Hillary’s Sources, Methods, and Lies

September 9, 2015

An interesting discussion of how the same piece of information can wind up assigned different levels of classification by different agencies: it depends on how the information is obtained.

The XX Committee

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 twicedetermined 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…

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MI5: On the anniversary of London tube bombings, raise UK terror threat to “critical?”

July 6, 2015
x

“Never give in!”

That’s the news out of London today, as UK security chiefs warn the nation faces the greatest danger of attack in years:

The revelation comes just 24-hours before the nation stops to remember the dead from the 7/7 terrorist attack in 2005 in which 52 London commuters were killed.

Threats from the Islamic State to attack the West during Ramadan have prompted the re-think on national security. The top level meeting follows the terror bombing in Tunisiathat claimed the lives of 30 holidaying Britons.

The Daily Express reports a ‘well-placed security source’ revealed that security chiefs were homing in on three areas of particular concern; East London, the West Midlands and Greater Manchester. The source said:

“The authorities are literally monitoring thousands of people who are deemed a threat. They had their work cut out before the rise of the Islamic Sate but the threat of terrorism now is probably at it’s highest for eight years.

“The Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre meets regularly and there have been serious discussions about whether to raise the nation’s threat level to ‘Critical’. “To make that leap is a very, very big step because what it is basically saying to the public is that we are about to be attacked.

“For that reason the data has to be watertight to make such a decision and for the time being there isn’t enough credible evidence to do so. However the discussions are ongoing and nothing has been discounted. We are facing a really serious threat from Islamic State.”

Tomorrow is the tenth anniversary of the London bombings, when four brave jihadis murderous suicide bombers killed 52 people. Al Qaeda and its offshoots, including ISIS/Islamic State, love to attack on anniversaries, as we experienced in Benghazi on 9/11/12. The anniversary of their cowardly attack on London must be a very tempting occasion.

The Brits have excellent, very serious-minded counter-intelligence and counter-terrorism services and personnel. If they say the threat is borderline critical, take them at their word. One wonders if they leaked this news to fend off the threat by sending a message to the terrorists that “we’re on to you lot,” perhaps goading them into a mistake, or if this is some sort of public alert, issued in the hope of someone reporting something they might otherwise have overlooked.

Regardless, we wish our friends in the UK “good hunting” and hope they nail these medieval psychos before any more innocents are hurt.

PS: While I meant every word of praise written above, one has to think “What the unholy [eff]??” at the news that an al Qaeda-aligned imam, who was an inspiration for the group behind the recent massacre of Britons in Tunisia, continues to live in a mansion in London on welfare. That’s not just wrong, that’s insane.


Snowden is a Fraud

June 12, 2015

Dear Snowden fans, “We told ya so!.” The guy is no hero: far from it.

The XX Committee

In the two years since the Edward Snowden saga went public, a handful of people who actually understand the Western signals intelligence system have tried to explain the many ways that the Snowden Operation has smeared NSA and its partners with salacious charges of criminality and abuse. I’ve been one of the public faces of what may be called the Snowden Truth movement, and finally there are signs that reality may be intruding on this debate.

No American ally was rocked harder by Snowden’s allegations than Germany, which has endured a bout of hysteria over charges that NSA was listening in on senior German officials, including Chancellor Angela Merkel. Although these stories included a good deal of bunkum from the start, they caused a firestorm in Germany, particularly the alleged spying on Merkel, which was termed Handygate by the media.

In response, Germany tasked Federal prosecutors with looking into the…

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The OPM Hacking Scandal Just Got Worse

June 12, 2015

Jim Geraghty described this news a a “cyber-Pearl Harbor.” I’d quibble over the “Pearl Harbor” description, but that this is an almost-certain intelligence disaster (and I use that word deliberately) is doubtless. Think I’m wrong? Just read Mr. Schindler’s post analyzing the latest news.

The XX Committee

The other day I explained in detail how the mega-hack of the Office of Personnel Management’s internal servers looks like a genuine disaster for the U.S. Government, a setback that will have long-lasting and painful counterintelligence consequences. In particular I explained what the four million Americans whose records have been purloined may be in for:

Whoever now holds OPM’s records possesses something like the Holy Grail from a CI perspective.  They can target Americans in their database for recruitment or influence. After all, they know their vices, every last one — the gambling habit, the inability to pay bills on time, the spats with former spouses, the taste for something sexual on the side (perhaps with someone of a different gender than your normal partner) — since all that is recorded in security clearance paperwork (to get an idea of how detailed this gets, you can see the form, called…

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(Video) Andrew Klavan with the revolting truth about the Senate “torture report”

January 16, 2015

Writer and satirist Andrew Klavan takes a sober, dignified look at the recent report on torture and the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques from the Senate Intelligence Committee. I think he sums it up just about right:

Notice how quiet the Democrats and the MSM have become about that report? That’s because they realize it was such an embarrassingly bad hack job that even they can’t defend it.


