Tag Archives: NSA

Now, Mr. President, what did you know … and when?

This just in: Michael Flynn has quit as national security adviser for Donald J. Trump.

Flynn resigned over questions relating to alleged conversations he had with Russian government officials prior to Trump becoming president of the United States. Reports have swirled that Flynn had talked about possible loosening of sanctions that the Obama administration had imposed to punish the Russians for their alleged role in interfering with the U.S. presidential election.

The Logan Act, anyone? It bars unauthorized personnel from negotiating with a foreign government. Flynn well might have broken federal law.

Now comes the question, to borrow an inquiry made famous in another serious matter: What did the president know and when did he know it?

Did the president know about Flynn’s conversations as they were occurring? Did he sanction them? Did the president hush it up?

The former acting U.S. attorney general, Sally Yates, wrote a report that suggested Flynn might have been “compromised” by his meetings with Russian officials. Yates then was fired over her refusal to enforce Trump’s ban on refugees from certain countries. Did the president know about these meetings in real time?

Trump now must find a new national security adviser. He has a long list of qualified, competent, knowledgeable individuals who can give him proper counsel regarding national security concerns.

Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general, is known to be a brilliant military tactician and strategist. He also possesses intense feelings about Islam and has called that great religion a “cancer” on the world. I’ve heard two previous presidents — Barack Obama and George W. Bush — say we aren’t “at war with Islam.”

Gen. Flynn, though, got into trouble because of his relationships with Russian government higher-ups. There’s likely to be more to come in this regard.

I’m among those who want to know about what the big man in the Oval Office knew about these discussions — and when he knew it.

Trump is about to get an earful from U.S. spooks

My fondest wish at this very moment is to be a fly on the wall at the Trump Tower office where the president-elect of the United States is going to hear from the intelligence he has disparaged about what they know about Russian efforts to hack into our electoral process.

Donald Trump is playing host Friday to the director of national intelligence, the Defense Intelligence Agency director, the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency. They’re going to tell them what they know about Russian efforts to influence the presidential election we just endured.

Will the president-elect disparage these intelligence professionals to their faces? Will he tell them they don’t know what they’re talking about? Will he stand by the assertions of the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, who’s been hiding in a foreign embassy to avoid prosecution on criminal charges?


DNI Jim Clapper said there’s a line between honest skepticism and “disparagement.” Indeed, Trump has disparaged the intelligence community’s ability to do its job, which is to provide national security information that presidents need to protect Americans from foreign adversaries.

Clapper was one of the intelligence honchos who spoke today to the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee about the Russian hacking story. It was an amazing hearing. It produced pointed questions about the doubts that Trump has cast on the intelligence community. It also produced amazing answers from the intelligence pros about whether they would believe Julian Assange’s assertions dismissing Russian involvement in these hacking efforts.

The hearing today was a preliminary event, a setup for the main event set for Friday at Trump Tower.

I need serious help as I seek to turn into that fly on the wall. Oh, to listen to what the spooks tell Trump the evidence they have about Russian hackers.

Trump offers us another lie

Call me skeptical, but I think Donald J. Trump is lying to us once again.

The president-elect says he knows things that others don’t know about the Russian hacking story. He knows more than the CIA intelligence experts; more than the National Security Agency analysts; more than the Defense Intelligence Agency spooks.

He said he’ll tell us “Tuesday or Wednesday” about what he knows.

Gosh, I sort of think the president-elect is lying to us … yet again.

He doesn’t know “more” than the CIA or the other intelligence officials. Suppose, though, that he has the information that no one else on Earth knows. Why is he waiting until tomorrow or the day after to tell us?

I won’t call Trump a “liar.” I am saying, though, that I believe he is prevaricating in the extreme on this matter.

Either he has information that he’s gathered from the intelligence sources that he has disparaged, or he has obtained it through unofficial channels and he might have information that cannot be proven or disproven.

The president-elect needs to stop playing mind games with the public on this matter. He is playing a ridiculous and dangerous game of chicken with the intelligence professionals he will need as he prepares to protect the nation from its enemies abroad.

What’s more, the president-elect is playing the media and the public as suckers by tempting Americans with what I believe will be a non-story when he reveals this supposedly exclusive information that “no one knows.”

CIA gets ‘blame’ for Russian hackers?

Here comes the counterattack from the right wing.

U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa — a fire-breathing conservative — says he believes the CIA and the National Security Agency “leaked” the info about Russians hacking into the U.S. electoral process.

Income White House press secretary Sean Spicer says there is no evidence linking Russians spooks to allegations that they meddled in our 2016 election. “There is zero evidence that they actually influenced the election,” Spicer told the Fox News Channel.

