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Friday, August 12, 2022

Loose Lips Sink Ships


How can we expect another to keep our secret if we cannot keep it ourselves.
François de La Rochefoucauld, Maxims


What did Trump take?

What was in those classified documents?

What did the FBI find in the basement of Mar-a-Lago? 

More importantly, what did Trump intend to do with that information? 

I don't know. 

I don't know what his intentions were, because there's no way to know what he was thinking. Revenge? Profit? Self-aggrandizement? Maybe he thought the information would exonerate him at some future point in history. 

Maybe it was more like Gollum and the One Ring: Mine! My Precious! 

I don't know. 

Even if Trump tells you, most of the time he's about as coherent as a rat trapped in a hot box and his story changes from minute to minute as his feverish brain scampers madly about trying one excuse after another until he fastens onto a narrative that works for his fanatical dogmatic supporters. 

I don't know. 

I don't presume to know at this point. 

Because to really understand what Trump's intentions were, you'd need to know exactly what classified documents he took. 

You have to know what those documents were, what they say, what they pertain to, how they were obtained by Trump and what exactly they meant to him personally from moment to moment. 

We're likely never going to know any of that ("We" being the general public). 

Now, yes, there are reasonably credible reports that the documents involved both nuclear weapons material and SIGINT and if true, this is extremely troubling. 

Nuclear weapons materials and SIGINT, this is some of the most sensitive material there is.

"Nuclear Weapons material" covers a lot of ground. 

That information has its own special classification and is very, very closely guarded, and it could be anything from how the weapons work, to their estimated reliability, to how many we have, to where they're stored and deployed, to how they might be activated, to who they're aimed at. 

We know Trump was obsessed with the US nuclear arsenal. 

We know he often thought about using that vast power, whether against nature or our enemies. We don't have to guess, he said so, over and over. 

We know he was particularly interested in the age of the weapons and the state of the arsenal's aging technology, again because he said so, over and over, and we know he very often attempted to make political hay with those issues and score points from his opponents. 

So, perhaps that's what the documents pertain to. 

But we will likely never know, either vaguely or for certain, because that information is some of the mostly closely held secrets this nation has and for damn good reason. 

SIGINT, well, that's even more dangerous. 

SIGINT (Signals Intelligence) is highly, highly sensitive information. It's what the National Security Agency (NSA) does. 

That's what I used to do for a living, for more than two decades. 

SIGINT is the intercept and analysis of signals, usually electronic but not always. Most of the time those signals are some form of communication, between humans, between machines, between instruments, and any of myriad variations in between. But SIGINT may also be derived from non-communications signals such as radar or other sensors systems and perhaps other things I'm not going to talk about. It is a vast, vast field of intelligence, broken up into many, many sub-specialties, and it changes constantly following advances in the state of the art. It can involve the intercept of rudimentary decades old forms of communication such as morse code sent via simple on and off carrier wave, to communications so sophisticated that you could barely even comprehend the technology without enormous processing power to assist you. The modern US signals intelligence system is the end result of literally centuries of effort, sacrifice, and expense -- most of which you've never heard of and will likely never know. This source of intelligence, like other intelligence, can give our nation and our allies advantage not just in war, but also in diplomacy, in economics, in just about everything. And yes, it can most certainly be abused (and has been, Watergate being an infamous example and one of the few we can sort of talk about) which is why it is so very, very important to have systems in place to ensure control, protection, and release of that information. 

I'm going to focus primarily on SIGINT for the rest of this essay, because that's my area of experience and expertise. 

I'll leave the nuclear stuff to those who are experts in that area. 

Now, while it's true that a president can declassify most anything SIGINT related, (it's my understanding he cannot declassify information regarding nuclear programs) it's extremely problematic for any president to do so in any sort of impulsive or cavalier fashion. 

The fallout (yep, I did that on purpose) could be devastating to national security. 

(Yes, really -- and I suspect you react the same way I do to the words "national security" used as justification for anything these days, given how abused that phrase is, but nevertheless here we are)

Certain information can only be gathered in a certain way. 

Sometimes that information is the end result of decades of effort and billions of dollars and no matter what you think of the US government and the power and potential for abuse of these systems, compromise may very well result in destabilization of global political structures and could very well result in far, far worse things than you've already imagined -- from war to the complete collapse of economic and social systems.

The very fact that we have certain information, or that we even know that it might exist, reveals things to our adversaries. 

That information might have cost lives to obtain, ours, theirs, innocent bystanders. 

This is not hyperbole. 

Revealing that information, even its existence if not what it actually says, might cost more lives, ours, theirs, innocent bystanders. 

Again, this is not hyperbole.

For example: say some of those classified documents contain information that could have only been gotten by an agent in place. I.e. a spy. 

The very fact that that information exists tells the enemy that source exists. 

Look up Israeli spy Eli Cohen to see what happens then -- he may have saved his country, but it cost him his life. 

The source doesn't have to be a spy. 

And it probably isn't.

Sometimes information can only be obtained from a particular methodology. 

For example, the intercept of electronic communications, i.e. SIGINT. And sometimes that intercept can only be achieved via a particular means. 

For example: During WWII, British cryptologists at Bletchley Park led by a guy named Alan Turing broke German encryption early in the war, i.e. the infamous "Enigma" cipher, specifically the naval variant used by German Oberkommando der Marine to direct U-Boats in the Atlantic. 

Breaking the Enigma cipher was the result of an enormous effort, one that literally cost many lives (directly and indirectly) and what would be billions of dollars today. In the current vernacular: a Moon Shot. 

Being able to intercept and read those transmissions told the Allies exactly what enemy was doing. In detail. 

But the intelligence that resulted from that incredible achievement couldn't be used.

Or could not be used directly. 

Because unless there was another way the allies could have obtained it, one obvious to the Germans, use of that SIGINT to avoid or kill U-boats would immediately tell the German High Command their communications were being read in detail by the Allies.

If the Germans knew their military communications were compromised, they would have immediately stopped using that method and changed to something else we might not have been able to break in time.

And all of those lives, all of that money, all of that vast effort would be for nothing and many, many more allied Navy and Merchant Marine seaman in the Atlantic supply conveys would have died. 

More than that, the Battle of the Atlantic might have gone another way. 

Another example from that war is the Japanese JN-25 naval code, and you can read about that particular effort on NSA's own webpage here. (You can also visit the National Cryptologic Museum, outside of Fort Meade, just north of Washington D.C. and see the actual machines used to break that code, along with authentic Nazi Enigma machines, and other more modern equipment from the Cold War and later used by American codebreakers and information warfare specialists -- some of which I myself once worked with. And if you do visit the museum, stand for a moment in the lobby before the Memorial Wall, where the names of those who gave their lives to these efforts are listed. I knew some of those men and women personally. As I said, not hyperbole).

