Appeals Court Treats Commissary Gatorade Supplies as a “Clear and Present Danger”

Navy v. Egan–the SCOTUS case Executive Branch officials always point to to claim unlimited powers over classification authority–just got bigger.

Berry v. Conyers extends the national security employment veto over commissary jobs

The original 1988 case pertained to Thomas Egan, who lost his job as a laborer at a naval base when he was denied a security clearance. He appealed his dismissal to the Merit Systems Protection Board, which then had to determine whether it had authority to review the decision to fire him based on the security clearance denial. Ultimately, SCOTUS held that MSPB could not review the decision of the officer who first fired Egan.

The grant or denial of security clearance to a particular employee is a sensitive and inherently discretionary judgment call that is committed by law to the appropriate Executive Branch agency having the necessary expertise in protecting classified information. It is not reasonably possible for an outside, nonexpert body to review the substance of such a judgment, and such review cannot be presumed merely because the statute does not expressly preclude it.

Unlike Egan, the plaintiffs in this case did not have jobs that required they have access to classified information. Nevertheless, plaintiffs Rhonda Conyers (who was an accounting clerk whose “security threat” pertained to personal debt) and Devon Haughton Northover (who worked in a commissary and also charged discrimination) were suspended and demoted, respectively, when the government deemed them a security risk.

In a decision written by Evan Wallach and joined by Alan Lourie, the Federal Circuit held that the Egan precedent,

require[s] that courts refrain from second-guessing Executive Branch agencies’ national security determinations concerning eligibility of an individual to occupy a sensitive position, which may not necessarily involve access to classified information.

That is, the Federal government can fire you in the name of national security if you have a “sensitive” job, whether or not you actually have access to classified information.

As Timothy Dyk’s dissent notes, the effect of this ruling is to dramatically limit civil service protections for any position the government deems sensitive, both within DOD–where both Conyers and Northover work–and outside it.

Under the majority’s expansive holding, where an employee’s position is designated as a national security position, see 5 C.F.R. § 732.201(a), the Board lacks jurisdiction to review the underlying merits of any removal, suspension, demotion, or other adverse employment action covered by 5 U.S.C. § 7512.

[snip]

As OPM recognizes, under the rule adopted by the majority, “[t]he Board’s review . . . is limited to determining whether [the agency] followed necessary procedures . . . [and] the merits of the national security determinations are not subject to review.”

In doing so, the dissent continues, it would gut protection against whistleblower retaliation and discrimination.

As the Board points out, the principle adopted by the majority not only precludes review of the merits of adverse actions, it would also “preclude Board and judicial review of whistleblower retaliation and a whole host of other constitutional and statutory violations for federal employees subjected to otherwise appealable removals and other adverse actions.” Board Br. at 35. This effect is explicitly conceded by OPM, which agrees that the agency’s “liability for damages for alleged discrimination or retaliation” would not be subject to review. OPM Br. at 25. OPM’s concession is grounded in existing law since the majority expands Egan to cover all “national security” positions, and Egan has been held to foreclose whistleblower, discrimination, and other constitutional claims.

Tracking Gatorade supplies can now represent a “clear and present danger”

There are a couple of particularly troubling details about how Wallach came to his decision. In a footnote trying to sustain the claim that a commissary employee might be a national security threat, Wallach argues that Northover could represent a threat in the commissary by observing how much rehydration products and sunglasses service members were buying.

The Board goes too far by comparing a government position at a military base commissary to one in a “Seven Eleven across the street.”

[snip]

Commissary employees do not merely observe “[g]rocery store stock levels” or other-wise publicly observable information. Resp’ts’ Br. 20. In fact, commissary stock levels of a particular unclassified item – sunglasses, for example, with shatterproof lenses, or rehydration products – might well hint at deployment orders to a particular region for an identifiable unit. Read more

Latest StuxNet Incarnation Resembles Alleged Project of Murdered GCHQ Officer

Kaspersky Labs has found a new incarnation of StuxNet malware, which they’ve called Gauss. As Wired summarizes, the malware is focused geographically on Lebanon and has targeted banks.

