Three Sides To Every Coin, Rep. Loudermilk Edition

As President Trump tries to distract the media kittens with a laser pointer aimed the leaks from the intelligence community, it’s important to keep a couple of facts in mind, and bring perspective on the debate. It’s not a question of the “leaks” story vs. the “Flynn” story -they’re both important stories, each deserving of their own public airing. Let’s look at the “leaks” story first. 

The deep state in Washington, DC, right now.

We all agree that government has to have some secrets -some things that are not publicly known, kept under wraps in order to keep the nation and its people safe.  Georgia’s Congressman Barry Loudermilk (R-Cassville) supports this, and as a former Air Force intelligence officer, he has more than a little expertise in this regard. 

Rep. Loudermilk told the AJC “…that the more burning question was the fact that American intelligence officials were leaking information to the media.

The second-term lawmaker, who worked in intelligence for a portion of his eight-year stint in the Air Force, said the leakers should be “hunted down, fully investigated and sent to jail for a very, very long time.”

“This is very potentially a treasonous act within our intelligence community,” Loudermilk said in an interview Wednesday. “… These are the types of things that happen in Third World countries, in banana republics.”

As statements go, that’s pretty nuance-free, and I don’t think Rep. Loudermilk would be selected to serve as a juror should any of the leakers every face trial.  But 

there’s another side to this debate. What to do if the leakers believed they were acting in the best interest of the country? A person expressing that viewpoint was also named Barry Loudermilk -who was a candidate in 2013 when he said this about Edward Snowden to the AJC:

You’ve got to ask, is he a traitor or is he a patriot?” said Loudermilk, who answered his own question. He compared Snowden to this country’s Founding Fathers.

“They met the definition of both. [Snowden] is kind of in that position. Has he violated the laws of the United States? Has he divulged secrets? Yeah, but the secrets he divulged are activities that the government should not be doing,” said Loudermilk, an Air Force veteran who monitored snooping U.S. satellites over the Soviet Union and China in the 1990s.

Loudermilk declared the collection of data – and more importantly, the storage of that information – as “chilling.”

Until the transcripts of the conversations between Lt. Gen. Flynn and Ambassador Kislyak are released, we can’t really know if the current set of leaks is comparable to what Snowden revealed. Snowden was revealing the existence of a massive government surveillance program, and the current leaks (most likely from the Justice Department, or a Trump administration official with access to DOJ briefings) were aimed at a single American citizen, who supposedly enjoyed 4th Amendment protections when this happened. 

We may not be completely through the looking glass, but we are definitely in a wilderness of mirrors. Every question has at least two answers, and I contacted Rep. Loudermilks office  to get a third. Are leakers good, or bad?  His response: “Whistleblowers who expose unlawful acts by the government to protect the American citizens are upholding their oath to the Constitution, but leakers whose actions violate the constitution and undermine our national security for political purposes should be held accountable.”  

That what one Georgia Congressman says. Feel free to leave your own opinions below.

33 thoughts on “Three Sides To Every Coin, Rep. Loudermilk Edition”

  1. Generally speaking, I prefer transparency unless the leak is likely to pose a direct risk to American lives. Not knowing who leaked or why, I’ll hold off on forming a strong opinion about Flynn. But (totally not based on anything) my sense is that it got leaked to the public only after it became clear that the administration wasn’t going to do anything about it. Without a transcript, it’s hard to know why someone thought this was so important.

  2. Everything leaks to the press, especially when it’s connected to possible criminal or unconstitutional activity. imo Loudermilk’s just bent in this case that it’s his party in the news.

    Having said that, I’m very alarmed at suggestions that state security people might be trying to take Trump down or are showing him their muscle to teach him a lesson. That’s scary as hell. That’s not the way things are supposed to work.

    But these are weird times. Flynn is a loon, and an incompetent one, prone to beliefs like HRC and other donks running a child sex-slave ring out of a DC pizza joint. His former boss was the only one who thought he should go near the NSC. His boss also has some interesting let’s say ideas regarding government and security and constitutional norms about involvement with foreign powers, and put his chief political advisor on the NSC, presumably not as an observer.

    It’s reported this morning that same boss just had his next choice for NSC head turn him down because 1)he had no guarantees the political people wouldn’t interfere in his work and 2)instead of his own people he’d be stuck with the likes of a former Fox person and speechwriter. That’s not the way things are supposed to work either.

