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

Analysis: CIA Open Source Center monitors Facebook, Twitter, blogs



The Associated Press has been given unprecedented access to the United States Central Intelligence Agency’s Open Source Center, which is tasked with, among other things, monitoring social networking media. The Center, which was set up in response to the events of 9/11, employs several hundred multilingual analysts. Some are dispatched to US diplomatic missions abroad, but most work out of “an anonymous industrial park” in the US state of Virginia, which the Associated Press agreed not to disclose. The analysts, who are jokingly known in CIA OSINT (open-source intelligence) parlance as “ninja librarians”, engage in constant mining of publicly available information. The latter ranges from articles found in scholarly journals, to civilian television and radio station programs, as well as information available on the Internet. According to the Associated Press report, the Center began paying particular attention to social networking websites in 2009, when Facebook and Twitter emerged as primary organizing instruments in Iran’s so-called “Green Revolution”. The term describes the actions that Iranians opposed to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took to protest the disputed election results that kept him in power. Since that time, the CIA’s Open Source Center has acquired the ability to monitor up to five million tweets a day, and produces daily snapshots of global opinion assembled from tweets, Facebook updates and blog posts. Its executive briefings reportedly find their way to President Barack Obama’s Daily Brief on a regular basis. The Associated Press was given access to the Center’s main facility, and interviewed several of its senior staff members, including its Director, Doug Naquin. He told the news agency that the CIA Open Source Center had “predicted that social media in places like Egypt could be a game-changer and a threat to the regime”, but had been unable to foresee the precise development of Internet-based social activism in the Arab world. Read more of this post

Analysis: Bush focus on Daily Brief skewed policy decisions



A study by a Brookings Institution analyst says the “unprecedented” level of importance given to the President’s Daily Brief (PDB) by George W. Bush skewed his administration’s policy decisions after 9/11 and had negative consequences for the US intelligence community. The PDB arrives at the US President’s desk every morning with highly classified summaries of the latest findings from America’s intelligence community. The importance given to the PDB, whose contents are often highly speculative or unprocessed, varies with Presidents. But Kenneth Lieberthal, former National Security Council staffer in the Bill Clinton administration and senior fellow at Brookings, says the Bush cabinet overwhelmingly relied on the PDB to make policy decisions, which were often based on information that lacked substantial analysis. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0051

  • Instigator of Church committee hearings speaks about domestic intelligence. Christopher Pyle, the American whistleblower who in the 1970s sparked the Church Committee hearings on intelligence activities, has spoken about the recent revelations of US Army personnel spying on activist groups in Washington state. Pyle provided interesting historical context linking domestic espionage in the 1960s and 1970s with current developments in the so-called “war on terrorism”.
  • Declassified US President’s Daily Brief is reclassified. The CIA says that extracts of the President’s Daily Briefing (PDB) that were declassified in 2006, during the prosecution of former vice presidential aide Scooter Libby, are “currently and properly classified”. PDB declassifications occur extremely rarely.
  • Australian intelligence to focus on cybersecurity. David Irvine, the recently appointed director of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, has identified cyberespionage as “a growing national security risk”.

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