DCI Brennan Testimony Before House Select Committee on Intelligence

Here’s the live feed:

Every GOP committee member has yielded their time back to Congressman Gowdy after asking a question or two that are tangential at best to the issue before the committee. Congressman Gowdy then treats DCI Brennan as if he is a hostile witness in a case that Gowdy is prosecuting. DCI Brennan is not having any of it and is not amused. Here is a great example from earlier in the hearing:



It is Important to Bear Witness: Protestors Beaten by Erdogan’s Bodyguards

Yesterday after Turkish President Erdogan’s meetings with the President, his bodyguards decided to give a beat down to a number of protestors (Kurdish Americans, Yazidi Americans, Kurdish and Yazidi immigrants to America, Americans who are neither Kurdish or Yazidi) in front of the Turkish ambassador’s residence. VOA Turkish has the video.

Andrea Mitchell confirmed what I suspected last night:

A similar response by Erdogan’s bodyguards to protestors also took place last year.

But the event was seemingly upstaged by proceedings outside the venue, where protesters appeared to clash with Erdogan supporters, as well as the controversial Turkish leader’s security detail.

During the 2016 incident Erdogan’s security detail actually went so far as to attack their hosts at the Brookings Institute.

Later, a shoving match between what appeared to be a Brookings Institute worker and Turkish security broke out. “I am in charge of this building,” the apparent Brookings employee shouted as the two tangled. A Foreign Policy reporter and others holding cameras outside the event were also scolded by Turkish security.  One cameraman was chased across the street by Turkish guards.

In yesterday’s incident, as I would have expected in the 2016 one, the official bodyguards to President Erdogan were armed, which has been confirmed by analysis of stills from the video.

A number of folks in comments last night, as well as in comments today have asked why the DC Police responded the way they did. I think my answer in a comment from last night makes sense:

The cops did a decent job with less than lethal force. Given that the Turks who were assaulting and battering the protestors would clearly have beaten them to death if given the chance, I would not have been opposed to them escalating to lethal force. Unfortunately that is really the only thing that the guys giving out the beatings respond to.

As to why they didn’t? They had most likely been prepped by the Department of State Diplomatic Security folks and given instructions about what the rules of engagement would and would not permit. This is a diplomatic incident. And people have been severely beaten and hurt. But it is containable. Ventilating the first goon to charge the protestors when he ignored the order to stop and back off would be a major, major problem.

Given that Erdogan’s security detail were armed it is a good thing that the Metropolitan Police officers responding on site did not escalate from less than lethal to lethal responses. Doing so could have turned a group beating into a shoot out and likely a bloodbath. This would have created the conditions for an even larger rift with a NATO ally that could be exploited by the US’s competitors (Russia).

So what happens now? Under any other administration the Department of State’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security, working in conjunction with DC’s Metropolitan Police Department and the Department of Homeland Security would be working to positively identify the members of Erdogan’s security detail involved. They would then be declared persona non grata and barred from reentry into the United States. What will actually happen given the current administration I have no idea.

Update at 1:30 PM EDT

Before anyone asks why no one being threatened/beaten didn’t draw a firearm and defend themselves, the simple reason is that Washington DC has dragged out implementing the Supreme Court ruling Heller V DC. As a result it is almost impossible to get a concealed carry permit in DC. Additionally, Washington DC’s code defines self defense in the following manner:

You are entitled to claim self-defense: (1) if you actually believe you are in imminent danger of bodily harm; and (2) if you have reasonable grounds for that belief. You may use the amount of force which, at the time of the incident, you actually and reasonably believe is necessary to protect yourself (or a third person) from imminent bodily harm. This may extend to the use of deadly force if you actually and reasonably believe you are in imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm from which you can save yourself only by using deadly force against your assailant.

Even if the other person is the aggressor and you are justified in using force in selfdefense, you may not use any greater force than you actually and reasonably believe is necessary under the circumstances to prevent the harm you reasonably believe is intended or to save your life or avoid serious bodily harm.

