Posts Tagged ‘WikiLeaks’

‘Macronleaks’: Hackers find flaw in French cyber-fortress — New York Times Blames U.S. Far-Right Activists

May 6, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File / by Michel MOUTOT | Emmanuel Macron’s campaign team says it put in place servers protected by sophisticated software filters, recommended the use of several encrypted messaging and cellphone networks, and required double and triple authentication to access emails

PARIS (AFP) – They knew months ago that top-of-the-range hackers had been targetting them. They believe their security measures, too, had been nothing short of top-rate. But, in the end, French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron’s team got hacked.

And on Friday night, just an hour before the end of official campaigning, thousands of documents including emails and accounts belonging to his En Marche! (On the Move!) movement were dumped online.

“It’s just incredible what’s happening,” said Belgian researcher Nicolas Vanderbiest, a specialist on online rumours, whose map showing how the “Macron Leak” propagated on Twitter has Wikileaks at the centre.

Macron’s campaign team says it put in place servers protected by sophisticated software filters, recommended the use of several encrypted messaging and cellphone networks, and required double and triple authentication to access emails.

It says it stored its information in multiple-partitioned cells, with databases separated like fortresses, accessible by passwords that were complex and regularly changed.

But a squad of shadowy hackers seem to have found the back door.

“In this kind of organisation the real potential faultline is the human element,” the head of computer services for En Marche! recently told AFP, requesting anonymity.

Because security procedures can become long and cumbersome, some people can be tempted to get around them by using personal email services which are little or badly protected.

– ‘en-nnarche.com’ –

On April 25, a report by Japanese cyber-security company Trend Micro, blamed a so-called “phishing” attack targetting the Macron campaign on Russian hacking group Pawn Storm, also known as Fancy Bears, Tsar Team and APT28.

The group, suspected of close links to the Russian security services, is also accused of having targetted the Democratic Party during last year’s US presidential election, in which Republican-backed Donald Trump defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton.

In this kind of attack, which does not require sophisticated resources, hackers can open up security gaps in software, for example during an update or through a so-called mirror site.

This would be something like “en-nnarche.com”, hoping that a user when reading quickly would mistake the “nn” for an “m” and fall into the trap, revealing access codes.

The principle of phishing, a classic arm in the hackers’ arsenal, is to send a large number of fake emails often containing infected attachments, hoping that a distracted recipient will click on one, creating a breach in the targetted system.

The gap is unlikely to show up immediately, and the loophole it generates may be exploited weeks or months later.

The Macron campaign reacted swiftly to Friday night’s data dump, saying it would take all measures necessary to shed light on the “unprecedented” incident.

But it did not seem overly worried by the substance of what had been leaked.

“Throughout the campaign, En Marche! has constantly been the party the most targeted by such attempts, in an intense and repeated fashion,” it said in a lengthy statement.

“The aim of those behind this leak is, all evidence suggests, to hurt the En Marche! party. Clearly, the documents arising from the hacking are all lawful and show the normal functioning of a presidential campaign.”

Senator Bazira Khiari, a national delegate for En Marche!, told AFP Saturday morning: “We were informed last night… We were just told to change our passwords”.

by Michel MOUTOT

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U.S. Far-Right Activists Promote Hacking Attack Against Macron

After months of trying to move the political needle in favor of Marine Le Pen in the French presidential election, American far-right activists on Saturday threw their weight behind a hacking attack against her rival, Emmanuel Macron, hoping to cast doubt on an election that is pivotal to France and the wider world.

The efforts were the culmination of a monthslong campaign against Mr. Macron after his candidacy began to gain steam this year, with digital activists in the United States and elsewhere regularly sharing tactics, tips and tricks across the English- and French-speaking parts of the internet.

It is unclear whether the leaked documents, which some experts say may be connected to hackers linked to Russia, will affect the outcome of the election on Sunday between Ms. Le Pen, the far-right candidate from the National Front, and Mr. Macron, an independent centrist. But the role of American far-right groups in promoting the breach online highlights their growing resolve to spread extremist messages beyond the United States.

“It’s the anti-globalists trying to go global,” said Ben Nimmo, a senior fellow of the digital forensics research lab at the Atlantic Council, a think tank, who has studied the far right’s recent efforts against Mr. Macron and others in France. “There’s a feeling of trying to export the revolution.”

The leak, which involved posting campaign documents like emails and accounting records to message boards, occurred late on Friday, hours before a legal prohibition on campaign communications went into effect across France. In response, Mr. Macron’s team said the hackers had included fake information alongside authentic material “to sow doubt.”

“Intervening in the final hour of the official campaign, this operation is clearly a matter of democratic destabilization, as was seen in the United States during the last presidential campaign,” Mr. Macron’s campaign said in a statement late on Friday, minutes before the communications prohibition went into effect.

