been handled in the past.
In looking back at our investigations into mishandling or removal of classified information, we cannot find a case that would support bringing criminal charges on these facts. All the cases prosecuted involved some combination of: clearly intentional and willful mishandling of classified information; or vast quantities of materials exposed in such a way as to support an inference of intentional misconduct; or indications of disloyalty to the United States; or efforts to obstruct justice. We do not see those things here.
This statutory analysis is gibberish. Notwithstanding that Mrs. Clinton’s actions were intentional and willful, the Espionage Act does not require proof of that mental state. Despite considerable evidence that she obstructed investigations, it’s not necessary to prove that either. Nor to establish disloyalty or any intent to harm the United States. To avoid indicting Mrs. Clinton, the FBI and Justice Department ignored the statute that has been on the books for a century and substituted an impossible-to-prove statute of their imagination.
Now, let’s consider a statute that’s been on the books for over two centuries, the Logan Act.
The Logan Act is patently unconstitutional, but no court has had the opportunity to invalidate it because, to borrow a phrase, no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case.
Despite the absence of any evidence that the Trump campaign conspired in Russia’s espionage, the Obama Justice Department — led by then–acting attorney general Sally Yates — relied on the Logan Act to conduct a criminal investigation of General Michael Flynn, a 30-year decorated combat veteran. A key Trump campaign adviser who played a central role in the Trump transition and was designated as the incoming national-security adviser, it was Flynn’s job to communicate with such foreign counterparts as Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, a Washington fixture whose dance card has never been short on Democrats. Flynn was also an intense Obama critic, and the outgoing administration understood that he was preparing to reverse Obama policies.
The Obama Justice Department and FBI investigated Flynn — including an ambush interview — on the theory that his discussions with Kislyak and other diplomats violated the Logan Act. Currently codified as Section 953 of the federal penal code, this statute purports to criminalize “any correspondence or intercourse” with agents of a foreign sovereign conducted “without authority of the United States” — an impossibly vague term that probably means permission from the executive branch. The Logan Act is patently unconstitutional, but no court has had the opportunity to invalidate it because, to borrow a phrase, no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case. As our Dan McLaughlin has explained, the Act dates to 1799, a dark time for free-speech rights during the John Adams administration. Never in its 219-year history has it resulted in a single conviction; indeed, there have been only two indictments, the last one in 1852.
By contrast, there have been several prosecutions under the Espionage Act, including several convictions of military personnel prosecuted under the same provisions at issue in Mrs. Clinton’s case — although their misconduct was far less extensive.
Incidentally, in the ambush interview, Flynn, without counsel and apparently unaware that he was being questioned as a suspect, was grilled about what was said in a conversation with Kislyak. There was no intelligence need to do this because the FBI had a recording of the conversation. The agents who questioned Flynn, including counterespionage specialist Peter Strzok, determined that Flynn did not lie to them.
He was later prosecuted by the special counsel for lying to the FBI.
Truth or Consequences
Speaking of lying to the FBI, Mrs. Clinton — during the brief interview the FBI conducted after Director Comey’s speech exonerating her was already written — told agents she did not know what the designation “(C)” in classified documents meant. She claimed to have assumed it might have had something to do with putting paragraphs in alphabetical order, notwithstanding the absence of any (A), (B), or (D) paragraphs.
Patently, this was a false statement: Mrs. Clinton, who was in the Senate for eight years, was indoctrinated in classified-information practice on becoming secretary of state, a position in which classified documents abound. She signed an acknowledgment that she understood her obligations and had read the relevant executive orders on classification — the main one had been issued by her husband. (C), which stands for confidential, the lowest level of classification, is a ubiquitous marking in classified documents, well known to officials with security clearances. But Mrs. Clinton had falsely told the public she had never sent or received any documents “marked classified,” so she needed to pretend that she didn’t know what the classified markings meant.
She wasn’t prosecuted, of course. She got to run for president. Her underlings weren’t prosecuted either — Clinton confidants Cheryl Mills and Huma Abedin both told the FBI they were unaware that Clinton was using a private server while they worked for four years as her top State Department staffers; as the Daily Caller’s Chuck Ross points out, Mills explicitly asked Abedin about the server in a 2010 email.
Paul Combetta, the Platte River Networks technician who serviced Clinton’s homebrew server and applied the “BleachBit” program to destroy tens of thousands of her emails, lied to the FBI in his initial interviews; far from being prosecuted in order to squeeze him for cooperation, he was given immunity. With no fear that there was any interest in prosecuting him, Combetta proceeded to tell a risible story about why he destroyed the emails, transparently protecting Clinton and her subordinates.
Immunity v. Scorched Earth
The Obama Justice Department’s failure to compel production of the DNC’s server by subpoena or warrant was not an aberration — at least when it came to Democrats. It was standard practice in the Clinton-emails investigation to resist use of the grand jury; to negotiate with custodians over the production of essential evidence that could easily have been compelled by grand jury subpoena (such as the laptops used by Cheryl Mills and Heather Samuelson to vet Mrs. Clinton’s 60,000 emails). If there seemed any possibility that physical evidence could contain incriminating information, the custodian was granted immunity from prosecution.
The indulgence of attorney–client claims to impede investigators was especially egregious in the Clinton-emails case because it was a flagrant violation of professional rules and federal law.
In stark contrast, the Virginia home of Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, was raided by the FBI in the predawn hours. Special Counsel Mueller’s prosecutors convinced a judge to authorize a no-knock entry — essentially, a break-in — prior to 6 a.m. Agents entered with guns drawn while Manafort and his wife were in bed asleep. The couple was ordered out of bed and detained, while agents searched their home and seized voluminous documents. At the time, Manafort was voluntarily cooperating with congressional investigators, had provided testimony and documents to one committee the day before, and was scheduled to do the same with a different committee later on the day of the raid. Manafort was also represented by prominent Washington defense counsel, who would willingly have accepted service of a subpoena and produced the materials sought by the special counsel.
The special counsel decided even-handed justice would be better served by a frightening raid in which agents got to grab whatever they chose to grab.
Attorney–Client Privilege or Privileged Client’s Attorneys?
One is tempted to say that Mrs. Clinton, a Yale-educated lawyer, frustrated the probe of her email scandal by inserting lawyers at every critical phase — her work at the State Department; her retention, review, and destruction of emails; her flouting of a congressional subpoena demanding emails; her FBI interview. But to say that the probe was “frustrated” would imply that Obama Justice Department officials were serious about investigating and prosecuting Clinton, which they manifestly were not. Justice Department lawyers worked closely with Clinton’s counsel to restrict what questions the FBI would be permitted to ask and what physical evidence agents would be permitted to examine. This was the attorney–client privilege on steroids, invoked at every turn to close off basic lines of inquiry.
This would not be tolerated in any normal case. A person’s status as a lawyer is not immunity from investigation or prosecution. The attorney–client privilege covers only private communications in the nature of legal advice; and if the lawyer and client are involved in a criminal or otherwise fraudulent scheme, their conversations are not privileged.
But the indulgence of attorney–client claims to impede investigators was especially egregious in the Clinton-emails case because it was a flagrant violation of professional rules and federal law. Attorneys Cheryl Mills and Heather Samuelson worked for Clinton at the State Department and were deeply involved in determining which emails Clinton surrendered to the State Department and which she destroyed. Canons of professional ethics forbid a lawyer from taking on representation of a client if the lawyer is an actor in the facts under investigation. They bar a lawyer who is a former government official from representing clients in matters in which the lawyer was involved while working for the government. Moreover, it is a federal crime (under Section 207 of the penal code) for a former government official to attempt to influence the government on behalf of another person in a matter in which the former official was heavily involved while working for the government.
Despite all of that, the Justice Department and FBI not only failed to object to Mills’s and Samuelson’s representation of Clinton; they permitted these lawyers to sit in as counsel representing Clinton in her FBI interview — during which she was questioned about activities undertaken with Mills and Samuelson.
Is this how things work in the Trump–Russia investigation? Not exactly. Mueller has gone to court to force one lawyer to testify against her clients Manafort and Gates. Another Manafort and Gates lawyer, Alex van der Zwaan, has been convicted for making false statements about a conversation with Gates. In the related case of Michael Cohen, President Trump’s lawyer and self-proclaimed “fixer,” FBI agents raided his residences and office, executing search warrants procured by federal prosecutors in New York.
What Does It ‘Matter’?
As the 2016 race heated up, the Clinton campaign zealously fought the notion that Hillary was the subject of a criminal investigation — which is not an easy thing to do when you’re the subject of a criminal investigation. It was just a “security referral,” the campaign insisted to the New York Times(which dutifully “corrected” its originally correct reporting on the case).
It is against Justice Department policy to confirm the existence of an investigation, especially counterintelligence investigations, which are classified.
