Nicholas Burns said on one of the seditious MSM chatter shows today that Russia is not attacking IS in Syria. This is utterly untrue and a standard propaganda meme of the neocons, of which he is obviously one. Russian aircraft have been deeply involved in all SAA operations aimed to re-take Palmyra. Russian aircraft have been deeply involved in the defense of the Deir al-Zor pocket 200 kilometers east of Palmyra. Who does Burns think that the Russians are fighting out there in the east? Is it the FSA unicorns of fabled semi-existence that Burns thinks are besieging Deir al-Zor or who captured Palmyra a month or so back.
My sources inform me that US/Russia tactical coordination in Syria is now well advanced and effective.
I doubt that Burns is that ignorant. IMO he is merely an opportunist who hopes for a neocon restoration in US foreign policy. pl
Col. Lang, what’s your take on this revelation about Obama wiretapping and eavesdropping on Trump Tower during the election?
Secondly, can you imagine, in an alternate history, Trump losing and having a Hillary Presidency and none of this having come to light? I.e., the Deep State operation and its conspirators (the bi-partisan establishment).
Rogue neocon. Since Brexit it has stunned me how people who would claim respect have felt entitled to lie and cheat to mitigate the defeat of their side.
I wouldn’t be too worried about it – if most Democrats and certain Republicans (McCain comes to mind) knew officially that Russia and the United States were co-operating in Syria against the “unicorns” there would be immediate calls for congressional hearings and impeachment charges against Trump. By sweeping it under the carpet, such unpleasantness is avoided and in a few months Trump and Putin get to announce that ISIS is defeated and the Caliphate is no more.
“In summary: the Obama administration sought, and eventually obtained, authorization to eavesdrop on the Trump campaign; continued monitoring the Trump team even when no evidence of wrongdoing was found; then relaxed the NSA rules to allow evidence to be shared widely within the government, virtually ensuring that the information, including the conversations of private citizens, would be leaked to the media.
[Mark] Levin called the effort a “silent coup” by the Obama administration and demanded that it be investigated.”
– Breitbart (see below for link)
I don’t know enough about the legal aspects to make a comment on Mark Levin’s bombshell accusation on his Thursday show, which has now caught fire with Trump’s tweets early this morning and ‘gone global:’
But I do know that Levin, an attorney, is a very experienced legal expert who worked at the highest level of the Justice Department during the Reagan administration.
I’ll guess that Mark’s discussion spans at least the first hour of his Thurs radio show (I’ve only listened to the first 20 minutes so far). Podcast of the show:
But Breitbart put together a summary of the timeline Mark laid out, as follows, and which on its own is a good review:
“Mark Levin to Congress: Investigate Obama’s ‘Silent Coup’ vs. Trump”
By Joel B. Pollak
3 March 2017
Radio host Mark Levin used his Thursday evening show to outline the known steps taken by President Barack Obama’s administration in its last months to undermine Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and, later, his new administration.
Levin called Obama’s effort “police state” tactics, and suggested that Obama’s actions, rather than conspiracy theories about alleged Russian interference in the presidential election to help Trump, should be the target of congressional investigation.
Drawing on sources including the New York Times and the Washington Post, Levin described the case against Obama so far, based on what is already publicly known. The following is an expanded version of that case, including events that Levin did not mention specifically but are important to the overall timeline.
1. June 2016: FISA request. The Obama administration files a request with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) to monitor communications involving Donald Trump and several advisers. The request, uncharacteristically, is denied.
2. July: Russia joke. Wikileaks releases emails from the Democratic National Committee that show an effort to prevent Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) from winning the presidential nomination. In a press conference, Donald Trump refers to Hillary Clinton’s own missing emails, joking: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing.” That remark becomes the basis for accusations by Clinton and the media that Trump invited further hacking.
3. October: Podesta emails. In October, Wikileaks releases the emails of Clinton campaign chair John Podesta, rolling out batches every day until the election, creating new mini-scandals. The Clinton campaign blames Trump and the Russians.
