zenpundit.com » intelligence

Archive for the ‘intelligence’ Category

Old Hat — I was on my way to DoubleQuote Trump & Clinton

Thursday, July 14th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — folks you might not entrust with your secrets ]

I was on my way to DoubleQuote two Presidential candidates that some people wouldn’t want to entrust with secret briefings from the Intelligence Community — Trump & Clinton — citing Shane HarrisSpies Worry Candidate Trump Will Spill Secrets piece from The Beast and Brent Scher‘s Former White House Counsel: Hillary Clinton Should Not Get Intelligence Briefings at the Washington Free Beacon — old stories, both of them, but they just now clicked together for me —

But why worry, when Kristina Wong at The Hill has done it for me?


Trump Clinton and IC briefings


This is all old hat, of course — Wong’s piece was posted more than a month ago — but still, as she said..

Some U.S. intelligence officials are worried about providing a routine intelligence briefing to Donald Trump once he becomes the official Republican presidential nominee, according to a report.

Eight senior security officials told Reuters they were concerned that Trump’s “shoot from the hip” style could pose national security risks, as they prepare to give him a routine pre-election briefing for presidential nominees.

They also cited his lack of foreign policy experience, and his little known team of foreign policy advisers.
“People are very nervous,” one senior U.S. security official said.

However, the officials, who requested anonymity to discuss a political domestic issue, said they would not deviate from the usual “Top Secret” briefing format, to avoid any appearance of bias.

Current and formal officials also expressed concern over briefing Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton, according to Reuters.

They cited the scandal over her use of emails when she was secretary of State and her handling of sensitive information. She is currently facing an FBI probe over whether she compromised security and broke laws over her use of a private email server for government work at State.

“The only candidate who has proven incapable of handling sensitive information is Hillary Clinton,” Michael Short, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee, told Reuters. “If there is anyone they should be worried about it is Hillary Clinton.”


And all of this brings me to my Totally Impractical Question — which if anything gets more interesting as the weeks go by:

If someone has loose enough lips — or email servers — to be unworthy to receive Top Secret briefings as a candidate, do they really suddenly get a whole lot more reliable, once they’re elected?

Recommended Reading—Summer 2016

Monday, July 11th, 2016

[by J. Scott Shipman]

Storm of Creativity2017



white horsewashington


The Storm of Creativity, by Kyna Leski

2017 War With Russia, by General Sir Richard Shirreff

The Wright Brothers, by David McCullough

Serendipities, Language and Lunacy, by Umberto Eco

Paradise, Dante Alighieri, translated by Mark Musa

Undertow, by Stanton S. Coerr

The White Horse Cometh, by Rich Parks

Washington The Indispensable Man, by John Thomas Flexner

This list starts the first week of May, so perhaps the title should be Spring/Summer. Most of these books are quick reads and all are recommended.

I picked up Ms. Leski’s book at an MIT bookshop on a business trip in early May and read on the train ride home. Books on creativity are ubiquitous, but Ms. Leski takes an interesting approach by describing the creative process using the metaphor of a storm. Several ZP readers will find of interest.

2017 was recommended by a friend. The author was the Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe and the book focuses on a Europe/NATO response to a Russian invasion of the Baltics. Written in a Tom Clancy-like style, the plot is fast-paced even though the good general provides sometimes provides detailed insights into the inner workings of NATA and the North Atlantic Council (this is one of the values of the book—bureaucracy writ-large).

David McCullough’s Wright Brothers delivers an approachable and human accounting of the first men of powered flight. Some reviews on Amazon complain McCullough lifts and uses too many quotes to tell the story. At times the quotes were distracting, but not enough to prevent the enjoyment of the story of two brothers who changed the world. This book was a gift otherwise I probably would not have read.

Serendipities is a short book, but was a long read for me. Eco explains how language and the pursuit of the perfect language has confounded thinkers since time immemorial. He refers to Marco Polo’s unicorn (also used in his Kant and the Platypus which is excellent) explaining how language is often twisted to meet a preconceived notion or idea. The first couple of chapters were quite good, chapters three and four did not hold my interest or were over my head. The closing chapter was good enough to convince me I’ll need to read this little book again. (My Eco anti-library has been growing of late.)

Eco’s book led me to reread Musa’s excellent translation of Paradise. My son gave me the deluxe edition with parallel Italian and English, plus commentary. Eco referenced Canto 26 and 27, and I enjoyed the break so much I read the whole thing!

Undertow is my good friend Stan Coerr’s second book of poetry.  His first book Rubicon was a moving collection of poetry of men at war. Undertow deals more with the heart and is quite good, too. You won’t be disappointed.

White Horse is also a book by an old friend, Rich Parks (we’ve known each other since the mid-80’s). White Horse is self-published and in places it shows, but the overall story is quite good for a first book (I’ve already told him his book would make an excellent screenplay.). The plot is quick and entertaining even if a bit unbelievable, but the story is fiction. Rich is following up with a sequel in August in 2016 and I’ll be reading it, too.

Mr. Flexner’s Washington was a gift, too. In this quick biography Washington is made approachable and human. And when I say “quick,” I mean quick…Trenton and Princeton took one chapter compared to David Hackett Fischer’s Washington’s Crossing which took up a standalone book. If someone were looking for a first Washington biography, this would be a good place to start.

This isn’t the conclusion of my summer reading, but a pretty good start.What are  you reading this summer?

Clinton Comey?

