The Trials of Lt. General Michael Flynn: Intelligence-Sharing as Trust-Building; Or, Covert Intelligence, Public Diplomacy

Part I

On May 15, 2017, The Washington Post published an article meant to propagate the alarmist hyperbole that Trump is ‘colluding’ with Russia.[1]  Miller and Jaffe claim President of the United States Donald Trump “revealed highly classified information” derived from an “a U.S. partner” through an “intelligence-sharing arrangement considered so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the U.S. government.”  Critically, “The partner had not given the United States permission to share the material with Russia,” potentially damaging that relationship.  The information came from an ally through a sharing arrangement, but it is withheld from allies.  Apparently, so damaging was this ‘intelligence leak’ that the CIA and NSA both went into damage control mode.  Miller and Jaffe go so far as to quote their inside, anonymous, source, saying, “Trump ‘revealed more information to the Russian ambassador than we have shared with our own allies.’”  The Economist, in addition to stressing the “apparently irredeemable collapse in relations between the Trump administration and some senior American spies,” by tacking on the last paragraph seemed to indicate that partner was Israel.[2]  In their enmity towards Trump, Miller and Jaffe say “officials expressed concern about Trump’s handling of sensitive information as well as his grasp of the potential consequences.”  Quoting a “former official,”

It is all kind of shocking.  Trump seems to be very reckless and doesn’t grasp the gravity of the things he’s dealing with, especially when it comes to intelligence and national security.  And it’s all clouded because of this problem he has with Russia.

It is important to note, the article makes clear Trump did nothing wrong, and, in fact, did not betray any sources or methods (even if he did, as the President, it is not illegal); he merely gave information the Russians could potentially triangulate to determine its source.  The Post does implicate White House staff in an illegal leak when it says, “The Post is withholding most plot details, including the name of the city, at the urging of” the person or persons responsible for leaking details of this ‘highly classified’ information, “who warned that revealing them would jeopardize important intelligence capabilities.”  Especially of the Post, it seems.  Luckily, these officials “spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the” apparently illegal information they provided to a newspaper that proceeded to let everyone know they had it.  The article ends impugning Trump for his going “off-script,” ignoring security briefings, and jeopardizing information and relationships.  Senator Bob Corker is quoted saying the CIA and NSA are “in a downward spiral right now and have got to figure out a way to come to grips with all that’s happening,” while adding “And the shame of it is, there’s a really good national security team in place.”

If the hypocrisy and cluelessness of the article does not induce laughter, maybe an analysis of how the Trump administration has potentially used The Washington Post’s eagerness to churn out spiteful ignorant anti-Trump stories, in order to help gain trust with the Russians will elicit consequential mirth.  The Washington Post could be a dupe in Trump’s Russian diplomacy, inspired by former national security adviser, Michael Flynn.

It just so happens that Michael Flynn, who many see as ‘pro-Moscow’, ran the Defense Clandestine Service when he was head of the Defense Intelligence Agency.  When he took over the role, he gave a statement about reorganizing and expanding the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), specifically expanding its covert intelligence collections and collaborating with the Central Intelligence Agency and the Joint Special Operations Command.  Most importantly, Flynn spoke from his prior experience as assistant director of national intelligence for partner engagement, on what “partnership engagement” is and means in the 21st century.  Cheryl Pellerin sums it up.

The United States must determine how to innovate and create new forms of partnerships, how to sustain the long-term strong partnerships that exist today, and how to build better processes, he said, including the one that governs intelligence sharing.

In Flynn’s words,

We will only win as a coalition…We have to rely on our partnerships internationally and they have to rely on us…so if I learned anything…it’s that there’s a much greater need [to improve] how we do that… Intel sharing in the 21st century is like money was in the last century; intelligence is a currency…I give you some intel, you give me some intel back…maybe we engage partners in new ways by sharing intel, and what we really want [in return] is their political support or physical support…maybe intelligence is the currency we use among others to gain their trust and confidence.[3]