Really? Well, I don’t want to believe such a thing could happen, I am waiting to learn more about what’s been determined so far to draw my own conclusion.


OK, then. I have a suggestion.

Why doesn’t the CIA provide some of the evidence it says it has that leads the U.S. spy agency to conclude the Russians did do what’s been alleged.

Should the CIA spill all the beans? Should it reveal every secret it has gathered? No. But surely there must be an avenue for the CIA to disclose to Americans interested in determining what effect — if any — this activity might have had on the outcome of the election.

As it stands now we are left to listen to empty platitudes from allies of the president-elect, who continues to dismiss — if not denigrate — the ability of the CIA and other intelligence professionals to assess national security threats.

And this brings to mind a final thought: How does a politician like Donald J. Trump get away with denigrate our intelligence gatherers while seeming to support an international adversary, such as Russia?

Imagine what those on the right would say if, oh, Barack Obama would do such a thing.

Trump picks demonstrate anti-unity theme


Donald Trump has vowed to “unify” the nation after a bitter campaign that elected him the next president of the United States.

Who, then, does he pick for his national security team?

Let’s see: retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who will lead the National Security Agency, says that fear of Muslims is “rational”; Kansas U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo, who will lead the CIA, believes Muslims contribute to the terror threat by refusing to repudiate terrorism; U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, whom Trump has nominated to be attorney general, was denied a federal judgeship in the 1980s because of allegedly racist comments he made as a U.S. attorney in Alabama.

Trump is making no apologies for targeting people of certain faiths and he is making no amends toward the African-American community by nominating someone with, um, a checkered civil-rights past to lead the Justice Department.


None of this should surprise anyone, I suppose. The president-elect is precisely who he says he is: a tough guy who vows to roll back many of the policies of the administration he will succeed.

According to the New York Times: “The reaction from Democrats was immediate and angry. ‘The president-elect has created a White House leadership that embodies the most divisive rhetoric of his campaign,’ Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon said on Friday. ‘To the extent that these become policies or legislative proposals, I commit to stopping them.’”

Perhaps the most amazing view from this national security team came from Gen. Flynn, who supports a national registry of Muslims and compares such registration to the internment of Japanese-Americans after the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. President Roosevelt overreacted grossly to a perceived threat from loyal Americans as the nation entered World War II and that overreaction has been universally condemned in the years since as a tragic mistake.

Oh yes. A new day is about to dawn in Washington, D.C. Let’s all get ready for some storm clouds that are beginning to boil up on the political horizon.

Can the candidates keep a secret?


Hillary Rodham Clinton and Donald J. Trump — the Democratic and Republican candidates for president, respectively — are set to receive briefings from President Obama’s national security team.

The question keeps bugging me: Will they both receive identical briefings and will they get information that is at matching levels of security clearance?

Trump’s penchant for shooting off his mouth has become somewhat legendary as he campaigns for president. Clinton, too, has problems — allegedly — with protecting national security information.

Of the two, my sense is that Clinton — given her troubles over her use of personal e-mail servers while she was secretary of state — is going to be extra careful with any information she gets from Obama’s national security team.

Trump? I’m not so sure.

This has been a custom dating back to the 1952 when President Truman’s team decided to share this information with Dwight Eisenhower and Adlai Stevenson, the candidates who sought to succeed Give ‘Em Hell Harry.

The intent is to avoid the new president from getting too much of a surprise when he or she takes office. Harry Truman took office in April 1945 and wasn’t told until 12 days after being sworn in after President Roosevelt’s death that, um, we had been doing research on a secret weapon in New Mexico that might end World War II in a hurry.

It was the atomic bomb!

I’m going to assume — yes, I know that’s a dangerous thing to do — that the information given to Clinton and Trump will be given in the strictest confidence. That means the people giving it will be sworn to secrecy, as well as the people receiving it.

Are they bound by any rule that requires them to give Trump the same intelligence briefing they give to Clinton?

More to the point, can the intelligence briefers and the candidates keep it all of it a secret?

ISIS leader becomes new No. 1 target


Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has become a marked man.

Who is this guy? He is the leader of the Islamic State. He heads the world’s most formidable terrorist organization.

What if we get him? Will it mean the end of the organization. Probably not by itself, but it would cripple the Islamic State in a way that all the bombs and missiles we’re dropping on the terrorists.

This is a big deal at many levels.

According to Bloomberg News Service: “Eliminating Baghdadi is seen as a particularly important goal, the official said, because he holds a unique role in being able to inspire and organize extremists beyond the territory held by the group. While declining to compare the effort to the operation that led to the killing of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in 2011, the official said the U.S. has a proven track record of finding a top target once it sets its sights.”