Yet within hours after the hacked documents were made public, the hashtag #MacronLeaks began trending worldwide, aided by far-right activists in the United States who have been trying to sway the French vote in favor of Ms. Le Pen.

Jack Posobiec, a journalist with the far-right news outlet The Rebel, was the first to use the hashtag with a link to the hacked documents online, which was then shared more widely by WikiLeaks. Mr. Posobiec remains the second-most mentioned individual on Twitter in connection with the hashtag behind WikiLeaks, according to a review of the past 100,000 Twitter posts published since late Friday.

While there is no evidence that the breach against Mr. Macron’s campaign was organized by this loosely connected group of far-right campaigners, the American activists have been gathering on sites like 4chan and Discord, which were previously used to coordinate support for Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign.

One popular tactic, experts say, has been so-called Twitter raids, or efforts to hijack trending hashtags and topics on the social media site and inject far-right and anti-Macron propaganda.

A week before the second round of the French election, for instance, online activists, many from the United States and other English-speaking countries, flooded Twitter with coordinated anti-Macron memes — online satirical photos with often biting captions — carrying hashtags like #elysee2017 that were linked to the campaign. That included portraying him as a 21st-century equivalent of Marie Antoinette, the out-of-touch last queen of France, and other memes made allegations of an extramarital affair.

“They tried to bombard French Twitter with memes favorable to Le Pen,” said Padraic Ryan, a project coordinator at Storyful, an online marketing company that tracks social media activity around news events. “The campaigns are showing an increasing level of sophistication and coordination.”

Read the rest at the source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/06/world/europe/emmanuel-macron-hack-french-election-marine-le-pen.html?action=click&contentCollection=world&region=rank&module=package&version=highlights&contentPlacement=2&pgtype=sectionfront&_r=0

 

Think tank with ties to Putin reportedly had plans to sway election in Trump’s favor

April 20, 2017
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a joint news conference at the Kremlin in Moscow

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a joint news conference at the Kremlin in Moscow  (Reuters)

A Moscow-based think tank controlled by a Russian official appointed by President Vladimir Putin reportedly hatched a plan to increase Donald Trump’s chances to win the presidency.

Reuters, citing three current and four former U.S. officials, reported Wednesday that the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies provided a framework for top Russian officials on how to sway the U.S. election. Five officials told Reuters the institute is the Kremlin’s in-house foreign policy think tank.

The report said the think tank produced two documents. The first was released to the upper reaches of the Russian government, the report said.

The document reportedly said the Kremlin should launch a propaganda campaign on social media and Russian-backed news that stressed the point that the smart choice for president would be a candidate with a softer approach to Moscow.

The classified document called for state-backed news outlets to get the message out, the report said.

The think tank’s opinion on the approach apparently shifted by October, when Hillary Clinton appeared to be gaining distance on Trump. The second document said it would be best to increase its message on voter fraud and to attack Clinton’s reputation.

These documents were acquired by U.S. intelligence officials and were the basis of what led U.S. officials to blame Russia for meddling, the report said. The sources declined to comment on how the documents were obtained. Reuters reported that U.S. intelligence agencies also declined to comment on them. The report was not independently confirmed by Fox News.

The think tank said in a statement to The Tass Russian News Agency that the report is incorrect.

“Unfortunately, the number of slanderous remarks against Russia has been growing recently but those making such remarks wrongly perceive the world,” the center said.

Putin has denied any interference in the U.S. election, and Trump said the Kremlin’s activities did not play a role in the election outcome. There is no evidence thus far that Trump or his associates knew about Russia’s effort during the campaign. The FBI and lawmakers are investigating.

Trump recently said that U.S.-Russia relations “may be at an all-time low,” and that “right now we’re not getting along with Russia at all.”

The comment underscored long-standing difficulties that have plagued the two nations’ attempts at greater understanding since the days of their World War II alliance. The Cold War may be over, but from Eastern Europe to the Middle East, Washington and Moscow don’t see the world the same way.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Edmund DeMarche is a news editor for FoxNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @EDeMarche.

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/04/20/think-tank-with-ties-to-putin-reportedly-had-plans-to-sway-election-in-trumps-favor.html

UK Helped Fund North Korea Amid Sony Hack, Nuclear Weapons, ICBM Development

April 18, 2017

The Foreign Office handed over the taxpayers’ money after the 2014 hack on film studio Sony Pictures

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling

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THE UK has handed Kim Jong-un £740,000 in aid – a chunk of which will help beleaguered North Korean journalists ‘connect to the web’.

Most of the taxpayers’ money was paid to the nuke-wielding crackpot country by the Foreign Office after the 2014 Sony Pictures hack.

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The aid is part of a project to help increase interaction with the unpredictable hermit state and international media organisations, reports the Mirror.

