09 FEBRUARY 2018
I’m afraid the recent “defensive attack” by US attack helicopters and artillery on Syrian tribesmen loyal to Damascus is not just a one-off fluke. It is a feature of the current US policy in Syria that will most likely result in another full blown war in the region… one that will put the US on a track to war with Russia.
First, here’s an account of the fighting southeast of Deir Ezzor on the eastern side of the Euphrates taken from the twitter feed of Maxim A. Suchkov, Russian editor for Al-Monitor. I’ve put it into prose form and corrected some spelling/grammar for easier reading.
“Russia’s Defense Ministry on US-coalition killing of 100+ pro-Assad forces: “The incident once again exposed true American intentions in Syria which is not the fight against terrorism but seizure & control of economic assets.” Russia’s MoD version of the incident:”On Feb.7, a Syrian pro-Assad militia was making an incursion to destroy a terrorist group which had been sporadically shelling pro-gov positions.The SYR militia was near El Isba, former oil refinery, 17 km south-east of Salkhiyakh. Suddenly, the Syrian pro-Assad militia came under mortar and multiple artillery rocket system fire, shortly followed by US helicopter strikes. 25 militiamen were wounded (no mention of how many killed). Russia’s MoD suggests the US attack on pro-Assad militia were made possible because “the militia movements hadn’t been coordinated with the Russian military there.” Following the attack Russia hosted reps of US coalition forces in Khmeymim airbase for talks during which according to Moscow, US told the oil refinery was under SDF and US control (which probably was meant to say “stay out” and what prompted Russian response on US trying to seize Syrian economic assets). Finally, Russian MoD claims attacks on Syrian pro-gov positions are getting more frequent over recent days from settlements of Mazlum, Al-Tabiya, and Ksh Sham. Moscow references its military radio intercepts saying it’s done by one of ISIS “sleeper cells.” (@MSuchkov_ALM)
Maxim A. Suchov continues with the Russian reaction to the attack.
Follow-up on Moscow’s reaction to US strike on Syrian pro-gov forces:
1. Russia’s UN Ambassador Nebenzya will raise the issue at the upcoming UN Security Council closed-door briefing on the humanitarian situation in Syria.
2. Moscow is now conducting a thorough investigation of the incident, Russia’s MFA asks “How could a decision to open a massive fire to defeat the Syrian militiamen be made in such a short period of time [between SDF attacks and time US aviation came to the field]?”
3. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Zakharova: “US military presence in Syria presents a serious challenge to the peace process and thwarts the protection of the country’s territorial integrity.”
4. Russia’s MFA spox Zakharova: “A 55-kilometer zone unilaterally created by US around mil base near al-Tanf used by scattered units of Daesh terrorists [who] have opportunity to hide from gov forces in area as well as regroup and prepare for new raids in the Syrian deserts” (@MSuchkov_ALM)
An editorial in the pro-Turkish government paper “The Daily Sabah” lays the blame squarely on the shoulders of an out of control Pentagon and rogue CENTCOM generals. In so many words, they call on Trump to grow a pair and correct the situation. The full editorial is well worth reading.
“During his 2016 election campaign, U.S. President Donald Trump kept asking: “Why are we in Syria and Afghanistan?” He called for an end to entanglements abroad and a focus on domestic problems. President Barack Obama’s Syria policy was based on little more than indifference and, the Trump administration just automatically adopted it.
After all these years, the U.S. still does not have a good grasp on what its policies on Syria are. What does it want to achieve? What is its endgame? What kind of timeframe has it settled on to achieve its objectives? American politicians seem clueless about what they have gotten themselves into.
No one knows who is in charge of the U.S.’s Syria policy. Chaos reigns. Who do we call to ask what the U.S. is doing in Syria?
It seems that with no lead from the top, United States Central Command (CENTCOM) has decided it is the boss. While operationally, it is good that soldiers are in charge, it seems soldiers have also taken over the decision making that should be under the purview of elected officials. CENTCOM and its officers now make statements, formulate strategies and even conduct diplomacy. Turkey has a history of power-hungry generals seeing themselves as guardians of the country and the U.S. is well-advised not to repeat it.” (Daily Sabah)
Maxim Suchkov holds out a similar hope that Trump, himself, will step in and right the ship. He retweeted Trump and provided a comment to that tweet.