Under the case law of the District of Columbia, the District is neither a “right to stand and kill” nor a “duty to retreat to the wall before killing” jurisdiction. The District case law has established a “middle ground.” 2

You should take reasonable steps, such as stepping back or walking away, to avoid the necessity of taking a human life, so long as those steps are consistent with your own safety. However, you do not have to retreat or consider retreating when you actually and reasonably believe that you are in danger of death or serious bodily harm and that deadly force is necessary to repel that danger.

 



Comey Strikes Back!

Gonna be one of those Tuesdays!

President Trump asked the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, to shut down the federal investigation into Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, in an Oval Office meeting in February, according to a memo that Mr. Comey wrote shortly after the meeting.

“I hope you can let this go,” the president told Mr. Comey, according to the memo.

The existence of Mr. Trump’s request is the clearest evidence that the president has tried to directly influence the Justice Department and F.B.I. investigation into links between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russia.

Mr. Comey wrote the memo detailing his conversation with the president immediately after the meeting, which took place the day after Mr. Flynn resigned, according to two people who read the memo. The memo was part of a paper trail Mr. Comey created documenting what he perceived as the president’s improper efforts to influence an ongoing investigation. An F.B.I. agent’s contemporaneous notes are widely held up in court as credible evidence of conversations.

Mr. Comey shared the existence of the memo with senior F.B.I. officials and close associates. The New York Times has not viewed a copy of the memo, which is unclassified, but one of Mr. Comey’s associates read parts of the memo to a Times reporter.

In the same article The NY Times also reports the White House’s response to their breaking this news.

“While the president has repeatedly expressed his view that General Flynn is a decent man who served and protected our country, the president has never asked Mr. Comey or anyone else to end any investigation, including any investigation involving General Flynn,” the statement said. “The president has the utmost respect for our law enforcement agencies, and all investigations. This is not a truthful or accurate portrayal of the conversation between the president and Mr. Comey.”

Much more at the link!



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:



Monday Late Evening Open Thread

Update at 11:05 PM EDT

I wanted to just add this here. It is a response I just made to a comment by efgoldman below, but I want to make sure it is up here as part of the post.

What I think happened with this leak to The Washington Post, and what I think people need to understand about it, is that this was leaked to the press, with heavy caveats and conditions to not make the disclosure worse, in order to prevent the President, or anyone else in the room with him, from being blackmailed by the Russians over this. The Russians have their own notes. Because they were allowed to bring a team from TASS with them as part of their delegation, and the TASS staffers brought their equipment, there is no way to be sure that the Russians don’t have recordings. My guess is that once it because clear to the IC folks in the know on this information that TASS had been there with their equipment and taken pictures, because the Russians released the pictures, a decision was made to try to mitigate the damage by leaking to the press ahead of the Russians. The leak is itself intended to inoculate and immunize the President and everyone else from the US side that was in the room so the Russians cannot hold this over their heads. Full stop.

And we now return you to your regularly scheduled Open Thread!



Breaking: Ongoing Ransomware Cyber Attack

There is an ongoing cyber attack, specifically a ransomware attack, ongoing across Europe, the US, and Asia.

The BBC reports:

A massive ransomware campaign appears to have infected a number of organisations around the world.

Computers in thousands of locations have apparently been locked by a program that demands $300 (£230) in Bitcoin.

There have been reports of infections in as many as 74 countries, including the UK, US, China, Russia, Spain, Italy and Taiwan.

Many security researchers are linking the incidents together.

The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) was also hit by a ransomware outbreak on the same day and screenshots of the WannaCry program were shared by NHS staff.

One cyber-security researcher tweeted that he had detected many thousands of cases of the ransomware – known as WannaCry and variants of that name – around the world.

“This is huge,” said Jakub Kroustek at Avast.

Another, at cyber-security firm Kaspersky, said that the ransomware had been spotted cropping up in 74 countries and that the number was still growing.

Several experts monitoring the situation have linked the infections to vulnerabilities released by a group known as The Shadow Brokers, which recently claimed to have dumped hacking tools stolen from the US National Security Agency (NSA).

A patch for the vulnerability was released by Microsoft in March, but many systems may not have had the update installed.