The project is also aiming to open up news reporting in the propaganda-infested communist country in which most of the population have little or no access to the internet.

Luddite North Korean journos will receive £22,650 from the British government while teachers in the totalitarian regime are getting £350,000 of taxpayers’ money.

Dictator Kim’s cash windfall totalling £740,000 was revealed by the Department for International Development who released the figures.

The rest of the money is made of aid for the ‘rural disabled’, funding for ‘entrepreneur workshops’ and a scheme which will help teach Korean officials understand ‘UK values’.

In 2014, the portly despot is alleged to have hacked film studio Sony Pictures after being angered by the comedy movie The Interview which centred on a fictional plot to kill the North Korean leader.

The hack was followed by terror threats against theatres screening the film resulting in the studio pulling the movie from general release.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: “The projects we carry out in North Korea are part of our policy of critical engagement, and are used to promote British values and demonstrate to the North Korean people that engaging with the UK and the outside world is an opportunity rather than a threat.

“We conduct a range of small-scale project work, many of which help to improve the lives of the most vulnerable members of society.”

https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/2508939/britain-aid-north-korea-740000-kim-jong-un-internet-media/

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Kim Jong-un, North Korean leader 

In his pursuit of nuclear weapons, Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, has put himself on a collision course with the US CREDIT: WONG MAYE-E/AP

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UK ‘gave millions in foreign aid’ to North Korean regime now threatening nuclear war

North Korea has received more than £4 million in foreign aid from the UK in just six years despite the country’s status as an international pariah, according to reports.

Tensions with the communist regime ruled by dictator Kim Jong-un have escalated after it said it would conduct weekly missile tests and warned that “all-out war” would result from US military action.

Meanwhile, Mike Pence, the US vice-president, told Pyongyang not to test Donald Trump’s resolve as fears of a military conflict continue to grow over North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.

Read the rest:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/04/18/uk-gave-4-million-foreign-aid-north-korea-past-six-years/

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CIA chief Pompeo: Wikileaks ‘hostile intelligence service’

April 14, 2017

BBC News

  • 13 April 2017

Mike Pompeo
Mr Pompeo said Wikileaks “walks and talks” like a hostile intelligence service. Reuters

The head of the CIA Mike Pompeo has described anti-secrecy organisation WikiLeaks as a “non-state hostile intelligence service” that is often abetted by states such as Russia.

Russian military intelligence used Wikileaks to distribute hacked material during the US election, he added.

Earlier this month Wikileaks published details of what it said were CIA hacking tools.

The FBI and CIA have launched a criminal investigation into the leak.

“WikiLeaks walks like a hostile intelligence service and talks like a hostile intelligence service,” Mr Pompeo said, speaking at a Washington think tank.

“It overwhelmingly focuses on the US, while seeking support from anti-democratic countries and organisations,” he added.

Wikileaks responded by posting a screenshot of a tweet sent by Mr Pompeo last July, in which the then member of the House of Representatives referred to material contained in the Wikileaks release of Democratic party emails. The tweet has since been deleted.

tweetImage copyright@WIKILEAKS

US intelligence agencies say Russia stole emails from the Democratic party to try to tilt the election in favour of Republican Donald Trump.

However Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has said the release was not intended to affect the election.

The CIA has refused to comment on the Wikileaks release of papers said to detail a wide range of hacking methods including using mobile phones and smart TVs.

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy in central London, 5 February 2016
Mr Assange fears extradition to the US. GETTY IMAGES

But former CIA boss Michael Hayden told the BBC the leak was “incredibly damaging” and had made the US “less safe”.

US officials say IT contractors are likely to have breached security and handed the documents to Wikileaks.

Mr Assange has said Wikileaks will give technology firms access to the full details of the alleged spying programmes so they can defend their products against the hacking.

The Wikileaks founder has been living in the Ecuadorean embassy in London since 2012 after seeking refuge there when he lost his appeal against extradition to the Sweden, where he faces rape allegations.

He says the sex was consensual and believes the allegations are politically motivated with the aim of having him extradited to the US to face charges over Wikileaks’s release of US military documents.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-39597055

Showtime to air documentary on WikiLeaks founder Assange

April 10, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | Filmed over six years and taking in the 2016 US presidential election, the Showtime documentary “Risk” claims to take viewers closer than any previous film crew into Julian Assange’s inner circle
LOS ANGELES (AFP) –  US cable network Showtime said on Sunday it is to release “Risk,” a documentary from Oscar-winning filmmaker Laura Poitras about controversial WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.The network announced in a statement it would partner with distributor Neon on a theatrical release before premiering the movie on television in a few months.

Filmed over six years and taking in the 2016 US presidential election, “Risk” claims to take viewers closer than any previous film crew into Assange’s inner circle.

