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Peter King Rejoins the Leak Witch Hunt

Yesterday I suggested that it was quite possible that the story that Obama signed a Finding authorizing support for Syrian may have come from Congressional, not Executive Branch, sources.

First, this story is based on the leak of a covert Finding–precisely the kind of leak that Congress has gone on the warpath against. Hosenball attributes his reporting to US sources–an attribution that can (though doesn’t necessarily) refer to Congressional sources.

U.S. sources familiar with the matter said.

[snip]

A U.S. government source acknowledged

And while he notes–and names–the Senators who have been pressuring Obama to do precisely what he has been doing for months, Hosenball doesn’t name the members of Congress who are opposed to such an action.

Some U.S. lawmakers, such as Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, have criticized Obama for moving too slowly to assist the rebels and have suggested the U.S. government should become directly involved in arming Assad’s opponents.

Other lawmakers have suggested caution, saying too little is known about the many rebel groups.

In short, chances are not insignificant that a Congressional source leaked the contents of a Finding authorizing covert operations.

And yet … crickets!

I spoke prematurely. Peter King is on the case with a letter asking Robert Mueller to investigate that leak. He notes both the Finding and the location of the control center (close to our own airbase) are secret.

If my suspicion that this leak came from Congress is correct, it’ll be interesting to see what happens as Congress begins to eat its own.

GOP Targets John Brennan and Leon Panetta with Leak Witchhunts

Meanwhile, speaking of leak investigations, the GOP has gone leak investigation happy.

First, Peter King wrote Robert Mueller formally requesting an investigation into the leak about the UndieBomber. He appears to have cleaned up his single-minded focus on reporters who were mean to Ray Kelly, focusing now on the “penetration of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula” rather than the initial reporting on the “plot” itself.

I am writing to formally request (a) that the Federal Bureau of Investigation conduct a full inquiry of the widely reported leaks earlier this month of highly classified information regarding penetration of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and (b) that this investigation include the Intelligence Community, the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, federal law enforcement and the White House, including the National Security staff.

Among the severely disturbing implications of these leaks are that (a) the lives of a unique intelligence source and others may have been jeopardized, (b) the operation had to be aborted before its potential was maximized and (c) critical intelligence relationships have been damaged.

The information regarding this intelligence matter was handled in the most restricted manner possible by the Intelligence Community and the White House which means the leak would have to have emanated from a small universe. That makes this leak all the more distressing and is why I so strongly believe that an investigation of a security breach of this magnitude must encompass everyone who had access to this vital information. [my empahsis]

But he seems to ignore the likelihood that foreign sources were the people–in addition to John Brennanwho revealed the plot involved a Saudi-managed infiltrator.

Nevertheless, it appears clear that Brennan might be included among the targets here.

Meanwhile, Representative Tom Price included an amendment in the 2013 NDAA that mandates an investigation into leaks preventing Israel’s efforts to drag us into an attack on Iran.

A stream of highly sensitive information continues to be leaked to the press–information that includes U.S. and Israeli military and intelligence operational capabilities, as well as classified negotiations between Israel and other countries.

On March 20, The New York Times, citing senior administration officials, reported the conclusions of a classified war simulation conducted by the United States that analyzed an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities.

On March 28, Foreign Policy magazine, quoting four senior diplomats and military intelligence officers, referred to a report that Israel would be granted access to air bases in Azerbaijan as part of an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, a move clearly designed to undercut cooperation between Azerbaijan and Israel.

Further degrading Israel’s ability to defend itself, The Washington Post’s David Ignatius on February 3 reported that Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta believes there’s a strong likelihood that Israel will strike Iran in April, May, or June, which reportedly sent Iran’s air defenses on high alert.