From this, it would seem, that Trump has provided the Russians with some information.  And it is not a strategy of disinformation, but one of honesty.  Even at the meta-level, Trump has signaled to the Russians that Flynn’s strategy still holds sway.  Of course, for The Washington Post, Trump does not “grasp the consequences” of intelligence sharing.  Instead, the press got wind and portrayed it as ‘more’ ‘evidence’ Trump is ‘colluding’ with the Russians.  Senator Corker’s comment that “there’s a really good national security team in place” can be seen in light of General H.R. McMaster’s presence with Trump and the Russians in the meeting, and his later press conference.  However, before the story broke, McMaster had given a previous press conference regarding Trump’s first overseas trips, where he explicitly referred to Trump’s meeting with the Russians not as an “agreement” or a “decision,” but as “an engagement,” the very word Flynn used when referring to 21st century intelligence-sharing as trust-building.   As is my understanding, the military uses words like “engagement” and “capacity” in very specific ways.  It seems unlikely McMaster would mean something different from Flynn.  The detail in the Post’s article, “intelligence-sharing arrangement” is “considered so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the U.S. government,” indicates someone in the room or someone with direct knowledge of what was said in the meeting is the leaker.  Another possibility, implies, as Cernovich said he was told, that high-level people, like Trump, do not have access to specifics (Trump did not and could not leak information he did not have; the leaker gave the Post too specific of details to have really been talking about Trump).  Cernovich’s sources have proven correct recently.  Because this is a big deal and major story, it is potential psyop territory.  It could have been planted by McMaster using a phony or manipulated “source” to improve the likelihood the Russians appreciate the information the US is sharing with them, thus building trust.  Both The Washington Post’s article and Breitbart’s article achieve this end; each make it seem to Russian eyes as though Trump is being attacked, either by his political opponents for his reputation or by the intelligence bureaucracies for his incompetence, because he is helping them.  Maybe the information needed to be kept from the CIA and NSA so they really went into damage control mode, such is the price for trust.  The US, or Trump, or the NSC, may see the relationship damage with the source ally as an appropriate price for building a relationship with the Russians.  It could also be those calculations were not present in a planned strategy; that Trump really did go off-script, inadvertently or otherwise, and that, upset, McMaster was The Washington Post source, despite his denials.  Either way, Trump endears Russia.  If it figures into staffing issues, all the better.  Cernovich’s claims are the more worrisome.

What is The Washington Post doing with this information?  One might be tempted to interpret it a typical eye gouging from an enemy newspaper to its enemy President, or as another ‘deep state’ leak to hurt Trump.[4]  However, there are certain bits of information that raise eyebrows.  For instance, that “details” of an intelligence sharing arrangement “have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the U.S. government.”  This creates an environment where ‘no one knows this secret information’ and the newspaper thinks it has a scoop.  They report it, maligning Trump, and, for them, they are satisfied.  Everyone seeks, in their cultivated ignorance, to interpret these things as black and white, or in a way that promotes their worldview.

There were not many people present in the meeting and McMaster’s televised note card reading seems out of the ordinary; as if they are responding to an artificial urgency.  McMaster has technical credibility where Trump’s administration generally does not, which explains his public presence instead of Spicer or Tillerson.  Mattis could have done this, but the National Security Council is responsible for strategy, crisis, and sensitive security operations and policy, not the Secretary of Defense.[5]  There are many possibilities, but what matters is that Trump giving intelligence to the Russians fits with the strategy of partnership engagement outlined and promoted by General Flynn.[6]  The more Trump gets attacked for it, the more sincere he will appear to the Russians.  This could be a brilliant move, blurting something out at a meeting.  With all the Russophobes installed around him, and the ‘haters’ in the media, Trump manages to signal to Russia that he is not one of them.  Meanwhile, every mainstream news source refers to Trump “bragging” about his access to intelligence.[7]  The New York Times reported that “two officials with knowledge of the situation” have told them Trump “still openly laments having to dismiss his first national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn.”[8]  Trump does not appear to like McMaster very much.  According to the Times, Trump thinks “McMaster talks too much in meetings” and “has referred to him as ‘a pain,’ according to one of the officials.”  Do these reporters have any idea what is going on?[9]

