Posts Tagged ‘British intelligence’

Donald Trump and Russian Hacking: Claim Russians have ‘compromising’ personal information ‘a fabrication’ — Trump denies — More Fake News From Vladimir Putin?

January 11, 2017


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President-elect Donald Trump stands with Alibaba Executive Chairman Jack Ma as they walk to speak with reporters after a meeting at Trump TowerEvan Vucci/AP Images
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A former British spy claims Russian operatives have ‘compromising’ personal information about Donald Trump



The Kremlin says documents suggesting Russia has compromising information about Donald Trump were fabricated in an attempt to damage US-Russia relations.

It emerged on Tuesday night that a former British spy reportedly tipped off US intelligence that Russian operatives are claiming to have compiled damaging information about the president-elect.

The claims were included in an addendum to a top secret report presented last week to Mr Trump and to President Barack Obama, according to CNN.

According to the report, the British source informed the US that Russian operatives were claiming to have compromising personal and financial information about Mr Trump.

The FBI is now investigating the veracity of the Russian claims.

<img src=”/content/dam/news/2016/07/07/102701806_James_Comey_foreign-small_trans_NvBQzQNjv4BqqVzuuqpFlyLIwiB6NTmJwfSVWeZ_vEN7c6bHu2jJnT8.jpg” alt=”James Comey” width=”320″ height=”218″ class=”responsive-image–fallback”/> James Comey
James Comey, the FBI director Credit: Michael Reynolds/EPA

While intelligence sources told CNN they consider the former British agent’s past work credible, doubts were raised after Buzzfeed News published a full version of the agent’s disclosures.

They included factual errors, as well as allegations that Russia was aware of “sexual perversion” engaged in by Mr Trump during a visit to Moscow. According to Buzzfeed, the dossier was prepared for Mr Trump’s political rivals.

On Wednesday morning the Kremlin said the claims had been fabricated in an attempt to damage US-Russia relations.

Mr Trump responded to the report on Twitter:

Donald J. TrumpVerified account @realDonaldTrump

Russia just said the unverified report paid for by political opponents is “A COMPLETE AND TOTAL FABRICATION, UTTER NONSENSE.” Very unfair!

Michael Cohen, special counsel to Mr Trump, also denied allegations in the dossier that he was central to “the ongoing secret liaison relationship between the New York tycoon’s campaign and the Russian leadership” and that he met secretly with Kremlin officials in Prague in August 2016.

Mr Cohen tweeted a picture of his passport, saying “I have never been to Prague in my live #fakenews”.

A two-page summary of the findings was included in a report on Russia’s interference in the US election which was shown to Mr Trump last week.

The director of national intelligence and the chiefs of the CIA, FBI and NSA all travelled to Trump Tower to brief Mr Trump on the report on Friday.

After the meeting Mr Trump for the first time accepted the possibility that Russia may have been behind the hacks of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, but insisted that Russia’s efforts did not impact the election result.

He also emphasised the importance of warmer relations with Moscow.

James Comey, the FBI director, declined to answer when asked during a Senate hearing on Tuesday whether the FBI was conducting an investigation into ties between Mr Trump or his associates and Russia.

<img src=”/content/dam/news/2016/12/13/7868fdc5-1236-465b-b8ab-e19b06e2ebd3-small_trans_NvBQzQNjv4BqYG-7GzYVtFQSFAHuTMXOjHQCcM0GOmzB3hnGKZgKhpU.jpeg” alt=”Tillerson” width=”320″ height=”200″ class=”responsive-image–fallback”/> Tillerson
Rex Tillerson, nominee for secretary of state Credit: Reuters

The Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for Rex Tillerson, Mr Trump’s nominee for  be secretary of state, on Wednesday.

Senators from both parties have expressed concern about the former ExxonMobil chief executive’s close working relationship with key figures in the Kremlin during his time at the oil company.

While Mr Trump has said he will improve relations with Russia, the country’s relationship with the UK may be souring.

Russia has claimed Britain is launching an “official witch-hunt” against Mr Putin’s administration in an 800-word statement posted online on Tuesday by the country’s embassy in London.

The outburst railed against Western “hysterics” and said the “elite” were protecting their interests with money from TV licences.

The outburst railed against Western “hysterics” and said the “elite” were protecting their interests with money from TV licences.

Summary on Russian Hackers:

“It seems that the Western elites will go to great lengths to save their own world with its Washington consensus, Davos and austerity, even if it does no longer benefit anybody else,” the statement said. “Its demise is presented as the end of the world, another twilight of Europe.

“This panic and hysterics is a response to the overall loss of control, which brought about war a hundred years ago.

“It is also a loss of control over the public debate, exercised by way of the Orwellian newspeak of political correctness. Will the elite protect its vested interest with taxpayers’ money and that of TV licences?”

The long-ranging statement, which also set out Russia’s interpretation of world events including the “successful humanitarian evacuation of East Aleppo”, came amid a war of words between Britain and Russia.

<img src=”/content/dam/news/2017/01/05/Russian-President-Vladimir-Putin-deliver-small_trans_NvBQzQNjv4BqqVzuuqpFlyLIwiB6NTmJwfSVWeZ_vEN7c6bHu2jJnT8.jpg” alt=”Vladimir Putin” width=”320″ height=”202″ class=”responsive-image–fallback”/> Vladimir Putin
Vladimir Putin Credit: AFP

Boris Johnson said on Tuesday that hacking was just one of the “dirty tricks” carried out by Vladimir Putin’s government, revealing for the first time that British officials share the assessment by American intelligence agencies that the Kremlin interfered in the US election.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Johnson said it was “pretty clear” Moscow was behind the hacking and that the Russian government “is up to all sorts of very dirty tricks, such as cyber-warfare.”

