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Newsday–Nov 26, 2017
President Donald Trump’s shows of political coziness with Turkish President Recep Tayyp Erdogan always add an extra layer of intrigue to …
<a href=”http://NBCNews.com” rel=”nofollow”>NBCNews.com</a>–Nov 25, 2017
ANKARA, Turkey — The United States seems set to cut off its supply of arms … Trump that is sure to please Turkey but further alienate Syrian Kurds who …. of Trump’s inauguration about a potential quid pro quo in which Flynn …
Trump speaks with Turkey’s leader about ‘bringing peace to the …
USA TODAY–Nov 24, 2017
Trump speaks with Erdogan about crisis in Syria
Politico–Nov 24, 2017
Trump, Turkish leader discuss Syrian crisis in phone call
TheChronicleHerald.ca–Nov 24, 2017
|Reza Zarrab – Google Search|
Bloomberg–38 minutes ago
Reza Zarrab, a Turkish-Iranian gold trader at the center of an international corruption case, is set to tell a New York jury the “inside story” of a …
Reza Zarrab, Turkish gold trader tied to Erdogan, avoids trial
<a href=”http://NBCNews.com” rel=”nofollow”>NBCNews.com</a>–21 hours ago
Turkey urges US to drop case against gold trader Reza Zarrab
<a href=”http://Aljazeera.com” rel=”nofollow”>Aljazeera.com</a>–9 hours ago
Turkish gold trader Reza Zarrab pleads guilty in Iran sanctions case
Los Angeles Times–1 hour ago
The Talk of Turkey? A Politically Charged Trial in New York
In-Depth–New York Times–Nov 26, 2017
A gold dealer’s trial in New York deepens mistrust between the US …
In-Depth–Washington Post–Nov 26, 2017
|U.S.-Turkish political stew: Kurds, Flynn and even Bharara|
Eyes are on Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, seen here in Ankara on Nov. 21, 2017. Photo Credit: AP / Burhan Ozbilici
President Donald Trump’s shows of political coziness with Turkish President Recep Tayyp Erdogan always add an extra layer of intrigue to foreign-policy news.
On Friday, the two leaders were due to speak by phone, with Trump at his Mar-a-Lago resort for the long holiday weekend. Subjects were to include Syria and conflicts in the region.
Turkey’s foreign minister, who said he was with Erdogan during the call, said afterward that Trump gave assurances his administration would stop supplying arms to Syrian Kurdish fighters, who have been U.S. allies.
After all, Kurdish separatists are a thorn in Erdogan’s side.
Such policy choices aside, the discussion of Turkish ties to Washington turns quickly and naturally to Trump’s short-tenured national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Special counsel Robert Mueller has his eyes on the retired lieutenant general, who failed to disclose a payment of $530,000 from Inovo BV, a Dutch consulting firm owned by a Turkish businessman closely tied to Erdogan.
Flynn’s lawyer said back in March that the work for the firm “could be construed to have principally benefited the Republic of Turkey,” which is why he belatedly filed it under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
Flynn has been a campaign and White House adviser with close links to a president who rode to election proclaiming “America First.”
Late Thursday, it was reported that Flynn’s lawyer informed Trump’s legal team that he can no longer discuss the Mueller probe with him. That stirred speculation about Flynn’s cooperation with investigators and where it could lead.
This comes after reports that Erdogan’s men may have discussed with Flynn last year a paid mission that involved grabbing a Muslim cleric living in Pennsylvania — whom Erdogan blames for a coup attempt — and returning him to Turkey.
The intrigue seems to leach further into the American justice system than just the probe of Flynn.
There is also the long-lived case of Reza Zarrab — the Turkish-Iranian gold trader charged in Manhattan federal court with conspiring to evade U.S. sanctions on Iran.
Erdogan calls the case a plot against his republic. Over the weekend he purportedly launched an investigation of his own into former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who brought the case against Zarrab, an ally of Erdogan.
Bharara was fired by Trump after the president asked him to stay in the job. Responding to Erdogan, Bharara’s interim successor Joon Kim and Judge Richard Berman issued a rare reply to the Turkish government.
On Tuesday, Kim said: “Needless to say, it’s our view that those claims are ridiculous on their face. It displays a fundamental misunderstanding or lack of understanding of how our system of justice works and, frankly, the rule of law works.”
Diplomatically, Berman said that if Turkish officials wish to help Zarrab, they could do so by “producing in court any Turkish evidence or witnesses that they may be aware of who could assist the defense in presenting their case.”
Trump doesn’t seem inclined to complain about the Erdogan regime’s conduct in this or any other controversy.
In fact, on the defense side of the case, the president finds two political allies — Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor, and Michael Mukasey, the former attorney general.
By most accounts their job has been to try to get the case resolved through meetings away from courtroom arguments. Recent buzz has been about the prospect of a cooperation deal, but the matter is still apparently pending.
These are the shadowy complications of the moment in Turkish-American politics.
By Dan JanisonDan Janison has been a columnist at Newsday since 2007.
|What Flynns Flip Flop on Turkey Tells Us|
Many commentators anticipate that Special Counsel Robert Mueller will likely indict retired lieutenant general Michael Flynn in part for the former National Security Advisor’s previously undisclosed work as a foreign agent of Turkey.
Mueller’s team has reportedly obtained enough evidence to indict Flynn and his son, according to an NBC News report earlier this month.
There is no way to tell, based on current reporting, whether that body of indictable evidence includes the two alleged meetings in Sept. and Dec. 2016 where Flynn may have discussed a plot to forcibly remove U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gülen, or initiate legal proceedings against him, in exchange for $15 million.
But in considering Flynn’s case, it is important to keep track of how he changed from a relatively hardline position against the government of Turkey to public positions in favor of Ankara.
Former National Security Advisor Michael Fllynn in the East Room of the White House on February 13, 2017 in Washington, DC. MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty
Important questions for legal liability and moral responsibility include whether Flynn’s conflict of interest and efforts in favor of Turkey continued past the election and into his time in office.
Engaging in pro-Turkish government dealings was a major change in Flynn’s position on Turkey. In July 2016, Flynn gave a speech supporting the military coup against the Turkish government, specifically citing the country’s “move toward Islamism” under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the military’s secular orientation.
And previously, while serving as DIA Director under the Obama administration, Flynn says he alerted White House officials to Turkey’s indifference toward ISIS’ growth in Syria.
What explains why Flynn changed his position on Turkey and why did he persist in pro-Turkish positions after his firm’s contract to work on behalf of the Turkish government purportedly ended?
I. Flynn’s initial anti-Erdoğan, anti-Islamist public positions, and his later The Hill Op-Ed Reversal
Flynn has publicly spoken against what he views as a global threat of radical Islamism, which, according to his view, also implicated Erdoğan’s pro-Islamist government at one point. He tweeted in November 2015:
We are facing violent, but very serious and cunning radical Islamists. We can be war weary when we win. If we lose, we have nothing.
2. Flynn Expresses Concerns on Turkey’s Indifference to ISIS to Sy Hersh (January 2016)
Flynn seemed to view Turkey’s pro-Islamist attitudes as leading to the country’s indifference to ISIS growing next door. In January 2016, he told Seymour Hersh in a New Yorker interview:
He added that the Obama administration gave “enormous pushback” with respect to the DIA’s reporting on ISIS’s growth in Syria, including Turkey’s alleged indifference: “I felt that they did not want to hear the truth.”
3. Flynn Tweets that Fear of Muslims is Rational (Feb. 27. 2016)
In line with his prior statements, Flynn tweeted in Feb. 2016 that fear of Muslims was “rational:”
Fear of Muslims is RATIONAL: please forward this to others: the truth fears no questions… http://youtu.be/tJnW8HRHLLw
4. Flynn Lauds the Anti-Erdogan Coup at ACT! For America Speech (July 15, 2016)
On July 15, 2016, Flynn gave a speech at the Cleveland meeting of ACT! For America. The organization is an advocacy group that opposes what it calls “Islamofascism,” which Brigitte Gabriel, the group’s founder, believes comes from “one source: The Koran.” Flynn began his remarks by expressing support for the military-led coup d’état in Turkey:
5. New York Times Notes Flynn and Trump Share Islamophobic Outlook and Flynn’s Influence on the Campaign (November 2016)
The New York Times’s post-election profile of Flynn noted his anti-Islamist credentials throughout the campaign:
6. Flynn Supports Erdoğan Government’s Goals in the Hill Op-Ed (Nov. 08, 2016)
On Election Day 2016, The Hill published an op-ed by Flynn titled, “Our ally Turkey is in crisis and needs our support.”
The op-ed criticized the Obama administration for not being friendly enough toward Erdoğan’s government and portrayed Gülen as a cleric who “portrays himself as a moderate, but he is in fact a radical Islamist.”
It compares Gülen to the founders of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and labels him Turkey’s equivalent of Bin Laden:
It also ties Gülen to the Clinton Foundation:
When Flynn’s op-ed came out, Ekim Alptekin, the Turkish businessman who hired Flynn’s firm, told the New York Times : “This is not a guy who would be influenced by a contract. He wrote what he believes.”
Al Monitor ’s Turkey columnist Mustafa Akyol also told the paper of the warm reception Flynn’s op-ed had inside the government of Turkey: “You would expect to see [an Islamophobia] concern here, but quite the contrary: Flynn is quite a respected figure now in government circles, just because he wrote that Gülen should be extradited to Turkey.”
He added: “[Flynn’s op-ed] was greeted with great happiness here,” adding that Erdoğan supporters thought: “Finally, somebody in America who understands us.”
In late Nov., Alptekin denied that either Erdoğan or the Turkish government paid for Flynn’s op-ed, telling The Independent that the idea was “preposterous,” noting that the op-ed also criticized the Muslim Brotherhood, a group that Erdogan had sometimes supported.
He contended that Inovo’s contract with Flynn Intel Group was “not about representing the position of the Turkish government,” and Alptekin said that he was not affiliated with the Turkish government.
Flynn has a strong anti-Islamist streak, and yet he went from criticizing Turkey’s relatively pro-Islamist government and supporting the coup against Erdoğan, to publicly advocating for Gülen’s removal to face justice for the coup in Turkey. What changed between these two events—the coup and the op-ed—to cause Flynn to switch positions on Turkey?
II. A likely motive: lucrative lobbying contracts, and how Flynn’s private business activities may have affected his public positions
In early August 2016, Flynn Intel Group was approached by Alptekin, the chairman of the Turkish-American Business Council, a Turkish economic relations board run by an appointee of Prs Erdoğan.
Alptekin proposed that Flynn work on a project repairing Turkey’s image in the United States with Alptekin’s Netherlands-based firm Inovo BV—work to be performed by Flynn’s firm over 90 days in exchange for $600,000. Flynn agreed.
Though Flynn later conceded in his belated filing that the Inovo work “could be construed to have principally helped the Republic of Turkey,” Flynn opted not to file this work with the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) database until strongly encouraged to do so by the Justice Department.
FARA requires lobbyists whose work directly or indirectly benefits a foreign government to file as agents of a foreign power. The Flynn firm would likely assert that because the Inovo work benefitted a business and not a foreign nation, the firm could instead file with Congress under the Lobbying Disclosure Act, and it did so in Sept. 2016.
2. Flynn Meets with Turkish Ministers Alongside Woolsey in New York (Sept. 21, 2016)
On September 21, Flynn met in New York with the Turkish foreign minister and energy ministers (the latter is also Erdoğan’s son-in-law), alongside former CIA Director James Woolsey and a former FBI agent, according to Woolsey’s account of the deliberations.
Woolsey later told the Wall Street Journal that the meeting discussed a plot to remove Turkish cleric Gülen from the United States and take him to Turkey.
According to a report by the Daily Caller, one month after the Sept. 2016 meeting between Flynn and Turkish ministers in New York, Flynn attended an event with Halil Mutlu, former director of the Turken Foundation, a U.S. charity focused on Turkish issues, and President Erdoğan’s cousin. (Readers should note: The Daily Caller generally has a far-right ideological lens, and has been criticized for having a white nationalist problem in recent months.)
3. Flynn Intel Group Lobbies Congress on Inovo’s Behalf (Sept.–Oct. 2016)
After signing the contract with Inovo BV, Flynn’s Intel Group began lobbying Congress on Inovo’s behalf, though Flynn himself did not participate in the lobbying. Flynn’s Sept. 2016 Lobbying Disclosure Act forms reveal that Robert Kelley, Flynn’s lawyer and a former Chief Counsel to a House subcommittee, managed the lobbying portion of the Inovo contract.
According to the FARA registration, in Oct. 2016, VP Bijan R. Kian met twice with Miles Taylor, National Security Advisor to the House Homeland Security Committee, to discuss Flynn Intel Group’s work for Inovo and research related to Turkey and Gülen.
According to a Daily Caller source, at the second meeting, Kian and Inovo representatives discussed Gülen with Taylor, and what they called his “shady” Gülen Movement Schools.
The source added that House committee staff were not receptive to Kian’s approach, and that Flynn was not present for the meeting. Beyond this Congressional outreach, the FARA registration also notes that Flynn’s firm oversaw a PR firm SGR LLC’s outreach to an Arkansas state government official with respect to the Inovo work.
The AP reported that as part of the Taylor meeting, Flynn Intel Group staff suggested that Congress hold hearings about Gülen.
At the time of the filing, Alptekin told the AP : “I disagree with the filing…It would be different if I was working for the government of Turkey, but I am not taking directions from anyone in the government.” He said the filings were a response to “political pressure.”
4. Flynn Group’s VP Meets Alptekin Prior to The Hill Op-Ed (Nov. 2, 2016)
According to an in-depth profile of Flynn by The New Yorker ’s Nicholas Schmidle, on November 2, 2016, Alptekin privately met Flynn Intel Group VP Bijan R. Kian and other corporate officers at the firm’s offices in Alexandria, Va. Alptekin, believing that Trump was likely to lose the election, emphasized that, “We have to generate something to show Turkey how successful we can be…What success can we show them now?”
As Schmidle points out, Flynn’s op-ed in The Hill was published a week later.
5. Flynn and Alptekin Statement to the Wall Street Journal (Nov. 17, 2016)
Flynn told the Wall Street Journal in a Nov. 17 statement that he would end his relationship with his firm if offered to serve in the Trump administration. He said: “If I return to government service, my relationship with my company will be severed in accordance with the policy announced by President-elect Trump.”
Turkish businessman Ekim Alptekin tells the Journal that he hired Flynn to advise him on the U.S.-Turkish security relationship, and more generally, to improve U.S.-Turkish relations.
6. WH Cabinet Secretary’s Post-Election Investigation into Flynn’s The Hill Op-Ed (Nov. 19, 2016)
On Nov. 19, the day after Trump appointed Flynn as his National Security Adviser, lawyer Bill McGinley, who later became White House Cabinet Secretary, called Kian and others to investigate the Flynn op-ed. A source told The New Yorker:
Kian reportedly told McGinley that Flynn wrote the op-ed entirely on his own, and that it was unrelated to his work for Alptekin.
However, the Flynn group’s FARA filing noted that in October and early November, Flynn developed the op-ed based partly based on research done for the Inovo work, and that a draft was shared with Inovo before publication. Further, SGR LLC, a public relations firm Flynn Intel Group hired as part of the Inovo contract, helped Flynn place The Hill op-ed.
7. Second Meeting with Turkish officials on Alleged Gülen Plot in New York (Dec. 2016)
Mueller’s investigation is reportedly looking into whether, during a second alleged meeting between Flynn and Turkish government representatives in mid-Dec. 2016, participants discussed a plan for Flynn and Flynn Jr. to remove Gülen in exchange for up to $15 million dollars.
It is also reportedly looking into whether they discussed a separate plan to free Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab. The Wall Street Journal reported that the alleged meeting took place in mid-December at the 21 Club in New York, and the discussion considered forcibly removing Mr. Gülen from the U.S. on a private jet to the Turkish prison island of Imrali.
If the December meeting were to be confirmed, even if the more sensational allegations about the content of the meeting were not established, it could contradict Flynn Intel Group’s filing statements, which state that the Flynn firm’s contract with Inovo terminated in November 2016, and that is when Flynn’s paid work that benefited the Turkish government ended. Intentional false statements on a FARA form are a felony.
8. Flynn Tells Susan Rice “We’ll Take it From Here” on Raqqa Campaign (Jan. 10, 2017)
On Jan. 10, outgoing National Security Adviser Susan Rice presented Flynn a plan to imminently take over the Islamic State’s capital in Raqqa, Syria, according to the Washington Post. The plan involved arming Kurdish Peshmerga fighters in northern Syria, and Obama administration officials believed they had little time left to move forward with the operation.
The Post noted that Turkey’s Erdoğan had resisted their overtures to fight the Islamic State more robustly, leading in part to the U.S. plan to rely on the Kurds:
Erdoğan has long been upset by the U.S. support for Syrian Kurds, which he considers part of a terrorist group that threatens Turkey’s national security.
According to the Post , Flynn responded to Rice:
McClatchy reported that it is not known if Flynn consulted other administration officials before telling Rice to hold off on the decision, or whether Flynn’s decision was approved by a higher-ranking official such as Secretary of Defense nominee James Mattis.
Raqqa Plan is “Dead on Arrival” When Presented to Trump Officials (Jan. 17, 2017)
When the plan was turned over to the Trump administration on Jan. 17, per Flynn’s request, the Postreported that it “was dead on arrival.” According to McClatchy, “Some members of Congress, in private conversations, have even used the word ‘treason’ to describe Flynn’s intervention” with Rice.
And while there is no reporting whether Flynn advised Trump to hold off on the Raqqa assault, media outlets have noted that Trump only approved the plan weeks after he had fired Flynn.
10. Flynn, Turkish FM Meet over Breakfast at Trump Hotel (Jan. 18, 2017)
McClatchy reported that Flynn met Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu over breakfast on Jan. 18 to discuss U.S.-Turkish interests. It was later reported by Business Insider that Republican Rep. Devin Nunes, Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, was also present at the closed-door meeting at the Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C.
Pro-government Turkish newspaper Daily Sabah reported at the time of the breakfast that the meeting was “a first direct reachout between the President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan administration and the incoming Donald Trump administration.”
An aide to Cavusoglu told the paper that that “Çavuşoğlu was the only foreign leader at the breakfast and the topics on the U.S.-Turkish agenda were discussed by the attendees.” Cavusoglu would later attend Trump’s inauguration.
11. President Trump’s Call with Erdogan (Feb. 7, 2017)
On Trump’s first call with Erdoğan, the pair agreed to engage in joint action against ISIS positions in Syria, according to two sources in Erdoğan’s office, Reuters reported.
They added that Erdoğan urged Trump not to support the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia. Al-Monitorreported based that a senior Turkish official said that Erdoğan “drew attention to the close ties between the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the Kurdistan Workers Party,” the Turkish-based Kurdish group. Likewise, Reuters added that CIA Director Mike Pompeo would be in Turkey on Feb. 9 to discuss security issues with Turkish officials.
Considering the nature of Flynn’s pre- and alleged post-election work on behalf of the Turkish government, it appears that the money paid to him as part of the Inovo contract may have played a decisive role in changing his position on Turkey.
The extent of his reversal would have negatively implicated U.S. national security interests if it figured into his response to Susan Rice on the operation to retake Raqqa, the Islamic State’s so-called capital.
But why would Flynn remain motivated by pecuniary interests once he was named to be national security advisor and then served in the administration?
Perhaps it was not a financial interest at that point. Perhaps it was a case of a person’s judgment being clouded, convincing themselves that they believe in a new policy outlook to reduce the cognitive dissonance that would otherwise persist.
Another explanation is a more illicit one. If Flynn and his son were still interested in mid-December in being personally paid $15 million by Turkey, there’s reason to think Flynn would not have dropped such interests going forward on other policies favorable to Turkey.
The allegations reported in the Wall Street Journal and NBC News involving the mid-December meeting certainly raise this specter. The available information in the public domain does not provide a sufficient basis to reach any firm conclusion.
It will be up to Mueller’s investigation and others to tell.
Artin Afkhami Associate Editor at Just Security.
|trump turkey flynn – Google Search|
Daily Beast–1 hour ago
Flynn allegedly discussed getting paid $15 million to help free Reza … a joint defense agreement with the Trump defense team last week.
Reza Zarrab, Turkish gold trader tied to Erdogan, avoids trial
<a href=”http://NBCNews.com” rel=”nofollow”>NBCNews.com</a>–20 hours ago
Turkish gold dealer Reza Zarrab pleads guilty, agrees to testify at …
New York Daily News–37 minutes ago
Turkish-Iranian gold trader pleads guilty, set to testify
WSB Atlanta–23 minutes ago
Turkish-Iranian businessman to testify at US trial
WPXI Pittsburgh–2 hours ago
A Manhattan Trial Wreaks Havoc on Turkish Markets: QuickTake Q&A
In-Depth–Bloomberg–6 hours ago
|Feds Flip Turkish Crook; Did He Rat on Michael Flynn?|
Reza Zarrab, a Turkish businessman accused of violating U.S. sanctions on Iran, pleaded guilty and will testify against his co-defendant, a federal court heard Tuesday. Zarrab’s cooperation with federal prosecutors could have implications for Michael Flynn, who allegedly plotted on behalf of Turkish interests to help free Zarrab.
Zarrab, a 34-year-old Turkish-Iranian gold trader, is at the center of an Iran sanctions-busting case in which he used his companies and Turkish state-run banks to trade cash for gold in order to secretly buy oil from Iran. A former deputy general manager of one of those banks, Mehmet Atilla, is charged as part of that same conspiracy.
Atilla’s lawyers complained that co-defendant Zarrab had vanished in the weeks before trial was to start, an indication that he was no longer cooperating with them but instead federal prosecutors. He is expected to testify Tuesday or Wednesday.
Zarrab’s apparent cooperation with federal prosecutors raised speculation that he was also cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller’s inquiry into Flynn, because it seemed unlikely prosecutors would offer a plea deal to Zarrab in exchange for his cooperation for the comparatively lower-profile trial of Atilla.
Shortly after Zarrab seemed to flip, Flynn’s lawyers terminated a joint defense agreement with the Trump defense team last week. Flynn’s lawyer reportedly met with members of the Mueller probe on Monday, ABC News reported, a further indication that the embattled ex-national security advisor is also pursuing a plea deal.
Zarrab’s plight was reportedly raised by Turkish interests in a December 2016 meeting with Flynn, who was designated to be President Trump’s national security adviser. Flynn was supposedly offered $15 million to arrange Zarrab’s release and to kidnap an exiled Turkish cleric living in Pennsylvania, Fethullah Gulen, and bring him to Turkey. (Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan accuses Gulen, a former ally, of orchestrating a failed 2016 coup.)
The Zarrab case has roiled the upper echelons of the Turkish government and stems from a 2013 corruption scandal, which allegedly revealed that top-level ministers to bribes to sign off on the sanctions evasions — and even allegedly captured Erdogan and his son talking about how to hide money.
Erdogan has repeatedly raised Zarrab’s release with U.S. officials from the Obama and Trump administrations. Zarrab even retained friends of President Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani and Michael Mukasey, to negotiate a diplomatic release with the top levels of the Trump and Erdogan administrations.
After the jury was selected on Monday, Atilla’s lawyers asked the judge to delay the trial so they could prepare for a mystery witness.
“The government should also make clear that the mystery witness is Mr. Reza Zarrab,” Judge Richard Berman wrote in a ruling denying the motion to postpone trial on Monday. “This is something that experienced counsel knew or should have known about for months.”
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|Turkish gold trader linked to Flynn and Giuliani could start testifying for feds as soon as today – Raw Story|
|Feds Flip Turkish Crook; Did He Rat on Michael Flynn? – Daily Beast|
|Russian jet makes ‘unsafe’ intercept of US Navy aircraft – CNN|
|Russian Jet Makes ‘Unsafe’ Interception Of US Navy P8-Poseidon Over Black Sea – International Business Times|
|6:33 AM 11/28/2017 FBI gave heads-up to fraction of Russian hackers US targets Washington Post|
Investigate the investigators! Save America! Reform the FBI now! __________________________________ “Scores of U.S. diplomatic, military and government figures were not told about attempts to hack into their emails even though the FBI knew they were in the Kremlins crosshairs, The Associated Press has learned.” FBI gave heads-up to fraction of Russian hackers US targets – … Continue reading“6:33 AM 11/28/2017 – FBI gave heads-up to fraction of Russian hackers’ US targets – Washington Post”
|9:17 AM 11/28/2017 M.N. This observation is consistent with the previous ones, made by many observers: excessive, demonstrative loudness Odds Are, Russia Owns Trump NYT|
__________________________________ M.N. This observation, once again, is consistent with the previous ones, made by many observers: excessive, demonstrative “loudness” (in Comey’s words: “They were unusually loud in their intervention. It is as almost they didn’t care that we knew, or they wanted us to see what they do. They were very noisy in their interventions…” – 2:48:55 … Continue reading“9:17 AM 11/28/2017 – M.N. This observation is consistent with the previous ones, made by many observers: excessive, demonstrative “loudness” – Odds Are, Russia Owns Trump – NYT”
|Muellers Trump-Russia Probe May Be Only One That Leads to Answers-Or Handcuffs|
“Please,” the senator said, “answer yes or no, sir. Can you do that?”
It was late October, and Minnesota’s Al Franken was two hours into a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing on Russia’s manipulation of social media, including its efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election. Sitting across from him and the other senators at a long table was a lawyer from Facebook. Franken tried to get the man to say whether the social media network would reject political ads purchased with foreign currency. But the attorney remained obtuse, and the senator dropped his head into his hands in frustration.
That hearing came a day after special counsel Robert Mueller’s team announced the first charges in its probe of Russian interference in the election and possible coordination with President Donald Trump’s campaign. A grand jury charged Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, and Rick Gates, another former campaign member, with money laundering, among other things. The special counsel also announced that George Papadopoulos, a former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser, had pleaded guilty to lying to federal agents about his ties to suspected Russian agents.
It’s been less than seven months since Mueller’s work began, and already his investigation seems to be the only one that matters in Washington. The federal lawmakers digging into the same subject typically lack the mandate to conduct raids and make arrests, and their lists of potential witnesses are likely to shrink with each Mueller indictment, since no one wants to interfere with the criminal probe. But a primary reason the congressional investigations have moved slowly is that they’re mired in partisan politics, according to interviews with more than a dozen members of Congress.
Similar divides have hindered congressional investigations before, such as the Senate Intelligence Committee’s 2004 report on Iraq. But with lawmakers on at least one committee talking about possibly releasing separate Russia reports, the current dramas seem to go further.
“As much as this committee…has traditionally sort of been insulated from partisanship over the years,” says Representative Tom Rooney, a Florida Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, “this issue has thrown all that out the window.”
Congressional investigators jumped on the Russia matter not long after the U.S. intelligence community declared in January that the Kremlin had tried to sway the election against Hillary Clinton. In May, President Donald Trump fired former FBI Director James Comey, implying in an NBC News interview that the decision was partly due to the bureau’s Russia investigation. About a week later, the Justice Department appointed special counsel Mueller, and by June, the Senate Judiciary Committee and the House and Senate intelligence committees had opened probes into Russian interference and other related topics.
The Senate Judiciary Committee was making progress over the summer. It issued bipartisan requests for documents from the Trump campaign, the Trump Organization, Manafort and Donald Trump Jr. But by late October, cooperation between Democrats and Republicans on the committee broke down. Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, the ranking member, told Mother Jones that she and her Democratic colleagues would be moving forward with the Russia probe without the Republicans. Days later, she sent letters requesting information from people or companies, without the signature of Senator Chuck Grassley, the Republican chairman. That suggested he was too slow to approve the Democrats’ requests for information, or unwilling to do so. (Neither senator was available for an interview.)
Today, critics say Republicans on the committee seem mostly focused on Comey’s conduct as FBI director and an allegedly questionable uranium deal with Russia that Clinton’s State Department helped approve. The Republican side of the committee, says Senator Chris Coons, a committee Democrat from Delaware, “treats the Russia investigation as a Democratic priority.” The GOP, he adds, acts as if every time the probe moves forward, they should pursue “something that goes after Hillary Clinton.” It wasn’t until November 16, for example, that the chairman and the ranking member sent their first bipartisan letter in almost two months, seeking information from the lawyer for Jared Kushner, who is Trump’s son-in-law and a White House senior adviser.
US president Donald Trump (L) and Russia’s president Vladimir Putin talk after a meeting on the closing day of the 25th APEC Summit. Mikhail Klimentyev/Russian Presidential Press and Information Office/TASS/Alamy Live News
Part of the problem is that the GOP controls the committee (and the others probing Russian collusion), so the Democrats generally need Republican approval to compel people to turn over documents or to testify. “There’s nothing the minority can do but say ‘Mother, may I?’ to the majority to get an agreement to have these witnesses come before us,” says Representative Jackie Speier, a Democrat from California on the House Intelligence Committee. “It is a tap dance that we have to do to get them to cooperate.”
The probe by the House Intelligence Committee has been even more contentious. Devin Nunes, the Republican chairman, recused himself as reports swirled that he had provided Trump with unauthorized intelligence about government surveillance of the president’s transition team. (Nunes has called the complaints about him “entirely false and politically motivated.”) Despite interviews in November with high-profile witnesses, including Carter Page, a former foreign policy adviser on the Trump campaign, and Keith Schiller, the former director of Oval Office operations, the committee is dealing with political divides that threaten to derail its progress.
The Senate Intelligence Committee seems to be making the most progress. In June, it held a dramatic hearing in which Comey said he had kept memos of his encounters with Trump because he expected the president to lie about them. In early October, Republican Senator Richard Burr, the committee chairman, and Democratic Senator Mark Warner, the vice chairman, held a joint press conference to announce that their panel had reviewed almost 100,000 pages of documents and conducted more than 250 hours of interviews with at least 100 people. That work suggests the Senate Intelligence Committee is the public’s best hope for a timely and thorough bipartisan report on the Russian meddling and possible collusion by some of Trump’s people.
But even if the committee puts out a detailed report, the question of whether anyone committed crimes will ultimately fall to Mueller. And as he moves forward, the congressional committees could find it harder to complete their inquiries. Lawmakers may be reluctant to ask those whom the special counsel indicts to testify before Congress, for fear of disrupting Mueller’s work. (If a suspect gives different testimony to Congress from what he or she gives to Mueller, it could create legal problems for prosecutors.) It’s also likely that anyone indicted would invoke his or her Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination and decline to testify before Congress. The Senate Judiciary Committee had called on Manafort to testify before his indictment, and both intelligence committees have been in touch with Papadopoulos or his legal team, but those appearances now seem less likely to happen. The special counsel and committees are trying to work out any conflicts, yet committee staffers and members remain cautious.
As the congressional investigations crawl forward, the parties are split over when the probes should end and whether they will find evidence of collusion. On the House Intelligence Committee, the Republicans claim Democrats are prolonging the investigation to hurt them in the 2018 midterm elections. “We could drag this out,” says Representative Chris Stewart, a Republican from Utah, “but it’s not serving the American people if we do.”
New York activists demonstrated inside the Trump Tower atrium to voice their objection in response to reports that Donald Trump is considering firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller and to pardon administration members who have broken the law. Erik McGregor/Pacific Press/Alamy Live News
Some Republican investigators still don’t believe there was any coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign. “We have not had one witness or one shred of evidence” suggesting collusion, says Rooney, the Republican congressman from Florida.
The Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee disagree. And they believe the Republicans are working to shut down the probe quickly to leave the question of collusion unsolved. “This investigation is still closer to the beginning than the end,” says Mike Quigley, a Democrat from Illinois. “People ask me, ‘Are you connecting dots?’ My answer is: ‘We’re still finding our dots.’”
Representative Adam Schiff, the ranking member of the committee, says they are still receiving new information and have “a long list” of witnesses to interview. As for collusion, Schiff adds, “You have to, I think, willfully blind yourself to what we’ve seen to suggest there’s no evidence.” He has said it’s possible each party will issue its own report.
Across the committees, there’s one thing lawmakers from both parties agree on: Americans shouldn’t expect their probes to unfold the way Mueller’s is developing. As part of that investigation, federal agents raided Manafort’s home and arrested Papadopoulos in the middle of an airport, leading to his stunning confession.
Now that Mueller’s team has reportedly requested documents from the Justice Department and plans to interview senior White House officials, and as speculation grows that former national security adviser Michael Flynn has flipped and is working with the special counsel, Americans may soon find out the truth about the Trump team’s alleged obstruction and collusion. As Representative Denny Heck of Washington, a Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, puts it, “I’ll be very surprised if there aren’t people that are going to jail.”
|Trump’s and Putin’s connections with organized crime – Google News: Odds Are, Russia Owns Trump – New York Times|
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|Trump tells Turkish president U.S. will stop arming Kurds in Syria – The Washington Post|
The Trump administration is preparing to stop supplying weapons to ethnic Kurdish fighters in Syria, the White House acknowledged Friday, a move reflecting renewed focus on furthering a political settlement to the civil war there and countering Iranian influence now that the Islamic State caliphate is largely vanquished.
Word of the policy change long sought by neighboring Turkey came Friday, not from Washington but from Ankara. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters at a news conference that President Trump had pledged to stop arming the fighters, known as the YPG, during a phone call between Trump and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“Mr. Trump clearly stated that he had given clear instructions, and that the YPG won’t be given arms and that this nonsense should have ended a long time ago,” the Associated Press quoted Cavusoglu as saying to reporters following the call.
Initially, the administration’s national security team appeared surprised by the Turks’ announcement and uncertain what to say about it. The State Department referred questions to the White House, and hours passed with no confirmation from the National Security Council.
In late afternoon, the White House confirmed the weapons cutoff would happen, though it provided no details on timing.
“Consistent with our previous policy, President Trump also informed President Erdogan of pending adjustments to the military support provided to our partners on the ground in Syria, now that the battle of Raqqa is complete and we are progressing into a stabilization phase to ensure that ISIS cannot return,” the White House statement said, referring to the recent liberation of the Syrian city that had served as the Islamic State’s de facto capital.
The decision to stop arming the Kurds will remove a major source of tension between the United States and Turkey, a NATO ally. But it is likely to further anger the Kurds, who already feel betrayed since the United States told them to hand over hard-won territory to the Syrian government.
Turkey has pointed to the YPG’s affiliation with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party — a Kurdish rebel group that has fought the Turkish state for decades — as evidence of its terrorist ties. The YPG, which formed amid the chaos of the Syrian civil war, has worked with U.S. forces to oust the Islamic State from key areas there.
The Obama administration began arming the Syrian Democratic Forces, which is dominated by the Kurdish YPG militia, because they were considered the most effective fighters against Islamic State militants.
The phone call between Trump and Erdogan followed a summit on Syria held this week in Sochi, Russia. It was attended by Erdogan, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Both Russia and Iran backed the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and helped Syrian forces to rout the Islamic State.
The two powers, along with Turkey, have forged an alliance that is advancing its own peace plan, in which the United States would play little role beyond being an observer. They have said U.S. troops should leave Syria now that the Islamic State’s defeat appears imminent.
But a U.S. withdrawal without a peace plan well on its way would be victory for Assad, and by extension, Iran and Russia.
So U.S. officials have said they plan to keep American troops in northern Syria — and continue working with Kurdish fighters — to pressure Assad to make concessions during peace talks brokered by the United Nations in Geneva, stalemated for three years now. “We’re not going to just walk away right now,” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said last week.
James Jeffrey, the U.S. ambassador to Turkey from 2008 to 2010, said the decision to cease supplying weapons to the Kurds appears to reflect an evolving strategy to keep playing a productive role in Syria and weaken Iranian-backed militias and Hezbollah, both of which fought alongside Syrian forces to regain territory from the militants.
“Fighting ISIS was such a priority, we had to focus on that before other things,” he said, using a common acronym for the Islamic State. “Now as the conventional fight is over, we’re trying to come up with a bigger policy. We can’t do it without Turkey. It’s pure geography. We have to mend fences with the Turks if we want to remain in Syria.”
|Pentagon ‘taking a look’ at halting weapons for Syrian Kurds as Turkey presses ban | TheHill|
|The Early Edition: November 28, 2017|
Before the start of business, Just Security provides a curated summary of up-to-the-minute developments at home and abroad. Heres todays news.
A new round of U.N.-backed Syria peace talks in Geneva are scheduled to start today, ahead of the talks the U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura called for real diplomacy and for Syrians to begin to find some common ground. The UN News Centre reports.
The talks are expected to focus primarily on a new constitution and elections, however there is little optimism that the talks would lead to a political solution to the Syrian conflict and there are questions over the ability of the groups opposed to the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to put on a united front. Barbara Bibbo reports at Al Jazeera.
Our goal in the negotiation will be the departure of Bashar al-Assad from the beginning of the transition, Nasr Hariri, the head of the Syrian High Negotiations Committee (H.N.C.), which constitutes the opposition delegation, said yesterday. Stephanie Nebehay reporting at Reuters.
The Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim warned that Turkey could renege on its agreement with the E.U. on refugees if the U.S. and E.U. grant the Y.P.G. a role in the Geneva talks, saying after a meeting with the British Prime Minister Theresa May yesterday that Turkey sees the Y.P.G. as a terrorist organization and [it] has no place in the peace process. Patrick Wintour reports at the Guardian.
The Pentagon stopped short of saying that it would halt the supply of weapons to Syrian Kurdish (Y.P.G.) militia after Turkeys foreign ministry said on Friday that Trump had pledged to stop providing weapons to the group which heads the Syrian Democratic Forces (S.D.F.), with Pentagon spokesperson Col. Robert Manning saying yesterday that the Defense Department would be reviewing pending adjustments to the military support provided to our Kurdish partners. Ellen Mitchell reports at the Hill.
Russia proposed a two-day ceasefire yesterday in the rebel-held Eastern Ghouta area near the capital of Damascus following reports of civilian deaths, the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights saying that 18 were killed by bombing over the past two days. Reuters reports.
The shelling of the Eastern Ghouta area has been less intense following the Russian ceasefire proposal, according to witnesses and a war monitor, however there have been no indications that a ceasefire has been agreed. Reuters reports.
Russias defense ministry yesterday denied reports that it carried out airstrikes on the Islamic State-held village of Al Shafah in the Deir al-Zour province after the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 53 civilians were killed by Russian strikes, the ministry saying in a statement that Russian forces target areas outside population centers, and only facilities of the international terrorist groups. The BBCreports.
The Syrian oppositions stance is seen by Assad and his allies as being unrealistic as pro-Syrian government forces have achieved a series of military victories and the rebels have almost been defeated, while the opposition have accused the Syrian government of refusing to seriously engage. Angus McDowall explains at Reuters why there is little prospect of success at the Geneva talks.
The image of Assad and Russian President Vladimir Putin hugging in the Russian city of Sochi last week symbolizes the power dynamics in the Syrian conflict and Russias success in supporting the Assad regime, with Putin having been able to marginalize the U.S. and enlist the support of Turkey and Iran in his plan for Syria Russias achievements signaling an acceleration of the collapse of U.S. global leadership. The Washington Post editorial board writes.
[We] cannot rule out the possibility Pyongyang may declare the completion of their nuclear program in a year, South Koreas Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon said today, Reuters reporting.
Japan has detected radio signals that signal the preparations for a possible North Korean ballistic missile launch, a Japanese government source said today, however noting that the signals are not unusual and are not enough to determine if there would be a launch soon. Reuters reports.
Russias Deputy Foreign Minister welcomed the fact that North Korea has not tested any weapons for more than two months during a visit to South Korea yesterday, however the pause in testing may be seasonal, rather than strategic and a full resumption may come in February. Adam Taylor observes at the Washington Post.
The U.S. and China must bridge gaps on key questions regarding North Korea before any lasting resolution the crisis becomes likely, including their approach to the Pyongyang regime and how they intend to bring North Korea to the negotiation table. Krishnadev Calamur writes at the Atlantic.
TRUMP ADMINISTRATION FOREIGN POLICY
Trumps foreign policy reflects current realities because it acknowledges what many experts have not yet grasped: that Americas post-Cold War national strategy has run out of gas. Walter Russell Mead writes at the Wall Street Journal, arguing that Trumps approach understands the limitations of U.S.s role, however the president must do more than demolish the old.
The Foreign Service is facing perhaps its greatest crisis, as the U.S. juggles with a plethora of national security challenges and complicated dynamics in conflicts in the Middle East, the Trump administration has weakened the Foreign Service by a series of misguided decisions since taking office. Former ambassadors Nicholas Burns and Ryan C. Crocker write at the New York Times, warning about the impact of deep cuts at the State Department.
The dynamics of power in the Middle East may provide Trump with the zero-sum game that he has wanted, however nuance regarding Saudi Arabia and Irans respective influence in the region is needed to try and defuse tensions. Ishaan Tharoor provides an analysis at the Washington Post.
The possibility of the presidents daughter Ivanka Trump becoming the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. is not as preposterous as it would initially seem, the current ambassador Nikki Haley did not have expertise on the U.N. but has proven to be capable, Ivanka Trump could prove similarly capable and has some of the qualities to make a good ambassador. Richard Gowan writes at POLITICO Magazine.
Lawyers for Trumps former national security adviser Michael Flynn met with members of special counsel Robert Muellers team yesterday, raising the possibility that Flynn is preparing to negotiate a plea deal with prosecutors, however a member of Trumps legal team said that no one should draw the conclusion that this means anything about Gen. Flynn cooperating against the president. Matthew Mosk, Mike Levine and Brian Ross report at ABC News.
Flynn was involved in a project to build nuclear power plants in Egypt and Israel in partnership with Russia interests in June 2015, revealing another instance where Flynn may have had a personal interest in a project while he was advising Trump during the campaign for the presidency, and creating further potential legal questions in the wide-ranging investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Michael Kranish, Tom Hamburger and Carol D. Leonnig report at the Washington Post.
The U.S. needs to come to terms with substantial evidence that the president is in thrall to a foreign power, Michelle Goldberg writes at the New York Times, pointing to the cast of shady characters surrounding the president and the evidence of cooperation with the Kremlin documented in Luke Hardings new book Collusion.
A Russian interception of a U.S. aircraft at the weekend was unsafe, a spokesperson for the Pentagon said yesterday, adding that the U.S. aircraft was operating in international airspace and did nothing to provoke this Russian behavior. Ryan Browne reports at CNN.
Trumps tweets at the weekend attacking C.N.N. came hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law requiring certain U.S. media outlets working in Russia to register as foreign agents, there are concerns about the implications of the requirement to register. Michael M. Grynbaum observes at the New York Times.
The Trump administration has two differing approaches to Russia, and is incoherent on Russias role in Ukraine, U.S.-Russia relations, Russias strategy in Syria and on a host of other issues. Susan B. Glasser writes at POLITICO Magazine referring to her interview of the U.S. Ambassador to Russia, Kurt Volker.
The Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri said yesterday that he does not wish to discuss the details of the events following his resignation announcement on Nov. 4 from the Saudi capital of Riyadh, having now deferred his decision to resign. There has been intense speculation surrounding the situation and Hariri cited the destructive role of Iran and its Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah ally as the reason for his resignation. Al Jazeera reports.
Lebanon cannot resolve a question like Hezbollah which is in Syria, Iraq, everywhere because of Iran, Hariri also said yesterday, adding that he would stay on as Prime Minister if Hezbollah accepted to stick by Lebanons policy of staying out of regional conflicts. Reuters reporting.
The residents of the village of Rawda in Egypts Sinai Peninsula had been expecting an attack after months of increased threats, however they did not expect an attack as savage as the massacre on the mosque on Friday which killed at least 305 people. Sudarsan Raghavan and Heba Farouk Mahfouz explain at the Washington Post.
The mosque that was attacked had a Sufi character, many of the media reports have misrepresented Sufisms qualities and its role within mainstream Islamic thought. H.A. Hellyer writes at the Guardian, saying that the rhetoric deployed by many purist Salafis that push narratives about Sufism should be addressed if there is to be a counter-extremism approach.
The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for a suicide attack southeast of Baghdad yesterday, killing 35 members of the Shiite paramilitary Popular Mobilization Forces, Reuters reports.
U.S.-led airstrikes continue. U.S. and coalition forces carried out 11 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria and Iraq between November 24 and November 26. [Central Command]
The Pentagon was unable to explain inconsistencies regarding the number of U.S. troops in conflicts in the Middle East and elsewhere yesterday, the spokesperson Col. Robert Manning attempted to set out why there are discrepancies between official statements and statistics available on government-operated websites. Alex Horton reports at the Washington Post.
U.S. airstrikes on the Islamic State group in northeast Somalia killed one militant, the U.S. military said yesterday, Rebecca Kheel reports at the Hill.
Broadcasts on Iranian state T.V. of a U.S. citizen and a British-Iranian citizen at the weekend suggest that Tehran has been trying to pressure the U.S. and U.K., the two detainees have been sentenced on espionage charges. Carol Morello reports at the Washington Post.
Today we are discovering a fifth estate that makes claims but up until now does not want to take any social responsibility, the head of Germanys domestic agency said yesterday, criticizing tech giants like Facebook for hiding behind legal privileges to avoid taking over editorial verification of their content. Reuters reporting.
The Islamic State may regroup in the Philippines since it has suffered territorial losses in Syria and Iraq, Patrick B. Johnston and Colin P. Clarke write at Foreign Policy, saying that the siege of the Philippine city of Marawi by militants supportive of the terrorist group may be a taste of things to come.
|Turkey, United States on same wavelength|
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday his talks with US President Donald Trump last week were the first occasion in a long time the two Nato allies were “on the same wavelength” and they would speak against this week.
Diplomatic ties between Ankara and Washington have been strained by several disagreements, particularly over the United States’ support for the YPG Syrian Kurdish militia, which Ankara regards as a terrorist group.
“The telephone call which we had with Trump on Friday was the first in a long time in which we got on the same wavelength,” Erdogan said in a speech to deputies from his ruling AK Party in parliament.
He said discussions would continue in the coming days on the issues of the YPG, defence industry cooperation and the fight against the network of a US-based cleric whom Ankara accuses of orchestrating last year’s failed coup in Turkey.
According to Turkey‘s foreign minister, Trump on Friday told Erdogan he had issued instructions that weapons should not be provided to the Syrian Kurdish YPG.
However, the Pentagon said on Monday it was reviewing “adjustments” in arms for Syrian Kurdish forces, but it stopped short of halting weapons transfers, suggesting such decisions would be based on battlefield requirements.
Speaking to reporters in parliament after his speech, Erdogan said the Pentagon statement would be discussed at Turkey‘s National Security Council (MGK) meeting later on Tuesday.
He also said that Trump indicated that another call may happen this week.
“If he doesn’t call, I’ll call,” Erdogan said.
The YPG spearheads the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias fighting Islamic State with the help of a US-led coalition.
Turkey regards the YPG as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has fought a decades-long insurgency in Turkey and is designated a terrorist group by Ankara, the United States and European Union.
|Russian jet intercepts US aircraft over Black Sea – Google Search|
Fox News–12 hours ago
Russian jet buzzes US Navy spy plane over Black Sea … strike, were intercepted merely 80 miles away from the ship, said Navy officials.
Russian jet intercepts US aircraft over Black Sea
Anadolu Agency–43 minutes ago
Russian fighter jet intercepts US spy plane over Black Sea
TASS–1 hour ago
US Military Jets Have ‘No Business’ in Black Sea, Says Russian …
Newsweek–2 hours ago
Russian jet performs ‘unsafe’ intercept of US Navy plane
Stars and Stripes–2 hours ago
Russian jet makes ‘unsafe’ intercept of US Navy aircraft
Highly Cited–CNN–14 hours ago
|Pentagon says will continue arming PKK/YPG|
Despite a pledge by U.S. President Donald Trump to his Turkish counterpart President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in a phone call on Friday to stop providing weapons to the People’s Protection Units (YPG), Pentagon spokesman Col. Robert Manning told reporters on Monday that Washington would continue to support and arm the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
The YPG is the military wing of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)-affiliated Democratic Union Party (PYD), and dominates the SDF.
Col. Manning said that the U.S. Defense Department was “reviewing pending adjustments to the military support provided” to the PKK/YPG.
The pentagon spokesman stated that the measure of halting military support to the group was not implemented.
Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ on Monday said that weapons provided by the U.S. to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)-affiliated People’s Protection Units (YPG) must be collected.Following a telephone call between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump on Friday, Trump said that Washington would not give weapons to the PKK/PYD terror group anymore.“The call marked a turning point in strained relations between the two countries, but Washington must honor a pledge to end weapons provisions to the terrorists,” Bozdağ said.US pledges to end arming PKK/PYD terroristsThe YPG is the armed wing of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), which is the Syrian offshoot of the PKK. The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the European Union and the United States. Since the PKK launched its terror campaign in Turkey in 1984, tens of thousands of people have been killed.Bozdağ said the United States would be deceiving the world if it did not halt the weapons supplies to the PKK/YPG.Over 4,000 trucks of ammunition, hundreds of armored vehicles and weapons were sent to the PKK/PYD by the U.S.Erdoğan-Trump discussionThe White House said on Friday that Trump said that he had informed Erdoğan that Washington was “adjusting” military support to partners on the ground in Syria.Before his call with Erdoğan, Trump tweeted about the U.S. presence in the Middle East saying: “What a mistake, in lives and dollars (6 trillion), to be there in the first place!”President Erdoğan shared a photograph taken during the call his on Twitter account. It was seen that the call was conducted in his study of the Presidential Palace complex. Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, National Intelligence Organization Undersecretary Hakan Fidan, Presidential Spokesman İbrahim Kalın, Chief of Cabinet Hasan Doğan and Senior Advisor Hamdi Kılıç were photographed.PM Yıldırım: US must end partnership with PKK/PYDUS wants to use Zarrab case to impose sanctions on AnkaraBozdağ said that the U.S. wanted to use the trial in New York of a Turkish gold trader to impose sanctions on Ankara. Bozdağ stated that the U.S. had pressured the trader, Reza Zarrab, to sign off on accusations against Turkey.”They may have told Zarrab, ‘Either you will remain in prison until you die, or you will sign under what we tell you,’ and they threatened him with retributions to sign off on accusations,” Bozdağ said.’The US interfered with Turkish trade relations’
“Weapons provided to the Syrian Democratic Forces, which include Kurdish elements of the SDF, would be limited, mission specific, and provided incrementally to achieve our objectives,” Col. Manning said.
In a Friday phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Trump “clearly stated that weapons will not be given to the YPG anymore and said that essentially this nonsense should have been ended before,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Friday.
While recognizing the PKK as a terrorist group, the U.S. has treated the PKK/PYD/YPG as an ally using Daesh as a pretext, despite its PKK ties as documented by Turkey.
Since the PKK launched its terror campaign in Turkey in 1984, tens of thousands of people have been killed.
U.S. President Donald Trump recently told his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in clear terms that it was “wrong” to supply weapons to the PKK/YPG, the Turkish prime minister has confirmed.Binali Yıldırım’s comments came during an interview with BBC World.”Mr. Trump understood what is important for Turkey,” Yıldırım said, in reference to Trump’s pledge to Erdoğan in a Friday phone call on ending the supply of arms to the terrorist PKK/PYD and PKK/YPG in Syria.”They [the U.S.] said this [cooperation with YPG or PYD] is not a choice. This is a necessity… Ok. We understand, although we do not accept. It is a temporary relation. Now, it is time to finish because Daesh is already defeated,” the premier said.”So, President Trump said it is wrong to provide weapons. This is clearly mentioned.”Stating that Turkish policy on fighting against Daesh had been quite “clear” since the beginning, Yıldırım said it was important to “choose the right partner” to fight Daesh.”You are not able to fight a terror organization using another terror organization,” he added.The U.S. later said it is “reviewing pending adjustments to the military support provided to our Kurdish partners in as much as the military requirements of our defeat-ISIS and stabilization efforts will allow to prevent ISIS from returning,” referring to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, another name for Daesh.”We have always been clear with Turkey that the weapons provided to the SDF, to include its Kurdish elements, would be limited, mission-specific and provided incrementally to achieve military objectives,” Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon told Anadolu Agency. He said the U.S. would “continue our partnership with the Syrian Democratic Forces to complete the military defeat of ISIS”.Pentagon says will continue arming PKK/YPGAt the White House, spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said even though a complete defeat of Daesh is in sight, “that doesn’t mean stopping all support of those individual groups”.”Once we started winning the campaign against ISIS, the plan and part of the process is to always wind down support for certain groups,” she said. “Now that we’re continuing to crush the physical caliphate, we’re in a position to stop providing military equipment to certain groups.”No doubt about Gulen’s links to coup bidIn response to a question whether Turkey had submitted evidence to Washington showing Fetullah Gülen, the U.S-based leader of the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETÖ), had links to last year’s defeated coup attempt, Yıldırım said the necessary documents had been submitted.”For us, it is obvious. We have no hesitation. We have no doubt about it,” he said, referring to Gulen’s role in the defeated coup bid.FETÖ and Gülen orchestrated the defeated coup of July 15, 2016, which martyred 250 people and injured nearly 2,200 others.FETÖ is also behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police and judiciary.Yıldırım also answered a question on accusations about the detentions since the defeated coup attempt.”This kind of accusation is there. I accept. But those who are accusing us should think about what happened on July 15,” he said.”Our parliament building [was] bombed. And their bombs killed 250 innocent people and [left] 2,194 heavily injured. What can we do then? We have to find [those] who committed crime. This is the situation in Turkey,” Yıldırım said.”We don’t detain people without evidence. This is for sure,” he said, adding the rule of law prevailed in Turkey.The Turkish premier called on Turkey’s critics to show “empathy” instead.”Did you face this kind of thing? If you face this kind of thing, then we will see what you are going to do,” he said.Yıldırım also dismissed accusations that Erdoğan had been becoming an “authoritarian” leader.”Erdoğan is not deciding who is going to jail or who is going to [be] freed. The court is deciding,” he said, adding there was freedom of the press in Turkey.”We have a free press,” he said. “Even the pro-PKK paper is published.”Video: Turkish PM meets with British foreign secretary
The deputy chairman of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) said on Monday that the U.S. will need Turkey’s backing for staying in Syria after Daesh is defeated in the region.Speaking to journalists in the parliament, Ozturk Yilmaz called on the U.S. to cooperate with Turkey ahead of the Syrian peace talks in Geneva.“The U.S. will need Turkey and Turkey’s backing for staying in Syria after Daesh,” said Yilmaz.He added that this could lead to diffusing of tensions between the two countries.US must collect weapons distributed to PKK/YPG: Deputy PMThirty-six members of Syrian opposition’s High Negotiations Committee will attend the peace talks in Geneva this week.Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian leader Hassan Rouhani in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi to discuss Syria, last week.During the meeting, the three leaders agreed to gather a congress of Syrian groups to advance a political solution for the war-torn nation.Ozturk Yilmaz recalled that Iran, the Bashar al-Assad regime and Hezbollah did not want the presence of the U.S. in Syria’s future.Russian air strikes kill over 50 civilians in eastern SyriaHe added that only PKK/PYD/YPG terrorist group wants U.S. presence in Syria “which will not be at the solution table” in Geneva.”For this reason, the U.S. needs a powerful regional partner, which is Turkey,” said Yilmaz.Yilmaz also urged Turkey and the U.S. to take a joint step for the territorial integrity of Syria.The PYD and its military wing YPG are Syrian branches of the PKK terrorist network, which has waged war against Turkey for more than 30 years.While recognizing the PKK as a terrorist group, the U.S. has treated the PKK/PYD as an ally in its anti-Daesh efforts.Syrian child escapes death after playing with bombSyria has only just begun to emerge from a devastating civil war that began in early 2011 when the Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests with unexpected ferocity.Since then, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed in the fighting and more than 10 million displaced, according to claims by the UN.
|FBI gave heads-up to fraction of Russian hackers US targets – The Washington Post|
WASHINGTON — The FBI failed to notify scores of U.S. officials that Russian hackers were trying to break into their personal Gmail accounts despite having evidence for at least a year that the targets were in the Kremlin’s crosshairs, The Associated Press has found.
Nearly 80 interviews with Americans targeted by Fancy Bear, a Russian government-aligned cyberespionage group, turned up only two cases in which the FBI had provided a heads-up. Even senior policymakers discovered they were targets only when the AP told them, a situation some described as bizarre and dispiriting.
“It’s utterly confounding,” said Philip Reiner, a former senior director at the National Security Council, who was notified by the AP that he was targeted in 2015. “You’ve got to tell your people. You’ve got to protect your people.”
FBI policy calls for notifying victims, whether individuals or groups, to help thwart both ongoing and future hacking attempts. The policy, which was disclosed in a lawsuit filed earlier this year against the FBI by the nonprofit Electronic Privacy Information Center, says that notification should be considered “even when it may interfere with another investigation or (intelligence) operation.”
Last week, the FBI declined to discuss its investigation into Fancy Bear’s spying campaign, but did provide a statement that said in part: “The FBI routinely notifies individuals and organizations of potential threat information.”
Three people familiar with the matter — including a current and a former government official — said the FBI has known for more than a year the details of Fancy Bear’s attempts to break into Gmail inboxes. A senior FBI official, who was not authorized to publicly discuss the hacking operation because of its sensitivity, declined to comment on when it received the target list, but said that the bureau was overwhelmed by the sheer number of attempted hacks.
“It’s a matter of triaging to the best of our ability the volume of the targets who are out there,” he said.
In the face of a tidal wave of malicious phishing attempts, the FBI sometimes passes on information about the attacks to service providers and companies, who can then relay information to clients or employees, he added.
The AP, which acquired a list of about 4,700 targeted email accounts, has reported in recent weeks on the global reach of the hacking operation and strategy used to break into emails of the Democratic Party and presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton. Tens of thousands of those emails were leaked online in advance of the November election. U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Fancy Bear works for the Russian government and meant to push the election in favor of Donald Trump. The Russian government has denied interfering.
The AP did its own triage, dedicating two months and a small team of reporters to go through a hit list of Fancy Bear targets provided by the cybersecurity firm Secureworks.
Previous AP investigations based on the list have shown how Fancy Bear worked in close alignment with the Kremlin’s interests to steal tens of thousands of emails from the Democratic Party . The hacking campaign disrupted the 2016 U.S. election and cast a shadow over the presidency of Donald Trump, whom U.S. intelligence agencies say the hackers were trying to help . The Russian government has denied interfering in the American election.
The Secureworks list comprises 19,000 lines of targeting data . Going through it, the AP identified more than 500 U.S.-based people or groups and reached out to more than 190 of them, interviewing nearly 80 about their experiences.
Many were long-retired, but about one-quarter were still in government or held security clearances at the time they were targeted. Only two told the AP they learned of the hacking attempts on their personal Gmail accounts from the FBI. A few more were contacted by the FBI after their emails were published in the torrent of leaks that coursed through last year’s electoral contest. But to this day, some leak victims have not heard from the bureau at all.
Charles Sowell, who previously worked as a senior administrator in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and was targeted by Fancy Bear two years ago, said there was no reason the FBI couldn’t do the same work the AP did.
“It’s absolutely not OK for them to use an excuse that there’s too much data,” Sowell said. “Would that hold water if there were a serial killer investigation, and people were calling in tips left and right, and they were holding up their hands and saying, ‘It’s too much’? That’s ridiculous.”
The AP found few traces of the bureau’s inquiry as it launched its own investigation two months ago.
In October, two AP journalists visited <a href=”http://THCServers.com” rel=”nofollow”>THCServers.com</a> , a brightly lit, family-run internet company on the former grounds of a communist-era chicken farm outside the Romanian city of Craiova. That’s where someone registered <a href=”http://DCLeaks.com” rel=”nofollow”>DCLeaks.com</a>, the first of three websites to publish caches of emails belonging to Democrats and other U.S. officials in mid-2016.
DCLeaks was clearly linked to Fancy Bear. Previous AP reporting found that all but one of the site’s victims had been targeted by the hacking group before their emails were dumped online.
Yet THC founder Catalin Florica said he was never approached by law enforcement.
“It’s curious,” Florica said. “You are the first ones that contact us.”
THC merely registered the site, a simple process that typically takes only a few minutes. But the reaction was similar at the Kuala Lumpur offices of the Malaysian web company Shinjiru Technology , which hosted DCLeaks’ stolen files for the duration of the electoral campaign.
The company’s chief executive, Terence Choong, said he had never heard of DCLeaks until the AP contacted him.
“What is the issue with it?” he asked.
Questions over the FBI’s handling of Fancy Bear’s broad hacking sweep date to March 2016, when agents arrived unannounced at Hillary Clinton’s headquarters in Brooklyn to warn her campaign about a surge of rogue, password-stealing emails.
The agents offered little more than generic security tips the campaign had already put into practice and refused to say who they thought was behind the attempted intrusions, according to a person who was there and spoke on condition of anonymity because the conversation was meant to be confidential.
Questions emerged again after it was revealed that the FBI never took custody of the Democratic National Committee’s computer server after it was penetrated by Fancy Bear in April 2016. Former FBI Director James Comey testified this year that the FBI worked off a copy of the server, which he described as an “appropriate substitute.”
“MAKES ME SAD”
Retired Maj. James Phillips was one of the first people to have the contents of his inbox published by DCLeaks when the website made its June 2016 debut.
But the Army veteran said he didn’t realize his personal emails were “flapping in the breeze” until a journalist phoned him two months later.
“The fact that a reporter told me about DCLeaks kind of makes me sad,” he said. “I wish it had been a government source.”
Phillips’ story would be repeated again and again as the AP spoke to officials from the National Defense University in Washington to the North American Aerospace Defense Command in Colorado.
Among them: a former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, retired Lt. Gen. Patrick Hughes; a former head of Air Force Intelligence, retired Lt. Gen. David Deptula; a former defense undersecretary, Eric Edelman; and a former director of cybersecurity for the Air Force, retired Lt. Gen. Mark Schissler.
Retired Maj. Gen. Brian Keller, a former director of military support at the Geospatial Intelligence Agency, was not informed, even after DCLeaks posted his emails to the internet. In a telephone call with AP, Keller said he still wasn’t clear on what had happened, who had hacked him or whether his data was still at risk.
“Should I be worried or alarmed or anything?” asked Keller, who left the spy satellite agency in 2010 and now works in private industry.
Not all the interviewees felt the FBI had a responsibility to alert them.
“Perhaps optimistically, I have to conclude that a risk analysis was done and I was not considered a high enough risk to justify making contact,” said a former Air Force chief of staff, retired Gen. Norton Schwartz, who was targeted by Fancy Bear in 2015.
Others argued that the FBI may have wanted to avoid tipping the hackers off or that there were too many people to notify.
“The expectation that the government is going to protect everyone and go back to everyone is false,” said Nicholas Eftimiades, a retired senior technical officer at the Defense Intelligence Agency who teaches homeland security at Pennsylvania State University in Harrisburg and was himself among the targets.
But the government is supposed to try, said Michael Daniel, who served as President Barack Obama’s White House cybersecurity coordinator.
Daniel wouldn’t comment directly on why so many Fancy Bear targets weren’t warned in this case, but he said the issue of how and when to notify people “frankly still needs more work.”
In the absence of any official warning, some of those contacted by AP brushed off the idea that they were taken in by a foreign power’s intelligence service.
“I don’t open anything I don’t recognize,” said Joseph Barnard, who headed the personnel recovery branch of the Air Force’s Air Combat Command.
That may well be true of Barnard; Secureworks’ data suggests he never clicked the malicious link sent to him in June 2015. But it isn’t true of everyone.
An AP analysis of the data suggests that out of 312 U.S. military and government figures targeted by Fancy Bear, 131 clicked the links sent to them. That could mean that as many as 2 in 5 came perilously close to handing over their passwords.
It’s not clear how many gave up their credentials in the end or what the hackers may have acquired.
Some of those accounts hold emails that go back years, when even many of the retired officials still occupied sensitive posts.
Overwhelmingly, interviewees told AP they kept classified material out of their Gmail inboxes, but intelligence experts said Russian spies could use personal correspondence as a springboard for further hacking, recruitment or even blackmail.
“You start to have information you might be able to leverage against that person,” said Sina Beaghley, a researcher at the RAND Corp. who served on the NSC until 2014.
In the few cases where the FBI did warn targets, they were sometimes left little wiser about what was going on or what to do.
Rob “Butch” Bracknell, a 20-year military veteran who now works in Norfolk, Virginia, said an FBI agent visited him about a year ago to examine his emails and warn him that a “foreign actor” was trying to break into his account.
“He was real cloak-and-dagger about it,” Bracknell said. “He came here to my work, wrote in his little notebook and away he went.”
Left to fend for themselves, some targets have been improvising their cybersecurity.
Retired Gen. Roger A. Brady, who was responsible for American nuclear weapons in Europe as part of his past role as commander of the U.S. Air Force there, turned to Apple support this year when he noticed something suspicious on his computer. Hughes, a former DIA head, said he had his hard drive replaced by the “Geek Squad” at a Best Buy in Florida after his machine began behaving strangely. Keller, the former senior spy satellite official, said it was his son who told him his emails had been posted to the web after getting a Google alert in June 2016.
A former U.S. ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, who like many others was repeatedly targeted by Fancy Bear but has yet to receive any warning from the FBI, said the lackluster response risked something worse than last year’s parade of leaks.
“Our government needs to be taking greater responsibility to defend its citizens in both the physical and cyber worlds, now, before a cyberattack produces an even more catastrophic outcome than we have already experienced,” McFaul said.
Donn reported from Plymouth, Massachusetts. Associated Press writers Vadim Ghirda in Carcea, Romania, Chad Day in Washington, Frank Bajak in Houston, Justin Myers in Chicago and Lori Hinnant in Paris contributed to this report.
Satter, Donn and Butler can be reached at:
<a href=”http://raphaelsatter.com” rel=”nofollow”>http://raphaelsatter.com</a> , <a href=”https://twitter.com/jadonn7″ rel=”nofollow”>https://twitter.com/jadonn7</a> and <a href=”https://twitter.com/desmondbutler” rel=”nofollow”>https://twitter.com/desmondbutler</a>
EDITOR’S NOTE — Raphael Satter’s father, David Satter, is an author and Russia specialist who has been critical of the Kremlin. His emails were published last year by hackers and his account is on Secureworks’ list of Fancy Bear targets. He was not notified by the FBI.
EDITOR’S NOTE _ One in a series of stories on the findings of an Associated Press investigation of the Russian hackers who disrupted the U.S. presidential election in 2016
Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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