Is The Deep State Feeling The Heat?
Bad as it may have been, the worst of the Russia Hoax was not the abuse of the FISA electronic surveillance regime for political purposes. Nor is the worst even the patent involvement of our intelligence agencies -- and in particular the FBI and CIA -- in electoral politics. No, the worst aspect of the Russia Hoax is that our intelligence agencies, including elements of DoJ and the State Department cooperating with the Clinton campaign, enlisted the intelligence services of foreign powers -- first in their effort to defeat the candidacy of Donald Trump and, when that effort failed, turning their efforts to what can only be described as an attempted coup against the elected President of the United States.
Shockingly, these later stages of the Russia Hoax have included members of the Legislative Branch who, in the face of clear evidence that the true collusion with foreign powers was that of the Clinton campaign, have worked to delay and to ultimately obstruct Congressional oversight and investigation of the entire Russia Hoax.
So, faced with this determined stonewalling of Congressional oversight by DoJ and the FBI, the President played what has always been his trump card: he ordered the declassification of most of the documents that are central to the Russia Hoax. Led by DAG Rosenstein, the forces of the Deep State were able to delay the release of the documents, but President Trump made it clear that he favors declassification -- and sooner, rather than later.
Three weeks later, an uneasy stalemate persists. DoJ and Team Mueller have claimed that release of the documents would constitute "obstruction" -- a patently bogus claim, but Trump has extracted the resignation of Jeff Sessions and his replacement with Matthew Whitaker as the Acting AG, who also replaces Rosenstein as the supervisor of Team Mueller. The anti-Trump forces are currently attempting to stymie Trump's latest move with attacks on the Whitaker appointment, while declassification hangs fire. And Democrats, newly empowered by their capture of the House, are threatening to tie Trump up with investigations of his finances, on the pretext of the Russia Hoax.
Nevertheless, there is evidence that the Deep State forces of both the US and the UK are feeling Trump's pressure. The Daily Telegraph, in a surprisingly little remarked-upon article, informed the world that MI6 is battling Donald Trump to stop him from releasing documents linked to the "Russia probe."
The article itself is an interesting mix of special pleading and disinformation, clearly reflecting the views and interests of the British and US Deep State. Perhaps it's a measure of Deep State alarm at the threat of declassification that the article coyly offers a glimpse of what we all know to be true--that the British were deeply involved in the Russia Hoax almost from the start--while attempting to maintain deniability with transparent euphemisms. For example, we read that:
The UK is warning that the US president would undermine intelligence gathering if he releases pages of an FBI application to wiretap one of his former campaign advisers.
However Trump allies are fighting back, demanding transparency and asking why Britain would oppose the move unless it had something to hide.
Yes, well, that's a very good question, isn't it? Exactly why are the British concerned about the release of an FBI application for FISA coverage against a US citizen? What could possibly be the British angle concerning such a purely US matter? Unless ... the British really do have something to hide. And who would they be hiding it from? Everyone who's anyone already has a very good idea of what could be revealed. The only people being kept in the dark are the British and American public.
And this goes on throughout the article. The Telegraph, we are told, has spoken to "more than a dozen" officials, "including in American intelligence." And those officials tell us, through the Telegraph, that the British spy chiefs have "genuine concern" that Trump could expose "sources" if he releases the FISA application. "Sources"? As in super-secret technical capabilities? No. Sources as in "It boils down to the exposure of people," as a "US intelligence official" helpfully explained.
But if release of the documents would expose sources, i.e., "people," doesn't that mean there are people to be exposed? And why do the British care about this American concern -- unless those "people" are connected to MI6?
The fact of the matter is, we really know who those people are already. Alexander Downer, Joseph Mifsud, Stefan Halper, and the others agents who were flocking around Carter Page and George Papadoulos -- buying them drinks, offering them various opportunities to make money or pad their resumes. Oh, and chatting them up about Russia and "dirt on Hillary." None of which amounted to a hill of beans.
But, the "more than a dozen" US and UK officials want to tell us what it's really all about.
The row is about an FBI request to wiretap Carter Page, a former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser, which was made in October 2016 - the month before the US election.
The FBI said it had suspicions Mr Page was being targeted for recruitment by the Russian government and cited classified intelligence to make its case.
This is pure disinformation. Anyone who has bothered to read FISA -- specifically 50 U.S. Code § 1801(b)(2) -- will know beyond any shadow of a doubt that being targeted for recruitment by Russia is not justification for a FISA warrant on a US Person. Period. The FBI is required to cite facts to show, not that Russians are targeting an American, but that the American is himself engaged in clandestine intelligence activity that involves a violation of criminal laws. As for the "classified intelligence" that the FBI cited to "make its case," it could be either the product of electronic surveillance or it could be information from human sources. But we've already been assured that "It boils down to the exposure of people," so that means human sources.