The foreign secretary made the comments as he briefed the House about a meeting with senior advisers to Mr Trump on the weekend.

“If you look at what the Russians have done in the western Balkans and on cyber-warfare, it is clear they are up to no good,” Mr Johnson said.

However, he said, it “would be folly further to demonise Russia or to push Russia into a corner.”

Alleged Russian Hacking Operations:




Trump Received Unsubstantiated Report That Russia Had Damaging Information About Him

WASHINGTON — The chiefs of America’s intelligence agencies last week presented President Obama and President-elect Donald J. Trump with a summary of unsubstantiated reports that Russia had collected compromising and salacious personal information about Mr. Trump, two officials with knowledge of the briefing said.

The summary is based on memos generated by political operatives seeking to derail Mr. Trump’s candidacy. Details of the reports began circulating in the fall and were widely known among journalists and politicians in Washington.

The two-page summary, first reported by CNN, was presented as an appendix to the intelligence agencies’ report on Russian hacking efforts during the election, the officials said. The material was not corroborated, and The New York Times has not been able to confirm the claims. But intelligence agencies considered it so potentially explosive that they decided Mr. Obama, Mr. Trump and congressional leaders needed to be told about it and informed that the agencies were actively investigating it.

Intelligence officials were concerned that the information would leak before they informed Mr. Trump of its existence, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about it publicly.

On Tuesday night, Mr. Trump responded on Twitter:

In an appearance recorded for NBC’s “Late Night With Seth Meyers,” Mr. Trump’s spokeswoman, Kellyanne Conway, said of the claims in the opposition research memos, “He has said he is not aware of that.”

On Wednesday, a spokesman for President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia dismissed the allegations. “The Kremlin has no compromising dossier on Trump, such information isn’t consistent with reality and is nothing but an absolute fantasy,” the spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, said at a news conference.

Since the intelligence agencies’ report on Friday that Mr. Putin of Russia had ordered the hacking and leaks of Democratic emails in order to hurt his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, and help Mr. Trump, the president-elect and his aides have said that Democrats are trying to mar his election victory.


Russia’s D.N.C. Hack Was Only the Start

January 10, 2017

Imagine the headlines if, in 2015, Russian agents had leapt out of a van at 2 a.m. in Southeast Washington and broken into the Democratic National Committee offices using sophisticated tools and techniques to steal tens of thousands of documents, including the names and Social Security numbers of donors and employees, and confidential memorandums about campaign strategy for the presidential election.

The world would have been aghast. It would have been, people would say, worse than Watergate.

Something similar did, in fact, happen at the D.N.C. two years ago, and it was worse than Watergate. This wasn’t just one party spying on the other; these were hackers under orders from President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia who were trying to “undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process,” according to a report released Friday by the office of the director of national intelligence. But the immediate reaction to the break-in was nothing like what followed Watergate.

That’s because most of us don’t think of hacking as a crime like breaking and entering. Before the D.N.C. break-in, I thought of hacking as a prank by mischievous tech-savvy people to get revenge. When North Koreans hacked Sony Pictures in 2014 in retaliation for making the satire “The Interview,” I was much more disturbed by the embarrassing things the movie executives said in emails to one another than by how easy it was for a dictator to punish critics in the United States. It wasn’t until I lived through the Russian hackings of Democratic staff members and organizations that I realized how dangerous such an attitude could be.

I saw it firsthand in July, when I was asked about the first wave of stolen documents on ABC’s “This Week” and CNN’s “State of the Union.” I thought it was a bombshell — Russians hacked into the Democratic National Committee! — but my alarm was dismissed by the news media and our opponents as merely campaign spin, feigned distress meant to dodge real questions about how the embarrassing messages might hurt Hillary Clinton’s prospects.

This perception has to change. I’m not referring to the D.N.C. incident in particular, but about cybercrimes in general. Unless we realize how vulnerable we are, we are playing into the hands of foreign aggressors like Mr. Putin.

The chilling effect of these attacks can be very public, and very personal. But they can also be more subtle, impeding dialogue within an organization. For all the fanfare we give the internet for freeing speech, when it is weaponized against you, it can also be used to stifle speech. At the D.N.C., certain conversations could take place only on an encrypted phone app, which made communicating more complicated logistically.

Skeptics, including President-elect Donald J. Trump, have compared the hacks to leaks to the news media. They’re not the same. A leak occurs when someone who is authorized to have information gives it to a reporter without authorization. The “Access Hollywood” video of Mr. Trump talking about assaulting women was a leak. When someone on my staff shared a memo about our campaign launch without permission, that was a leak. Leaks are frustrating, and they happen all the time.

What Mr. Putin did by dumping Democrats’ emails wasn’t a leak; it was an attack with stolen information.

Until we start to see these situations in this light, “Moscow’s longstanding desire to undermine the U.S.-led liberal democratic order,” as the national intelligence office report called it, will remain potent, and the democratic process will remain vulnerable. The news media needs to spend at least as much time reporting on the source of these foreign-led cybercrimes as they do on the contents.

This isn’t a partisan issue, as Republican senators like John McCain and Lindsey Graham have already made clear. Mr. Putin and Kim Jong-un of North Korea aren’t registered Democrats or Republicans — they’re anti-American, and they want to hurt democracy itself. To justify what Mr. Putin did, or to blame the victim, as Mr. Trump and his staff have chosen to do, simply leaves them, and all of us, under threat, because the next attack may be aimed not at a political party, but at the White House or the Pentagon.

Of course, Americans need to do a better job protecting ourselves. Law enforcement needs to create better bridges between the intelligence services that monitor attacks and the individuals and organizations they affect. There are very few protocols for the F.B.I. and C.I.A. to alert and assist potential victims. Our democratic structures — elections equipment and officials, elected officials and candidates, activists and reporters — must be elevated as a priority.

