10:30 AM 10/11/2017 – Steele dossier and other shared stories

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Steele dossier – Google Search

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Story image for Steele dossier from Reuters

US congressional panels spar over ‘Trump dossier‘ on Russia contacts

Reuters13 hours ago
The dossier assembled by former MI6 officer Christopher Steele outlined Russian financial and personal links to Trump’s campaign and …
Nunes Subpoenaed Firm Behind Trump Dossier Without Telling …
<a href=”http://NBCNews.com” rel=”nofollow”>NBCNews.com</a>16 hours ago

The Early Edition: October 11, 2017 

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Before the start of business, Just Security provides a curated summary of up-to-the-minute developments at home and abroad. Here’s today’s news.

NORTH KOREA

Suspected North Korean hackers stole classified military documents when they broke into South Korea’s defense data center in September 2016, a South Korean lawmaker Rhee Cheol-hee said in an interview published yesterday, the information included a U.S.-South Korea blueprint for a possible war with North Korea and details about a decapitation strike targeting leader Kim Jong-un and top Pyongyang officials. Kwanwoo Jun and Nancy A. Youssef report at the Wall Street Journal.

Rhee received information about the suspected hacking incident from defense ministry officials, South Korea’s defense ministry has not responded to his comments and the Pentagon has similarly declined to comment on the specific reports. Zachary Cohen reports at CNN.

The U.S. and South Korea began joint military exercises over the Korean peninsula last night amid heightened tensions, the drills consisting of strategic bombers, fighter jets and an air-to-ground missile drill off South Korea’s coast. The BBC reports.

The U.S. military conducted drills with Japanese fighter jets after the exercise with South Korea, the U.S. military said in a statement, marking the first time that the U.S. has conducted drills with both the Japanese and South Korean military at night. Christine Kim and Eric Beech report at Reuters.

Trump met with his top national security advisers yesterday to discuss “a range of options” to deal with the North Korea threat, the White House said in a statement, the president receiving briefings from Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford during the meeting. Jesse Byrnes reports at the Hill.

Trump may visit the demilitarized zone (D.M.Z.) between the two Koreas during a forthcoming trip to South Korea, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported yesterday. Justin McCurry reports at the Guardian.

The Trump administration has made progress in its attempts to contain North Korea and, despite the president’s bluster and the general pessimism about the administration’s strategy, there are reasons to be “cautiously optimistic” about the U.S.’s efforts to economically and diplomatically isolate the regime. Adam Taylor provides an analysis of the administration’s policies and the reaction of the international community to the U.S. pressure campaign at the Washington Post.

TURKEY

The U.S. ambassador to Turkey John R. Bass should have resigned or been recalled after making the unilateral decision to suspend visas for Turkish citizens, Turkish President Reçep Tayyip Erdoğan said yesterday. The State Department responded that the decision was cleared at the highest levels of the U.S. government and emphasized that Ambassador Bass has the full backing of the State Department and the White House. Carlotta Gall reports at the New York Times.

Turkey does not see Bass “as the representative of the United States in Turkey,” Erdoğan added; the dispute about the suspension of visas following Turkey’s arrest of an employee in the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul last week providing the latest incident in the deteriorating U.S.-Turkey relationship. The AFPreports.

Bass expressed hope that the dispute could be resolved quickly and noted that close security cooperation between the U.S. and Turkey has helped to reduce attacks by Islamic State militants in Turkey. The AP reports.

The U.S.-Turkey diplomatic dispute has not impacted military operations, Pentagon spokesperson Col. Robert Manning told reporters yesterday, stating that Turkey remains a close N.A.T.O. ally. Reutersreports.

A Wall Street Journal reporter was sentenced to prison in Turkey for engaging in terrorist propaganda in support of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (P.K.K.), demonstrating the Turkish government’s aggressive policies to repress critical reporting under the state of emergency imposed since last year’s failed coup against Erdoğan. Thomas Grove reports at the Wall Street Journal.

The conviction of the reporter confirms to the world that Erdoğan has turned Turkey into an “authoritarian state,” the Wall Street Journal editorial board writes.

Erdoğan’s tactic of arresting U.S. citizens is an attempt to bully America and the Trump administration must make it clear that Turkey cannot carry on its actions without “risking a rupture of relations.” The Washington Post editorial board writes.

IRAN

The 2015 Iran nuclear deal is “vitally important for regional security,” U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May said in a phone call to Trump yesterday, urging the president to recertify Iran’s compliance with the agreement. The BBC reports.

Trump misleadingly blamed Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) for the Iran deal. Linda Qiu explains the passage of a bipartisan bill in the spring of 2015 to provide the appropriate context at the New York Times.

The future of the deal would be uncertain should Trump decertify Iran’s compliance before the Oct. 15 deadline and put the issue of sanctions on Iran into Congress’s hands – likely leading to a partisan battle and complicating the issue for the other countries party to the agreement. Julian Borger and Patrick Wintour explain at the Guardian.

The Trump administration, Congress and European allies could save the deal and address its shortcomings even if Trump decides to decertify Iran’s compliance with the agreement by drawing on the relationship with international partners, using existing sanctions authorities and measures to counter Iran’s actions in the region, developing a common strategy with European allies, and Congress using its powers to counter the “constant cycle of deal crisis.” Ilana Goldenberg and Elizabeth Rosenberg write at Foreign Policy.

Iran’s interest in the Middle East’s affairs are not “malevolent,” its actions ensure stability in the face of Western-backed Arab interference. Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif writes at the Atlantic, also defending the nuclear deal.

TRUMP-RUSSIA

The House Intelligence Committee chairman Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) issued subpoenas on Oct.4 to employees at the Fusion GPS research firm, which worked with former British Intelligence officer Christopher Steele to compile a salacious dossier about the Trump campaign’s alleged connections to Russia. Evan Perez, Manu Raju and Jeremy Herb report at CNN.

Nunes issued the subpoenas without consulting Democrats on the Committee, three sources told NBC News, according to the Committee’s rules Nunes did not need approval from minority Democrats to sign-off on the subpoenas. Ken Dilanian and Alex Moe report at NBC News.

The Trump campaign’s former foreign policy adviser Carter Page will not testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee about the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. electionPage informed the committee yesterday, a source familiar with the matter stating that Page would rely on the Fifth Amendment. Ali Watkins reports at POLITICO.

The House Intelligence, Senate Intelligence and Senate Judiciary committees are competing in their efforts to pursue the allegations made in the Steele dossier, with the members of the congressional panels taking various positions on the dossier. Mark Hosenball and Jonathan Landay report at Reuters.

Special counsel Robert Mueller “cannot and will not save us,” Mueller’s elusive qualities stand in stark opposition to the president’s bombastic style, but the reality is that his investigation may take years to complete, Trump’s actions may not amount to legal wrongdoing and the questions about the president’s moral authority would remain. Quinta Jurecic writes at the Washington Post.

CYBERSECURITY, PRIVACY AND TECHNOLOGY

The Israeli intelligence service hacked the Russia-based Kaspersky Lab cybersecurity firm and informed the U.S. about Russian intrusion through Kaspersky software, including classified documents that were stolen from a National Security Agency (N.S.A.) employee. Nicole Perlroth and Scott Shane reveal the Israeli operation at the New York Times.

The Kaspersky Lab “does not possess any knowledge” of Israel’s hack, the firm said in a statement responding to the reports. Ellen Nakashima reports at the Washington Post.

SYRIA

The Syrian Army and Syrian Kurds are competing for control of oil-producing areas, Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said today, warning that Syria would “not allow its sovereignty to be violated under any conditions.” Reuters reports.