In what I’m sure was a total coincidence, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who stood a very good chance of keeping her coveted job in a Hillary Clinton administration, gave FBI Director Comey an order: In his public statements and testimony, he was instructed to refer to the Clinton emails probe as a “matter,” not an investigation — otherwise, what might people think the Federal Bureau of Investigation was up to? This may have been an improper, politically motivated attempt to influence an FBI criminal probe, but on this occasion, there were no leaks to the New York Times about it; Comey complied, calculating that Lynch’s politicization of the, er, “matter” was not “a hill worth dying on.”
The director’s sympathetic savvy was again on display in the writing of his speech exonerating Mrs. Clinton. There was, of course, the delicate matter of President Obama’s knowing exchanges of sensitive email via Clinton’s server. The initial draft’s reference to “the President” was soon watered down to “a senior government official.” In the end, it was dropped altogether — purging any reference to Obama’s involvement. And of course, the director’s description of Clinton’s conduct as “grossly negligent” was amended to “extremely careless” because gross negligence is the mental state required for conviction in the Espionage Act — after all, this was this was supposed to be an exoneration statement, not an indictment.
The director took a markedly different tack in the Trump–Russia investigation. Here is the key section of his House testimony on March 20, 2017:
I have been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, and that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts. As with any counterintelligence investigation, this will also include an assessment of whether any crimes were committed.
It is against Justice Department policy to confirm the existence of an investigation, especially counterintelligence investigations, which are classified. Director Comey would have had to lobby hard to get authorization for this statement . . . although perhaps not too hard since Attorney General Jeff Sessions had by then recused himself from the Trump–Russia probe, leaving no other confirmed Trump appointees at the time — the Trump-Russia investigation was being overseen by Obama holdovers.
It is never proper to announce that American citizens are persons of interest in a counterintelligence probe. Since the purpose of such a probe is to gather intelligence, not to prosecute, it would be deeply misleading and prejudicial to speak of such persons as the focus of an FBI investigation. And it was sheer gratuitousness to cap off this testimony with Comey’s observation that there would be “an assessment of whether any crimes were committed.” That is not a regular part of a counterintelligence investigation (it is simply a fact that when investigators stumble upon evidence of a crime, they need not ignore it — something that is always true and therefore never has to be said).
At the time he made this statement, Director Comey had repeatedly assured President Trump that he was not a criminal suspect. As would have been known by any sensible person, and particularly one as sophisticated as Comey, this astonishing congressional testimony by an FBI director can only have signaled to the media and the public that the president of the United States was under investigation for serious crimes.
But other than that, I suppose you could say the Justice Department and the FBI handled the Clinton and Trump cases exactly the same way. Equal justice under the law, right?
What killed democracy was constant lying to the public, by politicians whose only way to win national public office is to represent the interests of the super-rich at the same time as the given politician publicly promises to represent the interests of the public — “and may the better liar win!” — it’s a lying-contest.
When democracy degenerates into that, it becomes dictatorship by the richest, the people who can fund the most lying. Such a government is an aristocracy, no democracy at all, because the aristocracy rule, the public don’t. It’s the type of government that the French Revolution was against and overthrew; and it’s the type of government that the American Revolution was against and overthrew; but it has been restored in both countries.
First here will be discussed France:
On 7 May 2017, Emmanuel Macron was elected President of France with 66.1% of the vote, compared to Marine Le Pen’s 33.9%. That was the second round of voting; the first round had been: Macron 24.0%, Le Pen 21.3% Fillon 20.0%, Melenchon 19.6%, and others 15%; so, the only clear dominator in that 11-candidate contest was Macron, who, in the second round, turned out to have been the second choice of most of the voters for the other candidates. Thus, whereas Le Pen rose from 21.3% to 33.9% in the second round (a 59% increase in her percentage of the vote), Macron rose from 24.0% to 66.1% in the second round (a 275% increase in his percentage of the vote). In other words: Macron didn’t just barely win the Presidency, but he clearly dominated both rounds; it was never at all close.
But once in office he very quickly disappointed the French public:
On 23 March 2018, Politico bannered “Macron’s approval ratings hit record low: poll” and reported that, “Only 40 percent of the French population said they have a favorable opinion of Macron, a drop of 3 percentage points from last month and 12 percentage points from December, while 57 percent said they hold a negative opinion of the president.”
On 22 April 2018, Europe 1 reported that 44% were “satisfied” with Macron, and 55% were “dissatisfied” with him; and that — even worse — while 23% were “very dissatisfied” with him, only 5% were “very satisfied” with him.
So, clearly — and this had happened very quickly — the French public didn’t think that they were getting policies that Macron had promised to them during his campaign. He was very different from what they had expected — even though he had won the Presidency in a landslide and clearly dominated both rounds. That plunge in support after being elected President required a lot of deceit during his campaign.
Second, is US:
The situation in the US was very different in its means, but similar in its outcome: it was a close election between two candidates, each of whom had far more of the electorate despising him or her than admiring him or her. Neither of the two candidates in the second round was viewed net-favorably by the public.
The key round of elimination of the more-attractive candidates, was in the primaries; and, after that, it became merely a choice between uglies in the general election. Any decent (or even nearly decent) person had already been eliminated, by that time. Consequently, the ultimate winner never had the high net-favorable rating from the US public, that Macron did from the French public.
America’s system of ‘democracy’ is very different than France’s:
Throughout the primaries-season — America’s first round — the most-preferred of all candidates in the race was Bernie Sanders, who, in the numerous one-on-one polled hypothetical choices versus any of the opposite Party’s contending candidates, crushed each one of them except John Kasich, who, throughout the primaries, was the second-most preferred of all of the candidates (and who performed far better than did Trump did in the hypothetical match-ups against Clinton). In the hypothetical match-ups, Sanders beat Kasich by 3.3%, whereas Kasich beat Clinton by 7.4% — that spread between +3.3% and -7.4% is 10.8%, and gives a pretty reliable indication of what the Democratic National Committee threw away when rigging the primaries and vote-counts for Hillary Clinton to win the Party’s nomination. Sanders beat Trump by 10.4%, whereas Clinton beat Trump by 3.2%. That spread was only 7.2% in favor of Sanders over Clinton; but, in any case, the DNC cared lots more about satisfying its mega-donors than about winning, when they picked Clinton to be the Party’s nominee.
(Ms. Clinton’s actual victory over Mr. Trump in the final election between those two nominees turned out to be by only 2.1% — close enough a spread so as to enable Trump to win in the Electoral College (which is all that counts), which counts not individual voters but a formula that represents both the states and the voters. Sanders would have beaten Trump in a landslide — far too big a margin for the Electoral College to have been able to go the opposite way, such as did happen with Clinton. This fact was also shown here and here. That’s what the DNC threw away.)
Hillary Clinton received by far the biggest support from billionaires, of all of the candidates; Sanders received by far the least; and this is why the Democratic Party, which Clinton and Barack Obama (two thoroughly billionaire-controlled politicians) effectively controlled, handed its nomination to Clinton. On 7 June 2016, the great investigative journalist Greg Palast headlined and documented “How California is being stolen from Sanders right now”, and four days later a retired statistician’s review of other statisticians’ statistical analysis of data from all of the primaries and caucuses, reaffirmed their findings, that the Democratic nomination had been stolen by the Democratic National Committee, and he concluded that “the whole process has been rigged against Bernie at every level and that is devastating even though I don’t agree [politically] with him.” A more detailed study was published on 1 August 2016, titled “Democracy Lost: A Report on the Fatally Flawed 2016 Democratic Primaries”.
Basically, what had happened is that the most-preferred of all the candidates got deep-sixed by Democratic Party billionaires, who ultimately control the DNC, just as Republican billionaires control the RNC. The US Government is squabbles between billionaires, and that’s all. That’s what’s left of American ‘democracy’, now.
On 12 August 2016, Julian Assange noted: “MSNBC on its most influential morning program, Morning Joe, was defending Bernie Sanders. Then Debbie Wasserman Schultz [head of the DNC] called up the president of MSNBC. Amazingly, this is not reported in the US media. It is reported in the US media that they called up Chuck Todd who’s the host of Meet The Press. Something much more serious is not reported — that Debbie Wasserman Schultz herself personally called up the president of MSNBC to apply pressure in relation to positive coverage about Bernie Sanders on Morning Joe.” That was typical of what went on.
So: America is a dictatorship by the billionaires. And this means that it operates by fooling the public. France is similar, though it achieves this via a different way. And, in both countries, deceit is essential, in order to achieve its dictatorship. Fooling the public is now what it’s all about, in either case. Democracy can never be won by fooling the public; because fooling the public means removing the public’s ability to control the government. So, calling such a nation a ‘democracy’, is, itself, deceiving the public — it’s part of the dictatorship, or else support of the dictatorship.
In former times, this system was rationalized as ‘the divine right of kings’. Now it’s rationalized as ‘the divine right of capital’. But it’s also become covered-over by yet another lie: ‘democracy’. This is a ‘democratic’ aristocracy; it is an ‘equal opportunity’ aristocracy. In it, each citizen has ‘equal rights’ as every other citizen, no matter how wealthy. It’s just a castle of lies. And its doors are actually open only to the few richest-and-well-connected.