Now, yes, Franklin Delano Roosevelt could have just said, fuck it, I'm declassifying this stuff. Hey, Adolf, I'm reading your mail, up yours, you Nazi goon, ha ha! 

He could have done that and it would have been legal. 

I don't know that he would have survived it, but he could have done it. 

I hope you can see that there would have been grave consequences -- starting with the fact that both of those SIGINT efforts I mentioned as examples up above were first pioneered primarily by our allies and trusted to us in the strictest of confidence. Disclosure of that SIGINT would have not only done great damage to the United States, but also our many allies in that war and moreover would have put other nations into a position of not being able to trust us. 

Today, SIGINT is vastly more complicated. Vastly more difficult. And even more sensitive. And the repercussions of its careless disclosure could have disastrous results. 

So when a president, Trump, Biden, whoever, says, I'm just going to declassify this and make the information public, there's a process you have to go through. 

Because if that information isn't sanitized, then very likely you are revealing far more than you intend. 

Unless those documents are first examined by experts, by people who know what to look for, then you might not even be able to calculate what an adversary might learn from them -- meaning, there's no way for those sworn to defend this country to even begin to figure out if our own systems are compromised or what new threat from the enemy might result.

For example: If those documents do indeed contain SIGINT, then they are marked with specific classification markings, including codewords that designate the compartment of special intelligence they fall under. 

Yes, compartment. 

Just because you have a clearance, doesn't mean you get to see everything. 

SIGINT is something called Sensitive Compartmented Intelligence, SCI. 

It's maintained inside something called a Sensitive Compartmented Intelligence Facility, a SCIF. 

Ah, you've head that term before, haven't you? SCIF, that's where Congressman Matt Gaetz chose to make TikTok videos and post to the internet -- and you have no idea how utterly insane that is. If I had done that, I would have gone to jail. 

That aside, the key to that classification is the word "compartmented."

Just because you're cleared to see the information in one compartment, doesn't mean you are allowed to see information in another. You have to be read into each compartment, you have to understand the requirements of each compartment individually and what they cover, and you have to have a need to know that information. 

Those compartments are designated by codewords

Those codewords are on the documents. 

So, even if you're not cleared but you somehow find out the the codeword, say you're a reporter for example, and you do enough digging, eventually you can figure out with a reasonable degree of certainty exactly what those documents might pertain to even if you don't know exactly what they say. 

In other words, you call tell what country, program, or target that intel might pertain to.

And the very fact that information exists in the first place, the very fact that compartment exists, and that Trump was so interested in it that he swiped it, tells you something -- might in point of fact tell our enemies something, and give them systems, facilities, and specific people to target for more information. 

So, there has to be a process.

The president can't just wave his hand and say these documents are now declassified!

Well, okay, he can, but there are problems:

“I have fully authorized the total Declassification of any & all documents pertaining to the single greatest political CRIME in American History, the Russia Hoax. Likewise, the Hillary Clinton Email Scandal. No redactions!”
-- President Trump, via tweet, Oct 2020

That's Trump, waving his tiny hand. 

I have authorized the total declassification of any and all documents pertaining to my political enemies!

Any and all documents. 

Any and all. 

Except, you never saw any of that, did you? 

You never saw any declassified documents pertaining to Trump's alleged "greatest political crime in history."

And you really think you would. If it was the greatest political crime in history, I mean.

Trump said he "authorized the total Declassification of any & all documents" pertaining to what he called "the Russia hoax"

So where are those documents? 

Where? Still classified. Still stored safely in their respective SCIFs. That's where. 

Because that disclosure would have likely been highly classified SIGINT, either phone records, texts, emails, something, from US citizens or SIGINT intercepts of our adversaries -- and this might perhaps even be the very documents recently recovered from Mar-a-Lago. And he supposedly had information that would put Hillary Clinton and everyone he hated in prison. Or at least he thought he did, though it's unlikely he actually saw anything concrete himself -- thus the caveat "any & all documents." He figured if he just shotgunned it out there, somebody, the "analysts" at Fox News and OAN would find something, anything (and, of course, ignore any information that didn't fit the narrative).

So, where are those documents? 

Trump could declassify anything, right? That's what his rabid supporters are telling us right now, aren't they? He had a right to do whatever he wanted and he wanted Hillary Clinton in jail and he declassified any and all documents pertaining to the greatest crime in history. 

He gave the order in public, via tweet. 

You saw it. You can still see it, if you look in the right database.

So, where are those documents? 

Yeah, funny thing. When the public and News agencies attempted to obtain these "declassified documents" via the Freedom of Information Act, Trump's very own Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said: 

“The president indicated to me that his statements on Twitter were not self-executing declassification orders and do not require the declassification or release of any particular documents.”

Heh. 

In other words, Trump's order couldn't be carried out. 

Not without grave damage to National Security.

Any and all? What does that even mean? Where do you start? Where do you end? What systems and methodologies does that order encompass? What other information does that impact? What agencies and personnel might that compromise? What is the cost, in dollars, in people, in effort? Who's responsible? Any and all? Who decides what's relevant? What's the timeline? 

The ramifications and reverberations are endless and unpredictable and uncontrollable. 

Trump might have damaged his political enemies, but somebody somewhere finally got it through his thick empty skull that the damage to Trump himself would have been far, far worse because he would be seen by Americans, including those in his own party and the entire intelligence community, as the guy who completely blew up National Security. 

Folks, classification doesn't exist in a vacuum. 

Intelligence doesn't exist in a vacuum.

There is never a piece of information that is its own compartment, classified unto itself without any connection to any other piece of information. We live in an age of vast, complex, interwoven information and that information can be, and often is, manipulated by those who would do us harm -- foreign AND domestic.

Yes, domestic. 

You ever wonder why all those big trucks with the militia stickers have Medium Frequency whip antennas in the back? Because they're convinced the government will monitor or shut down phone service, and so they have CB radios and codes to communicate. And they are not wrong. 

They are openly preparing to be domestic enemies.

Some already are.

Some have already openly declared war on the United States, in the name of their leader, Donald Trump. One was shot dead by the police yesterday. 

What if those documents contain SIGINT collection on those people Trump said he loved? 

Enemies, foreign and domestic. 

You might not be thinking about this stuff, but they certainly are. 

