Dead Drop: January 19

Noun.

  1. A location to secretly pass information without a face-to-face meeting.

Each week we hope to give our readers tidbits of gossip from the world of national security and intelligence. The Dead Drop is a source of fun or intriguing news you can't get anywhere else.

Got a tip for us? Email us at thecipherbrief@protonmail.com and share the scoop. We promise to protect our sources and methods.


Below is our recent intelligence collection:

MOBY TWIST: The “electronic musician” known as “Moby” has come up with a whale of a tale. Moby’s real name is Richard Melville Hall and he apparently is distantly related to Herman Melville – thus the moniker. In any case, he claimed that some of his intelligence community friends (“active and former CIA agents”) asked him to use his social media prowess to spread word that President Donald Trump was “essentially being run as a Russian agent.” As crazy as it might sound that CIA officers would go to a DJ seeking help to get word out, SOMEBODY appears to believe it – that somebody being the folks at the Putin-run RT, who posted a story this week highlighting the tale. Even though Moby is on tape claiming to carry CIA’s water, he posted on Instagram this past weekend, “Ha, no, the CIA didn’t ask me to post about Trump & Russia. But…” The whole story sounds fishy to us.

PLANE TRUTH: South Florida media are reporting that a mysterious futuristic aircraft was spotted by Google Earth’s cameras. The craft was parked at a private Pratt and Whitney airfield in Palm Beach County. The company refuses to discuss the matter, but some observers speculate that it is a prototype for a hypersonic airplane. Here at The Dead Drop, we have a different theory: Perhaps it is the first F-52 aircraft, the jet President Trump said the U.S. was delivering to Norway. The Washington Post reported that F-52s are fictional and exist only in the video game “Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare.” But maybe those clever marketers at Pratt and Whitney saw an emerging market and decided to quickly fill it.

PARDON ME? Both parties have been looking for potential candidates with law enforcement and military experience. And one result of Donald J. Trump winning the presidency is that a lot of people from untraditional backgrounds have started to think that they would good prospects for elective office. Recently, 85-year-old ex-Sheriff Joe Arpaio announced his plan to run for the U.S. Senate in Arizona and former Army Private Chelsea Manning declared for a U.S. Senate seat in Maryland. Arpaio had been convicted of criminal contempt but was pardoned by Trump, while Manning’s lengthy jail term for leaking classified information was commuted by President Barack Obama. In the very unlikely event that either of them win, would the Senate need special dispensation to grant them the security clearances that normally accompany election to the world’s greatest deliberative body?

“S” STORM: Unless you were in a Hawaiian bunker avoiding non-existent incoming missiles this week, you saw the stuff flying around about the president allegedly bemoaning the fact that too many immigrants to the U.S. are coming from “S- hole countries” (as opposed to nice places, like Norway, that buy our F-52s). Senator Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, swears POTUS uttered the “S- hole” comment. Some presidential defenders, who were not in the room, said they heard Trump say “s-house” not “s-hole” – although that may be a distinction without much of a difference. Republican Senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia, who WERE in the room, say they don’t remember hearing what Durbin heard, but they haven’t explained what they DID hear. Some pundits like former NBC anchor Tom Brokaw have suggested that Cotton, who may be in line to become the next CIA director, may need to brush up on his listening skills or take advantage of the hearing aid special at Costco.

POCKET LITTER: Bits and pieces of interesting /weird stuff we discovered:

  • Consider the source(s): If you were trying to convince people that the FBI’s investigation into alleged Trump-Russian collusion was badly flawed, where is the last place you would go to make your point? Yep, Russian-government controlled media. And that is precisely where former CIA analyst Ray McGovern went. Speaking to Radio Sputnik, McGovern said the FBI “short-circuited” democracy in the 2016 election, not Russia.

NETWORK NEWS: Not a day goes by when members of The Cipher Brief Network aren’t making news. Here are just a few examples from this week:

  • Possibly the Equivalent of Ames and Hanssen: Speaking about the arrest of ex-CIA case officer Jerry Chun Shing Lee, former Acting CIA Director Michael Morell told CBS News, “If the reporting here is true, with regard to the loss of Chinese assets, and if the reporting is accurate with regard to Mr. Lee’s role in that, and if that was intentional on his part, then this is the equivalent of Ames and Hanssen.”
  • Going Global: Speaking of Morell, this week he was named head of Beacon Global Strategies’ global risk practice. Quite a few Cipher Brief experts are connected with Beacon Global, including BGS Managing Director Michael Allen and advisers David Shedd, Admiral James Stavridis, Admiral Sandy Winnefeld and Michael Vickers.
  • Roots of Terrorism: Former senior CIA officer Emile Nakhleh was featured on the front page of the Albuquerque Journal this weekend on his career studying political Islam. Nakhleh is working to create a Global and National Security Institute at the University of New Mexico “that goes beyond classic terrorism to deal with its root causes.”

WHAT’S ON THEIR NIGHTSTAND?

Henry Kissinger’s World Order.  A quote: “China has regained the stature by which it was known in the centuries of its most far-reaching influence. The question now is how it will relate to the contemporary search for world order, particularly in its relations with the United States.”

— Amb. Joseph Detrani, former CIA director of East Asia Operations

SECURITY QUOTE OF THE WEEK:

“Certainly, sanctions have failed to stop Kim from firing off ballistic missiles at a torrid pace last year – or detonating what almost certainly was a thermonuclear device on Sept. 3.

“Yet sanctions are having an effect. The North’s economy grew 3.9 percent in 2016, according to the Bank of Korea, the South Korean central bank. The South’s National Intelligence Service projects sanctions could shrink Kim’s economy by as much as 5 percent this year.”

—  Gordon Chang, in his op-ed, Give Peace, and Sanctions, a Chance

IF YOU SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING: Got any tips for your friendly neighborhood Dead Drop? Shoot us a note at TheDeadDrop@theCipherBrief.com or TheCipherBrief@protonmail.com.