Iran, Russia, and some damn thing in the Balkans

October 24, 2014
Bosnia-map

Bosnia

There are a couple of must-read articles today at XX Committee (1), both dealing with Iran’s schemes against the West. This first details Iran’s growing activities in Bosnia and Central Europe, where they have been working to cultivate Muslim extremists since Yugoslavia broke up. Note especially that Shiite Iran is quite happy to cooperate with Sunni jihadists, when the target is the “main enemy” — us and Europe. Here’s an excerpt:

…Iran has a considerable espionage base in Bosnia, which they view as a safe haven for their secret operations in the rest of Europe. Of greatest concern are the detectable ties between Iranian intelligencers and Salafi jihadist groups in Bosnia, some of which operate more or less openly (Sunni-Shia disputes notwithstanding, Tehran is happy to arm, train and equip Salafi jihadists, and nowhere more than Bosnia, where they have been doing that for over two decades). This Tehran-Sarajevo spy-terror nexus cannot be divorced from radical activities in Vienna, since Austria’s capital in many ways is the de facto capital of Salafi jihadism in Southeastern Europe, as well as a major playground for Iranian spies. These form an extended web of malevolence that stretches across Eastern and Central Europe.

…and…

Of particular concern is the large number of Iranian intelligence fronts operating in Bosnia that provide cover for operations and funding of terrorists and radicals: NGOs, charities of various sorts, and schools. For the Pasdaran, its most important cut-outs in Bosnia are the “Ibn Sina” Research Institute and the Persian-Bosnian College, but there is a long list of Iranian-linked fronts in the country (my analysis of these and how they provide cover for VEVAK and Pasdaran is here) that play an important role in Tehran’s secret war in Europe.

Should the West ever come to blows with Iran over its nuclear program, don’t doubt for a moment that the mullahs would use these assets to strike back violently in Europe.

Then Mr. Schindler also broke news today of a major Iranian-Russian intelligence cooperation agreement, aimed, of course, at us and the Israelis:

An indication of how cozy things are getting between Moscow and Tehran came this week with a visit to Iran by Nikolai Patrushev, the head of Russia’s National Security Council, who met with Iranian counterparts to discuss mutual threats. As Patrushev explained, “Iran has been one of Russia’s key partners in the region and it will remain so in future … [we] have similar and close views on many key regional issues and we had a serious exchange of views on the situation in Syria, Iraq and Libya.”

But this was not just a diplomatic gab fest. In the first place, Patrushev is a career intelligence officer and one of President Vladimir Putin’s closest confidants. A career counterintelligence officer with the Leningrad KGB, just like Putin, Patrushev served as head of the powerful Federal Security Service (FSB) from 1999 to 2008, leaving that position to take over the National Security Council.

As you’ll discover in the article, Mr. Patrushev is not a friend of the United States. For him, the Cold War is still very warm. Continuing:

Now, however, a full intelligence alliance has been agreed to. As a Russian report on Patrushev’s visit explained:

“The events in Syria and Iraq, where contacts between the Russian and Iranian special services have not only been resumed but have also proven their mutually advantageous nature, particularly in assessing the threats and plans of local bandit formations, both “secular” and Islamist, with respect to Russian facilities in Tartus in Syria, have impelled Moscow and Tehran to the idea of the need to formalize these contacts in the shape of a permanently operating mechanism. Russian special services also valued the volume of information, voluntarily conveyed by Iran to our specialists, on the potential activity of the Israeli Air Force against the Russian humanitarian convoys to Syria in the period of the sharp aggravation of the situation in that country in the summer of last year.”

Let there be no doubt that this new espionage alliance is aimed directly at the United States and Israel. As the report added, “the Iranians are prepared to provide Russia on a permanent basis with information on American military activity in the Persian Gulf obtained from their own technical intelligence facilities” — in other words, the Russians and Iranians will be sharing SIGINT, the most sensitive of all forms of intelligence gathering.

As Mr. Schindler likes to say, there is a “secret war” going on against us and our allies, one which our enemies seem to be fighting better than we do. Now that Iran and Russia have buried the hatchet, their cooperation will likely pose us serious problems and threats, not just in the Middle East, but also in Europe, where Russia maintains significant intelligence operations.

Our enemies have stepped up our game; I wish I had faith our current leadership could do the same.

Footnote:
(1) Frankly, one can say that about all Mr. Schindler’s posts.


The Ebola Crisis and Medical Intelligence

October 4, 2014

Here’s an article on an intelligence agency I’ve never heard of: the National Center for Medical Intelligence. Yes, a US Government intel agency devoted to medical threats to the US military — and, in the latest crisis, to the US itself, I’m sure. And I’ve no doubt there are at least a half-dozen development teams in Hollywood writing pitches for the “NCMI TV series” even now.

The XX Committee

There’s now no denying that West Africa’s Ebola outbreak has become a global crisis. After months of downplaying the threat, Western governments are facing the painful fact that the situation is deteriorating fast. It’s now plain to see that the world is at the precipice of something genuinely awful, with official predictions of more than a million new infections by the new year. Given that the death rate among those infected with Ebola is roughly fifty percent — and a good deal higher in underdeveloped regions like West Africa — serious concern is warranted.