4. October: FISA request. The Obama administration submits a new, narrow request to the FISA court, now focused on a computer server in Trump Tower suspected of links to Russian banks. No evidence is found — but the wiretaps continue, ostensibly for national security reasons, Andrew McCarthy at National Review later notes. The Obama administration is now monitoring an opposing presidential campaign using the high-tech surveillance powers of the federal intelligence services.
5. January 2017: Buzzfeed/CNN dossier. Buzzfeed releases, and CNN reports, a supposed intelligence “dossier” compiled by a foreign former spy. It purports to show continuous contact between Russia and the Trump campaign, and says that the Russians have compromising information about Trump. None of the allegations can be verified and some are proven false. Several media outlets claim that they had been aware of the dossier for months and that it had been circulating in Washington.
6. January: Obama expands NSA sharing. As Michael Walsh later notes, and as the New York Times reports, the outgoing Obama administration “expanded the power of the National Security Agency to share globally intercepted personal communications with the government’s 16 other intelligence agencies before applying privacy protections.” The new powers, and reduced protections, could make it easier for intelligence on private citizens to be circulated improperly or leaked.
7. January: Times report. The New York Times reports, on the eve of Inauguration Day, that several agencies — the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Treasury Department are monitoring several associates of the Trump campaign suspected of Russian ties. Other news outlets also report the existence of “a multiagency working group to coordinate investigations across the government,” though it is unclear how they found out, since the investigations would have been secret and involved classified information.
8. February: Mike Flynn scandal. Reports emerge that the FBI intercepted a conversation in 2016 between future National Security Adviser Michael Flynn — then a private citizen — and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. The intercept supposedly was part of routine spying on the ambassador, not monitoring of the Trump campaign. The FBI transcripts reportedly show the two discussing Obama’s newly-imposed sanctions on Russia, though Flynn earlier denied discussing them. Sally Yates, whom Trump would later fire as acting Attorney General for insubordination, is involved in the investigation. In the end, Flynn resigns over having misled Vice President Mike Pence (perhaps inadvertently) about the content of the conversation.
9. February: Times claims extensive Russian contacts. The New York Times cites “four current and former American officials” in reporting that the Trump campaign had “repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials. The Trump campaign denies the claims — and the Times admits that there is “no evidence” of coordination between the campaign and the Russians. The White House and some congressional Republicans begin to raise questions about illegal intelligence leaks.
10. March: the Washington Post targets Jeff Sessions. The Washington Post reports that Attorney General Jeff Sessions had contact twice with the Russian ambassador during the campaign — once at a Heritage Foundation event and once at a meeting in Sessions’s Senate office. The Post suggests that the two meetings contradict Sessions’s testimony at his confirmation hearings that he had no contacts with the Russians, though in context (not presented by the Post) it was clear he meant in his capacity as a campaign surrogate, and that he was responding to claims in the “dossier” of ongoing contacts.
The New York Times, in covering the story, adds that the Obama White House “rushed to preserve” intelligence related to alleged Russian links with the Trump campaign. By “preserve” it really means “disseminate”: officials spread evidence throughout other government agencies “to leave a clear trail of intelligence for government investigators” and perhaps the media as well.
In summary: the Obama administration sought, and eventually obtained, authorization to eavesdrop on the Trump campaign; continued monitoring the Trump team even when no evidence of wrongdoing was found; then relaxed the NSA rules to allow evidence to be shared widely within the government, virtually ensuring that the information, including the conversations of private citizens, would be leaked to the media.
Levin called the effort a “silent coup” by the Obama administration and demanded that it be investigated.
In addition, Levin castigated Republicans in Congress for focusing their attention on Trump and Attorney General Sessions rather than Obama.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. His new book, “How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution,” is available from Regnery …
Any chance you could do something of a primer on the neocon obsession with foreign policy and why, despite being overwhelmingly wrong and/or discredited over the last 20-30 years, they exhibit no shame, unabashedly worship power in the most unhealthy of ways, and continue to aggressively push ideological fantasies? I do not understand they can be so wrong for so long and still exist as a major force in any political decision making. It literally makes no sense. Do they have an end game beyond naked power and capitalistic tent pitching? At this point it seems beyond ideology and more pathological.
I wouldn’t put that as an either or question. I think it’s pretty well possible to be ignorant and a liar.
