Speaking of Watching the Disinformation Being Made: The Stupid Edition

Absolute morons Jacob “I’m Really Going to Commit a Big Boy Crime Any Day Now” Wohl and his unzipped co-conspirator Jack Burckman, fresh off failing to actually dox the Intelligence Community Whistleblower yesterday and today, have reverted to their usual modus operandi of creating sex scandals out of nothing. Having failed to actually bring down Special Counsel Mueller and Mayor Buttigieg with bogus allegations of sexual assault and impropriety have have announced their latest masterpiece. Behold:

The stupid, it burns!

The Warax asked the important question:

It is important to remember that Jacob Wohl is the twenty-something aspiring career petty criminal who is currently facing actual real felony charges in California state court. He is also the son of one of the President’s key Jewish-American surrogates. I have been authorized on behalf of the Elders and our revered and venerated leader, the Supreme Babka, to apologize on behalf of the rest of the tribe. We are tremendously sorry about the Wohl mess.

And our own Food Goddess had the best take when I texted Burkman’s tweet too her:

If at 72 Elizabeth Warren is having a fling with a young Marine I say more power to her

Is everyone still enjoying this extra special Jewish New Year and Day’s of Awe Infrastructure Week?

Open thread!

The Key Takeaways from the Whistleblower Complaint and the Intelligence Community Inspector General’s Accompanying Letter

I’ve now done a first read through of both the whistleblower complaint and the Intelligence Community Inspector General’s accompanying letter. I think the following from the whistleblower’s complaint and the Intelligence Community Inspector General’s letter are the key takeaways. Emphasis is my own.

Here’s the key takeaway that sets up why this is an “urgent concern” and clearly under the purview of the Director of National Intelligence, according to Inspector General Atkinson’s accompanying letter. And, as I wrote last week, it is because what the President had done, and what whichever staff had done to misclassify the Memorandum of Conversation (MEMCON) by upclassifying it, creates a serious counterintelligence matter. Counterintelligence matters are clearly under the purview of the Director of National Intelligence. This is from page 3 and it is the first full paragraph on that page.

As stated above, to constitute an “urgent concern” under 50 U.S.C. Section 3033(k)(5)(G)(i), the information reported by the Complainant must constitute “[a] serious or flagrant problem, abuse, violation of law or Executive order, or deficiency relating to the authority of the Director of National Intelligence involving classified information”8 Here, the Complainant’s Letter alleged, among other things, that the President of the United States, in a telephone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on July 25, 2019, “sought to pressure the Ukrainian leader to take actions to help the President’s 2020 reelection bid.” U.S laws and regulations prohibit a foreign national, directly or indirectly, from making a contribution or donation of money or other thing of value, or to make an express or implied promise to make a contribution or donation, in connection with a Federal, State, or local election.9 Similarly, U.S. laws and regulations prohibit a person from soliciting, accepting, or connection with a Federal, State, or local election.10 Further, in the ICIG’s judgement, alleged conduct by a senior U.S. public official to seek foreign assistance to interfere in or influence a Federal election would constitute a “serious or flagrant problem [or] abuse” under 50 U.S.C. Section 3033(k)(5)(i), which would also potentially expose such a U.S. public official (or others acting in concert with the U.S. public official) to serious national security and counterintelligence risks with respect to foreign intelligence services aware of such alleged conduct.

Here’s the larger and more important key takeaway that provides the full context as to why this is a counterintelligence concern. It can be found in the whistleblower’s complaint. From the final section on page 3:

II. Efforts to restrict access to records related to the call

In the days following the phone call, I learned from multiple U.S. officials that senior White House officials had intervened to “lock down” all records of the phone call, especially the official word-for-word transcript of the call that was produced – as is customary – by the White House Situation Room. This set of actions underscored to me that White House officials understood the gravity of what had transpired in the call.

  • White House officials told me they were “directed” by White House lawyers to remove the electronic transcript from the computer system in which transcripts are typically stored for coordination, finalization, and distribution to Cabinet-level-officials.
  • Instead, the transcript was loaded into a separate electronic system that is otherwise used to store and handle classified information of an especially sensitive nature. One White House official described this act as an abuse of this electronic system because the cal did not contain anything remotely sensitive from a national security perspective.

I do not know whether similar measures were taken to restrict access to other records of the call, such as contemporaneous handwritten notes taken by those who listened in.

And from the first substantive paragraph on page 1 of the “Classified Appendix” of the whistleblower’s complaint:

(U) Additional information related to Section II

According to multiple White House officials I spoke with, the transcript of the President’s call with President Zelenskyy was placed into a computer system managed directly by the National Security Council (NSC) Directorate for Intelligence Programs.This is a standalone computer system reserved for codeword-level intelligence information, such as covert action. According to the information I received from White House officials, some officials voiced concerns internally that this would be an abuse of the system and was not consistent with the responsibilities of the Directorate for Intelligence Programs.According to White House officials I spoke with, this was “not the first time” under this Administration that a Presidential transcript was placed into this codeword-level system solely for the purpose of protecting politically sensitive – rather than national security sensitive – information.

