Posts Tagged ‘National Security Agency’

Germany Committee Investigating U.S. Spy Efforts in Germany Submits Report — Without Consensus

June 28, 2017

Report is critical of both the US and German governments

A German investigative committee has presented its findings to the Bundestag on US spying on Germany – and Germany’s spying on its allies. The report is more than 1800 pages long but contains little consensus.

Patrick Sensburg handing the report to Norbert Lammert

More than three years work went into the report presented by investigative committee chairman Patrick Sensburg to the Bundestag on Wednesday, but in the end no one is happy with it.

The multi-party parliamentary investigation was sparked by the 2013 revelation by former National Security Agency employee Edward Snowden that US intelligence services had kept allies under surveillance, even going so far  as to eavesdrop on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone.

“It’s not okay for friends to spy on one another,” Merkel said in her most famous statement when the affair broke.

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But investigators soon found out that Germany’s foreign intelligence service the BND had cooperated with the NSA and also kept tabs on its allies, for instance, by using so-called selectors – search terms for dragnet surveillance. The investigation was soon expanded to include the question of whether the US had piloted drones used in combat from its bases in Germany – an accusation that was never proven, although the report finds  that the German government often “looked the other way.

The committee’s report contains a head-spinning plethora of minutiae about everything from the technical specifications or capabilities of drones to various national and international intelligence operations. But it rarely reaches clear conclusions about what, if anything, was done wrong by whom. That was – as the report admits – down to fighting between political parties.

Angela Merkel testifying before the committeeMerkel testified before the committee in February

“Unfortunately, despite the common conviction of all parliamentary groups about the necessity of the investigation when it began, there were substantial disagreements between the governing and opposition groups about the methodology and goals of the committee’s work,” the report reads.

The report is being published by the governing coalition of the conservative CDU-CSU and Social Democrats alone, after a row last week about a 450-page dissent written by the opposition Left Party and the Greens. The chairman of the committee refused to publish that document, claiming it revealed classified information, whereupon the Left and Greens refused to sign off on the final version of the report as a whole and were removed from the committee.

A massive document of dissent

Although the report is critical of both the US and German governments on a number of topics, on the underlying question of whether the US essentially betrayed Germany’s trust, it reaches many “surprisingly positive” conclusions.

For example, one such passage reads: “The committee is of the opinion that despite all the difference concerning NSA spying in the past there is relatively large agreement about the rigor and establishment of intelligence service oversight by the parliaments in Germany and the US.”

The opposition Left Party and Greens see the situation entirely differently. In a section that was included in the official report, the two parties make a series of extremely critical recommendations, including subjecting German intelligence services to increased external and parliamentary oversight, strengthening IT security and ending what they call “a secret war in, from and with Germany.”

“Germany and facilities located in Germany are not permitted to play any role in drone warfare that violates international law,” the opposition parties write. “The German government must immediately and forcefully insist that all actions of this sort cease and must monitor it.”

“Unprecedented, unparliamentary behavior”

The opposition also criticizes the fact that Snowden, who currently lives in asylum in Russia, was never able to testify in front of the committee because the German government refused to guarantee him safe conduct. In a TV interview on Wednesday morning ahead of the Bundestag debate, Green parliamentarian Konstantin von Notz called Snowden’s absence “a damning indictment.”

The Left Party and the Greens say they are evaluating whether to legally challenge what Notz called the governing coalition’s “unprecedented un-parliamentary behavior.”

The committee only succeeded in “scraping free” a part of the “surveillance infrastructure,” Notz complained to the Tagesspiegel newspaper.

Konstantin von Notz Opposition committee members like Notz heavily criticized the findings

Members of the governing parties disagree with that assessment and accuse the opposition trying to create a scandal in an election year.

“There are no indications that Germans were spied upon en masse,” conservative committee chairman Sensburg that newspaper.

The Social Democrats’ lead figureb on the committee Christian Flisek accused the opposition of a “complete refusal” to cooperate. But he also aimed a barb at conservatives and Merkel.

“There was a system of the very top of the Chancellery of not wanting to know anything,” Flisek told dpa news agency.

The verbal jousting over the NSA investigative committee report will continue as the Bundestag debates it on Wedsnesday evening.

NSA Leaker Called Trump A “Piece Of Shit”, Is A Fan Of Bernie Sanders

June 6, 2017


Step aside Edward Snowden: the world has another leaking NSA contractor to obsess with, if only for the next 15 minutes.

As reported earlier, Reality Leigh Winner is the 25-year-old woman who stole “Top secret” documents from the National Security Agency and leaked them to The Intercept, “confirming” that the Russian military intelligence GRU was behind an attempt to hack more than 100 local election officials.

There may be more here, however, than meets the eye.

WH: Intel Chair to Brief Trump on ‘Monitoring’

First, dome details on her background.

Winner was born in Texas in December 1991. She was raised in Kingsville, a small city in the south of the state, about 40 miles from Corpus Christi.

Sometime later she moved to Maryland. According to public records, she had on her record was one citation, issued December 13, 2016, in Howard, Maryland for failing to control her vehicle’s speed on a highway to avoid a collision. She reportedly went to H.M. King High School and lived in Columbia, Maryland at a time. She has a sister, Brittany, who is studying for a PhD in Pharmacology and Toxicology at Michigan State University.

Reality began working defense contractor Pluribus International Corporation,in Augusta, Georgia, in February this year, according to court filings (see below). She previously served in the US air force since January 2013 and held a top-secret security clearance, indicating she first got her top secret clearance in her early 20s.

Winner-Davis told the Guardian that her daughter had joined the military soon after graduating from H M King high school. As well as being bright academically, she excelled in tennis and athletics. “But she had gotten a little tired of school,” said her mother, and decided against continuing with college. The Guardian’s Jon Swaine adds that according to Winner’s mother, the leaker is a former US Air Force linguist who speaks Pashto, Farsi and Dari. “She speaks the middle eastern languages – Farsi, Dari and Pashto,” said Winner-Davis, who laughed when asked if she had taught them to her daughter. “No, she did it all on her own,” she said.

According to the affidavit filed by arresting FBI agent Justin Garrick, Winner was a contractor with Pluribus International Corporation, who was assigned to aNSA facility in Georgia. She was employed at the facility since February 13, 2017, and has held a Top Secret clearance during that time. Less than a month after she joined, on May 9, 2017, Winner printed and improperly removed classified intelligence reporting, which contained classified national defense information and was dated on or about May 5, 2017 from an Intelligence Community Agency and unlawfully retained it. A few days later, Winner then sent the classified material – apparently using the work email associated with her desk computer – to the Intercept.

Speaking to the Guardian, On Monday evening, her mother struggled to say whether her daughter’s alleged leak would constitute an act of bravery or a painful mistake. “I don’t know, I don’t know,” Winner-Davis said. “I don’t know what the hacking thing all means. Has it made a difference in the election? Who knows.” Her family knows little except that they are bewildered and concerned about the possible 10-year prison sentence that Winner could receive if convicted. “She’s a beautiful girl,” said her mother. “Everyone who meets her loves her, and she’s kind.”