President Obama and Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced recently the deployment of a special operations team that is set up to help Kurdish and Iraqi forces fighting ISIS units. The team is expected to deploy teams acting on intelligence gathered by CIA operatives, the National Security Agency, the FBI, Navy SEALs and Army Delta Force commandos.

These folks all are quite good at what we ask them to do.

Which is to hunt down and eliminate bad guys.


What if we'd left Bergdahl behind?

As the feeding frenzy continues over the release of a one-time prisoner of war in Afghanistan, a lot of key questions have arisen.

I’ve covered some of them already in this blog. Another one has popped up.

What would the reaction have been had the United States — knowing the history of U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s views on the Afghan War and perhaps suspecting he had left his post, as has been alleged — left him behind?


The demands for answers have been loud, clear and largely justified.

Bergdahl was released by his Taliban captors after he’d been held for five years. In exchange, we released five high-ranking Taliban thugs from Gitmo on the condition they be restricted from traveling out of Qatar for a year. After that, well, it’s anyone’s guess, I suppose.

Bergdahl reportedly opposed our Afghan War effort. He said so in emails back home. Those views allegedly were known by the Army. We went after him anyway. President Obama said Americans “don’t leave soldiers behind” in war.

What we gave up to get him and the allegations that he “deserted” his comrades have raised a huge uproar.

Some of my very own friends here in the Texas Panhandle have called Bergdahl a traitor. They want him punished, thinking they know all the facts already. One fellow even said we ought to send him back to his captors.


Still, the question remains: What would be the tone of the criticism if we’d turned our backs on a soldier who some Americans already believe committed an act of treason? Would those people who today are critical of the recovery effort applaud an abandonment?

My strong suspicion is that they would be screaming themselves hoarse at the notion that the United States actually would leave one of our warriors behind, in the hands of a ruthless enemy.

Perhaps that takes us directly into the excruciating decision made at the White House, the Pentagon, the CIA, the National Security Council and the Oval Office itself.

It hardly, therefore, seems fair for peanut-gallery pundits to draw premature conclusions about a delicate matter about which they know next to nothing.

Yes, there are many questions to answer. How about first getting those answers?

Obama has learned: You need to keep tabs on folks

Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich said it well this morning on “Meet the Press” while commenting on President Obama’s National Security Agency reforms.

He said Obama ran for president as someone “inclined to support civil liberties,” but has learned that “after five years” he has to depend on surveillance techniques to keep Americans safe.


The chairs of the Senate and House intelligence committees understand that as well in backing Obama’s reforms while acknowledging the president has developed a keen appreciation for spying on potential bad guys.

This came from the Republican House chairman, Mike Rogers: “The most important victory was the president standing up and saying, ‘Hey, the program did not have abuses. This wasn’t sinister. It wasn’t a rogue agency. It was legal and proper.’”

And this came from the Democratic Senate chairwoman, Dianne Feinstein: “A lot of the privacy people perhaps don’t understand that we still occupy the role of the Great Satan. New bombs are being devised. New terrorists are emerging, new groups, actually, a new level of viciousness. We need to be prepared. I think we need to do it in a way that respects people’s privacy rights.”

The president has recommended putting NSA efforts to listen to phone conversations under more intensive judicial review.

I’ve noted already that NSA activities don’t get me too worked up. I’ve got not a single thing to hide from those guys. Besides, Obama has said the NSA is listening only to those who it believes are up to no good.

That works for me.

As the former speaker — no shrinking violet when it comes to criticizing the president — has said, Barack Obama has learned to appreciate the need to keep eyes and ears on those who would do us harm.

What did POTUS know, and when?

Howard Baker was a young U.S. senator from Tennessee when he sat on a congressional committee back in 1973. He then posed a profound question of the witness sitting in front of him: What did the president know and when did he know it?

He was inquiring about President Nixon’s involvement in the Watergate scandal, which would force the president to resign in disgrace the following year.

Sen. Baker’s inquiry is fitting today. What did President Obama know about the National Security Agency’s wiretap of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone — and when did he know it?


The NSA tap doesn’t rise to the level of the Watergate scandal. It does, however, call into question the NSA’s involvement in trying to protect U.S. citizens against potential terror threats.

I’m still trying to fathom, however, why the NSA would tap into the phone calls of a trusted U.S. ally — Chancellor Merkel — and what the agency thought it would gain from this intrusion.

Merkel reportedly is fuming over it. Can anyone blame her? Can anyone blame our nation’s other allies who believe their own trust in the United States has been violated by these revelations.

Now comes a report that President Obama knew about the wiretap, which contradict directly his assertion that he knew nothing about it.

Which is it, Mr. President? What did you know and when did you know it?