“I will be meeting with Henry Kissinger at 1:45pm. Will be discussing North Korea, China and the Middle East.” (@realDonaldTrump)
“Very interesting given Kissinger has now long been Putin’s go-to on messaging of Russia’s own position on same issues. Putin also holds Kissinger in high regard, seeking his wisdom, experience and balanced analysis of US-related matters.” (@MSuchkov_ALM)
I certainly hope Suchkov and the editors at The Daily Sabah are correct and that our current course in Syria is a temporary result of Trump’s inattention. The thought that a simple rage-filled outburst, accompanied by a few firings, can correct our course is oddly reassuring. However, I also have my doubts. Are the generals deflecting Trump by mentioning we control the Syrian oilfields when the President brings up the issue? Are the generals filling the President’s head with fears of Hezbollah and IRGC hordes running rampant across Syria?
Al-Monitor has an article out today extensively quoting Secretary of Defense Mattis. He downplays the role of Russia in Syria and Russian influence over Assad. He seems to be downplaying the risks that our aggressive talk and actions in Syria could lead to a confrontation with Russia. Well I think this jarhead is full of crap this time. To reinforce this man’s fullness of crap, a story appears this morning in Al Masdar News about attacks by the US controlled Deir Ezzor Military Council on SAA and NDF forces in Khashim and Tabiyyah on the Eastern shore of the Euphrates. Unlike the YPG/SDF, the Deir Ezzor Military Council is on the direct payroll of the State Department. This is a dangerous game we are playing.
“And finally, there’s the BFR: the ship Musk wants to use to colonize Mars.
On paper, SpaceX’s Big Falcon Rocket looks like the megarocket to end all megarockets. It’s a completely reusable launch system and features a massive spaceship on top of an equally massive booster powered by 31 SpaceX Raptor engines. (The Falcon Heavy uses 27 of the company’s Merlin engines.) [The BFR: SpaceX’s Mars-Colonization Architecture in Images]
The combined rocket and spaceship will stand 348 feet (106 meters) and will be able to launch 150 tons (136 metric tons) to low Earth orbit (LEO), making the BFR more powerful than NASA’s Saturn V moon rocket, which could launch 135 tons (122 metric tons) to LEO. (The Falcon Heavy may be the most powerful rocket in operation today, but it would take more than one to match the Saturn V, Musk said.)” Space.com
I hope to see the BFR fly. pl
08 FEBRUARY 2018
On February 7, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), backed up by the Russian Aerospace Forces, repelled a Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) attack on its positions in the southeastern Idlib countryside, according to Syrian pro-government sources. The SAA reportedly killed and injured several fighters of HTS and its allies during the clashes.
Additionally, Russian warplanes destroyed several headquarters and ammo depots of the so-called Free Idlib Army in the city of Maarrat al-Nu’man in the southern Idlib countryside, according to Syrian activists.
Syrian opposition sources revealed that thirteen Free Idlib Army fighters, including their general commander “Mohammad Abu Najib”, were killed in the Russian airstrikes on Maarrat al-Nu’man. Russian warplanes also destroyed more than four vehicles armed with anti-aircraft guns belonging to the group. SF
The SAA is rapidly eliminating jihadist forces in the East Hama pocket. Bereft of a source of re-supply through encirclement the jihadis are being rapidly overrun and destroyed. By the time of this writing that pocket may be altogether eliminated. This will free up the forces involved to return to the attritional grinding process underway NW of Abu Duhur around the town of Tel Sultan. The SAA made a decision to eliminate the East Hama pocket before continuing to the west into Idlib Province. At their positions around Tel Sultan they had clearly gone past the culminating point of their drive to Abu Duhur and although they could have continued immediately, the risk of a sudden reversal brought on by exactly the kind of jihadi counter-attack now underway would have been great. Wisely they decided to improve the odds in their favor and have reduced the East Hama pocket to their operational rear and are bringing up more logistical support before continuing into Idlib. The wealth of air support available to them has been a great help in this. When they re-commence forward movement I hope they share my view that a right hook to Al-Eis to roll up the jihadi flank south of the Aleppo City is the best course of action. pl
“A local militia was conducting reconnaissance actions in the area to detect and eliminate the ISIS cell when it was surprisingly shelled by mortars, rocket launched and then the US-led coalition’s attack helicopters. 25 militiamen were injured as a result of the attack.” SF
It appears to me thus far that the “troops” attacked were NDF militia from the area. They are likely to be Arab tribesmen, heavily trained and advised by IRGC Quds force people and supported by SAA artillery and and armor. These Arab tribesman are undoubtedly very hostile to the presence of the Kurdish SDF this far south of traditional Kurdish haunts. The US is pursuing an enduring role in Syria and had previously warned the Russians and through them the SAG that intrusions east of the Euphrates in Deir al-Zor Province would be met by force. This does not bode well for future US/SAG relations. US and Iranian hegemonic ambitions are nose to nose in Eastern Syria. pl
“Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has rejected the recent statement by the head of Turkey’s Republican People’s Party (CHP), Kemal Kilicdaroglu, regarding a potential meeting between Ankara and Damascus.