Some details on how Winner was arrested:

on June I, 2017, the FBI was notified by the U.S. Government Agency that the U.S. Government Agency had been contacted by the News Outlet [Intercept] on May 30, 2017, regarding an upcoming story. The News Outlet informed the U.S. Government Agency that it was in possession of what it believed to be a classified document authored by the U.S. Government Agency. The News Outlet provided the U.S. Government Agency with a copy of this document. Subsequent analysis by the U.S. Government Agency confirmed that the document in the News Outlet’s possession is the intelligence reporting. The intelligence reporting is classified at the Top Secret level, indicating that its unauthorized disclosure could reasonably result in exceptionally grave damage to the national security, and is marked as such.

The U.S. Government Agency examined the document shared by the News Outlet and determined the pages of the intelligence reporting appeared to be folded and/or creased, suggesting they had been printed and hand-carried out of a secured space.

The U.S. Government Agency conducted an internal audit to determine who accessed the intelligence reporting since its publication. The U.S. Government Agency determined that six individuals printed this reporting. WINNER was one of these six individuals. A further audit of the six individuals’ desk computers revealed that WINNER had e-mail contact with the News Outlet. The audit did not reveal that any of the other individuals had e-mail contact with the News Outlet.

The moment of her arrest:

On June 3, 2017, [Garrick] spoke to WINNER at her home in Augusta, Georgia. During that conversation, WINNER admitted intentionally identifying and printing the classified intelligence reporting at issue despite not having a “need to know,” and with knowledge that the intelligence reporting was classified. WINNER further admitted removing the classified intelligence reporting from her office space, retaining it, and mailing it from Augusta, Georgia, to the News Outlet, which she knew was not authorized to receive or possess the documents. WINNER further acknowledged that she was aware of the contents of the intelligence reporting and that she knew the contents of the reporting could be used to the injury of the United States and to the advantage of a foreign nation.

There are more notable details about Winner’s social profile and her political leanings.

Three days before Americans voted last November, Reality Winner joked with her sister online that Moscow’s efforts to influence the US presidential election could have an upside for her as a keen weightlifter.
When we become the United States of the Russian Federation,” she said on Facebook, “Olympic lifting will be the national sport.”

A 25-year-old federal contractor named Reality Winner has been arrested for allegedly leaking a doc to The Intercept 

Here’s what Reality Winner posted on Facebook before the election:

View image on Twitter

Seven months later, Winner, 25, called home to Texas on Saturday to let her family know that the Russian hacking saga had ended up landing her in a far more serious situation. “She said that she had been arrested by the FBI and that she couldn’t really talk about it,” her mother, Billie Winner-Davis, told the Guardian in a telephone interview. “I am still in shock.”

As HuffPost’s Ryan Reilly writes, looking at another of her facebook comments, “don’t think Reality Winner is a Trump fan.”

That much is clear, and just to make her sentiment about Trump abundantly clear, she recently referred to President Trump as a “piece of shit” because of his position on the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) protests. Lashing out at Trump, Winner posted on February 9:

“There have been protests for months, at both the drilling site and and outside the White House. I’m losing my mind. If you voted for this piece of shit, explain this. He’s lying. He’s blatantly lying and the second largest supply of freshwater in the country is now at risk. #NoDAPL #NeverMyPresident #Resist”

Her sentiments toward Trump aside, she appears to be a supporter of Bernie Sanders and other progressive icons, such as Bill Maher and Michael Moore. As the Caller’s Chuck Ross reports, Reality Winner’s apparent social media footprint also shows that she is a supporter of other liberal causes, including the Women’s March and the Islamic Society of North America, the Muslim civil rights group.

Judging by the following autographed photo of Anderson Cooper, Winner was a fan of the CNN anchor.

Alleged NSA Leaker posted autographed photo of CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Facebook.

Other than her left-leaning Facebook page, Winner has a limited online footprint. One news article from the Kingsville (Tex.) Record shows that she graduated from Air Force basic training in March 2011. A photo of Winner has not been publicly released, but her Facebook page includes information that matches details contained in a federal indictment filed against her in New York on Monday.

Winner’s posts on Facebook suggest that she is politically active. On Feb. 14, a day after Winner took her Top Secret job at Pluribus, Winner posted a photo outside of the Atlanta offices of Georgia Sen. David Perdue.

Winner wrote that she had a 30-minute private meeting with the Republican lawmaker. She said they discussed “my concerns regarding climate change and what the state of Georgia is doing to reduce dependency on fossil fuels.”

“Meanwhile, my plea that our senators not be afraid to directly state when our president or his cabinet tell outright lies was well heard. I was able to draw the parallel between the 2011 interview of President Bashar al Assad claiming utter ignorance of the human rights violations his citizens were protesting to Trump’s statement last week that the White House hadn’t received any calls about the DAPL, nor were there any protests before last week. They got the message,” she wrote.

Winner was heavily critical of Trump just after he took office. She used the hashtag “NeverMyPresident” and “Resist” in a Facebook post about his position on DAPL.

Winner posted on Facebook most recently on Friday, the day before she was interviewed by the FBI. “You are what you love, not who loves you,” she wrote.

Finally, based on her profile, Reality inexpicably was at the White House, approximately one year before leaking.

* * *

Winner faces 10 years in a federal prison if convicted. The charge, “gathering, transmitting or losing defense information” is contained under Chapter 37 of federal law: espionage and censorship. The law went into effect as of February 1, 2010.

The prosecution of Winner is being handled by Julie A. Edelstein of the Department of Justice’s National Security Divisions Counterintelligence and Export Control Section, a news release by the agency said.

However, what is most perplexing is that her anti-Trump tirades and her anti-government, liberal leanings were all part of the public record at the time she was hired as a NSA contractor for Pluribus in February. How she succeeded in receiving top secret level clearance with such a highly politicized public record remains a mystery.

House Intelligence Panel Issues Seven Subpoenas in Russia Probe

May 31, 2017

Four are related to Russia investigation, three to ‘unmasking’ controversy, individuals say

Former CIA Director John Brennan testifying before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence last week.

Former CIA Director John Brennan testifying before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence last week. PHOTO: DREW ANGERER/GETTY IMAGES

The House Intelligence Committee issued seven subpoenas on Wednesday, in a sign that its investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election is ramping up in scope and intensity, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Republican-led committee issued four subpoenas related to the Russia investigation. Three subpoenas are related to questions about how and why the names of associates of President Donald Trump were unredacted and distributed within classified reports by Obama administration officials during the transition between administrations.

The committee has subpoenaed the National Security Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Central Intelligence Agency for information about what is called “unmasking.” Republicans on the committee have been pushing for a thorough investigation of how the names of Trump campaign officials became exposed in classified intelligence reports based off intelligence community intercepts.

