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Pentagon’s Internal Think Tank at the Center of US Political Struggle

2019-04-23 Knowfar Institute for Strategic and Defense Studies 访问次数:

A News Summary Combining Information from The Daily Caller, the Washington Post and the Washington Times

According to an article posted on The Washington Times on August 15, 2018, Adam Lovinger, a 12-year strategist in the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment (ONA), was stripped of security clearance and relegated by his boss, James Baker, the director of ONA. Mr. Lovinger had once complained about contracts with a total value of $11 million awarded in ten years to the Long Term Strategy Group (LTSG), which leaded by Jacqueline Newmyer Deal, the “best friend” of Chelsea Clinton. Apart from that, Mr. Lovinger had also lodged a number of other complaints via email.

Mr. Lovinger’s Complaints About ONA

In October 2016, Mr. Lovinger mentioned in an internal email about the “the moral hazard associated with the Washington Headquarters Services contracting with Stefan Halper”. He hinted that hiring Mr. Halper to conduct foreign relations was inappropriate as this job should be confined to government officials. And according to the information revealed by US government and media since May 2018, Stefan Halper was just the protagonist of the “Spygate”, as President Trump called it.

Sending emails to Mr. Baker and other officials of ONA, Mr. Lovinger had complained the entire outside contracting process as well. In a letter sent directly to Mr. Baker in September 2016, he summarized the problems as follow.

First, “Some of our contractors distribute to others their ONA work for personal and professional self-promotion.” And the “ONA’s most high-profile contractors are known for getting paid a lot to do rather peripheral work.” “On the issue of pay, our contractors boast about how much they get paid from ONA. Such boasting, of course, generates jealously among those outside the club, and particularly from those who have tried to secure ONA contracts unsuccessfully.”

Second, “On the issue of quality, more than once I have heard our contractor studies labeled ‘derivative,’ ‘college-level’ and based heavily on secondary sources. One of our contractor studies was literally cut and pasted from a World Bank report that I just happened to have read the week before reading the contractor study itself. Even the font was the same.”

New Complaints About James Baker

In the Statement of Reason (SOR) response drafted by his lawyer Sean Bigley, Lovinger claimed that James Baker targeted him through several tactics, one of which was recommending two military officers for prestigious military medals as motivation to investigate Lovinger in a classified leak probe. ONA Chief of Staff Cmdr. Anthony Russell (USCG), one of the investigators Baker assigned to the probe, was the architect of two national security inquiries targeting Lovinger, and he received a “Recommendation for Award of the Defense Superior Service Medal”.

Mr. Lovinger once warned his superiors that appointing Jaqueline Newmyer Deal of LTSG to be US representative in US-Japanese bilateral activities would cause legal concerns. An article posted on Washington Free Beacon on November 23, 2016 revealed the sensitive information provided by Japanese government which had been included in an LTSG report prepared for ONA.

During this period, Russell had served as the action officer and primary American representative for the US-Japanese Bilateral Task Force, but bore no responsibility for mishandling the Japanese intelligence. Moreover, when nominating Russell for “Defense Superior Service Award” on May 31, 2017, Baker even praised him for having a “positive impact” on US-Japanese alliance. Baker also applauded Russell in a recommendation, writing that “his exquisite analysis of facts and balancing of considerations resulted in ideal courses of actions that upheld the highest standards of integrity and ethics.”

James Vietti, the Washington Headquarters Services General Counsel, also considered the investigation retaliatory. On January 17, 2017, Vietti wrote to Russell saying that the probe looked like an interference with Lovinger’s advancement to the National Security Council. He argued that it should be an inquiry into specific allegations of misconduct, rather than a “go forth and find a justification to fire him’ sort of investigation. He also suggested Russell not to “get ahead of NSC’s possible concerns” of Lovinger, but instead “pare back” an e-mail urging NSC not to accept a candidate under administrative inquiry.

Russell was not the only military officer who was instructed to investigate Lovinger and to be nominated by Baker for a military medal. Baker also designated Marine Lt. Col. Brian Bruggeman to investigate Lovinger back on January 12, 2017, and gave him a deadline for report on February 10. Five days before the report was due, Baker recommended Bruggeman for the “Defense Superior Service Award.”

The e-mails exchanged on February 27 and 28 between Bruggeman and Lovinger revealed that they were setting up a meeting with one another. Bruggeman told Lovinger that the meeting was his “last opportunity to cooperate.” The meeting occurred on March 6, 2017. Lovinger’s attorney Thomas Spencer sent a letter to Bruggeman the next day memorializing that he had promised to have a written recollection of his questions and answers, since Bruggeman previously forbade any audio recording of the meeting.

Although Lovinger attended the meeting and responded to his questions on March 6, he was nevertheless accused of “refusing to cooperate” with Bruggeman for failing to appear at previous interviews on February 21 and 23. According to Lovinger’s SOR response, the delay occurred because Bruggeman “was ignorant of basic due process norms. While the DoD Inspector General requires DoD investigators to ‘possess professional proficiency for the tasks required,’ Bruggeman expressed shock, panic, embarrassment, and then anger when he learned that Lovinger had the right to legal counsel. This caused delay.”

Department of Defense spokeswoman Heather Babb disputes Lovinger’s claim that Baker nominated Russell and Bruggeman for their awards for investigating Lovinger. In an e-mail statement to The Daily Caller, she wrote, “Medals for all military officers who serve in the Department of Defense are awarded according to strict rules and transparent policies, often as they move to their next duty station or into retirement. Officers in The Office of Net Assessment are no different from any others. Recognition was for performance throughout the course of their duties while working in ONA.”

The Washington Times reported that Mr. Lovinger had filed an ethics complaint in July against his superiors for abusing the security process to retaliate him. At present, Mr. Lovinger has four cases pending, including whistleblower reprisal, criminal division, an ethics complaint and an appeal on his security clearance revocation.

Mr. Lovinger also filed a Privacy Act request with the Defense Department in December 2017, seeking emails mentioning his name exchanged by several Defense Department officials, including Edward Fish, the Director of the Consolidated Adjudications Facility – the office that handles security clearance for the Pentagon.

According to Judicial Watch, a non-government organization, the Defense Department told Lovinger in March 2018 that in response to his Private Act and Freedom of Information Act request the Department was withholding 75 pages of documents. Fish, who was a part of Lovinger’s whistleblower complaint, was the official that made the decision. Judicial Watch had filed a lawsuit on behalf of Lovinger to order the Pentagon to release 75 pages of emails and other electronic messages that mentioned him.

Stephan Halper and the “Spygate”

Stephan Halper, a 73-year-old emeritus professor of the University of Cambridge, is also a well-connected veteran of four past republican administrations. According to multiple sources, Mr. Halper worked as a secret informant as the FBI began to investigate Russia’s interference in the campaign, and he contacted three Trump campaign advisers during the summer and fall of 2016. In a tweeter posted in May 2018, Trump called this event as the biggest political scandal and named it as “Spygate”.

Halper’s first wife was the daughter of former CIA analyst Ray S. Cline, who worked alongside President John F. Kennedy during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962 and introduced him into the intelligence and political worlds. After earning his doctorate from the University of Oxford in 1971, Halper quickly ascended, serving on the White House domestic policy council for President Richard M. Nixon and then in the Office of Management and Budget before being tapped as an assistant to President Gerald Ford’s chief of staff. Halper later worked for Senator William Roth before joining the George H. W. Bush campaign in 1980 as national policy development director and then working for the Reagan-Bush campaign as national director of policy coordination. In the Reagan administration, he served as deputy assistant secretary of state for politico-military affairs.

After the 1980 race, Halper was embroiled in a scandal concerning alleged political spying. Reagan’s advisers, including Halper, were accused of spying on Carter’s campaign and obtaining private documents that Carter was using to prepare for a debate. Some officials in Reagan’s administration alleged that Halper had used former CIA agents to run an operation against Carter. Halper called the reports “absolutely false” and has long denied the accusations.

Between 2000 and 2001, Halper contributed more than $85,000 to George W. Bush’s first presidential bid and the Republican National Committee. Late in his career, Halper became a critic of President George W. Bush’s interventionist foreign policy. He often raised questions about Bush’s decisions and embraced a traditional Republican approach to foreign policy that emphasized long-standing Western alliances and limited foreign intervention. During his time at Cambridge, Mr. Halper had kept close contact with Richard Dearlove, the former head of Britain’s foreign intelligence service.

Government records show that Washington Headquarters Services, a subdivision of ONA, paid Halper a total of $1,058,161 for four contracts that lasted from May 30, 2012, to March 29, 2018. The first payment was completed on May 30, 2012, totaling $197,626 for “Research and Development in the Social Sciences and Humanities.” The second contract for “Research and Studies – the Year 2030” were awarded on July 29, 2014, with a total value of $204,000. Another payment to Halper was $244,960 for “Russia-China Relationship Study,” occurred on September 24, 2015. The last contract for “India and China Econ Study” valued $411,575 were awarded on September 26, 2016.

According to U.S. government officials, the funds did not go solely to Halper, who hired other academics and experts to conduct research and prepare reports. “He thinks well. He writes critically. And he knows a lot of people whose insights he can tap for us as well,” one U.S. official said.

Lovinger’s attorney, Sean M. Bigley called these contracts “cronyism and corruption”. He told the Washington Times that nobody in the office knew what Halper was doing for his money. “Adam said Jim Baker, the director, kept Halper’s contracts very close to the vest. And nobody seemed to have any idea what he was doing at the time. He subcontracted out a good chunk of it to other academics. He would compile them all and then collect the balance as his fee as a middleman. That was very unusual,” he said.

Concerning Halper’s engagement with foreign political figures, Bigley said “as a contractor that’s totally illegal.” “And yet they would hire him, and send him out essentially unsupervised to engage with high level foreign government officials, ostensibly communicating U.S. policy positions and trying to establish relationships and things like that,” he added, “It allows the contractors to potentially insert their own motivations into their dealings with foreign government officials ostensibly on behalf of the United States.” He continued, “If in fact … he was being bankrolled by ONA to go out and develop these relationships and then turn around and use those relationships to the detriment of the Trump campaign, in a sense, you could argue that DOD was really footing the bill for that.”

The FBI formally opened its counterintelligence investigation into Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 campaign on July 31, 2016. Halper had already begun to interact with Trump’s advisers a few weeks before its opening. Cater Page met Mr. Halper at a seminar held in the UK, which was their first meeting. Page recalled that their conversation was pleasant, and they kept in touch after the conference, meeting several times in the Washington area. But Page said he couldn’t remember what they had discussed.

According to Victoria Toensing, the attorney of Trump Campaign co-chairman Sam Clovis, Mr. Halper turned to Clovis for help in late August 2016, asking if they could meet somewhere in Washington. Toensing said Mr. Halper wanted to be helpful to the campaign and lend his foreign-policy experience. She recalled that Clovis met him and chatted briefly at a hotel café in Crystal City on either August 31 or September 1. “It was two academics discussing China,” Toensing said, “Russia never came up.” Later, the professor asked to meet again, but Clovis was busy with the campaign. Instead, Halper sent him a note of congratulation after the election. Toensing said that Clovis didn’t view the interaction as suspicious but it was concerning that Halper never mentioned his meeting with other Trump advisers.

Several days later, Halper reached out to a third aide of Donald Trump, George Papadopoulos, on September 2 2016. He told Papadopoulos by email that he was leading a project examining relations between Turkey and the European Union, and would like to pay him $3,000 to write a paper about the oil fields off the coast of Turkey, Israel and Cyprus. Halper praised Papadopoulos for his expertise on this topic. In late September, the professor invited him to visit London for discussing the paper, promising to pay for his travel. Papadopoulos accepted the invitation and sent the research paper back to Halper after returning to the US. Mr. Halper was satisfied with the result and wired $3,000 to him after being awarded a contract totaling $411,000 by Washington Headquarter Services on September 26, 2016.

Bigley told Daily Caller that Halper’s work for ONA could have provided a perfect cover for his work as an FBI informant. “It would be entirely logical for him to approach somebody like Papadopoulos and ask for that type of work product,” he said. Whether or not the ONA is aware of Halper’s activities as an informant, and whether or not the conflict between Baker and Lovinger is attributed to discords generated by presidential succession, the ONA has been involved in the partisan political struggle of the US with the current president at its core.

Works Cited

Kerry Picket, “Pentagon Whistleblower Claimes DoD Official Awarded Investigators of His Case With Military Medals,” The Daily Caller, August 24, 2018, 10:03pm. http://www.dailycaller.com/2018/08/24/pentagon-whistleblower-claims-dod-official-awarded-investigators-of-his-case-with-military-medals/

Chuck Ross, “Watchdog Sues Pentagon On Behalf of Whistleblower Who Questioned Contracts to ‘Spygate’ Figure,” The Daily Caller, August 20, 2018, 5:36pm. http://dailycaller.com/2018/08/20/judicial-watch-sues-pentagon/

Chuck Ross, “Pentagon Whistleblower Questioned FBI Informant Stefan Halper’s ‘Outrageous’ Contracts,” The Daily Caller, August 16, 2018, 9:41pm. https://dailycaller.com/2018/08/16/stefan-halper-pentagon-outrageous/

Rowan Scarborough, “Trump-supporting Pentagon Analyst Stripped of Security Clearance After Stefan Halper Complaints,” The Washington Times, August 15, 2018. https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2018/aug/15/adam-lovinger-pentagon-analyst-lost-security-clear/

Robert Costa, Carol D. Leonnig et al., “Secret FBI Source for Russia Investigation Met With Three Trump Advisers During Campaign,” The Washington Post, May 18, 2018. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/secret-fbi-source-for-russia-investigation-met-with-three-trump-advisers-during-campaign/2018/05/18/9778d9f0-5aea-11e8-b656-a5f8c2a9295d_story.html?utm_term=.3f7af94e4858

Robert Costa, Carol D. Leonnig and Shane Harris, “Who Is Stefan A. Halper, the FBI Source Who Assisted the Russia Investigation?” The Washington Post, May 21, 2018. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/who-is-stefan-a-halper-the-fbi-source-who-assisted-the-russia-investigation/2018/05/21/22c46caa-5d42-11e8-9ee3-49d6d4814c4c_story.html?utm_term=.db2c4178cb17