What the whistleblower is alleging is repeated deliberate misclassification of information. Specifically misclassification by upclassification in order to avoid embarrassing the President and for protecting him from the consequences of his own actions. Essentially an attempt to use the classification to cover for and protect the President. The classification system is not supposed to be, by regulation and guideline, used to prevent embarrassment to the government or to government officials. These parts of the regs and guidelines are, of course, honored more in the breach than in the observance. Regardless, routinely misclassifying information is a serious counterintelligence concern. And the people who have been doing it, as well as those who knew about it and didn’t report it to their Special Security Officer (uniformed and civilian personnel) or Facility Security Officer (contractors) is in real jeopardy.

And Congress really needs to determine just how broad and deep the alleged misclassification scheme goes, who was involved, and what, exactly was misclassified and why. If the whistleblower’s allegations here are correct and can be sustained, there is a huge problem in the White House, under guidance by the White House Counsel’s Office, to purposefully misclassify and mishandle classified information. Which is illegal, a serious insider threat, and a serious counterintelligence issue!

Update at 11:50 AM EDT

There is one other important key takeaway here based on the allegations made by the whistleblower and delineated in Section II and the appendix to Section II that I transcribed above, as well as Acting DNI Maguire’s testimony this morning. In responding to Congressman Schiff’s questioning, Acting DNI Maguire finally made it clear that he first went to the White House Counsel’s Office and then to the Office of Legal Counsel with his questions regarding executive privilege. Here’s the important key takeaway: the whistleblower alleges an ongoing series of criminal acts – misclassifying US government information to avoid embarrassment to the President, appropriate congressional oversight of the President, and any potential political (impeachment, not being reelected) or criminal jeopardy to the President as a consequence of his own behavior. The whistleblower alleges that there is an ongoing criminal scheme, instigated and overseen by attorneys in the White House Counsel’s Office, to misclassify information. Acting DNI Maguire took the allegations to the White House Counsel’s Office that is alleged to be engaging in criminal behavior regarding the deliberate mishandling and misclassifying information for an opinion on whether he needs to comply with the law and forward the complaint to Congress in a timely manner. The White House Counsel’s Office is not a good faith actor in this, they’re alleged to be part of an ongoing series of crimes. This is equivalent of a police chief taking a criminal complaint to the accused criminal to ask whether they should forward the criminal complaint to the prosecutor’s office for action. The alleged criminals were allowed to actively participate in the coverup!

Open thread!


Another One Bites The Dust: Joi Ito, MIT, and Jeffrey Epstein

I haven’t said anything here about events at my home institution, MIT around the news that Joi Ito, the director of the ‘tute’s Media Lab had taken donations for the lab and cash for investments under his control from Jeffrey Epstein — after his conviction for various forms of the sexual predation of girls and very young women.

That’s for two reasons: for one, a sprint through the first week of the semester and a simultaneous dash through the second submission draft of a book manuscript (completed just this afternoon), and for the other a desire to pursue my concerns with MIT faculty officers and the administration before saying anything in public.

I haven’t done that yet, but Ronan Farrow’s devastating report for The New Yorker, published last night, has made the conversations I thought I might have moot, while opening up new questions to be pursued going forward.

Here’s a sample of Farrow’s reporting:

The financial entanglement revealed in the documents goes well beyond what has been described in public statements by M.I.T. and by Ito…

The documents and sources suggest that there was more to the story. They show that the lab was aware of Epstein’s history—in 2008, Epstein pleaded guilty to state charges of solicitation of prostitution and procurement of minors for prostitution—and of his disqualified status as a donor. They also show that Ito and other lab employees took numerous steps to keep Epstein’s name from being associated with the donations he made or solicited. On Ito’s calendar, which typically listed the full names of participants in meetings, Epstein was identified only by his initials. Epstein’s direct contributions to the lab were recorded as anonymous. In September, 2014, Ito wrote to Epstein soliciting a cash infusion to fund a certain researcher, asking, “Could you re-up/top-off with another $100K so we can extend his contract another year?” Epstein replied, “yes.” Forwarding the response to a member of his staff, Ito wrote, “Make sure this gets accounted for as anonymous.” Peter Cohen, the M.I.T. Media Lab’s Director of Development and Strategy at the time, reiterated, “Jeffrey money, needs to be anonymous. Thanks.”

In the wake of that story Ito has now resigned as director and professor of the practice at MIT. He has also quit the boards of the MacArthur Foundation and The New York Times, with, I’m sure, more to drop.

Much of Farrow’s reporting reveals a director and members of his staff gone rogue.  MIT’s central fund raising apparatus had already listed Epstein as a disqualified donor, meaning the Institute and its members weren’t supposed to seek or accept funds from him, and Ito and his team consciously worked to circumvent that restriction.

That’s good for MIT and its central leadership: it shows that the major donors people had already reached the right conclusion about reputation-washing for Epstein and had, they thought, shut it down. Still, though it looks like internal safeguards were in place, I’ve still got some questions.

For example:  how could a major center at MIT evade reporting on donors? What is the process for such reporting?  Was the policy subverted by Ito and the Media Lab? Was it ineffective, failing to ask the right questions? Was there any active failure on the part of the central administration office overseeing fund raising by the Media Lab (and other autonomous self-governing regions w/in MIT)?

Additionally, the fact that Ito raised funds both for the center he ran and his private business bugs me.  MIT has a pretty relaxed policy on outside professional activities by its faculty and other members, but there is both required disclosure (I and every faculty member has to file an OPA report every year) and an explicit conflict of interest policy that is supposed to be more rigorous for senior people like directors of centers and labs.  Did he report his business activities, including soliciting investments? Did any of his actions violate MIT’s COI policy? Were such violations included in whatever disclosures he did make? If so, how did they slip by? If not, what needs to happen, if anything, to prevent such COI?

We may get some answers.  After earlier announcing that the investigation into Ito’s relationship with Epstein would be internal, and intended to discover lessons for the future, the Institute’s president, Rafael Reif sent out an all-comers email that reads in part:

Because the accusations in the story are extremely serious, they demand an immediate, thorough and independent investigation. This morning, I asked MIT’s General Counsel to engage a prominent law firm to design and conduct this process. I expect the firm to conduct this review as swiftly as possible…

That’s good; I hope the investigators get as broad a brief as they need. It’s important to establish who knew and did what when, both inside the Media Lab and in the reporting chain within central administration. And when I say “important,” I don’t mean just in a retributive justice sense.

MIT has come a long way in the last fifty years, and the last twenty, to transform itself from an almost all-male institution to one in which women can flourish.  For the last several years, roughly half of MIT’s incoming undergraduate classes have been women.  Since 2000, MIT has put into place several affirmative policies to improve recruitment, retention and the opportunities open to women faculty.  And every year we welcome another five or six hundred female teenagers to campus.

The willing, eager association with a convicted sexual predator and the willingness of senior and very  high profile MIT figures to trade reputation-gilding for cash says something loud and clear to those newest young women at MIT, and to everyone else here as well.  That’s the message that has to be unwritten — more, it needs to be condemned by word and action.

Last…this has been something of an inside baseball kind of post, but as Anand Giridharadas (@anandwrites) has been aruing, it’s a crash course in the reality of a supra-national rich boys club that owes allegiance to no nation or institution.  Epstein was protected and rewarded by his ability to associate with high profile people and organizations — a protection purchased with cold cash, not any contribution of ideas or intellect.  He was a sexual criminal, so it’s easy to see how this charmed circle dynamic is malign.

But the same dynamic protects bad ideas, distortion of work, the exercise of unmerited power in all kinds of domains, as very rich individuals choose what they want to pay for (and what the polities they control or overwhelmingly influence should pursue). And, as Giridharadas has emphasized over and over again (and not just him, of course) those .01 percenters are loyal to the Republic of Wealth, and not the United States, or MIT or whatever.

It’s easy (as well as obviously right) to condemn Epstein and those he suborned.  But he’s far from the only problem.

Open thread.

Dark Pre-Dawn Open Thread: Trump Rallies His (Extremely) Base

I’ll put most of this below the fold, but my Irish sense of grievance convinces me that you shouldn’t take your eyes off these people, not for one bloody-minded minute.

It was Dan Dale’s first live-tweeting of a Trump rally for CNN — flatter than Dale’s usual, but that’s probably not his fault.

Per the Washington Post:

… [A]t around 1:30 p.m., clouds charged in, and with them a heavy breeze that left vendors trying to hold their tents to the ground. Just as the man at the gate announced that he could not let anyone else into the arena, thunder boomed. Shortly after, a voice on the loudspeaker declared that anyone not in line at that moment would not be making it into the building right away.

Moments later, a drenching rain fell.
Read more

C.R.E.A.M. Open Thread: Beating Our Plowshares Into Swords

We already know the answer to that one: MONEY!

Sure, it’ll further destabilize the Middle East, not to mention violating American law, but those Arabs have money!!! How is anyone with the kind of ethical code that allows them to work for Donald Trump gonna turn down money?

The Washington Post Editorial Board:

If the new gift to the crown prince is allowed to stand, Mr. Trump will have established a new precedent: Presidents may sell arms anywhere in the world without congressional review simply by claiming an unspecified emergency. Even supporters of Mr. Trump and of arms sales to Saudi Arabia ought to be troubled by this. Sen. James E. Risch (R-Idaho), the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, is at least thinking about it: In a statement, he said he was “reviewing and analyzing the legal justification for this action and the associated implications.”

Mr. Risch has a ready remedy: He can allow a vote in his committee on legislation to block the sales until the Saudi regime stops bombings in Yemen and meets other basic conditions, including the release of women’s rights activists it has detained and tortured. Congress has an obligation to rein in Mr. Trump’s wanton embrace of the Saudi strongman; it also must defend its basic foreign policy prerogatives. It’s time for Mr. Risch to show whether he is up to that challenge.

Mr. Risch is a Republican. The only ‘challenge’ he can see is whether he’ll fold fast enough & enthusiastically enough to please his Dear Leader…