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Peter Van Buren

Exposure: Why Mishandling Classified Material Matters

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Hillary versus Trump versus Biden. All three kept classified information at their homes. Who wins the battle to have likely done the most damage to national security?

In the end when dealing with the damage done by mishandling classified information it comes down to exposure; who saw it, what was it, when was it seen, and for how long?

The “who” part is clear enough; a document left inadvertently on a desk top in an embassy guarded by Marines might not be seen by anyone. A document left on a park bench and seized by the local police risks direct exposure to the host country intelligence services if not sale to the highest bidder depending on the locale. But never underestimate cleaning staff; spies love ’em. In what other capacity are likely locals allowed to rummage through an embassy at night, picking through the trash, and moving things around on desks to um, dust?

The “what” and how much of it is the real stuff of James Bond. At times “what” is in the eye of the beholder. The Secretary of State’s daily list of telephone calls to make is always highly classified. It might matter very little to a Russian spy that the Secretary is calling the leader of Cyprus on Wednesday but matter an awful lot to the leader of nearby Greece. That is why intelligence services often horsetrade, buying and selling info they pick up along the way about other countries for info they need about theirs.
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Wrapping Up: What John Durham Learned

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As he wraps up his investigation with the prosecution of Igor Danchenko, we are left only with questions about what John Durham did not do.

Best to start with what we learned. Durham established what FBI Director James Comey likely knew from near day one, that the Steele dossier was politically-driven nonsense created by the Clinton campaign. The FBI knowingly ran with its false information to obtain legal process against American citizens, to include Donald Trump as a candidate and as president. The FBI knew for sure in early 2017, likely earlier, that Trump was not a Russian spy but allowed the process to run on through the Mueller Report and all the rest. Imagine how different Trump’s term would have been had we all known with the certainty what the FBI did. No Maddow, no walls closing in, no insinuations America’s president was dealing cards to the Russians right out of the Oval Office. What was lost we’ll never know.

The 2019 Horowitz Report, a look into the FBI’s conduct by the Justice Department Inspector General, now backed up by Durham’s work, made clear the FBI knew the dossier was bunk and purposefully lied to the FISA court to keep its lies alive. The FBI knew Steele, who was on their payroll as a paid informant, had created a classic intel officer’s information loop, secretly becoming his own corroborating source, and gleefully looked the other way because it supported their goal of spying on the Trump campaign, hoping to bring Trump down. Make no mistake, this was a failed coup.
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The DNI Two-Step and Trump

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If you play poker with a guy named Doc often enough you learn to watch his hands carefully when it’s his turn to hold the deck. Same when the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), the Intelligence Community (IC), and the FBI sit down at the table with the American people.

The game right now is will he or won’t he; will Attorney General Merrick Garland indict Donald Trump over something to do with classified information held at Mar-a-Lago? Everyone is holding their cards tight to the vest, but the deal just passed to the DNI and the game is about to get serious. Stakes are high; in the pot is the presidency of the United States.

DNI Avril Haines said that DNI “will lead an Intelligence Community assessment of the potential risk to national security that would result from the disclosure of the relevant documents” including those seized. She said the DNI was aiming not to interfere with the ongoing criminal investigation, to which everyone at the table had better shout “bull.” A review of potential risk means the DNI can show a pair of twos and claim they are kings. The DNI’s whole point is to interfere with the investigation, same as they did with Hunter’s laptop, Russiagate, and the Clinton server before that. The IC is as much a part of our elections now as it ever was in any other banana republic.

It works like this: using classified methods in secret to look at classified documents the DNI will come to conclusions about what might happen to the security of the United States if those documents were to fall into “the wrong hands,” i.e., the hands of their choosing and certainly a worst-case scenario.
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Prosecuting Trump

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What would you do if you were Merrick Garland? Would you prosecute Trump? Or would you walk away, concerned about accusations you and the FBI were playing politics?
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Overclassification and Mar-a-Lago

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Let’s commit a potential crime by reading this: “Every day the Iraqis turn out military communiques threatening ‘severe punishment’ against Iran.” That line is classified, albeit from 1988. It was put into the public sphere via Wikileaks but never officially declassified. Technically it remains classified even though it is a click away for anybody with internet access.

It illustrates that if there are three things most everyone in government agrees on a) there are too many classified documents classified too highly, b) no one is going to risk their neck to be the first to start classifying less and c) handling all that classified is a major problem for even those trying to do the right thing.

As former CIA and NSA Director Michael Hayden said, “Everything’s secret. I mean, I got an email saying ‘Merry Christmas.’ It carried a top secret NSA classification marking.”