“What would we talk about with a murderer who has killed a million of his citizens,” Erdogan said in his address to mukhtars— heads of Turkish villages and neighbourhoods—at the presidential complex in Turkey’s capital, Ankara, as quoted by TRT World.” AMN
The sultan is pretending to be motivated by concern for the Syrian peoples. Nonsense. He sees the opportunity to weaken Syria in pursuit of some future de facto annexations in northern Syria. Unfortunately for him the TSK is not doing well in establishing “facts on the ground” to support such ambitions. At the same time, the Turks are positioning small bodies of troops at Al-Eis, Idlib City and Saraqib supposedly to implement the Russian/Iranian/Turkish de-escalation agreement on Idlib Province but IMO their real purpose is to obstruct SAG recovery of the province. pl
07 FEBRUARY 2018
Last night’s release of the memo by Senator’s Grassley and Graham asking the Department of Justice to open a criminal investigation of Christopher Steele for possible violations of 18 U.S.C. § 1001 provides critical confirmation of charges presented in the HPSCI memo prepared under the leadership of Devin Nunes, but it also confirms that Christopher Steele was not just some random guy offering good gossip to the FBI. He was an official intelligence asset. He was, in John LeCarre’s parlance, our “Joe.” At least we thought so. But, there is growing circumstantial evidence that Steele was acting on behalf of Britain’s version of the CIA–aka MI-6. If true, we are now faced with actual evidence of a foreign country trying to meddle in a direct and significant way in our national election. Only it was not the Russians. It was our British cousins.
Here are the key take aways from the Grassley/Graham memo:
- The FBI has since provided the Committee access to classified documents relevant to the FBI’s relationship with Mr. Steele and whether the FBI relied on his dossier work. . . .it appears that either Mr. Steele lied to the FBI or the British court, or that the classified documents reviewed by the Committee contain materially false statements.
- October 21, 2016, the FBI filed its first warrant application under FISA for Carter Page. . .The bulk of the application consists of allegations against Page that were disclosed to the FBI by Mr. Steele and are also outlined in the Steele dossier. The application appears to contain no additional information corroborating the dossier allegations against Mr. Page, although it does cite to a news article that appears to be sourced to Mr. Steele’s dossier as well.
- March 17, 2017–the Chairman and Ranking Member were provided copies of the two relevant FISA applications, which requested authority to conduct surveillance of Carter Page. Both relied heavily on Mr. Steele’s dossier claims, and both applications were granted by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC).
- December of 2017, the Chairman, Ranking Member, and Subcommittee Chairman Graham were allowed to review a total of four FISA applications relying on the dossier to seek surveillance of Mr. Carter Page, as well as numerous other FBI documents relating to Mr. Steele.
- When asked at the March 2017 briefing why the FBI relied on the dossier in the FISA applications absent meaningful corroboration–and in light of the highly political motives surrounding its creation–then Director Corney stated that the FBI included the dossier allegations about Carter Page in the FISA applications because Mr. Steele himself was considered reliable due to his past work with the Bureau.
- In short, it appears the FBI relied on admittedly uncorroborated information, funded by and obtained for Secretary Clinton’s presidential campaign, in order to conduct surveillance of an associate of the opposing presidential candidate. It did so based on Mr. Steele’s personal credibility and presumably having faith in his process of obtaining the information.
- . . . the FBI continued to cite to Mr. Steele’s past work as evidence of his reliability, and stated that ”the incident that led to the FBI suspending its relationship with [Mr. Steele] occurred after [Mr. Steele] provided” the FBI with the dossier infonnation described in the application. The FBI further asserted in footnote 19 that it did not ,believe that Steele directly gave information to Yahoo News that “published the September 23 News Article.”
The Grassley/Graham memo is devastating for Jim Comey. We can entertain only two possibilities–Jim Comey is a monumental dunce or he is a liar. One need only read the Michael Isikoff piece from 23 September 2016 to realize that Christopher Steele was a primary source for Isikoff. We are asked to believe that Comey is a naive, trusting soul bereft of curiosity, who refused to entertain the possibility that Steele was double dealing intel.
One of the most surprising revelations from the Grassley/Graham memo is in footnote 7. I’m surprised this was not redacted because it is drawn from a redacted/blacked out paragraph. Here is a critical bit of intel:
06 FEBRUARY 2018
Attack Pilot Major Roman Filipov (RuAF) has been posthumously awarded the “Hero of the Russian Federation” decoration. Filipov was shot down near Saraqib while flying a ground attack mission against jihadi fighters massing to counter-attack SAA spearheads west of Abu Duhur town. Filipov ejected from his aircraft and then fought it out with the jihadis on the ground until they gotthe better of him. IMO opinion he richly deserved the aw ard.