Those subpoenas seek information on requests made by former national security adviser Susan Rice, former CIA Director John Brennan and former United Nations Ambassador Samantha Power for names to be unmasked in classified material. The three didn’t personally receive subpoenas, the people familiar with the matte said. Mr. Brennan, Ms. Rice and Ms. Power didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Ms. Power hasn’t previously been reported as a potential witness in the probe so her inclusion in the subpoenas may mean Republicans are broadening their areas of investigation.

Typically, information about Americans intercepted in foreign surveillance is redacted, even in classified reports distributed within the government, unless a compelling need exists to reveal them. Unmasking requests aren’t uncommon by top intelligence community officials but Republicans want to know whether any of the unmaskings of Trump campaign officials during the transition were politically motivated.

The four subpoenas related to the Russia investigation remain unknown but Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the panel, has previously said that former national security adviser Mike Flynn would be subpoenaed by the panel. It is unclear if Mr. Flynn is one of the four targeted Wednesday.

The House Intelligence Committee is one of two bodies currently probing the question of whether Russian meddled in the 2016 election and whether anyone from Mr. Trump’s campaign played a role. The Senate Intelligence Committee is conducting its own investigation and has already issued subpoenas to Mr. Flynn and his businesses. Mr. Trump has said there was no collusion with Russia and called the investigation a witch hunt. Russia has denied the allegations.

The House panel also sent a letter to former White House press aide Boris Epshteyn asking him to voluntarily submit information to the committee. Mr. Epshteyn briefly served as special assistant to the president in the Trump administration before departing his post earlier this year.

“Like many others, Mr. Epshteyn has received a broad, preliminary request for information from the House Intelligence Committee,” an attorney for Mr. Epshteyn said Wednesday. “This is a voluntary request. Mr. Epshteyn has not been subpoenaed nor do we anticipate that he will be. We have reached out to the committee with several follow up questions and we are awaiting their response in order to better understand what information they are seeking and whether Mr. Epshteyn is able to reasonably provide it.”

Write to Byron Tau at

Jared Kushner Considered Setting Up Secret Communications With Russia

May 27, 2017

Jared Kushner Considered Setting Up Secret Communications With Russia

Idea was broached in meeting Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser had with Russian ambassador

Jared Kushner, a senior adviser to President Donald Trump

Jared Kushner, a senior adviser to President Donald Trump PHOTO: AARON P. BERNSTEIN/REUTERS

WASHINGTON— Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, considered setting up a secret communications line with Russia during the presidential transition to discuss the country’s military operations in Syria and other issues, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The idea was broached in a meeting that Mr. Kushner had last December with Russian ambassador to the U.S. Sergei Kislyak, this person said. Such a line would have allowed Mr. Kushner to communicate securely with a Russian military official, but it was never set up, this person said.

A secure communications line like the one considered could have made it more difficult for the U.S. intelligence agencies to intercept and listen to any conversations. The Russian ambassador was under routine surveillance at the time by American authorities.

It was unclear why the transition team would have felt the need to establish a secure line to Moscow or whether Mr. Trump’s advisers realized that Mr. Kislyak was likely the target of U.S. surveillance. But two other people with knowledge of Mr. Kushner’s activities during the transition said his interest in creating what they described as a “backchannel” with Russia raised concerns among law enforcement and national security officials.

Jamie Gorelick, a lawyer for Mr. Kushner, couldn’t be reached late Friday. Previously she said in a statement about Mr. Kushner’s meetings with Russians: “Mr. Kushner previously volunteered to share with Congress what he knows about these meetings. He will do the same if he is contacted in connection with any other inquiry.”

A White House spokesman didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Washington Post reported earlier Friday, citing U.S. officials briefed on intelligence reports, that Mr. Kislyak had reported to Moscow that Mr. Kushner had discussed establishing a secure line.

At the time, the Obama administration was still in charge of U.S. foreign policy. But retired Gen. Mike Flynn, a former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency and a senior adviser to Mr. Trump, was engaged in his own discussions with the Russians that eventually became part of a sprawling FBI investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. The Russians have denied interfering in the election.

Mr. Kushner’s known contacts with the Russians, which include a December meeting he had with a Russian banker, have been scrutinized by federal investigators for months, these people said. The FBI, which is investigating possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, would eventually like to speak to Mr. Kushner about his meetings with the Russian ambassador and the banker, as well as any other interactions he may have had with Russians linked to that country’s intelligence services, according to a person familiar with the probe.

Investigators haven’t taken formal steps to interview Mr. Kushner, this person said.

The Trump administration has denied any collusion with Russia.

Ties between Russia and Trump associates and his campaign are also the subject of two congressional investigations. As part of those probes, the House and Senate Intelligence Committees have asked the Treasury Department for information that could be used to find any financial links between Mr. Trump, his businesses and associates, and Russian individuals or entities.

Among the questions investigators are also considering is whether any of Mr. Kushner’s business interests also have Russian links, according to a person with knowledge of the congressional investigations. Before joining the Trump administration, Mr. Kushner was the CEO of the Kushner family’s real-estate business.

Mr. Kushner isn’t considered a target or a focus of the FBI investigation, according to the person familiar with the probe.

The White House has said that Mr. Kushner’s previously disclosed meetings with Russian officials were part of his role in the transition as the main point of contact for foreign government officials. In addition to Mr. Kislyak, Mr. Kushner also met in December with Sergey Gorkov, the head of Vnesheconombank, a Russian bank that was placed on a U.S. sanctions list following Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Write to Carol E. Lee at and Shane Harris at


Russian ambassador told Moscow that Kushner wanted secret communications channel with Kremlin

May 27, 2017
The Washington Post
May 26 at 7:01 PM
Jared Kushner and Russia’s ambassador to Washington discussed the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin, using Russian diplomatic facilities in an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration discussions from monitoring, according to U.S. officials briefed on intelligence reports.
Ambassador Sergey Kislyak reported to his superiors in Moscow that Kushner, son-in-law and confidant to then-President-elect Trump, made the proposal during a meeting on Dec. 1 or 2 at Trump Tower, according to intercepts of Russian communications that were reviewed by U.S. officials. Kislyak said Kushner suggested using Russian diplomatic facilities in the United States for the communications.
Image result for Jared Kushner,photosJared Kushner, left, has the ear of his father-in-law.  (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

The meeting also was attended by Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser.

The White House disclosed the meeting only in March, playing down its significance. But people familiar with the matter say the FBI now considers the encounter, as well as another meeting Kushner had with a Russian banker, to be of investigative interest.

Kislyak reportedly was taken aback by the suggestion of allowing an American to use Russian communications gear at its embassy or consulate — a proposal that would have carried security risks for Moscow as well as the Trump team.

Neither the meeting nor the communications of Americans involved were under U.S. surveillance, officials said.

The White House declined to comment. Robert Kelner, a lawyer for Flynn, declined to comment. The Russian Embassy did not respond to requests for comment.

