Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Did Brennan Run An Anti-Trump Task Force?

For lack of news, Paul Sperry's recent tweet has caused a minor stir on the conservative interwebs:

Paul Sperry
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:

British spies were first to spot Trump team's links with Russia
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.


  1. Mark, Found this on the Towergate timeline. Also googled Paul Wood BBC and John Brennan. Several articles out there about it. As you suggest, not sure if any are realistic.

    Spring of 2016 - Paul Wood of the BBC reports that John Brennan began organizing the six agency task force in the early spring of 2016, no later than March 2016.

    Late March Early April - CIA Director John Brennan begins putting together a secret six agency task force to focus on Trump Russia connections. Clapper and Strzok are a part of the task force. Agency heads from the DOJ/NSD, FBI/NSB, NSA, Treasury and the DOD are included. Cloak and dagger operations began under Brennan's secret task force that was being run out of CIA HQ in Langley, Va.

    April 2016 - CIA Director John Brennan begins telling various deep state players that Estonian Intelligence picked up intel information that Russia is pumping money into the Trump Campaign. The claim was never proven.

    1. Right. I was addressing the idea that this was a CIA task force "run by John Brennan," as Sperry puts it. Brennan is much too sly to allow that anchor to be hung around his neck. An interagency task force would ultimately be answerable to the DNI, Clapper, and Clapper would deny that he knew of anything nefarious. This interagency task force would have simply been each agency contributing its supposed knowledge re Russian targeting of the 2016 election, and possibly Brennan's official cover for egging the FBI on to take its own official action: opening investigations as only the FBI can do.

      That supposed Estonian intel reporting would be fascinating to track down, because it appears to be repeated a few months later in the Steele "dossier". Again, it raises the question of exactly what were the true relations among Brennan, Fusion GPS, Chris Steele, and Five Eyes intel agencies--especially GCHQ and MI6.

      Again, note that the six agency task force in effect is what allows Brennan to push off responsibility on others--especially the FBI. Brennan planted the seeds for the bogus investigations that the FBI undertook--and for which they are solely responsible. It was their responsibility to vet any intel and weigh probable cause. Their opening ECs are clearly bogus.

      So, bottom line, the contention that the "task force" "targeted the Trump campaign" misses the subtlety of what was going on. All six agencies are co-equal--Brennan couldn't tell them what to do, so he didn't "run" the task force. Any of the participants could have dissented--as some later did. It was the FBI that jumped into this with both feet.

      Thanks for bringing that to my attention.

    2. Rumor had it that the Estonian's were nervous as Candidate Trump was making "noise" about NATO and US may not be as supportive under "his watch" thus being on the front line with Russia supposedly were offering up some pitch of some kind.... something to do with ODG or similar. IDK.

    3. It strikes me that the six agency taskforce looking into Russian interference mentioned by AmerCard above is what serves as the task force in the Paul Sperry and Guardian reporting speculations. Given that the leak spigot with Durham has been shut tight, speculation is all that's left.

  2. I speculate that the investigation of Alfa Bank began in relation to the FBI investigation of Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov (aka Alimzhan Tutakhanov), who was managing an international gambling ring that had an office in Trump Tower.

    The investigation of that gambling ring was supervised by Michael Gaeta, who at that time was working in the FBI's New York Field Office. Tokhtakhounov was indicted in 2013, but he himself did not live in the USA, and so he still has not been arrested.

    James Comey had a special interest in Tokhtakhounov, because Comey had indicted him in 2002 for allegedly rigging the ice-skating competition in the Salt Lake City Olympics.

    Comey became the FBI Director in 2013, the same year when Tokhtakhounov was indicted the second time.

    I speculate that the FBI suspected that Tokhtakhounov's gambling operation involved electronic communications between Trump Tower and Alfa Bank. Perhaps that FBI suspicion about Alfa Bank continued for years after Tokhtakhounov was indicted in 2013.

    In my next blog article about Michael Gaeta and FBI Counterintelligence, I intend to develop the idea that FBI began to suspect long before 2016 that Donald Trump was being "cultivated" by Russian Intelligence.

    Gaeta and Steele became acquainted in 2010 and communicated with each other frequently in the following years. Gaeta invited Steele to the USA to brief DOJ/FBI about Steele's various ideas.

    I speculate that Steele began to assemble information about Trump and to share such information with Gaeta long before 2016. I think such information interested also Comey long before 2016.

    I speculate that after Comey became the FBI Director in 2013, he personally arranged for Gaeta to be transferred to Europe in order to continue to investigate the suspicions about Trump.

    In relation to all that, Comey told the FBI to continue to investigate Alfa Bank after the 2013 indictment of Tokhtakhounov.

    1. Another thought just occurred to me.

      The FBI began paying Steele as an informant because he supposedly provided valuable information about Russians participating in the corruption of international soccer. However, no Russians ever were indicted for such participation.

      I wonder if the FBI really was paying Steele mostly for information along the lines that Donald Trump was being cultivated by Russian Intelligence. In other words, the payments for soccer information was mostly just a cover for payments for Trump information.

