Sunday, May 17, 2020

UPDATED: Follow-Up Re Minimization--And The Flynn Case

The value of commenters to this blog was on display earlier today on the Minimization, Tech Cuts, Unmasking--A Guide post. First, commenter EZ pushed me a bit on my explanations, leading to some valuable exchanges. Then commenter Brad Crawford pointed me to Stephen McIntyre's discussion of my earlier post (a discussion that Brad had spurred). McIntyre dug up a quote from disgraced FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe's book (no, I don't link that stuff) that provides light on this whole business of minimization under FISA but especially sheds considerable light on how it worked in the Flynn case.

Bear with me and we'll see how this works. First, here's passage from McCabe's book that explains how he learned about Flynn's conversation with Russian ambassador Kislyak. We assume that anything McCabe writes will be self serving, but most of this has the ring of truth. As so often, the most interesting parts are what are left out, but for our purposes this works:

Now let's unpack that. For starters, PDB means President's Daily Brief:

The President's Daily Brief (PDB), ..., is a top-secret document produced and given each morning to the president of the United States, and is also distributed to a small number of top-level US officials who are approved by the president, and includes highly classified intelligence analysis, information about covert operations of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and reports from the most sensitive US sources or those shared by allied intelligence agencies.

How many is "a small number of top-level US officials"? According to the WaPo:

By 2013, Obama’s PDB was making its way to more than 30 recipients, including the president’s top strategic communications aide and speechwriter, and deputy secretaries of national security departments.

The context for the passage in McCabe's book is the Obama decision to meddle in Trump's ability to prepare to conduct foreign policy. Obama expelled 35 Russian diplomats, supposedly for "meddling". Putin's respons came on December 30, 2016. Much to the consternation of the Obama administration, which had hoped to embroil Trump in controversy even before the inauguration, Putin announced that he would not retaliate. (You can read about it here.)

That's why the PDB staff tasked US intel agencies to explain why--why had the Obama admin's clever disruption plan gone agley (as the poet Burns would say)? The FBI was on the list of intel agencies thus tasked.

The FBI's analysts got to work on the question and came up with the answer The Trump Transition Team's incoming NSA, Michael Flynn, had been in touch with Ambassador Kislyak on the issue and the Russians had agreed to let it slide. How did the FBI learn about this? From their normal FISA coverage of the Russians. That's exactly why both Comey and McCabe, in their House testimony, freely spoke of "tech cuts" with regard to the Flynn/Kislyak conversations.

But here's the interesting part. Did some FBI analyst, assigned to monitor the FISA on the Russian embassy, upon listening to the conversation then immediately run up to the 7th floor of FBIHQ shouting: 'OMG! Flynn's been talking to the Russians!' Apparently not. And, again, as McCabe and Sally Yates explained--or tried to explain--in their testimony: Minimization with regard to Flynn simply wasn't an issue.

Now, McCabe claims that the upper level counterintelligence officials at the FBI hadn't been aware of Flynn's conversations with Kislyak. That might well have been the case. After all, it's not as if an Ass't Director of the FBI, like Bill Priestap for example, would be monitoring communications on a FISA. No, they get the word from much further down the organizational ladder, from people who are trained for that job. And so it seems clear that the people who are trained and get paid to assess the importance of what they hear on a FISA had initially decided that Flynn's conversations were of no particular importance to the FBI. Or to the Obama administration, for that matter. Somebody at the FBI apparently understood that what Flynn was doing was business as usual for a Presidential transition.

What's left unsaid, of course, is: What considerations led McCabe and Comey to take a contrary view, to take that information to Clapper, and Clapper to take it to the White House? At what point was it decided that this information could be used to force Michael Flynn out of the fledgling Trump administration? It appears that that idea was developed almost immediately, because we're told that Clapper's General Counsel, Robert Litt, came up with the idea of trying to use the Logan Act. Moreover, it seems that by the time Comey turned up for the January 5 Oval Office meeting he already knew about the plan to use the Logan Act.

Thus the transition from 'No Bid Deal' to 'Take The Kill Shot' was a very quick one.

UPDATE: Larry Johnson has written a valuable article regarding all those unmasking requests re Michael Flynn--the REAL unmasking requests, unlike the Flynn/Kislyak for which there was no unmasking request (because there had never been any masking). Johnson's main point is that the reporting that contained Flynn's name almost certainly arose from Intel Community taskings--what are known in the Intel world as "collection requirements." It makes for a very good read.

