The whistleblower complaint has opened a window into the politicization of the intelligence community, and the corresponding weaponization of the national security establishment, argues Scott Ritter.
By Scott Ritter
Special to Consortium News
The whistleblower. A figure of great controversy, whose actions, manifested in an 11-page report submitted to the Intelligence Community Inspector General (ICIG) on August 12 alleging wrongdoing on the part of the president of the United States, jump-started an ongoing impeachment process targeting Donald Trump that has divided the American body politic as no other issue in contemporary time.
His identity has been cloaked in a shroud of anonymity which has proven farcical, given that his name is common knowledge throughout the Washington-based national security establishment in whose ranks he continues to serve. While Trump publicly calls for the identity of the whistleblower to be revealed, the mainstream media has played along with the charade of confidentiality, and Congress continues to pretend his persona is a legitimate national security secret, even as several on-line publications have printed it, along with an extensive document trail sufficient to corroborate that the named man is, in fact, the elusive whistleblower.
There is no legitimate reason for the whistleblower’s identity to remain a secret. The Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Representative Adam Schiff, (D-CA) has cited statutory protections that simply do not exist while using his authority as chairman to prohibit any probe by his Republican colleagues designed to elicit information about the whistleblower’s identity. “The whistleblower has a right, a statutory right, to anonymity,” Schiff recently opined during recent impeachment-related testimony. And yet The Washington Post, no friend of Trump, was compelled to assign Schiff’s statement three “Pinocchios”, out of a scale of four, in rejecting the claim as baseless.
The myth of statutory protection for the whistleblower’s identity has been aggressively pursued by his legal counsel, Andrew Bakaj, the managing partner of the Compass Rose Legal Group, which has taken on the whistleblower’s case pro bono. In a letter to the president’s legal counsel, Pat Cippolone, Bakaj demanded that Trump “cease and desist in calling for my client’s identity”, claiming that the president’s actions, undertaken via Twitter and in press briefings, constituted violations of federal statutes prohibiting, among other things, tampering with a witness, obstruction of proceedings, and retaliating against as witness.
All of Bakaj’s claims are contingent upon the viability of the whistleblower’s status as a legitimate witness whose testimony can, therefore, be tampered, obstructed or retaliated against. The legal foundation of the whistleblower’s claims are based upon the so-called Intelligence Community whistleblower statute, 50 USC § 3033(k)(5), which stipulates the processes required to report and sustain an allegation of so-called “urgent concern” to the U.S. intelligence community. An “urgent concern” is defined, in relevant part, as: “A serious or flagrant problem, abuse, violation of the law or Executive order, or deficiency relating to the funding, administration, or operation of an intelligence activity within the responsibility and authority of the Director of National Intelligence involving classified information, but does not include differences of opinions concerning public policy matters.”
At issue was a telephone call made between President Trump and the newly elected President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, on July 25 of this year. According to the whistleblower’s report to the ICIG, “Multiple White House officials with direct knowledge of the call informed me that, after an initial exchange of pleasantries, the President used the remainder of the call to advance his personal interests.” President Trump, the whistleblower alleged, “sought to pressure the Ukrainian leader to take actions to help the President’s 2020 reelection bid,” an act which the whistleblower claimed presidential abuse of his office “for personal gain.”
Upon review of the whistleblower’s report, which consisted of a nine-page unclassified letter and a separate two-page classified annex, Michael K. Atkinson, the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community, initiated an investigation of the complaint as required by the whistleblower statute. This investigation must be completed within a 14-day period mandated by the statute, during which time the ICIG “shall determine whether the complaint or information appears credible.”
While the statute is silent on the methodology to be used by the ICIG in making this determination, Atkinson had testified during his Senate confirmation hearing that, when it came to any investigation of a whistleblower complaint, “I will work to ensure that ICIG personnel conduct investigations, inspections, audits, and reviews in accordance with Quality Standards promulgated by CIGIE (Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency) to keep those activities free from personal, external, and organizational impairments.” The CIGIE standard in question requires that, “Evidence must be gathered and reported in an unbiased and independent manner in an effort to determine the validity of an allegation or to resolve an issue.”
In a letter transmitting the whistleblower complaint to the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), Atkinson stated that he had “determined that the Complainant (i.e., whistleblower) had official and authorized access to the information and sources referenced in the Complainant’s Letter and Classified Appendix, including direct knowledge of certain alleged conduct, and that the Complainant has subject matter expertise related to much of the material information provided in the Complainant’s Letter and Classified Appendix.”
However, when it came to assessing whether or not the whistleblower, in reporting the second-hand information provided to him by White House persons familiar with the July 25 Trump-Zelensky phone call, had done so accurately, Atkinson did not review the actual records of the telephone call, noting that he “decided that access to records of the telephone call was not necessary to make my determination that the complaint relating to the urgent concern ‘appears credible.’”
Atkinson declared that “it would be highly unlikely for the ICIG to obtain those records within the limited remaining time allowed by statute,” and opted to perform an investigation in violation of the very CIGIE standard he had promise to adhere to in his Senate testimony. In short, no evidence was gathered by the ICIG to determine the validity of the whistleblower’s allegation, and yet Atkinson decided to forward the complaint to the DNI, certifying it as “credible.”
The whistleblower statute allows the DNI seven days to review the complaint before forwarding it to the House Committee on Intelligence, with comments if deemed appropriate. However, in reviewing the actual complaint, Joseph McGuire, the acting DNI who took over from Dan Coats, who was fired by President Trump in early August, had questions about whether or not the matters it alleged fell within the remit of the whistleblower statute, and rather than forwarding it to the House Intelligence Committee, instead sent it to the Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel for legal review.
The Office of Legal Council, on September 3, issued a legal opinion rejecting the ICIG’s certification of the whistleblower complaint as constituting an “urgent concern” under the law. “The complaint,” the opinion read,
“does not arise in connection with the operation of any U.S. government intelligence activity, and the alleged misconduct does not involve any member of the intelligence community. Rather, the complaint arises out of a confidential diplomatic communication between the President and a foreign leader that the intelligence-community complainant received secondhand. The question is whether such a complaint falls within the statutory definition of ‘urgent concern’ that the law requires the DNI to forward to the intelligence committees. We conclude that it does not. The alleged misconduct is not an ‘urgent concern’ within the meaning of the statute.”
DOJ Rejected Complaint as Urgent
As related in the Office of Legal Counsel’s opinion, the Justice Department did, however, refer the matter to the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice for appropriate review. After considering the whistleblower’s complaint and classified annex, the Criminal Division opted not to pursue charges, in effect determining that no crime had been committed.
Under normal circumstances, this would have concluded the matter of Trump’s phone call with Zelensky, and the second-hand concerns unnamed White House officials had reported to the whistleblower. But this was not a normal circumstance. Far from diffusing an improperly predicated complaint, the failure of the acting DNI to forward the whistleblower complaint to the House Intelligence Committee, and the concurrent legal opinion of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel rejecting the “urgent concern” certification of the ICIG, opened the door for the whistleblower, through legal counsel, to reach out to the House Intelligence Committee directly.
The whistleblower followed procedures set forth in the whistleblower statute detailing procedures for a complaint, which had not been certified as an “urgent concern,” to be forwarded to Congress. The issue is that the matter was being treated by the ICIG, Congress and the whistleblower’s attorney’s as an “urgent concern”, a status that it did not legally qualify for.
On September 24, Bakaj sent a “Notice of Intent to Contact Congressional Intelligence Committees” to acting DNI McGuire providing “formal notice of our intent to contact the congressional intelligence committees directly” on behalf of the whistleblower, identified only as “a member of the Intelligence Community.” Almost immediately, Schiff announced via Twitter that “We have been informed by the whistleblower’s counsel that their client would like to speak to our committee and has requested guidance from the Acting DNI as to how to do so. We‘re in touch with counsel and look forward to the whistleblower’s testimony as soon as this week.”
Thus was set in motion events which would culminate in impeachment proceedings against President Trump. On the surface, the events described represent a prima facia case for the efficacy of statutory procedures concerning the processing of a whistleblower complaint. But there were warning signs that all was not right regarding both the whistleblower himself, and the processes involved leading to the whistleblower’s complaint being presented to Congress.
Far from an exemplar in bureaucratic efficiency, the whistleblower complaint has opened a window into the politicization of the intelligence community, and the corresponding weaponization of the national security establishment, against a sitting president.
As I shall show, such actions are treasonous on their face, and the extent to which this conduct has permeated the intelligence community and its peripheral functions of government, including the National Security Council and Congress itself, will only be known if and when an investigation is conducted into what, in retrospect, is nothing less than a grand conspiracy by those ostensibly tasked with securing the nation to instead reverse the will of the American people regarding who serves as the nation’s chief executive.
The key to this narrative is the whistleblower himself. Understanding who he is, and what role he has played in the events surrounding the fateful July 25 telephone conversation, are essential to unravelling the various threads of this conspiracy.
