In Her Majesty’s Disservice

My focus this week is on the “wiretapping” (electronic interception of communications, if you insist) of President Trump and his associates during the campaign. It seems to me this story is rapidly unfolding -- if only mostly in overseas press and online -- and promises to be far more explosive than the Watergate story, an account that says frightening things about our intelligence agencies and those of some of our allies, most particularly Great Britain. It has become increasingly clear to me that there was widespread wiretapping of President Trump and his associates and that the underlying justification was pretextual -- it was actually intended to spy on a political opponent. And it is equally clear that the nonsensical post-election tale that Russia colluded with Trump so that he could beat Hillary Clinton was a coverup tale to justify the unmasking and leaking of some of the information -- particularly about General Flynn -- which has taken place. The prior administration was so confident Hillary would win that they left their tracks uncovered and afterward were desperate to hide the truth so they projected and whispered the Russians were colluding with Trump.

Carter Page and the FISA Order

The Washington Post reported that the FBI and the Department of Justice (read Loretta Lynch and James Comey) got the FISA order for the purpose of monitoring a campaign foreign policy adviser to Trump, Carter Page, who had earlier worked in Moscow for Merrill Lynch and had invested (but sold his stock) in Gazprom, the large Russian energy outfit. It is unclear where the Post obtained this information, as the FISA request and order are still secret.

In any event -- and I assume this was an inside leak (probably by someone on the staff of Congressman Adam Schiff, ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee) to justify Lynch and Comey’s action -- there was no basis for the order. The nub of the charge -- which likely originated in the now-discredited “dossier” by ex-British intelligence officer Christopher Steele (originally hired by Hillary Clinton) was that Page had met with Igor Sechin, a Putin confidant. Both Page and Sechin’s company deny such a meeting ever took place. (This echoes an earlier charge in the dossier that a Trump attorney met in Prague with a Russian aide, which has been credibly debunked.) Page also had some minor contact with Russian “diplomat” Victor Podobny, to whom he provided on request “basic immaterial information and publicly available research documents.” Page has asked to be allowed to testify before the investigating committee.

Catherine Herridge on FOX interviewed him:

Page: I have nothing that I want to hide, and the more that the truth comes out the better, because there has just been so much lies, and now potentially false evidence, which is the next step beyond lies, when it is potentially used in a Court of Law, so that will be very interesting to see how this all plays out. 

The opposition research firm that engaged Steele to compile the  ”Dossier” (Fusion GPS) is refusing to answer questions posed by the Senate Judiciary Committee, inexplicably claiming, attorney-client privilege.

Linking anyone however remotely connected with Trump was key to the wiretapping as a correspondent with knowledge of such things reports:

The key part is where they apparently claim that Page "was an agent of the Russian government and knowingly engaged in clandestine intelligence activities on behalf of Moscow"

I can easily imagine that the incident where he was asked for some open source material would be characterized in the application as "responds to tasking requirement from known FSB agent" or something like that. Almost any act could be interpreted in that fashion. Page's eagerness to testify strongly suggests that he thinks he has nothing to hide.

The thing is, of course, that the Russian, as the representative of a foreign power that is placed in the highest category of threat to National Security, would have already been subject to a Full Investigation and all his communications with the rest of the world would have been subject to collection -- including communications with Donald Trump. Thus there wouldn't normally be any need to collect Page's communications with Russians because they were already being collected from the other end. Problem: I doubt that the Russian ever communicated with Trump, and if political intel on Trump was your true goal then collecting communications with the Russian and Page wasn't good enough. You'd need to have a full [full investigation]and do FISA collection from some American who was in touch with Trump or Trump's circle. Thus the need to identity some American as "an agent... " Not to belabor the obvious, but being contacted by a Russki and asked for open source material isn't evidence of someone being an agent of a foreign power -- it's evidence of the foreign power's interest in recruiting that person. Two very different things. And it simply doesn't approach predication for a FISA order. It's predication for a Preliminary Inquiry (under which you can't even apply for a FISA) to check further on the nature of the relationship, but it won't get you a Full Investigation, which you need for a FISA. Unless they had some much better info -- which, as Hinderaker [Powerline blog cited below] says, probably woulda been leaked by now -- there was some serious fudging going on."

[Snip]

But of course, these people all worked for Obama, so there's a big red flag there.

In any event, if the FISA court could be (and likely was) hoodwinked into allowing Page’s communications to be captured and monitored, the government could collect all his communications with everyone without limit.

