About the "Nine Current and Former Officials" Losing Security Clearances
In February 2017, “nine current and former officials” confirmed classified information leaked to the Washington Post and the New York Times. That information was intelligence obtained from NSA intercepts of several telephone calls between incoming National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and Russian Ambassador Kislyak.
Each of those nine could have been prosecuted for violating their security oaths which expressly forbids officials from revealing, or confirming, the contents of classified materials until they have been formally declassified by the agency that created them. Those officials could have been charged with, among other felony crimes, violation of the Espionage Act, 18 USC Sec. 793, punishable by ten years imprisonment. See, https://fas.org/sgp/crs/secrecy/RS21900.pdf
Having a security clearance revoked after such a felony violation is a mere slap on the wrist.
Here’s how the WaPo reported that mass breach of secrecy when it broke its own story that incoming National Security Advisor Michael Flynn had been conducting back-channels diplomacy with the Russian Ambassador:
[T]he fuller account of Flynn’s contacts with Kislyak provided by officials who had access to reports from U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies that routinely monitor the communications of Russian diplomats. Nine current and former officials, who were in senior positions at multiple agencies at the time of the calls, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters.
All of those officials said Flynn’s references to the election-related sanctions were explicit. Two of those officials went further, saying that Flynn urged Russia not to overreact to the penalties being imposed by President Barack Obama, making clear that the two sides would be in position to review the matter after Trump was sworn in as president.
Before his phone calls were intercepted, disseminated and leaked, Mike Flynn had long been the target of intense hatred within the New Cold Warrior and NeoCon circles. This is because of his central role as Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) that worked with the Russian military to block the takeover of Syria by Saudi Arabian-backed Jihadists working with the CIA and Clinton State Dept.
Flynn was appointed Director of DIA by Obama in 2012. The same Obama who eventually agreed to his firing two years later at the urging of Clinton, Brennan, Rice and most of the rest of the NSC basement crowd after DIA and the Joint Chiefs worked with the Russian military to prevent ISIS from taking Damascus. The head of the Joint Chiefs, General Dempsey, also opposed the program to arm Saudi backed militants in Syria. Nonetheless, Flynn took the fall for that.
This is the context of Brennan, Rice and others losing who are now having their security clearance revoked. Apparently, the WaPo and NYT have to be reminded of events they themselves first leaked. Here’s the missing context behind the leaks they aren’t now providing:
Military to Military
Seymour M. Hersh on US intelligence sharing in the Syrian war
Barack Obama’s repeated insistence that Bashar al-Assad must leave office – and that there are ‘moderate’ rebel groups in Syria capable of defeating him – has in recent years provoked quiet dissent, and even overt opposition, among some of the most senior officers on the Pentagon’s Joint Staff. Their criticism has focused on what they see as the administration’s fixation on Assad’s primary ally, Vladimir Putin. In their view, Obama is captive to Cold War thinking about Russia and China, and hasn’t adjusted his stance on Syria to the fact both countries share Washington’s anxiety about the spread of terrorism in and beyond Syria; like Washington, they believe that Islamic State must be stopped.
The military’s resistance dates back to the summer of 2013, when a highly classified assessment, put together by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, then led by General Martin Dempsey, forecast that the fall of the Assad regime would lead to chaos and, potentially, to Syria’s takeover by jihadi extremists, much as was then happening in Libya. A former senior adviser to the Joint Chiefs told me that the document was an ‘all-source’ appraisal, drawing on information from signals, satellite and human intelligence, and took a dim view of the Obama administration’s insistence on continuing to finance and arm the so-called moderate rebel groups. By then, the CIA had been conspiring for more than a year with allies in the UK, Saudi Arabia and Qatar to ship guns and goods – to be used for the overthrow of Assad – from Libya, via Turkey, into Syria. The new intelligence estimate singled out Turkey as a major impediment to Obama’s Syria policy. The document showed, the adviser said, ‘that what was started as a covert US programme to arm and support the moderate rebels fighting Assad had been co-opted by Turkey, and had morphed into an across-the-board technical, arms and logistical programme for all of the opposition, including Jabhat al-Nusra and Islamic State. The so-called moderates had evaporated and the Free Syrian Army was a rump group stationed at an airbase in Turkey.’ The assessment was bleak: there was no viable ‘moderate’ opposition to Assad, and the US was arming extremists.
Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, director of the DIA between 2012 and 2014, confirmed that his agency had sent a constant stream of classified warnings to the civilian leadership about the dire consequences of toppling Assad. The jihadists, he said, were in control of the opposition. Turkey wasn’t doing enough to stop the smuggling of foreign fighters and weapons across the border. ‘If the American public saw the intelligence we were producing daily, at the most sensitive level, they would go ballistic,’ Flynn told me. ‘We understood Isis’s long-term strategy and its campaign plans, and we also discussed the fact that Turkey was looking the other way when it came to the growth of the Islamic State inside Syria.’ The DIA’s reporting, he said, ‘got enormous pushback’ from the Obama administration. ‘I felt that they did not want to hear the truth.’
‘Our policy of arming the opposition to Assad was unsuccessful and actually having a negative impact,’ the former JCS adviser said. ‘The Joint Chiefs believed that Assad should not be replaced by fundamentalists. The administration’s policy was contradictory. They wanted Assad to go but the opposition was dominated by extremists. So who was going to replace him? To say Assad’s got to go is fine, but if you follow that through – therefore anyone is better. It’s the “anybody else is better” issue that the JCS had with Obama’s policy.’ The Joint Chiefs felt that a direct challenge to Obama’s policy would have ‘had a zero chance of success’. So in the autumn of 2013 they decided to take steps against the extremists without going through political channels, by providing US intelligence to the militaries of other nations, on the understanding that it would be passed on to the Syrian army and used against the common enemy, Jabhat al-Nusra and Islamic State.
Here’s more on how the efforts publicly led by Flynn within the Joint Chiefs to work more closely with the Russian military to prevent the Saudi and CIA-backed Islamists from taking over Syria won him the enduring hatred of Brennan, Rice and others in the NSC, the same figures who would later leak and confirm classified raw intelligence intercepts to the media to sink Flynn and prevent the incoming National Security Advisor from continuing to work to deconflict relations with Russia. https://www.thedailybeast.com/michael-flynn-had-a-plan-to-work-with-russ...
Another idea, known as “Enhanced Deconfliction,” emerged last fall, before the election. Advocated by General Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and his strategic planning chief, Lt. General Kenneth “Frank” McKenzie Jr., Enhanced Deconfliction sought to expand the deconfliction channel, making it more of a forum for senior-level military discussion, and without Pentagon policy officials on the line. But McKenzie, whose planning shop put together a memo on the idea, was vague about what the purpose of the higher-level talks would be. (Some understood it to include a technology upgrade.) The outgoing defense secretary, Ashton Carter, nixed the idea.
Several former defense officials do not consider Enhanced Deconfliction to be a sop to Trump or his closeness to Russia. Instead, they understood it as the military taking an opportunity to see what it could get out of Barack Obama’s successor. When the idea began floating around the Joint Staff, most at the Pentagon assumed Hillary Clinton would be their next commander in chief.
Into this dynamic stepped Mike Flynn. But in January, Flynn went beyond any earlier proposal to hyperturbocharge the deconfliction channel. Flynn’s comfort with Russia had been on display for years. As chief of the Defense Intelligence Agency, he visited the Moscow headquarters of Russian military intelligence and later boasted of being the first U.S. official to ever do so.
These are the same people — Brennan, Rice, and the others — who will do anything and risk everything to prevent peace from breaking out, particularly in that part of the world, even if they have to violate their security oaths to get Flynn. Yes, that’s what this is all about. I guess nearly everyone at the WaPo and NYT have already forgotten the multiple serving and recently retired intelligence officials who “outed” Flynn’s conversations with the Russian Ambassador, revealing classified materials and violating the Espionage Act in so doing.