It’s apparent to all but President Trump’s most deranged critics that Obama’s FBI was indeed spying on his campaign. So, it’s worth pointing out that, in addition to the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane operation, the Obama administration was running another concurrent higher-level counterintelligence investigation into alleged Russian efforts to aid Trump’s campaign that hasn’t gotten nearly as much attention. Details of the second investigation were leaked by high-level Obama administration officials for a June 2017 Washington Post story headlined, “Obama’s secret struggle to punish Russia for Putin’s election assault”.
The anonymously sourced accounts of meetings only attended by a handful of intelligence bureau chiefs and their inner thoughts and objectives could have only been provided by people in the uppermost echelon of the intelligence community under Obama, like Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, CIA director John Brennan, and FBI director James Comey.
CIA Director John Brennan’s “Intelligence Bombshell”
According to the Post, sometime in the summer of 2016, Brennan received,
a report drawn from sourcing deep inside the Russian government that detailed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s direct involvement in a cyber campaign to disrupt and discredit the U.S. presidential race.
But it went further. The intelligence captured Putin’s specific instructions on the operation’s audacious objectives — defeat or at least damage the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, and help elect her opponent, Donald Trump.
The Post is cagey about exactly when Brennan received this “intelligence bombshell.” All we know for sure is that it must have been in or before “early August,” since that’s when he sent it to the White House with “instructions that its contents be shown to just four people: President Barack Obama and three senior aides.” But Brennan couldn’t have wasted much time before apprising Obama of information deemed so important. So, he must have received the momentous intelligence report in late July or early August.
After consulting Obama, Brennan,
convened a secret task force at CIA headquarters composed of several dozen analysts and officers from the CIA, the NSA and the FBI…
They worked exclusively for two groups of “customers,” officials said. The first was Obama and fewer than 14 senior officials in government. The second was a team of operations specialists at the CIA, NSA, and FBI who took direction from the task force on where to aim their subsequent efforts to collect more intelligence on Russia.
Since Crossfire Hurricane began on July 31, Brennan’s investigation must have begun at around the same time. Even apart from some of his team coming from the FBI, we know that Comey was fully involved in Brennan’s investigation from its inception since, according to the Post, the evidence produced was initially shown only to Comey, Clapper, Susan Rice, and Loretta Lynch.
Moreover, it appears that Peter Strzok, who according to Lisa Page’s testimony initiated Crossfire Hurricane, may have also been a member of the team working for Brennan! The Post reports that the Obama administration’s January 6, 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment alleging that the Russians conducted cyberespionage on Trump’s behalf “was based largely on the work done by” Brennan’s investigators. This is confirmed by Clapper’s testimony to the Senate that the ICA was the product of “two dozen” “hand-picked analysts” from the CIA, FBI and NSA. Apart from the Post using the words “several dozen” instead of “two dozen,” that’s exactly how they describe Brennan’s team.
But, according to Paul Sperry, “[a] source close to the House [of Representatives Intelligence Committee [Russia] investigation” reports that Peter Strzok was “was one of the authors of the ICA “ and “the intermediary between Brennan and Comey.” Independently of Sperry’s source, before he was fired, Strzok led the FBI’s Counterespionage section. So, it makes sense he would be one of the FBI agents Brennan chose and Comey’s representative. And Sperry’s source received confirmation by recently revealed text messages between Andrew McCabe and Lisa Page discussing a meeting between Strzok and Clapper in the weeks before the ICA’s release.
Given that 1) Comey was intimately involved in Brennan’s investigation, 2) Brennan had agents from the FBI on his team, and 3) it appears Peter Strzok numbered among them, contra the recent assertion by Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security advisor, it’s tough to believe that a hard partition existed around the FBI investigation. And the question is raised of exactly what information might have been shared and how much information about Crossfire Hurricane made its way to President Obama.
The Steele Dossier
Evidence has emerged that the Clinton-campaign-funded Steele dossier was used to justify Crossfire Hurricane. And the fact that Brennan’s task force was responsible for the January 2017 ICA also raises questions about whether portions of it might have also comprised the “intelligence bombshell” used to justify Brennan’s shadow investigation. Paul Sperry also reported that Obama’s National Security Agency director Michael Rogers “stated in a classified letter to Congress” that the Steele dossier played a role in producing the ICA. Indeed, according to Sperry, Adm. Rogers told congress “a two-page summary of the dossier” appears as an appendix to the classified version. And, as Sperry notes, James Clapper has confirmed that Brennan’s task force used the Steele dossier.
But the Washington Post mentions Adm. Rogers too, reporting that he was “reluctant to view” the intelligence which Brennan used to justify his investigation “with high confidence” because it came from another country. According to a November 2017 story appearing in the Guardian, Brennan received the report used to justify his investigation from none other than British intelligence agency GCHQ’s then head, Robert Hannigan, who “flew to the US to personally brief” him.
The Washington Post tells us that the “intelligence bombshell” Brennan received from Britain came from a highly-placed source within the Russian government who alleged that Putin had instigated a cyberintelligence operation whose aim was to “defeat or at least damage the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, and help elect… Donald Trump.” And, it just so happens that Steele’s first memo, dated June 20, 2016, alleges the existence of a Russian espionage operation to help Trump that was “supported and directed by Russian President Vladimir Putin” based on information from a “former senior [Russian] intelligence officer.” Indeed, Steele’s August 5 memo describes this operation as designed “to aid Trump and,” using the Post’s exact words, “damage Clinton.”
Steele’s July 19th memo also says that these efforts included “state-sponsored cyber operatives working in Russia.” In short, everything the Post says was included in the report from British intelligence used to justify Brennan’s investigation happens to have been in the memos already produced by ex-British spy Christopher Steele!
Much attention has been paid to Crossfire Hurricane and rightly so. But it’s well past time that more attention was given to Obama’s other higher-level shadow investigation into Russia’s alleged efforts to put Trump in the White House to determine what information was shared, if Brennan’s operation also involved any spying on Trump’s campaign, and whether it was justified by the completely discredited, Clinton-funded Steele dossier.