It’s happening again. A White House fumbling with the violent mess of Iraq finds itself surrounded by mounting accusations that it’s played dirty games with intelligence. A Pentagon facing charges that its analysts have skewed assessments on Iraq to tell top policymakers what they want to hear, rather than what is really happening in that troubled country.
If this sounds terribly familiar, it should. Only a dozen years after the George W. Bush White House was buffeted by allegations that it had “cherry-picked” intelligence to justify its 2003 invasion of Iraq, Barack Obama is facing similar accusations. Intelligence Community analysts alleged that, in the run-up to Operation Iraqi Freedom, they were pressured to exaggerate Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction. Now, analysts claim that they have been pushed to present Obama’s war against the Islamic State as more successful than it really is.
Only the most optimistic Obama backers still portray that year-long air campaign (its proper name is Operation Inherent Resolve) as adequate, and most security experts agree that the Islamic State is winning the war on the ground, thanks in part to an American-led air war that is bombing too little and too cautiously. There is no indication that Western airpower is anywhere near inflicting decisive pain on the Islamic State, while our Iraqi partners, who serve as the ground anvil for the U.S. airborne hammer, increasingly feel left in the lurch by Obama.
Read the rest at the New York Observer …
A woman on the radio talks about revolution
When it’s already passed her by.
— Jesus Jones, 1991
The election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party has sent shockwaves far beyond Britain. There has been disbelief that the United Kingdom’s storied left-wing party opted to be led by a man so obviously contemptuous of his own society. In the wake of their recent electoral debacle under the uninspiring Ed Miliband, Labour has chosen as its leader an activist who resembles a walking leftist cliché.
Corbyn’s radicalism is not in doubt. Aside from his embrace of socialist-throwback platitudes that linger on his party’s left flank on the full range of domestic issues, in adamant rejection of Blairism, Corbyn’s foreign-policy views merit attention. Openly hostile to NATO and Britain’s longstanding “special relationship” with the United States, Corbyn adds overt sympathy for numerous authoritarian regimes.
He blames the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, not the Kremlin, for the Ukraine crisis and has endorsed Russia Today, Putin’s TV propaganda network. Corbyn opposes essentially all overseas military operations by Britain and wants to parley with Bashar al-Assad, four years into Syria’s fratricide, while viewing Tehran as a partner for Middle East peace.
Read the rest at The Federalist …
[It’s rare of me to run something not written by yours truly but National Review has run a profile of me, which may be something that regular readers want to take a peek at.]
It takes a quick eye to keep up with John Schindler’s Twitter feed. Schindler, a former analyst at the National Security Agency, a former professor at the Naval War College, and a self-proclaimed “sometime provocateur,” fires off an average of more than 100 tweets a day.
Lately, his commentary has been directed toward the seemingly never-ending scandal surrounding Hillary Clinton’s use of a private e-mail server during her tenure as secretary of state. “Clinton, Inc. thinks they can win a liar’s match and leakfest with the [intelligence community],” he wrote on Twitter last week. While Clinton’s camp may try to dissuade the public from concluding that its actions were criminal, Schindler says those with intelligence experience aren’t fooled. “Spooks know just what they’ve been up to . . . for years.”
Schindler has amassed a loyal following, particularly among conservatives, for his blunt missives on cyber-security, foreign policy, and intelligence. His experience as an NSA analyst has made him a unique player in debates over the NSA metadata program laid bare by Edward Snowden, the Chinese hacking of the Office of Personnel Management’s database, and the Clinton scandal known in the Twittersphere as “#EmailGate.” His contribution comes in translating intelligence- and security-speak — often an impenetrable argot — for the uninitiated.
Read the rest at National Review …
Yesterday I sat down with The Federalist’s Ben Domenech again to chat national security stuff. As they put it:
The classified emails discovered on Hillary Clinton’s private server must not be taken lightly. NSA agent and analyst turned professor, John Schindler, reminds Ben that “people have died defending top-secret, code-word information.”