    2. In my previous comment, I speculated that the had FBI paid Steele for soccer information as a cover for really paying for Trump information before 2016.

      That speculation has prompted me now to a further speculation that might explain the gaps in the Dossier's report numbers. For example, the first three publicly available reports are numbered 80, 86 and 94. The middle of those three reports was written in July 2015 (fifteen). I think that all the reports numbered between 80 and 94 were written before 2016. I think further that all those pre-2016 reports were delivered to the FBI along with Report 80.

      Why has the FBI concealed from the public all the reports (except 86) written before 2016? I speculate that, before 2016, Steele was providing reports to the FBI about Trump.

      Steele already, before 2016, had provided all the reports that are in that 81-93 gap. Then in 2016 Steele provided them a second time, now numbered 81-93 in the new Dossier. All those old reports, except 86, were about Trump.

      Soon after Steele delivered reports 80-93, the FBI realized that the old reports were a problem, because the FBI was not supposed to be paying Steele before 2016 for reports about Trump. Therefore, reports 81-93 were suppressed, except for 86 (the only one in that series that was not about Trump).

      The FBI has been pretending that the Dossier reports whose numerals are missing from the series do not exist. The FBI does not want any questions asked about the reports that Steele wrote and delivered to the FBI as a paid informant before 2016.

  3. Some attempted tea-leaf reading:

    "Investigators have learned..." This begets the obvious questions: a) what investigators, and b) when did they learn what they learned?

    Since as far as we can tell, Durham's team has not leaked any specific details of the investigation, I must assume that the "investigators" are not Durham's. Most likely would be Senate committee investigators since those are still under majority GOP control.

    On to "b)" ... "have learned ..." suggests something relatively recent, not an old Guardian news article of questionable accuracy. They've known about that for years, so it would not seem to fit with the phrasing of Sperry's tweet. This suggests something new has been learned by "investigators" from either recently obtained declassified documents or witness testimony (or both.)

    We know that classified material is being held back from release until after Durham is done with it, so it doesn't interfere with his investigation. So I hypothesize that Senate investigators recently obtained classified material/testimony after Durham was done with it, and that is more likely the basis of the claim than the well-aged Guardian article.

    The fact that this revelation comes AFTER Brennan gave testimony to Durham's investigators is consistent with material held back by Durham until after Brennan was locked into his testimony.

    Another angle that is not discussed is how the various eventual targets in the Trump orbit miraculously popped up on the "radar" so early and quickly. Hard to believe it was all serendipitous coincidence. I have long suspected that there was an earlier phase of the eventual surveillance/smear of the Trump campaign, in which suitable targets -- especially ones traveling or living outside the US -- were being identified for potential use against WHATEVER GOP CAMPAIGN WON THE NOMINATION in 2016. The fact that Mifsud suddenly took an interest in PapaD within days of PapaD switching from the Carson campaign to the Trump campaign, despite having ignored him prior to that point, even though they worked in the same organization in London, is beyond coincidence. IIRC PapaD had to be on SOMEBODY's RADAR before that moment in time for Mifsud to get up on him that quickly. My suspicion has been that CIA, and/or friendly foreign intel carried out a much broader intel collection on frequently overseas operatives of various GOP campaigns, so they would have a list of
    "potential" targets of whatever GOP candidate won the nomination, through whom some form of frame-up/smear could then be used by FBI to justify an "investigation" on the eventual GOP nominee.

    The "Russia Collusion" smear happened to be the one that fit the Trump campaign best, and guys like PapaD, Carter Page, Flynn, and Manafort were suitable potential targets to frame up for that hoax.

  4. Under Obama, they weren't 'task forces,' they were 'having the right people' on it

  5. Yesterday The Blogmire published a new article about the Skripal poisoning.

    The news is that on March 13, 2018, British Prime Minister Theresa May discussed the Skripal poisoning with President Donald Trump in a phone conversation. Trump essentially expressed skepticism about the poisoning and rejected May's request that he publicly blame the Russians.

    May told Trump that the poison had made three children sick while they were feeding ducks in the vicinity. Trump apparently knew enough about the true story that he did not fall for May's lie about the children.

    The alleged poisoning happened on March 4, 2018. A few days later, CIA Director Gina Haspel (previously the CIA Chief of Station in the UK) showed President Trump photographs of sick children and dead ducks. Haspel told Trump that the photographs were related to the alleged poisoning. As a result, Trump agreed to Haspel's recommendation that 60 Russian diplomats be expelled from the USA.

    By March 13, however, Trump got wise about the poisoning and essentially ignored May's and Haspel's lies about children and ducks being poisoned.

    The Blogmire has speculated that Sergey Skripal had collaborated with Christopher Steele in writing the Dossier and that Skripal intended to return to Russia and to publicly denounce Steele and the Dossier. As a consequence, Skripal allegedly was poisoned by Russian agents and subsequently has disappeared in the United Kingdom.