Raqqa’s Civil Council “is leading discussions to determine the best way to enable civilians trapped” by Islamic State militants to exit the Syrian city ahead of the impending defeat of the militants, U.S. Centcom have said in a statement.

An overview of the parties to the Syrian war and the various alliances is provided by Samer Abboud at Al Jazeera.

U.S.-led airstrikes continue. U.S. and coalition forces carried out four airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on October 9. Separately, partner forces conducted seven strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]

IRAQ

The Islamic State’s fight to take over Iraqi territory has displaced 5.4 million civilians, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Iraq said yesterday, expressing deep concern for the civilians who have fled the fighting. The BBC reports.

Although the Islamic State group has lost significant territory in Iraq, it has not been fully defeated. John Beck explains where the militants still hold territory and influence at Al Jazeera.

ISRAEL-PALESTINE

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved plans for 3,736 units in Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank yesterday, with activists stating that the Israeli government has been spurred by the Trump administration’s accommodating stance. Ruth Eglash and Loveday Morris report at the Washington Post.

The Egyptian military expanded the buffer zone along the Gaza Strip border, bulldozing at least 140 homes and more than 200 acres in an attempt to prevent Palestinian Hamas militants from using underground tunnels to evade Israel and Egypt’s blockade of the Strip. Sam Madgy reports at the AP.

The Obama administration’s policies pushed Israel and Arab nations closer together as they realized they shared similar concerns about Obama’s approach to the Arab Spring uprising, the Iran nuclear deal and Iran’s expansionism in the region. Haisam Hassanein and Wesam Hassanein write at the Wall Street Journal.

LEBANON

The Lebanese Shi’ite Hezbollah militant group aspire to attack the U.S. homeland, senior U.S. officials have said. Elise Labott and Laura Koran report at CNN.

The “Lebanese army has become an integral part of Hezbollah,” Israel’s defense minister Avigdor Lieberman said yesterday, claiming that the militant group controls the Lebanese army. The AP reports.

The SUPREME COURT

The Supreme Court dismissed a travel ban case from Maryland yesterday but took no action on a separate case from Hawaii that concerns the travel ban and the refugee ban, the AP reports.

The Supreme Court yesterday declined to review the conviction of a war criminal held in Guantánamo Bay and serving a life sentence. Carol Rosenberg reports at the Miami Herald.

TRUMP ADMINISTRATION FOREIGN POLICY

Trump does not plan to fill many positions across federal agencies because they are “totally unnecessary,” the president told Forbes yesterday, suggesting that the many vacancies in the State Department, including ambassadorships, will remain unfilled. Olivia Beavers reports at the Hill.

The Trump administration’s lack of clear foreign policy plans may be a bigger issue than the president’s heightened rhetoric, David Ignatius writes at the Washington Post.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Russia may order the U.S. to cut its diplomatic staff in Russia to 300 people or below, Russia’s R.I.A. news agency quoted a Russia’s foreign ministry official as saying today. Reuters reports.

A U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer sailed near islands claimed by China in the South China Sea yesterday, with the Chinese defense ministry saying today that the U.S. maneuvering operation was a “provocation.” Idrees Ali reports at Reuters.

The collision involving the U.S.S. John S. McCain and a civilian tanker on Aug. 21 was “preventable,” the U.S. Navy said yesterday, adding that its investigation is still ongoing. Jake Maxwell Watts reports at the Wall Street Journal.

Yemen’s warring leaders “are not interested in finding solutions, as they will lose their power and control in a settlement,” the U.N. special envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed said yesterday, urging the Security Council to “use all of its political and economic power to exert pressure on all parties to commit to a pact of peace.” Edith M. Lederer reports at the AP.

The Trump administration intends to relax domestic rules on U.S. military drone sales to allies as part of an overhaul of U.S. arms export protocols. Matt Spetalnick and Mike Stone report at Reuters.

Trump was joking when he challenged Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to an IQ test, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said yesterday, the president’s latest comments having reinforced impressions that Trump and Tillerson have a tense relationship. Louis Nelson reports at POLITICO.

The allegations that Cuba used a “sonic weapon” to attack U.S. diplomats in Havana are not backed up by evidence and it is unfortunate that Trump has used the unspecified threat and amplified reports to undermine relations with Cuba. Lisa Diedrich and Benjamin Tausig write at the New York Times.

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The Morning Hype: Putin Comes Down On Bitcoin, Trump Gets Interviewed By Forbes, And NYC Traffic Is Expensive – TheStreet.com

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TheStreet.com
The Morning Hype: Putin Comes Down On Bitcoin, Trump Gets Interviewed By Forbes, And NYC Traffic Is Expensive
TheStreet.com
The Morning Hype: Putin Comes Down On Bitcoin, Trump Gets Interviewed By Forbes, And NYC Traffic Is Expensive. Uber Now Has FIVE Criminal Probes Surrounding It, Good Luck Khosrowshahi (via Bloomberg) California Passes Bill Requiring Drug …

Jimmy Fallon Blasts Off On Trump’s Space Program In ‘Pros And Cons’

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There’s no need to visit this particular “moon.”

Is It Time to Regulate Silicon Valley? – The Ringer (blog)

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The Ringer (blog)
Is It Time to Regulate Silicon Valley?
The Ringer (blog)
Russian agents also bought ads on Google, the search giant disclosed this week. … The FederalTrade Commission, in an attempt to lessen the influence of a single tech giant, could bring an antitrust suit against a company that had concentrated too 

and more »

Scarborough: Destruction of GOP will be part of Trump’s legacy – The Hill

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The Hill
Scarborough: Destruction of GOP will be part of Trump’s legacy
The Hill
Joe Scarborough on Wednesday slammed President Trump on Twitter, writing that the president is destroying the GOP. “The destruction of the Republican Party will be part Trump’s political legacy, and the least damning,” he wrote.
Are Republicans against deficits? Depends if Obama or Trump is doing the spendingLos Angeles Times

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US congressional panels spar over ‘Trump dossier’ on Russia contacts – Reuters.com

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Reuters.com
US congressional panels spar over ‘Trump dossier’ on Russia contacts
Reuters.com
The Senate Intelligence Committee and special counsel Robert Mueller are looking into possible collusion between Russia and Trump’s campaign and Mueller’s investigators have met with Steele. … “This is a blatant attempt to undermine the reporting of 

If Trump Wants A War With Women, These Lawyers Are Ready For Battle

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The newly formed Legal Network for Gender Equity was created to combat the White House’s “all-out assault on women’s rights.”

Fact Versus Fiction in the Steele Dossier on Donald Trump

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President Donald Trump. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

Nine months ago today, a salacious report appeared that alleged close ties between the Kremlin and President-elect Donald J. Trump, thereby upending American politics. Published by BuzzFeed, the so-called Steele dossier ignited a firestorm with its assertions that Russian intelligence had quietly boosted the president-elect for years and possessed embarrassing personal and financial information on the man about to enter the White House.

That Moscow has such compromising material, what the Russians term kompromat, on Trump led to awkward questions that the still-forming White House brushed away with counterclaims that the entire dossier is fake, a put-up job. The president termed the detailed, 35-page dossier a “hoax,” “totally made-up stuff,” and dismissed it altogether as just more “fake news,” to cite Trump’s favorite phrase.

The matter has taken on renewed urgency with reports that the Steele dossier is being closely examined by Special Counsel Robert Muller, including dispatching investigators to Britain to interview Christopher Steele, the dossier’s complier. A security consultant and former officer of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service (popularly known as MI6) with considerable experience in Russian matters, Steele presumably had a lot to say.

Mueller’s investigators want to know more about the dossier’s background, about which there remain questions—even though the essential outline of how it came to be is already clear. Steele’s dossier is something rarely seen by the public: a raw, unfiltered human intelligence assessment. This is the sort of thing Steele compiled during his MI6 service, so it’s no surprise that he repeated the exercise when he examined Trump’s Kremlin connections.