In 2010 Congress passed the Reducing Over-Classification Act, which mandated several steps to improve classification practices.  But in a minor act of legislative malpractice, Congress failed to define the meaning of the term “overclassification.”   So it is not entirely clear what the Act was supposed to reduce.
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Much Ado About Nancy Pelosi and China

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China policy seems to be made by, and written about by, adults who were often beaten up on the school playground. They retain the language of bullying, and weaknesses, and standing up, and the fantasy that something would sweep in and save them from losing another days’ lunch money (maybe an aircraft carrier group?) That these people are now in control of the media, if not the House, does nothing good for anyone, especially anyone located on either side of the Taiwan Strait. American seems dumb enough to play at this game; is Beijing also?
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The Specific 'Why' Behind Russiagate

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Show of hands? How many still believe Trump and Russia colluded? That Trump is somehow beholden to Russia? That Hillary Clinton had nothing to do with “Russiagate?” Anyone? In the back, Bueller? And we’ll get to the large group chanting “it doesn’t matter” and “but Trump did, too…” in a moment, so stick around.

Hillary Clinton lied about Russiagate. The latest information shows Hillary paid experts to create two data sets, one purportedly showing Russian cellphones accessing Trump WiFi networks, and another allegedly showing a Trump computer pinging an Alfa Bank server in Russia. The latter was supposedly how Trump communicated incognito with his handlers in Moscow Center. We’ve seen the lipstick on the collar before but how do we know for certain this time?

Because former Clinton campaign lawyer Marc Elias on May 18, 2022 during the trial of his former partner, Michael Sussman, swore to it under oath. Special Counsel John Durham brought Sussman to trial for allegedly lying to the FBI, perjury, claiming he was not working for a client when he was actually surreptiously representing the Clinton campaign. Elias admitted he briefed Clinton campaign officials about the fake information, including Hillary herself, Clinton campaign chair John Podesta, spokesperson Jennifer Palmieri, and policy director Jake Sullivan, now Joe Biden’s national security adviser. Elias also personally briefed campaign manager Robby Mook.
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Moments of Russiagate Truth

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It’s sometime a very sad moment when truth is all that’s left. Suspicions of infidelity become credit card receipts from the no-tell motel. A Facebook post tells of a meal shared when a business trip was scheduled. It is ugly, especially the now certainty that you were lied to by someone you once trusted. Two such instances passed through the MSM this week with barely a notice that deserve notice.

The first is Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee, through the MSM, lied Russiagate. Hillary, et al, paid experts to create two data sets, one showing Russian cellphones accessing Trump WiFi networks, and another showing a Trump computer in contact with a mystery Alfa Bank server in Russia. The latter was supposedly how Trump communicated incognito with his handlers in Moscow Center. Neither happened, both were lies, and both were made up for and paid for by Hillary. How do we know this with certainty?

Former Clinton campaign lawyer Marc Elias on the stand May 18, 2022 in the trial of his former partner, Michael Sussmann swore to it under oath. Special Counsel John Durham brought Sussmann to trial for allegedly lying to the FBI, denying he was working for a client when he was representing the Clinton campaign. Elias testified he and Sussmann worked for the Clinton campaign, and had engaged Fusion GPS to acquire dirt on candidate Donald Trump. He also admitted that he had briefed Clinton campaign officials about the fake information, including contacts with Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook, campaign chair John Podesta, spokesperson Jennifer Palmieri, and policy director Jake Sullivan, now Joe Biden’s national security adviser and who aggressively pushed the Alfa Bank server story in the media. Elias said he also spoke with Hillary Clinton and was involved in meetings where she was present.
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Deterrence, China, and the US

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The US should not use its military power to deter China from invading Taiwan. It is unnecessary, and anything more than what is already being done is more likely to help provoke a war than stop one. It might even be better to turn down US enthusiasm a notch or two.
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Biden Wants All the Points Due a Wartime President without Actually Going to War

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The view that war is politics by other means, the realist idea nations pursue strategic goals with some sort of calculation behind them, is not for us. Americans must reduce everything to good versus evil, democracy versus autocracy, light versus dark. Leaders throughout history have sold wars with this B.S.; America’s problem is we seem to actually believe it’s true. Let’s see how it plays out in the real world.

Imagine facing an enemy who refuses to surrender despite overwhelming odds, leaving the other side the choice between a protracted urban war or an air attack to resolve the situation. In the case of Putin and Kiev, our nightly news is flooded with images of the targeting of civilians and screams from Washington of war crimes. The American answer in an earlier war, however, was the atomic destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, two targets at the end of a long and ugly war where women and children were casually incinerated to save we were told additional casualties on the ground. It was OK because America is basically good. If you twist that logic hard enough it comes out we did the Japs a favor by nuking their cities. The cries of “but it’s different!” because of whatever, Pearl Harbor, are left unanswered by the blackened ghosts of the Japanese who died not knowing what a favor the US did them.

And that action in 1945 (amplified by the destruction by policy of whole villages in Korea and Vietnam, never mind the scorched earth of Fallujah) leaves the United States in a unique position it pretends not to know about. As Putin and others may talk about nuclear threats, history records that we alone actually used nuclear weapons, against civilian targets. Little bitches like Putin or Kim may issue threats but only the United States has carried through with it. It’s a helluva basis for morality.
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