OR WAS FALSE INFORMATION PROVIDED BY THE “INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY?”
by Sharon Rondeau
(Mar. 7, 2017) — On Monday evening, as is customary for him, CBS White House correspondent Mark Knoller tweeted that the three major-media newscasts were reporting on the “unfounded charge that Pres Obama ordered wiretaps of Trump campaign and offices.”
Upon seeing the tweet on Tuesday afternoon, The Post & Email responded with, “What about The NYT article which specially [sic] said “wiretapping” and “intercepted”? referring to a January 19, 2017 column in which several co-authors described detailed “investigations” into Trump’s associates’ possible ties with the Russian government.
The New York Times was not the first outlet to report that several of Trump’s associates, a computer server, or both were under investigation by U.S. intelligence agencies. On November 7, 2016, Louise Mensch of HeatStreet reported that a “FISA court warrant” was sought to gather information on someone associated with Trump but denied by the FISA judge. Mensch’s article said that later in the year, in October, a FISA warrant was granted “to look at the full content of emails and other related documents that may concern US persons” associated with Trump.
On October 31, 2016, eight days before the presidential election, Hillary Clinton apparently tweeted an announcement made on her website quoting an article in Slate published that day claiming that a “group of computer scientists” had found “a bank in Moscow that kept irregularly pinging a server registered to the Trump Organization on Fifth Avenue.”
The bank was identified as Alfa Bank, of which Slate wrote, in part, “The researchers were seeing patterns in the data—and the Trump Organization’s potential interlocutor was itself suggestive. Alfa Bank emerged in the messy post-Soviet scramble to create a private Russian economy. Its founder was a Ukrainian called Mikhail Fridman. He erected his empire in a frenetic rush—in a matter of years, he rose from operating a window washing company to the purchase of the Bolshevik Biscuit Factory to the co-founding of his bank with some friends from university…”
Toward the end of the piece, author Franklin Foer wrote, “What the scientists amassed wasn’t a smoking gun. It’s a suggestive body of evidence that doesn’t absolutely preclude alternative explanations. But this evidence arrives in the broader context of the campaign and everything else that has come to light: The efforts of Donald Trump’s former campaign manager to bring Ukraine into Vladimir Putin’s orbit; the other Trump adviser whose communications with senior Russian officials have worried intelligence officials; the Russian hacking of the DNC and John Podesta’s email.”
On the same day as the Slate article was published, The New York Times issued its own piece titled, “Investigating Donald Trump, F.B.I. Sees No Clear Link to Russia” which reported that “Law enforcement officials say that none of the investigations so far have found any conclusive or direct link between Mr. Trump and the Russian government. And even the hacking into Democratic emails, F.B.I. and intelligence officials now believe, was aimed at disrupting the presidential election rather than electing Mr. Trump.”
The FBI agents who talked to the New York Times, and rubbished the ground-breaking stories of Slate (Franklin Foer) and Mother Jones (David Corn) may not have known about the FISA warrant, sources say, because the counter-intelligence and criminal sides of the FBI often work independently of each other employing the principle of ‘compartmentalization’.
The FISA warrant was granted in connection with the investigation of suspected activity between the server and two banks, SVB Bank and Alfa Bank. However, it is thought in the intelligence community that the warrant covers any ‘US person’ connected to this investigation, and thus covers Donald Trump and at least three further men who have either formed part of his campaign or acted as his media surrogates. The warrant was sought, they say, because actionable intelligence on the matter provided by friendly foreign agencies could not properly be examined without a warrant by US intelligence as it involves ‘US Persons’ who come under the remit of the FBI and not the CIA. Should a counter-intelligence investigation lead to criminal prosecutions, sources say, the Justice Department is concerned that the chain of evidence have a basis in a clear warrant.
Mensch is speculated as having been the catalyst for Trump’s claims made on Twitter on Saturday that Obama “ordered” wiretapping to be conducted on his Trump Tower office.
Given the way in which the FISA law is written, and according to a former U.S. attorney general, Obama would likely have known if a warrant were requested and granted to wiretap the associates or equipment of a political opponent.
On February 17, 2017, The Guardian wrote of Mensch, who they described as a “novelist,” British and formerly a member of in the British Parliament, and her “scoop:”
On the eve of the November election, Mensch published a sensational story reporting that a special intelligence court in Washington had granted a warrant to allow the FBI to conduct surveillance of “US persons” in an investigation of possible contacts between Russian banks and the Trump organisation.
At the time, the story did not cause much of a ripple. It was published on Heat Street, a libertarian-leaning website run by News Corp, and an unknown quantity in journalism. So was Mensch, whose recent public profile consisted mainly of a string of angry Twitter spats.
Meanwhile, the combined investigative forces of the US media had spent months seeking to prove a secret connection between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin and had come up with very little.
The online magazine Slate had published an article at the end of October about mysterious pings that had been detected between a Russian bank, Alfa, and a server connected to the Trump organisation, but the New York Times quoted FBI officials as saying they had looked into it and decided there “there could be an innocuous explanation” for the computer contacts.
Mensch reportedly considers herself “a patriot in the service of the intelligence community.”
As The Post & Email noted on Monday, the mainstream media is now denying that Obama was involved in any wiretapping of Trump, and former Obama officials, including the Director of National Intelligence, are claiming it never occurred.
In light of that, is it possible that those in the U.S. intelligence community who wished to see Trump defeated purposely provided erroneous but salacious information to certain “reporters” on the eve of the election?