Deep State
August 29, 2018

The Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF), a super PAC linked to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), acknowledged Tuesday it has a copy of the federal security clearance application of former CIA officer Abigail Spanberger, the Democrat challenging Rep. Dave Brat (R) in Virginia's competitive 7th Congressional District. And it appears to be using some of the information from the highly sensitive document to campaign against her, The New York Times reports.

The CLF says a different GOP super PAC, America Rising, obtained the document though a Freedom of Information Act request to the U.S. Postal Service. "CLF follows the letter of the law in examining any candidate's background and Ms. Spanberger was no different," CLF said in a statement.

Spanberger, who served overseas as a covert CIA officer for eight years, isn't buying it. In a cease-and-desist letter to CLF executive director Corry Bilss, she says she has "clear evidence" that the PAC provided copies of her unredacted security clearance form to "at least one news outlet," and she's "not aware of any legal way that CLF could have this document." While Spanberger was waiting for the CIA to approve her security application, she filled out a similar application to work for the USPS Postal Inspection Service. Neither of those applications are legally FOIA-able.

National security analyst John Schindler sees two possibilities: "Either her political enemies have a mole inside CIA who's breaking a mountain of laws," he tweeted, or Spanberger's file was pilfered by the Chinese government in a huge data heist discovered in 2015. Either way, he added, the CLF and Brat campaign are either "exploiting a criminal [act] for illegal political purposes" or "in bed with Chinese intelligence." Spanberger and national Democrats are worried this tactic is being used on other candidates with intelligence or law-enforcement background. "I have nothing to hide," she said. "If they need a canary in the coal mine, I'm glad it's me." Peter Weber

August 24, 2018

In the early days of the Trump administration, a memo of uncertain origin circulated at the highest levels of the White House laying out a conspiracy theory about "coordinated attacks" on President Trump's foreign policy agenda from a group of former Obama administration officials, according to a memo obtained by The New Yorker's Adam Entous and Ronan Farrow. The memo, which "reads like a U.S. military-intelligence officer's analysis of a foreign-insurgent network," they wrote, posited that "the communications infrastructure ... used to sell ObamaCare and the Iran Deal to the public ('Echo Chamber') has been shifted from the White House into the private sector."

The unsigned, undated memo dubbed the alleged cabal the Echo Chamber, and while "Trump Administration officials familiar with it offered conflicting accounts of who authored it and whether it originated inside or outside the White House," its content, language, and themes bear remarkable resemblance to internal documents from the Israeli private-intelligence firm Black Cube, Entous and Farrow report.

In May, Farrow and Britain's The Observer uncovered a Black Cube campaign targeting the alleged ring leaders of the "Echo Chamber," Ben Rhodes and Colin Kahl, plus their families. Black Cube told The New Yorker it "does not get involved in politics" and "is not aware of the documents mentioned in this article, neither their contents."

Rhodes and Kahl called the "Echo Chamber" memo absurd and denied there was any coordinated campaign to undermine Trump. It's "a bizarre effort to validate 'deep state' conspiracy theories," Rhodes told The New Yorker. Entous and Farrow suggest the memo was pushed by Stephen Bannon's White House faction. Incidentally, Iranian-born British entrepreneur Vincent Tchenguiz, one of Black Cube's early driving forces — according to a 2013 Israeli lawsuit uncovered by The Times of Israel — was the largest shareholder in SCL Group, the parent company of Bannon's defunct Cambridge Analytica, from 2005 to 2015. And that, honestly, would make for a much more interesting conspiracy theory. Peter Weber

May 21, 2018

Fox Business Network's Maria Bartiromo doubled down on a claim that former President Obama "masterminded" a plot to unearth disparaging information on President Trump, voicing a theory that government agencies were politically weaponized during a Monday segment on the network.

"President Obama, basically it appears to me, politicized all of his agencies: the DOJ, the FBI, the IRS, the CIA — they were all involved in trying to take down Donald Trump," said Bartiromo.

Bartiromo previously alleged that Obama or Hillary Clinton had been "masterminding" FBI surveillance of the Trump campaign, which drew criticism for promoting a conspiracy theory. When Andrew Napolitano, a Fox News judicial analyst, said that any FBI surveillance would constitute "extraordinary political use of intelligence and law enforcement by the Obama administration," Bartiromo escalated the claim, roping in multiple government agencies. Watch the full discussion below, via Fox Business Network. Summer Meza

January 23, 2018

Before the Senate passed a three-week stopgap measure to fund the government on Monday, the Republican chairman and top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee unsuccessfully tried to remove a measure inserted by House appropriators at the request of the White House. "The language is troublesome for the committee because it would authorize the intelligence community to spend funds notwithstanding the law that requires prior authorization," Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), the chairman, said on the Senate floor. "Effectively, the intelligence community could expend funds as it sees fit."

"If this exemption is granted, you could potentially have an administration — any administration — go off and take on covert activities, for example, with no ability for our committee, which spends the time and has oversight, to say 'time out,'" warned Sen. Mark Warner (Va.), the ranking Democrat. "We just want to make sure that we don't give a blank check to any administration, particularly this administration. We need to get it fixed."

Burr proposed an amendment that would replace the provision in question — which says funds may be spent "notwithstanding" Section 504 of a 1947 law that prevents intelligence agencies from spending money without congressional authorization — with one that requires such authorization. Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, objected, scuttling the amendment. Jennifer Hing, a spokeswoman for the House Appropriations Committee, said the language was narrowly tailored to a Pentagon budget request and isn't a blank check for intelligence activities. Burr said he and Warner will work to quash the measure in the next spending bill, by Feb. 8.

President Trump signed the stopgap funding package Monday night, reopening the federal government. Peter Weber

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