Here, a former CIA official tries to describe how the American dictatorship works – the enforcement-part of the system, and he does (even if only by implication) also touch upon the financial sources of it.
He discusses his personal case: why he could no longer tolerate working for the CIA. But his description of how he, as an Agency official, saw the system to function, starts at 3:45 in the video. Key passages start at 12:45, and at 20:15.
Maybe any American who would email this article to friends who don’t understand how the system functions, will come under increased US surveillance, but that CIA official’s career and family were destroyed by what the system did to him, which was lots worse than just surveillance.
Remarkably, he nonetheless had the courage to persist (and thus did that video). However, when one sees how politically partisan (and so obtuse) the viewer-comments to that video are, one might be even more depressed than by the account this former CIA official presents. But, even if the situation is hopeless, everyone should at least have the opportunity to understand it. Because, if the aristocracy are the only people who understand it, there can’t be any hope for democracy, at all.
One of the more notable differences between Watergate and the metastasizing scandals involving the FBI, our intelligence agencies, and the Obama administration — subjects of the soon-to-be-released inspector general’s report — is that the media exposed Watergate. They aided and abetted the current transgressions.
By providing a willing and virtually unquestioned repository for every anonymous leaker (as long as he or she was on the “right” side) in Washington and beyond, the press has evolved from being part of the solution to being a major part of the problem. Gone are the days of the true “whistle-blower.” Here are the days of the special interest provocateur, shaping public opinion by passing on half-truths and outright lies to their favorite reporter. One might then even call the media, in Orwell’s words, “objectively pro-fascist,” functioning much in the manner of Pravda and Izvestia during that famous author’s time, covertly or overtly pushing the party line in the most slavish and orthodox manner while feigning “objectivity.”
CNN, NBC, the Washington Post and The New York Times — misinforming the public as it hasn’t since the days of their great Stalin-excuser Walter Duranty (still pictured on their Pulitzer wall of honor) — are particularly egregious in this regard. But there are many others.
And the current scandal is far, far worse than Watergate, which, bad as it was, was the coverup of a completely unnecessary buffoon-like break-in during an election that was already won in a landslide. What is being exposed now is an attempt by our highest law enforcement agency working in concert with our intelligence agencies and, evidently, the blessing of the former administration itself to block the candidate of the opposing party, even to defraud and spy on him, that is to, as others have said, “set him up.” And then, if they were unsuccessful, make it impossible for him to govern. In addition, in all probability, the same players conspired to make certain Hillary Clinton was not indicted for a crime for which virtually any other American would have done jail time.
Forget Donald Trump. Forget whoever is running. It could be your Aunt Fanny or Willam Buckley’s random person from the Boston telephone directory. Forget whatever party we are talking about. This is the stuff of high treason of a type not imaginable to almost all of us in our lifetimes as American citizens. I and others have compared this plot to Lavrentiy Beria and the NKVD. At first, I admit, I was exaggerating a bit for effect. Now, not so much.
What we have here are people who think they are “good” driven to evil by their own self-righteousness.
So what will the mainstream media who participated so heavily in this, who were in effect the enabler of this disgraceful anti-democratic enterprise, do when the inspector general’s report is finally published?
We may have gotten a taste in the nervous reaction of CNN’s Jake Tapper to an informative series of tweets from the WSJ’s Kimberley Strassel on the matter. Roughly a year ago, Mr. Tapper famously accused Donald Trump of himself being a purveyor of “fake news” for alleging he was being wiretapped (what an understatement that turned out to be!). Instead of apologizing for being wildly wrong or even acknowledging his mistake, Tapper tweaked Ms. Strassel for accidentally tweeting “Hurricane Crossfire” rather than “Crossfire Hurricane” (the name the FBI cribbed from Mick Jagger as a trendy name for their repellent activities).
Tapper is considered one of the more intelligent and putatively responsible of the MSM crew. If he is unable to face this coming press Armageddon, few will be. They bet the house that Donald Trump was the worst man in the room, but it turned out, and will be made quite explicit I would imagine, that there were many men and women far worse than he. It’s not even close.
An interesting sidelight is the degree to which Watergate itself inspired the present level of reportorial corruption by launching “leaks” (i. e. Deep Throat and company) as the royal road to journalistic success, Pulitzer prizes, and Hollywood fame. In a sense, that would put journalism today in its Robespierre period, going further and further out onto a limb for a story until the limb falls off.
Whether Barack Obama himself will be looped definitively into the IG’s report, we don’t know at this time. But we all know where the fish rots from and we also know that Obama, despite his denials, knew well that Hilary was using an illegal server. He wrote her there himself under an assumed name, showing he was only slightly more computer savvy than John Podesta.
These next few weeks are going to be among the most interesting in our lifetimes — especially for our friends in the press. We know from the NYT earlier this week they are preparing their excuses. Let’s hope they don’t have enough.
Author and screenwriter Roger L. Simon is co-founder and CEO Emeritus of PJ Media
The price of a gallon of gas costs dramatically more in California than in the rest of the country for a variety of reasons, but government meddling, rising house costs and steep taxes are playing a significant role.
Republicans are threatening to turn a recently passed gas tax increase into a millstone to wrap around the necks of vulnerable Democrats. Years of tax increases, pricey fees and a lack of infrastructure in California could provide the pressure required to give those threats some legitimacy.
Former Democratic Gov. Gray Davis of California has experience with such recriminations. He was recalled in 2003 for mishandling the state’s budget and increasing California’s car registration fees — it was only the second such recall election in U.S. history. Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger ultimately won the election November of that same year.
A similar situation is unfolding in 2018. Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown of California signed a law in 2017 imposing a 12 cents a gallon increase on citizens and raising the tax on diesel fuel by 20 cents a gallon. It also implements an additional charge to annual vehicle license fees ranging from $25 to $175 depending on the car’s value.
Brown sold the bill as a way to fix the state’s roads, but reports show the bulk of the money has not gone to street upkeep. California’s Transportation Agency announced in April grants to recipients for some $2.6 billion of the transit funding raised through the law. The awards include $28.6 million for 40 electric buses and $40.5 million for light-rail vehicles in Sacramento. Nearly 28 projects were awarded cash from the gas tax increase. None of them involves road upkeep.
Opponents of Brown’s law managed to place a voter referendum on the November ballot to repeal the gas tax. It would reportedly lower the price of gasoline in the state to $2 a gallon by 2021, Politico reported Tuesday. Republicans have now collected more than 1 million signatures, even though only 365,880 were needed to put it on the ballot.
Here are some of the factors that affect California’s pump prices.
Taxes, Taxes And More Taxes
California’s gas tax is figured as a percentage of the whole price. Thus, when there’s an increase in the underlying price of fuel, the sales tax also increases. The State Board of Equalization, which is responsible for administering California’s tax policies, sometimes annually adjusts the state’s two excise taxes to help offset changes in the sales tax.
“State and federal laws like the recently approved gas tax, the Low Carbon Fuel Standard and other fuel-related taxes and fees add a little over 92 cents to each gallon of gas and have a profound impact on California’s businesses and communities,” Kara Siepmann, a spokeswoman for the Western States Petroleum Association, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
Anti-trust laws prevent the WSPA from commenting directly on specific policies and their potential effects on gas and oil prices. But Siepmann cited state and federal data showing fees and taxes make for nearly $1 a gallon, while the average U.S. gas tax amounts to just over 52 cent per gallon (cpg).
California currently ranks seventh highest in the country when it comes to total taxes and fees, according to figures calculated by the American Petroleum Institute. And the recent increase makes California the second-highest gas tax in the country behind Pennsylvania. The Golden State’s gas tax would increase from 40 to 52 cpg.
Draconianly Strict Fuel Formula Mixture
California’s strict environmental rules mandate gasoline sold within the state be produced according to strict formulas designed to reduce pollution. Unfortunately for citizens, the exotic formula makes a gallon of gas more expensive and difficult to produce. Few refineries outside the state are equipped to produce it.
Worse yet, the gasoline formula changes multiple times a year, switching from a winter recipe to a summer blend designed to slow down evaporation. The summer blend is even more expensive and trickier to make, thereby elevating the risk of refinery mishaps. Refiners also use up inventories of either blend before the switch, increasing the risk of price volatility.
No Interstate Pipelines And Few Refineries
Interstate pipelines could funnel gasoline quickly and cheaply to California, but no such pipelines exist connecting West Coast refineries to the Golden State. The state must therefore get the bulk of its fuel from ship or truck.
Only when pump prices are soaring inside California is it worth it to pay those transportation costs for refiners capable of producing California’s gasoline formula. The state’s refineries also tend to keep inventories tighter than the national average, federal energy statistics show.
