Posts Tagged ‘British intelligence’

Encourage children to spend more time online, says former head of British Intelligence — “The country is desperately short of engineers and computer scientists, and lacks the broad ‘cyber skills’”

August 8, 2017

The Guardian

Robert Hannigan says children developing cyber skills could ‘save the country’ as UK was falling behind competitors

Image may contain: 1 person, suit
 Robert Hannigan, in 2015, when he was director of GCHQ. Photograph: Ben Birchall/PA

Parents should be encouraging their children to spend more time online in order to “save the country,” the former head of GCHQ has said.

Robert Hannigan, who was head of Britain’s surveillance agency between 2014 and 2017, said that the UK was struggling to keep up with competitors when it came to cyber skills.

He said parents should not feel guilty if teenagers spend hours of their summer holidays in front of a screen.

“The assumption that time online or in front of a screen is life wasted needs challenging,” Hannigan said. “It is driven by fear.”

The call comes days after the children’s commissioner warned parents that they should intervene to stop their children overusing social media and consuming time online “like junk food”.

In an interview with the Observer, Anne Longfield said that parents should “step up” and be proactive in stopping their children from bingeing on the internet during the summer holidays.

Writing in the Telegraph, Hannigan disagreed. “If you are spending a disproportionate amount of your holiday unsuccessfully attempting to separate your children from wifi or their digital devices, do not despair.

“Your poor parenting may be helping them and saving the country.”

The opinions come after a report said that children in all age groups are spending ever-longer periods online, according to Ofcom. Children aged five to 15 are spending 15 hours a week online.

Hannigan argues that young people need to explore the digital world just as they explore the physical world, in order to fully develop the kinds of skills both the country and they as individuals will need in the future.

He said: “This country is desperately short of engineers and computer scientists, and lacks the broad ‘cyber skills’ needed now, never mind in the next 20 years. The baseline of understanding is too low and often behind our competitors.

“If we are to capitalise on the explosion of data that will come through the ‘internet of things’, and the arrival of artificial intelligence and machine learning, we need young people who have been allowed to behave like engineers: to explore, break things and put them together.

“Arguably that is what children always did in their summer holidays. The difference today is that they will want to explore, experiment and break things digitally.”

He also said that parents should attempt to catch up and improve their own cyber skills, suggesting they buy a Raspberry Pi.

“You could build it with your children and learn at least the concept of computer coding; there are plenty of free guides on the web,” he said.

Read the rest:


Related image

Children should be allowed to explore the digital world just as they explore the physical world, says Robert Hannigan

See also:

By Ben Farmer
The Telegraph

Parents should encourage their children to spend more time online to improve their cyber skills and ‘save the country’, the former head of GCHQ declares today.

Rather than allowing youngsters to ‘mooch around on the streets’ during the holidays, it is families’ patriotic duty to encourage more screen time, according to Robert Hannigan.

Writing for the Telegraph today, the former head of the Government’s electronic spy agency, warns that Britain is struggling to keep pace with its digital rivals.

Without giving children more time to embrace and master the virtual world, the UK will fall further behind, he says.

His call comes just days after the children’s commissioner argued that children are already too attached to online devices.

Read the rest:

Russian hackers attacked UK energy networks — Russians hacked energy companies on election day, GCHQ claims

July 19, 2017

Russian hackers are thought to have attacked the UK’s national grid sparking fears that electricity supplies could be cut by cyber terrorists.

Security analysts say that a group backed by Vladimir Putin‘s Kremlin targeted the Republic of Ireland’s energy sector and tried to infiltrate control systems.

Senior engineers at the country’s Electricity Supply Board were hit with a ‘phishing’ email last month that tried to trick staff into downloading malicious software, according to The Times.

While no evidence of disruption has been uncovered, analysts fear that the hackers could have stolen sensitive information including top-secret passwords that could later be used to access systems.

Russian hackers are thought to have attacked the UK's national grid sparking fears that electricity supplies could be cut by cyber terrorists (stock photo)

Russian hackers are thought to have attacked the UK’s national grid sparking fears that electricity supplies could be cut by cyber terrorists (stock photo)

Experts said that the attackers are using Ireland to test out their cyber weaponry with the country hosting the offices of a number of major corporations including Apple and Facebook.

Some of the fake emails sent to engineers reportedly contained inside technical knowledge about the plants that the hackers were trying to access.

It is now feared that similar attack bids could be launched on other parts of the UK’s critical infrastructure.

Read more:
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook


Russians hacked energy companies on election day, GCHQ claims

 Hackers tried to exploit ways into computer networks possibly using a similar method to the one that hit the NHS in May
Hackers tried to exploit ways into computer networks possibly using a similar method to the one that hit the NHS in May CREDIT: ALEXANDER RYUMIN 
By Cara McGoogan and 

Britain’s energy companies were hacked on the day of the General Election by computer criminals believed to have been backed by Russia.