Much has been made about the political affiliation of the whistleblower, namely the fact that he is a registered Democrat who supports Joe Biden as the Democratic candidate for the 2020 presidential election. On the surface this information is not dispositive—the intelligence community is populated by thousands of professionals of diverse political leanings and affiliations, all of whom have been trained to check their personal politics at the door when it comes to implementing the policies promulgated by the duly elected national leadership.
Indeed, Inspector General Atkinson, while acknowledging in his assessment of the whistleblower’s complaint an indication of possible political bias on the part of the whistleblower in favor of a rival political candidate, noted that “such evidence did not change my determination that the complaint relating to the urgent concern ‘appears credible’”. But when one reverse engineers the whistleblower’s career, it becomes clear that there in fact existed a nexus between the whistleblower’s political advocacy and professional actions that both influenced and motivated his decision to file the complaint against the president.
A Rising Star
Like most CIA analysts, the whistleblower possessed a keen intellect born of stringent academic preparation, which in the whistleblower’s case included graduating from Yale University in 2008 with a degree in Russian and East European studies, post-graduate study at Harvard, and work experience with the World Bank.
Andrea Kendall-Taylor, a contemporary colleague of the whistleblower, has provided an apt account for what is expected of a CIA analyst. “The CIA is an intensely apolitical organization,” Kendall-Taylor wrote. “As intelligence analysts, we are trained to check our politics at the door. Our job is to produce objective analysis that the country’s leaders can use to make difficult decisions. We undergo rigorous training on how to analyze our own assumptions and overcome biases that might cloud our judgement.”
The training program Kendall-Taylor referred to is known as the Career Analyst Program (CAP), a four-month basic training program run out of the CIA’s in-house University, the Sherman Kent School, which “introduces all new employees to the basic thinking, writing, and briefing skills needed for a successful career. Segments include analytic tools, counterintelligence issues, denial and deception analysis, and warning skills.”
The standards to which aspiring analysts such as the whistleblower were trained to meet were exacting, and included a requirement to be “independent of political considerations,” meaning the product produced should consist of objective assessments “informed by available information that are not distorted or altered with the intent of supporting or advocating a particular policy, political viewpoint, or audience.” As an analyst, the whistleblower would have chosen a specific specialization, which in his case was as a “Political Analyst”, charged with examining “political, social, cultural, and historical information to provide assessments about foreign political systems and developments.”
By the time the whistleblower completed his application process with the CIA, which requires a detailed background check, several rounds of interviews, and final security and psychological evaluation before an actual offer of employment can be made, and by the time he finished his basic analytical training, the U.S. had undergone a political and social revolution of sorts with the election of Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States.
The whistleblower was assigned to the Office of Russian and Eurasian Analysis (OREA), within the CIA’s Directorate of Intelligence, at a time when U.S.-Russian policy was undergoing a radical transformation.
Under the guidance of Michael McFaul, President Obama’s special advisor on Russia and the senior director of Russian and Eurasian Affairs at the National Security Council, the Obama administration was seeking to take advantage of the opportunity afforded by the election of Dmitri Medvedev as Russia’s president in 2008. Medvedev had succeeded Vladimir Putin, who went on to serve as prime minister. Medvedev was a more liberal alternative to Putin’s autocratic conservatism, and McFaul envisioned a policy “reset” designed to move relations between the U.S. and Russia in a more positive trajectory.
As a junior analyst, the whistleblower worked alongside colleagues such as Andrea Kendall-Taylor, who joined OREA about the same time after graduating from UCLA in 2008 with a PhD is Slavic and Eurasian studies. A prolific writer, Kendall-Taylor wrote extensively on autocratic leaders and Putin in particular. Her work was in high demand at both the CIA and NSC, which under the Obama administration had undergone a massive expansion intended to better facilitate policy coordination among the various departments that comprised the NSC.
The whistleblower had a front-row seat on the rollercoaster ride that was U.S.-Russian policy during this time, witnessing the collapse of McFaul’s Russian “reset,” Putin’s return to power in 2012, and the U.S.-backed coup in Ukraine that led to the annexation of Crimea and Russian support for rebels in the Donbas region.
During his tenure at OREA, the whistleblower obviously impressed his superiors, receiving several promotions and, in July 2015, he detailed to the NSC staff at the Obama White House as the Director for Ukrainian Affairs. According to a former CIA officer, any high-performing analyst who aspires to be promoted into the ranks of the Senior Intelligence Service must, prior to that time, do a rotation as part of the overall policy community, which includes the NSC or another department, such as Defense or State, as well as a tour within another directorate of the CIA.
NSC positions were originally intended for senior CIA analysts, at the GS-15 level, but waivers could be made for qualified GS-14 or “very strong” GS-13’s (the whistleblower was a GS-13 at the time of his assignment at the NSC, a reflection of both his qualification and the regard to which he was held by the CIA.) NSC assignments do not coincide with the political calendar—detailees (as career civil servants who are detailed to the NSC are referred) are expected to serve in their position regardless of what political party controls the White House. When an opening becomes available (usually when another detailee’s assignment has finished), prospective candidates apply, and are interviewed by their senior management, who forward qualified candidates to another board for a final decision.
Assignments to the NSC are considered highly sought after, and while the process for application must be followed, the selection process is highly political, with decisions being signed off by the director of the CIA. In the case of the whistleblower, his candidacy would have been approved by both Peter Clement, the director of OREA, and John Brennan, the CIA director.
Into the Lion’s Den
By the time the whistleblower arrived at the NSC, the NSC staff had grown into a well-oiled policy machine managing the entire spectrum of Obama administration national security policy-making and implementation. The NSC staff operated in accordance with Presidential Policy Memorandum (PPM) 1, “Organization of the National Security Council System”, which outlined the procedures governing the management of the development and implementation of national security policies by multiple agencies of the United States Government.
The vehicle for accomplishing this mission was the NSC Interagency Policy Committee (NSC/IPC). The NSC/IPCs were the main day-to-day fora for interagency coordination of national security policy. They provided policy analysis for consideration by the more senior committees of the NSC system and ensured timely responses to decisions made by the president. NSC/IPCs were established at the direction of the NSC Deputies Committee and were chaired by the relevant division chief within the NSC staff.
The whistleblowers job was to develop, coordinate and execute plans and policies to manage the full range of diplomatic, informational, military and economic national security issues for the countries in his portfolio, which included Ukraine. The whistleblower coordinated with his interagency partners to produce internal memoranda, talking points and other materials for the National Security Advisor and senior staff.
The whistleblower reported directly to Charles Kupchan, the Senior Director for European Affairs on the NSC. Kupchan, a State Department veteran who had previously served on the NSC staff of President Bill Clinton before turning to academia, in turn reported directly to Susan Rice, President Obama’s national security adviser.
When the whistleblower first arrived at the NSC, he volunteered for the Ukraine portfolio. Kupchan was impressed by the whistleblower’s work ethic and performance, and soon expanded his portfolio to include the fight against the Islamic State. The whistleblower was aided by another organizational connection—his colleague and mentor at OREA, Andrea Kendall-Taylor, had been selected to serve in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence as the deputy national intelligence officer for Russia and Eurasia. Among Kendall-Taylor’s responsibilities was to closely coordinate with the NSC staff on critical issues pertaining to Russia and Ukraine.
The whistleblower’s arrival at the NSC staff also coincided with the start of Trump’s improbable candidacy for the presidency of the United States. As 2015 transitioned into 2016, and it became apparent that Trump was the presumptive nominee for the Republican Party, allegations about the Trump campaign colluding with Russia began to circulate within the interagency. Trump’s electoral victory in November 2016 , the shocked the whistleblower, like everyone else on the NSC staff.
Alarmed By Trump on Russia
The line between policy and politics began to blur, and then disappeared altogether. National Security Advisor Rice was becoming increasingly alarmed by the activities of the Trump transition team, especially when it came to issues pertaining to Russia. According to The Washington Post, “Rice apparently was closely monitoring the high-profile investigation into Russian interference.”
The President-elect had, during the campaign, openly advocated for better relations between the U.S. and Russia and had even suggested that the Russian annexation of Crimea could eventually be accepted by the U.S. This stance was anathema to the policies that had been massaged into place by the NSC in general, and the whistleblower in particular. According to multiple sources familiar with the whistleblower during this time, his animus against Trump was palpable.
In December 2016, Rice was involved in the unmasking of the identities of several members of the Trump transition team. Various sensitive intelligence reports were circulating within the NSC regarding the interaction of unnamed U.S. citizens with foreign targets of intelligence interest. In order to better understand the significance of such a report, Rice has acknowledged that, on several occasions, she requested that the identity of the U.S. persons involved be “unmasked.”
The U.S. intelligence community is prohibited by law from collecting information about U.S. citizens. As such, when a conversation undertaken by a foreign national of intelligence interest was captured, and it turned out the person or persons whom the target was speaking to was a U.S. citizen, the analysts preparing the report for wider dissemination would “mask”, or hide, the identities of the U.S. citizens involved. Under relevant laws governing the collection of intelligence, up to 20 officials within the Obama administration had the authority to unmask the identities of U.S. citizens. One of those was Rice.
In late December 2016, the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, arrived in New York for a meeting with several top Trump transition officials, including Michael Flynn, Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and the President-elect’s top strategist Steve Bannon. Intelligence reports had been circulating about the UAE coordinating a backchannel for the Trump transition team and Russia.
Zayed’s arrival, which was unannounced and had not been coordinated with the U.S. government, caused great concern among the NSC staff especially given the context of allegations of collusion between Trump and Russia to influence the outcome of the 2016 election.
The principle NSC staffers who would logically been advising Rice on this matter were Kupchan, the whistleblower, and Sean Misko, a State Department detailee who served as the director for the Gulf Arab States (According the NSC staffers who worked in the White House at the time, Misko and the whistleblower were said to be close friends, frequently socializing with one another after hours, and possessing a common dislike for Trump.) Rice requested that the intelligence reports pertaining to Zayed’s visit be subjected to unmasking procedures.
While the subsequent reporting about the three-hour meeting between Zayed and the Trump transition team failed to uncover any evidence of a secret communications channel with Russia, Rice (who would logically have been assisted by Kupchan and the whistleblower) facilitated the near continuous unmasking of intelligence reports involving Flynn, who was in contact with Russian officials, including Sergei Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the U.S.
The Greatest Sin
As a professional intelligence analyst detailed to the NSC, the whistleblower was committed to a two-year assignment, extendable to three years upon the agreement of all parties. President Obama’s departure from the White House did not change this commitment. According to NSC staffers who served in the White House at the time, the whistleblower, like many of his fellow detailees, had grown attached to the policies of the Obama administration which they had fought hard to formulate, coordinate and implement. They viewed these policies to be sacrosanct, regardless of who followed in the White House.
In doing so, they had committed the greatest sin that an intelligence professional could commit short of espionage—they had become political.
In December 2016, the whistleblower was, based upon his role as a leading Russian analysts advising Rice directly, more than likely helping unmask Flynn’s communications with Russians; a month later, he was working for Flynn, someone he had likely actively helped conspire against, using the unfettered power of the intelligence community.
The Trump administration had inherited a national security decision-making apparatus that was bloated, and which fostered White House micromanagement via the NSC. While the Obama NSC had proven able to generate a prolificate amount of “policy”, it did so by relying on a staff that had expanded to the largest in the history of the NSC, and at the expense of the various departments of government that were supposed to be the originators of policy.
As the new national security adviser, Flynn let it be known from day one that there would be changes. One of his first actions was to hire four new deputies who centralized much of the responsibilities normally tasked to regional directors such as the whistleblower. Flynn was putting in place a new level of bureaucracy that shielded professional detailees from top level decision makers.
Moreover, it recognized that the NSC, while staffed with professionals who are supposed to be apolitical, was viewed by the White House as a partisan policy body whose work not only furthered the interests of the United States, but also the political interests of the president. When Trump included his top political advisor, Bannon, on the list of people who would comprise the National Security Council (normally limited to cabinet-level officials), it sent shockwaves through the national security establishment, which accused Trump of politicizing what they claimed was an apolitical process.
But the reality was that the NSC had always functioned as a partisan decision-making body. Its previous occupants may have tried to temper the level to which domestic politics intruded on national security decision-making, but its presence was an unspoken reality. All Trump did by seeking to insert Bannon into the mix was to be open about it.
Like the other professional detailees who comprised 90 percent of the NSC staff and were expected to remain at their posts as part of a Trump administration, the whistleblower was dismayed by the changes. Some accounts of the early days of the Trump NSC indicate that the whistleblower was defensive of the Ukraine policies he had helped craft during his tenure at the NSC.
When his immediate superior, Kupchan (a political appointee) departed the NSC, the whistleblower was temporarily elevated to the position of senior director for Russia and Eurasia until a new replacement could be found. (Flynn had reached out to Fiona Hill, a former national intelligence officer for Russia under the administration of George W. Bush, to take this job; Hill had accepted, but would not be available until April.)
The whistleblower was a known quantity within the NSC, as were his decidedly pro-Obama political leanings. As such, he was not trusted by the incoming Trump officials, and his access to the decision-making process was limited.
According to persons familiar with his work at the NSC during the Trump administration, the whistleblower’s frustration and anger soon led to acts of resistance designed to expose, and undermine public confidence in President Trump.
Cut Out of Call to Putin
In late January 2017 Trump made several introductory telephone calls to world leaders, including President Putin. Normally the NSC director responsible for Russia would help prepare the president for such a call by drafting talking points and supporting memoranda, and then monitor the call directly, either from within the Oval Office or from the White House situation room.
According to sources familiar with the incident, Flynn did not coordinate Trump’s call with NSC staff, and as such the whistleblower, who was acting as the director for Russia and European Affairs at the time, would have been cut out of the process altogether. When the whistleblower tried to access the read out of the phone call afterwards, he found that no verbatim record existed, only a short summary released by the White House, presumably prepared by Flynn.
More frustrating was the fact that the official readout of the call released by the Kremlin contained much more information, putting Russia in the driver’s seat in terms of defining U.S.-Russian policy priorities—the very policy blunder the NSC was supposed to prevent from happening. While searching for the non-existent records of the Putin-Trump conversation, however, the whistleblower came across detailed verbatim transcripts of two other calls made by Trump that day—one with Mexico, and one with Australia.
Within days the details of these calls were leaked to the media, resulting in a series of unflattering articles being published by the mainstream media. While no direct evidence has emerged about who was responsible for leaking these calls, NSC staffers who worked in the White House at the time suspected the whistleblower. (One of the byproducts of this incident was the decision by NSC lawyers to move the records of Presidential phone calls to a more secure server, significantly limiting access by NSC staff.)
On February 13, 2017, Flynn resigned from his position as President Trump’s national security adviser. The reason given was Flynn’s having misrepresented his conversations with Russian Ambassador Kislyak when questioned by Vice President Mike Pence. For the whistleblower, whose previous work in the Obama NSC appeared to help Rice’s efforts to unmask the very conversations Flynn was being held accountable for, this had to have been a satisfying moment. He had to have been even more pleased by Trump’s choice to replace Flynn —Lieutenant General H. R. McMaster, a decorated combat veteran known for his intelligence and willingness to challenge the establishment.
In the little more than a month that transpired between McMaster coming on board and the arrival of Hill as the new director for Russia and Europe, the whistleblower would have had the opportunity to meet his new boss and work with him on repairing what they both viewed as the flawed changes undertaken by Flynn at the NSC.
McMaster rewrote the presidential guidance regarding the functioning of the NSC, replacing the original Presidential Policy Memorandum 1 with a new version, PPM 4, which removed Bannon from the NSC and restored much of the policy coordinating functions that characterized the NSC under Obama.
Moreover, McMaster stuck up for the professional detailees, such as the whistleblower. When Hill arrived in April 2017 to assume her responsibilities as the NSC director for Russia and Europe, the whistleblower found himself without a job.
But instead of being returned to the CIA, McMaster, who had come to know the whistleblower during his first month as national security adviser, appointed him to serve as his personal assistant. The whistleblower moved from his desk next door in the Executive Office Building, where most NSC staffer work, to the West Wing of the White House, a move which gave him direct access to every issue that crossed McMaster’s desk.
Oval Office Leak
The new job, however, did nothing to diminish the disdain the whistleblower had for Trump. Indeed, the proximity to the seat of power may have served to increase the concern the whistleblower had about Trump’s stewardship. On May 10, President Trump played host to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Kislyak. During the now-infamous meeting, Trump spoke about the firing of former FBI Director Jim Comey; a sensitive Israeli intelligence source related to the ongoing fight against ISIS in Syria; and alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
As McMasters’ assistant, the whistleblower was privy to the readout of the meeting, and was so alarmed by what he had seen that he sent an email to John Kelly, who at that time was serving as director of the Department of Homeland Security, detailing the president’s actions and words. All materials relating to this meeting were collected and secured in the NSC’s top secret codeword server; the only unsecured data was that contained in the whistleblower’s email. When the media subsequently reported on the details of Trump’s meeting with the Russians, the White House condemned the “leaking of private and highly classified information” which undermined “our national security.”
According to a NSC staffer who worked in the White House at the time, an internal investigation pointed to the whistleblower’s email as the likely source of the leak, and while the whistleblower was not directly implicated in actually transmitting classified information to the press, he was criticized for what amounted to unauthorized communication with an outside agency, in this case the Department of Homeland Security. When his initial two-year assignment terminated in July 2017, the White House refused to authorize a one-year extension (a courtesy offered to the vast majority of detailees).
