House Intelligence Hearing on Russia

Another day, another round of Fake News.  This particular time happened on March 20th, 2017, when Representative Schiff took Fake News to a whole new level with his opening speech during the March 20, 2017, House Intelligence Committee hearing.  I literally wanted to scream.  To make matters worse, neither FBI Director James Comey or the Director of the NSA, Michael Rogers, the two star witnesses of the hearing, presented any evidence to back up Schiff’s shameless twaddle that Russia was unquestionably behind the DNC hack, Putin influenced the 2016 election, and that Trump, some sort of Russian asset, had been playing this country all along. The dog and pony show droned on for over five hours and it was almost as pointless as the intelligence report on Russian interference. If you want the short version of Comey’s testimony here it is,

“I can’t answer that.”

The slightly longer version looked something like this,

“I can’t answer that.  Wait, I mean, we are investigating Trump and his staffers but that’s all I can say.”

Although Roger’s testimony wasn’t much better fortunately there is some information we can gather from the spectacle they put us through.  The hearing touched on Russian interference (obviously), wiretapping, Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), the Flynn unmasking, intelligence leaks, Wikileaks, and more.  I could talk about Schiff’s opening statements but I’d rather stab myself in the eyes so let’s start with the meat and potatoes of the hearing:  Russia.  Early on in the hearing, both Comey and Rogers cleared up any lingering doubts that Russia changed vote tallying in key states such as Ohio, Florida, and Michigan: They didn’t.  As for why Putin had a “clear preference” for Trump during the 2016 election Comey, I swear, gave this answer,

“Putin hated Secretary Clinton so much, that the flip side of that coin was he had a clear preference for the person running against the person he hated so much.”

Folks, if you live in America you should be petrified that one of your intelligence agencies actually believes this deduction is legit evidence.  With that said, don’t expect to quote Comey anytime soon that Putin got Trump elected.  On the contrary, he stated,

“We made no judgment on whether the Russians were successful in any way having an impact on the election.  I just want to be clear. That’s not in the report because we didn’t opine on it.”

So there you have it.  Just like the January, 2017 intelligence report, the FBI has no opinion on Russia’s impact on the U.S. election. However, Russian hacking was another story.  Both Rogers and Comey agreed that Russia hacked into the DNC and then used Wikileaks to cover their tracks although Comey pointed out that Russia did not deal directly with them. As for the juicy evidence that Rogers and Comey produced to back up these allegations, let’s just say we’re still waiting for it.  Wikileaks came up again when the Committee brought up Roger Stone and the implication that he knew ahead of time about Wikileaks’ upcoming DNC and Podesta email leaks.  They want so hard to believe this story but Wikileaks was quick to point out that they had sent out “public teasers” well before Stone, or even Christopher Steele, made any public comments about impending leaks. Folks, this isn’t rocket science. They’re obviously playing dumb with the general public and you should be asking yourself why.  And if they’re not playing dumb then you should be asking yourself why the U.S. House Intelligence Committee is this legitimately stupid.  Just pointing out the obvious.

The DNC leaks naturally lead us back to Guccifer 2.0, the mysterious (and “Russian”) hacker who was never caught despite them hacking into the DNC (and maybe Podesta), running both a WordPress and Twitter account, and giving out press interviews.  Pretty astounding considering the U.S. Intelligence Community’s capabilities.  So if that doesn’t set off the warning bells for you how about Comey’s comment during the hearing,

“Russia was unusually loud in their intervention.” 

