Wednesday, September 19, 2018

UPDATED: Dems Throw Wray And Rosenstein Under The Bus

Make no mistake about it--that's exactly what happened yesterday when the four Democrat members of the Congressional Gang of Eight sent their letter to the three Executive Branch officials who will be primarily responsible for acting on President Trump's declassification order regarding documents related to the Russia Hoax.

In the letter Senators Chuck Schumer and Mark Warner and Representatives Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff "request" DNI Dan Coats, Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein, and FBI Director Christopher Wray to provide them "an immediate briefing ... prior to any disclosure of the affected material ... to anyone at the White House." Note the essential outrageousness of the "request." The reasoning behind the "request" is based on the assertion that the Special Counsel investigation (i.e., the Russia Hoax) "implicates the President's own campaign and associates." In effect, the claim is that once a Special Counsel is appointed a President is no longer President--at least not for matters related to the Special Counsel's investigation--which we all know can be virtually unlimited. In other words, the Special Counsel act abrogates the US Constitution with its system of checks and balances: agencies of the Executive Branch that report to the President under the US Constitution should now report to Congress!

Key to this reasoning, however, is the assertion in the letter that these three officials--Coats, Rosenstein, and Wray--have already given verbal assurances that such information would not be provided to the White House:
One June 27, 2018, we wrote again to memorialize the verbal assurance you provided us that DoJ and FBI would not provide the White House or any of the President's attorneys with access to sensitive information briefed to a small group of designated Members.
That the letter may not actually accurately reflect the "verbal assurances" can be seen from DNI Coats' later (7/12/18) written response in which he agreed that "sources and methods" must be protected. That goes without saying, of course, but who thinks that sources and methods are what are really at issue in this declassification? The terms of the order itself expressly exclude large sections of the Carter Page FISA order--precisely those sections which reference sources and methods (for full details see Andy McCarthy's Reading the FISA Redactions). In any event, as McCarthy also makes abundantly clear, the redacting of the previously released FISA order leave precious little to the imagination--except, perhaps, for those who are deficient in that respect.

What's really at issue here is the release--unredacted--of texts relevant to the Russia Hoax that were sent by two fired former FBI officials: former Director James Comey and former Deputy Director Andy McCabe. Anyone who thinks that Comey and McCabe spent their time texting about sources and methods simply hasn't thought this through. Clearly the Democrats are in a state of near panic, and that suggests that they know that Comey and McCabe were probably texting regarding matters relevant to the Russia Hoax, and those texts were going to members of Congress and/or officials in the Executive Branch--and to the virulently anti-Trump media.

By sending this letter--even if it may not accurately reflect the nature of the "verbal assurances"--the Democrats have definitively thrown at least Wray and Rosenstein under the bus. Of course this is a measure of the Democrats' increasing desperation regarding the Midterm elections, but it also may be a shrewd attempt to place Wray and Rosenstein in a real bind.

In effect the "request" by the Gang of Eight Democrats amounts to a demand that Wray and Rosenstein openly choose sides. In place of the "slow walk" strategy of documentary release that has so frustrated Congressional Republican, Wray and Rosenstein are being "requested" to openly side with the minority party by defying a Presidential order. There is a carrot and a stick attached to this request. The stick, of course, is that if the much ballyhooed "Blue Wave" makes landfall in the US and Wray and Rosenstein haven't cooperated with the current minority, then the full fury of the new Democrat majority would be unleashed against them. The carrot is the fact that neither Wray nor Rosenstein are in good graces with President Trump. Presumably that new Democrate majority would protect Wray and Rosenstein from an enraged President Trump--if they've cooperated. By revealing publicly the fact that Wray and Rosenstein may have been colluding with the Democrats in an attempt to thwart what President Trump sees as a "crowning achievement" of his presidency--cleaning up the corruption of the FBI--the Democrats are clearly attempting to muscle Wray and Rosenstein into open opposition to Trump. They have shown their gratitude to them by placing them directly in the path of a bus named Donald J. Trump.

The alternative for Wray and Rosenstein is to take their oaths of office seriously (yes, I know that sounds hopelessly old fashioned) and do their duty--perhaps also in the hopes that this will impress the President in their favor. Adding weight to this consideration may be the fact that the "slow walk" strategy--let alone open defiance--may prove difficult to maintain even in the short term of the runup to the Midterm elections. Wray and Rosenstein would be placed in the position of stonewalling a Republican majority that now has the backing of a Presidential order--and that Republican majority will be just as eager for the pre-election release of those documents as the Democrats are desperate to prevent their release. If the Republicans hold their majority in the face of betrayal by Wray and Rosenstein, the hapless duo could expect no mercy.

We may expect to learn what their choice will be in the near future. However, before closing I do want to point out that this dilemma that Wray and Rosenstein face is one that is very much of their own making. In particular, there is the matter of appointment of a Special Counsel in the first place. In Who's Afraid of Lisa Page I noted:
John Solomon, in his brilliant article (One FBI text message in Russia probe that should alarm every American), has shown that Strzok's texts actually demonstrate FBI bias at the very inception of the Special Counsel investigation. In a series of texts dated 5/19/17 (two days after Robert Mueller was appointed Special Counsel) Strzok stated to Page: "you and I both know ... there's no big there there." Page, in testimony to the House that followed on that of Strzok, has confirmed that the sense of this text referred to the allegations of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. In fact, the texts show that Strzok explicitly viewed the Special Counsel investigation not as an investigation into criminal wrongdoing--as required by the Special Counsel statute--but as "an investigation leading to impeachment." In other words, he viewed the Mueller "probe" as an essentially political use of the Special Counsel statute to rid the Washington establishment of a president they didn't want.
Solomon has recently followed these thoughts up with a direct quote from Page's testimony: Lisa Page bombshell: FBI couldn’t prove Trump-Russia collusion before Mueller appointment. In his article Solomon quotes Page as testifying regarding any element of truth in the whole Russia Hoax:
“It’s a reflection of us still not knowing,” ...
Page opined further, acknowledging “it still existed in the scope of possibility that there would be literally nothing” to connect Trump and Russia, no matter what Mueller or the FBI did.
“As far as May of 2017, we still couldn’t answer the question,” she said at another point.

"May of 2017." What she's actually saying is: as of the appointment of the Special Counsel!

Solomon follows this up with the very pointed observation:
It might take a few seconds for the enormity of Page’s statements to sink in.
In what Page stated, she was, in effect, not going beyond what others had already said, including Comey and McCabe. But that leads inexorably to the question that Solomon poses:
If there was no concrete evidence of collusion, why did we need a special prosecutor? 
Page’s comments also mean FBI and Justice officials likely leaked a barrage of media stories just before and after Mueller’s appointment that made the evidence of collusion look far stronger than the frontline investigators knew it to be. Text messages show contacts between key FBI and DOJ players and the Washington Post, the Associated Press and the New York Times during the ramp-up to Mueller’s probe. 
And that means the news media — perhaps longing to find a new Watergate, to revive sagging fortunes — were far too willing to be manipulated by players in a case that began as a political opposition research project funded by Trump’s Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, and led by a former British intelligence agent, Christopher Steele, who despised Trump.

Indeed--why did we need a Special Counsel? Why did we need the DoJ questioning the very legitimacy of a new administration, based on a transparent hoax, cooked up by a sleazy oppo research firm for the losing candidate? Did that serve the country, has it served the country? One asks oneself, with whom did Rosenstein sit down and seriously discuss such a momentous decision? Did he challenge those advancing the idea, cross examine them as would befit an experienced attorney? Did he question the reliability of the supposed sources? "Enormity" is the word Solomon uses, and it's well chosen.

This is the background to the increasing desperation of Democrats, and to the remarkable letter from their Gang of Eight members. The stakes in this are enormous for the country. We are in the midst of a true constitutional crisis. The Democrats are playing for keeps, with every weapon at their disposal, but they're up against one of the most remarkable and cunning politicians--against all the odds--that this country as every seen.

