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What prompted former CIA Director John Brennan on Saturday to accuse President Donald Trump of "moral turpitude" and to predict, with an alliterative flourish, that Trump will end up "as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history"? The answer shines through the next sentence in Brennan's threatening tweet: "You may scapegoat Andy McCabe [former FBI Deputy Director fired Friday night] but you will not destroy America...America will triumph over you."
It is easy to see why Brennan lost it. The Attorney General fired McCabe, denying him full retirement benefits, because McCabe "had made an unauthorized disclosure to the news media and lacked candor -- including under oath -- on multiple occasions." There but for the grace of God go I, Brennan must have thought, whose stock in trade has been unauthorized disclosures.
In fact, Brennan can take but small, short-lived consolation in the fact that he succeeded in leaving with a full government pension. His own unauthorized disclosures and leaks probably dwarf in number, importance, and sensitivity those of McCabe. And many of those leaks appear to have been based on sensitive intercepted conversations from which the names of American citizens were unmasked for political purposes. Not to mention the leaks of faux intelligence like that contained in the dubious "dossier" cobbled together for the Democrats by British ex-spy Christopher Steele.
It is an open secret that the CIA has been leaking like the proverbial sieve over the last two years or so to its favorite stenographers at the New York Times and Washington Post. (At one point, the obvious whispering reached the point that the Wall Street Journal saw fit to complain that it was being neglected.) The leaking can be traced way back -- at least as far as the Clinton campaign's decision to blame the Russians for the publication of very damning DNC emails by WikiLeaks just three days before the Democratic National Convention.
This blame game turned out to be a hugely successful effort to divert attention from the content of the emails, which showed in bas relief the dirty tricks the DNC played on Bernie Sanders. The media readily fell in line, and all attention was deflected from the substance of the DNC emails to the question as to why the Russians supposedly "hacked into the DNC and gave the emails to WikiLeaks."
This media operation worked like a charm, but even Secretary Clinton's PR person, Jennifer Palmieri, conceded later that at first it strained credulity that the Russians would be doing what they were being accused of doing.
On April 6, 2017 I attended a panel discussion on "Russia's interference in our democracy" at the Clinton/Podesta Center for American Progress Fund. In my subsequent write-up I noted that panelist Palmieri had inadvertently dropped tidbits of evidence that I suggested "could get some former officials in deep kimchi -- if a serious investigation of leaking, for example, were to be conducted." (That time seems to be coming soon.)
Palmieri was asked to comment on "what was actually going on in late summer/early fall ." She answered:
"It was a surreal experience ... so I did appreciate that for the press to absorb ... the idea that behind the stage that the Trump campaign was coordinating with Russia to defeat Hillary Clinton was too fantastic for people to, um, for the press to process, to absorb."
"But then we go back to Brooklyn [Clinton headquarters] and heard from the -- mostly our sources were other intelligence, with the press who work in the intelligence sphere, and that's where we heard things and that's where we learned about the dossier and the other story lines that were swirling about; and how to process ... And along the way the administration started confirming various pieces of what they were concerned about what Russia was doing. ... So I do think that the answer for the Democrats now ... in both the House and the Senate is to talk about it more and make it more real."
So the leaking had an early start, and went on steroids during the months following the Democratic Convention up to the election -- and beyond.
As a Reminder
None of the leaking, unmasking, surveillance, or other activities directed against the Trump campaign can be properly understood, if one does not bear in mind that it was considered a sure thing that Secretary Clinton would become President, at which point illegal and extralegal activities undertaken to help her win would garner praise, not prison.
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