At the time of the D.N.C. attack, water treatment plants, nuclear power plants and even casinos were on the Department of Homeland Security’s “critical infrastructure” list. Voting equipment was added last Friday, but we must do much more to protect the people who animate our democratic process. Imagine how stolen information could be (or already has been) used to influence or corrupt officeholders, or voters themselves.

Watergate inspired greater vigilance in the press and prompted major reforms to safeguard our democratic institutions. We need to do that again.

US senators seek further sanctions on Russia over hacking, Ukraine, and Syria — John McCain leading the way

January 10, 2017


John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is a sponsor of the legislation  

John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is a sponsor of the legislation   CREDIT: KEVIN LAMARQUE

By Roland Oliphant
The Telegraph

Senior Republican and Democratic senators have drafted legislation that would impose fresh sanctions on Russia over its cyber espionage program and actions in Syria and Ukraine.

The legislation , which is sponsored  the Republican senator and John McCain and the senior Democrats Ben Cardin and Robert Menendez, will be introduced later today.

It would  impose visa bans and asset freezes on individuals who engage “in significant activities undermining the cybersecurity of public or private infrastructure and democratic institutions” or assist in such activities,  according to a summary seen by Reuters.

Watch | Barack Obama expels 35 Russian spies over election hacking row


In measures that could hit companies doing business in Russia, it will also target those who engage with the Russian defence or intelligence sectors and  sanction investments of more than $20 million in Russian oil and gas development.

The bill would also enshrine in law sanctions that President Barack Obama previously imposed by executive order in retaliation for hacking and involvement in Ukraine.

The new legislation comes after senior US senators promised “comprehensive” bi-partisan measures against Russia in retaliation for apparent attempts to influence the 2016 presidential election.

Lindsey Graham, a republican senator who has joined Mr McCain in pushing for a tough line on Russia, on Sunday promised to “introduce sanctions that…will hit them in the financial sector and the energy sector, where they’re the weakest.”

Watch | Putin refrains from sanctioning US diplomats


The Kremlin described the senators’ move as an attempt to exacerbate the harm already done to US-Russian relations over Ukraine, Syria, and the hacking scandal.

“We see continuing attempts to exclude any kind of dialogue between our two countries and attempts, blow-by-blow, to do further harm to the prospects for our bilateral relations,” said Dmitry Peskov, Vladimir Putin’s press secretary, on Tuesday morning.

If it is passed, the legislation could hamper Donald Trump’s ability to roll-back sanctions in a bid to build closer ties with Russia.

Barack Obama’s administration has imposed a succession of sanctions against Russia since the Kremlin annexed Ukraine’s Crimean region and became embroiled in a war in eastern Ukraine in 2014.

Watch | Donald Trump: Russia hacking US election is ‘ridiculous’


Mr Obama added a further round of sanctions last month after US intelligence agencies concluded that Russian government hackers had stolen and leaked information from the US Democratic Party in a bid to damage Hillary Clinton’s chances of winning the 2016 presidential elections.

On Monday, the US blacklisted five more Russians including Alexander Bastrykin, the head of Russia’s Investigative Committee, the country’s top law enforcement agency. 

Because those sanctions were imposed by executive order, Mr Trump could theoretically reverse them with the stroke of a pen after he succeeds Mr Obama as president on January 20. Enshrining them in law would remove that option.


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Mr. Tillerson received the Russian Order of Friendship, the country’s highest honor for foreigners, from Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2013. A look at how the relationship was forged. Some U.S. lawmakers are concerned that Trump and his appointees are too far toward a pro-Putin stance. Photo: Getty Images

The bill is being introduced a day before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee holds its confirmation hearing for Rex Tillerson, the former Exxon Mobil chief executive Mr Trump has nominated to be secretary of state.

Senators from both parties have raised questions about the decades Mr Tillerson spent working with Russia’s government as an executive at the oil company, and his ties to Mr Putin.

Alleged Russian Hacking Cases:

US blacklists Putin ally, alleged Litvinenko killers

January 10, 2017

Al Jazeera

Obama administration sanctions Russian duo accused of poisoning former KGB spy Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006.

 Andrei Lugovoi, left, and Dmitry Kovtun are accused of poisoning Alexander Litvinenko [Sergey Ponomarev/AP]
Andrei Lugovoi, left, and Dmitry Kovtun are accused of poisoning Alexander Litvinenko [Sergey Ponomarev/AP]

The Obama administration has sanctioned top allies of Russian President Vladimir Putin,  including a senior federal investigator, and the alleged assassins of Alexander Litvinenko, a former Russian spy.

The men accused of poisoning Litvinenko in London in 2006, Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitri Kovtun, were among five Russians sanctioned under the Magnitsky Act, a United States law that allows punitive measures against Russians.

The punishment freezes all their US assets and bars them from travelling to the country.

The State Department did not detail what the new targets are accused of, but the move comes at a time of increased diplomatic tension with Moscow.

OPINION: America was a ‘stan’ long before Trump

“Each of the most recently added names was considered after extensive research,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said.

Kirby said the individuals had “roles in the repressive machinery of Russia’s law enforcement systems, as well as individuals involved in notorious human rights violations”.

Federal prosecutor Alexander Bastrykin is one of Putin’s most powerful allies and is head of an investigative agency that had led alleged crackdowns on domestic dissidents.

Lugovoi and Kovtun were accused of poisoning Litvinenko, a former Russian agent turned freelance investigator who had collaborated with British intelligence.

Litvinenko is believed to have ingested polonium-210 , which is produced in nuclear reactors, while drinking tea with Kovtun and Lugovoi.