The release of this classified information not only puts at risk fragile negotiations between countries but also the very lives of the men and women called upon to carry out this mission. I recently traveled to the Middle East, where we met with senior Israeli officials. Their number one concern was that for the first time in our long relationship, United States was releasing classified operational information and capabilities, willfully putting at risk the lives of Israeli people. [links added to the stories named by Price]

Now, I’d say this amendment wouldn’t make it through the Senate given that it attempts to criminalize leaks supporting US interests, except that it passed by an overwhelming margin in the House and AIPAC has as much sway among the Democrats who set the schedule in the Senate as it does in the House.

But it’s worth noting that it names Panetta explicitly for his blabbing to David Ignatius.

I’ve noted that both Brennan and Panetta might catch some heat for these leaks. But it almost certainly won’t be legal trouble. The latter, at least, certainly served Administration efforts to stave off an Israeli attack. And Obama seems to have protected all the other leaking Brennan as done.

Still, these leak investigations, if they happen, do offer the GOP a way to pressure the Administration during the election season.

I’m frankly opposed to anything that helps Mitt and his wingnut advisors get closer to the White House. Still, I admit a bit of schadenfreude that the Administration will soon be the focus of the kind of witchhunts it has launched against others.

Peter King Makes It More Clear He’s Targeting the AP, Not Leakers

A real member of Congress might worry that the government is using double agents to expand wars in other countries without briefing the Gang of Eight, as required by law.

Not Peter King. He wants to investigate the AP’s sources–but not, apparently, ABC’s–to find out how the press learned something that had not been briefed properly.

Also: Peter King doesn’t believe in scaring the American people. Just ginning up fear about one religion or ethnic group.

Peter King Uses Tax Evasion Case as Proof of Hezbollah Involvement in US

Peter King is having another of his fear-mongering hearings on the Islamic threat in the US–this one focused on “Iran, Hezbollah, and the Threat to the Homeland.” As part of that, they’ve released a whopping 2-page report on that threat, including such claims such as this one:

After 9/11, many in law enforcement and intelligence assumed Hezbollah would only strike inside our borders if Israel or the U.S. attacked Iran’s nuclear facilities. Iran’s unprovoked plot to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s ambassador in Washington has changed that thinking. [emphasis original]

Apparently, Peter King hasn’t read Holder’s legal defense of assassination in response to perceived threats.

More interesting still is the list of “US cases involving Hezbollah,” a list of 19 federal cases. One of the cases is the Scary Car Broker plot, in which the US-based business owners are not alleged to have known of any tie to Hezbollah (if, in fact, one exists).

Even worse, it includes US v. Chahine, the case against Nada Prouty’s brother-in-law Talal Chahine.

The government never accused Chahine of any ties to Hezbollah–not in any legal forum where they’d have to prove their case. Rather, they accused him (and got a guilty plea from Prouty’s sister) of tax evasion. While the tax evasion case was valid, the entire case derived from Prouty’s brother Fadi’s efforts to dig up a crime that would justify his service as an informant, which he was doing to beat his own weapons charges. That is, as so often happens, this was an instance of FBI trading one criminal charge for the hope of netting a terrorist. Along the way, Fadi convinced Chahine not to go clean on his tax evasion, presumably at the direction of the FBI. Ultimately, the only tie between Chahine and Hezbollah consisted of a radical cleric’s presence at a charity event benefiting orphans to which Chahine had donated And, as Prouty lays out, a 4-year investigation into Chahine never showed any ties to terrorism.

In fact, government records would later show that even after a second raid of Talal’s residence in September 2005, no actual evidence of terrorism was obtained, nor was incriminating evidence of terrorism ties ever found in the nearly four years of tapped phones, intercepted faxes, and closely monitored bank activities.

As Prouty also notes, the government let Chahine skip the country (Fadi had warned him he’d be indicted), which she suggests they wouldn’t have done if he were a legitimate terrorist threat.

So apparently, according to Peter King, any time a Lebanese immigrant commits tax evasion, it counts as a Hezbollah case.

As someone who has himself funded a terrorist group, King ought to know it takes more to fund terrorists than that.

The King/Schumer Christie/Booker Smackdown

I confess I’m enjoying the spat developing between New York and New Jersey’s top politicians over the NYPD’s spying on New Jersey Muslims. First Christie dared to call Kelly arrogant.

“He’s Ray Kelly, so what’re you gonna do? I mean, he’s all-knowing, all-seeing,” Christie said.

“And I don’t know all the details yet, but my concern is, you know, why can’t you be, you know, communicating with the people here in New Jersey, with law enforcement here in New Jersey. Are we somehow not trustworthy?” said Christie.

[snip]

“This is New York Police Department. I know they think their jurisdiction is the world. Their jurisdiction is New York City. So if they’re going to leave their jurisdiction and go to investigate a case in another jurisdiction, it could be dangerous,” Christie said. “This is the way law enforcement people get hurt or killed, is when they’re not cooperating with each other, not communicating with each other.”

“I’m not saying they don’t belong in New Jersey, but tell us! Share it with the appropriate law enforcement agency,” Christie said. “My concern is this kind of obsession that the NYPD seems to have that they’re the masters of the universe.”

Then there’s the spectacle of King defending Ray Kelly as if the latter is a shrinking violet, with neither access to the press nor taste for a fight himself.

Rep. Peter King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said Gov. Chris Christie crossed a line when he mocked Police Commissioner Ray Kelly as “all-knowing, all-seeing” and said the NYPD’s intelligence operation in Newark may have been “born out of arrogance.”

[snip]

“I just found it a real disappointment the way he was conducting himself, the way he was taking cheap shots at Ray Kelly,” King said.

Sure, aside from Booker, who seems genuinely concerned either with his actual constituents or appearing that way, this is a giant pissing contest between men defending their turf.

Part of me wonders why most of these men have reacted so strongly. Christie, after all, must have close ties to Newark’s FBI officers from his time as US Attorney. That seems to be what this dig is about:

“His main objection seems to be that he wasn’t … brought in. But the fact is that he wasn’t governor. He was U.S. attorney. And I’m not aware of any major terror plots that he ever uncovered while he was U.S. attorney in New Jersey.”

(King forgets, of course, that the NYPD didn’t find any of the major terrorist attacks since 9/11–street vendors and the FBI did.)

Part of me wonders whether Kelly, channeling J. Edgar Hoover as he increasingly seems to be doing, has some dirt on King and Schumer to make cow them like this.

But the real sick part of my personality can’t help but visualize this ending in a giant wrestling match pitting King and Schumer against Christie and Booker. In fact, I’m even thinking of taking bets.

Sorry about the abundance of brain bleach posts this morning folks–it must be the weather.

Ray Kelly: Please Call My Spying “Enhanced Police Investigation”

In the city in which the NYT news page insists on calling torture “harsh” or “enhanced interrogation” when America does it, I’m not surprised that NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly objects to news outlets calling his spying spying.

“I just wish the media would show some responsibility and use the words ‘surveillance’ or ‘police investigation’ rather than ‘spying.’ To use that term, to be accusing you of ‘spying,’ is, to me, really offensive,” Mr. [Peter] King said, asking Mr. Kelly what he thought of the issue.

“It’s a pejorative term, it sells well,” Mr. Kelly responded. “They forget we’ve the subject of 14 plots since 9/11 … We’ve been lucky. We just have been lucky.”

Mr. King also discussed the political implications of the debate. He said the “spying” rhetoric “puts a cloud over what you’re trying to do. That’s why I worry about the campaign and whoever the next mayor happens to be, if it’s against the back drop of ‘spying’ charges.”

I can see why Peter King worries about the political implications of spying. He heartily approved of the NYPD spying on 28 businesses in his own district. He even applauded the NYPD spying on kosher businesses–after having mocked such an idea as ridiculous–after CBS stole my reporting on the topic and confronted him with the fact that NYPD was, indeed, spying on Iranian Jews as well as Muslims.

So King, who faces voters in November, celebrates NYPD’s baseless spying on his constituents and, even when confronted with the stupidity of the NYPD’s spying choices, ultimately supports them unquestioningly. But he’s beginning to worry about the political implications of such brainless boosterism.

And Kelly just thinks (unsurprisingly given the treatment he’s usually accorded) the press should supinely heed his demand that they use euphemisms to dress up his spying program (while not objecting to the accuracy of the term, I might add).

While we’re discussing supine treatment, what is the word Kelly would prefer we use to describe the decision to have a booster like Peter King, guest hosting a radio show, invite Ray Kelly in to attack his critics and defend the department’s spying?

“Enhanced fellatio”?

I always seem to get this particular euphemism wrong.

If Radical Muslims Aren’t Found at Kosher Delis, Then Why Did NYPD Look for Them at Kosher Butchers?

Congressman Peter King applauds that the NYPD is spying on–among others–some of his own Long Island constituents, including 28 businesses in Oyster Bay. He rather snidely quips that you wouldn’t look for radical Muslims at a kosher deli.

Ray Kelly and the NYPD should get a medal for what they are doing. They are–This is good police work. If you are going after radical Muslims you don’t go to Ben’s Kosher Deli.

There’s just one problem with that–a big one.

Among the businesses the NYPD profiled are at least five kosher butchers, delis, or restaurants not far from King’s home in Long Island (as well as several other stores, including food stores, run by Great Neck, NY’s Iranian Jewish population).

  • Emouna Glatt Kosher Meat
  • Shish Kabob Palace, which uses Glatt Kosher meats
  • Kandi King Gourmet store
  • Great Neck Glatt
  • Eilat Prime Meats

So Peter King suggests it would be stupid for the NYPD to look for radical Muslims at kosher delis. But he’s still celebrating the NYPD for having done just that.

(h/t George Zornick)

91% Fewer Terrorist Sympathizers with Twice the Cash and 48% More Surveillance

A number of people have pointed to this report showing that the terrorist threat is grossly overblown. Not only does it show that Robert Mueller was overselling the risk of Muslim-American radicalization in the early days of of the War on Terror, and he and Janet Napolitano and Peter King and others continue to do so.

Twenty Muslim-Americans were indicted for violent terrorist plots in 2011, down from 26 the year before, bringing the total since 9/11 to 193, or just under 20 per year (see Figure 1). This number is not negligible — small numbers of Muslim-Americans continue to radicalize each year and plot violence. However, the rate of radicalization is far less than many feared in the aftermath of 9/11. In early 2003, for example, Robert Mueller, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, told Congress that “FBI investigations have revealed militant Islamics [sic] in the US. We strongly suspect that several hundred of these extremists are linked to al-Qaeda.”1 Fortunately, we have not seen violence on this scale.

[snip]

These and similar warnings have braced Americans for a possible upsurge in Muslim-American terrorism, which has not occurred. Instead, terrorist plots have decreased in each of the past two years, since the spike of cases in 2009. Threats remain: violent plots have not dwindled to zero, and revolutionary Islamist organizations overseas continue to call for Muslim-Americans to engage in violence. However, the number of Muslim-Americans who have responded to these calls continues to be tiny, when compared with the population of more than 2 million Muslims in the United States5 and when compared with the total level of violence in the United States, which was on track to register 14,000 murders in 2011.6

But, as Kevin Drum emphasized, the number of Muslim-Americans indicted for supporting terrorism–rather than engaging in a plot–has declined steadily over the last decade.

But while discussing how overblown the threat from Muslim-Americans in this country is, we ought to look at another report, too–perhaps this one, bragging about how much the FBI has changed in the last decade. Because along with visualizing how much more the FBI is spending–more than twice as much–it also notes the FBI has increased surveillance 48% over the decade (and that’s separate from the surveillance the NSA and Homeland Security and local law enforcement have put into place).

In other words, it’s not just that Muslim-American support for terrorism has declined. But it has declined even while we’re spending far more resources looking for it, and we’re just not finding it, much.

Peter King, Movie Mogul

Peter King, the former terrorist sympathizer conducting witch hunts against alleged terrorist sympathizers, is not one to assail others for their gross hypocrisy. And technically, that’s not what his complaint about apparent Administration plans to cooperate in an Osama bin Laden Fuck Yeah movie set to release just as voters start thinking about the November election. King is purportedly less concerned about the Administration’s glaring hypocrisy on leaks and more concerned about leaks in general. Though given his silence about this leak fest, I’d wager he’s most concerned that voters might learn that it took a Democratic Administration to actually hunt down OBL.

In response to King’s request and in response to a preliminary review, DOD has promised to start an investigation into the charges immediately.

The CIA’s response was more ambiguous. It noted that,

The CIA’s Office of Public Affairs handles requests for information from the entertainment industry. According to a senior official from that office, the protection of national security equities–including the preservation of our ability to conduct effective counterterrorism operations–is the decisive factor in determining how the CIA engages with filmmakers and the media as a whole.

It seems to me this policy allows CIA to cooperate with Hollywood if doing so would make Americans enthusiastically support exciting operations against big movie villains. It allows CIA to cooperate with Hollywood to ensure CIA gets full credit for offing OBL (even if that slights the SEALs involved). In other words, there’s a whole lot that might be fall under CIA’s own definition of what might “preserv[e its] ability to conduct effective counterterrorism operations.” All the more so under a Director who’s a bit of a media magnet.

In any case, it’d be nice if King’s claimed stance towards classified information…

The Administration’s first duty in declassifying material is to provide full reporting to Congress and the American people, in an effort to build public trust through transparency of government. In contrast, this alleged collaboration belies a desire of transparency in favor of a cinematographic view of history.

Was embraced by anyone in DC, Democrat or GOP.

But King, for his own part, has been working so hard to create a different villain, I doubt we’ll get it from him, either.

Iran Seeks Interpol Prosecution of Neoconservatives Jack Keane, Reuel Marc Gerecht

Jack Keane, on left, and Reuel Marc Gerecht, on right.

Multiple news outlets in Iran are reporting that Iran has asked Interpol to prosecute former General Jack Keane (co-author of the Iraq surge) and former CIA operative Reuel Marc Gerecht on the basis of their open calls for the assassination of Iranian figures during a meeting of two House Homeland Security Subcommitttees on October 26.

From Mehr News:

In a letter to Interpol, Iranian National Prosecutor General Gholam Hossein Mohseni-Ejei has called for the prosecution of the U.S. officials, IRNA reported on Monday.

/snip/

According to the online magazine Firstpost, at a session of the committee, Jack Keane, a retired four-star general who helped plan the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq, called for the assassination of the leaders of Iran’s Qods Force in retaliation for their alleged role in a plot to kill the Saudi ambassador to Washington, a claim vehemently denied by Iranian officials.

“Why don’t we kill them? We kill other people who are running terrorist organizations against the United States,” he said.

The other witness, Reuel Marc Gerecht, a former CIA officer who is now a senior fellow at the neoconservative think tank the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told the committee, “I don’t think that you are going to really intimidate these people, get their attention, unless you shoot somebody.”

The article then goes on to report that Congressmen Peter King, Michael McCaul and Patrick Meehan signed a November 22 letter stating “that the U.S. should undermine Iranian officials and damage the country’s infrastructure through increasing covert operations”.

Fars News Agency claims that Interpol stands ready to help in the effort:

Iran’s Deputy Police Chief Brigadier General Ahmad Reza Radan announced that the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) has promised to help Tehran prosecute the two former US officials who had called on the Obama administration to assassinate Iran’s top military commanders.

“The Interpol will take the steps for the prosecution of two Americans who sponsor terrorism,” Radan told FNA on Tuesday. Read more