In a letter to the NYT complaining that the paper compared his client, David Petraeus, with Stephen Kim and John Kiriakou, defense attorney David Kendall implicitly makes the argument that mistress-biographers have a better recognized privilege to access classified information than defense attorneys. (h/t Steven Aftergood via Josh Gerstein)
Now, far be it for me to criticize Kendall’s lawyering ability. After all, his firm, Williams & Connolly, has developed quite the expertise for getting well-connected Republicans off for leaking covert officers’ identities, having done so for Ari Fleischer, Dick Cheney, and now David Petraeus.
But his letter is ridiculous on both the facts and his rebuttal of the comparison, at least as it pertains to John Kiriakou.
First, Kendall omits key facts in his depiction of Petraeus’ crimes.
General Petraeus’s case is about the unlawful removal and improper storage of classified materials, not the dissemination of such materials to the public. Indeed, a statement of facts filed with the plea agreement and signed by both General Petraeus and the Justice Department makes clear that “no classified information” from his “black books” (personal notebooks) that were given to his biographer, Paula Broadwell, appeared in the biography.
He notes the plea deal “makes clear that ‘no classified information’ from his ‘black books’ … appeared in the biography.” That’s a very different thing than claiming that no classified information Petraeus shared with Broadwell appeared in her fawning biography of his client — and the record seems to suggest that it does.
Kendall also neglects to mention that this case is also about his client, just days after applauding Kiriakou’s plea, lying to the FBI. While, through the good grace of Kendall’s lawyering, Petraeus has gotten off scot free for a crime that others do years of prison time for, Petraeus nevertheless admitted that he committed that crime.
Indeed, as Abbe Lowell has made clear, that’s what prevented Kim from getting precisely the sweet deal that Petraeus has gotten, his alleged lies to the FBI.
But I’m even more disgusted by Kendall’s cynical treatment of Kiriakou’s crime.
By contrast, Stephen J. Kim arranged for the publication of highly sensitive classified information from an intelligence report on North Korea’s military capabilities, and John C. Kiriakou revealed the identities of covert C.I.A. agents, a betrayal of colleagues “whose secrecy is their only safety,” in the words of a government attorney.
Reporters, like biographers, are frequently given access to sensitive information on the understanding that they will not publicize it, and it is hypocritical for The Times to argue for leniency for Mr. Kim and Mr. Kiriakou and harshness for General Petraeus.
Note how Kendall doesn’t describe to whom Kiriakou “revealed the identities of covert C.I.A. agents” [a factual error — Kiriakou was only accused of leaking one covert officer’s identity]? The answer is he revealed the identity of a torturer to a journalist who was working for defense attorneys defending people that torturer had tortured.
Now, clearly, Kendall does defend the right of journalists to receive such classified information if they don’t publicly disclose it. That’s what he argues Petraeus’ mistress has done (the evidence notwithstanding). So according to Kendall’s lawyering, providing that covert officer’s identity to a reporter who didn’t disclose it publicly — which is what happened in Kiriakou’s case — should have gotten Kiriakou probation.
Ultimately though, Kendall doesn’t even deal with the fact that, whatever scant privilege journalists and mistress-biographers have been granted in this country, defense attorneys have generally been granted more, for good reason. Thus, by all measures, Kiriakou made no worse, and arguably a much more legally defensible disclosure of a CIA officer’s identity than the multiple covert officers’ identities Petraeus exposed to his mistress and anyone else who decided to peruse his unlocked desk drawer.
I mean, I never really expect people in Petraeus’ vicinity to do anything but fluff his reputation; Petraeus has an infallible ability in eliciting that from people he permits to get close (or closer, in the case of Broadwell).
But I am rather surprised that a defense attorney is arguing he should have fewer privileges than a mistress-biographer.
Sorry to be all Petraeus-centric.
But I wanted to follow up on one more detail about his plea deal, because it has been a point of discussion on whether he faces an appropriate punishment.
