Rep. Adam Schiff was emphatic when he debuted “Whistleblower” 2.0 last week. Although it turns out this is not a legitimate “whistleblowing” any more than 1.0 was a year ago (and I mean almost exactly a year ago), Schiff had the formal complaint right out of the gate. There was no teasing interlude leading up to it.
The complaint popped, and Schiff did too, vowing that this situation would be looked into.
We’ve received a whistleblower complaint alleging DHS suppressed intel reports on Russian election interference, altered intel to match false Trump claims and made false statements to Congress.
This puts our national security at risk. We will investigate:https://t.co/Z7npo3P6zv
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) September 9, 2020
Right off the bat, it was evident that there was no basis for a “whistleblower” complaint. The only point at issue here is that the “whistleblower,” whose name we are given up front – Brian Murphy – doesn’t like policy decisions that have been made about some of the intelligence he supervised while he was acting Undersecretary for Intelligence and Analysis at the Department of Homeland Security. Apparently, his intransigence with his superiors in this regard got him moved to a different position at DHS.
Sorry, but – not to put too fine a point on it – boo-fricking-hoo. Being overruled on your intelligence advocacy is a routine hazard of the profession. The higher-ups don’t always agree with, or go with, your preferred interpretation or call. This is not a basis for whistleblowing. It’s the higher-ups doing their job.
If you feel very strongly about it, you have the option of quitting and giving your story to whoever will listen, including members of Congress. You don’t even have to quit, although it’s probably best if you do, because you’re basically being insubordinate if you go running to Congress (and probably breaking your security oath if you run to the media).
A policy argument may, however, be perfectly legitimate. There might be significant people and forces on your side.
But it’s still not whistleblowing, which is about misconduct, failure to follow laws and regulations, systematic skullduggery or corruption inside an agency. A senior person in the organization cannot commit these infractions merely by disagreeing with you on an intelligence matter.
So there is that aspect of the Whistleblower 2.0 scenario to bemuse us. There’s also the aspect of what it’s about, which is depicting any Ukraine-connected criticism of Joe Biden – up to and including the Ukrainians’ own investigation of the Bidens’ activities in their country – as a Russian plot against the U.S. 2020 election.
The Democrats have transparently been trying to plant this theme through the U.S. intelligence community for months. (This superhuman effort is presumably in part because of the Senate investigation of the Ukrainian probe, on which a report is said to be forthcoming this month. Also because of what is likely to come out from the Durham investigation. See next links.) I’ve written about it here, here, here, here, and here, for starters. It seemed to come to a head at the end of July, when Democrats on Capitol Hill, including Nancy Pelosi, berated a briefer from ODNI because he failed to regurgitate to them the narrative they’ve been working so hard to get embedded in U.S. intelligence estimates.
That briefer’s experience at the House Democrats’ hands prompted DNI John Ratcliffe to tell Congress he would be providing intelligence in written form from then on, so there could be no disputing what has been communicated to Congress by his community.
When the DHS Whistleblower 2.0 story broke, the mainstream media were at pains to frame it in terms of the election “intelligence” narrative about Biden. But that’s not all it’s about, if we go by the formal complaint. The complaint also cites assessments about the organized groups behind the violence and destruction in American cities since George Floyd’s death on Memorial Day.
And in that sense, as well as in connection with the Biden-Ukraine theme, the Whistleblower 2.0 narrative looks like an ill-scripted, impromptu puppet show that keeps going off the rails. It’s so strange that the only way to put it properly is to just say it’s really weird. Trying to apply more august, magisterial language isn’t warranted. There’s too little there.
For one thing, we saw the interesting plot feature that Adam Schiff accused Mr. Murphy – now presented as a solemn whistleblower – of misleading Congress about the very things Murphy has supposedly “blown the whistle” on, mere weeks before Murphy’s complaint was filed. Perhaps that will be given a plausible explanation at some point. But it hardly establishes Murphy as a credible plaintiff.
For another thing, the topic of organized forces behind the violent riots in 2020 doesn’t hang together, when Murphy’s complaint is compared to Murphy’s intelligence assessment conveyed in a DHS internal email. The thrust of the complaint from Murphy is that, in spite of his representations, the hierarchy at DHS was overemphasizing Antifa and “Antifa-inspired” organizers at the expense of attention to “White Supremacist” agitators.
The email, dissected on Tuesday by Catherine Herridge at CBS, shows Murphy vigorously advancing the assessment that Antifa-inspired agitators, with specific reference to the Portland area, are not “opportunistic” but organized:
We can’t say any longer that this violent situation is opportunistic. Additionally, we have overwhelmingly [sic] intelligence regarding the ideologies driving individuals toward violence and why the violence has continued. A core set of Threat actors are organized and show up night after night, and share common [Tactics, Techniques and Procedures (i.e., “TTP” – J.E.)] and drawing on like minded individuals to their cause.
“Anarchists or Antifa” READ: “We can't say any longer that this violent situation is opportunistic. Additionally, we have overwhelmingly(sic) intelligence regarding the ideologies driving individuals toward violence + why the violence has continued. A core set of Threat actors
— Catherine Herridge (@CBS_Herridge) September 14, 2020
While this trenchant assessment doesn’t directly contradict the substance of Murphy’s complaint – he could certainly acknowledge that the Antifa-inspired threat is organized and real, while also wishing for greater attention to whatever “White Supremacist” threat he was referring to – the tone and thrust of the email don’t seem to indicate overemphasis on Antifa by the DHS brass. It sounds like they’re right where they should be on it – according to Murphy himself.
At this point, we’re left with another nagging question, which like the assessment of general weirdness is best put in colloquial language. What is this guy’s deal? The Whistleblower 2.0 gambit is bizarre. It’s going to be a hard sell as a serious indictment of anyone, or anything.
It probably shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that Murphy, formerly an FBI agent, was featured in an Esquire puff piece in 2007 after he worked one of the biggest post-9/11 terrorism cases in the early 2000s. You decide what it means, if anything. The Esquire article started out hot and heavy and kind of went downhill from there:
They call him T-1000, after the killer robot from Terminator 2 who could take a thousand bullets and keep on going. He even looks a little bit like that movie robot, tall and chiseled, with blue eyes that could probably function as lasers if the job so required.
Murphy also served as the National Mission Manager of the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division from 2006 to 2009, which always wakes us up as the period in which John Brennan was heavily involved in the business of counterterrorism intelligence, including a contract connection with the FBI, through his company The Analysis Corporation (TAC). That may or may not be significant.
We’ll see where it goes. It’s 2020. The whole thing is weird.