A newly uncovered espionage tool, apparently designed by the same people behind the state-sponsored Flame malware that infiltrated machines in Iran, has been found infecting systems in other countries in the Middle East, according to researchers.

The malware, which steals system information but also has a mysterious payload that could be destructive against critical infrastructure, has been found infecting at least 2,500 machines, most of them in Lebanon, according to Russia-based security firm Kaspersky Lab, which discovered the malware in June and published an extensive analysis of it on Thursday.

The spyware, dubbed Gauss after a name found in one of its main files, also has a module that targets bank accounts in order to capture login credentials. The malware targets accounts at several banks in Lebanon, including the Bank of Beirut, EBLF, BlomBank, ByblosBank, FransaBank and Credit Libanais. It also targets customers of Citibank and PayPal.

I find that interesting for a number of reasons. First, every time banks have squawked about our government’s access of SWIFT to track terrorist financing, the spooks have said if they don’t use SWIFT they’ll access the information via other means; it appears this malware may be just that. And the focus on Lebanon fits, too, given the increasing US claims about Hezbollah money laundering in the time since Gauss was launched. I’m even struck by the coincidence of Gauss’ creation last summer around the same time that John Ashcroft was going through the Lebanese Canadian Bank to find any evidence of money laundering rather than–as happens with US and European banks–crafting a settlement. I would imagine how that kind of access to a bank would give you some hints about how to build malware.

But the other thing the malware made me think of, almost immediately, was the (I thought) bogus excuse some British spooks offered last summer to explain the murder of Gareth Williams, the GCHQ officer–who had worked closely with NSA–who was found dead in a gym bag in his flat in August 2010. Williams was murdered, the Daily Mail claimed, because he was working on a way to track the money laundering of the Russian mob.

The MI6 agent found dead in a holdall at his London flat was working on secret technology to target Russian criminal gangs who launder stolen money through Britain.

[snip]

But now security sources say Williams, who was on secondment to MI6 from the Government’s eavesdropping centre GCHQ, was working on equipment that tracked the flow of money from Russia to Europe.

The technology enabled MI6 agents to follow the money trails from bank accounts in Russia to criminal European gangs via  internet and wire transfers, said the source.

‘He was involved in a very sensitive project with the highest security clearance. He was not an agent doing surveillance, but was very much part of the team, working on the technology side, devising stuff like software,’ said the source.

He added: ‘A knock-on effect of this technology would be that a number of criminal groups in  Russia would be disrupted.

‘Some of these powerful criminal networks have links with, and employ, former KGB agents who can track down people like  Williams.’

Frankly, I always thought that explanation was bogus–I suggested that the Brits could just partner with the US to access such data via SWIFT. And whatever it means, I haven’t seen such an explanation since.

But I do find it rather interesting that one of the most prominent unsolved murders of a spook was blamed–at around the time the StuxNet people were working on Gauss–on a plan to track money laundering.

Nuke Site Breached Just Days After SSCI Moved to Eliminate Reporting on Nuke Site Security

I have been dawdling about writing this post, in which I explain that two of the reporting requirements the Senate Intelligence Committee rather stupidly, IMO, moved to eliminate last week pertain to the security of our nuclear labs.

Back when I criticized the plan to eliminate these reports in June, I wrote,

The bill would eliminate two reporting requirements imposed in the wake of the Wen Ho Lee scandal: that the President report on how the government is defending against Chinese spying and that the Secretary of Energy report on the security of the nation’s nuclear labs. Just last year, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory had to separate from the Internet because some entity–China would be a good candidate–had hacked the lab and was downloading data from their servers. Now seems a really stupid time to stop reporting on efforts to avoid such breaches.

In spite of these very obvious reasons, the Senate did indeed eliminate two reporting requirements pertaining to national labs (though they kept the one pertaining to Chinese spying).

(7) REPEAL OF REPORTING REQUIREMENT REGARDING COUNTERINTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY PRACTICES AT THE NATIONAL LABORATORIES.—Section 4507 of the Atomic Energy Defense Act (50 U.S.C. 2658) is repealed.