My friend Harry Lewis reminds us of the consequences of using a pretext to obtain a FISA order to invade the privacy American citizens:

The technical term for pretextual collection of intelligence by deliberately misidentifying the target to fool the FISA court -- which seems to have happened here-- is "reverse collection". I'm thinking perjury on the misleading affidavit to the court, and also by Lynch, who had to sign every application. Maybe obstruction of justice if there's a coverup. Rice hasn't yet been questioned under oath, so that will be her big chance to perjure herself or to take the Fifth.

Evidence of Other Western Intelligence Agencies Corroboration in the Snooping on Trump

John Hinderaker of Powerline, whose work my correspondent referred to above, notes that there was a cabal of Western intelligence agencies working with Obama to spy on Trump.

The Guardian adds to our knowledge of how the Obama administration and its allies overseas tried to discredit Donald Trump. (For purposes of this post, I assume that everything the Guardian says is true, even though it is based on anonymous sources who are pursuing their personal and political interests.)

Britain’s spy agencies played a crucial role in alerting their counterparts in Washington to contacts between members of Donald Trump’s campaign team and Russian intelligence operatives, the Guardian has been told.

GCHQ first became aware in late 2015 of suspicious “interactions” between figures connected to Trump and known or suspected Russian agents, a source close to UK intelligence said. This intelligence was passed to the US as part of a routine exchange of information, they added.

Over the next six months, until summer 2016, a number of western agencies shared further information on contacts between Trump’s inner circle and Russians, sources said.

The European countries that passed on electronic intelligence -- known as sigint -- included Germany, Estonia and Poland. Australia, a member of the “Five Eyes” spying alliance that also includes the US, UK, Canada and New Zealand, also relayed material, one source said.

Another source suggested the Dutch and the French spy agency, the General Directorate for External Security or DGSE, were contributors.

So just about every Western intelligence service was collaborating with the Obama administration in trying to elect Hillary Clinton. Yet, amazingly enough, they failed.

The blindingly obvious point that the Guardian tries to obscure is that the combined assets of all of these agencies failed to find any evidence of collaboration between the Trump campaign and Russia. We know this, because the Democrats have pulled out all the stops. Both before the election, and especially after the election, they have leaked furiously to try to discredit President Trump. If there were any evidence of collusion between Trump (or even obscure, minor “advisers” like Carter Page) and Russia, there would have been nothing else in the Washington Post or the New York Times for the past five months. But they have nothing.

As Hinderaker also notes, the cabal thought there’d be no consequences for this dirty game because having read the Washington Post and New York Times, they were sure Hillary was going to win and they’d be rewarded for their treachery.

It’s also true, as Snowden revealed in 2013, that the British Government Communications Head Quarters (GCHQ) had been partly funded by the U.S. NSA to the tune of over 100 million British pounds. So they had even more incentive to play ball with Obama. Three days after Trump’s inauguration the head of that outfit unexpectedly resigned for “personal reasons.”

There’s every reason to believe that the head of NSA Mike Rogers did not participate in this scam and eight days after the election met with Trump, doubtless to apprise him of the skullduggery that had occurred. On that same date, then-defense secretary Ashton Carter and then-director of national Intelligence James R. Clapper, Jr. recommended Trump fire Rogers. Trump got rid of them instead, accepting their resignations.

FISA’s not the only way the Spying May Have Occurred

The great reporter Sharyl Attkisson, herself a victim of Obama’s spying operation, notes he had at his disposal other tools for spying on his opponents. (Given his history of winning by snooping, I can’t believe he didn’t use them all.)

Besides the FISA court, “wiretapping” or electronic surveillance can also be done under Title III authority. The government used this authority, for example, in the Justice Department’s secret Fast and Furious “gunwalking” case. Additionally, U.S. presidents have the power to issue secret presidential directives that can authorize otherwise illegal acts (theoretically in the country’s best interests). These directives may come with pre-planned cover stories to be used in the event the operation is exposed, and they come with indemnity for those involved, giving them permission to lie about the operation or their involvement without fear of prosecution.

