Obama intel chiefs gave Russia a pass, and now blame — Donald Trump?

Obama intel chiefs gave Russia a pass, and now blame — Donald Trump?
© Getty Images
Long before the 2016 election, when Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpAl Gore: Trump has had 'less of an impact on environment so far than I feared' Trump claims tapes of him saying the 'n-word' don't exist Trump wanted to require staffers to get permission before writing books: report MORE was a mere private citizen, Russia was engaged in widespread cyber-aggression against the United States. Moscow racheted up those attacks during the campaign. And yet, despite knowledge of the ongoing cyberwarfare, the president at the time, Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaFalwell Jr.: Sessions and Rosenstein ‘deceived’ Trump into appointing them and should ‘rot’ in jail The Trump economy is destroying the Obama coalition Charlottesville and the failure of moral leadership MORE, and his intelligence chiefs — John BrennanJohn Owen BrennanJohn Brennan rips Trump on Twitter about what it means to be 'presidential' What would the intelligence community's 'insurance policy' against Trump look like? Treason! The new party game that everyone is playing MORE at the CIA, James ClapperJames Robert ClapperJohn Brennan rips Trump on Twitter about what it means to be 'presidential' What would the intelligence community's 'insurance policy' against Trump look like? Treason! The new party game that everyone is playing MORE at National Intelligence, James ComeyJames Brien ComeyJohn Brennan rips Trump on Twitter about what it means to be 'presidential' Is the ‘Ferguson Effect’ to blame for the carnage in Chicago? Dangers to the First Amendment if foreign campaign dirt is criminal MORE and his predecessor, Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE, at the FBI — reportedly didn’t lift a finger to stop it.
 
Why? Because the Obama administration was obsessed with protecting its bigger agenda: namely, closing and implementing the Iran nuclear deal and trying to save their collapsed Russian “reset.” Calling Russia on its malign cyber activity would have imperiled both initiatives, so Obama and his intel team apparently chose to ignore it, even as it escalated.  
 
ADVERTISEMENT
After Trump’s shocking election victory, however, the administration switched gears and began waging a sinister campaign against him to deflect attention from their own gross failures, duplicity and actual collusion.
 
 
Consider the timeline of the Obama intel team’s non-activity, excuse-making and subject-changing on Russia:
 
In the mid-2000s, cyber-researchers first detected unusual intrusions traceable to a Russian state-backed group, which became known as Cozy Bear or Advanced Persistent Threat #29 (among other names). It is believed to be associated with the Russian Security Service, or FSB, the successor to the KGB.
 
In early 2009, dismissing the warnings of intensifying cyberattacks, then-Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillicon Valley: FBI fires Strzok after anti-Trump tweets | Trump signs defense bill with cyber war policy | Google under scrutiny over location data | Sinclair's troubles may just be beginning | Tech to ease health data access | Netflix CFO to step down Signs grow that Mueller is zeroing in on Roger Stone Omarosa claims president called Trump Jr. a 'f--- up' for releasing Trump Tower emails MORE set up an unsecured, unauthorized, non-government server for her official communications. We later learned that it was over this insecure system that she and Obama (and other top officials) illegally communicated.
 
By 2010, another Russian state-backed hacking group was detected. Called Fancy Bear, or Advanced Persistent Threat #28, it is associated with the GRU, the Russian military intelligence service. (The 12 Russians recently indicted by the Department of Justice are GRU intelligence officers.)
 
Both Russian groups engaged in sophisticated, continuous cyber espionage against the United States. In 2014, Cozy Bear launched attacks on the unclassified email systems of the White House, State Department and the Defense Department’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, among other highly sensitive targets.  
 
According to Patrick Tucker, technology editor at Defense One, Obama and his intel heads knew about this “spear-phishing” as it was occurring, but there was no sense of urgency about countermeasures.
 
It wasn’t until the 2016 campaign, however, that Cozy and Fancy Bears upped their game by operationalizing their pilfered data.
 
In the summer of 2015, Cozy Bear compromised the Democratic National Committee (DNC) servers and was able to monitor email and chat communications. In April 2016, Fancy Bear penetrated the DNC systems as well. Both groups targeted the cyber-infrastructure of the Clinton and Trump campaigns, as well as some GOP organizations, although the Trump and Republican cyberstructures were better able to defend against such intrusions. The hackers then operationalized the accessed DNC information via leaks.
 
At about the same time, Comey closed the Clinton server investigation without charges against her, choosing to dismiss the original FBI designation of “grossly negligent” to describe her mishandling of classified material in favor of the less legally-charged “extremely careless” label. This, despite concurrent reporting that up to seven state actors may have breached her unsecured server. According to Rep. Louie GohmertLouis (Louie) Buller GohmertGOP lawmaker: Mueller won't stop until he gets a Trump indictment Obama intel chiefs gave Russia a pass, and now blame — Donald Trump? House GOP questions FBI lawyer for second day MORE (R-Texas), an intelligence community forensic examination showed "embedded information" that a "foreign entity that was not Russia was getting every single one of her 30,000 emails." Gohmert suggests that this was known by top intel officials, including Peter Strzok, then head of FBI counterintelligence who also served as a lead investigator in the Clinton server investigation.  
 
But Obama, Brennan, Clapper, Comey and Strzok  gave Clinton a pass when they knew her server had likely been compromised, partly because they also needed to protect Obama and anyone else who knowingly communicated with her over that unauthorized system.  
 
Meanwhile, the Obama-era targeting of the Trump team involved the Clinton campaign and the DNC hiring an opposition research firm, Fusion GPS, which contracted with a former British spy, Christopher Steele, who used Kremlin-linked sources, among others, to produce a dubious dossier that may have served as the basis for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants on the Trump team and, perhaps, for the entire special counsel investigation. Seemingly, the Clinton and DNC teams were willing to collude with some sources in Moscow to hit Trump.
 
As Russia ramped up its cyber espionage, the Obama team refused to say or do anything to address it until its first public statement in October 2016. Until that moment, they assiduously avoided rocking the boat with Russia in order to achieve their ultimate goal — the Iran nuclear deal. That also meant appeasing Moscow in areas beyond cyber: canceling planned missile defense systems in eastern Europe, negotiating away U.S. advantages in arms control, disclosing specifics of our nuclear arsenal, looking the other way when Russia annexed Crimea, invaded eastern Ukraine and re-entered the Middle East. 
 
While Russia incessantly used advanced cyber weapons against us and launched ground wars against its neighbors, and while the secretary of State and Democratic presidential candidate left state secrets wide open, Obama and his intel chiefs buried the rising threats.  
 
Those acts of omission appear to represent a far greater danger than the make-believe “collusion” with which they’ve smeared Trump.  
 
Masters of projection, they accuse Trump of what they themselves are guilty. This is why those intel chiefs have no problem using the most extreme rhetoric against the sitting president for simply engaging in normal diplomatic relations with Russia; they must keep up their disinformation campaign against Trump to cover up their own misdeeds and blame-shift for their catastrophic policy failures and loss of a presidential election.
 
The good news is that, out of this fog, the truth is taking shape — and perhaps even a global realignment that better serves U.S. interests.
 
Monica Crowley is a senior fellow at the London Center for Policy Research, based at King’s College in New York City, which examines national security, energy, risk-analysis and other public policy issues.