Tags: James Clapper

An Ominous Deal, Looking Worse With Each Passing Day


From the Tuesday Morning Jolt, we have no choice but to start the day with the worsening details of the Bergdahl deal . . . 

New Revelations About the Bergdahl Deal So Awful, It’s Hard to Understand . . . 

Some days, you read the news, and find yourself asking, “is this real?”

Massive Problem Number One: Apparently a lot of our intelligence guys didn’t want these five captured Taliban released under any circumstances.

A report that will leave a sick feeling in your stomach, from Eli Lake:

James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, according to three U.S. intelligence officials, flat out rejected the release of the five detainees, saying there was too high a risk these Taliban commanders would return to the battlefield and orchestrate attacks against Americans.

Clapper was not alone. Leon Panetta, who was then the Secretary of Defense, declined to certify that the United States could mitigate the risk to national interests of releasing the Taliban commanders.

A lot has changed since 2012. To start, President Obama won reelection. Panetta is gone, and in his place is Chuck Hagel, a Republican former senator who has been much more in sync with Obama’s views on the war on terror than his predecessors.

But current U.S. intelligence and defense officials who spoke to The Daily Beast on Monday say the process for exchanging Taliban for Bergdahl this time was rushed and closely held, in some instances leaving little room for any push back against a policy clearly favored by the White House.

For what it’s worth, Clapper’s spokesman said he is on board with the deal now.

Massive Problem Number Two: The whole deal wasn’t legal.

CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin declared on Monday that President Barack Obama “broke the law” when his administration failed to give Congress notice of at least 30 days before releasing five ranking Taliban members from Guantanamo Bay. Toobin said that a presidential signing statement did not absolve Obama from culpability for failing to abide by the law mandating congressional notification.

“I think he clearly broke the law,” Toobin said. “The law says 30-days’ notice. He didn’t give 30-days’ notice.” Toobin added that Obama’s opinion expressed in a signing statement “is not law.”

“The law is on the books, and he didn’t follow it,” Toobin added.

Massive Problem Number Three: Fresh off violating our national obligation to take care of our veterans when they return, our government is violating its national obligation to the families of fallen soldiers. Or at least stirring fresh pain anew:

Robert Andrews believes his own son might still be alive if U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl had not gone missing from his Afghan guard post on June 30, 2009.

As Bergdahl emerges from five years of Taliban captivity, former comrades are accusing him of walking away from his unit and prompting a massive manhunt they say cost the lives of at least six fellow soldiers, including Andrews’ 34-year-old son, Darryn, a second lieutenant.

“Basically, my son died unnecessarily, hunting for a guy that we shouldn’t even have been hunting for,” Andrews told Reuters.

What on earth can anyone say to these families?

Sondra Andrews’ son, 2nd Lt. Darryn Andrews, is one of six soldiers killed reportedly while searching for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

The sergeant’s return to captivity has stirred “very raw emotions.”

“It gets really hurtful when I think, this guy was worth my son’s life? My son who was patriotic? Who was a true soldier? Who defended his country with his life?” Andrews told Army Times via phone on Monday. “That guy was worth that? I don’t think so.”

Massive Problem Number Four: Meet the guy we rescued, before he disappeared from his post:

“The future is too good to waste on lies,” Bowe wrote. “And life is way too short to care for the damnation of others, as well as to spend it helping fools with their ideas that are wrong. I have seen their ideas and I am ashamed to even be american. The horror of the self-righteous arrogance that they thrive in. It is all revolting.”

The e-mail went on to list a series of complaints: Three good sergeants, Bowe said, had been forced to move to another company, and “one of the biggest s*** bags is being put in charge of the team.” His battalion commander was a “conceited old fool.” The military system itself was broken: “In the US army you are cut down for being honest . . . but if you are a conceited brown nosing s*** bag you will be allowed to do what ever you want, and you will be handed your higher rank. . . . The system is wrong. I am ashamed to be an american. And the title of US soldier is just the lie of fools.” The soldiers he actually admired were planning on leaving: “The US army is the biggest joke the world has to laugh at. It is the army of liars, backstabbers, fools, and bullies. The few good SGTs are getting out as soon as they can, and they are telling us privates to do the same.”

Massive Problem Number Five: Here’s a disturbing report of the captivity:

A captured American soldier is training Taliban fighters bomb-making and ambush skills, according to one of his captors and Afghan intelligence officials.

Private Bowe Bergdahl disappeared in June 2009 while based in eastern Afghanistan and is thought to be the only U.S. serviceman in captivity.

The 24-year-old has converted to Islam and now has the Muslim name Abdullah, one of his captors told The Sunday Times.

