DEVELOPING: Investigators have learned that Obama CIA Director John Brennan ran a secret task force out of Langley with its own separate budget to investigate Trump campaign and alleged ties to Russia. Task force set up before FBI officially launched its own probe on 07/31/16.
10:17 PM · Sep 7, 2020
I'm skeptical of this tweet--the essential content of which is not new--for several reasons.
The first is that, as stated, the whole idea of a CIA task force targeting a US Person residing within the US for ties to a foreign country is too transparently illegal to be probable. A separate budget for such a task force would merely document the illegality.
Counterintelligence operations inside the US--which is what we're talking about here--are the province of the FBI. Brennan--who is not natively stupid, whatever else you may think of him--would understand the risks and would certainly come up with a workaround. That's not to say that Brennan wasn't involved. It's just that the Langley "task force ... with its own separate budget" is too simple. It's too good to be true, because its discovery would make the coup so easy to prove in the big picture conspiracy sense, but like most things that are too good to be true it most likely isn't.
In response to DJL this morning, I wrote:
Yes. They're probably working off a 2017 article in The Guardian. IMO there are two things--possibly three--at work there: the two, the campaign against Flynn, and Brennan spreading the dossier in DC. The other possibility, the Alfa Bank hoax. I believe that that much is true, but with The Guardian you have to be careful.
So, to repeat, what I think drives this narrative is the notorious article by Luke Harding in The Guardian, dating back to April, 2017 (h/t SWC for the reminder). I do wonder whether this article was not intended as a cover for what was really going on--the centrality of the Steele "dossier" to the entire Russia Hoax. That will be difficult to state with certainty because of redactions in the released documents, but I believe it to be probable:
Exclusive: GCHQ is said to have alerted US agencies after becoming aware of contacts in 2015
Before getting to the portion of the article that features Brennan, lets look first at the part that claims that GCHQ--Britain's NSA, and reputed to be the true 800 lb. gorilla of global SIGINT collection--alerted the USIC about Trump in 2015. In this portion of the article I believe there are two parts of the overall Russia Hoax being referred to: the jihad the USIC was waging against Michael Flynn, and the Alfa Bank hoax. There also appears to be a reference to the framing of Papadopoulos:
Britain’s spy agencies played a crucial role in alerting their counterparts in Washington to contacts between members of Donald Trump’s campaign team and Russian intelligence operatives, the Guardian has been told.
GCHQ first became aware in late 2015 of suspicious “interactions” between figures connected to Trump and known or suspected Russian agents, a source close to UK intelligence said. This intelligence was passed to the US as part of a routine exchange of information, they added.
Over the next six months, until summer 2016, a number of western agencies shared further information on contacts between Trump’s inner circle and Russians, sources said.
The European countries that passed on electronic intelligence – known as sigint – included Germany, Estonia and Poland. Australia, a member of the “Five Eyes” spying alliance that also includes the US, UK, Canada and New Zealand, also relayed material, one source said.
If we look back to "late 2015" we realize that that's a period before Trump had any foreign policy advisers and before Paul Manafort came on board the campaign. All that didn't happen until March, 2016. However, we do know that Trump had been in touch with Michael Flynn, whom the USIC had been targeting on the pretext that he was in contact with Russian intelligence operatives. In this regard, I point out the important text from Peter Strzok to Lisa Page in December, 2015, regarding approval from DoJ for the use of "OCONUS lures"--in other worlds, the use of informants to target persons while "Outside the CONtinental US."
I'm convinced that this text refers to the eventual targeting of Michael Flynn and Svetlana Lokhova at Cambridge. In December, 2015, Page, Papadopoulos, and Manafort would not have been on the USIC radar with regard to the Trump campaign. However, Flynn was on the radar screen in that regard, and the fact that the FBI had an open case on Flynn made the targeting of Flynn legal--at least superficially and formally. Notice, too, how the description fits well with Flynn: "connected to Trump" personally, but there is no assertion that the "figure" was a formal part of the campaign--which Flynn was not.
The Brennan angle to this, in my belief, is that Brennan could have facilitated the use by the FBI of a longtime CIA asset for the targeting of Flynn: Stefan Halper. Note, however, that Brennan is able to say that he was simply serving to facilitate an FBI investigation, the way our USIC agencies are supposed to cooperate. The legal onus--especially predication for the Flynn investigation--would be on the FBI, not Brennan or the CIA. On paper, Brennan and the CIA were simply responding to an FBI request for assistance that they presumed was perfectly legitimate. No matter that Brennan was one of the prime movers behind the jihad against Flynn. But: No need for a Langley task force here. Brennan may have egged the FBI on, but this was in its essence an FBI operation.
The reference to "electronic intelligence" is, in my view, a reference to the Alfa Bank laundering funds to the Trump Tower server--the reference to Estonia is the giveaway there (see below). The reference to Germany most likely refers to Deutsche Bank, an angle of the attacks on Trump that has never got much traction. But note something important here: The Alfa Bank narrative also appears in the Steele "dossier". That raises the question of exactly how the flow of disinformation in the Russia Hoax worked:
Was the Steele "dossier" a strictly Fusion GPS construct?
Was the "dossier" partially concocted by the UK's MI6 and transferred via Steele?
Was it a concoction of the USIC that was laundered through the Brits and then returned to the US (Fusion GPS)?
As we'll see in the next excerpt from Harding's article, however, the transfer of disinformation from the UK to US was handled "at the director level." That is, person to person from GCHQ's Robert Hannigan to John Brennan. Again: No need for a task force.
But what was involved in that transfer from Hannigan to Brennan?
According to one account, GCHQ’s then head, Robert Hannigan, passed material in summer 2016 to the CIA chief, John Brennan. The matter was deemed so sensitive it was handled at “director level”. After an initially slow start, Brennan used GCHQ information and intelligence from other partners to launch a major inter-agency investigation.This happened in later July, and we know that Brennan personally hand carried this disinformation in an envelope to the White House to share with Obama. We also know that that material was essentially the Steele "dossier". That raises, in acute form, the question of: What was the point at which UK intelligence got involved with the Steele operation? Was this laundered from Fusion GPS to the UK and back? Did Brennan play a hand in this? If so Brennan has the cover of deniability unless Glenn Simpson is squeezed hard--the Brits will never testify in court about this. But again: No need for a task force in Langley with separate funding.
In late August and September Brennan gave a series of classified briefings to the Gang of Eight, the top-ranking Democratic and Republican leaders in the House and Senate. He told them the agency had evidence the Kremlin might be trying to help Trump to win the presidency, the New York Times reported.Again, we know this is the Steele disinformation. Brennan did this. No need for a task force.
One person familiar with the matter said Brennan did not reveal sources but made reference to the fact that America’s intelligence allies had provided information. Trump subsequently learned of GCHQ’s role, the person said.
Note that Brennan, by attributing the Steele material to GCHQ's Hannigan manages to place distance between himself and Fusion GPS and Steele personally--not to mention the Clinton campaign. You can bet that Durham has worked all these angles very hard. Anyone, like Don Surber, who doubts this simply doesn't understand what's involved.
So, for all these reasons I'm skeptical of this latest version of the Brennan task force story. I stress, however, that we may yet have much to learn of Brennan's underhanded machinations in the Russia Hoax. But I continue to believe that Brennan covered his tracks very well and that Durham has had his work cut out for him in that regard.