However, such raw HUMINT reports are unfamiliar to the public, which focused on Steele’s porn-worthy allegations more than the substance of alleged collusion between Trump and Moscow. The dossier, being unfiltered intelligence, some of it derived from second-hand sources in Russia, is best considered lead information only, that is, a jumping-off point for additional investigation—not the final word on anything. As a stand-alone report, its uses are limited for any seasoned intelligence analyst.

Not to mention that there have always been good reasons to doubt some of Steele’s revelations. While the dossier’s depiction of Kremlin politics—what spies call “atmospherics”—are undeniably true, many of the specifics are unverifiable. When the dossier appeared in January, veteran Kremlin-watcher David Satter observed that the whole exercise reeked of a Russian provocation, making a case that’s plausible to those who understand Chekists.

Satter noted that the dossier nicely met Vladimir Putin’s overall objectives, in particular making American politics as bitter, divided, and unpleasant as possible, while not revealing very much substance. Its observations about Kremlin atmospherics, while accurate, were mostly pedestrian. Moreover, Satter made an important observation about the dossier’s best-known claim regarding a pornographic tape allegedly made of Trump during a 2013 visit to Moscow:

“The description of Trump’s using prostitutes to urinate on the bed in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Moscow, where the Obamas slept, bears a striking resemblance to the work of the ‘novelists’ in the Russian Federal Security Service whose job it is to come up with stories to discredit individuals without much regard for plausibility. My entry in Wikipedia was recently changed to say that I was expelled from Russia in 2013 for running a brothel with underage girls. The style is eerily similar.”

Indeed it is, and the dossier’s “pee-pee tape” claim is viewed with derision by most Western spies who know the Russians. It’s very likely that the Kremlin possesses kompromat on the president—senior intelligence sources from several countries have confirmed to me that unpleasant videos of Trump exist—yet there’s no reason to believe Steele’s particular claim here, without corroborating evidence.

The idea that the Steele dossier represents an exercise in Chekist provokatsiya gets more plausible the more you look at it. It’s very much in the habits of Russian intelligence to disseminate a great deal of accurate information, sometimes muddied, in the service of a greater lie. The KGB’s successors are highly adept at assembling disinformation that results in more questions than answers for Western investigators. There’s no doubt that the dossier created enormous political churn in Washington—including murky assertions that haven’t been resolved yet and perhaps never will be.

Take one of the dossier’s explosive claims, namely that Michael Cohen, Trump’s personal lawyer, secretly meet with Kremlin officials in Prague in 2016 to coordinate propaganda operations to harm Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Now, we know that Moscow certainly did push a lot of propaganda against Clinton in 2016, through spies, online trolls and cut-outs like Wikileaks. We can also now confirm some degree of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russians with Kremlin connections. And Cohen certainly appears to possess questionable ties to Russia that merit examination.

Moreover, it’s perfectly plausible that the Prague meeting happened. The Czech capital, as I’ve previously noted, is a hotbed of Russian espionage activity; Kremlin spies would consider Prague a “safe” European venue for such a clandestine meeting with Team Trump. Not to mention that an important Russian hacker believed to be tied to 2016 online propaganda against Clinton has been arrested in Prague.

But did the August 2016 meeting actually happen? Cohen, predictably, has categorically denied that anything of the sort transpired, dismissing the dossier’s claim as “entirely false.” He may be telling the truth, or at least a half-truth. On the heels of BuzzFeed’s publication of the dossier, Newsweek reportedthat Estonian intelligence spied on the Prague meeting, citing an unnamed “Western intelligence official.” Word quickly circulated in spy circles that this constituted proof of Steele’s claim.

Except it doesn’t. Estonia has fine spy services, but they excel at counterintelligence and technical intelligence. Their reach is limited, as one should expect of a country with only 1.3 million people. Nobody I know in Tallinn’s security circles had heard of Estonians spying on a meeting in far-away Prague—an impossibility given the tiny country’s size, where everybody in the security agencies knows everybody else

Not to mention that Estonians wouldn’t dare conduct an espionage operation in Prague by themselves, what spies call a “unilateral.” The Czech Republic is a fellow member of NATO and the European Union, and Tallinn would have informed Prague of its spy plans, and most likely it would have turned into a joint Czech-Estonian spy operation against the Russians. Again, nobody in Prague I know heard anything about this sort of thing happening in August 2016.

On top of that, it’s highly likely the Estonians (and Czechs) would have informed the U.S. Embassy in Prague of their joint operation, since the targets included Americans—some of them closely tied to the Republican presidential nominee. Then, American spies would have gotten involved in the operation too, and even more people would have known about it. Nobody I know in our Intelligence Community heard anything about the alleged Prague meeting.

To sum up, there’s every reason to think Team Trump colluded with the Russians in 2016, but there’s simply no convincing evidence that the Prague meeting happened in August of that year. Meanwhile, there are plenty of strong hints that it did not. It’s entirely possible that Michael Cohen secretly met with Kremlin representatives in other European cities—nobody acquainted with this story would be surprised by that—but Cohen’s specific denial here may well be accurate.

The Steele dossier should be treated with caution. The Kremlin has long run complex spy stories together—creating “faction” by mixing bona fide information with disinformation—to confuse Western intelligence, and they may very well have done it again here. Those seeking the truth of Donald Trump’s relationship with Moscow should view the dossier as a jumping-off point for more investigation and no more. Otherwise, you may get quickly lost in what seasoned counterspies term the wilderness of mirrors.

John Schindler is a security expert and former National Security Agency analyst and counterintelligence officer. A specialist in espionage and terrorism, he’s also been a Navy officer and a War College professor. He’s published four books and is on Twitter at @20committee. 

More by John Schindler:

Reports Reveal Sorry State of Security at the National InSecurity Agency

False Flag Terrorism: Myth and Reality

The Dead Sing With Dirt in Their Mouths

The Trouble With the Steele Dossier

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russian intelligence spied on white house – Google Search

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Story image for russian intelligence spied on white house from Reuters

Israeli spies found Russians using Kaspersky software for hacks …

Reuters10 hours ago
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Israeli intelligence officials spying on … Agency and the White Housedeclined to comment, as did the Israeli …
How Israel Caught Russian Hackers Scouring the World for US …
Highly CitedNew York Times14 hours ago
Media image for russian intelligence spied on white house from New York Times

New York Times

Media image for russian intelligence spied on white house from The Jerusalem Post

The Jerusalem Post

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The Media Line

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Alive For Football
Story image for russian intelligence spied on white house from Reuters.com

US congressional panels spar over ‘Trump dossier’ on Russia contacts

<a href=”http://Reuters.com” rel=”nofollow”>Reuters.com</a>11 hours ago
However, the Republican chairmen of the House Intelligence and Senate … of any Russian role behind the Steele dossier,” Whitehouse said.
Story image for russian intelligence spied on white house from Observer

The Trouble With the Steele Dossier

Observer21 hours ago
… personal and financial information on the man about to enter the White House. … While the dossier’s depiction of Kremlin politics—what spies call … It’s very much in the habits of Russian intelligence to disseminate a great …
Story image for russian intelligence spied on white house from Newsweek

White House Staff Worried Colleagues Are Spying for Trump-Russia …

NewsweekSep 18, 2017
White House staff is so worried about Robert Mueller’s investigation into … Comey testified to the Senate Intelligence Committee in early June that … Jr. met at Trump Tower in June 2016 with a Russian lawyer after being …
Story image for russian intelligence spied on white house from Newsweek

Russians Still Have An Open Path to US Election Subversion

NewsweekOct 7, 2017
Exactly a year after U.S. intelligence issued a stern warning about … Not only that, the White Househasn’t even nominated someone to replace …
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german intelligence spied on white house – Google Search

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Story image for german intelligence spied on white house from Deutsche Welle

German spy chiefs face public grilling by lawmakers

Deutsche WelleOct 5, 2017
For the first time in Germany, top intelligence officials will publically answer …. German intelligence spied on White House personnel for years, …
Story image for german intelligence spied on white house from Haaretz

Israel Hacked Kaspersky and Discovered Russia Stealing Top …

Haaretz9 hours ago
Israeli intelligence officials spying on Russian government hackers … Agency and the White Housedeclined to comment, as did the Israeli …
Story image for german intelligence spied on white house from The Register

FBI iPhone hack lost forever, White House mobe compromised, SSH …

The RegisterOct 6, 2017
FBI iPhone hack lost forever, White House mobe compromised, SSH … that the UK and US intelligence agencies were spying on the German …
Story image for german intelligence spied on white house from Press TV

Berlin drops probe into US, British mass surveillance of German …

Press TVOct 5, 2017
Edward Snowden, a fugitive US intelligence whistleblower, … to warn the White House that spyingbetween allies was unacceptable and Berlin …
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john kelly phone – Google Search

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White House Chief Of Staff John Kelly’s Phone Compromised: Report

HuffPostOct 5, 2017
White House chief of staff John Kelly turned in his personal phone to tech support after complaining it wasn’t working properly for months, …
Trump Chief of Staff’s Personal Cellphone Reportedly Hacked
BlogSlate Magazine (blog)Oct 5, 2017
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Trump chief of staff’s phone was breached for nearly a year, say sources

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John KellyThe personal cell phone of the White House Chief of Staff John Kelly (photo) was compromised by persons unknown and may have been bugged for nearly a year, according to United States government officials. General Kelly retired from the US Marine Corps in 2016, after serving as chief of the US Pentagon’s Southern Command, where he supervised American military operations in Latin America and the Caribbean. Soon afterwards, he was appointed by US President Donald Trump to lead the Department of Homeland Security, which he joined in January of 2017. Six months later, however, he replaced Reince Priebus, who resigned abruptly from the post of White House Chief of Staff, citing differences over management style with the Trump administration.

According to the online news outlet Politico, the breach of Kelly’s personal phone was discovered last summer, after the retired general sought the advice of the White House’s technical support staff. Kelly told the technical experts that his phone’s operating system had been malfunctioning for several months and that software updates seemed to make the problem worse. Once the breach was discovered, White House staff summarized the findings of the probe into Kelly’s phone in a one-page memorandum. Three people who read the document spoke anonymously to Politico. The news outlet said that, according to the White House memorandum, it is unclear how and when Kelly’s phone was breached. There is also no information in the document about how much and what kind of information was compromised throughout the duration of the breach. Politico cited a White House spokesman who claimed that the chief of staff used his personal phone sparsely and never for government business.

However, depending on the level of the breach, hackers could have used the compromised phone to listen in to Kelly’s private conversations —in and out of the White House— even when the phone was not in use but simply turned on. It follows that if the breach of Kelly’s phone was orchestrated by a foreign government, the magnitude of the compromise may be substantial. Politico reports that digital forensics experts are now reviewing Kelly’s travels in the past year, as part of a widening investigation into the breach. Meanwhile, the general has been issued a new phone for his personal use.

► Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 10 October 2017 | Permalink

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Trump chief of staff’s phone was breached for nearly a year, say sources 

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The personal cell phone of the White House Chief of Staff John Kelly was compromised by persons unknown and may have been bugged for nearly a year, according to United States government officials. 

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How Russia Harvested American Rage to Reshape U.S. Politics

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“This is cultural hacking,” said Jonathan Albright, research director at Columbia University’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism. “They are using systems that were already set up by these platforms to increase engagement. They’re feeding outrage — and it’s easy to do, because outrage and emotion is how people share.”

All of the pages were shut down by Facebook in recent weeks, as the company conducts an internal review of Russian penetration of its social network. But content and engagement metrics for hundreds of posts were captured by CrowdTangle, a common social analytics tool, and gathered by Mr. Albright.

One Russian Facebook page, the United Muslims of America, frequently posted content highlighting discrimination against Muslims. In June 2016, it posted a video originally made by Waqas Shah, 23, an online video creator from Staten Island. In the video, Mr. Shah dressed in a thobe, a traditional ankle-length gown worn by Arab men, walked through New York’s Union Square, where he is shoved and harassed by another actor pretending to be a bully to see how bystanders react.

The video ends with Mr. Shah pointing out New York’s hypocrisy: The city claims to be a “melting pot,” but no one intervened while he was getting harassed. Mr. Shah’s original video, posted on YouTube in June 2016, was a viral hit that attracted more than three million views. A week after he posted it, United Muslims of America copied the video to its group page without the original YouTube link, a process known as ripping. There, Mr. Shah’s video become the Russian page’s most popular post, earning more than 150,000 interactions.

Mr. Shah said when he noticed the ripped video, he wrote to the administrator of the United Muslims account, asking them to add the link to his original YouTube video. His main concern, Mr. Shah said, was that the page was stealing his views. Told that his video had been used by Russian accounts to sow division in the United States, Mr. Shah said there wasn’t anything he could do about it.

“There are always going to be people who manipulate things to their agenda,” he said.

When Being Patriotic posted a brief message last year rallying Americans against proposals to expand refugee settlements in the United States, it was liked, shared or otherwise engaged with by more than 750,000 Facebook users. Eventually, it came across the feed of Len Swanson, 64, a Republican activist from Houston and an avid Trump supporter.

Mr. Swanson, who frequently posts long commentaries on LinkedIn and Facebook, then used the message and photo to open one of his own posts, attacking Hillary Clinton and the Democrats. The message Mr. Swanson borrowed also appears on a conservative meme website, with a photo that at least one newspaper has credited to the United States Navy.

“I usually publish an article several times a week, to keep driving the narrative,” Mr. Swanson said in an interview. He was not bothered, he said, by becoming an unwitting cog in the Russian propaganda machine. “You know we do the same damn thing over there,” Mr. Swanson said. “What do you think — we’re saints?”

In early 2016, Being Patriotic copied and pasted a story from the conspiracy site InfoWars, saying that federal employees had taken “land from private property owners at pennies on the dollar.” The Russian page added some original text: “The nation can’t trust the federal government anymore. What a disgrace!”

This past March, another of the Russian pages, Secured Borders, reposted a video that it attributed to Conservative Tribune, part of the conservative and pro-Trump sites run by Patrick Brown. The video, which falsely claims that Michigan allows Muslim immigrants to collect welfare checks and other benefits for four wives, originated on a YouTube channel called <a href=”http://CleanTV.com” rel=”nofollow”>CleanTV.com</a>. The Facebook post has been removed, but a version remains up on the meme site Me.Me.

Mr. Brown did not respond to an email seeking comment. But Gerald McGlothlin, the president of CleanTV — and a contributor to other sites run by Mr. Brown — confirmed in an email that his company had created the original YouTube video.

The Blacktivist Facebook page appears to have specialized in passionate denunciations of the criminal justice system and viral videos of police violence, many of them gathered from Facebook and YouTube. In May, Blacktivist also posted a message drawn from news stories about the death of Jayson Negron, a teenager in Bridgeport, Conn., during a confrontation with police. Such posts soon found an authentic audience: The Negron post was reposted by a verified Facebook account belonging to Black Lives Matter Chicago, according to a cached copy.

As lawmakers debate tighter regulation for companies like Facebook, the trail of Russian digital bread crumbs underscores how difficult it will be to purge social media networks of foreign influence, or even to hamper the covert propaganda campaigns carried out on social platforms by Russia, China and other countries.