And you don't have to look much beyond January 6th, 2021, to see it. 

What did Trump take? 

I don't know. 

You don't know. 

The media doesn't know. 

The FBI probably does, but they're not going to tell you. Merrick Garland isn't going to tell you. Joe Biden isn't going to tell you. They can't

And Donald Trump sure isn't going to tell you (he might make something up, but you'll never see any proof of its veracity)

There are hints, rumors, speculation, but we don't really know and we likely never will. 

And thus we likely will never know exactly why he took those documents or what he intended to do with that information. More importantly, at this point, we don't know the depth of the breach. We don't know who has seen these documents. We don't know the extent of the damage to national security. 

And there is damage to national security.

There is. 

The very fact that Trump was able to take classified documents likely regarding some of our nation's mostly closely held secrets and stash them in a golf course is proof of that. 

Right now, intelligence agencies, years, decades of effort, hundreds, thousands of lives, billions upon billions of dollars might be at risk because of it. 

We just don't know. 

Those who guard this nation, the ones who keep the wheels turning and the lights on and who every day stand against the fall of night and who may thus one day end up on a forgotten memorial wall in some dusty museum no one ever visits, the ones Trump and his supporters call the Deep State, the Swamp, they are right now in damage control mode, just trying to figure out what's been compromised -- and the worst part is they may never be able to fully assess the damage. Meaning we will have to operate in an assumed compromised state until systems can be changed, upgraded, or shut down and other sources of information developed. 

And that means those out there on the pointy end of the stick, the ones Trump called suckers and losers, are in even more danger. 

What did Trump take? 

I don't know. But the very fact that he could walk out of the White House with classified material shows you that we as a nation need much better oversight and control of this process. 

Trump's own supporters often talk about "our way of life." 

And that's ironic, because the very foundation of our way of life is that the president is not a king and he can't just wave his hand and make it so. 

This material does not belong to him, it belongs to us

The president is not above the law. 

I’m talking too freely, but you know. The change of stories. The lack of preparation. The lying. Holy shit.
-- Maryanne Trump Barry, retired federal judge, Donald Trump's sister, regarding Donald Trump's presidency



134 comments:

  1. to understand it you have to look at Gen. Flynn and Braddock's plan to give nuke info over to the Saudis. And then realize as you think about the huge request by Jared for top secret materials and then the 2 billion they gave Jared and the big golf tourney at Bedminster that something went down. You don't give away billions, especially if you're a muslim and the money is going to a Jewish family.

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    1. Excellent point!

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    2. I doubt trump even knew what he had, which makes it even more likely that, supposing it might be good stuff, it would be used in nefarious ways. The dumb people are the more dangerous ones.

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    3. Trump may have compromised the US in such a way that it may explain why Putin went in on Ukraine and why Pelosi had to go 'in person' to Taiwan and Japan.

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    4. …and Biden met with MBS a few weeks ago

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    5. A very interesting development...especially since the Chinese have been helping the Saudi's with their ballistic missile program. The accuracy of ballistic missiles is not the best, but a nuclear weapon help alleviate the circular error probable (CEP) from the equation of destroying a city that MBS may not like.

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    6. What will be interesting is if any of the documents have an "FRD," "RD," "CNWDI," "SIGMA," or "TFNI" markings (https://www.energy.gov/sites/prod/files/hss/Classification/docs/CTI-Training-RD-FRD-Briefing.pdf)

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    7. Wow doesn’t begin to cover how much I learned from this article about SIGINT. WELL DONE

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  2. Wow, Jim.

    Just.

    Wow.

    I knew much of this, but to have it so clearly and succinctly explained like this.

    Just Wow.

    I hope others appreciate what a service you've done for us here.

    Thank you, my friend.

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  3. He still believes he has the upper hand and is completely above the law. He would probably not recognize a noose around his neck.

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    1. Put his roses red ass in Ricker with his CFO, looks like a fun place to live

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  4. Thank you. I pray that this is circulated to as many people as possible to explain in depth the repercussions to so many people involved in the collection of information and the security of it. The last 6 years have been a blazing siren warning us of the importance of protecting our country from destruction, notwithstanding the past administration who entirely abused the systems in place but frivolous found pleasure while doing so. This has to be a red sky in the morning alarm, precedent be damned.

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    1. I sincerely hope (pray) that the Florida judge who is ruling on the release of the FBI search warrant justifications has read Jim’s post.

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  5. A good one Jim -- clear, detailed and frightening. As usual, thanks.

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    1. Yep, the article does its 'jobs' (plural) quite well. It will be 'jobs' (i have to use plural again) well done if all baits are taken, if i am reading into it correctly. I am dumb, sorry.

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  6. Jesus. As much as I’ve enjoyed watching the mango one in the hook this week, this isn’t funny at all.

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  7. David Alexander McDonaldAugust 12, 2022 at 2:11 PM

    Fascinating to get the perspective of one who knows this from the inside.

    The more I learn about breaking the Enigma device the more amazed I am that security was maintained across multiple countries, even as the tools were being developed.

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    1. And it stayed secret for DECADES. That many people keeping their mouths shut for that long about something that critical. It's astonishing.

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    2. Churchill knew of the bombing of Coventry before it happened, & didn't issue a warning.
      How many lives is a secret worth?
      Do we save 5000 and loose the war as a result? These are the decisions a leader must make. trump was Never that man

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  8. The president has the authority (rather different than "right") to declassify because there is no law preventing it.
    That capacity has persisted like much of what restrains or does not, the executive is tradition, not law.
    It all assumes the president gives a fuck about the country he/she presides over.
    That time is gone.

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    1. It also means that there is protocol that must be followed. He doesn't just get to waive a wand.

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    2. Trump has shown us the holes in those being kept as "traditions." Those holes need to be closed NOW, not later. Unfortunately, the republicans don't want that and would obstruct that as much as they possibly can.

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  9. I sat nuclear alert, so my compartment was TS/NOFORN/EWO. Top Secret No Foreign Dissemination, Emergency War Order. Did that mean that I knew where the rest of the Strategic Air Command was going to strike? Hell, no! I had no need to know that.

    It was like for everybody.

    Great essay, Chief. Thank you.

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  10. Exceptional! Thanks, Jim!

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  11. This is all moving at bullet train speed, only it often feels a bit out of control. I truly hope things don't derail as it progresses. Feeling this need to keep up and watch for all the facts is like waiting for the train wreck to happen in real time; that knowledge may be power, but it is also scary as hell. Thank you for the insight.

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  12. I am going to say very little lest I compromise my Background and Security Clearances. Suffice to say Jim you smacked it on the head again.

