The Lajes Vector: Congressman Nunes Gets Stiffed

As was the case with Congressman Nunes’ memo and his decision to prematurely end the superficial House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) investigation into the Russian active measures and cyberwarfare campaign against the US, Congressman Nunes didn’t seem to accomplish much as a result of the DOJ briefings he demanded yesterday. From the AP:

It was unclear how much information was given to lawmakers. According to a U.S. official familiar with the meeting, the briefers did not reveal the name of an informant. They brought documents but did not share them, and made several remarks about the importance of protecting intelligence sources and methods. The person declined to be identified because the briefing was classified.

Nunes attended both briefings Thursday. According to the U.S. official and another person briefed on the Capitol Hill meeting, Nunes did not speak at all during the briefing. The second person also declined to be named because the meeting was classified.

According to the AP’s reporting, the DOJ and FBI did not provide the covered human source’s identity despite it having been speculated about in right wing online media sources since March and circulating in the news media for the past ten days or so. This is significant. This was Deputy AG Rosenstein and FBI Director Wray reinforcing that they will not disclose methods and sources to Congress or the White House via their pets in Congress, which is as it should be as sources and methods are outside of need to know for congressional oversight. I’m sure this won’t stop right wing news and social media from promoting the absolutely bizarre conspiracy that the highest echelons of the DOJ and the FBI, as well as the career personnel in the national security division conspired with both the Obama administration and the Clinton campaign and Vladimir Putin to frame the current President as a Russian dupe in order to prevent him from being elected. While keeping it all secret!

That’s always been the most insane portion of all of this. That there was a far ranging conspiracy to prevent the President’s election that included President Obama, the appointed and career leadership at the DOJ, FBI, DNI, CIA, and NSA, as well as career personnel in the DOJ and FBI’s national security directorate. That it was all coordinated with Secretary Clinton’s campaign. And that they were all conspiring with Vladimir Putin. All to prevent the President from being elected by tainting his campaign with the false narrative of being not just favored by Vladimir Putin, but actively seeking to work with and/or working with Vladimir Putin. And that the parties to the conspiracy were so successful in their secret plotting against the President and his campaign that they lied to reporters from The New York Times and other news media all the way through the election in order to keep the conspiracy a secret. And, as a result, the conspiracy actually failed and the President’s campaign was successful and he was elected because no one knew about it. Which, of course, makes no sense and is belied by every reported fact over the past two years about the President’s campaign and the people working on it.

What really needs to happen now is that the DOJ and the FBI need to ascertain who leaked the covered human sources identity to Chuck Ross at Tucker Carlson’s The Daily Caller. Leaks of covered human sources are direct threats to the national security of the United States. They place the covered human source at risk. They place anyone who is contact with the covered human source at risk even if these people are not subjects or targets of any intelligence or criminal investigation. When these types of leaks happen the families, friends, professional colleagues, neighbors, and even casual personal and professional acquaintances of the covered human source are placed at risk. And they make it much, much harder for the US to both recruit new covered human sources in the future and for the US’s allies and partners to share information from their own covered human sources.

Reporting on covered human sources – and I want to be very clear here – is protected under the 1st Amendment. Even though that reporting is also a direct threat to the national security of the United States. Ross is rightfully off limits because of the 1st Amendment, but whoever provided that information to him needs to be identified and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Stay clandestine!

Open thread.

* Just a quick note, before anyone asks in the comments, Congressman Nunes’ family came to the US from Lajes in the Azores. And ever since he got himself onto the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence he’s been trying to relocate significant amounts of US intelligence capability to Lajes, which makes no logistical or financial sense, but would enrich his relatives and their friends. I wrote about this here. And it’s why I use Lajes in the titles of my Nunes’ posts, like the title for a weird Ludlum like novel.

A Follow Up Regarding DNI Clapper’s Statements That The Russians Actually Influenced The Outcome Of The 2016 US Election

I just wanted to quickly follow up on AL’s earlier post regarding DNI Clapper’s remarks that:

“Of course the Russian efforts affected the outcome. Surprising even themselves, they swung the election to a Trump win. To conclude otherwise stretches logic, common sense, and credulity to the breaking point. Less than eighty thousand votes in three key states swung the election. I have no doubt that more votes than that were influenced by this massive effort by the Russians.”

Was there active collusion between the Trump campaign — or the candidate himself — and Russian proxies or agents? Clapper does not go that far because he doesn’t have proof. But what he calls Trump’s “aggressive indifference” to the intelligence community’s detailed presentation of Russian activities is, in his view, damning enough. “Allegations of collusion and the results of the election were secondary to the profound threat Russia posed — and poses — to our system,” Clapper writes, and he does a fair job explaining why.

