The White House — Lisa Monaco? — “Cutting Off the Intelligence Community”

Too bad for Obama he has decided the great new way to aggressively prosecute leaks without the bad PR of doing it through the Courts is to have James Clapper’s Inspector General investigate them. Because I’m betting the IC IG will be unenthusiastic about hunting down this admitted leaker.

Some U.S. intelligence officials said they were being blamed by the White House for conducting surveillance that was authorized under the law and utilized at the White House.

“People are furious,” said a senior intelligence official who would not be identified discussing classified information. “This is officially the White House cutting off the intelligence community.”

But I’m a bit more interested in this barb, putting Homeland Security Advisor Lisa Monaco solidly in the line of communication receiving intelligence from wiretaps on foreign leaders.

Any decision to spy on friendly foreign leaders is made with input from the State Department, which considers the political risk, the official said. Any useful intelligence is then given to the president’s counter-terrorism advisor, Lisa Monaco, among other White House officials.

As I have twice noted, Monaco brings dramatically different experience to the position than her predecessor, John Brennan. Rather than being implicated in the illegal program that was the root of many of the problems as the program moved under FISA Court review, she had had to try to clean them up while Assistant Attorney General for National Security, including at least the upstream violations. She also participated in the decision to shut down the Internet dragnet collection program.

After prior bitching about her silence during this scandal, she penned an op-ed last week laying out the evolving White House position.

Today’s world is highly interconnected, and the flow of large amounts of data is unprecedented. That’s why the president has directed us to review our surveillance capabilities, including with respect to our foreign partners. We want to ensure we are collecting information because we need it and not just because we can.


Going forward, we will continue to gather the information we need to keep ourselves and our allies safe, while giving even greater focus to ensuring that we are balancing our security needs with the privacy concerns all people share.

The implication, of course, is that the same person voicing this “because we need it and not just because we can” has been implicated by receiving intelligence with Merkel’s and other leaders names on it, and may be responsible for not alerting the President to it. The accuracy of the claim, of course, depends on whether the White House really shut down the collection on Merkel earlier this summer or only in the last week or so; remember tasking priorities are reassessed biannually. Moreover, it’s not like wiretaps on allied leaders would be the primary focus of someone whose job centers on counterterrorism.

The thing is, this attack can backfire, as having received this information puts Monaco in an appropriate position to know whether we were collecting it because we could, not because we need to.

Monaco has, in the past, been part of a team that deemed a program not valuable enough to sustain. Which means she has a little experience for the pushback the IC may be throwing at her in coming days.

13 replies
  1. Frank33 says:

    The dee cee oligarchs are angry with each other. Who should we believe? Liars, such as Hayden and Alexander? Or the liars in the White House? The President did “sign off” on the Intelligence Community’s Universal Dragnet against the Left. And the State Dept., Hillary Clinton and Vickie Nuland probably, signed off. But who had the brilliant idea to create a Stasi and destroy American Democracy.

    All this torture and murder and wars the spies have created, are for the benefit of international banksters, and Oil companies.

    This does sound a bit treasony for anonymous spies, to blame the President for their criminal activities. What are these goons going to do? Send the President to Gitmo for re-education?

    The White House and State Department signed off on surveillance targeting phone conversations of friendly foreign leaders, current and former U.S. intelligence officials said Monday, pushing back against assertions that President Obama and his aides were unaware of the high-level eavesdropping.

    Professional staff members at the National Security Agency and other U.S. intelligence agencies are angry, these officials say, believing the president has cast them adrift as he tries to distance himself from the disclosures by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden that have strained ties with close allies.

  2. Snoopdido says:

    It sure sounds like same chauvinistic old boys network that can’t accept a woman giving them direction. Monaco must be to blame because, well just because!

  3. scribe says:

    Remember, too, that Bild am Sonntag‘s source, who’s most noted for saying that Alexander briefed Obama on the Merkel wiretap back in 2010, also said that the take from Merkel’s tap ran right to the White House and not, as would be the normal practice through NSA HQ at Fort Meade.

    Seems like ICon pushback there, too.

  4. Peterr says:

    I disagree, EW.

    Per wiki, Monaco served as a research coordinator Senate Judiciary Committee from 1992-94, which meant she was was part of the Ginsburg SCOTUS confirmation process (and possibly Breyer’s as well). From 1998-2001 she was Counsel to Janet Reno — can you say “Elian Gonzales” or “impeachment” or “Clinton’s last day pardons”?

    Having lived through those events on the Hill and at DOJ, I think she knows a wee bit about pushback. Maybe not pushback as the IC does it, but she understands how the game is played in general.

  5. Snoopdido says:

    Somewhat off topic, in further reading of yesterday’s DNI/NSA document dump, on page 2 in document 1 “February 25, 2009 NSA notification memorandum to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) of compliance incidents identified during an on-going NSA-initiated End-to-End review of its collection of bulk telephony metadata pursuant to Section 215 authorities”, the NSA confirms, at least the first time that I’m aware of, that there were separate FISC orders for “telephony metadata and electronic communications metadata”

    As far as I know, we’ve only seen telephony metadata orders from FISC like the very first Snowden bulk phone call records document made public by Glenn Greenwald. Though the US government has claimed that they no longer are doing the bulk internet metadata collection, I think it would still be valuable to know just which companies got separate FISC orders for “electronic communications metadata”.

  6. Peterr says:

    @emptywheel: Oh, wait. There’s that little “a” that I overlooked in your last paragraph.

    Never mind.

    /Emily Litella

    Let me revise and extend my remarks . . .

    Boy did you get that right, Marcy. When you add this to her DOJ and Capitol Hill experience, she knows how the game is played.

  7. Saul Tannenbaum says:

    Have we all forgotten about plausible deniability:

    “Plausible deniability is a term coined by the CIA during the Kennedy administration to describe the withholding of information from senior officials in order to protect them from repercussions in the event that illegal or unpopular activities by the CIA became public knowledge.” (from Wikipedia).

    Of course you don’t tell the President you’re bugging foreign leaders. He’s got to look these folks in the eye from time to time. Of course you send the White House the intelligence. And, of course, the President throws you under the bus when it leaks because it’s in your job description.

    The only thing not quite working here is that some of the IC, upon finding themselves under the bus, seem to have decided that they’d rather not be there, or, that they’d prefer high level company. Which is,
    in my opinion, quite unprofessional.

  8. scribe says:

    @Saul Tannenbaum: Today’s lead editorial in the Suddeutsche Zeitung, over a picture of Obama, is titled “having no idea as a principle [of politics]”, though “cluelessness as a principle” might get the sense better. It’s about plausible deniability.

  9. orionATL says:


    lisa monaco:

    “..Today’s world is highly interconnected, and the flow of large amounts of data is unprecedented. That’s why the president has directed us to review our surveillance capabilities, including with respect to our foreign partners. We want to ensure we are collecting information because we need it and not just because we can…”

    this is just bureacratic gibberish from monaco.

  10. greengiant says:

    So if Lisa Monaco has been national security adviser since March 2013, would not most mud thrown at the White House end up on Larry Brennan?

    The IC leaks to the German press either think they have some extra special protection goat pictures or they just fell on their swords? Something is going on when these high level leaks are made on the most vindictive anti-leak administration in recent memory.

    Are these leakers drinking Murdoch kool-aid or do they really have some impeachable dirt on Obama?

  11. greenbird says:

    yes, the world series is kind of entertaining.
    no, i would not rather be watching it than being glued to this blog.
    yes, you can quote me.
    yes, it’s likely i’m in massachoosetts.
    no, there is nobody nowhere that draws my esteem and attention more highly and more immediately.
    thanks for turning up everywhere all at once ! marcy has WINGS !

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