“With unprecedented access, Poitras gives us the WikiLeaks story from the inside, allowing viewers to understand our current era of massive leaks, headline-grabbing news, and the revolutionary impact of the internet on global politics,” Showtime said in a statement.

“‘Risk’ is a portrait of power, principles, betrayal, and sacrifice when the stakes could not be any higher. It is a first-person geopolitical thriller told from the perspective of a filmmaker immersed in the worlds of state surveillance and the cypherpunk movement.”

Assange, 45, has been at the Ecuadoran embassy in London since 2012, having taken refuge to avoid being sent to Sweden, where he faces a rape allegation.

He fears Sweden would extradite him to the United States over his website’s leaking of diplomatic cables and other classified documents.

The Australian was questioned at the embassy on November 14 and 15 on the rape allegation which dates back to August 2010.

Poitras’s profile of Assange, who denies any wrongdoing, is a follow-up to her Academy Award-winning “Citizenfour” (2014), about fugitive leaker Edward Snowden and the NSA spying scandal.

“It is an exciting time to be working with Showtime and Neon,” the 53-year-old said.

“Both organizations are thinking outside the box about how to bring complex stories to a wide audience. I am thrilled to team up with them on ‘RisK.'”

An unfinished version of “Risk” screened to critical acclaim at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival.

Blockbuster Scandal: The Obama Administration Weaponized Intelligence for Use Against Trump

April 3, 2017

From The Rush Limbaugh Show

Apil 3, 2017

USH: I want to circle back here to the story that just won’t go away, and it won’t go away because the Democrats have continued to try to make something out of nothing. Even, you know, that bobblehead figure, Adam “Shifty” Schiff, known affectionately here as the Pencil Neck. This guy last week went out there and said there is evidence of Russian collusion. He went out there and said it in an act of total desperation.

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Pencil Neck Schiff

It turns out that Devin Nunes has been running rings around the Democrats, and it looks like they’ve known it all along, and the effort to get Nunes to, quote, unquote, recuse himself as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee or the effort to get rid of him in some other way obviously was undertaken to stop what he is doing and what he is learning. But yesterday on the Sunday shows, Pencil Neck Adam Schiff had to grudgingly admit yet again that there is still not one shred of evidence of any collusion between Trump and the Russians, not a shred.

This is after last week, making the announcement that there was evidence. He just couldn’t help himself. He just couldn’t contain himself. These people are living in a dreamland where they’re hoping that everything they suspect is true, just remains to be found. And he just screwed up and couldn’t help himself and went ahead and announced it when he didn’t have any evidence for it. And it’s a sign of how out of control these people are and unhinged. And I don’t use those terms lightly. I’m not just coming up with descriptive phrases. They genuinely are out of control, and they genuinely are unhinged.

Now, I don’t know if Adam Schiff was embarrassed at all. I don’t know if these people are capable of it. But it helps somebody like him when you know the media is gonna do everything they can to cover for you. But he had to admit, after all of this, folks, after all of this, we now know that Trump has been surveilled for a year. We now know that the Obama administration was responsible for the unmasking. We now know that it was Susan Rice, who lied on five Sunday shows about Benghazi, we know that it was Susan Rice who requested the unmasking of all of these Trump officials.

We now know that what I suspected all along — and I’m not alone — that was happening indeed did happen, that Russians were surveilled, and that they were talking to Americans, the transcript of the conversations was turned over to people in the Obama administration, such as Mike Flynn, and there are others, and now Susan Rice has been fingered as one of the sources who asked that these people be unmasked so that details of the conversations could be leaked.

And they were leaked. But these people were not targets of the surveillance. They are never to be identified. And we now know that it was the Obama administration — go back to the story where Obama, when he left office, proudly said not one scandal in my administration, scandal free eight years. Not so fast. So Schiff has to eat dirt.

Remember, James Comey testified the Russians just wanted Hillary to lose. So why would they involve Trump in their scheme? The Russians know their calls are monitored by U.S. intelligence agencies. Why would they risk their effort to defeat Hillary by colluding with Trump’s people? If that had come out before the election, she would have won for sure. In fact, everything that was known today has been known for quite a while by people in the intelligence community, by people at the FBI.

But the real scandal here — and it’s becoming increasingly clear — is that the Obama administration weaponized politically our intelligence services against the Republicans and against Trump. I, for one, am not surprised. The Obama administration weaponized everything else to use against the GOP, from the IRS to NOAA to any of these agencies, EPA, involving climate change.

So here’s where we are. In bullet-point fashion, details to come, here is where we are. This is what we know in this developing blockbuster story about the Obama the White House — and it is a story about the Obama White House. It is not a story about Trump and the Russians. We know that the Obama Regime surveilled Trump’s transition team. We know now that the Obama White House unmasked people who were not targets of legitimate surveillance and investigation. We know now that the Obama White House illegal leaked protected information. And, by the way, we knew this long ago.