The Russian expeditionary force needs to improve its Search and Rescue service so that more Russian air crew are not left to die alone in enemy hands. US practice is such that a rescue package would have been standing by in the air with gunships and extraction birds waiting, waiting.
Saraqib is not in Turkish Armed Forces hands, but they clearly have men on the ground in the area and in liaison with the jihadis. In that context, the GRU (Russian military intelligence) or lower level Russian MI were able to obtain the cooperation of the Turks in recovering Major Filipov’s body. People who exist outside the world of soldiering and its military intelligence function do not generally understand the level of collegiality that exists in that world. That collegiality often extends across political boundaries and the momentary whims of politicians. was Erdogan consulted? Certainly, but the retrieval of Filipov’s body speaks of more than that. pl
05 FEBRUARY 2018
1. Nikki Haley is either completely gullible or is in thrall to some collection of Borgists at State. Someone remarked of a previous US Secretary of State that “if only he were still alive this would not happen.” Unfortunately he was still alive and in office. Much the same could be said of Rex Tillerson. Haley is now tub thumping for US air attacks on Syria. This a reprise of several previous US assertions of Syrian Arab Government (SAG) use of chemical weapons including the East Ghouta and Khan Sheikhoun fiascos. After Khan Sheikhoun the SAG invited US and UN investigations of the air base but somehow this was not accepted. Now James Mattis is asserting that the SAG is manufacturing chemical munitions although the US has no evidence of this as yet. I believe this is called “confirmation bias?”
2. As shown above , the SAA is committed to elimination of the East Idlib pocket. The jihadis are without re-supply and will progressively be running out of the means of resistance. This should not take too long and is actually a good idea before proceeding further into Idlib Province to the west. I believe I expressed an opinion as to the wisdom of such a move.
3. The SAA has begun shelling the Turkish strong point (observation post) at Al-Eis. The Turks have been attempting tricky cleverness by claiming that they are occupying the hill at Al–Eis un accord with a Russian/Iranian/Turkish de-escalation igreement. In fact IMO they are seeking to position themselves so as to impede SAG liberation of Idlib Province. pl
Do you want to know why the FBI continued to insist that the Nunes’ memo not be declassified and released to the public? The answer is right there on page 2, (see 1b) in the discussion about what was excluded from the application to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court:
The application does not mention Steele was ultimately working on behalf of-and paid by-the DNC and Clinton campaign, or that the FBI had separately authorized payment to Steele for the same information.
I believe that the part in bold is what the FBI wanted out of the memo because it exposes the uncomfortable fact that Christopher Steele was (and had been for some time) a paid asset of the FBI. That is huge news. In other words, Steele was not a mere consultant or sub-contractor for the FBI. He was being paid to provide information/intelligence to the FBI. There are two classes of FBI “informants.” One is serving as a “criminal informant” and the other is as an “intelligence asset.” Information from “criminal informants” can be used in a U.S. judicial proceeding and the informant called as a witness. Getting money under that circumstance can be problematic because the source’s credibility can be impeached by defense counsel, who can argue that the testimony is purloined.
You do not have to worry about that with an “intelligence asset.” In that case the priority is protecting the identity of the source. The fact that Steele had been on the FBI payroll for a while sheds new light on Glen Simpson’s testimony (which was leaked by Senator Feinstein) to the U.S. Senate. Simpson testified that Steele told him in late September 2016 that the FBI wanted to meet him in Rome to discuss the dossier. That struck me initially as quite odd. If Steele was just acting as an average “foreign” citizen who was trying to help the FBI then he could easily have met with the Bureau in London. That city hosts the largest number of FBI agents in the world outside of the U.S. But Steele was asked to go meet in Rome. That’s what you do when you are meeting an intelligence asset that the Brits do not know about.
That is the problem.
“When SpaceX was competing to fly cargo to the International Space Station, Musk mocked his rival’s rockets. Vying to launch spy satellites, SpaceX sued the US Air Force for a chance to bid on classified launches. Plotting a satellite internet constellation, he promised a network “an order of magnitude” more sophisticated than his competitors. Tomorrow (Feb. 6), his space company will attempt to launch the largest rocket in the world, the Falcon Heavy—and if successful, the rocket entrepreneur could find himself set for collision with a gigantic rocket NASA been building for more than a decade.
SpaceX’s goal since 2002 has been to develop the technology to make humanity a multi-planetary species. The Falcon Heavy is the first vehicle built by Musk’s company with the capability of taking a usefully large scientific robot—or even, in stages, a human exploration mission—beyond earth orbit, and to another astronomical body.” Qurtz
Tomorrow, Musk will try to put his red roadster into Mars orbit. “Up, up and away!” “Fly me to the moon!” Pick your tune. I had just arrived in Frankfurt in 1969 when the first moon landing occurred. I remember that the local newspaper had a headline the next day that read “Jetzt der mann in der mond ist ein Ami,” or something like that. pl
03 FEBRUARY 2018
Steele, Shvets, Levinson, Litvinenko and the ‘Billion Dollar Don.’
In the light of the suggestion in the Nunes memo that Steele was ‘a longtime FBI source’ it seems worth sketching out some background, which may also make it easier to see some possible reasons why he ‘was desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not being president.’
There is reason to suspect that some former and very likely current employees of the FBI have been colluding with elements in other American and British intelligence agencies, in particular the CIA and MI6, in support of an extremely ambitious foreign policy agenda for a very long time. It also seems clear that influential journalists, such as Glenn Simpson was before founding Fusion GPS, along with his wife Mary Jacoby, have been strongly involved in this.
This agenda has involved hopes for ‘régime change’ in Russia, whether as the result of an oligarchic coup, a popular revolt, or some combination of both. Also central have been hopes for a further ‘rollback’ of Russia influence in the post-Soviet space, both in areas now independent, such as Ukraine, and also ones still part of the Russian Federation, notably Chechnya.
And, crucially, it involved exploiting the retreat of Russian power from the Middle East for ‘régime change’ projects which it was hoped would provide a definitive solution to the – inherently intractable – security problems of a Jewish settler state in the area.
Important support for these strategies was provided by the ‘StratCom’ network centred around the late Boris Berezovsky, which clearly collaborated closely with MI6. As was apparent from the witness list at Sir Robert Owen’s Inquiry into the death of Alexander Litvinenko, which produced a report based essentially on a recycling of claims made by the network’s members, key players were on your side of the Atlantic – notably Alex Goldfarb, Yuri Shvets, and Yuri Felshtinsky.
The question of what links these had, or did not have, with elements in U.S. intelligence agencies is thus a critical one.
In making some sense of it, the fact that one key figure we know to have been involved in this network was missing at the Inquiry – the former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who disappeared on the Iranian island of Kish in March 2007 – is important.
Unfortunately, I only recently came across a book on Levinson published in 2016 by the ‘New York Times’ journalist Barry Meier, which is now hopefully winging its way across the Atlantic. From the accounts of the book I have seen, such as one by Jeff Stein in ‘Newsweek’, it seems likely that its author did not look at any of the evidence presented at Owen’s Inquiry.
“Amid ongoing offensive operations by the Syrian Arab Army and allied paramilitary groups against Islamist militias in the southern countryside of Aleppo province, elite troops have taken control of yet another town as they eye-out a possible advance towards the rebel stronghold of Al-Eis.
Military-affiliated sources report that forces of the Syrian Army’s Republican Guard have seized from armed rebel groups the town of Tal Mamu in the last hour after kicking-off another day off offensive operations in southern Idlib.” AMN
IMO the correct move by the Syrians just now is to turn right with their main forces and roll up the jihadis who are now facing east south of Aleppo City. This should collapse the whole jihadi force west of Khanassar and south of Aleppo City and lead to a rapid liberation of the province. Screening forces should be left to “cover” Saraqib and the left flank SE of Saraqib. I have looked at the hill at Al-Eis just north of the town of the same name and it does not seem to be a great obstacle. It can be heavily bombarded with preparatory aerial fires and then attacked from several directions by mobile forces.
The Turks are there? This would be a good opportunity to force them to back away. pl
Now that the Devin Nunes memo is out in the public—with no redactions—and a counter-memo by Adam Schiff is expected to be released within days, it is a good moment to step back and look at the bigger picture of what has gone wrong with our system and where we are headed as a country.
First, it has been clear, long before the Nunes memo flap, that a network operating within the U.S. law enforcement and intelligence community had it out for Donald Trump for reasons that had little or nothing to do with alleged Russian ties. Hardcore Obama-Clinton loyalists at the top of the FBI, the CIA, the ODNI and the DOJ abused their positions in a flagrant partisan effort to prevent Donald Trump’s election. After he won the presidency, they continued in their efforts to deny him the job, deluding themselves that they could forestall the inauguration by claiming that Trump’s victory was solely the result of Russian interference, and by extension, that Trump was a blackmailed dupe of Moscow and Putin.
Post-Nunes memo claims by the Borg media that it was the George Papadopoulos comments to an Australian diplomat that led to the FISA Court surveillance request—not the Steele MI6 memos—are flagrantly phony. The Steele memos were passed to the FBI, as well as to Fusion GPS from the outset. The references to Carter Page appeared in Steele memos months before the FISA Court applications, and before the alleged Peter Strzok probe of Page began in late July 2016 (Page’s name came up in the July 19, 2016 Steele memo and the allegations of Russian possession of damaging material on Hillary Clinton were in the first Steele memo, dated June 20, 2016).
