By this point, the belief that James Comey still deserved to be FBI director and that his firing at the hands of President Donald Trump was uncalled for takes an almost Herculean act of intellectual dishonesty.
The inspector general’s report on the FBI investigation into Hillary Cinton’s emails might have officially found no bias on the part of the bureau as an organization (questionable), but it indisputably showed an organization full of Clintonista shills complete with Comey at the helm, bumbling from one disaster to another.
This was in addition to what we already knew about Comey and his self-serving tendency to place himself at the center of every major event of the 2016 presidential election.
That’s enough to warrant his summary dismissal — and that’s again based on what you know about him. Less well-known is how the former FBI director killed a limited immunity deal for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange that led to the publication of leaks about the CIA that harmed U.S. defense “for years to come.”
“One of the more devastating intelligence leaks in American history — the unmasking of the CIA’s arsenal of cyber warfare weapons last year — has an untold prelude worthy of a spy novel,” Solomon wrote in a piece published Monday.
“Some of the characters are household names, thanks to the Russia scandal: James Comey, fired FBI director. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Department of Justice (DOJ) official Bruce Ohr. Julian Assange, grand master of WikiLeaks. And American attorney Adam Waldman, who has a Forrest Gump-like penchant for showing up in major cases of intrigue.”
Solomon wrote that these individuals joined forces in early 2017 “to try to get Assange to agree to ‘risk mitigation’ — essentially, limiting some classified CIA information he might release in the future.”
The deal was this: If Assange agreed not to release the information, he could leave the Ecuadorian embassy in London — where he’s been since 2012. As for the United States, the benefits would be obvious; the intelligence community wouldn’t have to worry about the disastrous kinds of damaging leaks we’ve been subject to for years.
“This yarn begins in January 2017 when Assange’s legal team approached Waldman — known for his government connections — to see if the new Trump administration would negotiate with the WikiLeaks founder, holed up in Ecuador’s London embassy,” Solomon wrote. “They hoped Waldman, a former Clinton Justice Department official, might navigate the U.S. law enforcement bureaucracy and find the right people to engage.
“Assange had a bargaining chip: The U.S. government knew he had a massive trove of documents from classified CIA computers, identifying sensitive assets and chronicling the agency’s offensive cyber warfare weapons,” Solomon noted. However, “Assange made clear through the lawyer that he would never compromise his sources, or stop publishing information, but was willing to consider concessions like redactions.
“Although the intelligence community reviled Assange for the damage his past releases caused, officials ‘understood any visibility into his thinking, any opportunity to negotiate any redactions, was in the national security interest and worth taking,’ says a senior official involved at the time.”
Thus, a complicated series of negotiations took place that led to some major breakthroughs with Assange.
“Subject to adequate and binding protections, including but not limited to an acceptable immunity and safe passage agreement, Mr. Assange welcomes the opportunity to discuss with the U.S. government risk mitigation approaches relating to CIA documents in WikiLeaks’ possession or control, such as the redaction of agency personnel in hostile jurisdictions and foreign espionage risks to WikiLeaks staff,” Waldman wrote in a March 28, 2017 message.
“Not included in the written proffer was an additional offer from Assange: He was willing to discuss technical evidence ruling out certain parties in the controversial leak of Democratic Party emails to WikiLeaks during the 2016 election,” Solomon wrote. “The U.S. government believes those emails were hacked by Russia; Assange insists they did not come from Moscow.”
“Mr. Assange offered to provide technical evidence and discussion regarding who did not engage in the DNC releases,” Waldman says. “Finally, he offered his technical expertise to the U.S. government to help address what he perceived as clear flaws in security systems that led to the loss of the U.S. cyber weapons program.”
That could have been huge. The identity of the hackers who broke into the DNC computers has been bitterly contested since WikiLeaks started publishing the hacked emails in 2016. However, as things were progressing, Warner contacted Waldman with some instructions that were apparently directly from James Comey.
“He told me he had just talked with Comey and that, while the government was appreciative of my efforts, my instructions were to stand down, to end the discussions with Assange,” Waldman says.
This, apparently, wasn’t the chosen strategy of the Justice Department, which preferred to go forward with the negotiations.
“Multiple sources tell me the FBI’s counterintelligence team was aware and engaged in the Justice Department’s strategy but could not explain what motivated Comey to send a different message around the negotiations through Warner,” Solomon wrote. “A lawyer for Comey did not immediately return calls seeking comment. …
“The constructive, principled discussions with DOJ that occurred over nearly two months were complicated by the confusing ‘stand down’ message,” Waldman says.”
While the negotiations continued, “the episode sowed distrust in Assange’s camp.” The negotiations eventually failed and, on April 7 of last year, “Assange released documents with the specifics of some of the CIA malware used for cyber attacks.” That obviously ended the negotiations.
Julian Assange may not be the most palatable person to work with, but the United States had a chance to get information regarding actors in the DNC hack as well as to mitigate its exposure to leaks.
Thanks to James Comey, it failed in this effort. Whether or not it would have succeeded in the first place will be a matter of eternal debate, but the point is that Comey managed to sabotage it before it could even begin.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.