White House considers barring Donald Trump from receiving intelligence briefings

Joe BidenUNITED STATES PRESIDENT JOE Biden and his senior aides are “reviewing” the possibility of preventing his predecessor, Donald Trump, from receiving briefings containing classified information. Such an eventuality would constitute a dramatic break from the longstanding tradition of providing intelligence briefings to former American presidents, who wish to continue to receive them after leaving office.

The reasoning behind granting former American presidents access to classified information, even after leaving office, is that they usually maintain a visible diplomatic presence with worldwide influence. Many keep a busy schedule that involves regular meetings with foreign dignitaries, in which affairs of state are discussed. Intelligence briefings can therefore be useful in allowing them to speak with authority on various matters of domestic and international policy.

But Trump may not be granted that ability, according to reports in several American media. The reports were sparked by an answer given by White House press secretary Jen Psaki to a question asked by NBC reporter Geoff Bennett on Monday. Bennett asked Psaki if the Biden administration had decided whether Trump should continue to have access to classified information. Psaki responded by telling Bennett he had asked “a good question”, and added that the issue was “obviously under review”. However, “no determination” had been made yet, said Psaki.

Psaki’s confirmation that the matter is under review follows comments by the incoming White House chief of staff, Ron Klain, who said last month that the new president would make a decision following recommendations by his intelligence advisors. Some former senior security and intelligence officials have come out strongly in support of barring Trump from having access to intelligence. Among them are former Federal Bureau of Investigation director James Comey, as well as Susan M. Gordon, former principal deputy director of national intelligence, who briefed Trump regularly for two years. Gordon argued in an a Washington Post op-ed last month that Trump’s foreign liabilities and close associations with “foreign entities” render him a “potential national security risk”.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 02 February 2021 | Permalink

In unusual move, US spy agencies say they won’t share intelligence with Biden for now


THE COORDINATING AGENCY OF the United States Intelligence Community has said it will not share national security information with Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden until he has been officially “ascertained”. The term refers to a process described in the Presidential Transition Act of 1963, which provides instructions for the orderly and peaceful transition of power in the US.

The process of transition includes giving the American president-elect access to the same national security information that the sitting president has access to. This process, described as “uncontroversial” by observers, has been followed without fail since at least 1963, when the Presidential Transition Act became law. However, in a statement published on Tuesday, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) said it would not support “a potential presidential transition” until “ascertainment of the candidate” by the administrator of the General Services Administration (GSA) has been completed.

The GSA, an independent US government agency with a personnel force of over 12,000, chaired by Emily Murphy, must sign an official letter of “ascertainment” before the transition of power becomes official. However, this has not yet happened, as the sitting US president, Donald Trump, is refusing to concede the election, citing irregularities and fraud. The ODNI said on Tuesday that it would “not have contact with any transition team until notified by the GSA administrator”.

Furthermore, Biden has not been given access to the President’s Daily Brief (PDB), an analytical compendium of timely information that is produced by the US Intelligence Community every morning. The Democratic Party candidate for president confirmed that he had been given no access to the PDB, which typically requires authorization by the sitting president. In a separate development, it was reported on Tuesday that the State Department is refusing to facilitate telephone calls between Biden and leaders of foreign countries, as is typical during the presidential transition process.

Meanwhile, The Washington Post reported late on Tuesday evening that the White House instructed US federal agencies to continue preparing the Trump administration’s budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year, which is due in February —three weeks after Trump is scheduled to depart the White House, based on the election projections of every major US news network.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 11 November 2020 | Permalink

