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The Last Refuge
by G. Murphy Donovan (September 2018)
Idylle, Francis Picabia, 1925–27
Deception is a state of mind and the mind of the state.
—James Jesus Angleton
Irony is hard-wired in all politics. A recent urban health survey concluded that Washington was ranked number five of 50 rodent-infested cities in America. The rat study may be new, but vermin are old news in the District of Columbia.
Donald Trump came to town in 2016 on a pledge to drain the Beltway swamp. Events since the election have done little to suggest that deep state critters will yield to Trump—or the will of the people. Trump may have fingered the perps, but dirty cops at Justice, the FBI, and the Intelligence Community still believe they call the shots nearly fifty years after the congressional Church Commission (1975) failed to reform the Cold War national security racket.
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court was created (1978) in the wake of the Church hearings to restrain FBI and Intelligence Community domestic snooping. Ironically, FISA applications are now weaponized by the Justice Department to subvert American candidates, primaries, and election results using the Kremlin as a stalking horse. The fake Steele dossier, a Clinton campaign product, was endorsed and widely circulated by Intelligence Community principals, CIA Director John Brennan in particular.
Apparently, the FISA Court, like a District of Columbia grand jury, will issue an indictment or warrant for a baloney sandwich.
Thus, CIA and domestic meddling is again at the center of controversy. Back at the height of the Cold War, it was James “Jesus” Angleton, head of CIA counterintelligence. He, like John Brennan today, was a bizarre creature even by Beltway standards. Both were career products of Langley, Virginia, the Central Intelligence Agency campus where euphemisms like toilet, “swamp,” or deep state are salutary.
Angleton made his bones as a rogue agent, conspiracy wing-nut, and cold warrior; an arrogant and paranoid counter-intelligence chief (think Peter Strzok at the FBI). Angleton pretty much created (1954-75) the modern surveillance state, an ethic brought to its logical Orwellian climax recently under the two Obama Jims, Comey and Clapper.
Angleton obsessed over Soviet penetration at CIA HQ. In twenty years of searching, he never found his Soviet mole. Still, the surveillance apparat established then is alive and thriving today—with several new twists. The new wrinkles are size, unlimited funding—and rabid partisanship, a kind of internal political sedition that tilts hard toward the domestic and globalist left—the 21st Century edition of the Democrat Party.
Jim Jesus may have launched the surveillance state, but James Comey, Michael Hayden, John Brennan, and James Clapper perfected it for domestic political applications in the Obama era. The notorious Steele dossier of 2016 is an example of the kind of dirty tricks formerly reserved for black bag operations abroad. Security community shenanigans on behalf of the Clintons in 2016 now provide an unprecedented litany of words, leaks, deeds, and creeps that were fashioned to cook the American primaries, the election, and now unseat a president.
Sedition used to be high crime, today it is held up as public service, some kind of higher patriotic calling. Meddling in American elections, the subversion of democracy, is a pressing national security problem. However, the real threat is domestic, not foreign. Compared to American Intelligence, Russian security services are small potatoes. Vladimir Putin doesn’t need active measures as long as the American Intelligence Community and the Democrat National Committee are off the leash at home.
Indeed, foreign probes and threats are old hat, business as usual. All foreign Intelligence services spy, hack, leak, meddle, and subvert. All Intelligence services break the law—at home and abroad. It’s what they get paid to do. It’s what Uncle Sam’s spooks get paid to do.
No Intelligence services are richer, larger, or more intrusive than the American security megaplex, where friend and foe are at risk. External enemies will always do what they can. If defense fails, the villain is American counter-intelligence, not Russian aggression. Unfortunately, the DNC, CIA, and the National Security Agency are open doors—if history in these matters matter.
Russians, and common criminals, penetrate official and commercial American computer systems because they can.
Edward Snowden, one of our own, poached the IC family jewels without Russian help. Then he blew the whistle on National Security Agency electronic excesses, long before Donald Trump and the 2016 election. We might note here that erstwhile USAF General James Clapper lied to Congress about those very surveillance excesses with impunity. Now, whilst Snowden is an unemployed pariah and fugitive, Clapper is collecting a couple of plump government pensions and a bonus salary from CNN.
Truth in America doesn’t just hurt. It’s dangerous. “Whistle blower” is just another way of saying “dead man walking.” Establishment sentiments about whistle blowers are the same as those about double agents. Neither side can ever trust either. Institutional disloyalty, even in the name of integrity, is more like career suicide than heroism.
In a city where rodents thrive, a rat is still a rat.
