“False narratives,” not the alleged Russian attempts, were the ultimate form of meddling in the election, Carter Page told CNN, striking back at the network’s anonymous report claiming the FBI has proof he and other Trump advisers interacted with Russian agents.
Carter Page made the comments to CNN on Saturday, just one day after the news outlet alleged that the FBI had gathered intelligence last summer suggesting that Russian agents attempted to infiltrate the election by using Trump’s advisers to do so.
Page was explicitly mentioned in the original CNN report, which cited unnamed US officials as sources.
Responding to the CNN report, Page noted that it said that Russia “tried” to infiltrate the campaign – which is a far cry from other terms previously used when it came to the Trump campaign’s alleged ties with Moscow.
“Remember the headlines for many, many months. The Trump campaign ‘colluded’ [with Russia] or there [were] nefarious things going on. Now they’re really reeling things back and someone is saying out there the word ‘tried’,” Page pointed out.
“I’ve certainly seen a lot of ‘tries’ going back for much of the last year. Trying to put in false narratives over many, many months,” he went on.
Page then referred to the “dodgy dossier” of unverified information which includes allegations of Russian ties to the Trump campaign, calling it the “ultimate try” and “swing and a miss.”
Commenting on the infamous dossier, Page told CNN: “There are certain questions I have, frankly speaking, just reading that report – two weeks before the inauguration day, I might add – that makes me wonder whether this was really just a political stunt.”
He added that “we’ve seen that looking back at the history of political intelligence operations going back many decades.”
The leaked dossier was said to be compiled by a former British intelligence official for Trump’s political opponents.
The Friday CNN report claims that Page is one of several Trump advisers that US and European intelligence found to be in contact with Russian officials and other Russians known to Western intelligence during the campaign.
It states that Page may have communicated with them unknowingly “because of the way Russian spy services operate.”
But when asked whether he was aware of Russian efforts of using him to get into the Trump campaign, Page was confident he was never asked for any information that would have breached the campaign.
“Nothing I was ever asked to do, or no information that I was ever asked for, was anything beyond what you can see on CNN… nothing I ever talked about with any Russian official extends beyond that publicly available, immaterial information.”
Political commentator and satirist Tim Young told RT that he isn’t sure if the allegations of Russian meddling will ever end, adding that the left is merely looking for a scapegoat for losing the election.
It comes less than two weeks after the Washington Post reported that the FBI obtained a secret FISA warrant last summer to monitor Page’s communications, stating that there was probable cause to believe he acted as an agent for Russia and “knowingly engaged in clandestine intelligence activities on behalf of Moscow.”
CNN asked Page about the FISA warrant on Saturday, in a way which Young said was “baiting” him. He accused CNN of trying to get Page to admit that the FISA court had a reason to connect him to a crime with Russia, calling the line of questioning “ridiculous.”
Young also noted that it was easy to “make up anything” when it comes to reports from unknown sources, such as the ones cited by CNN in the Friday report.
The US has repeatedly accused Russia of hacking the Democratic National Committee’s computer networks during the election, claiming Moscow was trying to “interfere” with the results.
However, there is no evidence to show that the Kremlin was behind the attack, with many in the intelligence community stating that all signs point to an insider leak, rather than an outside hack.
Moscow has denied Washington’s claims as untrue and baseless.
James Comey, the man who refused to bring charges against Hillary Clinton despite a mountain of concrete evidence that she, and several members of her staff, knowingly violated several federal laws, apparently used the largely discredited “Trump Dossier” to help secure a FISA warrant to secretly monitor Trump’s former campaign aide, Carter Page, according to CNN.
Among other things, the dossier alleged that Page met senior Russian officials as an emissary of the Trump campaign, and discussed quid-pro-quo deals relating to sanctions, business opportunities and Russia’s interference in the election. Page has denied meeting the officials named in the dossier and says he never cut any political deals with the Kremlin. Per CNN:
The FBI last year used a dossier of allegations of Russian ties to Donald Trump’s campaign as part of the justification to win approval to secretly monitor a Trump associate, according to US officials briefed on the investigation.
The dossier has also been cited by FBI Director James Comey in some of his briefings to members of Congress in recent weeks, as one of the sources of information the bureau has used to bolster its investigation, according to US officials briefed on the probe.
This includes approval from the secret court that oversees the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to monitor the communications of Carter Page, two of the officials said. Last year, Page was identified by the Trump campaign as an adviser on national security.
According to the Washington Post, the warrant to monitor Page was obtained in the summer of 2016 which indicates that the FBI was in possession of the now-infamous dossier well before President Obama supposedly received his first briefing on the material in December 2016.
Of course, as we reported back in January (see “Here Is The Full 35-Page Report Alleging Trump Was “Cultivated, Supported And Assisted” By Russia“) the dossier, compiled by ex-British intelligence official Chris Steele, was almost immediately discredited by the public at large after numerous glaring errors were quickly identified and salicious stories of ‘golden showers’ and other sexual acts were also dismissed as pure rubbish.
Allegedly the dossier was even available to the Clinton campaign should they have chosen to use it to discredit Trump, but even they were quickly convinced that no one would buy it.
All of which, once again, brings into question the level of stupidity and/or pure corruption that must have been involved in this process given the shear number of people whose approval was undoubtedly required to authorize the issuance of a FISA warrant that paved the way for Comey and the Obama administration to secretly monitor the Trump campaign.
Meanwhile, Carter Page offered a simple reply to this latest revelation saying that he looks forward to the discovery process and testimony that will come from the lawsuit he plans to file in short order.
The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) plans to create a specialized unit that will prioritize the agency’s investigations into claims of Russia’s interference in the 2016 US Presidential election, local media reported.
“It’s [the unit] meant to surge resources,” a source familiar with the situation told the Financial Times newspaper late on Sunday, adding that the move is also meant to give more access to the investigation’s details to FBI director James Comey.
The new unit is expected to begin operations in May, with the team likely to include some 20 agents drawn from other units. The unit’s chief will reportedly brief Comey on the ongoing probe weekly, providing day-to-day updates to FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.
According to the media, the high-profile nature of the investigation requires a central manager, with a source familiar with the plan, saying that the investigation is “too big and it’s on the front page of the newspaper every day.”
A spokeswoman for the FBI declined to comment on the information, the media added.
On March 20, Comey confirmed to the House Intelligence Committee that the FBI was conducting an investigation into efforts allegedly undertaken by the Russian government to interfere with the US election.
Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a direct denial on Thursday of allegations that his country influenced the 2016 US presidential elections. On Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reiterated Moscow’s assertion that US claims of Russian interference in the election are completely unfounded.
Lawyers at EFF, the ACLU, and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers released a report today outlining strategies for challenging law enforcement hacking, a technique of secretly and remotely spying on computer users to gather evidence. Federal agents are increasingly using this surveillance technique, and the report will help those targeted by government malware—and importantly their attorneys—fight to keep illegally-obtained evidence out of court.
A recent change in little-known federal criminal court procedures, which was quietly pushed by the Justice Department, has enabled federal agents to use a single warrant to remotely search hundreds or thousands of computers without having to specify whose information is being captured or where they are. We expect these changes to result in much greater use of the technique, and the guide will arm attorneys with information necessary to defend their clients and ensure that law enforcement hacking complies with the Constitution and other laws.
In the largest known government hacking campaign to date, the FBI seized servers running a website accused of hosting child pornography and, instead of shutting down the site, continued to operate it. Relying on a single warrant, the FBI then hacked into users that accessed the site, totaling nearly 9,000 devices located in 120 countries around the world. The FBI charged hundreds of suspects who visited the website, several of whom are challenging the validity of the warrant. In briefs filed in these cases, EFF says that the warrant that enabled this massive hacking exercise is unconstitutional and evidence gathered using it should be suppressed.
As with every new surveillance power obtained by the government, it’s just a matter of time before these secret malware attacks are used in other cases. That’s why it’s important for criminal defense attorneys to get educated about how these attacks work and how they can vigorously defend their clients rights when the technique is used.
The report, “Challenging Government Hacking in Criminal Cases,” explains how to recognize the use of government malware in a criminal case, and it outlines the most important and potentially effective procedural and constitutional arguments to raise when hacking was used to gather evidence. Our hope is that the guide will help attorneys fight back against illegal surveillance, and ultimately place important and needed checks on the government’s ability to hack into our personal electronic devices.
It appears that the inquiry into Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 presidential elections has finally stalled. Apparently, the problem is that new inconvenient truths regarding the inappropriate handling of intelligence information on Trump’s team continue to emerge.
The investigation into an alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign has seemingly reached a deadlock.
Democrats have recently accused Republican Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Devin Nunes of deliberately stalling the inquiry by canceling the committee’s meetings and urged him to recuse himself from the investigation.
On Monday night Rep. Adam B. Schiff called upon Nunes to remove himself from the inquiry.
“This is not a recommendation I make lightly, as the Chairman and I have worked together well for several years; and I take this step with the knowledge of the solemn responsibility we have on the Intelligence Committee to provide oversight on all intelligence matters, not just to conduct the investigation,” Schiff said in an official statement.
A Democratic chorus echoed Schiff on Tuesday.
“An investigation is only as credible as those who lead it. Chairman Nunes sacrificed his credibility & must recuse himself,” Rep. Kathleen Rice tweeted March 28.
The Democratic Party members Rep. Terry Sewell and Rep. Jackie Speier also issued statements calling upon Nunes to step aside or even to resign.
However, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee signaled Tuesday that he would neither recuse himself nor resign and told CNN that the investigation “moves forward just like it was before.”
Still, it appears that it wasn’t the cancellation of the committee’s hearings involving former acting attorney general Sally Yates, FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director Michael Rogers that prompted deep concerns within the Democratic camp.
Apparently, the root of the matter lies in Nunes’ revelations regarding an illegal dissemination of “incidentally” collected intelligence on Donald Trump and his team.
Speaking to journalists last week, Nunes confirmed that the intelligence community “incidentally collected information about US citizens involved in the Trump transition.”
While the “incidental” gathering of sensitive information on US citizens is technically legal, the dissemination of such data is completely inappropriate, Mollie Hemingway of the Federalist pointed out while commenting on Nunes’ press conference.To make the situation even worse, none of the surveillance material collected on Trump’s team was connected to Russia or the investigation of Russian activities.
“Details about US persons associated with the incoming administration, details with little or no apparent foreign intelligence value, were widely disseminated in intelligence community reporting,” Nunes told reporters March 22, “Finally, I want to be clear, none of this surveillance was related to Russia or the investigation of Russian activities or of the Trump team.”
“When an administration is spreading around reports of political and personal discussions, failing to mask that information, and the information itself isn’t of foreign intelligence value, you have the makings of a huge scandal,” Hemingway highlighted.
To add to the Democrats’ confusion, Nunes announced Tuesday that he will not unveil — at least for a period of time — who exactly provided him with the intelligence reports revealing that Trump and his associates were subjected to incidental intelligence monitoring.
Currently, two separate investigations are going on, conservative media outlet Washington Examiner explains.
The first one pertains to alleged Russian meddling in the US 2016 presidential campaign; the second one is a “potentially illegal handling of intelligence information on US persons by the intelligence community or the Obama administration.”
It is understandable that Nunes needs to take his time to look into both issues, the media outlet pointed out.
Moscow has repeatedly refuted groundless claims that the Russian government could have interfered in the US presidential election, calling attention to the fact that the US failed to present any evidence to confirm its allegations.
Devin Nunes just set the cat down among the pigeons.
Two days after FBI Director James Comey assured us there was no truth to President Trump’s tweet about being wiretapped by Barack Obama, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee said Trump may have had more than just a small point.
The U.S. intelligence community, says Nunes, during surveillance of legitimate targets, picked up the names of Trump transition officials during surveillance of targets, “unmasked” their identity, and spread their names around, virtually assuring they would be leaked.
If true, this has the look and smell of a conspiracy to sabotage the Trump presidency, before it began.
Comey readily confirmed there was no evidence to back up the Trump tweet. But when it came to electronic surveillance of Trump and his campaign, Comey, somehow, could not comment on that.
Which raises the question: What is the real scandal here?
Is it that Russians hacked the DNC and John Podesta’s emails and handed them off to WikiLeaks? We have heard that since June.
Is it that Trump officials may have colluded with the Russians?
But former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and ex-CIA Director Mike Morrell have both said they saw no evidence of this.
This March, Sen. Chris Coons walked back his stunning declaration about transcripts showing a Russia-Trump collusion, confessing, “I have no hard evidence of collusion.”
But if Clapper and Morrell saw no Russia-Trump collusion, what were they looking at during all those months to make them so conclude?
Was it “FBI transcripts,” as Sen. Coons blurted out?
If so, who intercepted and transcribed the conversations? If it was intel agencies engaged in surveillance, who authorized that? How extensive was it? Against whom? Is it still going on?
And if today, after eight months, the intel agencies cannot tell us whether or not any member of the Trump team colluded with the Russians, what does that say of their competence?
The real scandal, which the media regard as a diversion from the primary target, Trump, is that a Deep State conspiracy to bring down his presidency seems to have been put in place by Obamaites, and perhaps approved by Obama himself.
Consider. On Jan. 12, David Ignatius of the Washington Post wrote,
“According to a senior U.S. government official, (Gen. Michael) Flynn phoned Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak several times on Dec. 29, the day the Obama administration announced the expulsion of 35 Russian officials … What did Flynn say?”
Now, on Dec. 29, Flynn, national security adviser-designate, was not only doing his job calling the ambassador, he was a private citizen.
Why was he unmasked by U.S. intelligence?
Who is this “senior official” who dropped the dime on him? Could this official have known how many times Flynn spoke to Kislyak, yet not known what was said on the calls?
That is hard to believe. This looks like a contract hit by an anti-Trump agent in the intel community, using Ignatius to do the wet work.
Flynn was taken down. Did Comey turn his FBI loose to ferret out the felon who had unmasked Flynn and done him in? If not, why not?
In today’s Wall Street Journal, Dan Henninger points anew to a story in The New York Times of March 1 that began:
“In the Obama administration’s last days, some White House officials scrambled to spread information about Russian efforts to undermine the presidential election — and about possible contacts between associates of President-elect Trump and Russians — across the government.”
“This is what they did,” wrote Henninger, quoting the Times :
“At intelligence agencies, there was a push to process as much raw intelligence as possible into analyses, and to keep the reports at a relatively low classification level to ensure as wide a readership as possible across the government — and, in some cases, among European allies.”
For what benign purpose would U.S. intelligence agents spread secrets damaging to their own president — to foreign regimes? Is this not disloyalty? Is this not sedition?
On Jan. 12, writes Henninger, the Times “reported that Attorney General Loretta Lynch signed rules that let the National Security Agency disseminate ‘raw signals intelligence information’ to 16 other intelligence agencies.”
Astounding. The Obamaites seeded the U.S. and allied intel communities with IEDs to be detonated on Trump’s arrival. This is the scandal, not Trump telling Vlad to go find Hillary’s 30,000 missing emails.
We need to know who colluded with the Russians, if anyone did. But more critically, we need to unearth the deep state conspiracy to sabotage a presidency.
So far, the Russia-connection investigation has proven a dry hole. But an investigation into who in the FBI, CIA or NSA is unmasking U.S. citizens and criminally leaking information to a Trump-hating press to destroy a president they are sworn to serve could prove to be a gusher.
As for the reports of Lynch-White House involvement in this unfolding plot to damage and destroy Trump the real question is: What did Barack Obama know, and when did he know it?
Copyright 2017 Creators.com.
FBI Director Comey’s and NSA Director Rogers’s public testimony to the House Intelligence Committee on Monday 20th March 2017 cast some interesting light on the ‘Russiagate’ allegations, though these were not the ones the media has sought to emphasise.
Firstly, almost from the moment the House Intelligence Committee began its session, the establishment media as one chose to highlight Comey’s public confirmation that the FBI is investigating Russia’s alleged interference in the US election, and that this involves investigating allegations of collusion between some of President Trump’s associates and the Russians, as if this was a major revelation.
Suffice to say that this was the headline story in all the British newspapers on Monday and on the BBC, as well as in the Washington Post. The confirmation was called a ‘bombshell’, or at least a ‘setback’ for the President.
It should be said clearly that it was nothing of the sort.
The fact that the FBI is investigating Russia’s alleged interference in the elections, and that this involves investigating allegations of collusion between some of President Trump’s associates and the Russians, has been all over the media for months, in fact since long before the election. It would have been nothing short of ridiculous, and would have served no purpose, if Comey had refused to confirm that such an investigation was underway when he appeared publicly before the Committee, and it would have rendered his entire public appearance before the Committee completely pointless had he done so.
It should also be said clearly that the mere fact that an investigation is underway is not in itself proof that any crime or wrongdoing was committed or that any person is guilty of anything. Comey made that very point in his testimony, and it is the reason why he – very properly – repeatedly refused to discuss individual cases. The way in which some sections of the media are trying to overturn the whole presumption of innocence by insinuating that the mere existence of an investigation is a sign of guilt, is actually shocking.
A far more important revelation to have come out of the Committee is that this is a counter-espionage not a crime investigation, and that it was (according to Comey) launched at the end of July 2016.
We can probably be a little more precise as to the precise date. On 22nd July 2016 Wikileaks began publishing the DNC emails. On 25th July 2016 the FBI publicly confirmed that it was investigating the hack of the DNC’s computers (though in the event it never actually examined them). That suggests that the investigation was launched between those dates, ie. almost immediately after Wikileaks started publishing the DNC emails.
That is important since the US intelligence community did not publish its first assessment that Russia was behind the DNC and Podesta leaks before October 2016, and did not publish its final assessment until January 2017.
In other words someone decided between 22nd and 25th July 2016 – long before any intelligence assessments had been published blaming Russia, and directly after the DNC leaks appeared – that the Russians were responsible, and initiated an FBI counter-espionage investigation.
What this also means is that this investigation was underway throughout the critical weeks of the election, with Donald Trump’s associates, and quite possibly (indeed probably) Donald Trump himself, being investigated and monitored by the FBI and by other US intelligence agencies throughout the election period as part of a counter-espionage investigation.
There was no word at the House Intelligence Committee hearing of who was the person or persons who initiated the investigation, or what were the reasons for doing so before any intelligence assessments blaming the Russians had been published.
For the record, I will say that though Barack Obama was the President at the time, and would have been receiving any confidential intelligence assessments, I am sure he was not that person.
Despite the denials of physical wiretaps of Trump Tower, that an investigation and surveillance operation of at least some of Donald Trump’s associates and quite possibly of Donald Trump himself was underway during the election period is therefore now officially confirmed as fact, and is no longer subject to doubt.
I would add that since this was a counter-espionage investigation and not a crime investigation, it was and could be launched despite the fact that neither in July 2016 nor at any time since has there been any evidence of wrongdoing on the part of those US citizens who are being investigated and who might have been placed under surveillance.
We know this for a fact because numerous sources, including Devin Nunes, the Committee Chair who together with the other members of the Committee receives in private classified updates of the progress of the investigation, have told us as much.
One particular point constantly made by Hillary Clinton’s supporters – that Comey treated Hillary Clinton unfairly by making public the FBI’s investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server whilst concealing the ‘far more serious investigation’ of the contacts between Donald Trump’s associates and Russia – might as well be addressed at this point.
Hillary Clinton’s defenders who make this claim consistently underestimate the seriousness of the issue of her misuse of a private server. The key point anyway is that these are two completely different types of investigation.
The investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server was a crime investigation into a potential federal felony. The investigation into the contacts between Donald Trump’s associates and Russia falls under a counter-espionage investigation, in which they are not necessarily suspected of any crime or wrongdoing. Since this is a counter-espionage investigation whose subject is classified, and which has been brought in the absence of any suspicion of any crime or wrongdoing by any particular person, it would have been wholly wrong for Comey to disclose its existence until the Justice Department gave him permission to do so, which it only did just before his appearance before the Committee on Monday.
One other important fact came out of the Committee hearing.
The Republicans on the Committee have rallied behind the President, almost certainly because – as Nunes says – the investigation has produced no evidence of any crime or wrongdoing by anyone. Instead, to Comey’s obvious unease, they are refusing to let the question of who was responsible for the leaking of the classified information that destroyed General Flynn’s career rest.
Both Representative Schiff for the Democrats and Representative Gowdy for the Republicans set out in public for the Committee the persons who each believes should be investigated, in the one case for collusion with the Russians, in the other for leaking the information about General Flynn.
It should be stressed that in neither case has any evidence been published against any of these persons. Nunes and Gowdy have however correctly pointed out that in contrast to the claims about collusion with Russia, in the case of the leaking of classified information to destroy General Flynn there is no doubt that a federal felony was committed. That does make Gowdy’s list of names at least interesting
GOWDY: I guess what I’m getting at, Director Comey, is you say it’s vital, you say it’s critical, you say it’s indispensable. We both know it’s a threat to the reauthorization of 702 later on this fall. And by the way, it’s also a felony punishable by up to 10 years.
So how would you begin your investigation, assuming for the sake of argument that a U.S. citizen’s name appeared in the Washington Post and the New York Times unlawfully. Where would you begin that investigation?
COMEY: Well, I’m not gonna talk about any particular investigation…
GOWDY: That’s why I said in theory.
COMEY: You would start by figuring out, so who are the suspects? Who touched the information that you’ve concluded ended up unlawfully in the newspaper and start with that universe and then use investigative tools and techniques to see if you can eliminate people, or include people as more serious suspects.
GOWDY: Do you know whether Director Clapper knew the name of the U.S. citizen that appeared in the New York Times and Washington Post ?
COMEY: I can’t say in this forum because again, I don’t wanna confirm that there was classified information in the newspaper.
GOWDY: Would he have access to an unmasked name?
COMEY: In — in some circumstances, sure, he was the director of national intelligence. But I’m not talking about the particular.
GOWDY: Would Director Brennan have access to an unmasked U.S. citizen’s name?
COMEY: In some circumstances, yes.
GOWDY: Would National Security Adviser Susan Rice have access to an unmasked U.S. citizen’s name?
COMEY: I think any — yes, in general, and any other national security adviser would, I think, as a matter of their ordinary course of their business.
GOWDY: Would former White House Advisor Ben Rhodes have access to an unmasked U.S. citizen’s name?
COMEY: I don’t know the answer to that.
GOWDY: Would former Attorney General Loretta Lynch have access to an unmasked U.S. citizen’s name?
COMEY: In general, yes, as would any attorney general.
GOWDY: So that would also include Acting AG Sally Yates?
COMEY: Same answer.
GOWDY: Did you brief President Obama on — well, I’ll just ask you. Did you brief President Obama on any calls involving Michael Flynn?
COMEY: I’m not gonna get into either that particular case that matter, or any conversations I had with the president. So I can’t answer that.
I have recently written that the true scandal of the 2016 US Presidential election is that under cover of a counter-espionage investigation cooked up through a wave of anti-Russian hysteria US citizens who had been accused of no wrongdoing were being investigated and placed under surveillance by the US’s intelligence and security agencies during the election. Despite all the evasions and qualifications that came from the Committee and from Comey and Rogers during the hearings, there is now official confirmation that this investigation and surveillance during this election actually took place.
What was interesting is that their questions about the leaks suggest that the Republicans on the Committee are beginning to see it this way, and are starting to look beyond the cloud of anti-Russian paranoia which has been blown up to confuse the issue. This is why they homed in on the question of who was behind the leaks that destroyed General Flynn.
As for the Democrats, they may also be starting to sense this as well. Glenn Greenwald thinks they are starting to have doubts about ‘Russiagate’, and I think he is right. That no doubt explains the frantic attempts of people like Schiff to keep ‘Russiagate’ going by conjuring up more and more claims against people like Manafort and Carter Page, who must by now have been investigated already. It may also explain some of the fantastic language some of the Democrats on the Committee resorted to.
Comey said that the FBI investigation is open-ended and has far to go. Given the stakes involved, I wonder whether it will report at all.
Last week the New Yorker, and yesterday Salon magazine, published editorials arguing against the very existence of an “American Deep State”. The arguments presented are very… interesting. Both are, perhaps, classic cases of protesting too much.
Well, I don’t know about you guys, but I’m convinced.
This article, appearing in the New Yorker on Sunday, sets out to tell its readers that there is no such thing as an American “deep state”, repeatedly rubbishing the very idea whilst – at the same time – making a compelling case for the exact opposite.
To start off the author, David Remnick, relates a very cheery sounding story about a young man’s transformative journey from junior naval officer to hard-hitting journalist. I shall relate it to you in bullet points, for the sake of brevity:
- In 1970 junior naval officer Bob Woodward, a Yale graduate and member of the Book and Snake secret society, goes to the White House Situation room. At night.
- Whilst there, he meets a high-up at the FBI named Mark Felt, an intelligence veteran and long-time loyalist to J. Edgar Hoover.
- For reasons unknown the two men discuss the career prospects of young Mr Woodward. Mr Felt gives Woodward advice about pursuing “only employment that interests him”.
- Later that year Woodward leaves the navy, and applies for a job at the Washington Post. He doesn’t get it, thanks to a complete lack of any journalistic experience. He spends a year working at a minor local paper instead, before being hired by the WaPo in 1971.
- Throughout this time Woodward and his FBI friend are in constant contact, Woodward thinking of Felt as a “career counsellor”.
- Felt confides in Woodward that he sees the Nixon administration as “corrupt, paranoid, and trying to infringe on the independence of the Bureau”.
- In 1973 Felt, under the alias “Deep Throat”, leaks Woodward information on the Watergate break-in, and – by proxy – brings down the Nixon administration.
How does that story read to you? There are unquestionably overtones of Operation Mockingbird, right?
Well, not according to Remnick. He tells us the meeting was accidental, the friendship natural, the career advice sincere and the leak opportunistic. He asks the rhetorical question:
Was Deep Throat part of the Deep State?”
As if the only logical answer is “no, of course not”, when in truth any answer other than “Yes, almost certainly” shows a level of willful blindness or chronic naivety that probably merits medication. We are expected to believe that a young naval officer, with no previous interest or experience in journalism, takes career advice from a senior FBI agent after one (accidental) meeting, leaves the navy, becomes a reporter, and ultimately acts as a key cog in what amounted to a “soft coup” in the United States. That is patently absurd.
As I said before, what is presented as a case against the existence of an American Deep State, makes a very strong argument for both its existence, and its power.
Next, Remnick provides us with a little history on “Deep States”:
“Deep State” comes from the Turkish derin devlet, a clandestine network, including military and intelligence officers, along with civilian allies, whose mission was to protect the secular order established, in 1923, by the father figure of post-Ottoman Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. It was behind at least four coups, and it surveilled and murdered reporters, dissidents, Communists, Kurds, and Islamists. The Deep State takes a similar form in Pakistan, with its powerful intelligence service, the I.S.I., and in Egypt, where the military establishment is tied to some of the largest business interests in the country.
You see, he’s not arguing that Deep State power structures don’t exist – he willingly admits that they do – it’s just that they don’t have them in America. His argument for this is simple… or at least, it probably would be if he were to make one. What he actually DOES is simply describe how deep states work in other countries, and then leave an ellipsis that’s meant to convey “and of course none of that is true in the USA”, when in fact – again – it does the exact opposite.
What he does is supply us a short checklist of qualities which define a “Deep State”:
- Clandestine and secretive
- Involving military and intelligence officers
- civilians allies
- Protecting the status quo
- ties to big business interests
Does that not sound the least bit familiar to anyone else? The first two are givens that need no explanation.
Civilian allies? Well, I would imagine that a planted and/or manipulated journalist would make a good “civilian ally”. Such a person could be used to “leak” information that brings down enemies of the Deep State. Or, indeed, to write clumsy editorials about how the Deep State doesn’t even exist.
Protecting the status quo. The protection of “secular order” in Turkey could easily be translated as the protection of the neo-liberal order in the United States. It is essentially a program of protecting those in power from any kind of change. In fact, the way Remnick writes about this mission, it’s almost as if he is arguing that the noble ends justify ignoble means. That’s an interesting subtext to include.
Coups, surveillance and assassinations. Turkey’s derin devlet was behind only four coups? That’s a busy morning at the CIA. Surveillance? Well, it has suited the MSM of late to pretend they didn’t tell us all about the level of surveillance we operate under every single day. But we all know. Assassinations? Yes, there are a few famous examples, and a few not so famous. Blowing the President’s head off in the middle of a public square probably counts.
Ties to big business? Well Eisenhower admitted that, and warned against it, sixty years ago. Soros Open Society Foundation frequently collaborates with the State Department, as does the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The Pentagon’s ties to Boeing and Lockheed Martin are well documented, as is Dick Cheney’s involvement with Halliburton. The list is endless.
As an eight-point definition of a “deep state”, America’s power structures certainly seem to stand as a perfect template.
Now we come to the good part. The part where Remnick is forced to include a lot of information he’d rather pretend wasn’t true, because – if he didn’t mention it – he would open himself up awful lot of correction and/or ridicule… even more so than he does already.
One does not have to be ignorant of the C.I.A.’s abuses—or of history, in general—to reject the idea of an American Deep State. Previous Presidents have felt resistance, or worse, from elements in the federal bureaucracies: Eisenhower warned of the “military-industrial complex”; L.B.J. felt pressure from the Pentagon; Obama’s Syria policy was rebuked by the State Department through its “dissent channel”.
You see, there undoubtedly are powerful secretive intelligence organisations with ties to big business and the military. Yes, you can point to the uncontested public record of literally dozens of crimes – both international and domestic – carried out by these agencies (calling coups and wars “abuses”, is craven apologist language). Yes, it’s perfectly true that many Presidents (from both parties) have faced domestic opposition from these agencies, to their eventual ruin in some cases. Yes, some of those President’s – including Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy – have publicly warned against the influence of these unelected actors and agencies… but – BUT – that doesn’t mean America has a “Deep State. Because:
… to use the term as it is used in Turkey, Pakistan, or Egypt is to assume that all these institutions constitute part of a subterranean web of common and nefarious purpose.
Which begs the response: “And?”
For one thing, David, it’s not to assume that, it’s to reason that… based on evidence (including all the evidence you helpfully supply in your article). It was your self-appointed task to provide a counter-argument to this reading of the evidence…. and you have failed. Miserably.
However, David Remnick is not alone in his ineffectual assertion that “there is no deep state, it just looks like there is”. Further arguments that there are no “secretive military and intelligence collectives” pushing their agendas through “civilian allies”, was published in Salon. It is an editorial on the exact same subject, published on the exact same day, with almost the exact same title.
The author, Ryan Bohl, argues (in apparent seriousness) that deep states are definitely real, that Egypt has one, but that American can’t have one… because America and Egypt are different.
His assertions that America “doesn’t have a deep state”, would probably hold more water if he displayed any kind of understanding of what the term actually means. Instead he has, in truly Orwellian fashion, redefined the phrase in order to present a counter-argument… and even then barely manages to scrape one together.
… a major flaw of the American Deep State theory is that a deep state needs a weak state to survive
I’m not sure where Bohl got this statement from. I suspect he made it up. It means nothing, and is never backed up by any kind of sources, analysis or evidence. It is a baseless factoid, invented to allow the author to use the rhetorical trick of shifting the argument. Having “established” that a Deep State cannot exist within a strong nation, the author no longer has to disprove the deep states existence… but can now focus on proving that America is strong. Unfortunately for him, he is equally bad at this.
What does a weak state look like? For one, it’s horrifically ineffective: not a “I can’t believe they made me wait 45 minutes for my driver’s license when there were only six people in front of me” nuisance, but “I can’t believe I had to spend 2 years, $4000, and know an official at the Ministry of Transport via a relative to get my license”-style corruption. It is a state that fails to provide water, electricity, schools, and roads on a vast scale every single day.
The logic is obviously terrible. His argument that a deep state can only exist within weak and corrupt infrastructure? A completely unjustifiable a priori assumption. One that is never established with any kind of evidence.
… but let’s suppose, for the sake of argument, that he’s right – doesn’t America have a failing infrastructure?
Doesn’t America house 20% of all the incarcerated people on the planet? Aren’t many of these people held in corrupt private prisons? Aren’t post-industrial cities falling apart? Didn’t Detroit have no water for weeks at a time? And didn’t Flint have toxic water? Aren’t there roads and bridges crumbling? Didn’t New Orleans flood because of neglected levees? Aren’t their dams crumbling to dust?
If a state is labeled “weak” on the quality of its infrastructure and development, then any objective observer would have to accept that America is weak. In many cases it is practically a third world nation. But Bohl has a response:
It can seem like the United States has a weak state when you compile the many anecdotes of bad roads, bridges, schools, water supplies, and other creaky public services. But this is misleading: just because you know a lot of stories about a topic doesn’t mean you know anything about its societal scale.
You see, much like the deep state, it might seem like America is falling apart… but it’s not really. Just look at the statistics he cites. Of course, these statistics are “indexes”, with a secret formula entirely invented by America-based NGOs who are almost certainly part of the (entirely fictional) American deep state.
There is also yet another critical argument against an America deep state: the regular transfer of power.
Another flawed argument. The very theory he is arguing against is that the elected officials possess very little power at all, and, as such, power is never transferred. Rather, the puppet is replaced.
What frustrates Trump and his allies is not a conspiracy of a CIA/State Department/journalists/Democrats/Obama/Pentagon cabal, agenda-driven to impose some secret world order upon the United States. Rather, they are encountering the hard edges of America’s geopolitical interests.
You see, it’s not that there is a deep state with an agenda, it’s just that America has concrete, innate “interests” that cannot be threatened by elected officials without encountering massive resistance from the agencies whose job it is to protect these interests.
… it is not in America’s interests to align with Russia any more than it has to, especially under the Putin government. So long as Russia has an independent foreign policy, it will be a threat to both NATO and the American-led world order; only bringing its foreign policy into the American-led alliance system will end that condition.
It is counter to the unquestioned and never-changing “interests” of the USA to have friendly relations with Russia, so naturally if the elected representatives of the people try to improve those relations, then the CIA/State Dept./FBI/the media and other unelected bodies will work together in opposing those plans.
This does not mean America has a deep state.
America having geo-political interests that extend beyond the power of the people’s elected officials is NOT evidence of a “deep state”… because? Well…
As the deep state accusations grow, it would behoove some to visit Egypt, stay a while, and try to get a driver’s license. That is what a place with a deep state truly feels like.
… have you ever tried getting a driver’s license in Cairo?
Seven non-members of the non-deep state are so enraged by the idea that people might think the totally fake American deep state might be real, that they accidentally publish seemingly coordinated attacks on the very idea. Under very similar titles. All within the same few days. Citing the same “counter examples” of Egypt and Turkey. All acting with symmetrical umbrage.
That’s almost as unlikely as bumping into a senior FBI agent in the White House by chance, taking his off-hand advice about a career change and then accidentally breaking the story that results in the FBI’s removal of a President they perceived as a threat to their influence, when you think about it.
Never mind. I’m just paranoid. America doesn’t have a deep state.
It just sometimes really looks like it does.
corbettreport | July 5, 2013
Michael Hastings was that rarest of breeds: a mainstream reporter who wasn’t afraid to rail against the system, kick back against the establishment, and bite the hand that feeds him. On the morning of June 18, 2013, he died in a fiery car crash. But now details are emerging that he was on the verge of breaking an important new story about the CIA, and believed he was being investigated by the FBI. Now even a former counter-terrorism czar is admitting Hastings’ car may have been cyber-hijacked. Join us this week on The Corbett Report as we explore the strange details surrounding the untimely death of Michael Hastings.
SHOW NOTES AND MP3: http://www.corbettreport.com/?p=7636
It is the leakiest of times in the Executive Branch. Last week, Wikileaks published a massive and, by all accounts genuine, trove of documents revealing that the CIA has been stockpiling, and lost control of, hacking tools it uses against targets. Particularly noteworthy were the revelations that the CIA developed a tool to hack Samsung TVs and turn them into recording devices and that the CIA worked to infiltrate both Apple and Google smart phone operating systems since it could not break encryption. No one in government has challenged the authenticity of the documents disclosed.
We do not know the identity of the source or sources, nor can we be 100% certain of his or her motivations. Wikileaks writes that the source sent a statement that policy questions “urgently need to be debated in public, including whether the CIA’s hacking capabilities exceed its mandated powers and the problem of public oversight of the agency” and that the source “wishes to initiate a public debate about the security, creation, use, proliferation and democratic control of cyber-weapons.”
The FBI has already begun hunting down the source as part of a criminal leak investigation. Historically, the criminal justice system has been a particularly inept judge of who is a whistleblower. Moreover, it has allowed the use of the pernicious Espionage Act—an arcane law meant to go after spies—to go after whistleblowers who reveal information the public interest. My client, former NSA senior official Thomas Drake, was prosecuted under the Espionage Act, only to later be widely recognized as a whistleblower. There is no public interest defense to Espionage Act charges, and courts have ruled that a whistleblower’s motive, however salutary, is irrelevant to determining guilt.
The Intelligence Community is an equally bad judge of who is a whistleblower, and has a vested interest in giving no positive reinforcement to those who air its dirty laundry. The Intelligence Community reflexively claims that anyone who makes public secret information is not a whistleblower. Former NSA and CIA Director General Michael V. Hayden speculated that the recent leaks are to be blamed on young millennials harboring some disrespect for the venerable intelligence agencies responsible for mass surveillance and torture. Not only is his speculation speculative, but it’s proven wrong by the fact that whistleblowers who go to the press span the generational spectrum from Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg to mid-career and senior level public servants like CIA torture whistleblower John Kiriakou and NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake to early-career millennials like Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning and NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. The lawbreaker does not get to decide who is a whistleblower.
Not all leaks of information are whistleblowing, and the word “whistleblower” is a loaded term, so whether or not the Vault 7 source conceives of him or herself as a whistleblower is not a particularly pertinent inquiry. The label “whistleblower” does not convey some mythical power or goodness, or some “moral narcissism,” a term used to describe me when I blew the whistle. Rather, whether an action is whistleblowing depends on whether or not the information disclosed is in the public interest and reveals fraud, waste, abuse, illegality or dangers to public health and safety. Even if some of the information revealed does not qualify, it should be remembered that whistleblowers are often faulted with being over- or under-inclusive with their disclosures. Again, it is the quality of the information, not the quantity, nor the character of the source.
Already, the information in the Vault 7 documents revealed that the Intelligence Community has misled the American people. In the wake of Snowden’s revelations, the Intelligence Community committed to avoid the stockpiling of technological vulnerabilities, publicly claiming that its bias was toward “disclosing them” so as to better protect everyone’s privacy. However, the Vault 7 documents reveal just the opposite: not only has the CIA been stockpiling exploits, it has been aggressively working to undermine our Internet security. Even assuming the CIA is using its hacking tools against the right targets, a pause-worthy presumption given the agency’s checkered history, the CIA has empowered the rest of the hacker world and foreign adversaries by hoarding vulnerabilities, and thereby undermined the privacy rights of all Americans and millions of innocent people around the world. Democracy depends on an informed citizenry, and journalistic sources—whether they call themselves whistleblowers or not—are a critical component when the government uses national security as justification to keep so much of its activities hidden from public view.
As we learn more about the Vault 7 source and the disclosures, our focus should be on the substance of the disclosures. Historically, the government’s reflexive instinct is to shoot the messenger, pathologize the whistleblower, and drill down on his or her motives, while the transparency community holds its breath that he or she will turn out to be pure as the driven snow. But that’s all deflection from plumbing the much more difficult questions, which are: Should the CIA be allowed to conduct these activities, and should it be doing so in secret without any public oversight?
These are questions we would not even be asking without the Vault 7 source.
Jesselyn Radack is a national security and human rights attorney who heads the “Whistleblower & Source Protection” project at ExposeFacts. Twitter: @jesselynradack
At Mar-a-Lago this weekend President Donald Trump was filled “with fury” says The Washington Post, “mad — steaming, raging, mad.”
Early Saturday the fuming president exploded with this tweet: “Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!”
The president has reason to be enraged. For what is afoot is a loose but broad conspiracy to break and bring him down, abort his populist agenda, and overturn the results of the 2016 election.
At its heart is the “deep state” — agents of the intel community, their media collaborators, and their amen corner in a Democratic party whose control of our permanent government is all but total.
At the heart of the case against Trump is what appears to be a Big Lie.
It is that Vladimir Putin and Russian intelligence hacked the DNC and John Podesta’s email account, then colluded with Trump’s friends or associates to systematically sabotage Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Therefore, Trump stole the election and is an illegitimate president. In this city, Trump is looked upon as a border-jumper, an illegal alien.
Yet let us consider the constituent components of the charge.
For months, we have heard that U.S. intel agencies agree that the Russians hacked the DNC and Clinton campaign, and gave the fruits of their cybertheft to WikiLeaks, because Putin wanted Trump to win.
For months, this storyline has been investigated by the FBI and the intelligence committees of both houses of Congress.
Yet where is the body of evidence that the Russians did this?
More critically, where is the evidence Trump’s people played an active role in the operation? Why is it taking the FBI the better part of a year to come up with a single indictment in this Trump-Putin plot?
Is this all smoke and mirrors?
In late February, The New York Times reported that Trump officials had been in regular touch with Russian intelligence officers.
The smoking gun had been found!
Yet, almost immediately after that report, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus told Fox News “the top levels of the intelligence community” had assured him that the allegations of campaign contacts with Russia were “not only grossly overstated, but also wrong.”
If what Reince says is true, the real crime here is U.S. security officials enlisting their Fourth Estate collaborators, who enjoy First Amendment privileges against having to testify under oath or being prosecuted, to undermine the elected commander in chief.
Now we expect Russia to seek to steal our secrets as we steal theirs. After all, our NSA wiretapped Angela Merkel and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff. Our National Endowment for Democracy pushes “color revolutions” to bring about regime change in the near abroad of Putin’s Russian Federation.
Our NGOs are being restricted, shut down, expelled from Russia, China, Israel and Egypt, because they have been caught interfering in the internal affairs of those countries.
There is talk that Putin used the pilfered emails as payback for Clinton’s urging demonstrators to take to the streets of Moscow to protest a narrow victory by his United Russia party in 2011.
As for the alleged wiretapping of Trump Tower, President Obama has denied ordering any such thing and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper assures us nothing of the sort was ever done.
Yet, there are other reports that intelligence officials got a warrant to surveil Trump campaign officials or the Trump Tower, and, though failing to succeed in the FISA court that authorizes such surveillance in June, they did succeed in October.
If true, this is a far more explosive matter than whether a Trump aide may have told the Russians, “You’re doing a great job!” when WikiLeaks blew DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz out of her job for tilting the playing field against Bernie Sanders in the primaries.
What needs to be done now?
The White House should tell the Justice Department to tell the FBI to expedite its investigation and file a report on what was done by the Russians. And if any Trump campaign official criminally colluded with the Russians, send the recommendation to indict to Justice.
The acting attorney general should instruct Director James Comey to run down, remove and recommend for prosecution any FBI or intel agent who has leaked the fruits of their investigation, or fake news, to the media. If Comey cannot find the source of the leaks, or lies, coming out of this investigation, a housecleaning may be needed at the bureau.
While President Obama may not have ordered any surveillance of Trump or his advisors, the real question is whether he or Attorney General Loretta Lynch were aware of or approved of any surveillance of Trump and his staff during the campaign.
Russian hacking of the DNC is a problem, not a scandal. The scandal is this: Who inside the government of the United States is trying to discredit, damage or destroy the President of the United States?
For these are the real subversives.
Copyright 2017 Creators.com.
Following Saturday’s charges come Sunday’s denials.
On Saturday in a series of tweets Donald Trump accused his predecessor Barack Obama of wiretapping his office in Trump Tower. A few hours later Obama responded with a statement published by his spokesman which neither admitted nor denied the wiretap but which said that Obama himself had never ordered surveillance within the US on anyone.
Then came an interview for NBC by Obama’s former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. In it in carefully chosen words Clapper said that he had “no knowledge” of any FISA court authorising wiretaps of Trump Tower, and that no section of the US intelligence community which he supervised had carried out such a wiretap.
Some sections of the media – especially in Britain the BBC and the Guardian – have reported these denials in a way that gives the impression to a casual viewer or reader that Clapper has denied the existence of the wiretap outright. This is certainly not so. Clapper’s careful words were
[For the part of the national security apparatus that I oversaw] there was no such wiretap activity mounted against the president, the president-elect at the time, or as a candidate, or against his campaign….. I can’t speak for other authorized entities in the government or a state or local entity (bold italics added)
In words which have received far less publicity, Clapper also denied that he had seen any evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, and said that the report on Russian interference in the election submitted to Obama and Trump, a redacted version of which was provided to Congress, and a further redacted (and content free) version of which was made public, made no such claim
Clapper was also asked on “Meet the Press” if he had any evidence that the Trump campaign was colluding with the Russian government while the Kremlin was working to influence the election.
“Not to my knowledge,” Clapper said, based on the information he had before his time in the position ended.
“We did not include anything in our report … that had any reflect of collusion between members of the Trump campaign and the Russians. There was no evidence of that included in our report,” he said. “We had no evidence of such collusion.”
A few hours after Clapper’s comments, there appeared an article in The New York Times drawing on the usual anonymous sources. This claimed that shortly after the President published his tweets on Saturday FBI Director Comey contacted the Justice Department to say that the President’s claim that Obama had ordered Trump’s phone in Trump Tower wiretapped was false, and asked the Justice Department to publish a retraction (as of the time of writing the Justice Department has published no such retraction).
In a comment which I see as intended to goad Comey into publishing his own statement denying the President’s claims, The New York Times questions why he has not done so
It is not clear why Mr. Comey did not issue a statement himself. He is the most senior law enforcement official who was kept on the job as the Obama administration gave way to the Trump administration. And while the Justice Department applies for intelligence-gathering warrants, the F.B.I. keeps its own records and is in a position to know whether Mr. Trump’s claims are true. While intelligence officials do not normally discuss the existence or nonexistence of surveillance warrants, no law prevents Mr. Comey from issuing the statement.
As I recall, The New York Times initially also made the very strange claim that because Jeff Sessions has recused himself from the investigation into the Trump campaign’s alleged contacts with Russia, Comey was finding it difficult to find anyone in the Justice Department competent to handle his request.
That cannot be true since Sessions’s statement on Friday made it clear that it would be the acting Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente who would henceforth be supervising the investigation and who Comey would therefore be dealing with. I notice that the current version of the story in The New York Times no longer makes this claim.
It is always difficult (and perhaps unwise) to comment on something someone is reported to have said based on accounts of what that person is reported to have said which are provided anonymously and at second hand. Assuming however that The New York Times story is true (as I believe) and assuming that Comey’s concerns are also being reported accurately (which with some qualifications I also believe) then Comey is not actually denying that a wiretap took place, merely that Obama ordered it. Here is the first paragraph of The New York Times report
The F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, asked the Justice Department this weekend to publicly reject President Trump’s assertion that President Barack Obama ordered the tapping of Mr. Trump’s phones, senior American officials said on Sunday. Mr. Comey has argued that the highly charged claim is false and must be corrected, they said, but the department has not released any such statement.
This is of course what Obama said in his statement on Saturday, and which (as I have already pointed out) is almost certainly true
The statement does not deny that Donald Trump’s office in Trump Tower was wiretapped. Nor does it deny that Donald Trump’s ‘associates’ (a flexible word the precise meaning of which has never been made clear) or members of his campaign team were placed under surveillance.
Instead it indirectly denies that Obama himself or people working directly under him in the White House ordered these actions. It does so by denying they have ever ordered surveillance of any US citizen, something which by the way is almost certainly true.
The statement hints than any order to wiretap Donald Trump’s office or for carrying out surveillance on Donald Trump’s ‘associates’ was the work of officials in the Justice Department, and it seeks to shift responsibility – or blame – onto them.
This too is almost certainly true. (bold italics added)
On the face of it therefore Comey’s comments – if they are being reported accurately – do not add anything to what following Obama’s statement of Saturday we already know.
Certain other comments attributed to Comey in The New York Times article are attracting less attention, though they are actually very interesting.
Firstly, it seems that what drove Comey to contact the Justice Department is concern that Donald Trump’s tweets on Saturday implied that the FBI by wiretapping his office had broken the law.
Mr. Comey, who made the request on Saturday after Mr. Trump levelled his allegation on Twitter, has been working to get the Justice Department to knock down the claim because it falsely insinuates that the F.B.I. broke the law, the officials said.
Comey’s concern here is entirely legitimate. As I have said previously, if there was a wiretap and if it was authorised by a court after an application made in the proper way by the Justice Department, then the wiretap was legal. Comey is absolutely right to want to set the record straight about this. Presumably in the absence of a public statement that will be done over the course of the Congressional inquiries which the President has now requested.
The second point is even more interesting, which is that The New York Times story again essentially confirms that the FBI investigation into the alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia is drawing a blank.
In addition to being concerned about potential attacks on the bureau’s credibility, senior F.B.I. officials are said to be worried that the notion of a court-approved wiretap will raise the public’s expectations that the federal authorities have significant evidence implicating the Trump campaign in colluding with Russia’s efforts to disrupt the presidential election. (bold italics added)
This is very twisted language which shows that The New York Times is not reporting this part of the story straightforwardly. However the meaning is clear enough. The FBI is worried that the more discussion of its investigation there is – extending all the way to discussions by no less a person than the President himself of court approved wiretaps – the more people will fall for the false ‘no smoke without fire’ argument, and will feel let down by the FBI when it eventually announces that its investigation has drawn a blank.
This is an entirely valid concern, and is one of several reasons why such investigations are supposed to be confidential.
This is the second confirmation within a few hours from people who have held posts within the national security bureaucracy that the endlessly repeated claims of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia are not supported by evidence. The first was made by Clapper (see above) and the second was made anonymously to The New York Times by officials of the FBI.
These admissions follow a continuous pattern of admissions from officials within the national security bureaucracy now stretching back months that inquiries into claims of collusion by the Trump campaign and Russia are drawing a blank.
Not only in the present paranoid atmosphere are these admissions being ignored, but the security agencies are being constantly bullied to divert more and more resources into more and more inquiries to find the evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia which officials of the security agencies repeatedly say is not there.
Students of political witch-hunts eg. the Popish Plot in Seventeenth Century England, the Stalinist purges of the 1930s, or the McCarthyite witch-hunts of the 1950s, will recognise the phenomenon.
The position therefore as of the time of writing is that Obama has denied – though in a very convoluted way – that he ordered a wiretap (though he has hinted that if there was a wiretap it was the Justice Department which requested it), Comey is reported as having also denied that Obama ordered a wiretap, and Clapper has denied that the part of the bureaucracy that he supervised sought or carried out a wiretap.
These are not denials that a wiretap took place. Neither are they admissions that it did take place. I have repeatedly warned against the logical error of inferring a positive from a negative, and of treating a denial of one thing as an admission of something else. What it is fair to say is that the fingers are being pointed towards Obama’s Justice Department, and that so far its senior officers – Loretta Lynch and Sally Yates – are staying silent.