As a result, prices surge quickly when a disruption occurs from events such as machinery breakdowns, power outages or labor problems. Imports of gas into California increased to more than 10 times their typical level after an explosion in 2015 took an ExxonMobil refinery in the state offline. State officials accepted thousands of barrels of refined oil from Russia and India at the time.
California Gas Stations Are Disappearing
California officials have increasingly re-zoned land leading to more housing developments and fewer service stations. Exploding housing prices prompted the decision to re-zone, if for no other reason than to relieve the problem and lower rent prices.
Median monthly rent for a single-bedroom home in San Francisco is roughly $3,400, according to industry tracker Zumper. Median rent for a similar home in Las Vegas, meanwhile, is $925 and $945 in Phoenix. Subsequently, more than 23 gas stations have closed in San Francisco since 2010.
There are also 40 percent fewer gas stations in the city than there were just a decade earlier. Fewer stations mean less access for drivers and a lack of competition among retailers — more than 90 percent of California’s 10,000 gas stations are owned by major corporations like Exxon and Chevron.
Antagonistic To Fossil Fuels
San Francisco, Oakland and San Mateo opened a lawsuit asserting five oil companies, including Exxon and Chevron, should pay huge sums of money for contributing to man-made global warming. Oakland has also sought to prevent energy companies in Wyoming and Montana’s Powder River Basin from transporting their coal from the city’s ports to international markets.
California faces a tough situation if the lawsuits miss their mark. Nearly 40 percent of the state’s crude oil is produced inside the Golden State, even though California lacks refineries. Exxon, Chevron and others being sued will almost certainly pull out of California if the litigation is successful. The oil industry also contributes $66 billion of gross income for 2.7 percent of the state’s gross domestic product.
State lawmakers are also teeing off against traditional automakers. Assemblyman Phil Ting, for instance, introduced a bill in January that would, if passed, ban the sale of gas-powered cars produced after 2040. He said California drivers must adopt electric vehicles if the state is going to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Ting wants a full shift to electric vehicles.
Californians haven’t gotten the memo. Electric vehicle sales in California amount to less than five percent of the state’s overall car sales, despite the Golden State’s title as a champion for the electric vehicle market. Analysts, meanwhile, said the market for these types of vehicles is not anywhere near large enough to overcome gas-powered vehicles. The state’s belligerent attitude toward fossil fuels places a lot of downward pressure on California’s already taxed energy market.
Lack Of Political Party Diversity
The Democratic Party owns super-majorities in both chambers of the California State Legislature. Democrats have maintained a death grip on the state since 1998, when an overwhelming number of Californians voted for Davis, a Democrat who was later recalled over rising gas prices, among other issues.
Six of eight Democratic candidates for statewide offices won in 1998, which allowed the party to increase its majority in the State Assembly from 43 to 48 and in the State Senate from 23 to 25. The party made further inroads across the state during the 2012 elections, winning races in traditionally Republican areas. San Diego, once a Republican stronghold, elected a Democratic mayor for the first time since 1988.
The lack of political parity in California makes injecting different ideas into the state nearly impossible, Dave Hackett, an expert on fuel and transportation issues in California, told The DCNF. He is the president of Stillwater Associates, a consulting firm focused on helping energy companies.
“Why aren’t normal market forces driving down the prices?” Hackett rhetorically asked before answering. “It began when one party got control of the legislature. They took all of it in the one direction the one party wanted to go in without the other party off-setting.”
An extremely strange episode that has engulfed official Washington over the last two weeks came to a truly bizarre conclusion on Friday night. And it revolves around a long-time, highly sketchy CIA operative, Stefan Halper.
Four decades ago, Halper was responsible for a long-forgotten spying scandal involving the 1980 election, in which the Reagan campaign – using CIA officials managed by Halper, reportedly under the direction of former CIA Director and then-Vice-Presidential candidate George H.W. Bush – got caught running a spying operation from inside the Carter administration. The plot involved CIA operatives passing classified information about Carter’s foreign policy to Reagan campaign officials in order to ensure the Reagan campaign knew of any foreign policy decisions that Carter was considering.
Over the past several weeks, House Republicans have been claiming that the FBI during the 2016 election used an operative to spy on the Trump campaign, and they triggered outrage within the FBI by trying to learn his identity. The controversy escalated when President Trump joined the fray on Friday morning. “Reports are there was indeed at least one FBI representative implanted, for political purposes, into my campaign for president,” Trump tweeted, adding: “It took place very early on, and long before the phony Russia Hoax became a “hot” Fake News story. If true – all time biggest political scandal!”
In response, the DOJ and the FBI’s various media spokespeople did not deny the core accusation, but quibbled with the language (the FBI used an “informant,” not a “spy”), and then began using increasingly strident language to warn that exposing his name would jeopardize his life and those of others, and also put American national security at grave risk. On May 8, the Washington Post described the informant as “a top-secret intelligence source” and cited DOJ officials as arguing that disclosure of his name “could risk lives by potentially exposing the source, a U.S. citizen who has provided intelligence to the CIA and FBI.”
The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Mark Warner, who spent much of last week working to ensure confirmation of Trump’s choice to lead the CIA, Gina Haspel, actually threatened his own colleagues in Congress with criminal prosecution if they tried to obtain the identity of the informant. “Anyone who is entrusted with our nation’s highest secrets should act with the gravity and seriousness of purpose that knowledge deserves,” Warner said.
But now, as a result of some very odd choices by the nation’s largest media outlets, everyone knows the name of the FBI’s informant: Stefan Halper. And Halper’s history is quite troubling, particularly his central role in the scandal in the 1980 election. Equally troubling are the DOJ and FBI’s highly inflammatory and, at best, misleading claims that they made to try to prevent Halper’s identity from being reported.
To begin with, it’s obviously notable that the person the FBI used to monitor the Trump campaign is the same person who worked as a CIA operative running that 1980 Presidential election spying campaign.
It was not until several years after Reagan’s victory over Carter did this scandal emerge. It was leaked by right-wing officials inside the Reagan administration who wanted to undermine officials they regarded as too moderate, including then White House Chief of Staff James Baker, who was a Bush loyalist.
The NYT in 1983 said the Reagan campaign spying operation “involved a number of retired Central Intelligence Agency officials and was highly secretive.” The article, by then-NYT reporter Leslie Gelb, added that its “sources identified Stefan A. Halper, a campaign aide involved in providing 24-hour news updates and policy ideas to the traveling Reagan party, as the person in charge.” Halper, now 73, had also worked with Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, and Alexander Haig as part of the Nixon administration.
When the scandal first broke in 1983, the UPI suggested that Halper’s handler for this operation was Reagan’s Vice Presidential candidate, George H.W. Bush, who had been the CIA Director and worked there with Halper’s father-in-law, former CIA Deputy Director Ray Cline, who worked on Bush’s 1980 presidential campaign before Bush ultimately became Reagan’s Vice President. It quoted a former Reagan campaign official as blaming the leak on “conservatives [who] are trying to manipulate the Jimmy Carter papers controversy to force the ouster of White House Chief of Staff James Baker.”
Halper, through his CIA work, has extensive ties to the Bush family. Few remember that the CIA’s perceived meddling in the 1980 election – its open support for its former Director, George H.W. Bush to become President – was a somewhat serious political controversy. And Halper was in that middle of that, too.
In 1980, the Washington Post published an article reporting on the extremely unusual and quite aggressive involvement of the CIA in the 1980 presidential campaign. “Simply put, no presidential campaign in recent memory — perhaps ever — has attracted as much support from the intelligence community as the campaign of former CIA director Bush,” the article said.
Though there was nothing illegal about ex-CIA officials uniting to put a former CIA Director in the Oval Office, the paper said “there are some rumblings of uneasiness in the intelligence network.” It specifically identified Cline as one of the most prominent CIA official working openly for Bush, noting that he “recommended his son-in-law, Stefan A. Halper, a former Nixon White House aide, be hired as Bush’s director of policy development and research.”
In 2016, top officials from the intelligence community similarly rallied around Hillary Clinton. As The Intercept has previously documented:
Former acting CIA Director Michael Morell not only endorsed Clinton in the New York Times but claimed that “Mr. Putin had recruited Mr. Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.” George W. Bush’s CIA and NSA director, Gen. Michael Hayden, pronounced Trump a “clear and present danger” to U.S. national security and then, less than a week before the election, went to the Washington Post to warn that “Donald Trump really does sound a lot like Vladimir Putin” and said Trump is “the useful fool, some naif, manipulated by Moscow, secretly held in contempt, but whose blind support is happily accepted and exploited.”
So as it turns out, the informant used by the FBI in 2016 to gather information on the Trump campaign was not some previously unknown, top-secret asset whose exposure as an operative could jeopardize lives. Quite the contrary: his decades of work for the CIA – including his role in an obviously unethical if not criminal spying operation during the 1980 presidential campaign – is quite publicly known.
