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Threat Level Orange! Election Week Plot!

screen-shot-2016-11-04-at-5-01-51-pmThis morning, CBS published a story attributed to senior producer Pat Milton, who has done a lot of FBI-based stories (and co-produced fawning 60 Minutes interviews with John Brennan and Jim Comey), reporting on a possible terrorist attack. The story described the threat with specific detail — scheduled for Monday, in maybe NY, TX, or VA — but even while explicitly stating that “its credibility hasn’t been confirmed.”

Sources told CBS News senior investigative producer Pat Milton that U.S. intelligence has alerted joint terrorism task forces that al Qaeda could be planning attacks in three states for Monday.

It is believed New York, Texas and Virginia are all possible targets, though no specific locations are mentioned.

U.S. authorities are taking the threat seriously, though the sources stress the intelligence is still being assessed and its credibility hasn’t been confirmed. Counterterrorism officials were alerted to the threat out of abundance of caution.

The version published at 7:43 AM (and screen captured to the right) clearly attributed the story to a senior FBI official. (I’ve bolded the differences.)

A senior FBI official told CBS News, “The counterterrorism and homeland security communities remain vigilant and well-postured to defend against attacks here in the United States.  The FBI, working with our federal, state and local counterparts, shares and assesses intelligence on a daily basis and will continue to work closely with law enforcement and intelligence community partners to identify and disrupt any potential threat to public safety.”

The version published at 12:52 rewrote that paragraph, obscuring that FBI was the source.

While we do not comment on intelligence matters, we will say the counterterrorism and homeland security communities remain vigilant and well-postured to defend against attacks here in the United States,” a U.S. intelligence official told CBS News. “The FBI and DHS, working with our federal, state and local counterparts, share and assess intelligence on a daily basis and will continue to work closely with law enforcement and intelligence community partners to identify and disrupt any potential threat to public safety.

This story, leaked by a senior FBI official who “doesn’t comment on intelligence matters” but nevertheless did just that, comes at the end of the crappiest week for the FBI in decades.

At this point, it is fair to argue that the intelligence community — including people leading it today — have capitalized on a terrorist threat, even a dodgy one. As I tweet stormed this morning (and wrote in more detail here), in 2004 the government played up two dodgy election year threats.

In March 2004 (just as torture, spying cut back) fabricator went to CIA in Pakistan and said, “Janat Gul wants to attack US elections.”

Someone in CIA immediately said, “Nah!” Nevertheless, US got PK to detain, turn Gul to US to be tortured.

USG (including Jim Comey) reauthorized torture, to be used with Gul. Including waterboarding & techniques CIA had already used w/o approval.

USG (including Comey & John Brennan) also used election year plot based off fabrication as one reason FISC had to approve Internet dragnet.

There were, of course, leaks to the press about this election year plot.

CIA kept torturing and torturing Janat Gul, because they needed details of an election year plot based off a fabrication.

It wasn’t until October that someone said, “Hey, let’s go check if that guy claiming Gul wanted to attack US election was lying!” He was.

But Gul had served purpose: election year scare, reauthorizing torture, getting FISC approval for dragnet. Not bad for one torture victim!

Comey didn’t know CIA immediately raised concerns abt fabricator’s claims. It’s one thing Cheney/Gonzales prevented him fr learning in 2005

Comey signed off on torture again, including waterboarding w/o knowing that that case was all based off a fabrication.

But Comey has also refused to read torture report, which lays all this out. He’s avoiding learning what he did in 2004, 2005. Brennan too!

I lay all this out bc, w/history like this, IC (still led by Brennan & Comey) should be VERY careful abt leaking election year plots.

Succinctly: They cried wolf in 2004. And have yet to face accountability for that.

Then, in 2006 (at a time when both Comey and Brennan were on hiatus from directly government work, though they were both working with key government contractors), it happened again. Dick Cheney triggered the revelation of a very real terrorist plot in 2006 — fucking over the British officials trying to collect enough information to prosecute the perpetrators — to help Joe Lieberman stay in the Senate.

The point is, these people, including the people in charge of the IC now, have selectively exploited real or imagined terrorist plots before. The leak of this one, which FBI clearly hasn’t even vetted, sure seems exploitative given how badly FBI needs to distract from its own fuck-ups.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

14 replies
  1. GKJames says:

    Gobsmacking. And evidence that those who intend to vote Trump, claiming to be outraged because the “elite” is running a corrupt system, are barking up the wrong tree. Given that Republicans will continue to give Comey, Brennan et al cover, is it fair to assume that the FBI cesspool will never be drained?

  2. rugger9 says:

    I’m reminded of Tom Ridge’s color coded threat levels that conveniently went up at election time.  I also remember several Bushies noising about delaying the 2004 election because of the terror threat.  Since I know there are Bushies burrowed into the government at all levels (it was a deliberate policy to prevent backtracking) this is a tried and true playbook.  With someone other that Trump who is bat-bleep crazy, it might have worked.

  3. lefty665 says:

    There’s two plots, their operatives have been spotted in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia.  One is code named “Donald” the other “Hillary”. The first is code Orange, the other code Blonde. One will execute for sure next Tuesday. The FBI has seized 650,000 emails from the second in command of one of the terror campaigns. Drone strikes are expected over the weekend, one code named “Melania” and the other “Bill”.

    • Evangelista says:

      “Red Alert!  Blue Alert! OMG THEY ARE COLLIDING!!”

      “Stay calm, everyone;  just dress in magenta and cover yourselves with lavender-water… “

      • lefty665 says:

        It has just been determined that the threat level code names are themselves just “covers”. The actual underlying, even more alarming, geriatric codes are Bald and Gray.

  4. Evangelista says:

    Despite the ‘Little Boy Who Cried Wolf’ record of the U.S. Terror Alert system, I would give the day-before-election prediction a possibly real possibility rating.

    I suspect a possibility possibly from an unexpected, from a saboteur, source, for pure disruption and with vote-swaying intention, but with not a lot of focus.

    Something similar to the Black Church Arson with “Vote Trump” graffiti tagging, which is bizarre and more confusing than message-sending, since it is doofy from both a pro-Trump and a pro-Klan perspective. The mix makes so little sense it leaves the doofiest whackos of both those factions scratching their heads and wondering why anyone of theirs would do that.

    The combination is the kind of over-do a saboteur would be more likely to screw up his effort doing, attempting to get maximum mileage by combining his target antagonists.

  5. bevin says:

    “… the Black Church Arson with “Vote Trump” graffiti tagging, which is bizarre and more confusing than message-sending, since it is doofy from both a pro-Trump and a pro-Klan perspective.”
    Anyone doubt that this is a provocation aimed at getting out the vote?

    As for Comey and Brennan they are both Obama appointees- it is difficult to see how Trump can be blamed for either one of them.

  6. wayoutwest says:

    The only terrorists the Clintonites see are the ones in blue windbreakers waving arrest warrants with Red Queen printed boldly on the front. The FBI, according to them, is a hotbed of Jihadist terror determined to disrupt their sacred and rigged, voting rituals.

    The Queen’s collective is throwing sandbags, barn doors and kitchen sinks desperately trying to deflect the growing tide of justice that threatens to swamp the royal barge as it floats on a river of denial headed to DC.

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