Yesterday the Wall Street Journal reported that seven subpoenas were issued by the House Intelligence Committee.
Four of the Subpoenas were for Mike Flynn and President Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen – one for each man and one for their respective companies. According to Fox News, these four subpoenas were “issued at behest of the committee’s ranking Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), and were said to be duplicative of subpoenas already issued by the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is conducting a parallel probe”. As such they are not the real story – indeed, they were almost certainly issued by Schiff as a distraction from the real story.
Before proceeding it may be helpful to read Devin Nunes, Classified Intelligence & Schiff’s Political Pretense. This article provides some detail on Devin Nunes and his discovery of politicized unmasking, Adam Schiff’s tactics, the Gang of Eight and our Intelligence Agency makeup.
On May 26, 2017 a little-noticed CNN article stated that Nunes still had the power to issue subpoenas in the House Intelligence Committee’s Russia Inquiry:
“Rep. Devin Nunes, who stepped aside from leading the House intelligence committee’s Russia probe under a cloud of controversy, still is in charge of a key decision: Whether to issue subpoenas to obtain records and testimony central to the investigation.
In a private meeting this week, House intelligence committee members discussed their plans to move ahead with the Russia investigation into meddling in the US election. And the GOP members made clear that the current rules of the committee still apply: That Nunes can issue the subpoenas “upon consultation with” ranking Democrat Adam Schiff or by a vote of the full committee, according to several sources familiar with the matter.”
I guess these sources knew of what they were speaking.
For it is these other three subpoenas, signed by Devin Nunes, that are far more interesting – as they relate directly and specifically to unmasking activities.
These subpoenas target three of our Intelligence Agencies; the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the National Security Agency (NSA). Each of the subpoenas name three specific individuals “as figures of interest” in their demand for documents; former National Security Advisor Susan Rice, former CIA Director John Brennan and – interestingly – former UN Ambassador Samantha Power.
Equally interesting is whom they don’t name – specifically either current NSA Director Mike Rogers or former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. I find one omission affirming, the other puzzling.
The Fox report highlights one other item of relevance. The NSA had been – until recently – mostly cooperative. The CIA and the FBI have not:
“Where NSA had previously complied with the House panel’s investigators, sources said that cooperation had ground to a complete halt, and that the other agencies – FBI and CIA – had never substantively cooperated with document requests at all.”
I’m unsurprised by the lack of cooperation from the FBI and the CIA. I am somewhat surprised at the NSA’s recent lack of cooperation – if the Fox report is accurate. I suspect there may be some meaningful reasons why the NSA has withdrawn cooperation. I have previously maintained that Mike Rogers may be the one good guy – the one real white hat – in this whole affair.
Note this short timeline prior to President Trump’s actual inauguration:
On November 17th, 2016, NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers travels to see President-Elect Donald Trump in Trump Tower, New York. Director Rogers does not inform his boss Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper.
On November 17th, 2016, the Trump Transition Team announces they are moving all transition activity to Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey.
On November 19th The Washington Post reported on a recommendation made by Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper in October that Mike Rogers be removed from his NSA position.
Rogers may have notified President-elect Trump of surveillance activities by Obama’s intelligence community (Clapper, Brennan & Comey).
The noticeable lack of Rogers’ name in the subpoenas helps to affirm my view he is one of the good guys.
But I am puzzled by the lack of James Clapper’s name. I can think of three obvious reasons:
- James Clapper did not participate in surveillance or order any illegal unmasking – actually a White Hat.
- A separate subpoena is still to be issued targeting him.
- Clapper has already provided information – and is continuing to do so – to the investigative committee.
I find the first possibility to be unlikely. I have always thought Clapper and Brennan were at the core of surveillance activities – either directly or indirectly – on Obama’s behalf – with Comey doing the investigative dirty work. I may be proven wrong, but that’s been my view. The second possibility is viable but also strikes me as unlikely. If Brennan is named why isn’t Clapper now as well? Why wait? The third possibility strikes me as more plausible.
President Trump recently sent out some intriguing tweets:
[5/31/17] So now it is reported that the Democrats, who have excoriated Carter Page about Russia, don’t want him to testify. He blows away their…….case against him & now wants to clear his name by showing “the false or misleading testimony by James Comey, John Brennan…” Witch Hunt!
[6/1/17] The big story is the “unmasking and surveillance” of people that took place during the Obama Administration.
President Trump calls out Brennan and Comey but specifically does not mention James Clapper. Why?
James Clapper may be already cooperating behind the scenes.
As a refresher I refer you to John Brennan Heads for the Exits. In his recent testimony, Brennan seemed to be shifting all investigative blame over to Comey:
On March 20, 2017, Comey testifies he only recently informed Congress (the Gang of Eight). On May 23, 2017, Brennan testifies – in his opening remarks – that he informed the Gang of Eight in August and September of 2016. He notes how he informed Obama of Russia activity – and called the Russians out on their actions – from the start. Adam Schiff tees up the proper questions to allow Brennan to clear himself of hiding any knowledge of obstruction – and to gently back away.