President Barack Obama’s outgoing administration has already accused the Kremlin of cyber espionage to influence the US elections. It also  expelled 35 Russian diplomats .

READ MORE: US intelligence – Putin sought to help Trump in election

A senior official told the AFP news agency that Obama’s final update to the Magnitsky Act does not include Putin himself, because the US does not want a complete breakdown in ties.

“We need to preserve the possibility of working with Russia in areas in which it is in the US national interest,” the official told AFP, on condition of anonymity.

“Our goal in imposing sanctions is to change behaviour,” he said. “We have taken steps to make clear that interference in US democratic processes will not go unanswered.”

The Magnitsky Act was originally passed to enable US officials to impose sanctions on Russians implicated in the 2009 prison death of Russian tax fraud whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky.The total list of targets now includes 44 names.


U.S. Blacklists 5 Russians, a Close Putin Aide Among Them

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration has blacklisted five Russians, including the government’s chief public investigator, who is a close aide to President Vladimir V. Putin, for human rights abuses, laying down a marker for President-elect Donald J. Trump less than two weeks before he takes office with a vow to thaw relations with Russia.

The sanctions, announced Monday by the Treasury Department, are not related to allegations of Russian hacking during the presidential election, according to a senior administration official. But they carry symbolic weight at a charged moment, as likely the last visible act the United States will take against Russia before power is transferred in Washington.

The biggest name added to the list is that of Aleksandr I. Bastrykin, who reports directly to Mr. Putin and has carried out political investigations on his behalf. Mr. Bastrykin, officials said, was complicit in the case of Sergei L. Magnitsky, a lawyer who died in detention in murky circumstances in November 2009 and for whom the Magnitsky Act was named.


British intelligence among first to sound alarm over Russia’s US hacks

January 8, 2017



Text by Khatya CHHOR

Latest update : 2017-01-08

British intelligence was among the first to raise the alarm over Russia’s hacks of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), alerting their US counterparts in autumn of 2015, according to US intelligence officials.

US officials who helped prepare the classified government report on Russian hacking believe British intelligence was among the first to raise the alarm in autumn of 2015, The New York Times reported, citing two people familiar with the report’s conclusions.

The first signs likely came from voice intercepts, computer traffic or agents based outside the United States that picked up on DNC emails and other data being transferred out of the country, the paper said.

“The British picked it up, and we may have had it at about the same time,” one cyber expert, who attended briefings on the report’s findings, told the Times.

British intelligence – and particularly its surveillance arm, the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) – plays a major role in tackling Russian cyber threats. When hackers linked to the Russian state threatened to disrupt British government agencies and even TV broadcasters ahead of the 2015 UK general election they were thwarted by the GCHQ.

British officials “were as alarmed as their US counterparts over the extent of contacts between Trump advisers and Moscow and by Trump’s consistently pro-Russian stance on a range of foreign policy issues”, The Guardian reported.

But those officials now say have been put in a difficult position as Prime Minister Theresa May’s government seeks to strengthen ties with the incoming US administration, likely in an attempt to offset Britain’s increasing international isolation in the wake of the Brexit vote.

In an interview with Sky News on Sunday, May said that she had spoken to Trump and that the “special” relationship between the United States and Great Britain supercedes the personal affinities of any two leaders. May and Trump are scheduled to meet in person sometime in the spring after the latter takes office.

I look very much forward to meeting Prime Minister Theresa May in Washington in the Spring. Britain, a longtime U.S. ally, is very special!

In November the UK passed the Investigatory Powers Act, which vastly expanded Brtiain’s surveillance capabilities, much to the dismay of privacy advocates. The law will allow security agencies to hack a personal computer or mobile phone to gather data even if the owner is not suspected of wrongdoing if it is justifiable in the “interests of national security or of the economic well-being of the United Kingdom”. The new law also requires internet providers to keep a record of each website its customers have visited for a year and to surrender browsing histories to the government if requested.

Bungled response

A declassified report on cyber intrusions at the Democratic National Committee released on Friday revealed that Russian intelligence first gained access to DNC networks in July 2015. But it was not until September of that year that the FBI alerted the DNC to the breach.

Even after a special agent from the FBI contacted the DNC multiple times over several weeks to tell Democrats they had been hacked, the committee was slow to respond – the government contractor who received the FBI calls later revealed that he thought the calls might have been a prank.

US media reported this week that the FBI has yet to request access to DNC computer servers as part of its investigation into the Russian hacks.

“The DNC had several meetings with representatives of the FBI’s Cyber Division and its Washington (DC) Field Office, the Department of Justice’s National Security Division, and U.S. Attorney’s Offices, and it responded to a variety of requests for cooperation, but the FBI never requested access to the DNC’s computer servers,” wrote Eric Walker, the DNC’s deputy communications director, in an email to BuzzFeed News. The FBI has instead relied on the private cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike to conduct computer forensics, a US intelligence official said.

The declassified report – jointly released by the CIA, the NSA and the FBI on Friday – said Russian hackers maintained their access to the DNC network from July 2015 “until at least June 2016”.

The intelligence agencies were unequivocal in their assessment that the hacking orders came from the top: “Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election.”

Moreover, they said Russia’s actions were clearly designed to boost Trump’s chances while undermining Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

“Putin and the Russian Government aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him. All three agencies agree with this judgment,” the report said.

Russia was also able to hack Republican networks, but chose not to release much of the information it had gathered.

“Russia collected on some Republican-affiliated targets but did not conduct a comparable disclosure campaign,” the report said.

Gross negligence by the Democratic National Committee allowed hacking to take place.The Republican National Committee had strong defense!


Date created : 2017-01-08

US concludes Vladimir Putin ordered campaign to influence US election ‘after British intelligence tip-off’

January 7, 2017


Vladimir Putin



US intelligence agencies accused Vladimir Putin of launching an “influence campaign” to damage Hillary Clinton in a new report, with sources saying British intelligence provided the tip about Russia’s hacking of the Democratic Party.

The report said Russia showed a “clear preference” for Donald Trump, the president-elect, and carried out cyber attacks and issued propaganda both to boost his chances and to undermine confidence in American democracy.

Mr Trump insisted on Friday that foreign meddling had “absolutely no effect” on the outcome of the election, and declined to say whether he believed Russia was behind the hacks.

British intelligence was reportedly aware of Russia’s involvement as early as autumn 2015, warning the US that the country was responsible for the breach at the Democratic National Committee.

Donald Trump
Donald Trump CREDIT: AFP

“The British picked it up, and we may have had it at about the same time,” a cyberexpert briefed on the matter told the New York Times.

Earlier in the day, and before receiving a briefing on Russian hacking from America’s four highest ranking intelligence officials, Mr Trump had dismissed the focus on Russian interference as a “political witch hunt” being carried out by his political foes.

After the much anticipated meeting at Trump Tower with the the director of national intelligence and chiefs of the CIA, FBI and NSA, Mr Trump said he would appoint a team to lead the effort against future cyber attacks.

He praised the intelligence community, with which he has had a combative relationship, but said hacking had “absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election”.

The president-elect maintained for months that there was no evidence that Russia was behind hacks of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, despite assurances from US intelligence that the Kremlin was responsible.

He did not say in the statement whether he now believed Russia was behind the hacks.

According to the report, the assessment from the CIA, FBI and NSA is that Russian efforts showed a “significant escalation in directness, level of activity, and scope of effort compared to previous operations” to interfere in US elections.

James Clapper, director of National Intelligence, speaks as Admiral Michael Rogers, director of the National Security Agency (NSA), right, listens during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on foreign cyber threats to the United States CREDIT: ANDREW HARRER/BLOOMBERG

Mr Trump said he did not want the US to be targeted by hackers, but that cyber attacks during the election were being given undue attention because his opponents had been “embarrassed” by the outcome.

“China, relatively recently, hacked 20 million government names,” he told the New York Times before the meeting. “How come nobody even talks about that? This is a political witch hunt.”

“They got beaten very badly in the election. I won more counties in the election than Ronald Reagan,” Mr. Trump said. “They are very embarrassed about it. To some extent, it’s a witch hunt. They just focus on this.”

Mr Trump, who has resisted calls for a Congressional investigation into Russian hacking, asked Congress to probe a leak of the intelligence report prior to his briefing on Friday.

Trump releases statement following intel briefing with heads of intelligence, CIA, NSA, FBI

“I am asking the chairs of the House and Senate committees to investigate top secret intelligence shared with NBC prior to me seeing it,” he wrote on Twitter.

NBC had reported on Thursday night that the report identified perpetrators in the DNC hack. Mr Trump tweeted afterward asking how the network could have known the contents of the report.

Prior to his intelligence briefing, Mr Trump visited Conde Nast, the magazine publisher, for a meeting with Anna Wintour, the Vogue editor, and other executives.

Anna Wintour, the Vogue editor and chief CREDIT: EDUARDO MUNOZ/REUTERS

Among them was Graydon Carter, the Vanity Fair editor who has sparred repeatedly with Mr Trump and once described him as a “short-fingered vulgarian”.

It also emerged that Mr Trump’s administration-in-waiting has ordered all US ambassadors appointed by President Barack Obama to leave their posts by January 20, the day Mr Trump takes office.

That order could mean the US will be temporarily without ambassadors to Great Britain, China, Germany and other key allies and rivals.

It also breaks long standing precedent in which ambassadors are given a grace period to get their affairs in order and prepare for the arrival of the next president’s appointees.

Wow, the ratings are in and Arnold Schwarzenegger got “swamped” (or destroyed) by comparison to the ratings machine, DJT. So much for….

Mr Trump is also preparing for a political battle over his central election pledge- a wall on the Mexican border.

He is urging Congress to provide funds for the wall, despite repeatedly claiming during the campaign that Mexico would foot the bill.

Mr Trump now says the US will front the money, but demand payment from Mexico after the fact.

The dishonest media does not report that any money spent on building the Great Wall (for sake of speed), will be paid back by Mexico later!

Mr Trump also took to Twitter to ridicule Arnold Schwarzenegger, who replaced him as Apprentice host, over the disappointing ratings for the debut episode.

Mr Schwarzenegger responded saying he hoped Mr Trump worked as hard for the American people as he did for Apprentice ratings.

Britain’s MI5 and MI6 are losing ground to terrorists

January 18, 2015

Interview: Sir Malcolm Rifkind, chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee, on featuring in the James Bond film Skyfall, his memories of Baroness Thatcher, and why internet firms must help spies catch terrorists from Islamic State

Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the Chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee

Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the Chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee Photo: Julian Simmonds/ The Telegraph
The Sunday Telegraph
By ,Political Correspondent

When Britain’s intelligence agencies launch a top-secret operation of critical national importance, a handful of people in Whitehall must be told, wherever they are, at whatever hour of day or night.

Aside from the Prime Minister, who is personally responsible for national security, the Foreign Secretary and Home Secretary may be involved.

So too will Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the Chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC). This group of nine senior MPs and peers serve as the eyes and ears of Parliament – and the wider public – on the secret activities of MI5, MI6 and the government’s listening station, GCHQ.

During a Cabinet career that began in the Cold War under Margaret Thatcher, Sir Malcolm held two senior posts in which he relied on secret intelligence every day.

“When I was foreign secretary and defence secretary, I used ‘the product’,” he says, in a phrase straight from the novels of John Le Carre.

“Now my main responsibility is how the information is obtained and the constraints upon the success in doing so. It is fascinating.”

His committee is no Westminster talking shop for MPs who like the sound of their own voices.

Much of its work occurs not just in private, but in secrecy and silence (its members are bound by the Official Secrets Act).

The committee regularly requires MI5, MI6 and GCHQ to provide highly classified details of their activities and visits the agencies’ offices to watch in person as operations unfold.

Then, when a crisis comes, Sir Malcolm finds himself on the end of a phone call summoning him to a secret briefing.

“If something very suddenly happens or is about to happen, I as chairman will get a call or message from the head of the relevant agency, saying ‘Chairman, you might like to know this is happening.’”


Sir Malcolm, 68, who with his wife Edith has two grown up children – Caroline and the journalist Hugo Rifkind – is one of Westminster’s most experienced and respected operators. His knowledge of Whitehall and the intelligence-gathering structures of the British state is extensive.

In his view, there is no reason to think the UK is safe from the threat of the kind of gun attack that caused carnage in Paris at the offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine and a kosher supermarket.

“You cannot exclude any of these possibilities. Charlie Hebdo was operating from an office which had police protection. You simply cannot say that some comparable target in London, Rome, Berlin or Madrid will not be attempted.

“Whether they succeed or not depends on several things.”

Not least, the chances of identifying the threat before it happens, which lies at the heart of the row over whether the so-called “snooper’s charter” laws are necessary.

“If as we all accept, the problem is international jihadi terrorism, how do international terrorists communicate with each other? They communicate by the internet, by email, by social messaging. That’s the world we live in,” Sir Malcolm says.

As party leaders argue over the right response to the terrorist threat, he is clear that the mounting danger from hundreds of jihadists returning home to Britain from Iraq and Syria means the agencies must be able to intercept private communications over the internet as well as data to trace mobile phone calls.

Last year, Sir Malcolm’s committee found that Facebook, the social networking website, held information that Michael Adebowale was planning to attack a soldier in the street. Four months later, in May 2013, he and Michael Adebolajo hacked Fusilier Lee Rigby to death in Woolwich. The murder could have been prevented if the information had been passed from Facebook to the authorities.

Sir Malcolm strongly supports a legal requirement – dubbed the “snoopers’ charter” law by Nick Clegg and others – for mobile phone companies to retain records of calls, emails and internet messages for intelligence agencies to use if needed.

“We concluded that that was justifiable and necessary,” he says.

“Neither MI6 nor MI5 nor GCHQ can retain indefinitely large amounts of information. What we think they ought to be able to do if they get a warrant from the Secretary of State, or the relevant permission that is required, is get access to it, on a case by case basis.”


Intelligence agencies are also struggling as a result of the activities of Edward Snowden, who revealed the mass surveillance techniques of America’s National Security Agency, as well as GCHQ, to devastating effect in 2013.

A new generation of highly encrypted phone and computer systems has now emerged to satisfy consumers fearful of having their phones and emails hacked. Security chiefs fear that terrorists, too, can now more easily hide.

Yet one of the ISC‘s most important roles is to try to reassure the public that the spies are not out of control, as Snowden claimed, Sir Malcolm says.

“Hacking into emails, or listening to other people’s conversations, or bugging a house or building – these are serious powers in a democracy and therefore you need to have oversight.”

Does he think Snowden did the world a service by exposing the extent of state snooping in the West?

“I don’t think he is a whistleblower,” he says. “Snowden stole – and I use the word explicitly – he stole a million highly classified documents, top secret documents.

“And he hands them over to The Guardian or other newspapers. Now that is not whistleblowing. That is a political act. It is a criminal act as well but it was essentially an expression of his own political ideology and I don’t think he deserves sympathy.”

The ISC will be publishing a major new report within weeks on the balance between security and privacy in the internet age, an investigation which developed in the aftermath of the Snowden revelations.

Sir Malcolm reveals that it will propose a major overhaul of the law underpinning the operations of MI5, MI6 and GCHQ to take account of the “tremendous changes in technology” over the past 30 years.

It also seems likely to demand an unprecedented new culture of public transparency. All parties will be expected to endorse the committee’s plan.

“There will be a lot of recommendations in our report,” he says. “There will be some very radical proposals with regard to both the legislation and the transparency requirements, which we will be putting to Parliament and to the government over the next month or so.”


Another report which Sir Malcolm wants to see published as soon as possible is Sir John Chilcot’s long-delayed verdict on his inquiry into the Iraq War.

“I think it’s awful that it’s not being published this side of the end of the parliament. I think it’s appalling.” One reason given for the delays has been that individuals facing criticism – believed to include Tony Blair – have been given a final opportunity to respond.

“That should be able to be done in weeks, not months,” Sir Malcolm says. “It is counterproductive. It is against the national interest to have a report of this kind hanging around for as long as it is.”


A veteran campaigner who first entered Parliament in 1974, Sir Malcolm, 68, was one of the highest profile Cabinet casualties to lose his seat in the Blair landslide of 1997. He insists that the Tories can win this year.

“If the Conservatives had been in power for three, four parliamentary terms, the public get bored of you,” he says. “But this is only one term. Normally a government is re-elected unless there is a reason not to.”

Mr Cameron stands to benefit too if the usual issues of the economy and the public’s choice of the best prime minister dominate the campaign, he says.

“All the analysis is that the public see David Cameron as someone who can handle the responsibilities of Prime Minister. He carries the burden on his shoulders very well. Fairly or unfairly, they don’t seem to take the same view of the Leader of the Opposition.”

So shouldn’t Mr Cameron seize his chance to go into the televised election debates and trounce Mr Miliband in front of millions of viewers?

“I’m not going to intervene in that particular matter,” says Sir Malcolm, ever alert to the danger of a word out of turn.


Favourite memory of Baroness Thatcher? “She was once asked, ‘do you believe in consensus?’ To our astonishment, she said, ‘Yes I do. There should be a consensus behind my convictions.’

Did she ever “handbag” you? “Once she started poking me in the ribs, literally. She said: ‘I remember, 1939, we went to war to save Poland. You weren’t even born yet.’ I said, ‘it’s not my fault.’ I got The Look.”

Favourite political satire? “Apart from Spitting Image? It has to be Yes, Minister. I am a devoted admirer of the original Yes, Minister. They were superb.”

James Bond or George Smiley? “Smiley. Bond is fantasy. It’s wonderful stuff and great fun but le Carre is much closer. You can feel the atmosphere there.”

Did you watch Skyfall, the most recent Bond film? “I am in it. Ralph Fiennes plays Mallory, the chairman of the ISC. I said I would have been perfectly happy to play myself – then I discovered he gets shot.”

Would you follow Fiennes’s character and take over as head of MI6? “I don’t think so. I assured the head of an agency once that I wasn’t after his job. I got a rictus smile.”

Favourite meal? “My wife always disapproves but if I get the opportunity I indulge in steak tartare. She is convinced this is extremely bad for me.”

British Intelligence: At GCHQ “We sure as hell can’t lick terrorism on our own’

October 11, 2014

British Intelligence: In an unprecedented interview, Sir Iain Lobban, the departing director of GCHQ, talks to Charles Moore about Edward Snowden’s leaks, the ‘nausea’ of 7/7 – and shows him the secret world of its acclaimed intelligence operation

British spies employed 'dirty tricks' including honey traps' in a bid to trap nations, hackers, terror groups, suspected criminals and arms dealers

Britain’s GCHQ



On the outskirts of Cheltenham stands a huge circular building known as The Doughnut. This is the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the heir of the war-winning codebreakers in those little huts in Bletchley Park. The 5,500 employees monitor the communications of the world – in the interests, says the relevant Act, of national security, “economic well-being’’ and combating serious crime – but they do not communicate with us.

I pass through multiple security, traverse “the Street’’ that circles inside the edifice, and sit down to wait. I am the first print journalist ever to interview GCHQ’s director, Sir Iain Lobban. He is about to leave after six years in the top job and 31 in the organisation.

He is bursting to speak. Young Iain, a Southport boy fresh with a languages degree from Leeds University, began here in 1983. At that time, GCHQ was the dingy provincial sister of the big boys in Whitehall – MI5 (the Security Service) and MI6 (the Secret Intelligence Service). Today, thanks to the march of technology, it dominates. Foreign heads of government come on pilgrimages here. The director has a seat on the National Security Council (NSC). GCHQ is our most important global intelligence asset.

Yet just as everything got good for the boys in Cheltenham – this being the techie world, most still are boys – it also got bad. Last year, The Guardian published the information Edward Snowden had purloined from the US National Security Agency (NSA). Some of what he revealed compromised GCHQ: “He made my job a thousand times more difficult,’’ one man charged with cracking terrorists’ internet games tells me. At a time when Isil, also known as Islamic State, is a clear and present threat, the imperative is greater than ever. In the eyes of GCHQ’s critics, Snowden also revealed unacceptable levels of intrusion into the personal data of British citizens.

Sir Iain Lobban, left, shows Charles Moore around GCHQ

Britain’s spy agency GCHQ intercepted millions of people’s webcam chats

February 27, 2014

By Julia Fioretti

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s spy agency GCHQ intercepted millions of people’s webcam chats and stored still images of them, including sexually explicit ones, the Guardian newspaper reported on Thursday.

GCHQ files dating between 2008 and 2010 provided to the newspaper by the former U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden, revealed that the surveillance program, codenamed Optic Nerve, saved one image every five minutes from randomly selected Yahoo Inc webcam chats and stored them on agency databases.

Optic Nerve, which began as a prototype in 2008 and was still active in 2012, was intended to test automated facial recognition, monitor GCHQ’s targets and uncover new ones, the Guardian said. It said that under British law, there are no restrictions preventing images of U.S. citizens being accessed by British intelligence.

GCHQ collected images from the webcam chats of more than 1.8 million users globally in a six-month period in 2008 alone, the newspaper reported.

“It is a long-standing policy that we do not comment on intelligence matters,” a GCHQ representative said on Thursday.

In another sign of the widespread information-sharing between U.S. and British spy agencies which has riled public and politicians on both sides of the Atlantic, the webcam information was fed into the NSA’s search tool and all of the policy documents were available to NSA analysts, the paper said.

It was not clear, however, whether the NSA had access to the actual database of Yahoo webcam images, the Guardian reported.

Yahoo said it had no knowledge the interceptions.

“We were not aware of nor would we condone this reported activity. This (Guardian) report, if true, represents a whole new level of violation of our users’ privacy that is completely unacceptable,” company spokeswoman Suzanne Philion said in an emailed statement.

Snowden, now in Russia after fleeing the United States, made world headlines last summer when he provided details of NSA surveillance programs to the Guardian and the Washington Post.

For decades, the NSA and GCHQ have shared intelligence under an arrangement known as the UKUSA agreement. They also collaborate with eavesdropping agencies in Canada, Australia and New Zealand in what is known as the “Five Eyes” alliance.

Under Optic Nerve, GCHQ tried to limit its staff’s ability to see the webcam images, but they could still see the images of people with similar usernames to intelligence targets, the Guardian said.

GCHQ also implemented restrictions on the collection of sexually explicit images, but its software was not always able to distinguish between these and other images.