Copying other people’s content without proper attribution can be a violation of the social networks’ rules. But the content itself — the videos, posts and Instagram memes borrowed and shared on the Russian pages — are not explicitly violent or discriminatory, so they do not violate the rules of those services. Instead, they are precisely the type of engaging content these platforms are hungry for.

The Russian campaign also appears to have been tailored to exploit the companies’ own strategies for keeping users engaged. Facebook, for example, pushed people to interact more in Groups like the ones set up by the Russians, where users can “share their common interests and express their opinion” around a common cause. LinkedIn, the professional social network owned by Microsoft, is geared toward encouraging users like Mr. Swanson to create articles and other content.

“The strategies are no mystery,” said Michael Strangelove, a lecturer on internet culture at the University of Ottawa. “Foreign powers are playing within the rules of the game that we wrote.”

A spokesman for Facebook declined to comment. LinkedIn said Mr. Swanson’s post did not violate the site’s terms of service.

“The challenges posed by the dissemination of fake news and other harmful content through technology platforms are serious,” said Nicole Leverich, a spokeswoman for LinkedIn. “We actively address suspected violations of LinkedIn’s terms of service such as harassment, fake profiles, and misinformation on our platform.”

The Russians appear to have insinuated themselves across American social media platforms and used the same promotional tools that people employ to share cat videos, airline complaints and personal rants. Many of the posts on Being Patriotic also match pre-made, shareable graphics on sites like <a href=”http://ConservativeMemes.com” rel=”nofollow”>ConservativeMemes.com</a>, nestled alongside other conservative content made for sharing on social media.

Boosted by Russian accounts, the material was quickly picked up by other American users of Facebook, spreading the posts to an even bigger audience. The Russian presence appeared to be layered throughout different platforms: Some of the Facebook accounts, including Being Patriotic, had linked accounts on Instagram and Twitter, according to deleted content captured in Google’s cache.

John W. Kelly, the founder of Graphika, a commercial analytics company in New York, said the Russians appeared to have a consistent strategy across different platforms. Graphika has tracked thousands of social media accounts whose content closely tracks Russian information operations, promoting articles and videos about WikiLeaks dumps of stolen emails and “false flag” conspiracies about Syrian chemical weapons.

The Russian accounts intermingle with real groups of Facebook or Twitter users — from white nationalists to Bernie Sanders supporters — and seek to manipulate and radicalize them, Mr. Kelly said.

The Russian-influenced networks frequently promote obscure conservative YouTube channels such as the Next News Network and the Trump Breaking News Network, driving up their views and advertising revenue. A video posted in February by a conservative internet radio host, who claimed that 30 politicians were about to be arrested in connection with the “Pizzagate” hoax, racked up more than 300,000 views on YouTube. Another YouTube video, claiming that Michelle Obama had 214 personal assistants and had purchased four yachts with taxpayer money, had close to a million views.

Rather than construct fake grass-roots support behind their ideas — the public relations strategy known as “Astroturfing” — the Russians sought to cultivate and influence real political movements, Mr. Kelly said.

“It isn’t Astroturfing — they’re throwing seeds and fertilizer onto social media,” said Mr. Kelly. “You want to grow it, and infiltrate it so you can shape it a little bit.”

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How Russia Harvested American Rage to Reshape US Politics – New York Times

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How Russia Harvested American Rage to Reshape US Politics
New York Times
This past March, another of the Russian pages, Secured Borders, reposted a video that it attributed to Conservative Tribune, part of the conservative and pro-Trump sites run by Patrick Brown. The video, which falsely claims that Michigan allows Muslim …
Google uncovered Russia-backed ads on YouTube, Gmail : sourceReuters
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Trump plans to visit Las Vegas on Wednesday, calls shooting ‘an act of pure evil’ 

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Trump plans to visit Las Vegas on Wednesday, calls shooting ‘an act of pure evil’

President Trump plans to travel to Las Vegas on Wednesday following a massacre at a country music festival in which at least 50 people were killed and more than 400 were injured late Sunday, making it the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history. “It was an act of pure evil,” Trump said somberly, standing in the Diplomatic Room at […]

Trump plays golf with Sen. Lindsey Graham, at times a critic of the president 

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Trump plays golf with Sen. Lindsey Graham, at times a critic of the president

President Trump is playing golf Monday with Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), who has at times been a thorn in the president’s side. The two men, who feuded most recently in August, are spending the Columbus Day holiday at Trump National Golf Club, the president’s private course in Northern Virginia. They were planning to play golf together, […]

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Voice of America: Texas Tech Police Officer Killed, Suspect in Custody 

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Police apprehended a 19-year-old student accused of fatally shooting a Texas Tech University police officer at the campus police station Monday night. University officials issued an alert saying the suspect was taken into custody and that the campus lockdown order had been lifted. In an earlier statement, the university identified the suspect as Hollis Daniels. According to a university statement, campus police made a student welfare check Monday evening and – upon entering the room – found evidence of drugs and drug paraphernalia. Officers then brought the suspect to the police station for standard debriefing. “During this time, the suspect pulled a gun and mortally shot an officer,” Texas Tech Police Chief Kyle Bonath said. “The suspect fled on foot and later apprehended by … (campus police) near the Lubbock Municipal Coliseum.” Texas Tech officials initially issued a lockdown alert to students on social media, urging those on campus “to take shelter in a safe location.” “The family of the officer is in the thoughts and prayers of the Texas Tech community,” said Texas Tech President Lawrence Schovanec. “I want to express my deep appreciation to the Texas Tech Police Department, Lubbock Police Department, Lubbock Sherriff’s Office, and other state and federal law enforcement officials for their response.” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott also issued a statement about the shooting late Monday, saying “hearts go out to the family of the police officer killed.” Abbott also said he had mobilized state law enforcement resources to aid in the investigation.

 Voice of America

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ISIS Fighters, Having Pledged to Fight or Die, Surrender en Masse – New York Times

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ISIS Fighters, Having Pledged to Fight or Die, Surrender en Masse
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DIBIS, Iraq — The prisoners were taken to a waiting room in groups of four, and were told to stand facing the concrete wall, their noses almost touching it, their hands bound behind their backs. More than a thousand prisoners determined to be Islamic 
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Iran warns US against imposing further sanctions – Reuters

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Iran warns US against imposing further sanctions
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File Photo – Iranian revolutionary guard corps chant slogans during Friday prayers in Tehran May 26, 2006. REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi. BEIRUT/DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran warned the United States against designating its Revolutionary Guards Corp as a …
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US, Turkey Suspend Visas for Visitors as Arrest Tiff Escalates – Bloomberg

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The U.S. and Turkey each suspended visa services for citizens looking to visit the other country, a sharp escalation of tensions that sent the lira down as much as 1.7 percent against the U.S. dollar. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government 
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Harvey Weinstein Forced Out of His Own Company – Variety

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Richard H. Thaler Wins 2017 Nobel Economics Prize – Bloomberg

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Richard H. Thaler Wins 2017 Nobel Economics Prize
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Richard H. Thaler of University of Chicago was awarded the 2017 Nobel Prize in Economics for his contributions to behavioral economics. Thaler, 72, “has incorporated psychologically realistic assumptions into analyses of economic decision-making,” the …
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Exclusive: Vegas killer described his unusual habits in 2013 testimony – CNN

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Exclusive: Vegas killer described his unusual habits in 2013 testimony
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Las Vegas (CNN) He was a nocturnal creature who gambled all night and slept all day. He took Valium at times for anxiousness, and had the doctor who prescribed it to him on retainer. He wagered up to a million dollars a night, but wandered around 
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DHS is not extending Jones Act waiver for Puerto Rico – CBS News

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DHS is not extending Jones Act waiver for Puerto Rico
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Texas Tech campus locked down, ‘shooter at large’
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Texas Tech University said its campus was locked down because a shooter was “at large.” Texas Tech University officials said a shooter was “at large” late Monday, as they locked down the campus and urged students and staff to “take shelter.” The 
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google – Google Search

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Story image for google from The Verge

Google has reportedly found Russia-linked ads on YouTube, Gmail …

The Verge18 hours ago
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Highly CitedWashington Post20 hours ago

Google uncovers Russian-bought ads on YouTube, Gmail and other platforms

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Google Finds Accounts Connected to Russia Bought Election Ads

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The ads appeared mainly alongside Google’s search results or on websites that use Google ads outside the search company’s own sites. It was not clear whether such ads appeared on YouTube or the Gmail email service, the person said.