Uncle Sam invented the modern regime change game. It should come as no surprise then that rogues like Brennan at CIA and Comey at the FBI were meddling in domestic politics. Indeed, the CIA is brazen enough to spy on congressional Intelligence oversight committees. Congress is supposed to impose restraint, but the Intelligence Community routinely ignores the manly girls and girly men of Jenkin’s Hill. As long as Congress is a haven for cowards and political hermaphrodites, the deep state is the real state.
No small wonder that Donald Trump turned to the US military for many of his principal advisors.
Without a cultural revolution, the Intelligence Community, the Justice Department, and the FBI cannot be trusted to provide impartial, objective, or apolitical counsel to the White House. Democrat Party spokesmen and CIA officials have brazenly admitted as much. Chuck Schumer (D/NY) and former CIA czar John Brennan have publically threatened the White House, threatened to withhold Intelligence from the Oval Office—or worse.
Given what we now know about Intelligence Community behavior before, during, and after the 2016 election, it’s a wonder anyone takes charges of Russian meddling seriously. A “red herring” or a false flag operation is the ideal feint or cover for domestic partisan tampering. If the DNI and the FBI can lie to Congress, or withhold probative evidence with impunity, surely a domestic false flag op is not beyond the pale.
Collusion is a problem, especially inside the Beltway.
Alas, none of this is really news. From the beginning, CIA, James Angleton in particular, was meddling in democratic European, African, and Latin elections, starting with Italy in 1948. According to the New York Times:
The CIA's practice of buying political clout (in the 1948 elections) was repeated in every Italian election for the next 24 years, and the agency's political influence in Rome (and the Vatican) lasted a generation, declassified records show.
Angleton later set a marker for domestic Intelligence collusion, too. CIA and the FBI routinely targeted domestic dissidents for surveillance and dirty tricks during the Vietnam/Civil Rights era. William Colby fired Angleton in 1975. Colby seemed to be the only CIA director never to buy the Angleton eccentric genius act. But, like so many things in Washington, the Colby fix was an illusion too. Angleton continued to hold his TOP SECRET clearances. He continued to scheme at Langley as a paid “consultant.”
James Jesus got fired for cause—and a bonus. As a double-dipper, he actually got a raise at CIA for doing less. Most so-called government “consultants” are politically protected double-dippers. Déjà vu and John Brennan are probative here.
Nonetheless, among Langley camp followers, Angleton is still a legendary member of the old guard, an Office of Strategic Services icon, alternately known as “Jesus,” the “spider,” “mother” or the “ghost.” More irony, Jim Jesus pinched the phrase “wilderness of mirrors” from T.S. Eliot to describe CI tradecraft, an apt description for his checkered career as a spook.
Angleton began his career with the OSS on the Italy desk in London during WWII. Eventually he became the Italian station chief in Rome. From there he forwarded thousands of reports on papal, Russian, and Japanese activities to two administrations, all of which were fictions, “chicken feed” fabricated for pay ($500 a month) by an Italian amateur, a pornographer, Virgilio Scattolini. Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman went to their graves believing Angleton’s Scattolini files were the real deal. Even after the scam was exposed, the CIA, through Angleton, continued to pay the bogus paisano.
Hard to believe that a hustler with “scat” in his patronymic didn’t give a Counter Intelligence wizard like Angleton reason to pause. If you’re thinking fake news at this point; indeed, all things old are new again.
Twenty years after creation, President Truman expressed profound regrets about CIA. He thought that Langley would quickly become a law unto itself. Truman’s prophesy was manifest in 2016 with Clapper, Brennan, Comey and their merry band of Teflon leakers.
Angleton’s CI naiveté didn’t end with Italy or the OSS. Later, at CIA HQ, he was infamous as a dining and boozing buddy of Kim Philby, the most successful Soviet Cold War double agent of the 20th Century. Philby penetrated the CIA and British MI-6 and managed to retire to Russia with honors as a KGB general. To this day no one knows, or admits, what Angleton may have shared with comrade Philby at the Army/Navy Club.
Angleton, like contemporary Intelligence satraps today, was apparently untouchable, no matter how badly he behaved or performed. Characters such as Angleton, Philby, and Brennan hide in plain sight.
Kim Philby and John Brennan have more than a trade in common. Both were early Communist sympathizers. Just out of Cambridge, Philby’s goomah was Litzi Friedman, a known Communist organizer. Just out of Fordham University, John Brennan was a Gus Hall fanboy. Hall was the General Secretary of the Communist Party, USA. When Philby/Brennan apologists are asked to explain how these guys got through the vetting process, both are absolved with the exact same phrase: “youthful indiscretion.”
With allowances for generational differences, Brennan is the more dangerous of the two, an American citizen who rose to high office in the “wilderness of mirrors,” a partisan spook who now works as a TV “journalist” for a major partisan network. Clearly, Brennan was hired by CBS for his anti-administration bona fides. He, as did Angleton, retained his security clearances until the White House had had enough. With access to CIA secrets and CBS viewers, Brennan might continue to cook the books and spin anti-administration “analysis” with a TOP SECRET cachet. Anyone associated with the Obama era “never-Trump” conspiracy should lose their classified access.
It’s no coincidence that media skells like Dan Rather, Charlie Rose, Leslie Moonves, and John Brennan are employed by institutions like CBS. Some corporate cultures, given enough time, become magnets or petri dishes for social and political low life. With the 2016 election, differences between news and intelligence, facts and fakery, if there ever were any, have been obliterated.
Truth now is any political narrative that you are willing to believe.
Brennan got his break as a “talking dog,” a so-called Arab/Muslim specialist, a CIA briefer to the Bush White House. He was elevated to first string under the Obama administration. His contributions as a presidential advisor and CIA Director are twofold, Arab/Islamic appeasement and Russophobia.
Pro-Islam and anti-Russian are now the two pillars of American foreign policy. On the one hand Brennan accuses a sitting President of “treason” for meeting in Helsinki with Vladimir Putin. On the other hand, Brennan is a career apologist for Islamic terrorism, insisting that jihad is a benign “ritual cleansing,” no matter how many throats get slit, no matter how many heads roll, no matter how many Arab/Muslim bombs explode on airplanes or in public spaces.
(Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump have little in common. The security services in Russia, FSB and GRU, work for the President and Prime Minister. The same cannot be said for American national security agencies. Personally, Putin is wildly popular among apparatchiks and voters alike by any metric. In contrast, the American president may be a nominal “commander-in-chief.” At the moment, Donald Trump commands little, including respect, outside the White House.)
Brennan thrived in the Obama era because he pushed all the correct politically correct buttons. Brennan was once the CIA station chief in Saudi Arabia where he apparently contracted a persistent and incurable strain of Stockholm syndrome.
Parvenus like Donald Trump can be a national asset or liability for four, maybe eight years. Folks like Clapper, Brennan, Mueller, Comey, or Hayden do their mischief for decades. They have unlimited or permanent tenure. They transcend elections. They usually can’t be fired. General Michael Hayden, USAF, the NSA ayatollah who presided over the 9/11 fiasco, the worst warning disaster since Pearl Harbor, was promoted by Republicans after the Arab/Muslim attack on New York. Likewise, then Director of CIA at the time, George Tenet, was given a medal in the wake of 9/11 by President George Bush.
Deep state is a euphemism for the national security state.
The great millennial warning fail, alas, was an unprecedented funding windfall for the entire Intelligence Community. Big national security fiascos now equate to big money—indefinitely. National failure, under Hayden then Clapper, was monetized. Hayden, no surprise here, is now a vicious Trump critic at CNN.
Donald Trump is a pariah because he threatens rice bowls; business as usual, the conventional wisdom, and the establishment, right and left. The Trump phenomenon, and subsequent political revolt, is not difficult, however, to rationalize. America, between the coasts, may have been fed up, but urban America and the deep state, clearly, are not accustomed to losing.
The nation’s capital is, and has been for decades, a one-party town, at least since FDR ran the show. Not just one party, but that party is Democrat. If we try adjectives, the District of Columbia is democratic in the same sense that San Francisco, Boston, or Chicago is democratic.
Voters inside the Beltway favored Hillary Clinton nine to one in 2016. Bedroom communities across northern Virginia and Maryland vote overwhelmingly for the American left, the Clintons and the Obamas, twice. The liberal Beltway demographic is the political gene pool from which federal employees and the national press are drawn. Civil Service (and government contractors), at the national level, like Manhattan, is a Democrat Party sinecure too. The deep state inside the Beltway, like media or mafia, in spite of the occasional Republican or outlaws like Donald Trump, is still a one-party racket.
When it comes to big government and big spending on Capitol Hill, there is hardly a dime’s worth difference between the major American political parties anyway.
In spite of these cold hard facts, you will hear the Beltway rat pack claim that personal politics do not affect public job performance. The Mark Felt saga at the FBI tells a different story. Deep state liberals and the Press get energized when anyone other than one-of-theirs inhabits the White House.