It is one thing for people in government service to have political views and biases, it is another thing for those biases to infect the workings of our law enforcement and intelligence agencies. Likewise for the House Select Committee on Intelligence, which had been one of the last bastions of non-partisan work on Capitol Hill (the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence appears to have preserved some semblance of bipartisan collaboration). That above-politics commitment has been trashed and it may never be restored. And it began with Adam Schiff, who seems to have spent half his time on CNN and MSNBC since the Trump election.
While the entire Mueller probe may have been the result of the fruit of a poison tree (the salacious Steele allegations, which even the FBI admitted were never corroborated), I doubt that the Mueller probe will be shut down before completion. Mueller moved quickly to dismiss Strzok and Page once the amorous emails were turned over to him in July 2017 and somewhat insulated himself from their bile.
If there was credible evidence of Russian attempts to interfere in the 2016 elections—outside of the toxic claims in the Steele dossier—that is a fair subject for counterintelligence investigation. But it is becoming more and more clear that the inclusion of President Trump in the Mueller probe derived almost 100 percent from the Steele product. FBI Director James Comey read the documents and was reportedly so horrified that he threw himself fully into the scheme—along with Obama partisans John Brennan and James Clapper—to stop Donald Trump from taking office.
That, IMHO, is criminal. Comey, Brennan and Clapper are legitimate targets for Federal investigation. Only by getting to the bottom of the abuse of the awesome powers of the Federal law enforcement and intelligence services can we hope to ever restore credibility and non-partisanship, two hallmarks of a genuine republic.
02 FEBRUARY 2018
My first reaction to reading the much ballyhooed Nunes memo was to wonder why the DOJ and FBI fought so vociferously to prevent its release. It didn’t give a lot of what I would consider worthy of a TOP SECRET classification nor did it reveal any FBI transgressions a hundred times worse than Watergate as promised. What it did reveal is the fact that a FISA warrant was granted on 21 October 2016 targeting Carter Page and that it was subsequently renewed three times.
Typically the DOJ and FBI offer only a Glomar response (neither confirm nor deny) to any inquiry about FISA warrants. I believe this is why they fought the release of this memo. It sets the precedent that the Government acknowledges the issuance of a specific FISA warrant. This will have consequences beyond the Mueller investigation.
One consequence has already happened. Washington DC national security attorney Mark Zaid and his James Madison Project have had a long standing FOIA lawsuit in Federal Court seeking disclosure of any FISA warrants to spy on the Trump campaign. The consistent Government position has been a Glomar response. Earlier today Zaid put in a filing in this case taking into account the President’s unprecedented action to declassify the existence of this FISA warrant. The Court’s response was pretty damned quick. This was just tweeted. “Judge Mehta has just ordered DOJ to notify the court by February 14th whether the Nunes Memo requires the reversal of its Glomar Response. If DOJ says it does not, Judge Mehta wants an explanation from DOJ.”
So, we might all get to see the full, albeit redacted, FISA warrants including the Carter Page one. However, I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for those FISA warrants to appear anytime soon. Mark Zaid also got word today that his FOIA lawsuit to get the Comey memos was denied because releasing those memos could effect an open investigation… the Mueller investigation. Perhaps we’ll see all the warrants and memos once the investigation concludes… or is stopped in its tracks.
Unless Trump uses this Nunes memo in a “go for broke” effort to fire all the top DOJ and FBI folks and replace them with new folks who have pledged their personal loyalty to Trump, I don’t see this memo having a tremendous effect on the Mueller investigation. By the memo’s own admission the FBI investigation began in July 2016 with information surrounding Papadopoulis, probably from Australia.
Prior to this FBI investigation, an interagency working group was established in April 2016 from the FBI, CIA, NSA, DOJ, the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network and representatives of the DNI to begin an inquiry into the movement of Russian money into the US to pay hackers and influence the election. This action was taken based on info received from the Estonian IS concerning Trump associates meeting RIS operatives in Europe and a recording indicating the Russian government was planning to funnel funds aimed at influencing the US election. GCHQ became aware in late 2015 of suspicious “interactions” between figures connected to Trump and known or suspected Russia. This intelligence was passed to the US as part of a routine exchange of information. Germany, Poland and possibly the French DGSE also passed on SIGINT.
The existence of neither of these investigations was leaked to the press before the 2016 election. I would think the vast Borg conspiracy would have done this as a vital part of their soft coup. It would have been effective. Instead, they publicly announced the reopening of the Clinton email investigation a week before the election. Is that any way to run a secret society?
