Self Inflicted Wounds II: Blinded, Deafened, and Definitely Dumb

In the street of the blind, the one eyed man is the guiding light

Genesis Rabbah (300-500 CE)

Five days before the inauguration I wrote:

Last week Yediot Ahronot reported, now confirmed by Haaretz and The Jerusalem Post, that Israel’s Intelligence Community has itself been warned to be careful sharing and transferring information and intelligence with the White House during the next Administration.

The concern is that any information and intelligence shared after the transition  will wind up with the Russians and the Russians would likely provide it to the Iranians (and the unspoken bit here for the Israelis is the Iranians would share it with the Syrians and Hezbullah). That this information quickly leaked from the Israelis is not an accident or a coincidence. It was intended to leak in order to provide the same message to our other allies and partners: that anything shared with the incoming Administration’s White House team may wind up with Russia. Through the Israeli leak the US’s other allies, partners, and clients have now been warned. This includes the other four members of the Five Eyes Intelligence alliance, the rest of our NATO allies, and other allies and partners. They have all been put on notice that the US Intelligence Community thinks that the incoming President, Vice President, their strategy, policy, and communication advisors, the incoming National Security Advisor and his deputies, and the rest of the incoming White House team cannot be trusted with classified information.

The Israelis have now had their worst fears confirmed.

SAN FRANCISCO — Two Israeli intelligence officials confirmed to BuzzFeed News Tuesday that Israel had shared specific intelligence with the US regarding ISIS plots to smuggle explosive laptops onto planes, under the unique intelligence-sharing agreement the two countries maintain.

“There is a special understanding of security cooperation between our countries,” they said. “To know that this intelligence is shared with others, without our prior knowledge? That is, for us, our worst fears confirmed.”

The officer previously spoke to BuzzFeed News in January, when he said that Israeli officials had specific concerns about what Trump would share with Russian officials. Israel, he added, routinely shared intelligence that included sources of information and asset names, he said — the type of information that could endanger the lives of those providing the raw intelligence.

“There has to be trust for this sort of arrangement. I cannot speak for Israel’s entire security apparatus, but I would not trust a partner who shared intelligence without coordinating it with us first,” said the officer.

A second intelligence officer, who spoke to BuzzFeed News via encrypted app and also spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed that Israel had shared specific intelligence with the US regarding an active threat to US-bound planes. Speaking to BuzzFeed News via a military base in northern Israel, he said Israeli intelligence officers were “boiling mad and demanding answers” as to whether Israel’s military would continue its current intelligence-sharing agreement with the US.

One of the reasons that this is so problematic is that by disseminating this information we have made it much, much harder for Israel to conduct human intelligence operations within ISIL’s demesne in Syria. This puts their assets (human sources) at risk – both Israeli and non-Israelis working with the Israelis in Syria. It makes getting this information and intelligence harder. It makes it less likely that Israel will continue to share timely, sensitive information with us. And our other allies and partners are now going to be less likely to share timely, sensitive information with us as well.

“It’s a big deal, and we want to make sure sensitive information is handled properly,” a European diplomat told CNN, adding that the country represented by the diplomat would not cut communications with the US entirely but could potentially reassess what information is transmitted at the political level.
The diplomat — who spoke to CNN on the condition that neither their name nor country were identified — said allied agencies could explore ways to share specific information through channels used only by military and intelligence officials.
Although pulling back “is something we could envision,” the diplomat said, “we’re not going to cut the cord.”
My concluding thoughts from January are even more relevant now:

…the US will have its ability to see and hear seriously restricted starting next Friday. We won’t be blind, as we’ll still have our own capability, but our vision will be significantly dimmed and our hearing significantly dulled. This will make managing and mitigating the foreign, defense, and national security problem sets that we are currently facing, let alone the ability to anticipate future ones, much more difficult. And this includes the ongoing Russian active measures, influence, and cyber operations directed at us, at our allies, and at our partners.

 

Live Feed: LTG McMaster’s Press Conference

LTG McMaster, the Assistant to the President-National Security Advisor (APNSA), is scheduled to hold a press conference at 11:30 AM EDT. As BettyC wrote this morning, the President’s 7 AM tweets seem to have completely undercut the statements of LTG McMaster, his senior deputy Dina Powell, and Secretary of State Tillerson from late yesterday afternoon/early yesterday evening. I would expect that this morning’s press conference will be a further attempt to redirect and conduct crisis communications to manage these reports rather than to create further crises.

Here is a link to the (now correct) live feed:

Breaking News: The FBI is Moving!

It is unclear which firm this involves.