Now that a Liberian visitor has brought Ebola to American shores, the assurances of officials that the situation is “under control” are being viewed skeptically by many. Our self-reporting system for preventing diseases entering the United States has failed, and investigators are reaching out to a hundred or more travelers who might have been exposed to…

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Obama’s Big Fat Intel Scandal

September 30, 2014

Obama at last threw the wrong people under the bus: people who know things and who know how to leak effectively. The president evidently takes a very cavalier attitude toward national security, and now those “chickens are coming home to roost.”

The XX Committee

The rise of the Islamic State* has engendered a full-blown foreign policy crisis in Washington, DC. After more than three years of an extended “Mission Accomplished” victory lap following the death of Osama Bin Laden at the hands of U.S. Navy SEALs in May 2011, the Obama White House has hit the wall with the sudden appearance of the decapitating jihadists of the Islamic State, who now control substantial chunks of both Syria and Iraq and a lot of oil to boot.

The September 2012 disaster at Benghazi ought to have been a wake-up call that Salafi jihadism was down but not out, and still bent on killing Americans, but wasn’t. Now the administration is confronted with a major problem that it’s not exactly been quick to deal with; I’ve explained how the Islamic State can be defeated, but the White House doesn’t seem to be in any big…

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The Snowden Operation Falls Apart

June 5, 2014

20 Committee asks a damned fine question: If Snowden really is a “whistleblower,” why doesn’t he produce the letters of complaint to superiors he surely has? If he’s telling the truth, that is.

The XX Committee

Edward Snowden had his Big Interview on NBC this week, and it was something of a pace-setter for poor TV journalism, since Brian Williams (who was previously denounced by Glenn Greenwald for being a servile boot-licker of the surveillance state), decided to soft-ball the questions and not follow up many weird, disingenuous statements by Ed. His almost-year in Russia under FSB care has not promoted clear thinking, while Ed’s body language indicated serious deception to the trained eye. NSA’s IT contractor on permanent vacation in Russia gave his usual platitudes about how he’s really a patriot and “had” to steal all those classified IC and DoD documents. He’s almost thirty-one years old but apparently he had no agency in any of this. We’ve heard it all before.

But The Narrative has begun to fall apart in a manner not even the MSM can avoid noticing (though the failure…

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#NSA Interesting observation about the Edward Snowden timeline

June 13, 2013

Neo-Neocon notes the date Edward Snowden left his job at NSA-contractor Booz-Allen, combines that with the assertion that he had been working for them for less than three months, and has an interesting possibility come to mind:

That means that if you count backwards, he had to have started work for Booz no earlier than February 20 and probably significantly later. So, if he was already speaking to [journalist Glenn] Greenwald in February, does this mean he took the Booz job with the purpose of gaining access to the documents and leaking them?

If that’s true, does that change anything in the equation?

I’d say it likely does. I speculated earlier on the possibility (faint, I’ll grant) that Snowden was being used by China or was flat-out their agent. The timing Neo noticed makes it look like there was premeditation involved, even though, as I understand it, Snowden didn’t learn of the NSA data-mining project until he started working on the project for Booz-Allen, which was after he began talking to reporters.

As the great Artie Johnson would have said, “verrrryyyy interesting.”

via Jim Geraghty

PS: Regardless of whether one thinks Snowden is a hero or a villain or a bit of both for what he did, it’s clear to me laws may well have been broken. I think he should face trial and let a jury decide whether he’s guilty of a crime or not.


History lesson: The crucial differences between Bush and Obama’s NSA phone surveillance programs

June 6, 2013

Excellent column by Michelle Malkin on the differences between the Bush-era warrantless wiretap program and the Obama administration’s tracking of *all* domestic calls on the Verizon network. This should be read by everyone, especially knee-jerk civil liberties absolutists on the Left and reactionary Libertarians on the Right. I only differ with her in being a little more open to the idea that the Obama effort *may* be legal/justified/needed, etc., but we need much more information in order to judge. Also, she makes an excellent point about the administration’s loss of credibility with the public on national security and constitutional issues, compared to the wide public support for the Bush-era program.


#BostonBombing: Did the Saudis warn us ahead of time in writing? UPDATE: Saudi denial?

May 1, 2013

UPDATE: I’m sticking this at the top because the story’s important enough to warrant it.  Now we have a “Saudi official” saying there was a letter, and their embassy in Washington saying no, there wasn’t. So, who’s lying, and why? (via Toby Harnden)

The Saudi embassy in Washington, D.C. today denied its government warned the U.S. about accused Boston bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

According to a highly placed source who spoke to MailOnline, the Saudis sent a written warning about Tsarnaev to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in 2012. That was long before pressure-cooker blasts killed three and injured hundreds.

The official told MailOnline about a written warning from the Saudi government to the Department of Homeland Security, and said he had direct knowledge of that document.

But the Middle Eastern nation’s embassy in Washington denied that account on Wednesday.

It issued a statement which read: ‘The Saudi government had no prior information about the Boston bombers. Therefore, it is not true that any information, written or otherwise, was passed to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) or any other US agency in this regard,’ an embassy statement statement claimed.