Yeah.  I bet they were, Comey.  You see, there has been extensive research done on Guccifer 2.0 and I can assure you it wasn’t a Russian that hacked the DNC.  Check out the research at or search for “Warren Flood” + “Guccifer 2.0.”  That should get you closer to the truth.  Even more shady than the fact that Guccifer 2.0 is most likely a DNC creation is the fact that the DNC refused to let the FBI examine their computer servers after they were hacked.  How are there any Democrats left in this country? Seriously.  Anyways, I have my own secret plot twists stashed away about the whole Guccifer 2.0/Russian narrative debacle that I’m hoping washes out because it would be so unbelievably delicious.  Take a look at some of these tweets—this comes pretty close to my fantasy, minus the Russians.  But I definitely think that certain members of Trump’s team and some good guys in the IC knew early on about Guccifer 2.0 and let the Clinton/Obama/DNC/Deep State team play it out to the fullest in order to nail them to the wall later.  We’ll see.

Moving on…let’s talk about “wiretapping.”  Unfortunately, the most exciting thing we learned about it was the very thing we already knew—the FBI and the NSA don’t believe it happened.  But if you examine the testimony a little more closely, Comey and Roger’s denials may just be a matter of semantics:

Schiff: “First, the president claimed, quote, “Terrible. Just found out that Obama had my wires tapped in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism,” unquote.  Director Comey, was the president’s statement that Obama had his wires tapped in Trump Tower a true statement?”

Comey: “With respect to the president’s tweets about alleged wiretapping directed at him by the prior administration, I have no information that supports those tweets and we have looked carefully inside the FBI…The department [DOJ] has no information that supports those tweets.”


SCHIFF:  “So President Obama could not unilaterally order a wiretap of anyone?”

COMEY: “No president could.”


SCHIFF: “Third, the president stated, “I’d bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October just prior to the Election.” Director Comey, you’re a good lawyer. Can you make out a great case that president Obama wiretapped Mr. Trump’s phones just prior to the election in light of the fact you’ve said there is no evidence of that?”

COMEY: “All I can say is what I said before, that we don’t have any information that supports those tweets.”


SCHIFF: “Now here, I think you’ve said there’s been no evidence of an illegal wiretap by president Obama, is that right?”

COMEY: “I’ve said the FBI and the Department of Justice have no information to support those tweets.”


SCHIFF: “Director Rogers, in an effort to explain why there was no evidence supporting the president’s claim that Obama had wiretapped him, the president and his spokesman, Sean Spicer, have suggested that British intelligence through its NSA or GCHQ wiretapped Mr. Trump on President Obama’s behalf. 

Did you ever request that your counterparts in GCHQ should wiretap Mr. Trump on behalf of President Obama?”

ROGERS: “No sir, nor would I, that would be expressly against the construct of the Five Eyes agreement that’s been in place for decades.”


Notice a pattern?  Why in the world would the House Intelligence Committee only use Trump’s tweets to investigate illegal wiretapping/surveillance? For starters, it’s because Trump used the words “had my wires tapped,” and “tapping my phones,” which, by the old school definition of “wiretap,” isn’t used anymore in today’s advanced world—no one placed an actual bug in Trump’s phone so of course it’s easy to deny.  And for all I know, the IC used some local cops on the payroll to sit outside Trump Tower with IMSI catchers—this, of course, wouldn’t require a warrant.  Seriously. The U.S. government seems that ridiculous.

 More importantly, instead of blaming the Intelligence Community, Trump blamed the “prior administration,” and “President Obama” in both tweets which, as you can see from Comey’s response, is easy to deny because Obama would not have had the direct authority to order the surveillance so, again, it’s easy to deny.  Of course, that doesn’t mean Obama didn’t circumvent the rules, or rather, the law, but no one on the Committee even questions such a thing. Virtually every question Comey answered if not all of them with regards to wiretapping were only within the context of Trump’s tweets which is not only bizarre given that the purpose of the House Intelligence Committee is congressional oversight of the U.S. Intelligence Community, I think it also shows that Comey was given Schiff’s questions ahead of time. With that said, I wouldn’t be surprised if Trump purposely used statements like “tapping my phones” and “prior administration” in an effort to get Comey to perjure himself. But Comey’s a squirrelly one, he knows how to play the game, and he definitely knows how to dodge bullets.