(8) REPEAL OF REPORTING REQUIREMENT REGARDING SECURITY VULNERABILITIES OF NATIONAL LABORATORY COMPUTERS.—Section 4508 of the Atomic Energy Defense Act (50 U.S.C. 2659) is repealed.

I’m glad I waited. Now I can use this story to demonstrate how vulnerable our nuclear labs remain.

The U.S. government’s only facility for handling, processing and storing weapons-grade uranium [Oak Ridge National Lab] was temporarily shut this week after anti-nuclear activists, including an 82-year-old nun, breached security fences, government officials said on Thursday.

[snip]

The activists painted slogans and threw what they said was human blood on the wall of the facility, one of numerous buildings in the facility known by the code name Y-12 that it was given during World War II, officials said.

While moving between the perimeter fences, the activists triggered sensors which alerted security personnel. However, officials conceded that the intruders still were able to reach the building’s walls before security personnel got to them.

When James Clapper’s office asked to throw these reports out, they justified it by saying they could just brief the information rather than report it regularly.

This reporting requirement should be repealed because it is over a decade old and the Secretary of Energy and the National Counterintelligence Executive can provide the information requested through briefings, as requested, if congressional interest persists.

Oak Ridge Lab has been breached twice in two years, once via its computer systems and now physically. I’m sure Congress will be getting a slew of briefings about the lab, but it really does seem like a little reporting requirement might help DOE to take this seriously.

“Dear John Brennan: You’re Being Investigated”

A number of people have pointed to Scott Shane’s story on the leak witch hunt for the details it gives on the increasing concern about leak witch hunts among journalists and national security experts.

But this paragraph includes the most interesting news in the article.

The F.B.I. appears to be focused on recent media disclosures on American cyberattacks on Iran, a terrorist plot in Yemen that was foiled by a double agent and the so-called “kill list” of terrorist suspects approved for drone strikes, some of those interviewed have told colleagues. The reports, which set off a furor in Congress, were published by The New York Times, The Associated Press, Newsweek and other outlets, as well as in recent books by reporters for Newsweek and The Times. [my emphasis]

That’s because prior reporting had indicated that the Kill List stories were not being investigated.

Recent revelations about clandestine U.S. drone campaigns against al Qaeda and other militants are not part of two major leak investigations being conducted by federal prosecutors, sources familiar with the inquiries said.

[snip]

The CIA has not filed a “crime report” with the Justice Department over reports about Obama’s drone policy and a U.S. “kill list” of targeted militants, an action which often would trigger an official leak investigation, two sources familiar with the matter said. They

So Shane’s revelation that the Kill List stories are being investigated amounts to the author of one of the Kill List stories reporting that some people who have been interviewed by the FBI told colleagues they got asked about the Kill List. Which might go something like, “Scott, they’re asking about your story, too.”

All without Shane acknowledging that Shane wrote one of the main Kill List Shiny Object stories.

Meanwhile, I find his reference to the outlets involved very interesting. Using the principle of parallelism, the passage seems to suggest the FBI is investigating the NYT for David Sanger’s sources on StuxNet, the AP for Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo’s sources on the UndieBomb 2.0 plot, and Newsweek for Daniel Klaidman’s sources on the Kill List. But of course the NYT also wrote a Kill List story, the AP wrote what is probably the most interesting Kill List story (which reported that the Kill List is now run by John Brennan). “And other outlets.” Which might include ABC for revealing that the UndieBomb 2.0 plotter was actually an infiltrator (ABC got the story indirectly from John Brennan, though Richard Clarke). Or the WaPo for Greg Miller’s original story on drone targeting, revealing that we were going to use signature strikes in Yemen. Or the WSJ, reporting that we had started using signature strikes.

In other words, it presents a rather interesting group of potential stories and sources.

Now I don’t know that John Brennan was the source for all this or that he’s really being investigated. I’m not saying Shane is being manipulative by reporting on this (though seriously, it’s another example of the NYT having a reporter report on a story that he is really a part of).

But I do find it rather interesting that a reporter targeted in this leak witch hunt just made news about the scope of the leak witch hunt.

Lamar Smith’s Futile Leak Investigation

Lamar Smtih has come up with a list of 7 national security personnel he wants to question in his own leak investigation. (h/t Kevin Gosztola)

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, told President Obama Thursday he’d like to interview seven current and former administration officials who may know something about a spate of national security leaks.

[snip]

The administration officials include National Security Advisor Thomas Donilon, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism John Brennan, Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough, Director for Counterterrorism Audrey Tomason and National Security Advisor to the Vice President Antony Blinken.

Of course the effort is sure to be futile–if Smith’s goal is to figure out who leaked to the media (though it’ll serve its purpose of creating a political shitstorm just fine)–for two reasons.

First, only Clapper serves in a role that Congress has an unquestioned authority to subpoena (and even there, I can see the Intelligence Committees getting snippy about their turf–it’s their job to provide impotent oversight over intelligence, not the Judiciary Committees).

As for members of the National Security Council (Tom Donilon, John Brennan, Denis McDonough, Audrey Tomason, and Antony Blinken) and figures, like Bill Daley, who aren’t congressionally approved? That’s a bit dicier. (Which is part of the reason it’s so dangerous to have our drone targeting done in NSC where it eludes easy congressional oversight.)

A pity Republicans made such a stink over the HJC subpoenaing Karl Rove and David Addington and backed Bush’s efforts to prevent Condi Rice from testifying, huh?

The other problem is that Smith’s list, by design, won’t reveal who leaked the stories he’s investigating. He says he wants to investigate 7 leaks.

Smith said the committee intends to focus on seven national security leaks to the media. They include information about the Iran-targeted Stuxnet and Flame virus attacks, the administration’s targeted killings of terrorism suspects and the raid which killed Usama bin Laden.

Smith wants to know how details about the operations of SEAL Team Six, which executed the bin Laden raid in Pakistan, wound up in the hands of film producers making a film for the president’s re-election. Also on the docket is the identity of the doctor who performed DNA tests which helped lead the U.S. to bin Laden’s hideout.

But his list doesn’t include everyone who is a likely or even certain leaker.

Take StuxNet and Flame. Not only has Smith forgotten about the programmers (alleged to be Israeli) who let StuxNet into the wild in the first place–once that happened, everything else was confirmation of things David Sanger and security researchers were able to come up with on their own–but he doesn’t ask to speak to the Israeli spooks demanding more credit for the virus.

Read more

Failed Overseers Prepare to Legislate Away Successful Oversight

Before I talk about the Gang of Four’s proposed ideas to crack down on leaks, let’s review what a crop of oversight failures these folks are.

The only one of the Gang of Four who has stayed out of the media of late–Dutch Ruppersberger–has instead been helping Mike Rogers push reauthorization of the FISA Amendments Act through the House Intelligence Committee with no improvements and no dissents. In other words, Ruppersberger has delivered for his constituent–the NSA–in spite of the evidence the government is wiretapping those pesky little American citizens Ruppersberger should be serving.

Then there’s Rogers himself, who has been blathering to the press about how these leaks are the most damaging in history. He supported such a claim, among other ways, by suggesting people (presumably AQAP) would assume for the first time we (or the Saudis or the Brits) have infiltrators in their network.

Some articles within this “parade” of leaks, Rogers said late last week, “included at least the speculation of human source networks that now — just out of good counterintelligence activities — they’ll believe is real, even if its not real. It causes huge problems.”

Which would assume Rogers is unaware that the last time a Saudi infiltrator tipped us off to a plot, that got exposed too (as did at least one more of their assets). And it would equally assume Rogers is unaware that Mustafa Alani and other “diplomatic sources” are out there claiming the Saudis have one agent or informant infiltrated into AQAP regions for every 850 Yemeni citizens.

In short, Rogers’ claim is not credible in the least.

Though Rogers seems most worried that the confirmation–or rather, reconfirmation–that the US and Israel are behind StuxNet might lead hackers to try similar tricks on us and/or that the code–which already escaped–might escape.

Rogers, who would not confirm any specific reports, said that mere speculation about a U.S. cyberattack against Iran has enabled bad actors. The attack would apparently be the first time the U.S. used cyberweapons in a sustained effort to damage another country’s infrastructure. Other nations, or even terrorists or hackers, might now believe they have justification for their own cyberattacks, Rogers said.

This could have devastating effects, Rogers warned. For instance, he said, a cyberattack could unintentionally spread beyond its intended target and get out of control because the Web is so interconnected. “It is very difficult to contain your attack,” he said. “It takes on a very high degree of sophistication to reach out and touch one thing…. That’s why this stuff is so concerning to me.”

Really, though, Rogers is blaming the wrong people. He should be blaming the geniuses who embraced such a tactic and–if it is true the Israelis loosed the beast intentionally–the Israelis most of all.

And while Rogers was not a Gang of Four member when things started going haywire, his colleague in witch hunts–Dianne Feinstein–was. As I’ve already noted, one of the problems with StuxNet is that those, like DiFi, who had an opportunity to caution the spooks either didn’t have enough information to do so–or had enough information but did not do their job.The problem, then, is not leaks; it’s inadequacy of oversight.

In short, Rogers and Ruppersberger and Chambliss ought to be complaining about DiFi, not collaborating with her in thwarting oversight.

Finally, Chambliss, the boss of the likely sources out there bragging about how unqualified they are to conduct intelligence oversight, even while boasting about the cool videogames they get to watch in SCIFs, appears to want to toot his horn rather the conduct oversight.

Which brings me back to the point of this post, before I got distracted talking about how badly the folks offering these “solutions” to leaks are at oversight.

Their solutions:

Discussions are ongoing over just how stringent new provisions should be as the Senate targets leakers in its upcoming Intelligence Authorization bill, according to a government source.

Read more

Ron Wyden: “An Obvious Question I Have Not Answered”

In the background of the larger drama of the leak witch hunts is a paragraph that, to me, summarizes where the balance between secrecy and sanity is in our country.

An obvious question that I have not answered here is whether any warrantless searches for Americans’ communications have already taken place. I am not suggesting that any warrantless searches have or have not occurred, because Senate and committee rules regarding classified information generally prohibit me from discussing what intelligence agencies are actually doing or not doing. However, I believe that we have an obligation as elected legislators to discuss what these agencies should or should not be doing, and it is my hope that a majority of my Senate colleagues will agree with that searching for Americans’ phone calls and emails without a warrant is something that these agencies should not do.

This is the language Ron Wyden used to attempt to persuade his colleagues to join his opposition to the reauthorization of the FISA Amendments Act without first including protections for Americans’ communications. A very similar paragraph appeared at the end of Wyden and Mark Udall’s dissent from the Senate Intelligence Report on the legislation.

Now, I have already shown that even leak witch hunt convert Dianne Feinstein (who supports reauthorization without telling citizens what the legislation really does) made it clear that while NSA may not target Americans under FAA, the agency does query information collected under FAA to find the communications of Americans. That is, DiFi herself made it clear that the communications collected “incidentally” are fair game for review. And both the Wyden/Udall dissent and the exchange Wyden had with Director of National Intelligence James Clapper last year–which he re-released in conjunction with his hold–make it more clear that the government is reviewing Americans’ communications it collects in the guise of “targeting” non-US persons.

Everyone–Wyden, DiFi, DNI Clapper–admit that the government is accessing Americans’ communications under FAA; it’s just the latter two are pretending they’re not doing so by hiding behind the magic word “targeting.”

With that said, let’s look at Wyden’s paragraph closely and what it says about democracy in the age of secrecy. The first sentence reads like CYA, insulation against any accusation that Wyden has revealed classified information.

An obvious question that I have not answered here is whether any warrantless searches for Americans’ communications have already taken place.

Yet at the same time, Wyden defines the question that DiFi refuses to answer clearly: whether or not the government is using FAA to conduct warrantless searches of Americans’ communications.

It’s an obvious question, Wyden continues, but he’s not legally permitted to answer it.

I am not suggesting that any warrantless searches have or have not occurred, because Senate and committee rules regarding classified information generally prohibit me from discussing what intelligence agencies are actually doing or not doing.

That said, Wyden makes it clear he knows the answer. Read more

DiFi Admits She Okayed Unleashing 21st Century WMD with Inadequate Details

The reason Dianne Feinstein is so torqued about the StuxNet story, according to this SFChron piece, is because she learned things from it that she didn’t know as a Gang of Four member.

