The JCPOA Is Dead

Presiden Biden said it, but it’s seemed to me for some time now that the JCPOA – the Iran nuclear deal – is dead, thanks to Donald Trump.

The time limits in the JCPOA are approaching. Iran is repressing its people in brutal ways. Iran has been increasing its nuclear activities toward the possibility of building a bomb. There are too many bars to reviving the agreement.

I should say up front that there is no evidence that Iran has nuclear weapons. Misinformation has led people to believe that.

When the draft agreement was announced in the spring of 2015, it was far more than any of us had expected. Close to airtight on keeping Iran from having a bomb. The actual agreement was even better. And Iran seemed happy with it too.

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Nuclear Information at Mar-a-Lago

Ah, here’s some of the “nuclear information” found at Mar-a-Lago that some of us have been speculating about.

A document describing a foreign government’s military defenses, including its nuclear capabilities, was found by FBI agents who searched former president Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residenceand private club last month, according to people familiar with the matter

[The reporter’s sources] did not identify the foreign government in question, say where at Mar-a-Lago the document was found or offer additional details 

Because the subpoena did not specify documents under the RD system of classification (with one exception below), speculation has been that the “nuclear information” had to do with another government’s nuclear capabilities. There are two possibilities as to the government: friendly or not. Or we might include some governments, like Israel, as balanced somewhere in between.

In any of these cases, it’s possible that human sources were involved, and revealing them would pose the greatest danger.

Most nuclear countries’ capabilities are reasonably well known, so that is not a gigantic liability. Still if the country in question is friendly, it may not want full details shared indiscriminately or may not even want the United States to know everything. Presumably, as part of the damage repair, the friendly country has been notified.

The possibilities are Britain, France, Russia, China, Israel, India, Pakistan, and North Korea, if the defenses are active. If they are hypothesized, Iran might be on the list.

And there might be more.

The subpoena, issued to Trump’s custodian of records, then listed more than two dozen sub-classifications of documents, including “S/FRD,” an acronym for “Formerly Restricted Data,” which is reserved for information that relates primarily to the military use of nuclear weapons. Despite the “formerly” in the title, the term does not mean the information is no longer classified.

S/FRD would most likely apply to US nuclear weapons. I still think Trump took the “biscuit,” the card with the nuclear codes, because it is such a cool souvenir.

Alex Wellerstein explains S/FRD in this thread.

Cross-posted to Lawyers, Guns & Money

Trump Had Classified Nuclear Documents

We know next to nothing from the Washington Post report.

Classified documents relating to nuclear weapons were among the items FBI agents sought in a search of former president Donald Trump’s Florida residence on Monday, according to people familiar with the investigation.

The people who described some of the material that agents were seeking spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation. They did not offer additional details about what type of information the agents were seeking, including whether it involved weapons belonging to the United States or some other nation. Nor did they say if such documents were recovered as part of the search. A Trump spokesman did not respond to a request for comment. The Justice Department and FBI declined to comment.

We do not know what kind of classified, what level of classified, or what those documents say about nuclear weapons – whether it is design information, where they are located, or even if they are about US nuclear weapons.

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A Small Disinformation Bomb

The takeaway from this post is that Cassidy Hutchinson testified that she heard, with her own ears, Donald Trump ask that the screening for weapons be taken away for his speech on January 6 because he knew that people were armed. He believed that those arms were not meant for him, and he wanted to lead the crowd to the Capitol and make a speech in the House chamber.

Shiny objects, people! Shiny objects!

The idea that Trump assaulted his top Secret Service agent and tried to take control of the car is sensational. It is one small part of his larger betrayal of his office, but it’s getting a lot of attention.

It’s the only part of Hutchinson’s testimony that is not something she directly experienced. She was clear in her testimony that it was told to her by Anthony Onrato, head of Trump’s Secret Service detail and special advisor to Trump. That combination of positions is unusual, and I think we can conclude from it that Onrato is closely attached to Trump. Bobby Engel is another Trump-friendly Secret Service agent.

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You Can’t Follow The Action Without A Score Card

Tomorrow (Thursday, June 9) at 8 pm Eastern Time, the January 6 Committee of the House of Representatives will hold its first prime-time hearing. They promise to put a complex story into context and to present new material.

I’ll admit that I have a hard time following it all. The broad outline seems clear: President Donald Trump and some of his supporters wanted to undo Joe Biden’s clear electoral victory by a combination of social unrest and hinky legal justifications. There is a cast, literally, of thousands.

The story has been coming out in unconnected pieces. One day we hear about a bizarre protester’s sentencing and behavior in court. The next, there is a dump of emails from one of the higher-up perpetrators or perhaps from a behind-the-scenes operative who I’ve never heard of. It’s the kind of thing that leads a person to stick different-colored notes on a board and connect them with yarn.

I haven’t had time to do that, so I hope that the committee has a good storyline prepared. JustSecurity has a scorecard. The Committee’s investigative teams are color-coded: Gold (pressure on local officials), Blue (law enforcement and intelligence agency failures), Purple (domestic extremist groups, QAnon, and online misinformation), Red (rally planners and Stop the Steal), and Green (following the money).

I hope that the committee does not present its findings in that format. The scorecard presents one page in each category with “What We Know” and “What To Look For” points. It’s worth a scan to help get your thoughts in order and perhaps as a checklist with which to follow the hearing. The committee has said little about what to expect, so this is as good as we’ve got now.

Dan Froomkin is not optimistic about how the media will cover the committee.

And, just to drop another unconnected piece on you, Rolling Stone has one on intelligence failures. We haven’t heard much about them, and they are central to the unprepared state of the police units that should have done better.

Cross-posted to Lawyers, Guns & Money

An Invitation To Ivanka

The January 6 Committee sent a letter to Ivanka Trump asking her to testify. It’s eight pages, with snippets from documents and testimony they have. But there’s more than that to it.

There are any number of juicy quotes, although most of them have shown up in one way or another in the Committee’s other communications.

The January 6 Committee has a number of jobs to do: Protect the operation of Congress and the government more generally; understand what happened that culminated in January 6; and make the public aware of that history and its dangers.

The committee has tens of thousands of pages of documents and hundreds of hours of testimony. They are now putting that evidence together to pinpoint the further evidence they need. The Department of Justice and the news media are also investigating the events leading up to January 6. Each has a different mission and approach, although there are overlaps. I’m discussing only the January 6 committee here.

The letter details the subjects on which the committee wants to hear from Ivanka. To that end, they quote other testimony, which itself reveals some of the information in the committee’s possession, but the letter has broader meanings, which Ivanka or her legal counsel should be able to read.

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Washington Post’s January 6 Article

I have read the monster Washington Post offering on the January 6 insurrection. I am grateful to the Washington Post for a chronological story of events. It’s something newspapers hardly ever do.

If you read most newspaper stories quickly, you get the feeling they have explained events in some chronological-like order. If you, like me, try to make a timeline out of the story, you will find that it consists of a punchy introduction to get your attention, which may or may not be situated in time relative to the rest of the article, which proceeds in fits, starts, and flashbacks. I think they call it “narrative.”

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More On Michael Flynn’s Nuclear Adventure

A Dutch newspaper has tracked down participation of a Dutch transport company, Mammoet, in a complex scheme involving Michael Flynn and nuclear reactors.

Of all the outrageous stories to come out of the Trump administration, this one is likely to take the prize. When we get past its being the most complex and figure out what was happening.

The story at the link is consistent with what I know, and Chrome translates it pretty well. I’ve been following the story for some time and still don’t know what to make of it – is it a scam, an attempt to privatize the State Department’s Middle East functions, or something else?

A quick overview: Michael Flynn became involved with some folks who thought it would be a good idea to sell 40 Russian nuclear reactors, with a protection corps, to the Middle East. The Middle Eastern countries would pay for it all, they would become developed and industrial, and peace would result. Flynn and Tom Barrack worked hard to sell the program to the government in the early days of the Trump administration. Some remnants of the organization Flynn was involved with continue and hope to sell a downsized (and deRussianized) program, although they no longer have voices in high places.

I have many questions. Why did anyone think this was a good idea? How were a couple dozen general and flag officers who knew nothing about nuclear reactors pulled into this organization? Is it a scam? If so, who is scamming whom? There’s more to the story, too, than what is in the article. I’ve been saving it up until there’s a good news hook to hang it on or until I can make sense of it. It may be a while.

Photo from Rosatom: A Russian VVER reactor installation.

Cross-posted to Lawyers, Guns & Money

Chain Of Command

Nancy Pelosi says that she “spoke to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley to discuss available precautions for preventing an unstable president from initiating military hostilities or accessing the launch codes and ordering a nuclear strike.

I can tell her the available precautions, and I hope Milley did too: NONE

The President has sole authority to launch nuclear weapons. He is not required to consult anyone else, nor is there provision to force him to.

This situation came about because back in the Cold War, it seemed plausible that the President might not know about a nuclear attack until the missiles were on the way. That gave him a half-hour or less to decide. It was also assumed that we would elect only presidents capable of doing the job.

Nuclear strategists have pressed Congress to change the situation, but so far Representative Ted Lieu’s and Senator Ed Markey’s bill has gone nowhere. Maybe the next Congress will see fit to consider it.

No, there wasn’t a workaround when Nixon was wandering the corridors of the White House, drunk, talking to the portraits. We were lucky.

Nancy Pelosi can’t do a workaround with Mark Milley. That would be tantamount to a military coup, and I think that Milley is not interested in a military coup right now.

If this is a concern, Speaker Pelosi, and I think it is, then bring articles of impeachment to the floor of the House. NOW.

Cross-posted to Balloon Juice