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    1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    2. Yet you just HAD to comment. You could have just scrolled past.

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    3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    5. Anonymous, attacking my personal friends and/or a fellow veteran here on my blog gets you deleted. Read the commenting rules.

      //Jim

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  13. Excellent. A very plausible explanation. So far ahead of what one sees in the mainstream media, it's embarrassing. (Embarrassing for the mainstream media.) Yes, this is exactly the kind of thing Trump would do. And, if true, it is like most crimes: the damage done to others is enormously greater than the benefit to the criminal. But criminals don't care.

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  14. Scary piece, Thanks. Can we assume that 45 did not identify this material himself? Any guess as to how many others would have been there to help him select the documents? Jared got $2,000,000,000 for something.

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  15. This is beyond fucked up. The U.S. Government will be cleaning up this mess for years and years, all because we let a demented narcissistic sociopath get anywhere near this information. I suggest we not do that again.

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    1. Until the next cult leader the Repubs run. DeSantis anyone?

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  16. I'm curious about your thoughts on how Trump would have gotten the SCIF-type documents out of the SCIF room. Maybe just carry them out of the room in his hands, but everybody around him was afraid to tell him to stop? Or maybe he surreptitiously slipped them into a briefcase? It just seems to be this is something anyone would not be able to do lightly, but I suspect you have a much better feel for how it was done.

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    1. From what I gather about the request for the information and the delivery of the documents it is very regulated. So, if they have the document from the search/seizure with the classification/file name/number they also have the recepient name and clearance authorization and date/time on file respectively. Right?

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    2. FBI is fingerprinting the docs to see who handled them, last I read.

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    3. The CIA PDB team prepares the President’s Daily Brief (PDB) which is a distillation of classified & unclassified reporting that attempts to easily summarize “high interest” topics of interest to the President & his principals. The PDB is personally briefed to the President (and others) who often have questions on the content &/or even sources.

      Briefers often leave behind or provide the actual CIA, NSA, DIA, State report that provided the source of the finished intelligence in the PDB. White House sit room officers have access & often provide specific individual docs to the President as well. So, although discouraged, many intelligence officers want to provide a service to the President and leave behind requested intelligence documents. It’s hard to say “no” to the president when asked to “hold on to” a high-interest report to read “later”. Those docs are rarely retrieved & easily go unaccounted for.

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    4. He installed his lackeys and cronies all through the system. With the intent of compromising the systems themselves. Not with the direct intention of stealing stuff, but that's just what he does. He corrupts everything he touches.

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  17. Thank you for this clarifying, terrifying essay. For most of us, national security is an area, an entity, about which we know little to nothing. I had zero respect for the former president, his henchmen, and his cult followers, but now the numbers are entering the negative realms. I appreciate all of your hard work.

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  18. Thank you Jim. One of your closing paragraphs is critical to me:

    "I don't know. But the very fact that he could walk out of the White House with classified material shows you that we as a nation need much better oversight and control of this process"

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  19. This sociopath’s utter contempt for the lives of others is profound. Yet breaking through to his cult members seems impossible.

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    1. It is impossible for any of us to convince trumpers. The only thing that works is if the cult loses visibly, completely and in front of the whole world and is also written/talked about as having been in the wrong. And still then, the next generation may hold grudges and be willing to start all over again (which is the case with Serbs from former Yugoslavia). Even now they love their leaders from the 90s, whether they are locked up in the Hague or hiding in plain sight.

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    2. Or, like our own Confederacy? That was not a cult, but the rest of your words apply, and for several generations.

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  20. Thank you Jim for putting it as plain as a brown paper bag. Not many civilians have a full comprehension of all of what goes into intelligence gathering and how great the need is to protect our sources.
    Everything that trump does and has done serves no other need than his own self aggrandizement. He knows what documents he took, and he knows what he planned to do with them. I just pray that the DOJ makes an example out of him and he ends up behind bars. That’ll send all of his supporters right out the airlock.
    Take care and Semper Fi.

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  21. Fantastic essay, and then some, Jim.

    Wanted to point out a couple edits you may want to make. No need to let this comment go public.

    The first “This is not hyperbole” is missing the “is”

    Farther down from that, you have “And sometimes that INCEPT”, rather than “intercept”. Cool as it would be to be discussing Replicants…

    Thanks for sharing your experience and perspectives on this situation (as much as you’re allowed to, anyway)

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    1. Ummm, sorry to do this again, Jim, but you have “This not is hyperbole”, now.

      See myself out, I will.

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  22. Long ago I had a clearance, and worked in COMSEC, the other side of SIGINT. We couldn't make the signal not there (well maybe some deep magic way over my level) but we and the FBI were very serious about making sure that was the only information the other side got.

    Why wasn't the FBI at Mar a Lago in January 2021?

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    1. Trump broke the FBI. And CIA, and NSA, and DOD, etc. Biden had to rebuild them all and is still working on it.

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  23. Very good summary of a very scary situation that we the public will never see the full facts of.

    In the Vietnam War I was on the other side of the SIGINT competition: keeping US communications from being intercepted. I had a TS/CRYPTO clearance which gave me unusually wide-ranging need to know, since I had to be able to see communications in the clear to ensure that their transmission wasn’t garbled. Now some of that traffic was silly, stuff like an Admiral’s laundry list being classified. But some was after-action reports of bombing sorties that weren’t officially supposed to be happening. More than 50 years later most of that stuff has been declassified, but at the time having it intercepted by anyone not authorized to see it could have been disastrous.

    As a once-soldier (a conscript, to be sure) I am concerned less about the effect of compromises on the diplomats and the generals (though I do admit the effects can be terrible) as I am on the grunts and intelligence operatives at the sharp end. Like the guys I knew hauling 30 pounds of crypto gear through a rice paddy.

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  24. Some of the "codes" in SCI are pretty much publicly known. Those who deal with classified are trained on everything from SCI on down to CUI and the processes required for declassification, along with automatic declassification (dates of declassification are required on the vast majority of classified material, but frequently those dates are extended). SCI has its codes, NATO has theirs, some of which corresponds to ours. But even SCI isn't necessarily the top or the mountain. Some people have called some of it Q, Eyes Only, etc. That amounts to a very small number of people even knowing it exists.

    I have dealt with classified information. Pretty much everyone where I work have access to the safe, and the combination is changed regularly. Since I am working on unclassified, and have been for awhile, I not only do not know the combination to the safe, but I don't want to know, and won't unless and until I have to work on something needed from the safe. (frankly, I'm avoiding it as much as possible)

    So, I manage the programs and hardware of the network in our lab, including writing code to handle items that those working on material need. Latest one is a pretty common item where a hash is used to verify that data hasn't been corrupted. Not hard to do since there is plenty of code in the public domain to accomplish this. The program office that wants us to implement this though want to use an older system (MD5) that is no longer compliant, so while that will be included, the more secure SHA (various bit lengths) will be included as well. Not really intended to obscure code, but to verify it's integrity. This will be seen on many websites that provide data and program downloads.

    So, we have to take refresher courses at least once every year. So anyone who claims to not know what they can and can't do with classified material is either lying, or stupid.

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    1. There is an advantage to using multiple hashes. MD5 collisions are possible. SHA256 collisions are just possible. Both an MD5 and SHA256 collision on the same document? Good luck with that.

      Delete
    2. In your experience, everyone was ‘trained on SCI down to CUI and declassification methods’. In my experience, everyone was taught the processes up to their clearance level and no further. They didn’t have a need to know.

      Delete
  25. Thank you for making this scenario understandable to people like me who have NO idea about the system. And they let a non-reading moron get close to this information? I'm terrified, and it takes a lot to terrify me.

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  26. I absolutely defer to Jim on this but as a general comment, the power of metadata, data about data, is often under-estimated. I was involved in a project that was not for general consumption and we had a room reserved for us to meet. The names of the people allowed in that room was made available to other people in the department as part of the room reservation but nothing about what we were working on was mentioned. My own manager was not read in. However, my colleagues worked out 90% of it by considering the skills sets of the various people involved.

    Even an absence of information can be information. No reports from our agent in Antarctica for 2 years? Who left the country or died around then? Who were their associates? Sometimes pulling on the wrong thread makes things unravel.

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    1. There's a story about agents figuring out something big was about to happen because suddenly pizza deliveries to the Pentagon ramped up, around the clock.

      Delete
  27. What I have difficulty wrapping my head around is that so many people, including congress, don't have a stronger allegiance to our national interests. It's not as if they are delusional based on their testimony given under oath. They know. And it's so many.

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    1. There are many that are no longer working for the US. The Congressmen that went to Moscow on July 4 is a good place to start. Most of them that didn't vote to certify Biden's wins is a good bet for being on Putin's team. Rosenstein and Barr either didn't care or were in on it as well. We have a "domestic enemy" problem.

      Delete
  28. Thank you, Jim, for getting this information out. Citizens have to realize this isn’t just a political contest to be played out as a competition.

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  29. Thanks for sharing your knowledge, Jim.

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  30. Thank you Jim. It's not just USA security he has compromised. He has upended intelligence sharing between your country's allies and itself. Very bad that it has happened with the war in Ukraine and the instability in Europe with a mad dictator at present. It amazes me that his followers will still vote for him if he decides to run for president in 2024 although he is anti-American, (there I've said it), lacks integrity and wd have sold said info to your enemies to pay off his debt without hesitation. I am astounded that he cd walk out of the WH with such highly classified documents and not be stopped - president or not. Like you said : things need to change. Too much executive power hangs on your president doing the RIGHT thing. Those days are long past. Thank you always for putting things in such a succinct manner.

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  31. This is is both fascinating and fantastic. Every member of both the House and the Senate, Republicans and Democrats, and their staffers, should made to read this, and to understand why Trump is such a danger to your country.

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  32. Thanks for scaring me to death. Keep up the good work.

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  33. question: even if they're recovered , how do we know he didn't make copies or scan them. How do we know copies haven't already been sold abroad? Or do we never know that?

    ReplyDelete
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    1. I have wondered about that from the beginning

      Delete
    2. And what information has don retained in his memory ? I don't believe he is stupid at all. He told the Russians top secret information, didn't need to show them anything, for the damage to be done.
      Whatever he has on Macron, he is not likely to forget that. He can still tell Vlad. And aren't their daughters good friends ?

      Delete
    3. Exactly. We won’t really know. It’s just too easy to reproduce documents then stash them away. I doubt if Trump would have done the copying, but others close to the President know the details.

      Delete
  34. Good summary, Jim! One proofing note: you wrote "figure out if our own systems are comprised". I think you meant compromised.

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  35. Please remember as they also say in the Navy ..."loose blades sink ships, and sever tendons" !

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  36. Great write up, and good examples from WWII. I was thinking of Coventry, myself. There is a price to knowing these things.

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  37. Minor typo. In this sentence:

    (Yes, really -- and I suspect you react the same why I do to the words "national security" used as justification for anything these days, given how abused that phrase is, but nevertheless here we are),

    the word “why” should be “way.”

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  38. Thank you for this information.

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  39. I would imagine foggy bottom denizens are throwing fine china at the wall in a fit of rage.

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  40. Thanks, Jim. After reading I feel both better and worse, so -- well done!!

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  41. Thank you for explaining all the background on securing all pertinent information and making such a big deal out of Trump's moving the stuff when he left the WH. He is definitely a danger to America and the world. That said, I only posted Anonymous/ly as I don't have a Google account nor a URL. My way to help keep my stuff private. If it helps, I used to be 1smartcanerican in gmail but I no longer use gmail so those account(s) have been deleted.

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  42. MY DAD WAS MILITARY FOR 26 YEARS AND WAS TRUSTED WITH TOP SECRET DOCUMENTS. ONE OF THE BEST LESSONS HE TAUGHT ME WAS TO NEVER DIVULGE A SECRET, FROM A FRIEND OR EVEN YOUR DOG. AND I NEVER HAVE.

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  43. For my sins, I once worked as the systems engineering manager for an Allied diplomatic communications network. I had access to a lot of stuff. Some of which was authorised, a lot of which was not, the Norks in particular didn't like us knowing the details of their drug running. Anyway, I had to have the keys to the kingdom, restricted only by NTK.
    Under 5eyes and other agreements, we shared a lot of data. Till 2016.
    Maybe we should have revealed more than we did about US oligarch families. But that is a 2 edged sword, questions would be asked about how we knew, and there would be retaliation against our own political lords and masters.

    I was p*ssed off by the cavalier and careless way HRC and Obama handled sensitive info. But they did no real harm. The Trump Kleptocratic clique on the other hand...

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  44. And then you have private companies that are involved in (part of) intelligence work.
    They have employees, for instance "system administrators" that maintain and operate their computer and network infrastructure.
    That "system administrators" have a *very* sensitive job, because, by the nature of their job, they have to be able to read *everything* on the computers and the interconnecting networks.
    In short: Edward Snowden.