In March, at a pseudo-diplomatic meeting at the Center For Strategic and International Studies, Igor Ivanov, the President of the Russian International Affairs Council, explained that the hindrance this new Red Scare has placed on Russian diplomats (by which he meant the sanctions and seizure of Russian embassies by Obama’s outgoing administration[10]) has made the CSIS meeting necessary.  Had things been normal, there would not need to be special CSIS reports co-written with Russian diplomats.  It was a frank and hilarious statement; he told them they are a useless intermediary, an informational middleman, and that he does not trust they represent Trump’s administration.  He was right to think those things.  He also stressed that trust is built ‘by working together, testing commitments, consistency and integrity’.  Also present, Oleg Stepanov, the Director of Policy Planning at the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (the George Kennan of Russia), said ‘friendship for the sake of friendship does not work and requires instead mutually beneficial cooperation; goals in which both benefit are preferable to stalemate or meaningless cooperation’.  Stepanov suggested that “chemistry” between leaders is not enough to maintain good relations because if/when leadership changes, it can leave the relationship hanging; without a strong underlying cooperative basis, friendships in international politics are flimsy.  He suggests a special relationship, like the US/UK, is preferable for Russia and the US (little do they know of the English Speaking Union).  The Russians said at the meeting the situation is reminiscent of the Cold War; they do not know what to do or who to talk to for official answers or dialogue from the Trump administration.

Another factor, which may be of importance, is the Trump/Bannon defense of a Flynn staffer on the National Security Council, Ezra Cohen Watnick.  Watnick was appointed by Flynn to the NSC during Flynn’s short stint as national security adviser.  He was instrumental in the discovery of Susan Rice’s unmasking of Flynn, and was Representative Devin Nunes’ source for the proof Susan Rice unmasked Flynn during the transition period.[11]  Watnick met Flynn at the DIA, where they apparently saw ‘eye to eye’ on foreign infiltration into the US, and each disliked the CIA (and was interested in FBI counter-intelligence).[12]  When McMaster replaced Flynn as the national security adviser, he moved to sack Watnick, among other Flynn staffers.  Trump and Bannon saved him.[13]  The fact that Trump and Bannon want Watnick where he is, the director of national intelligence for the National Security Council, indicates they may still see value in Flynn’s approach, and the domestic intelligence implications that approach brings with it, which seems to have gotten Flynn into a pickle.

Flynn’s dilemma: the public diplomacy of RT

Public diplomacy, as an application of soft power, consists of a mixture of high-level planning and low-level execution mediated by propaganda so like institutions will know where their allies stand without secret coordination.  The higher-level institutions (think tanks, NGOs, high profile individuals) create dialogues, define and manage debate parameters, initiate policies, and create and maintain networks of friendly foreigners.  Public diplomacy as it applies to Flynn, according to Nye, is in Flynn’s attempting to set an example with “internal practices and policies” and demonstrate how the US “handles its relations with others.”[14]  Further, Nye says, “Public diplomacy tries to attract by drawing attention to” those practices and policies “through broadcasting, subsidizing cultural exports, arranging exchanges, and so forth.”[15]  Obama’s public diplomacy aimed, in part, at affecting the lives of foreigners who come “to the U.S.” to “experience life in America,” and in “English language teaching programs throughout the world.”  To measure success one must attempt to track and maintain these positive relationships with foreigners.[16]  Nye described the “development of lasting relationships with key individuals over many years,” listing “access to media channels” as an avenue for successful public diplomacy.[17]  Often these networks develop from the interaction of government bureaucracies, think tanks, philanthropies, and corporations; “many areas that are not covered by traditional international relations.”[18]  Boyer relays that “most U.S.-led government-to-people or U.S.-sponsored people-to-people activities designed to further professional, educational, or cultural collaboration or understanding would fall under the U.S. public diplomacy umbrella.”[19]

Vladimir Putin, Michael Flynn, and Jill Stein all sat together at a gala in 2015 celebrating the anniversary of the establishment of the Russian language news channel, RT.[20]  Flynn’s appearance has brought scrutiny since Trump was elected.  After Flynn retired from the military in 2014, he appeared at the gala.  He was paid $45,000 or so to attend and give a speech.   The House Oversight Committee has recently pressed Flynn for proof that he had permission from the Department of Defense (DoD) for this payment.  Representative Jason Chaffetz has said his committee has seen “no data to support the notion that General Flynn complied with the law” (a lawyerly way of not saying “we have evidence of a violation”) and that, if Flynn did not have permission, he would need “to repay all of the money that he did take.”[21]  I am not a lawyer, but that seems shady and not the consequence that would result from improper payments (‘Give the money back to the Russian spies, now.’).  This seems like a desperate attempt to coax Flynn into ‘giving the money back’ and thereby incriminating himself.  Flynn’s lawyer responded that Flynn did indeed brief the DIA about his appearance and payment, and was debriefed by DIA upon returning.[22]  However, apparently, there has been nothing given by the DoD or Flynn to the House Oversight Committee on this matter.  DIA has not provided that information.

