Trump’s Foreign Policy Philosophy Hard to Pin Down

Trump’s Foreign Policy Philosophy Hard to Pin Down

Masood Farivar, Voice of America

Is President-elect Donald Trump a foreign policy realist or idealist? Is he bringing Richard Nixon’s hard-edged realpolitik to his foreign policy or following in the footsteps of the more idealistic Ronald Reagan?

The question has become a parlor game among Washington's policy pundits.

Trump’s frequent invocation of Reagan’s “peace through strength” mantra and campaign pledge to rebuild America’s “depleted” military has invited comparisons to the Republican icon credited with winning the Cold War.

His advocacy of a foreign policy based on America’s national interests has led some to liken it to Nixonian realism, while his aversion to foreign interventions has won him the label of a non-interventionist and even isolationist.

Don’t Fence Trump In​

Trump has professed no great power doctrine and his advisers discourage applying labels to his vision of the world.

“I’m not going to be put into the little academic, graduate school box because I think it doesn’t suit, and it doesn’t apply in a rapidly changing world,” said K.T. McFarland, Trump’s incoming deputy national security adviser, when asked to describe the Trump doctrine.

While Trump’s call for “peace through strength” reflects Reagan’s view of deterrence, “there are parts of Nixon and (Henry) Kissinger that Donald Trump has also advocated,” McFarland said at the U.S. Institute of Peace, alluding to Trump’s interest-based approach to world affairs.

Trump’s Speeches

A foreign policy neophyte, Trump has shied away from declaring any grand foreign strategy during the campaign, though he did give two major speeches devoted to foreign policy and national security.

In the first speech, delivered at the realist-leaning Center for the National Interest in Washington in April, Trump outlined what he called a “coherent foreign policy based on American interests” and called for “getting out of nation building,” creating stability and quashing “radical Islam.”

“Containing the spread of radical Islam must be a major foreign policy goal of the United States and indeed the world,” Trump said. “Events may require the use of military force, but it’s also a philosophical struggle, like our long struggle in the Cold War.”

In the second speech, at Youngstown University in Ohio in August, Trump ratcheted up his rhetoric about terror, warning countries around the world that they’d be judged based on their commitment to the U.S. goal of fighting terrorism.

“All actions should be oriented around this goal, and any country which shares this goal will be our ally,” Trump told a rally of supporters.

‘Strategic Surprise’

It was a theme that Trump would repeat, in one iteration or another, throughout the campaign, but his advisers say Trump’s pre- and post-election pronouncements on foreign policy, often delivered off the cuff, should not be read as policy prescriptions.

“Actually, he didn’t say a lot about foreign policy and national security on the campaign trail, and what he did say really doesn’t add up to a policy,” said James Carafano, director of foreign policy at the conservative Heritage Foundation who advises the Trump transition team on foreign affairs. “That’s very frustrating because the people want to know what’s this guy going to do.”

With the new administration yet to take office, McFarland, too, cautioned that Trump’s foreign policy is in an early stage of development.

“That’s what a new administration does: It takes time to rethink things and to come up with policies,” she said.

If history is any guide, Trump could quickly find himself facing a set of foreign policy crises different from the issues he campaigned on. Political scientists have a term for an unexpected world event that drives a new president into uncharted territory: “strategic surprise.”

For former President George W. Bush, who campaigned on pursuing a “humble foreign policy,” the strategic surprise came September 11, 2001.

For President Barack Obama, who vowed to end the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the “Arab Spring” protests in North Africa and the Middle East marked a strategic surprise, leaving his administration more deeply mired in the region than he’d hoped.

What international crisis might alter the trajectory of the Trump administration’s foreign policy agenda has become a guessing game, with the number of scenarios exceeded only by the variety of foreign policy labels attributed to Trump.

A game-changing terrorist attack on American interests is one possible candidate. Another contender: an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) launch by North Korea.

“I think the world is not necessarily going to allow President Trump to do everything he’s planned on,” said Blaise Misztal, director of the national security program at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington. “I think you’re going to see a triangulation between what he’s said, what he’s advised to do, and what is actually feasible on the world stage.”

Flip Flopping on Issues

While Trump has flip flopped on some issues, NATO and torturing terrorists, for example, he’s held steady on others. Among them: terrorism, trade, China and Russia.

In the weeks since his election, he’s reiterated his pledge to make terrorism a focus of his foreign policy, talked tough on trade, challenged the “One China” policy, and iterated again a desire to reset relations with Russia even as he embraced intelligence findings that Moscow interfered in last year’s presidential election.

Brian Katulis of Center for American Progress, a liberal Washington think tank, said the “most radical shift” Trump will likely undertake will be “engagement and involvement” with Russia, something Obama unsuccessfully attempted during his first term in office.

But former CIA director Michael Hayden said Trump is likely to reconsider his approach to Russia once he learns from intelligence agencies and allies that Russia and Syria are not committed to fighting IS.

“I’m personally very, very skeptical of any convergence between American and Russian interests in this part of the world,” Hayden said. “In fact, I’d offer the view that American and Russian interests are actually heading in different directions.”

Another major change: downplaying a postwar American foreign policy tradition of promoting democracy and freedom around the world.

“Trump has signaled as a candidate and in the transition a proclivity to appreciate authoritarian and repressive leaders around the world,” Katulis said. “And this may be the biggest departure that is historic, that there really won’t be as much of a values-based approach that focuses on human rights democracy and freedom in other countries. And that I think puts the United States itself on shaky territory.”

But McFarland played down those concerns, saying “the three bedrocks of (postwar) American foreign policy” — American leadership, American values and international alliances — will remain under the Trump administration.

Unpredictability

There is usually some continuity between administrations on foreign policy, but “that rule actually may not apply under Trump,” Katulis said.

“We’re dealing with something here that is just fundamentally different and off the charts,” Katulis explained.

That 'something' is Trump’s well-known unpredictability. Trump has criticized President Obama for telegraphing his policy moves and has vowed to remain unpredictable. But experts say unpredictability can be dangerous in the international arena where both allies and adversaries expect a certain degree of predictability from the United States.

"Predictability is the cornerstone of deterrence," said Clarke. "You need to be predictable if you’re the United states, both in what your allies know you’ll do and in what your adversaries know you’ll do and how you’ll respond."

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How is it possible that the Trump WH...Pence and Trump as well did not know Flynn was a paid "foreign agent for Turkey" WHEN social media and a few MSM was constantly pointing this out during the campaign and afterwards and that he was in federal violation for not registering as such....WHICH we now know since he finally registered in order to avoid prosecution...

SO who is exactly now lying in the WH?...Trump and or Pence OR actually both now....

Trump has actually been asked a number of questions around this and did not answer them...

So now what?

Reference the Bloomberg article on US troops in Manbij in SWJ....

Sometimes one has to wonder just where US MSM is these days.....

I have been posting well over a year now on the Syrian thread and first blasted Obama for his apparent non understanding of his Kurdish proxy YPG/SDF which is just a fig leaf covering the US named terror group PKK a communist insurgency fighting Turkey for over 40 years.