As for the GCHQ’s involvement, Rogers emphatically stated that they were not involved in any wiretapping because of the Five Eyes agreement which sounds swell until you take into account that there are three other members of the Five Eyes besides the U.S. and Britain.  However, no one on the committee questioned him about New Zealand, Australia, or Canada’s possible involvement.  Or how about Sweden or German?  Nope. No one seemed to care.

The lack of transparency didn’t end there.  Discussions about Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act left out major details about “incidental collection” during foreign communications surveillance.  For those of you who are not familiar with FISA 702, it’s what effectively allows the Intelligence Community to legally collect the communications of non-U.S. persons’ who are located outside of the United States.  As the House Intelligence Committee put it, it’s a “key anti-terror tool” and it’s set to expire at the end of this year. Rogers and Comey did their best to sell it to the American people during the Committee hearing by failing to mention that U.S. citizens can get caught up in incidental collection under Section 702 because, well, that doesn’t bode well for a renewal, does it?  Instead, Rogers and Comey reiterated over and over again that the program only involves foreign collection.  These statements are disingenuous at best because U.S. citizens can and do get caught up in it and the information that is “incidentally collected” can be used against them in a court of law whether or not it has anything to do with national security.

Here’s my understanding:  Let’s say you call your friend George who lives in Germany and for whatever reason he is being targeted by the NSA.  At some point during the phone call, your friend asks you, “So how’s the pot business going?”  You respond, “Oh, you know, I’m just selling to a few bored housewives in the neighborhood, nothing crazy.”  Oops.  The NSA just collected your conversation with your friend, George, and can store that information anywhere from two to five years (and I believe they can get an extension in certain situations).  Furthermore, your “confession” about selling pot to bored housewives can be used against you or used to collect more evidence against you or others in a criminal investigation.  And no, you selling a little weed on the side has nothing to do with national security but that doesn’t change the fact that your conversation is now in the system.   Let’s say you told your friend who works in the French government and is being targeted by the NSA that you lied on your taxes.  Yup.  It’s stored.  And yes, that’s when you’re talking to your friend while you are on American soil.  Is it any wonder then why Comey and Rogers wanted to hype up the foreign aspect of Section 702?  The House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on March 29, 2017 called “Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act” that is amazingly informative and I highly recommend everyone watch it. The kicker in all of this was Rogers’ statement that cyber defense is a “team sport” because almost the same exact statement was found in the NSA documents that Snowden leaked—“Prism is a team sport.”  Nice to see the attitude within the IC hasn’t changed.

All of this leads us to the Committee’s questions regarding the unmasking of General Mike Flynn and leaks from within the U.S. government.  If you’re confused about this whole masking thing again, here’s my take on it:  If the NSA/IC “incidentally collects” your information they are suppose to mask it or hide it. In 2014, the Washington Post wrote (I know, I know, I loathe them too but I’m hoping they still had their shiz together back in 2014):

“Nine of 10 account holders found in a large cache of intercepted conversations, which former NSA contractor Edward Snowden provided in full to The Post, were not the intended surveillance targets but were caught in a net the agency had cast for somebody else.

Many of them were Americans. Nearly half of the surveillance files, a strikingly high proportion, contained names, e-mail addresses or other details that the NSA marked as belonging to U.S. citizens or residents. NSA analysts masked, or “minimized,” more than 65,000 such references to protect Americans’ privacy, but The Post found nearly 900 additional e-mail addresses, unmasked in the files, that could be strongly linked to U.S. citizens or U.S.residents.”