Again, it seems likely, that Flynn’s lawyer’s reference to the DIA, an agency within the DoD, and not the DoD itself, is a sort of admission that Flynn’s appearance at RT may have been part of a possibly covert relationship with the DIA.  He could have “retired” to become a public diplomat shortly before being caught in the Trump whirlwind where he ended up national security adviser.  The Defense Clandestine Service within the DIA conducts covert operations and intelligence gathering just like the CIA.  However, part of covert intelligence is overt behavior like building-trust.  It is entirely possible that Flynn was acting as an willful agent or non-official or covert cooperating partner of the DIA as a sort of trust-building agent-of-influence among Russian leadership, and that the entry point for his doing so was at the level of Russia’s public diplomacy, i.e., RT.  This would make Flynn a public diplomat.  It could also implicate the speaker’s bureau which actually paid Flynn as a front for the DIA (RT itself did not pay Flynn).  The Congress probing something that may be a military intelligence operation, which blends covert and overt activities, could have something to do with Flynn’s tight lips and the lack of paperwork provided by the DoD.  The media hostility is also not conducive to normalcy.  The Democrat glee at the thought of politicizing these intelligence issues against the Trump administration is another factor sealing away real information.  Flynn offered testimony for immunity based on these things.  The news reports on Flynn as if he is oblivious that RT is a Russian state-owned information agency.  I am confident he knows that.

Although perceivable as boring, public diplomacy at this level is the equivalent of intelligence.  Flynn’s conversations with Russian diplomats were innocuous, not illegal, and are being used as a bludgeon to defame Flynn and Trump in the public eye.  It is not generally known, but Kissinger was spied upon by the Joint Chiefs of Staff when he was setting up a backchannel for Nixon (by secretly communicating with the KGB and traveling to Moscow).[23]  This ‘confidential diplomacy’ was instrumental in détente.  Virtually every news article mentions Flynn’s conversations, especially his ‘misleading’ Pence (who probably has no clue what is going on around him).  However, I have seen no articles write about the recent Senate Judiciary hearing where James Clapper confirmed for the Committee that Flynn’s conversations were with an “overseas” caller, and that Russian Ambassador Kislyak, the one who Flynn is said to have conversed with, was in D.C. on the night in question.

GRAHAM: OK.  Senator Durbin?

(UNKNOWN): Just to your point, you said the word overseas. Ambassador Kislyak was not overseas on December 29th, was he?

CLAPPER: That’s correct.

(UNKNOWN): Thank you.[24]

In other words, the calls were not with Kislyak.  Who was Flynn actually talking to that would cause Susan Rice to unmask a US caller, and for the Obama bureaucrats to start hyperventilating about classified information regarding Russian influence operations, which, as Obama said, “could only have come from the highest levels of the Russian government”?[25]


Only time will tell.

The Western (“globalist”) think tanks have it out for Russia, and have for years.[26]  The academics and media (pretty much) take the US intelligence community at its word (which I cannot figure out why, other than politics; certainly not because they want the “facts” surrounding anything). They assume Trump is a Russian himself, that something will come of “the dossier” if they investigate enough, or that Trump is really an invalid and will be removed from office by a Congressionally appointed panel of psychiatrists.[27]

The fact this is Russia and has immediate implications for Iran, Syria, and Ukraine may be why the Obama administration and the “deep state” appear to have it out for Flynn.  Obama apparently implored Trump not to hire him.[28]  This is not surprising given the level of public attention Flynn’s criticisms of the Obama administration received, and the content of those criticisms.[29]  Flynn is an Iran hawk and wanted to undo Obama’s Iran deal, which has been floated as a possible explanation of Flynn’s “political assassination.”[30]  The “deep state” because it is comprised of lots and lots of Russophobes and NATO stalwarts, what used to be called “cold warriors,” do not want rapprochement with Russia or “America First.”

