Intelligence

Putin’s New Style Of War Careens Off Course In Ukraine

Ukraine is dealing a strong setback to Putin’s allegedly novel model and doctrine of 21st century irregular war. Not because Ukrainian forces rout Russians and their allies in Ukraine and now control 2/3 of the Donbass.

Putin, Ukraine, ATO, Donetsk, Luhansk, MH17, War

Russia’s ‘new’ model of war escaped Moscow’s control. Putin understands it conceivably could evolve into a political threat inside Russia and even the faintest whispers of revolution. The regime could ignite war in Ukraine but not control its perceived domestic political impact on Putin’s authority.

We finally see the limits of Putin’s escalation. He will not risk even the perception of challenge to his authority. Of course, he still plays to win in Ukraine at some level. Ukraine will bear the brunt of his malice for years. And his global revanchism is unchanged.

Meanwhile, he refuses frantic demands in Moscow and from Russians fighting in Ukraine to commit formal Russian troops. Lavrov now calls for “a quick resolution” of the crisis. And Russian state controlled media is banishing Ukraine from the front pages of Komsomolskaya Pravda and changing tone, depicting Putin as face-saving “humanitarian” rather than war lord.

His personal, emotional obsession with revanchism remains. He still yearns to tear down the international order and gain his psychological revenge on Americans for the Soviet Union’s demise and his modest height (5′ 6″).

Putin is taking a walk because he no longer could control the nationalism and overt fascism he courted and stoked in through April 2014. Various ideologues surrounding Putin and their movements have always had more independence than most in the West understood.

More

Ukraine At War Spring 2014

Putin‘s war of aggression in Eastern Ukraine failed its original purpose: to replicate Crimea’s easy capture and herald the so-called “Russian Spring.” Putun must now play for time and bank on his ability to improvise better than Western passivity and derail the May national elections.

Ukraine, Putin, Russia, Sloviansk

The initial operation featured 100 Spetsnaz GRU special forces officers leading pre-identified networks of pro-Moscow forces in Eastern Ukraine. Joined by Russian citizens (“tourists”) flooding into Ukraine, the FSB and GRU operatives used the social smart phone app Zello, Twitter and other means to direct and rally ‘spontaneous’ pro-Moscow support. GRU intercepted calls reveal they were taking direction from Moscow-based PR agencies.

Stage one was to seize key Eastern cities such as Kharkov, Donetsk and Luhansk like in Crimea. Once secured, the Russians planned to spread west and south, backed by the threat of Russian military forces across the border. The plan didn’t work.

Ukrainians surprised Moscow by their resistance or passivity. Despite Moscow offering up to $100 a day to join a pro-Russian protest, no crowd ever topped 4,000 anywhere – in cities with a million or more population. Most crowds were pitifully small. More disappointing to Russia, Yanukovich’s old Party of the Regions, the main political force in Eastern Ukraine, largely supported a unified Ukraine with conditions. Some oligarchs also played a double or triple game with their patronage networks and private militias. Local police frequently were bought off, but local populations still remained inert.

Moscow used the Geneva negotiations to buy time. The Crimea model failed. But Moscow lacked reliable local cadres to pretend to be the face of an ‘authentic’ Ukrainian protest against Kiev.

In the new strategy, the GRU no longer hid its hand. Russians operated openly after taking over government buildings in Sloviansk and Donetsk, etc. Moscow discarded its hoped for partner in the Party of Regions. Russia is recruiting and activating more radical elements in the East, Ukrainians (and transplanted Russians) who despise not only Kiev, but the entire kleptocracy of oligarchs, Party of Regions, local government, etc. Organized crime in the East is also a natural partner, preferring lawlessness and disorder to a successful Kiev stabilization.

This new approach is a revolutionary step. Moscow not only is rejecting Ukraine’s territorial integrity but its existing institutional base – from political parties to local governance. Even pro-Moscow figures such as Kharkov’s mayor Kernes are abused as traitors and enemies. Eventually Kernes was shot and denounced in pro-Russia social media. Moscow is trying to build a new mass, radical political movement on the fly.

More

Happy Festivus And 2013 Year In Review

Happy Festivus And 2013 Year In Review

Happy Festivus, Dear Reader

.

We ponder 2013’s biggest story:

  • Boston’s terror attack
  • Rightist congressional theatrics
  • Syria and Obama’s stumbling
  • Miley Cyrus twerking
  • Egypt and Arab Spring’s collapse
  • Obama’s passivity
  • Iran’s opening
  • L’Affaire Snowden
  • Snowden Wins No Surprise

    Neocons and their R2P fellow travelers get runner up for their urgent efforts to jump start yet another American Middle East war. Bandar’s bizarre lashing out at American last minute resistance to Sunni manipulation a Golden Globe-worthy turn.

    More

    NSA, Obama & Digital Vandals Shaping American Power

    NSA, Obama & Digital Vandals Shaping American Power

    One of NSA Director Keith Alexander’s cruelest feats? Forcing some of his fiercest critics (us) again to defend American self-interest and the role and purpose of intelligence. Despite NSA’s (and the Community’s) wanton, flagrant contempt for both. If Neocons were America’s malignant Id at her moment of apogee, then as Nemesis follows Hubris, they ushered in her over soon decline. NSA and the Community, engorged on national security self-entitlement, scuttled behind as ever-present shadow.

    We get no pleasure writing that. Nor seeing so much needless and perhaps irretrievable ruin in Snowden’s aftermath. Much of it gleefully celebrated by those who care nothing for American interests, privacy or otherwise. It takes a big man to bring down an epoch in American and global history, they say. So why are Alexander and Snowden perfectly, coevally so small?

    Crushed Like A Spent Can Of Diet Coke

    The seemingly ancient preceding post here about Obama’s first NSA-focused press conference reads quaintly now. We see in stark relief the cost of this Administration’s (typical) passivity. That’s not to excuse or diminish NSA’s stunning, profoundly stupid (and so totally unnecessary) transgressive acts. But we all should be clear about one distinction – intolerance for NSA’s transgressions is not embracing others’ attempt to exploit political fallout to see America diminished.

    More

    Obama On Intelligence Reform: Same As It Ever Was

    Obama On Intelligence Reform: Same As It Ever Was

    We’re not smart enough to appreciate Barrack Obama. To cut the story short, that’s his press conference on intelligence oversight this past Friday. He proposes no changes really to current intelligence practices.

    For those crediting Snowden and his odd travelogue for initiating this conversation? Here’s Obama’s ante so far: (a) a new Community website explaining that everything is constitutional; (b) a new someone called a ‘privacy officer’ at NSA with the immense power of an empty in box; (c) co-opting the Blumenthal-Udall-Wyden procedural bill proposing a special advocate to participate in select FISA proceedings to contest government representations; and (d) yet another outside group (joining President’s Intelligence Advisory Board and its Intelligence Oversight Board) to meet and do what?

    A bit underwhelming. Even as opening gambit.

    More

    A Day In Edward Snowden’s Moscow Life – The Secret History

    Cut to scene: Ed Snowden flees to Hong Kong, spending his 30th birthday there at the Russian consulate. Yet we are told his immediate run to Moscow was both unplanned and caught the Russian government completely by surprise. Some tabulate the cascading coincidences intertwining Snowden and Russian operatives or their known consorts. The sheer weight of incidents is non-trivial.

    As with all things, data by itself is not information. The key questions remain unanswered: (i) when did Snowden decide to be an adversary of the U.S. government?; (ii) how did he reach that decision – by himself or did Others recruit or encourage him?; (iii) carrying out his actions, did he have help and from whom?

    More

    Snowden’s Pyrrhic Victory? *

    Snowden’s Pyrrhic Victory? *

    Episode Recap

    State of play so far since our last episode. Putin bemoans now being stuck with an unwelcome Christmas present (Snowden). Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia offer Snowden asylum but can’t get him there. The man of the hour meanwhile finally seeks asylum in Russia yet’s vague about ceasing public ‘anti-U.S. activities’, a pre-condition set by Putin.

    Greenwald in turn threatens the U.S. with the worst disaster in history should anything ever happen to Snowden – while decrying that people pay too much attention to Snowden. And the U.S. hints about canceling a tete-a-tete with Putin after the G-20 Summit in St. Petersburg.

