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Is There More to the Flynn Story?

The American media is ignoring a story from London about the abrupt resignation [1] of Robert Hannigan, the head of Britain’s highly secretive Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), which is the codebreaking equivalent of the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA). Hannigan’s resignation on January 23 surprised everyone, with only a few hours’ notice provided to his staff. He claimed in a press release that he wanted to spend more time with his family, which reportedly includes a sick wife and elderly parents. Given the abruptness of the decision, it seems likely to be a cover story.

The British media is speculating [2] that Hannigan was pushed out because he was resistant to sharing sensitive intelligence with the Trump White House, but that story makes no sense. The UK’s formidable GCHQ does indeed have significant resources that make it the most valued partner for the NSA, but the bilateral flow of information is predominantly from Washington to London, making the relationship more valuable to Britain than to the U.S., no matter who is president.

Hannigan, who is only 51, was a senior civil servant brought into GCHQ in November 2014 for an anticipated four-year tour of duty. He was tasked with initiating reforms in the wake of the Snowden revelations. Hannigan promised more openness and accountability. But one of his first moves was to condemn attempts by mostly U.S. technology companies to restrict government access to their messaging systems, making them “the command and control networks of choice” for terrorists. More recently, he has authorized public relations demonstrations, including [1] illuminating his headquarters building in the rainbow colors of the LGBTQ flag.

For those who have been following such developments, the European media’s feeding frenzy regarding Donald Trump and his administration has made any but the most rabid U.S. news outlets look highly civilized by way of comparison. The British press has been a leader in that effort and anti-Trump demonstrations are both large and frequent in London and other cities. Hostility to Trump is consequently strong both within the British government and among the people, including motions in Parliament and petitions to ban the American president from Britain.

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Britain, like the U.S., has three principal intelligence agencies: GCHQ corresponds to NSA; the Secret Intelligence Service (MI-6) is the British CIA; and MI-5 works on internal security like America’s FBI. The CIA and NSA report to the president, while MI-6 and GCHQ answer to the UK foreign secretary, who in turn is accountable to the prime minister. MI-5 is under the British government’s Joint Intelligence Committee, while the FBI is directed by the U.S. attorney general.

The heads of CIA, NSA, the FBI, GCHQ, MI-6, and MI-5 together constitute what is likely to be the world’s most exclusive club. Though most intelligence is shared with the other “Five Eyes” English-speaking countries (Canada, New Zealand, and Australia), it is the Anglo-American relationship that drives the process and produces most of the information. As the Downing Street memo [3] demonstrated in its assertion that the Iraq War intelligence and facts “were being fixed around the policy,” Brits and Americans are frequently inclined to do each other favors, even when they know that the enterprise they might be engaging in is not “going by the book.”

The Hannigan resignation is not occurring in a vacuum, and some in the large and highly networked retired intelligence community have come to believe that it is connected to the investigation and downfall of Trump’s first national-security advisor, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn. Former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy has detailed [4] exactly how the Flynn case does not appear to fit into any acceptable category that would have mandated an investigation and interrogation by the FBI. Surveillance of a Russian official would be authorized under FBI guidelines, but to extend that type of monitoring or investigation to a U.S. citizen would require specific authority from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court to issue a warrant based on probable cause.

There is no evidence that that was ever done. Flynn was not an actual or suspected foreign intelligence agent, and it would be ridiculous to suggest that he might be so inclined. Nor was he engaged in any criminal activity or unwittingly connected to an ongoing investigation. Indeed, apart from possibly dissimulating over what he said, he basically did nothing wrong. There were no grounds for him to be questioned (“grilled” [5] according to the New York Times) by the FBI, and whether or not he misled Vice President Pence over the content of his December phone calls with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak is a matter for the president and his advisers to sort out from a political perspective, which is indeed what eventually took place.

Regarding the actual development of the investigation of Flynn, recall for a moment that we are dealing with at least some individuals at the top levels of national-security organizations who did not hesitate to break the law, leaking information to the media on the highly classified telephone intercepts. Some government employees have gone to jail for doing just that. That revelation alone might be considered a major security breach, since the Russians learned they were being intercepted and have likely tightened up their communications procedures, meaning there will be no more freebies.

Why would these leakers do it? The investigation of Flynn was initiated by high-level Obama officials who had access to tightly controlled and normally inaccessible information. “Obama advisers” were reportedly working directly [4] with the FBI to investigate Flynn. Many of those advisers and other high officials had lost much in the electoral outcome and some might certainly have been seeking payback, while the lame-duck White House could have been looking for ways to preemptively weaken the incoming administration.