British spy chiefs ‘warn against’ Western military action in Ukraine

Map of UkraineBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
The heads of British intelligence agencies are said to have advised London that interfering militarily in Ukraine would likely prompt a violent Russian response. The Sunday People said last weekend that Whitehall has been advised a Western military interference in Ukraine would “risk spiraling into an all-out war with Russia”. The Labour-supporting paper, which is published by the Trinity Mirror group, claimed that the head of MI6, Sir John Sawers, is understood to have told British Prime Minister David Cameron that the Russian government “will not stand idly by” if Western troops enter Western Ukraine, ostensibly to prevent westward military advances by Russian forces. One “senior source” told The People that the message delivered to Whitehall was that “it’s not worth starting World War Three over Ukraine”. The briefing appears to rest on intelligence acquired from sources in Russia, as well as by MI6 operatives on the ground in eastern Ukraine, which, according to the paper, “have been moving around [eastern Ukraine] covertly, monitoring border crossing points and towns where Russian support is strongest”. Meanwhile on Monday the United States Department of State distributed an 11-page document with photographs alleging that Russian Spetsnaz (special purpose forces) troops are among the occupiers of government buildings in eastern Ukraine. The same document was distributed last week by Ukrainian officials at a meeting of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. Early on Tuesday, US Vice President Joe Biden, who is visiting Ukrainian capital Kiev, pledged $50 million to help the country’s government carry out unspecified “political and economic reforms”. About a fifth of that amount has been earmarked to help fund Ukraine’s presidential election in late May of this year. Read more of this post

US rejects calls to free Navy analyst who spied for Israel

Benjamin Netanyahu and Barack ObamaBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The White House has rejected persistent calls by Israeli politicians and lobbyists to free a United States Navy intelligence analyst serving a life sentence for giving classified US government documents to Israel. Jonathan Jay Pollard was convicted in 1987 for selling classified information to the Israeli government. Ronald Olive, a former counterintelligence officer for the US Naval Criminal Investigative Service, who led the US Navy’s prosecution of Jonathan Pollard, has described Pollard’s spying activity as “one of the most devastating cases of espionage in US history”, involving the theft of over “one million classified documents”. Recently it emerged that, before spying for Israel, Pollard had attempted to spy on the US for the government of Australia. However, in Israel, Pollard, who is now an Israeli subject after renouncing his American citizenship, is widely considered a national hero. Last week, senior Israeli political figures renewed persistent calls to the administration of US President Barack Obama to free Pollard. According to the Israelis’ reasoning, the life sentence imposed on Pollard is too harsh considering that he spied for a US ally. Last week’s calls were led by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who urged the White House to free the convicted spy “in the spirit of the Jewish Passover. Netanyahu said that “the Festival of Freedom of all the Jews should be turned into Pollard’s private one”. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s plea was echoed in a personal letter addressed to President Obama by Israeli President Shimon Peres, along with a petition signed by over 80 members of the Israeli Knesset. Read more of this post

Biden stopped Obama from granting clemency to Israel spy

Joe Biden

Joe Biden

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The President of the United States considered clemency for an American Navy analyst who spied on the US for Israel, but was stopped by his Vice President, Joe Biden, according to a report in The New York Times. The report claims that Barack Obama gave in to concerted pressure from the Israeli government and members of the pro-Israel lobby in the US, and proposed that Jonathan Pollard, who was jailed for life in 1986 for handing over classified US government documents to Israeli spies, be released. But Joe Biden rejected Obama’s proposal, reportedly telling the President that “over my dead body are we going to let [Pollard] out before his time”. The information appears to have come from Joe Biden himself, who revealed it during a recent meeting with rabbis in Boca Raton, Florida. The Times reports that, “according to several people at the meeting”, Biden was asked by one of the rabbis why it was that Pollard remained in prison, despite a lengthy campaign in Israel to have him released, or transferred to an Israeli jail. Biden responded that Obama had proposed releasing Pollard, but his suggestion never reached the heads of America’s intelligence community, because it was blocked by Biden himself. The Vice President said he told Obama that, if it were up to him, Pollard “would stay in jail for life”. The Times article does not relay the reaction to Biden’s forceful answer at the meeting; but the paper states that Biden appears to be on a mission to improve Obama’s image with Jewish voters in the United States. Although Jewish Americans traditionally tend to vote for the Democratic Party, they are currently being aggressively courted by the Republicans, worrying some Democratic electoral strategists. By answering the way he did in response to the question about Pollard, Biden “took a punch meant for his boss”, argues the paper. Read more of this post

