The revelation of recent days that, back in January, President Obama agreed that the United Nations should lift its sanctions against two Iranian state banks which financed Iran’s ballistic missile development puts the lie to Washington’s claims – stubbornly maintained for more than a year – that it was determined to rein in the Islamic Republic’s expanding missile program.

In fact, the president’s decision reflects a larger pattern of U.S. backtracking over Iran’s ballistic missiles – one that dates back to well before the landmark U.S.-led global agreement with Iran over its nuclear program in July of 2015.

During the U.S.-led negotiations over that agreement, the president decided they should focus squarely on Iran’s nuclear program and not cover such related issues as Iran’s development and testing of long-range ballistic missiles that can carry nuclear warheads – despite the obvious tie between nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

With an agreement over Iran’s nuclear program in place, U.S. officials argued, they could then pressure Iran over not only its ballistic missile program but also its sponsorship of terror, its efforts to destabilize Sunni nations in the region and its increasingly grotesque human rights record at home.

But the public record – of which the new revelation about sanctions relief is now a part, courtesy of The Wall Street Journal – reveals something far different: While negotiating and implementing the nuclear agreement, Washington took multiple steps that not only legitimized Iran’s missile program but actually helped Tehran make further progress.

First and foremost, the United States agreed to soften the global prohibitions directed against that program.

Should Family Affiliations with Foreign Islamist Movements Prevent a Security Clearance? A former Pentagon Assistant Inspector General is the son of a prominent American Muslim Brotherhood official. Now he wants his old job back. BY Christine Brim

In 1980, Robert Dickson Crane converted to Islam. From that year to the present day, Crane has built a successful career as a high-level official in multiple Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas-affiliated organizations in the U.S. and Qatar. At the same time, from 1988 to 2013, his son John Ruedel Crane rose to similar prominence in the Department of Defense to the position of Assistant Inspector General and director of both the Department of Defense and NSA’s whistleblower programs. Crane’s position in the DoD Inspector General office came with high-level clearances and access to a broad scope of DoD information. His tenure of twenty-five years within DoD also encompassed a time of multiple jihadist attacks against American targets, including the 1993 and 2001 World Trade Center attacks and the global war on terror waged in response.

In a recent phone conversation, John Crane confirmed that Robert Crane is his father and stated that, during background investigations throughout his career, he was never asked, nor did he volunteer, any information about his father’s affiliations. We don’t know if the relationship was, in fact, known and approved by the Department of Defense, the intelligence community or by political administrations during Crane’s over two-decade year career. But we can state that the relationship between Robert Crane and John Crane is being described for the first time to the general public in this investigative report.

John Crane’s management of the whistleblower offices included the years when Edward Snowden stole over 1.5 million classified documents. Crane has recently been the subject of numerous media interviews as “The Third Man” in the new book Bravehearts: Whistleblowing in the Age of Snowden, a defense of Edward Snowden’s theft of classified documents from the U.S., UK and Australia. John Crane was quietly removed from his Inspector General and whistleblower office positions in February 2013, four months before the Edward Snowden case became public knowledge. He immediately became a consultant for the General Accountability Project (GAP), the legal counsel for Snowden. GAP was founded in 1977 by the extreme far left Institute for Policy Studies.

On September 15, 2016 the House Intelligence Committee issued a bipartisan, unanimous report summarizing their investigation of National Security Agency computer technician Edward Snowden’s theft of 1.5 million classified documents. The Committee’s critique of Snowden was devastating: “These findings demonstrate that the public narrative popularized by Snowden and his allies is rife with falsehoods, exaggerations, and crucial omissions, a pattern that began before he stole 1.5 million sensitive documents.” As former Intelligence Committee staff Fred Fleitz has observed, “Snowden is not a whistleblower; he is a disgruntled former intelligence employee who did enormous damage to U.S. national security.”

Left-wing activists have mounted a campaign for Snowden’s vindication and pardon before Obama leaves office, including Oliver Stone’s hagiographic movie, Snowden, and Bravehearts, the book by Nation magazine reporter Mark Hertsgaard in which John Crane figures so prominently. Crane’s allegations against the DoD in Bravehearts have been cited as a vindication of Snowden’s acts by the Intercept, the website of Snowden advocate Glenn Greenwald (“Vindication for Edward Snowden From a New Player in NSA Whistleblowing Saga”).

In February 2013, John Crane was placed on “administrative leave” from his position as DoD Assistant Inspector General, his security clearances and pay were suspended, and he was forbidden to come to the office. He has resurfaced in the public eye in 2016 as the subject of numerous articles and interviews promoting the Bravehearts book in Der Spiegel, The Guardian, Government Executive, Democracy Now!, Russia Today, New York Times, The Intercept, and of course Hertsgaard’s Nation. Crane asserts in Bravehearts and in these interviews that Edward Snowden’s theft of U.S. classified information was simply an understandable reaction to the DoD’s prior treatment of whistleblowers, which discouraged Snowden from becoming a “whistleblower” himself inside the system.

Please Tell Me These FBI/DOJ ‘Side Deals’ with Clinton E-Mail Suspects Didn’t Happen The ‘side deals’ are further evidence of a highly politicized Obama Department of Justice. By Andrew C. McCarthy

Just when you think it can’t get any worse . . .

According to House Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte (R., Va.), the immunity agreements struck by the Justice Department with Cheryl Mills and Heather Samuelson, two top subjects of the FBI’s Clinton e-mail investigation, included “side agreements.” Pursuant to these side agreements, it was stipulated that (a) the FBI would not scrutinize any documents dated after January 31, 2015 (i.e., about five weeks before the most disturbing actions suggestive of obstruction of justice occurred); and (b) the FBI — in an investigation critically involving destruction of documents — would destroy the computers after conducting its search.

These revelations are outlined in a letter Chairman Goodlatte penned yesterday to Attorney General Loretta Lynch. Goodlatte says his committee learned of the side deals upon reviewing the immunity agreements, which have not been made public. That review naturally prompted a demand by the committee to see the side deals, which — for reasons unexplained — the Justice Department elected not to provide when it gave the committee access to the immunity agreements. The side deals have also not been made public.

For anyone who worked in the Justice Department for any length of time, the striking of side deals with a defense lawyer (in this instance, Beth Wilkinson, who represents both Ms. Mills and Ms. Samuelson) is bracing. Written agreements with the Justice Department (regarding, for example, guilty pleas and cooperation) customarily include a clause explaining that the four corners of the document contain the entirety of the understandings between the parties. This is done precisely because defendants often claim they were enticed into signing the agreement because of this or that side deal purportedly agreed to by the government. The Justice Department likes to be able to say, “We don’t engage in those sorts of shenanigans. The agreement is the single agreement as written.” Why did the Justice Department make side deals in this case (which we’ve been told was treated like any other case . . . except, alas, when it wasn’t)?

More fundamentally, as I’ve been arguing since we learned of the immunity agreements, why did the government grant immunity in the first place? Unfortunately, the question, at this point, is rhetorical. Immunity was granted because the Justice Department would not use the grand jury against Mrs. Clinton.

RELATED: The FBI’s Defense of How the Clinton Interview Was Conducted Is Full of Holes

As I’ve explained, the computers were physical evidence. The law empowers the government to compel production of physical evidence by subpoena (or by search warrant if there is suspicion that the evidence will be tampered with or destroyed). Importantly, however, the power to compel production of evidence derives from the grand jury. In the Clinton e-mails case, unlike virtually every other criminal case, the Justice Department apparently declined to convert the FBI’s investigation into a grand-jury investigation. This meant grand-jury subpoenas would not be issued.


Patently, the highly politicized Obama Justice Department did this because commencing a grand-jury investigation suggests that a matter is very serious and an indictment (which only the grand jury can issue) is likely. In this case, the Justice Department was determined to maintain the illusion that Clinton and her underlings hadn’t committed crimes, so the grand jury was avoided. That is how you end up with such inanities as the Justice Department’s leaking to the Washington Post that Cheryl Mills was regarded as nothing more than a very cooperative witness, not a suspect, even though we now know that (a) Mills falsely denied that, while serving as then-secretary of state Clinton’s chief of staff, she knew about the homebrew server system; (b) the evidence indicates that Mills is the one who directed Platte River Networks (PRN) to destroy the e-mails stored on Clinton’s server (although there are salient questions about when this happened); (c) the private laptop Mills used to vet Clinton’s e-mails contained mounds of classified information; and (d) Mills was sufficiently worried that her lawyer sought — and obtained — immunity from prosecution before Mills surrendered her computer to the FBI.

In his House testimony last week, FBI director James Comey tried to deflect the government’s failure to use the grand jury by rationalizing that the FBI was very anxious to examine the Mills and Samuelson computers, and that it is often more efficient in a criminal investigation to make informal agreements with the subjects’ lawyers than to rely on grand-jury compulsion. As I countered in this past weekend’s column, this claim is unconvincing. Use of the grand jury and negotiations with defense lawyers are not mutually exclusive. They happen concurrently all the time. Indeed, it is fear that the government might resort to compulsion that induces defense lawyers to negotiate reasonably. Take the grand jury off the table and investigators are apt to get taken to the cleaners.

That is what happened here. With no resort to the grand jury, the FBI was reduced to relying on the Justice Department, which was working closely with Team Clinton’s defense lawyers, to cut immunity deals. These deals gave away the store in exchange for physical evidence the government actually had the power to demand without making concessions, much less extraordinary concessions like immunizing Mills and Samuelson from any prosecution based on the contents of the computers.

According to Goodlatte, those concessions were even more astonishing than they seemed at first blush because of the newly revealed side deals.

Israel Defends Planned West Bank Construction The statement comes after the U.S. strongly criticized Israel’s approval of the new housing in Shilo By Rory Jones

TEL AVIV—Israel on Wednesday defended plans to build 98 new housing units in the occupied West Bank, after the U.S. issued an unusually harsh rebuke of the proposed construction.

Israel’s government intends to use the new units to rehouse Jewish Israelis from a West Bank settlement the country’s high court has deemed illegal and ordered evacuated, Israel’s foreign ministry said in a statement. The new housing will be built within the existing settlement of Shilo in the northern West Bank and won’t constitute a new settlement, it said.

“Israel remains committed to a solution of two states for two peoples, in which a demilitarized Palestinian state recognizes the Jewish state of Israel,” the statement added.

The announcement of the new units comes amid increasing U.S. frustration with Israel’s expanding settlement enterprise and after the White House agreed to a major military aid package for its Middle East ally.

The Obama administration last month said it would provide Israel with $3.8 billion a year in military aid over a decade, a 23% increase over current levels.

The State Department on Wednesday said it was “deeply troubling” that Israel had decided to jeopardize its security by continuing to build settlements and making a two-state solution for peace between Israelis and Palestinians a dim prospect.

Israel’s high court in 2014 ordered that Amona, an illegal settlement outpost that is home to some 40 families, should be evacuated as it was built on Palestinian land.

The Israeli government has been discussing how to rehouse those settlers, finalizing a plan to move them to Shilo, according to Wednesday’s statement from the foreign ministry.

The new units were first highlighted by monitoring group Peace Now on Saturday, a day after President Barack Obama flew to Jerusalem to attend the funeral of Shimon Peres , the towering Israeli statesman who helped craft the vision of a two-state solution. CONTINUE AT SITE

Cheryl Mills’s Legal Privileges The evidence of a politicized Clinton probe keeps building.

The more we learn about the Justice Department’s investigation of Hillary Clinton’s private email, the worse it looks. The latest revelation is that, along with granting immunity to two Clinton aides, Justice agreed to secret side deals that provided highly unusual protections from potential prosecution.

The side agreements came to light this week in a letter from House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte to Attorney General Loretta Lynch. Mr. Goodlatte says he learned about the side deals by examining the immunity agreements, which haven’t been released to the public.

We already knew that Justice offered immunity to at least five central figures in the private email probe, including Cheryl Mills and Heather Samuelson, the aides in charge of deciding which of the former Secretary of State’s emails on her private server would be turned over to the State Department. FBI Director James Comey struggled to explain to Congress last week why immunity was necessary to obtain the laptops the two had used for sorting the emails.

Now we learn that Ms. Mills and Ms. Samuelson also obtained guarantees that investigators would not search these laptops after Jan. 31, 2015. More amazing, Justice agreed to destroy both laptops after examining them. Think about that: Before the authorities knew what was on the laptops, they agreed to destroy potential evidence in their investigation. The evidence was also under a congressional subpoena and preservation order.

The “no-look” date beyond Jan. 31, 2015 means the FBI couldn’t see what the two aides said or did after the news of Mrs. Clinton’s private server became public in March 2015. Investigators would be unable to determine if Ms. Mills or Ms. Samuelson had engaged, as Mr. Goodlatte put it in his letter, in “destruction of evidence or obstruction of justice related to Secretary Clinton’s unauthorized use of a private email server.” Why else would time limits be necessary given that the two women already had immunity?

We’re told by prosecutors that this kind of special treatment is all but unheard of. Justice would typically empanel a grand jury, which would issue subpoenas to obtain physical evidence like the laptops. No grant of immunity would have been necessary.

So why no grand jury? Mr. Comey told Congress last week that the FBI was eager to see the laptop evidence and that it is sometimes easier to have informal agreements to obtain it. But surely it’s possible to negotiate with lawyers and conduct a grand jury at the same time. Without the threat of a grand jury the Clinton entourage had all the leverage, and they were able to get away with what amounted to formal get-out-of-jail-free cards. CONTINUE AT SITE

The FBI Treated Clinton With Kid Gloves Investigators went after Gov. Bob McDonnell with every tool they had. The double standard is obvious. By Noel J. Francisco and James M. Burnham

Tim Kaine repeatedly defended Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server during Tuesday night’s vice-presidential debate. “The FBI did an investigation,” he said at one point, “and they concluded that there was no reasonable prosecutor who would take it further.” But such a statement is credible only if it follows a real criminal investigation—that is, the sort of investigation that the FBI and the Justice Department conduct when they actually care about a case and want convictions.

We know all too well what that kind of investigation looks like, as two of the lawyers who defended a recent target: former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell. That story had a happy ending for the governor and his wife. The Supreme Court unanimously ruled in their favor this summer and all charges were dropped in September. But their victory certainly wasn’t due to lack of investigatory zeal on the part of the FBI and Justice Department.

Below are only a few of the heavy-handed tactics federal investigators used to build their case against the McDonnells. See how they compare to how Mrs. Clinton was treated.

Conduct ambush interviews. The first contact between law enforcement and the McDonnells was an ambush interview of the governor’s wife. The agents lied to her about the topic of the meeting, forbade Gov. McDonnell’s staff from attending, and then grilled her on their suspicions about potential public corruption. Statements from that interview later took center stage in the trial of her and her husband.

In Mrs. Clinton’s case, no ambush interviews were conducted, and witnesses were generously accommodated. The FBI and Justice Department even allowed a fact witness and potential target— Cheryl Mills, formerly the State Department’s chief of staff—to simultaneously represent Mrs. Clinton as her counsel.

Immunize only witnesses who can help deliver convictions. One person in Gov. McDonnell’s case got immunity: Jonnie Williams, the prosecution’s star witness. For his testimony, Mr. Williams earned a wealth of blanket immunity—not simply from potential bribery prosecution but also from unrelated crimes he might have committed (including securities and tax fraud). Reluctant witnesses—Gov. McDonnell’s children and friends—were called before a grand jury and forced to testify. CONTINUE AT SITE

John Kerry Sends Regrets Obama officials start to wash their hands of the Syrian catastrophe.

Much of the city of Aleppo lies in ruins after days of airstrikes by Russian and Assad regime forces, and buried in the wreckage is whatever is left of the Obama Administration’s Syria policy. If it’s any consolation to the 275,000 souls trapped in the city, John Kerry has regrets.

That much is clear from a leaked recording of a conversation the Secretary of State had with a group of Syrian civilians engaged in humanitarian work during last month’s U.N. General Assembly. Mr. Kerry complained that “the Russians don’t care about international law, and we do.” He noted that “a lot of Americans don’t believe that we should be fighting and sending young Americans over to die in another country.”

Above all, he lamented that his diplomatic efforts to end Syria’s war were never backed by a credible threat of American military strikes. “I think you’re looking at three people, four people in the Administration who have all argued for use of force, and I lost the argument,” Mr. Kerry said.
The Secretary is right that President Obama doomed whatever chances the U.S. had of shaping a better outcome in Syria when Mr. Obama made clear that nothing, including chemical attacks against civilians, could induce him to deploy even modest force to ground Bashar Assad’s air force or establish no-fly/no-drive zones.

Then again, it’s hard to credit Mr. Kerry as the scorned voice of reason within the Administration when, until last week, he was the most vocal advocate of making common cause with Moscow in Syria.

In May 2015 Mr. Kerry first broke the informal diplomatic quarantine the U.S. had imposed on Russia after it granted Edward Snowden asylum in 2013 and invaded Ukraine the following year. Last month Mr. Kerry was pushing the Pentagon, over the objections of Defense Secretary Ash Carter, to share targeting intelligence with Russia to grease a new cease-fire deal. As with a similar cease-fire Mr. Kerry negotiated earlier this year, Russia violated it within days.

Russia’s Military Sophistication in the Arctic Sends Echoes of the Cold War Norwegian, NATO and U.S. officials express concerns over Moscow’s increased sophistication in region By Paul Sonne

BODO, Norway—When the U.S. wants to learn what Russia is doing in the Arctic, it often turns to the Norwegian military, which has been conducting operations for decades from this Arctic town amid the fiords.

These days, it isn’t the volume of Russian military activity in the region that concerns Norway and its North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies. Adm. Haakon Bruun-Hanssen, Norway’s chief of defense, says Russian military activity in the Barents Sea has grown in recent years but still pales in comparison to Cold War levels.

What concerns him, he says, is the increased sophistication Norway is seeing in the far north, as the Kremlin modernizes its armed forces. NATO forces retain an upper hand in conventional equipment and prowess, he said, but Russia is catching up with new sensors, submarines and capabilities.


“The equality between Russian military capability and Western military capability has started to come very close to each other, like it used to be in the Cold War,” Adm. Bruun-Hanssen said in an interview during a recent trip to Bodo by U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter.

While the number of Russian intercepts and operations is “far smaller” than during the Cold War, he said, “the difference is now we are talking about new types of platforms, new types of sensors, new types of weapons systems that are far more flexible and far more capable than we had during the Cold War.”

The buildup has served as a wake-up call to U.S. military officials, especially as diplomatic ties with Moscow fray over Syria, and to European countries such as Norway, which scaled back their defenses in the 1990s and early 2000s after the Soviet Union’s collapse.

NATO officials say they have been stepping up antisubmarine and other naval exercises as part of their efforts to deter Russian aggression, conducting an antisubmarine exercise this summer in the Norwegian sea with eight allies. CONTINUE AT SITE

U.S. Seeks to Redraw Ties With Russia in Syrian Conflict Kerry holds out possibility of working with Moscow again despite U.S. decision to pull out of cease-fire talks By Felicia Schwartz

The Obama administration has set about redrawing its relationship with Russia amid this week’s diplomatic breakdown over Syria, taking on one of its most complex foreign-policy challenges just three months before a new president takes office.

Speaking in Brussels on Tuesday, Secretary of State John Kerry held out the possibility of once again working with Moscow after pulling out of talks over a Syrian cease-fire deal the day before.

While he faulted Russia for prolonging the war by tying its interests to the Assad regime and turning a blind eye to its brutality, his comments also underscored Moscow’s influence in bringing any resolution to the conflict.
“Russia knows exactly what it needs to do to get that cessation implemented in a fair and reasonable way,” Mr. Kerry said, as he urged Russia and the Assad regime to grant humanitarian access in Syria.

The move to formally walk away Monday from the cease-fire and military-cooperation agreement reached with Russia last month heightens pressure on Washington to spell out its next steps in Syria. But neither Mr. Kerry nor officials in Washington offered any new specifics Tuesday.

Mr. Kerry said the U.S. wanted Russian and Syrian warplanes out of the skies over Aleppo, but didn’t lay out a plan to do so. U.S. officials also said that one option could involve U.S. strikes on Syrian forces, although they acknowledged such a move carried risks of escalating a confrontation with Russia and is unlikely.

Better Brexit, Greater Britain Forget ‘hard’ or ‘soft.’ The U.K. should aim to be a free-trade mecca.

Theresa May promised that “Brexit means Brexit” when she became Britain’s Prime Minister this summer, and she seems to have meant it. She said this weekend that by March she will formally begin negotiations with Brussels to leave the European Union, setting the stage for Brexit in 2019. Now Britain needs to live up to the other half of her famous dictum and “make a success of it.”

Doing that requires thinking big—much bigger than most British and European politicians are currently doing. London is consumed with debates about “hard Brexit” versus “soft Brexit,” meaning how much of its newfound independence Britain will surrender back to Brussels in exchange for how much access to the European market. The softees say Britain should preserve market access even at the cost of subjecting itself to most EU rules, as Norway and Switzerland do. The hard side says Britain should walk away from the EU so London can impose stringent immigration controls.

This debate is a trap. Attempts to cater to Brussels’s innate protectionism by bargaining Britain back into the unhappy circle will let the EU whittle away the advantages of Britain’s new freedom. But Britain also can’t afford to abandon Europe given the mutual economic ties that already exist.

Instead of hard or soft, Mrs. May and her colleagues should focus on creating a better Brexit to build a Greater Britain. That means radically expanding Britain’s trading relations abroad while boosting competitiveness at home. Thinking big this way would make the most of Britain’s new opportunity while helping Britain drive the right kind of exit with the EU.

Britain needn’t wait until it leaves the EU to start negotiating trade deals, and potential trade partners shouldn’t hold back either. Brussels insists Britain can’t open trade talks on its own while still formally an EU member. Plenty of London bureaucrats and lawyers may be tempted to agree. But why should Jean-Claude Juncker or Angela Merkel get a veto over Washington’s, Ottawa’s or Canberra’s ability to strike a trade deal with London?

Britain should aspire to have high-quality free-trade agreements in place with the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand from the first post-Brexit day in 2019. Their historical ties are close, and all four countries of the Anglosphere have attempted to negotiate trade deals with the EU. Countries such as South Korea that already have EU deals could conclude new bilateral deals quickly. British Trade Secretary Liam Fox said last week he is also open to trade deals with developing countries. Brazil, China, India, Nigeria and others can jump at that invitation after years of trade difficulties with the EU. CONTINUE AT SITE