Susan Rice has since lawyered up, like Flynn, because, as one can see, Flynn’s was not criminal behavior.[31]  Meaning, Rice did not have a reason to unmask anyone, even though she did.[32]  The fact that she did, and that that information then was leaked to the press, implicates her in the politicization of intelligence, a very big deal, if, however, difficult to prosecute.[33]  Flynn’s strategy of intelligence-sharing as trust-building may work better when it is actually secret and not at the center of political contention, although, there is nothing preventing it from working in the Trump environment of ubiquitous hyperbole (or if the British would ever mind their own business).[34]  It does not have to be a secret when people could simply interpret things incorrectly, and divert their attention to other things.  Trump needs angles where he can take big steps while using this absurd media criticism as fuel.  That way, when the press is singing his praises, he knows he is doing something wrong.  Flynn himself is a victim of circumstance, a probably well-meaning curmudgeon spymaster disliked by the partisans in the Obama administration, by those he grates in the military community, and was in a bureaucratic jurisdictional turf war with the CIA (which is obvious in his Turkey lobbying, covered in Part II).  That turf war appears to have spilled into the FBI as well.[35]  If Flynn was involved in a DIA influence operation in Russia, it remains classified.

[1] Greg Miller and Greg Jaffe, “Trump revealed highly classified information to Russian foreign minister and ambassador,” The Washington Post, May 15, 2017.

[2] J.A., “Did Donald Trump Brief the Russians?The Economist, May 16, 2017.  The New York Times ‘confirmed’ this the next day.  Adam Goldman, Matthew Rosenberg, and Matt Apuzzo, “Israel Was Source of Secret Intelligence That Trump Gave to Russians, Officials Say,” The New York Times, May 16, 2017. ; Brian Ross, Joames Gordon Meek, and Randy Kreider, “Trump’s disclosure endangered spy placed inside ISIS by Israel, officials say,” ABC News, May 16, 2017.  It sure does now!  What are these press-leakers doing?  Although, anyone mildly interested in intelligence agencies could have guessed Israel has one (or more) inside ISIS.

[3] Emphases added. Cheryl Pellerin, “Flynn: Integrated Intelligence System Provides Advantage,” American Forces Press Service, U.S. Department of Defense, August 15, 2012. ; Greg Miller, “DIA to send hundreds more spies overseas,” The Washington Post, December 1, 2012.

[4] Kristina Wong, “Deep State Leaks Highly Classified Info to Washington Post to Smear President Trump,” Breitbart, May 15, 2017.

[5] David Auerswald, “The Evolution of the NSC Process,” in The National Security Enterprise: Navigating the Labyrinth, George & Rishikof, eds., Georgetown University Press, 2011, p. 31.

[6] Flynn and McMaster do not endorse the same strategies, and have totally different conceptions of national security interests in the US, most notably on Russia and Islam.  They also disagree about arming jihadists for proxy wars.  See, Jacob R. Crawford, “From Flynn to McMaster: ‘The Future of War’ and the Three Dimensions of Proxies in US Political Warfare,” March 14, 2017.

[7] For example, Politco’s story read, “’I get great intel,’ Trump bragged to the Russian officials, according to the Washington Post, before sharing it.”  Josh Dawsey, Eliana Johnson, and Josh Meyer, “Trump’s handling of classified info brings new chaos to White House,” Politico, May 15, 2017.  .  Three authors and they still completely (purposely) missed (omitted) critical context!  Not to mention all of the other mainstream newspapers say the same things.

[8] Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman, “At a Besieged White House, Tempers Flare and Confusion Swirls,” The New York Times, May 16, 2017.  That this was published when it was, and mentions Flynn without mentioning that intelligence sharing was Flynn’s strategy makes it appear there is coordination to make Flynn’s strategy look dangerous.

[9] Jacob R. Crawford, “From Flynn to McMaster: ‘The Future of War’ and the Three Dimensions of Proxies in US Political Warfare,” March 14, 2017.  See also, Jacob R. Crawford, “Tillerson Confirms – U.S. Strategy is to Accuse Russians of Lying About the U.S.,” April 12, 2017.

[10] The Russians have still not gotten their embassies back.  Dmitry Solovyov, “Kremlin says may retaliate against U.S. over expulsion of Russian diplomats,” Reuters, May 12, 2017.  See note 25.

[11] This is somewhat controversial because Watnick, in his position and with his authority, did a mini-investigation into who unmasked Flynn.  Josh Marshall, “Okay, I Think That’s Confirmed,” Talking Points Memo, April 4, 2017.

[12] Karen DeYoung, “Tension between CIA and Trump White House persists over personnel and policy,” The New York Times, March 15, 2017. ; Douglas MacKinnon, “A Deep-State Coup In The White House?Investor’s Business Daily, April 5, 2017. ; Jeff Stein, “Ezra Cohen-Watnick: Inside The Rise of Trump’s Invisible Man in the White House,” Newsweek, April 13, 2017.