Russia at times feeds false information into communication streams it suspects are monitored as a way of sowing misinformation and confusion among U.S. analysts. But officials said that it’s unclear what Kislyak would have had to gain by falsely characterizing his contacts with Kushner to Moscow, particularly at a time when the Kremlin still saw the prospect of dramatically improved relations with Trump.

Kushner’s apparent interest in establishing a secret channel with Moscow, rather than relying on U.S. government systems, has added to the intrigue surrounding the Trump administration’s relationship with Russia.

To some officials, it also reflects a staggering naivete.

The FBI closely monitors the communications of Russian officials in the United States, and it maintains a nearly constant surveillance of its diplomatic facilities. The National Security Agency monitors the communications of Russian officials overseas.

Current and former U.S. intelligence officials said that although Russian diplomats have secure means of communicating with Moscow, Kushner’s apparent request for access to such channels was extraordinary.

“How would he trust that the Russians wouldn’t leak it on their side?” said one former senior intelligence official. The FBI would know that a Trump transition official was going in and out of the embassy, which would cause “a great deal” of concern, he added. The entire idea, he said, “seems extremely naive or absolutely crazy.”

The discussion of a secret channel adds to a broader pattern of efforts by Trump’s closest advisers to obscure their contacts with Russian counterparts. Trump’s first national security adviser, Flynn, was forced to resign after a series of false statements about his conversations with Kislyak. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from matters related to the Russia investigation after it was revealed that he had failed to disclose his own meetings with Kislyak when asked during congressional testimony about any contact with Russians.

Kushner’s interactions with Russians — including Kislyak and an executive for a Russian bank under U.S. sanctions — were not acknowledged by the White House until they were exposed in media reports.

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Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak

It is common for senior advisers of a newly elected president to be in contact with foreign leaders and officials. But new administrations are generally cautious in their handling of interactions with Moscow, which U.S. intelligence agencies have accused of waging an unprecedented campaign to interfere in last year’s presidential race and help elect Trump.

Obama administration officials say members of the Trump transition team never approached them about arranging a secure communications channel with their Russian contacts, possibly because of concerns about leaks.

The State Department, the White House National Security Council and U.S. intelligence agencies all have the ability to set up secure communications channels with foreign leaders, though doing so for a transition team would be unusual.

Trump’s advisers were similarly secretive about meetings with leaders from the United Arab Emirates. The Obama White House only learned that the crown prince of Abu Dhabi was flying to New York in December to see Kushner, Flynn and Stephen K. Bannon, another top Trump adviser, because U.S. border agents in the UAE spotted the Emirate leader’s name on a flight manifest.

Russia would also have had reasons of its own to reject such an overture from Kushner. Doing so would require Moscow to expose its most sophisticated communications capabilities — which are likely housed in highly secure locations at diplomatic compounds — to an American.

The Post was first alerted in mid-December to the meeting by an anonymous letter, which said, among other things, that Kushner had talked to Kislyak about setting up the communications channel. This week, officials who reviewed the letter and spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence said the portion about the secret channel was consistent with their understanding of events.

For instance, according to those officials and the letter, Kushner conveyed to the Russians that he was aware that it would be politically sensitive to meet publicly, but it was necessary for the Trump team to be able to continue their communication with Russian government officials.

In addition to their discussion about setting up the communications channel, Kushner, Flynn and Kislyak also talked about arranging a meeting between a representative of Trump and a “Russian contact” in a third country whose name was not identified, according to the anonymous letter.

The Post reported in April that Erik Prince, the founder of the private security firm Blackwater, now called Academi, and an informal adviser to the Trump transition team, met on Jan. 11 — nine days before Trump’s inauguration — in the Seychelles islands in the Indian Ocean with a representative of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Includes videos:

Former CIA Chief Brennan Says Russians Were in Contact With Trump Campaign Associates

May 23, 2017

Brennan said Russia ‘brazenly’ interfered in the presidential election despite a direct warning to a top Kremlin official

 Former CIA director John Brennan

WASHINGTON—Former CIA director John Brennan testified Tuesday that contacts by Donald Trump campaign associates with Russian officials last year raised concerns that the Kremlin could try to cultivate people close to Mr. Trump, shedding light on why federal agents began a full investigation.

Mr. Brennan also disclosed that the intelligence community’s alarm about Russia “brazenly” interfering in the 2016 presidential election prompted him to warn his Russian intelligence counterpart last summer to stop meddling in U.S. politics.

In testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, Mr. Brennan explained the basis for the Federal Bureau of Investigation counterintelligence investigation that was opened after the election, which is looking at potential collusion between the campaign and Russia.

“I encountered and I’m aware of information and intelligence that revealed contacts and interactions between Russian officials and U.S. persons involved in the Trump campaign,” said Mr. Brennan, the head of the Central Intelligence Agency under former President Barack Obama.

Mr. Brennan said he didn’t know if these contacts by people tied to the campaign amounted to “collusion” with Russian officials, but said that a common Russian intelligence technique involved cultivating Americans as either witting or unwitting intelligence assets.

Mr. Brennan said he was concerned because of “known Russian efforts to suborn such individuals.”

He said that the contacts picked up by U.S. intelligence justified the opening of an FBI investigation that has overshadowed Mr. Trump’s presidency.

“I know that there was a sufficient basis of information and intelligence that required further investigation by the bureau to determine whether or not U.S. persons were actively conspiring, colluding with Russian officials,” said Mr. Brennan.

Mr. Brennan declined to discuss the specific information that his assessments were based on in the open hearing, saying that much of the information was classified. The House Intelligence Committee subsequently continued the hearing with Mr. Brennan in a classified, closed-door setting.

Mr. Trump has denied that he or his campaign coordinated with any foreign entity, and Russia has denied meddling in the election. Mr. Trump has said continuing questions about his campaign’s Russia contacts amount to a “witch hunt.”

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Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats

The FBI investigation is now being overseen by a special counsel, Robert Mueller, after Mr. Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey raised questions about whether the president was trying to quash the probe into whether his associates had contacts with Russians.

Mr. Trump asked Mr. Comey to end an investigation into his former national security adviser, Mike Flynn, according to people close to Mr. Comey. Mr. Trump has denied he made the request.

In a separate hearing Tuesday morning, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats declined to confirm or deny that Mr. Trump had asked him to publicly state there was no collusion between the Trump presidential campaign and the Russian government in response to a Washington Post report.

The Post reported that the president asked Mr. Coats and the National Security Agency director, Adm. Mike Rogers, to publicly deny the existence of any evidence of collusion between the campaign and Russia.

Mr. Coats said it wasn’t appropriate to comment about the topic in his public testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“We discuss a number of topics on a very regular basis,” Mr. Coats said. “On this topic, as well as other topics, I don’t feel it’s appropriate to characterize discussions, conversations with the president.”

Mr. Coats was asked if he had discussed with Adm. Rogers any request from Mr. Trump regarding collusion. Mr. Coats responded: “That is something that I would like to withhold, that question, at this particular point in time.”