In my opinion this is quite usual for the Borg.
Nicholas Burns is one of the few individuals in US diplomacy I actually met and spoke with at least perfunctorily when he was Ambassador to Greece. He is highly intelligent,suave, sophisticated, and clearly understood what was going on in the Eastern Med/Balkans when he was here (1997-2001).
I think your conclusion re: his aim in speaking as he did is correct.
Who speaks the truth these days about what happened/ is happening in MENA?
I’ve sadly come to the conclusion that they don’t care what the outcome is as long as people, lots of people, die.
IMO they don’t care about the dead and maimed so long as they can play “Game of Thrones.” p
yes, a real slicky boy. PL
That may be but I must work my way gradually to ultimate denunciations. pl
To sum up:
The man playing the role of the President on the Worlds Worst Reality TV Show, reads a fake news story on a fake news website and then goes crazy on twitter.
See my response to Cee on this subject. pl
Garlic and crosses won’t get rid of these folks.
Tony Blair to be Trump’s mideast peace envoy?
It seems that something is afoot. Is there a campaign to take down POTUS?
Congratulations to Empty Wheel for their detailed deconstruction of the outlandish price of tea in Outer Mongolia.
From what I see Dems playing a game of having remnants from the Obama administration leaking (formerly) classified information on communication with Russians to media to discredit POTUS Trump. Then it seems Trump has responded to this tit for tat by using other media information suggesting that this is not the whole story, and now Emptywheel suggests the information publicly available, true or not, better fits the Dems story then Trump’s so the Dems are winning the argument. However I’m not convinced. Please tell me where I’m wrong.
– as I understand it Trump is now CinC, he has access to all government secrets and the final authority to disclose classified information is his
– the Dems are acting unwise by establishing the de facto norm of leaking or using formerly classified information to target the political opponent in the U.S.
– after establishing that de facto norm Dems cannot plausibly complain if Trump responds in kind
– Trump doesn’t have to limit his response to Russia, he may well include in his response disclosures about how Dems – or the Obama administration – collaborated (directly or indirectly) with Al Qaeda and it’s offshoots from ISIS to Jund Al Aqsa, which is, unlike Russia, an enemy with whom the U.S. is at war
– if that happens, Trump will politically look better then the Dems, because unlike Russia Al Qaeda is a legal enemy of the U.S. declared by congress.
Since Trump is the de facto declassification authority, I cannot see how Dems may win such an argument. Trump could easily declassify more documents which underline that the previous Dem administrations knowingly helped to create the ISIS “caliphate”, just as Mike Flynn outlined in 2015:
When Trump would declassify more information on how Dems knowingly made Al Qaeda and it’s offshoots strong, I cannot see how Dems could defend themselves against this.
Trump could even generate bipartisan for this counter attack on Dem attacks by supporting Tulsi Gabbard’s “Stop arming terrorists act”
So, to sum it up, what I think will come out of this is that Trump will be rightfully accused to have had contacts with Russia on how to defeat U.S. enemy of Al Qaeda and it’s spin-offs, while Dems will be accused of knowingly helping U.S. enemy Al Qaeda and it’s spin-offs to undermine Russia.
Yes there is.
Certainly, and if things continue as at present I would not expect the president to survive his first year in office. pl
you raise an interesting point. Obama may have de-classified a lot of information before he left office. That would shield the disclosers from prosecution. pl
If the Trump team is smart this is exactly what they should do!
This will be a potent attack on the Democrats and in particular Obama, but even more importantly it could be used to compromise McCain and his office wife as well as all the neocons buried in the bureaucracy. Imagine Trump with his tweets skewering all his opponents including the fifth column in the intelligence agencies with a direct hit that they were aiding and abetting the jihadist enemy. It will be a neutron bomb!!
I hope Trump will go for the jugular here.
The NSA mass surveillance violates the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment. (!!!!) NSA makes this worse by sending an unfiltered feed to Israel. (!!!!!) Do Israel and its neocon friends share this with other neocons, such as John McCain? Or can McCain/Graham get their own NSA feeds directly??? So the CIA can now get NSA feeds of basically all American citizens?????
Don’t you think that is extremely dangerous? It will have to be explosive for the Senate to convict.
Since, POTUS is the head of the executive branch can he fire en masse all the top echelons in the intelligence agencies? Are these positions easy to replace?
I have read that he wasn’t happy that Sessions was left to hang and he chewed Bannon and Priebus.
If this is taken too far we could have a civil war here as there are already Trump supporters rallying to his side all over the country. And there was violence in the bastion of leftists – Berkeley, when Trump supporters were attacked.
To Colonel Lang, Bandolero, and All —
The Obama Administration did indeed reclassify classified information regarding the Trump inquiry; however:
“… according to the New York Times, Obama aides acted to label the Trump information at a lower level of classification for massive-level sharing of the information.
The problem for Obama is simple — if it could fit a lower level of classification, then it had to be deleted and destroyed, not disseminated and distributed, under crystal-clear FISA law. ”
The above quotes are from a March 4 opinion article by an attorney that I have copied in part below. The article makes clear that the issue of classification, while interesting on its own, is a distant second to the key issue at hand, which is whether a FISA warrant was obtained under false pretense.
This might not have been the case prior to the Snowden Affair, but so high is the bar for obtaining such a warrant, so clearly stipulated are the conditions to be met, that any clear indication the conditions were violated would be enough for a prosecutor to convene a grand jury.
In that event Mr Obama, as a private citizen, would at least in theory face criminal prosecution if there is enough evidence to suggest that in obtaining the FISA warrant under false pretense he intended to harm the United States of America. The latter argument could be made if the prosecution demonstrated that his motive in obtaining the FISA warrant was to interfere with the process for electing the nation’s president.
Those are a number of “ifs” but I mention them to underscore the gravity of obtaining a FISA warrant under false pretense.
In summary: Behind all the verbal fireworks generated by Mark Levin’s readings from a stack of old news reports and President Trump’s tweets is the towering fact that a FISA warrant is a unique warrant. The application for it must adhere to an extremely narrow and specific set of criteria in order to protect the most fundamental American freedoms — and protect the FISA program, which has been under fire for years. Just for these reasons a FISA warrant is rarely denied. By the time it comes before the FISA judge it should be beyond argument that the case prompting the application is virtually airtight.
That a FISA warrant was allegedly denied in connection with an attempt to investigate Trump associates signals the possibility of a world of trouble for Mr Obama and those who acted on his orders, if the warrant was actually issued.
And as Colonel Lang made clear in another recent comment thread, plausible deniability wouldn’t cut it in this instance. To repeat his observation: “Just to review, neither the FBI nor the DoJ are in any sense “independent” of the White House. They are subordinate elements of the Executive Branch of the federal government. The EB is commanded by the president of the United States. …”
And no, there would be no ‘taking the fall’ for Mr Obama by anyone who was in his administration if the Obama White House used information obtained with the FISA warrant.
There are several other issues connected with the controversy but that’s just the problem; there’s so much going on it’s hard for the public to see the forest for the trees. I count myself as among the public so I’m grated to attorney Robert Barnes for highlighting the key issue. Below is much of his exposition, which I’ve edited in order to keep the discussion as focused as possible:
“Yes, There Could Be Serious Legal Problems if Obama Admin Involved in Illegal Surveillance”
by Robert Barnes | 3:45 pm, March 4th, 2017
“By itself, misuse of FISA procedures to obtain surveillance is itself a crime.”
Robert Barnes is a California-based trial attorney whose practice focuses on tax defense, civil rights and First Amendment law.
… there are a lot of rumors flying around so the key is if the reports are accurate. We just don’t know at this time. The stories currently are three-fold:
First, that Obama’s team tried to get a warrant from a regular, Article III federal court on Trump, and was told no by someone along the way (maybe the FBI), as the evidence was that weak or non-existent;
Second, Obama’s team then tried to circumvent the federal judiciary’s independent role by trying to mislabel the issue one of “foreign agents,” and tried to obtain a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act “courts” and were again turned down when the court saw Trump named (an extremely rare act of FISA court refusal of the government, suggesting the evidence was truly non-existent against Trump);
And so, third, Obama circumvented both the regular command of the FBI and the regularly appointed federal courts, by placing the entire case as a FISA case (and apparently under Sally Yates at DOJ) as a “foreign” case, and then omitted Trump’s name from a surveillance warrant submitted to the FISA court, which the FISA court unwittingly granted, which Obama then misused to spy on Trump and many connected to Trump.