If you also read the Syrian thread you will see this particular event unfolding several weeks ago complete with battle reports..photos and videos...

Right now under the Trump WH US SOF and USAF are directly supporting the following groups....

1. Russian troops and providing CAS for Russian and Assad mercenary troops

2. Hezbollah....an Iranian supported and US named terror group fighting also Israel

3. Iraqi Shia militia KH or Iraqi Hezbollah...a US named terror group that killed Americans in Iraq

4. SDF...the US so called Arab Kurdish proxy....which fights under YPG the Kurdish fig leaf for the US named terror group PKK a Kurdish communist group fighting Turkey for over the last 40 years...

5. IRGC troops from a number of their units

6. Assad troops...a dictator using ethnic cleansing, genocide and starvation to cleanse Sunni's...

While the article alludes to possible clashes..they have been ongoing since over a week now and the US SOF is being caught in the middle of the fighting which will not stop as the Turkish supported Syrian opposition views Russia...Iranian troops and Shia militias as their true enemies as they are in fact occupying Syria...

Turkey also feels basically lied to my both Russia and especially the US who told them multiple times the US would push SDF/YGB out of Manbij which they view rightly as being Arab not Kurdish....

WHY Trump wants to do joint ops against a NATO partner is truly strange for a US President....

Maybe Bloomberg would be well advised to get involved and report far more on this topic as it is going to get bad in the coming days and weeks...AND US SOF lives are at stake....

Institutional experiment ongoing in US.

How long will gov function with the WH incapacitated and Congress-GOP reduced to rubber stamping?

Meanwhile Roger Stone who was at 19 part of the Nixon dirty tricks group and who was sentenced for those activities.....

Meanwhile, Roger Stone gives an interview to notorious Kremlin bullhorn RT, complains of Trump Tower "break-ins," says Comey should be fired

Stone continues to lie even to the largest Russian propaganda outlet Russia Today....

Roger Stone tells RT that the DOJ has to get the President's permission before obtaining a FISA warrant.

He has absolutely no understanding of the FISA process...BUT the Russians eat it up.....

Fmr MI6 agent who authored the TrumpRussia dossier returns to work. Senate testimony likely next...
http://occupydemocrats.com/2017/03/08/british-spy-wrote-trump-blackmail-dossier-just-reappeared/ 

It's now 5 days after Trump's accusation about Obama alleged crimes and not ONE WORD of proof has been offered.

WHY does DoD state this and not DoS and or the Trump WH??????

US military accuses Russia of deploying land-based cruise missile in violation of Cold War-era nuclear arms treaty.
https://www.stripes.com/us-general-says-russia-has-deployed-banned-missile-1.457570#.WMAzXPkrJEY 

AGAIN Trump is silent when it comes to Russia and Putin's violations of INF....

SO now WHO in the Trump empire...Trump WH and even Trump himself has blatantly lied to the US public in front of running cameras that there ae no Russian connections?????

AND the WikiLeaks GRU/FSB CIA leak was not supporting Trump personally????

Trump campaign quietly OK'd Carter Page's July 2016 Moscow trip, former adviser tells @kenvogel @JoshMeyerDC

REMEMBER the following:
You know, the visit where Page's speech was so pro-Putin that a video of it got top billing at an SVR-run website.

http://www.politico.com/story/2017/03/carter-page-russia-trip-trump-core...

QUOTE
Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski approved foreign policy adviser Carter Page’s now-infamous trip to Moscow last summer on the condition that he would not be an official representative of the campaign, according to a former campaign adviser.
A few weeks before he traveled to Moscow to give a July 7 speech, Page asked J.D. Gordon, his supervisor on the campaign’s National Security Advisory Committee, for permission to make the trip, and Gordon strongly advised against it, Gordon, a retired naval officer, told POLITICO.

Page then emailed Lewandowski and spokeswoman Hope Hicks asking for formal approval, and was told by Lewandowski that he could make the trip, but not as an official representative of the campaign, the former campaign adviser said. The adviser spoke on the condition of anonymity because he has not been authorized to discuss internal campaign matters.
The trip is now a focus of congressional and FBI investigations into Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election.
Lewandowski told POLITICO he did not recall the email exchange with Page, but he did not deny that it occurred.
“Is it possible that he emailed me asking if he could go to Russia as a private citizen?” Lewandowski said Tuesday. “I don’t remember that, but I probably got 1,000 emails a day at that time, and I can’t remember every single one that I was sent. And I wouldn’t necessarily remember if I had a one-word response to him saying he could do something as a private citizen.”
Hicks declined to comment. But a former campaign official said campaign officials did not discuss Page’s planned trip before he left for Moscow.
“No one discussed the trip within the campaign and certainly not with candidate Trump directly,” said the former campaign official.
The official pointed to a July statement from Hicks that declared that Page was in Moscow in a private capacity and was not representing the campaign. That statement came in response to media reports from Moscow about Page’s presence there.
Both Lewandowski and the White House official cast Page as a minor character on the periphery of the campaign, who was a foreign policy adviser in name only.
“I’ve never met or spoken to Carter Page in my life,” Lewandowski said.
Gordon and Page had no comment on whether the Trump campaign officially sanctioned the trip, which has drawn the attention of investigators from the FBI and congressional committees investigating possible Trump campaign ties with Russian officials before the election.
And while Page has repeatedly denied wrongdoing in connection with his Moscow visit, it is now drawing increased scrutiny as a result of new disclosures about his contact two weeks later with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. Just days after Kislyak talked to Page, Gordon and a third campaign official, WikiLeaks disseminated thousands of emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee’s servers — a hack that U.S. intelligence later attributed to the Russian government.
No connection between any of those three events has been alleged publicly or confirmed. But on Tuesday, Page confirmed that he is one of about a dozen individuals and organizations contacted by the Senate Intelligence Committee and asked to preserve relevant materials for its investigation into Russian President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to meddle in the 2016 presidential election.
“I will do everything in my power to reasonably ensure that all information concerning my activities related to Russia last year is preserved,” Page said in a letter to committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and ranking member Mark Warner (D-Va.).
In his letter, Page again denied any wrongdoing and repeated his claims that former officials of Hillary Clinton’s campaign and other Democrats have been spreading false information about the trip and Page’s other connections to Russia.
Page’s trip to Moscow has been the subject of intense speculation for months, but many of the details remain cloudy.
A longtime oil and energy industry consultant, Page had already spent considerable time in Russia before making the trip, most recently as founder and managing partner of the Global Energy Capital investment and consulting firm, which specializes in Russian and Central Asian oil and gas business.
The firm’s website says Page has been involved in more than $25 billion of transactions in the energy and power sector and that he spent three years in Moscow, where he was an adviser on key transactions for Russian state-owned gas company Gazprom and other energy-related companies.
Page has insisted that he was in Moscow to give a commencement address at the New Economic School there based on his scholarly research, and that his visit was “outside of my informal, unpaid role” on the Trump campaign. He also said he had divested any stake in Gazprom and that he had “not met this year [2016] with any sanctioned official in Russia despite the fact that there are no restrictions on U.S. persons speaking with such individuals.”
But last September, top congressional lawmakers were briefed on suspected efforts by Russia to meddle in the election. Soon after, then-Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada asked FBI Director James Comey to investigate meetings between a Trump official, later identified as Page, and “high ranking sanctioned individuals” in Moscow that he believed were evidence of “significant and disturbing ties” between the Trump campaign and Moscow.
Trump campaign officials took steps to distance themselves from Page, who had been publicly identified as an adviser as recently as Aug. 24. He announced Sept. 26 that he was taking a leave of absence from the campaign, saying the accusations were untrue but causing too much of a “distraction.”
But even after Russia was linked to the hacking effort against Democrats, the Trump campaign did not seek to question Page about his trip, the campaign adviser said.
Asked what Page did while in Moscow, the adviser said, “I have no idea. I didn’t want to know.”
The adviser also said he was not aware of anyone else on the campaign who discussed the trip with Page, either to glean any foreign policy insight from him or to determine whether any damage control was needed based on his contacts.
“Nobody talked about it. It was such an ugly topic. Even when I saw him at the convention, I didn’t talk to him about it,” the adviser said, adding that some in the campaign had expressed concern that any public appearances in Moscow by Page would send a bad message.
The campaign fired Lewandowski on June 20, before Page took the trip. Paul Manafort, who replaced Lewandowski as manager and later became chairman, said he had no knowledge of any aspect of Page’s trip, including whether Lewandowski or anyone else approved it.
In recent days, Page’s contact with Russians resurfaced with news reports that he, Gordon and senior Trump campaign adviser Sen. Jeff Sessions all engaged in discussions with Kislyak at an event on the sidelines of the GOP convention.
Page has declined to comment on what they discussed, saying it was private, while Gordon characterized the conversations as harmless efforts to improve U.S.-Russia ties.
The former campaign adviser on Tuesday said Page and the ambassador had a lengthy discussion and that they were at times joined by Gordon and two other ambassadors from the region. The adviser did not know whether Page or Kislyak initiated the conversation.

Russian trolls attempting to reinforce the ultra right wing in the US and their "Deep State" conspiracy myth and to support Trump in deflecting all media from Trump and his Russian connections...

Kremlin bots instantly pounced on WikiLeaks dump, pushing false narrative that CIA framed Russia for hacking the DNC
http://thebea.st/2neCyPG

WikiLeaks' CIA dump came with a huge dezinformatsiya campaign that seemed poised and ready to exploit it.

“That narrative emerged far too quickly to have been organic...That usually speaks to some sort of automation or coordination.”

AND what do we hear from Trump and his WH in defending the CIA from Russian hackers...

REMEMBER this is the same President who did not believe Russian hacked the US....

Donald Tusk

@eucopresident
Some good news: EU is now growing faster than US & for the 1st time since 2008 all 28 EU economies are growing

Remember Bannon...Miller..and Trump's trade expert all bash EU...and the Euro...

China grants Trump 38 trademarks, reopening debate about conflicts of interest
http://wapo.st/2mj0j9P?tid=ss_tw 

So was the core reason behind the sudden Trump swing to a one China policy and away from his China campaign rhetoric .....

How the CIA forgot the art of spycraft (while Russia was honing it), by @alexzfinley.
http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/03/cis-art-spying-espionage-...

 Number of tweets by @realDonaldTrump lambasting the unprecedented, hugely damaging @CIA vault leak,

deftly used by Russia:

0. Zero. Null. Nada. Nicht

Other security analyst types are saying the same thing..this Russian/WikiLeaks data dump is an disinformation attack to weaken the CIA and to provide flanking support to the Trump WH to provide support to the crazy conspiracy myth found on many right wing blogsites of the "Deep State" attack on Trump....

This important smoke-and-mirrors warning about the dubious timing of the #Wikileaks story from @tomsguide , a tech review site:

http://www.tomsguide.com/us/wikileaks-cia-hack-impact,news-24622.html?ut...?

It is just not the Trump WH who has connections to Russia....so does a major Trump supporter....

Welcome to Russia, Sheriff Clarke and the NRA!

https://www.facebook.com/PravoNaOruzie/photos/a.316742795064592.73003.298253383580200/989323151139883/?type=3&theater 

IMPORTANT..another Trump Russian connection via a main Trump supporter....

This is a bombshell.
Kudos to @timkmak for excellent investigative reporting.

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2017/03/07/top-trump-ally-met-with-putin-s-deputy-in-moscow.html 

German headline from today in one of the most read MSM outlets Bild.....

ARTIKEL @BILD mit @vduemer

Kooperation mit #Putin?
#Trump lässt US-Armee in Nordsyrien auffahren

http://www.bild.de/politik/ausland/donald-trump/trump-syrien-50737874.bild.html 

Basically states that Trump has now placed US SOF in large numbers into the Manbij area WORKING officially together with Russian AF and ground troops and the US Kurdish group SDF that Turkey a NATO member claims is just part and parcel of a US fig leaf covering the US named terror group PKK which has also received weapons from the US....

In early DEC 2016 CENTCOM claimed they have not been providing small arms to the YPG BUT photos from yesterday depict a totally different view of that statement.....

Trump has now placed US SOF and USAF in the position of openly supporting THREE US named terror groups...Hezbollah...Iraqi Shia militia KH and the Kurdish communist group PKK....

BUT WAIT...I though Trump was fighting ALL Muslim terrorists...even Kurdish PKK is in fact Muslim as is Iraqi KH and Hezbollah....

BREAKING
@CJTFOIR-backed #MMC claims destruction of #EuphratesShield tank near Bughaz, west of #Manbij.
So much for the "de-escalation".

Better video of the attack.
Vehicle clearly hit.
Strike by #SDF/#MMC according to the logo presented in the video.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QmYbOWaSJOQ#

Reread again.
It stated "claims tank" and "vehicle hit".

NOW US supported troops are actually firing on Turkish troops...

BUT Trump does not I believe fully understand the following about Russian interests in NOT fighting IS....which is evident from their none bombing campaign of IS vs say FSA...

Kremlin might be not interested in fighting ISIS because it could lead to new terrorism outbreak in Chechnya

http://intersectionproject.eu/article/security/chechnyas-dilemma 

MORE from the crazy "Deep State conspiracy front" of the ultra right in the US....

Your daily reminder that Julian Assange's work is heavily supported by neo-Nazis.

From a Richard Spicer tweet yesterday..he is a major neo Nazi speaker in the US and his Russian wife was the translator for the Russian ultra right ideologue Dugin before coming to the US...

Julian Assange is a hero of world historical importance. He is bringing down an empire!

AND the Trump WH silence.....

Remember, Assange, like Putin, sees Russia as a "bulwark against Western imperialism" + blames Clinton for his problems

In 1987 I was asked by a German security service agency to ask the US government nicely if they could provide assistance to them in tracking a number of bank transfers coming out of the US and heading to the German neo Nazi party NPD and other ultra right groups...

Amount being transferred totaled 12M USDs.....

US answer was no...bank privacy....

NOW jump forward to 2017 and suddenly we see the same exact process of money flowing into EU to support ultra right wing political groups...

Appears that if you are a Muslim the Trump WH takes immediate action BUT if you are an ultra right winger Trump WH looks deliberately the other way....

New York times from today...

Dutch Fear Russian Meddling, and U.S. Cash, in Election
By DANNY HAKIM and CHRISTOPHER F. SCHUETZE
American conservative activists are supporting Europe’s far-right figures like Geert Wilders, who are campaigning against the European Union.

After the first and second Muslim Ban EO Trump failure he decided to get on with his other campaign promise....do away with Obamacare....

Well that is not going well either it seems....

Donald J. Trump‏
Verified account
 
@realDonaldTrump
I feel sure that my friend @RandPaul will come along with the new and great health care program because he knows Obamacare is a disaster!

BUT WAIT.....APPEARS Trump is having a minor problem....NOTICE he has repeatedly stated he was going to release his own very version of a new healthcare plan that would cover all and everything that ACA did but cheaper.

BUT WAIT...he released nothing and then jumped on the House version BECAUSE he had no plan now he is on the losing side it seems THUS his tweet....

From Washington Post today.....

Backlash grows over House GOP’s proposal to replace Obamacare
The health-care legislation drew widespread resistance from conservatives in and out of Congress, moderates in the Senate and key industry stakeholders, casting doubt on the plan’s chances just one day after it was released.

By Mike DeBonis, Robert Costa and David Weigel

Debrief: The debate over the Affordable Care Act is really a debate over wealth redistribution

BET Trump never thought governing could be so hard....BUT WAIT...did he not convince his voters he was this great businessman capable of anything he put his mind to....well.....????

Appears that Trump and his merry band cannot multi task anything more than one problem at a time...

While he has largely failed on the internal policy front he has totally forgotten about external FP.....

1. NK has gone to hell in a handbag and not a single word from Trump and his DoS Tillerson

2. massive Russian attacks are still occurring on Ukrainian UAF positions in clear violation of Minsk 2 and Trump WH warnings....

3. Trump rails against Obama for the Russian INF and illegal missile problem BUT he himself does absolutely nothing nor says a single word nor does DoS Tillerson...

4. his foreign trade expert who really is not one rails against Germany...the Euro...ECB...and the EU in general

5. Chinese are signaling a tougher stand against the US over HK and the Trump WH and DoS Tillerson say what....nothing...

6. Russia continues state sponsored hacking and disinformation attacks against EU and NATO....AND not a single comment out of SecDef Mattis...DoS Tillerson and Trump....

7. Trump has not said a single word nor has his WH concerning the sudden US/Russian joint military operations inside Syria...

8. Trump has not said a single word about the sudden US military support for US named terror groups in Syria...Hezbollah...Iraq Shia militia KH and the Kurdish PKK that hides behind the fig leaf of YPG.....

This is suppose to be this great businessman able to handle anything not able to handle a single problem...except he can definitely tweet....

Notice something about this social media comment....??

Putin's #Ukraine invasion explained in 2 tweets. Russian troll & US mercenary celebrate Russian Serbian mercenary killing #Ukrainian soldier.

No comments from the Trump WH about the increased Russian attacks AND will this American mercenary fighting for what Ukraine sees as a terrorist group WILL he be arrested and charged with war crimes by the US government....probably not because he is not a Muslim...BUT white....as he has definitely proven his allegiance to a foreign power..that is enough to pull his passport...

EVER notice that this Trump WH has been incessantly bashing MSM about their own leaks and leakers YEY strangely totally silent about the WikiLeaks of the CIA data dump....

WHY is that????

From Washington Post today....

Trump loved WikiLeaks as a candidate. But as president, he is not a fan of leaks.

Trump and his aides have railed against leakers, threatening to find and prosecute them and urging congressional allies to investigate, while being uncharacteristically quiet when it comes to WikiLeaks.

It took the FBI stating they will now hunt for the leaker along with CIA....

BUT from the Trump WH total and utter silence...

Hypocrisy hard at work it seems...

REMEMBER that is was strangely Trump who openly and publicly called for the DNC hackers (Russians) to publish the 33,000 Clinton emails...

THEN it was the Trump surrogates who clamored for WikiLeaks to dump more Podesta hacked emails....

EVEN the Trump surrogates are also strangely silent when a US Intel Agency is hacked....

REFERENCE the WikiLeaks CIA data dump from yesterday...I worked my way through the dump together with my IT collection and research team and several things stand massively out.

1. THIS is a WL and Russian FSB/GRU disinformation operation...a large number of sentences and statements in the dump are blatantly false and or simply "fake"....

2. THIS is being used to provide flanking cover for the Trump WH team and is an attempt to deflect from the ongoing Russian connection scandal that Trump is flailing around with.

3. THIS is a Russian FSB/GRU attempt to drive the US right wing media sites and conspiracy crazies that truly believe the idea of there actually being a "Deep State" being driven by Obama and the US IC..THUS supporting directly the Trump anti Obama twitter rant from this last weekend...

AGAIN a Russian attempt to support Trump and company against US MSM...

3. THIS is an attempt by the Russian FSB/SVR/GRU to create difficulties for the CIA world wide and we have seen the effect here this morning in Germany reference to alleged CIA hacking of TVs?

When one fully understands the mission of the CIA a lot of these "WL's claimed massive hacking tools" fail that statement BUT are tools that one can use if one's mission set is espionage....

Comments from another security company who also took the time to analyze the Wikileaks data dump....which came to virtually the same conclusion as we did...

Comments reference the WL CIA data dump from yesterday attempting to tie CIA to the Russian DNC hack and support the Trump and company thesis of being attacked by the "Deep State"....

Tuesday, March 07, 2017
Some comments on the Wikileaks CIA/#vault7 leak

I thought I'd write up some notes about the Wikileaks CIA "#vault7" leak. This post will be updated frequently over the next 24 hours.

The CIA didn't remotely hack a TV. The docs are clear that they can update the software running on the TV using a USB drive. There's no evidence of them doing so remotely over the Internet. If you aren't afraid of the CIA breaking in an installing a listening device, then you should't be afraid of the CIA installing listening software.

The CIA didn't defeat Signal/WhattsApp encryption. The CIA has some exploits for Android/iPhone. If they can get on your phone, then of course they can record audio and screenshots. Technically, this bypasses/defeats encryption -- but such phrases used by Wikileaks arehighly misleading, since nothing related to Signal/WhatsApp is happening. What's happening is the CIA is bypassing/defeating the phone. Sometimes. If they've got an exploit for it, or can trick you into installing their software.