And now, as a result of some baffling choices by the nation’s largest news organizations as well as their anonymous sources inside the U.S. Government, Stefan Halper’s work for the FBI during the 2016 is also publicly known
Last night, both the Washington Post and New York Times – whose reporters, like pretty much everyone in Washington, knew exactly who the FBI informant is – published articles that, while deferring to the FBI’s demands by not naming him, provided so many details about him that it made it extremely easy to know exactly who it is. The NYT described the FBI informant as “an American academic who teaches in Britain” and who “made contact late that summer with” George Papadopoulos and “also met repeatedly in the ensuing months with the other aide, Carter Page.” The Post similarly called him “a retired American professor” who met with Page “at a symposium about the White House race held at a British university.”
In contrast to the picture purposely painted by the DOJ and its allies that this informant was some of sort super-secret, high-level, covert intelligence asset, the NYT described him as what he actually is: “the informant is well known in Washington circles, having served in previous Republican administrations and as a source of information for the C.I.A. in past years.”
Despite how “well known” he is in Washington, and despite publishing so many details about him that anyone with Google would be able to instantly know his name, the Post and the NYT nonetheless bizarrely refused to identity him, with the Post justifying its decision that it “is not reporting his name following warnings from U.S. intelligence officials that exposing him could endanger him or his contacts.” The NYT was less melodramatic about it, citing a general policy: the NYT “has learned the source’s identity but typically does not name informants to preserve their safety,” it said.
In other words, both the NYT and the Post chose to provide so many details about the FBI informant that everyone would know exactly who it was, while coyly pretending that they were obeying FBI demands not to name him. How does that make sense? Either these newspapers believe the FBI’s grave warnings that national security and lives would be endangered if it were known who they used as their informant (in which case those papers should not publish any details that would make his exposure likely), or they believe that the FBI (as usual) was just invoking false national security justifications to hide information it unjustly wants to keep from the public (in which case the newspapers should name him).
In any event, publication of those articles by the NYT and Post last night made it completely obvious who the FBI informant was, because the Daily Caller’s investigative reporter Chuck Ross on Thursday had published an article reporting that a long-time CIA operative who is now a professor at Cambridge repeatedly met with Papadopoulos and Page. The article, in its opening paragraph, named the professor, Stefan Halper, and described him as “a University of Cambridge professor with CIA and MI6 contacts.”
Ross’ article, using public information, recounted at length Halper’s long-standing ties to the CIA, including the fact that his father-in-law, Ray Cline, was a top CIA official during the Cold War, and that Halper himself had long worked with both the CIA and its British counterpart, the MI6. As Ross wrote: “at Cambridge, Halper has worked closely with Dearlove, the former chief of MI6. In recent years they have directed the Cambridge Security Initiative, a non-profit intelligence consulting group that lists ‘UK and US government agencies’ among its clients.”
Both the NYT and Washington Post reporters boasted, with seeming pride, about the fact that they did not name the informant even as they published all the details which made it simple to identify him. But NBC News – citing Ross’ report and other public information – decided to name him, while stressing that it has not confirmed that he actually worked as an FBI informant:
The professor who met with both Page and Papadopoulos is Stefan Halper, a former official in the Nixon, Ford and Reagan administrations who has been a paid consultant to an internal Pentagon think tank known as the Office of Net Assessment, consulting on Russia and China issues, according to public records.
“The professor who met with both Page and Papadopoulos is Stefan Halper, a former official in the Nixon, Ford and Reagan administrations who has been a paid consultant to an internal Pentagon think tank known as the Office of Net Assessment.” https://t.co/8Jdu8XqtbI
There is nothing inherently untoward, or even unusual, about the FBI using informants in an investigation. One would expect them to do so. But the use of Halper in this case, and the bizarre claims made to conceal his identity, do raise some questions that merit further inquiry.
To begin with, the New York Times reported in December of last year that the FBI investigation into possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia began when George Papadopoulos drunkenly boasted to an Australian diplomat about Russian dirt on Hillary Clinton. It was the disclosure of this episode by the Australians that “led the F.B.I. to open an investigation in July 2016 into Russia’s attempts to disrupt the election and whether any of President Trump’s associates conspired,” the NYT claimed.
But it now seems clear that Halper’s attempts to gather information for the FBI began before that. “The professor’s interactions with Trump advisers began a few weeks before the opening of the investigation, when Page met the professor at the British symposium,” the Post reported. While it’s not rare for the FBI to gather information before formally opening an investigation, Halper’s earlier snooping does call into question the accuracy of the NYT’s claim that it was the drunken Papadopoulos ramblings that first prompted the FBI’s interest in these possible connections. And it suggests that CIA operatives, apparently working with at least some factions within the FBI, were trying to gather information about the Trump campaign earlier than had been previously reported.
Then there are questions about what appear to be some fairly substantial government payments to Halper throughout 2016. Halper continues to be listed as a “vendor” by websites that track payments by the federal government to private contractors.
Earlier this week, records of payments were found that were made during 2016 to Halper by the Department of Defense’s Office of Net Assessment, though it not possible from these records to know the exact work for which these payments were made. The Pentagon office that paid Halper in 2016, according to a 2015 Washington Post story on its new duties, “reports directly to Secretary of Defense and focuses heavily on future threats, has a $10 million budget.”
It is difficult to understand how identifying someone whose connections to the CIA is a matter of such public record, and who has a long and well-known history of working on spying programs involving presidential elections on behalf of the intelligence community, could possibly endanger lives or lead to grave national security harm. It isn’t as though Halper has been some sort of covert, stealth undercover asset for the CIA who just got exposed. Quite the contrary: that he’s a spy embedded in the U.S. intelligence community would be known to anyone with internet access.
Equally strange are the semantic games which journalists are playing in order to claim that this revelation disproves, rather than proves, Trump’s allegation that the FBI “spied” on his campaign. This bizarre exchange between CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski and the New York Times’ Trip Gabriel vividly illustrates the strange machinations used by journalists to justify how all of this is being characterized:
Despite what Halper actually is, the FBI and its dutiful mouthpieces have spent weeks using the most desperate language to try to hide Halper’s identity and the work he performed as part of the 2016 election. Here was the deeply emotional reaction to last night’s story from Brookings’ Benjamin Wittes, who has become a social media star by parlaying his status as Jim Comey’s best friend and long-time loyalist to security state agencies into a leading role in pushing the Trump/Russia story:
Wittes’ claim that all of this resulted in the “outing” of some sort of sensitive “intelligence source” is preposterous given how publicly known Halper’s role as a CIA operative has been for decades. But this is the scam that the FBI and people like Mark Warner have been running for two weeks: deceiving people into believing that exposing Halper’s identity would create grave national security harm by revealing some previously unknown intelligence asset.
Wittes also implies that it was Trump and Devin Nunes who are responsible for Halper’s exposure but he almost certainly has no idea of who the sources are for the NYT or the Washington Post. And note that Wittes is too cowardly to blame the institutions that actually made it easy to identify Halper – the New York Times and Washington Post – preferring instead to exploit the opportunity to depict the enemies of his friend Jim Comey as traitors.
Whatever else is true, the CIA operative and FBI informant used to gather information on the Trump campaign in the 2016 campaign has, for weeks, been falsely depicted as a sensitive intelligence asset rather than what he actually is: a long-time CIA operative with extensive links to the Bush family who was responsible for a dirty and likely illegal spying operation in the 1980 presidential election. For that reason, it’s easy to understand why many people in Washington were so desperate to conceal his identity, but that desperation had nothing to do with the lofty and noble concerns for national security they claimed were motivating them.
Current and former officials — apparently so fearful that an FBI informant’s identity and role would be outed by congressional Republicans — confirmed both to the New York Times and the Washington Post in an attempt to offer their own narratives first.
Both outlets offered details that readily identify the informant — but do not name him, citing concerns for his safety and warnings from U.S. intelligence officials.
The details, however, match a person described in the Daily Caller as Stefan Halper, a Cambridge professor and longtime Washington, D.C. fixture who worked for three Republican administrations and has links to U.S. and British intelligence.
The Times and Post are the first outlets claiming to have confirmed his identity, and to describe him in such detail as to match the description of Halper.
The accounts also indicate the FBI lied about when they first began surveilling the Trump campaign, or might have done so, without any particular intelligence.
FBI officials have said they began investigating the Trump administration on July 31, 2016, after stolen Democratic National Committee emails were released on July 22, 2016, prompting Australian officials to come forward with information they received from Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos months earlier.
Officials sold this version of events last year to the Times, which wrote on December 31, 2017, in a piece titled “How the Russia Inquiry Began: A Campaign Aide, Drinks and Talk of Political Dirt”:
“…when leaked Democratic emails began appearing online, Australian officials passed the information about Mr. Papadopoulos to their American counterparts, according to four current and former American and foreign officials with direct knowledge of the Australians’ role.”
However — the problem with that account is that the FBI informant had approached Trump campaign adviser Carter Page before that email release on July 22, 2016, and before the Australians came forward with the information, supposedly after that.