You'll see that at the end Johnson posits some notion that it was the CIA that captured the Flynn conversation with Kislyak. What he doesn't address is--If that was the case, then why was it disgraced former FBI Director James Comey who took a "tech cut" to James Clapper? Why wasn't it John Brennan? The obvious answer is: Because it was the FBI that collected that particular intelligence. The location for collecting that conversation was Washington, DC, USA--the FBI's exclusive turf. There's no need at all to posit the CIA's Special Collection Service, operating overseas.

Nevertheless, I highly recommend the article: The Media and Pundits Are Lying–The Flynn Unmasking Was Uncommon and Unusual.


  1. This is very interesting, because it goes to the heart of another burning question I have: why ask FBI if they know the answer to why Putin decided to sit on his hand in response to the expulsion of Russian "diplomats"? That question, IIRC, is a foreign "intel" question, not a "counter-intel" question. FBI's bailiwick in this arena is CI, not foreign intel, or so it seems to me.

    I would have thought CIA and NSA would be the lead agencies on a question like this, not FBI.

    And for that reason, this sounds like it was part of a pretext to get the FBI 7th floor's nose sniffing around Kislyak intercepts (and 2 hops thereof) for anything they could dig up on Flynn to keep the Flynn investigation alive, and potentially create a flimsy excuse to perjury trap ambush, er, I mean "interview" Flynn.

    As MW says above: the analysts who looked at the Kislyak/Flynn calls didn't see anything wrong; it was only after the 7th Floor got involved they found something they could "work with." And the PDB gang's tasking request (perhaps conveniently pushed out to ALL IC orgs to camouflage the possible set-up) was just what McCabe, Comey, et al, needed to tie-up the "Flynn ambush plan" at the 5 Jan WH meeting.

    Too cute by half, it seems to me.

    1. By this account the FBI had the answer, but hadn't been asked the question.

      Yes this is foreign intel rather than CI info, but the FBI also picks up foreign intel "incidentally." No surprise to me that they would be asked. They could pick it up from human sources or from FISA.

    2. "tee-up," not "tie-up."

  2. All of this is unusual, yet usual enough recently for some folks to declare with a straight face that it is normal.

    All I know is this, any local or state police agency did any of this for such a length of period, people would be in jail and the agency would be under supervision for years.

    Rampart at LAPD? Small time.

    The vast, systematic, official and unofficial corruption of the NYPD during the 1960s and 1970s? Small time.

    Frank Serpico had it correct. Corruption exists because those in charge allow it.

    We have all this writ large and clothed under counter intelligence.

    Yes, I really do not have much to add to this other than my cop knowledge and disgust at that the three times I have pledged to defend the Constitution (twice US Navy - split enlistments- I have medals for Gulf War and War on Terror and once for becoming a police officer), are spit on by elected and, mostly, unelected federal government officials who view the supreme law of the land as something to ignore and circumvent.

    Ultimately, I relate to this in this way ...

    Dirty cops, along with government officials, were using their power to advance their own power and ideologies and were doing it for a long time.

    This is truly nothing more to than a dirty cop or, cabal, planting drugs because he/they know the target is good for it or deserves it.

    - TexasDude

  3. Further, what makes me sad, almost depressed (I am a half full kind of guy) is that very well read, learned (even if it is from non credentialed ways) folks can refuse to recognize the existential crisis.

    I listen to Ed Wallace’s “Wheels” automotive radio show on a North Texas AM radio most Saturdays. He is not just a car guy. He gives takes on things, historical and present, that make you think. I do not agree with everything he states or presents.

    On Saturday, 5-26-2020, he made a comment about Flynn. His take was that Flynn was involved in things that tarnished his commission (assuming Flynn did not give his commission) and that Wallace believed he used for financial gain and in doing so, Flynn is suspect. Wallace used his father, an officer in the military, Air Force, I think, as an example.

    Thing is, even if true, does the factual account of what has and still is occurring fit?

    Even if a person is a scumbag, does that give law enforcement the right to negate your civil rights?

    The courts, Blackstone, our Founders, heck even some Romans said .. “Nyet!” (Pun intended)

    Note, I am in no way saying Flynn is a scumbag, but we know that scumbags, Clinton and Obama, can be excused.

    - TexasDude

    1. You've never seen me refer to Flynn as a "hero." I simply don't know him well enough to make that call. I do know that many who rise are compromised. All I can say is that in that case two wrongs don't make a right. What was done to him here is wrong and we'll be a better nation for righting that wrong.

    2. Oops, other than normal typing on a cell phone errors, I actually listened to Ed Wallace’s show on 5-16 (it took me twice to even type the correct date here). Oh well.

      - TexasDude

    3. @Mark

      "You've never seen me refer to Flynn as a 'hero'."

      Of course, you don't need to be a hero to have constitutional rights. Only a Democrat.