In doing these things, Brennan leaves Comey standing alone in the light.
In effect, Brennan tries to clear himself of any wrongdoing. Brennan tells Congress that he only gathers information. He does not analyze it. He is not responsible for shaping it – or drawing conclusions. And most importantly, he divulged all he knew – after passing it all to Comey – to Congressional oversight via the Gang of Eight. Whatever happened after that is something between Congressional investigators and FBI Director Comey.
Within the same article I cover Brennan’s testimony in some detail. Trey Gowdy did much of the questioning – mostly in relation to establishing lack of evidence on collusion – and Brennan’s interpretation of the evidence. Then Gowdy turns to the issue of unmasking at 1:44:19 [on the video]:
At 1:46:51 he gets specific:
GOWDY: On either January 19th or up to noon on January 20th [Brennan’s last day as CIA Director] did you make any unmasking requests?
BRENNAN: I do not believe I did.
GOWDY: You did not make any requests on the last day that you were employed?
BRENNAN: No, I was not in the agency on the last day I was employed. I definitely know that on the last day I was employed I definitely did not make such a request.
Give this snippet a watch. It’s more interesting on video. Gowdy seems to know something more – and wants an answer on the record.
At 1:54:00 Gowdy resumes his questioning on leaks and unmasking. It’s worth watching for its own sake. The next day Gowdy publicly states that key surveillance programs won’t be reauthorized by Congress until questions about intelligence “unmasking” are answered.
If Clapper is indeed working with the House Intelligence Committee, things may get interesting in a hurry.
And then we have Obama’s UN Ambassador Samantha Power. According to the Fox report, investigators “have come to see her role in the unmasking as larger than previously known, and eclipsing those of the other former officials named“.
How can an Ambassador to the UN have a larger role in unmasking than the Director of the CIA or the National Security Advisor? How is that possible?
In testimony directly preceding the transcript I listed above, I originally missed the significance of a question by Gowdy. Here it is [at 1:44:20 on the video]:
GOWDY: Have you ever requested that a U.S. person’s name be unmasked?
BRENNAN: Yes I have.
GOWDY: Have you also either approved or denied requests of others that a U.S. person’s name be unmasked?
BRENNAN: I don’t recall in my tenure at CIA any decision on unmasking for someone else coming up to my level. It would have been — that decision would have been made at a lower level within the agency.
GOWDY: Are you aware of any request within the community that were denied?
BRENNAN: I — I do not — I didn’t have visibility into requests that were being made across the government so I don’t — I don’t recall one that I was denied.
GOWDY: Do you recall any U.S. ambassadors asking that names be unmasked?
BRENNAN: I don’t — I don’t know. Maybe it’s ringing a vague bell but I’m not — I could not answer with any confidence.
I was puzzled at the time by Gowdy’s question – which should have been enough to include it. It’s a lot clearer now – and Brennan was caught off guard.
Samantha Power is famous for doing – well, nothing – while at the UN. Why she would have been in a position to request unmasking is unclear to me right now. As Andrew McCarthy at National Review notes:
“The fact that a subpoena demanding information is issued does not necessarily mean the information exists. Nevertheless, the issuance of a subpoena implies that the issuer has a good-faith basis to believe it does.”
Power was also a confidant of Obama – and is married to Cass Sunstein – Obama’s regulatory Czar from 2009 to 2012.
I will be very curious as to where this leads.
Circa recently broke a story highlighting the egregious offences committed under Obama’s NSA:
“More than 5 percent, or one out of every 20 searches seeking upstream Internet data on Americans inside the NSA’s so-called Section 702 database violated the safeguards Obama and his intelligence chiefs vowed to follow in 2011.
The normally supportive court censured administration officials, saying the failure to disclose the extent of the violations earlier amounted to an “institutional lack of candor” and that the improper searches constituted a “very serious Fourth Amendment issue,” according to a recently unsealed court document dated April 26, 2017.
The admitted violations undercut one of the primary defenses that the intelligence community and Obama officials have used in recent weeks to justify their snooping into incidental NSA intercepts about Americans.”
In The Suspicious Timing of Obama’s NSA Data-Sharing Order I note how the order – which was ready in February 2016 – was delayed until January 3, 2017 – and why it was delayed. This order contained language that restricted the collection of information but allowed for easier sharing of information. Prior to the formal signing of the order, there existed more latitude within the White House in regards to collection of information. However, once signed into effect, the order granted broad latitude in regards to inter-agency sharing of information.
It seems that things might be starting to break out into the open. I hope the House Intelligence Committee – and the Trump Administration – have the fortitude to aggressively see this matter through.
I’m guessing there is so much more to come to light.
James Comey is scheduled to testify next week. I hope he does. But don’t be surprised if his testimony is suddenly delayed.
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