The informant first approached Carter Page at a Cambridge symposium on the U.S. presidential election in London on July 11-12, 2016. Page was invited to the symposium in June 2016 by an unnamed doctoral student at Cambridge who knew Halper, according to a source.
That timeline — of Page being approached by the informant before the Australian tip off — was confirmed to the Post, which wrote:
“In mid-July 2016, a retired American professor approached an adviser to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign at a symposium about the White House race held at a British university.
“The professor took the opportunity to strike up a conversation with Carter Page, whom Trump had named a few months earlier as a foreign policy adviser.
“But the professor was more than an academic interested in American politics — he was a longtime U.S. intelligence source. And, at some point in 2016, he began working as a secret informant for the FBI as it investigated Russia’s interference in the campaign, according to people familiar with his activities.”
The timeline of events indicate that the current and former officials lied about when their investigation of the Trump campaign started, and why.
Some have speculated that former CIA Director John Brennan had launched a spy operation on the Trump campaign as early as April 2016, but it is not clear what might have prompted him.
The leakers confirmed to the Times and the Post that the informant had also reached out to Papadopoulos in the ensuing months after he reached out to Page.
The Post revealed that the informant had also approached Trump campaign adviser Sam Clovis, offering help to the campaign:
“In late summer, the professor met with Trump campaign co-chairman Sam Clovis for coffee in Northern Virginia, offering to provide foreign-policy expertise to the Trump effort. In September, he reached out to George Papadopoulos, an unpaid foreign-policy adviser for the campaign, inviting him to London to work on a research paper.”
The Post notes the informant’s role raises questions about how he first became involved in the case, the extent of the information he provided, the actions he took to obtain intelligence for the FBI, and whether his interaction with Page was for the FBI or for another agency, such as the CIA.
Details about the informant began leaking to the Times and the Post after House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes inquired about the informant last month.
Officials initially went to the White House to try to stop Nunes from receiving the information, according to the Post. After first denying his request, last week, Justice Department officials briefed Nunes and Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC).
OPEC and Russia are meeting in a little more than a month to discuss the progress of their oil production deal and what’s next. On the face of things, there will be no surprises: every country taking part in the deal is still committed to the cuts until the end of the year.
But Russia pumped more than its quota in both March and April. But Energy Minister Alexander Novak hinted that Russia might like to see a gradual easing of the cuts following the June meeting. But Iran sanctions will remove a certain amount of Iranian crude from international markets, making space for more from other producers, and Russia may just surprise its partners in the deal.
Citigroup commodity analysts this week estimated that Russia has 408,000 bpd in idled capacity, which constitutes 4 percent of its total, which stands at 11.3 million bpd. That’s a lot less than Saudi Arabia’s idle capacity, which stands at 2.12 million bpd, but is apparently still a significant enough portion of the total.
Some of Russia’s biggest oil players made it clear long ago that they have ambitious production plans for the future, which the production cuts are restraining. Even with this restraint, however, some are actually expanding production, including Gazprom Neft, which last year produced 4.1 percent more oil than in 2016 despite the cuts. The increase came on the back of new fields in the Arctic and the company’s Iraqi ventures.
Rosneft pumped 7.6 percent more oil last year despite the cuts. For the first quarter of this year it reported a 1.2-percent decline in production because of the cuts, but it has also said that it could return to pre-cut production levels within two months. An advisor to the company’s president told Russian media this week the cuts were implemented with a view to a quick return to production when cutting was no longer necessary, so Rosneft had taken care to ensure the return to pre-cut levels is indeed quick.
Now, this might just be a general statement, or it could suggest that both Rosneft and Gazprom Neft—along with the other companies taking part in the cuts—are chomping at the bit, eager to expand into new fields.
Gazprom Neft, for example, had a very ambitious production plan for the period until 2020, aiming to hit annual production of 100 million tons of crude by 2020. Because of the cuts, the company will now move this target rate by one or two years, it said today.
Rosneft, meanwhile, is drilling new wells in Vietnam and western Siberia. Lukoil is expanding in the Gulf of Mexico and Iraq. Gazprom Neft is boosting production at its three Arctic fields, among others. Russia’s Big Oil is expanding, letting natural depletion take care of some of the production cuts. But they have made it clear that they would rather not curb existing production or stall new projects for much longer.
“The agreement lasts until the end of the year. In June, we can discuss, among other issues, a question about reduction of some quotas during this time, if it is expedient from the market’s point of view,” Alexander Novak said in April.
Now, with Brent close to US$80 and pretty likely to actually hit this price in the coming days, it may have become expedient to discuss some quota reductions. After all, why let Saudi Arabia be the only one to take advantage of the fall in Iranian crude supply after sanctions kick in?
Every week in Tokyo’s Ichigaya district, about two miles east of the bright neon lights and swarming crowds in the heart of Shibuya, a driver quietly parks a black sedan-style car outside a gray office building. Before setting off on a short 10-minute drive south, he picks up a passenger who is carrying an important package: top-secret intelligence reports, destined for the desks of the prime minister’s closest advisors.
Known only as “C1,” the office building is located inside a high-security compound that houses Japan’s Ministry of Defense. But it is not an ordinary military facility – it is a secret spy agency headquarters for the Directorate for Signals Intelligence, Japan’s version of the National Security Agency.
The directorate has a history that dates back to the 1950s; its role is to eavesdrop on communications. But its operations remain so highly classified that the Japanese government has disclosed little about its work – even the location of its headquarters. Most Japanese officials, except for a select few of the prime minister’s inner circle, are kept in the dark about the directorate’s activities, which are regulated by a limited legal framework and not subject to any independent oversight.
Now, a new investigation by the Japanese broadcaster NHK — produced in collaboration with The Intercept — reveals for the first time details about the inner workings of Japan’s opaque spy community. Based on classified documents and interviews with current and former officials familiar with the agency’s intelligence work, the investigation shines light on a previously undisclosed internet surveillance program and a spy hub in the south of Japan that is used to monitor phone calls and emails passing across communications satellites.
According to the current and former officials, the Directorate for Signals Intelligence, or DFS, employs about 1,700 people and has at least six surveillance facilities that eavesdrop around the clock on phone calls, emails, and other communications. (NSA, in comparison, has said it has a workforce of more than 30,000 and Britain’s signals intelligence agency claims more than 6,000 staff.) The communications collected at the spy facilities are sent back to analysts who work inside the C1 building, which has four underground floors and eight above ground.
“Very few people know what the DFS is doing and can enter the building,” according to an active duty official with knowledge of the directorate’s operations, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media. The official agreed to share details about the directorate after The Intercept and NHK last year revealed that the spy agency had obtained a mass surveillance system called XKEYSCORE, which is used to sift through copies of people’s emails, online chats, internet browsing histories, and information about social media activity. The official said that they believed the directorate’s use of XKEYSCORE was “not permissible” under the Japanese Constitution, which protects people’s right to privacy.
The official believed the directorate’s use of XKEYSCORE was “not permissible” under the Japanese Constitution.
The directorate – known in Japanese as the “Denpa-Bu,” meaning “electromagnetic wave section” – currently has 11 different departments, each focused on a different subject, such as information analysis, public safety and security, and cryptography. However, the departments are kept separate from each other and there is limited communication between them, the active duty official said. Each department in the C1 building has a different lock installed on the rooms it uses, and these can only be accessed by a select group of people who have the appropriate security clearance, access codes, and identification. The directorate operates as the largest arm of Japan’s Defense Intelligence Agency, which has other divisions focused on, for example, analyzing satellite imagery, sources said.
Atsushi Miyata, who between 1987 and 2005 worked with the directorate and the Ministry of Defense, said that his work for the spy agency had involved monitoring neighboring countries, such as North Korea, and their military activities. But the agency’s culture of intense secrecy meant that it was reluctant to share information it collected with other elements of the Japanese government. “They did not share the data inside of [the] Defense Ministry properly,” said Miyata. “Even inside of the Defense Ministry the report was not put on the table. So the people did not understand what we were doing.”
The directorate is accomplished at conducting surveillance, but has a tendency to be excessively secretive about its work, according to classified documents The Intercept disclosed last year. A 2008 NSA memo described its Japanese counterparts as being “still caught in a Cold War way of doing business” and “rather stove-piped.” The U.S. continues to work closely with Japan’s intelligence community, however, and collaborates with the country to monitor the communications of countries across Asia.
Surveillance facilities in Higashi Chitose (top left/top), Tachiarai (top right/second), Kofunato (bottom left/third), and Miho (bottom right/fourth).Screenshots: Google map
About 700 miles southwest of Tokyo, there are two small towns called Tachiarai and Chikuzen, which have a combined population of about 44,000 people. Japan’s military, known as the Self-Defense Forces, has a base situated on a patch of grassy farmland inbetween the towns. But the base is not used to train soldiers. It is one of the country’s most important spy hubs.