Wednesday, July 6th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — with a side dish of Tzipi Livni ]

Ckinton Comey
photo credit: Greg Nash via The Hill

I’ll be socratic here, asking questions to illuminate my hunches.


I’m seldom fully convinced by anything that comes from the left and reads the way I’d expect the left to read, and seldom convinced by anything that comes from the right and reads the way I’d expect the right to read, so I don’t take the left’s assertions downplaying H Clinton’s security behavior with reflex belief, and on the whole I’m inclined to follow John Schindler, who — both as an ex-NSA analyst and as a regular at The Observer — takes a very hard line on Clinton’s security behavior, writing just a couple of weeks ago under the title, The Coming Constitutional Crisis Over Hillary Clinton’s EmailGate.

I also follow War on the Rocks, though, and was struck a while back by a post there from Mark Stout, drawing some interesting distinctions in line with its subtitle, “A former intelligence analyst who worked at both the CIA and the State Department explains how different approaches to classifying information sits at the heart of the scandal that threatens to undo Hillary Clinton.”

Which does somewhat complicate matters, while somewhat helping us understand them.


I’m neither an American nor a lawyer, and as someone who is generally inclined more to bridge-building than to taking sides in any case, I don’t feel qualified to debate the Comey-Clinton affair – but was interested to see emptywheel’s Marcy Wheeler, whom I take to be leftish, coming out today describing Comey’s decision as an “improper public prosecutorial opinion”. She writes:

Understand, though: with Sterling and Drake, DOJ decided they were disloyal to the US, and then used their alleged mishandling of classified information as proof that they were disloyal to the US ..Ultimately, it involves arbitrary decisions about who is disloyal to the US, and from that a determination that the crime of mishandling classified information occurred.

Comey, in turn, seems to have made it pretty clear that “Secretary Clinton or her colleagues“ were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information” – specifically:

.. seven email chains concern matters that were classified at the Top Secret/Special Access Program level when they were sent and received.  These chains involved Secretary Clinton both sending emails about those matters and receiving emails from others about the same matters.


Is there, in your views, special treatment in this matter for persons of high rank present here?


And out of curiosity, if so, do you see a similar case of special treatment for persons of high rank over in the UK, known to be substantially less Israel-friendly than the US, where Scotland Yard wanted to question Tzipi Livni about alleged Israeli war crimes in Gaza under her watch as Foreign Minister, and “after diplomatic talks” Livni was “granted special diplomatic immunity”?


On the one hand, I don’t like show-trials, trials-by-press, banana courts or mob justice, and far prefer just laws justly applied – and on the other, I can understand that the scrutiny those in high office find themselves under can render them legally vulnerable in ways that may unduly influence their decision-making – and justice may be platonically blind, but is not always uniformly applied in practice. Such, it seems to me, is the human dilemma.

What say you?

Michael Wilson

Monday, June 20th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — quick update on Cameron’s Recomended Reading: Michael Wilson from 2008 ]

Back in 2008, Zen wrote of Michael Wilson‘s papers:

I’ve only just begun to look at these and I’m posting them here for those readers whose interests gravitate toward issues of intel analysis and futurism.

I checked recently, and most if not all of Michael’s papers are still available via the Internet Archive:

  • 7Pillars, Papers by Michael Wilson
  • Decision Support Systems, DSSi Publications
  • **

    A quick quote that caught my eye from Al-Qaida’s Endgame? A Strategic Scenario Analysis:

    Osama bin Laden has a number of viable ‘role models’ from the history of the Middle East, including Saladin and the Assassins. For example, Saladin (the enormously successful commander during the Crusades) wrote in a letter to the Caliph in Baghdad that “European merchants supply the best weaponry, contributing to their own defeat.” This is similar to Lenin’s famous comment that “the Capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them.”

    Now there’s a DoubleQuote!


    Here’s something I hadn’t seen before — a video of Michael speaking at DefCon 9, a couple of years after we met:


    And here’s the .pdf vesion of the course I took with him, first online and then in person — if you read one piece of his, this should be the one:

  • Michael Wilson, Continual and Complete Intelligence: a 21st Century Approach
  • Istigkeit, approximately

    Saturday, April 16th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — classification, impropriety, and a concept pretty much unique to Meister Eckhart ]

    First, here’s what I call a DoubleTweet, juxtaposing two tweets for the resonance between them — and juxtaposing two thoughts for the resonance between them is about as simple a way of demonstrating the whole being greater than the sum of its parts as I can think of.

    Take 1, Obama is slippery with words:

    Take 2, the Europeans outbid and finesse him:

    I don’t actually know if you can outbid and finesse while playing Bridge, but you can in metaphor.


    There was also a DoubleQuote that sprang to mind, but Patti Brown got to it first, so I’ll just copy her tweet here:

    Lawyers — the Clintons & POTUS.

    Compare philosophers, poets, native speakers, natural language processors.


    Also worth taking into consideration here:

  • Mark Stout, War on the Rocks, Were Hillary Clinton’s emails classified? Where you stand depends on where you sit:

    the uproar about the Clinton email server ignores the reality that, for very good reasons, the CIA and the State Department have different approaches to classification and classified information. These different approaches result from the different functions of the agencies.

  • Cory Bennett, The Hill, Clinton emails reveal murky world of ‘top secret’ documents:

    The watchdog [IG] said it found a number of Clinton’s emails that currently contained “classified intelligence community information.” But the State Department has said it did not consider that language classified at the time those emails were sent.

    Both sides can be correct, said several former officials.

  • And that’s enough hipbonish excitement for one post.

    Switch to our mobile site