The public will rarely know about such presidential directives since most who see them must sign agreements that promise nondisclosure and consent to polygraphs. [snip] There are “back-door” ways to collect and report on a target without Title III or FISA court authority. If it’s for political purposes or blackmail, this may consist of “inventing” an excuse to surveil the target. If the work of targeting an individual cannot be accomplished by government intel officers, it can be contracted out to third parties or to foreign parties who aren’t bound by U.S. law. Incidental collection of a U.S. citizen target may be “orchestrated” for political reasons by those who have tools and tradecraft available to them because of their positions of power. There are ways to do it with no fingerprints.

For example:

1. Locate a foreign target already under CIA surveillance.

2. Have a government agent use the foreign target’s phone and/or computer to make it look like the foreigner contacted the U.S. citizen whose communications are sought. The contacts can be benign, but they establish a record that falsely implies a relationship exists between the U.S. citizen and the foreign target.

3. The government agent can also mimic a communication back from the U.S. citizen to the foreign target, creating an appearance that the U.S. citizen initiated contacts. This could be favorable to justifying a warrant on the U.S. citizen later.

4. The U.S. citizen is now tied to the foreign entity and is now an “incidental” collection target that can be surveilled in a “masked” format. Although “masked,” the surveilling agency knows the U.S. citizen’s identity.

5. If the U.S. citizen does anything that can be construed as illegal or suspicious, it’s possible the intel agency can then receive approval to surveil him directly rather than only “incidentally.”

Possibly inappropriate requests to “unmask” names of U.S. citizens captured during surveillance of a foreign target may be preceded by a chain of communications intended to provide a pretense or cover story to justify the unmasking.

Do you see a pattern here? I do.

The Russian Role 

In his well-considered post linked above, John Hinderaker offers the most likely explanation for the hacking of Debbie Wasserman-Schultz’s email account and sending it to Wikileaks -- if that is how Wikileaks got it and Assange denies they were the source -- it was not to help Trump win; it was to bedevil her after Hillary won.

Rich Lowry writes in the NY Post that Obama’s record of bowing to Russian interests provides circumstantial evidence that he was the real Russian stooge. There’s no reason to believe that his long-time Secretary of State would have proven less so than he was.

There’s every reason to believe that Trump, on the other hand, will not be. There’s also every reason for the heads of the Western allies whose intelligence agencies cooperated in the electronic eavesdropping of Trump and his associates to come clean and apologize, and for those in the U.S. who orchestrated this to suffer fully the legal consequences of unlawful acts.

My focus this week is on the “wiretapping” (electronic interception of communications, if you insist) of President Trump and his associates during the campaign. It seems to me this story is rapidly unfolding -- if only mostly in overseas press and online -- and promises to be far more explosive than the Watergate story, an account that says frightening things about our intelligence agencies and those of some of our allies, most particularly Great Britain. It has become increasingly clear to me that there was widespread wiretapping of President Trump and his associates and that the underlying justification was pretextual -- it was actually intended to spy on a political opponent. And it is equally clear that the nonsensical post-election tale that Russia colluded with Trump so that he could beat Hillary Clinton was a coverup tale to justify the unmasking and leaking of some of the information -- particularly about General Flynn -- which has taken place. The prior administration was so confident Hillary would win that they left their tracks uncovered and afterward were desperate to hide the truth so they projected and whispered the Russians were colluding with Trump.

Carter Page and the FISA Order

The Washington Post reported that the FBI and the Department of Justice (read Loretta Lynch and James Comey) got the FISA order for the purpose of monitoring a campaign foreign policy adviser to Trump, Carter Page, who had earlier worked in Moscow for Merrill Lynch and had invested (but sold his stock) in Gazprom, the large Russian energy outfit. It is unclear where the Post obtained this information, as the FISA request and order are still secret.

In any event -- and I assume this was an inside leak (probably by someone on the staff of Congressman Adam Schiff, ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee) to justify Lynch and Comey’s action -- there was no basis for the order. The nub of the charge -- which likely originated in the now-discredited “dossier” by ex-British intelligence officer Christopher Steele (originally hired by Hillary Clinton) was that Page had met with Igor Sechin, a Putin confidant. Both Page and Sechin’s company deny such a meeting ever took place. (This echoes an earlier charge in the dossier that a Trump attorney met in Prague with a Russian aide, which has been credibly debunked.) Page also had some minor contact with Russian “diplomat” Victor Podobny, to whom he provided on request “basic immaterial information and publicly available research documents.” Page has asked to be allowed to testify before the investigating committee.

Catherine Herridge on FOX interviewed him:

Page: I have nothing that I want to hide, and the more that the truth comes out the better, because there has just been so much lies, and now potentially false evidence, which is the next step beyond lies, when it is potentially used in a Court of Law, so that will be very interesting to see how this all plays out. 

The opposition research firm that engaged Steele to compile the  ”Dossier” (Fusion GPS) is refusing to answer questions posed by the Senate Judiciary Committee, inexplicably claiming, attorney-client privilege.

Linking anyone however remotely connected with Trump was key to the wiretapping as a correspondent with knowledge of such things reports:

The key part is where they apparently claim that Page "was an agent of the Russian government and knowingly engaged in clandestine intelligence activities on behalf of Moscow"

I can easily imagine that the incident where he was asked for some open source material would be characterized in the application as "responds to tasking requirement from known FSB agent" or something like that. Almost any act could be interpreted in that fashion. Page's eagerness to testify strongly suggests that he thinks he has nothing to hide.

The thing is, of course, that the Russian, as the representative of a foreign power that is placed in the highest category of threat to National Security, would have already been subject to a Full Investigation and all his communications with the rest of the world would have been subject to collection -- including communications with Donald Trump. Thus there wouldn't normally be any need to collect Page's communications with Russians because they were already being collected from the other end. Problem: I doubt that the Russian ever communicated with Trump, and if political intel on Trump was your true goal then collecting communications with the Russian and Page wasn't good enough. You'd need to have a full [full investigation]and do FISA collection from some American who was in touch with Trump or Trump's circle. Thus the need to identity some American as "an agent... " Not to belabor the obvious, but being contacted by a Russki and asked for open source material isn't evidence of someone being an agent of a foreign power -- it's evidence of the foreign power's interest in recruiting that person. Two very different things. And it simply doesn't approach predication for a FISA order. It's predication for a Preliminary Inquiry (under which you can't even apply for a FISA) to check further on the nature of the relationship, but it won't get you a Full Investigation, which you need for a FISA. Unless they had some much better info -- which, as Hinderaker [Powerline blog cited below] says, probably woulda been leaked by now -- there was some serious fudging going on."

[Snip]

But of course, these people all worked for Obama, so there's a big red flag there.

In any event, if the FISA court could be (and likely was) hoodwinked into allowing Page’s communications to be captured and monitored, the government could collect all his communications with everyone without limit.

My friend Harry Lewis reminds us of the consequences of using a pretext to obtain a FISA order to invade the privacy American citizens:

The technical term for pretextual collection of intelligence by deliberately misidentifying the target to fool the FISA court -- which seems to have happened here-- is "reverse collection". I'm thinking perjury on the misleading affidavit to the court, and also by Lynch, who had to sign every application. Maybe obstruction of justice if there's a coverup. Rice hasn't yet been questioned under oath, so that will be her big chance to perjure herself or to take the Fifth.

Evidence of Other Western Intelligence Agencies Corroboration in the Snooping on Trump

John Hinderaker of Powerline, whose work my correspondent referred to above, notes that there was a cabal of Western intelligence agencies working with Obama to spy on Trump.

The Guardian adds to our knowledge of how the Obama administration and its allies overseas tried to discredit Donald Trump. (For purposes of this post, I assume that everything the Guardian says is true, even though it is based on anonymous sources who are pursuing their personal and political interests.)

Britain’s spy agencies played a crucial role in alerting their counterparts in Washington to contacts between members of Donald Trump’s campaign team and Russian intelligence operatives, the Guardian has been told.

GCHQ first became aware in late 2015 of suspicious “interactions” between figures connected to Trump and known or suspected Russian agents, a source close to UK intelligence said. This intelligence was passed to the US as part of a routine exchange of information, they added.

Over the next six months, until summer 2016, a number of western agencies shared further information on contacts between Trump’s inner circle and Russians, sources said.

The European countries that passed on electronic intelligence -- known as sigint -- included Germany, Estonia and Poland. Australia, a member of the “Five Eyes” spying alliance that also includes the US, UK, Canada and New Zealand, also relayed material, one source said.

Another source suggested the Dutch and the French spy agency, the General Directorate for External Security or DGSE, were contributors.

So just about every Western intelligence service was collaborating with the Obama administration in trying to elect Hillary Clinton. Yet, amazingly enough, they failed.