UPDATE: sundance at Conflicting Reports Over DOJ and FBI “Classification” and “Redaction Removal”… has provided a useful breakdown and analysis of the various categories of documents affected by Trump's declassification order. First he provides the breakdown, into four broad categories, quoting the order itself:

1) “pages 10-12 and 17-34 of the June 2017 application to the FISA court in the matter of Carter W. Page.”

(2) “all FBI reports of interviews with Bruce G. Ohr prepared in connection with the Russia investigation.”

(3) “all FBI reports of interviews prepared in connection with all Carter Page FISA applications.”

(4) “publicly release of all text messages relating to the Russia investigation, without redaction, of James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, and Bruce Ohr”.

Like me (see above), he sees most of this as relatively unproblematic. Certainly little that would be newsworthy will come out of the unredacting of the FISA application (#1). And also like me he sees the unredacting and release of the texts (#4) as the 'political "biggie"'.

Where I disagree, albeit cautiously and speculatively, is with regard to the other two categories.. I speculate that the Ohr debriefings of Steele (#2) could provide a record of tittle tattle (Steele seems to have had a taste for that) that could prove uncomfortably revealing regarding the involvement of the British intelligence services in US politics at the behest of our own intelligence services. Those documents might also shed light on any contacts Steele may have had with our State Department or the CIA. All that could be explosive.

I also disagree regarding the FD-302s that were "prepared in connectin with all Carter Page FISA applications (#3). Given that the FISA applications were largely based on the Steele "dossier" I wouldn't expect them to be particularly revealing. To the extent that sources--Halper, Mifsud, Downer--would be revealed, it's hard to see what legitimate objections could be raised, since they've already been burned. Are there other sources that we don't know of at this point? Possible, but I've seen no indications of that.

Finally, to repeat what I observed above, the Presidential Order gives Congress far more leverage than they have previously had. I believe that there is enough time before the midterm elections to use that leverage. The result should be that delay will no longer be an option--only resignation, and that would be self defeating since the "acting" replacements would surely comply immediately.

Prognosis: Trump emerges once again triumphant from this exercise in political judo.

FURTHER UPDATE: I just listened to Sara Carter explaining that the FBI kept "two sets of books" on the Russia Hoax. She says revelation of this will expose "an abuse of power the likes of which this country has never seen before." Yeah, that sounds about right. The President's declassification order, of course, covers ALL sets of books. Uh oh! Carter also rightly notes, as I have, that the existence of the Presidential Order drastically changes the power equation between the Deep State and Congress. At this point, ALL Republicans have a strong political interest in getting this stuff out ASAP, and with the declassification order in place they have all the leverage they need.

YIKES--ANOTHER UPDATE! Scott Johnson, Dems sweat declassification, asks, "Hey, what about Coats?" He's referring to the absence of Coats' name from my subject line.

Perhaps I could have been a bit clearer. I had two reasons for not including Coats:

1. Coats is a bit of a special case in this declassification schema. His only real involvement has to do with the FISA application (the other docs are more or less agency specific property--whereas FISA falls within a much broader regulatory scheme). As I pointed out, Andy McCarthy did a great job of demonstrating that, despite the redactions, the release of the FISA apps already accomplished leaves little or nothing to the imagination. As a result Coats has no skin in the game, could probably care less what anyone says.

2. Coats, in his written response to the Sub-Gang of Four, actually quoted by them, cleverly deflects their assertions by blandly stating that he agrees that sensitive sources and methods should be protected. Everyone knows that that's not at all what's at stake here--what's at stake is politically sensitive information that is not at all protected by the the sources/methods exception. The declassification order expressly exempts  from the FISA declassification those pages that contain the sources/methods information (McCarthy explains that particularly well). As for the rest of the docs, the likelihood that there are any sources/methods problems are slim to none--and very easily dealt with.

As a result, Coats--perhaps showing that he learned a thing or two in his time as a Senator--has IMO removed himself from jeopardy. Rosenstein and Wray? Uh, not so much.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Now He Tells Us

Chuck Ross | Reporter

Please note: "Shreds" is used metaphorically, not literally. And the former employee waited until after Manafort's guilty plea to share this. How convenient--but not for Manafort.


Graham Stack, a freelance journalist hired by Fusion GPS, says the opposition research firm was “almost completely wrong” about former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
Stack says Fusion GPS provided most of the research cited by the media that suggested Manafort was a Kremlin stooge.
Stack says he “shares the blame” for pushing the research, which he now says is part of a false narrative.

And all this Russia Hoax was paid for by the Hillary Clinton campaign.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

UPDATED: The Central Scandal of the Russia Hoax--and Our Constitutional Crisis

Scott Johnson at Powerline, The Biggest Scandal, offers some comments regarding two recent articles by Andy McCarthy. I certainly am in total agreement with Johnson's assessment that this whole Russia Hoax constitutes "the biggest scandal in American political history." Part of the scandal beyond the actions of the Obama Administration and officials at the DoJ/FBI/CIA/State--and including not only political appointees but also career professionals--is the complicity of the press and its continued silence. That complicity extends beyond biased reporting to complicity in the FISA process itself through the FBI's leak process and then reuse of the leaked material, laundered through the press, as "probable cause" for the FISA against Carter Page.

What I'd like to do here is to expand a bit on a point that McCarthy makes in the first article, "Reading the FISA Redactions." The entire article is well worth a careful study for anyone who wants to understand what's going on with all the talk about the FISA application and, especially, the renewal applications. I have to say, I take my hat off to McCarthy--he goes through the applications step by step, demonstrating that, for all the redacting that was done, the bottom line is readily apparent: The FBI had precious little in the way of "probable cause" to offer the FISA Court (FISC), and yet their warrant was approved--and thrice renewed! This never fails to amaze me every time the subject comes up.

McCarthy gets to the heart of the matter--the first of many important points he makes--right up front:

Page has never been charged with any crime, much less with espionage. That is a salient fact because to get a FISA warrant on an American citizen, the FBI is required to show that the citizen’s activities on behalf of a foreign power violate federal criminal law. The FBI and Justice Department went to the FISA court four times over nine months, from October 2016 through June 2017, claiming to have grounds that Page was involved in heinous clandestine activity. Why isn’t he in handcuffs?

I believe it is because they never had a case.
All they appear to have had were the 2013 attempt by Russian spies to recruit Page as an asset, and the Steele dossier.

Now here's what I want to make clear. The original FISA order, when the target is a US Person (USPER) such as Carter Page, lasts for 90 days. A FISA order can be renewed, but the renewal is NOT granted on an "if at first you don't succeed, try try again" basis. To get an extension on a FISA--and let me say here that I completely agree with McCarthy that the initial FISA was pure BS--the FBI has to either:

1) make a reasonable showing that it is making progress in its investigation as a result of its use of FISA, i.e., it is moving forward with additional evidence gained through FISA that tends to confirm the presentation of the case that was made in the initial application, or

2) in the absence of such progress, the FBI must make a reasonable showing that the extension is likely to produce progress.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

UPDATED: Why Andrew Weissmann?

This past Tuesday, August 27th, Bruce Ohr, the demoted former Associate Deputy Attorney General testified before the House Judiciary and House Oversight Committees. Among the newsworthy items that have emerged, a few stand out. One of course is that his wife Nellie began working for Glenn Simpson's opposition research outfit, Fusion GPS, back in 2015--adding fuel to the speculation that she was involved as an FBI contractor in illegally mining NSA databases for information on GOP presidential candidates. Another item, which Chuck Ross highlighted at The Daily Caller, was that Ohr kept a number of FBI and DoJ colleagues "in the loop" regarding his highly irregular contacts with Christopher Steele, the "former" MI6 spook. Specifically:

Sources familiar with Ohr’s testimony before the House Judiciary and House Oversight Committees told The Daily Caller News Foundation that Ohr informed Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page about his interactions with Steele and Simpson. He also informed Justice Department prosecutor Andrew Weissmann about his dossier-related work.
Weissmann is now serving as right-hand man to Robert Mueller at the special counsel’s office.