A number of people are saying that Paula Broadwell did not publish any classified information that David Petraeus shared with her.
Do we actually know that?
I’m not sure whether we know that to be true or not. What the plea deal says (and unless I’m mistaken, all it says) is that she did not publish any information from his Black Books, those notebooks full of code word intelligence and covert operatives identities and deliberative conversations with NSC.
No classified information from the Black Books appeared in the aforementioned biography.
That’s different from saying that he did not share and she did not publish any classified information.
This plea deal, as all plea deals I’ve seen do, notes that not everything known is in the plea deal.
This Factual Basis does not attempt to set forth all the facts known to the United States at this time.
The early stories on this leak suggested that FBI saw things in their emails and in things seized from her home that suggested he had shared classified information with Broadwell. The Black Books were likely the most classified thing he shared with her (one would hope), but that leaves open the possibility that he shared a lot less classified information (which would be less problematic to share with a Reserve Officer, but not if she published it).
I don’t know one way or another. But unless I’m mistaken, neither does anyone else, based on the public record. Clearly DOJ wanted to set Petraeus up with a sweet plea deal, which it did. That would have been a lot harder to do if it also admitted that Broadwell’s book included classified information she got from him.
To some degree it doesn’t matter (after all, Leon Panetta got away with classified information too!). But I just want to note that I, for one, don’t actually know whether Broadwell published any information that was classified.
Update: This piece seems to suggest there may be a good deal of classified information in Broadwell’s book. It shows that Broadwell sourced some key discussions from June 2011 involving National Security Council discussions to an interview with Petraeus the day after he retrieved his Black Books which would have included descriptions of those discussions.
There is an exception to every rule, standard operating procedure, and policy; it is up to leaders to determine when exceptions should be made and to explain why they made them.
– David Petraeus’ Rules for Living, as presented by Paula Broadwell as they were being caught in an FBI investigation
Predictably, Trey Gowdy has subpoenaed more information about Hillary Clinton’s email personal email revealed this week.
But it seems he also ought to call David Petraeus in for another chat about Benghazi in light of details in the former CIA Director’s plea deal.
That’s because the Plea Documents show that the investigation into Petraeus and Paula Broadwell intersects with the Benghazi investigation in ways that are even more interesting than was already clear. Consider what those two timelines look like when you add in the fact that Petraeus lied to the FBI about leaking information to his mistress on October 26, 2012, which has been updated from this post (note that contemporaneous reporting dated Petraeus’ FBI interview to October 29).
From the sex and leaking standpoint, the revised timeline is interesting because it shows Petraeus and Broadwell together at — of all places! — the annual celebration for old-style subterfuge, the OSS dinner, between the time Petraeus lied to the FBI and the time Broadwell was interviewed a second time.
But from a Benghazi perspective, it shows that on the same day Petraeus lied to the FBI, Paula Broadwell made the accusation that the attack was really about freeing militia members held at the CIA annex. The next day Petraeus and Broadwell hobnobbed together among the old style spooks. and then days later — even as an FBI whistleblower was forcing the investigation into the public, without which it might have been dropped — Petraeus went on a “fact-finding” mission to Cairo, in part to consult with some of the people involved in the Benghazi response.
Petraeus did a report on that trip, but Dianne Feinstein was complaining that her committee had not received a copy of it on November 12 (Petraeus was resisting, in part, because he no longer worked at CIA).
There’s no evidence that the House Intelligence Committee consulted Petraeus’ trip report when they did their report on the attack. (Indeed, the report shows remarkable lack of interest in Petraeus’ role altogether, in spite of the fact that he watched the later parts of the attack develop via the drone surveillance camera feed piped to the SCIF at his home.)
Did either of the Intelligence Committees ever get the report on the trip Petraeus did after he knew he was in trouble with the FBI, at a time when his ex-girlfriend was claiming the reason behind the attack was entirely different from what we’ve been told?
As I’ve noted, more than anyone else, current HPSCI Chair Devin Nunes showed significant interest in that claim about detainees, as reflected in the backup to a report that Mike Rogers made sure to get done before he left Nunes in charge. In response to his question (as well as some questions about arms-running) Nunes got non-denials denials.
In a related detail, in the earlier session Nunes also elicited a non-denial denial about detainees (and accusation first leveled by David Petraeus’ mistress Paula Broadwell), the other alleged reason for the attack on US entities in Benghazi.
Mr. Nunes: Okay. To the detainees, were there ever any detainees at either of these locations in the last year of any kind?
Mr. Morell: Not with regard to the CIA facility, sir.
Mr. Kennedy: And the State Department does not engage in detentions overseas.
Rather than just answering no, between them Morell and Kennedy carved out a space where it might be possible the CIA (or someone else, possibly JSOC) were holding detainees at the TMF or elsewhere in Benghazi.
Maybe Petraeus’ last minute trip to do a personal investigation of the aftermath of Benghazi — the results of which Petraeus resisted sharing with the Committees investigating the attack — is just a coinkydink.
But given the timing — and Petraeus’ sweetheart plea deal — it’d be nice if the Benghazi Committee asked a few more questions about that coinkydink. Continue reading
On September 26, 2004, the Washington Post disgraced itself by giving David Petraeus space to write an op-ed in which he spouted pure bullshit on how well his vaunted “training” program was going in Iraq. Of course, that program failed multiple times with Petraeus never being called to account. Despite clear military regulations prohibiting political activity by members of the military, Petraeus’ op-ed was seen by some as providing an endorsement which gave a significant boost to George W. Bush’s re-election campaign at a time when public opinion on the war in Iraq was beginning to sour. Just short of ten years later (and after his career got Broadwelled, I mean, broadsided), Petraeus is back on the pages of the Neocon Daily today, warning us that the “US needs to plan for the day after an Iran deal“.
The reviews of Petraeus’ newest op-ed are now in, and it has been called “Provocative!”, “Apocalyptic!” and even “Gut-Wrenching!” Oh, wait. That’s how the 1983 made for TV movie The Day After is described on its DVD cover. My mistake. But clearly Petraeus is playing off that old title. The old movie deals with life in Lawrence, Kansas after a nuclear war and Petraeus is now telling us we must prepare for life after preventing Iran getting the chance to wage nuclear war.
The central tenet of the op-ed is that Iran is “the leading state sponsor of terrorism”. Like most of what Petraeus does or says, that statement is just flat wrong. Even though the US (including the military when Petraeus was head of Central Command and the CIA when Petraeus led it) never admits it publicly, the rest of the world knows that Saudi Arabia is by far the largest state sponsor of terrorism. There are even Wikileaks cables confirming the role of Saudi money in supporting Sunni extremists. And note that the single most important organizer of state sponsored terrorism, Bandar bin Sultan, is now returning to his role after a brief interruption.
It appears that Petraeus stopped paying attention to world events when he resigned from the CIA in disgrace in November of 2012, because nowhere in his anti-Iran screed do we see any acknowledgement that in June of 2013, Hassan Rouhani was elected as Iran’s new president and has ushered in a new, more moderate outlook that is credited with providing the window for diplomatic progress toward an agreement on Iran’s nuclear technology.
Okay, so here is Petraeus (and co-author Vance Serchuk, who was Joe Lieberman’s foreign policy advisor after cutting his teeth at the American Enterprise Institute–you just can’t make this shit up!) framing the problem for us: Continue reading
Things are becoming clearer day by day in Libya. groups and brigades are polarizing along Islamist-jihadist-secular lines
US drones are not only hovering all the time over eastern Libya, they also bombed a training camp run by Abdulbasit Azuz, a commander from Dernah.