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  45. Hi Jim! Change “This not is hyperbole” to “This is not hyperbole.” :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was fixed hours ago. Refresh your browser. //Jim

      Delete
  46. Thank you for sharing this; I have a much better understanding now of the specifics of this issue, and exactly WHY it's so important.

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  47. "against the fall of night". I see what you did there.

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  48. Thanks once again for your dedication to enlightening us in the general public. I fear it will a slow turning to get TFG the heck out of the way.
    Trump's security codes: WPE/DAAR/LHU - Worst President Ever/Dumb As A Rock/Lock Him Up.

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  49. Great piece, as always, Chief. And here's the thing that the media and most of the public hasn't noticed, or if they have, mentioned.

    It doesn't matter at this point if trump did or did not disseminate that TS information to others (I believe he did, because that man would sell his own kids for a profit.), because the US Government and the Alphabet Agencies HAVE to treat it as if he did. Which is going to lead to a hair on fire scramble to protect assets, discover what's been revealed, and get that information back under control and protected.

    In short, the damage has already been done. And trump MUST be made to pay for it. Rosenberg style.

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    Replies
    1. Which is another reason why the DOJ/FBI need to first ascertain what documents Trump actually had. The after action scrubbing of what MIGHT HAVE been revealed is tedious.

      Delete
  50. Holy shit. It will take quite a while for me to begin to comprehend what you've written here. My question is, why did the FBI/DOJ etc wait so long if there was something this sensitive lying around? Or, alternatively, how did they not know they had such a serious breach? This mess is going to open the Pandora's box of security failures, isn't it?

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  51. I know this is a bit of a tangent,
    Post Nixon we passed some laws to limit and oversee the executive. Lately I think we need another batch based around the Trump era. We never supposed that the President could be a compromised agent of a foreign power. But it is now possible or even likely. Things like de-classification cannot be unilateral. But I think we also need rules limiting the actions of Lame Duck presidents, requiring a second person or group to sign off on things like nuclear launch, pardons, and firings and appointments in the federal system. We also need some 'anti-Sore loser laws' limiting what changes can be made when a political party loses power and then attempts to castrate the incoming leaders (governors, mostly ) by stripping them of powers that the previous Governor had. Usually they put the power into the hands of the gerrymandered legislature, at least until one of their guys get elected again.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The reason such limiting of a POTUS in the lame duck period cannot be done is probably most simply illustrated by thinking about the affect of a hostile foreign power knowing that the USA is partially hamstrung between early November and late January every four years.

      Delete
  52. I'm probably one of very few civilians with no contact with the military world who has a really good understanding of how document control codes, standards, and systems, and metadata work, because I'm a technical writer who has worked on documentation pertaining to industries where loss of confidential information can be worth literally billions of dollars a year (nothing to do with nuclear power or anything remotely like that, just high-value corporate stuff).

    The only company I ever worked for that took that stuff as seriously as genuinely needed had its HQ in Jerusalem. My Israeli coworkers literally had to submit to a security interview with Mossad, if that doesn't scare the crap out of you.

    All our documents were separated by area, and there were different levels of restrictions on various documents, document control codes just like on real classified documents, and a content management system with an extremely elaborate schema of user permissions that locked most people out of viewing most documents. I was one of maybe sixty people in the entire company who had second-level superuser permissions on the system, and I know our security apparatus was nothing compared to serious document control.

    A lot of your bank's internal procedures and customer information are less secure than that. Feeling comfortable now? *Now* think about what Trump did.

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  53. I think the most accurate statement about Trump I've ever heard was a tweet during the 2016 campaign that said "Looking for long-term strategy from Donald Trump is like looking for long-term strategy from a monkey that just escaped from a cocaine trial." He probably knew they were valuable and that thought he could somehow profit from them, but like the Underpants Gnomes that crucial step 2 was missing from the plan.

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  54. there have been a couple major leakers in the past 20 years or so.
    One started by releasing a video that they saw and were appalled by. Okay, not good, but they knew what they were releasing (maybe not the possible results) but they had looked at what they released, but then they released thousands of pieces of data "that they obviously could not have looked at on an individual level" and as You said, "We can't be told what was in those items because that breaches the security."
    ---
    Ironic isn't it that the people who were and are yelling about the prosecution of those people are cheering for the investigation of Trump for the same thing.

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  55. So let me see if I can sort this out. And ego-maniacal, narcissistic, man-child, grifting con-man held the highest office on the planet and, once ordered to leave, took a troth of incredibly sensitive documents with him.

    We have to remember that during his ENTIRE time in office, he refused to read the daily briefings and if he had to deal with something, he was unable to process the information unless it was watered down to one or two Powerpoint slides. Net: He used all his asinine, useless and self-serving skills as an upper manager run the country. He had no cognitive ability to do anything more.

    IMHO, his actions were not as a result of him pretending to continue to hold onto office, I think it was more of a grifting, money-raising game; "Look at what I got to see! Oooo! TOP SECRET and they were in MY Oval Office! And for the mere price a few thousand dracma, I'll let you gaze your eyes upon them too!"

    I hope the orange buffoon is locked up. Seriously. Locked up.

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  56. Thank you Jim, and Semper Fi. I was a Marine 2671 who spent too much time at sea (as a sailor you might think "WTF does THAT mean?"), had a bite of airborne ops, and spent a LONG time at collection sites as a Marine and then as a contractor. I ended my career supporting and training tactical folks in personnel recovery using intelligence means.

    This week I have been trying to explain to puzzled neighbors in as clear and opaque a way possible of the POTENTIAL damage these latest events might cause or have caused to the nation. Of course we have suffered years of overt national damage, corruption and criminality by Putin's orange bitch. So the last 1.5 years of Trump and the Trumpanzees dragging out the fun is no surprise.

    I expected that you would post your thoughts on the matter, and I thank you wholeheartedly as a reference I can point my disbelieving family members and acquaintances to in order to gain a sober understanding about the import of these classification and national security issues. Too often uninformed people just shrug and say "Well it's out there. What's the damage? Everything is overclassified anyway" To which I gnash my teeth and try not to stroke out, while trying to explain that if some seemingly minor detail about SIGINT operations, means or intelligence is revealed - the party in question can change their behavior and we lose the insight we might have enjoyed. Or one or several resources in some foreign country meet their ends via "enhanced interrogation" and a bone saw.

