Guest post by Larry C. Johnson
DEVELOPING: Investigators have learned that Obama CIA Director John Brennan ran a secret task force out of Langley with its own separate budget to investigate Trump campaign and alleged ties to Russia. Task force set up before FBI officially launched its own probe on 07/31/16
— Paul Sperry (@paulsperry_) September 8, 2020
While chatting in late October 2019 with a retired CIA colleague, he dropped a bombshell–he had learned that John Brennan set up a Trump Task Force at CIA in early 2016. One of my retired buddy’s friends, who was still on duty with the CIA in 2016, recounted how he was approached discreetly and invited to work on a Task Force focused on then Presidential candidate Donald Trump. The Task Force members were handpicked instead of following the normal procedure of posting the job. Instead of opening the job to all eligible CIA personnel, only a select group of people were invited specifically to join up. Not everyone accepted the invitation, and that could be a problem for John Brennan
A “Task Force” normally is a short term creation comprised of operations officers (i.e., guys and gals who carry out espionage activities overseas) and intelligence analysts. The purpose of such a group is to ensure all relevant intelligence capabilities are brought to bear on the problem at hand. I am not talking about an informal group of disgruntled Democrats working at the CIA who got together like a book club to grouse and complain about the brash real estate guy from New York. It was a specially designed covert action to try to destroy Donald Trump.
A “Task Force” is a special bureaucratic creation that provides a vehicle for bring case officers and analysts together, along with admin support, for a limited term project. But it also can be expanded to include personnel from other agencies, such as the FBI, DIA and NSA. Task Forces have been used since the inception of the CIA in 1947. Here’s a recently declassified memo outlining the considerations in the creation of a task force in 1958. The author, L.K. White, talks about the need for a coordinating Headquarters element and an Operational unit “in the field”, i.e. deployed around the world.
While a “Task Force” can be a useful tool for tackling issues of terrorism or drug trafficking, it is not appropriate or lawful for collecting information on a U.S. candidate for the Presidency. But Brennan did it with the blessing of the Director of National Intelligence, Jim Clapper.
A Task Force operates independent of the CIA “Mission Centers” (that’s the jargon for the current CIA organization chart).
So what did John Brennan do? My friend said that a Trump Task Force was running in early 2016 and may have started as early as the summer of 2015. Recruitment to Task Force included case officers (i.e., men and women who recruit and handle spies overseas), analysts and admin personnel were recruited. Not everyone invited accepted the offer. But many did.
But this was not a CIA only operation. Personnel from the FBI also were assigned to the Task Force. We have some clues that Christopher Steele’s FBi handler, Michael Gaeta, may have been detailed to the Trump Task Force (see here).
So what kind of things would this Task Force do? The case officers would work with foreign intelligence services such as MI-6, the Italians, the Ukrainians and the Australians on identifying intelligence collection priorities. Task Force members could task NSA to do targeted collection. They also would have the ability to engage in covert action, such as targeting George Papadopoulos. Joseph Mifsud may be able to shed light on the CIA officers who met with him, briefed on operational objectives regarding Papadopoulos and helped arrange monitored meetings. Was the honey pot (i.e., the attractive woman) named Azra Turk, who met with George Papadopoulos, part of the CIA Trump Task Force?
The Task Force also could carry out other covert actions, such as information operations. A nice sounding euphemism for propaganda, and computer network operations. There has been some informed speculation that Guccifer 2.0 was a creation of this Task Force.
In light of what we have learned about the alleged CIA whistleblower, Eric Ciaramella, there should be a serious investigation to determine if he was a part of this Task Force or, at minimum, reporting to them.
When I described this development last November to one friend, a retired CIA Chief of Station, his first response was, “My God, that’s illegal.” We then reminisced about another illegal operation carried out under the auspices of the CIA Central American Task Force back in the 1980s. That became known to Americans as the Iran Contra scandal.
We know one thing for certain about he work of this Task Force–it failed to produce any intelligence to corroborate the specious claim that Donald Trump was colluding with the Russians. Even though the despicable Brennan has continued to insist that Trump was/is under the thumb of Putin, he failed to provide any substantive information in the January 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment that supported the claim.