The Government’s electronic spy agency GCHQ said in an official report sent to the energy sector that companies “are likely to have been compromised” in the wake of the attack launched on June 8.

Britain’s energy companies were hacked on the day of the General Election 
Britain’s energy companies were hacked on the day of the General Election  CREDIT: PA

The report accuses “state-sponsored hostile threat actors” of being responsible for the cyber attack, which may also have targeted water companies and the manufacturing industry.

The document does not name Russia but experts have told The Telegraph that they believe the Kremlin was behind the attack and that it targeted engineers working in power plants and in the electricity supply network.

The attempt to infiltrate Britain’s energy network and other parts of the UK’s “critical national infrastructure” is not thought to have caused any disruption.

But intelligence…

Read the rest:

Trump, G7 Leaders Seek Deals on Terrorism, Trade, Climate

May 26, 2017

TAORMINA, Sicily — The differences are well-known: climate change, trade and migration threaten to throw a summit of the Group of Seven wealthy democracies off its consensus game, with U.S. President Donald Trump cast as the spoiler-in-chief. But it may not play out exactly that way, according to long-time G7 observers.

“It is a forum made for Donald Trump’s particular style. It is highly informal, highly interactive and they speak in very colloquial language to each other,” said John Kirton, director of the G7 Research Group at the University of Toronto. “It is the ultimate lonely hearts club. No one understands how tough it is to have the top job except the peers with the top job in other countries.”

While Trump has met all of the leaders one on one, this will be the first time all seven are around the same table, including also newcomers Emmanuel Macron of France, Theresa May of Britain and the Italian host, Paolo Gentiloni — forging a new dynamic after a year of global political turmoil amid rising nationalism.

Climate policy promises to be the real buzzkill at the G7 party. Endorsing measures to combat terror is expected to find easy agreement, especially after the attack on an English pop music concert killed 22 people Monday night. But some of the trust that fuels such meetings was undermined by a leak of British intelligence in the Manchester attack blamed on a U.S. official, prompting the Britain to decide not to share further intelligence in the case. Trump is also going against the grain on trade with more protectionist stand

His pending review of U.S. climate policies and decision not to make up his mind before Taormina has braced environmentalists for the possibility of bland language that says little after years of increasingly stronger commitments to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and emissions of in greenhouse gases under the Paris Agreement.

“What we do not want to see is a false compromise on nothing,” said Tobias Muenchmeyer, a political expert for Greenpeace. “We want to see determination and commitment over unity,” with the other partners going ahead without the United States.

Trump’s attempts to impose a U.S. travel ban on some Muslim countries contrast with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s position that immigration is a source of strong, sustainable inclusive growth. Sicily is on the front lines in Europe’s migration crisis, the first landfall for most of the more than 180,000 migrants who arrived in Italy last year — and the reason the Italian government chose Sicily as the backdrop for this summit.

Kirton said Trump has demonstrated the ability to come to bilateral agreements, and it is possible that Taormina will yield deals for which he can claim credit at home. But his volatile style could upend even summit decisions.

“It is always possible the president will change his mind even before he lands in Washington and fire off some more tweets,” Kirton said.


ABC News

President Donald Trump will continue his marathon of meetings with world leaders Friday on the fifth stop of his overseas trip in Taormina, Italy, when he attends his first Group of Seven(G7) summit.

The annual meeting convenes the leaders of the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Japan, Italy and Canada to discuss and promote solutions for major world issues.

But in contrast to the collaborative and at times even playful demeanor leaders would assume during the eight years President Barack Obama was in office, Trump’s emergence so far on the diplomatic circuit has shown his willingness to use the meetings to confront world leaders and openly express his grievances.

Trump’s speech at the opening of a new NATO memorial Thursday aimed to publicly call out countries who may not have paid their full share in recent years. It also rattled some diplomatic experts over the president’s decision to not explicitly express the U.S. commitment to NATO’s Article 5 collective defense treaty.

A key issue expected to be on the summit’s agenda is Trump’s weighing of whether to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate accord, a decision that several leaders of the G7 countries have expressed could significantly undermine global efforts to combat climate change.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters aboard Air Force One Wednesday that the president would make his decision whether to exit the treaty upon his return to the U.S.

Also under the microscope during Trump’s meetings have been his body language and interactions with other heads of state. In particular reporters and social media have pointed out his lengthy handshake with newly elected French President Emmanuel Macron, his alleged “shove” to move in front of Montenegro Prime Minister Dusko Markovic and his face-to-face with U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May, who expressed dismay over an alleged U.S. leak of British intel from the investigation into the Manchester bombing.

In the evening following his meetings, Trump and the first lady will attend a G7 concert by La Scala Philharmonic Orchestra before the leaders and their spouses sit down for dinner.


Donald Trump Needs To Launch an FBI Investigation into Leaks, After New York Times Publishes Manchester Bomb Photos Leaked from Intelligence Community

May 25, 2017



Sources in the UK tell Peace and Freedom that Her Majesty’s Government is angry that the New York Times published photos from the Manchester bomb investigation even though they are still classified.

The UK first threatened and then apparently did stop intelligence sharing with the U.S. because of this leak.

President Donald Trump first needs to learn to keep his own mouth in check. Then the Commander in Chief needs to launch an anti-leak investigation by the FBI to determine the source of the leak to the New York Times — and other Trump administration leaks — before they U.S. suffers real consequences from its leak-happy bad behaviour.

John Francis Carey
Peace and Freedom






The bomber in the Manchester terrorist attack appeared to have carried a powerful explosive in a lightweight metal container concealed either within a black vest or a blue Karrimor backpack, and may have held a small switch in his left hand, according to preliminary information gathered by British authorities.

Remnants of backpack

The initial analysis of the bomb, based on evidence photographed and collected at the crime scene and distributed by British authorities, does not specify the size or type of explosive used in the bomb’s main charge but suggests an improvised device made with forethought and care.

Possible switch located in suspect’s left hand

Law enforcement images of metal nuts and screws propelled by the blast, and of damage nearby, show that the bomb’s makeshift shrapnel penetrated metal doors and left deep scuffs in brick walls.

Nuts and screws used as shrapnel

And the authorities’ review of the blast site shows that many of the fatalities occurred in a nearly complete circle around the bomber, Salman Abedi, whose upper torso was heaved outside the lethal ring toward the Manchester Arena entrance.

All of these are indicators of a powerful, high-velocity charge, and of a bomb in which its shrapnel was carefully and evenly packed.

The location of the bomber’s torso, and the apparent absence of fatalities in a line between the blast site and where his remains landed, was said by one explosive disposal technician who examined the images to indicate that the explosive charge was more likely in a backpack than in a vest, and propelled the bomber away from the blast.

Certain details of the bomb further suggest a desire by a bomb-maker to reduce the risk of a dud.

The authorities found a mangled Yuasa 12-volt, 2.1 amp lead acid battery at the scene, which is more powerful than batteries often seen in backpack bombs or suicide vests. The battery, used for emergency lighting and other applications, can be bought for about $20.

12-volt battery that was possible power source

A possible switch to initiate the explosion, carried in the bomber’s left hand, was also unusual in a suicide device, in that it appears to have contained a small circuit board soldered inside one end.

It is not clear from the law enforcement images if the object was a simple plunger switch, or included a timer or a receiver that could be operated remotely via radio signal – or some combination, or something else.

Such redundancy, if the object was the switch, could give the bomber or a cell more than one option for deploying the device, and suggest that the bomb was not as simple in design as many terrorist devices, which often are crude and prone to failure or haphazard effect.

One independent analyst of improvised explosive devices, Michael C.L. Johnson, suggested that the object might be an electronic cigarette and unrelated to the bomb’s detonation – an understandable case of investigators focusing on a crime-scene detail early in a case.

Western bomb disposal technicians who reviewed the images for The New York Times said that a more thorough analysis of the device is difficult without more information, and that assessments of the bomb could change as the authorities analyze it further and if they collect more evidence. But its apparent overdesign, including the more powerful than usual battery, could flow from a bomb-maker’s difficulty in building a reliable detonator.

Manchester bombing latest: 18 terror plots foiled since 2013, including five since Westminster attack, source says

May 25, 2017

© AFP | A soldier patrols outside 10 Downing Street, the official residence of Britain’s Prime Minister, in central London on May 24, 2017

The Telegraph

The security services have foiled five attacks in the past two months since the Westminster attack, a senior Whitehall source has said.

Defending against accusations that MI5 had been repeatedly warned the Manchester suicide bomber, Salman Abedi, was dangerous, the source outlined the scale of the job facing counter-terrorism officials.

The bombmaker who provided Salman Abedi (pictured) with the explosive device used to cause carnage at Manchester Arena may still at large, police have revealed

Salman Abedi,

The source said MI5 is currently managing 500 active investigations, involving 3,000 subjects of interest at any one time.

The source said: “Where former subjects of interest show sufficient risk of reengaging in terrorism, MI5 can consider reopening the investigation, but this process inevitably relies on difficult professional judgments based on partial information.”

Bomb squad on the scene in Manchester

Bomb squad on the scene in Manchester CREDIT: TWITTER/LUKE SANDERSON

Meanwhile, a suspicious package which prompted an alert in Hulme has been deemed safe, Greater Manchester Police said.

An army bomb disposal team was sent to the scene and several roads were closed, including Linby Street and Jackson Street.

But GMP later said the incident “has now been deemed safe and the cordon has been removed”.

It followed a minute’s silence held in memory of the victims and the arrival of The Queen to a hospital where medics battled to save the lives of children caught up in Monday’s suicide bomb.

 armed police ukArmed police stand outside Manchester Central in Manchester, England, in 2015. Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

She met victims at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital, and staff who worked tirelessly through the night in the aftermath of Monday’s atrocity.

Earlier it was revealed police hunting the terror network behind the Manchester Arena bombing have stopped passing information to the US on the investigation as a major transatlantic row erupted over leaks of key evidence in the US, according to a report.

The police, Downing Street and the Home Office refused to comment on the BBC report, but Theresa May will confront Donald Trump about the leaks – including crime scene photographs – when she meets him at a Nato summit in Brussels on Thursday.

The leaks included suggestions that bomber Salman Abedi’s family had warned security officials he was dangerous.

There were also reports Abedi’s parents were so worried about him being radicalised in Manchester that they got him to join them in Libya and confiscated his passport. It was apparently returned when he said he wanted to go on a pilgrimage to Mecca.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd has admitted Abedi, 22, was known to the security services “up to a point”.

But further details have emerged about the UK-born bomber’s radicalisation, and the warnings that were sounded, which will raise questions about why he was not more closely monitored.

Responding to the leak in the New York Times of crime scene photos showing bomb fragments and the backpack used by Abedi to conceal his device, the National Police Chiefs’ Council said it “undermines our investigations and the confidence of victims, witnesses and their families”.

But in the US, politicians were openly briefing the media on what they had been told about Abedi and his “cell of Isis-inspired terrorists”.

Read the rest (Includes videos):



FBI monitored former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page on Russia

April 12, 2017

Updated 12:53 PM ET, Wed April 12, 2017

Washington (CNN)The FBI obtained a warrant to monitor President Donald Trump’s former campaign adviser, Carter Page, last summer on suspicions he knowingly engaged in clandestine intelligence activities on behalf of Moscow, The Washington Post is reporting.

The FBI and Justice Department obtained a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant to monitor the communications of Page, who has called himself a junior member of Trump’s foreign policy advisory team, as part of their investigation into possible ties between Trump’s campaign and Russia, the newspaper says, citing unnamed law enforcement and other US officials.
The FBI and Justice Department obtained the warrant after convincing a FISA judge there was probable cause to believe Page was acting as an agent of a foreign government (Russia), the report says. The warrant presents the strongest information to date that the FBI had reason to believe a Trump adviser was in touch with Moscow and met with foreign operatives during Trump’s presidential campaign.
FBI Director James Comey has acknowledged that an investigation was opened last year into Russia’s efforts to influence the election and the question of whether the Trump campaign coordinated with the Kremlin. But Comey stopped short of naming anyone working for the campaign who may have been involved.
CNN is working to confirm The Washington Post’s story.
Page, however, called the FISA warrant “unjustified” in a statement to CNN’s Manu Raju.
“There have been various reports [about FISA documents and FBI surveillance of him],” Page said. “But I was so happy to hear that further confirmation is now being revealed. It shows how low the Clinton/Obama regime went to destroy our democracy and suppress dissidents who did not fully support their failed foreign policy. It will be interesting to see what comes out when the unjustified basis for those FISA requests are more fully disclosed over time, including potentially the Dodgy Dossier — a document that clearly is false evidence, which could represent yet another potential crime.”
Page was referring to a leaked dossier of unverified information compiled by a former British intelligence official for Trump’s political opponents. Then-President-elect Trump and President Barack Obama were briefed on the existence of the dossier before Trump’s inauguration, CNN reported.
When asked in March of last year to list members of his foreign policy team in an interview with The Washington Post, Trump included “Carter Page, PhD.”
Page has said he sent policy memos to the campaign and participated in conference calls as well as gatherings that included Trump, but also said he never personally briefed Trump or was in “small meetings” with him during the election. But Trump said at a White House news conference in February that he doesn’t think he ever met Page.
“I don’t think I’ve ever spoken to him,” Trump said. “I don’t think I’ve ever met him. And he actually said he was a very low-level member of I think a committee for a short period of time. I don’t think I ever met him. Now, it’s possible that I walked into a room and he was sitting there, but I don’t think I ever met him.”
Page told CNN he had never shaken Trump’s hand and that by saying he had met with Trump, he had meant meetings in the “Russian sense,” which he said meant he had attended rallies Trump spoke at.
In recent interviews, Page described himself as a “junior member” of Trump’s foreign policy team, and has denied working on any Russia-related policies for the campaign. He also said in February that he is still in contact with some people in the Trump orbit.

Comey expected to rebut Trump’s wiretap claims before House Intelligence Committee — What to Watch For

March 20, 2017

By Janet Hook and Shane Harris
The Wall Street Journal
Updated March 19, 2017 5:32 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON — FBI Director James Comey will be called before lawmakers Monday as part of an investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and President Donald Trump’s unsubstantiated accusation that he had been wiretapped by his predecessor during the campaign.

In advance of Comey’s testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, a number of lawmakers of both parties have said they have seen no evidence to support Trump’s allegation about then-president Barack Obama

Trump in early March tweeted that Obama had tapped the phones at Trump Tower, the New York building where Trump lived and worked during the campaign, an extraordinary claim of illegal activity by a president.

Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the Intelligence panel who received a classified briefing on the issue Friday, said on NBC that he expected Comey to rebut the president’s claim at Monday’s hearing. “I hope that we can put an end to this wild goose chase because what the president said was just patently false,” Schiff said.




Comey to Testify About Wiretaps and Russia: What to Watch For

By Chris Strohm, Alan Bjerga, and Billy House

Bloomberg News

March 19, 2017, 7:03 PM EDT
  • FBI chief said to see no evidence Obama wiretapped Trump
  • Republican Chairman Nunes asks about ‘unmasking’ of names

James Comey. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

FBI Director James Comey is about to testify on the continuing U.S. investigation into Russia’s meddling in last year’s presidential election, but much of the attention will be on President Donald Trump’s unsupported claim that his predecessor had Trump Tower “wiretapped.”

The House Intelligence Committee will try to untangle a web of conspiracies — and conspiracy theories — Monday morning when it hears from Comey and Admiral Michael Rogers, director of the National Security Agency, in a rare open session.

Here’s what to watch for:

Was Trump wiretapped?

After Trump’s Twitter posting March 4 claiming that former President Barack Obama “had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory,” Comey unsuccessfully urged the Justice Department to publicly deny the allegation, according to a U.S. official who requested anonymity in order to discuss sensitive issues.

Now, the hearing may give Comey and Rogers an opportunity to deny there was any such bugging. They’re not likely to hear dissent from committee members on that score.

Representative Devin Nunes of California, the committee’s Republican chairman, said on “Fox News Sunday” that “the president doesn’t go and physically” wiretap someone. So if you take Trump literally, he said, “it didn’t happen.”

The panel’s top Democrat, Representative Adam Schiff of California, said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that a classified dossier from the Justice Department delivered on Friday showed “no evidence to support the president’s claim that he was wiretapped by his predecessor” so “I hope we can put an end to this wild goose chase, because what the president said was patently false.”

Was Trump’s campaign under surveillance?

After the uproar that followed Trump’s tweets on Obama and wiretapping, the president and his spokesmen recast the claim, saying he was referring to surveillance more broadly.

While many lawmakers from both parties have said there’s no sign that Obama ordered spying on Trump, Nunes said Sunday he’s pursuing whether there “were any other surveillance activities that were used” that led to the “unmasking of names and the leaking of names.”

Nunes cited the case of Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser. Flynn was forced to resign in February after it was revealed he’d spoken to Sergey Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., during the presidential transition — and, crucially, misled Vice President Mike Pence about their discussions.

This month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from probes related to Russia’s role in the 2016 campaign and potential contacts between Russian officials and the Trump campaign team, after acknowledging that he met twice last year with Kislyak.

Intelligence agencies are known to listen in on communications by foreign leaders and diplomats, including ambassadors like Kislyak, but the contents of those calls aren’t supposed to be disclosed.

Whatever happened to Russian hacking?

The ostensible topic of Monday’s hearing is the Intelligence Committee’s “Russian Active Measures Investigation” — in other words, the finding by U.S. intelligence agencies in January that Russia hacked into Democratic emails and leaked them to sow confusion in the U.S. electoral process, damage Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, and help Trump’s candidacy.

There was no finding, though, that hackers affected the actual vote-counting process. Russia has denied it engaged in hacking.

As intelligence agencies and congressional committees continue to investigate Russia’s actions, lawmakers and intelligence experts have expressed concern that Moscow’s model of interference — including selective leaking of information and attempts to control media narratives — could be replicated in other countries such as France, which holds its first round of presidential voting April 23.

Read how cyber-attackers may try to affect Europe’s elections

Did Trump’s aides collude with Russia?

Tying all of this together is the question of whether anyone close to Trump worked with the Russians during the campaign, whether in the hacking of Democrats or potential deal-making after the election.

Trump supporters including Flynn, former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and energy consultant Carter Page have denied any improprieties in their contacts with Russian officials or intermediaries. Documents released last week by congressional Democrats show Flynn received more than $45,000 from RT, the Russian government-backed television network, for his participation at a December 2015 gala where he sat at President Vladimir Putin’s table.

“Were there U.S. persons who were helping the Russians in any way?” Schiff asked Sunday. “Was there any form of collusion?”

Asked if there was evidence of collusion, Nunes responded, “I’ll give you a very simple answer: No.”

Can Comey satisfy lawmakers?

Comey, 56, angered Republicans in 2016 when he announced there weren’t sufficient grounds to prosecute former Secretary of State Clinton or her aides for improper handling of classified information on her private email system.

Then, many Democrats were infuriated when Comey announced in late October that he was looking at some new evidence, believing he cost Clinton the election.

Comey is in his fourth year of a 10-year term heading the Federal Bureau of Investigation and can be removed only if he resigns or is fired by the president.

In an aside during a March 8 speech, the director indicated he has no intention of stepping down voluntarily. “You’re stuck with me for about another six and a half years,” he said.

FBI Director James Comey To Testify Before The House Intelligence Committee — Expected To Shed Light on Hacking, Spying and Wire Tapping Allegations from Trump Tower to Russia

March 20, 2017


Image may contain: outdoor


The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — A congressional inquiry into Russian interference in the presidential election that has so far unfolded behind closed doors moves into the open with a public hearing featuring FBI Director James Comey.

A hearing Monday before the House Intelligence Committee, one of several congressional panels probing allegations of Russian meddling, could allow for the greatest public accounting to date of investigations that have shadowed the Trump administration in its first two months.

Comey, whose agents have been investigating, has been invited to testify along with Michael Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency.

Rep. Devin Nunes, the California Republican who chairs the committee, told The Associated Press that there would be plenty of time for questions and answers.

The committee is investigating, among other things, Russian hacking that intelligence officials have said was meant to influence the election. Also of interest to the committee are any connections between Russia and associates of President Donald Trump and whether any surveillance was conducted for political reasons.

The top two lawmakers on the House intelligence committee said Sunday that documents the Justice Department and FBI delivered late last week offered no evidence that the Obama administration had wiretapped Trump Tower, the president’s New York City headquarters, but the panel’s ranking Democrat says the material offers circumstantial evidence that American citizens colluded with Russians in Moscow’s efforts to interfere in the presidential election.

“There was circumstantial evidence of collusion; there is direct evidence, I think, of deception,” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” ”There’s certainly enough for us to conduct an investigation.”

House Intelligence chief Devin Nunes says the FBI provided no evidence on Friday of a warrant to wiretap Trump Tower

Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the panel, accused Trump of leading Congress on a 'wild goose chase' in a competing interview on NBC's Meet the Press

House Intelligence chief Devin Nunes says the FBI provided no evidence on Friday of a warrant to wiretap Trump Tower (top). Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the panel, accused Trump of leading Congress on a ‘wild goose chase’ in a competing interview on NBC’s Meet the Press (bottom)


Nunes said: “For the first time the American people, and all the political parties now, are paying attention to the threat that Russia poses.”

“We know that the Russians were trying to get involved in our campaign, like they have for many decades. They’re also trying to get involved in campaigns around the globe and over in Europe,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.”

The Senate Intelligence Committee has scheduled a similar hearing for later in the month.

It is not clear how much new information will emerge Monday, and the hearing’s open setting unquestionably puts Comey in a difficult situation if he’s asked to discuss an ongoing investigation tied to the campaign of the president.

At a hearing in January, Comey refused to confirm or deny the existence of any investigation exploring possible connections between Trump associates and Russia, consistent with the FBI’s longstanding policy of not publicly discussing its work. His appearances on Capitol Hill since then have occurred in classified settings, often with small groups of lawmakers, and he has made no public statements connected to the Trump campaign or Russia.

But Comey may feel compelled to respond to Trump’s unproven Twitter assertions that President Barack Obama ordered a wiretapping of Trump Tower during the campaign. Congressional leaders briefed on the matter have said they’ve seen no indication that that’s true, and Obama’s top intelligence official, James Clapper, has publicly called the claims false.

The Justice Department’s disclosure Friday that it had complied with congressional demands for information regarding Trump’s tweets could allow Comey to avoid questioning by simply saying that the lawmakers already have the information they requested.

Yet any lack of detail from Comey will likely be contrasted with public comments he made last year when closing out an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email practices and then, shortly before Election Day, announcing that the probe would be revived following the discovery of additional emails.


Follow Eric Tucker on Twitter at

UNLIKELY ALLY: Trump's sole defender in the legislature on Sunday was Republican Sen. Ted Cruz. The Texas lawmaker said on Face the Nation, 'I will point out this is not necessarily as outlandish as everyone in the press suggest'

UNLIKELY ALLY: Trump’s sole defender in the legislature on Sunday was Republican Sen. Ted Cruz. The Texas lawmaker said on Face the Nation, ‘I will point out this is not necessarily as outlandish as everyone in the press suggest’

Read more:
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

Claims GCHQ wiretapped Trump ‘nonsense’ — U.S. National Security Agency source says

March 18, 2017

BBC News

People sit at computers in the 24 hour Operations Room inside GCHQ, Cheltenham on 17 November, 2015.
GCHQ, a British intelligence agency, wholly denies it helped wiretap Donald Trump

The claim that GCHQ carried out surveillance on Donald Trump during the election campaign is “arrant nonsense”, Rick Ledgett, the number two at the US National Security Agency (NSA) has told the BBC in an exclusive interview.

A commentator on Fox News had claimed that GCHQ had carried out the activity on America’s behalf, but Mr Ledgett said the claim showed “a complete lack of understanding in how the relationship works”.

Each side, he said, was prohibited from asking the other partner to carry out acts that they were prohibited from doing.

He also said the huge risks to the UK in carrying out such an act would completely outweigh any benefits.

“Of course they wouldn’t do it. It would be epically stupid,” he told me.

GCHQ had also dismissed the allegation as nonsense.

Mr Ledgett’s comments came in a wide-ranging – and long-scheduled – interview in his office at NSA headquarters at Fort Meade. He acknowledged that these were unusual times when it came to the political maelstrom surrounding America’s intelligence agencies and their relationship with the new administration.

“Our job in the intelligence community is to be apolitical. Our job is to speak truth to power,” he emphasised.

The origins of much of the tension lie in the assessment by the US intelligence community that Russia interfered in the presidential election, and the subsequent reaction from Donald Trump.

Mr Ledgett said the evidence of Russian involvement was “extraordinarily strong” and “irrefutable” and that the NSA had played a key role in establishing the case.

Mr Ledgett said he was “dead solid 100% confident” that the Russian state was behind the attempts – although he said it was not for the intelligence community to evaluate the actual impact of those attempts on the vote itself.

Russian President Vladimir Putin pictured on 16 March, 2017.
President Vladimir Putin insists that Russia did not interfere in the US election. AP photo

There has been speculation that Russia will interfere in upcoming European elections, but the NSA deputy director said it was hard for him to talk about any evidence supporting that.

There has been a shift towards more aggressive action in cyberspace in recent years – from Russia but also other states – with some commentators claiming that “cyber war” is breaking out.

Low-intensity conflict rather than war is a better description, Mr Ledgett said.

“Cyber war is going to look very different – you are going to see massive failures of key infrastructure systems in the countries that are being targeted in a way we have not seen yet.”

The problems in attributing attacks and the lower barriers for entry mean that this trend may well continue, though.

The US last week indicted a group of Russian hackers as part of a broader strategy of trying to develop layered deterrence. Chinese and Iranian hackers have been indicted in the past.

“Our assessment is that it does cause actors to pause,” Mr Ledgett said, while acknowledging it did not provide absolute deterrence.

The spread of internet-connected devices in the home is another concern.

“It’s a truism that the more things you connect to a network, the more vulnerabilities you introduce,” Mr Ledgett argued, adding that he did not have what are called “Internet of Things” devices in his own home.

Last week there were claims that the CIA – along with Britain’s MI5 – had found vulnerabilities in some “smart” TV sets which allowed them to be turned into bugging devices.

CIA logo
It has been claimed that the CIA devised a spyware attack for Samsung TVs. Getty Images

Mr Ledgett emphasised that the mission of the NSA was to focus on foreign intelligence and not domestic.

He said that 90% of vulnerabilities in systems that the NSA spotted were reported to companies so they could fix them. And any vulnerabilities that the agency sought to leave in place to exploit for intelligence gathering needed to be approved by other government agencies.

“There’s a fringe narrative out there that the US and UK and all these other governments are willy-nilly just exploiting every vulnerability in every device they can in order to gather information into a big pile and then root through it for interesting things. That’s not what we do at all.”

He acknowledged that the debate around the NSA’s power was healthy, but said the way it came about was bad, referring to the Edward Snowden revelations.

He said that while he would not point to specific terrorist attacks or deaths as a result of disclosures, the NSA had seen one thousand “entities” (such as terrorist groups or foreign military units) which had tried to change behaviour to avoid surveillance.

An aerial view shows the National Security Agency (NSA) headquarters in Ft. Meade, Maryland, US on 29 January, 2010.
Mr Ledgett spoke to the BBC at the NSA’s headquarters in Fort Meade. Reuters photo

Mr Ledgett is due to step down in the coming months after a 40-year career in national security. Twenty-nine of those years were spent at the NSA, where he ended up as its most senior civilian.

He acknowledged that the current environment – with the intelligence agencies drawn into political debate – was unprecedented.

“It is an uncomfortable place to be,” he said. “Intelligence needs to not be politicised to be at its best.”



Trump Doesn’t Budge on Wiretapping Claims

March 18, 2017

President tells Germany’s Merkel, ‘At least we have something in common’

White House spokesperson Sean Spicer, in explaining President Donald Trump’s wiretapping tweets, set off a new controversy with the U.K. He repeated a commentator’s claim that British spies helped bug Trump Tower. How is Spicer defending his boss? WSJ’s Jason Bellini has #TheShortAnswer. Photo: Getty

President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaking during a joint news conference at the White House in Washington, D.C., on Friday.

President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaking during a joint news conference at the White House in Washington, D.C., on Friday. PHOTO: JIM LO SCALZO/EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Updated March 17, 2017 8:20 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump on Friday stuck to his unsubstantiated claim that he was wiretapped by his predecessor and brushed off tensions his White House ignited with the U.K. by citing a media report alleging British intelligence was involved.

Mr. Trump, asked about the citation in a news conference with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, quipped: “As far as wiretapping by this past administration, at least we have something in common, perhaps.”

His comment was a reference to reports of U.S. surveillance of Ms. Merkel’s phone, which was disclosed in 2013. He also dismissed the U.K.’s fury over White House press secretary Sean Spicer reading from the podium on Thursday a Fox News commentator’s report alleging the British intelligence agency GCHQ was involved in wiretapping Trump Tower, the New York building where the president lived and worked before moving to the White House.

“We said nothing. All we did was quote a certain very talented legal mind who was the one responsible for saying that on television,” Mr. Trump said.

In a statement, GCHQ, which rarely comments on media reports, said any claim that the agency was asked to conduct surveillance on Mr. Trump is “utterly ridiculous.”

White House spokesperson Sean Spicer, in explaining President Donald Trump’s wiretapping tweets, set off a new controversy with the U.K. He repeated a commentator’s claim that British spies helped bug Trump Tower. How is Spicer defending his boss? WSJ’s Jason Bellini has #TheShortAnswer. Photo: Getty

A spokesman for British Prime Minister Theresa May said Friday that the White House had assured U.K. officials that it won’t repeat the allegations.

“We’ve made clear to the administration that these claims are ridiculous and they should be ignored, and we’ve received assurances that these allegations will not be repeated,” the prime minister’s spokesman said.

A White House official said Mr. Spicer spoke with the U.K. ambassador to the U.S., Kim Darroch, on Thursday at a St. Patrick’s Day event and gave an explanation similar to the one Mr. Trump offered on Friday. The official said Mr. Spicer didn’t apologize or promise not to repeat the allegation.

Another White House official said U.K. national security adviser Mark Lyall Grant expressed his concerns to Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster in a telephone conversation Thursday night. That official said Gen. McMaster also told Mr. Grant that Mr. Spicer was pointing to public reports, not endorsing them.

Mr. Spicer told reporters after the news conference that the White House has no regrets about citing the Fox News report. He said he and other officials “just reiterated the fact that we were just simply reading media accounts.”

“That’s it,” he said. “I don’t think we regret anything. We literally listed a litany of media reports that are in the public domain.”

In response to a request for comment, Fox News referred to an on-air statement made Friday afternoon by anchor Shepard Smith, which read: “Fox News cannot confirm Judge Napolitano’s commentary. Fox News knows of no evidence of any kind that the now-president of the United States was surveilled at any time, in any way, full stop.”

The wiretapping drama began a couple of weeks ago, when Mr. Trump publicly accused former President Barack Obama of ordering the wiretapping of Trump Tower. “This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter on March 4.

Mr. Obama forcefully denied the charge through a spokesperson.

The White House has ever since been trying to explain his comments and tried to justify the charge without putting forward any evidence to back it up, despite growing pressure to do so.

Republican lawmakers, meanwhile, have increasingly distanced themselves from Mr. Trump’s claim, with the leaders of the House and Senate intelligence committees and House Speaker Paul Ryan saying this week that they have seen no evidence backing up the accusation.

Rep. Tom Cole, an Oklahoma Republican and a member of the House GOP leadership, said Friday that Mr. Trump should put forward compelling evidence of his claim that he was wiretapped or apologize to Mr. Obama.

“Frankly, unless you can provide some pretty compelling proof, then I think the president, President Obama, is owed an apology,” Mr. Cole said.

Dominic Grieve, the chairman of British Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee, said Friday the GCHQ’s public denial indicates the strong feelings about the issue.

“First, I should make clear that the president of the United States is not able to task GCHQ to intercept an individual’s communications,” Mr. Grieve said in a statement. “Second, longstanding agreements between the Five Eyes countries means that the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia and New Zealand cannot ask each other to target each other’s citizens or individuals that they cannot themselves target, or in any other way seek to circumvent their own or each other’s legal and policy obligations.”

Mr. Grieve added that GCHQ can only legally target an individual with a signoff by a cabinet minister who deems it necessary and proportional for a valid national-security purpose, and that it is “inconceivable” that these legal requirements could have been met in these circumstances.

Write to Carol E. Lee at and Peter Nicholas at

Appeared in the Mar. 18, 2017, print edition as ‘Trump Stands By Wiretap Claim; No U.K. Apology.’