[13] Steve Holland and John Walcott, “Trump drops Steve Bannon from National Security Council,” Reuters, April 6, 2017. ; Peter Baker, Maggie Haberman, and Glenn Thrush, “Trump Removes Stephen Bannon From National Security Council Post,” The New York Times, April 5, 2017.

[14] Joseph S. Nye Jr., “Public Diplomacy and Soft Power,” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 616, Iss. 1, March 2008, p. 95.

[15] Ibid, p. 95.

[16] Emphases added.  Spencer P. Boyer, “Transatlantic Public Diplomacy in the 21st Century,” in Smarter Power: The Key to a Strategic Transatlantic Partnership, Jehan & Simonyi, eds., Center for Transatlantic Relations, 2014, p. 149, 158-159.

[17] Joseph S. Nye, Jr., “Public Diplomacy in the 21st Century,” the Globalist, May 10, 2004.

[18] Boyer, “Transatlantic Public Diplomacy in the 21st Century,” pp. 149-150.  Outside of traditional international relations, Parmar and Rietzler identify, as a “key thread” in “the history of US foundation philanthropy in the twentieth century,” the “centrality of knowledge to political and state power. … builders of heavily politicised knowledge networks—networks that may be likened to epistemic communities or, in Gramscian terms, networks of organic intellectuals linked with the US state as well as with civil society.” Inderjeet Parmar & Katharina Rietzler, “American Philanthropy and the Hard, Smart, and Soft Power of the United States,” Global Society, Vol. 28, No. 1, 2014, p. 4

[19] Boyer, “Transatlantic Public Diplomacy in the 21st Century,” pp. 149, 152-159.

[20] Nicholas Schmidle, “Michael Flynn, General Chaos,” The New Yorker, February 27, 2017. ; Robert Windrem, “Guess Who Came to Dinner With Flynn and Putin,” NBC News, April 18, 2017.  If I had to guess, I would say the Russian campaign to sow doubt about US institutions did not have as much to do with Trump, but with Jill Stein’s recounts.  She raised lots of money quickly, and in large blocks.  Rebecca Shapiro, “Jill Stein’s Recount Effort Raises Millons In Just Hours,” Huffington Post, November 24, 2016. ; “The Mysterious Case Of Jill Stein’s Surging Recount Costs,” ZeroHedge, November 25, 2016. ; Kerry Close, “Jill Stein Raised More Money for Her Recount Effort Than She Did During the Election,” TIME, November 28, 2016.  Everyone said it was sore losers from the Democrat party.  It could have been.

[21] Matthew Balan, “Jason Chaffetz: ‘No Evidence’ Michael Flynn Followed The Law With Russia Trip,” Mediaite, April 25, 2017. ; Kelsey Sutton, “Chaffetz: Flynn might need to repay ‘tens of thousands of dollars,’” Politico, April 3, 2017.

[22] Associated Press, “The Latest: Flynn told DIA about Russia, lawyer says,” The Washington Times, April 25, 2017.  The fact this is being reported on so late may indicate that there is indeed ongoing military intelligence that may be revealed when these investigations progress, and that Flynn knows this and must wait for records requests to expand without breaching intelligence protocols.  The Representatives on the House Oversight Committee, Chaffetz and Cummings, seem oblivious to when Flynn retired, given the accusations they are leveling.  What they are saying appears to be political, not sincere.  The statement from Flynn’s lawyer also appears to have been largely ignored by the mainstream press, leaving mostly local news organizations to report on it.

[23] Richard A. Moss, “Nixon’s Back Channel to Moscow: Confidential Diplomacy and Détente,” Eight Bells Book Lecture, Naval War College Museum, Feb. 2, 2017.

[24] Washington Post Staff, “Full transcript: Sally Yates and James Clapper testify on Russian election interference,” The Washington Post, May 8, 2017.

[25] President Barack Obama, “Statement by the President on Actions in Response to Russian Malicious Cyber Activity and Harassment,” Office of the Press Secretary, December 29, 2016.

[26] Conley, Mina, Stefanov & Vladmirov, “The Kremlin Playbook: Understanding Russian Influence in Central and Eastern Europe,” Center for Strategic & International Studies, Rowman & Littlefield, October 2016. ; Keir Giles, “Russia’s ‘New’ Tools for Confronting the West: Continuity and Innovation in Moscow’s Exercise of Power,” Chatham House Russia and Eurasia Programme Research Paper, March 2016. ; Giles, Hanson, Lyne, Nixey, Sherr, and Wood, eds., The Russian Challenge, Chatham House, June 4, 2015. ; Christopher Paul and Miriam Matthews, “The Russian ‘Firehose of Falsehood’ Propaganda Model,” RAND Corporation, 2016. ; Jacob R. Crawford, “Legitimacy of Lexicon,” February 14, 2017.

