Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, retired Army intelligence officer and former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, has come in for plenty of criticism over joining the crowd at the Republican Convention in 2016 in chanting “Lock her up!”
Flynn and the crowd were referring, of course, to Hillary Clinton. His critics thought that was over the top. Inappropriate. Unbecoming.
The more we find out about the way Clinton was hemorrhaging national security information, however, the less inclined I am to think Michael Flynn had any need to modify his behavior.
She wasn’t just leaving information for the taking on her homebrew server. She and her political aides — even potentially her State Department — were arguably mishandling national security in some of the most basic ways. Two recent bits of information illustrate these points.
One comes from this week’s posting of newly released (albeit redacted) information from the FBI investigation of the email server saga. Posted as “part 33 of 33,” it appears to be the final installment in the data trove. You can download the PDF file at the first link and follow the bouncing ball on your own.
A tweet by Jordan Schachtel provided the cue to the data point in question.
The FBI described one excel spreadsheet, with classified markers that may have been removed yet again, as a potential "smoking gun document." pic.twitter.com/jcWL4k7kAe
— Jordan Schachtel (@JordanSchachtel) June 7, 2019
Although he doesn’t clarify it, the two numbered paragraphs he cites, 10 and 11, are talking about the same piece of information, which the file he highlights describes as “targeting data.” The damning aspect of this nugget is that the “targeting data” appears to have come from Hillary Clinton’s server, and shown up on the Dark Web.
We have actually known about the event described here for a while. The document Schachtel has highlighted is a study done by a contractor who was apparently hired (in 2015, it looks like) by a staffer from the Senate Judiciary Committee. This study was included in the Part 33 release. The purpose of the study was to see what could be recovered on the Web that related to the exposure of Hillary’s emails, which investigators had been alerted to by the Guccifer dump on Hillary’s email correspondent Sidney Blumenthal.
The relevant portion of the PDF file starts on page 318, which shows a photocopy of a Form 302 cover sheet for an FBI interview done on 6 June 2016. (For all references to the Part 33 PDF, the page numbers are those of the PDF file, not what happens to be displayed in the document pagination of an individual page.) The subject’s name is redacted, but the topic is the study in question and how it came about.
Information from this interview has been out there since as early as the Part 4 release, in which a typed version of the 302 is included. But the nature of the event wasn’t fully clear until a redacted version of the actual study was released.
The reference to the event – the finding of targeting data that came from Hillary’s server – is in two paragraphs on page 9 of this document, from the Part 4 release.
The targeting data appeared to be in a communication accessed by an account linked to Guccifer’s on 22 May 2009. According to the 302, someone working the study (probably the interview subject) had found an Excel file “listing the names of known or suspected jihadists in Libya.” A portion of the file was said to be in Russian. The 302 continues: “Upon viewing this file, [redacted] became concerned he had found a classified document and stopped the project.”
To recap, just to keep the timeframes straight: the study was being done in 2015 (as clarified by the notes released in Part 33; see p. 320). The person speaking about it in 2016 found that an account associated with Guccifer’s had, on 22 May 2009, accessed information that was connected to Hillary’s server. (The connection was determined by the IP address.)
We don’t know the date of the information itself; i.e., the targeting data. We can assume it dated to before 22 May 2009.
The important thing to keep in mind is that this means an unidentified third-party account accessed a list of jihadi targets in May 2009, via the IP address of Hillary’s server, and that that information has therefore been exposed ever since. No one chartered by the U.S. government looked for it on the Web before 2015, as far as we know. But in 2015, there it was, on the Dark Web. No telling how many eyes have seen it since May 2009.
That, at any rate, is what we knew after the Part 4 release. The Part 33 release updates us further.
The handwritten interview notes on page 323 have the same information as the typed 302 in the Part 4 PDF file.
It’s worth highlighting here that the Excel file sourced to Hillary’s server did not appear in the data package the study compiled on Sidney Blumenthal’s exposed emails. It was apparently retrieved separately, directly from Hillary’s server – again, in the action dated 22 May 2009 by the unknown account.
The study document starts on page 338 of the Part 33 PDF file. A brief discussion of the “targeting data” Excel file is at the top of page 364.
And here, at the bottom of page 378 and the top of page 379, are the paragraphs 10 and 11 Jordan Schachtel highlighted, in the context provided by the two paragraphs (8 and 9) preceding them.
When you’ve got a contractor team finding your stuff on the Dark Web, having been accessed by unidents associated with a Romanian hacker who operated through a remote server in Russia where the FSB undoubtedly monitors and records everything users do, “Lock her up” is inadequate to express what’s due you – if you were the U.S. Secretary of State.