A Taliban deputy district commander in Paktika, who called himself Haji Nadeem, told the newspaper that Bergdahl taught him how to dismantle a mobile phone and turn it into a remote control for a roadside bomb.

Nadeem claimed he also received basic ambush training from the U.S. soldier.

’Most of the skills he taught us we already knew,’ he said. ‘Some of my comrades think he’s pretending to be a Muslim to save himself so they wouldn’t behead him.’

Massive Problem Number Six: This graphic spread far and wide Monday, claiming to depict six U.S. soldiers killed in the course of the years-long search for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was released over the weekend by his Taliban captors:


Asked about the claims, Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren said it’s “impossible” to confirm right now whether anybody’s death was directly linked to the hunt for Bergdahl.

But the Pentagon will look further into the circumstances of the deaths being associated with the search, he said.

Not something you usually see on Jake Tapper’s program:

“He is at best a deserter, and at worst a traitor,” says former U.S. Army Sgt. Josh Korder. Korder served with Bergdahl in Blackfoot company, 2nd platoon in Afghanistan, and was recently discharged from the military.

Tags: Afghanistan , Bowe Bergdahl , James Clapper , Leon Panetta

Dear NSA: If You’re Not So Bad, Why Do Your Bosses Keep Lying to Us?


Big Morning Jolt today, with tough questions about what to do if the worst suspicions about Syria’s alleged chemical-weapons attack are true, another look at “the Separation of Celebrity and State” (Tabitha’s great headline), what NR has had to say about pop-cultural offerings like Breaking Bad and Sons of Anarchy, and then this predictable turn in the NSA debate:

NSA: Never Straight Answers

Dear NSA and its defenders (who am I kidding, you read this as soon as I sent the e-mail):

Before you get started, let us save you some time and go over things we already know, and you don’t have to say again.

  • Yes, the threat from terrorists is real, and you guys and the rest of the intelligence and law enforcement community have a really tough job.
  • Yes, being able to intercept, read, and listen to almost any communication in the world is a big help in your mission.
  • Yes, there’s a FISA court system, although we’re having doubts about the effectiveness of its oversight.
  • Yes, there’s considerable evidence that Edward Snowden is A) off his rocker and/or B) way too cozy with Russia and China. Of course, you guys are the ones that hired him and gave him access to all the secret stuff.

The problem is every time somebody in authority tries to reassure us by describing what the NSA is doing, it turns out to be a lie. Well, either it’s a lie, or they don’t know what they’re talking about. Like when President Obama told Charlie Rose that the FISA court is “transparent.” (The court’s proceedings are entirely in secret.) Or when Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says, under oath before Congress, that the NSA never gathered “any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans.” He later claimed he misunderstood the direct question posed to him and apologized to Congress.

Or when President Obama tells Jay Leno, “we don’t have a domestic spying program” — and then we learn, as we did late Wednesday, that the NSA gathered “tens of thousands of e-mails and other electronic communications between Americans” with no connection to terrorism and a federal judge rules the government has “disclosed a substantial misrepresentation regarding the scope of a major collection program” three times in less than three years. It’s very, very bad, according to the judge:

In the strongly worded 86-page opinion, U.S. District Judge John Bates, who was then the court’s chief judge, wrote that the “volume and nature of the information it has been collecting is fundamentally different from what the court had been led to believe.”

Bates blasted the NSA for mishandling thousands of e-mails from Americans over those three years, and said the NSA’s disclosures about its e-mail collection effort “fundamentally alters the court’s understanding of the scope of the collection . . . and requires careful re-examination of many of the assessments and presumptions underlying prior approvals.”

You guys at the NSA might be the most swell and honorable crowd this side of Dudley Do-Right, but it’s hard to believe that these programs could never be abused when everybody in charge of them keeps lying to us.

Tags: NSA , Barack Obama , James Clapper

Three Lies to the Public That Must Have Consequences


From the first Morning Jolt of the week . . . A National Security Agency leak tells me many of you are already subscribers, but some of you aren’t. If you’re not already a subscriber, click on the link or look for the box in the upper right hand of your screen.

Three Administration Lies to the Public That Must Have a Consequence

President Obama, speaking to the American public, Friday afternoon:

If people can’t trust not only the executive branch but also don’t trust Congress, and don’t trust federal judges, to make sure that we’re abiding by the Constitution with due process and rule of law, then we’re going to have some problems here.