The Mueller investigation is not a Borg conspiracy or a leftist conspiracy or a witch hunt. It is a federal counterintelligence and criminal investigation. I have no doubt there have been and will be instances of investigatorial and prosecutorial arrogance, overreach and even errors when this is all over. Whether there will be serious indictments that will permanently hobble or even destroy the Trump presidency is unknown. He may come out of this exonerated and stronger than ever. Only a thorough investigation, with proper oversight, will tell.
Based on the memo released today by the House Intelligence Committee (read it here), current and former members of the FBI and the Department of Justice who signed off on applications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court will likely face contempt of court charges. Who? James Comey, Andy McCabe, Sally Yates, Dana Boente and Rob Rosenstein. The effectively lied to a Federal judge. That is not only stupid but illegal.
Here are the critical points from the Nunes memo that you should commit to memory.:
- The Steele Dossier played a critical role in obtaining approval from the FISA court to carry out surveillance of Carter Page according to former FBI Deputy Director Andy McCabe.
- Christopher Steele was getting paid by the DNC and the FBI for the same information.
- No one at either the FBI nor the DOJ disclosed to the court that the Steele dossier was paid for by an opposition political campaign.
- The first FISA warrant was obtained on 21 October 2016 based on a story written by Michael Isikoff for Yahoo News based on information he received directly from Christopher Steele–THE FBI DID NOT DISCLOSE IN THE FISA APPLICATION THAT STEELE WAS THE ORIGINAL SOURCE OF THE INFORMATION.
- Christopher Steele was a long standing FBI “source” but was terminated as a source after telling Mother Jones reporter David Corn that he had a relationship with the FBI.
- The FBI signers of the FISA applications/renewals were James Comey and Andy McCabe.
- The DOJ signers of the FISA applications/renewals were Sally Yates, Dana Boente and Rod Rosenstein
- Even after Steele was terminated by the FBI, he remained in contact with Deputy Attorney General Bruce Our, whose wife worked for FUSION GPS and was involved with the Steele dossier.
If you go back and read carefully what Isikoff reported in September 2016 it appears that the CIA and the DNI (as well as the FBI) are implicated in spreading the disinformation about Trump and Russia. Isikoff wrote:
By Robert Willmann
Here are the White House letter about the memorandum of 18 January 2018 from the U.S. House Intelligence Committee and the memo itself that were released today.
White House Counsel Donald McGahn II dances around the delicate and not entirely clear issue of exactly what the legal grounds are for making information classified and unclassified and who in the federal government can do it. He opts for a common idea in favor of the executive branch and mentions executive order 13526, which I noted in a comment the other day.
He and President Trump have made it easy for everyone by saying, “… the President has authorized the declassification of the Memorandum”.
The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) was established to promote greater accountability of the taxpayer’s dollars being spent in Afghanistan. That they are saying the military is keeping information from the public that would illustrate the resurgence of Taliban (and other) insurgent elements deserves attention. Afghanistan’s fate will not be determined by the US / West.
A new report released on Monday states the US military is keeping information from the public that gauges the war in Afghanistan and gains made by insurgents.
The US Defense Department has restricted data on population figures and on what areas are held by either government or insurgents, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) said in a report released on Tuesday.
“The number of districts controlled or influenced by the Afghan government had been one of the last remaining publicly available indicators for members of Congress … and for the American public of how the 16-year-long US effort to secure Afghanistan is faring,” John Sopko, the special inspector general, said in the report.
This however is the first time that SIGAR has been instructed not to release unclassified information in one of its quarterly reports, Sopko said, adding that the information will instead be included in an annex unavailable to the public.
The report stated that SIGAR was not given any justification for the new restrictions.
The SIGAR report stated that the “worrisome development” follows an increase of insurgent control or influence in Afghanistan.
As such, the non-disclosure of information was of particular concern, SIGAR reported.
It also comes after several other measures for gauging the development and strength of Afghanistan’s security forces were blocked or restricted in the fall. Among them were casualty and attrition rates.
Click here for full report https://www.sigar.mil/pdf/quarterlyreports/2018-01-30qr.pdf#page=60
01 FEBRUARY 2018
A super-moon for a super speech by the new leader of a great country that doesn’t have a tin-pot dictator and an out of control secret police running the place. Here in this storied land when electing our new leaders we citizens know we’re Stronger Together. And our true leaders look stunning in white.
Yes, stronger together. Like when we have record employment for our most downtrodden citizens. That joyous news will make every politician stand and cheer.
Well, you must understand that sometimes our politicians have worked so hard to help their fellow citizens that the best they can do is Stand Sit to honor their fellow citizens because they know whose lives really matter.
Now some foreign readers might have heard that there is some kind of a scandal involving the most recent election of our great leader. Rest assured that here in this fabeled land of milk and honey and truth and justice there’s only one way to discover the truth. A fair and impartial investigation. Like we have here:
“FBI investigators in the Anthony Weiner sexting probe knew for weeks about the existence of newly discovered emails potentially related to the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s private email…”
IMO the SAA and friends are well past the culminating point of their drive into Idlib Province and vulnerable to a major reverse if things do not continue to go well, but fortune often favors the brave … A reverse could take the form of a counter-attack against the now very long “roots” (supply lines) of the spearheads fighting NW of Abu Duhur especially in the context of protracted fighting at rapidly stiffening defenses around the crossroads at Saraqib when SAA reaches that location.
But, pilgrims, fortune DOES favor the brave and a crushing defeat of HTS and collapse of jihadi resistance in the province could be accomplished if:
1. The SAA advances to Saraqib and then engages just sufficiently to fix the defending jihadi forces in position.
2. The SAA does not immediately divert scarce forces to the relief of the two besieged Shia villages just north of Idlib City. These places will be uncovered and will fall to government forces of their own weight if the major effort in Idlib Province is successful.
3. The main effort should now be made by a Tiger Force led column that wheels to the right to roll up jihadi forces from south to the north as they currently face government forces to the south of Aleppo City. This movement would turn jihadi forces out of their positions and enable a general government advance into Idlib Province from existing positions in Aleppo Province south of Aleppo City. pl
31 JANUARY 2018
Why is Donald Trump winning? It is not because he has some a warm, charming personality. Nope. He understands the 21st Century media reality. That also explains why the Democrats and so many pundits who opine on politics are getting things wrong. The Dems and their pundit lackeys are living with a 1970s view of the media. They do not understand that ship has sailed.
Look first at the numbers of viewers for last night’s State of the Union speech. This tells part of the story:
That’s a total of 40,300,000 viewers. Sounds like a lot. But when you consider the fact that the population in America is approaching 330 million, that’s only 12 percent of the population.
Let’s take this to the level of who watches news. There is the assumption among those who turn on FOX or CNN or MSNBC that these outlets are influential in helping set policy and inform political opinion. That may have been true 30 years ago, but it is no longer the case.
Consider these facts.
30 JANUARY 2018
By Robert Willmann
On Monday, 29 January 2018, the U.S. House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence met for a business meeting and voted on five agenda items or motions concerning classified executive session memoranda. This is the tantalizing matter of conduct by one or more executive branch agencies of surveillance, perhaps of president-elect Donald Trump, campaign members, and others. Also said to possibly be involved is the secret federal court created by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), and maybe even the bawdy paper pushed during the presidential campaign by “former” (or current?) British MI6 agent Christopher Steele about Donald Trump and Russia. Here are the agenda items and the votes on each one by committee members–
The big one was item number four, which passed, and authorized the disclosure of one classified executive session memo.
Of equal interest is the fact that the U.S. Congress can declassify and make public a document or item that was deemed secret and not to be disclosed. Buried in the 45 pages of fine print in the Rules of the House of Representatives is the language that is claimed to authorize the disclosure. Rule 10 governs the organization of committees. Section or clause 11 of Rule 10 deals with the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. The good stuff describing the authority and procedure is on pdf pages 19 and 20 (document pages 15 and 16) of the rules, in parts 11(f) and 11(g). You start near the bottom of the middle column with part “f” on pdf page 19 and go through part/clause 11(g)(2)(G) in the first column on pdf page 20–
That Congress can decide what is classified secret and what is not, and can authorize disclosure, is self-evident from Article 1, section 1 of the U.S. Constitution: “All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives”. However, the House rules are not legislation. I have not yet tried to find a law passed by Congress that creates this unilateral power to declassify material, but I assume that it does exist, or it certainly should.
The members of the House intelligence committee are listed here–
One little item of interest is that committee member Will Hurd (Repub. Texas, 23rd District) is a former CIA officer. His Congressional district includes part of the San Antonio area. According to the committee document cited above with the motions that were voted on, he participated in all of the votes except number four, the one that starts the process to try to disclose the memo to the public. He did not vote “present”, so he may have ducked out of the room for that one. If he has a philosophical objection to disclosing material previously designated as classified, he may not be put on the spot as the deciding vote to disclose if the whole House has to vote on that question. If the Republicans have a surplus in their majority in the House, he might either not vote at all or make a symbolic “no” vote.
If the underlying material for the memo was submitted by the “executive branch” and the executive branch requests that it be kept secret, the committee notifies the president that the vote to disclose was made.