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:
— Andrew Lawrence (@ndrew_lawrence) August 22, 2019
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 officer. Nor 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!