FILE – The Pentagon is seen in this aerial view in Washington, in this March 27, 2008 file photo. The Pentagon has revised its Law of War guidelines to remove wording that could permit U.S. military commanders to treat war correspondents as ‚Äúunprivileged belligerents‚Äù if they think the journalists are sympathizing or cooperating with enemy forces. The amended manual, published on July 22, 2016, also drops wording that equated journalism with spying. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)
While reviewing reader comments on my recent post about General Michael Flynn’s stunning October 24th court filing, I learned of a largely overlooked story reported in August 2018 by the Daily Caller’s Kerry Picket. It gained little traction at the time, but it’s become far more significant in light of the Flynn filing.
The Flynn filing alleges that Col. James Baker, Director of the Office of Net Assessment at the Pentagon (ONA), leaked copies of the transcripts from Flynn’s December 2016 telephone calls to then-Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak to the press. Baker had regularly scheduled lunches with The Washington Post’s David Ignatius whom published an article about the calls in January 2017.
Picket told the story of Pentagon whistleblower Adam Lovinger, then an ONA analyst and a Trump-supporter, whose security clearance had been revoked after “he questioned why politically connected contractors like FBI-informant Stefan Halper, who spied on the Trump campaign for the bureau, received well-paid contracts to conduct “inherently governmental functions.”
One contractor hired by ONA , the Long-Term Strategy Group (LTSG), is owned by Chelsea Clinton’s “best friend” Jackie Newmyer-Deal. “Over the past decade, LTSG secured more than $11.2 million in contracts from ONA.”
Lovinger warned his superiors at ONA about the legal issues specifically pertaining to LTSG’s Newmyer-Deal being designated as a “U.S. Representative” in bilateral foreign relation activities with the Japanese.
In an incident with another ONA contractor (not LTSG), Lovinger disclosed to Baker that the contractor copied a World Bank report onto the contractor’s own letterhead and passed it off as original work.
In August of 2016, Bill Gertz of The Washington Free Beacon wrote a series of pieces related to the ONA’s over-reliance on government contractors and the problems surfacing as a result.
The stories covered how much contractors were paid, the questionable value of their product, critical threats that went ignored, and favorable treatment of Clinton’s contractor friend Newmyer-Deal.
Lovinger’s (Statement of Reason) SOR, which had been prepared by his attorney, Sean Bigley, claimed that Baker “inappropriately incentivized investigators to target him.” The document alleged that Baker “targeted him through several tactics, one of which was recommending two military officers for prestigious military medals as motivation to look into Lovinger as the target of a classified leak probe.”
One investigator, ONA Chief of Staff Cmdr. Anthony Russell (USCG), received a “recommendation for Award of the Defense Superior Service Medal…Russell was the architect of two national security inquiries targeting Lovinger.”
On November 23, 2016, The Washington Free Beacon published an article which criticized the ONA. Lovinger’s SOR stated, “The piece ended up revealing sensitive information provided by the Japanese government which had been included in an LTSG report prepared at the behest of ONA.”
According to Picket:
Russell served as the action officer and primary American representative for the United States/Japan Bilateral Task Force, yet he bore no responsibility to the mishandling of the Japanese intelligence.” In the letter Baker wrote to recommend Russell for the “Defense Superior Service Award,” he wrote that Russell had a “positive impact” on the Japanese/American alliance. Two days later Baker recommended Russell for a command position for having the “highest standards of ethics.”
Lovinger’s security clearance was suspended and job detail canceled nearly a month earlier.
In his recommendation of Russell, Baker wrote, “Commander Russell was entrusted with handling several unique, very delicate personnel matters where he provided thoughtful, sound advice and acted with discretion and candor.” He continues, “His exquisite analysis of facts and balancing of considerations resulted in ideal courses of actions that upheld the highest standards of integrity and ethics.”
Prior to filing his complaint, Lovinger had been in the running for a senior directorship at the National Security Counsel. Russell’s attempts to derail this opportunity caught the eye of Washington Headquarters Service General Counsel James Vietti.
Vietti emailed Russell on January 17, 2017, warning him that his investigation “could look like you’re trying to interfere with or hinder his advancement in some way—and that the e-mail would be sent after he complained to (I think I’m recalling this correctly) that Mr. Baker violated the Hatch Act.” He wrote that he must “establish that this was—at least at the beginning—an inquiry into specific allegations of misconduct (rather than a ‘go forth and find a justification to fire him’ sort of investigation).” He also advised Russell not to “get ahead of NSC’s possible concerns” of Lovinger and proposed that he “pare back” language in an proposed email that Vietti had reviewed. Russell had written that he “would urge NSC not to bring on an employee under administrative inquiry right now.”
The other officer whom Baker had allegedly designated to investigate Lovinger was Marine Lt. Col. Brian Bruggeman. Baker issued the request on January 12, 2017 and issued a February 10th deadline, which Bruggeman did not meet.
According to the SOR:
Five days before the report was due, Baker recommended Bruggeman for the “Defense Superior Service Award.”
An e-mail exchange between Feb. 27 and 28 between Bruggeman and Lovinger related to setting up a meeting with one another included Bruggeman telling Lovinger that the meeting was his “last opportunity to cooperate.”
The meeting occurred on March 6, 2017. On March 7, Lovinger’s attorney Thomas Spencer, sent a letter to Bruggeman memorializing the meeting had happened and that Bruggeman had promised to have a written recollection of his questions and answers, since Bruggeman previously forbade any audio recording of the meeting.
Although Lovinger met with Bruggeman and responded to his questions March 6, he was nevertheless accused of “refusing to cooperate” with Bruggeman, “which was tantamount to insubordination,” for failing to appear at previously scheduled interviews on February 21 and 23.
According to Lovinger’s SOR response to Bruggeman’s allegation, however, 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.”
Several days before Picket published this article, on August 20, 2018, watchdog group Judicial Watch filed a FOIA lawsuit against the Department of Defense for documents relating to this case.
A Judicial Watch document states that Lovinger was already a senior director at the White House National Security Counsel by that time, so at least Baker and Russell’s interference was unsuccessful.
The Washington Times reported on August 14, 2019 that Lovinger had been cleared of the bogus charges against him.
This story illustrates the role a whistleblower’s political persuasion plays in how their complaint will be received. It also provides a glimpse into the character of the man who is alleged to have leaked classified information to his pal, Washington Post report David Ignatius. It tells us that Baker is not above trying to destroy a man’s career for political gain.
Unfortunately, there are many James Bakers.