Apparently, Donald Trump was so desperate to get Russia off the hook for hacking into the DNC emails before the 2016 election, that he sent his CIA Director Mike Pompeo to be an errand boy, in order to get evidence to disprove everything our nation’s intelligence community has been saying.
A new report from The Intercept covers an October 24 meeting between Pompeo and William Binney, a former National Security Agency official who now stumps as a “whistleblower” and co-author of an analysis that questions the official findings of the intelligence community, regarding Russia’s involvement in hacking those DNC emails (the ones that eventually ended up on WikiLeaks).
In an interview with The Intercept, Binney said Pompeo told him that President Donald Trump had urged the CIA director to meet with Binney to discuss his assessment that the DNC data theft was an inside job. During their hour-long meeting at CIA headquarters, Pompeo said Trump told him that if Pompeo “want[ed] to know the facts, he should talk to me,” Binney said.
Nobody is disputing the meeting. A senior intelligence official confirmed that the meeting took place.
Binney said that Pompeo asked whether he would be willing to meet with NSA and FBI officials to further discuss his analysis of the DNC data theft. Binney agreed and said Pompeo said he would contact him when he had arranged the meetings.
It is highly unorthodox for the CIA director to reach out to someone like Binney, a 74-year-old ex-government employee who rose to prominence as an NSA whistleblower wrongfully persecuted by the government, for help with fact-finding related to the theft of the DNC emails. It is particularly stunning that Pompeo would meet with Binney at Trump’s apparent urging, in what could be seen as an effort to discredit the U.S. intelligence community’s own assessment that an alleged Russian hack of the DNC servers was part of an effort to help Trump win the presidency.
The usual Trump lackeys with Fox News have had Binney on multiple times, and that is very likely where President Trump saw him.
Of course, the intelligence community are not thrilled with Pompeo doing what amounts to going behind their backs, in an effort to discredit them and their work.
“This is crazy. You’ve got all these intelligence agencies saying the Russians did the hack. To deny that is like coming out with the theory that the Japanese didn’t bomb Pearl Harbor,” said one former CIA officer.
Binney, for his part, is happy that the meeting occurred and eager to help Pompeo and Trump get to the bottom of the DNC email theft because he believes the intelligence community has not told the truth about what happened.
“I was willing to meet Pompeo simply because it was clear to me the intelligence community wasn’t being honest here,” Binney said, referring to their assessment of the DNC email theft. “I am quite willing to help people who need the truth to find the truth and not simply have deceptive statements from the intelligence community.”
Pompeo is the CIA director. And he’s trying to discredit them. That part is important to remember.
For whatever Binney’s supposed evidence, it goes directly against the findings determined by the CIA, FBI, and NSA. It does, however, match up with what Trump has been saying, so of course he’s going to send his boy over to “confirm” the details.
Sean Hannity and all the slobbering conspiracy theorists should be loving this, as well.
Binney’s claim that the email theft was committed by an insider at the DNC also helps fuel one of the more bizarre conspiracy theories that has gained traction on the right: that the murder of a young DNC staffer last year was somehow connected to the data theft. Binney said he mentioned the case of Seth Rich to Pompeo during their meeting.
The meeting raises questions about Pompeo’s willingness to act as an honest broker between the intelligence community and the White House, and his apparent refusal to push back against efforts by the president to bend the intelligence process to suit his political purposes. Instead of acting as a filter between Trump and the intelligence community, Pompeo’s decision to meet with Binney raises the possibility that right-wing theories aired on Fox News and in other conservative media can now move not just from conservative pundits to Trump, but also from Trump to Pompeo and into the bloodstream of the intelligence community.
Some senior CIA officials have grown upset that Pompeo, a former Republican representative from Kansas, has become so close to Trump that the CIA director regularly expresses skepticism about intelligence that doesn’t line up with the president’s views. Pompeo has also alienated some CIA managers by growing belligerent toward them in meetings, according to an intelligence official familiar with the matter.
Jumping on the Trump train really does something to people. It twists them, to where protecting Trump is all that matters.
I thought I’d seen it all with Obama, in 2008. I didn’t know it could get so much worse, and on the right.
Some are questioning if somebody who seems to be more beholden to a personality than duty can be a fair arbiter of the job assigned to him.
Pompeo and CIA officials want us to believe his intentions are on the up-and-up.
Yet indications of Pompeo’s willingness to support Trump at the risk of tainting the intelligence process have occasionally broken into the open in recent months. In August, the Washington Post reported that Pompeo had taken the unusual step of having the CIA’s Counterintelligence Mission Center, which would likely play a role in any inquiries by the agency into Russian election meddling, report directly to him. That move has raised concerns within the agency that Pompeo is seeking to personally control the CIA’s efforts to investigate accusations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
More recently, at a Washington event in October, Pompeo said that U.S. intelligence had determined that Moscow’s intervention hadn’t impacted the outcome of the election. He was quickly criticized for the comments, and the CIA had to issue a clarification saying that the intelligence assessment on Russia hadn’t been altered.
Pompeo is playing errand boy. Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, on the other hand, found himself a nice rock to hide under, remaining largely silent in all of this.
Not to be missed is that the meeting between Pompeo and Binney happened days before the first charges were brought against former Trump campaign members by Robert Mueller’s team.
Binney’s assessment is well-aligned with Trump’s narrative, and he seems especially anxious to have that narrative confirmed at the top, even if it puts a stake through the heart of his own intelligence community.
Binney, a Trump supporter, has been retired from the NSA since the fall of 2001. He made his name as a whistleblower, after opposing the NSA’s domestic spying program, “Trailblazer.”
He was suspected of providing details on the program for an explosive New York Times piece on the program, and had his home raided by the FBI.
He was eventually cleared of any wrongdoing in that case.
Binney co-authored a memo, along with other former intelligence officials, called Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), all who wanted to prove the DNC emails weren’t hacked, but were leaked, based on download speed.
“Forensic studies of ‘Russian hacking’ into Democratic National Committee computers last year reveal that on July 5, 2016, data was leaked (not hacked) by a person with physical access to DNC computer,” the memo states. The memo’s conclusions were based on analyses of metadata provided by the online persona Guccifer 2.0, who took credit for the alleged hack. “Key among the findings of the independent forensic investigations is the conclusion that the DNC data was copied onto a storage device at a speed that far exceeds an Internet capability for a remote hack.”
The memo garnered attention on the right, but its claims have been disputed. It cited timestamps embedded in the Guccifer files showing when they’d been copied, and used this data to extrapolate how quickly they’d been copied from one computer to another. The analysis on which the VIPS memo was based, conducted by a blogger called “The Forensicator,” showed that the files were transferred at a speed roughly equivalent to the rate at which data can be downloaded to a USB thumb drive. VIPS claimed that speed was “much faster than what is physically possible with a hack,” and so the files had to have been stolen by an insider with direct access to the computer system.
But even the members of that group couldn’t agree on the details of their own memo, so the group split.
Thomas Drake, another former NSA official expressed his dissent.
Drake and the dissenters complain that the original memo was deeply flawed and came to biased conclusions based only on a sketchy analysis of information that originated with Guccifer 2.0, which the U.S. intelligence community believes is a front for Russian intelligence. The dissenters also point out that it is indeed possible for a remote internet transfer to occur at the speeds identified in Binney’s memo. “The environment around Trump, Russia, et al. is hyperpolarized right now, and much disinformation is floating around, feeding confirmation bias, mirroring and even producing conspiracy theories,” the Drake memo says.
“In an ideal world, VIPS would at least retract its assertion of certainty. Absent real facts regarding proof of leaks or hacks (or both), how many hypotheses can one copy onto the head of a digital pin?”
So whatever information Binney has, or whatever he is alleging is speculation, at best, and certainly not more credible than the conclusions reached by the entire U.S. intelligence community.
It is, however, a straw that Fox News and Trump are willing to grasp at. Enough so, that Pompeo called the meeting.
Binney said he was not told what the meeting was about until he sat down with Pompeo. He said that in addition to Pompeo, two other CIA staffers, who gave only their first names, attended the meeting and asked technical questions about Binney’s analysis. When Pompeo asked Binney what evidence he had to support his analysis of the DNC email theft, Binney says he told him that it was based only on the online analyses of information published by Guccifer 2.0.
Binney said that since their meeting, he has not heard from Pompeo about scheduling follow-up meetings with the NSA and FBI.
Maybe Pompeo was satisfied that this wasn’t the smoking gun Trump was looking for. Maybe a bout of conscience crept in, and he’s spent the last couple of weeks reexamining his life choices.
Whatever the case, when a president is actively prompting members of his administration to go out and hamstring our entire intelligence community, you have to ask yourselves why.