It seems to me that the question that needs to be asked is: Why Andrew Weissmann? Why was Ohr keeping Weissmann, who was at the time head of DoJ's Criminal Fraud Section, in the loop on what to all appearances was a Counterintelligence investigation? If Ohr kept Weissmann in the loop out of friendship, that still breaks the first rule of conspiratorial operations: need to know. Unless ... Weissmann was contributing or could potentially contribute something of value to the conspiracy.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Bergoglio and the Press

Since the release of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report regarding sexual abuse by Roman Catholic clergy the Catholic world has been in turmoil. That turmoil only intensified--exponentially--when retired Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò released what amounted to an affidavit accusing senior Catholic hierarchs of knowingly covering up and even enabling the abuse. Viganò's focused special focus was on the retired Cardinal Archbishop of Washington, DC, Theodore McCarrick: a prelate of vast influence in the American church, a reputed "kingmaker," one man fund raising juggernaut, close adviser to Pope Francis, and mentor to such progressive luminaries as cardinals Wuerl, Cupich, and Tobin--all among Francis' anointed. As if that weren't enough, Viganò called on Francis himself to resign for his knowing complicity in the coverup of McCarrick's crimes.

Viganò's release of his testimony was timed to coincide for maximum effect with Francis's controversial trip to Dublin--already a public relations disaster due to lack of attendance. That disaster was compounded when Francis issued his non-denial statement in response to press questions about the Viganò testimony: "I will not say a single word ..." followed by a tacit appeal to the press to basically ignore it all.

Ordinarily that type of stonewalling by a super high profile public figure would be met with a storm of protest and accusation in the media. Just such a storm did in fact ensue, but mainly in the world of Catholic blogging and tweeting. The mainstream media, on the other hand, seemed strangely (or maybe not) indifferent.

Where to begin? In the past Catholic sex scandals involving the clergy have been widely characterized as pedophilia. Knowledge that this characterization was, in fact, inaccurate, that the problem was overwhelmingly one of homosexual priests preying upon adolescents and young men, had been carefully kept in the background. With this fresh outbreak of scandal, however, the Catholic blogosphere, fueled by Viganò's testimony regarding McCarrick's abuse of seminarians, quickly galvanized around the accusation of a powerful "lavender mafia" of homosexual prelates dominating the post Vatican II Church.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

UPDATED: Regarding the Cohen Plea Deal

Lots will be said in the coming days about the Michael Cohen plea deal, in which--against all the evidence--Cohen claims to have committed a crime in coordination with Donald Trump. The plea deal was engineered by a non-trial lawyer: Clinton consigliere Lanny Davis. To understand what's going on here I can do no better than recommend the latest article by another (former) Clinton insider, pollster Mark Penn: Cohen's plea deal is prosecutor's attempt to set up Trump. Here are two excerpt that speak volumes about the Establishment and about the entire Mueller operation:

Contrast what is going on here with the treatment of the millions of dollars paid to a Democratic law firm which, in turn, paid out money to political research firm Fusion GPS and British ex-spy Christopher Steele without listing them on any campaign expenditure form — despite crystal-clear laws and regulations that the ultimate beneficiaries of the funds must be listed. This rule was even tightened recently. There is no question that hiring spies to do oppo research in Russia is a campaign expenditure, and yet, no prosecutorial raids have been sprung on the law firm, Fusion GPS or Steele. Reason: It does not “get” Trump.
These investigations, essentially based on an opposition-funded dossier, were never anything other than an attempt to push into a corner as many Trump aides and family members as possible and shake them down until they could get close enough to Trump to try to take him down. That’s why so many of his aides, lawyers, and actions in the campaign and in the White House have undergone hour-by-hour scrutiny to find anything that could be colored into a crime, leaving far behind the original Russia-collusion theory as the fake pretext it was. Paying for nondisclosure agreements for perfectly legal activities is not a crime, not a campaign contribution as commonly understood or ruled upon by the FEC — and squeezing guilty pleas out of vulnerable witnesses does not change those facts.


Some things you just really can't make up. Lanny Davis, the Clinton consigliere leading the latest charge to overturn the election of Donald Trump--the alleged Putin puppet--is himself the registered foreign agent for Dmytro Firtash, a pro-Russia Ukrainian oligarch wanted by the US government. Further, Davis is also saying that 13 of the dossier claims about Michael Cohen are "false" and that Cohen "has never been to Prague in his life." (via Daily Caller)

And Jeff Carlson at has pulled up an February 17, 2012 article in The Guardian, Obama, Facebook and the Power of Friendship: the 2012 Data Election. The article describes what appears to be an "in kind" campaign contribution from Facebook to the Obama Campaign:

Facebook is also being seen as a source of invaluable data on voters. The re-election team, Obama for America, will be inviting its supporters to log on to the campaign website via Facebook, thus allowing the campaign to access their personal data and add it to the central data store – the largest, most detailed and potentially most powerful in the history of political campaigns. If 2008 was all about social media, 2012 is destined to become the "data election".

As Carlson points out:

At the time, this news was greeted with glowing acclaim over the sophistication of Obama’s digital campaign. Obama’s Election Team apparently had full access to Facebook’s data. Republicans did not.
Yes, that really does look like an "in kind" campaign contribution, unlike the Trump hush money. Would anyone like to guesstimate the value of Facebook's in kind contribution? Or when a prosecutor will be looking into this?

Friday, August 17, 2018

Just How Reliable Is Christopher Steele?

PLEASE NOTE: In what follows I adopt a narrow focus. I focus closely on the FBI's claims for Christopher Steele's reliability, rather than on the reliability of what was contained in the "dossier"--which all FBI officials who have spoken on the matter have characterized as "unverified."

The famous "Dossier" on Donald Trump--supposedly compiled by British ex-MI6 spook Christopher Steele acting as a contractor for Glenn Simpson and Fusion GPS, themselves contractors for the Hillary Clinton Campaign--"salacious and unverified" though it might have been, was "crucial" to the FBI's efforts to obtain the original FISA on Carter Page as well as the three renewals of that FISA. That the "dossier" was "salacious and unverified" we have on the authority of disgraced former FBI Director James Comey, and that it was "crucial" to the Carter Page FISA is attested by the equally disgraced former Deputy Director and later Acting Director of the FBI, Andrew McCabe.

In the Carter Page FISA application the FBI presents material from the "dossier" without referencing it as an actual document. Rather, it presents material from the "dossier" as reporting provided by Christopher Steele as "Source #1." The concealing of source identities is usual in FISA applications. To make up for this secrecy in the interests of security, at least in theory, the FBI provides characterizations of their sources as well as specific facts that vouch for the reliability of the sources in question, to provide the FISC judge with a factual basis upon which to assess the case for granting a FISA order.

Since we know the person who is supposed to have been behind the Carter Page FISA application, it seems reasonable to inquire: just how reliable was Christopher Steele? After all, if verification of the dossier was still "in its infancy"--i.e., it basically hadn't been verified at all--at the time the FISA application was submitted to the FISC, according to the FBI's top Counterintelligence official, Bill Priestap, then it would follow that the reliability of the material presented in the application would stand or fall with the reliability of the source. So, what does the FBI say in the application about Steele's reliability as a source?

Friday, August 10, 2018

Rudy's Shot Across Mueller's Bow

On Monday, 8/5/17, during an appearance on the Sean Hannity Show, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes put the world on notice to pay close attention to disgraced Department of Justice attorney Bruce Ohr, formerly the #4 in the DoJ chain of command, reporting to Sally Yates: “Bruce Ohr is going to become more and more important in this investigation ..." Since then, thanks to the reporting of John Solomon, Byron York, and Sara Carter, we've had a glimpse of a few emails in an extensive e-correspondence between Ohr and the British ex-spook and "dossier" author, Christopher Steele. Included in those emails are tantalizing references to telephone calls and face to face meetings, the contents of which we can only guess at.

