TAKE THE OIL!

Donald Trump has wondered why the United States didn’t take Iraq’s oil to pay for our invasion. He has insisted that the United States must TAKE THE OIL!

The United States didn’t take the oil because pillaging, theft during war, is a war crime (more here). If a practical reason is needed, oil production and pipelines are extremely vulnerable to sabotage and military action. A continuing military presence would be needed to protect the seized oilfields. Trump seems to believe that the oil can be rapidly pumped from the ground and removed. It can’t.

Trump came into office promising to get American troops out of the Middle East. Many people support that goal. We have been in Afghanistan for eighteen years now. It’s not clear that our presence in the region has improved American security, and now our Saudi partners are dragging us into a war in Yemen. Read More

Why Ukraine?

As the corruption of the Trump administration is exposed, I keep two questions in mind: Why Ukraine? and Why energy? The simple answer is that they are where the money is. The more extended answers will be more interesting.

Natural gas seems to be the current focus in energy, but Michael Flynn had a bizarre plan to partner with the Russians to sell nuclear reactors in the Middle East and continues today in Rick Perry’s dealings with Saudi Arabia.

Information on Ukraine seems to be coming together now, although we almost certainly don’t have the final word. And energy plays a part. Read More

The Impeachment Shapes Up

Every day brings new evidence of Donald Trump’s crimes, or his commiting a new one in front of the television cameras. The scene changes rapidly, but the House Democrats are starting to focus on how to impeach Trump.

Although it is not official, the strategy that has been mentioned is to concentrate on Trump’s abuses of power in his attempts to force the President of Ukraine to comply with his desires to absolve Russia of interference in the 2016 election and to manufacture a scandal against the Bidens that would serve the same purpose as Hillary’s emails. The investigation and current depositions are consistent with this strategy. Read More

What Would It Take For Turkey To Build A Nuclear Bomb?

That was how David Sanger teased his and William Broad’s article on Twitter.

Unfortunately that is not how the article is written. If you want to read it, write it, they say, so here goes.

In September, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said “Some countries have missiles with nuclear warheads,” but the West insists “we can’t have them. This, I cannot accept.” Read More

On the Trail of a Fourth Soviet Spy at Los Alamos

Three Soviet spies in the Manhattan Project are well known – Klaus Fuchs, David Greenglass, and Ted Hall. Fuchs and Greenglass were known publicly in the 1950s, but Hall’s story came out only in the 1990s.

Now more documents have been declassified, and Harvey Klehr and John Earl Haynes, who have done much to illuminate Soviet spying during that time, have found a fourth Soviet spy. They have found his path from the United States to East Germany and then Russia in 1952, escaping from possible arrest. Their article in the CIA’s “Studies in Intelligence” lays out what is known about him.

The spy’s name is Oscar Seborer. His story intersects with the FBI’s Project SOLO, in which they turned two members of the Communist Party in the USA. Their communications with Moscow seem to indicate that Seborer furnished information on the atomic bomb project, where he was a technician.

Seborer seems to have operated separately from the other spies, and his reporting seems to have been more to the GRU (Soviet military intelligence) than the civilian KGB. The two intelligence agencies have historically competed.

Klehr and Haynes have uncovered a fair bit of information about Seborer’s family, but not much about what he did at Los Alamos or what information he gave to Moscow. Maybe someone reading this knows something about the Seborer family or, as they called themselves in Russia, the Smiths.

 

Cross-posted at Balloon Juice.

Nyonoksa/Burevestnik Update

The two barges involved in the August radiation accident in the White Sea are being towed to a radioactive waste storage site on the Kola Peninsula. It is not known whether they hold the reactor responsible for the explosion and short burst of radiation measured in Severodvinsk.

The United States government has concluded that the incident was pretty much as has been speculated, a nuclear accident of some sort as a nuclear-powered missile was being recovered. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Thomas G. DiNanno told a United Nations committee on October 10 that this was the US conclusion, but it was only two sentences.

The United States has determined that the explosion near Nenoksa, Russia, was the result of a nuclear reaction that occurred during the recovery of a Russian nuclear-powered cruise missile. The missile remained on the bed of the White Sea since its failed test early last year, in close proximity to a major population center.

Nothing to indicate what kind of nuclear reaction or how the United States knows this. The news is that they believe the failed test was in early 2018. The nuclear reaction was most likely a criticality incident, but we still don’t know enough about the reactor to speculate much about that. It’s possible that the government has overhead photos of the test or the recovery, perhaps alerted by someone in Russia who knew the schedules.

Background on the story.

Photo: Submarine reactors stored in canisters at the Saida Bay facility, where the barges are being taken. (Thomas Nilsen)

 

Cross-posted at Balloon Juice

Release The Counterintelligence Report!

Before the Mueller investigation, there was a counterintelligence investigation into Russian influence on the 2016 elections. That investigation (or those investigations) were supposedly wrapped into the Mueller investigation. Or perhaps they continue today. We need to hear more about them.

The purpose of counterintelligence is to thwart the activity of other countries’ intelligence networks. The FBI gives a more expansive definition. For reasons I don’t fully understand, counterintelligence tends to be even more secretive than ordinary intelligence. It has also developed a mystique that may be keeping reporters from digging into questions that the American public needs to know the answers to. Read More

Adam Schiff Writes A Letter

The Friday night news dump was unusually late this week.

Adam Schiff, Chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, wrote a letter to Joseph Maguire, Acting Director of National Intelligence. Read it – it’s short and to the point.

A whistleblower in the Intelligence Community disclosed a concern to the DNI intended for the congressional intelligence committees on August 12. The Intelligence Community Inspector General then determined that the concern was both urgent and credible. At that point, Maguire had seven days to turn the material over to the House and Senate Intelligence committees. The deadline was September 2. He didn’t. Read More

Not The President’s Right

Referring to President Trump’s “rights,” as in “He has a right to declassify information,” repeats his childish and ignorant thinking and expression.

The presidency is a privilege conferred on a person by the citizens. It carries no additional rights beyond the rights of all citizens.

The President swears an oath of office.

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

By doing that, he takes on obligations to the people and Constitution of the United States. No additional rights.

All of a President’s actions should be guided by those obligations.

In the latest case in which the “rights” terminology has shown up, there are certain regulations that apply. The classification regulations give the President certain authorities, not rights. Under the oath of office, these authorities are to be exercised responsibly. And the authorities are exercised under the rule of law more generally.

In particular, the President is the ultimate classification authority. The regulations specify procedures through which that authority is to be exercised. Documents are to be signed, and classification markings are to be properly canceled.

It’s hard to believe that Trump followed any of those procedures in releasing yesterday’s photo. He is very possibly violating his oath of office in releasing national security information impulsively through a tweet. He has no “right” to do that.

 

Cross-posted at Balloon Juice

Two Ways To Die From Radiation

I’ve been asked to do a post on what would make the body of a victim of a radiological accident radioactive.

[Trigger warning: This is an unpleasant subject. Descriptions of seriously damaged bodies follow. I am posting this as a public service for those trying to figure out what happened at Nyonoksa and those writing about it. The link for Louis Slotin is particularly unpleasant.] Read More