Analysis: Spy Agencies Failed to Predict Egypt Uprising

Egypt uprising

Egypt uprising

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS| intelNews.org |
It is becoming increasingly clear that the ongoing popular uprising in Egypt represents the most important geopolitical development in the Middle East since the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran. In light of this, it is remarkable how unprepared foreign intelligence agencies have proven in forecasting the crisis. Even the Israelis were caught completely unaware: on January 25, the day when massive protests first erupted across Egypt, Major General Aviv Kochavi, newly appointed head of Israel’s Military Intelligence Directorate, told a Knesset committee that “there are no doubts about the stability of the regime in Egypt” and that “the Muslim Brotherhood is not organized enough to take over”. Instead, Kochavi focused on political volatility in Lebanon; ironically, the latter now seems like an oasis of tranquility compared to the explosive state of Egyptian politics. If the Israelis, whose very concept of national security is inextricably linked with developments in Cairo, were so unsuspecting of the popular wave of anger against the thirty-year dictatorship of President Hosni Mubarak, one can only imagine Washington’s surprise at the protests. Click here to read my article in Intelligent-Intelligence.com, a specialist publication edited by Kyle Cunliffe. Continue reading →

CIA reportedly wins turf battle with DNI office

Leon Panetta

Leon Panetta

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
The CIA has reportedly won a turf battle with the office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), after the White House came down in support of the CIA position on Thursday. This blog has kept tabs on the dispute, which started last May, when DNI Dennis Blair argued in a still-classified directive that his office should have a say in certain cases over the appointment of senior US intelligence representatives in foreign cities. Former CIA officials publicly denounced the directive, which would allow the appointment of non-CIA personnel to these positions for the first time in 60 years, as “simple insanity”. Since then, various actors have sided with the two antagonists, with the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence committee supporting the DNI and Vice President Joe Biden backing the CIA’s position. But the stalemate reportedly ended on Thursday, after the White House ruled that the CIA, not the DNI, should appoint senior US intelligence representatives abroad. Read more of this post

CIA-DNI turf war over embassy posts continues

Joe Biden

Joe Biden

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
This blog has kept tabs on the latest US bureaucratic turf war between the CIA and the office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI). It started last May, when when DNI Dennis Blair argued in a still-classified directive that his office should have a say in certain cases over the appointment of senior US intelligence representatives in foreign cities. Former CIA officials publicly denounced the directive, which would allow the appointment of non-CIA personnel to these positions for the first time in 60 years, as “simple insanity”. The turf war appeared to be close to an end in July, when the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence came out in support of the DNI, arguing that “some locations may give rise to circumstances where th[e CIA station chief’s] responsibility is best met by an official with expertise derived from another I[ntelligence] C[ommunity] element”. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0021

  • US Vice President refuses comment on CIA-DNI dispute. Speaking to ABC’s This Week, Biden refused to take sides on the ongoing turf battle between CIA director Leon Panetta and Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair, over who should have a say in appointing CIA station chiefs around the world. Biden simply said he preferred to “comment on that next week”.
  • Lebanese officer suspected of spying flees to Israel. A Lebanese army colonel, who was about to join the nearly 40 individuals who have been arrested in southern Lebanon in connection to an alleged Israeli spy ring, managed to escape to Israel last week, sources say. 
  • Did former CIA director George Tenet get drunk at the palatial house of Prince Bandar, former Saudi ambassador to the US? Tenet is apparently disputing it, but he is not disputing that he spent the night there. 
  • Analysis: The history of CIA-ISI relations. In this well-researched article, Mark Mazzetti argues that US-Pakistani intelligence interactions show there is no such thing as a friendly intelligence service.

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