There is a chance that Google may find other ads from Russian-linked accounts, the person familiar with the investigation said.

Microsoft, a distant rival to Google in the internet search and advertising market, said Monday evening that it too was examining whether suspected Russian agents used its services to show political ads during the 2016 election. Microsoft’s Bing search engine accounts for about 23 percent of searches in the United States, compared with more than 63 percent for Google, according comScore, an internet measurement firm.

Google has been called to testify at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Nov. 1. But it has so far escaped the intense scrutiny confronting Facebook after the social network admitted that it discovered 470 profiles and pages to the internet Research Agency, a Russian company with ties to the Kremlin.

The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, said on Monday that it should not be surprising that Russians were using Google as well as Facebook and Twitter. The only thing that is surprising, he said, is that it took so long for Google to find the activity.

“It will take more time and length and breadth to know what Russia did on social media,” Mr. Schiff said. “But the themes are consistent across platforms: the desire to help Donald Trump, to hurt Hillary Clinton and the desire to set Americans against each other.”

In addition to the Senate committee hearing, Google and Facebook are expected to testify at another Nov. 1 hearing before the House Intelligence Committee. Twitter was also invited to the House committee hearing, but it was not clear on Monday whether officials from the company planned to attend.

Facebook has said the Russian company had placed 3,000 ads on its network at a cost of about $100,000. Last month, Twitter said it had found about 200 accounts that appeared to be linked to a Russian campaign to influence the election.

Google is the only company that sells more digital advertising than Facebook, and its role in the coordinated Russian campaign has been a source of intense speculation in Washington and Silicon Valley. The Washington Post reported that Google had found that Russian agents hoping to spread misinformation had spent tens of thousands of dollars on the company’s advertising platforms.

But Google’s investigation has not found the same type of pinpoint advertising that Russian agents conducted on Facebook. The social network allows advertisers to target its audience with more specificity than Google, including users with a wide range of political leanings.

The 2016 presidential election was the first time that Google allowed targeting by political leanings and it allowed just two categories — left-leaning and right-leaning.

However, Google has not found any evidence that the ads from the accounts suspected of having ties to the Russian government used these political categories or geographic parameters to focus on specific groups, the person familiar with the company’s investigation said. The ads were much more broad, aimed at English-language queries or any users in the United States, for example.

A Google spokeswoman, Andrea Faville, said the company had a policy that limited political ad targeting and prohibited targeting based on race and religion.

“We are taking a deeper look to investigate attempts to abuse our systems, working with researchers and other companies, and will provide assistance to ongoing inquiries,” Ms. Faville said.

On Facebook, fake Russia-linked accounts — in which fictional people posed as American activists — promoted inflammatory messages on divisive issues. Those accounts bought advertising to promote those messages and reach a bigger audience within the Facebook universe, while promoting the incendiary posts to different locations or people with established political leanings for maximum impact.

The Russian-linked accounts did not target ads based on political affiliation, but it raises the question of why Google allowed such targeting for the 2016 election when it had not done so in the past. The only location where Google allows ad targeting by political affiliation is the United States.

Google is working with Jigsaw, a think tank owned by its parent company, Alphabet. Jigsaw has been doing research for 18 months on fake news and misinformation campaigns and Google is applying some of those findings in the investigation into Russian election meddling, the person said. It is also working with other technology companies like Facebook and Twitter, in addition to independent researchers and law enforcement.

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Oleg Erovinkin, KGB general, possible source of Steele Dossier, was found dead. In December (2016), the Russian security service arrested four senior cybersecurity experts, an attempt by the Kremlin to prevent further information being released.

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Trump coup sees Russian cyber experts arrested and ex-KGB chief found dead

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US president Donald Trump is facing legal challenges to his “extreme vetting” order, which freezes immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries and temporarily bans refugees. Elsewhere, a lesser publicised but highly significant drama is taking place. And it could undermine the legitimacy of Trump’s presidency.

In December, the Russian security service arrested four senior cybersecurity experts as a result of an investigation into the hacking of US Democratic Party emails. The arrests could see further evidence revealed that explains how that hacking helped Trump to win the presidency. It could also provide Russian President Vladimir Putin with another ‘blackmail’ lever to use against Trump.

Meanwhile, a former KGB chief has been found dead under mysterious circumstances.

The arrests

The four men arrested are no lightweights. They include [Russian] Sergei Mikhailov, the most senior cybersecurity officer in Russia’s Federal Security Bureau (FSB, formerly KGB). Mikhailov is accused of treason – specifically, of taking bribes from an unspecified foreign organisation, so as to share data on Russian hacking.

Others arrested include Dmitry Dokuchaev (also of the FSB) and Ruslan Stoyanov [LinkedIn], the lead cybercrime investigator at Kaspersky Labs. Kaspersky is one of the largest cybersecurity firms in Europe. An unidentified man has also been arrested.

Accusations

According to The Moscow Times, a report in Novaya Gazeta claims Mikhailov implicated Vladimir Fomenko and his server rental company King Servers. In September 2016, ThreatConnect (a US cyber investigations agency) accused King Servers of involvement in the hacking of the Arizona and Illinois voting systems. And according to The New York Times, Fomenko claims he was unaware that this had happened until ThreatConnect released its findings.

Stoyanov was in charge of investigating the alleged hacking for Kaspersky Labs. He has been charged with treason. There is speculation that he passed on details of the hacking to US intelligence agents investigating alleged Russian interference in the US elections. But according to Forbes, Stoyanov’s arrest is in connection with the bribery allegations levelled against Mikhailov.

Teddy bears picnicking or hacking?

Then there are the teddy bear hackers.

ThreatConnect has accused the FSB of being the base for hacking group ‘Cozy Bear’. The GRU (Russia’s equivalent of the America’s National Security Agency (NSA)) is accused of being the base for hackers at ‘Fancy Bear‘ (aka APT 28, Strontium, and the Sofacy Group). German intelligence has agreed [German pdf] with ThreatConnect’s assessments.

It was Fancy Bear that allegedly released information which ultimately helped undermine America’s Democratic National Committee. That hack undoubtedly helped Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

Unanswered questions

On 16 January, The Canary published an article about the so-called dossier on Trump, authored by former MI6 agent Christopher Steele. After summarising the history of that dossier, I concluded:

If Steele’s allegations are genuine, he should come in from the cold, face off his critics, and provide back-up evidence. If only 10% of his claims are shown to be true, there would be grounds for Trump’s impeachment.

To date, that has not happened.

The arrests of cybersecurity specialists in Russia could be interpreted as an attempt by the Kremlin to prevent further information about the alleged hacking being released. Information that could damage Putin’s relationship with Trump. And possibly damage even further the legitimacy of the US elections – and Trump’s victory.

Mysterious death

Meanwhile, linked to the Steele dossier case is the unexplained death [Russian] of a former KGB chief. Oleg Erovinkin was found dead in his Lexus on Boxing Day 2016. That was only days before the Steele dossier was made public.

According to one Kremlin watcher, after leaving the FSB, Erovinkin was appointed deputy to Igor Sechin of state-owned oil giant Rosneft. In his dossier, Christopher Steele referred to Sechin and an alleged meeting with Trump’s foreign affairs adviser, Carter Page.

screenshot-from-2017-01-15-13-28-35

Steele also added:

“A source close to Rosneft President, Putin close associate and US-sanctioned Igor Sechin, confided details of a recent secret meeting between him and visiting Foreign Affairs Adviser to Donald TRUMP, Carter Page.”

This story is still evolving and may well take centre stage again. We will be following the situation closely as it develops.

Get Involved!


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TRUMP-RUSSIA INVESTIGATION Update | Felix Sater Update

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M.N.: Please, refer to the original McClatchy article on Felix Sater for the latest updated versions. 

TRUMP-RUSSIA INVESTIGATION

Facebook sold ads to a Russian firm during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, according to sources familiar with the social network’s findings, with Facebook’s chief security officer Alex Stamos writing that the ads “appeared to focus on amplifying divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum.” The revelations are likely to prompt questions about the possibility of the Russians receiving guidance from the U.S. to interfere in the election, Carol D. Leonnig, Tom Hamburger and Rosalind S. Helderman report at the Washington Post.

The Senate House Intelligence Committee interviewed former national security adviser Susan Rice behind closed doors yesterday morning, with senators declining to reveal details of the meeting. Katie Bo Williams reports at the Hill.

Special counsel Robert Mueller has not asked to speak with the Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya who met with Trump campaign officials at Trump Tower in June 2016, Veselnitskaya told NBC News, adding that no one from Mueller’s team has tried to contact her. Ken Dilanian, Richard Greenberg and Natasha Lebedeva report at NBC News.

A key figure involved in the salacious “Trump dossier” relied on his first amendment rights during testimony before the Senate Judiciary committee last month, according to recently released court documents, the individual avoiding revealing the sources for the dossier compiled by former British Intelligence officer Christopher Steele. Elias Groll reports at Foreign Policy.

The two sides of the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) have been revealed this week and, as the committee prepares to interview key Trump campaign figures and contend with allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin, it is unclear whether the Grassley who is a “fearless investigator ready to take on his own party” will emerge or the Grassley who is a “loyal member of the G.O.P.,” Karoun Demirjian writes at the Washington Post.

____________________________

Felix Sater is a growing problem for Donald Trump, who once said he wouldn’t know what Sater looked like. The Russia-born Sater recently said he sought deals for Trump in Moscow during the campaign, and today is surrounded by several men with checkered financial pasts.

Source: Trump saga character still surrounded by financial fraudsters | McClatchy Washington Bureau

Trump saga character still surrounded by financial fraudsters

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A cast of convicts and disgraced businessmen, including a Russian émigré central to the probes into possible Trump campaign collusion with Moscow, has reassembled in a nondescript office here across from a commuter train station.

The office is rented by the engaging but elusive émigré, Felix Sater. He’s been front-page news of late for emails, now in the hands of congressional and federal investigators, detailing how he and Trump Organization attorney Michael D. Cohen sought a real-estate deal in Moscow during the presidential campaign. Sater, who had been involved in previous ventures with Donald Trump’s company, wrote a 2015 email to Cohen saying, “Our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it.”

That bombshell late last month helped place Sater, who once described himself as “a very interesting guy,” at the heart of the ongoing Trump investigations.

And now a new McClatchy investigation reveals that Sater is again associated with some of the individuals with whom he was implicated in FBI probes of stock manipulation on Wall Street on behalf of Russian and Italian mobsters in the late 1990s. Several of the people who were convicted or faced regulatory sanctions in those probes have been working in the same suite as Sater on Haven Avenue in this affluent Long Island, N.Y., suburb.

The new information raises questions about Sater’s activities while he and Cohen were working on the potential Moscow deal, whom he was doing business with, and whether Cohen was aware of these connections.

The relationship between Cohen and Sater continued after the Moscow project: A year later, in January 2017, they drafted, with a Ukrainian politician, a Ukraine-Russia peace plan and delivered it to Trump’s then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

The building directory lists two companies in Suite 205, Advance Capital, and Regency Capital Inc., which share a three-year lease that began in May 2016. The suite is upstairs from the greasy spoon Haven Diner, overlooking a Long Island Railroad station.

School kids attend language classes at the Japanese Culture Center, and an eyelash extension salon is located a few doors away. Suite 205 is the only unmarked one on the floor. There’s a video surveillance system out front and above the right side of the door is a mezuzah, a prayer symbol often affixed outside Jewish homes and businesses.

“They’re in and out, they travel a lot,” said an employee of a neighboring business who requested anonymity in order to speak freely.

Old friends

Advance Capital’s chairman, Gary Levi, is described by several who know both men as a longtime Sater associate. The Securities and Exchange Commission charged Levi in 2003 with helping the publicly traded fashion company Candie’s, Inc., inflate its income statement to dupe investors. He consented to a cease-and-desist order and paid a $25,000 civil penalty.

The SEC said that Levi worked directly with Candie’s Chief Financial Officer Gary H. Klein, who a year later was barred by regulators from accounting work with publicly traded companies. (Klein was arrested in 2004 in West Harrison, N.Y., for sending explicit sadomasochistic AOL chat messages to what he thought was a 14-year-old girl. Florida lists him on its directory of registered sex offenders.)

Levi isn’t the only Advance Capital executive with a checkered past. The company’s vice president of business development is Salvatore Morreale, cousin of Sater’s co-conspirator in the stock fraud case, Salvatore Lauria.

Lauria and Sater were both arrested, their exploits chronicled in the 2003 book The Scorpion and the Frog.

In the book, Morreale is simply referred to a “Cousin Sal”; a family tree on Lauria’s wife’s Facebook page indicates they are indeed cousins. Morreale was indicted in November 1998 in a separate investigation that alleged he helped launder money through stock manipulation, working in tandem with White Rock Partners, an investment firm where the two men worked, and its successor company, State Street Securities.

A Nov. 20, 1998 sealed complaint from federal prosecutors outlines allegations against Salvatore Morreale, an associate at the time of Felix Sater and his business partner Salvatore Lauria.

Lauria, Sater and a Russian named Gennady “Gene” Klotsman were central figures in White Rock Partners. Klotsman reportedly is imprisoned in Russia for a spectacular diamond heist.

Morreale pleaded guilty in 1999 to multiple conspiracy charges, according to court documents and his records on Broker Check, run by the Financial Industry Regulation Authority, a self-regulating body for Wall Street.

Morreale and Levi did not respond to requests for comment.

Mystery deepens

Soon after McClatchy began asking questions about Advance Capital in late August, its website suddenly disappeared, replaced by a Go Daddy ad for domain names. Before it was taken down, the website boasted to potential customers that it offered “an alternative to conventional business loans.” It’s unclear whether the business is still operating.

Court documents in New York show the company made the equivalent of loans by taking small stakes in companies through cash advances, getting a percentage of a company’s credit-card daily billing revenues until reaching an agreed-upon payoff amount.

The company appears to operate in a lightly regulated space; it’s technically not considered a lender by the New York State Department of Financial Services.

Screenshot of a page on Advance Capital’s website before it was taken down in late August.

Wieder, Ben

Morreale’s presence at a Sater-linked company suggests that, at the very least, Sater continues to work in close proximity to his former circle. Persons familiar with operations say Sater keeps a desk at Advance Capital. A person familiar with the operation said the men sometimes met at Sater’s nearby home in Sands Point.

