Counterintelligence agents have investigated communications by President Trump’s national security adviser, including phone calls to Russian ambassador in late December
Michael Flynn, President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, at the inaugural parade in Washington, D.C., on Friday. PHOTO: LUCAS JACKSON/REUTERS
By CAROL E. LEE, DEVLIN BARRETT and SHANE HARRIS
The Wall Street Journal
Jan. 22, 2017 8:29 p.m. ET
WASHINGTON—U.S. counterintelligence agents have investigated communications that President Donald Trump’s national security adviser had with Russian officials, according to people familiar with the matter.
Michael Flynn is the first person inside the White House under Mr. Trump whose communications are known to have faced scrutiny as part of investigations by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Central Intelligence Agency, National…
Michael Flynn is the first person inside the White House under Mr. Trump whose communications are known to have faced scrutiny as part of investigations by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency and Treasury Department to determine the extent of Russian government contacts with people close to Mr. Trump.
It isn’t clear when the counterintelligence inquiry began, whether it produced any incriminating evidence or if it is continuing. Mr. Flynn, a retired general who became national security adviser with Mr. Trump’s inauguration, plays a key role in setting U.S. policy toward Russia.
The counterintelligence inquiry aimed to determine the nature of Mr. Flynn’s contact with Russian officials and whether such contacts may have violated laws, people familiar with the matter said.
A key issue in the investigation is a series of telephone calls Mr. Flynn made to Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the U.S., on Dec. 29. That day, the Obama administration announced sanctions and other measures against Russia in retaliation for its alleged use of cyberattacks to interfere with the 2016 U.S. election. U.S. intelligence officials have said Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the hacks on Democratic Party officials to try to harm Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid.
Officials also have examined earlier conversations between Mr. Flynn and Russian figures, the people familiar with the matter said. Russia has previously denied involvement in election-related hacking.
In a statement Sunday night, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said: “We have absolutely no knowledge of any investigation or even a basis for such an investigation.”
Earlier this month, Sean Spicer, then spokesman for the Trump transition team and now White House press secretary, said the contacts between Messrs. Flynn and Kislyak dealt with the logistics of arranging a conversation between Mr. Trump and Russia’s leader.
U.S. officials have collected information showing repeated contacts between Messrs. Flynn and Kislyak, these people said. It is common for American officials’ conversations with foreign officials to surface in NSA intercepts, because the U.S. conducts wide-ranging surveillance on foreign officials. American names also may surface in descriptions of conversations shared among officials of foreign governments.
In this Sept. 6, 2013 file photo, Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak, speaks with reporters in Washington. PHOTO: CLIFF OWEN/ASSOCIATED PRESS
The Senate Intelligence Committee is also looking into any possible collusion between Russia and people linked to Mr. Trump, top senators have said. That is part of the committee’s broader probe into Russian election interference. Counterintelligence probes seldom lead to public accusations or criminal charges.
In the counterintelligence inquiry, activities of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and advisers Roger Stone and Carter Page have come under scrutiny due to their known ties to Russian interests or their public statements, people familiar with the matter said.
The line of inquiry related to Mr. Manafort grew out of a probe into people associated with the collapsed government of Russia-backed Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who counted Mr. Manafort as an adviser before being ousted by pro-Europe street protesters in early 2014.
As U.S. investigators aided Ukrainian prosecutors hunting for funds pilfered from Mr. Yanukovych’s government, they have tried to determine if any conduct also involved violations of U.S. law by Mr. Manafort or others, the people said.
Mr. Manafort denied any wrongdoing. He said his work in Ukraine focused on moving the country toward the West. He denied any relationship with the Russian government or Russian officials.
“Anyone who takes the time to review the very public record will find that my main activities, in addition to political consulting, were all directed at integrating Ukraine as a member of the European community,” Mr. Manafort said in an emailed statement.
“I have never had any relationship with the Russian [government] or any Russian officials,” Mr. Manafort added. “I was never in contact with anyone, or directed anyone to be in contact with anyone.”
Of alleged Russian cyberhacking, he said: “My only knowledge of it is what I have read in the papers.”
Mr. Stone is a longtime Republican political operative who left Mr. Trump’s campaign in mid-2015 and previously worked with Mr. Manafort at a lobbying firm.
Mr. Stone drew scrutiny after hinting in August that Mrs. Clinton’s campaign manager John Podesta would soon be in trouble. In October, WikiLeaks began releasing emails stolen from Mr. Podesta.
U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that his account was hacked on behalf of Russian spy agencies.
Mr. Stone denied collusion with Russia or WikiLeaks. He said he hadn’t spoken to anyone in Russia “in many years.” He accused U.S. government officials in the “deep state” who oppose Mr. Trump and are angry about his election victory of peddling the theory that Mr. Stone and other Trump advisers have ties to Moscow.
“This is nonsense,” Mr. Stone said in a phone interview. He said he hadn’t been contacted by the FBI or other government officials, including Congress, about ties to Russia.
Mr. Stone said he has a conduit to Julian Assange through “an American journalist,” who he said communicates with the WikiLeaks founder, now living in the Ecuadorean embassy in London. Mr. Stone declined to identify the journalist, whose job could be jeopardized by the association with Mr. Assange, according to Mr. Stone.
Mr. Page, a businessman whom Mr. Trump identified in March 2016 as one of his foreign-policy advisers, has drawn attention for his meetings in Moscow during the presidential campaign.
An unsubstantiated dossier of opposition research compiled by a former MI6 officer said Mr. Page held meetings with Igor Sechin, a longtime aide to Mr. Putin and current head of Russian state oil giant Rosneft, as well as a top Kremlin political operative Mr. Page denied the allegations.
In a text message to The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Page said he was giving a speech at a Russian university at the time the dossier placed him at the meetings. Mr. Page said he spoke with university officials, think-tank scholars and a few businesspeople.
—Paul Sonne and Damian Paletta contributed to this article.
PUBLISHED: 18:24 EST, 18 January 2017 | UPDATED: 02:50 EST, 19 January 2017
The Central Intelligence Agency has unveiled revised rules for collecting, analyzing and storing information on American citizens just two days before Donald Trump is sworn in as president.
The new restrictions imposed by the US attorney general will force the CIA to dispose of the personal data of Americans it comes across during its probes within five years.
The new rules, which were published in full for the first time on Wednesday, were released amid continued public discomfort over the government’s surveillance powers.
Issues surrounding surveillance gained prominence following revelations in 2013 by former government contractor Edward Snowden that the National Security Agency (NSA) secretly collected the communications data of millions of ordinary Americans.
The guidelines were published two days before Trump is sworn into office and may be changed by the new administration.
Trump has said he favors stronger government surveillance powers, including the monitoring of ‘certain’ mosques in the United States.
The CIA is largely barred from collecting information inside the United States or on U.S. citizens. But a 1980s presidential order provided for discrete exceptions governed by procedures approved by the CIA director and the attorney general.
Known as the ‘Attorney General Guidelines,’ the original rules over time became a ‘patchwork of policies and procedures’ that failed to keep pace with the development of technology that can store massive amounts of digital data, said Krass.
The guidelines were published two days before Trump is sworn into office and may be changed by the new administration give he has said he favors stronger government surveillance powers
The new procedures, under development for years, were signed on Tuesday by CIA Director John Brennan and Attorney General Loretta Lynch
In 2014, legislation gave U.S. intelligence agencies two years to develop procedures limiting the storage of information on U.S. citizens.
The new procedures, under development for years, were signed on Tuesday by CIA Director John Brennan and Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
While the 1982 guidelines were made public two years ago, sections were blacked out. The updated procedures were posted in full for the first time on the CIA’s website on Wednesday.
The updated procedures include what the CIA must do when it clandestinely obtains a computer hard drive holding millions of pages of text, hours of videos and thousands of photos containing information on foreigners and U.S. citizens.
Because extensive time and many analysts are required to assess such large volumes of data, the new rules regulate the handling of material whose intelligence value cannot be promptly evaluated.
They also regulate how such data can be searched and create strict requirements for dealing with unevaluated electronic communications, which must be destroyed no later than five years after the are first examined.
The rules were unveiled a week after civil liberties groups decried new guidelines approved by the Obama administration expanding the NSA’s ability to share communications intercepts with other U.S. intelligence agencies, including the CIA.
Issues surrounding surveillance gained prominence following revelations in 2013 by former government contractor Edward Snowden (pictured) that the National Security Agency (NSA) secretly collected the communications data of millions of ordinary Americans
President Barack Obama has commuted the 35-year prison sentence given to Chelsea Manning for leaking thousands of secret documents to Wikileaks in 2010, setting her on track for release in May.
Wikileaks said last week that Julian Assange, the site’s publisher, would agree to extradition to the US if Ms Manning were freed. It is unclear if Mr Assange, the subject of an espionage investigation, will follow through, though a member of his legal team said he stands by his statements.
Ms Manning, a US army soldier born Bradley Manning, is the most high-profile of 273 individuals granted clemency or presidential pardons on Tuesday, Mr Obama’s third-to-last full day in office.
The decision is also the most controversial, with one Republican senator accusing Mr Obama of treating “a traitor like a martyr”.
“I don’t understand why the president would feel special compassion for someone who endangered the lives of our troops, diplomats, intelligence officers and allies,” Tom Cotton, the senator, said in a statement.
Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House, called Mr Obama’s decision “outrageous”.
“Chelsea Manning’s treachery put American lives at risk and exposed some of our nation’s most sensitive secrets,” he said. “President Obama now leaves in place a dangerous precedent that those who compromise our national security won’t be held accountable for their crimes.”
Meanwhile, Amnesty International called the step “long overdue”, saying Ms Manning’s treatment had been “unconscionable”.
The White House had signalled that Ms Manning was being considered for clemency, contrasting her case with that of Edward Snowden, who also leaked sensitive documents to Wikileaks before fleeing to Russia.
“Chelsea Manning is somebody who went through the military criminal justice process, was exposed to due process, was found guilty, was sentenced for her crimes, and she acknowledged wrongdoing,” Josh Earnest, Mr Obama’s spokesman said last week.
“Mr Snowden fled into the arms of an adversary and sought refuge in a country, that most recently made a concerted effort to undermine confidence in our democracy.”
Among the materials leaked by Ms Manning, who served as an Army intelligence analyst and was deployed to Iraq, was video of an American helicopter attack that resulted in the deaths of innocent Iraqi civilians and two reporters.
Ms Manning also leaked diplomatic cables containing sensitive information. US officials said the leaks harmed American foreign policy and strained relations with allies.
She will now be released on May 17, after seven years in prison.
Mr Snowden took to Twitter on Tuesday to thank Ms Manning’s supporters, and Mr Obama for enabling her release.
Wikileaks said Mr Assange was “confident of winning any fair trial in the US”, adding that the Obama administration had prevented the possibility of an impartial jury.
Ms Manning’s case was polarising, with military and intelligence officials largely furious at the leaks, and human rights and transparency activists calling her a hero.
Ms Manning pleaded guilty during her trial and apologised for her actions, but still received the longest sentence ever for a leak conviction.
She later applied to the Obama administration for a commutation, saying there was “no historical precedent” for such an “extreme” sentence.
Mr Obama also pardoned James Cartwright, a retired Marine general who pleaded guilty last year to making false statements to investigators. Mr Cartwright had denied leaking classified information, despite having done so.
Mr Obama has commuted the sentences of 1,385 individuals throughout his presidency, the most in history. The majority of those people received long sentences for drug-related crimes.
Manning also went on a hunger strike last year, which ended after the military agreed to provide her with gender dysphoria treatment.
In one of his final acts as president, Mr Obama granted commutation of sentences to 209 individuals and pardons to 64 others.
Chelsea Manning, then Bradley, was convicted in 2013. Reuters
However, Edward Snowden, a former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor who leaked information on mass surveillance programmes before fleeing the US, will not be granted a pardon.
Russian authorities said on Wednesday that Mr Snowden had been granted a two-year extension to his temporary asylum in the country.
Why Manning? Rajini Vaidyanathan, BBC News
Chelsea Manning’s case divided public opinion in the US. To some she was a whistleblower who lifted the veil on US military secrets. More than 100,000 people signed a White House petition calling for her release and the campaign for her commutation was well publicised. But to others Manning was a traitor who compromised the safety of US military personnel.
House Speaker Paul Ryan described President Obama’s commutation as treachery. When I attended Manning’s sentencing in 2013, the prosecution asked for a tougher sentence than the 35 years handed down. They said they wanted to send a message to future potential leakers.
The White House has yet to explain why it made the decision to free Manning. It’s worth noting that Mr Obama was accused of waging a war on whistleblowers for prosecuting more people under the Espionage Act than any other US president before him.
What has been the reaction?
Manning’s lawyer, David Coombs, told the BBC the commutation would be a great relief to his client.
“It really is a great act of mercy by President Obama,” said Mr Coombs. “For myself and Chelsea, I’m very thankful he took that option.”
Journalist Glenn Greenwald, who broke the story of Edward Snowden’s leaks, told the BBC: “I don’t think she (Manning) should have spent a single day in prison.”
He said she was “heroic and has inspired millions of people around the world”.
But Republican Senator John McCain said the president’s decision was “a grave mistake that I fear will encourage further acts of espionage”.
And House Speaker Paul Ryan said it was “just outrageous”, adding that the US Army private had “put American lives at risk”.
What was in the leaked cables?
The US Army charged Manning with 22 counts relating to the unauthorised possession and distribution of more than 700,000 secret diplomatic and military documents and video.
Included in those files was video footage of an Apache helicopter killing 12 civilians in Baghdad in 2007.
Manning also passed on sensitive messages between US diplomats, intelligence assessments of Guantanamo detainees being held without trial and military records from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The disclosures were considered an embarrassment to the US, prompting the Obama administration to crack down on government leaks.
At a sentencing hearing, Manning apologised for “hurting the US” and said she had mistakenly thought she could “change the world for the better”.
What next for Julian Assange?
Wikileaks, the anti-secrecy organisation which published the diplomatic cables, has previously said its founder Julian Assange would agree to be extradited to the US if Mr Obama granted clemency to Manning.
The White House said the Manning commutation was not influenced in any way by Mr Assange’s extradition offer.
Mr Assange, who has taken refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012, did not immediately comment on whether he plans to surrender.
But he did tweet: “Thank you to everyone who campaigned for Chelsea Manning’s clemency. Your courage & determination made the impossible possible.”
The US justice department has not publicly announced any indictment against Mr Assange. It is Sweden that has sought to extradite him, for an alleged sex crime.
Why no pardon for Edward Snowden?
More than a million supporters of Mr Snowden have petitioned President Barack Obama to pardon him.
But according to the White House, the National Security Agency leaker has not himself submitted the necessary documents for clemency.
In November, Mr Obama told German newspaper Der Spiegel: “I can’t pardon somebody who hasn’t gone before a court and presented themselves.”
The White House last week pointed out that Manning had passed through the US military justice system and acknowledged her crimes.
Mr Snowden, however, fled the US in 2013, evading charges in America which could put him in prison for up to 30 years.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said “the disclosures by Edward Snowden were far more serious and far more dangerous”.
He had also “fled into the arms of an adversary and has sought refuge in a country that most recently made a concerted effort to undermine the confidence in our democracy”, Mr Earnest added.
How do pardons and commutations work?
Mr Obama has commuted 1,385 sentences and issued 212 pardons, more than the total granted by the past 12 presidents combined.
In America, a pardon not only lifts the sentence but removes other penalties such as the bar on convicted felons sitting on federal juries, and state-level prohibitions on such things as voting or possession of firearms.
A commutation means the sentence is lifted but the civil handicaps outlined above remain.
Neither a pardon nor a commutation is an acknowledgment of innocence.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
As he seeks a pardon, the NSA thief has told multiple lies about what he stole and his dealings with Russian intelligence.
By EDWARD JAY EPSTEIN
The Wall Street Journal
Updated Dec. 30, 2016 10:21 p.m. ET
Of all the lies that Edward Snowden has told since his massive theft of secrets from the National Security Agency and his journey to Russia via Hong Kong in 2013, none is more provocative than the claim that he never intended to engage in espionage, and was only a “whistleblower” seeking to expose the overreach of NSA’s information gathering. With the clock ticking on Mr. Snowden’s chance of a pardon, now is a good time to review what we have learned about his real mission.
Mr. Snowden’s theft of America’s most closely guarded communication secrets occurred in May 2013, according to the criminal complaint filed against him by federal prosecutors the following month. At the time Mr. Snowden was a 29-year-old technologist working as an analyst-in-training for the consulting firm of Booz Allen Hamilton at the regional base of the National Security Agency (NSA) in Oahu, Hawaii. On May 20, only some six weeks after his job there began, he failed to show up for work, emailing his supervisor that he was at the hospital being tested for epilepsy.
This excuse was untrue. Mr. Snowden was not even in Hawaii. He was in Hong Kong. He had flown there with a cache of secret data that he had stolen from the NSA.
This was not the only lie Mr. Snowden told. As became clear during my investigation over the past three years, nearly every element of the narrative Mr. Snowden has provided, which reached its final iteration in Oliver Stone’s 2016 movie, “Snowden,” is demonstrably false.
This narrative began soon after Mr. Snowden arrived in Hong Kong, where he arranged to meet with Laura Poitras, a Berlin-based documentary filmmaker, and Glenn Greenwald, a Brazil-based blogger for the Guardian. Both journalists were longtime critics of NSA surveillance with whom Mr. Snowden (under the alias Citizen Four) had been in contact for four months.
To provide them with scoops discrediting NSA operations, Mr. Snowden culled several thousand documents out of his huge cache of stolen material, including two explosive documents he asked them to use in their initial stories. One was the now-famous secret order from America’s Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court requiring Verizon to turn over to the NSA its billing records for its phone users in the U.S. The other was an NSA slide presentation detailing its ability to intercept communications of non-American users of the internet via a joint program with the FBI code-named Prism.
These documents were published in 2013 on June 5 and 6, followed by a video in which he identified himself as the leaker and a whistleblower.
At the heart of Mr. Snowden’s narrative was his claim that while he may have incidentally “touched” other data in his search of NSA files, he took only documents that exposed the malfeasance of the NSA and gave all of them to journalists.
Yet even as Mr. Snowden’s narrative was taking hold in the public realm, a secret damage assessment done by the NSA and Pentagon told a very different story. According to a unanimous report declassified on Dec. 22 by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, the investigation showed that Mr. Snowden had “removed” (not merely touched) 1.5 million documents. That huge number was based on, among other evidence, electronic logs that recorded the selection, copying and moving of documents.
The number of purloined documents is more than what NSA officials were willing to say in 2013 about the removal of data, possibly because the House committee had the benefit of the Pentagon’s more-extensive investigation. But even just taking into account the material that Mr. Snowden handed over to journalists, the December House report concluded that he compromised “secrets that protect American troops overseas and secrets that provide vital defenses against terrorists and nation-states.” These were, the report said, “merely the tip of the iceberg.”
The Pentagon’s investigation during 2013 and 2014 employed hundreds of military-intelligence officers, working around the clock, to review all 1.5 million documents. Most had nothing to do with domestic surveillance or whistle blowing. They were mainly military secrets, as Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified before the House Armed Services Committee on March 6, 2014.
It was not the quantity of Mr. Snowden’s theft but the quality that was most telling. Mr. Snowden’s theft put documents at risk that could reveal the NSA’s Level 3 tool kit—a reference to documents containing the NSA’s most-important sources and methods. Since the agency was created in 1952, Russia and other adversary nations had been trying to penetrate its Level-3 secrets without great success.
Yet it was precisely these secrets that Mr. Snowden changed jobs to steal. In an interview in Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post on June 15, 2013, he said he sought to work on a Booz Allen contract at the CIA, even at a cut in pay, because it gave him access to secret lists of computers that the NSA was tapping into around the world.
He evidently succeeded. In a 2014 interview with Vanity Fair, Richard Ledgett, the NSA executive who headed the damage-assessment team, described one lengthy document taken by Mr. Snowden that, if it fell into the wrong hands, would provide a “road map” to what targets abroad the NSA was, and was not, covering. It contained the requests made by the 17 U.S. services in the so-called Intelligence Community for NSA interceptions abroad.
On June 23, less than two weeks after Mr. Snowden released the video that helped present his narrative, he left Hong Kong and flew to Moscow, where he received protection by the Russian government. In much of the media coverage that followed, the ultimate destination of these stolen secrets was fogged over—if not totally obscured from the public—by the unverified claims that Mr. Snowden was spoon feeding to handpicked journalists.
In his narrative, Mr. Snowden always claims that he was a conscientious “whistleblower” who turned over all the stolen NSA material to journalists in Hong Kong. He has insisted he had no intention of defecting to Russia but was on his way to Latin America when he was trapped in Russia by the U.S. government in an attempt to demonize him.
For example, in October 2014, he told the editor of the Nation, “I’m in exile. My government revoked my passport intentionally to leave me exiled” and “chose to keep me in Russia.” According to Mr. Snowden, the U.S. government accomplished this entrapment by suspending his passport while he was in midair after he departed Hong Kong on June 23, thus forcing him into the hands of President Vladimir Putin’s regime.
None of this is true. The State Department invalidated Mr. Snowden’s passport while he was still in Hong Kong, not after he left for Moscow on June 23. The “Consul General-Hong Kong confirmed that Hong Kong authorities were notified that Mr. Snowden’s passport was revoked June 22,” according to the State Department’s senior watch officer, as reported by ABC news on June 23, 2013.
Mr. Snowden could not have been unaware of the government’s pursuit of him, since the criminal complaint against him, which was filed June 14, had been headline news in Hong Kong. That the U.S. acted against him while he was still in Hong Kong is of great importance to the timeline because it points to the direct involvement of Aeroflot, an airline which the Russian government effectively controls. Aeroflot bypassed its normal procedures to allow Mr. Snowden to board the Moscow flight—even though he had neither a valid passport nor a Russian visa, as his newly assigned lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, said at a press conference in Russia on July 12, 2013.
By falsely claiming his passport was invalidated after the plane departed Hong Kong—instead of before he left—Mr. Snowden hoped to conceal this extraordinary waiver. The Russian government further revealed its helping hand, judging by a report in Russia’s Izvestia newspaper when, on arrival, Mr. Snowden was taken off the plane by a security team in a “special operation.”
Nor was it any kind of accident. Vladimir Putin personally authorized this assistance after Mr. Snowden met with Russian officials in Hong Kong, as Mr. Putin admitted in a televised press conference on Sept. 2, 2013.
To provide a smokescreen for Mr. Snowden’s escape from Hong Kong, WikiLeaks (an organization that the Obama administration asserted to be a tool of Russian intelligence after the hacking of Democratic Party leaders’ email in 2016) booked a dozen or more diversionary flight reservations to other destinations for Mr. Snowden.
WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange also dispatched Sarah Harrison, his deputy at WikiLeaks, to fly to Hong Kong to pay Mr. Snowden’s expenses and escort him to Moscow. In short, Mr. Snowden’s arrival in Moscow was neither accidental nor the work of the U.S. government.
Mr. Snowden’s own narrative asserts that he came to Russia not only empty-handed but without access to any of the stolen material. He wrote in Vanity Fair in 2014 that he had destroyed all of it before arriving in Moscow—the very data that he went to such lengths to steal a few weeks earlier in Hawaii.
As it turns out, this claim is also untrue. It is belied by two Kremlin insiders who were in a position to know what Mr. Snowden actually brought with him to Moscow. One of them, Frants Klintsevich, was the first deputy chairman of the defense and security committee of the Duma (Russia’s parliament) at the time of Mr. Snowden’s defection. “Let’s be frank,” Mr. Klintsevich said in a taped interview with NPR in June 2016, “Mr. Snowden did share intelligence. This is what security services do.”
The other insider was Anatoly Kucherena, a well-connected Moscow lawyer and Mr. Putin’s friend. Mr. Kucherena served as the intermediary between Mr. Snowden and Russian authorities. On Sept. 23, 2013, Mr. Kucherena gave a long interview to Sophie Shevardnadze, a journalist for Russia Today television.
When Ms. Shevardnadze directly asked him if Mr. Snowden had given all the documents he had taken from the NSA to journalists in Hong Kong, Mr. Kucherena said Mr. Snowden had only given “some” of the NSA’s documents in his possession to journalists in Hong Kong. “So he [Mr. Snowden] does have some materials that haven’t been made public yet?” Ms. Shevardnadze asked. “Certainly,” Mr. Kucherena answered.
This disclosure filled in a crucial piece of the puzzle. It explained why NSA documents that Mr. Snowden had copied, but had not given to the journalists in Hong Kong—such as the embarrassing revelation about the NSA targeting the cellphone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel—continued to surface after Mr. Snowden arrived in Moscow, along with NSA documents released via WikiLeaks.
As this was a critical discrepancy in Mr. Snowden’s narrative, I went to Moscow in October 2015 to see Mr. Kucherena. During our conversation, Mr. Kucherena confirmed that his interview with Ms. Shevardnadze was accurate, and that Mr. Snowden had brought secret material with him to Moscow.
Mr. Snowden’s narrative also includes the assertion that he was neither debriefed by nor even met with any Russian government official after he arrived in Moscow. This part of the narrative runs counter to findings of U.S. intelligence. According to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence report, Mr. Snowden, since he arrived in Moscow, “has had, and continues to have, contact with Russian intelligence services.” This finding is consistent with Russian debriefing practices, as described by the ex-KGB officers with whom I spoke in Moscow
Mr. Snowden also publicly claimed in Moscow in December 2013 to have secrets in his head, including “access to every target, every active operation. Full lists of them.” Could Mr. Snowden’s Russian hosts ignore such an opportunity after Mr. Putin had authorized his exfiltration to Moscow? Mr. Snowden, with no exit options, was in the palm of their hands. Under such circumstances, as Mr. Klintsevich pointed out in his June NPR interview: “If there’s a possibility to get information, they [the Russian intelligence services] will get it.”
The transfer of state secrets from Mr. Snowden to Russia did not occur in a vacuum. The intelligence war did not end with the termination of the Cold War; it shifted to cyberspace. Even if Russia could not match the NSA’s state-of-the-art sensors, computers and productive partnerships with the cipher services of Britain, Israel, Germany and other allies, it could nullify the U.S. agency’s edge by obtaining its sources and methods from even a single contractor with access to Level 3 documents.
Russian intelligence uses a single umbrella term to cover anyone who delivers it secret intelligence. Whether a person acted out of idealistic motives, sold information for money or remained clueless of the role he or she played in the transfer of secrets—the provider of secret data is considered an “espionage source.” By any measure, it is a job description that fits Mr. Snowden.
Mr. Epstein’s book, “How America Lost Its Secrets: Edward Snowden, the Man and the Theft,” will be published by Knopf in January.
A national commission on Friday delivered urgent recommendations to improve the nation’s cybersecurity, weeks before US president-elect Donald Trump takes office. The report follows the worst hacking of US government systems in history and accusations by the Obama administration that Russia meddled in the US presidential election by hacking Democrats.
The Presidential Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity, which was expected to spell out actions the US can take over the next 10 years, instead urged more immediate actions within two to five years. It suggested the Trump administration consider some items “deserving action” within the first 100 days.
The commission recognised that what we’ve been doing over the last 15 to 20 years simply isn’t working, and the problem isn’t going to be fixed simply by adding more money
STEVEN CHABINSKY, COMMISSION MEMBER
It recommended that Trump create an assistant to the president for cybersecurity, who would report through the national security adviser, and establish an ambassador for cybersecurity, who would lead efforts to create international rules. It urged steps, such as getting rid of traditional passwords, to end the threat of identity theft by 2021 and said Trump’s administration should train 100,000 new cybersecurity workers by 2020.
Other ideas included helping consumers to judge products using an independent “nutritional label” for technology products and services.
“The commission recognised that what we’ve been doing over the last 15 to 20 years simply isn’t working, and the problem isn’t going to be fixed simply by adding more money,” said Steven Chabinsky, a commission member and the global chair of the data, privacy and cybersecurity practice for White & Case LLP, an international law firm.
He said the group wanted the burden of cybersecurity “moved away from every computer user and handled at higher levels”, including internet providers and product developers who could ensure security by default and design “for everyone’s benefit”.
The White House requested the report in February and intended it to serve as a transition memo for the next president. The commission included 12 of what the White House described as the brightest minds in business, academia, technology and security. It was led by Tom Donilon, Obama’s former national security adviser.
The panel studied sharing information with private companies about cyber threats, the lack of talented American security engineers and distrust of the US government by private businesses, especially in Silicon Valley. Classified documents stolen under Obama by Edward Snowden, a contractor for the National Security Agency, revealed government efforts to hack into the data pipelines used by US companies to serve customers overseas.
One commissioner, Herbert Lin of Stanford University, said some senior information technology managers distrust the federal government as much as they distrust China, widely regarded as actively hacking in the US.
President Barack Obama and, from left, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, former IBM CEO Sam Palmisano, former National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. Photo: AP
President Barack Obama said in a written statement after meeting with Donilon that his administration will take additional action “wherever possible” to build on its efforts make progress before he leaves office next month. He urged Trump and the next Congress to treat the recommendations as a guide.
“Now it is time for the next administration to take up this charge and ensure that cyberspace can continue to be the driver for prosperity, innovation, and change both in the United States and around the world,” Obama said.
It was not immediately clear whether Trump would accept the group’s recommendations. Trump won election on promises to reduce government regulations, although decades of relying on market pressure or asking businesses to voluntarily make their products and services safer have been largely ineffective.
Now it is time for the next administration to take up this charge and ensure that cyberspace can continue to be the driver for prosperity, innovation, and change both in the United States and around the world
US PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA
Trump’s presidential campaign benefited from embarrassing disclosures in hacked emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee, Hillary Clinton’s campaign staff and others, and Trump openly invited Russian hackers to find and release tens of thousands of personal emails that Clinton had deleted from the private server she had used to conduct government business as secretary of state. He also disputed the Obama administration’s conclusion that Russia was responsible for the Democratic hackings.
Though Trump is a prolific user of online social media services, especially Twitter, he is rarely seen using a computer. His campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, tweeted a photograph on Monday of Trump working on an Apple laptop inside his office at Trump Tower. And he testified in a deposition in 2012 that he did not own a personal computer or smartphone, and in another deposition earlier this year said he deliberately does not use email.
Trump has already promised his own study by a “Cyber Review Team” of people he said he will select from military, law enforcement and private sectors. He said his team will develop mandatory cyber awareness training for all US government employees, and he has proposed a buildup of US military offensive and defensive cyber capabilities that he said will deter foreign hackers.
The new report suggested that the government should remain the only organisation responsible for responding to large-scale attacks by foreign countries.
Obama has a mixed legacy on cybersecurity.
Under Obama, hackers stole personal data from the US Office of Personnel Management on more than 21 million current, former and prospective government employees, including details of security-clearance background investigations for federal agents, intelligence employees and others. The White House also failed in its efforts to convince Congress to pass a national law – similar to laws passed in some states – to require hacked companies to notify affected customers.
But the Obama administration also became more aggressive about publicly identifying foreign governments it accused of hacking US victims, arrested some high-profile hackers overseas, successfully shut down some large networks of hacked computers used to attack online targets, enacted but never actually used economic sanctions against countries that hacked American targets and used a sophisticated new cyberweapon called Stuxnet against Iran’s main nuclear enrichment facilities.
Congress passed a new law in late 2015 to encourage companies and the government to share information about online threats.
This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as:
National Security Agency Director Adm. Michael Rogers, commander of U.S. Cyber Command, speaks on cyber security at Georgetown University on April 26, 2016 in Washington, DC. Rogers joined FBI Director James Comey to address the sixth annual International Conference on “Cyber Engagement: Discussing Critical Policy Alternatives,” held by Georgetown University’s Master of Science in Foreign Service CyberProject. Alex Wong/Getty Images
The White House, the Defense Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence declined to comment on the reports.
According to a U.S. official, in September Carter and Clapper recommended to Obama a split between the commands of the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command that would result in the removal of Admiral Mike Rogers as the head of both commands.
The NSA is responsible for collecting international signals intelligence. U.S. Cyber Command (CYBERCOM) is responsible for the defense of military computer networks, but can also conduct offensive cyber operations, as it has done recently against ISIS’ cyber networks.
If the recommendation to split the commands is approved it could result in separate individuals respectively heading the NSA and Cyber Command. Rogers assumed leadership of both commands in April, 2014, a term that would likely end next April.
In an unusual move, on Thursday Rogers met with President-elect Donald Trump. No readout was given of what they discussed.
Should U.S. Cyber Command become a new combatant command, it would be up to the Defense Secretary to recommend the four star officer to head the new head of the command. Though it is a four star command, in a complex arrangement U.S. Cyber Command falls under U.S. Strategic Command, one of the nine combatant commands.
If President Obama agrees with the recommendation, Admiral Rogers or another military officer could be named to head Cyber Command and a civilian could head the NSA.
A new head of the NSA would require the input of both the Defense Secretary and the Director of National Intelligence.
In response to the possibility that Rogers could be removed as the head of the NSA, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-California, chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, sent a letter to Carter and Clapper praising Rogers performance.
“Since Admiral Rogers was appointed as NSA Director in April 2014, I have been consistently impressed with his leadership and accomplishments,” Nunes said. “His professionalism, expertise and deckplate leadership have been remarkable during an extremely challenging period for NSA. I know other members of Congress hold him in similarly high esteem.”
Nunes asked Carter and Clapper “to provide a full explanation of the allegations contained in the Post article” and said he would convene an open hearing “at the earliest possible opportunity.”
“I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt if they can provide documentation and correspondence where they’ve had concerns with the admiral’s performance,” Nunes said in an interview with ABC News. “My guess is, I’ll hear crickets.”
The California Republican says he believes the leak behind the initial story was “100-percent politically motivated,” following Rogers visit with Trump in New York City, and referred to the administration, Defense Department the Office of the Director of National Intelligence as “sad, pathetic losers” for the charges about Rogers’s performance.
Nunes, who is a member of Trump’s transition team, said Rogers would be a “qualified candidate” to join the incoming administration.
Of the debate over separating the commands of the NSA and U.S. Cyber Command, Nunes said the issue is “quite complicated” and “not something that should be rushed into.”
Hackers that wreaked havoc across the US on Friday by shutting down major websites could have relied on household items to take down servers.
Early investigations into the attack that crippled websites across the US and in some parts of the UK on Friday found the ‘internet of things’ could have been used to overload servers at Dyn – the company that was targeted.
The shocking development revealed almost 500,000 items were potentially at risk of being activated without their owners’ knowledge, with everything from baby monitors, DVRs, security cameras, and other gadgets turned into cyber weapons.
Hackers that wreaked havoc across the US on Friday by shutting down major websites could have relied on household items to take down servers. This is a map showing the areas hit by the reported outages
Hackers that wreaked havoc across the US on Friday by shutting down major websites could have relied on household items to take down servers. This is a map showing the areas hit by the reported outages
Dyn’s chief strategy officer Kyle York said on Friday: ‘This is not your every day attack’
‘The complexity of the attacks is what is making it so difficult for us,’ Kyle York, the company’s chief strategy officer, said.
‘This is not your every day attack.’
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Dyn’s general counsel, Dave Allen, later confirmed that much of the traffic being used to take down servers was coming from internet-connected devices infected with a type of malware known as Mirai.
An online security expert explained how at least 45,000 ‘internet of things’ object were used in the attack on Dyn.
Early investigations suggest the ‘internet of things’, which includes baby monitors, was used by the hackers to overload servers (stock image)
Dyn’s chief strategy officer Kyle York said on Friday: ‘This is not your every day attack’
Dale Drew, chief security officer at Level 3 Communications, said so during a livestream on Friday, before saying the total number of infected items has almost doubled in just one month.
The alarming new information comes after Wikileaks revealed it thought its supporters were behind the hack.
The group sent out a tweet on Friday night reading: ‘Stop taking down the US internet… Mr Assange is still alive and WikiLeaks is still publishing.’
It then tweeted: ‘The Obama administration should not have attempted to misuse its instruments of state to stop criticism of its ruling party candidate.’
The Ecuadorian government switched off Assange’s internet service in its UK embassy Sunday after he released another tranche of emails showing the contents of a speech given by Hillary Clinton to Goldman Sachs.
DDoS attacks are a primitive form of hacking using botnets – networks of computers that hackers bring under their control.
They do this by getting users to inadvertently download software, typically by following a link in an email or agreeing to download a corrupted file.
Even smart home gadgets such as connected cameras and DVRs can be taken over in this way.
These botnets are then used to bombard the servers with simple requests for information carried out simultaneously, causing them to become overwhelmed and shut down.
WikiLeaks accused John Kerry and the US Government of asking Ecuador to shut down Assange’s internet connection, but the South American country denied it came under any pressure from the US or any other government.
Despite WikiLeaks’ claims its supporters were behind the attacks, members of a shadowy collective that calls itself New World Hackers claimed responsibility via Twitter.
They said they organized networks of connected ‘zombie’ computers called botnets that threw a staggering 1.2 terabits per second of data at the Dyn-managed servers.
‘We didn’t do this to attract federal agents, only test power,’ two collective members who identified themselves as ‘Prophet’ and ‘Zain’ told an AP reporter via Twitter direct message exchange.