Watergate is the best example. Richard Nixon was not brought down by “high crimes and misdemeanors,” a third rate burglary, a cover up, or the Washington Post. Nixon was undone by the 7th Floor of the FBI. Mark Felt, then number two at the FBI was the leaker, the source of much of the Woodward and Bernstein Pulitzer Priz-winning dirt on Nixon and the plumbers. Felt died in obscurity in 2008 with a Strzok-sized smirk on his face.
The mendacity tradition at the FBI is alive and well. The number two at the Obama FBI, Andrew McCabe, was recently fired by the Attorney General for lying about his role in the 2016 Hillary Clinton circus.
Still, we hear “presstitutes,” such as Chuck Todd at Meet the Press, and federal commissars Brennan and Strzok, like Felt, appeal to a higher loyalties, professional ethics, or patriotism to justify leaks, bias, and political skullduggery. Todd, political director for NBC, ironically a Trotsky look-alike, claims that his family activism on behalf of socialist causes and candidates does not affect his on-air politics. John Brennan and Strzok polemics, before, during, and after the 2016 elections make similar claims.
They protest too much. Or as Samuel Johnson might put it, “patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels.” J. Edgar Hoover ran the FBI for four decades as if it were his private bath house, intimidating political enemies across the political spectrum. As with CIA, Harry Truman is again helpful about the FBI:
. . . we want no Gestapo or secret police. The FBI is tending in that direction. They are dabbling in sex-life scandals and plain blackmail. J. Edgar Hoover would give his right eye to take over (the country), and all congressmen and senators are afraid of him.
James Comey, Robert Mueller, and Peter Strzok are linear descendants of the Hoover ethic that still shades the 7th floor at FBI HQ. Hoover may not have been as dangerous as contemporary G-men, but the Justice Department, like American Intelligence, is still beyond oversight—and way above any law.
Donald Trump was well advised to scuttle plans for a bigger FBI HQ building. Why feed the beast?
The FBI and the Orwellian Intelligence edifice erected by General Clapper does not really answer to anyone but itself, the deep state. The Animal Farm abides in word and deed inside the Beltway corral.
Hat tip to George Orwell.
Good literature holds an ironic mirror to life. Kim Philby was the namesake of Rudyard Kipling’s Kim, a fictional masterpiece about a young Irish spy (Kimbal O’Hara) in colonial 19th Century India. Another bold clue, incidentally, missed by the CIA and Angleton. With the possible exceptions of George Smiley and James Bond, Kim O’Hara is the most famous fictional secret agent in English literature.
Alas, the real world Kim continues to school the American Intelligence Community. Until his dirt nap at Kuntsevo, Kimbal Philby justified his treason on two continents with appeals to some vague notion of higher loyalty, global justice, or socialist nirvana. We hear similar appeals today from American law enforcement, military, and Intelligence apparatchiks who seek to justify toxic political partisanship, if not sedition.
Like Kimbal Philby, these flag-draped frauds are dangerous public “servants,” not patriots. In an ideal world, Intelligence speaks truth to power. In the real world, Intelligence too often does as power bids. Then CIA director George Tenet and then Secretary of State Colin Powell went before the UN in 2003 with fake Intelligence, if not outright lies, about Iraqi “weapons of mass destruction” to justify an invasion.
In 2004, Tenet received the Presidential Medal of Freedom—an Oscar for pandering.
Domestic electoral fixers failed in 2016, but the unholy alliance congealing for future American elections is formidable: social media, major news networks, top cops, Intelligence brass, the out-of-power party, academia, and malcontents right and left. A host of hostile former Obama era Intelligence officials have now been hired by nearly all major “news” outlets too, where critics now have vitae, voice, classified ammunition, air time, and column space.
Most major American news outlets claim they don’t use paid sources. No surprise then that erstwhile American Intelligence satraps like Clapper and Brennan are now born again as on-air network “consultants.”
When political zealots meet at the merge, a tipping point usually follows. In 2016, Donald Trump found an amazing and surprising reprise with disaffected voters. America sometimes works in spite of herself. That first resort may now be a last refuge. Poetic justice, the only kind available these days, is again left to the ballot box, the wisdom of crowds. Trump’s mantra, “let’s make America great again” implies that the America we once knew is not what it used to be. For that insight at least, the President gets high marks.
What Donald Trump can do about the rodent problem in Washington is another question. The deep state abides.
Withal; the nation, justice, and democracy are still in peril.
G. Murphy Donovan is a Vietnam veteran, former Air Force Intelligence officer, former senior USAF RAND Corporation research fellow, and former Deputy Director for Research and Russian (nee Soviet) Studies under General James Clapper at HQ USAF Intelligence.
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