So how does this all pertain to Flynn?  To be honest, I’m not even sure how Flynn’s phone calls to Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak were picked up—was it because of an unsecured phone line, illegal surveillance by Obama, or incidental collection by the IC?  No idea. Either way, the House Committee broached the unmasking subject and wondered how many people at the NSA and FBI had the authority to unmask people.  Rogers explained that there were twenty people, including himself, that had the authority to unmask.  Comey, on the other hand, had this to say (italics is mine),

“I don’t know for sure. As I sit here, surely more [than twenty], given the nature of the FBI’s work. We come into contact with U.S. persons a whole lot more than the NSA does because we may be conducting — we only conduct our operations in the United States to collect electronic surveillance (so the FBI basically unmasks more Americans than the NSA?) — to conduct electronic surveillance, so I don’t — I can find out the exact number, I don’t know it as I sit here.”

Comey went on to acknowledge that the number of people at the FBI with the authority to unmask was “relevant” but that the “culture behind it is in fact even more important.” Uh no. I’ll take the number for $500, Comey, because as Representative Trey Gowdy put it,

“It would be nice to know the universe of people who have the power to unmask a U.S. citizen’s name. Because that might provide something of a roadmap to investigate who might’ve actually disseminated a masked U.S. citizen’s name.”

Gowdy knew that the potential crime at hand wasn’t just the unmasking of Flynn, it was also the leaking of this classified information to the media, more specifically to the Washington Post’s David Ignatius, that was a problem and without any numbers it would be virtually impossible to track down the unmaskers and/or leakers.  The best Gowdy could get out of Comey was that James Clapper, John Brennan, Susan Rice, Ben Rhodes, Loretta Lynch, and Sally Yates all had the authority to unmask at the time of Flynn’s unmasking. Yet, as serious as the U.S. government allegedly takes leaks, Comey refused to assure Gowdy that steps were going to be taken to find the culprits:

Gowdy: “So I’m just simply asking you to assure the American people, you’ve already assured them you take it really seriously. Can you assure them that it is going to be investigated?”

COMEY: “I can’t but I hope — I hope people watching know how seriously we take leaks of classified information. But I don’t want to confirm it by saying that were investigating it…”

Of course, Comey had no problem confirming a Trump investigation an hour prior but what do I know.

And here’s where it gets particularly interesting for me.  Here is an exchange that happened later between Representative Mike Turner and Rogers:

Turner:  “…I know that if I attend a classified briefing and I receive classified information and I go and tell someone that classified information, if I leak it, I release it, then I’ve committed a crime. But what if someone goes to a classified briefing, walks out of that briefing, and openly lies about the content of that briefing…have they committed a crime?”

Comey: “That’s a really interesting question. I don’t think so. If all they’ve done is lie to a reporter, that’s not against the law. If they’ve done it, I don’t wanna break anybody’s hearts with that but that’s not against the law. But it is not and the reason I’m hesitating is, I can imagine a circumstance where it’s part of some broader conspiracy or something, but just that false statement to a reporter is not a crime.”

Do you see where I’m going with this?  Even Comey knows where this could lead.  If the entire story about Flynn talking to Ambassador Kislyak about Russian sanctions is, indeed, a lie, then of course Comey is going to be hesitant about assuring the American people the leaks will be investigated—because the leaks were lies and lying about classified information isn’t illegal. Which that, in and of itself, is mind blowing.  Think about it:  If you pass along Fake News that can and has created a fire storm across the nation as legit classified information it’s perfectly legal.  If you leak legitimate classified information that shows the government has/is breaking the law (Wikileaks), powerful political figures publicly call for your death.  I don’t know how many people realize how terrifying this all has become.  If you want to create a 5-D chess board, remember, the good guys can leak false information, as well.  But going back to Comey and the leaks, I’m not saying the leaks about Flynn weren’t legit.  I’m merely pointing out the fact that lies generated by the government is neither illegal and completely plausible.

I’m going to wrap this summary up  exactly where we started:  Fake News. Russia is not the threat that the U.S. government has made it out to be, Section 702 is not as innocent as they want you to believe, and the Intelligence Committee can feed whatever false “classified” information they want to to the media.  Raise your hand if you’re tired of Fake News?  Yeah, you and me both.

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