[27] Nigel Inkster, “Information Warfare and the US Presidential ElectionSurvival, Vol. 58, Iss. 5, 2016, pp. 23-32.  Inkster just buys into what was said in the press.  It is probably no coincidence that Survival reprinted sections of the January Intelligence Community Assessment, sans critical examination.  See, “Noteworthy,” Survival, Vol. 59, Iss. 1, 2017, pp. 58-60. ; Samuel Breidbart and Vinay Nayak, “Congress Can Remove Donald Trump From Office Without Impeaching Him,” TIME, March 7, 2017.

[28] Michael D. Shear, “Obama Warned Trump About Hiring Flynn, Officials Say,” The New York Times, May 8, 2017.

[29] Seymour M. Hersh, “Military to Military,” London Review of Books, Vol. 38, No. 1, January 7, 2016, pp. 11-14.

[30] Adam Kredo, “Former Obama Officials, Loyalists Waged Secret Campaign to Oust Flynn,” The Washington Free Beacon, February 14, 2017. ; Josh Meyer, “Obama’s Hidden Iran deal giveaway,” Politico, April 24, 2017. ; Eli Lake, “The Political Assassination of Michael Flynn,” Bloomberg, February 14, 2017. “Political assassination” is an apt term within the environment of “political warfare.”  Policy Planning Staff Memo, “The Inauguration of Organized Political Warfare,” April 30, 1948. Box 11A, Lot File 64 D 563, Record Group 59, National Archives & Records Administration, College Park, Maryland.  Cf. Scott Lucas and Kaeten Mistry, “Illusions of Coherence: George F. Kennan, U.S. Strategy and Political Warfare in the Early Cold War, 1946-1950,” Diplomatic History, Vol. 33, No. 1, January 2009, p. 39. ; Angelo M. Codevilla, “Political Warfare” in Political Warfare and Psychological Operations: Rethinking the US Approach, Lord and Barnett, eds., National Defense University Press, 1989, pp. 77-101.

[31] Eileen Sullivan, “Former National Security Adviser Susan Rice Declines Invitation to Testify on Russia,” TIME, May 4, 2017. ; Robert Kelner, “Read the statement from Mike Flynn’s lawyer,” The Boston Globe, March 31, 2017.  Both Flynn and Rice want immunity.

[32] Mike Cernovich, “Susan Rice Requested Unmasking of Incoming Trump Administration Officials,” Medium, April 2, 2017. ; Eli Lake, “Top Obama Adviser Sought Names of Trump Associates in Intel,” Bloomberg, April 3, 2017. ;

[33] Chris White, “Did Obama Advisor Susan Rice Break Law By Requesting ‘Unmasking’ of Trump Officials?” LawNewz, April 3, 2017.  White implies that to prosecute Rice, one basically needs a memo saying ‘I’m doing this to hurt Trump.’  That is absurd.  It is not Trump who was the target of the politicization, but Flynn.  It should be all too obvious why, but proving political intent would require an analysis of what the Obama administration feared Flynn would do.  The contrast of Flynn’s statements on policies involving Iran, Syria, Russia, and Ukraine come to mind.

[34] Luke Harding, Stephanie Kirchgaessner, and Nick Hopkins, “Michael Flynn: new evidence spy chiefs had concerns about Russian ties,” The Guardian, March 31, 2017.