The media is our source. The Drive-By Media reported all of this. We know that there had to be unmasking. We know that there had to be leaking. The media proudly told us that sources who could not be identified, blah, blah, blah, blah, fed them data. We know now that the media was complicit. And here’s a little detail. Mike Cernovich reports in his story on all this today that Maggie Haberman at the New York Times has known for two days that Susan Rice was behind the unmasking and sat on it to protect President Obama. That’s an assertion made by Mike Cernovich on his web page today.

There are two stories on this — one by Eli Lake at Bloomberg, the other Mike Cernovich, and he specifically claims that Maggie Haberman of the New York Times has known it was Susan Rice for 48 hours and sat on it. Much like Newsweek sat on the story of Monica Lewinsky and Bill Clinton, and then eventually spiked the story leading the way to the Drudge Report. We know that Susan Rice lied about her knowledge of this illegal activity in an interview. The Democrats have loved saying, “We’re not doing that! No, no, no. We’re just following the facts. We’re just going with the facts take us.”

They’re not gonna want to go there anymore. They haven’t been doing that anyway. The facts are beginning to roll in, and it turns out that Trump and Devin Nunes are not the story. They are victims of abuse of power by the Obama administration and Democrat collusion with the media. The first the Eli Lake story: “Top Obama Adviser Sought Names of Trump Associates in Intel.” Eli Lake is an intel/foreign policy expert/reporter/journalist. He’s a columnist for Bloomberg View. He was the senior national security correspondent for The Daily Beast, which is a deranged, lunatic, left-wing site started by Tina Brown.

He covered national security and intelligence for the Washington Times, the New York Sun and UPI. I don’t know how he ended up briefly at The Daily Beast, but he was. His story begins thus: “White House lawyers last month…” Discovered last month! White House lawyers! This is the Office of Presidential Counsel. This is the office of Don McGann, essentially. That’s the counsel’s office. That’s the official counselor to the president.

“White House lawyers last month discovered that the former national security adviser Susan Rice requested the identities of U.S. persons in raw intelligence reports on dozens of occasions that connect to the Donald Trump transition and campaign, according to U.S. officials familiar with the matter.” She requested their identities. She, in other words, demanded that they be unmasked so she could find out who they were. You put this together with Evelyn Farkas, who appeared on MSNBC on March the 2nd pretty much admitting all of this, that they were gathering the evidence.

They were preserving the evidence. They didn’t trust the Trump administration not to throw it all away; so they decided to leak it. “The pattern of Rice’s requests was discovered in a National Security Council review of the government’s policy on ‘unmasking’ the identities of individuals in the U.S. who are not targets of electronic eavesdropping, but whose communications are collected incidentally.” The New York Times has also reported this back in January! They’ve used the word “wiretaps.” They’ve used the word “incidentally.”

To review briefly, here’s what happens. An intelligence agency — take your pick: CIA, NSA, DIA, you name it — survivals foreign actors, nations, individuals, spies. In this case, in this example, the Russian ambassador is survived; his phone calls are tapped. The Russian ambassador knows it. This is standard operating procedure standard. They survival us in Moscow, or try. Statecraft, it’s what happens. Nothing illegal about that. That’s what Devin Nunes meant when he said that what he had seen at the Old Executive Office Building, there was nothing illegal about it, because the surveillance was not targeting Americans. It was targeting Russians. So they’re surveilling the Russian ambassador.

You’re tapping his phone, and in the process you overhear conversations that he’s having with, say, Michael Flynn of the Trump transition team. When that happens, those transcribing this call are supposed to not identity the American involved, instead referring to him as “American number one.” If there’s another American in the same call, that would be called “American number two” and so on. The name is not revealed nor are the details of what the American says because the American isn’t the target.

That’s where the Obama administration steps in. Susan Rice asked for the American in these calls to be unmasked so that she and Obama and Valerie Jarrett and probably the whole kit and caboodle would know who was saying what was said on these calls. The interesting thing is the backtrack. Since they’ve had… And there’s a tape of this call between the Russian ambassador and Flynn.

If Flynn had indeed promised anything about lifting sanctions once Trump was inaugurated, they wouldn’t have reported that by now. It is clear that Flynn did not do anything actionable because all they’ve been able to do is leak supposition and create mystery about it. But they’ve known all along that nothing happened! They’ve known all along that Flynn didn’t do anything illegal in his conversation with the Russian ambassador. So the leaks have been intended to create suspicion rather than allay it.

BREAK TRANSCRIPT

RUSH: Quickly back to the Eli Lake piece: “The pattern of” the requests made by Susan Rice of the Obama administration to unmask all of these Americans in this treasure trove of wiretapped intelligence and retrieved intelligence “was discovered in a National Security Council review of the government’s policy on ‘unmasking’ the identities of individuals in the U.S. who are not targets of electronic eavesdropping, but whose communications are collected incidentally.”