Mr. Coats was also asked if he knew of any efforts by the White House to interfere in other aspects of the Russia inquiry, including allegations the president asked Mr. Comey to ease off investigating Mr. Flynn. “I am not aware of that,” Mr. Coats said.

Mr. Brennan, the former CIA chief, said in his testimony that the intelligence community determined by last August that there was a “very aggressive” effort by Russia to intervene in the 2016 election.

Mr. Brennan described a previously undisclosed warning he made to his counterpart in Russian intelligence, Alexander Bortnikov, the head of the Russian FSB service, not to interfere in the U.S. election in an August phone call. According to Mr. Brennan’s account, Mr. Bortnikov denied any attempt to intervene and said Moscow is routinely and falsely blamed for such efforts by the U.S. government.

Write to Byron Tau at and Joshua Jamerson at

REUTERS: Trump campaign had at least 18 undisclosed contacts with Russians

May 18, 2017


Thu May 18, 2017 | 6:01am EDT

By Ned Parker, Jonathan Landay and Warren Strobel | WASHINGTON

Michael Flynn and other advisers to Donald Trump’s campaign were in contact with Russian officials and others with Kremlin ties in at least 18 calls and emails during the last seven months of the 2016 presidential race, current and former U.S. officials familiar with the exchanges told Reuters.

The previously undisclosed interactions form part of the record now being reviewed by FBI and congressional investigators probing Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election and contacts between Trump’s campaign and Russia.

Six of the previously undisclosed contacts described to Reuters were phone calls between Sergei Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador to the United States, and Trump advisers, including Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser, three current and former officials said.

Conversations between Flynn and Kislyak accelerated after the Nov. 8 vote as the two discussed establishing a back channel for communication between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin that could bypass the U.S. national security bureaucracy, which both sides considered hostile to improved relations, four current U.S. officials said.

In January, the Trump White House initially denied any contacts with Russian officials during the 2016 campaign. The White House and advisers to the campaign have since confirmed four meetings between Kislyak and Trump advisers during that time.

The people who described the contacts to Reuters said they had seen no evidence of wrongdoing or collusion between the campaign and Russia in the communications reviewed so far. But the disclosure could increase the pressure on Trump and his aides to provide the FBI and Congress with a full account of interactions with Russian officials and others with links to the Kremlin during and immediately after the 2016 election.

The White House did not respond to requests for comment. Flynn’s lawyer declined to comment. In Moscow, a Russian foreign ministry official declined to comment on the contacts and referred Reuters to the Trump administration.

Separately, a spokesman for the Russian embassy in Washington said: “We do not comment on our daily contacts with the local interlocutors.”

The 18 calls and electronic messages took place between April and November 2016 as hackers engaged in what U.S. intelligence concluded in January was part of a Kremlin campaign to discredit the vote and influence the outcome of the election in favor of Trump over his Democratic challenger, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton.

FILE PHOTO: – U.S. President Donald Trump (L-R), joined by Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Vice President Mike Pence, senior advisor Steve Bannon, Communications Director Sean Spicer and then National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, speaks by phone with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S. on January 28, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo

Those discussions focused on mending U.S.-Russian economic relations strained by sanctions imposed on Moscow, cooperating in fighting Islamic State in Syria and containing a more assertive China, the sources said.

Members of the Senate and House intelligence committees have gone to the CIA and the National Security Agency to review transcripts and other documents related to contacts between Trump campaign advisers and associates and Russian officials and others with links to Putin, people with knowledge of those investigations told Reuters.

The U.S. Justice Department said on Wednesday it had appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate alleged Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential campaign and possible collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia. Mueller will now take charge of the FBI investigation that began last July. Trump and his aides have repeatedly denied any collusion with Russia.


In addition to the six phone calls involving Kislyak, the communications described to Reuters involved another 12 calls, emails or text messages between Russian officials or people considered to be close to Putin and Trump campaign advisers.

One of those contacts was by Viktor Medvedchuk, a Ukrainian oligarch and politician, according to one person with detailed knowledge of the exchange and two others familiar with the issue.

It was not clear with whom Medvedchuk was in contact within the Trump campaign but the themes included U.S.-Russia cooperation, the sources said. Putin is godfather to Medvedchuk’s daughter.

Medvedchuk denied having any contact with anyone in the Trump campaign.

“I am not acquainted with any of Donald Trump’s close associates, therefore no such conversation could have taken place,” he said in an email to Reuters.

In the conversations during the campaign, Russian officials emphasized a pragmatic, business-style approach and stressed to Trump associates that they could make deals by focusing on common economic and other interests and leaving contentious issues aside, the sources said.

Veterans of previous election campaigns said some contact with foreign officials during a campaign was not unusual, but the number of interactions between Trump aides and Russian officials and others with links to Putin was exceptional.

“It’s rare to have that many phone calls to foreign officials, especially to a country we consider an adversary or a hostile power,” Richard Armitage, a Republican and former deputy secretary of state, told Reuters.


Beyond Medvedchuk and Kislyak, the identities of the other Putin-linked participants in the contacts remain classified and the names of Trump advisers other than Flynn have been “masked” in intelligence reports on the contacts because of legal protections on their privacy as American citizens. However, officials can request that they be revealed for intelligence purposes.

U.S. and allied intelligence and law enforcement agencies routinely monitor communications and movements of Russian officials.

After Vice President Mike Pence and others had denied in January that Trump campaign representatives had any contact with Russian officials, the White House later confirmed that Kislyak had met twice with then-Senator Jeff Sessions, who later became attorney general.

Kislyak also attended an event in April where Trump said he would seek better relations with Russia. Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, also attended that event in Washington. In addition, Kislyak met with two other Trump campaign advisers in July on the sidelines of the Republican convention.

Trump fired Flynn in February after it became clear that he had falsely characterized the nature of phone conversations with Kislyak in late December – after the Nov. 8 election and just after the Obama administration announced new sanctions on Russia. Flynn offered to testify to Congress in return for immunity from prosecution but his offer was turned down by the House intelligence committee.

(Additional reporting by John Walcott in Washington, Natalia Zinets and Alessandra Prentice in Kiev and Christian Lowe in Moscow; Editing by Kevin Krolicki and Ross Colvin)

New Threats Fuel Fears of Another Global Cyberattack

May 18, 2017

A new attack hit thousands of computers and a hacking group said it would release more attack software

Staff monitor the spread of ransomware cyberattacks at the Korea Internet and Security Agency in Seoul on May 15. Businesses and security experts fear more cyberattacks could be in the pipeline.

Staff monitor the spread of ransomware cyberattacks at the Korea Internet and Security Agency in Seoul on May 15. Businesses and security experts fear more cyberattacks could be in the pipeline. PHOTO: YONHAP/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

Updated May 17, 2017 8:01 p.m. ET

A new fast-spreading computer attack and a hacking group’s threat to release a fresh trove of stolen cyberweapons are fueling fears among businesses and security experts of another global technology assault.


The new attack, called Adylkuzz, follows last week’s WannaCry outbreak, which crippled computers in more than 100 countries over the weekend. Both attacks rely on a Windows bug that was patched on March 14 and only affect PCs that haven’t installed the latest version of Microsoft’s software updates. Unlike its predecessor, Adylkuzz doesn’t lock up computer screens; it slows down systems as it quietly steals processing power to generate a little-known digital currency called Monero.

Adylkuzz began spreading about two weeks ago and by Wednesday had infected more than 150,000 machines around the globe, according to Ryan Kalember, senior vice president with the security intelligence firm Proofpoint Inc. PFPT -5.80% That is nearly the same count as WannaCry, which has largely stopped spreading, security experts said. Security company Kaspersky Lab ZAO pegged the number of Adylkuzz infections at just several thousand by Wednesday.

The news comes a day after a hacking group called the Shadow Brokers separately posted an internet message saying it would release a new trove of cyberattack tools next month. The group claimed to have software that would affect web browsers, routers, mobile phones and Microsoft Corp.’s Windows 10 operating system. Its first trove, which it and Microsoft said was stolen from the National Security Agency, was dumped last month and used by WannaCry.

The spread of the ransom malware that wreaked global havoc over the weekend appears to be slowing down, but how bad was the damage, and who’s to blame? WSJ’s Tanya Rivero has four things you need to know. Photo: European Pressphoto Agency

A Microsoft spokeswoman said the company is aware of the new Shadow Brokers claim and that its security teams actively monitor for emerging threats. The NSA has declined to comment on the authenticity of the Shadow Brokers documents or the WannaCry attack.

The threats highlight the growing risks of global assaults for businesses and governments posed by a nexus of mysterious hackers and powerful, government-crafted cyberweapons.

“In a few years we’re going to be looking back and saying that 2017 was clearly a turning point,” said Edward Amoroso, the former security chief at AT&T Inc. “That’s when we started to see businesses affected. If your employees are coming in and they can’t work, that’s a big deal.”

For companies looking to protect their systems, security experts agree on one piece of advice: install patches to Windows software now.

Still, that may not be enough to stop the next attack. “There’s no wall you can build that’s high enough or deep enough to keep a dedicated adversary out,” said John Carlin, a former cybercrimes prosecutor at the Justice Department.

Larger companies will need to step up their security training, patching and planning, he says. Smaller mom-and-pop businesses may need to hand over security to companies that specialize in these services. “It’s crazy to expect a mom-and-pop to on their own have to deal with cybersecurity issues,“ said Mr. Carlin, now the chair of the law firm Morrison & Foerster LLP’s global risk and crisis management practice.

A programmer shows a sample of decrypting source code in Taipei on May 13.

A programmer shows a sample of decrypting source code in Taipei on May 13. PHOTO: RITCHIE B. TONGO/EPA

The scope and intensity of the WannaCry cyberattack will bring staffing, investment and policy under review, security chiefs and CIOs have said. Corporate computer security spending is expected to hit $90 billion world-wide this year, an increase of 7.6% from a year earlier, according to research firm Gartner Inc.

That increased spending has helped drive up share prices at security companies such asRapid7 Inc., FireEye Inc. and Symantec Corp. , all of whom have seen shares rise by more than 25% this year.

The recent attacks were much more widespread in Russia, India, Ukraine and Taiwan, Kaspersky said. And while that may have prevented many U.S. companies from feeling the full brunt of the latest attacks, that comes as small consolation for local governments and small- or medium-size businesses that must defend against these threats with limited budgets. The attacks “just keep ratcheting up year after year,” said Dan Lohrmann, chief security officer with the training company Security Mentor Inc. and Michigan’s former chief security officer. “You think it can’t go any higher but every year it does.”

The Shadow Brokers’ release of what it says are U.S. government hacking tools comes after WikiLeaks in March published a cache of alleged Central Intelligence Agency cybersecrets, offering a window into a world where the research and development of computer attacks has become increasingly professionalized.

The stage for today’s cyberattacks was set more than a decade ago. In the mid-2000s, Microsoft, embarrassed by a series of computer worm and virus outbreaks, began to comb through its software for bugs and develop new coding techniques designed to thwart hackers. At the same time, hackers discovered they could command large fees for their work. Apple Inc., for example, pays $200,000 for details on the most severe bugs affecting its software. Government agencies and private corporations often pay more, especially if the research includes “exploit code” that can be used in an attack. Last year, the Federal Bureau of Investigation paid more than $1 million for a hacking tool that gave it access to the iPhone used by the gunman in the San Bernardino, Calif., attack.

These factors have slowed the flow of bugs and the tools that exploit them on public venues, where they were once freely—and more frequently—disclosed, said David Aitel, chief executive at Immunity Inc., a computer-security services company. “There’s a scarcity of high-quality attack tools,” he said.

But if companies thought the risk of attacks had evaporated, WannaCry served as a wake-up call. And the attack could have been much worse if it had made sensitive corporate information public, said Mr. Aitel, a former NSA analyst.

Recent events are “a taste of the kind of threats we may be facing going forward,” said Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, which oversees the nation’s spy agencies. “I’m not sure if the whole of government—or for that matter, the whole of society—is fully prepared.”

While few victims appear to have paid the $300 ransom WannaCry demanded from affected users, the software affected hundreds of thousands of systems, including networks at Renault SA and Britain’s public health service. It not only rendered computers unusable but deployed encryption to make data stored on them unreadable.

Another computer worm may soon appear, either based on the Shadow Brokers’ code used by WannaCry or similarly devastating code released by Shadow Brokers in April that was used on Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Protocol software, said Robert M. Lee, chief executive of security consultancy Dragos Inc.

There’s no wall you can build that’s high enough or deep enough to keep a dedicated adversary out.

—John Carlin

And while it isn’t known yet how dangerous any new releases might be, “everything the Shadow Brokers have talked about leaking so far has been legitimate,” he said.

Microsoft, whose Windows software is the most frequent target of attacks, is calling on governments to report software flaws rather than stockpiling or exploiting them.

“Repeatedly, exploits in the hands of governments have leaked into the public domain and caused widespread damage,” Brad Smith, the company’s top lawyer, wrote in a blog post Sunday.

Given the widespread use of these attacks, and the fact that nations such as North Korea are unlikely to abide by international cybersecurity conventions akin to those proposed by Microsoft, Immunity’s Mr. Aitel says such suggestions aren’t likely to be adopted. “No country on earth thinks this is a good idea,” he said.

Write to Robert McMillan at

Appeared in the May. 18, 2017, print edition as ‘Cyberthreats Breed Deep Unease.’

Donald Trump Defends Himself Over Reports He Shared Classified Information With Russia

May 16, 2017

On Twitter, president says he had ‘absolute right’ to share terrorism facts, cites ‘humanitarian reasons’

 Image may contain: 1 person, suit
National Security Adviser Denies Trump Gave Russians Secrets
In a brief statement to reporters, National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster responded to a Washington Post article that claims President Trump revealed highly classified information to Russian officials during a meeting in the Oval Office last week. Photo: AP

Updated May 16, 2017 10:58 a.m. ET

WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump took to Twitter on Tuesday morning to defend himself over reports he shared counterterrorism intelligence obtained from a U.S. ally at an Oval Office meeting with senior Russian officials last week.

“I have the absolute right” as president to share “facts pertaining to terrorism and airline safety,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter, before offering an explanation for why: “Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism.”

The tweets offered little to mollify some lawmakers on Capitol Hill, where one leading Senate Republican said the president appeared to be changing the story in a way that was confusing and concerning, and that the allegations were problematic.

The Wall Street Journal reported late Monday that Mr. Trump divulged details about Islamic State to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in his meeting last week in a way that revealed enough information for them to potentially compromise the source of the intelligence, according to officials, who said the intelligence came from the U.S. ally.

As President I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining….

The Washington Post had earlier reported Mr. Trump’s disclosure, and said White House officials called the Central Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency to warn of Mr. Trump’s disclosure and its possible consequences.

Mr. Trump’s Tuesday tweets were a departure from a hastily assembled but circumspect White House response Monday night, when officials including national security adviser H.R. McMaster said the Post article “as reported is false.”

Mr. McMaster said that Mr. Trump hadn’t shared information about intelligence sources or methods, but stopped short of denying the president had shared any intelligence or other secrets with the Russians.

…to terrorism and airline flight safety. Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism.

An administration official said Tuesday that Mr. Trump’s tweet Tuesday didn’t confirm the Post article and that it didn’t address the question of whether classified information had been shared by Mr. Trump one way or the other.

According to one U.S. official, the information shared was highly sensitive and difficult to acquire and was considered extraordinarily valuable. The Journal agreed not to identify the ally because another U.S. official said it could jeopardize the source.

Mr. McMaster will speak with reporters in an on-camera briefing from the White House at 11:30 a.m. EDT.

The White House didn’t provide a detailed statement about Mr. Trump’s meeting last week with Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, and Sergei Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, which was closed to the press. A photographer from the Russian news agency TASS was in the room and published photographs.

I have been asking Director Comey & others, from the beginning of my administration, to find the LEAKERS in the intelligence community…..

Mr. Trump noted on Twitter that the meeting was “openly scheduled.” The meeting with Mr. Lavrov was on the president’s public schedule, but the schedule didn’t state that Mr. Kislyak would attend as well.

Later Tuesday morning, Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter that he had asked former FBI Director James Comey, whom he fired last week the day before the meeting with the Russians, and others “to find the LEAKERS in the intelligence community…..”

Trump’s Tweets Intensify Interest in Russia Investigation
President Donald Trump’s provocative tweets about former FBI Director James Comey and the ongoing Russia investigation are drawing more attention to a probe that continues to disrupt the Trump administration. WSJ’s Shelby Holliday has the story. Photo: Getty

Presidents have the legal right to declassify intelligence as they see fit. But doing so can put intelligence sources abroad in danger and make them less willing to work with the U.S., several defense officials said, and the latest disclosures stunned Washington’s national-security veterans on both sides of the political divide.

South Dakota Republican Sen. John Thune called it “concerning” that “information that reveals classified national security information is shared with the Russians,” although he added that there was “conflicting information.”

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn.) said the Trump administration’s initial pushback on the reports indicates the White House has a recording of the meeting.

“Clearly if there is some kind of a readout or a transcript from that meeting that means there is a tape,” Ms. Klobuchar said. “We need to get a hold of that” in the Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, for his part, said in a Bloomberg interview that he hoped to see fewer distractions coming out of the White House.

Mr. Trump’s Tuesday morning tweets came after a late, tense night at the White House.

After the first report in the Post, White House aides compiled statements from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, national security aide Dina Powell and Mr. McMaster denying it.

But the statements were sent only to a single reporter, 90 minutes after the story had appeared. Others obtained the statements because the reporter agreed to distribute them through the White House press corps “pool” system.

Mr. McMaster then appeared outside the White House, read another brief statement and took no questions.

“There is nothing that the president takes more seriously than the safety of the American people,” he said.

He also said that he had been in the room and that he believed that public statements from people like him should outweigh allegations from anonymous sources.

Write to Louise Radnofsky at




BBC News

Trump defends ‘absolute right’ to share ‘facts’ with Russia


US National Security Adviser McMaster challenged reporting of the Oval Office meeting

US President Donald Trump has defended his “absolute right” to share information with Russia, following a row over classified material.

Mr Trump tweeted that he had shared “facts pertaining to terrorism and airline safety” and wanted Russia to do more against so-called Islamic State.

He met Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in the Oval Office last week.

US media said Mr Trump had shared material that was passed on by a partner which had not given permission.

A report in the Washington Post said Mr Trump had confided top secret information relating to an IS plot thought to centre on the use of laptop computers on aircraft.

Mr Trump’s move is not illegal, as the US president has the authority to declassify information.

The action drew strong criticism from Democrats and a call for an explanation from his own Republican party.

What was the president’s defence?

In his tweets early on Tuesday, Mr Trump said: “As President I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight safety.

“Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against [IS] & terrorism.”

It is not clear if Mr Trump was acknowledging having shared intelligence secrets with the Russian officials, thus contradicting White House statements, or whether he was simply trying to explain what had been discussed.

The BBC’s Anthony Zurcher in Washington says this was a carefully constructed defence of the meeting, in which President Trump frames any revelation of intelligence information as a calculated move to advance US national security priorities.

After all, the controversy that swirled around the White House on Monday night was never legal, it was political, and this defence may be enough for Republicans to rally around, he adds.

What happened in the Oval Office?

In a conversation with the Russian foreign minister and Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak in the Oval Office, the president revealed details that could lead to the exposure of a source of information, officials told the Washington Post.

The intelligence disclosed came from a US ally and was considered too sensitive to share with other US allies, the paper reported.

.US President Donald Trump (L) and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (2-L) during a meeting at the White House in Washington DC on 10 MayImage copyrightRUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRYImage captionThe comments were made during President Trump’s meeting last week in the Oval Office with the Russian foreign minister (second from left)

Others at the meeting realised the mistake and scrambled to “contain the damage” by informing the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the National Security Agency (NSA), says the Post.

The meeting came a day after Mr Trump fired his FBI chief, James Comey, sparking criticism that he had done so because the FBI was investigating his election campaign’s alleged Russian ties.

How did the White House initially respond?

National Security Adviser HR McMaster told reporters the story, “as reported”, was “false”.

“At no time – at no time – were intelligence sources or methods discussed. And the president did not disclose any military operations that were not already publicly known.”

The statement was echoed by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

But the Washington Post said this did not amount to a denial.

Speaking to the BBC, Post reporter Greg Jaffe said the story made it clear the president did not disclose sources or methods.

But he added: “Our story says that the nature of the information provided would have allowed the Russians to ‘reverse engineer’ to discover the sources and methods. He said so much that they could figure it out.”

Golden rule: Frank Gardner, BBC security correspondent

Despite the denials issued by the White House that any actual intelligence sources were revealed to the Russians, whatever was said in that Oval Office meeting was enough to alarm certain officials and, reportedly, to alert the CIA and NSA.

They in turn will have needed to warn the country that supplied the intelligence. There is a golden rule in the world of espionage that when one government supplies intelligence to another it must not be passed on to a third party without permission of the original supplier. The reason is simple: it could put the lives of their human informants at risk.

In this case it appears to relate to the discovery of plans by jihadists in Syria to devise a way of smuggling viable explosive devices on board a plane inside a laptop computer. Given the well-publicised ban on laptops in cabins on certain Middle Eastern routes, whoever revealed that information is unlikely to be still in place.

What has the reaction been?

  • “This is dangerous and reckless” – Dick Durbin, Senate’s second-highest ranked Democrat
  • “Mr President, this isn’t about your ‘rights’, but your responsibilities. You could jeopardise our sources, relationships and security” – Adam Schiff, top Democrat on House Intelligence Committee
  • “We have no way to know what was said, but protecting our nation’s secrets is paramount” – spokesperson for Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan
  • Congress could do with “a little less drama from the White House” – Mitch McConnell, Senate majority leader
  • “We generally do not want to have anything to do with this nonsense” – Dmitry Peskov, Kremlin spokesman
  • “If true, this is not going to instil confidence in allies already wary of sharing the most sensitive information” – senior Nato diplomat quoted by Reuters

Levels of US classification – from lowest to highest

  • Confidential: Information that reasonably could be expected to cause damage to the national security if disclosed to unauthorised sources. Most military personnel have this level of clearance
  • Secret: The same wording in the first sentence above, except it substitutes serious damage
  • Top Secret: Again, the same wording except to substitute exceptionally grave damage
  • Codeword: Adds a second level of clearance to Top Secret, so that only those cleared with the codeword can see it. Administered by the CIA. The material discussed by Mr Trump with the Russians was under a codeword, sources told the Washington Post.

Trump defends ‘absolute right’ to share intel with Russia

May 16, 2017

AFP and The Associated Press

© Saul Loeb, AFP | Donald Trump at the White House on May 15, 2017


Latest update : 2017-05-16

President Donald Trump on Tuesday defended his right to share “facts pertaining to terrorism” and airline safety with Russia, saying in a pair of tweets he has “an absolute right” as president to do so.

Trump’s tweets did not say whether he revealed classified information about the Islamic State group, as published reports have said and as a U.S. official told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

Image may contain: 1 person, suit

The White House has pushed back against those reports, but has not denied that classified information was disclosed in the May 10 meeting between Trump and Russian diplomats.

In a pair of tweets, the president responded to a firestorm of criticism triggered by the reports.

As President I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining….

“I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining…to terrorism and airline flight safety. Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism,” Trump tweeted.

Trump shared details about an Islamic State terror threat related to the use of laptop computers on aircraft with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak, a senior U.S official told The Associated Press. The classified information had been shared with the president by an ally, violating the confidentiality of an intelligence-sharing agreement with that country, the official said.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak publicly, would not say which country’s intelligence was divulged.

The disclosure put a source of intelligence on the Islamic State at risk, according to The Washington Post, which first reported the disclosure on Monday.

Trump later was informed that he had broken protocol and White House officials placed calls to the National Security Agency and the CIA looking to minimize any damage.

Russia’s foreign ministry spokesman denied the report. Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Russian foreign ministry, on Facebook on Tuesday described the reports as “yet another fake.”

The CIA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence have declined to comment.

The U.S. official said that Trump boasted about his access to classified intelligence in last week’s meeting with Lavrov and Kislyak. An excerpt to an official transcript of the meeting reveals that Trump told them, “I get great intel. I have people brief me on great intel every day,” he said.

@realDonaldTrump meeting has just started | В Овальном кабинете началась встреча С.Лаврова с Д.Трампом

Kislyak has been a central player in the snowballing controversy surrounding possible coordination between Trump’s campaign and Russia’s election meddling.

The revelations drew strong condemnation from Democrats and a rare rebuke of Trump from some Republican lawmakers. White House officials denounced the report, saying the president did not disclose intelligence sources or methods to the Russians, though officials did not deny that classified information was disclosed in the May 10 meeting.

“The president and the foreign minister reviewed a range of common threats to our two countries including threats to civil aviation,” said H.R. McMaster, Trump’s national security adviser. “At no time, at no time were intelligence sources or methods discussed and the president did not disclose any military operations that were not already publicly known.”

The revelations could further damage Trump’s already fraught relationship with U.S. intelligence agencies. He’s openly questioned the competency of intelligence officials and challenged their high-confidence assessment that Russia meddled in last year’s presidential election to help him win. His criticism has been followed by a steady stream of leaks to the media that have been damaging to Trump and exposed an FBI investigation into his associates’ possible ties to Russia.

The disclosure also risks harming his credibility with U.S. partners around the world ahead of his first overseas trip. The White House was already reeling from its botched handling of Trump’s decision last week to fire James Comey, the FBI director who was overseeing the Russia investigation.

A European security official said sharing sensitive information could dampen the trust between the United States and its intelligence sharing partners. “It wouldn’t likely stop partners from sharing life-saving intelligence with the Americans, but it could impact the trust that has been built, particularly if sharing such information exposes specific intelligence gathering methods,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak about such intelligence sharing.

The Royal Court in Jordan said that King Abdullah II was to speak by telephone with Trump later Tuesday. The revelation also prompted cries of hypocrisy. Trump spent the campaign arguing that his opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, should be locked up for careless handling of classified information.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also disputed the report. He said Trump discussed a range of subjects with the Russians, including “common efforts and threats regarding counter-terrorism.” The nature of specific threats was discussed, he said, but not sources, methods or military operations.

The controversy engulfed the White House. Reporters spent much of the evening camped out adjacent to Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s office, hoping for answers. At one point, an eagle-eyed reporter spotted a handful of staffers, including Spicer and Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, walking toward the Cabinet Room.

Muffled yelling was heard coming from the area near the room, but after a reporter tweeted about the noise, press staffers quickly turned up their television volume, blasting the sound to drown out everything else.



Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, people standing and suit

President Donald Trump with Russian ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak, at the White House, May 10, 2017

Donald Trump has defended sharing  classified information with Russian officials, saying he had the “absolute right” to do so for “humanitarian reasons” and because he wants Russia to step up its fight against Isil.

The US president revealed highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador during a meeting at the White House last week, it was reported on Monday night.

The US president’s actions jeopardised a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terror group, the Washington Post reported, citing unnamed US officials.

If confirmed, it would also call into question the ability of the US to protect its intelligence sources.

The Trump administration immediately rejected the claims as “false”, while several Republicans and Democrats expressed alarm that a US president could share high-level intelligence with Russia.

Read it all: