Nunes and Schiff unintentionally let the Trump cat out of the bag
By The Wayne Madsen Report
Although journalists and those who believe in open government hate it, there is a reason why senior intelligence officials often reply "no comment" to questions surrounding intelligence matters. In the world of intelligence gathering, even the most innocuous comment can reveal information not intended for the ears of the general public. In the world of operational security, these minor tidbits of information are known as "essential elements of friendly information" or simply, EEFI.
In the partisan bickering that broke out on March 22 between House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) and the ranking member on the intelligence oversight committee, Adam Schiff (D-CA), both, likely unintentionally, revealed EEFI concerning the U.S. intelligence community's "incidental surveillance" of Donald Trump and his transition team between Election Day, November 8, and the inauguration on January 20.
During a March 22 briefing for reporters outside the White House after a controversial briefing for Trump and his advisers, Nunes revealed that "dozens" of intelligence reports he was given about the Trump "incidental surveillance" made "no mention of Russia." Nunes said the information was brought to him by "sources who thought we should know it." Nunes said the interceptions of the Trump team were "legally collected" pursuant to a warrant issued by a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judge and involved "foreign" surveillance not involving Russia.
Nunes elaborated further in stating that “normal, formal surveillance” provided to him yielded "significant information" about both Trump and his "team." But Nunes provided a caveat to that particular revelation, stating that details about Trump and his team had "little or no apparent foreign intelligence value" and "were widely disseminated in intelligence community reporting" because their identities had been "unmasked" within the U.S. intelligence community during the transition phase. However, if the "formal" surveillance of Team Trump did not involve foreign intelligence, that means it must have involved a law enforcement matter and was authorized by a Title III "wiretap" order authorized by a normal federal court outside of the FISA aegis and carried out by the FBI and Justice Department's Electronic Surveillance Unit.
Nunes's EEFI offering provides the following points of interest:
- The incidental surveillance made no mention of Russia.
- The formal surveillance was of little or no intelligence value.
- The formal surveillance, while of no value to intelligence agencies, may have been of great interest to law enforcement, especially the FBI. Hence, FBI director James Comey's reticence to provide details concerning its investigation of the Trump transition team during his recent testimony before the House Intelligence Committee.
- If some of the surveillance information made no mention of Russia, perhaps it did mention other countries.
The definition of "team" is important since if it extended beyond the transition team to the campaign team, it would include Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort, national security adviser Michael Flynn, and foreign policy adviser Carter Page. It is now known that Manafort was contracted to the pro-Russian political party in Ukraine that was ousted in the 2014 U.S.-inspired coup while Page also had business dealings with the Russian government-owned energy firm Gazprom and Flynn's consulting company had Russian business connections.
Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) said that Nunes's statement appeared to reveal "classified information." It, at the very least, revealed EEFI from which more sensitive intelligence can be derived.
Trump's problems may not be found with Russia but, ironically, south of the U.S. border, a border which the president is trying to seal with a great and "beautiful" wall.
The "incidental surveillance" of Trump and his associates, which was cited by Nunes and made no mention of Russia, may very well been a result of National Security Agency and its FIVE EYES partners' surveillance of a major fraud case involving billionaire former Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli, who escaped an arrest warrant in Panama and is now living in Miami. Last September, at the height of the U.S. presidential campaign, Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela requested the Obama administration's State and Justice Departments to extradite Martinelli.
Martinelli is wanted by Panama for embezzlement of funds, wiretapping his political and business enemies, insider stock trading, money laundering, and other crimes. So far, the Trump administration has taken no action on the Panamanian extradition request. Perhaps that is because in Panama, Trump is known as the "American Martinelli." Moreover, Martinelli is a close friend and business associate of Trump. Martinelli, exiled in Miami as a fugitive from justice and wanted by Panama, was invited to attend Trump's inauguration in Washington. Before he deleted it, Martinelli posted a photograph of his Inaugural invitation on Twitter. As president, Martinelli was on hand for the 2011 opening of Trump's first tower in Panama City, the Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower. During the ceremony, Trump referred to Martinelli as his "friend."
The ties between Trump and Martinelli run even deeper. The bank in which Martinelli owns a significant stake, Global Bank Corporation, was a co-trustee of Trump's Ocean Club. When the Trump property developer, Newland International Properties Corporation, defaulted on its Global Bank loan in 2013, the Martinelli bank was forced to bail out Newland. The real estate scams surrounding the Trump Panama Hotel Management LLC, Trump Panama Condominium Management LLC -- both incorporated in Delaware -- Newland Properties, Trump Ocean Club Unit 2710 Inc., K Group -- which pays Trump Marks Panama $5 million per year for using the Trump brand name -- the Trump Organization, the Trump Ocean Club, and Global Bank are merely the tip of the iceberg surrounding the overall criminal accusations surrounding Trump's friend Martinelli.
Left: Trump [center] at ribbon cutting ceremony for Trump Ocean Club tower in Panama City in 2011. Now a wanted fugitive, President Ricardo Martinelli [right], as well as Donald Trump Jr. [left], join Trump. Right: Trump at White House meeting with Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski on February 24, 2017. Martinelli and Kuczynski are subjects of major international criminal investigations. Were Trump and his associates caught up in FISA and Title III surveillance of the Odebrecht scandal and are they also involved?
Hundreds of thousands of documents were leaked from the Panama City law firm Mossack Fonseca, which incorporated thousands of offshore shell companies for the Central Intelligence Agency, narcotics syndicates, Arab oil sheikhs, and businessmen like Martinelli, Trump, and Trump's Argentine friend, President Mauricio Macri. It is known that Latin America's largest ever bribery scandal that involves the huge Brazilian building contractor Odebrecht SA, now laps at the shores of the Trump Organization via Martinelli.
In December 2016, during the presidential transition phase, the U.S. Justice Department announced a settlement with Odebrecht in which the firm and its affiliate Braskem agreed to pay a fine of $3.6 billion for violation of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Most of the fine collected by Justice was to be turned over to Brazil, which began the investigation of Odebrecht with its "Lava Jato" (Car Wash) probe.
As part of its deal with DOJ, what information did Odebrecht's executives share with Justice Department prosecutors concerning its operations in Panama, especially those involving the Trump Tower and Martinelli? Any involvement of Trump with the Odebrecht and Mossack Fonseca criminal scandals would have prompted any U.S. judge on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court or on the bench of a regular U.S. court district to authorize electronic surveillance of the Trump Organization. When Nunes stated the "incidental surveillance" of Trump and his associates did not involve Russia, was he actually implying it involved another country, perhaps Panama?
The political fallout from Odebrecht is beginning to stick to Trump. Odebrecht paid hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes to politicians in Brazil, Venezuela, Argentina, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Mexico, Chile, Guatemala,the Dominican Republic, Antigua and Barbuda, Angola, Mozambique, and other countries and some of these politicians are linked to Trump business enterprises.
Argentina's Macri has been linked to the Odebrecht bribery scandal mainly through the connections to the firm of his cousin Angelo Calcaterra, Macri's Energy Minister Juan José Aranguren, and other officials of his government. With the help of business associates of Macri, a Trump Tower was built in Uruguay in 2012. Trump has been pressuring Macri and his friends to build the first Trump Tower in Buenos Aires and a Buenos Aires building permit for the deal was apparently the subject of a phone conversation between Trump and Macri after Trump's election in November.
However, not all has been well between the Trump and Macri families over the years. Franco Macri, the father of the Argentine president, believed the mastermind behind the kidnapping for ransom of Mauricio Macri in 1991 was none other than Donald Trump, who the elder Macri described as the "true intellectual author" of the crime. Perhaps that is why the right-wing Mauricio Macri openly endorsed Hillary Clinton for president in 2016.
In Peru, an arrest warrant has been issued for former President Alejandro Toledo who stands accused of receiving a $10 million bribe from Odebrecht for a highway contract. Toledo was on his way to Israel but is now in the United States. The current President of Peru, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, was Toledo's finance minister. The Trump administration has not responded to Peruvian requests for Toledo's extradition from the U.S. and Kuczynski has been mired in allegations concerning his own connections with Odebrecht. Perhaps that was the reason why Kuczynski followed up a phone call with Trump with a personal visit to the White House in February. All Trump and Kuczynski spoke about during their joint remarks was Kuczynski receiving an award from Princeton University, Kuczynski's two daughters attending Princeton and Columbia, and Peru's decision to buy some U.S. military vehicles. If Kuczynski and Trump are subject to FISA and Title III wiretaps concerning Odebrecht, they may have found more than family to chat about. Kuczynski previously asked Trump to extradite his former boss Toledo to Peru. But with Kucynski now a target of the Odebrecht probe, he may have asked Trump to keep Toledo under wraps in the U.S. and not singing to a Peruvian court.
The U.S. Attorney's Office most likely to have been assigned the investigation of the Martinelli extradition request is the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida in Miami. This office has historically been occupied by right-wing prosecutors linked to Latin American right-wing leaders, many of which, like Martinelli, maintain residences in the Miami area. If Trump is looking at protecting those who could spill the beans on his and his Trump Organization's own ties to Odebrecht, what better way than to nominate a former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida to his cabinet. Trump nominated such a former U.S. Attorney, Alexander Acosta, to be his Secretary of Labor. Acosta was involved in negotiating as U.S. Attorney the sweetheart plea deal with convicted child molester and Trump billionaire friend Jeffrey Epstein. The deal immunized from future prosecution Epstein's VIP friends who were involved in his underage sex operations.
As a former U.S. Attorney in Miami and former dean of Florida International University law school, Acosta has enough clout to help ward off any federal investigations emanating from the Miami U.S. Attorney's Office, which would include advocating for the extraditions of Martinelli and Toledo back to their home countries where they might start naming names, including that of Trump and his associates. Odebrecht, the company that built Miami International Airport, may also have dirt on southern Florida politicians, including members of the Republican Cuban-American political "mafia," which also includes Acosta. Odebrecht maintained a Division of Structured Operations, which was dubbed the "Department of Bribery" by U.S. Justice Department investigators. Were Trump and members of his business empire caught up in a legitimate DOJ investigation of Odebrecht, with ancillary intelligence being provided by the NSA and its Canadian counterpart, Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC), which conducts full-time surveillance of Latin American communications? If the answer is yes, and it appears to be so, that would explain Nunes and Schiff talking around the issue, which involves the collection of raw signals intelligence data on a massive number of foreign businesses and "U.S. persons."