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!