In other news that seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle, at the 1:50 mark of Senator Markey’s interview with CNN yesterday, he himself broke some interesting news:

It appears that Senator Markey has confirmed the RUMINT that NY state Attorney General Schneiderman has convened a grand jury to investigate the President, his business, his business operations, and his business associates.

Oh and the President has admitted that he called James Comey and directly asked him if he was under investigation and that Comey told him he was not (as well as on two other occasions – once at dinner and one other phone call):

We now return you to your regularly schedule Thursday afternoon.

Stay frosty!

Breaking: Grand Jury Issues Subpoenas in FBI’s Russia Investigation

Washington (CNN)Federal prosecutors have issued grand jury subpoenas to associates of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn seeking business records, as part of the ongoing probe of Russian meddling in last year’s election, according to people familiar with the matter. CNN learned of the subpoenas hours before President Donald Trump fired FBI director James Comey.

The subpoenas represent the first sign of a significant escalation of activity in the FBI’s broader investigation begun last July into possible ties between Trump campaign associates and Russia.
The subpoenas issued in recent weeks by the US Attorney’s Office in Alexandria, Virginia, were received by associates who worked with Flynn on contracts after he was forced out as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014, according to the people familiar with the investigation.
Robert Kelner, an attorney for Flynn, declined to comment. The US Attorney’s Office in Alexandria, the Justice Department and the FBI also declined to comment.
CNN reports that this was not just leaked tonight – they’ve been working on the story for several days. And their reporting is a sign that it will not be easy for the Administration to simply make this all go away now that they’ve fired James Comey. Though the President’s surrogates are making those suggestions as they make the rounds on cable news this evening.
Andrea Chalupa reported earlier this evening, on her twitter feed, that:
Source: Comey at the “rocket docket” yesterday in Virginia that expedites cases, submitting intel. Trump panicked.
Members of Congress, in both chambers and on both sides of the aisle, are now calling for a special prosecutor and/or an independent investigation. Pressure will continue to build. And we do not have to passively wait and see what happens. We can help to increase the pressure. Call your members of Congress, both representatives and senators. Tell them you expect them to support the appointment of a special prosecutor and the creation of an independent investigation. Tell your senators that you expect them to take no action on the nomination for a new FBI Director until the Administration provides answers. Tell both your representatives and your senators that you expect no business that is not absolutely necessary to keep the government functioning, such as raising the debt ceiling, to be conducted until a special prosecutor is appointed, an independent investigation is established, and the Administration is forthcoming with answers. Tell them this is not a partisan issue. It is an issue of patriotism. Of country before party. And that you will vote against any senator or representative that puts party before country. America exists because of the participation of its citizenry in a self governing republic. Now we all must take the steps necessary to conserve and preserve our inheritance as Americans for those Americans yet to come. The fate of the Republic is in all of our hands. It is worth fighting for even if it isn’t perfect. And fighting for it is far better than giving in to despair.

Vive La France!

Via The Guardian, Macron wipes out Le Pen:

The centrist Emmanuel Macron is the next president of France, defeating his far right rival Marine Le Pen by a comfortable 65.1% to 34.9%, according to a usually reliable vote estimate by pollsters Ispos/Sopra Steria for French state TV and radio and Le Monde.

Vote estimates by other polling organisations for different French media show a broadly similar result, although some are showing marginal variations.

I exhale.

Also — don’t our obligations to Lafayette require us to perform a do-over of our recent 11/8 debacle?

ETA the inevitable:

 

Image: Jacques-Louis David, Design for the Republican costume, engraved by Vivant Denon, 1794.

The First Round of the French National Elections are Only Hours Away

France holds the first, primary round of its national elections tomorrow. There are eleven candidates running from the extreme right to the far left. The Daily Beast‘s Christopher Dickey and Erin Salezky have the details:

Let’s be just that blunt. These elections could fuck us all. They have turned into an insane gamble—Russian roulette (and we use the term advisedly) with at least two of the chambers loaded—and the implications for the United States are huge.

The biggest winner in the forthcoming French presidential elections may well be Russian President Vladimir Putin, in fact. And while he might have played a few of his usual dirty tricks—indeed, in 2014 a Russian bank funded the party of Marine Le Pen, the current first-round leader in the polls—Putin can now sit back and watch the French themselves try to destroy the European Union and the NATO alliance he hates so much.

Less than three weeks from now, in the final round of the presidential elections, the only choice left to the voters of France could well be between Le Pen, a crypto-fascist, or Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a charismatic communist, both of whom are strongly anti-EU and anti-NATO.