    To take a giant leap over all the possible reasons Trump might have spirited these souvenirs out of the White House, it may not have been Trump who is the brain behind this outfit. What was my first clue? Because secreting, compiling, boxing up and hauling all this stuff around is well below Trump's pay grade. Besides his head is a bag of cats. I'm looking at Kushner or several of the latter NSC Trumpanzee types who used the retreat to Mar a Lago as a convenient way to transport valuable and salable classified outside the control of the IC, DOE and classification authorities.

    Kushner and many Trumpzanees were initially denied clearances for the obvious reasons that they were giant flashing red warnings of foreign influence, criminal intent, susceptibility and missing background info. But the orange fatso forced their access onto the IC so that Kushner could succeed (or not) at his expansive and unearned portfolio. Kushner is reputed to have had a great appetite for requesting high level classified reports on anything, and spent a long time online in the SCIF perusing the net. As he pursued his hobby it just might be that he squirreled away material for later use.

    I do not mean to cast aspersions against this skinny loser and national security risk, and his daughter/wife, but $2 billion buys A LOT of risky behavior. Just saying. Or it could be that Trump said he wanted all this stuff to go with him cause he was the king, and his minions made it so. And the DoJ is having to continue to clean up his diaper dirt. Maybe it is that simple, maybe not. Cheers.

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  57. Jim, how has all this careful SIGINT system arrived this far without strict rules and laws applying to people in office, such as Gaetz (and yes, the President) regarding public statements and handling of materials?

    This seems like a hole you could drive a convoy of CB-equipped trucks through.

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  58. Question, if TFG is convicted, what happens? We can't lock up secret service agents, would he lose SS protection just to lock him up?

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    Replies
    1. under 18 U.S.C. 2071 he could be imprisoned, or just fined. I'd bet on no prison time, just a fine. Of course there is one other penalty under that section, that comes even with a mere fine: the convicted person is banned for life from holding any U.S. public office.

      Delete
  59. When evaluating a discussion that starts out with "I don't really know" and then continues on to describe a really bad thing that it "could" be, it's nice to know a bit more about the not so bad things that it also "could" be. How much of material marked as various levels of "classified" really has little or no potential for damage? Even taking into account all the things mentioned about what you can infer from something even existing, does a lot of stuff get marked "secret" simply because it's convenient? I'm asking out of curiosity and lack of knowledge on my part. Don't get me wrong, I think he should be treated just like anyone else who mishandles classified info, including throwing him in jail if appropriate. Trump thinking it's OK doesn't make it OK. I'm just curious what the likelihood is that the gloom and doom scenarios don't really play out.

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    1. I said I don't know what Trump took.

      The problem is, if that material is classified, particularly to the levels reported, then by definition disclosure of that information, whatever it is, will cause "exceptionally grave damage to the national security." That last bit is in quotes, because is literally taken from the US Classification guide and Executive Order 13526, signed by Trump himself (and now Biden).

      Executive Order 12958, Sec. 1.7. "Classification Prohibitions and Limitations," specifies what can and cannot be classified and why:

      (a) In no case shall information be classified in order to:

      (1) conceal violations of law, inefficiency, or administrative error;

      (2) prevent embarrassment to a person, organization, or agency;

      (3) restrain competition; or

      (4) prevent or delay the release of information that does not require protection in the interest of the national security.

      Additionally, section 1.1 of the original order says:

      (b) If there is significant doubt about the need to classify information, it shall not be classified.

      Thus, despite your allegations, information is NOT classified willie nilly or just because. If the material classified, there's a damn good reason for it.

      //Jim

      Delete
    2. There are also SCGs (Security Classification Guides) that state clearly what kinds of information within a compartment or program are classified and to what level. They often contain language explaining why. Of course, SCGs are typically classified at the level of the compartment too. So Jim is right, they are NOT classified willie nilly or by assertion alone.

      Delete
  60. Interesting. We all agree that Trump is about as intelligent as a drunk kindergartner, so why do we "automatically" believe he was smart enough to actually accomplish this theft? While he may initially be the one who thought of it, I do think you may be right about his ineptitude about actually see it through. "His minions made it so" is what I'm going with here.

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  61. You've touched on something I find quite annoying: the fact that we do NOT KNOW what was found. We know what the DOJ was looking for, but that doesn't necessarily mean that is what was actually found.
    Yet the various news outlets, and of course every other person commenting on this on whatever forum, are saying as if it's established fact that "nuclear secrets were found!"
    As you so accurately and repeatedly pointed out, "WE DON'T KNOW".
    I'm fine with knowing that Trump took stuff that he shouldn't have and that it is dangerous to "national security" and that the NARA did their jobs in trying to get it back.
    Also, don't piss off a librarian. They know where all the bodies are.

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  62. I would like to know how you can remove Documents classified as TOP SECRET or higher from a secure repositary, with no audit trail, and take said documents home? If I'd done that when in the RAF they would have locked me up and thrown away the key, let ALONE the witnesses who provided counter-signatures.

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    1. Would those have been in the daily intelligence report that donald got to read/view ?

      Delete
    2. It’s a lot easier to hold onto documents as the President than a mere analyst. Besides Trump spent a ton of time at Mar a Lago and would have briefed there. Many established classified document protocols are bent when it’s the Office of the President asking.

      Delete
    3. You know the square root of F all about me or where I served. So thank you for your condescending tone. Oh and BTW I was not an Analyst but an Operator TYVM. I dealt with SIGINT as well as HUMINT.

      Delete
    4. Exactly what I said, via Bolton - https://youtu.be/RB3WWY-FV_o

      Delete
  63. Whoever would have dreamed that among the many potential horrors and catastrophes of the nuclear age, destruction from within one’s own country would be one of them. The wrong leader coming into power now could end the world. Literally.

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  64. I, too, would like to know how the info got out of a SCIF.

    However, I rather expect that nobody who has, or has had, a high level security clearance is going to explain How to Get Documents Out of a SCIF.
    That's surely nearly as need-to-know as what's IN the SCIF.

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    Replies
    1. The White House is not like other DOD (NSA, CIA, FBI, State, DIA) facilities in anyway shape or form. I’m guessing under this Administration (and Trump specifically) that standard protocol procedures were even more out of place. Remember that the CIA/PDB briefers travel to the WH & brief. In addition to the standard PDB they often bring along supportive intel documents. Oftentimes the President would ask to “hold onto” a specific report or two so he could read them later. PDB officer(s) always feel obliged to hand over, but normally notate for the record what was left. In addition, recall that there is a 24/7/365 WH Situation Room where analysts have access to most documents. Many h/c docs handed over to the President never got returned (careless handling….or deliberately).

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    2. As a follow-up to my above post, here is an interview conducted with John Bolton regarding the cavalier way Trump treated classified docs. It also reinforces what i have posted a few times here…..PDB briefers & WH Sit Room officers often provided Trump with docs that were then never tracked, properly stored, returned or shredded. I’m guessing many are in those “boxes”.

      ➡️ Bolton interview: https://youtu.be/RB3WWY-FV_o

      Delete
  65. Thank you, Jim, for illuminating the dark corridor we're traveling in with the latest Trump scandal du jour. I certainly hope rules, protocol & norms for POTUS and VP are codified in law now that we know an individual of low morals can actually ascend to the highest office in our land.
    I look forward to the day, should it ever come, that I can read the news and not have to see the orange buffoon's face attached to multiple articles.We're never going to "miss" him if he never goes away!

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  66. Trump is a national security threat on an international level as this essay posits, and on a domestic level (just read Tom Nichols latest over on the Atlantic site). Throw in some climate change driven drought and a teetering worldwide debt balloon and we might all as well read outloud together the opening lines of "The Martian"

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  67. At risk of echoing the Trumpanzees: Lock him up!

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  68. What is particularly worrying is that Trump stashed the documents at Maralago, without even a decent lock on the door. If there is any place in the country more likely to have FSB agents, planted years ago, working as cleaning staff, etc, I can't think of one. We have to assume any document that went spent time there has already been photographed and passed on to Putin.

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  69. Trump obviously skipped or slept through the CIA/FBI surreptitious entry briefing where our finest breaking & entering teams demo their skills. A simple padlock on a room is child’s play. Russia’s covert teams probably giggling all the way back to Moscow.

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  70. Small typo: "Because if that information isn't sanitized, then very likely you are revealing far more then you intend."
    It should be "revealing far more THAN you intend"

    Thanks

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    Replies
    1. Damn. That's embarrassing. Thanks! Fixed // Jim

      Delete
    2. Back to who had access to the classified docs st Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s new lawyer has no clue. She admits on TV (FOX News) that she really has no idea who or how many people had access to the room where the classified documents were. She’ll have to “check with” Trump 😬

      This is all so reckless by the Trump clan.

      Delete
    3. I can guarantee that no SF 701 forms on the safe at Mar a Lago.

      SF 701, “Activity Security Checklist,” shall be used to record such checks. An integral part of the security check system shall be the securing of all vaults, secure rooms, and containers used for storing classified material.

      Delete
  71. Ex FBI agent Asha Rangapapa explains more about the big deal it is of Trumps cache of classified docs. https://twitter.com/therecount/status/1560657853718769664?s=21&t=Q3o33Vyb4eFIk_uGvIMEKw

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  72. This essay was absolutely vital. As a member of Veterans For Peace, I hope that you send a copy to our Bd. Of Directors. I see little or no discussion of the
    innumerable harm to peace
    which D.T. has done to this nation and the world of free human beings. Thank you again.

    ReplyDelete
  73. I don't know about the stuff he took exonerating him in the future – I think it's more likely that he thought it might convict him in the future. :)

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  74. As time goes by post “raid” it’s becoming clearer Trump had squirreled away some pretty high-level national security documents including TSC/SCI and other compartmented “special access program” docs.

    ➡️ “ As you are no doubt aware, NARA had ongoing communications with the former President’s representatives throughout 2021 about what appeared to be missing Presidential records, which resulted in the transfer of 15 boxes of records to NARA in January 2022. In its initial review of materials within those boxes, NARA identified items marked as classified national security information, up to the level of Top Secret and including Sensitive Compartmented Information and Special Access Program materials. NARA informed the Department of Justice about that discovery, which prompted the Department to ask the President to request that NARA provide the FBI with access to the boxes at issue so that the FBI and others in the Intelligence Community could examine them. On April 11, 2022, the White House Counsel’s Office—affirming a request from the Department of Justice supported by an FBI letterhead memorandum—formally transmitted a request that NARA provide the FBI access to the 15 boxes for its review within seven days, with the possibility that the FBI might request copies of specific documents following its review of the boxes.”

    ✅ Source: https://justthenews.com/government/courts-law/full-text-national-archives-letter-trump-classified-documents

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  75. Ok. It’s pretty clear. Trump was storing highly classified US National Defense Intel documents in multiple locations at Mar-a-Lago that was not authorized or approved. Pretty plain & simple.

    “ MARK THIS DAY

    Affidavit says this about a former President's residence:

    "Probable cause exists to believe that evidence, contraband, fruits of crime, or other items illegally possessed in violation will be found at the premises"

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  76. Mention was made on MSNBC today (9/2/'22) regarding the classified documents recovery about tRump's "End stage dementia"? I haven't yet seen other sources for that.

    ReplyDelete
  77. With Trump it seems, the more you know the worse it looks is a universal rule. No wonder he tries to hide everything. We need more transparency, if not about details, about process. Executive privilege should have a short expiry time. It just protects criminality. (This is of course different than the issue of protecting intelligence assets and security forces). I cannot understand why the press lets him and henchmen get away with so much rubbish. The first question should always be "What are you trying to hide?".

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  78. I had TS/SCI/ESI/Code Word clearances. If I even hint at some of the stuff I knew I'd be spending years in substandard housing with very unpleasant neighbors. So why is Trump any different than me?

    ReplyDelete
  79. During the Second World War U.S. Intelligence launched the Venona Project to examine coded messages between Soviet Officials in the U.S. and the U.S.S.R.

    It in my understanding that the first such messages were not deciphered until a few years after the war. The Soviet's were using a system one time pads that were only suppossed to be used once and at the time this code was just about impossible to break. However during the war the Soviets sometimes used duplicates of pads and this made the system far more likely to be broken at least for some of the messages.

    The result was the discovery of many, (Several hundred it seems.), spies for the Soviets in American Government and Industry. Among those exposed by the Venona project were Hess and Julius Rosenberg among many others.

    American Intelligence officials faced a problem if they used this evidence in Court it would expose to the Soviets that they had broken at least partly a Soviet code system. However in many cases the only evidence against the spies was in fact these deciphered messages, or the other bits of evidence wern't likely to get a conviction.

    So in many cases the U.S. authorities settled for silencing the various spies involved by visits informing them that they were being looked at, discrete transfers etc. Only in a few cases were individuals actually tried.

    The Soviet spy network in the U.S. was seriously disrupted by these actions. A fair number of actual spies were able to escape prosecution because it was decided that keeping the Venona decripts a secret was too important and could not be made public knowledge at the time.

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