For years, the large antennae inside the secure compound, which are concealed underneath what look like giant golf balls, attracted concerns from local residents who were worried that the powerful radio waves they emitted might damage their health or interfere with their televisions. The Japanese government sent senior officials to reassure the locals that there would be no problems, and the government began paying the Chikuzen council an annual fee of about $100,000 as compensation for the disturbance caused by the base. But the function of the antennae was never revealed.
A top-secret document from the directorate offers an unprecedented insight into some of the Tachiarai base’s activities. The document – an English-language PowerPoint presentation – appears to have been shared with the NSA during a meeting in February 2013, at which the Japanese spy agency’s then-deputy director was scheduled to discuss intelligence-gathering issues with his American counterparts. The presentation was contained in the archive of classified files provided to The Intercept by Edward Snowden. No internal documents from Japan’s surveillance agency have ever been publicly disclosed before.
According to the presentation, Japan has used Tachiarai for a covert internet surveillance program code-named MALLARD. As of mid-2012, the base was using its antennae to monitor communications passing across satellites. Each week it collected records about some 200,000 internet sessions, which were then being stored and analyzed for a period of two months. Between December 2012 and January 2013, Tachiarai began using the surveillance technology to collect information about potential cyber attacks. As a result, its data collection rapidly increased, and it began sweeping up information about 500,000 internet sessions every hour – 12 million every day. Despite this, the directorate indicated that it was only able to detect a single email that was linked to an apparent cyber attack. It struggled to cope with the amount of data it was harvesting and asked the NSA for help. “We would like to see processing procedure which the U.S. side employs in order not to affect traditional SIGINT collection,” the directorate told NSA, “and would appreciate your technical assistance.”
“Even inside of the Defense Ministry, the people did not understand what we were doing.”
Chris Augustine, a spokesperson for the NSA, declined to answer questions about the agency’s cooperation with Japan, saying in a statement that he would “neither confirm nor deny information concerning potential relationships with foreign intelligence services.” He added: “Any cooperation among intelligence services is conducted lawfully, in a manner that mutually strengthens national security.”
The directorate’s work at Tachiarai appears to focus on monitoring the activities of foreign countries in the region. It is unclear whether it collects Japanese citizens’ communications, either deliberately or incidentally, through dragnet programs like MALLARD. The law in Japan prohibits wiretapping landlines without a court order, but monitoring communications as they are being transmitted wirelessly across satellites is a gray area, Japanese legal experts say, because there are no legal precedents in the country that place limitations upon that kind of surveillance, though there is a general right to privacy outlined in the constitution.
According to Richard Tanter, a professor at the University of Melbourne who specializes in researching government surveillance capabilities, more than 200 satellites are “visible” from Tachiarai, meaning the base can intercept communications and data passing between them using its surveillance systems. Of the 200+ satellites, said Tanter, at least 30 are Chinese and are potential targets for ongoing surveillance. Moreover, he added, “satellites owned or operated by Russia, South Korea, Taiwan, and even the United States or European states may be targeted” by the Tachiarai facility.
Snowden, who worked at a U.S. military base in Japan as an NSA contractor between 2009 and 2012, told The Intercept that Japanese spies appeared have targeted “entire internet service providers, not just any one customer.” Referencing the MALLARD program, he said that there were not “500,000 terrorist communications happening in one year, much less one hour. … Is this authorized in law in a way that’s well understood, that’s well regulated, to make sure they are only targeting bad guys and not simply everything that they see?”
A spokesperson for Japan’s Ministry of Defense refused to discuss MALLARD, but said that the country’s “information gathering activities” are necessary for national security and “done in compliance with laws and regulations.” The spokesperson acknowledged that Japan has “offices throughout the country” that are intercepting communications; however, he insisted that the surveillance is focused on military activities and “cyber threats” and is “not collecting the general public’s information.” When pressed to explain how the country’s spy systems distinguish ordinary people’s communications from those related to threats, the spokesperson would not provide details on the grounds that doing so “may be a hindrance to effective future information activities.”
In October 2013, the Directorate for Signals Intelligence was planning to launch an operation aimed at what it described as the “Anonymous internet,” according to the 2013 presentation. This suggests the directorate wanted to collect data about people’s usage of privacy tools such as Tor, which allow people to mask their computer’s IP address while they browse the internet. Tor is often used by journalists and dissidents to evade government surveillance; however, it is also used by child abusers and other criminals to plan or carry out illegal acts. In April 2013, it was reported that Japanese police were urging internet service providers to find ways to block people who were using Tor to commit crimes. In 2012, the country’s police investigators were repeatedly thwarted by a hacker known as the “Demon Killer,” who posted a series of death threats online. The hacker used Tor to successfully evade detection for seven months, which was a major source of embarrassment for Japanese police — and likely fueled demand for new surveillance capabilities.
Snowden told The Intercept that Japanese spies appeared have targeted “entire internet service providers, not just any one customer.”
The directorate’s activities at Tachiarai and elsewhere are aided by an organization called J6, which is a specialist technical unit connected to Japan’s Ministry of Defense, according to sources familiar with its operations. However, the cooperation between the directorate and J6 has been inhibited by the extreme secrecy that is pervasive within the Japanese government, with each agency apparently reluctant to open up to the other about its respective capabilities. In the 2013 presentation, Japanese officials from the directorate described J6’s role to the NSA, but admitted they had relied on “assumptions” to do so, because “J6 function is not disclosed to us.”
According to the presentation, the directorate’s role is to carry out surveillance and analyze intelligence. The role of J6 includes analyzing malware and developing countermeasures – such as firewalls – to prevent hacks of Japanese computer systems. A third organization, called the Cabinet Intelligence and Research Organization, or CIRO, is the ultimate beneficiary of intelligence that is collected. Headed by a powerful figure named Shigeru Kitamura, it oversees the work of both the directorate and J6 and is connected to the prime minister’s office, based out of a building known as “H20,” a short walk from the prime minister’s official residence in Tokyo’s Chiyoda district.
Between 2000 and 2005, prior to development of the MALLARD internet surveillance program, expansion work took place at the Tachiarai facility. At that time, the then-town council chairman, Hitoshi Miyahara, was shown a map of the construction plans, which revealed that a tunnel was being built below the base. Miyahara was allowed to visit the construction site, he said, but was prevented from entering the underground area. The current town council chairman, Tsutomu Yano, had a similar experience. He visited the facility about four years ago and was shown around a gymnasium, a cafeteria, and a conference room. He was prevented from accessing the underground tunnel and a space he was told was used for “communications.” Yano said he repeatedly questioned the Self-Defense Forces about the Tachiarai facility’s function. But he never received any answers.
The identify of an FBI informant has been leaked to at least two media outlets, even as the Justice Department refuses to disclose that information to Congress, but these newsrooms are refraining from publishing this individual’s name out of concern for national security and the safety of this person and his or her sources.
Still, the level of description about the informant provided in these reports has prompted rampant speculation of who the source may be, all this amid Republican furor this week about a possible effort to spy on President Trump’s 2016 campaign.
Two reports published Friday evening, one by the New York Times and the other by the Washington Post, describe the informant as a American academic who teaches in the United Kingdom and met with up to three members of the Trump campaign. These include campaign advisers Carter Page, who was surveilled by the government, and George Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty last year to lying to the FBI and agreed to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
The FBI reportedly launched its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election after it got word that Papadopoulos learned that the Russians obtained thousands of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emails months before WikiLeaks published them.
The reports from the Times and the Post come after Trump seized on unverified reports this week, and rallying cries by his allies, about the possibility of a spy “for political purposes.”
“Reports are there was indeed at least one FBI representative implanted, for political purposes, into my campaign for president,” Trump tweeted Friday. “It took place very early on, and long before the phony Russia Hoax became a ‘hot’ Fake News story. If true — all time biggest political scandal.”
However, there is no public evidence that the informant behaved improperly when obtaining information on members of the Trump campaign, or that the inquiry had political motivations.
Although the Times and the Post are so far withholding the identity of the informant, conservative journalists were quick to note on Twitter that the description of the individual matches that of prior reporting.
One particular report they have singled out dates back to March from the conservative Daily Caller, which described how Stefan Halper, a U.S. professor from Cambridge University who served in three Republican administration and also had ties to the CIA, met with Page and Papadopoulos.
Papadopoulos and Page attended several meetings with Halper, and while Papadopoulos considers the meeting with the professor suspicious in retrospect, Page did not pick up on anything suspicious.
“At the time, I never found his actions suspicious,” Page told NBC News. “He never offered me one cent. Just 2 foreign policy scholars having some discussions. That’s about all that I took it as.”
In recent weeks, Republicans in Congress have tried to zero in on possible misbehavior at the Justice Department.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., subpoenaed the Justice Department for documents concerning an American who was a confidential intelligence source for Mueller’s investigation. The subpoena came after the agency did not reply to a letter asking for details on Mueller’s probe.
