Kerry: US taping Moscow calls to Ukraine spies

Secretary of State John Kerry was recorded saying that US intelligence agencies have been taping telephone calls from Moscow to their spies in Eastern Ukraine, proving that Russia is trying to destablize the region and that Vladimir Putin is lying about it.

Kerry made the remarks at a meeting of the highly secretive Trilateral Commisssion.

Josh Rogin and Eli Lake, writing in the Daily Beast:

“Intel is producing taped conversations of intelligence operatives taking their orders from Moscow and everybody can tell the difference in the accents, in the idioms, in the language. We know exactly who’s giving those orders, we know where they are coming from,” Kerry said at a private meeting of the Trilateral Commission in Washington. A recording of Kerry’s remarks was obtained by The Daily Beast.

Kerry didn’t name specific Russian officials implicated in the recordings. But he claimed that the intercepts provided proof of the Russians deliberately fomenting unrest in eastern Ukraine—and lying about it to U.S. officials and the public.

“It’s not an accident that you have some of the same people identified who were in Crimea and in Georgia and who are now in east Ukraine,” said Kerry. “This is insulting to everybody’s intelligence, let alone to our notions about how we ought to be behaving in the 21st century. It’s thuggism, it’s rogue state-ism. It’s the worst order of behavior.”

Representatives for the State Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence did not respond to requests for comment.

Kerry has asserted publicly before that Russian intelligence officers were the “catalyst” behind the riots and government building takeovers in eastern Ukraine. But on Friday he told the private audience why he—and the U.S. intelligence community—were so sure of this assessment. 

If U.S. intelligence agencies have intercepted proof of Russia’s destabilization operations, as Kerry claims, it means that the code-breakers and eavesdroppers in the National Security Agency and the broader American armed forces have overcome Russian efforts to hide their military communications. In March, the Wall Street Journal reported that U.S. agencies were surprised that it had not collected any telltale signs of the Crimea stealth invasion at the end of February, suggesting the Russians had managed to give such orders without the United States knowing about it.  

Josh Rogin apparently taped Kerry's remarks, after managing to bypass the Commission's security. The chairman of the Commission offered Kerry an apology - especially since the damaging remarks about Israel becoming an "apartheid state" were leaked from the same meeting:

Secretary of State John Kerry's private remarks to a meeting of influential world leaders last week were allegedly taped by a reporter from The Daily Beast, a fact that led to a personal apology from Trilateral Commission chairman Joseph S. Nye on Monday.

In a letter to Sec. Kerry, obtained by POLITICO, Nye expressed "my deep apology and dismay that a reporter form The Daily Beast, Josh Rogin, somehow sneaked into the meeting room in which you were speaking to the Commission this past Friday."

"He was not invited," Nye wrote. "Althought how Mr. Rogin slipped past both Commission staff and Diplomatic Security is unclear to me, we have confirmed that he indeed was present and apparently recorded the session."

Politicians, diplomats and prominent media figures who attended Friday's meeting of the Trilateral Commission in Washington had agreed, as they do every year, not to record or report on speakers' remarks without permission. Rogin, who was not invited to the event, was not bound by this agreement.

Within minutes of Kerry's remarks on Friday, Rogin posted an exclusive to The Daily Beast in which he reported that Kerry had "warned that [a] new round of American financial assaults on Russia were on the way."

On Sunday, Rogin posted another exclusive headlined, "Kerry Warns Israel Could Become ‘An Apartheid State’." The report earned Sec. Kerry fierce criticism from Jewish organizations such as AIPAC, which called the remarks "offensive and inapropriate," and the Anti-Defamation League, which called them "incendiary."

In the first article, Rogin attributed his knowledge of Sec. Kerry's remarks to "an attendee." In the second article, he attributed them to "a recording... obtained by The Daily Beast." Rogin did not mention his presence at the event in either article.

Jen Psaki, the chief State Department spokesperson, declined to comment.

Reached by phone, Rogin told POLITICO, "I don't comment on my sourcing. I didn't break any rules or agreements in the reporting of this article."

I don't suppose it's much of a secret that we're able to intercept communications between Russia and its spies in the Ukraine. Still, I question Kerry telling private citizens of the Trilateral Commission. Of course, Kerry believed the information wouldn't leave the room, but the information is classified and shouldn't have been disseminated anyway.

At any rate. the intelligence certainly buttresses the case against Putin who, once again, has been caught lying about Russian actions in Ukraine.


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