Victory for either one would mean an end to the political, diplomatic, and economic order that has protected the United States as well as Europe for the last 70 years, preventing the kinds of cataclysms—World Wars I and II—that cost millions of lives in the first half of the 20th century while containing first Soviet and now Russian adventurism.

There are other possibilities, but as the French prepare to go to the polls (or flee them) this Sunday, April 23, the possible outcomes are a total crapshoot. The four top candidates in a field of 11 are in a virtual dead heat; the differences between their scores is within the acknowledged margins of error by the pollsters. The top two finishers will vie against each other in a run-off on May 7. And the reason something like panic has set in among many French, from the heights of the political establishment to conversation over espressos at the counters in working-class cafés, is that the candidate with the most solid base is Le Pen, while the one with the most momentum is the far-left Mélenchon.

Much, much more at the link.

Sp we wait for the results of tomorrow’s primary. And then we wait for another two weeks to see just how much more interference there is in the French elections by the Russians before knowing just how much damage may then be done to the EU and NATO. Campaigning for tomorrow’s elections was suspended, per French election law, last night, but events that could effect the election continue. This includes the potential political fallout from Thursday’s attack on French law enforcement at the Champs Elysees* and an orderly arrest of an armed man at the Gare du Nord in Paris earlier today.

Stay frosty and sleep well!

* This was a strange attack in terms of what is being reported as motivation. While it is true that a note regarding ISIL was found next to the deceased shooter after he had been killed by French police, he had a long criminal history and it has been reported that he hated law enforcement as a result. So while ISIL has claimed responsibility, it is unclear what, exactly, ISIL actually had to do with the attack. Cheurfi’s lawyer had this to say:

Jean-Laurent Panier, who defended the suspected Champs-Elysée gunman in a theft trial, said he showed “no sign that he belonged to any movement, or of radicalisation”.

Mr Panier added: “He was very solitary, someone who was particularly isolated. He lived with his mother and had contact with his father, and there was a family that tried to support him but felt powerless.”

Cheurfi had a long criminal record and spent more than a decade in prison for attempted murder.

The lawyer painted a picture of a naive man, who took part in a theft and was “left to face the music” when his accomplices fled.

“I never got a sense that this was someone who would be radicalised,” Mr Panier said.

And:

He had been questioned in February over threats to kill police officers but allowed to go free.

He was not on the police “S” watchlist of known terror suspects although he appeared on the counter-terrorist services’ radar last December, according to ‘Le Monde’, slightly earlier than previously thought.

At the time, police were tipped off that he wanted to “kill police officers to avenge Muslims killed in Syria”, said the newspaper citing security forces. He was also seeking weapons and a way of contacting an Isil contact in Iraq or Syria. A judicial inquiry was opened in Meaux but this was not terror-related.

Regardless, whatever political impact results does not have to, and likely will not be, related to whatever Cheurfi’s actual motivations were.

Late Night Update: There Will Be A Runoff in Georgia

Per CNN:

Republicans were served another reminder of President Donald Trump’s unpopularity Tuesday as Democrat Jon Ossoff nearly captured a House seat in a region that for decades has been a conservative stronghold, with the Democrat ultimately falling just short of the percent needed to avoid a runoff.

CNN projects that Ossoff will miss the 50% he needed to win outright. He and the other top vote-getter — Republican candidate Karen Handel — will now face off on their own in June.

The hotly contested race carried major implications as a gauge of the President’s popularity — and Trump himself seemed to grasp the high stakes, playing a direct role in its closing days.

Democrats saw it as an opportunity to drive a wedge between Trump and congressional Republicans fearful that he could drag down the party in the 2018 midterms — while also delivering a psychic boost to an energized progressive base.

They nearly pulled it off. And two months later, Ossoff will get a second shot in a one-on-one runoff with Handel albeit an uphill climb now that the Republican vote in a reliably GOP district will be consolidated behind one candidate…

“There is no doubt that this is already a victory for the ages,” Ossoff told supporters late Tuesday night. “That no matter what the outcome is tonight — whether we take it all or whether we fight on — we have survived the odds. We have shattered expectations. We are changing the world. And your voices are going to ring out across this state and across this country.”

Even after Ossoff left the stage, many supporters stuck around, chanting, “Flip the Sixth!”…

The near-death experience for Republicans — on the heels of one a week earlier in Kansas, where Democrats nearly flipped a deep-red district — could still have the effect of leading GOP lawmakers in competitive states and districts to seek distance from the President, making it even more difficult for Trump to advance his agenda on Capitol Hill.

In Tuesday’s results, Democrats saw more evidence of a playing field for the 2018 midterm elections that has drastically expanded — and given the party’s 10 senators up for re-election in states that Trump won some breathing room…

That’s a hopeful thought: