Posts Tagged ‘cyber’

Is President Trump Illegitimate?

July 21, 2018

Russia hurt him, Comey helped him, but the Constitution put him in office.

U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin arrive for a meeting in Helsinki, July 16.
U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin arrive for a meeting in Helsinki, July 16. PHOTO: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/GETTY IMAGES


Donald Trump never expected to be president. And, we might reasonably surmise, perhaps didn’t really want to be. Think about that as President Trump seeks to remake America’s relationship with the world as dramatically as any president in 70 years.

The Greek witch-goddess Circe gave her son a magic weapon to protect him on his search for his father, Odysseus. When father and son finally met, Odysseus was accidentally killed by the magic weapon. Oops.

Then-FBI Director James Comey received a magic weapon that, in his own mind, justified his usurping of the Justice Department’s decision whether to prosecute Hillary Clinton or her aides in the email case. Without Mr. Comey’s initial intervention, there never would have been his second intervention, reopening the Hillary case shortly before Election Day. Oops.

If veteran political analyst Ronald Brownstein is right, blue-collar white women in the upper Midwest elected Mr. Trump. What better antidote for the “Access Hollywood” scandal, then tanking the Trump campaign, than the revelation that the Hillary case was not only back but entangled with the underage sexting adventures of former Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner.

If any Russian involvement helped Mr. Trump, this was it. As we know from credible reporting and from Mr. Comey’s own elliptical memoir, he was in possession of a captured Kremlin intelligence document that cited an alleged agreement between the Obama Justice Department and the Clinton campaign to bury the email case. This was Mr. Comey’s magic weapon.

Amanda Renteria, the Clinton campaign aide named in the Russian intelligence, has stated plainly that the information was “made up by the Russians.” The Justice Department’s inspector general said the info was viewed inside the FBI as “not credible” and “objectively false.” According to CNN and the Washington Post, some considered it a deliberate Kremlin plant.

Yet Mr. Comey, in a recent interview with PBS’s Judy Woodruff, described the information as “legitimate” and expressed agnosticism over whether it was “accurate.”

He told NBC’s Chuck Todd, “I’m just not, by my silence, agreeing with your predicate that it was false documents.”

What the heck is going on here?

This episode represents the only possible way Russia affected the election outcome. Other claims about its decisive effect are implausible.

Former Obama intelligence chief James Clapper flatly opines, based on his decades of experience, that Russia elected Mr. Trump, which might be more persuasive if his decades of experience were in U.S. electoral politics, not spywork and disinformation.

The Economist magazine, in honor of last week’s U.S. indictment of Russia’s GRU hackers, says the Kremlin only had to shift 0.03% of the total vote and therefore Mr. Trump may be illegitimate.

What these analysts ignore is net effect. Bernie voters and Catholics had reason to be offended by leaked Democratic emails, but these were one-day stories early in the race. The overall impact of Russia hacking and social media trolling not only was small on its own terms; it was swamped by the blowback on conventional media, which daily amplified accusations of Hillary supporters and Never Trump Republicans that Mr. Trump was in Vladimir Putin’s pocket.

Replay the election in your head, in fact, and it’s hard come to any conclusion other than Mr. Trump would have been much better off if Russia wasn’t a subject. Voters don’t vote on foreign policy. They do vote on character. There can’t be 75 people in America who cared that Mr. Trump promised better relations with Russia. There must have been hundreds of thousands or millions who followed half the GOP pundit and foreign-policy establishment in opposing Mr. Trump on character grounds, including his alleged footsie with the Kremlin.

I’ll say it again: It is overwhelmingly likely that Russian efforts, aside from their presumably unforeseen and accidental impact on Mr. Comey, cost Mr. Trump more votes than they got him.

As early as February 2016, this column described Mr. Trump as a “democratic accident” waiting to happen: “What began as a scheme to become more famous is in danger of running away with the country.”

It was entirely possible for Mr. Trump to be the last man standing in a crowded GOP primary field full of candidates who might have bested him one on one. He clearly lucked out with Hillary as his Democratic opponent. Of course, the totality of effects decides even a close election. But if you’re looking for a single, conscious, deliberate action by any human being that influenced the outcome, you’re left with Mr. Comey and his Russia-supplied magic weapon.

By the way, this doesn’t make Mr. Trump an illegitimate president. He’s a natural-born U.S. citizen of the requisite age and won a majority of the Electoral College.

Appeared in the July 21, 2018, print edition.


I’m ready to put tariffs on every import from China, US President Donald Trump warns

July 21, 2018

US leader says China has been ‘ripping off’ the United States for years and he’s willing to go ahead with extra tariffs on US$500 billion in Chinese goods

South China Morning Post

US President Donald Trump has said he is willing to slap tariffs on all Chinese products imported to the United States, a threat that could propel the world’s two biggest economies into an all-out trade war.

“I’m ready to go to 500 [billion dollars],” Trump told CNBC’s Joe Kernen on Friday, suggesting that every Chinese product would be subject to duties. “We have been ripped off by China for a long time.”

The “tremendous amount” threatened by Trump is roughly equivalent to the US$505.5 billion in Chinese products imported by the US last year. China, on the other hand, buys far less from the US, with last year’s total just US$130 billion.

Washington imposed tariffs on US$34 billion of Chinese products on July 6, prompting similar action from China. Then last week the US threatened to slap 10 per cent duties on another US$200 billion worth of the goods.

On Wednesday, the president’s top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, blamed Chinese President Xi Jinping for blocking trade talks with the US. China’s foreign ministry fired back a day later, accusing American officials of “making false accusations”.

In the CNBC interview, Trump also took aim at China’s currency.

“Their currency is dropping like a rock, and our currency is going up, and I have to tell you it puts us at a disadvantage,” he said.

The yuan fell 0.5 per cent against the US dollar in offshore markets to 6.8130 per dollar after Trump’s comments. It had already fallen 6.7 per cent against the dollar since April, making it the biggest loser among Asia’s 12 currency pairs during the period.

“I don’t want them to be scared. I want them to do well,” Trump said. “I really like President Xi a lot, but it was very unfair.”

Within hours of the interview going to air, Trump continued his complaints on Twitter, saying China and the European Union deliberately kept their currencies and interest rates low.

Chinese analysts were not surprised by Trump’s threat.

Donald J. Trump


China, the European Union and others have been manipulating their currencies and interest rates lower, while the U.S. is raising rates while the dollars gets stronger and stronger with each passing day – taking away our big competitive edge. As usual, not a level playing field…

“He has threatened it time and again. And you can’t rely on his words,” said Shi Yinhong, director of Renmin University’s Centre on American Studies and an adviser to the State Council.

John Gong, an economics professor at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing, called Trump’s threat a “knee-jerk reaction” that “shouldn’t been taken seriously”.

“It must have been in the heat of the moment. The probability of going so far is almost zero. And if it ever reaches there, it will no longer be a trade problem – the US$300-500 billion operations of American corporates in China will surely be implicated,” Gong said.

Shang-Jin Wei, senior scholar at the Jerome A Chazen Institute for Global Business at the Columbia Business School, said an escalation in the trade dispute would have a minimal impact on the US in the short term.

“The [US] economy was on the trajectory of a strong recovery even before Trump took over, and then the tax reform of the end of last year provided overstimulation to the economy,” Wei said.

But things were looking differently for China, he said.

“China’s economic growth had already been moderating because of a combination of rising wages and a shrinkage of working-age cohorts,” Wei said.

“The Chinese economy is more open in terms of its dependence on trade. Leaving aside technical factors, the same punitive measures on trade have greater potential for damage to the Chinese economy than damage to the US.

“If President Trump needed to pick a time to engage in a bad trade war, the current timing is lucky for him.”