The whistleblower had become a liability, publicly smeared by right-wing bloggers and subjected to death threats. He was released from the NSC and returned to the CIA, where he resumed his role as a Eurasian analyst. Shortly after the whistleblower left the NSC, the full transcripts of President Trump’s January 28, 2017 conversations with the leaders of Mexico and Australia were leaked to the press. While several colleagues in the NSC believed that the whistleblower was behind the leaks, McMaster refused to authorize a formal investigation which, if evidence had been found that implicated the whistleblower, would have effectively terminated his career at the CIA.
It is at this juncture the saga of the whistleblower should have ended, avoiding the turn of events which ended up labeling him with the now famous (or infamous) appellation. However, in June 2018 the whistleblower’s colleague, Kendall-Taylor, ended her assignment as the deputy national intelligence officer for Russia and Eurasia. An announcement was made to fill the vacancy, and the whistleblower applied.
Despite having left the NSC under a cloud of suspicion regarding the unauthorized disclosure of sensitive information, and even though his anti-Trump sentiment was common knowledge among his colleagues and superiors, the whistleblower was picked for a position that would put him at the center of policy formulation regarding Russia and Ukraine, and the sensitive intelligence that influenced such. His appointment would have been approved by Director of National Intelligence Dan Coates.
The whistleblower was well versed in the collaborative functions of the deputy national intelligence officer position, having worked with Kendall-Taylor during his time at the NSC. He began to develop professional relationships with a number of individuals, including the new director of Ukraine at the NSC, Army Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman. Vindman had extensive experience regarding Ukraine and had been detailed to the NSC from the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The two soon appeared to share a mutual concern over President Trump’s worldview of both Russia and Ukraine, which deviated from the formal policy formulations promulgated by the interagency processes that both Vindman and the whistleblower were involved in.
The whistleblower’s concerns about President Trump and Ukraine predated the July 25, 2019 telephone call, and mirrored those expressed by Lieutenant Colonel Vindman, both in chronology and content, provided during his testimony before the House Intelligence Committee. While Vindman was critical of President Trump’s deviation and/or failure to conform with policy that had been vetted through proper channels (i.e., in conformity with PDD 4), he noted that, as president, “It’s his prerogative to handle the call whichever way he wants.”
Vindman took umbrage at the non-national security topics brought up by the president, such as investigating former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, regarding their relationship with a Ukrainian energy company, Burisma Holdings, and other references to the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
According to Vindman, it was this aspect of the telephone call Vindman believed to be alarming, and which he subsequently related to an authorized contact within the intelligence community. While Vindman remained circumspect about the identity of the intelligence community official he communicated with about his concerns over Trump’s Ukraine policy, the fact that the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee refused to allow any discussion of this person’s identity strongly suggests that it was the whistleblower who, as the deputy national intelligence officer for Russia and Ukraine, would be a logical, and fully legitimate, interlocuter.
According to an account published in The Washington Post, sometime after being informed by Vindman of the July 25 Trump-Zelensky telephone call, the whistleblower began preparing notes and assembling information related to what he believed was untoward activity vis-à-vis Ukraine on the part of President Trump and associates who were not part of the formal Ukraine policy making process. He made numerous telephone calls to U.S. government officials whom he knew from his official work as the deputy national intelligence officer for Russia and Eurasia. Because much of the information he was using was derived from classified sources, or was itself classified in nature, the whistleblower worked from his office, using a computer system approved for handling classified data.
From the perspective of security, the whistleblower’s work was flawless. There was one problem, however; investigating the actions of the president of the United States and officials outside the intelligence community who were carrying out the instructions of the president was not part of the whistleblower’s official responsibilities.
Indeed, anything that whiffed of interference in domestic American politics was, in and of itself, off limits to members of the intelligence community.
Robert Gates, a long-time CIA analyst and former CIA director, had warned about this possibility in a speech he delivered to the CIA in March 1992 on the issue of the politicization of intelligence. “National intelligence officers”, Gates noted, “are engaged in analysis and—given their frequent contact with high-level policymakers—their work is also vulnerable to distortion.”
There was no greater example of politicized distortion than the rabbit hole the whistleblower had allowed himself to fall into. From Gates’ perspective, the whistleblower had committed the ultimate sin of any intelligence analyst—he had allowed his expertise to become tarnished by political considerations.
Worse, the whistleblower had crossed the threshold from advocating a politicized point of view to becoming political—that is, to intervene in the domestic political affairs of the United States in a manner which influenced the political future of a sitting president of the United States.
Once he had assembled his notes, he sought out staffers on the House Intelligence Committee for guidance on how to proceed. Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, had hired two former members of the Trump NSC staff who had served at the same time as the whistleblower.
One, Abigail Grace, had worked at the NSC from 2016-2018, covering U.S.-Chinese relations. Grace was hired by Schiff in February 2019 for the express purpose of investigating the Trump White House. A second NSC veteran was hired in August 2019, around the same time that the whistleblower was preparing his complaint. That staffer was none other than Sean Misko, the whistleblowers friend and fellow anti-Trump collaborator.
Both Misko and the whistleblower departed the NSC in 2017 under a cloud. Misko went on to work for the Center for New American Security, a self-described bipartisan think tank set up by two former Obama administration officials, Michèle Flournoy and Kurt M. Campbell, before being recruited by Schiff. It is not known if Misko was one of the House Intelligence staffers the whistleblower approached, or if there had been any collaboration between the whistleblower and Misko about the nature of the complaint prior to Misko being recruited by Schiff.
After conferencing with the House Intelligence Committee staffers, the whistleblower sought legal counsel. He reached out to a lawyer affiliated with Whistleblower Aid, a group of national security lawyers who came together in September 2017—eight months after the inauguration of President Trump—to encourage whistleblowers within the U.S. government to come out agains Trump, and provide legal and financial assistance to anyone that chose to do so. One of Whistleblower Aid’s founding members was a lawyer named Mark Zaid.
In the days following Trump’s swearing in as president, Zaid turned to Twitter to send out messages supportive of a “coup” against Trump that would lead to the president’s eventual impeachment. The identity of the lawyer who met with the whistleblower is not known. However, this lawyer referred the whistleblower to Bakaj, a fellow member of Whistleblower Aid, who took on the case and provided procedural guidance regarding the preparation of the complaint. Bakaj later brought on Zaid and another lawyer, Charles McCullough, with close ties to Senator Chuck Schumer and Hillary Clinton, to assist in the case.
On August 12, the whistleblower completed his complaint, and forwarded it to the intelligence community inspector general, thereby setting in motion events that produced weeks of hearings before the House Intelligence Committee that will very likely result in Trump’s impeachment.
Shielded from Questions
While the whistleblower, through counsel, had expressed a desire to testify before the House Intelligence Committee about the issues set forth in his complaint, he was never called to do so, even in closed-door session. The ostensible reason behind this failure to testify was the need to protect his anonymity, a protection that is not contained within the relevant statutes governing whistleblower activities within the intelligence community.
Later, as witnesses were identified from the content of the whistleblower’s complaint and subpoenaed to testify before the House Intelligence Committee, both Schiff and Bakaj indicated that the whistleblower’s testimony was no longer needed, since the specific issues and events covered in his complaint had been more than adequately covered by the testimony of others.
But the apparent reason Schiff and Bakaj refused to allow the whistleblower to testify, or to be identified, was to avoid legitimate questions likely to be asked by Republican committee members.
Namely, what was a deputy national intelligence officer of the U.S. intelligence community doing investigating activities of a sitting president? Who, if anyone, authorized this intervention in U.S. domestic political affairs by a CIA official? How did the whistleblower, who had a history of documented animosity with the Trump administration that included credible allegations of leaking sensitive material to the press for the express purpose of undermining the credibility of the president, get selected to serve as a deputy national intelligence officer? Who signed off on this assignment? What was the precise role played by the whistleblower in unmasking the identities of U.S. citizens in 2016, during the Trump transition?
Did the whistleblower maintain his friendship with Misko after leaving the NSC in July 2017? Did the whistleblower collaborate with Misko to get the House Intelligence Committee to investigate the issues of concern to the whistleblower before his complaint was transmitted to the ICIG? Who did the whistleblower meet on the House Intelligence staff? What did they discuss? Who was the lawyer the whistleblower first met regarding his intent to file a complaint? Did the whistleblower have any contact with Whistleblower Aid prior to this meeting?
Answers to these questions, and more, would have been useful in understanding not only the motives of the whistleblower in filing his complaint—was he simply a concerned citizen and patriot, or was he part of a larger conspiracy to undermine the political viability of a sitting president? There is no doubt that Congress has a constitutional right and obligation to conduct proper oversight of the operations of the executive branch, and to hold the president of the United States accountable if his conduct and actions are deemed unworthy of his office. Whether or not the facts surrounding the July 25, 2019 telephone call between Trump and Zelensky constitute grounds for impeachment is a political question for Congress to decide.
Intervening in Domestic Affairs
There is, however, the major issue looming in the background of this impeachment frenzy: the intervention by elements of the intelligence community in the domestic political affairs of the United States. There is no question that the whistleblower’s complaint served as the genesis of the ongoing impeachment proceedings.