The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) has just released a working paper entitledSocial Media, Sentiment and Public Opinions: Evidence from #Brexit and #USElection. Here’s a link to a pdf of the report, which I’ll also attach to the bottom of the post. I want to excerpt this bit from the introduction to the paper (emphasis mine):

We find that information about the Brexit and the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election is disseminated and absorbed among Twitter users within 50-70 minutes. This suggests that information rigidity could be very low for critically important issues with wide coverage or that news cycles in social media are short-lived. We also observe the differential impact of tweeting activities by user type. For example, “remain” supporters in the Brexit Referendum respond stronger and faster to messages created by other “remain” supporters when compared with the reaction to messages from “leave” supporters. Furthermore, human tweeting activity could be influenced by bots. The degree of influence depends on whether a bot provides information consistent with the priors of a human. For instance, a bot supporting the “leave” campaign has a stronger impact on a “leave” supporter than a “remain” supporter. Similarly, Trump supporters are more likely to react to messages spread by pro-Trump bots. Further examination shows that the sentiment of tweets plays an important role in how information is spread: a message with positive (negative) sentiment generates another message with the same sentiment. These results provide evidence consistent with the “echo chambers” effect in social media; that is, people tend to select themselves into groups of like-minded people so that their beliefs are reinforced while information from outsiders might be ignored. Therefore, social media platforms like Twitter could enhance ideological segmentation and make information more fragmented rather than more uniform across people. Finally, we provide a quantitative assessment of how bots’ traffic contributed to the actual vote outcomes. Our results suggest that, given narrow margins of victories in each vote, bots’ effect was likely marginal but possibly large enough to affect the outcomes.

And this section from Section E of the findings on p. 20 of the report (emphasis mine):

But again, even this small difference could have played an important role in the outcome of these close-call elections. Specifically, our analysis in Section 2.5 suggests that a percentage point increase in the share of pro-Trump tweets in total tweets is associated with a 0.59 percentage point increase in the share of actual pro-Trump votes. Therefore, the observed difference between actual and counterfactual pro-Trump tweet shares suggests that 3.23 percentage points of the actual vote could be rationalized with the influence of bots.

This is one econometric analysis of the effects of the Russian active measures and cyberwarfare campaign against the US in the 2016 election and the UK during the Brexit referendum. It is an important piece of unclassified, open sourced supporting analysis to DNI Clapper’s conclusions. But the research shows that there is a strong correlation between the Russian active measures and cyberwarfare campaign and shifts in voting in the US and the UK. This research is not conclusive. It does not and cannot put an end to the suspicions or concerns, but it is important as part of the larger explanation of what happened in the 2016 presidential election and the 2016 Brexit referendum.

Open thread!


The US IS Now Superfluous To The Future Of The Korean Peninsula Part II

On May 1st I wrote:

I also think that aside from the meeting between Kim and the President, the US is now superfluous to the reality on the ground. And that Kim is manipulating the President into a diplomatic and strategic trap where Kim and the DPRK looks like the good guys here and the President, and by extension the US, look unreasonable and become the bad guys. This would also make Xi and the PRC, as well as Putin – another Kim patron – very, very happy.

Part of the problem is I don’t think the President or anyone on his team really seem to understand where President Moon is coming from. Moon is from the center-left/left of center party in the ROK that seeks an opening with the DPRK. His parents were also refugees from the DPRK to the ROK, so reaching a rapprochement that allows for families to be reunited is very important for him.

Moon clearly wants to reach a new normal on the Korean Peninsula. Kim, in the DPRK, wants what he’s always wanted:

  • the removal of the US, specifically of the US military, from the peninsula
  • the reunification of the peninsula
  • under Kim family control
  • preservation of the Kim family regime

What Kim is talking about is not what the President or anyone on his team is talking about when they talk about denuclearization. Before US-DPRK negotiations have ever begun we have a fundamental mismatch of what the key term means. This will make negotiating more difficult if there is no agreement to what the key terms mean and key issues actually are. There is little doubt that President Moon knows exactly what Kim means when he talks about denuclearization. Moreover, President Moon is no doubt very clear about the President not wanting to keep US military personnel in the ROK. The President, per his longstanding belief dating back to 1987, sees this as a waste of money and another example of America’s allies and partners taking advantage of it and playing the US for suckers.