    So we ask you to join in our poll:

    More

    The Amnesiatic Society And Institutions Of Permanent Memory

    L’Affaire Snowden is pretty much a Rorschach test. Except with consequences.

    We haven’t weighed in almost at all so far. Frankly, most of the froth — from allegedly scandalized American sans cullottes to the security Nomenklatura — have been acting according to pre-determined, pre-ordained scripts. It’s been a bore. And doesn’t change the status quo.

    Former NSA Director Michael Hayden conceded after Snowden’s debut that the Verizon order and the PRISM slides contained almost nothing not already in the public domain. NSA’s major concern? The release tidied everything up in one morsel for grokking by a Twitter-debauched, nanosecond mentality. Snowden’s initial leaks were that most dangerous of things: meme friendly.

    If there’s one thing America in the Age of Obama can do well, it’s consuming memes. Still, why would a society obsessed with forgetting yesterday in return for a transient dopamine fix today take a stand on privacy now? Some of it’s politics to be sure. A white God Emperor King presiding over socialist authoritarianism from 2001-2008 is an all too different kettle of fish to someone, er, half white. So the Movement’s reaction is pre-cooked. Then there’s the motley crew (note the e and w) of long time privacy activists, Mac Book Air anarchists, Twitter self promoters, Net Roots types and everyone else who long since sold their souls to Google, Amazon and Facebook. Who here thinks this assortment can create durable politics when the memes grow stale? To take on and prevail against Nomneklatura planning on global, decades-long scales? These are institutions of permanent memory.

    More

    Riding The General Staff

    Tawdry inconsequentiality sums up the Petraeus matter. Petraeus and Allen, two Imperial Viceroys from CENCTOM, strode across the globe with more direct and indirect power regionally than any U.S. diplomat or civilian, outstripping in many ways their Roman forebears. Yet the Pro Consuls are socially seduced by shameless con artists. How does this happen?

    Jill Kelley, the Philadelphia native, is apparently a ruthless social climber only five years in Tampa. Her apparent wealth masking profound insolvency, alleged IRS fraud, and a litany of creditor lawsuits for staggering sums. Her potentially sociopathic sister knows both generals well enough to finagle two ineffective letters of character support in her child custody war. A judge saw more clearly than the two Titans of CENTCOM. He rejected them, noting her mendacity and untrustworthiness are well known to the court.

    ‘Camp whores’ (of both genders) are a well known sociological phenomenon. Yet these two did little more than play hostess at various functions. None are obviously stunningly attractive outside the Jersey Shore framework. But flaunt a lifestyle vastly beyond their means. Something else must explain their extraordinary access. It’s not about Petraeus or Allen individually, but a systemic phenomenon.

    Reports now indicate that Petraeus used to arrive at Kelley’s parties in military motorcade with 28 Tampa police as escorts. Kelley in return offered expensive cigars, bottle service and musical serenades. It’s corrupt from both sides. Why does CENTCOM condone this?

    Kelley tried to get her house declared the other day a diplomatic mission because of a flimsy volunteer certificate bestowing the awesome title of ‘Honorary Ambassader’ [for cheese whiz, or the like]. This is the person who trades personal emails with the Titans of CENTCOM? She has those bona fides. Besides 30,000 pages of emails with General Allen. Her intimacy with Allen involves flying up from Tampa to see him in Washington, D.C. Evidence suggests she had some similar access to Petraeus.

    A foreign intelligence service couldn’t design a more useful penetration of Imperial Viceroys. Especially when Jill Kelley is millions in debt and fighting foreclosure and her sister, she of the court order, just declared $3.5 MM bankruptcy. There are a dozen intelligence services that would toss some coin for their access and then guided/targeted collection efforts.

    Apparently, to penetrate an American Viceroy you just need some decent tits a good profile, cigars, a foreclosed Mercedes, ruthless self-promotion and South Philly/Jersey shore moxi. The Chinese might well be dumbfounded at the ease and minimal funds involved.

    The Affair and Petraeus

    Quick thoughts. We’re somewhat sympathetic to both original ‘sinners.’ Everyone probably knows an ex that did not take a breakup well (or been that ex). Sure, she pursued him. He was the alpha male in a system based on latent crypto-homoerotic glorification of the top dog. He made the mistake. To sociological analysis noting the affair began 2 months at CIA without his accustomed staff, etc. we repeat the above: he made the mistake. Full stop.

    re Petraeus’ departure and reducing CIA paramilitary interest, history teaches it’s the President, not the Director that determines this. CIA built up its capacities in every major military conflict to compete with and complement the Pentagon. Stan Turner’s famous 1978 ‘Halloween Massacre’ under Carter was in part (though not entirely) a house cleaning of paramilitary personnel from Vietnam. Few can say that his refocus on technical collection by itself improved things.

    Current CIA paramilitary interest began in the Fall of 2001 and grew in a steady line. If you’re here you likely agree the drone program is out of control. What calls itself CIA these days still responds to White House interest, priorities and wishes (spoken or unspoken). Obama must be the one to set new priorities, not a Director.

    We agree the FBI’s role is both ominous and pathetic. We also agree the underlying emails should not be sufficient for an FBI investigation. One silver lining: people see that the Bureau does not need a court to access all of their email and Cloud data from 6 months ago. The Bare-Chested Dude (take that, Cigarette Smoking Man!) adds to the entire South Philly/Jersey Shore-in-Tampa motif. His circumventing Bureau Protocol to ignite Congress directly a further warning that the FBI can not be trusted to control information.

    Should Petraeus have resigned? Yes. Not because of all the pontification of blackmail, etc. That same 1959 mindset has always been used to enforce needlessly orthodox lifestyle preferences. It’s been rolled back in many areas. Had he chosen to remain, he would of necessity be defending his actions and be perceived as bureaucratically weakened, internally and externally.

    Misc.

    These past days may be the only time ever among grown men, we’ve heard someone actually say “Look at those arms, pretty hot, eh?” So there’s that.

    FISA And The FAA Of 2008

    DNI’s recent letter (the “Letter”) to Feingold regarding FISA and in particular Section 702 (PDF here) underscores three things:

    1. Many in the blog and twittersphere are unable to read a letter longer than 140 characters;
    2. Feingold’s opposition to the FAA (FISA Amendments Act) is even more marginal politically today than during his quixotic stand in 2008; and
    3. The National Security Nomenklatura are secure enough to toss Feingold a marginal bone, showing no concerns about repercussion.

    Feingold sought DNI permission to discuss three statements about the FAA. He wanted political cover to avoid claims of violating security and to lock DNI into a position.

    Feingold’s most notable statement of the three submitted was that after 2008 FISC (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court) ruled that the government acted unreasonably retaining information on AMCITs (American Citizens) in one instance. The Letter noted that FISC ruling but underscored remedial steps were since taken. Hardly the major admission characterized by breathless blog posts and tweets.

    Feingold, FISA, DNI, FAA

    Long time readers know our background and experience with FISA and intelligence oversight going back decades. Here’s our verdict on this little dust up.

    In boxing terms, Feingold didn’t even land a glove. If that’s all Feingold has to work with since 2008, stick a fork in it. DNI knows it, too. A FISC determination was made, and allegedly their concerns were followed. Rather than a black eye, this episode becomes a poster child for ‘rule of law.’ The Letter is typical Nomenklatura bureaucratese, feigning interest in cooperation with Feingold, civil rights, etc. But there’s also a barely concealed gloating underlying tone in the formality. They know Feingold’s got nothing to work on. And he’s probably even more alone in the Senate than in 2008.

    A long time ago we wrote about how unlikely Congress could prevail in re-asserting meaningful intelligence oversight. And that assumed Congress as a separate and co-equal branch of government re-discovered itself.

    Congress failed all of us at the beginning. With PATRIOT ACT (and blowing past its sunsets), with each subsequent compromise and a decade of Duma-like timidity. One or even a handful of Senators can’t revive an entire institution, let alone the other body.

    We are all of us like the people in our short story in the link above, prey for what was once supposed to guard. Now that Obama normalized and put his bi-partisan (albeit of the Kenyan, socialist, KGB mole variety) imprimatur on Cheney’s excesses, we don’t foresee rollback in our lifetime.