 

_______________________________

M.N.: The following excerpt was changed in accordance with the changes in the original McClatchy Report article and at the request of Mr. Wolf, Mr. Sater’s attorney, on 9.9.17: 

McClatchy reporters twice visited Sater’s Sands Point home last month and were directed to send questions to his lawyer Robert S. Wolf, who then declined comment. Both Sater and his lawyer were sent a long list of detailed question. Sater asked that questions be sent to Wolf, but added a jab.

“I can see from your questions that your story will be mostly wrong and completely off base,” he wrote. When pressed to help correct what might have been incorrect, neither Sater or Wolf initially responded.

On Thursday, Wolf confirmed a relationship between Sater’s businesses and a Port Washington-based attorney, Arnie Herz, who had filed trademark paperwork on behalf of Advance Capital in April 2016.

▪  Herz has registered numerous Sater-related businesses, including Regency Capital Associates LLC in 2016, the business in the same suite as Advance Capital.

▪  Moreover, Herz registered several businesses tied to the Khrapunovs, a family accused by the government in their home nation of Kazakhstan of theft and money laundering, including via Trump-themed properties, a focus of an earlier McClatchy investigation into Sater. McClatchy also found that Sater assisted in efforts to get work visas for at least one person at a U.S. company funded by the fugitive family.

Wolf declined to provide further comment.

Kalsom Kam is another link between Sater and Advance Capital.

__________________________

OPTIONAL TRIM BEGINS (ends in five grafs, pickup final section)

There’s yet another factor that links Sater to his former associates. This March — about a year after the Sater-Cohen efforts to build a tower in Moscow apparently fell apart — Lauria left a tribute to Alexander Oronov, another Russian emigre, on the website <a href=”http://Legacy.com” rel=”nofollow”>Legacy.com</a>.

Ukrainian politician Andrii Artemenko said Oronov had been an intermediary, who connected Artemenko to Sater and Cohen ; the three in late January drafted a secret peace plan for Ukraine and neighboring Russia without input from the State Department, and Cohen delivered it to Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn shortly before Flynn was fired as national security adviser for not being truthful about his own Russia ties.

Oronov, who founded the Baryshevskaya Grain Company in Ukraine, died suddenly in early March. Artemenko took to Facebook to suggest Oronov died because he knew too much, though a business associate who knew Oronov well said he died of cancer, and his death was not a mystery.

“My best to the family. We will never forget Alex, never, never, never,” said the message left in Lauria’s name.

Oronov was also father-in-law to Cohen’s brother Bryan. Multiple news reports earlier this year said the Cohen brothers and Oronov had invested together in Delaware-registered International Ethanol of Ukraine.

Cohen declined to answer specific questions this week emailed by McClatchy.

OPTIONAL TRIM ENDS (return to final section)

Past, present

Although Sater’s stock manipulation crimes were committed in the late 1990s, he was not sentenced until 2009. Sater never set foot in jail for those misdeeds, getting off with the $25,000 fine. FBI handlers testified on his behalf that he was instrumental in helping get Russian-made weapons off the black market. His local rabbi, when honoring Sater as Man of the Year in 2014, described Sater’s informant work with intelligence agencies.

While he was working with the government, Sater also had co-founded Bayrock Group with a Kazakh Tevfik Arif. That company in 2006 landed the rights to develop the vaunted Trump Soho project in Manhattan, and Trump-themed projects in Arizona and South Florida. Sater was forced to abandon his role in the Trump Soho after the New York Times revealed his past as a two-time criminal convict. The revelations tarnished the Trump name on what was to be a swank hotel and condo development. The project later dissolved into financial chaos and litigation.

But the information about Sater’s current activities brings new questions about Sater’s links to those in Trump’s inner circle, and even Trump himself. They also underscore why both Cohen and Sater might be of interest to the congressional investigators and Special Counsel Robert Mueller who are looking at potential collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign in 2016, something Trump has blasted as a witch hunt.

Trump later testified under oath in 2013 that if the Russian émigré sat across the room from him, “I really would not know what he looked like.” Yet last month’s email revelations show Sater continued to seek business for the Trump Organization later than previously believed.

“I have known Mr. Sater for several decades,” Cohen confirmed in a two-page statement on Aug. 28, shortly after the Sater-Cohen emails became public.

Cohen did not answer McClatchy’s questions about whether Sater represented himself or his firm Regency Capital (he lists himself as an “adviser” there in federal campaign finance filings) in his pursuit of a Trump-themed project in Moscow. Sater also did not answer that question, sent to his personal email. The Trump Organization, through its chief lawyer Alan Garten, declined to answer questions about Sater and pointed to an earlier statement.

– Gabrielle Paluch is a special correspondent for McClatchy.

Read the whole story
· · · · · · · ·

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Facebook officials told a congressional panel that the social network discovered it had sold advertisements to a Russia-based operation during the presidential election targeting U.S. voters.

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Facebook Inc. said on Wednesday it had found that an influence operation likely based in Russia spent $100,000 on ads promoting divisive social and political messages in a two-year-period through May. Facebook, the dominant social media network, said that many of the ads promoted 470 “inauthentic” accounts and pages that it has now suspended. The ads spread polarizing views on topics including immigration, race and gay rights, instead of backing a particular political candidate,…

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Representatives of Facebook told congressional investigators Wednesday that it has discovered it sold ads during the U.S. presidential election to a shadowy Russian company seeking to target voters, according to several people familiar with the company and more »

Facebook says it sold political ads to Russian company during 2016 election

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Trump gets millions from golf members. CEOs and lobbyists get access to president – USA TODAY

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Dozens of lobbyists, contractors and others who make their living influencing the government pay President Trump’s companies for membership in his private golf clubs, a status that can put them in close contact with the president, a USA TODAY 
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Syrian government dropped sarin on Khan Sheikoun: U.N.

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GENEVA (Reuters) – Syrian forces have used chemical weapons more than two dozen times during the country’s civil war, including in the deadly attack that led to U.S. air strikes on government planes, U.N. war crimes investigators said on Wednesday.

  

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MUNICH, Germany (Reuters) – Victims of the attack on the Israeli team at the 1972 Olympic Games were remembered by Germany and Israel on Wednesday with a memorial, following a long campaign by their relatives.

  

Said Gabriel yesterday, welcoming Russia’s proposal: “Russia has effected a change in its policies that we should not gamble away” 

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RUSSIA

“I am not his bride, nor his groom,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said of President Trump yesterday, stating that each leader defends their national interests, also disparaging the U.S. for its treatment of Russian diplomatic facilities on U.S. soil. Andrew Roth reports at the Washington Post.

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Germany’s Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said yesterday,

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supplying Ukraine with defensive weapons,

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M.N.: This article below, by John Sipher, is one of the important, clear, logical, and professionally written pieces of information on “Steele Dossier” and the related matters – Knowing What We Know Now by John Sipher 

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M.N.: This article below, by John Sipher, is one of the important, clear, logical, and professionally written pieces of information on “Steele Dossier” and the related matters. It is regrettable, however, that the author did not mention the mysterious death of Oleg Erovinkin who is assumed to be and is referred to as the main source of information, and even the ultimate author of this document. This omission can be addressed in the future reports by Mr. Sipher. The overall issue of veracity and the ultimate sources of the “dossier” presently appear to be unresolved. 

One of the practical points of this article which might be of some value to the investigators, despite its seeming triviality, is that the true understanding of the events in general, and this issue in particular, develops in its dynamics, in the process, in time, and very often becomes available, clears up, and matures in hindsight, with passing of time and the accumulation of the relevant information which was hidden and comes to light only now. We live, we learn, and we try to comprehend and to understand. 

If we only knew then, what we know now…


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