Additional reporting by Robert Delaney

CIA official: China waging ‘quiet’ cold war against US — South China Sea is the “Crimea of the East”

July 21, 2018

China is waging a “quiet kind of cold war” against the United States, using all its resources to try to replace America as the leading power in the world, a top CIA expert on Asia said Friday.

Beijing doesn’t want to go to war, he said, but the current communist government, under President Xi Jingping, is subtly working on multiple fronts to undermine the U.S. in ways that are different than the more well-publicized activities being employed by Russia.

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“I would argue … that what they’re waging against us is fundamentally a cold war — a cold war not like we saw during THE Cold War (between the U.S. and the Soviet Union) but a cold war by definition,” Michael Collins, deputy assistant director of the CIA’s East Asia mission center, said at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado.

Rising U.S.-China tension goes beyond the trade dispute playing out in a tariff tit-for-tat between the two nations.

There is concern over China’s pervasive efforts to steal business secrets and details about high-tech research being conducted in the U.S. The Chinese military is expanding and being modernized and the U.S., as well as other nations, have complained about China’s construction of military outposts on islands in the South China Sea.

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Donald Trump and Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago

“I would argue that it’s the Crimea of the East,” Collins said, referring to Russia’s brash annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, which was condemned throughout the West.

Collins’ comments track warnings about China’s rising influence issued by others who spoke earlier this week at the security conference. The alarm bells come at a time when Washington needs China’s help in ending its nuclear standoff with North Korea.

On Wednesday, FBI Director Christopher Wray said China, from a counterintelligence perspective, represents the broadest and most significant threat America faces. He said the FBI has economic espionage investigations in all 50 states that can be traced back to China.

“The volume of it. The pervasiveness of it. The significance of it is something that I think this country cannot underestimate,” Wray said.

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National Intelligence Director Dan Coats also warned of rising Chinese aggression. In particular, he said, the U.S. must stand strong against China’s effort to steal business secrets and academic research.

Susan Thornton, acting assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, said increasing the public’s awareness about the activities of the hundreds of thousands of Chinese students or groups at U.S. universities could be one way to help mitigate potential damage.

“China is not just a footnote to what we’re dealing with with Russia,” Thornton said.

Marcel Lettre, former undersecretary of defense for intelligence, said China has the second-largest defense budget in the world, the largest standing army of ground forces, the third-largest air force and a navy of 300 ships and more than 60 submarines.

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China Hypersonic Plane (Artists impression)

“All of this is in the process of being modernized and upgraded,” said Lettre, who sat on a panel with Collins and Thornton.

He said China also is pursuing advances in cyber, artificial intelligence, engineering and technology, counter-space, anti-satellite capabilities and hypersonic glide weapons. Army Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley, head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told a congressional committee earlier this year that China is developing long-range cruise missiles — some capable of reaching supersonic speeds.

“The Pentagon has noted that the Chinese have already pursued a test program that has had 20 times more tests than the U.S. has,” Lettre said.

Franklin Miller, former senior director for defense policy and arms control at the National Security Council, said China’s weapons developments are emphasizing the need to have a dialogue with Beijing.

“We need to try to engage,” Miller said. “My expectations for successful engagement are medium-low, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.”

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The Associated Press

Trump’s Russia policy lets Putin ‘punch above his weight’

July 20, 2018

US President Donald Trump faced a deluge of criticism for siding with Vladimir Putin against his own intelligence agencies on Monday before backtracking. After a week of US diplomatic missteps and reversals, only the Russian leader emerged unscathed.

Trump confounded both his backers and his critics on Monday by standing beside Russian President Vladimir Putin and announcing that Putin’s “powerful” denials of election meddling had convinced him, despite the US intelligence community’s unanimous assessment that Russian efforts sought to influence the 2016 vote.

“I have great confidence in my intelligence people,” Trump told a joint press conference in Helsinki. “But I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.”

The US president offered a clear juxtaposition between what his administration has told him and what Putin said privately in their one-on-one meeting in the Finnish capital.

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“[Director of National Intelligence] Dan Coats came to me, and some others. They said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin. He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be,” Trump said.

His announcement ignited a firestorm of criticism from both Republicans and Democrats, including accusations of “treason”.

Republican Senator John McCain said the statement was “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory”.

“The damage inflicted by President Trump’s naiveté, egotism, false equivalence, and sympathy for autocrats is difficult to calculate,” McCain said in a statement, adding: “No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant.”

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Former director of national intelligence James Clapper called Trump’s statement “an incredible capitulation” while former CIA director John Brennan said on Twitter that it was “nothing short of treasonous”.

John O. Brennan


Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of “high crimes & misdemeanors.” It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???

But Trump wasn’t done yet. Putin told the Helsinki press conference that he would allow US investigators probing allegations of Russian election meddling under Special Counsel Robert Mueller to question 12 Russian intelligence officers indicted in the case last week. But in exchange, Putin wanted Russian officials to interrogate those Americans whom he accuses of involvement in unspecified “illegal actions” on Russian territory, notably prominent Putin critic Bill Browder, former US ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul and others.

“I think that’s an incredible offer,” Trump said, sparking a new round of widespread and bipartisan outrage that Trump would even consider turning Americans – including former diplomats – over to a foreign power for questioning.

By Tuesday the White House was in full defence mode, with Trump telling the press he misspoke in Helsinki regarding Russia’s election interference. When he said, “I don’t see any reason why it would be” Russia, he had actually meant “wouldn’t”.

“The sentence should have been, ‘I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be Russia’,” Trump said. “Sort of a double negative.”

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders also later backtracked on Putin’s proposal to swap citizens for questioning, saying Thursday that Trump “disagreed” with the plan.

Hours later, Trump risked courting controversy anew by asking staff to invite Putin to Washington in the autumn.

Making Russia great again

Trump’s week of diplomatic U-turns left many observers scratching their heads, wondering if he had an overall strategy for dealing with the Kremlin. Some attributed his compliance to a personal history of relying on Russian money for many of his business ventures. Others have suggested, more darkly, that Trump’s obeisance is linked to Russian attempts to swing the 2016 election in his favour.

Whatever the reason behind it, Trump’s amenable stance on Russia is at odds with the rest of the US establishment, rendering it difficult for the United States to pursue a consistent, coherent policy towards Moscow.

“Most of the US government is hawkish and suspicious of Russia,” observed Dr Jacob Parakilas, deputy head of the US and the Americas Programme at Chatham House. “Congress, which can barely agree on anything across party lines these days, has repeatedly passed sanctions against Russia and other related measures by overwhelming, veto-proof margins. There is little to no support for what Trump might call a ‘good relationship’ with Putin in the US military, the intelligence community, or the diplomatic corps.”

And yet Trump, as the head of state, “sees things quite differently and is willing to disregard the advice of virtually everyone in the government he leads”, Parakilas said. “But his power is far from absolute, and he can’t compel them to take his view. That inevitably stands in the way of [policy] coherence.”

Parakilas said that while Trump might not have an overarching plan for his Kremlin policy, “instinctually he wants to lower tensions with Russia and focus on creating a more adversarial economic relationship with the EU and China”.

Such goals may be impossible to realise, however.

“Given what’s arrayed against him internally and externally, I think there’s very little chance of that happening, and I don’t think he has a backup plan,” Parakilas said.

“So he’ll keep trying to find opportunities to ingratiate himself with Putin where he can, but those [efforts] will contribute to growing political blowback at home.”


Playing a weak hand

Putin, for his part, has proved his expertise in parlaying relative weakness into strength.

According to James Nixey, head of the Russia and Eurasia Programme at Chatham House, the announcement that Putin has been invited to the White House in the autumn is “another win for Kremlin”.

“[I]t once again sets Russia up as a major league power – above and beyond all others really,” Nixey said in an email. “This is in direct contrast to Russia’s direction of travel. It is NOT a modernising, economically improving power. So Russia, once again, punches above its weight.”

As other foreign policy observers have noted, Trump’s seeming acquiescence to the Kremlin is baffling given Russia’s geostrategic importance. The United States has by far the world’s strongest military and the largest GDP, while Russia does not even crack the world’s top 10 economies, according to the World Bank. And yet Trump appears keen to grant Moscow international footing equal to that of Washington.

Russia is geographically sprawling and has a lot of Soviet legacy relationships…” noted political science professor Robert E. Kelly in a Twitter post“[B]ut it’s actually rather sluggish and being surpassed by cleaner, more globalized states you wouldn’t think of as out-running Moscow.”

Russia’s GDP is smaller than that of either Brazil, Italy or Canada, he noted. So for all its nuclear “bluster” and “fatiguing trouble-making” along its perimeter, Russia is “basically a stagnant, over-sized middle power”.

“It’s amazing how well Putin plays a weaker hand than most people recognize,” Kelly wrote.

Robert E Kelly


As Trump rushes to build a Russo-US “special responsibility for maintaining international security,” recall that Russia’s GDP is now smaller than that of Brazil, Italy, Canada, and S Korea, states we normally think of as middle powers. I’m not sure most people realize this; /1

But Russia seems to be taking a long-term view, willing to bide its time to reap any benefits. Moscow is hoping to amass what Nixey called “mini victories” from the US president, always “with the possibility of more substantial victories down the line”.

“The Russians are patient with Trump,” he said, “as they spot opportunity in his weakness and vanity.”

In an analysis for Chatham House, Keir Giles, a senior consulting fellow at the Russia and Eurasia Programme, said that for all the surprises on offer in Helsinki, Trump’s Putin meeting could have turned out much worse for America’s European allies.

Trump had “demonstrated his willingness to make sudden unilateral concessions that compromise the security of his allies” at his June summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un by announcing the suspension of joint military exercises with South Korea, long a point of contention with Pyongyang.

Against this backdrop, there was a real danger that, “left to his own devices, he might have been persuaded by President Putin to do the same in the Baltic states and Poland”, Giles said. And such a move “would have provoked an immediate crisis between the United States and its NATO allies”.

Despite the consternation that followed the Helsinki summit, he wrote, “both the United States and its European allies may have got off lightly”.


Hackers already targeting 2018 election, Microsoft executive says

July 20, 2018

Hackers have already targeted candidates in this year’s U.S. midterm elections, a Microsoft executive said.

Image result for Aspen Security Forum, Tom Burt, Photos

Tom Burt, Microsoft’s vice president for customer security and trust, spoke at the Aspen Security Forum on Thursday. Responding to a question, he said hackers responsible for targeting political organizations in the 2016 U.S. presidential election have already attempted to target staffers of at least three unidentified candidates.

“Earlier this year, we did discover that a fake Microsoft domain had been established as the landing page for phishing attacks and we saw metadata that suggested those phishing attacks were being directed at three candidates who are standing for election in the midterm elections,” Burt said. “We can’t disclose [identities] because we maintain our customer privacy, but I can tell you that they were all people who, because of their positions, might have been interesting targets from an espionage standpoint as well as an election disruption standpoint. We took down that domain, and working with the government we were able to avoid anybody being infected by that particular attack.”

The phishing approach, in which candidates are tricked into visiting a fake web page and give up sensitive information, was used by Russian hackers in 2016. Some cybersecurity firms believe the new attacks are linked to Russian intelligence, the BBC reported on Friday.

The hacking team is known to Microsoft engineers as Strontium, but it is also known as APT28, Fancy Bear and Pawn Storm, Newsweek reported. Under those names, the group previously worked with the Russian military intelligence agency GRU.

Burt added that the level of activity is currently less than in 2016, but cautioned it “doesn’t mean we are not going to see it. There’s a lot of time left before the election.”

One-third of the 100-member U.S. Senate, all 435 seats in the House of Representatives and numerous state and local offices are at stake in the Nov. 6 election.

Singapore says hackers stole 1.5 m health records in record cyberattack

July 20, 2018

Hackers have stolen health records belonging to 1.5 million Singaporeans, including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong who was specifically targeted in the city state’s biggest ever data breach, authorities said Friday.

Singapore’s health and information ministries said a government database was broken into in a “deliberate, targeted and well-planned” strike, describing the attack as “unprecedented”.

© AFP | Singaporean authorities say the theft is the city state’s biggest data breach to date

“Attackers specifically and repeatedly targeted the personal particulars and outpatient information of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong,” health minister Gan Kim Yong told a media conference.

Officials declined to elaborate on the identity of the hackers citing “operational security”.

Wealthy Singapore is hyper connected and on a drive to digitise government databases and essential services.

While the city-state has some of the most advanced military weaponry in the region, authorities have long warned of cyber breaches, with attackers ranging from high-school students in their basements to criminals and state-actors.

In 2017, hackers broke into a defence ministry database, stealing the information of some 850 army conscripts and ministry staff.


Cyberattack on Singapore health database steals details of 1.5 million, including PM

July 20, 2018

A major cyberattack on Singapore’s government health database stole the personal information of about 1.5 million people, including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, the government said on Friday.

Image result for Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, photos

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong

The “deliberate, targeted and well-planned,” attack aimed at patients who visited clinics between May 2015 and July 4 this year, the Health Ministry said in a statement.

“It was not the work of casual hackers or criminal gangs,” the ministry said, adding that the attackers targeted details about Lee and the medicines he received.

“The attackers specifically and repeatedly targeted Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s personal particulars and information on his outpatient dispensed medicines,” it said.


Reporting by Jack Kim; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

What’s the best way to get back at Russian hackers? Lawsuits

July 20, 2018

The recent indictments of 12 Russian intelligence officers raise two questions that ought to be asked of special counsel Robert Mueller: Why now? And what can we do about it?

While new to the public, it is old news inside intelligence circles: The general facts, and likely the very specific details listed in the indictment, about Russian intrusion were well known inside the US intelligence community since 2016. All the indictment did was show America’s enemies the reach and depth of our counter-cyber capabilities — hardly helpful.

It also makes America look toothless. Indicting a dozen intelligence officers, who prosecutors know will never be turned over to face justice, makes America seem powerless. Russians allegedly invade the privacy of a presidential candidate, her staff, DNC chieftains and other powerful insiders — and America responds with an unenforceable piece of paper?

By Richard Miniter
New York Post

Worse, the Mueller indictments now put US officials at risk of foreign prosecution. Now that the special counsel has set the precedent, other hostile powers may reciprocate.

The indictments also weaken Mueller’s ability to extract confessions from Russia’s alleged US confederates. Why tell suspects what you know? Why, especially, give away facts that they could never be able to gather in discovery requests? Now defendants might tailor their testimony to fit known evidence.

The other question should concern every American: What can the federal government do to deter future hacking attacks?

Certainly, Hillary Clinton and John Podesta, the head of her 2016 campaign, deserve some blame under the theory of contributory negligence. She bypassed the federal government’s hardened and secure computer system for a server set up in a Colorado bathroom and he used as a password, as Julian Assange told Fox News, the word “password.” (Podesta’s representatives denied the use of that weak password.)

Insisting that federal officials follow the law and confine their communications to secure networks is Step One. As for private citizens, using a long password that includes both capital and lower-case letters as well as numbers and symbols is just basic security. Using a password manager to store, and periodically change, passwords along with activating two-factor authentication are other basic defenses.

But relying on adherence to basic security protocols is hardly enough when confronted with sophisticated hackers backed by foreign governments.

Aside from criminal prosecution, policymakers have three options: diplomatic protests, military retaliation and civil action. The first two are nonstarters. Diplomatic demands are toothless and military action, say a cyber-strike on a hacker’s Russian computer, invites retaliation.

Civil lawsuits could be a powerful tool against hackers, if the bad guys couldn’t hide behind sovereign immunity. Most foreign hackers — including Russia, China and Qatar — have considerable US assets that could be seized by courts. The problem? The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act was written in 1976 and doesn’t mention state-sponsored cyber-attacks.

Still, there are two exceptions that should apply — the “non-commercial tort” and “commercial activities” exceptions. Congress should pass clarifying legislation, so state and federal judges don’t wrestle with the issues and come to differing decisions based on specific fact patterns. Congress passed, in 2016, a law allowing citizens to sue terrorists in American courts. A similar measure could assure the right of citizens to seek justice against foreign hackers.

As a journalist, I’ve been hacked by foreign governments several times. One hack appeared to be the work of Algeria; it followed an article I wrote after spending 10 days in a refugee camp in Algerian Sahara. When hacked (and faked) emails of mine were given to Moroccan newspapers, I was able to sue in Casablanca. Ultimately, I prevailed and was awarded 60,000 dirhams (about $6,350). I have been unable to collect, so far.

The latest hack appears to be the work of Qatar, which has been accused of hacking a former RNC finance chairman and others. I cannot expect justice in the courts of the very country that, I believe, hacked me. Why can’t I sue Qatar and its collaborators in American courts? Or, is America going to give a free pass to overseas malefactors, who want to disrupt elections and punish critics?

Richard Miniter, CEO of the American Media Institute, is a bestselling author.

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Three Top FBI Cybersecurity Officials to Retire

July 20, 2018

Departures come as U.S. faces threat of cyberattacks

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Christopher Wray at the Aspen Security Forum
Three top cybersecurity officials are retiring from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.



Three of the top cybersecurity officials at the Federal Bureau of Investigation are retiring from government service, according to people familiar with the matter—departures that come as cyberattacks are a major concern for the country’s security agencies.

Senior U.S. intelligence officials warn that the country is at a “critical point” facing unprecedented cyberthreats, including Russia’s ongoing attacks on the American political system. The retirements also come as the FBI is facing regular criticism from President Donald Trump and his supporters, and is working to attract and retain top cyber talent.

Scott Smith, the assistant FBI director who runs the Bureau’s cyber division, is leaving this month. His deputy, Howard Marshall, also left in recent weeks. Mr. Marshall has accepted a job at Accenture , a consulting firm that is expanding its cybersecurity portfolio. Mr. Smith is also expected to move to the private sector.

David Resch, executive assistant director of the FBI’s criminal, cyber, response and services branch, is departing the bureau as well. Mr. Resch, who was named to his senior post by FBI Director Christopher Wray in April, supervised Mr. Smith and Mr. Marshall.

Additionally, Carl Ghattas, executive assistant director of the FBI’s national security branch, has decided to leave for the private sector. And Jeffrey Tricoli, a senior FBI cyber agent who oversaw a Bureau task force addressing Russian attempts to meddle in U.S. elections, left last month for a senior vice president position at Charles Schwab Corp. , the Journal reported last week.

The FBI confirmed the departures. One U.S. official said more people are expected to leave soon, declining to provide additional names.

Several people familiar with the moves said that while it was abnormal to see so many senior-level people leave at the same time, it wasn’t uncommon for agents to depart after becoming eligible for retirement benefits at age 50. However, Mr. Marshall’s exit was seen as “highly unusual,” according to one person, because he is stepping away before retirement age.

“As I retire after 28 years of government service to transition into the private sector, I have full confidence that under Director Wray’s steadfast leadership, the Bureau will remain the FBI the American people have depended on for 110 years,” Mr. Resch said in a statement provided by the Bureau.

An FBI spokeswoman said the agency had a surge of special-agent hires about 20 years ago, so many senior officials are now hitting the age where they qualify for pensions. The FBI expected a higher level of retirements to continue for the next couple of years, the spokeswoman said.

Some former FBI officials and others close to the Bureau said morale has been damaged by attacks from Mr. Trump and some congressional Republicans, who have criticized the agency for its handling of investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and Hillary Clinton’s emails.

“One-and-one-half branches of our government appear to be committed to attacking the Bureau, its workforce and its mission on a near-daily basis,” said Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

The White House declined to comment.

Mr. Wray on Wednesday disputed any suggestion of flagging morale. The FBI had a special-agent attrition rate of 0.6% this past year, he said, and it receives so many applications annually that it is more selective than Harvard or Yale Universities.

“Would they (FBI agents) prefer not to get criticized? Of course,” Mr. Wray said during an interview at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado. “But at the end of the day, the criticism we care about is the people who know our work.”

An internal FBI survey, obtained and published last week by the Lawfare blog, confirmed that morale overall remained high. But confidence in the vision and ideas of Mr. Wray and his leadership team fell from a year ago, when former Director James Comey was at the helm.

Mr. Trump fired Mr. Comey in May 2017. Mr. Wray on Wednesday noted the survey was taken shortly after he arrived last year.

Some former FBI officials said the pull of leaving was especially strong within the cyber division, which must compete with lucrative salaries and flexible lifestyles offered by technology firms in Silicon Valley and elsewhere.

Others cited bureaucratic frustrations. “There’s an internal tension in terms of how to staff cyber properly,” said a former official. “We constantly have new people in leadership reinventing the cyber program.”

Several cyber and law-enforcement experts said they were confident the work of the FBI’s cyber division would remain high but that turnover takes a toll.

“What is harmful is the churn,” said Leo Taddeo, former special agent in charge of the FBI’s New York cyber division and chief information security officer at Cyxtera Technologies. “Bringing on talent, training talent and then having that talent leave—it creates a gap.”


U.S. Senate leader asks for proposals to block future Russian meddling (Was the Obama Administration’s lack of cyber security criminal?)

July 19, 2018

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday said he had called on two key Senate panels to recommend additional action aimed at preventing future election meddling by Russia as well as hold hearings on Russia sanctions law.

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FILE PHOTO: U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks to reporters at the Capitol as fallout continued over U.S. President Donald Trump’s Helsinki summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, in Washington, U.S., July 17, 2018. REUTERS/James Lawler Duggan

McConnell, in a statement, said he asked the Republican chairmen of the Senate Banking and Foreign Relations Committees to act “as part of Congress’ ongoing efforts to form part of any national response to meddling by Russia or any other nation in our 2018 elections.”

Cyber-attack from Russia - Stock photo (picture-alliance/chromorange/C. Ohde)


Reporting by Susan Heavey and Tim Ahmann; Editing by Mohammad Zargham


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FILE PHOTO: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks during a press conference on the Trump Administration’s tax cuts at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center in Washington, U.S., on June 22, 2018. REUTERS/Toya Sarno Jordan/File Photo

Did Hillary’s email security negligence as U.S. Secretary of State invite Russian cyber meddling?

Hillary Clinton speaking during a campaign event in Columbus, Ohio, on Monday.

Personal, not secure, “home-brew” email server? Poster child for bad cyber security/National security.

Hillary Clinton was exonerated for mishandling classified email by:

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Vladimir Putin in Moscow in December. Credit Pool photo by Alexei Druzhinin



Ten Years of Russian Cyber Attacks on Other Nations

President Barack Obama announced the lifting of economic sanctions on Iran, a prisoner swap and the $1.7 billion settlement with Iran in the Cabinet Room of the White House on Jan. 17.

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John Emerson, Washington's man in Berlin, to meet with Guido Westerwelle, German foreign minister, over claims Angela Merkel's phone was tapped by US

Chancellor Merkel called President Obama demanding answers after reports emerged that the US may have been monitoring her phone Photo: YVES HERMAN/REUTERS

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James Clapper talking to a group of people
James Clapper

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U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power speaks at the Center for American Progress’ 2014 Making Progress Policy Conference in Washington November 19, 2014.  Credit: Reuters/Gary Cameron


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Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Barack Obama at a joint news conference in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 25.
Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Barack Obama at a joint news conference in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 25. Photo: Pete Marovich/Bloomberg News

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