Spy v Spy
Earlier this week The Wall Street Journal broke the story that the White House accepted from the NSA information about communications between Israeli leaders and members of Congress, so that the Obama administration could gain an advantage over those lobbying against the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran.
The news was, unsurprisingly, initially met with anger. Elliott Abrams wrote, “that’s the kind of conduct we see in third-world countries where control of the spy agency is one of the ways an incumbent regime holds on to power and defeats its political opponents.”
Enter Lee Smith, with a different take.
This story [i.e., the WSJ story] makes no sense. . . . In fact, according to multiple sources reached recently, no one in the American intelligence community was spying on US citizens or our elected representatives, and forwarding their names to the White House; the White House just wanted them to believe this was happening. Why? The Journal story only coheres if these purported intercepts are understood as part of the White House’s aggressive campaign to spook possible opponents of the Iran deal.
He conceded, however, that “what’s not clear is why this story came out now, nearly half a year after the deal was signed in July.” For that reason, I initially wrote off the rest of his article as a bizarre conspiracy theory.
But retired Naval Intelligence officer J.E. Dyer manages to make sense of Smith’s theory:
Smith asserts the following clearly: sources in the intelligence community and Congress say the eavesdropping agency didn’t, in fact, “share” with the White House the identities of Americans who were talking about a political issue to Israeli officials. . . . But Smith thinks the White House wants political opponents of the Iran “deal” to believe this was happening. . . . Hence, in Smith’s analysis, the story was planted with the WSJ reporters. . . .
But Smith concludes that Obama wants to “spook possible opponents of the Iran deal.”
That’s where I think his (Smith’s) narrative doesn’t quite add up. He acknowledges that, when he posts this caveat: “What’s not clear is why this story came out now, nearly half a year after the deal was signed in July.” . . .
Ultimately, I don’t think a planted narrative like this one is about scaring members of Congress over an issue that was basically settled months ago. It seems that this move must be about something the administration expects to happen in the future.
Right. Like the next big battle over Iran, which we got wind of today. From the Wall Street Journal, again:
The White House has delayed its plan to impose new financial sanctions on Iran for its ballistic missile program, according to U.S. officials, amid growing tensions with Iran over the nuclear deal struck earlier this year. . . .
U.S. officials offered no definitive timeline for when the sanctions would be imposed after the decision was made Wednesday to delay them. . . .
Republican leaders on Thursday accused the Obama administration of losing its will to challenge Iran after Tehran countered on Thursday that it would accelerate the development of its arsenal.
Adding to weight to Smith’s theory is the fact that fabricating such a story carries very little risk, because, as Fred Fleitz wrote in the National Review, it’s highly unlikely that anyone at the White House would be held accountable here. I agree with Fleitz though, on the necessity of Congressional hearings to try to find whether or not the Journal story is true. Politico reported that the House Intelligence Committee has already begun seeking more information.
Whether Obama spied on communications between Israeli leaders and members of Congress and the American public, or whether he only wanted them to think that was the case, it’s appalling either way. In the spy v spy world, we may never really know what is true and what is not.