Yes, you heard that right, US drones are bombing Libya already
The above June 8, 2012 quote, apparently from a extremist discussion board, is among the materials (see PDF 119) the State Department used to investigate the Benghazi attack (Darrell Issa released them after last year’s Benghazi hearing). While the screen cap of the discussion entry comes with no explanation, it appears to show someone at State was tracking the rise of extremists in real time, particularly the day after an earlier IED attack on the US mission in Benghazi claimed by the Imprisoned Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman Brigades (see PDF 110 for State’s description of that).
But it wouldn’t take reading Jihadist sites to understand what they were saying the summer before the September 11 attack on Benghazi. CNN’s June 7 coverage of the attack on the mission included many of the same details.
A senior Libyan official told CNN that the U.S. is flying surveillance missions with drones over suspected jihadist training camps in eastern Libya because of concerns over rising activity by al Qaeda and like-minded groups in the region but said that to the best of his knowledge, they had not been used to fire missiles at militant training camps in the area.
The revelation follows a failed attack on the U.S. Mission in Benghazi on Tuesday night, which a shadowy jihadist group claimed was to avenge the death of al Qaeda No. 2 Abu Yahya al-Libi.
The official said that one militant commander operating in Derna, Abdulbasit Azuz, had complained that a drone strike had targeted his training camp in the east of Libya. Last month, there were reports of explosions outside the Derna area in the vicinity of the camps, according to a different source.
The senior Libyan official said it would be bad if such a strike had occurred. He added that the Americans’ use of drones in a surveillance capacity had been discussed at the top level of the transitional Libyan government.
As CNN has reported, Azuz is a senior al Qaeda operative and longtime close associate of the group’s leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, who was dispatched to Libya from the tribal areas of Pakistan in spring 2011, according to several sources. There, he subsequently recruited fighters.
The jihadist group that claimed responsibility for the failed attack on the U.S. Mission in leaflets left at the scene called itself the Imprisoned Omar Abdul Rahman Brigades. It promised more attacks against American interests.
It was first heard from late last month, when it claimed responsibility for an attack on a Red Cross office in Benghazi. A purported video of the attack was apparently posted on jihadist websites that regularly feature statements by al Qaeda. The video showed several rockets being fired into a building at night.
While CNN doesn’t make an explicit connection between the bombing of the Benghazi mission and US surveillance (and claimed drone attack) in Derna, the implication is they’re related, particularly as they track Libyans with ties to core al Qaeda (CNN also discusses former Gitmo detainee Sufian bin Qumu’s presence in Derna) responding to the drone killing in Pakistan of Abu Yahya al-Libi on June 5.
So on June 5 we killed Abu Yahya in Pakistan, on June 6 an unknown militia attacks the compound in Benghazi in retaliation and promises more attacks, on June 7 discussions of the attack tie back to claims we launched a drone strike in Derna.
On September 10, 2012, the day before the Benghazi attack, Ayman al Zawahiri, who had sent Azuz to Derna to set up an al Qaeda presence the year before, confirmed the death of Abu Yahya.
I lay all this out because, even as State and CIA continue to bicker over who is responsible for the bureaucratic failures that led to Ambassador Stevens’ death in Benghazi, there seems to be larger underlying issues that remain unspoken.
No. In the name of God, Thor, Zeuss, Cthulhu and the Flying Spaghetti Monster, no. There are few people who personify the vapid, amoral fetid swamp of Washington politics and defense policy more than David Petraeus. Taking a huge part of the blame for propelling Petraeus from a solely military into an entirely political career is the Washington Post, which gave Petraeus a prime op-ed slot in September 2004, where he spewed wildly optimistic numbers on his accomplishments while training Iraqi troops. Petraeus further told us how victory was just around the corner, implying that if only Americans would re-elect George W. Bush, his plan would achieve full fruition. Active military personnel are not supposed to engage in politics, but Petraeus became political with that op-ed and Washington overlooked it, because that’s what Washington does and that’s what the Washington Post does.
Bush rewarded Petraeus for his role in the election by putting him in charge of US troops in Iraq. Petraeus didn’t impress his immediate superior, Admiral Fallon, who termed Petraeus an “ass-kissing little chickenshit” after their first meeting. Once in charge, Petraeus quickly established death squads. Things didn’t go all that well in Iraq, in part because everything Petraeus does fails miserably while he is busy explaining to us what a good job he is doing. By 2007, the Kagan brain-trust came up with the idea of the surge to “save” Iraq. Washington politics and defense policy prostitute Michael O’Hanlon was brought onto the job of helping to sell the surge. In the fall of 2007, an orchestrated Washington event, complete with a sideshow purchased in the New York Times for the “General Betrayus” ad, gave us Congressional hearings that resulted in approval for the surge. Completely overlooked at that time was the inconvenient fact that a major part of the Iraq plan moving forward from that point involved a total restart of training Iraqi troops because Petraeus failed spectacularly in his previous attempt at training. But Washington and the Washington Post did not call out Petraeus for that failure, because that’s what Washington and the Washington Post do.
Petraeus was next promoted by Bush in late 2008 to Fallon’s previous position in charge of CentCom. It was quite clear to Barack Obama once he took office that Petraeus had his sights set on becoming president, so Obama made a very interesting move when he sent Petraeus down in rank to take command in Afghanistan after Petraeus’ protege Stanley McChrystal was fired for insubordination in July of 2010. Because lying about training had worked in advancing his career in Iraq, it appears that fudging the numbers on ANSF capabilities was one of the first things Petraeus did once in charge in Afghanistan. He was caught in this by the GAO, who pointed out that criteria for ANSF readiness were being changed to increase the number of troops qualifying for the most advanced classification, but it appears that only SIGAR and I care about those lies. Washington and the Washington Post ignored those dishonest moves by Petraeus, because that’s what Washington and the Washington Post do.
After Petreaus had been in charge in Afghanistan for six months or so, political handlers stepped into the picture to try to burnish his image for a future run for president. Continue reading
As the “fighting season” for the tenth full year of US forces being in Afghanistan comes to a close, the Defense Department has released its most recent report (pdf, required every Friedman Unit by law) on “progress” in the war. Although the military does its best, as always, to couch its report in language describing progress against goals which always must be redefined in order to claim any progress, those who have been paying attention knew from the report prepared early this year by Lt. Col. Daniel Davis that the vaunted surge of troops in Afghanistan, despite being billed as guaranteed to work as well as the Iraq surge, has been a complete failure.
Here are the latest results on enemy initiated attacks, on a monthly basis:
Note that in order to not remind us of how violence escalated in Afghanistan while our troops were present, this figure cuts off the early years of the war. A similar chart, with the early years included (but showing events on a daily basis rather than monthly, so the scale is different) can be seen in this post from early last year. However, by cutting off the early years, the Defense Department allows us to concentrate on the surge and its abject failure. Obama’s surge began with his order in December, 2009, so this graph gives us 2009 as the base on which to compare results for the surge. Despite a small decrease in violence from the peak in 2010, both 2011 and 2012 are worse than 2009, the last pre-surge year.
Daniel Davis explains how the reduction in violence in Iraq was unrelated to the surge or Petraeus’ vaunted COIN strategy. From my February post on the Davis report:
Once we realize the fact that the surge in Afghanistan has not worked, the natural question arises of why it didn’t since the Iraq surge is so widely credited with turning around the violence trend there. After all, both surges have been sold as the model for the new COIN centered around the idea of protecting the population.
The answer here is that we were sold lies about the underlying forces behind the decrease in violence in Iraq. In short, violence decreased for reasons mostly unrelated to the surge and the new COIN approach. From page 57:
“As is well known, the turning point in 2007 Iraq came when the heart of the Sunni insurgency turned against al-Qaeda and joined with US Forces against them, dramatically reducing the violence in Iraq almost overnight. The overriding reason the Sunni insurgency turned towards the United States was because after almost two years of internal conflict between what ought to have been natural allies – al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and the greater Sunni insurgency – a tipping point was reached whereby the Iraqi Sunnis finally and decisively turned against AQI. Had this unnatural split not occurred, by all accounts I have been given on both the Iraqi side and the US military side, “we would still be fighting in Iraq today,” in the words of two officers I know who fought there.”
There simply has been no turning against insurgents in Afghanistan in the same way there was in Iraq. The COIN strategy has been the same in both places, so it is impossible to escape the conclusion that the military’s current version of COIN alone is insufficient to end violence in Afghanistan.
The Petreaus-Allen-Broadwell-Kelley scandal very conveniently will prevent this evidence of failure receiving the attention it deserves. Should Congress decide to take a realistic look at Afghanistan, it’s hard to see how they can conclude anything other than that our presence has accomplished nothing but death and destruction. Getting out now rather than two years from now is the only responsible decision.
In a holiday document dump, President Obama transmitted Minimum Standards for Insider Threat Detection Programs. As mere citizens, we don’t get to see those standards. We only get to see the memo accompanying them, which leaves us guessing what–if anything–to make of the timing and content of the memo. In addition to Steven Aftergood’s general overview, Falguni Sheth, Kevin Gosztola, and Jesselyn Radack have some thoughts.
The simplest explanation for the timing of the memo is that’s when the Insider Threat Task Force developing them finished the Standards. The Standards were due a year after Obama ordered the creation of them on October 7, 2011.
Sec. 6.3. The Task Force’s responsibilities shall include the following:
(a) developing, in coordination with the Executive Agent, a Government-wide policy for the deterrence, detection, and mitigation of insider threats, which shall be submitted to the Steering Committee for appropriate review;
(b) in coordination with appropriate agencies, developing minimum standards and guidance for implementation of the insider threat program’s Government-wide policy and, within 1 year of the date of this order, issuing those minimum standards and guidance, which shall be binding on the executive branch;
That would mean they were due 45 days before Obama transmitted them. Perhaps the delay can be explained by either the election or a review within the White House (and I’m wonder whether Obama’s victory influenced how Obama received these Standards).
So it could well be that this memo was released as a holiday dump through sheer chance, Obama finishing up business before taking time with the family.
The timing of the transmittal might also be explained by personnel changes. James Clapper and Eric Holder (or their designees) would be the mandatory co-Chairs of the Task Force. While reports suggest Holder will stick around for another year, it’s unclear whether Clapper will be.
But then there’s the possibility that the Petraeus scandal influenced this release.
As a threshold matter, the EO mandating these Standards includes CIA involvement (by designees of but not the Director himself) on both the Task Force and Steering Committee on Insider Treats. It also reserves the authority of the Director of CIA with regards to security of information systems under an earlier EO and a National Security Directive. What happens where you’re in the middle of rolling out an Insider Threat Detection Program and one of the key players involved in it is embroiled in an insider threat investigation himself?
The EO also allows the Director of National Intelligence to “issue policy directives” to help the agencies of the Intelligence Community comply with this.
With respect to the Intelligence Community, the Director of National Intelligence, after consultation with the heads of affected agencies, may issue such policy directives and guidance as the Director of National Intelligence deems necessary to implement this order.
Perhaps such “policy directives” no longer seem like such a good idea if the CIA Director can’t even limit his threat profile.
Then there’s the possibility that the behavior of one of the players in the scandal demonstrated that the Standards are not yet being met. While reportedly Petraeus and Paula Broadwell only shared a GMail account–and therefore there is no allegation that they used the classified networks addressed in the EO–we have fewer details about what network General Allen was using to exchange sexy-time emails with Jill Kelley. Furthermore, whlie we know Broadwell had classified information on her computer and in her house, we don’t have much detail on this, either. As a Reserve Officer, her behavior may well have demonstrated holes in the program implemented by DOD.
In other words, it may be that the Standards had been languishing for 45 days after they were completed, but the Petraeus scandal identified that the Insider Threat Detection should have but did not identify some of the activities going on. That might have created some urgency for Obama to transmit them, so he could start cracking heads at the agencies where they standards were not being met. Obama’s memo also promises the standards will “provide the workforce with insider threat awareness training,” so it’s possible the Administration believes that if just its top Generals had a bit more training they might not destroy their careers by compromising security. Though, as Marc Ambinder explained, because he was in the chain of command for the nuclear football, Petraeus would have had extensive indoctrination on potential threats.
Or maybe it’s something else entirely.
In all my coverage of the Petraeus scandal, I haven’t really touched on the aspect that regular readers of this blog were presumably least surprised about: the virtually unchecked authority the FBI has to snoop. As always, Chris Soghoian and Julian Sanchez offer worthwhile discussions of that surveillance. Yesterday, Greg Miller and Ellen Nakashima described how folks in DC are freaking out upon discovery of how intrusive all this surveillance can be.
The FBI started its case in June with a collection of five e-mails, a few hundred kilobytes of data at most.
By the time the probe exploded into public view earlier this month, the FBI was sitting on a mountain of data containing the private communications — and intimate secrets — of a CIA director and a U.S. war commander. What the bureau didn’t have — and apparently still doesn’t — is evidence of a crime.
How that happened and what it means for privacy and national security are questions that have induced shudders in Washington and a queasy new understanding of the FBI’s comprehensive access to the digital trails left by even top officials.
I’ve been saying from the start this whole shit-show would be useful if it made some Members of Congress rethink their permissive attitude towards surveillance and lazy oversight.
All that said, it’s important to note that the Petraeus example–at least what we know of it–isn’t even close to as bad as Big Brother gets in this country, even with questions about the predicate of the investigation.
Which is why I wanted to consider how this might be different if, instead of a bunch of mostly-Anglo connected Republicans, this investigation had focused on Muslims (we’ve discussed Jill Kelley and her sister’s interesting story as indebted Arab-Americans; it will be interesting to see how their access is treated going forward).
After all, while it is unlikely the FBI would have responded to a cyber-stalking complaint from an unconnected Muslim, it’s possible the internet traffic involved, particularly if it spanned international boundaries, might have attracted attention in its own right. Alternately, had the anonymous emails reflecting knowledge of the movement of top Generals involved a Muslim rather than a white Reserve Colonel, we would not now be debating whether the FBI had the predicate to investigate her emails further (though I maintain the FBI may have used a Counter-Intelligence predicate to continue the investigation in the first place).
Probably, from there the FBI would have used additional intrusive investigative methods. The National Security establishment is only now focusing on Kelley and her sister’s debt problems. Which leads me to suspect no one bothered to look at their financial records until the press started doing so. What would the FBI have found had they looked at financial records, showing more details about who paid what for whom when? How would the Kelleys’ bogus cancer charity look, for example, if you had more access to their financial records?
And then there’s one big difference. We know–because we’ve heard numerous individual stories and because Ted Olson admitted it in court–that the FBI uses discoveries like the ones they made here to coerce people to turn informant. Legal trouble, financial trouble, marital trouble? All have made people targets for “recruitment.” And those informants are sent out, with little training or legal protection, to spy on their fellow citizens, often the leaders of their community. The FBI will send out series of informants, for years on end, to target Imams who never do anything illegal but nevertheless either have connections–possibly familial–or First Amendment protected views that lead the FBI to suspect them. In the Muslim community, some people live for years under this kind of surveillance, sometimes ultimately getting caught in an FBI sting, at other times, just living a law-abiding life under the most intrusive scrutiny.
I do hope the Petraeus example scares the shit out of the often more morally and legally compromised people empowered to approve and oversee such surveillance. But I still think the scandal offers the merest glimpse into what our current state of surveillance really looks like.
The WSJ has a story that captures a lot of what I’ve been pointing to in Petraeus Surge-Out. It explains how the investigation played out even as career CIA people objecting to Petraeus’ regimented management style. It describes Petraeus’ intent to stay on nevertheless. And it shows–as I have–how Petraeus was dealing with the investigation even as CIA was attempting to push back on claims it had botched the Benghazi response.
It describes how this all played out in the weeks before Petraeus resigned:
At CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., officials began debating whether the CIA should be more active in countering the criticism. Mr. Petraeus, in particular, advocated a more aggressive defense.
As questions mounted, a Fox News report Oct. 26 alleged that the CIA delayed sending a security force to protect U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and others who were under attack. Mr. Stevens and three other Americans died.
The CIA denied the report, then began pulling together its own timeline of events.
The Pentagon, the State Department and other agencies objected to Mr. Petraeus’s decision to mount a solo defense. “We conveyed our objections. Multiple agencies did,” a senior military official said.
Mr. Petraeus’s decision to release the CIA’s timeline to the press didn’t sit well with Mr. Clapper, who was unaware it would be made public, officials said. Other agencies saw Mr. Petraeus’s decision as a step aimed at presenting the CIA and Mr. Petraeus in the best light and forcing them to accept the brunt of the criticism.
At CIA headquarters, officials believed it was important to make their case. “Clearly, when people are insinuating things about a situation that just aren’t true, there has to be a response,” a senior U.S. official said. The official added that the briefing was considered effective. “The record was corrected,” he said.”Smart people can disagree on the best way to do this, while at the same time agreeing that something must be done.”
Meanwhile, one week after the turf fight over the CIA’s release of its Benghazi timeline, the FBI told Mr. Clapper about Mr. Petraeus’s extramarital affair, said officials familiar with the timeline. [my emphasis]
But this account misses some crucial details of the timeline, which are all important as the Benghazi hearings play out this week.
First, remember that Paula Broadwell made one of the first responses to the Fox story, though she seemingly confirmed their report that (among other things) the CIA delayed its response because it had prisoners.
Consider Petraeus’ actions two weeks ago. The FBI interviewed him in a scandal he believed he could survive. And then–seemingly almost immediately–he hopped on a plane for a “fact-finding” trip in anticipation of this week’s testimony. That conveniently put him out of the country as CIA conducted the spin campaign that–as WSJ reports–top officials and DOD, DNI, and State objected to.
But here’s the most important bit: The CIA put out information at a time and in a manner the rest of the national security establishment objected to. It claimed–and WSJ’s sources still claim–that “the record was corrected,” implying that the CIA offered the truth in its spin on November 1.
If so, then why was Petraeus on a fact-finding trip at all? If they knew enough to know what the record showed, then why did Petraeus have to fly to Libya to find out what the record showed?
The answer may be as simple as Petraeus was just getting out of town to avoid any responsibility for a spin campaign that other NatSec officials objected to. It may be he went on a junket (ha!) to reflect on whether his diddling might sully his pristine image.
But I doubt that. Given the importance the Intelligence Committees have placed on the report from Petraeus’ trip, and the reluctance CIA has shown in turning over that report, and Petraeus’ initial reluctance to testify to Congress about what he learned on his fact-finding trip, it seems highly likely that “the record” as reflected in that trip report does not match “the record” the CIA is so satisfied that it fed to reporters (to the WSJ team’s credit, they were by far the least credulous about the CIA’s so-called record).
One of two possibilities must be correct: The CIA deliberately put out a timeline it knew to be incomplete–if not deceptive–at a time and in a way that the rest of the NatSec establishment objected to (which might explain why it is so reluctant to give the now-revised timeline to Congress, because it will be caught in deception). Or, Petraeus’ trip to Libya and other countries had nothing to do with what he claimed it did, fact-finding on Benghazi in anticipation of this week’s hearings.
The reporters who attended the November 1 briefing appear to have been suckered into reporting on CIA’s claimed timeline even while Petraeus was actively trying to learn what that timeline really was. They really ought to ask CIA why that timeline was presented as settled fact, then.