‘The Saudi government also does not have any record of any application by Tamerlan Tsarnaev for any visa to Saudi Arabia.’

Original article follows.

If this is true, our intelligence services and the White House have a boatload of explaining to do:

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia sent a written warning about accused Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in 2012, long before pressure-cooker blasts killed three and injured hundreds, according to a senior Saudi government official with direct knowledge of the document.

The Saudi warning, the official told MailOnline, was separate from the multiple red flags raised by Russian intelligence in 2011, and was based on human intelligence developed independently in Yemen.

Citing security concerns, the Saudi government also denied an entry visa to the elder Tsarnaev brother in December 2011, when he hoped to make a pilgrimage to Mecca, the source said. Tsarnaev’s plans to visit Saudi Arabia have not been previously disclosed.

The Saudis’ warning to the U.S. government was also shared with the British government. ‘It was very specific’ and warned that ‘something was going to happen in a major U.S. city,’ the Saudi official said during an extensive interview.

It ‘did name Tamerlan specifically,’ he added. The ‘government-to-government’ letter, which he said was sent to the Department of Homeland Security at the highest level, did not name Boston or suggest a date for his planned attack.

If true, the account will produce added pressure on the Homeland Security department and the White House to explain their collective inaction after similar warnings were offered about Tsarnaev by the Russian government.

DHS pretty much denies the whole thing, but the article reports two meetings between high-ranking Saudi and US officials: the first between Obama and the Saudi Interior Minister in January, while the second was an unscheduled meeting between Obama and the Saudi Foreign Minister two days after the marathon bombing. One almost gets the impression of Saudi officials pleading “Look do we have to draw you guys a picture? We’ve been telling you to look out for this crazy Chechen!”

But… let’s not jump the gun, here. This story comes from a single Saudi source, and there are reasons both to believe and not believe it.

In favor: While not best friends, the Saudis have been a close ally against jihad terrorism, having experienced it themselves and given that al Qaeda has declared open season on the government. They’ve also provided reliable information in the past: the article mentions the “printer cartridge plot” and Richard Reid, the “shoe-bomber” as examples. And while the Yemen connection seems out of left field, it has come up in connection with the Tsarnaevs before (h/t Hot Air), and the Saudis are deeply involved in Yemen. Warning us, besides being the decent thing to do, would also be in the Kingdom’s best interests to curry favor with D.C.

On the other hand: The Saudi government may not be a state sponsor of terrorism against the West, but it provides support to Salafi and jihad groups around the world, prominent wealthy Saudis donate directly to jihad groups, and high-ranking religious figures in the Kingdom urge their young men (of whom they have way too many to gainfully employ) to go wage jihad against the infidel. (1) It’s a open dirty secret of this modern age. And so it could be very tempting for the Saudis to claim “We tried to tell you,” hoping to earn some credit from the many Americans upset with the Obama administration and divert attention (again) from their own involvement with jihad.

For now, I lean toward this being true, at least to some degree: the Saudis may have warned us, but perhaps the information wasn’t nearly as cut and dried as they make it out to be. And I find it hard to imagine they’d claim “We told the British, too,” knowing the UK could falsify their claim at the drop of a hat. On top of that, it looks like we may have been making some of the same kind of mistakes we made before 9/11 with overly compartmentalized information that isn’t shared in a timely manner with all concerned parties. Shades of the “Gorelick Wall.”

And if this is true, even to a limited degree, it looks like another example of fatally stupid incompetence on the part of an administration that just wishes terrorism would go away.

Newsflash: It won’t.

Footnote:
(1)You might recall there were regular reports of young Saudi men being urged to go fight us in Iraq. Basically, they’re happy to send these nuts anywhere to get killed, as long as they’re out of Saudi Arabia.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Obama Treasury Dept. to open bank records to US intelligence agencies?

March 13, 2013
"Watching you"

“Watching you”

Under things that make me a bit uncomfortable, we find:

The Obama administration is drawing up plans to give all U.S. spy agencies full access to a massive database that contains financial data on American citizens and others who bank in the country, according to a Treasury Department document seen by Reuters.

The proposed plan represents a major step by U.S. intelligence agencies to spot and track down terrorist networks and crime syndicates by bringing together financial databanks, criminal records and military intelligence. The plan, which legal experts say is permissible under U.S. law, is nonetheless likely to trigger intense criticism from privacy advocates.

Financial institutions that operate in the United States are required by law to file reports of “suspicious customer activity,” such as large money transfers or unusually structured bank accounts, to Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN).

The FBI already has access to FinCEN, and intelligence agencies can make requests to get access on a case-by-case basis. There’s no doubt this kind of information is useful in our war with Islamic terrorists: they need money to carry out their operations, and suspicious transactions can be an early warning that something’s afoot, as well as revealing how they’re getting their funds. In fact, the US and its allies have had great success disrupting terrorist finance since 9/11 by data mining international bank records, at least until the operation was exposed by the press in 2006. (Don’t worry. The revelation came under a Republican president, so the press was only doing its duty.)

And the fact is we are still at war against an enemy who’d dearly love to give us another 9/11; in such times, the boundaries between liberty and security shift a bit toward security. Trust me, I’m a national security conservative, not a doctrinaire “Big L” libertarian on this issue. I remember how the failure to share information was one of the big weaknesses that let al-Qaeda’s plan work.

BUT…

More than 25,000 financial firms – including banks, securities dealers, casinos, and money and wire transfer agencies – routinely file “suspicious activity reports” to FinCEN. The requirements for filing are so strict that banks often over-report, so they cannot be accused of failing to disclose activity that later proves questionable. This over-reporting raises the possibility that the financial details of ordinary citizens could wind up in the hands of spy agencies.

Emphases added. In other words, the financial institutions, to avoid trouble with Washington, shovel all they can at the Feds and tell them to sort it out.

I’m sure we can all imagine the problems arising from that, such as database errors leading to people being misidentified as possible terrorists or their bag-men. We’ve heard enough stories about “no fly” list mistakes to know it’s bound to happen. Imagine waking up one day to find all your accounts frozen while investigators paw through your life. And this is without even considering the broader Fourth Amendment implications inherent in intelligence agencies searching through all the information the financial institutions dump on them, in order to find the worthwhile material.

“Privacy? What’s that?”

So, like I said: “uncomfortable.” This is a case where Congress could very usefully fulfill its investigatory functions by hauling the relevant officials before a couple of committees and letting some skeptics of central government power (Hello, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul!) ask some pointed questions to make sure proper safeguards are in place.

via Bryan Preston

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Benghazi Consulate Massacre: a word of caution about those emails

October 25, 2012

Yesterday I wrote about emails sent from Libya to the State Department and the White House, among others, indicating that an al Qaeda subsidiary, Ansar al Sharia, had taken credit for the assault on our consulate that resulted in the deaths of Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans. These emails seemed to confirm what many have suspected all along: that the White House knew quickly the attack had nothing to do with an obscure video, that they knew who had really perpetrated it, and that they were lying to the American people to cover up their incompetence and to protect Obama’s reelection chances.

While I still think that’s largely true, last night Daveed Gartenstein-Ross pointed followers to an article containing an observation by Anthony Zelin that makes the “the White House knew within two hours” narrative much less certain:

However, an examination of the known Facebook and Twitter accounts of Ansar al-Sharia in Benghazi reveals no such claim of responsibility. Aaron Zelin, a research fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, tracks dozens of jihadist websites and archives much of what they say. He told CNN he was unaware of any such claim having been posted on the official Facebook page or Twitter feed of Ansar al-Sharia in Benghazi.

Zelin, who said his RSS feed sends him any new statement from the group, provided CNN with a copy of that feed. It shows no Facebook update between September 8 and September 12, when a posting late that afternoon first referenced the attack. Zelin notes that the posting referred to a news conference the group had held earlier that day in Benghazi in which it denied any role in the assault on the consulate, while sympathizing with the attackers.

This is an important point: these groups are not shy about claiming credit when they strike at the infidels (that’s us); not only is attacking us an act of religious piety that, in their view, is something to be proud of, but bragging about it also boosts the prestige of their group. Yet they first said nothing, then denied involvement.

The article continues by describing the difficulties of obtaining solid information in a place as chaotic as Libya:

In the hours following such incidents, it is not unusual for “spot reports” from agencies and overseas posts to pour in to the State Department. They typically include intercepts, what’s picked up on social media, witness accounts and what’s being said by local officials. They often contain raw, unfiltered information that is then analyzed for clues, patterns and contradictions.

In the case of the Benghazi attack, there were plenty of contradictions. Such situations are frequently chaotic, with claim and counter-claim by witnesses unsure of what happened when, according to U.S. officials. Building a complete picture without access to first-hand-accounts and little visual evidence can be a major challenge to government experts working from thousands of miles away.

So too have been the attempts to pin down who represents Ansar al-Shariah and their movements on the night of the attack.

Wings of Ansar al-Sharia, which means “partisans” or “supporters of Islamic law,” are based not only in Benghazi but in the Libyan town of Derna, east of Benghazi. The group’s leaders in Derna are thought to include Abu Sufyan bin Qumu, a former Guantanamo Bay detainee.

A different Ansar al-Sharia is affiliated with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen, and budding franchises are said to exist in Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt.

In other words, with groups as decentralized as al Qaeda and its affiliates, the leadership in one place might take false credit, while that in another might deny  it altogether, while a third, wholly unrelated group that happens to have the same name might (or might not) be the real perpetrators. (In fact, there is some indication al Qaeda jihadis from Iraq were part of the attack.) Thus the emails from Tripoli are not necessarily as damning as they may seem.

So, while I’m reasonably certain that this was an organized al Qaeda hit and not just a “flash mob with mortars,” I’m withdrawing my specific contention from yesterday that Obama had to have known within two hours that this was a terrorist hit and who did it — for now, until we get better information.