The American people should be deeply concerned that an inquiry which could result in the removal of a duly elected president from office was initiated in secrecy by a member of the intelligence community acting outside the four corners of his legal responsibilities. The legitimacy of the underlying issues being investigated by the House Intelligence Committee is not at issue here; the legitimacy of the process by which these proceedings were initiated is.
To find out what happened, the whistleblower should not only be identified, called before the House Intelligence Committee, and other relevant Congressional committees, and be compelled to answer for his actions.
Impeachment is a constitutional remedy afforded to the U.S. Congress to deal with the political issues surrounding the conduct of a sitting president. If this constitutional remedy can be triggered by the intelligence community in a manner which obviates laws prohibiting the intrusion of intelligence agencies into the domestic political affairs of the United States, and done so in a manner where the identities of the persons and organizations involved, along with their possible motives, are shielded from both American people and those whom they elect to represent them in Congress, then a precedent will have been set for future interventions of this nature which undermine the very foundation of American democracy.
The political weaponization of intelligence represents a significant threat to the viability of the American constitutional republic that cannot be ignored.
Scott Ritter is a former Marine Corps intelligence officer who served in the former Soviet Union implementing arms control treaties, in the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Storm, and in Iraq overseeing the disarmament of WMD.
If you value this original article, please consider making a donation to Consortium News so we can bring you more stories like this one.
The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.
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Politicization of intelligence and national security. Check.
Something going on that’s not quite right. Check.
But you lost me with the following. “Despite having left the NSC under a cloud of suspicion regarding the unauthorized disclosure of sensitive information, and even though his anti-Trump sentiment was common knowledge among his colleagues and superiors, the whistleblower was picked for a position that would put him at the center of policy formulation regarding Russia and Ukraine, and the sensitive intelligence that influenced such. His appointment would have been approved by Director of National Intelligence Dan Coates.”
The claim of Coates approval is a weak attempt to explain away what is otherwise inexplicable.
Hello, shadow government.
“As I shall show, such actions are treasonous on their face, and the extent to which this conduct has permeated the intelligence community and its peripheral functions of government, including the National Security Council and Congress itself, will only be known if and when an investigation is conducted into what, in retrospect, is nothing less than a grand conspiracy by those ostensibly tasked with securing the nation to instead reverse the will of the American people regarding who serves as the nation’s chief executive.”
It is clearly an attempted coup. It is part of what is known as Lawfare, well known in Latin America.
What an important article – everyone should read this!! Thank you again Scott.
Below, michael had some more great points:
“Where were these people with Snowden’s, and Manning and Assange’s much more serious complaints? … Stephen Cohen has emphasized the essential ability of elected Presidents to meet in private with foreign leaders, as every President since Kennedy has done (saving us from nuclear destruction in JFK’s case and leading to the fall of the Soviet Union in Reagan’s). That’s where important deals are concluded and military, intelligence, and state members whose jobs depend on warmongering advantages, cannot and should not be allowed access to sensitive national security decisions … This is essentially the rotten core of American government today. The intelligence community somehow has been empowered to run the country and its politics since 2016, which is much more dangerous than anything the Russians could ever do.”
Wish Eisenhower’s and Truman’s warnings had been heeded long ago. The FBI too has quite sordid aspects and history, and we have now seen these agents communicating with each other in hopes to undermine a presidential candidate. Although there are of course ethical and good agents (thank you to them), at least several of the Intel agencies need to be reviewed, reformed, and perhaps disbanded. They all need valid, reliable, and verifiable oversight. They need to be OUT of our schools. A new entity should be established solely to monitor for foreign agents in schools. As a whistleblower, I have had horrid experiences related to universities with military, state, and Intel (at one point, perhaps still the 2nd largest CIA hub) affiliations. See details and documentation at ourconstitution.info (see video there “a lot of killers” – Trump to O’Reilly).
As for the military, it would appear important changes should also be made in those regards, certainly as long as the Intel apparatus is out-of-control and unconstitutional, and probably forever, regardless. One major problem that facilitates this hell is the career appointments of Intel and the military, versus the much shorter terms of congress and presidents — a setting ripe for abuse unfortunately. Intel can wait out any of these, undermine, or worse, as we saw with JFK… We continue to maintain a separate military at our own PERIL … We should have conscription, mandatory service of a variety of options/types, but we should ALL want and DEMAND a say in all things military. Military mandates, policies, benefits, plans, treatment of vets, and participation in conflicts, to name a few things, should involve us all. This will no doubt lead to less war, conflicts, more fairness… and a more integrated, positively purposed society. More developed nations with mandatory conscription also have a healthier respect for war, and in notable cases lower gun violence.
I wish abolishing war and hatred was an option. Unfortunately, Intel cannot be as integrated as the military, and we all know they spied on their Senate overseers. These (Intel) agencies that continue to ‘stir up trouble to justify their existence” quite often include the military, mercenaries, or paramilitary in their actions. Our Soldiers, and All Americans, should fight and die for just causes only. We can, and should, be gatekeepers in these regards, and for Our Republic, Of, By, and For The People (as long as we can keep it). If we are not that Beacon, no one will be. Words are no longer enough. Protest with me in Miami, or wherever you are.
Great Article Scott. You are as right about the politicization of Intelligence you were about there being no WMD’s in Iraq.
There is a corollary to the old saw that “the power to tax is the power to destroy.” The power to surveil also carries the power to destroy.
FBI director J. Edgar Hoover used it (after WWII) to control or get what what he wanted from politicians who had something embarrassing in their past or maybe a current affair.
FBI Director James Comey’s attempt to Hoover president Trump didn’t work. It does reveal that the FBI hasn’t changed much. Intelligence, especially the CIA, is so corrupted (read politicized) it has to be considered a political faction. A very powerful political faction that wants to run the country without being elected. If Russiagate was the coup d’essai (first attempt) the impeachment is a coup de theatre.
Former US Senator from New York, and UN Ambassador, Danial Patrick Moynihan (1927-2003) proposed disbanding the CIA and transferring its intelligence functions to the State Dept. He also introduced a bill in the senate to do it. See onlinelibrary dot wiley dot com. – “Do we still need the CIA” 15 pages pdf. If even half the CIA’s ‘deeds’ were public and half what it has failed to do or know became public, the voters would happily support Senator Moynihan’s bill.
Good informative stuff from Scott as always
There you have it. A perfect anaylisis of the state of the union and it ain`t pretty.
I always thought that focussing on Trump’s rather idiotic and stupid obsession with Ukraine and Joe Biden made little sense for impeachment, compared with a long list of valid and important reasons of Trump’s transgressions. The fact that the team who listened to the call were disturbed by it but ‘blew no whistle’ implies that they probably just shrugged their shoulders and looked away in embarrassment.
The “whistleblower” was CIA and it seems ‘he’ just seized this transgression as the main chance for the security state to finally get rid of Trump, just as they have tried since his campaign statements for restoring detente with Russia. As Scott Ritter points out, careers have been made on the New Cold War.
Scott Ritter is obviously still a fearless truth teller. My first awareness of Scott was an interview on CNN with the disgusting Paula Zahn during the months before the Iraq war. Like the rest of corporate media, her job was obviously to be a cheer leader for “W” Bush’s disastrous war. She didn’t know how to respond to Scott as he explained that as Chief Weapons Inspector he had witnessed the elimination of anything that could be considered a WMD in Saddam’s Iraq. This interview, the exposure of the outdated plagiarized student thesis held up as intelligence, the Downing St. memo, and the yellow cake lie outing of Valerie Plame all added up to one thing. The Bush administration obviously knew there was no justification for their “shock and awe” invasion. This was my awakening at age 50 I am embarrassed to admit. I helped organize the local protest demonstrations of several thousand people in my area which did no good of course. Millions of people all over the world could not stop it.
If you think it is proper, in fact imperative, to publically identify the whistleblower (which is publically known anyway), then why do you keep referring to him as the whistleblower? Not only iis it annoying it casts a shadow over the rest of the information you present (without sources).
From Scott Ritter:
The idea behind my not including the name of the Whistleblower, all the while providing a documentary trail that clearly identifies the individual in question, was to highlight the absurdity of the ongoing decision by Congress and the Whistleblower’s legal counsel to pretend that he enjoys a modicum of anonymity. Perhaps my approach was too sophisticated by far, but with all due respect, it certainly did not lack for courage.
“the Politicization of Intelligence”
The purpose of “intelligence” is to enhance/preserve specific political relationships of the entity/entities for whom activities which are defined/framed as “intelligence” are undertaken, and hence “intelligence” is always “politicised” since it is a component of politics a.k.a. interactions defined/framed by the “initiators” implemented in interaction.
Often interactions deemed to facilitate de-mystification are facilitated/framed by mystification a.k.a. perception management in which the “initiators” are also immersed/subject to in some assay.
The distinction being made is about “electoral politics,” i.e., meddling to overturn the results of an election.