    1. Interesting. I've always wondered about the real reasons behind Trump's very obvious and publicly displayed disdain for May. Could be lots of reasons, but this may well be one. I don't believe that Trump is a guy who forgives being lied to.

  6. "An interagency task force would ultimately be answerable to the DNI, Clapper ... Brennan couldn't tell them what to do, so he didn't 'run' the task force."

    Unless one considers that for years Clapper has been Brennan's puppet. Rewind to December 2010:

    "The arrest of 12 suspects in London had occurred earlier on Monday, when [Brennan, Clapper and Napolitano] were interviewed together. 'First of all, London,' Sawyer said. 'How serious is it? Any implication that it was coming here? ... Director Clapper?' Clapper hesitated for several seconds, clearly having no clue what Sawyer was talking about. 'London?' he asked. Seven seconds had passed. The intelligence boss looked to Brennan for a lifeline. Brennan started explaining the arrests that morning. 'Oh…' Clapper said, nodding, hands on his thighs. Later in the interview, Sawyer returned to the subject. 'I was a little surprised you didn't know about London,' Sawyer told Clapper. 'Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't,' he said, shaking his head. Brennan said the question was too 'vague'."


    1. Point.

      Nevertheless, no one pointed a gun at the institutional head of the FBI and forced them to do the things they did.

    2. I would be the last one to absolve FBI. They should have been the shining standout that squashed it all in 2016 when those with infinitely fewer resources knew precisely what it was.


    3. I remember when interviewed a day or two after Benghazi in 2012 James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, told the interviewer, with a smirk, that all he knew was what he had seen on CNN. He has been a DS weasel for decades. Feigning ignorance is his MO, yet someone so profoundly unaware of what is going on around him kept getting promoted/appointed right along.

  7. It wasn't a task force, it was a covert operation (OP). And it was a very small team of loyalists operating solely under his direct supervision. But they were acting primarily as a communications and coordination staff, with no direct involvement in operational tasks. All of that was farmed out to foreign intelligence services and contractors. Brennan was scrupulous in avoiding a domestic active role by internal staff.

    But they all left a paper trail, which is stupid beyond belief and makes you wonder if they were similarly careless in their traditional CIA roles. As an example, Peter Strzok was the FBI's top counterintelligence agent and he is clearly a buffoon, so how good was the FBI at really fighting foreign CI threats?

    Nevertheless, Brennan was the conductor of the coup and he is the main target. Flipping Comey is the key to getting Brennan, and then were it goes from there is anyone's guess.

    1. There was a reason in on on air interview, Brennan, with assuredness and a gleam in his eye, he stated that Trump would not be president.

      It’s the same cockiness that prompted President Obama do to the mike drop.

      Trump was not to be president. No Republican was supposed to be president. It was preordained. A religion of sorts or a “religious” type of belief.

      They had it planned, mapped out, gamed out, and ... FAILED!


      You, me, everyone else that voted Trump!

      I truly believe we are in a post-Constitutional America. Rule of law only means what our “betters” determines it to be.

      Trump is truly has stood against history and yelled, “NO!”

      - TexasDude

  8. If this theory holds, the only way Brennan/CIA does it's part, sends the package to the 'foreign laundry' and then has it's honey, the FBI C/I group pick up the bundle on the way home, at just the right time (give or take a few timing glitches here and there that have to be fixed with leaks, etc.), is if someone above the CIA and FBI is orchestrating the whole thing. That's the interesting interface...who could that be?

    Doesn't seem CIA would want to hand off an 'interesting' legit investigation, or that FBI would trustingly pick one up from them such as this, without some coordination and oversight from somewhere....

    1. That's basically what Mark Meadows was suggesting the other day. He claimed he'd seen some docs implicating Obama "administration officials." Since he'd already referred to the top FBI officials, most people assumed he was referring to officials in the WH.

      The cardinal rule of any bureaucracy is, Always CYA, and that means someone above you takes responsibility.

  9. Hmm...

    Steele Gabe memos time Corn (mother jones) that have them to his ex car pool partner Baker (fbi).

    What a small world!

    1. Yes, true. That's what you get when you set up that revolving door between DoJ and FBI--Mueller, Weissmann, Comey, and David Corn's best friend. The idea that David Corn's BFF would be right up at the top of the Bureau would have been unthinkable--until "Bob" took over.

  10. Check this out:

    Larry Johnson describes what he learned about the Brennan Task Force, including first hand reports from a former CIA colleague who was asked to join the task force, but declined.

    >> <<

    Says it may have started as early as summer 2015.

    1. Thanks. It's interesting because it falls in line with what a person I could call a source told me, years ago: That the Dems realized almost immediately that Trump was the real threat.

    2. I realized that I read that before. Johnson is right--a CIA "Trump task force" woulda been illegal. My guess, however, is that it wasn't a specifically "Trump" TF but instead a "Russian meddling task force" with other agencies--mostly FBI--involved to cover over any illegality. The FBI could be said to be handling domestic aspects.