If patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel then it has become a all-inclusive resort for Obama appointees.
This would have been the big story earlier in the week had the Washington Post not launched a feeding frenzy on Jeff Sessions’s tangential contacts with the Russian ambassador to the United States. From the New York Times in a story headlined Obama Administration Rushed to Preserve Intelligence of Russian Election Hacking.
In the Obama administration’s last days, some White House officials scrambled to spread information about Russian efforts to undermine the presidential election — and about possible contacts between associates of President-elect Donald J. Trump and Russians — across the government. Former American officials say they had two aims: to ensure that such meddling isn’t duplicated in future American or European elections, and to leave a clear trail of intelligence for government investigators.
As Inauguration Day approached, Obama White House officials grew convinced that the intelligence was damning and that they needed to ensure that as many people as possible inside government could see it, even if people without security clearances could not. Some officials began asking specific questions at intelligence briefings, knowing the answers would be archived and could be easily unearthed by investigators — including the Senate Intelligence Committee, which in early January announced an inquiry into Russian efforts to influence the election.
At intelligence agencies, there was a push to process as much raw intelligence as possible into analyses, and to keep the reports at a relatively low classification level to ensure as wide a readership as possible across the government — and, in some cases, among European allies. This allowed the upload of as much intelligence as possible to Intellipedia, a secret wiki used by American analysts to share information.
There was also an effort to pass reports and other sensitive materials to Congress. In one instance, the State Department sent a cache of documents marked “secret” to Senator Benjamin Cardin of Maryland days before the Jan. 20 inauguration. The documents, detailing Russian efforts to intervene in elections worldwide, were sent in response to a request from Mr. Cardin, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, and were shared with Republicans on the panel.
While the Times tries to package this as a story of nobility and service to the nation, a valiant effort to defend America from a takeover by a Russian tool, the real story is much more banal and tawdry. The Obama administration, like the rest of the universe including Vladimir Putin, thought Hillary Clinton was a lock for the presidency. They were shocked by the election results. They were mostly shocked because a lot of them fully expected to either stay in their current positions or to trade up in a Clinton administration. Ben Rhodes did not think his next stop would be on the advisory board of the Holocaust Museum or being quoted approvingly on the pages of RedState as a paragon of reason and commonsense.
No reasonable person is capable of believing that any administration is going to have the ability, even if it had the desire, of destroying intelligence collected by multiple agencies and doing it in such a way that no trace of that intelligence would ever appear. Or that there are enough people willing to risk a long prison sentence to attempt to do it.
Right now the FBI has an investigation under way and the House and Senate are getting ready to start investigations and the Trump administration does not yet have a Director of National Intelligence confirmed and it has no deputy secretaries or lower in any agency confirmed. It has not even started the process of staffing the political positions that do not need Senate confirmation. Typically it takes a year to get those positions filled. Who is going to carry out the orders for destruction? Obama holdovers? Career civil servants?
In short, there is nothing in this story that comports with either what we’ve witnessed over the past four months or with the way the intelligence community works or the manner in which intelligence product is handled.
Since shortly after Election Day the Trump administration has been the subject of a nonstop stream of leak alleging improper contacts with various sinister forces by members of his campaign. All of those leaks have exactly two things in common. First, the are from “former officials.” Second, not a single substantive detail has been revealed. The worst factual allegation out there right now is the totally bogus “Logan Act violation” Flynn was accused of. What has been revealed is a veritable cornucopia of US intelligence sources and methods.
Far from merely disseminating information widely within intelligence channels… something that is problematic enough when one considers ‘need to know’… what has happened is that the spreading of the information also involved widespread leaking of classified information to the media in an attempt to damage the administration. It started when DNI James Clapper, FBI Director James Comey, and DCI John Brennan met with Trump in mid-November to discuss alleged contacts between his campaign and various Russians. The contents of that briefing were leaked and in the media before Trump was even briefed. Likewise, the wiretap that recorded Mike Flynn in discussions with the Russian ambassador were leaked. As NRO’s Andy McCarthy pointed out, the very fact that Flynn’s name was revealed was a violation of federal law as it should have been masked.
A cynic might think that some of the leakers are feeling the walls close in on them and they are trying to convince investigators that what they did was totally high-minded.