In the specific issue that Obama is discussing, i.e., oversight of the National Security Agency’s vast data collection on American citizens, there is the problem in that no one within that system of oversight has the role or duty to speak on behalf of those being monitored, or about to be monitored. The executive branch knows what it wants — it wants to monitor people. The Congress may or may not want to advocate the argument, “Hey, that person hasn’t done anything wrong, you have no good reason to collect that information on them” — judging from what we now know, no one argued that perspective very strongly. And the oversight of the judicial branch is pretty weak when we know the Department of Justice goes “judge shopping” when their initial requests are rejected. If the executive branch can keep going to new judges until they get the decision they want, there isn’t really much of a check on their power, now is there?

Regarding that alleged congressional oversight, Senator Ron Wyden, Oregon Democrat, is coming awfully close to accusing the president of lying:

“Since government officials have repeatedly told the public and Congress that Patriot Act authorities are simply analogous to a grand jury subpoena, and that intelligence agencies do not collect information or dossiers on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans, I think the executive branch has an obligation to explain whether or not these statements are actually true,” Wyden said.

Wyden’s suspicion is driven by a lie he appears to have been told under oath, one we’ll look at in a moment. But more generally, we have seen quite a few folks in the executive branch abuse the public’s trust and then see no real consequences for it.

LIE ONE: White House Press Secretary Jay Carney’s November 28 explanation about changes made to talking points about the Benghazi attack:

The White House and the State Department have made clear that the single adjustment that was made to those talking points by either of those two — of these two institutions were changing the word “consulate” to “diplomatic facility,” because “consulate” was inaccurate. Those talking points originated from the intelligence community. They reflect the IC’s best assessments of what they thought had happened.

You can see the twelve rounds of revisions here, well more than a single adjustment, and mostly in response to State Department objections.

After it became clear that Carney had put forth false information, he dug in deeper, insisting that the twelve rounds of revisions were merely “stylistic changes.” Carney paid for his lie with two days of hostile questions from the White House Press Corps . . . and then the storm seemed to have blown over.

LIE TWO: Attorney General Eric Holder, testifying under oath before the House Judiciary Committee, May 15:

Well, I would say this. With regard to the potential prosecution of the press for the disclosure of material, that is not something that I’ve ever been involved in, heard of or would think would be a wise policy.

Michael Isikoff later reported the precise opposite: The Justice Department pledged Friday to to review its policies relating to the seizure of information from journalists after acknowledging that a controversial search warrant for a Fox News reporter’s private emails was approved “at the highest levels” of the Justice Department, including “discussions” with Attorney General Eric Holder.

There is a claim from the usual suspects — Media Matters — that Holder is in the clear because he was asked about prosecutions for publishing classified information, not solicitation for classified information; they assert that the two actions are totally different. A pretty thin reed for a perjury defense, and one that utterly fails the standard of the chief law-enforcement officer of the United States informing the public of his department’s operations.

For us to believe that, it would mean that during the entire Justice Department discussion of prosecuting Fox News’s James Rosen for soliciting the information, no one suggested or mentioned prosecuting Rosen for publishing it. Remember, Holder didn’t just say he didn’t agree with that idea; he said he never heard of the idea.

LIE THREE: Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, testifying under oath before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on March 12, responding to questions from Wyden, Democrat of Oregon:

Wyden: “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?”

Clapper: “No, sir.”

Wyden: “It does not?”

Clapper: “Not wittingly. There are cases where they could, inadvertently perhaps, collect—but not wittingly.”

The subsequent explanation from Clapper: “What I said was, the NSA does not voyeuristically pore through U.S. citizens’ e-mails. I stand by that,” Clapper told National Journal in a telephone interview.

But that’s not what he was asked, nor was it even close to what he was asked. In fact, the light from what he was asked takes several years to reach a question about voyeurism.

If your excuse is that you are incapable of discerning what “any type of data at all” means, you are no longer allowed to have a job title that has the word “intelligence” in it.

This weekend, the Guardian reported, “During a 30-day period in March 2013, the documents indicate, the NSA collected nearly 3 billion pieces of intelligence from within the United States.”

Two of these three were under oath before Congress; the other was to the press, with the cameras rolling, on a topic of high public interest and great controversy.

If Obama were to ask for the resignations of Carney, Holder, and Clapper tomorrow, all of us who don’t trust him would have to at least acknowledge that he’s trying to set a better standard for consequences of lying to the public. But all of us know that he will do nothing of the sort.

Instead, he will continue to give speeches where he expresses incredulity that the public wouldn’t trust him and his administration.

“Trust us. We say this because our review of your personal e-mail indicates that you don’t.”


Tags: Barack Obama , NSA , Benghazi , Eric Holder , James Clapper

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