If there ever was doubt that the Trump administration is Russian President Vladimir Putin’s play toy, this has to be it. From the International Business Times: Putin’s Former KGB Boss Heads Security For US Embassies In Russia A company headed by the former chief of KGB counterintelligence will provide security for U.S. embassies in Russia. …
In the her opening segment last night MSNBC host Rachel Maddow covered two stories that outlined Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner new responsibilities and a former foreign policy advisor, Carter Page meeting with Russian spies. The latter report is not speculation. Page actually admitted to Buzz Feed News that he had been in contact with at …
There is a double standard when it comes to the Obama administration prosecuting individuals for leaking information under the Espionage Act of 1917. If you’re a general in the US military leaking information to a reprter or head of the CIA having an affair, it’s fairly safe to say that you won’t be prosecuted for espionage. The sweetheart deal that was given former CIA director and retired General David Petraeus is a prime example, not a day in jail and he is still in good graces with the White House. I guess when you know where all the bodies are buried you can get away with anything. But that doesn’t excuse the Obama administrations fervor for prosecution the whistleblowers who outed crimes and constitutional violations.
Obama’s war on whistleblowers leaves administration insiders unscathed
By Spencer Ackerman and Ed Pilkington, The Guardian
Five key political players enjoy ‘virtual impunity’ – while four lower-level figures are in prison or facing time
Since Barack Obama entered the White House in 2009, his government has waged a war against whistleblowers and official leakers. On his watch, there have been eight prosecutions under the 1917 Espionage Act – more than double those under all previous presidents combined.
And yet other apparent leaks have gone entirely unpunished or have been treated, as in the case of General David Petraeus, as misdemeanors. As Abbe Lowell, lawyer for one of the Espionage Act eight, Stephen Kim, has argued in a letter to the Department of Justice, low-level officials who lack the political connections to fight back have had the book thrown at them, while high-level figures have been allowed to leak with “virtual impunity”.
Lawyers for CIA Leaker Cite Selective Prosecution After Petraeus Plea Deal
By Peter Maas, The Intercept
Lawyers for Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA official convicted earlier this year of leaking classified information to a New York Times reporter, have requested a reconsideration of his conviction because two former generals, David Petraeus and James Cartwright, have received far more lenient treatment for what they call similar offenses. [..]
In January, Sterling was convicted by a jury on nine criminal counts, including violations of the Espionage Act, for leaking classified information to Times reporter James Risen about a CIA effort to undermine Iran’s nuclear program. Sterling is to be sentenced in April and faces a maximum sentence of decades in jail. In a statement after the verdict was announced, Attorney General Eric Holder called the guilty verdict a “just and appropriate outcome.”
But the government is coming under increasing criticism for its uneven prosecution of leakers.
Earlier this month, Petraeus, who led U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and was the director of the CIA, reached an agreement with prosecutors in which he pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanor charge of mishandling classified information when he gave his lover and authorized biographer, Paula Broadwell, eight notebooks filled with highly-classified information about military plans and secret programs, covert agent names, and confidential discussions he had with senior officials including President Obama. Petraeus, who resigned from the CIA when his affair with Broadwell was revealed, also admitted to lying to the FBI, but he was not charged for that. The plea agreement calls for two years probation and a $40,000 fine but no jail time.
No charges have been filed against Cartwright even though it has been reported that federal prosecutors believe he leaked highly classified information to Times reporter David Sanger about a joint effort by the U.S. and Israel to cripple Iran’s nuclear centrifuges through a cyber-attack with a computer worm called Stuxnet. According to The Washington Post, the FBI has interviewed Cartwright on at least two occasions but has stopped short of indicting him.
National Security & Human Rights director Jesselyn Radack, who is also the lawyer for whistleblowers Edward Snowden, Thomas Drake and John Kiriakou, spoke with Democracy Now!‘s Amy Goodman and Aaron Maté about the White House’s double standard.
The full transcript can be read here
It’s OK if you’re a white general and know where all the bodies are.
Former Director of the CIA and four star general David H, Patraeus has reached a plea deal with the Department of Justice for passing classified information to his mistress in exchange for sexual favors. He will plea to one misdemeanor count of unauthorized removal and retention of classified material and a $40,000 fine. No jail time.
This is what he handed his girlfriend:
The Justice Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation alleged back in 2012 that Petraeus gave secret information to Paula Broadwell, but the seriousness of the information wasn’t clear until now.
While he was commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan, Petraeus “maintained bound, five-by-eight inch notebooks that contained his daily schedule and classified and unclassified notes he took during official meetings, conferences and briefings,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina writes in a statement of fact regarding the case.
The notebooks had black covers with Petraeus’s business card taped on the front of each of them.
All eight books “collectively contained classified information regarding the identifies of covert officers, war strategy, intelligence capabilities and mechanisms, diplomatic discussions, quotes and deliberative discussions from high-level National Security Council meetings… and discussions with the president of the United States.”
The books also contained “national defense information, including top secret/SCI and code word information,” according to the court papers. In other words: These weren’t just ordinary secrets. This was highly, highly classified material.
Besides lying to the FBI twice, this man compromised lives of undercover operatives, the troops operating in the field and national security and all he gets is a slap on the wrist. Pater Maas, writing at The Intercept, says that this deal reveals a two tiered justice system for leaks. He cites the penalties handed down to other defendants who did far less than the general:
For instance, last year, after a five-year standoff with federal prosecutors, Stephen Kim, a former State Department official, pleaded guilty to one count of violating the Espionage Act when he discussed a classified report about North Korea with Fox News reporter James Rosen in 2009. Kim did not hand over a copy of the report – he just discussed it, and nothing else – and the report was subsequently described in court documents as a “nothing burger” in terms of its sensitivity. Kim is currently in prison on a 13-month sentence. [..]
In 2013, former CIA agent John Kiriakou pleaded guilty to violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act by disclosing the name of a covert CIA officer to a freelance reporter; he was sentenced to 30 months in jail. Kiriakou’s felony conviction and considerable jail sentence – for leaking one name that was not published – stands in contrast to Petraeus pleading guilty to a misdemeanor without jail time for leaking multiple names as well as a range of other highly-sensitive information. [..]
In 2013, Army Private Chelsea Manning, formerly known as Bradley Manning, pleaded guilty to violating the Espionage Act by leaking thousands of documents to Wikileaks, and she was sentenced to 35 years in prison. Manning received a harsh sentence even though then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in 2010 that the leaks had only “modest” consequences.
In an interview at The Guardian, Pentagon Papers leaker, Daniel Ellsberg commented on Edward Snowden and former CIA analyst Jeffery Sterling:
The factual charges against [Edward Snowden] are not more serious, as violations of the classification regulations and non-disclosure agreements, than those Petraeus has admitted to, which are actually quite spectacular. [..]
Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA officer, was also just convicted of leaking classified information to New York Times journalist James Risen last month, “having first revealed it to Congress, as I did”, according to Ellsberg. Sterling was convicted of felony counts under the Espionage Act, and faces sentencing at the end of April. Ellsberg says Sterling’s “violations of security regulations were in no way more serious than what Petraeus has now admitted to”, and that, while it’s too late to do anything about his conviction, the judge should take the Petraeus plea bargain into account at his sentencing.
“If disclosing the identities of covert agents to an unauthorized person and storing them in several unauthorized locations deserves a charge with a maximum sentence of one year,” Ellsberg said, “then Edward Snowden should face not more than that same one count.”
As in the past when those in power violate the law and lie to congress and the FBI there are little to no consequences. So much for the Obama administration’s respect for the rule of law.
Leaks of sensitive information by the administration are apparently quite acceptable, even if it might jeopardize other covert operations or lives, just so long as it makes the administration look good in the press.
MSNBC’s host Rachel Maddow reviews the details of a CIA-involved assassination from 2008, reported for the first time in The Washington Post over the weekend, and wonders about the reason and timing of such sensitive, secret story being reported in the press.
CIA and Mossad killed senior Hezbollah figure in car bombing
By By Adam Goldman and Ellen Nakashima, January 30, 2015, Washington Post
On Feb. 12, 2008, Imad Mughniyah, Hezbollah’s international operations chief, walked on a quiet nighttime street in Damascus after dinner at a nearby restaurant. Not far away, a team of CIA spotters in the Syrian capital was tracking his movements.
As Mughniyah approached a parked SUV, a bomb planted in a spare tire on the back of the vehicle exploded, sending a burst of shrapnel across a tight radius. He was killed instantly.
The device was triggered remotely from Tel Aviv by agents with Mossad, the Israeli foreign intelligence service, who were in communication with the operatives on the ground in Damascus. “The way it was set up, the U.S. could object and call it off, but it could not execute,” said a former U.S. intelligence official.
The United States helped build the bomb, the former official said, and tested it repeatedly at a CIA facility in North Carolina to ensure the potential blast area was contained and would not result in collateral damage. [..]
The United States has never acknowledged participation in the killing of Mughniyah, which Hezbollah blamed on Israel. Until now, there has been little detail about the joint operation by the CIA and Mossad to kill him, how the car bombing was planned or the exact U.S. role. With the exception of the 2011 killing of Osama bin Laden, the mission marked one of the most high-risk covert actions by the United States in recent years.
U.S. involvement in the killing, which was confirmed by five former U.S. intelligence officials, also pushed American legal boundaries.
Obama Order Sped Up Wave of Cyberattacks Against Iran
Daid Sanger, June 1, 2012, The New York Times
From his first months in office, President Obama secretly ordered increasingly sophisticated attacks on the computer systems that run Iran’s main nuclear enrichment facilities, significantly expanding America’s first sustained use of cyberweapons, according to participants in the program.
Mr. Obama decided to accelerate the attacks – begun in the Bush administration and code-named Olympic Games – even after an element of the program accidentally became public in the summer of 2010 because of a programming error that allowed it to escape Iran’s Natanz plant and sent it around the world on the Internet. Computer security experts who began studying the worm, which had been developed by the United States and Israel, gave it a name: Stuxnet.
At a tense meeting in the White House Situation Room within days of the worm’s “escape,” Mr. Obama, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and the director of the Central Intelligence Agency at the time, Leon E. Panetta, considered whether America’s most ambitious attempt to slow the progress of Iran’s nuclear efforts had been fatally compromised.
John McCain demands leak investigation
By Austin Wright, June 5, 2012, Politico
Arizona Sen. John McCain on Tuesday demanded an investigation into the recent leaks of classified information on U.S. intelligence operations.
The ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, who lost the 2008 presidential election to Barack Obama, accused the White House of leaking sensitive details on covert missions to The New York Times in order to “paint a portrait of the president of the United States as a strong leader on national security issues.”
McCain also said the Obama administration might have been responsible for blowing the cover of a Pakistani doctor who helped U.S. commandos locate Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. The doctor, Shakil Afridi, has been sentenced by a Pakistani court to 33 years in prison.
“This is not a proud day for the United States of America,” McCain said in a fiery speech on the Senate floor. “Our friends are not the only ones who read The New York Times. Our enemies do too.”
McCain said Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) had agreed hold hearings on the issue. “Regardless of how politically useful they might have been to the president, they have to stop – the leaks have to stop,” McCain demanded.
The New York Times: These were not leaks
By Dylan Byers, June 7, 2012, Politico
Caught in the crosshairs of a contentious dispute between the White House and Congress, The New York Times is vowing to charge ahead with its coverage of developments in U.S. national security – and denying that the paper is on the receiving end of silver-platter leaks from the Obama administration.
“These are some of the most significant developments in national security in a generation,” Times managing editor Dean Baquet told POLITICO on Thursday, referring to his paper’s recent reports on the Obama administration’s use of drone strikes and cyberattacks. “We’re going to keep doing these stories.”
Following Sen. John McCain’s demand for an independent investigation into White House security leaks, Republicans and Democrats on both the House and Senate intelligence committees issued a joint statement on Wednesday calling on the Obama administration “to fully, fairly and impartially investigate” whether or not administration officials were responsible for leaking information that appeared in the recent Times’ articles.
But the fact that the White House has not raised complaints about the Times’ reports further stokes congressional concern that the administration was somehow involved in leaking the stories.
Condoleezza Rice Testifies on Urging The Times to Not Run Article
By Matt Apuzzo, January 15, 2015, New York Times
White House officials favor two primary tactics when they want to kill a news article, Condoleezza Rice, the former national security adviser, testified Thursday: They can essentially confirm the report by arguing that it is too important to national security to be published, or they can say that the reporter has it wrong.
Sitting across from a reporter and editor from The New York Times in early 2003, Ms. Rice said, she tried both.
Testifying in the leak trial of Jeffrey Sterling, a former C.I.A. officer, Ms. Rice described how the White House successfully persuaded Times editors not to publish an article about a secret operation to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program. James Risen, a Times reporter, ultimately revealed the program in his 2006 book, “State of War,” and said that the C.I.A. had botched the operation. Prosecutors used Ms. Rice’s testimony to bolster their case that the leak to Mr. Risen had harmed national security.
“This was very closely held,” Ms. Rice said. “It was one of the most closely held programs in my tenure as national security adviser.”
Ms. Rice’s account also threw a light on how the government pressures journalists to avoid publishing details about United States security affairs. It is a common practice that is seldom discussed.
C.I.A. Officer Is Found Guilty in Leak Tied to Times Reporter
By Matt Apuzzo, January 26, 2015, New York Times
Jeffrey A. Sterling, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer, was convicted of espionage Monday on charges that he told a reporter for The New York Times about a secret operation to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program.
The conviction is a significant victory for the Obama administration, which has conducted an unprecedented crackdown on officials who speak to journalists about security matters without the administration’s approval. Prosecutors prevailed after a yearslong fight in which the reporter, James Risen, refused to identify his sources.
The case revolved around a C.I.A. operation in which a former Russian scientist provided Iran with intentionally flawed nuclear component schematics. Mr. Risen revealed the operation in his 2006 book, “State of War,” describing it as a mismanaged, potentially reckless mission that may have inadvertently aided the Iranian nuclear program.
One can only surmise the reason for the need to release the Mossad/CIA assassination plot at this time.
You can add D.C. Madame Deborah Jeane Palfrey to that long list of marvelously convenient mysterious deaths, ‘accidents’ and ‘suicides’ that have for so long been a fixture of the hijacked by fascist American political system. The dead giveaway on the importance of Palfrey and the threat that she represents is that ordinarily such an incident would be flogged to death 24/7 on the corporate media machine given the sexual sleaze factor and the celebrity allure. Well that insipid blathering sow Nancy Grace spent about ten or fifteen minutes on it on Thursday and was then on to something ridiculous involving actor Rob Lowe, as much as I hate cable ‘news’ programs I tuned again the night after and she was talking about some kidnapped or murdered pregnant teenager, you know, the same local news that is trumped up and manufactured into a national crisis.
A recent news article confirming suspicions that the five recent cuts of undersea fiber optic cables to the Mideast may have been sabotaged got me to thinking that there is an obvious explanation for the cuts. Fiber optic cables are difficult to tap without detection. Unlike copper wire, which can be tapped without breaking the communication stream, a fiber cable has to have a piece of hardware physically inserted into the light path to perform a tap. This produces a detectable outage that can be localized to the tapped segment.
But what if you cut the cable in one place and, while the cable company is readying repairs, you tap another segment of the cable? Nobody knows that you tapped the cable, and nobody knows where it has been tapped. This is the obvious explanation. Bush authorized the massive wiretapping of all the fiber optic cables that lead to Iran. Whether this is a preparation for war or just continuing intelligence activity is anybody’s guess, but it does not give me a warm feeling.