But the DOJ did not provide the documents, informing Nunes that providing the information would threaten the life of the source and jeopardize national security. Instead he got a briefing with government officials last week, along with Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., the chairman of the House Oversight Committee. Though they said they had a “productive” meeting and looked forward to future discussions, Nunes did not respond to an invitation from the DOJ to “answer questions he posed last week” in a follow-up meeting Friday, an agency spokesperson told the Washington Examiner.
Meanwhile, Democrats are pushing back, and Nunes and others are clamoring for the disclosure of identifying information about the informant.
Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., argued revealing the identity of a covert FBI source could jeopardize Mueller’s investigation and warned that it could even be illegal.
“It would be at best irresponsible, and at worst potentially illegal, for members of Congress to use their positions to learn the identity of an FBI source for the purpose of undermining the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in our election,” the ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee said in a statement Friday. “Anyone who is entrusted with our nation’s highest secrets should act with the gravity and seriousness of purpose that knowledge deserves.”
“The first thing any new member of the Intelligence Committee learns is the critical importance of protecting sources and methods,” he added. “Publicly outing a source risks not only their life, but the lives of every American, because when sources are burned it makes it that much harder for every part of the intelligence community to gather intelligence on those who wish to do us harm.”
In one respect, it seems to me, the presidency of Donald Trump has been remarkably successful. In 17 months, he has effectively erased Barack Obama’s two-term legacy.
I don’t want to say or face this. I still want to believe my colleague, Jonathan Chait, whose thesis is that the changes Obama made in his difficult but tenacious eight years in office are too great to reverse. And there are a couple of shifts that do indeed seem to be as permanent as anything is in politics: marriage equality and legal cannabis. But neither, one recalls, was a signature goal of Obama. He began as an alleged opponent of marriage equality, even though, of course, he was bullshitting. He wouldn’t touch the marijuana issue in his entire term and even at one point dismissed it as trivial. As for the rest, in specific policy terms, Trump and the Republican Congress have succeeded in undoing Obama’s work to an extent I barely anticipated.
In economic policy, Obama’s slow winnowing of the deficit even in times of sluggish growth has been completely reversed. We too easily forget that the biggest accomplishment of Trump’s term in office so far — a massive increase in debt in a time of robust economic growth — is the inverse of Obama’s studied sense of fiscal responsibility. Nothing in modern fiscal history can match Trump’s recklessness — neither Reagan’s leap of faith nor George W. Bush’s profligacy — and it’s telling that the Democrats and the liberal intelligentsia have accommodated so swiftly to it. Nothing is so unfashionable right now as worrying about debt.
The fiscal vandalism is also a massive U-turn in terms of redistribution. If Obama managed to shift resources, ever so incrementally, toward the middle class and the poor (by allowing Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy to expire, by bringing millions of the working poor into health insurance), Trump has done the opposite, by doubling down on unprecedented economic inequality, and borrowing unimaginable sums to disproportionately benefit the unimaginably wealthy. On trade, Trump ended Obama’s central initiative in Asia, the TPP.
On the environment, the issue I suspect that will loom far, far larger in retrospect, Obama used his executive regulatory powers in an attempt to nudge and coax the economy away from carbon. Almost all of that regulation has now gone out the window, thanks to Scott Pruitt’s diligent fanaticism. Yes, there is no undoing of the deeper market and technological trends that are making renewable energy more affordable; but if you take the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change seriously, even Obama’s energy legacy was insufficient to the scale of the task. The window for keeping the planet from ecological catastrophe was only barely ajar in 2016; the Paris Agreement was the most minimal of gestures toward keeping it open; now, it’s all but sealed shut. Trump’s championing of environmental destruction, his active reveling in it, his plan to open up the Alaskan wilderness to oil drilling, his near-religious fealty to fossil fuels: Unless some technological miracle occurs, the odds of restraining, let alone reversing, climate catastrophe are vanishingly low.
In foreign policy, Trump has been even more effective. In less than two years, he has wrecked an Atlantic alliance that every president has defended and advanced since the Second World War, and that Obama nurtured. No European government can or should trust America from now on: They know they’re on their own. And then there is the volte-face in the Middle East. Obama’s core achievement in foreign policy was to shift America from embattled enmeshment in the region to a more offshore balancing role. By getting out of Iraq, and reaching out to Tehran, as well as maintaining our links to Jerusalem and the Saudi theocracy, the U.S. increased its options and leverage, while bringing Europe into the mix through the Iran deal. There was even, believe it or not, an attempt at first to restrain the Greater Israel lobby, to use what leverage the American president has to restrain the settlements project.
Now look where we are: a U.S. policy clearly committed de facto to the Israeli goal of annexation of the entire West Bank, and of intensified apartheid. The “peace plan” is essentially a way to force Palestinians into ever tighter Bantustans in an ever-more theocratic and authoritarian Jewish state. And the U.S. withdrawal from the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action has more deeply entangled the U.S. in the Muslim religious war, by throwing in our lot completely with the Sunnis. We are now committed to a permanent presence in Iraq and Afghanistan, if only to resist Iran’s proxies and the Taliban. Yes, our forces are smaller. But if an avowedly isolationist president has accepted an unending presence in the countries we invaded in 2001 and 2003, we are there forever. Torture? With Gina Haspel as CIA director and Mike Pompeo at the State Department, we have again placed it very much on the table. Obama believed he could draw a line under torture, leave the CIA alone and somehow quarantine the barbarism. Haspel’s ascent — enabled by key Democrats no less — reveals just how blurry that line has become.
Health care? Again, we’d like to believe that the Republican failure to repeal Obamacare means that Obama wins in the end. In fact, he loses. The GOP would have had to face electoral calamity if they were clearly seen as the party gleefully throwing tens of millions off their insurance. They somehow ducked this form of accountability (despite themselves), and were yet able to so cripple the ACA afterwards that it is now headed toward a death spiral they will escape the blame for. By ending the individual mandate, by allowing for more bare-bones insurance policies, and by narrowing the time window to apply for Obamacare policies, Trump has rendered the ACA unstable and unaffordable.
More profoundly, Trump has managed to shift our cultural politics. He has baited the left to occupying new territory, thereby cementing his triumph. What drives Trump is racial essentialism, a rage at the post-racial, integrative center that the mixed-race Obama represented. Nils Gilman has an insightful piece on this in The American Interest. He sees — rightly, I think — the 2008 Jeremiah Wright speech, “A More Perfect Union,” as the high-water mark of racial liberalism after the civil-rights era:
Obama began his speech by noting the “nation’s original sin of slavery,” but declared that the aim of his campaign was to continue “the long march of those who came before us, a march for a more just, more equal, more free, more caring and more prosperous America.” Although “we may have different stories, we hold common hopes,” Obama averred. “We may not look the same and we may not have come from the same place,” he continued, “but we all want to move in the same direction.” That there might exist people in this country who desire very different things from a racial perspective was out of the question; instead, Obama observed everywhere “how hungry the American people were for this message of unity.”
Nothing could be further from the left’s current vision, which is that the very concept of post-racial integration is an illusion designed to mask the reality of an eternal “white supremacy.” Today’s left-liberal consensus is that Obama, however revered he may still be as president, was and is absurdly naïve in this respect: that there is no recovery from the original sin, no possible redemption, and certainly no space for the concept of an individual citizenship that transcends race and can unite Americans. There is no freedom here. There is just oppression. The question is merely about who oppresses whom.
The idea that African-Americans have some responsibility for their own advancement, that absent fatherhood and a cultural association of studying with “acting white” are part of the problem — themes Obama touched upon throughout his presidency — is now almost a definition of racism itself. And the animating goal of progressive politics is unvarnished race and gender warfare. What matters before anything else is what race and gender you are, and therefore what side you are on. And in this neo-Marxist worldview, fully embraced by a hefty majority of the next generation, the very idea of America as a liberating experiment, dissolving tribal loyalties in a common journey toward individual opportunity, is anathema.
There is no arc of history here, just an eternal grinding of the racist and sexist wheel. What matters is that nonwhites fight and defeat white supremacy, that women unite and defeat oppressive masculinity, and that the trans supplant and redefine the cis. What matters is equality of outcome, and it cannot be delayed. All the ideas that might complicate this — meritocracy, for example, or a color-blind vision of justice, or equality of opportunity rather than outcome — are to be mocked until they are dismantled. And the political goal is not a post-racial fusion, a unity of the red and the blue, but the rallying of the victims against the victimizers, animated by the core belief that a non-“white” and non-male majority will at some point come, after which the new hierarchies can be imposed by fiat. When you read the Jeremiah Wright speech today, it seems as if it is coming from a different era altogether.
If Trump has destroyed Obama’s substantive legacy at home and abroad, the left has gutted Obama’s post-racial cultural vision. And those of us who saw him as an integrative bridge to the future, who still cling to the bare bones of a gradually more inclusive liberal order, find ourselves on a fast-eroding peninsula, as cultural and political climate change erases the very environment we once called hope.
Andrew Michael Sullivan is an English-born American author, editor, and blogger. Sullivan is a conservative political commentator, a former editor of The New Republic