The blindingly obvious point that the Guardian tries to obscure is that the combined assets of all of these agencies failed to find any evidence of collaboration between the Trump campaign and Russia. We know this, because the Democrats have pulled out all the stops. Both before the election, and especially after the election, they have leaked furiously to try to discredit President Trump. If there were any evidence of collusion between Trump (or even obscure, minor “advisers” like Carter Page) and Russia, there would have been nothing else in the Washington Post or the New York Times for the past five months. But they have nothing.

As Hinderaker also notes, the cabal thought there’d be no consequences for this dirty game because having read the Washington Post and New York Times, they were sure Hillary was going to win and they’d be rewarded for their treachery.

It’s also true, as Snowden revealed in 2013, that the British Government Communications Head Quarters (GCHQ) had been partly funded by the U.S. NSA to the tune of over 100 million British pounds. So they had even more incentive to play ball with Obama. Three days after Trump’s inauguration the head of that outfit unexpectedly resigned for “personal reasons.”

There’s every reason to believe that the head of NSA Mike Rogers did not participate in this scam and eight days after the election met with Trump, doubtless to apprise him of the skullduggery that had occurred. On that same date, then-defense secretary Ashton Carter and then-director of national Intelligence James R. Clapper, Jr. recommended Trump fire Rogers. Trump got rid of them instead, accepting their resignations.

FISA’s not the only way the Spying May Have Occurred

The great reporter Sharyl Attkisson, herself a victim of Obama’s spying operation, notes he had at his disposal other tools for spying on his opponents. (Given his history of winning by snooping, I can’t believe he didn’t use them all.)

Besides the FISA court, “wiretapping” or electronic surveillance can also be done under Title III authority. The government used this authority, for example, in the Justice Department’s secret Fast and Furious “gunwalking” case. Additionally, U.S. presidents have the power to issue secret presidential directives that can authorize otherwise illegal acts (theoretically in the country’s best interests). These directives may come with pre-planned cover stories to be used in the event the operation is exposed, and they come with indemnity for those involved, giving them permission to lie about the operation or their involvement without fear of prosecution.

The public will rarely know about such presidential directives since most who see them must sign agreements that promise nondisclosure and consent to polygraphs. [snip] There are “back-door” ways to collect and report on a target without Title III or FISA court authority. If it’s for political purposes or blackmail, this may consist of “inventing” an excuse to surveil the target. If the work of targeting an individual cannot be accomplished by government intel officers, it can be contracted out to third parties or to foreign parties who aren’t bound by U.S. law. Incidental collection of a U.S. citizen target may be “orchestrated” for political reasons by those who have tools and tradecraft available to them because of their positions of power. There are ways to do it with no fingerprints.

For example:

1. Locate a foreign target already under CIA surveillance.

2. Have a government agent use the foreign target’s phone and/or computer to make it look like the foreigner contacted the U.S. citizen whose communications are sought. The contacts can be benign, but they establish a record that falsely implies a relationship exists between the U.S. citizen and the foreign target.

3. The government agent can also mimic a communication back from the U.S. citizen to the foreign target, creating an appearance that the U.S. citizen initiated contacts. This could be favorable to justifying a warrant on the U.S. citizen later.

4. The U.S. citizen is now tied to the foreign entity and is now an “incidental” collection target that can be surveilled in a “masked” format. Although “masked,” the surveilling agency knows the U.S. citizen’s identity.

5. If the U.S. citizen does anything that can be construed as illegal or suspicious, it’s possible the intel agency can then receive approval to surveil him directly rather than only “incidentally.”

Possibly inappropriate requests to “unmask” names of U.S. citizens captured during surveillance of a foreign target may be preceded by a chain of communications intended to provide a pretense or cover story to justify the unmasking.

Do you see a pattern here? I do.

The Russian Role 

In his well-considered post linked above, John Hinderaker offers the most likely explanation for the hacking of Debbie Wasserman-Schultz’s email account and sending it to Wikileaks -- if that is how Wikileaks got it and Assange denies they were the source -- it was not to help Trump win; it was to bedevil her after Hillary won.

Rich Lowry writes in the NY Post that Obama’s record of bowing to Russian interests provides circumstantial evidence that he was the real Russian stooge. There’s no reason to believe that his long-time Secretary of State would have proven less so than he was.

There’s every reason to believe that Trump, on the other hand, will not be. There’s also every reason for the heads of the Western allies whose intelligence agencies cooperated in the electronic eavesdropping of Trump and his associates to come clean and apologize, and for those in the U.S. who orchestrated this to suffer fully the legal consequences of unlawful acts.

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