House (Lack of) Intelligence Committee

With plenty of time on my hands during the bogus shutdown for the greatly hyped Cornavirus 19, like every other American, I have plenty of time on my hands and not a lot to occupy that time. Consequently, I found myself perusing the recently declassified and released transcriptions of interviews by the House Intelligence Committee regarding the now-discredited claim of collusion between the campaign of President Donald Trump and the much hated (by some) government of the Russian Federation. Originally established in 1975, the initial role of the House Select Committee on Intelligence was to investigate illegal activities of the Central Intelligence Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation and National Security Agency. Called the Pike Committee after Chairman Otis Pike of New York, the committee’s report was kept secret by Congress and has never been publically released.[1] The committee was permanently established in 1977 and the word “Permanent” was added to the title. Its role was to provide Congressional oversight of the various intelligence agencies, specifically the CIA, FBI and NSA. It is NOT to conduct criminal investigations or even intelligence investigations, roles that are reserved for the Executive Branch through the Department of Justice and the various intelligence agencies. Yet that is exactly what the Democrats on the committee attempted to do as evidenced by the recently released transcripts of the interviews of numerous non-intelligence individuals who appeared before the committee in 2017 and 2018. It is undoubtedly due to the revelations in those transcripts that current committee chairman Adam Schiff refused to make the transcripts public after he took over the role, even though the committee had voted to make them public.[2]

I haven’t read all of the transcripts and probably won’t read them all because, frankly, many of them are flat-out boring. This is particularly true of members of the White House staff who had been directed not to answer questions related to the transition or their service in the White House. The only questions they were authorized to answer were those pertaining to the campaign, which is what the “Russia investigation” was supposed to be about. Certain committee members, particularly Schiff and his fellow Californian, Eric Sawell, had their own agenda. Their goal was to uncover ANYTHING, just ANYTHING, that might incriminate Donald Trump and/or members of his family in some way. Their questioning was more appropriate to FBI investigations. They weren’t interested in the FBI and other intelligence agencies conduct; they were only interested in uncovering some kind of dirt on Donald Trump. It sometimes appeared that certain Republic representatives, specifically Congressmen James Conaway of Texas and Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, had the same agenda. Apparently, they were suspicious of Mr. Trump. This was particularly true in the interrogation of Carter Page, a former US Navy intelligence officer with a doctorate in foreign affairs who spent several years in Russia – and WHO WORKED FOR THE CIA, a fact FBI lawyers concealed, and which is not addressed during his interview.

Just how the House and Senate intelligence committees got involved in the Russia investigation is unclear, but it was apparently due to the report put out by the “Intelligence Community” alleging that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election.  The “Intelligence Community” released their report in January 2017, a few days before newly elected President Donald Trump was to be inaugurated and the House and Senate intelligence committees held public hearings shortly after the inauguration.[3]

I was dismayed by the treatment of Carter Page, who was revealed by the DOJ IG Report to have been subjected to surveillance on the basis of improper actions by FBI agents and officials. Page, who was never indicted, and George Papadopoulos, a young scholar and energy and foreign policy expert, as is Page, literally had their lives ruined by the FBI, in Page’s case through illegal leaks made to Washington Post reporter David Ignatius, and in Papadopoulos’ case by unwarranted aggressive FBI techniques designed to force him to confess to a spurious charge of lying to the FBI (the same tactic recently revealed to have been used against former Director of Defense Intelligence and veteran US Army intelligence officer Lt. General Mike Flynn.) Papadopoulos did not appear before the committee but I have read his book (see the above link) – he was coerced into pleading guilty to lying to the FBI because he had told agents in his initial interview that his contact with a controversial Maltese professor named Joseph Mifsud was prior to his joining the Trump campaign as a foreign policy advisor when it was actually right after. Knowing there was no evidence that the young Chicagoan had conspired with Russians, the FBI charged him with the catch-all charge of Lying to the FBI because he was confused about the date of the contact. Page was eager to testify because he had been mistreated by the FBI but all the committee was interested in was getting him to confess to improper dealings with the Russians during a couple of trips he had made to Moscow to give speeches at Russian universities. Conaway and Gowdy gave their time to the Democrats to interrogate and made no effort to listen to Page’s complaints. Their conduct is despicable, and Congressman Matt Gaetz was right to criticize Gowdy for his lack of aggression.