The FBI or NSA would have been recording the conversations of the Russian ambassador as a legitimate exercise of their authority, but the normal procedure involving inadvertent intercept of a soon-to-be high-ranking American would be to redact that part of the conversation or otherwise “minimize” it to conceal his or her identity. Leaking the classified information thus obtained to the media portraying Flynn, and by extension Trump, in a bad light would require reconstruction of the original documents and might be risky to carry out. Even if the enterprise could be seen as a good move politically if one were a Democrat, it would not pay to do it too directly, as someone might eventually backtrack and find out the source.

That being so, it might not be too preposterous to consider discreetly asking the Brits what they might have in a folder somewhere on calls and other contacts made by Flynn. As Flynn was known to be in touch with senior government officials all over the world, GCHQ might well have content or corroboration that NSA could have missed. Pull together enough “foreign sourced” stuff that way, imply something possibly untoward about all of it, send it on over to the CIA liaison, and you have a prima facie case that would satisfy the admittedly willing-to-be-convinced Obama Justice Department that Flynn might be up to something that could potentially damage national security.

Enter the FBI at that point to open an investigation. And focus on the Russian aspect as it supports the official Democratic Party narrative that “Putin stole the election”—and also satisfies the many in Congress, the intelligence community, and the media who are opposed to any détente with Moscow. It all looks and smells good because key evidence comes from outside the system and doesn’t appear to derive from dedicated players harboring agendas on this side of the Atlantic. Pull it all together and it accomplishes three things: it enables an investigation of Flynn, provides cover for media leaks, and both embarrasses and weakens the authority of the new administration.

Yes, I know this is largely speculation, but former colleagues and I have come to suspect something does not smell right with the Hannigan resignation and would seem to be quite plausibly related to Flynn. It also explains how and why the investigation proceeded as aggressively as it did: information derived from a major foreign intelligence partner could not be easily dismissed or ignored and would have to be acted upon.

Hannigan’s exit is almost certainly more than it seems, and the Flynn dismissal also would appear to have aspects that have not yet surfaced and, in truth, might never see the light of day. It is not unreasonable to argue that it can all be connected. Aggrieved senior officials closely tied to the outgoing White House might have surreptitiously sought assistance from a “special relationship friend” in a foreign government to make a case that would humiliate and ultimately bring down an unlovable and abrasive incoming national-security advisor. Of course, one still needs to learn who those senior officials were and consider whether they should be allowed to walk away from what they have done.

As for Hannigan, did the Trump White House discover what had occurred and did it back channel to British Prime Minister Theresa May demanding that someone’s head roll? Or did May learn of the maneuvering independently and respond appropriately? However it is playing out right now, someday the whole story almost certainly will be leaked and whatever contrivance or sequence of events enabled the attack on Flynn will become public. You can be sure of that.

Philip Giraldi, a former CIA officer, is executive director of the Council for the National Interest.

38 Comments (Open | Close)

38 Comments To "Is There More to the Flynn Story?"

#1 Comment By EliteCommInc. On February 28, 2017 @ 2:28 am

If accurate, it’s nice to hear that the “dastardly deeds” of Gen. Flynn, are not “dastardly deeds”.

I am not sure it can be said enough, that the supporters of Sec Clinton and the former employees so loyal to their previous executive, are going to a constant source of trouble until they are removed.

And by removed, I don’t mean using the same tactics as they used with Gen. Flynn.

#2 Comment By Fran Macadam On February 28, 2017 @ 3:35 am

Forgive me for suspecting a further conspiracy by connected players, to that “credible” U.K. intelligence agent who concocted the Moscow “golden showers” libels that McCain laundered and shopped to Obama officials. The same pattern and chain is evident.

#3 Comment By Lllurker On February 28, 2017 @ 7:57 am

Think tank piece …

#4 Comment By Constance Underfoot On February 28, 2017 @ 8:53 am

Hannigan’s resignation may have been the result of his cooperation with Christopher Steele’s “dossier” on Trump. While largely fictional, Hannigan may have supplied Steele with hard verifiable intel on travel information that would’ve been used to make the intel appear real.

#5 Comment By ed parolini On February 28, 2017 @ 9:02 am

That’s a lotta speculatin’ there.

#6 Comment By kimp On February 28, 2017 @ 10:11 am

“Speculation”? That word doesn’t begin to cover the wild musings of this author.

#7 Comment By Kurt Gayle On February 28, 2017 @ 10:18 am

“The Hannigan resignation is not occurring in a vacuum, and some in the large and highly networked retired intelligence community have come to believe that it is connected to the investigation and downfall of Trump’s first national-security advisor, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn…Leaking the classified information…portraying Flynn, and by extension Trump, in a bad light…might be risky to carry out…it would not pay to do it too directly, as someone might eventually backtrack and find out the source. That being so, it might not be too preposterous to consider discreetly asking the Brits what they might have in a folder somewhere on calls and other contacts made by Flynn…Information derived from a major foreign intelligence partner could not be easily dismissed or ignored and would have to be acted upon.”

“Cyber Security Intelligence”reported yesterday: “The information Mr [Christopher] Steele, who had been hired by political opponents of Mr Trump, gave to MI6 was disseminated through the UK’s intelligence agencies including GCHQ who provided assessment to their American counterparts, the National Security Agency (NSA).”

[6]

My question, Philip, is this: In addition to the leaks related to General Flynn, do you think there might also be a connection between the Christopher Steele and his “Trump Dossier” and Robert Hannigan that led to Hannigan’s sudden resignation?

#8 Comment By cjones1 On February 28, 2017 @ 10:20 am

The Democrats are running a “Russians are coming” smoke screen to damage the Trump administration and to cover up the Wikipedia leaks of DNC and Hillary’s & staffs emails. Assange of Wikileaks adamantly asserted that official Russian sources were not his sources.
In fact, he sounded an alarm when DNC staffer, Seth Rich, was mysteriously murdered. Was it the Russians, Brits, DNC, or the Clinton syndicate who murdered Seth Rich?
The Republicans are foolishly acquiescing to the Democratic story line in this matter. Solving the Rich murder might put this matter in the proper perspective.

#9 Comment By londonbach On February 28, 2017 @ 10:48 am

Not long after Flynn resigned, the Obama-appointed director of the U.S. Secret Service resigned. SS, CIA, et cetera. One big ball of hatchet-people [7]

#10 Comment By RL Hamilton On February 28, 2017 @ 11:11 am

I believe you can throw John McCain into the mix. His ties to the intelligence community & John Kerry plus disdain of Trump and Flynn make McCain the perfect co-conspirator.

#11 Comment By Cornel Lencar On February 28, 2017 @ 11:16 am

Oh, palace intrigues…

It is high time that hoi poloi are being entertained not by the sparkling life of B movies stars and other artists, but by the lives and tribulations of politicians, high level public servants and bankers (see developments in Spain or the French guy caught in New York asking sexual favours from a hotel employee)…

#12 Comment By Ben On February 28, 2017 @ 11:21 am

Philip,

As a fellow vet of the company, thank you for holding their feet to the fire. I am ashamed of the collective misbehavior of the community in which I worked for over 15 years. I specifically left the community due to the overt politicization of mission principles and reporting under Dir. Brennan.

Please, keep up the good work.

#13 Comment By Phil Giraldi On February 28, 2017 @ 12:02 pm

Kurt and Constance – There might indeed be a Steele dossier connection here as the two elements would fit together very nicely and could have originated from the same source, be it Hannigan or someone designated by him.

#14 Comment By mike burke On February 28, 2017 @ 12:41 pm

who says hes not a russian agent? what was the 40k he got from putin FOR,dinner?

#15 Comment By Roguewave1 On February 28, 2017 @ 2:00 pm

Lit up his building in the colors of the deviants, eh?

#16 Comment By AG On February 28, 2017 @ 2:04 pm

Lets file this alongside Maddow’s very persuasive argument that the sudden and unexplained arrest and disappearance of one of Russia’s highest ranking
spooks meshes perfectly with Trump’s activities.
Each story makes perfect sense, neither has anything to actually corroborate it.
Remember that until quite recently, everyone but the hard core Trump supporters considered him to be at the very least an extreme threat to the safety and security of the nation. It’s not surprising that the entire civilian government labor force has reservations about fully supporting him or his agenda.

#17 Comment By R. L. Hails Sr. P. E. (ret.) On February 28, 2017 @ 3:09 pm

The only certainty is that we Yanks do not need any enemies; we supply ourselves in abundance.

All else is uncertainty. We can not connect the dots because some, here, were deleted or do not make any sense. Why would Gen Flynn, by all accounts a brilliant expert in intelligence discuss illegal matters with the Russian Ambassador, while certain his conversation was bugged?