“Discussing efforts to make the interface “safer to use”, it (GCHQ) noted that current “naïve” pornography detectors assessed the amount of flesh in any given shot, and so attracted lots of false positives by incorrectly tagging shots of people’s faces as pornography,” the newspaper said.

The spy agency eventually excluded images in which the software had not detected any faces from search results to prevent staff from accessing explicit images, it added.

(Reporting by Julia Fioretti; Editing by Catherine Evans and Grant McCool)

British spies employed 'dirty tricks' including honey traps' in a bid to trap nations, hackers, terror groups, suspected criminals and arms dealers

Britain’s GCHQ

The “Dirty Tricks” Used By British Spies, As Revealed By Edward Snowden

February 8, 2014

Revelations from documents taken from NSA leaked by Edward Snowden

  • Outline techniques used by Joint Threat Research and Intelligence Group
  • Spy unit whose goal is to ‘destroy, deny, degrade [and] disrupt’ enemies

By Jill Reilly


British spies employed ‘dirty tricks’ including ‘honey traps’ to trap nations, hackers, terror groups, suspected criminals and arms dealers, according to leaked documents.

The bombshell revelations have been made public through the release of documents taken from the National Security Agency by whistle-blower Edward Snowden.

The Powerpoint slides outline techniques apparently used by the Joint  Threat Research and Intelligence Group (JTRIG), a British spy unit whose  goal is to ‘destroy, deny, degrade [and] disrupt’ enemies.

British spies employed 'dirty tricks' including honey traps' in a bid to trap nations, hackers, terror groups, suspected criminals and arms dealers

British spies employed ‘dirty tricks’ including honey traps’ in a bid to trap nations, hackers, terror groups, suspected criminals and arms dealers


The slides from 2010 and 2012, published by NBC News show that  the JTRIG completed their mission by ‘discrediting’ adversaries through  misinformation and hacking their communications.

Two main methods of attack detailed in the ‘Effects’ campaigns are cyber operations and propaganda campaigns.

The bombshell revelations have been made public through the release of documents taken from the National Security Agency by whistleblower Edward Snowden

The bombshell revelations have been made public through the release of documents taken from the National Security Agency by whistleblower Edward Snowden


JTRIG, which is part of the NSA’s British counterpart, the cyber spy agency known as GCHQ, used Twitter, Flickr, Facebook and YouTube for deception, mass messaging and ‘pushing stories’.

Another strategy is ‘false flag’  operations – this is when British agents carry out online actions that are  designed to look like they were performed by one of Britain’s  adversaries.

The main cyber attack is the ‘distributed denial of service’ (DDoS) attack.

This is when computers are taken over by hackers and they bombard a website’s  host computers with requests for information causing it to crash –  this is a method successfully used by Wikileaks hackers.

Earlier this week it was revealed that JTRIG agents issued their DDoS on  Anonymous chat rooms, preventing its users from communicating with one  another.

In one case, reported the BBC,  agents are said to have tricked a hacker nicknamed P0ke who claimed to  have stolen data from the US government. They did this by sending him a  link to a BBC article entitled: ‘Who loves the hacktivists?’

Eric King, an attorney who currently teaches IT law at the London School of  Economics, told NBC it is ‘remarkable’ that the GCHQ has become so adept at launching DDoS attacks without ‘clear lawful authority,’  particularly because the British government has criticised similar strategies used by other  governments.

‘GCHQ has no clear authority to send a virus or conduct cyber-attacks,’ he said. ‘Hacking is one of the most  invasive methods of surveillance.’

According to notes on the 2012 documents, a computer virus called Ambassadors  Reception was ‘used in a variety of different areas’ and was ‘very  effective.’





When sent to adversaries, says the presentation, the virus will ‘encrypt itself, delete all emails, encrypt all files, make [the] screen shake’ and block the computer user from logging on.

One of the ways to block a target communicating reads: ‘Bombard their phone with text messages, bombard their phone with calls, delete their online presence, block up their fax machine.’

The slide details examples of how this was used in Afghanistan including significantly disrupting the Taliban, sending targets a text message ‘every 10 seconds or so’ and ‘calling targets on a regular basis’.

The British cyber spies also used blog posts and information spread via blogs in an operation against Iran.

Mobile phone user
A young woman looking at Facebook website on laptop computer

One of the ways to stop a target communicating reads: ‘Bombard their phone with text messages, bombard their phone with calls, delete their online presence, block up their fax machine’



The same 2012 presentation describes the ‘honey trap’ method of discrediting a target commenting it is ‘very successful’ when it works.

The individual is lured ‘to go somewhere on the internet, or a physical location’ where they are then ‘met by a friendly face.’

It does not give any examples of when the honey trap has been used by British agents, but the same slide also details how ‘paranoia’ can be heightened by changing a target’s photo on a social networking website – the slide reads ‘You have been warned JTRIG is about!’

A programme called ‘Royal Concierge’ took advantage of hotel reservation systems to track the  location of foreign diplomats and the slides encourage agents to monitor targets through ‘close access technical operations’.

It also suggests they question ‘Can we influence hotel choice? Can we cancel their visits?’

According to reports in Der Spiegel last year, British intelligence tapped the reservations systems of over 350 top hotels around the world for the past three years to set up the programme.

Using the GCHQ’s SIGINT (signal-intelligence) program it was used to spy on trade delegations, foreign diplomats, and other targets with a taste for the high life.

NBC news reported GCHQ would not comment on the newly published documents or on JTRIG’s operations.

In a statement it told them: ‘All of GCHQ’s work is carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework,’ said the statement, ‘which ensure[s] that our activities are authorized, necessary and proportionate, and that there is rigorous oversight, including from the Secretary of State, the Interception and Intelligence Services Commissioners and the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee. All of our operational processes rigorously support this position.’

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