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Last week, there were a number of Republicans who were going against the grain and saying the NSA had a bombshell coming. Do you remember that? Immediately there were people who were distrustful of it because the NSA and the FBI and the CIA are all perceived to be part of the Obama deep state, where a number of Obama embeds and holdovers remain attempting to sabotage both the Trump transition and the Trump presidency.

But it turns out that the NSA did indeed have a bombshell. Somebody there — a whistleblower, somebody — revealed that it was Susan Rice who was requesting that all of these Americans incidentally caught up in foreign surveillance be unmasked, and it has to be agents of the Obama administration (which we know instinctively) who were leaking all of this to the media. But it gets even better.

BREAK TRANSCRIPT

RUSH: We are in the middle of a blockbuster piece of news that the mainstream still sits on. They still have not reported this. Now, I want to go back to the Eli Lake piece, this one allusion here that “[T]he pattern of [Susan] Rice’s requests” that Americans incidentally caught an intelligence and surveillance of others — the unmasked and identified — again, were “discovered in a National Security Council review of the government’s policy on ‘unmasking’ the identities of individuals in the U.S. who are not targets…”

She was instrumental in this.

And we know the National Security Council probably by way of the NSA, but regardless. “The news about Rice also sheds light on the strange behavior of Nunes in the last two weeks.” Now, remember how his behavior’s been characterized by the media: treasonous, unfair, cheating, that Devin Nunes secretly — under the cover of darkness — snuck into the White House grounds to take a look at intelligence that only he saw, and he didn’t share it with his counterpart, Adam Schiff, on the Intelligence Committee.

And this is unseemly, and he should recuse himself, and he should resign from the committee, and he maybe should even leave his office as a member of the House of Representatives. Now, it emerged last week that Nunes went to the White House last month, the night before he made an allegation about Trump transition officials caught up in incidental surveillance. At the time, he said he needed to go to the White House because reports were only on a database for the executive branch. I covered this last week. The National Security Council is in the Executive Office Building on the fourth floor, and nothing leaves there because it’s securely maintained there.

You want to see it; you go there. Nunes went there. It now appears that Nunes needed to view computer systems within the National Security Council that would include the logs of Rice’s requests to unmask Americans. That’s what he saw. That is what led to him alluding to the fact that the president was correct that he had been surveilled. Remember, unmasking — in this case, identifying Americans incidentally caught up in the surveillance of others — effectively means Americans are being surveilled. And in fact, I’ll go so… I want to repeat an allegation. Well, not quite an allegation.

 

I want to repeat a possibility that I mentioned, and it is this: That the Obama administration chose surveillance targets knowing that they would be talking to specific Americans, wanting to see what those specific Americans were talking about. So while they couldn’t get a FISA warrant to target Americans, they purposely targeted for surveillance foreign actors that they knew Trump transition people would be talking to and learned what they were saying that way. And that’s why Rice was requesting that these people be unmasked so that she and Obama and whoever else in this operation would understand who was being talked about and who was saying what.

Now, this brings us back to Pencil Neck, Adam Schiff. The ranking Democrat on the committee that Nunes chairs just had a gasket blown. He went nuts, claiming that the Democrats on the committee were being left out, that we shouldn’t trust what Nunes was saying. He might be making it up, that this was unseemly; it should not be tolerated. So he went up there; he viewed these reports on Friday. And in comments to the press over the weekend, he declined to discuss them, but he said “no evidence.”

After last week, earlier, claiming to have proof now that there was collusion between the Russians and Trump, Pencil Neck went on the Sunday shows and had to totally back out of that. And he’s reduced to once again saying (summarized), “We don’t have evidence of anything. That’s why we need to keep looking.” There isn’t evidence of anything that has been charged. The scandal here is not Trump. The scandal is not Trump and the Russians. The scandal is the Obama administration and these embeds in the deep state surveilling targets with the express purpose of hoping to capture Americans as part of the surveillance.

And as Eli Lake says, “[M]uch about this is highly unusual: if not how the surveillance was collected, then certainly how and why it was disseminated.” So Nunes is looking to be the exact opposite of the way the media portrayed him. Nunes was actually trying to get to the bottom of this and found out how deep the bottom is. Well, let’s go to the Schiff. From State of the Union on CNN Sunday morning. Jake Tapper: Congressman Pencil Neck, “The big issue is whether or not there was collusion among members of the Trump campaign or Trump advisers.

“Can you definitely say that there was collusion, that there were people affiliated with the Trump campaign who were working with the Russians to time the release of damaging information about Hillary Clinton that had been hacked either from John Podesta or the DNC?” That’s the entire Democrat case right there. That is it summed up. That is what they want everybody to believe. That’s what this lunatic Tom Perez, the new chairman of the DNC, said at a rally in Newark over the weekend, “Trump didn’t win the presidency.

“Trump and the Republicans don’t give an [excrement] about people.” The guy went off the rails. He made this militant Islamist Keith Ellison look mild-mannered by nature. Ellison was second in the voting for chairman of the DNC. This Perez guy is just an uber-partisan, and was just off the rails. And this is it, but they believe… You know what, folks? They know all of this is made up. Although they are so off the rails, I think they’ve bought their own lie and series of lies for so long now that they actually probably believe it happened.

There isn’t any evidence whatsoever.

There has never been any evidence that voters were tampered with. Nobody’s even alleged that. There was never any evidence whatsoever. And look at what the Democrats are admitting, if their version of events actually happened: That the Russians were able to plant fake news and that the Russians hacked Podesta and that the Russians got to WikiLeaks and WikiLeaks released all the emails. Look at what they’re asking us to believe: that the Russians were able to outsmart the American voter, that the Russians were able to screw with the minds of the American voter and make them vote against Democrats.

 

The Democrats are portraying themselves as weak, ineffective, and incompetent as they attempt to make the case that Russian collusion with Trump stole the election from them. So here is Schiff answering that question from Jake Tapper. (summarized) “Do you have any evidence of any collusion between the Trump campaign, Trump advisers and Russia? Can you definitively say there was collusion? Can you say that this resulted in Hillary losing the election?”

SCHIFF: I — I don’t think we can say anything definitively at this point. Uh, we are still it he very early stage of the investigation. The only thing I can say that it would be irresponsible for us not to get to the bottom of this. We really need to find out exactly what the Russians did, because one of the most important conclusions that the Intelligence Committee reached is that they are gonna do this again to the United States. They’re doing it already in Europe. So we can say, y’know, conclusively: This is something that needs to be thoroughly investigated. Uh, but it — but it’s way premature to be reaching conclusions.

RUSH: Really? He had just reached a conclusion a few days earlier when he went out and said that there was evidence of collusion. He had to pull it back because there isn’t any. This is gonna blow up on ’em. The media’s gonna cover for ’em when it happens, I understand, but it’s gonna blow up on them. This is going to be… Gorsuch is gonna blow up on ’em too.

BREAK TRANSCRIPT

RUSH: How many of you in the audience think that the Democrats actually believe they can force Trump out of office and that that’s why they are doing this? Think about that, will you? I’m gonna address that as we dig even deeper into this unmasking story, this blockbuster. Hang on. Be right back.

 (Eli Lake)

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange avoids eviction from Ecuador embassy as left-wing presidential candidate claims victory

April 3, 2017

No automatic alt text available.

  • Julian Assange has been in Ecuador’s embassy in London for nearly five years
  • Move has seen him protected from extradition to Sweden over rape allegations
  • Conservative presidential candidate Guillermo Lasso had vowed to removed him
  • But leftist Lenin Moreno has claimed victory in the country’s elections, having previously promised to keep hosting Assange in the country’s embassy

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange dodged an eviction order in Ecuador’s Sunday election, after the right-wing candidate who had vowed to kick him out of the country’s London embassy was set to narrowly lose a presidential election.

Assange has been holed up in the tiny embassy for nearly five years, protected by Ecuador’s current leftist government from extradition to Sweden over rape allegations.

Conservative presidential candidate Guillermo Lasso had vowed to remove Assange within 30 days of winning office, making global headlines and spooking Assange’s supporters.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (pictured) dodged an eviction order in Ecuador's Sunday election, after the right-wing candidate who had vowed to kick him out of the country's London embassy was set to narrowly lose a presidential election

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (pictured) dodged an eviction order in Ecuador’s Sunday election, after the right-wing candidate who had vowed to kick him out of the country’s London embassy was set to narrowly lose a presidential election

As it became clear Lasso was on the verge of defeat, Assange sent him a tongue-in-cheek message on Sunday night.

‘I cordially invite Lasso to leave Ecuador within 30 days (with or without his tax haven millions),’ wrote Assange on Twitter, amid accusations that Lasso had dodged taxes by stashing cash abroad.

Government candidate Lenin Moreno, meanwhile, claimed victory last night and has promised to keep hosting Assange in the Andean country’s embassy – although he warned he may take a tougher stance.

Moreno said in an interview with leftist broadcaster TeleSUR in February that he would ask Assange ‘not to intervene in the politics of countries that are friends of Ecuador.’

Assange, who enraged Washington by publishing a flood of secret U.S. diplomatic cables, entered the London embassy fearing that Sweden could end up sending him on to the United States where he could face a long prison term for leaking U.S. secrets. He has repeatedly denied the rape allegations.