Feinstein declared, “This has to stop. When people say they don’t want to work with the United States because they can’t trust us to keep a secret, that’s serious.”

A week later, Feinstein is more than halfway through New York Times reporter David E. Sanger’s book, “Confront and Conceal: Obama’s Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power.” She told me Wednesday, “You learn more from the book than I did as chairman of the intelligence committee, and that’s very disturbing to me.”

Now, as a threshold matter, I think DiFi and others are underestimating how much our foreign partners are leaking on these stories; not only did foreign sources serve as early confirmation on UndieBomb 2.0, but the Saudis and Yemenis exposed the last infiltrator the Saudis put into AQAP.  And as for StuxNet, the Israelis are now complaining that Sanger didn’t give them enough credit.

The Israeli officials actually told me a different version. They said that it was Israeli intelligence that began, a few years earlier, a cyberspace campaign to damage and slow down Iran’s nuclear intentions. And only later they managed to convince the USA to consider a joint operation — which, at the time, was unheard of. Even friendly nations are hesitant to share their technological and intelligence resources against a common enemy.

Plus, if and when Israel bombs Iran and has to deal with the retaliation, I can assure you the Israelis will be happy to work with us.

And there’s a far bigger problem here. DiFi was not a Gang of Four member when this program started under Bush (Jay Rockefeller would have been the Democrat from the Senate Intelligence Committee). But she seems to say she got what passed for briefing on StuxNet.

Yet she’s learning new details from Sanger.

StuxNet is, both because it can be reused by non-state actors and because of the ubiquity of the PLCs they affected, the 21st Century version of a WMD. And all that’s before we learned Flame was using Microsoft’s update function.

Now from the sounds of things, DiFi never had the opportunity to authorize letting StuxNet free; the Israelis don’t have to brief the Gang of Four. But the possibility StuxNet would break free on its own always existed. One reason we have Congressional overseers is to counterbalance spooks whose enthusiasm for an op might cloud any judgment about the wisdom of pursuing that op.

The US, in partnership with Israel, released a WMD to anyone who could make use of it. And the people in charge of overseeing such activities got fewer details about the WMD than you could put in a long-form newspaper article.

And DiFi thinks there’s too little secrecy?

Sheldon Adelson Could Buy Bibi a Very Effective October Surprise

The Internet is abuzz today with Sheldon Adelson’s announcement that he has already donated $10 million to Mitt Romney’s SuperPAC and plans to provide limitless donations to defeat Obama.

Forbes has confirmed that billionaire Sheldon Adelson, along with his wife Miriam, has donated $10 million to the leading Super PAC supporting presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney–and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. A well-placed source in the Adelson camp with direct knowledge of the casino billionaire’s thinking says that further donations will be “limitless.”

But the attention is mostly focused on the sheer numbers he’s talking about, not what it suggests that Adelson–who already spent buckets of money to try to defeat Mitt in the primary–has now promised limitless donations to defeat Obama.

This is about Likud trying to decide the American elections.

Adelson doesn’t hide the fact that this donation is about Israel as much as it is Obama’s “socialism.”

Adelson, this source continues, believes that “no price is too high” to protect the U.S. from what he sees as Obama’s “socialization” of America, as well as securing the safety of Israel. He added that Adelson, 78, considers this to be the most important election of his lifetime.

Nor is it surprising he’s doing this. More than he is for any of these American politicians, Adelson is Bibi Netanyahu’s . And Obama has been remarkably successful thus far in stymying Bibi’s goal of forcing the US to attack Iran. In addition to the sanctions regime that has brought about negotiations, in recent months, the Administration has leaked both a white paper showing that an Iran attack would do nothing but set off a regional war and news of the bases in Azerbaijan Israel would use if it unilaterally attacked Iran. David Sanger quoted Presidential briefers and Joe Biden–Bibi’s old nemesis–blaming Israel for freeing StuxNet, possibly intentionally. Leon Panetta has, on the record, told the entire world, including Iran, when Israel planned to attack. (I actually thought Panetta’s latest 60 Minutes appearance might have been an attempt to placate Israel.)

It may appear to us that the Administration continues typical American policy of capitulating to Israel. But the Obama Administration has taken surprisingly strong measures to push back against Israel.

And now Sheldon Adelson has promised to use unlimited funds to get rid of President Obama.

As much as the money concerns me, that’s not what I worry about the most. The Israelis have never been shy about running off-the-books operations to influence our policies. Indeed, they played a role in Iran-Contra, the start of which goes back to the last October Surprise plot to make sure a Democrat didn’t get reelected in 1980. And the state of affairs in Israel’s neighborhood (both Syria and Egypt would be excellent candidates, though if I were Turkey I’d be cautious, too) is such that it would be very very very easy to create an October Surprise that would make it a lot harder for Obama to get reelected.

Bibi’s Sugar Daddy just announced the world he will do anything in his power to defeat Obama. You can be sure Bibi feels the same way.

Update: Iran/Israel confusion fixed, h/t vl.

“The Yemeni situation and … the Iranian cyber situation”

As MadDog noted yesterday, Dianne Feinstein seemed to answer a question I’ve written about here and here regarding the scope of the leak investigations.

She said the U.S. attorneys would not face political pressures from the Obama administration and would “call the shots as they see them.”

“We can move ahead much more rapidly,” Feinstein said. “Instead of one special prosecutor, you essentially have two here, one is the Yemeni situation and the other is the Iranian cyber situation. I think you’re going to get there much quicker.”

I’m not sure I agree with MD, though, that “the UndieBomb 2.0 and the Stuxnet leaks are the ones being investigated,” meaning implicitly that just those two “leaks” are being investigated.

DiFi’s quote seems to confirm that there is a distinct investigation into the source of the detail (one of the only new parts of David Sanger’s StuxNet reporting) that Israel let StuxNet free, possibly deliberately. Since Eric Holder suggested there was a jurisdictional component to his choice of US Attorneys on these investigations, we can assume that Rod Rosenstein, US Attorney for the National Security Agency, will investigate that alleged leak.

But what does DiFi include when she says, “the Yemeni situation”? Does it include only the leaks about UndieBomb 2.0? And if so, why isn’t it being investigated out of Eastern District of VA, the CIA’s US Attorney district, which purportedly had a lead on that operation in the US?

Further, MD suggested (though did not say explicitly) this means they’re not investigating the drone targeting leaks.

Now, as I’ve noted, one possible reason they wouldn’t investigate the drone targeting “leaks” would be if the stories reported falsehoods or–more charitably–a drone targeting process that was no longer in place, as the AP has reported to be the case and the White House, in their response to the AP story, seemed to confirm. That is, one possible reason why they wouldn’t investigate the “leaks” about drone targeting would be because those stories did not report accurate classified information (and I’ll remind here that the Klaidman story differs in some notable ways from the Joby Warrick story, which we now know came in part from Rahm Emanuel’s effort to publicize Baitullah Mehsud’s killing).

But there’s another possibility. I’m struck by DiFi’s description of “the Yemeni situation” rather than–as most people refer to it–the “thwarted” bomb “plot.” It’s possible that in DiFi’s mind–the mind of a Gang of Four member who has presumably been briefed on our ongoing operations in Yemen–that the leak of the bomb sting, the leak of the Saudi role in it, and the stories that made it clear that John Brennan is running a secret war against Yemeni insurgents using signature strikes out of the NSC largely at the behest of the Saudis all constitute for her “the Yemeni situation.” UndieBomb 2.0 is a part of that secret war–perhaps the legal justification for US involvement in it (and also a useful way to remove an asset and a key handler before the drones start wreaking havoc). But if this speculation is right, it may well be the other details–the report that this war is being run out of NSC, the details that make it clear we’re targeting insurgents, not just AQAP, the fact that we’re clearly in an undeclared war–that DiFi worries about most.

Mind you, this is all supposition. It may be that DiFi was just using shorthand for the UndieBomb 2.0 plot. But to a great degree, all the stories about drone targeting were efforts to expose–and then cover up–the war we’re engaging in Yemen. And that does seem like a secret the Administration is trying to prevent the American public from learning about.

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