Are these allegations true? We don’t know yet, but if any part of them are, then Obama and/or his officials could face serious trouble.
What crimes could have been committed? Ironically, for Democrats, falsely accusing Attorney General Sessions, perjury and conspiracy to commit perjury, as well as intentional violations of FISA. Rather shockingly, no law currently forbids misusing the power of the presidency to spy on one’s adversaries. What the law does forbid is:
> lying to any judicial officer to obtain any means of surveillance.
> under criminal penalty, the misuse of FISA.
Both derive from the protections of the Fourth Amendment itself. Under section 1809, FISA makes it a crime for anyone to either “engage in” electronic surveillance under “color of law” under FISA without following the law’s restrictions, or “disclose” or “use” information gathered from it in contravention of the statute’s sharp constrictions.
FISA, 50 USC 1801, et seq., is a very limited method of obtaining surveillance authority. The reason for its strict limits is that FISA evades the regular federal court process, by not allowing regularly, Constitutionally appointed federal judges and their magistrates to authorize surveillance the Fourth Amendment would otherwise forbid.
Instead, the Chief Justice handpicks the FISA court members who have shown an exceptional deference to the executive branch. This is because FISA court members trust the government is only bringing them surveillance about pending terror attacks or “grave hostile” war-like attacks, as the FISA statute limits itself to.
Thus, a FISA application can only be used in very limited circumstances.
FISA can only be used for “foreign intelligence information.” Now that sounds broad but is in fact very limited under the law. The only “foreign intelligence information” allowed as a basis for surveillance is information necessary to protect the United States against actual or potential “grave” “hostile” attack, war-like sabotage or international terror.
Second, it can only be used to eavesdrop on conversations where the parties to the conversation are a foreign power or an agent of a foreign power.
An agent of a foreign power cannot be a United States person unless they are knowingly involved in criminal espionage. No warrant is allowed on that person unless a FISA court finds probable cause that the United States person is knowingly engaged in criminal espionage.
Even then, if it involves a United States person, special steps must be taken to “minimize the acquisition and retention, and prohibit the dissemination, of non- publicly available information concerning un-consenting United States persons.”
This includes procedures that require they never identify the person, or the conversation, being surveilled, to the public where that information is not evidence of a particular crime.
Third, the kind of information sought concerns solely information about a pending or actual attack on the country.
That is why the law limits itself to sabotage incidents involving war, not any form or kind of “sabotage,” explicitly limiting itself to those acts identified in section 105 of Title 18 of the United States Code.
This bring us to Watergate-on-Steroids, or #ObamaGate. Here are the problematic aspects of the Obama surveillance on Trump’s team, and on Trump himself:
First, it is not apparent FISA could ever be invoked.
Second, it is possible Obama’s team may have perjured themselves before the FISA court by withholding material information essential to the FISA court’s willingness to permit the government surveillance.
Third, it could be that Obama’s team illegally disseminated and disclosed FISA information in direct violation of the statute precisely prohibiting such dissemination and disclosure. FISA prohibits, under criminal penalty, Obama’s team from doing any of the three.
At the outset, the NSA should have never been involved in a domestic US election. Investigating the election, or any hacking of the DNC or the phishing of Podesta’s emails, would not be a FISA matter. It does not fit the definition of war sabotage or a “grave” “hostile” war-like attack on the United States, as constrictively covered by FISA. It is your run-of-the-mill hacking case covered by existing United States laws, which require use of the regular departments of the FBI, Department of Justice, and Constitutionally Senate-appointed federal district court judges, and their appointed magistrates — not secretive, deferential FISA courts.
Out of 35,000+ requests for surveillance, the FISA court has only ever rejected a whopping 12. Apparently, according to published reports [about Trump’s accusation of wiretapping], you can add one more to that — even the FISA court first rejected Obama’s request to spy on Trump’s team under the guise of an investigation into foreign agents of a pending war attack.
Intelligence agents apparently returned to the court, where, it is my assumption, they did not disclose or divulge all material facts to the court when seeking the surveillance the second time around, some of which they would later wrongfully disseminate and distribute to the public.
By itself, misuse of FISA procedures to obtain surveillance is itself a crime.
This raises the second problem: Obama’s team submission of an affidavit to the FISA court. An application for a warrant of any kind requires an affidavit, and that affidavit may not omit material factors.
A fact is “material” if it could have the possible effect of impacting the judicial officer deciding whether to authorize the warrant. Such affidavits are the most carefully drawn up, reviewed, and approved affidavits of law enforcement in our system precisely because they must be fully-disclosing, forthcoming, and include any information a judge must know to decide whether to allow our government to spy on its own.
My assumption would be that intelligence officials were trying to investigate hacking of the DNC, which is not even a FISA-covered crime.
Therefore, serious questions arise about what Obama administration attorneys said to the FISA court for it to even consider the application. If the claim was “financial ties” to Russia then Obama knew he had no basis to use FISA at all.
Since Trump was the obvious target, the alleged failure to disclose his name in the second application could be a serious and severe violation of the obligation to disclose all material facts.
Lastly, given the later behavior, it is evident any promise in the affidavit to protect the surveilled information from ever being sourced or disseminated was a false promise, intended to induce the illicit surveillance. This is criminalized both by federal perjury statutes, conspiracy statutes, and the FISA criminal laws themselves.
That raises the third problem: it seems the FISA-compelled protocols for precluding the dissemination of the information were violated, and that Obama’s team issued orders to achieve precisely what the law forbids, if published reports are true about the administration sharing the surveilled information far and wide to promote unlawful leaks to the press.
This, too, would be its own crime, as it brings back the ghost of Hillary’s emails — by definition, FISA information is strictly confidential, or it’s information that never should have been gathered.
FISA strictly segregates its surveilled information into two categories: highly confidential information of the most serious of crimes involving foreign acts of war; or, if not that, then information that should never have been gathered, should be immediately deleted, and never sourced nor disseminated. It cannot be both.
Recognizing this information did not fit FISA meant having to delete it and destroy it. According to published reports, Obama’s team did the opposite: order it preserved, ordered the NSA to search it, keep it, and share it; and then Obama’s Attorney General issued an order to allow broader sharing of information and, according to the New York Times, Obama aides acted to label the Trump information at a lower level of classification for massive-level sharing of the information.
The problem for Obama is simple — if it could fit a lower level of classification, then it had to be deleted and destroyed, not disseminated and distributed, under crystal-clear FISA law. Obama’s team’s admission it could be classified lower, yet taking actions to insure its broadest distribution, could even put Obama smack-middle of the biggest unlawful surveillance and political-opponent-smear campaign since Nixon. Except even Nixon didn’t use the FBI and NSA for his dirty tricks.
Watergate would have never happened if Nixon felt like he could just ask the FBI or NSA to tape the calls.
Democrats may regret Sessions’ recusal, as his replacement is a mini-Sessions: a long-respected, a-political, highly ethical prosecutor, Dana Boente, whose reputation is well-warranted from his service at the Tax Division, and who won’t be limited by any perceived ties to Trump, given his prior appointment by Obama.
Obama himself appeared scared of Boente, as he removed Boente from the successor-to-Sessions position during the lame-duck part of Obama’s presidency, but Trump restored Boente to that role earlier this month. Democrats may get the investigation they wanted, but it may be their own that end up named in the indictment.
H/T The Last Refuge
Finally, here is one of the paragraphs I removed from the article:
Can a President be charged with a crime? Only once out of office. While in office, impeachment remains the exclusive remedy in order to avoid a single judicial branch trying to overturn an election, such as a grand jury in any part of the country could. Once out of office, a President remains immune from civil liability for his duties while President, under a 1982 decision of the United States Supreme Court. However, as the Nixon pardon attests, nothing forecloses a criminal prosecution of the President after his presidency is complete for crimes against the country. Obama, the Constitutional lawyer, should know that.