I note that the principles of the infamous Trump dossier, alleging sexy actions in Moscow, by our straight laced President, are no longer talking. The Brit intell officer, Christopher Stelle who authored the dossier has vanished. The former KBG general Oleg Erovinkin, who supposedly fed Stelle the tidbits, was found dead in his car, in Moscow on Boxing Day. Putin claims his prostitutes are prettier than our prostitutes.

The one way to figure this all out is to buy the analysis available in all grocery store check out aisles.

Imagine a world in which all of this talent, resources and effort was directed toward feeding the children and helping the poor. But that would take honesty, humility and hard work. So we deserve the leaders we get.

#18 Comment By Neil Barrett On February 28, 2017 @ 3:22 pm

1556 words of meaningless hearsay and innuendo in a conspiracy theory trying overly hard to connect the dots between Hannigan and Flynn.

Philip Giraldi must have been the same lame analyst to state overwhelming evidence for WMD in Iraq.

#19 Comment By Bubba Blue On February 28, 2017 @ 3:53 pm

It’s just Obama being “more flexible after the election.”

#20 Comment By Sanf On February 28, 2017 @ 5:31 pm

YIKES–this piece gives the term “speculation” a bad name. Sounds just like that “Bowling Green massacre” making the rounds among the crazy alt-right whackos.

#21 Comment By Brad On February 28, 2017 @ 5:55 pm

Leakers are leakers, no matter what country they come from. In the military, they make our lives harder and more dangerous. Amazing how each side cheers the leaks that advantage them (like how the Dems are all about these anti-Trump leaks, or how the last admin leaked like hell about killing Bin Laden, or Republicans seemed ok with wikileaks). Leaks of classified info harms us all and makes us collectively less safe. They should all be thrown in a hole to rot like Chelsea Manning… oh wait, never mind.

#22 Comment By AustinPowers On February 28, 2017 @ 6:38 pm

Can Trump loose all his wealth if he is convicted of treason say if its proven he did in fact colluded with Russia to attack American Democracy?

#23 Comment By Arlo On February 28, 2017 @ 6:39 pm

It’s obvious there is more to Flynn’s resignation, but this article does not contribute anything but misdirection IMHO. Flynn’s many defects and attempts to build his own empire in the NSC might have led DJT to decide he had made a mistake in hiring him. Admitting the mistake would not have been good for DJT, hence the need for a cover story that would provide less ammunition for his political enemies. “Flynn screwed up”, not “I screwed up in hiring Flynn”.

#24 Comment By Alfred On February 28, 2017 @ 7:09 pm

The question is why was Trump so quick to discharge Flynn after the news of his communications was made public?

This also happened with Trump’s previous campaign manager, Manoforth. There was a ledger published that had his name in it that indicated he had made some payments to the Russians, yet, Trump kept him on ‘behind the scenes.’

Let’s not forget Flynn’s trip(s) to Russia where he was in the company of Putin and received payment(s) for something that was inappropriate according to the United States government.

Trump is the pivot man in this circle jerk, nothing happens without his nod.

I smell Operation HoneyPot.

#25 Comment By Joe On February 28, 2017 @ 7:18 pm

Hannigan’s resignation on the 23rd, only three days into the Trump Administration, doesn’t seem to fit the timeline correctly.

#26 Comment By Jerrie Pellegrino On February 28, 2017 @ 7:25 pm

Phil, a very interesting article,sad however, we have people who would try to destroy Flynn’s reputation. But his mi!ita y career serving our country,deservers honor and recog ition. The Clinton’ tenure in Arkansas and in. D.C. would certainly out glow dysfunctionally. Mr Flynn’s unfortunate episode and Mr. Hannigans. The beat goes. On , Doesn’t it!?

#27 Comment By gbear On February 28, 2017 @ 7:30 pm

The Awan brothers should be getting the same scrutiny by the press as the un-named sources phony Russian scandal.

#28 Comment By Kurt Gayle On February 28, 2017 @ 8:45 pm

Neil Barret speculates that “Philip Giraldi must have been the same lame analyst to state overwhelming evidence for WMD in Iraq.”

Wrong, Mr. Barret. Philip Giraldi “opposed the Iraq war since before it began.”

[8]

#29 Comment By Michael Price On March 1, 2017 @ 5:38 am

“Constance Underfoot says:
February 28, 2017 at 8:53 am
Hannigan’s resignation may have been the result of his cooperation with Christopher Steele’s “dossier” on Trump. While largely fictional, Hannigan may have supplied Steele with hard verifiable intel on travel information that would’ve been used to make the intel appear real.”
If so he deserved to be fired for incompetence, the only thing anyone was able to determine was that they got the travel details WRONG.

#30 Comment By EliteCommInc. On March 1, 2017 @ 10:53 am

“The question is why was Trump so quick to discharge Flynn after the news of his communications was made public?”

I am going to avoid the machinations or possible machinations of the intelligence community. I think it’s clear that Mr. Giraldi is filling in spaces, and he says so up front.

The reason Gen Flynn left is all political in my view, coupled with his tendency to take the ball and run. A quality to be admired. However, on the issue of Iran his lead may have left him exposed and in the political climate that currently exists.

I think it was political expedience. While I am distrustful of Iran, I think a case for war is over reach. But I fully get why Gen Flynn is keen on dealing with Islamic states bent on exporting Islam with revolutionary zeal.

#31 Comment By Jaime L. Manzano On March 1, 2017 @ 1:16 pm

Career public servants need to adhere to a real, or implied, professional ethic expected from a politically protected career, separated from the competitive forces of the market. It is with the military. In part, public servants, come with a calling to make a difference that fits their political values and preferences. They learn, however, or ought to learn, that their responsibility is to advise, and then to carry out the decisions of elected officials – not to make policy. These days, some deliberately usurp the political roles of elected officials. They leak.

While gaining notoriety and momentary admiration, “leakers” more likely than not, are expressing personal hubris and arrogance. Like Cassius in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, they exhibit “a lean and hungry look” for power. These “leakers” cannot be trusted, and, were they to emerge from the shadows, deserve to be punished. Unthinkingly, they compromise their careers, expose themselves to being blackmailed, and compromise the reputation of public service.

And yet, these acts are cultivated, tolerated and excused by the media for their own reasons. As a privileged profession, journalist presume their constitutional rights, and implied responsibility to keep the public informed, excuses, and authorizes them to cultivate public officials, to leak facts, and information on administrative policy deliberations. Unthinkingly, they willfully subvert government staff to violate the trust their political superiors reasonably expect. It is a questionable practice and ethical issue journalists need to contemplate and address. If not, legislation may be necessary.

#32 Comment By Bet Mulligan On March 1, 2017 @ 1:31 pm

I’m willing to go along with the article’s “speculations” provided more is revealed in subsequent posts. Too many gaps to just let this sit.

Carry on.

#33 Comment By Matthews Ameh On March 2, 2017 @ 3:36 pm

I thought the article is a great breather on all the hogwash about contact with Russia, Russia stealing the election in favor of Trump and all that. America was not at war with Russia in 2016 so to speak. High-level officials of government (such as Flynn) were always in contact with their opposite numbers in other countries for normal government business. One still wonders why every such contact between high-level American officials with their Russian counterparts is now slanted to tally with the alleged Russian interference? This point by the writer is very instructive:

“Former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy has detailed exactly how the Flynn case does not appear to fit into any acceptable category that would have mandated an investigation and interrogation by the FBI. Surveillance of a Russian official would be authorized under FBI guidelines, but to extend that type of monitoring or investigation to a U.S. citizen would require specific authority from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court to issue a warrant based on probable cause.”

The leaks of classified information aimed at hurting Trump and his team will forever affect the reputation of the American intelligence community before other countries, no matter the person in power in the future. What goes around comes around.

#34 Comment By Steve Wadlo On March 6, 2017 @ 3:27 pm

Patiently awaiting transcripts of the Flynn conversations…or did I miss them?

A clear-eyed reading should persuade me it was lying to Pence and not original dialog with the Russian that sunk Mr. Flynn.

#35 Comment By Giovanni On March 8, 2017 @ 4:33 am

No evidence to back this up: is TAC becoming another outlet for made-up stories and fairy tales?

#36 Comment By Jake Murrin On March 15, 2017 @ 12:01 am

Looks like Hannigan was forced out because Obama used Britain’s GCHQ, rather than the American NSA, to wiretap Trump: [9]

#37 Comment By Winston On June 9, 2017 @ 1:37 am

Ah British intelligence, looking at big bad wolf Russia while ignoring Jihadis-despite warning.

#38 Comment By IranMan On June 9, 2017 @ 11:21 am

I hope the author did not receive his “Doctorate in Spin” on a Pell Grant. I hope he paid for it out of his own pocket.