There's no overlap or turf war with the NSA. The NSA does "signals intelligence", so they hack radios and remotely across the Internet. The CIA does "humans intelligence", so they hack locally, with a human. The sort of thing they do is bribe, blackmail, or bedazzle some human "asset" (like a technician in a nuclear plant) to stick a USB drive into a slot. All the various military, law enforcement, and intelligence agencies have hacking groups to help them do their own missions.

The CIA isn't more advanced than the NSA. Most of this dump is child's play, simply malware/trojans cobbled together from bits found on the Internet. Sometimes they buy more advanced stuff from contractors, or get stuff shared from the NSA. Technologically, they are far#behind the NSA in sophistication and technical expertise.

The CIA isn't hoarding 0days. For one thing, few 0days were mentioned at all. The CIA's techniques rely upon straightforward hacking, not super secret 0day hacking Second of all, they aren't keeping 0days back in a vault somewhere -- if they have 0days, they are using them.

The VEP process is nonsense.#Activists keep mentioning the "vulnerability equities process", in which all those interested in 0days within the government has a say in what happens to them, with the eventual goal that they be disclosed to vendors. The VEP is nonsense. The activist argument is nonsense. As far as I can tell, the VEP is designed as busy work to keep people away from those who really use 0days, such as the NSA and the CIA. If they spend millions of dollars buying 0days because it has that value in intelligence operations, they aren't going to destroy that value by disclosing to a vendor. If VEP forces disclosure, disclosure still won't happen, the NSA will simply stop buying vulns.

There's no false flags. In several places, the CIA talks about making sure that what they do isn't so unique, so it can't be attributed to them. However, Wikileaks's press release hints that the "UMBRAGE" program is deliberately stealing techniques from Russia to use as a false-flag operation. This is nonsense. For example, the DNC hack attribution was live command-and-control servers simultaneously used against different Russian targets -- not a few snippets of code.

This hurts the CIA a lot. Already, one AV researcher has told me that a virus they once suspected came from the Russians or Chinese can now be attributed to the CIA, as it matches the description perfectly to something in the leak. We can develop anti-virus and intrusion-detection signatures based on this information that will defeat much of what we read in these documents. This would put a multi-year delay in the CIA's development efforts. Plus, it'll now go on a witch-hunt looking for the leaker, which will erode morale. Update:#Three extremely smart and knowledgeable people who I respect disagree, claiming it won't hurt the CIA a lot. I suppose I'm focusing on "hurting the cyber abilities" of the CIA, not the CIA as a whole, which mostly is non-cyber in function.

The CIA is not cutting edge.#A few days ago, Hak5 started selling "BashBunny", a USB hacking tool more advanced than the USB tools in the leak. The CIA seems to get most of their USB techniques from open-source projects, such Travis Goodpseeds "GoodFET" project.

The CIA isn't spying on us.#Snowden revealed how the NSA was surveilling all Americans. Nothing like that appears in the CIA dump. It's all legitimate spy stuff (assuming you think spying on foreign adversaries is legitimate).

Update #2: How is hacking cars and phones not SIGINT (which is the NSA's turf)?[*]#The answer is via physical access. For example, they might have a device that plugs into the ODBII port on the car that quickly updates the firmware of the brakes. Think of it as normal spy activity (e.g. cutting a victim's brakes), but now with cyber.
 

By the Way...before the ultra right wing bog sites run crazy with the CIA being the key force behind "Deep State".....

These blogsites should actually pay far more attention to the Internet of Things (IoT) which is far more dangerous for ALL Americans than what WikiLeaks released on the CIA...

Why... IT security research has detected black botnets totaling well over 600,000 devices than can be used to take down key servers of the internet backbone in say a DDoS attack....we have recently seen global DDoS attacks using IoT devices that attacked the entire US IT infrastructure blocking a large number of US internet servers....

These devices can be your refrigerator...your wash machine...your own car...your TV..your digital camera.....etc....anything that is "smart" these days....and they can never be "patched" or updated....thus are always a serious danger because hackers can use them anytime they want to...

AND especially anything that has a camera that is attached in any way to the internet ....

That is what the ultra right blog sites should be focusing on....not on a diffuse and crazy idea called "Deep State"...a term largely taken from Turkey...

Expect confusion btwn Washington&Berlin for a while.

Navarro wants to take on Germany;then Mattis&Tillerson; &in background, Bannon vs Merkel

Will be an interesting German/US combined press conference...expect Merkel to hold her ground as she has coming elections and a large majority of German voters simply think Trump is crazy and a threat to Germans....

Louise Mensch

@LouiseMensch
I say again and again, NOBODY reported a FISa order of a 'wiretap at Trump Tower'.

If @RealDonaldTrump leaked that on Twitter, impeach him

From the UK journalist and former UK MP who broke the original FISA Warrant story....

If you really analyze the Russian propaganda media...while they state the Trump Putin bromance is over...not really if you follow the better propaganda outlets stating they see potential for great deals with the US..especially since the US military is now working jointly with Russia in Syria.....

Don't be fooled by "bromance over" stories. Russia's again using Wikileaks to prop Trump, feeding his wild CIA/Obama "deep state" conspiracy

Just as Trump comes out with his "Deep State" accusations against Obama and the entire US IC and FBI....

Suddenly WL is actively providing flanking support by releasing CIA data....

Coincidence??....not really....

NOTICE just how this flanking WL support attempts to tie CIA to the Russian hacking tools THUS the DNC hacking was not Russia but a CIA false flag attack.....ALL DESIGNED to hurt Trump.....

NOTICE now the so called "Deep State" conspiracy myth gets it support...

In the Trump/Breitbart.com/Bannon world "Deep State" is being led by Obama....

zerohedge‏ 
@zerohedge

The CIA has stolen malware produced by Russia, and can misdirect attribution to Moscow
http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-03-07/wikileaks-hold-press-conference-vault-7-release-8am-eastern …

BUT WAIT......

Live Monitor‏ @amlivemon 2h
2 hours ago

Pure Russian disinformation

Live Monitor‏ @amlivemon 18m
18 minutes ago

I know both CIA & NSA well..the manipulative info mixed with disinformation selectively leaked by @Wikileaks is pure FSB propaganda #Vault7

Newsmax: Trump met Russian Amb. Kislyak last April, contradicting repeated denials from Trump
http://americablog.com/2017/03/newsmax-trump-met-russian-amb-kislyak-last-april-despite-denials.html 

The Trump admin. reportedly wants to fund the border wall by gutting agencies that protect against terrorism
http://read.bi/2mxaqdr

BUT WAIT...Did not Trump openly stated numerous times Mexico was going to pay for the Wall not the US taxpayer..WELL that was a lie was it not????

BUT WAIT...he is cutting agencies that are suppose to protect US citizens...so when that next big due to climate change hurricane or tornado series hits..there will be no FEMA for example.....

Trump plan pays for immigration crackdown with budget cuts for the Coast Guard, TSA and FEMA

AND the next time you get hijacked or a bomb goes off in a plane thank Trump as TSA is getting cut as well....

While Russia wages a non linear war using political warfare against the US via cyber and info warfare...Trump bashes Obama......BUT not Russia....

Especially when this occurs Trump remains totally and completely silent....

WikiLeaks is a front for Russian intelligence. They are still waging information war + doing material damage to the CIA/NSA

BUT WAIT...silence from Trump.....

WHILE Trump and company are bashing Obama on Russia WHICH Trump has done absolutely nothing on except praise Putin....

Donald J. Trump‏
Verified account
 @realDonaldTrump 2h
2 hours ago

For eight years Russia "ran over" President Obama, got stronger and stronger, picked-off Crimea and added missiles. Weak! @foxandfriends

SO as he bashes Obama for Russia...the following is happening he does absolutely nothing about it...

1. Syria...US SOF and USAF are now supporting two US named terror groups Hezbollah, and the PKK....and the Iraqi Shia militia KH...along with the Iranian IRGC....

2. Russia is attacking Ukrainian UAF positions every day with over 100 attacks and silence from Trump and company....

3. Trump backed down on his threatening to stop China in the South china Sea...their currency issues etc...and agreed to respect the one China policy

AND then this.....

Mattis urged moving ahead with THAAD on his trip to Seoul. As the North pops off missiles, we are seeing the results

In a matter of hours, the Korean peninsula fell into a state of geopolitical tumult

Watch this space: intertwined tension among #China #SouthKorea #NorthKorea #Malaysia #Japan and the US. Escalation very possible.

Arguably Trump admin's most consequential foreign policy move so far. China now punishing #SouthKorea w/sanctions as well

BUT WAIT....I did not think Trump wanted the US to be the policeman of the world....???

So exactly just what is Trump and company going to do about Crimea and Russian INF violations...?

Sorry forgot......

Bash Obama and then do nothing as usual...

FACTS do matter these days just not some kind of tweet bashing with nothing but falsehoods and incorrect facts...

Truth does matter.....

Donald J. Trump‏
Verified account
 @realDonaldTrump 3h
3 hours ago
122 vicious prisoners, released by the Obama Administration from Gitmo, have returned to the battlefield. Just another terrible decision!

BUT WAIT....

Actually 113 were released by President Bush or 93%......

Obama only released nine or 7%......

Who in the heck gives Trump's constant fake info?

NOW Russian media is turning completely against Trump....

Kremlin always knew Trump was an incompetent fool, and the Russians are great with that.

http://www.politico.com/story/2017/03/donald-trump-russia-media-235755 

Hmmmm

"it’s a mistake to say simply that Trump’s accusation against Obama is protected by the First Amendment."

https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2017-03-06/trump-s-wiretap-tweets-raise-risk-of-impeachment 

QUOTE:
And an allegation of potentially criminal misconduct made without evidence is itself a form of serious misconduct by the government official who makes it.

When candidate Trump said Hillary Clinton was a criminal who belonged in prison, he was exposing himself to a libel suit. And the suit might not have succeeded, because Trump could have said he was making a political argument rather than an allegation of fact.

But when President Trump accuses Obama of an act that would have been impeachable and possibly criminal, that’s something much more serious than libel.

If it isn’t true or provable, it’s misconduct by the highest official of the executive branch.

How is such misconduct by an official to be addressed? There’s a common-law tort of malicious prosecution, but that probably doesn’t apply when the government official has no intention to prosecute.

The answer is that the constitutional remedy for presidential misconduct is impeachment.

http://www.cjr.org/analysis/breitbart-media-trump-harvard-study.php

A study done by the Columbia Journalism Review...well researched and everyone needs to fully understand what is being explained....

Study: Breitbart-led right-wing media ecosystem altered broader media agenda

QUOTE
The 2016 Presidential election shook the foundations of American politics. Media reports immediately looked for external disruption to explain the unanticipated victory—with theories ranging from Russian hacking to “fake news.”

We have a less exotic, but perhaps more disconcerting explanation: Our own study of over 1.25 million stories published online between April 1, 2015 and Election Day shows that a right-wing media network anchored around Breitbart developed as a distinct and insulated media system, using social media as a backbone to transmit a hyper-partisan perspective to the world.

This pro-Trump media sphere appears to have not only successfully set the agenda for the conservative media sphere, but also strongly influenced the broader media agenda, in particular coverage of Hillary Clinton.

While concerns about political and media polarization online are longstanding, our study suggests that polarization was asymmetric.

Pro-Clinton audiences were highly attentive to traditional media outlets, which continued to be the most prominent outlets across the public sphere, alongside more left-oriented online sites. But pro-Trump audiences paid the majority of their attention to polarized outlets that have developed recently, many of them only since the 2008 election season.

Attacks on the integrity and professionalism of opposing media were also a central theme of right-wing media. Rather than “fake news” in the sense of wholly fabricated falsities, many of the most-shared stories can more accurately be understood as disinformation: the purposeful construction of true or partly true bits of information into a message that is, at its core, misleading.

Over the course of the election, this turned the right-wing media system into an internally coherent, relatively insulated knowledge community, reinforcing the shared worldview of readers and shielding them from journalism that challenged it.

The prevalence of such material has created an environment in which the President can tell supporters about events in Sweden that never happened, or a presidential advisor can reference a non-existent “Bowling Green massacre.”

Continued.....

BLUF...this ties nicely into the fact that approximately 37% of all proTrump social media tweets came from a Russian funded Macedonian company using locals with English language skills....

BLUF...it has been also noted that the twitter spike in proTrump Congress speech approval comments was being driven by a large Russian created and controlled twitter botnet from outside the US....

Louise Mensch‏
Verified account
 @LouiseMensch 1m
1 minute ago

Video of me discussing the FISA warrant - did Bannon leak top secret wiretap info to his pals at Breitbart?

http://video.foxnews.com/v/5349863108001/?#sp=show-clips

Pay real close attention to this video as there was in fact prior reporting from this journalist on the existence of a FISA warrant to monitor communications between two servers...one in Alpha Bank Moscow and one in Trump Towers and any secondary incidental US citizens who might be using those targeted servers....

This journalist is the one who first broke the story in November 2016...AT no time has she or others who also broke similar stories HAVE ever said there was a targeted FISA warrant for wire tapping...

ONLY the WH has broken that news with the Trump tweets...SO just how exactly did then Breitbart.com get the "leaked story"....????

Data visualization is indeed helpful
http://www.vox.com/mischiefs-of-faction/2017/3/6/14820506/trump-russia-network-mapped 

Mapping the Trump-Russia network
Applying data visualization tools to the onslaught of information about team Trump’s ties to Russia helps us understand what’s happening.
Updated by Jennifer N. Victor
jvictor3@gmu.edu
Mar 6, 2017, 11:00am EST

The Trump WH should finally realize that when your world can be suddenly network link analyzed then you have some serious issues....especially IF as they claim there were never any connections and contacts to begin with.....

Imagine serving your country twice on the GWOT battlefield only to be deported by some 4X draft dodging (bone spur but he could not remember which foot during a recent interview)elected president with help from Russia.

Actually is occurring to an active duty US combat veteran.....make sense to anyone????

Are CBP..INS and Customs going rouge on non Muslims.....????

1. we had a well known French professor deported back to France after TEN hours of questioning and he was headed to a University speech....and he was no Muslim...

2. we had a 70year old grandmother questioned for hours before she was also deported...not a Muslim....

3. WE had the Australian CIA Director aggressively searched and questioned EVEN on a diplomatic passport....he was a non Muslim...

NOW this....

PEN America: artists, writers, poets, cultural and intellectual figures worried about making trips to the U.S.
https://pen.org/interrogation-us-border/ 

AND they are non Muslims...

Normally with past Presidents if their press conferences were held "off camera" and Presidential events were closed to the public/press...they would have been called "arrogant"....

With this Trump WH...they are simply "scared to death" of anything resembling the press.....and open questions...

Interesting article from Russian media...in Russian....

Zakharova: civil war will break out in the US if all Kislyak's American contacts are made public.
https://www.rusdialog.ru/news/99194_1488871087 

Clapper says Trump asked him to publicly refute the Steele dossier on Russia ties, "which I couldn't do and didn't"
http://abcn.ws/2mPrb4v

Actually there are major pieces of that dossier that have in fact been proven to be accurate and correct....

MORE interesting is the fact that four named Russians in that dossier are in fact now dead....just dropped dead of "heart attacks"...

A fifth dropped dead who was tied to the proRussian Ukrainian peace proposal passed to Flynn via Trump's own personal lawyer...

Trump has now reached the level of being delusional...nothing like self hype.

ALL those jobs he talks about...never happening and yet notice when Boeing lays off 1100 he says nothing .........OR when GM loses 1000 employees due to a model shift and production location shift....nothing is said...but wow millions sounds great...

WHAT he is not telling the US job market is that this Exxon plan is spread over 10 years and is really what they should have done years ago in the Gulf Coast refineries which are functioning with old technology and mostly capable of only handling heavy crude not the light crude that is easy to sell in the global markets....AND it all depends on which direction the price of oil is going...

A vast amount of all US oil imports is heavy crude going to the Gulf Coast refineries....and always draws a lower price on the global markets...when it is sold as refined back to the marketplace...AND cost a lot to refine...

We have had countless Trump statements about those millions of jobs he has landed but none of those millions has suddenly and magically appeared...

SO I guess if you are living in the run down Rust Belt and have a low paying job YOU must now pack up and move to the Gulf Coast and better make sure you are a pipefitter with a union card or a union welder or a union member of Chemical Workers Union as well....

Thank you to @exxonmobil for your $20 billion investment that is creating more than 45,000 manufacturing & construction jobs in the USA!

Donald J. Trump‏
Verified account
 @realDonaldTrump 8h
8 hours ago
There is an incredible spirit of optimism sweeping the country right now—we're bringing back the JOBS!

Donald J. Trump‏
Verified account
 @realDonaldTrump 4h
4 hours ago
Buy American & hire American are the principles at the core of my agenda, which is: JOBS, JOBS, JOBS! Thank you @exxonmobil.

Donald J. Trump‏
Verified account
 @realDonaldTrump 11h
11 hours ago
45,000 construction & manufacturing jobs in the U.S. Gulf Coast region. $20 billion investment. We are already winning again, America!

Donald J. Trump‏
Verified account
 @realDonaldTrump 11h
11 hours ago
'President Trump Congratulates Exxon Mobil for Job-Creating Investment Program'
https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/03/06/president-trump-congratulates-exxon-mobil-job-creating-investment …

Not the first time Trump has taken credit for a corporate decision made under the Obama Administration and announced years ago and just repackaged for the Trump PR....

Trump takes credit for Exxon jobs investment that began four years ago
http://thkpr.gs/d25bdc367cc2

NOTICE that Sessions...Trump and the entire Trump WH has conveniently forgotten about a 1999 interview video WHAT Sessions stated about perjury...

Here is Jeff Sessions in 1999 talking about the seriousness of committing perjury under oath

IN it Sessions is stating that any and I mean ANY perjury committed while under oath is a major criminal offense......

BUT in 2016....it is now declared..."I simply forgot"...and I will provide you now AFTER being reminded... a new highly polished WRITTEN statement...NOT under oath naturally.....as if that then cancels out his own personal "perjury under oath"....

The current Trump and his WH appears to be in the middle of an Alzheimer's outbreak....

One Russian paper today compliments Donald Trump's nose, but warns him that "witches & sorcerers" are plotting to remove him from office.

Interesting that Russian media calls FBI...US IC....the US Federal judiciary....and MSM journalists "witches and sorcerers"....

And Russia calls itself "democratic"...

Who hired Carter Page to Team Trump? http://observer.com/2017/03/kremlingate-donald-trump-russia-white-house-bugged/ …

Last week I explained in this column how President Donald Trump, despite facing serious political challenges over his murky ties to the Kremlin, was fortunate to have opponents more motivated by partisanship than truth-telling. As long as that state of affairs continued, the commander-in-chief was likely to avoid the thorough scrutiny which his apparent links to Moscow actually merit.
A lot has changed in just a few days. Last week began promisingly for the president, with his joint address to Congress on Tuesday evening earning better reviews than many had anticipated. Then it all unraveled the next day, when it was reported that Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a key member of the White House inner circle, had two discussions with Sergei Kislyak, the Russian ambassador in Washington, during the 2016 election campaign.
It’s hardly abnormal for sitting senators—as Sessions was last year—to meet with foreign diplomats, even Russian ones, but the precise capacity in which he chatted with Kislyak suddenly became important. Was Sessions parleying with the Kremlin’s emissary as a senator or as a top advisor to Donald Trump?
To make matters worse, Sessions couldn’t exactly recall what he and Moscow’s man in Washington had discussed. To say nothing of the fact that Sessions seemed to have recently failed to tell the complete truth under oath when he was asked about some of this during his Senate confirmation hearings as attorney general. Sessions volunteered, “I did not have communications with the Russians”—a statement that seems untrue by any normal definition.
The president’s bizarre efforts to make his links to Moscow a non-story have only made it a bigger one.
Additionally, Kislyak is known in Western espionage circles to have a close relationship with Russia’s intelligence services, as many Kremlin diplomats do. Roughly one-third of the “diplomats” in any given Russian embassy are actually full-time spies masquerading as diplomats, while the remaining two-thirds are bona fide diplomats who are nevertheless expected to share information with their spy-colleagues. The line between routine diplomacy and espionage can therefore get rather blurry.
New York Politics
That Sessions’ discussions with Putin’s emissary to our country may have had an espionage flavor to them seems plausible, given that they occurred when Vladimir Putin’s clandestine efforts to swing the election Trump’s way were at their peak, according to the consensus assessment of our Intelligence Community.
By last Friday, in an effort to make the mounting scandal go away, Sessions had recused himself from any Department of Justice investigations into Russian interference in our election. This recusal reportedly sent the president into paroxysms of rage, yet in reality Sessions had little choice, as even prominent Republicans accepted that he had to recuse himself—while leading Democrats were demanding the attorney general’s resignation.
To make matters worse, it turns out that Sessions was but one of seven members of Trump’s inner circle who had hush-hush discussions with Moscow’s emissaries in 2016. Several of those meetings happened at the Republican convention in Cleveland last July, which Ambassador Kislyak attended. It was much noted at the time that the GOP party platform on Ukraine—where Moscow continues its not-quite-frozen conflict, which began in 2014 after Putin’s theft of Crimea—suddenly shifted to a markedly more pro-Russian position. Suspicions of a Kremlin hand influencing Trump emerged at once, but the then-candidate flatly denied anything of that kind had occurred, telling a journalist that he “wasn’t involved” in the Ukraine policy shift.
Now, it turns out that several members of Team Trump met with Russian officials, including Kislyak, in Cleveland last summer, and according to members of his own policy team, Trump himself was involved in changing the party platform on Ukraine to something more pleasing to Moscow.
One of Trump’s people who met with Kislyak in Cleveland was Carter Page, a big-shot investor-manqué whose exact role in the Trump campaign was never precisely clear, but who possesses abundantly clear ties to the Kremlin. Page is so reliably pro-Putin that a speech he gave in Moscow last summer got top billing at a propaganda website run by Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service.
On Friday evening, Page went on CNN to push back the latest allegations regarding the president and his increasingly apparent ties to Moscow, but the interview turned into a debacle. Page was unable to keep his story straight about his meetings with Russian officials, and appeared confused about his own role in the Trump campaign. His incompetent effort to quash this story only made it a bigger and stranger one.
Perhaps in response to this setback, the president was up before dawn on Saturday, having fled Washington on Friday for his Florida hideaway at his Mar-a-Lago resort – and he was tweeting. In a stunning series of four incendiary tweets, President Trump accused his predecessor of high crimes, specifically “wiretapping” him at Trump Tower in Manhattan during the election campaign.
In perhaps the most bizarre public statements from any American president, Trump claimed that Obama had violated the law, “This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!” then added for good measure the accusation of “McCarthyism” perpetrated by his predecessor. The irony of Donald Trump—whose mentor was Roy Cohn, the notorious attorney who served as McCarthyism’s public face in the 1950s—making such a claim was not lost on many observers.
Trump offered no evidence for his far-reaching accusations, and while the Obama camp predictably asserted they were wholly false, that view was echoed on Sunday morning by James Clapper, who served as the Director of National Intelligence from mid-2010 until January 20 of this year. In the spy trade, flat-out public denials are rare, but that was exactly what Clapper said to NBC: “There was no such wiretap activity mounted against the president, the president-elect at the time, or as a candidate, or against his campaign.”
As DNI, Clapper certainly would have known if something extraordinary like wiretaps on the Republican presidential candidate or his team had been authorized, so his account seems persuasive. Even worse for the president, it’s been reported that FBI Director James Comey was driven to fury at the White House over Trump’s casual use of Twitter to accuse Obama—and by extension the FBI—of gross illegalities.
According to the New York Times, Comey was so incensed that he asked the Department of Justice to intervene and issue a public denial that any wiretapping against Team Trump occurred. DoJ has not yet done so, which may have something to do with the fact that it’s headed by Jeff Sessions, who’s caught up in KremlinGate too, but the unprecedented situation where an FBI director feels compelled to ask for a public retraction of the president’s accusation indicates how off the rails the new administration has gone in just six weeks.
Comey’s outrage is felt across the Intelligence Community, which has been repeatedly maligned and attacked by the president, who seems blissfully unaware of the consequences of his harsh tweets and utterances. Trump’s latest fact-free assertion of high crimes perpetrated by the IC at the behest of President Obama has heightened already inflamed passions among America’s spies.
Let’s be perfectly clear here: The scenario painted by President Trump of his predecessor tasking the IC with wiretapping Trump Tower simply could not have happened without a far-reaching and highly illegal conspiracy involving the White House and several of our spy agencies, above all the National Security Agency. My friends still at NSA, where I served as the technical director of the Agency’s biggest operational division, have told me without exception that Trump’s accusation is wholly false, a kooky fantasy.
In the first place, the White House doesn’t ask for such wiretaps, ever; such requests come directly from NSA, the FBI, or the Justice Department. Involvement of any White House in such highly classified requests would immediately set off enormous red flags in the IC and DoJ due to their glaringly political—and therefore illegal—aim.
There’s a special top secret Federal court that handles such sensitive warrant requests, which are issued under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, which allows for intelligence gathering against foreign spies and terrorists. They key words in FISA are the first two: foreign intelligence. Warrants are only issued against foreign targets which are deemed to be plausibly involved in espionage or terrorism against the United States.
However, Americans who call or email those suspicious foreigners may appear in signals intelligence collection, although under FISA their identities are concealed in SIGINT reports in a process the IC terms “minimization.” In other words, your civil liberties as an American do not include the right to communicate with foreign bad guys without possible monitoring. Keep in mind, though, that under FISA the people being targeted are foreign spies and terrorists, not Americans.
Having worked with a lot of FISA collection during my time in the spy business, I can state without reservation that President Trump’s accusations are so inherently implausible as to render them an absurdity. He needs to offer hard evidence for such incendiary claims or back down publicly, preferably with an apology to his predecessor, whom he has maligned without cause.
That said, given the now-known contacts between Team Trump and high-ranking Russians last year, it’s very plausible that NSA and other spy agencies intercepted Kremlin communications which might have incidentally involved associates of our current president. But neither Donald Trump nor his surrogates were being spied on as themselves. If they didn’t realize their shady Russian friends might be considered foreign intelligence targets by NSA and other Western intelligence services, that’s on them.
Where, then, did President Trump get the far-fetched, conspiracy-driven idea that Obama was “wiretapping” him? Like so many other “facts” he cites when they are convenient for him, Trump seems to have picked it up in the far-right echo chamber of Breitbart and related alt-right websites where evidence isn’t required to substantiate claims, no matter how absurd they appear to anybody who understands how our Intelligence Community actually works.
Trump has demanded a Congressional investigation of his allegations regarding Obama, though it’s mysterious why he would want more inquiry into anything even tangentially involving the Russians and 2016. What happens next is anybody’s guess, and will be heavily dependent upon how much public Trumpian drama Congressional Republicans can keep tolerating.
What’s certain is that KremlinGate isn’t going away, and the president’s bizarre efforts to make his links to Moscow a non-story have only made it a bigger one. Now the media is more curious than ever about Trump’s Russian connections, and no amount of chanting “fake news” will alter that. Neither will Team Trump’s obsession with the alleged “deep state” save them from awkward questions. Today the White House will seek to redirect again by talking about immigration and other Trump policy initiatives, hoping the press plays along and forgets about last week. It won’t work.