  3. Well, there is a certain level of hypocrisy…Trump complains about his private calls to foreign leaders being leaked, yet it is OK for our intelligence agencies to “drop in” on the private phone calls of even our allies, like the embarrassing revelations about snooping in on the calls of Germany’s Angela Merkel. And “national security” is always a good excuse to hide disclosure of unethical activities, you know, like maybe plots to take out Fidel Castro? Makes it easier to understand Trump’s response to Bill O’Reilly concerning Putin being a killer, Trump basically saying it isn’t as if our government hasn’t tried to take out foreign leaders or at the very least influence elections in other countries. All of this does make me wonder just how much our House and Senate intelligence committees in Washington are really engaged in oversight of our intelligence agencies?

  4. Kind of a broad stroke with this comment, but I can’t imagine it wise to take on the intelligence community, who are likely to stick together, with a deep bench of personnel willing and able to covertly leak a range of sensitive information- including personal information- and who are arguably holding the most powerful reins on information.

  5. A couple of things here; the National Security Adviser works for the President – he does not answer to the VP, or the legislative body. No VP has the same security level of clearance as the President or the National Security Adviser, and a few others at the ‘eschelon’ level. The dozen or so folks at that level did not read the VP in on the text of the conversation that was recorded by the NSA and given to the FBI counter terrorism compartment. That level of clearance had the transcripts, had reviewed the transcripts, discussed the transcripts with POTUS, & President Elect Trump two full weeks before VP Pence asked the National Security Adviser about the phone call. Because VP Pence lacked the clearance and had not yet been sworn in as VP, VP Pence had to ask Flynn about the phone call. It is conceivable to me the National Security Adviser did not tell the future VP the entire conversation or changed details because the Future VP did not have that need to know and Flynn did not have the legal authority to tell the future VP everything. My strong belief is the issue is not the context of the December 29th conversation – but the method of signal intelligence used to collect the information. I believe NSA used breakthrough signet technology to record the Russian Ambassador’s call. It is inconceivable that Flynn with his background and the Russian Ambassador with his training did not know their cell phone conversation would be captured by NSA. I believe the ‘cover-up’ is the method of signet, and not the context of the conversation. The timeline of the events show that VP Pence was still a Congressman the day he asked Flynn the questions. Everything I’ve put forth except the for the method of capture can by verified if you check it out. Representative Loudermilk’s statement certainly lends itself to the need to protect the technology vs. double speak in context. Lastly, once the administration transition began the President Elect and his National Security Adviser receive the required security clearances selectively to be briefed on NSA recorded messages as provided to them by the FBI counter terrorism cell before Trump was sworn in.

    1. So what legal authority was required for citizen Flynn to disclose the contents of personal phone calls to the Congressman VP elect?

      Amazingly, Sally Yates was among the dozen with that level of security clearance, or one of the dozen leaked.

  6. Dave Bearse- VP Pence had not been sworn in as VP when he asked Flynn and was still Gov. of a State on the day Pence asked Flynn the question.
    Pence asked the question January 13th, and did not become VP until January 21st. On January 13th Gov. Pence had the same security clearances as a Gov. Deal.
    You are correct – due to her position Mrs. Yates did have the clearance and quite possibly aware of the NSA transcripts through the FBI counter terrorism cell that provides the verbal and written briefings.

    1. On Dec. 29 Trump said “It’s time for our country to move on to bigger and better things. Nevertheless, in the interest of our country and its great people, I will meet with leaders of the intelligence community next week in order to be updated on the facts of this situation.”

      So that likely would not have been a very productive meeting, with Trump not having been sworn in and all yet.

    2. OK I’ve just been reading about this and I believe your premise is incorrect. Pence was getting classified briefings in December. There seems to be no specific connection between getting sworn in and getting clearance. and Pence would have whatever clearance the President thought he should have. It’s even possible that by custom the POTUS-elect and VPOTUS elect are treated the same as the incumbents- no clearance necessary at all. Also, Flynn was not the “National Security Advisor” at the time, he was a private citizen.

      So Flynn would have had no reason to lie based on clearance issues. Presumably Pence would have asked Flynn about the phone calls because it was Flynn who made the calls.

      1. Benevolus – Not all clearances are the same level. There is a difference in receiving a security brief, and a clearance that allows one to have a more secure brief. The fact that Pence had to ask Flynn about the call on January 13th shows that Pence did not have the security clearance level to be included in the relative transcripts and audios of the conversation discussed in the briefing December 31st. There is a direct connection to the position and the level of clearance, but everyone that receives a specific clearance classification is vetted for that level of classification – including the POTUS and VPOTUS. You are correct that the designate National Security Adviser was not official until Trump was sworn in, but as you pointed out during the transition people that have been vetted begin getting briefings based on their level of security clearance. It has been written that General Flynn attended the first full security briefing that President elect Trump received in early December. If you want the example of a VP not having the same security clearance as the President and a select group of others read President Truman’s account of how he found out about the Manhatten Project and the testing of devices. Also, keep in mind that the Director of the FBI had already instituted an investigation of the December 29th contact before Gov. Pence asked the question on January 13th.