[35] Michael S. Schmidt, “Comey Memo Says Trump Asked Him to End Flynn Investigations,” The New York Times, May 16, 2017.  Even if not a totally accurate story, it should be no wonder why Trump would want Flynn left alone.  Trump wanted to utilize Flynn’s DIA strategies as a national security policy – that is a very unpopular thing.   Flynn’s openness to investigating corruption during the campaign and Watnick’s interest in the FBI are telling (Comey used “the dossier” to get the FISA warrant, offered to pay the source of the dossier, and attempted to get a confession to hacking the DNC for Russia from a foreign prisoner.  It appears as though the FBI are the ones utilizing kompromat, not Russia).  The FBI and CIA do not want Trump to attempt any kind of rapprochement with Russia, even though it could be the wisest thing to do, given the other things people seem not to mention.  For instance, Richard Weitz, “Why Russia Is Cheating on the INF Treaty,” World Politics Review, March 10, 2017. ; Eliot Marshall, “More precise U.S. nukes could raise tensions with Russia,” Science, March 22, 2017. ; Michael R. Gordon, “Russia Is Moving Ahead With Missile Program That Violates Treaty, U.S. Officials Say,” The New York Times, October 19, 2017.  And, as Kühn and Péczeli conclude in their analysis of this issue, “a possibly more cooperative and conciliatory stance toward Russia under President Trump—as controversial as such policy would be seen in Washington and among allies—might actually help with the INF dispute.” Ulrich Kühn and Anna Péczeli, “Russia, NATO, and the INF Treaty,” Strategic Studies Quarterly, Spring 2017, p. 94.


5 thoughts on “The Trials of Lt. General Michael Flynn: Intelligence-Sharing as Trust-Building; Or, Covert Intelligence, Public Diplomacy

  1. Published by Reuters on May 18, 2017:

    “Conversations between Flynn and Kislyak accelerated after the Nov. 8 vote as the two discussed establishing a back channel for communication between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin that could bypass the U.S. national security bureaucracy, which both sides considered hostile to improved relations, four current U.S. officials said.”

    “The people who described the contacts to Reuters said they had seen no evidence of wrongdoing or collusion between the campaign and Russia in the communications reviewed so far.”

    “Those discussions focused on mending U.S.-Russian economic relations strained by sanctions imposed on Moscow, cooperating in fighting Islamic State in Syria and containing a more assertive China, the sources said.”

    “In the conversations during the campaign, Russian officials emphasized a pragmatic, business-style approach and stressed to Trump associates that they could make deals by focusing on common economic and other interests and leaving contentious issues aside, the sources said.”

    Ned Parker, Jonathan Landay and Warren Strobel, “Exclusive: Trump campaign had at least 18 undisclosed contacts with Russians: sources,” Reuters, May 18, 2017 (

    Also, “General Michael Flynn, Trump’s initial selection for National Security Adviser was in the process of back-channel rapprochement with Russian officials…” –


  2. “Four current and former Pentagon officials told The Daily Beast that during Michael Flynn’s brief White House tenure, the retired general advocated for the expansion of a relatively narrow military communications channel—one meant to keep U.S. and Russian pilots safe from one another—to see if the two nations could jointly fight the so-called Islamic State.

    The initiative never went anywhere, in part because of opposition from the Pentagon and from U.S. Central Command; a legal prohibition set by Congress; and, ultimately, Flynn’s firing.

    Inside the Pentagon, “there was a lot of fear that we’d move to outright cooperation [with Russia] through this channel,” according to a former senior defense official.

    Whatever prospects it may have had died after Defense Secretary James Mattis made clear that he would not sign any required authorization to green-light cooperation, according to two knowledgeable former senior defense officials.

    Although the plan was “ill-defined,” a senior defense official said, Pentagon officials were aghast at what they understood as a move by Flynn to sidle up to Russia—part of a closeness that ultimately got Flynn fired, and one that fit a pattern of extending an olive branch to a Kremlin that U.S. intelligence had concluded interfered in the presidential election on Trump’s behalf.

    “Everyone knew where it was coming from,” the senior defense official said, referring to Flynn.”

    “CENTCOM did not buy into Flynn’s proposal.”

    Spencer Ackerman, “Michael Flynn Had a Plan to Work With Russia’s Military. It Wasn’t Exactly Legal.” The Daily Beast, June 6, 2017.

    Their hostility is not just due to Flynn wanting to cooperate with the Russians, but that CENTCOM’s policy is, with their Gulf state friends, to wage proxy wars with radical Muslims. To think, I don’t even have sources.


  3. “if the FBI had FISA recordings of Flynn’s conversations with Kislyak, there was no need to ask Flynn what the conversations entailed.” -

    As I pointed out, it is not Kislyak the conversation refers to. Further, if they have FISA but no basis for unmasking, they are using a cheat sheet of essentially inadmissible evidence.


  4. “Stein’s name has also come up in the context of a 2015 dinner hosted by RT in Moscow. Stein sat at the same table as Russian President Vladimir Putin and Michael Flynn, who served as Donald Trump’s first White House national security adviser until he was ousted just 24 days into the job.”

    I called this in a footnote:


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s