Note that House Democrats just extended the PATRIOT act for 3 mos by stealthily attaching it to a “must pass” bill.
Note that the Squad voted against it. Tulsi Gabbard was absent due to the debate. Ro Khanna, one of Bernie’s co-chairs, and Pramila Jayapal, the sponsor of the House Medicare for All bill, both voted for it.
It had to be approved in the Senate, which happened. Of the six senators running for president, only Bennett was present and voted for it. The others, Sanders, Warren, Klobuchar, Harris, and Booker, were all absent due to the debate.
Thank you, Scott Ritter, for this background info. I’m very upset about the Dems protecting the whistle blower, who works for them, while persecuting others.
Thanks for this detailed glimpse of secret operations at the top of the USG. Indeed interventions of this nature “undermine the very foundation of American democracy” along with the economic power of oligarchy that controls all branches of federal government and the mass media.
Scott seems convinced that the NSC serves the administration, although it surrounds and outnumbers them, controls the information and narratives available to them, is controlled by secret tribes of the secret agencies, and acts against them everywhere when it disagrees. The administration are mere figureheads in a government by secret agencies lost in their own self-serving narratives. Any contrary administration would have to move in a shadow government by force right after election, and abolish the NSC. Not that it could get elected.
In 1979 a presidential CAMPAIGN colluded with a foreign country for political leverage , and used it successfully .
Interesting and informative article.
However I’m concerned that Mr Ritter exhibits a worryingly consistent trait in many people, which is, because institutions have a stated set of values and principles, by and large those institutions act in accordance with them, when the reality over many years suggests that is not the case. Perhaps the sooner people get rid of those core beliefs the better for all.
So unless I’ve misunderstood we have Mr Ritter viewing the future whistle blower as becoming politicised which has caused him to stray from the high ideals of the institutions where he is working. If that was genuinely the case, on his return to the C.I.A. he would have been told in no uncertain terms that he had no career future with them. The fact that did not happen leads to a conclusion that everything he did was sanctioned.
We then look at his return to the NSA in June 2018. In view of his past suspected conduct how did he ever get near the job? Again it leads to a conclusion that everything he has done is sanctioned and strings are being pulled behind the scene to ensure he is appointed.
We now get to the latest escapade concerning the phone call. In the normal course of events we would be assured non stop by agents of the national security state of the dangerous damage done to U.S. interests etc, etc, but unless I’ve missed it the silence from Gina Haspel has been deafening and where was she in 2016, oh yes, London where much of the Trump/Russia collusion story was hatched. So why again do I suspect everything he is doing is sanctioned?
Good investigative reporting in the tradition of Consortium News founder Bob Parry, who was warned he would be “controversialized” and went full scale ahead anyway — no, not “anyway” — rather ALL THE MORE, ALL THE STRONGER.
More than two years before his untimely death, Bob had it pretty much figured out, and wrote it. See, for example The Foundering Russia-gate Scandal on Dec. 13, 2007 and Protecting the Shaky Russia-gate Narrative on Dec. 15, 2017.
Needless to say, your VIPS colleagues are among those proud of your gutsy, professional work.
Perhaps Consortium News folks merit a reminder to send this piece of Scott’s far and wide — and best BEFORE the politicians, who prefer not to understand why intelligence needs to be apolitical, make the usual hay out of your findings.
This afternoon I told a close friend about your findings in getting the truth out. He asked, Will this help Trump??
Aaaaaaaaagh, no, I said, this will help the TRUTH, which still matters. If the dumb Dems can’t find something more important and unconstitutional on which to impeach Trump, they are beyond help.
Yes, it is astounding that the Dems seek to impeach Trump for investigating their own corruption, rather than exposing Rep corruption. I am doing the latter at one corner of the state government level, and am sure that hundreds of times that could be found at the federal level if the Dems were not equally enthusiastic kleptocrats and nepotists.
But we would be ahead even if Reps prosecute only Dems and Dems prosecute only Reps: the public would at least see that Rep judges only convict Dems and probably the reverse as well. Only the scum floats to the top in an unregulated market economy dumbed-down by oligarchy-controlled mass media.
When you write “Aaaaaaaaagh”, I can hear your distinct pronunciation!
Otherwise, don’t you mean, “If the dumb Dems can’t find something more important and actually constitutional on which to impeach…” – instead of “unconstitutional”?
It works the same in every country, whether monarchy, oligarchy, dictatorship, socialist, communist or various blends with democracy. Once you set up an unaccountable secret police or intelligence agency and empower it to spy on people, carry out various deceptions and allow it to operate outside the law, it becomes the real power, blackmailing and even murdering according to its own direction.
Yes, the creation of an unaccountable secret power is the end of democracy, and very deliberately done by oligarchy control of politics, the first stage. In our case that was facilitated by the historical circumstance of the founders being unable to foresee the rise of economic concentrations after about 1850, sufficient to control all branches of federal government and the mass media. We may as well enjoy living in the middle decay stage of an unfit and irreparable former democracy, not much worse than living by an average star with its own decay prognosis.
Reply to Sam F:
“First the omission of a bill of rights providing clearly & without the aid of sophisms for freedom of religion, freedom of the press, protection against standing armies, *restriction against monopolies,* the eternal & unremitting force of the habeas corpus laws, and trials by jury in all matters of fact triable by the laws of the land & not by the law of Nations.” – Jefferson to Madison, Dec. 20, 1787
“With regard to monopolies they are justly classed among the greatest nusances in Government. But is it clear that as encouragements to literary works and ingenious discoveries, they are not too valuable to be wholly renounced? Would it not suffice to reserve in all cases a right to the Public to abolish the privilege at a price to be specified in the grant of it? Is there not also infinitely less danger of this abuse in our Governments, than in most others? Monopolies are sacrifices of the many to the few. Where the power is in the few it is natural for them to sacrifice the many to their own partialities and corruptions. Where the power, as with us, is in the many not in the few, the danger can not be very great that the few will be thus favored. It is much more to be dreaded that the few will be unnecessarily sacrificed to the many.” -Madison to Jefferson, Oct. 17, 1788
To the editors: Fascinating quotes. The only monopolies foreseeable were of intellectual property, considered to be valuable encouragements of little danger where “the power… is in the many not in the few.”
Madison also mentions ” ingenious discoveries,” and on the whole is taking a much broader view about the dangers of monopolies concentrating power in the hands of the few at the expense of the many.
I believe Scott is right on target with his presented material.
We still don’t know what happened with the JFK murder but we do know that CIA knew something big was up.
So JFK get murdered and CIA prevents a thorough exacting investigation. I see CIA interference as being political. What else would it be be. CIA escaped any blame at the time and the president was gone and replace. Political.
Then Robert fell, a likely winner of the next election he was terminated.
In this day and age CIA can’t afford getting caught with gunpowder residue anywhere on it entity if a sitting president happens to catch a round or two. The alternative is to use all that money the Super Wealthy Elites have stashed and go openly political. Hiding in plan sight as always.
JFK got shot by Oswald. The only bullets found in the limo were from his carbine. Several people have duplicated Oswald’s shots. An extensive FBI investigation found no links to organized crime. He was the only person in the School Depository Building unaccounted for. He left the building with $14 trying to flag a cab then a bus. He killed an arresting officer. There was a photo of him with the carbine that he denied owning. The evidence for his guilt is overwhelming. There is no evidence for any of the numerous conspiracy theories.
Excellent report, Scott Ritter. Thank you. I have always trusted your reports and analysis since the days of Iraq’s supposed
weapons of mass destruction. You have really served the American people well.
Interesting stuff. I’m certainly against politicization of intelligence. I am troubled about the whistleblower not being willing and allowed to testify.
But the rest of this sounds very much like a conspiracy theory. I’ll have to reread Ritter’s prior work, which I viewed very favorably. Given this mess, though, I’ll have to reconsider. Let’s assume the whistleblower was out to get the President. What difference does the whistleblower’s motivations t make if the President was doing exactly what the whistleblower said the President was doing? Prosecutors are always out to get criminals, and we don’t let the criminals go just because of that. Prosecutors get tips from all sorts of unsavory people, such as informants and criminal competitors. Are they supposed to just ignore those tips?
There are a number of other problems with this theory.
First, Ritter confuses “political” with “partisan.” Foreign policy is necessarily political — can’t be avoided. What it shouldn’t become is partisan — the party in power shouldn’t leverage the United States’ national security interests to gain political power over their domestic opponents. I hope we can all agree on that. When we say intelligence shouldn’t be political, we mean intelligence shouldn’t be “fixed around the policy.” Even going into Iraq, as stupid as that was, and as bad as the intelligence agencies acted, that’s different than using national foreign policy to stick it to your domestic political rivals. The Bushies and the neocons really thought it was in the national interest to go into Iraq. It also isn’t being “political” in the “partisan” sense to become wedded to a policy that you helped developed, it just means you think that’s the right policy and should be followed regardless of which party or politician is in office. It’s actually the opposite of political. Fiona Hill is a perfect example: To her, Russia is and always will be evil and duplicitous, and she’s going to say that no matter which party is in the oval office. She may not be right, but she sure isn’t partisan. If you are convinced that the President is selling the U.S. and the Ukraine out, what are you supposed to do?
Second, it is a real stretch to call phone calls to friends and acquaintances to verify the reports of the July 25 call and the surrounding circumstances “an investigation” of the president. Really? Sounds pretty deep statey to me.
Third, why does Ritter refer to the President’s request of a “favor” of a Biden investigation as “non-national security topics” rather than what it clearly was — a request for help that could only be primarily for Trump’s personal benefit in our domestic politics? Such sophistry is troubling and revealing. If the whistleblower’s claim is true, and it sure looks like it is based on publicly available evidence, Trump was giving Ukraine $391 Million reasons to fabricate evidence on Biden. Even the mere announcement, as Sondland says, would be politically damaging to the candidate who polls the best against Trump in key constituencies with no benefit at all to the U.S.’s national security. That’s why the story is troubling, not because it related to “non-national security topics.”
Fourth, who else other than an anti-Trump lawyer is the whistleblower supposed to choose? A pro-Trumper? Ridiculous criticism.
Fifth, he’s got friends here and there, and he might have leaked. This is just more “deep state” conspiracy nonsense, and the old look at all of this smoke, there must be a fire. It was so smoky and he was such a swampy deep stater that he was rehired into the White House despite those concerns? Yeah, maybe, or maybe the suspicions were not substantiated. And, again, what does any of that have to do with Trump essentially soliciting a bribe in exchange for aid and/or a White House meeting. All this shows is that Trump, who complains that they’re all out to get him, was stupid enough to get caught. Because he was stupid enough to rely on Rudy Giuliani.
So, this would make a nice spy novel, but it is pretty weak tea to support the claim that the Whistleblower did anything other than report what he thought was an improper and likely illegal act, and even weaker tea to support a claim that we ought to just ignore the whole scandal.
Withholding aid and a White House meeting unless Ukraine agreed to announce an investigation the primary purpose of which is to benefit the President personally and politically is wrong. It’s wrong for Trump and it will be wrong for every president of any party. If Ritter isn’t alarmed about that, it says more about him than it does about the whistleblower. If Ritter isn’t also troubled by that allegation, and the evidence that has come out to support it, his judgment is more suspect than the whistleblower’s.
From Scott Ritter:
The bottom line here is that a deputy national intelligence officer charged with overseeing intelligence activities regarding the Russian-Ukraine target used his position to initiate a Whistleblower complaint which failed to conform to the legal requirements required of such. Many sins are conducted by officials “under the cover of law”, and this is one. You can spin and cherry pick and obfuscate the article all you like, but you can’t avoid the reality that an intelligence officer, operating under a veil of secrecy, initiated a political action under the color of law designed to unseat the President of the United States. At a minimum this individual should be identified and subjected to an appropriate amount of investigation as to his motive and that of those who collaborated/conspired with him.
Yes, agree. And Ritter’s explanation doesn’t help at all. Ritter attacks the “process”, but says nothing about the substance. If Eric went about it the wrong way, what does Ritter suggest would have been the right way? Was Eric part of a cabal to unseat the prez? Probably. So. What?Trump knew there were guys in the “intelligence” community who were out to get him. He gave them what they wanted and they ran with it. Right Scott, that’s politics, though as the writer points out, its not partisan. Did Eric lie? Did he invent the story? Are the allegations bogus? No. Everything he alleged in his complaint, and more, has been shown to be accurate. Trump has admitted it. So say the process was not right (according to the sainted Robert Gates), then tell us please what he should have done. Ignored it? Place bets against Biden? Apply to the Brookings? Vote for Mayor Pete? Although he never says it, Ritter seems to think “no harm no foul” when it comes to soliciting dirt on partisan rivals from foreign governments in exchange for favorable policies. Note: this is not the same as the Steele Dossier which is line with traditional CIA activity. Nor is it all the same as overthrowing Allende, et. al. What Trump did is a simple textbook example of constitutional bribery. Is that Eric’s fault? Did Eric introduce “politics” into the situation, or did Trump? Again, what should Eric have done? What would you have done Scott?
Biden is a crook and his son is a crook and many of the Ukrainians they dealt with are crooks. Did you not know that?
Anner is right. A huge problem is that most US bureaucrats have never lived abroad and gone thru culture shock. They are so rigidly American they do not understand foreign cultures
“There is no legitimate reason for the whistleblower’s identity to remain a secret.” And the article says that some media have already published the whistleblower’s name.
I am an avid reader of Consortiumnews, and most often agree with its views. However, this article, while demeaning other media for not identifying a whistleblower whose name is already publicly known, it too, does not name the whistleblower. What gives?
Did you go to the “red letter references”?
From Scott Ritter:
The idea behind my not including the name of the Whistleblower, all the while providing a documentary trail that clearly identifies the individual in question, was to highlight the absurdity of the ongoing decision by Congress and the Whistleblower’s legal counsel to pretend that he enjoys a modicum of anonymity. Perhaps my approach was too sophisticated by far, but with all due respect, it certainly did not lack for courage.
…this is an historical abstract into the machinations of bureaucrats within the U S government. Well worth the time to read it.
I’ll second that D! Thanks…
Blowing the whistle on the whistle blower! Great article. He learned well.. I am still in shock from Morrell’s op ed in NYT, “I used to run the CIA and I am for Hillary Clinton”.
I know the morels post the government career doesn’t include a job at Booz Allen or SAIC or $ think tank world, just a desk at the Clinton Foundation BGS. Plus only a few crumbs from CBS and CNN. Maybe that is an instructive object lesson for other senior retiring officials.
Scott, Excellent piece. However i am still struggling with, “Duly Elected.”
I didnt read the whole thing but I would like to comment that we are all human and the flagrant recurring hypocrisy of Anerican public drama/celebrity seems to be anybody claiming purity and objectivity. The whistleblower is human. How can we judge him. Or anybody. Have a blessed and happy Thanksgivung Love wins
The timeline of Trump’s inquiry to Zelensky to investigate American wrong doing wasn’t a timeline structured around a 2020 presidential campaign as it was formed around a time of sitting Vice President performing his duties while in the office of VP.
Good point, although the MSM is spiking any negative Biden stories. Biden seems to be the CIA’s preferred Democrat.
Heavy published their “five facts” on the presumed whistleblower several days ago, including that he worked as the point man with Biden on Ukraine issues. Evidently he was so pro-Ukraine, anti-Russia (pointed out by Mike Cernovich who suggested he was involved in leaks, as noted in Foreign Policy back in 2017), that it must have been difficult for him to fall in line and do his required job, implementing new foreign policy with a new administration. Whether he “went native” or truly decided to over-ride the President’s policies in favor of the old Obama “consensus community” policies for Ukraine, he has crossed several lines interfering with foreign policy and national security.
Ritter mentions treason, but that is only applicable to war time. This case is classical sedition. If the CIA wants to run the country, they should run for office (as several did and won as Democrats in 2018).
Exactly. The relevant timeline is not the 2020 election.
The relevant timeline is of VP Biden’s alleged activities on behalf of his son while serving as VP and as the Obama administration point man on Ukraine. The sequence whereby various phone calls by Biden and his son resulted in monies departing Ukr bank accounts and arriving in American bank accounts Those are the activities that need to be investigated. Before Biden can dream of running for POTUS.
It is in a sense coincidence that Biden’s activities became known to the public and others at this moment in time.
Mr Ritter’s own anti-Russian bias is clearly on display throughout this piece, which reduces considerably its pretensions toward objectivity.
As for the politicization of the secret agencies – as a fairly recent phenomenon or so it would seem from Mr Ritter’s piece – from my reading and understanding of the past 70+ years, these agencies and their forebears have *Always* been politically biased. Not necessarily regarding whichever of the dual headed monopoly party that has controlled US politics for even longer, but biased always on behalf of the Ruling Elites.
As for the educational attainments of these secret agencies’ staffs and their supposed knowledge of, in this instance, Russia and other eastern European/Eurasian countries, I would suggest that they apparently understand very little about Russia particularly, no matter how well they speak, read and write the language; and what they remain steeped in, for reasons having to do with the insatiable desire for the US to remain *the* hegemon and the political biases of their university tutors/professors which they clearly absorb (their leanings probably already in those directions anyway), is the COLD WAR US/western erroneous apprehension of what the USSR intended. Of course Russia (the USSR before) want to dominate the world – we do, so obviously other such nations (China being the other one) want to overtake us. We visit war, coups, invasions, destruction, siege warfare (sanctions) on every nation that won’t do as we want – therefore Russia and China want to do exactly the same thing to us and the rest of the world.