        I truly understand why Flynn was evasive and did not fully answer Gov. Pence’s questions due to Pence not having the proper security level to know and Director Comey actively conducting an investigation of the December 29th cell phone call. Had Flynn violated the clearance and told Gov. Pence he would have been guilty of a significant crime, and Gov. Pence would then have been dragged into the web of knowing of possible violation of the Logan Act.

        It is my belief the words in the conversation are not the issue – but the NSA trying to preserve a new way to gather cell phone information. I could be wrong – but it is logical that Flynn with his deep understanding based on being the past Director of National Intelligence is far too smart to offer quid pro quo on a call to not know the NSA would record. I believe he said the same type of thing President Obama said on an open mic to the Russians in 2008. Those words would not be a quid pro quo. It is not illegal to talk to anyone (thankfully protected by the 1st Amendment) -it is illegal under the 1799 Logan Act to negotiate. Negotiations require quid pro quo to be a negotiation. The verbiage is not important from the December 29th or the January 13th conversations – I believe it is the method of signal intelligence to gather the words.

        Lastly, the Russian’s knew the 35 agents were already blown before they were kicked out of the US on December 29th. President Obama had already talked publicly back in October about Russian involvement in the election process, so their operations were already withering 2+ months before they were kicked out.

          1. Andrew – please point me to a source that says General Flynn lied to FBI counter-intelligence. FBI counter-intelligence does not do that type of ground pound investigation so I am assuming you are saying you believe the FBI at the Sally Yates/James Comey level investigated what Flynn said. I question the logic of the assertion that the FBI questioned a man that not only said the words, but had seen the NSA transcripts & listened to his own conversation. I can believe the FBI questioned General Flynn on background. Perhaps you are saying he lied on background – I’d like to see that as Director Comey made a cryptic statement that to me did not indicate General Flynn had done anything wrong. The same article that quoted Director Comey in fact said FBI counter Intelligence had established that the conversation did not offer quid pro quo from either party, and in fact General Flynn did not make any offers to the Ambassador. I believe that as both parties due to their backgrounds had to know their cell phone call was being intercepted by the NSA and reviewed by the FBI counter intel. group. Not logical to me a former Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency would say words to break a law on a cell phone he knew was being recorded.

            Please point me to the information because if I am wrong I’d sure like to know and change my views.

            1. You are going through an awful lot of convoluted logic to defend Flynn, but the question still remains; why didn’t he just say to Pence- I am not permitted to discuss that?

              He did not have to lie to Pence, so why did he? There’s only one logical reason- he wanted Pence to have the wrong information. Why that would be the case should be the purpose of an investigation .

              1. I still maintain it was arrogance. He’s “Trump’s Guy” and he didn’t have respect for Pence and was dismissive of Pence’s position. Too bad for him. Looking back, can you imagine anyone not truthfully answering Cheney? They’d have been drawn and quartered.

            2. http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/16/politics/fbi-not-expected-to-pursue-charges-against-flynn/

              Flynn initially told investigators sanctions were not discussed. But FBI agents challenged him, asking if he was certain that was his answer. He said he didn’t remember. The FBI interviewers believed Flynn was cooperative and provided truthful answers. Although Flynn didn’t remember all of what he talked about, they don’t believe he was intentionally misleading them, the officials say.

              I, admittedly, may have reached a little based on the reporting I had seen up to that point. Mea culpa. Then again, CNN is “FAKE NEWS,” so maybe I’m actually right.

              I will say this, CD has the capability to conduct “ground and pound” investigations and, since it appears to have taken the lead on the Trump/Russia investigation, appears to be doing just that. As for who interviewed Flynn, I don’t think anyone has alleged Comey or Yates were in the room (highly doubtful), so my best guess would be the CD investigative leads, attorneys from Justice, and investigators from the Bureau, Treasury, CIA, and NSA. Do you have a link to the article regarding Comey’s statement that there was no quid pro quo? I haven’t seen any reporting on that and am curious to get a look.

              As for Flynn not knowing the conversation would be recorded, keep in mind he got fired from the DIA and has a long history of ignoring rules or thinking he won’t get caught (i.e., installing a private Internet server at the Pentagon, giving classified info to NATO allies without approval). I’m sure he knew that the fact he called would get picked up, I really don’t think he banked on the actual content being recorded… hence the initial “I was just wishing him Merry Christmas” excuse.

        1. “It is my belief the words in the conversation are not the issue – but the NSA trying to preserve a new way to gather cell phone information. ”

          Two things, minor one first. You’ve lost me when you say the purported new way to monitor is compromised. How? Neither Flynn nor Pence is technical and no one is looking to publish operational details.

          The big thing I disagree with is your belief that Flynn’s words aren’t the issue. Maybe, but it’s at least conceivable that he was acting in the interests of a foreign power and an enemy. That’s something we should know more about.

  7. “This whole Watergate thing is nothing but phoney stuff. It’s all because someone called Deep Throat leaked information illegally…I repeat, illegally. If it wasn’t for Deep Throat, Watergate wouldn’t even be an issue.”

    Sound familiar? We know how that turned out.

  8. Are we saying that the content of Flynn’s conversation with Amb. Kislyak is what determines whether or not the leak was legal/constitutional/appropriate?
    In my mind, if Flynn really said something that could make him vulnerable to blackmail by the Russians, he’d have to go. If Flynn misrepresented or left out something he said to the Russians when he briefed VP-elect Pence, he’d have to go. But Pence wasn’t going to let Flynn go even AFTER being briefed by the DOJ. Seems like the briefers decided the President elect wasn’t taking the issue seriously enough, and leaked in order to get Flynn out.

  9. Someone correct me if I’m wrong but… I’m pretty sure Snowden leaked waaay more than that. Some of which was quite damaging and I’m surprised Rep. Loudermilk glosses over that.

    From, of all places, Breitbart:

    “Snowden has exposed NSA efforts to spy on China, but the US does that for very good reasons and none of those stories presented any evidence the NSA was engaged in anything other than legitimate espionage activity. Snowden didn’t just give the South China Morning Post information about the NSA’s operations against Hong Kong and ‘the mainland’, i.e. China itself – self-evidently damaging US national security in the process – but also showed reporter Lana Lam documents in an online interview he had with her and gave specific intelligence about NSA targets’ IP addresses and dates of activity.”

    http://www.breitbart.com/national-security/2015/04/15/how-the-press-misled-us-over-what-edward-snowden-really-revealed/

    Another one from, a source I would rather link to, National Review:

    “While the unclassified report summary does not give specifics of how Snowden’s leaks benefited U.S. enemies and terrorists (that is probably detailed in the classified version available to all House members), U.S. intelligence officials have publicly stated that Snowden’s leaks have allowed ISIS and al-Qaeda to evade detection by Western intelligence services. Former CIA director James Woolsey has called for Snowden to receive the death penalty because his leaks of NSA monitoring techniques helped the ISIS-inspired terrorists who committed the November 2015 Paris terrorist attacks conceal their electronic communications.”

    http://www.nationalreview.com/article/440113/edward-snowden-report-house-intelligence-committee-confirms-he-shouldnt-be-pardoned

    Is it possible Loudermilk doesn’t know what he is talking about and hasn’t bothered to look into it?

    1. The Snowden leaks were damaging to US intelligence gathering capabilities because they included detailed information on sources and methods. In other words, Snowden’s leak didn’t just say “hey, the NSA is collecting a whole bunch of data on you,” it said “the NSA is collecting a whole bunch of data and here’s exactly how they do it and here’s what they do with it.” The Snowden leak told everyone and their brother how the US gathered this type of intelligence and, as a result, gave terror groups the information they needed to build alternative avenues of communication that were less likely to get caught by the NSA.

      Here, no sources and methods information has been leaked. You could stretch it and say that the fact we tapped the Russian foreign minister’s phone call constitutes a sources and method leak, but even that isn’t close to being of the same magnitude as Snowden. The information that has been leaked has been 1) the existence of a counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign’s contacts with the Russian government; 2) that Flynn discussed sanctions with the Russian Ambassador; and 3) that multiple Trump campaign officials were in communication with Russian intelligence operatives leading up to the election. No one has leaked how that information was obtained and no one has leaked the substance of those conversations… things that would damage our intelligence gathering capabilities and the counter-intel investigation. This isn’t Snowden by any stretch of the imagination. For Loudermilk, as a former intelligence guy, to be upset by this and not Snowden is disappointing and screams of partisan hackery.

      1. Pulling this out just so it can sit there like a fat matzah ball in case anyone comes back along here perusing:

        “For Loudermilk, as a former intelligence guy, to be upset by this and not Snowden is disappointing and screams of partisan hackery.”

  10. “…none of those stories presented any evidence that NSA was engaged in anything other than legitimate espionage activity.”

    As opposed, I guess, to illegitimate espionage activity? What exactly makes it “legitmate”?

Leave a Reply