Now, President Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, in an appearance on the Sean Hannity Show, has fired a clear warning shot across the bow of Special Prosecutor (SC) Robert Mueller. Giuliani warned that Mueller's case against the President

"isn’t going to fizzle. It's going to blow up on them. ... there's a lot more to what they [the Mueller team] did that nobody knows about yet. A lot more to the obstruction of justice, to the collusion, to the fake dossier." And Giuliani added: "... when this plays out over the next year or two, it's not going to be about President Trump. ... It’s going to be about all the things they [the Mueller team] did." ... It’s a different kind of Watergate. It’s on the side of the investigator."

With Paul Sperry stating that President Trump is about to begin declassifying some key documents, we may soon have a better picture of what's been going on in the Mueller "probe." But we may already be getting a preview, based on the handful of Steele/Ohr emails that we've already seen. Let's focus on some of those emails beginning immediately before the appointment of Mueller as Special Counsel, on 5/17/17. (In what follows, I've preserved the original spelling and punctuation as they appear in the emails.)

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

What The Carter Page Case Tells Us About The Flaws In FISA

Since the release this past Saturday of the (highly redacted) FISA application that targeted Carter Page, with the subsequent three renewal applications, there has been no lack of analysis of the unredacted details (Mark Penn's analysis is, for my money, one of the most cogent). In what follows I intend to take more of a "big picture" approach, as well as focusing on issues that haven't received a great deal of attention but may in the future.

One aspect of the application that came as no surprise to all who have followed this FISAGATE affair is that the role of the "dossier"--the collaborative effort produced by the British ex-spook Christopher Steele, Fusion GPS (Glenn Simpson, Nellie Ohr, and possibly others), and the Hillary campaign--is everywhere apparent. While the central role of the dossier comes as no surprise--after all, Andrew McCabe, the FBI's disgraced former Deputy Director and (during the Comey - Wray interregnum) Acting Director testified to the House that the dossier was "crucial" to the FISA--the overall audacity exhibited in the application is breathtaking.

The dossier itself is in the nature of a Big Lie--sensational, lacking in documented sourcing, utterly unverified and unverifiable. To present the contents of such a document (really a collection of memos) to any court as fact is audacious enough in itself. However, the authors of the application took two remarkable steps to support the Big Lie of the dossier.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Who's Afraid of Lisa Page?

In his testimony before the House, embattled former FBI Counterintelligence official Peter Strzok maintained that, contrary to all logical inference, any statements in text messages between himself and FBI attorney Lisa Page that appeared to exhibit bias against Donald Trump could never have affected his investigative actions. However, John Solomon, in his brilliant article (One FBI text message in Russia probe that should alarm every American), has shown that Strzok's texts actually demonstrate FBI bias at the very inception of the Special Counsel investigation. In a series of texts dated 5/19/17 (two days after Robert Mueller was appointed Special Counsel) Strzok stated to Page: "you and I both know ... there's no big there there." Page, in testimony to the House that followed on that of Strzok, has confirmed that the sense of this text referred to the allegations of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. In fact, the texts show that Strzok explicitly viewed the Special Counsel investigation not as an investigation into criminal wrongdoing--as required by the Special Counsel statute--but as "an investigation leading to impeachment." In other words, he viewed the Mueller "probe" as an essentially political use of the Special Counsel statute to rid the Washington establishment of a president they didn't want. A goal he was heartily in favor of. This abuse of the Special Counsel statute constitutes, as Solomon points out, "political bias in action."

Tuesday, June 26, 2018


Visitors interested in reading about aspects of the Russia Collusion Narrative are advised that such posts can be accessed through the archives for June, May, and February of 2018--see "Blog Archive" in the right hand column.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Is It Time To Rethink Some Things?

The Obamagate "community" is buzzing this morning over newly unredacted Strzok/Page texts that have been made public through the Senate. One of the texts features Strzok asking

"Did you get all our OCONUS lures approved?"

In the original public release "lures" was redacted. It has now been unredacted.

Translation: "OCONUS" = Outside the Continental US; "lures" = sting op, trap.

So, this means that Strzok was seeking authorization for informants of one sort or another--or possibly undercover (UC) agents--to approach a target OCONUS.

Now here's the kicker: this text was from 12/31/15! The FBI was already targeting someone close to Trump way back then! Since this is months before Papadopoulos and Page got near the Trump campaign, the betting is that it was Michael Flynn they were targeting. Which makes sense, because we know that the Obama Administration had it in for Flynn from his days with Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), when he wrote a paper blaming the US for the rise of ISIS.

Once again, the question arises: Was there a case opened on Flynn at that time, to provide an administrative basis for these types of investigative techniques? What kind of an investigation was this: Assessment, Preliminary Investigation, Full Investigation? Could there have been a FISA on Flynn at any time? Does this speculation have any bearing on what we know about Sally Yates and the framing of Flynn in January, 2017:

On January 27, 2017, at Mr. McGahn’s request, Ms. Yates and Mr. McGahn had another meeting. Importantly, DOJ leadership declined to confirm to the White House that Lt. Gen. Flynn was under any type of investigation. According to Mr. McGahn’s memo:
During the meeting, McGahn sought clarification regarding Yates’s prior statements regarding Flynn’s contact with Ambassador Kislyak. Among the issues discussed was whether dismissal of Flynn by the President would compromise any ongoing investigations. Yates was unwilling to confirm or deny that there was an ongoing investigation but did indicate that the DOJ would not object to the White House taking action against Flynn. (Emphasis added.) (NYT, 6/2/18)

This makes sense. DoJ and the FBI would be very reluctant, seven days after President Trump had been inaugurated, to let Trump know that they'd been investigating Flynn for up to two years (or longer!) without warning him that there was a problem. Just as James Comey and Loretta Lynch later decided not to alert to supposedly problematic Russian connections among his Foreign Policy advisers--but to continue investigating.

You have to assume that IG Horowitz knows the answers to some of my questions.

ADDENDUM: And now we learn that Another Trump Campaign Aide Was Invited to Cambridge Event Where 'Spygate' Started. That was Stephen Miller, who wasn't just "another campaign aide"--he was a key campaign aide. Was one of the "lures" directed at Miller?

MORE: Regarding the "OCONUS lures," in an appearance on Laura Ingraham's show yesterday former Ass't Director of Counterintelligence for the FBI, Kevin Brock stated:

"If the FBI opened a Source or tasked a Source to gather information particulary from a US person, before opening a formal investigation, then that would be a violation of the guidelines."

That's a true statement, but it seems highly unlikely that the plotters at the FBI were wildly disregarding all guidelines. I'm convinced that they would have gone to great lengths to maintain the appearance that they were following "the book" (per President Obama's admonition as memorialized in Susan Rice's email-to-self). The very high degree of likelihood that the FBI had AT LEAST one case open that related to the Trump campaign as early as this text (December, 2015) is apparent from the fact that Strzok's text speaks of seeking approval for the "lures" and Page's response text reads:

"No, it's just implicated a much bigger policy issue ..."

Seeking of approval from higher ups, raising of multiple policy issues--it all speaks to following the rules that apply only when a case has been opened. If no case had been opened, then there would be no point in seeking approval for anything.

Monday, June 4, 2018

A Guide To Spygate, Informants, FISA

What follows is a reworked version of So, What's A "Threat To National Security"? which contains a difference in emphasis.

Kim Strassel raised an interesting question, Friday, in her regular weekly column--The Curious Case of Mr. Downer: His story about the Papadopoulos meeting calls the FBI’s into question. Alexander Downer was the Australian ambassador to the UK in 2016. As the title indicates, Strassel finds the FBI's claim that their probe of the Trump campaign was based on Downer's contact with George Papadopoulos to be ... less than credible. Strassel concludes by raising some very pointed questions:

For months we’ve been told the FBI acted because it was alarmed that Mr. Papadopoulos knew about those hacked Democratic emails in May, before they became public in June. But according to the tipster himself, Mr. Papadopoulos said nothing about emails. The FBI instead received a report that a far-removed campaign adviser, over drinks, said the Russians had something that might be “damaging” to Hillary. Did this vague statement justify a counterintelligence probe into a presidential campaign, featuring a spy and secret surveillance warrants?

Unlikely. Which leads us back to what did inspire the FBI to act, and when? The Papadopoulos pretext is getting thinner.

Indeed--since when does ​"something that might be 'damaging' to Hillary ... justify a counterintelligence probe into a presidential campaign, featuring a spy and secret surveillance warrants?"

The fact is, there is an answer to Strassel's question, and I think we'll find--in fact, recent talking points floated by James Clapper and others point in this direction--that the justification will rely on provisions of the Attorney General Guidelines. To understand ​and evaluate ​this​ defense​, however, and to avoid the pitfalls of speculating with a firm grasp of the controlling guidelines and statutes, we'll need to explore the nature of FBI investigations, because the type of investigation controls, to some extent, the type of investigative techniques that are authorized. All this is set out in detail in the Attorney General Guidelines For Domestic FBI Operations (AGG) and the FBI Domestic Investigations And Operations Guide (DIOG).

Basically, there are three types of FBI investigations that involve opening a​n investigative​ case file: 1) Assessments, 2) Preliminary Investigations, and 3) Full Investigations. The latter two are grouped as "Predicated Investigations" because, unlike in the case of an Assessent, an agent will need to present some degree of factual predication before he can open one of these types of investigation. The type of investigation that is opened will depend upon the factual situation, and if additional facts are developed in the course of the investigation the type of investigation may be upgraded.

As far as investigative techniques go, the Assessment ​serves as a baseline--any technique that can be used in an Assessment can ​also ​be used in a Preliminary or Full ​I​nvestigation. For our purposes, the important point is that the use of existing informants (Confidential Human Sources/CHS) or the recruitment of new informants is authorized for ALL three types of investigations. There has been some confusion recently regarding the use of informants before a "formal" case has been opened. The confusion arises because Assessments are sometimes confused with​ the​ informal initial checking of investigative leads conducted to determine whether or not to open an investigative case file. That type of informal checking can only be conducted using public information, not through the use of informants.

Friday, June 1, 2018

So, What's A "Threat To National Security"?

Kim Strassel raised an interesting question in her column today--The Curious Case of Mr. Downer: His story about the Papadopoulos meeting calls the FBI’s into question. As the title indicates, Strassel finds the FBI's claim that their probe of the Trump campaign was based on Downer's contact with George Papadopoulos to be ... less than credible. And she closes with these observations:

For months we’ve been told the FBI acted because it was alarmed that Mr. Papadopoulos knew about those hacked Democratic emails in May, before they became public in June. But according to the tipster himself, Mr. Papadopoulos said nothing about emails. The FBI instead received a report that a far-removed campaign adviser, over drinks, said the Russians had something that might be “damaging” to Hillary. Did this vague statement justify a counterintelligence probe into a presidential campaign, featuring a spy and secret surveillance warrants?
Unlikely. Which leads us back to what did inspire the FBI to act, and when? The Papadopoulos pretext is getting thinner.

Indeed--since when does ​"something that might be 'damaging' to Hillary ... justify a counterintelligence probe into a presidential campaign, featuring a spy and secret surveillance warrants?"

As I wrote in an email this morning, I think we'll find--in fact, recent talking points floated by James Clapper and others point in this direction--that the justification for launching a counterintelligence investigation into a presidential campaign on the basis of "something damaging to Hillary" will rely on provisions of the Attorney General Guidelines. Bear with me for a moment, because this will lead back to Strassel's question.

Those AG Guidelines, which govern FBI investigations, allow the FBI to open a "predicated investigation" in the following circumstance:

"A predicated investigation relating to a federal crime or threat to the national security may be conducted as a preliminary investigation or a full investigation."

The Guidelines then expand a bit on the distinction between Preliminary and Full Investigations, but for our purposes the important distinction is simply that FISA coverage is available for Full Investigations, but not for Preliminary Investigations.

If you accept the argument that a presidential campaign that seeks "dirt" on its opponent from a hostile foreign power (Russia) is engaged in conduct that arguably constitutes activity that is a "threat to the national security," and if you further accept that the FBI's claims regarding the credibility of its Papadopoulos narrative, then you'll likely agree with Trey Gowdy's notion that the FBI was acting quite properly. Or, to be very specific, you'll likely agree that a Preliminary Investigation was warranted, since the Guidelines allow for a Preliminary Investigation to be "initiated on the basis of information or an allegation" of a "threat to the national security." "Information or an allegation" is a fairly low bar.

Virtually all commentary that I've read focuses on the initiation of an FBI Full Investigation on July 31, 2016. Commentators who have constructed timelines of events--an excellent idea, in and of itself--then argue that the use of informants or "spies" against the Trump campaign prior to July 31, 2016--for which there is considerable evidence--violated the AG Guidelines.

While it's possible that the FBI willfully violated the Guidelines it seems unlikely--bureaucracies don't often operate in such a reckless fashion. Moreover, this view ignores an important possibility, namely, that before the Full Investigation was initiated (July 31, 2016) there may have been a Preliminary Investigation. This approach--use of a Preliminary Investigation as a prior stage before going for a Full Investigation--fits better with the usual careful bureaucratic approach. It also, intriguingly, dovetails with President Obama's reported admonition to "do it by the book" (see below).

Sunday, May 20, 2018

UPDATED: Crossfire Hurricane: The How and Why

We're getting to the point in Obamagate where it's possible to begin to gather some of the disparate threads together. Yes, there's still plenty to uncover, but a lot of the picture is slowly emerging--and the process is gathering momentum as the Deep State begins to switch over to damage control mode. That aspect has become apparent with the revelation of Stefan Halper as a key operative for the FBI, the revelation of the codename for the FBI Full Investigation as "Crossfire Hurricane," and the floating of the desperately absurd new narrative: We weren't spying on Trump--we wanted to protect him!

To understand what Crossfire Hurricane was all about, it helps to begin with the realization that it was not the FBI's first choice--in the big picture it amounts to a fall back option that was more or less forced on the FBI by circumstances beyond their control.

Make no mistake about it--the FBI was all in with the effort to enable a Democrat presidential handoff from Obama to Clinton. In modern political campaigns, intelligence and data in digital form is essential to success, and that's where the FBI came in. Running informants, such as Halper, against the GOP wasn't going to guarantee a Clinton victory--not in and of itself. However, access to bulk amounts of sensitive inside data could play a significant role. And the FBI had that access, in the form of access to raw NSA data, which means just about all digital communications in the world. Remember Nellie Ohr? The former CIA contractor and former employee of Fusion GPS? She became a ham radio operator during the 2016 campaign, so I guess she understood what it takes to fly under the Deep State radar.

Now, the FBI wasn't about to do something totally stupid, like mine the NSA for data and ship boatloads of it over to the DNC or some other intermediary to the Clinton campaign. Not as an institution. No, the smart way to do this would be to hire non-government contractors--we'll call them Fusion GPS and Crowdstrike--to provide the FBI with "analytical assistance." As if the FBI didn't have an army of analysts already. And then give these contractors total access to NSA data without telling NSA, who would have thought that only FBI employees were combing through their data. You can read the gory details in Jeff Carlson's excellent article: The FBI’s Outside Contractors, DNC Servers & Crowdstrike.

The beauty of this approach was that it totally bypassed legal controls. There was no need to falsify things in writing, no need to make stuff up to open a Full (Counterintelligence) Investigation (FI) on a US Person (USPER), and then lie to the FISC to get FISA coverage on the USPER. No need to have to regularly renew the FISA and lie all over again to the FISC each time. Of course, it wasn't as if the FISC was doing much besides rubber stamping FISA applications but, hey, who needs the bother? And besides, better safe than sorry. Because, in the unlikely event that the FBI would be questioned about this arrangement, they could just play dumb: Gosh, we didn't know the contractors were looking at all that stuff! How do you prove criminal intent?

So this cute arrangement was humming along, working like a charm. For how long? That's hard to say, but we know that it was in operation no later than December of 2015. And the way that came to light was that in the Spring of 2016 the unlikely event actually occurred: Admiral Mike Rogers, head of NSA, learned of irregularities in FBI accessing of NSA data and did an audit of the activity. That audit covered the period beginning from December 2015, and it discovered that fully 85% of the queries failed to comply with what are called "minimization procedures" (procedures designed to shield the identities of persons who fell within certain criteria--like, USPERs who had no connection to intelligence or terrorist activities). Then, as if Rogers learning about this weren't bad enough, Rogers went and blew a whistle--to the FISC itself--and put a stop to it all. That was in April, 2016, just as it was becoming obvious that Trump was going to be the GOP candidate for President.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Antonio Livi: There Is A Disturbing Continuity Between Ratzinger And Bergoglio

In January, 2018, I wrote a series of posts on the theme of the philosophical continuity between Ratzinger and Bergoglio, beginning with a translation of a review essay by Professor Antonio Livi. Livi is a former dean and professor of philosophy at the Lateran University in Rome, and was formerly incardinated in Opus Dei. The title of that essay, "Heresy is in Power," expresses a continuing theme in Livi's commentary on the current crisis in the Church. That essay lays much of the blame for the hegemony of Modernist thought in the Church at the feet of Ratzinger, and of Ratzinger's own philosophical errors.

Today Gloria TV published a transcript of a recent interview with Livi in which Livi stated that Bergoglio "was elected to carry out a reform [of the Church] in the Lutheran sense”.  He also flatly stated that:

Francis’ election was a big set-up which will eventually lead to the recognition of Luther and to the creation of a Mass without consecration. According to Livi this revolution was already planned in the early sixties. The last fifty years were marked by the activity of “evil and heretical” theologians in order to conquer power. “Now they have conquered it.”

I also wrote a pair of posts on this same theme--the continuity between Ratzinger and Bergoglio--in March, 2018, stemming from the controversy over Ratzinger's letter that offered a theological endorsement of Bergoglio:

Bergoglio's LetterGate--Continuity and Discontinuity
A Case Study On Continuity Between Ratzinger and Bergoglio: The Spirit And "Living Tradition"

What follows is a brief interview with Livi that appeared in Italian, and which I've translated. In the interview he touches on the same theme of continuity described above, in an enlightening way--including a brief reference to the resistance that otherwise intelligent and honorable people raise to what is "an undeniable theological fact". I will simply add, with regard to Livi's claim that "Today they [Modernists] are in charge of practically all the Vatican dicasteries ", that assuming that Livi is correct in his assessment of Ratzinger's thought--and he is--then this should come as no surprise. Most of the episcopal heroes of the Neo-Catholics of the V2 Church--men such Chaput, Burke, and Pell, have long proclaimed their adherence to Ratzinger's way of thinking. The simple fact is that Wojtyła and Ratzinger largely paved the way for Bergoglio and his German masters.

Monsignor Livi: "In the Church, heresy is in power and ignorance has been canonized"

For the fifth anniversary of the pontificate of Pope Francis, Monsignor Dario Edoardo Viganò, responsible for Vatican communication and Vatican News, revealed a letter from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI addressed to Pope Francis. We interviewed Monsignor Antonio Livi on this matter.
Professor Livi, does this endorsement [of Francis] by the Pope Emeritus surprise you?
"No. In the end, his letter, even if it does not touch doctrinal issues, proves that I've been right in always maintaining that there is a disturbing continuity between Ratzinger and Bergoglio in the way of exercising the ecclesiastical magisterium. Many (and among them a very esteemed friend, Antonio Socci) do not want to admit it. But from a theological point of view it's an undeniable fact, even if this observation does not imply a critique of Benedict XVI from the point of view of personal sanctity ".
"Because even previous Popes, including those who are already canonized (like John XXIII and John Paul II) or will soon be (like Paul VI), have not prevented the growing [progressiva] hegemony of neo-modernist theology in the Church. I am presenting a very significant book throughout Italy: "A bishop writes to the Holy See on the pastoral dangers of dogmatic relativism" (Leonardo da Vinci, Rome 2017) [The letters are selected and annotated by Livi.]. These are the letters that Monsignor Mario Oliveri, when he was bishop of Albenga, wrote to Pope John Paul II and to Benedict XVI to implore them to curb the invasion of neomodernistic ideas and praxis in the Church: but bishop Oliveri received no positive response from these Popes. The result is (as I always repeat) that today we have "heresy in power" in the ecclesiastical structures for teaching theology and pastoral government. I'm not surprised by this statement by Ratzinger about the common doctrinal criterion that inspired his pontificate yesterday and today inspires the pontificate of Pope Francis: because Bergoglio and Ratzinger present two faces of the same coin. The German is the cultured and professorial Pastor, the Argentine the populist and demagogue, in search of consensus with the exponents of secular culture ".
Why do you say these things about Ratzinger?
"I know him well, I respect him and venerate him as a man of God. When I had him read (in 2012) the first edition of my treatise on "True and false theology ", he replied in writing praising my work. But he certainly did not share my severe judgment on the false pro-Lutheran Catholic theology, which is opposed to the immutability of dogma and its metaphysical conceptualization, and was accepted by the ecclesiastical magisterium on the basis of Thomist theology and the scholastic tradition. Ratzinger the theologian prefers personalist, existential and dialectical theology: after all, he belongs to the theological progressivism of his friend Karl Rahner. As Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Ratzinger often let heresy slide, or at least tolerated it. Maybe it also depends on his delicacy of mind and his meekness. However, it isn't possible to be good theologians and above all good pastors if you don't protect dogma from heresy (and the worst heresy is to say that faith does not need dogmas). He, Ratzinger, is inclined to the relativistic, historicist (according to the hermeneutical school) interpretation of absolute fidelity to dogma ".
He probably wrote those things in defense of the unity of the Church, sensing the danger of a schism ...
"I don't believe it. A substantial schism is already underway. If he really believed in dogma and intended to free the Church from heresy, he did not have to resign or could subsequently disapprove the theses of Pope Francis. I have the feeling that it's skillful role playing. Francis is the demagogue, Ratzinger the cautious one ".
And the Church?
"It's in trouble. It's a result of the seizure of power by modernist theologians, first under the pontificate of John XXIII and later with Vatican II. Today they are in charge of practically all the Vatican dicasteries ".
On TV and in most of the media, to commemorate the five years of the pontificate of Francis, no critical voices were heard or at least they were not asked ...
"It shows that heresy is in power. And we have also canonized ignorance ".

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Be Careful What You Read at "The Catholic Thing"--It May Not Be Catholic

Today the editors at the well known site The Catholic Thing

Editor in Chief: Robert Royal
Senior Editor: Brad Miner 
Managing Editor: Hannah Russo
Associate Managing Editor: Emily Rowles 
Contributing Editors: Rev. James V. Schall, S.J., Mary Eberstadt, Hadley Arkes, George J. Marlin, Rev. Gerald E. Murray, Ralph McInerny (RIP), Michael Novak (RIP), Anthony Esolen, David Warren, Howard Kainz, Rev. C.J. McCloskey, Randall Smith, Rev. Bevil Bramwell, O.M.I.

saw fit to publish an article by Fr. Robert P. Imbelli, Eucharist and New Creation. Who is Imbelli?

Following his graduation from Yale, Imbelli continued his teaching at St. Joseph's Seminary as a professor of systematic theology.[1] Leaving St. Joseph's, Imbelli continued his teaching at the Maryknoll School of Theology. Finally in 1986, he was given a leadership position as Director of the Institute of Religious Education and Pastoral Ministry at Boston College. In 1993, he stepped down from this position and has remained an associate professor of theology.
In addition to teaching, Imbelli has been a prolific contributor to journals and magazines like Commonweal, America and L'Osservatore Romano. He also edited and contributed to a book, Handing on the Faith: the Church's Mission and Challenge, in 2006.[1] In addition to his frequent articles, he maintains an almost daily updated blog on Commonweal.
Imbelli is also the author of Rekindling the Christic Imagination: Theological Meditations for the New Evangelization.

The reference to "the Christic Imagination" is a dead giveaway that we're dealing here with a Teilhardian. "The Christic" is the title of an article that Teilhard de Chardin wrote near the end of his life. If you take a glance at it you'll get a flavor for Teilhard's Gnostic, non-Christian, cosmogony. In it you'll find such gems as:

It is Christ, in very truth, who saves,
— but should we not immediately add that at the same time it is Christ who is saved by

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Is Cardinal Dolan Signalling a Sea Change in the American Catholic Church?

Last Thursday Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York penned an essay in the WSJ. The title of the essay, and it's subtitle, tells you pretty much all you need to know if you don't subscribe: The Democrats Abandon Catholics: If you value religious education or life’s sanctity, you’re not welcome in the party.

This is a far more political statement, in an overtly partisan way, than we're used to seeing from the US Catholic bishops. It also has broader implications for the Church generally and for politics generally, so what's going on here?

For starters it's helpful to ask: Who would have been pleased by this essay, and who would have been, well, let's say, displeased?

Let's see--displeased? The Democrat Party--that's a no brainer. They just lost a presidential election because they lost the heavily Catholic Reagan Democrats in the Midwest. This won't help--not in 2018, not in 2020.

How about the Bergoglio Vatican? Displeased? You'd better believe it. It's a given that Bergoglio personally has no use for the USA, and all you have to do to remind yourself just how virulent that dislike is, is reprise the article by Antonio Spadaro, the Jesuit editor of La Civiltà Cattolica, a journal that is reported to be personally vetted by Bergoglio himself. The article is titled Evangelical Fundamentalism and Catholic Integralism: A Surprising Ecumenism, and you can find an analysis of it by Sam Gregg here. The long and the short of it is that Spadaro--and presumably Bergoglio--are disturbed by the ecumenical cooperation between Catholics and Evangelicals. Why? Because they fear the rise of a "theocracy." Here's how Gregg puts it:

Friday, March 23, 2018

A Case Study On Continuity Between Ratzinger and Bergoglio: The Spirit And "Living Tradition"

Back on March 17, 2018, Fr Hunwicke pointed out in his blog post Heureka! Heureka! that

"The first and fontal dogma there attributed [in Wikipedia] to 'Modern Church' [i.e., Modernism] is ... lo and behold ... the prime distinctive dogma of Bergoglianism:

What Fr Hunwicke is referring to is Bergoglio's constant contention that the Holy Spirit is speaking to him and that he is only doing what the Spirit bids him to do. The "God of surprises" communicates His surprises to Bergoglio through the Spirit. And we all know that whoever sins against the Spirit commits the unforegiveable sin. (Mark 3:28-29)

Fr Hunwicke appeared to believe that this notion, that revelation has not come to an end--which I refer to as "continuing revelation"--is a dogma that is distinctive of "Bergoglianism." In the comments I sought to rectify that misconception. It certainly is a distinctive mark of Bergoglianism, but it's just as certainly not unique to Bergoglianism. What, to me, makes this question a matter of some topical interest is that within a few days of Fr Hunwicke's post the whole question of an "inner continuity" between the pontificates of Ratzinger and Bergoglio took on added significance due to the famous letter of Ratzinger. In the letter Ratzinger responded to what amounted to a request that he endorse Bergoglio's ideas, as described in "eleven small volumes" by a variety of pro-Bergoglio theologians. I wrote about that controversy in Bergoglio's LetterGate--Continuity and Discontinuity, my central contention being that Ratzinger was quite correct in pointing out the "inner continuity" between his pontificate and that of Bergoglio. This fact of substantial theological agreement is, of course, exactly what Ratzinger cultists are in a complete state of denial about. To admit it would bring their entire worldview crashing down on their heads.

At any rate, wishing to bring some clarity to the matter, I commented on Fr Hunwicke's blog:

But, speaking of "continuing revelation," that, of course, is a position that Ratzinger was accused of holding as far back as his seminary days and right through his Dei Verbum days up to the present. A point of "inner continuity" with Bergoglio? [Dei Verbum, the Word of God, is the Dogmatic Constitution on Revelation, at Vatican II.]

Sunday, March 18, 2018

UPDATED: Bergoglio's LetterGate--Continuity and Discontinuity

For the past week the world of the Vatican II Church, and especially that corner of it occupied by Ratzinger/Benedict cultists, has been consumed with the Ratzinger letter fiasco. Let's get the obvious out of the way right up front: the affair was a tawdry attempt by Bergoglio to trade on the continued popularity of Ratzinger among "conservative" Vatican II adherents, who place their hopes for the Church on Ratzinger's "hermeneutic of continuity." The clear intent was to influence those who invoke Ratzinger to justify their opposition to Bergoglio to drop their opposition. The Bergoglian scheme backfired in spectacular fashion amid an explosion of conspiratorial speculation, most of it suggesting that by use of secret decoder rings or other devices the letter can be seen to diss Francis' thought and his policy. (For thorough coverage of the controversy, a good source is Sandro Magister's blog.)

There is both more and less than meets the eye in most of this speculation. The implicit assumption behind most of it is that Ratzinger engaged in some sort of preturnaturally clever passive-aggressive ploy against Bergoglio and his communications team. The truth is that Ratzinger's letter is clearly carefully written, carefully worded, and therefore should be taken at face value. It is polite and fair as well as honest throughout. The reason this assessment is so widely resisted is obvious: those who blame all the Church's troubles on Bergoglio will resort to virtually any rationalization to avoid accepting that Ratzinger really is in fundamental "philosophical and theological" agreement with Bergoglio--that the two pontificates share an "inner continuity"--as the letter affirms. To admit this continuity would be to expose the whole Ratzinger-as-bulwark-of-orthodoxy construct as a baseless fantasy. And yet, when this continuity is accepted, the observer is free to consider the rest of the letter with an open mind, and the benefit of doing so is that the letter also gives a clear hint in the direction of the discontinuity that actually does exist between the two pontificates. This understanding will open broad vistas on the mortal danger facing the Church.

Monday, March 5, 2018

UPDATED: A Colloquy with Fr Hunwicke on Typology--And Much Else

Fr John Hunwicke, the erudite liturgical scholar, recently published a blog post in which he took up the cudgels in defense of the traditional typological form of exegesis: The Liturgy of the Hours, friday week 2; eviscerated! He even went so far as to maintain that typological exegesis is the only defense against problematic passages in the Psalms:

The reason why it is so questionabe to expurgate a psalm in the way that LH does is: expurgation still leaves words like "There is no crime or sin in me, O Lord", and leaves them decontextualised . If such things are said simplistically, they can only foster a very dangerous sense of of complacency and self-righteousness. ...
I am not one who believes that every psalm needs to be read in the Divine Office. History gives imperfect support for such an integralist approach to the Book of Psalms and their use in Christian worship. ...
Lastly, I draw your attention to the root of the problem: the loss in the Western Church of the Typological Method which was the heart of scriptural exegesis in both the Patristic and Medieval periods and in both East and West. When people discuss the authority and inerrancy of Scripture, dicussion often seems nowadays to be mired in reductionist considerations ... Of course vast swathes of Scripture provide enormous difficulties ... are in fact not so much unusable as potentially positively poisonous ... IF we do not trace out the richly complex patterns of intertextuality which formed the basis of their apprehension by Christians before the dark shadow of the 'Enlightenment' fell upon the study of Scripture. The Bible is, indeed, highly dangerous if we do not use it in the Tradition. Reducing Scriptural semiotics to the naked Historicism of the 'Enlightenment' is to hand the Bible over to the Devil.

I offered the following comment:

I"m unaware of Jesus ever tracing out "the richly complex patterns of intertextuality" when explaining Scripture or teaching. Some might say, how about when he "opened" the Scriptures to the disciples on the road to Emmaus? but unfortunately neither this nor any other example of Dominical "tracing out" was actually preserved by the disciples. What was preserved was examples of remarkably modern, if you will, exegesis. For example, when Jesus offered his teaching on divorce he stated that Moses--Moses, be it noted, not God in the revealed Word of God as we V2ers are wont to incessantly repeat--allowed divorce out of the hardness of their hearts. If we take that approach seriously, and of course we should, I suspect that Jesus didn't have much time for typology, any more than he had for the "traditions of men."
Typological exegesis is fundamentally subjective in nature, and basing it on the tradition of men doesn't alter that fact. I suggest that what the Church really needs is to free itself from the false either-or dichotomy of Typology v. Enlightenment style rationalism. To paraphrase Paul, if our faith is based on "richly complex patterns of intertextuality" then ...

Thursday, March 1, 2018

REUPDATED: Mueller's Emerging Strategy?

​It appears we're starting to see a pattern emerging from recent reports of Mueller's activity--a pattern that may amount to a strategy. Recall that on February 16, 2018, Mueller indicted 13 Russians for attempting to create confusion during the 2016 Presidential election. Of course, there are other credible theories, such as that the laughable activities of these Russians amounted to no more than attempts to make a bit of money off gullible intenet users. Certainly, as Andy McCarthy pointed out,
"Mueller’s team made it clear that the Russians neither colluded with any U.S. citizens nor had any material effect on the election’s outcome." 
Further, the 13 Russians are all in in Russia​ and will therefore never stand trial--which means Mueller will never have to prove the dodgy charges in the indictment.

Now, according to NBC News via Gateway Pundit, Mueller is said to be preparing indictments against more absentee Russians--more risk free indictments that he'll never be called upon to back up. This time the claim will be that these Russians were responsible for the famous DNC hack. That would be the famous DNC hack in which the DNC refused to allow the FBI to examine their server: DNC Refused FBI Access to Its Servers … Instead Gave Access to a DNC Consultant Tied to Organization Promoting Russia Conflict. Once again there are alternative explanations, such as that the "hack" was done by an insider--perhaps a Sanders sympathizer--simply by downloading the data onto a thumb drive.

Of course none of that has been proven, tantalizing as some theories may be. But has Mueller and his Gang had access to the DNC server, the better to bolster their indictment and rebut alternative explanations? As of December 17, 2017, Andy McCarthy believes the answer to that is: No. And as McCarthy asks: "... if not, what’s the point of his investigation?" Good question. Maybe the point is more political than anything else.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

UPDATED: What's The Reality Of How The Fisa Process Normally Works?

In my various blogs on this subject I've been highly critical of the FISA Court's handling of the Carter Page FISA application--and rightly so, as I continue to believe. Therefore, the brief part of the linked blog that particularly caught my eye was this paragraph:

Mr. DOJ stated that he prepared and presented FISA applications to the FISA Court. The reason that the rate of applications approved is so high is because the standards are so high with the court. Mr. DOJ knows that applications have to be well written and cover all the bases before being provided to the court. He reviewed applications for a time and was responsible for reviewing them. They had to be perfect when they went to the court. When the FISA applications were sent to the FISA Court to spy on President Trump, the fact that any information was omitted or hidden from the court, was a criminal act.

I have no desire to defend criminal conduct, and that's exactly what I've seen in this outrageous affair all along. With that said, however, I will state that "Mr. DoJ's" characterization of the way FISA applications were treated comports exactly with my own experience. We were always told that we simply couldn't afford to have less than the absolute highest standards of integrity when it came to the preparation of FISA applications. If any doubt in that regard were ever allowed to enter the minds of the FISC judges the results could be disastrous for the effective conduct of our investigations. This was drummed into us whenever the subject of FISA came up.

So, that being the case, a serious question is presented. Was the FISC lulled into a false sense of trust in the integrity of FBI/DoJ representations to the court in their FISA applications precisely because of an excellent track record--because the applications had virtually always lived up to the representations made in them? Did the four judges who handled the original Page application and its renewals perhaps put too much weight on whatever assurances were made to them? As I stated in a comment in the previous thread, we may never know the answer to that question:

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Rivkin & Casey on the Threat of FISA Abuses

Over the years I have enjoyed reading and--I like to think--have learned a good deal from the articles by David B. Rivkin Jr. and  Lee A. Casey, which appear regularly on the Op-Ed pages of the WSJ. So it was with disappointment that I read their brief article today: FISA Abuses Are a Special Threat to Privacy and Due Process: The standard for obtaining an intelligence surveillance warrant is lower than that in a criminal investigation.

Rivkin and Casey are unquestionably correct that FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) abuse poses a special threat to privacy and due process--the privacy aspect has become all the more chilling as the extent to which we live our lives in ways that are readily accessible by electronic means of surveillance has increased exponentially. Consider: when FISA was first passed into law, there were no cell phones, no internet. As we are now learning, however, an even greater threat perhaps is posed by the weaponisation of the Executive Branch departments and their agencies against their political opponents and critics, using the facilities made available through FISA. Much of this new awareness has focused on the FISA warrant that was obtained by the FBI to target Carter Page, a low level adviser to the Trump Campaign for a few months in 2016. The concern, beyond the targeting of Mr. Page, is that the FISA warrant was then leveraged to broadly target virtually anyone who had been in contact with Mr. Page.

As is apparent from the title, Rivkin and Casey lay much of the blame for the abuse in this case on the legal standard for obtaining a FISA warrant. I say "much of the blame" because they also blame, and rightly so, the officials of the Executive Branch (DoJ and FBI) who withheld critical information from the FISA Court (FISC). Both of these contentions are, however, misguided: the first in whole and the second in significant part.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

The Schiff Memo and the Scandal of FISAGATE

The Schiff memo is out, and as could have been expected it's a complete joke from a strictly legal standpoint.

It's first point is that the Steele "dossier" wasn't the catalyst for the FBI counterintelligence (CI) investigation of--in effect--the Trump campaign. Well, duh! I think all sentient humans already knew that the real catalyst was Trump becoming the odds on favorite to win the Republican nomination. Can we agree to agree on that?

But as regards this business of the FISA warrant against Carter Page there's more to be said, and it's worth our while to take a closer look at Schiff's attempt to defend the way the FISA process worked in this case.

Schiff begins his discussion of the actual application for a FISA warrant on Page with a fib: "DOJ's warrant request was based on compelling evidence and probable cause to believe Page was knowingly assisting clandestine Russian intelligence activities in the US." Close, but no cigar.

The "FISA recipe" used by the FBI for internal training is rather more specific about the required showing for a warrant; its requirement goes beyond that of simply "assisting." The "recipe" states (p. 3) that "the efforts undertaken by the target [Page] on behalf of the foreign power [Russia] constitute [for our CI purposes] ... clandestine intelligence activities." That's very specific probable cause. Pages own efforts must constitute clandestine intelligence activities. Not just assist, but constitute.

Well, then, accepting for the sake of argument that Schiff may have misspoken, what does he have to tell us on that score?