… the South Koreans know exactly where they stand with the President. So it should not be surprising that President Moon is going to pursue the ROK’s interests and get the best deal he can get with Kim if there is a deal to be had regardless of what happens between the DPRK and the US. Moon has essentially recognized that there are two separate, though somewhat related, diplomatic tracks going on. The first he controls and is bilaterally between the ROK and the DPRK. The second involves the US, is sort of multilateral and at the same time sort of bilateral, and may or may not be anything more than a show.

From the perspective of the DPRK’s Kim, he’s already gotten what he wants from the US: agreement to the meeting. This elevates Kim and the DPRK from pariah status to worthy of direct negotiations with the US and the President. While the President and his team don’t seem to realize this, or if they do, acknowledge it publicly, this is a key concession from the US to the DPRK. And it was provided without Kim having to do much of anything.

All of this is even more evident today with the President withdrawing from the scheduled June summit in Singapore. President Moon as well as the members of his government, have now seen that even if they try to work within the Trump Doctrine and treat the President fairly in order avoid the “or else”, they’re still likely to get the “or else”. The South Koreans gave the President a number of largely symbolic* concessions in the renegotiated trade agreement in order to pursue the “treat fairly” track of the Trump Doctrine. Instead they’ve gotten the “or else” response. The President has repeatedly stated that he wants to pull all US forces out of the ROK because the South Koreans are ripping us off in terms of trade, he cancelled the more controversial for the DPRK portion of the air warfare exercise with the ROK to keep Kim locked into the summit he just cancelled, and he’s now cancelled the summit because the North Koreans replied as in a very predictable way to the Vice President’s and the National Security Advisor’s threatening invocation of how the US dealt with Muamar Qadafi after he gave up his limited nuclear weapons capability.

At this point Moon has tried the “treat fairly” track of the Trump Doctrine and gotten little positive result. In fact he’s largely gotten the “or else” response. Especially as it has been reported that Moon was “blindsided” by this morning’s announcement.

South Korea’s government seemed blindsided by Trump’s announcement.

“We are attempting to make sense of what, precisely, President Trump means,” said government spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom.

Shortly before midnight in Seoul, South Korea’s president called an emergency meeting to discuss Trump’s decision, summoning his chief of staff, national security adviser, foreign minister, unification minister and intelligence chief to the presidential Blue House.

As a result he has every incentive to simply continue to bilaterally negotiate with Kim to achieve Moon’s and Moon’s government’s understanding of the ROK’s national interest. By impulsively deciding to grant Kim a summit based and now impulsively pulling out of that summit because of some tough talk, the President seems to think that his maximum pressure campaign got him the opportunity for the summit and can now simply be reimposed and once again achieve positive goals. The problem, of course, is there is no evidence that the President’s maximum pressure approach actually contributed to or set the conditions for Kim to pursue a bilateral US-DPRK summit, which is something Kim, his father, and his grandfather have been trying to achieve for decades.

Here’s a link to the live feed of the President’s forthcoming remarks on his withdrawing from the summit with Kim.

Kim has largely already gotten what he wanted. He got the President to agree to meet with him. He got two photo ops with Secretary of State Pompeo. He got the President to call him an honorable man. And he got the President to call this off, making the US look like the mercurial, erratic, and unreliable obstacle to peace. It is important to remember that there are a whole bunch of foreign reporters in the DPRK right now because they were there to observe and report on the destruction of the DPRK nuclear test facility. If we’re very lucky, Kim won’t decide that he too can play the “or else” game as well and scarf these folks up as hostages to use as bargaining chips.

Updated at 12:20 PM EDT

The President has opened his remarks by threatening the DPRK with a military response. For whatever reason, between the President’s positive remarks about the summit in his pre recorded interview with Fox and Friends this AM, his issuing the withdrawal letter, and this press statement, he’s decided to go straight to belligerent. And despite what he’s saying in terms of greatly enhancing our military, the US does not currently have the operational capacity to fight a war on the Korean peninsula. Or anywhere else for that matter.

Updated at 12:35 PM EDT:

Not only did the President not give Moon a heads up, he also decided to blindside the DPRK too!

Open thread!

* The trade concessions that the ROK made are largely symbolic as they apply to types of goods that the US does not currently sell in the ROK and has no intention of doing so for the foreseeable future.

Training Day (Open Thread)

When our daughter was zero to one year and eleven months old, my husband and I deluded ourselves into thinking we had a rare infant/toddler who consistently behaved in public. We pitied other parents we saw in restaurants, grocery stores, etc., when their little monsters had embarrassing public meltdowns. When that happened, my husband and I exchanged knowing glances and smiled smug little smiles.

I remember the exact moment we were disabused of our delusion. We were in a family pizza-spaghetti joint with our daughter, who had recently turned two. She was in a high chair, and instead of quietly munching the Captain’s Wafer crackers I offered to placate her until the food arrived, she pounded them into dust on the tray and distributed the crumbs in a six-foot radius of our table. She issued piercing shrieks and repeatedly threw her sippy cup.

We hastily finished our meals and departed, leaving an enormous tip and resigning ourselves to Chuck E. Cheese for the next few years. The one near us sold beer. I bet they sell A LOT of fucking beer.

Anyhoo, I experienced a similar phenomenon with the pup today. I’ve supervised Badger’s training from the mudroom/home office, gating the two of us off so poor old Daisy can get some peace and quiet and I can closely observe the little critter to hasten the house-training project. He’s doing well on that front!

But my job requires occasional phone conferences too. In the three weeks we’ve had Badger, he’s been an absolute ANGEL during these calls, sleeping sweetly at my feet. That lulled me into thinking he was just a great phone conference puppy! Not so, as it turns out.

Thank God for the fucking mute button, because today, Badger was a raging brat during a call. He’s not much of a barker, but he was running in circles growling and barking. He tore one of the ears off my piggy slippers:

As I extracted the ear from his mouth, he sank his sharp little teeth into my thumb. I happened to be speaking on the call when that happened, and listeners may have noticed that my voice rose an octave or two, but otherwise, I held it together.

I tried plying the little shit with dog training treats, which had the exact opposite of the intended effect, as any fool could have predicted; it reinforced his bad behavior, so he stood on the floor with his paws on my knee, barking as I handed him treat after treat.

The experience was almost as harrowing as when I had to climb into one of those human Habitrails at Chuck E. Cheese to extract my daughter, who refused to come out because another kid had peed and then disrobed. I’m getting too old for this shit.

Open thread!

I Will Be Treated Fairly Or Else: Lesley Stahl Explains The Application Of The Trump Doctrine To The News Media

The President has had a long and largely unpleasant relationship with the news media since he declared his candidacy. As in he’s been unpleasant to the news media. A good chunk of this was set early on with his penning of reporters in at his campaigns and using them as foils, as well as his successful attempts to roll the cable, network, and print news media into treating him “fairly” or receiving an “or else”. He pulled this early and successfully in the primary season with Fox News when he demanded that Megyn Kelly be pulled from her moderator duties. When Fox refused, he scheduled a competing event.

At last night’s Deadline Club awards dinner, Lesley Stahl provided a very detailed explanation of how the President has applied the Trump Doctrine of “I will be treated fairly or else” to the news media. Talking Points Memo has the transcript:

“At one point he started to attack the press. And it’s just me and my boss and him, in— He has a huge office. And he’s attacking the press. And there were no cameras. There was nothing going on, and I said, ‘You know, that is getting tired. Why are you doing this? You’re doing it over and over, and it’s boring, and it’s time to end that. You’ve won the nomination (sic). Why do you keep hammering at this?’

“And he said, ‘You know why I do it? I do it to discredit you all and demean you all, so when you write negative stories about me no one will believe you.”

Here’s the video, which is set to start at the 21:23 mark with her stating what the President told her regarding how he treats the media and why:

Whether the Trump Doctrine is the result of just gut instinct or forethought doesn’t matter. Here we have a first person recounting of the President explaining it in regard to how he deals with the news media. Eventually his supporters are going to get tired of screaming “lugenpresse” at the penned in reporters at his rallies. Or telling them to get out of their country like the lovely gentleman below. Eventually one or more will actually attack and most likely kill a reporter. I certainly hope the news media has thought out how it is going to respond when that happens. Hope, however, is not a strategy.

Stay frosty!

Open thread.


Ever Wonder Why We Keep Seeing Reports Of Foreign Signal Intelligence Equipment In DC? Unsecured Presidential Personal Phone Edition

Washington DC has a fake cell phone tower problem. It is an open secret that Foreign Intelligence Services are using a variety of means to capture signals intelligence (SIGINT) in DC. From Wired:

LAST WEEK, THE Department of Homeland Security confirmed for the first time that it is aware of unauthorized cell-site simulators, the surveillance tools often called stingrays or IMSI Catchers, in various parts of Washington DC.

While it’s not surprising that foreign intelligence groups or criminal actors would be cell-snooping in the nation’s capital, the DHS statement is the first US government acknowledgement that sensitive political communications, not to mention those of anyone in DC, are at risk of interception by devices that are currently unaccounted for. In spite of this step, though, observers find it unlikely that any group will move to defuse the threat in the foreseeable future.

Ruh Roh!!!!!!

From Politico (emphasis mine):

President Donald Trump uses a White House cellphone that isn’t equipped with sophisticated security features designed to shield his communications, according to two senior administration officials – a departure from the practice of his predecessors that potentially exposes him to hacking or surveillance.

The president, who relies on cellphones to reach his friends and millions of Twitter followers, has rebuffed staff efforts to strengthen security around his phone use, according to the administration officials.

The president uses at least two iPhones, according to one of the officials. The phones – one capable only of making calls, the other equipped only with the Twitter app and pre-loaded with a handful of news sites – are issued by White House Information Technology and the White House Communications Agency, an office staffed by military personnel that oversees White House telecommunications.

While aides have urged the president to swap out the Twitter phone on a monthly basis, Trump has resisted their entreaties, telling them it was “too inconvenient,” the same administration official said.

The president has gone as long as five months without having the phone checked by security experts. It is unclear how often Trump’s call-capable phones, which are essentially used as burner phones, are swapped out.

Trump’s call-capable cell phone has a camera and microphone, unlike the White House-issued cell phones used by Obama. Keeping those components creates a risk that hackers could use them to access the phone and monitor the president’s movements. The GPS location tracker, however – which can be used to track the president’s whereabouts – is disabled on Trump’s devices.

“It’s baffling that Trump isn’t taking baseline cybersecurity measures at a time when he is trying to negotiate his way out of a trade war with China, a country that is known for using cyber tactics to gain the upper hand in business negotiations,” said Samm Sacks, a China and technology expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Former government officials from both Republican and Democratic administrations expressed astonishment that any White House would issue the president a cell phone that posed a security threat.

I’m sure there’s no operations security issues involved here at all. It isn’t like the President is up at odd hours with a bunch of media personalities who give him advice and wind him up about what decisions to make after he tells them what’s going on. Err, um… Never mind.

Stay spreadable!

Open thread.

The Mystery Man Revealed – And Open Thread

Quinta Jurecic and Ben Wittes have written their article on outing FBI informants, and several outlets have given the name of the probable informant.

I have the sense that I still don’t fully understand this situation, which I commonly get about revelations of the Trump campaign and its connections to various skeevy people. That is probably because there are more shoes to drop from this centipede, so I can’t fully understand the situation.

That Stefan Halper might be an informant has been publicly discussed since March. His positions and connections should have suggested that possibility to anyone who dealt with him before that. The Washington Post and New York Times articles of Friday night, together with material published earlier, lead to the conclusion that the person being discussed is Stefan Halper.

What Halper did was talk to George Papadopoulos and propose a project with him and also met with Carter Page and Sam Clovis in the summer of 2016. Earlier he met with Michael Flynn. Presumably this was because the FBI had information that Russians were communicating with these folks, and Halper was trying to get information about how that was going down.

The FBI could have sent agents openly to talk to those people, but they probably decided to take an indirect route because of the proximity of the election. Those FBI visits would have gotten out and caused some publicity. This is one of the asymmetries with how the Clinton emails were dealt with.

It would have been good practice for the Trumpies to have notified the FBI themselves when they were contacted by Russians, but, as we have seen in other cases, they did not once see fit to do this.

Since Halper already had a public profile and connections to intelligence agencies, it’s not clear to me why outing him seems to have been such a big deal to those agencies, who were reported to have been working for weeks to minimize the damage if he was outed. It’s possible that he was doing more than what is publicly available, and that those additional activities were much more sensitive.

Part of the concern is that if Congress is willing to reveal intelligence operatives for political reasons, it will be much more difficult to recruit sources and informants. And, of course, the President has now piled on.

It’s not at all clear why Devin Nunes, Trump, and others claim that knowing who this person is will undercut the Mueller investigation. They have claimed a connection between him and the Steele dossier, but, if anything, the information Halper obtained would have gone to the FBI before the dossier did. So, to the extent Halper’s material correlates with what’s in the dossier, it would be independent support.

It’s also not clear how all the information was leaked. Did the leaks start in March? Who are the sources for the Times and the Post stories? Will this be prosecuted the way Valerie Plame’s outing was?

The Jurecic – Wittes article is long and much more closely argued than what I’ve written. Very worth reading.