A chart shows Twitter outages over the last 24 hours with a huge peak later in the day
A chart shows Twitter outages over the last 24 hours with a huge peak later in the day
A number of major sites including Spotify are to be down in an internet outage. Internet infrastructure provider Dyn said this was due to an ongoing interruption of its network. Pictured is a chart of Spotify outages reported in the last 24 hours on Down Detector
A number of major sites including Spotify are to be down in an internet outage. Internet infrastructure provider Dyn said this was due to an ongoing interruption of its network. Pictured is a chart of Spotify outages reported in the last 24 hours on Down Detector
WHAT ARE DOMAIN NAME SERVERS USED FOR?
Anonymous in 2010 targeted the DNS provider EveryDNS as retribution for denying service to WikiLeaks
Domain name servers are a crucial element of internet infrastructure, converting numbered Internet Protocol addresses into the domain names that allow users to connect to internet sites.
The loose-knit hacktivist network Anonymous in 2010 targeted the DNS provider EveryDNS among others in 2010 as retribution for denying service to the anti-secrecy organization WikiLeaks.
Though such attacks are not uncommon, Friday’s incident immediately underscored the interconnected vulnerabilities for large portions of the internet, with brand-name companies affected by an attack on a single company.
‘The internet continues to rely on protocols and infrastructure designed before cyber security was an issue,’ said Ben Johnson, a former engineer at the National Security Agency and founder of the cyber-security company Carbon Black.
The White House slammed the attack on Friday, calling it a malicious disruption.
Internet service company Dyn, which controls the ‘address book’ of the internet for dozens of major companies, said that it had suffered its first denial of service (DDoS) attack shortly after 6AM ET (11AM BST), in an attack that mostly affected the east coast of the US.
It told CNBC the attack is ‘well planned and executed, coming from tens of millions of IP addresses at same time.’
It confirmed a second attack at 1PM ET, which appeared to be centered on UK servers, and later said ‘several’ attacks were underway on servers across the globe, with the west coast being particularly badly hit.
Dyn said Friday evening a third cyber attack ‘has been resolved’.
The cyber attack meant that millions of internet users could not access the websites of major online companies such as Netflix and Reddit as well as the crafts marketplace Etsy and the software developer site Github, according to media reports.
The website Gizmodo said it had received reports of difficulty at sites for media outlets including CNN, The Guardian, Wired, HBO and People as well as the money transfer service PayPal.
The Obama administration is contemplating an unprecedented cyber covert action against Russia in retaliation for alleged Russian interference in the American presidential election, U.S. intelligence officials told NBC News.
Current and former officials with direct knowledge of the situation say the CIA has been asked to deliver options to the White House for a wide-ranging “clandestine” cyber operation designed to harass and “embarrass” the Kremlin leadership.
The sources did not elaborate on the exact measures the CIA was considering, but said the agency had already begun opening cyber doors, selecting targets and making other preparations for an operation. Former intelligence officers told NBC News that the agency had gathered reams of documents that could expose unsavory tactics by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Vice President Joe Biden told “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd on Friday that “we’re sending a message” to Putin and that “it will be at the time of our choosing, and under the circumstances that will have the greatest impact.”
When asked if the American public will know a message was sent, the vice president replied, “Hope not.”
Retired Admiral James Stavridis told NBC News’ Cynthia McFadden that the U.S. should attack Russia’s ability to censor its internal internet traffic and expose the financial dealings of Putin and his associates.
“It’s well known that there’s great deal of offshore money moved outside of Russia from oligarchs,” he said. “It would be very embarrassing if that was revealed, and that would be a proportional response to what we’ve seen” in Russia’s alleged hacks and leaks targeting U.S. public opinion.
Sean Kanuck, who was until this spring the senior U.S. intelligence official responsible for analyzing Russian cyber capabilities, said not mounting a response would carry a cost.
“If you publicly accuse someone,” he said, “and don’t follow it up with a responsive action, that may weaken the credible threat of your response capability.”
President Obama will ultimately have to decide whether he will authorize a CIA operation. Officials told NBC News that for now there are divisions at the top of the administration about whether to proceed.
Two former CIA officers who worked on Russia told NBC News that there is a long history of the White House asking the CIA to come up with options for covert action against Russia, including cyber options — only to abandon the idea.
“We’ve always hesitated to use a lot of stuff we’ve had, but that’s a political decision,” one former officer said. “If someone has decided, `We’ve had enough of the Russians,’ there is a lot we can do. Step one is to remind them that two can play at this game and we have a lot of stuff. Step two, if you are looking to mess with their networks, we can do that, but then the issue becomes, they can do worse things to us in other places.”
A second former officer, who helped run intelligence operations against Russia, said he was asked several times in recent years to work on covert action plans, but “none of the options were particularly good, nor did we think that any of them would be particularly effective,” he said.
Putin is almost beyond embarrassing, he said, and anything the U.S. can do against, for example, Russian bank accounts, the Russian can do in response.
“Do you want to have Barack Obama bouncing checks?” he asked.
Former CIA deputy director Michael Morell expressed skepticism that the U.S. would go so far as to attack Russian networks.
“Physical attacks on networks is not something the U.S. wants to do because we don’t want to set a precedent for other countries to do it as well, including against us,” he said. “My own view is that our response shouldn’t be covert — it should overt, for everybody to see.”
The Obama administration is debating just that question, officials say — whether to respond to Russia via cyber means, or with traditional measures such as sanctions.
The CIA’s cyber operation is being prepared by a team within the CIA’s Center for Cyber Intelligence, documents indicate. According to officials, the team has a staff of hundreds and a budget in the hundreds of millions, they say.
The covert action plan is designed to protect the U.S. election system and insure that Russian hackers can’t interfere with the November vote, officials say. Another goal is to send a message to Russia that it has crossed a line, officials say.
While the National Security Agency is the center for American digital spying, the CIA is the lead agency for covert action and has its own cyber capabilities. It sometimes brings in the NSA and the Pentagon to help, officials say.
In earlier days, the CIA was behind efforts to use the internet to put pressure on Slobodan Milosevic in Serbia in 1999, and to pressure Iraqi leadership in 2003 to split off from Saddam Hussein.
According to documents leaked by Edward Snowden, the CIA requested $685.4 million for computer network operations in 2013, compared to $1 billion by the NSA.
Retired Gen. Mike Hayden, who ran the CIA after leading the NSA, wrote this year: “We even had our own cyber force, the Information Operations Center (IOC), that former CIA director George Tenet launched and which had grown steadily under the next spy chief, Porter Goss, and me. The CIA didn’t try to replicate or try to compete with NSA… the IOC was a lot like Marine Corps aviation while NSA was an awful lot like America’s Air Force.”
“I would quote a Russian proverb,” said Adm. Stavridis, “which is, ‘Probe with bayonets. When you hit mush, proceed. When you hit steel withdraw.’ I think unless we stand up to this kind of cyber attack from Russia, we’ll only see more and more of it in the future.”
The Obama administration is threatening to launch a vast cyber war against Russia in response to the country’s alleged interference with the presidential election.
Vice President Joe Biden told NBC News Friday that “we’re sending a message” to Russian President Vladimir Putin and that the wide-ranging “clandestine” cyber operation will take place.
“We’re sending a message,” Biden said during an interview with “Meet the Press” that will air on Sunday. “We have the capacity to do it. It will be at the time of our choosing, and under the circumstances that will have the greatest impact,”
The vice president belittled Russia’s alleged interference in the US election but stressed their efforts, however futile, would be responded in kind.
“Their capacity to fundamentally alter the election is not what people think,” Biden said.
“And I tell you what, to the extent that they do we will be proportional in what we do.”
It was not clear whether the American public would be alerted when or if an attack actually took place. When asked about whether the public would even be aware an attack took place Biden simply said “Hope not.”
Intelligence officials told NBC News that CIA has already begun “opening cyber doors, selecting targets and making other preparations for an operation.”
James Stavridis, a retired four-star Navy admiral who served as the supreme allied commander at NATO, told NBC that the CIA should “embarrass” the Kremlin by exposing financial dealings of Putin and his cronies.
“It’s well known that there’s great deal of offshore money moved outside of Russia from oligarchs,” Stavridis said. “It would be very embarrassing if that was revealed, and that would be a proportional response to what we’ve seen” in the recent hacks into US political figures and committees.
“These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the U.S. election process,” the Office of Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security said in a joint statement last Friday. “We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities.”
The talk of an impending cyber war between the two countries takes place while the powers struggle to collaborate in the war against ISIS and inside Syria.
The ultimate decision on whether to launch to cyber attack would rest with President Obama, officials said. Sources told NBC News that there are diverging view within the administration about how to proceed.
“I think unless we stand up to this kind of cyber attack from Russia, we’ll only see more and more of it in the future,” Admiral Stavridis said.
Gen. Michael Hayden: Russia launches cyberattacks to “mess with our heads”
One of the most critical issues facing the 2016 presidential nominees is national security. In this installment of “Issues That Matter,” retired four-star Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden – who served as director of the CIA and the NSA, as well as principal deputy director of national intelligence – takes a look at the threats the next president will have to confront.
The Obama administration is “confident” that Russia is trying to interfere in the presidential election – and so is the former CIA and NSA director, Gen. Michael Hayden. Though Russia has denied the allegations, Hayden says he thinks Russia is trying to “erode” Americans’ larger confidence in the political process.
“The Clinton campaign has said they’re doing it to pick a winner. I don’t think that’s true,” Hayden, a retired four-star Air Force general, told “CBS This Morning” Friday. “It’s to mess with our heads. It’s to do to us what he thinks we do to him and his political processes. It’s a way of his pushing back against what he views to be American pressure.”
Hayden believes Russian criminal gangs, directed by the Russian state, are behind the hack of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s emails. Clinton has vowed as president to fight cyberattacks like any other assault on the country, with “serious political, economic and military responses.” Hayden agrees, but thinks cyberattacks should be examined in a larger context.
“Don’t put this in the ‘cyber problem’ box. Put this in the ‘Russian problem’ box,” Hayden said. “Put this in that box with all these other indicators – actual Russian behavior to which we should respond – in my view, respond more robustly than we’ve responded.”
U.S. President Barack Obama arrives aboard the Marine One helicopter to depart O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, Illinois, U.S. October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Hayden said the Obama administration’s response to the Russia’s intervention in Syria has been “too light,” agreeing with criticism that the U.S. has created a “vacuum” in the war-torn country. Hayden suggested different ways U.S. actions could be “more robust” to create a “tectonic shift in a Russian pressure point.”
“Can we be more robust in Ukraine, with regard to what we may or may not provide them? Can we be more robust in Syria, with how much space we give the Russians to operate?” Hayden said. “Getting out of the narrow box, why don’t we make it American policy to wean the Europeans off of Russian gas? Why don’t we simply say, ‘We got it, we’re going to exploit it, and we’re going to ship it.’”
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have found little common ground on issues in the presidential campaign, but both have suggested setting up some form of safe zones in Syria. Hayden agreed, but said it would be complicated to do – especially given Russia’s presence there – and suggested creating “relatively thin zones” along the Turkish and Jordanian borders.
“And here’s where it really gets tough, all right? And at this point you actually got to say to all the players,’We’re serious. This is a safe zone.’ Now we got responsibilities. We can’t let one side or the other operate out of there and conduct attacks. That’s our policing function, it’s not yours, you can’t go there,’” Hayden said.
“I thought (that) was far more robust. Unfortunately, he was disowned by his own presidential candidate,” Hayden said, referring to Trump’s claim in the second presidential debate that he disagreed with his running mate on the Syrian matter.
Former CIA and NSA director Gen. Michael Hayden
“But I do think on a raw, humanitarian basis, we’ve got to do more,” Hayden said.
Hayden also addressed other critical foreign policy issues confronting the next president, ranking them on a timeline according to “how bad is it, how much time do you have?” Hayden set terrorism – cyberattacks included – first on the timeline, then, three to five years from now, threats from “ambitious, fragile and nuclear” states including North Korea, Pakistan, Iran and Russia.
“And then… when I run the timeline out here about ten years, I got this bubble way up here that’s really important and that’s the Sino-American relationship,” Hayden said. “Not saying China’s an enemy, but if we don’t get that right, over the long term, that’s pass-fail.”
Two F-15K Slam Eagles flying above a U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer supersonic bomber over South Korea on Sept. 21, a show of force the U.S. said was aimed at reminding North Korea of its powerful military assets in the region. The flight was the closest a B-1 has ever been to the inter-Korean border.PHOTO: KYEONG RYUL/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES