Dead Drop: October 6

REALLY FAKE NEWS: There was a remarkable story in The Weekly Standard late last week about a faux Congressional hearing recently held on Capitol Hill.  It seems former Senator Connie Mack is now a lobbyist (surprise!) and is working for some folks in Ukraine.    The Daily Beast reported that Mack got rookie member of Congress Ron Estes (R-KS) (who just won the seat vacated by CIA Director Mike Pompeo) to reserve a room for him in the Capitol basement. Mack then put on a mock hearing looking into banking irregularities at the National Bank of Ukraine. Wearing his old Member of Congress pin, Mack had two Ukrainian panelists talk about corruption at the NBU. The session was broadcast live to the Ukraine. Oddly, one other participant at the Mack event was former CIA Director R. James Woolsey, who reminisced about how nice the Russians were for a short while after the fall of the Berlin Wall.  The Weekly Standard says that Woolsey now suggests his remarks were off-the-record even though they were broadcast live on Ukraine’s NewsOne.  (And Rep. Estes’ office told the Daily Beast the room was reserved as a courtesy to Mack, but the room booking policy has been changed so it doesn’t happen again).

TROLLING THE SPOOKS: The CIA recently took to twitter to try to recruit Russian speakers posting the question (in Russian), “Do you know what you can do as a CIA linguist?” And answering, “unveil the truth.” The Russian Foreign Ministry responded (in both English and Russian) on Monday saying, “CIA thanks for support & promotion of Russian language. Why have U been hiding it? We are ready to assist with experts & recommendations.”

STALLING THE SENATORS: According to press accounts, the CIA has turned down requests from the Senate Judiciary Committee to share certain information about Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.  According to The Hill, the CIA has already shared the information with its Senate oversight committee, but the Judiciary Committee led by Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and ranking member Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) want their own set of information – and, so far, CIA Director Pompeo and turned down the request. The dispute is a fairly common one – with the intelligence community taking the position that the whole reason select committees were set up to oversee them was to provide a narrowly focused place where highly classified information can be shared with the Hill – and congressional committees, all of which want in on the action.

STANDING O FOR SHOCK AND AWE: Back in July 2016, The Dead Drop told you about a forthcoming move called Shock and Awe about real-life Knight Ridder journalists credited with writing stories skeptical about the Bush administration’s Iraq WMD claims. The film was premiered at the Zurich International Film Festival, and according to The Hollywood Reporter, earned director Rob Reiner a standing ovation. The film stars James Marsden and Woody Harrelson as Knight Ridder reporters Warren Strobel and Jonathan Landay. Reiner plays their editor, John Walcott, and Jessica Biel, Tommy Lee Jones and Mila Jovovich are also featured. Originally, Alec Baldwin was slated for the Walcott role – but apparently, he was tied up playing someone else on SNL.  So, Reiner stepped into the role.

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

  • “False Flag”: Former Congressman Ron Paul appeared on conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’s radio show recently and asserted that North Korea’s Kim Jong-un “is goofy” but poses no threat to the U.S. Who DOES pose a threat?  According to Paul, the CIA or another arm of the deep state. “Somebody’s going to use a false flag and somebody’s gonna shoot down the airplane just so this war gets started,” Paul said.
  • They only read it for the articles: Muckrock continued its mining of the CIA’s CREST database of recently accessible de-classified documents – to tell us of copies of Playboy Magazine articles found in CIA files.  Inspired by the death of Hugh Hefner, Muckrock sifted through Agency files and found copies of interviews and articles about Jack Anderson, former New Orleans DA Jim Garrison, former CIA Director William Colby, and Fidel Castro.
  • Spy U? There is a book coming out next week called, Spy Schools: How the CIA, FBI, and Foreign Intelligence Secretly Exploit America’s Universities. The author, journalist Daniel Golden, seems to find it troubling that the U.S. intelligence community has relationships with major American universities – and sees it akin to the Chinese intelligence agency exchanging faculty with a liberal arts college in Ohio.

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:

  • Bad Marks: Former senior CIA officer Steven Hall wrote an opinion piece for the Washington Post saying that “Russian intelligence would have seen Paul Manafort as the perfect mark.”
  • Missing 400 Pound Man: Former DNI James Clapper was quoted in The Hill that when the intelligence community briefed President-elect Trump about Russia’s role in hacking the DNC, the president “…didn’t say anything about the 400-pound guy in New Jersey because the evidence was so overwhelming.”
  • They ain’t that good: Former CIA and NSA Director General Michael Hayden and former Acting CIA Director Michael Morell – in separate interviews with Bloomberg News on Wednesday—said that Russia probably didn’t have the expertise on their own to precision target electoral districts in the 2016 presidential election.
  • Wake Up Call: Retired Navy Admiral Jim Stavridis, former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, took to the pages of “Thrive Global,” Arianna Huffington’s new outfit, to write about how the surface Navy is waking up to the need for scheduled periods of crew rest.
  • Combat Consultant: Retired General Stanley McChrystal did a wide-ranging Q&A for Forbes in which he compares ISIS’s business model to Uber.

WHAT’S ON THEIR NIGHTSTAND? (Our contributors tell us about what they’re currently reading)

Doug Wise, former Deputy Director of DIA:

“I am reading, America’s War for the Greater Middle East by Andrew J. Bacevich. Great read for a critical view on American foreign and military policies in the Mid East.  As the flyleaf accurately says, ‘…. offers an incisive critical history of this ongoing military enterprise — now more than thirty years old with no end in sight.’  I am now finding an alternative context for my two tours in Iraq.”


“American involvement in the internal affairs of other countries always suffers from overconfidence and even arrogance. Convinced of our good intentions and the universal legitimacy and appeal of our values, we believe that others think like us. They never do.”

-James Jeffrey, former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq and Turkey

IF YOU SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING:  Got any tips for your friendly neighborhood Dead Drop?  Shoot us a note at [email protected].