We've read the "dossier," the narrative invented by Christopher Steele, formerly (?) of MI6, with assists from Nellie Ohr and Glenn Simpson -- contractors for the Hillary Clinton campaign. We've also read about the various other human sources in public source accounts: Mifsud, Halper, Downer, and the rest. We've been assured by no less knowledgeable an official than Andrew McCabe that the dossier -- although admittedly unverified and, seemingly, unverifiable -- was "crucial" to obtaining the FISA warrant. So what's going on here? Are we really supposed to believe that there are human sources we haven't yet heard about, sources whose information apparently wasn't "crucial," because that distinction goes to Steele's "dossier", but whose identities must not be revealed?
MI6 Headquarters, London (photo by Adrian Pingstone)
I'm not buying that. It seems clear to me that all sources of any importance have already been named in public sources. The "genuine concern" of the intelligence services, both US and UK, is that those sources should not be connected to the intelligence services in official documents. Or as the dozen or more officials might put it: "It boils down to deniability." As long as the names of the sources aren't revealed in official documents, their complicity can be denied. And as long as that can be denied then the entire Russia Hoax and subsequent -- and continuing -- attempted coup can be denied as connected to the official acts of our intelligence agencies.
At this point, the Telegraph's narrative shifts gears. Having previously admitted that the UK intelligence services have a "genuine concern" about Trump revealing sources, the Telegraph reverts to the discredited story that the British -- all innocent and uninvolved as they were -- have been "dragged into a heated and partisan battle in Washington DC over the origins of the Russian investigation." We are to believe that President Trump's
...allies and former advisers are raising questions about the UK’s role in the start of the probe, given many of the key figures and meetings were located in Britain.
Pure coincidence that so much of this happened in Britain, right? Or maybe not, since we know from the Strzok/Page texts that as far back as December, 2015, Strzok was asking Lisa Page whether approval had been obtained for the FBI to engage in "OCONUS lures," overseas undercover approaches to targeted individuals. And, as the Telegraph admits, all this took place in London. Small wonder that Trump's "allies and former advisers are raising questions about the UK’s role in the start of the probe" on that basis!
The Telegraph attempts to sidestep this obvious problem for their narrative by pinning it all on the machinations of rascally Republicans seeking to "protect" President Trump from the presumed truth and, to make matters worse, by raising inconvenient questions they're jeopardizing relations with an ally -- how terrible!
Republicans are attempting to protect the US president by suggesting the Russia investigation, which continues to this day, was invalid from the start.
By suggesting the investigation was created by shadowy intelligence figures who wanted to thwart Mr Trump’s candidacy from the start, Republicans are making it easier for the eventual findings to be waved away.
However a result of the attack line is that Britain’s spy agencies are being included in claims of “deep state” opposition to Mr Trump. It risks inflaming UK-US tensions at a time when Britain wants to deepen ties with America as it leaves the European Union.
Well, exactly whose fault is that? Perhaps next time the UK is tempted to meddle in a US election they'll give more thought to all the possible consequences. If the UK is the party that needs deeper ties to the US, maybe such meddling would be best avoided -- even at the risk of irritating the Clinton organization. Moreover, one wonders how much thought has been given to inflaming tensions between the US and Russia -- at a time when Trump has been seeking Russian cooperation against geopolitical rivals such as China?
And now, to make matters worse, George Papadopoulos is, belatedly, having very public second thoughts about what was almost surely a very ill advised plea deal:
Mr Papadopoulos, a former Trump campaign adviser sentenced to 14 days in prison for lying about his conversations with Russian-linked figures, has begun publicly pointing a finger of blame at Britain.
Mr Papadopoulos told The Telegraph: “The British Government has a lot of explaining to do. It’s in their interest to be transparent. Why was the British intelligence apparatus weaponised against Trump and his advisers?”
Other Trump allies are pushing similar claims. One former top White House adviser to Mr Trump made similar insinuations, telling this newspaper: “You know the Brits are up to their neck."
The source added on the Page wiretap application: “I think that stuff is going to implicate MI5 and MI6 in a bunch of activities they don't want to be implicated in, along with FBI, counter-terrorism and the CIA."
The Telegraph tries to minimize the implications of all this, citing "One former UK official" who warns that these issues should be treated "with suspicion" because they "originate from right-wing internet forums" and lack "hard evidence." To which the very obvious response is that this is simply more of the Deep State trying to have their cake and eat it too. "Hard evidence" may be lacking? Of course it is! That's exactly the point of the massive effort to conceal the full FISA application -- because that would provide hard, black and white, evidence from official documents. Heads we win, tails you lose, says the Deep State -- you don't have "hard evidence" because we won't allow it to be revealed.
In my view this article, sourced to multiple Deep State operatives in both the US and the UK, signals that declassification remains the ultimate Trump card. The Telegraph, in attempting to influence public perceptions of the Russia Hoax, has also signaled that the Deep State is genuinely concerned. Trump's declassification order is tantamount to a dagger pointed at the heart of the Deep State. Transparency threatens a public, even a populist, revolt against the machinations of largely unaccountable Deep State operatives and their allies in both the Legislative Branch as well as in Executive Departments and Agencies that have usually been exempt from scrutiny. Accountability is the enemy!
Mark Wauck is a retired FBI agent who blogs on religion, philosophy, and FISA at meaning in history. In his previous life he devoted more than two decades to Counterintelligence matters.