Apparently the Anglo-American ruling elites and their instruments (such as the staffs of these agencies) are utterly incapable of conceiving of, perceiving that other cultures exist and that those cultural perspectives are *NOT* the same as ours, do not want to be exactly like ours (rightly so). WE cannot, do not, are utterly unwilling, are incapable, lack the imagination to try to walk in the footwear of another, very different culture. But for the world’s sake, we need to start doing so. Now.
“WE’re only a pawn in their game.” And sometimes, even the knights, the bishops and the rooks don’t even know it. And the Queen is the real King.
Actually, the anti-Russian bias of the author is not clear at all. I surmise that Anne is displeased by what he did not write. For example, there is a revolving door between academia and CIA, and no field is more contaminated than Russian and East European studies. For details, reading “Team B” at Wikipedia is a good start.
How true. The CIA (Capitalism’s Invisible Army) killed JFK when I was seven years old. They’ve been in charge my whole life. Assassinating a sitting president isn’t “political”? I would think its way beyond “allowing your expertise to be tarnished by political considerations”. It is willful blindness to think there is any remnant of a “constitutional republic” in the USA, especially from a former “intelligence” officer.
Reading Putin’s speeches and interviews, it is plain to see that he is interested in the welfare of his citizens, and maintaining sovereignty by refusing vassal status to Empire. Imagine if we had a president truly committed to serving “We the People”.
I just read the piece and I don’t notice any anti-russian bias at all.
Please be specific, AnneR. Actually, I think AnneR might be raising a dust cloud here, or call it, misdirection of attention. From Vindman/See-Eye-Aye Ramella’s anti-Russian bias to, putatively, Ritter’s. But the latter is nowhere to be seen. AnneR’s post seems to be an elaborate Whataboutism gambit.
Actually, regarding the “education” of some of this security types, it is worthwhile to take a much closer look at their background—esp. in the case of Vindman. Who is this guy, and how did he get here? Did anyone besides Amazing Polly think to wonder? He sure looks to me like a Ukrainian Manchurian . . .
Polly shows at amazingpolly (dot) net numerous odd connections of both Vindman and See-Eye-Aye ramella.
Bravo Ann! Are you familiar with Sibel Edmonds? If not read her book, Classified Woman and see just how political these agencies are,
Yes, Anne, there is an uncontested, imperial mindset that seeps through the US body politic. And a central part of that imperial mindset is the demonization of Russia, of everything Russian, and anything that Russia might do. This has been ongoing for at least over 100 years, since the revolution of 1917. It is so ingrained into the lifeblood of this country that to challenge it results in being condemned as a heretic. One perfect example is the delusional version of events surrounding Crimea, which was a part of Russia for centuries until Khrushchev “transferred” Crimea from the Russian SFSR to the Ukranian SFSR in 1954. Who even bothers with such historical facts! Moreover, it was incredible to watch the impeachment hearings, as everyone in the room, Republican and Democrat, sat around and discussed Ukraine as if it was ours to control. Imagine for one second if Russia (or China) were discussing Mexico in the same terms, or if they had intervened in a similar fashion as the US National Security State did to midwife the overthrow of the elected government in Ukraine. Under such circumstances we would probably be ready to declare war. All of our meddling in Ukraine is for the sole purpose of solidifying US hegemony and undermining Russia. Would the US tolerate Mexico joining a military bloc a la NATO that was a part of a Russian global military alliance? To ask the question is itself heretical. Anne, your declaration that the US is unwilling and genetically incapable of walking in the footwear of another, very different culture is totally accurate. Unfortunately, there is no evidence whatsoever that this imperial mindset is likely to change. And if history is any lesson, this kind of imperial mindset never changes until it is forced to do so, as Germany and Japan learned as a result of WWII.
Join the Peace Corps for culture awakening, culture shock and reverse culture shock.
“therefore Russia and China want to do exactly the same thing to us and the rest of the world.”
A useful hypothesis to test in “analysis” is “Do you think your opponent is as stupid as you are?”.
The “Soviet Union” was in some regards emulative of the opponents although some perceived the strategic opportunities afforded thereby to the opponents.
The notion/belief/perception that such emulation is practiced by the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China continues to have utility and decreasing veracity as functions of the opponents’ resort to projection predicated on “exceptionalism”‘s subset of knowbestness.
As shown in this article, there is a key aspect to the entire anti-Russia/pro-Ukraine story that has received no coverage by the mainstream media:
The West’s blanket condemnation of Russia and its so-called annexation of the Crimean peninsula in 2014 would suggest that more of us need to educate ourselves on the history of Russia and Crimea in particular before we whole heartedly swallow the narrative that our political leaders and media foist on us.
Just as I suspected, the CIA directly interfered in US politics. Great article, but why the coy insistence on not naming the “whistle-blower, ” yourself, Scott? And of course “whistle-blower” should be in quotes throughout the article, no? His name is Eric Ciaramella.
This is simply Russiagate 2.0, with the “Intelligence” agencies having run completely amok at this point. Very disturbing, but not really surprising.
“… why the coy insistence on not naming the “whistle-blower, …”
Indeed, the universal coyness in the repetitive use of the term “the whistleblower”, beyond becoming now tedious and annoying, has so embedded the term in discussions of this issue, that it has now become the default usage. To the point where writing Eric Ciaramella, without explaining that he is the presumed “the whistleblower”, would leave one wondering who this Eric person is. To overcome this problem, I would suggest, at least as a temporary measure, that the term “Eric Ciaramella a.k.a. ‘the whistleblower’ “be used instead.
From Scott Ritter:
The idea behind my not including the name of the Whistleblower, all the while providing a documentary trail that clearly identifies the individual in question, was to highlight the absurdity of the ongoing decision by Congress and the Whistleblower’s legal counsel to pretend that he enjoys a modicum of anonymity. Perhaps my approach was too sophisticated by far, but with all due respect, it certainly did not lack for courage.
Excellent detailed summary of the SNAFU of politicized national foreign policy that has led to the unhinged continual neocon/ neolib invasions and coups and sanctions this century.
The whistleblower’s complaint was rejected as “not urgent” by the DNI with the government lawyers’ advice (rejected as most whistleblower’s complaints are in government, for better or worse).
“After considering the whistleblower’s complaint and classified annex, the Criminal Division opted not to pursue charges, in effect determining that no crime had been committed.”
When the whistleblower refused to accept this decision, and instead took his complaint to Schiff, as a politicized weapon, he and anyone else involved should have been or now be charged with Sedition. (Obama would have thrown the whistleblower’s butt in jail as he did so many others.)
The whole point of Electing a President is to change ineffective policies (in the new President’s view), particularly in foreign policy. Unelected expert advisers are only that. While Ciaramella and Vindman may feel the consensus community foreign policy agendas are sacrosanct and untouchable by any new President, their only recourse is to advise, make their arguments, and as the constitution states, Heads of Departments can disagree in writing. Or they can resign.
As Thomas Jefferson noted “the President is the only channel of communication between the United States and foreign nations, it is from him alone ‘that foreign nations or their agents are to learn what is or has been the will of the nation’; that whatever he communicated as such, they had a right and were bound to consider ‘as the expression of the nation’; and that no foreign agent could be ‘allowed to question it,’ or ‘to interpose between him and any other branch of government, under the pretext of either’s transgressing their functions.’ There is a major difference between oversight by Congress and interfering in executive branch functions (such as taking up a rejected whistleblower’s complaint for political reasons. Where were these people with Snowden’s, and Manning and Assange’s much more serious complaints?).
Stephen Cohen has emphasized the essential ability of elected Presidents to meet in private with foreign leaders, as every President since Kennedy has done (saving us from nuclear destruction in JFK’s case and leading to the fall of the Soviet Union in Reagan’s). That’s where important deals are concluded and military, intelligence, and state members whose jobs depend on warmongering advantages, cannot and should not be allowed access to sensitive national security decisions.
As Chuck Schumer said ““Let me tell you: You take on the intelligence community — they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you”. This is essentially the rotten core of American government today. The intelligence community somehow has been empowered to run the country and its politics since 2016, which is much more dangerous than anything the Russians could ever do.
Isn’t there also something in the Constitution that prohibits anyone from conducting an “independent” foreign policy? That is, the president and the State Department (part of the executive branch) are the ones who make foreign policy. A senator, say, can’t go off on his or her own, travel to a foreign country, and advance different policies from those advanced by the POTUS and State. In this respect McCain was way out of line. Maybe because he thought he *should* have been the pres. He should have been punished publicly for his transgression.
Looks like it it up to the Orange One to draw a line on these off-the-reservation activities, whether by those in Congress or in the national security apparatus. They should all be charged with sedition.
“The intelligence community somehow has been empowered to run the country and its politics since 2016….”
If one truly studies such things—seriously—objectively— that date will be determined to be November 22, 1963.
Very interesting and detailed analysis of what will be considered in the near future as a pivotal moment when a precedent was created by Democrats and anti-Trumpers, that led to further destruction of trust between citizens and their elected politicians and the implosion of U.S. democratic institutions.
But of course: Russia did it……… NOT !