Then on Federalist Radio, Schindler takes the American security status quo and cuts it to size, explaining everything from Russian meddling in the Middle East to the refugee crisis sweeping Europe.
You can listen in at The Federalist Radio Hour right here — enjoy!
I’ve been doing my best to explain the complex intelligence realities behind Hillary Clinton’s on-going #EmailGate scandal for months now, and we’re still far from the end of this messy saga.
Hillary’s take on what happened with her State Department “unclassified” email and her “private” server has see-sawed with the customary Clintonian lawyerly evasions, untruths, and now something approaching half-truths.
First it was: everything done was legal and acceptable.
Then came: mistakes were perhaps made, but not by me, and I’m not apologizing.
Followed by: the inevitable Clintonian sorry-not-sorry.
Now, having seen her polls dropping in rock-like fashion, we’re at: I’m kinda sorry but still nothing I emailed was “marked” classified.
The last is a particularly dishonest evasion, given that the Intelligence Community has twice determined that in fact TOPSECRET//SCI information was included in Hillary’s “private” email on at least two occasions. Given that’s from a sample of just forty emails, out of the 30,000 she has handed over to investigators (to say nothing of the 30,000 more that Hillary deleted), the mind boggles at how many actually classified (if unmarked) emails Hillary and her Foggy Bottom staff put on her personal server. As I’ve recently explained, this is a complex counterintelligence investigation that will last for months yet.
The core of this debate is what makes information classified in the U.S. Government. Much of what’s marked — and it’s always marked — classified relates to policy matters and is customarily classified at the CONFIDENTIAL or SECRET level. The vast majority of the information identified as actually classified in Hillary’s “unclassified” emails is in this group, with most being CONFIDENTIAL, the lowest level of classification.
Critics of secrecy (including some Hillary defenders) love to point out that the U.S. Government, the Pentagon especially, habitually overclassifies things. While this is a hoary Beltway cliché it contains more than a grain of truth, and anybody who’s spent time in our secret government and is honest will admit to having seen things that were marked classified, usually at low levels, that really didn’t need to be. Some of this is mere bureaucratic habit while some can be placed at the doorstep of those three most important letters in Washington, DC; C-Y-A.
That said, what Hillary and her staff seem to have compromised was mainly what the State Department terms Foreign Government Information and, when it involves high-level diplomatic conversations — say, discussions between a Secretary of State and a foreign counterpart — that sort of FGI is always considered classified at Foggy Bottom. Secrecy lies at the heart of international diplomacy and always has, and if Hillary planned to change that she really needed to inform the countless allies and friends abroad who confided in her with the expectation that their conversation would remain out of view of the public and foreign intelligence agencies — and not on Hillary’s unencrypted private email and server.
The most serious allegations facing Team Clinton, however, focus on the compromised intelligence. Exposing TOPSECRET information is a much more serious matter, legally and practically, than compromising less classified things. If, as now appears certain, Hillary and/or her staff placed such highly sensitive information, reported to deal with North Korean WMDs, in private unclassified email, that is something the FBI will be unable to ignore.
How the Intelligence Community classifies its information is opaque to outsiders yet needs clarification as such knotty issues occupy an important part of the #EmailGate story. I’ve previously elaborated in detail how intelligence analysis from multiple classified sources winds up on the desks of senior policymakers inside the Beltway, creating a complex picture.
How that information gets classified in the first place needs explanation. Most, though by no means all, of the Intelligence Community’s output consists of information that’s been purloined one way or the other. As I like to explain to outsiders, the business of any spy agency is learning things that they are not supposed to know. Which is really a nice way of saying the core work of every intelligence service is breaking the laws of foreign countries.
How classified any information is derives from a process termed intelligence sources and methods. This is so critical that it’s called “the heart of all intelligence operations” in Washington, DC. All this really means is that how intelligence has been obtained determines its classification level, not the information itself.
Since our Intelligence Community is a seventeen-agency behemoth with a lot of people churning out a lot of information — remember, they’re not stovepipes, they’re “cylinders of excellence” — sometimes the same information gets reported through different channels at very different levels of classification. This provides an ideal example of showing how sources and methods actually work.
Let’s say that Zendia’s top general officer, Abu Jackson, is deathly ill and may not have long to live. High-ranking people in Washington, DC, care about this because General Jackson is considered a friend of the United States and he has been cooperative regarding hush-hush joint counterterrorism operations in his country.
If his illness is revealed in local press, that will likely be picked up by our Embassy there and probably also by the CIA’s Open Source Center, which translates foreign media. Since this is open press, it’s considered UNCLASSIFIED (though the Embassy may put a Sensitive But Unclassified — SBU, or what the Pentagon calls For Official Use Only or FOUO — stamp on it as a formality). Of course, Zendian press is sensationalist and it’s good not to put much credence in such reports without independent corroboration.
However, if our defense attaché hears whispers that General Jackson is seriously ill through his or her channels, which really amounts to hall gossip inside the Zendian Ministry of Defense, that will be reported by the Defense Intelligence Agency at the CONFIDENTIAL level, SECRET at most.
Meanwhile, if a Central Intelligence Agency case officer learns from a cultivated and validated human source about General Jackson’s illness and possible impending death, that report will flow through Langley with a SECRET//NOFORN stamp on it (unless the Zendian asset is unusually well placed, in which case a TOPSECRET//NOFORN marking and even special compartments could apply).
Let’s say, that same day, the National Security Agency intercepts a phone call between a top Zendian officer, a senior staffer to General Jackson, who tells a counterpart in Dirtbagistan, on what both believe to be a secure line, that his boss is dying of cancer and has three or four months to live. That will be reported by NSA at the TOPSECRET//SCI level since it relies on that Agency’s ability to decipher encrypted Dirtbagistani defense communications, and it will be given a high level of credibility by U.S. decision-makers since it’s “horse’s mouth” testimony.
The salient point is that the essential information — that General Jackson is a seriously unwell man — is identical. How this information was obtained by our intelligence services, the relevant sources and methods, alone determine classification levels.
The fact of General Jackson’s grave illness came from several different sources:
— Foreign press reporting, termed Open Source Intelligence or OSINT;
— Low-level Human Intelligence or HUMINT from DIA;
— High-level HUMINT from CIA;
— High-grade Signals Intelligence or SIGINT from NSA.
This complexity also goes some way to explaining why the Intelligence Community is prone to overclassifying things, for instance labeling press reports that appear in U.S. Government correspondence — as has happened with #EmailGate — as classified. This sounds crazy to outsiders but is commonplace since these are comments by senior officials who are reading classified intelligence in addition to press accounts (insiders term these “reflections”).
The next time a member of the media or a Hillary advocate, few of whom possess any real understanding of intelligence matters, presents these issues brought forth by #EmailGate as simple or straightforward — or, alternately, so complicated that no mere mortal could be expected to understand classification — remember that in fact they are complex yet comprehensible. As I have explained here.
Counterintelligence specialists suspect that the former Secretary of State wasn’t the only member of the Obama administration emailing secrets around.
Hillary Clinton’s email problems are already causing headaches for her presidential campaign. But within American counterintelligence circles, there’s a mounting sense that the former Secretary of State may not be the only Obama administration official in trouble. This is a scandal that has the potential to spread to the White House, as well.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation can be expected to be tight-lipped, especially because this highly sensitive case is being handled by counterintelligence experts from Bureau headquarters a few blocks down Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House, not by the FBI’s Washington Field Office. That will ensure this investigation gets the needed “big picture” view, since even senior FBI agents at any given field office may only have a partial look at complex counterintelligence cases.
And this most certainly is a counterintelligence matter. There’s a widely held belief among American counterspies that foreign intelligence agencies had to be reading the emails on Hillary’s private server, particularly since it was wholly unencrypted for months. “I’d fire my staff if they weren’t getting all this,” explained one veteran Department of Defense counterintelligence official, adding: “I’d hate to be the guy in Moscow or Beijing right now who had to explain why they didn’t have all of Hillary’s email.” Given the widespread hacking that has plagued the State Department, the Pentagon, and even the White House during Obama’s presidency, senior counterintelligence officials are assuming the worst about what the Russians and Chinese know.
Read the rest at The Daily Beast …
It is my privilege to reveal to you this highly classified National Security Agency intercept which reveals just what Russian intelligence knew about Hillary Clinton and her email security problems. While I believe that classified information should remain classified, this is a matter of such national importance, since Hillary could be our next Commander-in-Chief, that I am going whistleblower here and leaking this historic document.
DOI: 23052009 1045Z
This intercept was received by an NSA covert SIGINT site. It is a conversation between two (2) senior officials of the Russian General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU). It discusses GRU SIGINT intercepts of conversations between high-ranking US Persons (USPs) in their official USG capacity and is to be handled on an EYES ONLY basis. FBI/NSD has been informed. White House/NSC and STATE are not – repeat NOT – authorized to receive this information due to counterintelligence concerns that have been verified by FBI/NSD and CIA/CIC.
This document is classified TOPSECRET//SI//NOFORN//NODISSEM in its entirety and is to be maintained as hard-copy only per the regulations of ECI SHOCKWAVE.
A: Sasha, what the [expletive deleted] are your guys over at BIGBEAR  doing?
B: What, Tolya? Have you been drinking again? [Laughs]
A: Just two, it’s early.
B: Two is good, it stimulates the brain.
A: [Expletive deleted] it sure does! But look, I need some answers. The whole AQUARIUM  is up in arms over this.
B: Why? It’s all great [expletive deleted]. If the BIGBEAR guys don’t get us all promoted, what the [expletive deleted] ever will?
A: I know….but the big guys here think it’s, you know, too good.
B: The magic [expletive deleted/USP 1] in the White House is running strategic deception on us? [Laughs] They can’t find their Ivy League [expletive deleted] with both hands!
A: Sure, but [USP 2]? They are cunning, [USP 3] knew we listened in on him when he was in the White House, surely.
B: You think he told his wife about that?
A: Well, it was funny, wasn’t it? I loved the chat we intercepted when [USP 3] was getting [expletive deleted] from [USP 4] and then – oh [expletive deleted] – [USP 5] walked in on them and threw a potted plant at them both!
B: [Laughs] Operation INTERN SURPRISE! Slurp-slurp, then scream-scream! God, those were good times.
A: You know it’s really too bad Beijing got to [USP 3] first with their cash, he seems like a fun guy.
B: His wife, not so much. [Laughs]
A: Yes, never enough vodka for that! [Laughs] And [USP 6] – what the [expletive deleted] is the deal with her?
B: The Brotherhood  mole?
B: Yeah, we have that too. Cairo confirmed it last month.
A: Wow, the Americans are really [expletive deleted].
B: The emails we are getting from [USP 2]’s office tell it all.
A, Can this actually be real? Who is this stupid? Is [USP 2] trying to have completely open diplomacy?
B: It has to be real. They have absolutely no communications discipline, even for Americans. [Laughs] They are putting EVERYTHING [almost shouted] in these emails.
A: I saw that. It’s unbelievable. How did we crack into this?
B: We didn’t have to “crack” anything! [USP 2] uses her own email on her own server, and it’s totally unencrypted!
A: [Expletive deleted] me, what?
B: I know, it’s insane. They recently put some light encryption on “her” server, after months of no security at all, but we’re deep inside now. We worked around it in 20 minutes. And [USP 2] does all her diplomacy on this line, unreal!
A: Who is this [USP 7] guy who’s in every other email?
B: Oh, him. The one with the self-hating Jewish Nazi son? It’s all too strange. He’s [USP 2]’s close adviser, but boring and confused. Very self-important. I liked [USP 3]’s presidency better, more sex and drugs. [Laughs]
A: Are we absolutely certain Operation PANTSUIT  is legit? I need a firm answer for the bosses.
B: We are 100 percent sure. We’ve cross-referenced diplomatic information that [USPs 2 and 6] are putting in their open emails with other intercepts we’re getting.
B: Just the other day [USP 2] emailed [USP 7] the readout of her meeting with the German ambassador and we intercepted the German account of it too – they’re not idiots like the Americans, it was in their encrypted communications, but we’ve been reading German diplomatic ciphers for years – and they matched exactly.
A: Good, I’ll tell the bosses that. Get the transcripts to me soon.
B: Will do, it all checks out.
A: The bosses still have some questions.
A: You know how it is. The NEIGHBORS  get them spun up with their stupid [expletive deleted] “theories”.
B: What now?
A: They think “Parks and Recreation” is a secret American program to destabilize our economy. Something run by CIA using Facebook as their cut-out.
B: [Laughs] Those [expletive deleted] morons. The original BIGBEAR intercept said it’s a [expletive deleted] television show!
A: I know, I know. But put that in the follow-up memo too, I need to cover my [expletive deleted] here.
B: Will do, not a problem, you’ll have it by the end of the day.
A: Thanks, Sasha: I owe you one. But what about “gefilte fish”? This seems to be an Israeli operation, something to do with Mossad.
B: Yes, BIGBEAR came to that conclusion as well. We’re looking for more information. Given how deeply Mossad had [USP 3]’s White House penetrated, there is reason for concern.
A: Good, good…put that in the memo too, that should get the attention of the bosses.
B: Just not The Boss, please! 
A: Oh [expletive deleted] no! The last thing we need is that Leningrad Chekist on us. No details outside of our channels, you know how he and his guys love to play counterspy over at the Kremlin. We have no time for that [expletive deleted].
B: Right, definitely. Bottom line is we’re sure PANTSUIT checks out, it will all be in the memo.
A: Excellent, excellent. I still can’t believe they’re this stupid, but I like it! You’ll get your star for this one, Sasha!
B: I’ll believe that when I see it, but I will take your vodka until then, Tolya! [Laughs]
A: If [USP 2] ever manages to become President, we’ll have it made. Keep up the great work and make sure I get every email these idiots send.
B: Will do, boss! We’re getting every last one. These clowns will only stop emailing when they’re dead! [Laughs]
A = GenMaj (one-star) Anatoliy V. POTAPOV, Chief of GRU Covert SIGINT Operations
B = Col Aleksandr N. SHAPOSHNIKOV, Senior GRU Staff Officer (NFI)
USP 1 = POTUS
USP 2 = SECSTATE
USP 3 = Former POTUS
USP 4 = Prominent Hollywood actress
USP 5 = Former White House employee
USP 6 = Senior STATE Staffer
USP 7 = Close friend of USPs 2 and 3, operating as an unofficial adviser to STATE
1. BIGBEAR is the GRU coverterm for their covert SIGINT site located inside the Russian Embassy in Washington, DC.
2. AQUARIUM (AKVARIUM) is the colloquial term for GRU Headquarters located at Khodynka Airfield near Moscow
3. “Brotherhood” is believed to refer to the Muslim Brotherhood.
4. Operation PANTSUIT is the GRU coverterm for their interception of USP 2’s personal and STATE emails (which use the same address and reside on the same, non-USG server, according to GRU information; this violation of policy has been referred to FBI/NSD).
5. NEIGHBORS is a reference to the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR).
6. “The Boss” in this context is an apparent reference to Vladimir Putin.
[This document is, of course, a fake. I’ve used fake-but-accurately rendered “classified” information before to explain Hillary’s EmailGate mess, and I am pretty sure this is a cosmically accurate, if fictional, rendering of events, based on my long dealings with Russian intelligence. GRU hasn’t opened its archives to anybody, ever, so perhaps our descendants will find out in the 23rd century.]