I am not, however, withdrawing or walking-back or wavering in my belief that the administration knew at some point early on that there was no anti-video demonstration and that this might well have been an al Qaeda attack. The evidence is too strong to believe otherwise (such as from drone surveillance during the fight). It appears much more likely, indeed probable, that they desperately latched onto any rumor that would allow them to claim it was someone else’s fault — an obscure film producer in California, for example. And then they stuck with it and lied to us for weeks afterward.

Forget about exactly when they knew: that they knew at all -and Obama and company had to have known- and continued to blow smoke in our faces in order to avoid responsibility is what we need to remember on Election Day.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Special Ops and Intelligence professionals to Obama: “Shut up!”

August 16, 2012

Several times in the past, I’ve gone off on the Obama administration for seeking domestic political advantage by revealing military and intelligence secrets: when it comes to our struggles with al Qaeda and Iran, national security takes a back seat to the president’s reelection efforts. Spiking the ball after bin Laden’s assassination was only the most famous (and shameful) example.

But, hey, who am I to be advising the fourth greatest president ever on matters of national security? I’m just a guy behind a keyboard.

But maybe he should listen to those who know the value of keeping secrets and know the harm that can be caused by revealing them. A group of retired military and intelligence professionals have come out into the light to tell Obama to stop acting like a pol and start acting like a commander-in-chief. And if he won’t listen to them, they’ll make sure we know the danger, too, starting with this short video. Twenty-two minutes long, watch the whole thing; it’s powerful:

A few months ago, I wrote the following about keeping secrets secret:

One of the greatest secrets you can have in intelligence work –especially when dealing with a deadly enemy– is that you’ve compromised their security. That you’ve cracked their codes, found their safe houses, planted a bug in their meetings, slipped a mole deep inside… so many things. You want them kept secret because you can exploit the advantage again and again, disrupting and demoralizing your enemy because they can’t figure out how you’re always one step ahead. These are secrets you go to your grave with, because, once blown, they’re useless.

And the same goes for the methods we use and the “rough men” who do the work. Revealing secrets makes future missions riskier and endangers lives — not just those of the special forces soldiers and intelligence operatives, but those of their family and friends, because of the danger of retaliation. To reveal those secrets for personal political gain is incredibly childish, venal, and shortsighted.

I’m sure we’ll be seeing excerpts from this video and others to follow in commercials in battleground states a lot between now and November. Meanwhile, memo to Team The One:

Shut. Up.

LINK: The Opsec Team’s web site.

PS: Romney 2012, because I want an adult in charge of our secrets, not an attention-seeking man-child.

PPS: Eric Boehlert of the leftist, Soros-funded Media Matters for America calls the Navy SEALS in this group “gutless.” Eric, dude, I dare you to say that to a SEAL’s face.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


How we tracked Awlaki

October 1, 2011

At Big Peace, the Investigative Project on Terrorism (1) provides the inside story of how we tracked down Al Qaeda’s rising star, Anwar al-Awlaki:

Awlaki lived in the southern Yemen province of Shabwa, an area beyond the reach of Yemen’s military and central government. Much of Yemen is like the Wild West, with no central governing authority. The numerous tribes settle disputes among themselves. Awlaki came from the Awalik tribe.

Intelligence gathered last year from Yemeni authorities and from debriefings with several American converts who returned to the United States after training with Awlaki, helped narrow Awlaki’s location to a 100 square mile area. He moved at night, often in convoys of armored SUVs in order to prevent U.S. drones and surveillance from determining which vehicle he was in. But the drones, which have advanced in the ability to recognize faces on the ground, hovered above the area where Awlaki was believed to be. Electronic intelligence – including telephone intercepts –also were used, although Awlaki was said to be careful in limiting his use of electronic communication, aware that he could be tracked that way.

In the past several months, American drone operators were confident they had identified Awlaki as he moved from among a series of underground bunkers. An initial drone missile targeting him was fired at an al-Qaida training camp but missed him.

Meanwhile, U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agents collected as much personal data about Awlaki as they could from his extended family living in western countries. For example, he had an ex-wife living in Ireland that no one knew about until a close relative living in the United States identified the family tree for agents in early January. The relative proved to be a goldmine of information about Awlaki’s siblings, parents, wives, and children.

Intelligence officials learned about the American relative in January through other Yemeni expatriates living here who knew her. She agreed to cooperate and provided extensive information about close relatives living either with him, elsewhere in Yemen, or in different parts of the world. Telephone numbers belonging to a close relative living in Yemen’s capital Sanaa that the American relative provided to U.S. intelligence officials proved the most critical.

The relative knew that Awlaki called that number. The National Security Agency (NSA) quickly was able to triangulate the phone numbers and determine almost exactly where Awlaki was when he called the Sanaa number. The American relative also provided information on other Awlaki relatives who apparently had direct contact with Awlaki, either through email or other electronic means. That knowledge helped track other communication and confirm Awlaki’s whereabouts.

I’m not surprised the ex-wife was willing to talk, given this deeply spiritual man’s preferred hobbies.

