Just a Quick Note On the Patrick Byrne Stuff

Late last night/early this morning, Ann Laurie briefly referenced former Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne’s bizarre appearances on cable news last night. Here’s the two clips from his Fox News appearance:

And here’s his appearance on CNN. Chris Cuomo does about 2 and 1/2 minutes of set up, then does an interview with Anthony Scaramucci, and then interviews Byrne beginning at the 10:28 second mark of the video – this way you can skip the Mooch.

I’ve watched the clips of the appearances, I’ve read the write ups on various outlets and seen the Twitter reactions. My professional opinion is that there is no way, shape, and/or form that Byrne was being used in any formal manner in a counterintelligence investigation. His long history of conspiracism, bizarre pronouncements, and erratic behavior make him completely unsuitable because he’s completely unpredictable. To be perfectly honest, unless he can actually produce evidence he had an affair, whether one night stand or longer duration, with Maria Butina, I’m not really sure we should accept his stating he had an affair with Maria Butina as a factual truth claim. A number of people who have made names for themselves on social media or other platforms trying to explain the Mueller investigation and the connections between the Russians and the 2016 elections, the President’s campaign, his businesses, those in his orbit, etc immediately went into overdrive because of the statements Byrne made on Fox and CNN last night. By this morning, there were assertions of major breaking developments pertaining to what the President did, what Don Jr. did, what the NRA did, what Butina and Torshin did, what the NRA did, and what others did in 2016 that are all going to radically change both our understanding of what happened in 2016 and what is going to be done to hold people to account.

I think all of those assertions, as well as Byrne’s own statements last night, need to be taken with an Adam sized grain of salt. I don’t work for or with the FBI or the DOJ, though I did provide some support to the DOJ officer assigned to US European Command back in 2014 on an Interagency project we were both involved in. I have worked with Army counterintelligence professionals over the years, it was largely in regard to conducting network analysis in order to disaggregate targets for kinetic action from people, groups, and organization we wanted to engage with non-kinetically (basically we wanted to meet with them, talk with them, see if we could work with them rather than capture or kill them). And I’ve taught how to do network analysis to uniformed personnel, civilians, and contractors for both lethal and non-lethal operations. But these collaborations weren’t to map, assess, analyze, and understand the intelligence organizations and operations of other nation-states, which is the real focus of counterintelligence work. Rather it was to assist with work done by uniformed counterintelligence professionals assigned to apply their expertise to the groups we were dealing with in Iraq, Afghanistan, and similar places. That said, I am not a counterintelligence officerNor do I claim to be one. But I do have some insight into what they do and I find it very, very, very hard to believe that Byrne was being used in any official capacity. I think it is likely he contacted someone at the FBI or DOJ. Being a CEO of a major company would make it easy for him to get to supervisory special agents in charge or even senior leadership, but I think it is more than likely that he was used, at best, as an informal dangle (bait). He told them contact had been made and asked what to do and they replied with something along the lines of “keep doing what you’re doing, and let us know if anything changes”. Until some actual supporting, confirmable evidence of Byrne’s claims are made, his statements have to be viewed very skeptically. His affect and behavior on both Fox and CNN last night were even more manic and unhinged than when a clearly emotional distressed and possibly intoxicated Sam Nunberg appeared on both Ari Melber’s MSNBC and Erin Burnett’s CNN shows, where Maya Wylie patiently and empathetically tried to calm him down and convince him not to do anything stupid and Erin Burnett asked if he was drunk. Based on what I saw last night and read about today, the only thing I know of for sure is that Patrick Byrne is in dire need of professional help.

For those interested in a nice primer on counterintelligence, I highly recommend John Ehrman’s “Towards a Theory of CI” in Studies in Intelligence Studies, which those friendly folks at the CIA have posted in their online library. They’re so user friendly and customer oriented at Langley!

Open thread!


42 replies
  1. 1
    BretH says:

    Didn’t take a “Lie to Me” level of expertise to conclude from those clips that he is as full of it as a stuffed Christmas goose.

  2. 2
    Keith P. says:

    My favorite part was how Maria Butina is going to be Russia’s next president. That and the 10 or so times the guy said “Now here’s the main event”

  3. 3
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Keith P.: Let’s get ready to stuuuuuuumble!

  4. 4

    I have seen next to nothing about it on my Twitter feed, and I follow people who would be interested in such a development if they thought it plausible. My surmise is that they do not think it plausible.

  5. 5
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: It is possible. It is most likely implausible and improbable.

  6. 6
    HalfAssedHomesteader says:

    This has got The Falcon and the Snowman written all over it.

  7. 7
    Turgidson says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    Seth Abramson had a Twittergasm over his first round of interviews. That’s the only long time Trump/Russia enthusiast I’ve seen who felt it necessary to make a ton of connections from it.

  8. 8
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Turgidson: Don’t get out of the boat!

  9. 9
    MomSense says:

    I hate this timeline. I’m regretting the area rug I purchased from Overstock a decade ago.

  10. 10
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @MomSense: You know what you did!//

  11. 11
    Yarrow says:

    I’ve seen very little about it. A bit about how crazy he is, but that’s about it.

    I haven’t paid any attention to this story but looking at the clips he looks like any standard-issue middle aged white guy. I can imagine him getting lots of passes for his crazy behavior.

  12. 12
    MomSense says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    How did we lose to these dumb asses?

  13. 13


    Seth Abramson had a Twittergasm


  14. 14
    MomSense says:

    BTW, I’m losing very badly at Risk right now. Objectives Risk ruined the game.

  15. 15
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @MomSense: It’s too late to make a list.

  16. 16
    Yarrow says:

    @Adam L Silverman: Speaking of boats, Tomi Lahren is selling her line of “athleisure” clothes and the ad has her on a boat. Apparently the company makes yoga pants for people who carry guns.

  17. 17
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Yarrow: I saw the announcement and the mockery.

  18. 18

    @Yarrow: I saw that! Including the ad copy, which I remember saying roughly “The LIEberal media doesn’t want you to believe conservative women can be hawt and sell athleisure clothes!”

  19. 19

    Pleased to report that I just finalized a short story with an editor!

  20. 20
    David 🎅🎄Merry Christmas🎄🎅 Koch says:

    Maria Butina is the kindest, warmest, bravest, most wonderful human being I’ve ever known in my life.

  21. 21
  22. 22
    Yarrow says:

    @Major Major Major Major: She’s just out there making money however she can. Wingnut grifting is good money. Congrats on the story.

  23. 23
    Jager says:

    My old Boston pals would call Maria Butina, a “red, freckly stinker”.

  24. 24
    HRA says:

    I wish I had only purchased a rug.

  25. 25
    MomSense says:


    One of the few times being broke is a good thing.

  26. 26
    StringOnAStick says:

    Barry Ritholtz had 3 very pointed paragraphs today about this guy and company, and some history too. Like how this CEO nutbag twitter-stalked him and his family and then his 14 year old niece, because Barry pointed out what a crappy company Overstock is. I’ve read Barry for years and he’s always a pretty even keel and perceptive guy; you could feel the anger and disgust he has for this now ex CEO.

  27. 27
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @StringOnAStick: The link in the post is to Ritholtz’s post from about 10 years ago with an initial recounting of Byrne’s behavior towards Ritholz’s family.

  28. 28
    Yarrow says:

    @MomSense: @HRA: There’s that study on how CEOs have higher than average psychopathic tendencies. So the Overstock guy may not be much worse than any of the rest of them.

  29. 29
    Peale says:

    So they are really going to go with “no crimes were committed. We were entrapped 25 Times, but other than those times we are decent, honest men, tricked into crimes”. Lancelots all, they are.

  30. 30
    HRA says:

    Yes, I once knew about being broke.
    Personally I always hated to shop. Overstock was convenient for me.
    Two years ago was the last time I shopped there. I bought the trays and plates for the desserts I made for our youngest daughter’s wedding. Then I gave them all away to my daughters and granddaughters.
    It is time to call it a day.The furry boy likes to wake me up very early.

  31. 31
    The Dangerman says:

    Remember the Dude who came out of the blue (Thailand, IIRC) a few years ago and said he killed Jon Benet? That guy was credible compared to this bullshit.

    Byrne has done way too much cocaine (Richard Pryor, IIRC: “God’s way of telling you you have too much money”).

  32. 32
    James E Powell says:

    it was largely in regard to conducting network analysis in order to disaggregate targets for kinetic action from people, groups, and organization we wanted to engage with non-kinetically

    When you talk like this, I swoon.

  33. 33
    Bill Arnold says:

    I highly recommend John Ehrman’s “Towards a Theory of CI” in Studies in Intelligence Studies,

    Fun skim, thanks! (Will try a deeper read tomorrow.)
    I liked the last alternative definition of CI:

    Counterintelligence is to intelligence as epistemology is to philosophy. Both go back to the fundamental question of how we know things, both challenge what we are inclined to take most for granted.–Thomas Powers

    and this from the “Counterintelligence Operations” section:

    All counterintelligence operations have the goal, therefore, of obtaining additional information about how the target service works and details of its operations that, in turn, can be used to refine the understanding of the service’s behavior and then be used to feed another round of operations or investigations.

    I am wondering how US CI specialists deal with the operations of entities that mask themselves so well that they cannot be associated with countries or geographies or individuals. This is possible with a lot of total and long-term comsec discipline for operations that only use the internet. Case in point, AFAIK the identity of the Shadow Brokers/Equation Group is still unknown. There are plenty of other examples (including pre-internet though that is less interesting to me.)

  34. 34
    NotMax says:

    Frankly, I don’t give a damn.

  35. 35
    Martin says:

    @MomSense: Half the country doesn’t vote. 80 percent of success is just showing up.

  36. 36
    NotMax says:

    conducting network analysis in order to disaggregate targets for kinetic action

    Oh my. Aggravate the personal esophogeal passage through insertion of a shallow-bowled culinary utensil.


  37. 37
  38. 38
    SRW1 says:


    Aggravate the personal esophogeal passage through insertion of a shallow-bowled culinary utensil.

    That triggered my swallow reflex!

  39. 39
    Yarrow says:

    Ok, who loves our chonky kitty Mr. B.? Well, now you can wear your heart on your sleeve (& Mr. B. on your shirt!) with great new custom-made CHONK shirts! Order a shirt today to support our lifesaving mission & help homeless pets like Mr. B.: https://t.co/qgxVTxRPfi. Please RT! https://t.co/4qznMwTgrX pic.twitter.com/KLcVvOCSiT— Morris Animal Refuge (@MorrisAnimal) August 23, 2019

    The t-shirt with Mr. B is really cute.

  40. 40
    Mai naem mobile says:

    Sounds like Donny’s Cray Cray is contagious . Maybe it’s the NRA that is the carrier of the cray cray. I have MSNBC on right now. Donny does not look healthy at all. He looks puffier than normal. And he is talking as crazy as ever. The panic is palpable. Wonder when he starts stripping or whatever he’ll do in public.

  41. 41
    NotMax says:

    @Major Major Major Major


    Ugh. Trying to make old folks’ ear hairs stand on end?

    However, congratulatizing is in order.


  42. 42
    Ken says:

    I give it a six out of ten; he didn’t manage to work in the Nyonoksa explosion.

Comments are closed.