    4. Yes, exactly. Sometimes you're a hero for trying to stand up for those rights.

    5. Indeed! Some may say, "Well, this was just Flynn's karma books being balanced.

      If .gov is involved then karma's got nothing to do with it. The explicit American argument in favor of government's existence is the elimination of administrating karma/serendipity/divine justice (whatever you want to call it) by the hands of those granted responsibility/authority to wield (limited) power.

      This is why Social Justice is an alien idea, imported for nefarious reasons. It is epistemologically impossible for an American to accept it as a reasoned concept. It is literally someone saying, "I'm gonna play god, hand me that stone."
      Tom S.

  4. That collection plan/Hezbollah story Larry Johnson tells is frightening as a reflection of our top-down overseas collection efforts. We're blind to anything not specifically requested by ODNI?

  5. Question for Mark and others. When the FIB opened the investigation of Mike Flynn, does anyone think it was real or just an excuse to spy on him? If it was real why did it take them 5 months to say they found no derogatory information. Flynn was a man who had been well investigated in the pass. It should not have taken 5 months.

    Rob S.

    1. Definitely not real. Barr has said so, and all you have to do is read the ECs from WFO to realize there were no grounds to investigate.

      I think they kept the case open as long as possible just in case, but WFO wanted to close it before Flynn took over after inauguration so he wouldn't know what they'd been up to. He probably wouldn't be going after historical information.

  6. This explains why treasury was requesting unmasking:

    Would this be in Durham’s scope?

    I’m stunned of the scope of the “sprawl” of this conspiracy just got larger.

    1. Thanks for that Ray. As I've said, my assumption is that they were probably looking for something that could be construed as money laundering by Flynn, based on his consulting business with foreign entities/persons. I'm not in a position from this info to say whether it was legal or illegal, although from the lack of charges one has one's suspicions.

    2. This is why the #ReleaseTheTaxes meme was always nonsense.

      Does anyone doubt that the IRS would have leaked Trump's taxes if there was anything to be gained by it?

      If you had asked me before 2016 if I thought Trump was a crook, or at least skirting the edges of legality in his business dealings, I would have given it at least 50/50 odds.

      But after four years of the most intense scrutiny, they've got absolutely nothing. No wonder DC hates him.

    3. "No wonder DC hates him."


    4. My only caveat on the idea that if the swamp had stuff they could leak to hurt Trump (tax info or whatever), they would already have leaked it, is that I wouldn't be surprised to see some stuff being held back for October surprises or election season in general.

      It doesn't have to have any real basis (this we know from experience), just something they can blow up into something seemingly scandalous just long enough and at just the right time to do maximum Nov 3 damage.

      Pure speculation, obviously, but worth factoring in, I think.

  7. What a strange read, about half way down things get , well uhh , u tell me?

  8. If a Democrat is elected potus this November (which assumes the election won't be postponed), can't his/her atty general make all of Durham's investigation disappear in the wind?

    PS - this is my favorite site!!!

    1. In that eventuality Trump could do a massive doc dump.

    2. Or he could name a Special Counsel in December 2020 to take office on January 20, 2021 to investigate, prosecute and report on any instances of 'false predication' in respect of investigations of Americans associated with the Republican Party and all other persons during the period 2009-2017 and any violations of law that may have been committed in connection therewith, including any other violations of law related or not related thereto, or tethered or untethered, whether or not ever previously prosecuted in the history of the Republic and, just to follow precedent, including any violations of any other matters within the scope of 28 C.F.R. § 600.4(a).

      Let's see Biden and whoever his AG wingman try to shut that baby down. :-)

      Except, Trump's going to win.

    3. "Let's see Biden and whoever his AG wingman try to shut that baby down."
      Not just one wingman, but a whole MSM etc. army, would be delighted to shut it down.
      They would exhort mass resistance, to any orders the SC would issue.
      Antifa/ BLM would rule the streets, such that the SC would be lucky to get from his home to his office, w/o being torn limb from limb.

      Mark's idea of a mass declass dump would be by far the stronger play, provided he did it ASAP after the votes were counted/ announced.
      It would be an implicit call for his backers to face music, that the Dems were aiming for outright non-Dem annihilation, and that Dems now have the power to finish that job.
      Last nite, Charlie Kirk was on Steve Hilton, going so far as to outright charge, that the technocrats (pushing lockdowns etc.) "hate you, hate me", *hate* all who stand in their way (or some such).
      I'd not have expected such *mainstream* righties as Kirk, to be so very blunt.
      I'll bet that he says such things, because he has a fairly good idea, of what such a mass declass will reveal, about the virus/ lockdowns, D.S. abuses vs. DJT, etc.

    4. @Mouse

      "They would exhort mass resistance, to any orders the SC would issue."

      My suggestion was more tongue-in-cheek in the vein of Jonathan Swift, than likely next steps...

      But if it happened and your suggested reaction occurred we would be well into the territory of civil insurrection.

      That would make corona protests in places like Michigan look like child's play.

    5. Once it is known, that Dems were/ are aiming for outright non-Dem *annihilation*, the targets will have to move fast, to organize effective resistance (e.g. secession), before the Biden regime gets to mobilize the D.S., Antifa, etc., to *smash* all morsels of resistance, once and for all.

  9. Steve McIntyre thread this AM:

    >> <<

    1. Thanks. Bongino was relying on presidential emergency authorization under FISA, but it's simply not necessary. The FBI really does have FISAs on Russian establishments in the US. Everyone knows it, even if Sally Yates wouldn't confirm it officially. Therefore, the FBI was BOUND to discover Flynn's calls--they couldn't avoid it.

      Why go inventing elaborate hypotheses that ignore this obvious--to me--fact? The reason, IMO, is because people have been misled by use of the term "unmasking." If the proper term, "minimization", were used people would understand more readily that not every USPER's identity is "masked" in a FISA. IMO, the "unmasking" language leads people to think that such a FISA is focused on the Russians. The reality is that the FBI is a CI agency and this is a CI based FISA. Therefore the identities of USPERs who are in contact with the Russian government is EXACTLY what the FBI hopes to get from such a FISA.

    2. Occam's Razor. Keep it simple, Stupid.

      Bongino does much more good than not and I’m generally a big fan, but since Friday I don't like how he's characterizing “evidence before our very eyes” of Obama’s direct involvement the Flynn matter as a result of Flynn’s name not being masked in the Kislyak call.

      Not only do I agree with Mark that he’s citing emergency FISA procedures as evidence (of which Dan doesn’t have any), it’s too elaborate for what the FBI already had in-house via the existing FISA to surveil Russia as Mark has explained.

      Sadly, Bongino is conflating a few things things; things I don’t think are helpful in explaining an already hard-to-understand matter to Average Joe Q. Public. Obama is not the “PDB Staff” is not the “PDB Briefers,” etc. A PDB Staff request for information is not the same as Obama directing the FBI to go find the call. A call that supposedly is known to Obama/The NSC/The PDB Staff/The White House (see the conflation?) because of our December 29 retaliation against the Russians for election interference and thus KNEW (Dan’s strong suggestion) Kislyak would call Flynn on vacation in the Dominican Republic. A plausible theory, but the conflation pieces are muddying the water when I think precision is needed.

      Bongino refers to the “back and forth” at 23:50 in his podcast episode today ( ). I think he needs to clean all this up, or he will need to soon. He is beginning to come off to me as more of a podcast and book salesman than one interested in important details that are important to the truth – details people like me want to genuinely understand instead of just being bamboozled into it.

      Keep up the good work, Mark! -- Dave

    3. Well put. It's a rabbit hole--stay away!

  10. Meanwhile, the “new prosecutors” need time to investigate ...

    “ Flynn amicus John Gleeson will file an initial brief by June 10. This will include:

    "any additional factual development I may need before finalizing my argument in opposition" to the DOJ Motion to Dismiss.

    Factual development" - he may claim he needs to interview witnesses.“

    Notice in the motion provided by Technofog Gleeson states Sullivan might demand Flynn to show cause why Flynn should not be convicted of perjury (his original guilty plea).

    Just double sigh.

    - TexasDude

    1. It's obvious delaying, abuse and gaming of the system by the "judge". I address this in my new post.

  11. Barr appoints deputy to #2 slot at DC USA office; Shea to DEA.

    >> <<

    Any tea leaves to be read from this?

    1. Very interesting. Ya hafta assume that Barr was disappointed with Shea getting rolled by holdover Dem prosecutors and considers Sherwin to be up to the challenge. He's probably looking for a tough personality heading into likely prosecutions in Russia Hoax. But I only know what I just read.

    2. This jumped out at me:

      >> "Sherwin, who specializes in national security cases, ..." <<

      could be coincidence, or .... a clue as to the type of cases expected to land in the DC USA office soon.

    3. shipwreckedcrew

      I don't pay to go behind WaPo paywall - I can't find any other story on Barr selecting a Miami prosecutor for something in DC. Can someone enlighten me? Is it to appear in the Flynn case, or something else?

      1:10 PM · May 18, 2020·

    4. @ EZ

      Yes, I noticed that, too. Now, check out the tweet in my comment below. It's intriguing. Sullivan challenged Barr. Barr doesn't blow up in public, but I can't see him backing down from that challenge.