It really is a fascinating story: once they had a good idea of the area Awlaki was hiding in, they flooded the skies with drones and kept watching. We also had informants on the ground posing as his students. (2) Finally they got word he was moving in a convoy during the day from one bunker to another. The CIA had passed on earlier shots before, out of fear of too many civilian casualties, but this one looked good and so…

Bye-bye, Anwar. (3)

I draw a few lessons from this:

  • I’ve read elsewhere that the investigative work was carried out by the same group that tracked down bin Laden. These guys are good.
  • If you make a name for yourself among jihadists and you take us on, we will find you and you will either take a bullet to the head or go boom. Our choice, not yours.
  • If you’re going to live the life of a terrorist on the run, stop calling family! On second thought, scratch that. Make all the calls you want.

Be sure to read the whole thing.

Footnotes:
(1) The IPT is Steve Emerson‘s outfit. They do great work.
(2) In other words, we have spies in their midst. Your first thought may be to ask why we’re revealing this, but consider: whether fact or disinformation, it plays with AQAP’s minds and throws a heaping helping of doubt and suspicion into their internal operations. Whom can they trust, even among their “brothers?”
(3) Bite me, Glenn Greenwald. (Among others.)

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


The mission to get Osama bin Laden

August 2, 2011

Bar none, the most riveting article you’ll read this week. The New Yorker’s Nicholas Schmidle interviewed principals involved in the raid to kill that porn-addicted medieval psychopath bin Laden –including members of SEAL Team 6– and put together an account of the mission from planning stages to aftermath that you won’t be able to put down. An excerpt:

The SEALs’ destination was a house in the small city of Abbottabad, which is about a hundred and twenty miles across the Pakistan border. Situated north of Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital, Abbottabad is in the foothills of the Pir Panjal Range, and is popular in the summertime with families seeking relief from the blistering heat farther south. Founded in 1853 by a British major named James Abbott, the city became the home of a prestigious military academy after the creation of Pakistan, in 1947. According to information gathered by the Central Intelligence Agency, bin Laden was holed up on the third floor of a house in a one-acre compound just off Kakul Road in Bilal Town, a middle-class neighborhood less than a mile from the entrance to the academy. If all went according to plan, the SEALs would drop from the helicopters into the compound, overpower bin Laden’s guards, shoot and kill him at close range, and then take the corpse back to Afghanistan.

In other words, no matter what was said publicly, this was a mission to kill, not capture. Fine by me. I figure anyone objecting to this is either a hopeless pacifist, someone who thinks this a law enforcement matter rather than a war, or a transnationalist who can’t stand the idea of nation-states actually defending themselves by any means more stern than a press conference, a memo of concern, and perhaps sniffing “unacceptable” if the terrorist atrocity is really bad.

(In case you haven’t noticed, I don’t have much regard for those types. None at all, actually.)

Anyway, on reading this, here are three things that jumped out at me:

  • After weeks of training, we were this close to having the mission turn into another Eagle Claw. Helicopters are darned difficult to control in restricted areas.
  • I want to meet the guy code-named “Ahmed,” the Pakistani-American who pretended to be a Pakistani cop to keep curious locals away while our guys were inside killing the world’s most wanted man. His assignment prior to this raid: a desk job.
  • As of the article’s writing, the President of the United States does not know who fired the kill shot(s). He didn’t ask, and the SEALs didn’t offer. Probably for security reasons. That secret may well go to the grave.

Anyway, after weeks of wondering if our government can do anything right, here’s something that shows they can, and do it superbly.

Enjoy.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Libya: Just who-the-heck is running things?

April 22, 2011

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the administration’s decision to look into the composition and leanings of the Libyan rebels — after we decided to go into battle for them.

That was stupid odd then, but now it’s taken an even stranger twist: two rival generals, one a CIA protege, claim to lead the rebel forces. And, while we’ve put drones into action against Qaddafi, we’ve cut off non-lethal aid … to our “allies?”

Ed Morrissey has video and analysis:

It’s no small matter to the US, either. Haftar appears to be the reason that the US feels sanguine enough to provide military and diplomatic support to the rebellion. After his defection, Haftar reportedly worked with the CIA to create and maintain a militia in Libya, according to a French book titled Manipulations Africaines.  He only returned to Libya in the last few weeks, reportedly to “knock the rebel force into some kind of shape.”

That sanguine feeling appears to be dissipating, however.  Foreign Policy reports that the White House has blocked the transfer of $25 million in “non-lethal” aid to the rebels, but isn’t sure why:

  • On April 15, the State Department notified Congress that it wanted to send $25 million of non-lethal military aid to the Libyan rebels, but as of today that money is being held up by the White House and no funds or goods have been disbursed. …
  • “One of the reasons why I announced $25 million in nonlethal aid yesterday, why many of our partners both in NATO and in the broader Contact Group are providing assistance to the opposition – is to enable them to defend themselves and to repulse the attacks by Qaddafi forces,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on this morning.
  • “There’s an urgent situation here and they need our help,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters on Wednesday.

Suddenly, though, something more urgent has come up which has delayed that assistance.  FP tried to find out why, but the White House won’t comment.

I’d be surprised if the White House did comment; presumably the CIA or another intel agency found out something they didn’t like. Perhaps they uncovered corruption, as in the diversion of aid to the pockets of one of the generals and his followers. Or maybe “our guy,” doesn’t have the influence he claimed, and we’re reluctant to support the other, who was Colonel Quackers’ Interior Minister? We were burned a bit by Iraqi exiles making big claims and failing to deliver after the liberation of Iraq, so maybe we’re gun-shy here? Perhaps the situation is so unclear, it’s impossible to tell right who is in charge. Or, maybe, the credible reports of an al Qaeda presence have turned out to be truer than we feared, and we’d just be funneling money to our sworn enemies?

There’s just no way of knowing why promised aid has suddenly been held up, without an explanation from Washington, which we’re unlikely to get. This does, however, bring up again a problem I pointed out in my earlier post and elsewhere: the decision to intervene in Libya was undertaken in a casual, haphazard, and slapdash manner with no real prep work or intelligence investigations beforehand. We went in with one eye closed, and now it looks like we’re uncovering things that… give us pause. There was no need for this rush, and proper leadership on the part of the people in charge (supposedly) would have seen that the preliminary work was done first, before committing American prestige, treasure, and lives to battle.

As I wrote on the day after this started:

If there’s one thing Obama’s efforts overseas have shown us, it is that he is a Leftist ideologue who lacks a strategic vision and is in over his head. Whether it’s because of an innate passivity, a disinterest in foreign affairs,  or a Left-liberal reluctance to act like an “imperial” and “colonial” power, our policy lacks any sense of coherence or strategy. I seriously doubt he has asked himself and his advisers “What outcome do we want?” From that one question would come answers that would shape the nature of our intervention, giving it direction and logical consistency. We would know how to proceed.

But I just don’t see that from Barack Obama, which means the outcome is likely to be muddled and costlier to reach than if we had acted with clarity and decisiveness when Daffy Qaddafi was still on the ropes.

And it looks like we’re seeing that play out.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Our CIA Chief is a clown, too

February 11, 2011

I wonder if he and Clapper bring rubber chickens and squirting flowers to meetings? After seeing this reassuring bit of news last night, I wouldn’t be surprised:

CIA Director Leon Panetta caused confusion when he suggested Egypt’s president was poised to step down, reinforcing questions about the spy agency’s ability to track unrest in the region.

Amid furious speculation that Hosni Mubarak was preparing to announce his exit in the face of mass protests — which later proved to be wrong — Panetta appeared to endorse the media reports before a congressional committee.

Asked about news accounts that Mubarak about to relinquish power, Panetta said: “I got the same information you did, that there’s a strong likelihood that Mubarak may step down this evening.”

But a US official later had to explain that Panetta was merely referring to media reports and not privileged information from inside the Central Intelligence Agency.

Emphasis added, after I was done banging my head on the desk.

So, let me get this straight: the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, the guy in charge of the main electronic and human intelligence apparatus of the world’s mightiest power, one that costs us billions per year, in the midst of a crisis says he has no better source of information than CNN? Really, Leon??

Hey, can I have his job? I can turn on a TV, too, and I bet my analysis will be more accurate.

And think about this: We’ve been Egypt and Mubarak’s patron for 30 years. They returned the promise ring to the Soviets so they could go out with us. They’ve worked with us against Iran, Iraq under Hussein, and al Qaeda. Our military and theirs has a close patron-client relationship.

So what must’ve Mubarak and the government there thought when their patron’s top spy publicly kicks the legs out from under the Egyptian by saying he has information that Hosni will be out by that evening? “News to me?? Is this an order from Washington?” And then to find out that Panetta’s source is nothing more than TV talking heads… Well, I imagine he said something like that famous Strother Martin line from Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid:

“Morons! I’ve got morons on my team!”

Morons. Clowns. Obama administration. There’s a difference?

PS: Just as I’m writing this, word comes that Mubarak is out in what looks like a military coup. As to what comes next… Maybe we should do like Panetta and just turn on the TV.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


All the secrets that are fit to print

March 15, 2010

Sometimes, one has to wonder just whose side the New York Times is on:

Contractors Tied to Effort to Track and Kill Militants

Under the cover of a benign government information-gathering program, a Defense Department official set up a network of private contractors in Afghanistan and Pakistan to help track and kill suspected militants, according to military officials and businessmen in Afghanistan and the United States.

The official, Michael D. Furlong, hired contractors from private security companies that employed former C.I.A. and Special Forces operatives. The contractors, in turn, gathered intelligence on the whereabouts of suspected militants and the location of insurgent camps, and the information was then sent to military units and intelligence officials for possible lethal action in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the officials said.

Why don’t you send the Taliban photos of the field operatives and their travel schedules, too?

For the record, if someone* is using off-the-record funding to ID and then kill Taliban and al Qaeda targets … good!

*(Like, oh, the US Government because certain big-mouthed newspapers that richly deserve to go out of business blew the cover of earlier covert ops?)

Nitwits.

(via The Jawa Report)