The Russians (and Donald Trump) Did It!

http://intelligence.house.gov/

I just finished watching yesterday’s House Intelligence Committee hearing with FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers. I came away from it with the opinion that the Democrats on the committee are only interested in advancing a political agenda, as evidenced by the many, many statements they made rather than actually asking questions of the two subjects. Those statements were all based on information taken from the media, which is ironic because Director Comey made clear that media accounts regarding classified information are almost without exception inaccurate. (He gave them an accuracy of maybe ten percent.)  He also said that the “sources” used by the media are often some distance removed from the actual information and that the information they provide members of the media is usually inaccurate. Yet, even after he made this statement, the Democrats on the committee continued to read their obviously pre-written statements that were largely based on media accounts. Such a travesty!

The purpose of the hearings was, at least ostensibly, to hear from the two agency directors regarding the ongoing investigation into Russian “meddling” in the 2016 presidential election. The Director of the CIA, Mike Pompeo, was not there, probably because he just took over the agency. At the time of the alleged “meddling,” the CIA director was John Brennan, an Obama appointee who left office on January 20. Congressman Trey Gowdy, a former Federal prosecutor, insinuated that Brennan may have been responsible for some of the highly illegal leaks of information that have appeared in the media since President Trump’s election, leaks that Director Comey made clear are criminal and that the leakers should be found and prosecuted. The most serious is the leaking of information pertaining to Lt. General Mike Flynn, the short-lived Director of Intelligence in the Trump Administration. (Gowdy may have even been insinuating that Obama himself is the leaker. Someone in his administration authorized the “unmasking” of the general after his voice was found on recordings of the Russian ambassador.)

As the hearings proceeded, it became obvious that the object of Democrats was to attempt to influence Director Comey to investigate/prosecute various members of the Trump circle, particularly General Flynn. Congresswoman Terri Sewell, a black woman from Alabama, was the attack dog. She kept harping on General Flynn, insinuating that he is a criminal, in spite of Director Comey’s continual refusal to answer her questions. Comey had made it clear at the beginning of the hearing that he was not going to answer any questions related to individuals or information that had appeared in the media. (It has recently come to light that General Flynn’s company was paid $500,000 for consulting work for a Dutch company that is suspected of “having ties” to Turkey.) Sewell was obviously trying to get Comey to have Flynn charged for not registering as a foreign agent (which he did on March 8.) GOP Congressman Trey Gowdy, insinuated that the Obama White House leaked information about General Flynn that had been obtained illegally by the NSA. Remember that General Flynn is alleged to have engaged in a number of conversations with the Russian ambassador, information that could have only been obtained by surveillance, which is illegal since General Flynn is an American citizen and surveillance requires a court order.

When it comes to the actual Russian “interference” in the election, very little was actually said about it. At the beginning of the hearing, Congressman Nunes solicited statements from both directors that there is no evidence that the Russians changed the vote in any of the states that President Trump won by a narrow margin. Both Director Comey and Admiral Rogers stated that there is no evidence of any Russian interference in the actual election in those states. The two directors referred to the findings of the three intelligence agencies – CIA, FBI and NSA – that the Russians meddled in the election primarily by spreading “propaganda” on the Russian government-owned television station RT and it’s associated web site designed to hurt Mrs. Clinton. (There was no mention of the American propaganda stations – ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN and MSNBC. However, as stated previously, Director Comey stated that their stories are highly inaccurate.) In reality, the information I’ve seen on RT was no different than accounts I have seen on other outlets dating back to the 1990s. Both Director Comey and Admiral Rogers referred to Russia as an “adversary” of the United States, but neither actually stated why they considered the two countries to be adversaries. (Adversary is not the same as an enemy – adversary is actually synonymous with opponent, as in a contest.)

Are Russia and the United States actually in competition with one another? If so, just how? Back when the Soviet Union was still in power, there was the matter of ideology as the Soviet Union was the leading advocate of the spread of communism. Those days are over, however. The Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 and since then Russia and the United States have had a different kind of relationship. Russia is not trying to manipulate ideology in the West; in fact, Russia is now capitalist even if the country is run, at least allegedly, by an oligarchy (another word that is often thrown about without consideration – some allege that the United States is an oligarchy, or was before Donald Trump became president. Since then, it’s often called fascist – by people who are actually Marxist themselves.) The truth is that the United States has nothing Russia wants. Yes, Russia now owns a company that owns a uranium mine in the US but it also has large uranium reserves of its own, more than twice as much as the United States. It’s the same with oil – Russian oil reserves are more than double those of the United States. The fear and hatred of Russia characteristic of so many Americans, particularly those in government, is actually a holdover from the Cold War combined with animosity over Russia’s occupation of Crimea and influence in Ukraine, both of which have strong connections to Russia dating back for centuries. It’s actually Europe that fears Russia, and that fear has spread into elements in the United States.

Director Comey stated something that has been made public in the past, that the FBI never had access to the Democratic National Committee’s computer servers. The claim that they were hacked by “the Russians” (the hackers were actually not from the Russian government, but are alleged to have been working for it) is based on information provided by a third party internet security company contracted by the DNC. He alleged that this is not abnormal, but that the FBI often depends on information from third party internet security companies when investigating cyber crimes.

Personally, I doubt that the hearings and the House (and FBI) investigations will accomplish anything. One writer has referred to the hearing as a “nothing burger.” I tend to agree.

 

 

Remember Harold Martin?

Last Friday, FBI Director James Comey sent a letter to Republican members of Congress advising that the case against presidential candidate Hillary Clinton had been reopened because information had been found in “an unrelated case” that might pertain to the case. Now, this is earthshaking news that veteran reporter and Clinton biographer Carl Bernstein says can only be due to blockbuster information. (Bernstein has also said there’s “no way” it can be bigger than Watergate but then he has no knowledge of the information and doesn’t know what it contains.) Naturally, the Clinton campaign and Clinton are screaming foul and demanding “answers” even though the answer has been given – that Hillary Clinton is under criminal investigation. The New York Times came out and claimed that the information was found on a computer jointly used by former Congressman Anthony Weiner and his wife Huma Abedin, the Indian Muslim and former White House intern Clinton took under her wing back when her husband was doing the same thing with Monica Lewinsky. The Times and other news outlets, including FOX news have “confirmed” this information through “unidentified sources in the FBI”. While it is possible that the unrelated case is the Weiner case – he is being investigated for sending inappropriate texts to an underage female – there is another, more likely source.

On August 29, a National Security contractor named Harold Martin was arrested for possessing classified information. Martin, a US Navy veteran, possessed highly classified information dating back for two decades. Now, let’s think about the National Security Agency and what it does. Dating back to 1917, the NSA was chartered in its current form in 1952 by President Harry Truman. The documentation chartering the agency was (and still is) classified and the organization’s very existence was kept secret The NSA – often referred to as “No Such Agency” depends heavily on signals intelligence services in each of the military services. Until 1979, the Air Force, of which I was a part from 1963-1975, had the Air Force Security Service. The Army and Navy each had their own signals intelligence services/commands. The role of the AFSS was interception of foreign communications, particularly radio communications, using sophisticated listening equipment at remote sites around the world and onboard modified transport airplanes and bombers – the C-47, C-54, C-130 and C-135 and B-17 and B-29. Highly intelligent young airmen were selected to train as “Crypto” technicians through a battery of tests administered during basic training. (I was tested because I had taken Spanish in high school.) Those who were selected to train as linguists were placed in special programs that included two years at selected universities. Linguists and technicians were cleared at a level even higher than Top Secret, it was commonly referred to as a “Crypto” clearance but no one who didn’t have one really knew what it was called. I once met a young cook at Pope Air Force Base, North Carolina who had cross-trained into the aircraft loadmaster field from crypto. Although he had a high security clearance, his job change required a new background check. He had recently been married and the background check revealed that his new wife had family connections in a communist country. He lost his clearance and was sent to the chow hall as a cook!

There is another side to the signals intelligence mission that is not generally known. It was whispered about within the military. It is the mission of protecting US secrets by monitoring communications of American officials and military personnel. The first time I ever heard it referred to officially was when I went on temporary duty to Kadena AB, Okinawa (I later went PCS to Naha, an airbase some 12 miles away.) We were told during our orientation that all telephone lines were monitored and we should be very careful about what we said on the telephone. The admonition was repeated when I reported for my permanent assignment at Naha several months later. There were signs on the wall by telephones reminding that calls were monitored. Several years after I left the military, I worked with an Army veteran who had served in the Army’s counterpart to the AFSS. He told me that his job was monitoring telephone lines, and how that he and his buddy had once monitored conversations between a high-ranking general and his mistress. I was reminded again of how the NSA and it’s military agencies monitor communications when my son entered his plebe year at the US Naval Academy. Shortly after he got there, he told me to be very careful what I said in Emails because their Emails were monitored.

Now, NSA monitoring of communications is conducted not only of military personnel, but also of Federal officials, including Congressmen, Senators and members of the Executive Branch with access to classified information. There is no doubt that Hillary Clinton’s communications were monitored throughout her term as Secretary of State and probably while she was a US Senator since she was a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and would have had access to classified information. Her communications may have also been monitored – and probably were – while she was Bill Clinton’s First Lady. It is highly likely, no, it is CERTAIN that Harold Martin’s trove includes Emails from and to Hillary Clinton.

Now, the question arises -if Hillary was discussing classified information on unofficial channels while she was SOS, why wasn’t she prosecuted? The answer is simple – while military personnel are subject to prosecution under the UCMJ, members of the Executive Branch are prosecuted in the Federal courts and any prosecution would have had to be initiated by the DOJ, which, like the SOS, is headed by a presidential appointee. Any information would have been “kept secret,” or covered up at the highest level.

What we’re seeing now is a struggle at the highest level, a struggle between Congress and the Executive Branch. We’ll see what happens.