An intelligence note on the “targeting data.” The data set itself — the content of the jihadi list — isn’t what’s significant. It was from sometime before May of 2009, and would have been fairly quickly outdated thereafter. What’s significant is what the target list may have told an intelligent reader about who is reading whose traffic.
We can’t discern at this remove what that information is. But the Russians would have been able to figure out what it meant when they saw it. It might have meant that they were reading our traffic, and then we read theirs and knew our list was being disseminated on their side. It might have been vice versa. Either way, the point of classification and communications security is to avoid spilling America’s guts to the Russians on those matters whenever you fire up your Blackberry.
The study authors were right to recognize this as a Big Effing Deal. This one wasn’t just a failure to comply with the intent of paragraph markings. It probably exposed a significant piece of information to the Russians about our intelligence sources and methods.
The “Russian spy” who wasn’t. (Or was he?)
The other recent data point is the revelation last week that Konstantin Kilimnik, one of the putatively nefarious actors of the Paul Manafort saga in Ukraine, had been a confidential informant for the U.S. State Department for years.
Kilimnik, as discussed in this article from 7 June, was depicted in Robert Mueller’s special counsel documents, including filings in court, as a probable Russian spy. If it was clarified to the court that Kilimnik was also a CI for the State Department, that isn’t visible to the public. It wasn’t clarified in the Mueller report, certainly.
The description of what Kilimnik was doing makes it clear that he wasn’t a covert source. He was meeting with people at the U.S. embassy, often multiple times a week, and quite a number of people apparently knew.
So it was a bit humorous when Seth Abramson fired off a tweet thread denouncing John Solomon (who broke the news) and his source (possibly in the FBI) for “outing” Kilimnik. With such an operating profile, Kilimnik’s every move would have been well known to the Russians the whole time – especially because, as Abramson pointed out, Kilimnik “is in a gated GRU compound.”
This is a BIG DEAL:
(1) It appears the Trump administration has already started leaking classified intel to conservative media, which is a crime;
(2) Given that Kilimnik is in a gated GRU compound, this leak is intended to not just "burn" him as a US asset but to get him killed. https://t.co/XzbLaXkpbG
— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) June 7, 2019
The implication from this set of facts is not that Kilimnik was making secret, unauthorized visits to the U.S. embassy to act as a source.
It’s that Kilimnik’s visits were authorized – indeed, for all we know, were authored by Russia. If that was the case, and given that the visits reportedly dated to 2012, that would suggest Hillary Clinton’s State Department was getting regular “confidential information” packaged with the complicity of Russia, at the very least.
Great job, Hillary. Maybe, of course, this was not a double but a triple-faced operation, and the Clinton State Department was ahead of the game the whole time. But considering how much nonsense appears to have been shoehorned by the Russians into the Steele dossier on Hillary’s dime, I’m not hopeful in that regard. (It doesn’t help that Sidney Blumenthal and his Clinton-crony associate Cody Shearer were involved in funneling parallel, Ukraine-linked “dossier” information to the State Department during the Steele dossier timeframe in 2016.)
Neither reading of the Kilimnik situation redounds to Hillary Clinton’s credit. If Kilimnik was a trustworthy source and was misrepresented later in the unfolding Manafort saga – whose features were drawn in outline in the Steele dossier – then real-world information was misused in a political oppo research document that was intended to come to light and draw attention to all the relevant players (who would include Kilimnik).
If Kilimnik wasn’t a trustworthy source, then what was he doing pal-ing around with U.S. embassy personnel, acting as a CI? If there was something super-sensitive going on with false-front use of his services, why was Hillary on both sides of that, as the State Department customer originally, and then as the client for the Steele dossier that was bound to bring unnecessary attention to whatever Kilimnik had been doing?
There isn’t really a positive spin to put on this. At a minimum, it looks like a very poor investment of the American taxpayer’s dollar. The burning of Kilimnik, whatever he was doing – and make no mistake, the “burning” happened when the attention of a special counsel to his doings and status became inevitable – looks like something worse. If he’s a good guy, he has been treated abominably; if he’s a Russian spy, a very senior U.S. official has exploited knowledge of that not for national security, but for cynical political purposes.
Either case is disturbing on a visceral level. In its way, this is beyond exposing sources and methods. It’s nauseating, and that’s even aside from trying to paint it all over Paul Manafort.
As Michael Flynn said: Lock her up.