One of the most ridiculous interviews was that of Evelyn Farkas, a former House and White House staffer who went on MSNBC and made claims about how “we” had information that Donald Trump had conspired with “the Russians.” Now, Farkas is the daughter of Hungarian immigrants who fled Hungary in the 1950s and has exhibited strong anti-Russian bias. It turns out that Farkas did not know a damn thing. She was blowing smoke and knew she was blowing smoke, but she more or less stated that the Obama Administration had information about Trump’s improper dealings with Russia when, in fact, she had left government in 2015, before Donald Trump became a candidate. She admitted under questioning that she knew nothing.

In many instances, whole blocks of testimony were marked off in red, apparently because they were embarrassing to Schiff. This was particularly true of testimony given by Obama officials, including lawyer Sally Yates, who was temporary attorney general until she was fired for failing to support Donald Trump’s executive order regarding immigration and visas to residents of certain Muslim nations, an order that was found to be lawful by the Supreme Court. Blocks of other officials’ testimony was marked out. Still, there was enough information revealed that it is more than obvious that none of the intelligence agencies had evidence of “Russian collusion” in spite of Adam Schiff’s claims that he had evidence that there was.

Schiff comes across as someone who is obsessed with the belief that Donald Trump is guilty of SOMETHING, just ANYTHING. This was obvious during the impeachment fiasco and the transcripts of the interviews confirm his obsession. Schiff has an association with Bill and Hillary Clinton going back to his 2000 campaign for the House in which he defeated Republican James Rogan, who had been one of the lead prosecutors in the Clinton impeachment trial. In retaliation, Clinton cronies poured money into Schiff’s campaign, making the race the most costly in history to that time. Schiff’s questioning had nothing whatsoever to do with the Russian collusion claim and the various intelligence agencies conduct, but was aimed at trying to get the various witnesses to give some kind of tidbit to prove his theories of Trump criminal activity. When the FBI agent to whom British retired intelligence officer Christopher Steele reported testified, Schiff’s questions pertained to an FBI investigation of Russian gamblers who lived in Trump Towers. Even though the agent testified that there was no evidence connecting any of the Trump family to the two Russians, Schiff persisted in questioning about the investigation, which had no relevance to the Steele dossier that was the reason the agent had been compelled to testify.

The funniest interviews were those of Blackwater founder Erik Prince and Steve Bannon. Schiff has since claimed, without evidence, that Prince lied because he did not give him what he wanted. As for Bannon, he refused to answer any question that did not pertain to the campaign, on instruction from White House lawyers because information about the transition and the Trump Administration are privileged and fall under executive privilege. Members of the committee, including Gowdy and other Republicans, threatened to charge Bannon with contempt of Congress but no such charges were ever made. Hope Hicks and other White House staff members also refused to answer questions not pertaining to the campaign.

All in all, the hearings were a circus. Nothing of substance is revealed in any of the interviews other than that no one had any evidence of conspiracy, collusion, or any other kind of conversation between the Trump campaign and the Russian Federation. WHAT A FARCE!  

[1] A draft of the report was leaked by someone on the committee or staff and parts have been published by leftwing newspapers.

[2] Some leftwing web sites claim it was the White House that prevented their release but this is untrue, as evidenced by the content, which is embarrassing to Schiff and other Democrats on the committee.

[3] While the CIA and FBI claimed high confidence in the belief that Russia had interfered in the election, the NSA, the organization that actually monitors communications, was less confident.

Evelyn Farkas Farked Up

Almost a month ago on March 2, former Deputy Secretary of Defense Evelyn Farkas appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joe program and discussed the intelligence gathering of the Obama White House with host Mika Brzezinski, a well-known journalist and member of the Democratic Party. In the clip, which can be seen in its entirety, Ms. Farkas basically indicted both herself and the Obama Administration for conducting surveillance of President Donald Trump, apparently both when he was a candidate and during the interim between his election and inauguration. Ms. Farkas, who is well-known for her outspoken criticism of Donald Trump and who has written a number of negative articles about him and criticized him on MSNBC, allowed herself to use the pronoun “we” when discussing intelligence on Mr. Trump and how she “encouraged” the Obama Administration to move this intelligence to “the Hill” prior to the inauguration.

The clip remained unnoticed for almost a month, probably because it appeared on MSNBC where it was only seen by people who are largely critical of the president. It finally came to light a few days ago thanks to members of the conservative media who first made it known on the web site Conservative Treehouse on March 28. The unedited clip has since become widely circulated. Of course, Democrats defend Farkas, who claims her comments were “taken out of context.” In fact, her comments are very straight forward and can only be taken as she uttered them. Incidentally, her comments were made TWO DAYS BEFORE President Trump’s widely criticized tweet in which he asserted that President Obama had the Trump Tower “wiretapped.” (The word is in italics in his tweet.)

It turns out that Farkas, who carries the title “doctor,” is a “Russia expert” with a decidedly anti-Russia bent. During her tenure, she argued that the United States should equip the Ukrainian military with “heavy weapons.” She resigned her post in 2015 and then is alleged to have become an advisor to the Hillary Clinton campaign. The daughter of a Hungarian immigrant – which may explain her anti-Russia bias – Farkas wrote a paper condemning presidential candidate George W. Bush and the Republican Party’s policies for a buildup of the military after Bill Clinton had practically destroyed it. Farkas was a Clinton Administration representative on an international organization team in Bosnia in 1996 then served as an election observer in 1997. She is a member of the Center for National Policy, a left-wing organization based in DC that represents itself as a “non-partisan” think tank “dedicated to advancing the economic and national security of the United States. (Secretary of Defense General James Mattis is a representative of their Edmund S. Muskie Distinguished Service Award, as is Senator John McCain.) During the Bush Administration, she was a staff member on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

In her appearance, the basically outlines how the Obama Administration (and evidently the Clinton Campaign) worked feverishly to gather intelligence on candidate, then President-elect Trump, and make it known on “the Hill,” meaning to Democratic members of Congress. By using the pronoun “we,” she implies that she was personally involved in the spreading of classified intelligence information among members of Congress, some of whom may not have been (and most likely weren’t) cleared for classified information. She now claims that her comments were taken out of context and that she didn’t have access to classified information but her comments imply that she did, which means that someone in the Obama Administration was feeding classified intelligence documents to her and the Clinton Administration.

Where will this go? If Democrats have their way, not far. However, Republicans are in charge and they’re not going to let this die. As I’ve been saying, #Obamagate is just beginning.

UPDATE – The transcript of Farkas interview by the House Intelligence Committee – – reveals that Farkas was shooting her mouth off and had no knowledge of anything related to “Russian interference” or of Trump campaign “collusion” with Russia. She further revealed that she is heavily biased because her parents fled Hungary and gave her a deep-set hatred of anything Russian.

The Russian “Intelligence” Farce

Our country is in crisis. For the first time in American history, the losing political party in the presidential election is making every possible effort to delegitimize the new president. The effort centers around the two most prominent, at least in their own minds, newspapers in the United States, the New York Times and the Washington Post. Both papers came out vigorously against Donald Trump before the election and now that he’s president, they’re doing everything they can to oppose him. It’s no accident – both papers, particularly the New York Times, have long been propaganda outlets for the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Party. Neither paper – or any other media outlet – has an inside track on government and the White House but they try to give the impression that they do. They publish “breaking news” based on “information” provided by “sources” who go largely unidentified. Neither paper can be believed but they serve as the basis for most of the national political news published in the United States.

Having a dishonest media is a major part of the problem but there’s also another. Thanks to books and movies, many Americans have a misperception of the abilities of the various “intelligence” agencies of the Federal government. Thanks to James Bond and other such fictional heroes, they think that intelligence agents – spies – know everything about other governments. In fact, “intelligence” is actually speculation. How do I know this? For two reasons – first, I spent twelve years in the military and was briefed by intelligence officers and, second, I have more than a passing interest in history, particularly military history, and know more than a little about the role played by military intelligence over the past century and a half. I know that “intelligence” is actually supposition based on information that has been obtained by a variety of sources and which may or may not be valid.

“Intelligence,” which is actually a misnomer, has been a function of military forces and governments for many centuries, but it has become more refined since the 1930s due to the development of new methods of obtaining the information that constitutes what the military, and now government, refers to by that term. In the United States, Army and Marine Corps general staffs, at levels ranging from their general headquarters down to the battalion level, the Intelligence function is referred to as G-2. The Air Force and Navy refer to the same functions as simply “intelligence.” Their function is to obtain information to provide to commanders to allow them to make command decisions, information that can be anything from enemy troop strengths and positions to secrets.  In addition to military information, intelligence includes economic, agricultural and civilian education and morale information, among many things. This information may be collected by simply reading newspapers, but can also include interrogation of prisoners of wars or defectors as well as interception of enemy dispatches. It might also be derived by agents working undercover, or from paid sources inside enemy camps or countries. Since the 1930s, intelligence has also been derived by intercepting communications, including telegraphs, telephones and radio. With the advent of the internet, it also includes digital information obtained by breaking into servers used by the target government or military force. In recent years, there has been much talk of “cyberwar,” which is nothing more than interfering with internet communications in some way. However, there is a difference between electronic eavesdropping and hacking into a server in order to disrupt communications. Eavesdropping is passive while hacking is aggressive.

Prior to 1947, intelligence in the United States was primarily a military function. It still is to a large extent, with the various intelligence “agencies” depending to a large extent on the military for it’s intelligence-gathering functions. For example, the National Security Agency (which was often referred to as “No Such Agency” in the 50s and 60s), depends heavily on the Air Force, Army and Navy for its intelligence collection. All three services have special units whose role is monitoring of communications of foreign governments and military forces by recording transmissions. All told, there are now sixteen or seventeen intelligence-gathering agencies in the United States government and all but four are either part of or directly involved with the military, and with good reason because it is the military – and the military’s commander-in-chief, the president – who are in most need of intelligence. It is important to understand that every single one of the sixteen or seventeen intelligence agencies are all part of the Executive Branch of government and, as such, are ultimately responsible to the President of the United States.

“Raw intelligence” is meaningless because it can be interpreted in various ways, and may or may not be valid. Therefore, intelligence has to be analyzed and interpreted and turned into a report, which is then passed to the commander who needs it. A failure to properly interpret intelligence can change the course of history, and can lose battles and wars, as happened in the European Theater of Operations in World War II when General Dwight Eisenhower’s vast intelligence staff failed to detect the massive buildup of German troops in the Ardennes in preparation for their attack on inexperienced American divisions that became the famous Battle of the Bulge. Fortunately, the German attack stalled when their vehicles ran out of fuel and the surrounded 101st Airborne Division was kept in the fight by aerial resupply. Even more important, General George Patton’s own G-2 had correctly predicted the attack and his Third Army was able to break away and rush to the aide of the beleaguered paratroopers.

The claim that “the Russians” were behind the hacking of the Democratic National Committee Emails was made immediately after WikiLeaks released the Emails by Robby Smook of the Hillary Clinton Campaign, which is a good indication that the claim was a fabrication designed to lessen the effect of the revelations. The allegation is based on claims by a computer security firm called CROWDSTRIKE the DNC had contracted to monitor it’s network. However, when the FBI looked into the claim, it was not allowed to look at the DNC’s computers but instead relied solely on information provided by CROWDSTRIKE, a company founded by a Russian émigré named Dmitri Alperovitch who came to the United States as a teenager when his father took a job with the Tennessee Valley Authority, after emigrating to Canada on a visa.  Alperovitch has a connection to Hillary Clinton dating back to when she was Secretary of State.

In January, the Obama Administration released an “intelligence assessment” of Russian hacking efforts. However, the “report” really doesn’t say anything and offers nothing other than supposition. The report was made public largely thanks to the outgoing director of the CIA, James Brennan, who has strong leftist beliefs and admittedly once voted for the Communist Party, USA candidate for president because he “didn’t agree” with the other two parties. Although Director Comey of the FBI strongly agreed with the analysis, Admiral Mike Rogers of the NSA was less in agreement and only expressed moderate agreement. In fact, all that has been heard about the claim are allegations, with one of the most recent coming from a former NSA director who retired before Donald Trump announced his candidacy for president.

A new twist came about back on March 2 when former Deputy Secretary of Defense Evelyn Farkas made a startling admission that she had encouraged the Obama Administration to leak classified information to “the Hill.” Farkas made her statement on March 2, two days before President Trump tweeted that Barack Obama had Trump Tower “wiretapped” but the media failed to pick up on it. Her comments came to light thanks to conservative bloggers who had seen the segment. Farkas, who served as an advisor to the Hillary Clinton campaign, is now downplaying the significance of her comments, claiming that she did not have access to classified information even though her words plainly indicate that she did. Farkas, who is alleged to be an “expert” on Russia, was not in intelligence and only had access to reports, not to the actual intelligence on which they were based. In fact, Farkas shot her mouth off about Donald Trump’s alleged “ties” to Russia all through the campaign and is often quoted by leftist journalists in articles on the subject. She was a member of the Obama administration and has no credibility as an impartial observer (nor does Brennan.) It is no wonder that many conservative journalists such as Tucker Carlson and Britt Hume believe that Democrats invented the story because they still can’t understand how Trump won the election.

Last week the House Intelligence Committee had a “hearing” with FBI Director Comey and NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers and this week the Senate Intelligence Committee got in the act. I watched the House hearing in its entirety but have no intention of watching the Senate hearing after seeing Virginia Senator Mark Warner claim that Russian intelligence “paid 1,000 hackers” to put out “fake news” against Hillary Clinton just before the election. Now, where did the 1,000 number come from? In fact, it was the Clinton campaign that was using paid trolls to post anti-Trump and pro-Clinton screeds in comment sections on news sites. Warner, whose entire adult life has been spent in Democratic Party politics, is coming out to be just as much of a snake oil salesman as Congressman Adam Schiff. The reality is that there is plenty of information available about the Clintons, so much that there’s no need for “fake news” about them.

There is one thing that needs to be addressed, and that is that even if there is “intelligence” that members of the Trump campaign and even the administration have “ties” to Russia, this is not reason for concern. The Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 and since then Americans have been doing business in Russia. Paul Manafort, for example, is a political consultant who did work, not in Russia, but in Ukraine. Former EXXON CEO Rex Tillerson was head of a large corporation that has been engaged in oil exploration in Russia since the 1990s. Donald Trump held the 2013 Miss Universe Contest in Moscow. Those are all legitimate business interests and they are but three of literally tens of thousands of Americans who have done business with or in Russia over the past three decades. Some, in fact, were associated with the Clinton campaign. For that matter, former President Bill Clinton gave a speech in Moscow. He also accepted a $500,000 payment from a Russian bank and his wife approved the sale of an American uranium company to Russia.

It’s all a farce and the American people are once again getting the shaft by the Democratic Party.

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.