Assange (pictured) has been holed up in the tiny embassy for nearly five years, protected by Ecuador's current leftist government from extradition to Sweden over rape allegations

Assange (pictured) has been holed up in the tiny embassy for nearly five years, protected by Ecuador’s current leftist government from extradition to Sweden over rape allegations

Though he will be able to stay on in the embassy, the tight presidential election in Ecuador highlighted just how vulnerable he is should a new government be ushered in.

Lasso said Ecuador, a largely poor country struggling amid an economic downturn, was wrong to host Assange.

‘Ecuador had no business spending a single cent protecting someone who definitely leaked confidential information,’ Lasso told Reuters in an interview in February in his sweltering coastal hometown of Guayaquil.

Despite its global importance, Assange’s case barely featured in the Ecuadorean campaign, which centered on jobs and social benefits.

In 2010, WikiLeaks published thousands of classified U.S. military and diplomatic documents in what became one of the largest information leaks in U.S. history.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4374496/Assange-set-stay-Ecuador-embassy-leftist-verge-winning-election.html#ixzz4dB84w4Lh
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FBI investigating ties between Russia and Trump campaign

March 20, 2017

AFP and The Associated Press

© Nicholas Kamm, AFP | FBI Director James Comey (pictured left) and NSA Director Mike Rogers on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. on March 20, 2017

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2017-03-20

FBI Director James Comey confirmed Monday that the bureau is investigating possible links and coordination between Russia and associates of President Donald Trump as part of a probe of Russian interference in last year’s presidential election.

The extraordinary revelation came at the outset of Comey’s opening statement in a congressional hearing examining Russian meddling and possible connections between Moscow and Trump‘s campaign. He acknowledged that the FBI does not ordinarily discuss ongoing investigations, but said he’d been authorized to do so given the extreme public interest in this case.

“This work is very complex, and there is no way for me to give you a timetable for when it will be done,” Comey told the House Intelligence Committee.

Earlier in the hearing, the chairman of the committee contradicted an assertion from Trump by saying that there had been no wiretap of Trump Tower. But Rep. Devin Nunes, a California Republican whose committee is one of several investigating, said that other forms of surveillance of Trump and his associates have not been ruled out.

Comey was testifying at Monday’s hearing along with National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers.

Trump, who recently accused President Barack Obama of wiretapping his New York skyscraper during the campaign, took to Twitter before the hearing began, accusing Democrats of making up allegations about his campaign associates’ contact with Russia during the election. He said Congress and the FBI should be going after media leaks and maybe even Hillary Clinton instead.

“The real story that Congress, the FBI and others should be looking into is the leaking of Classified information. Must find leaker now!” Trump tweeted early Monday as news coverage on the Russia allegations dominated the morning’s cable news.

Trump also suggested, without evidence, that Clinton’s campaign was in contact with Russia and had possibly thwarted a federal investigation. U.S. intelligence officials have not publicly raised the possibility of contacts between the Clintons and Moscow. Officials investigating the matter have said they believe Moscow had hacked into Democrats’ computers in a bid to help Trump’s election bid.

The real story that Congress, the FBI and all others should be looking into is the leaking of Classified information. Must find leaker now!

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

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

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

The Democrats made up and pushed the Russian story as an excuse for running a terrible campaign. Big advantage in Electoral College & lost!

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

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

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

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

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

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

(AP)

Related:

FBI Director Comey: Justice Dept. has no information that supports President Trump’s tweets alleging he was wiretapped by Obama

March 20, 2017

James Comey. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images (File Photo)

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The Washington Post
March 20 at 11:27 AM
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FBI Director James B. Comey acknowledged on Monday the existence of a counterintelligence investigation into the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 election, and said that probe extends to the nature of any links between Trump campaign associates and the Russian government.
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Testifying before the House Intelligence Committee, Comey said the investigation is also exploring whether there was any coordination between the campaign and the Kremlin, and “whether any crimes were committed.”
.The acknowledgment was an unusual move, given that the FBI’s practice is not to confirm the existence of ongoing investigations. “But in unusual circumstances, where it is in the public interest,” Comey said, “it may be appropriate to do so.”

Comey said he had been authorized by the Justice Department to confirm the wide-ranging probe’s existence.

He spoke at the first intelligence committee public hearing on alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election, along with National Security Agency head Michael S. Rogers.

Comey: No information to support Trump’s wiretapping tweets

FBI Director James B. Comey said at a House Intelligence Committee hearing that he has no information that Trump Tower was wiretapped by former president Barack Obama. (Reuters)

The hearing comes amid the controversy fired up by President Trump two weeks ago when he tweeted, without providing evidence, that President Barack Obama ordered his phones tapped at Trump Tower.

Comey says there is “no information’’ that supports Trump’s claims that his predecessor Barack Obama ordered surveillance of Trump Tower during the election campaign.

“I have no information that supports those tweets,’’ said Comey. “We have looked carefully inside the FBI,’’ and agents found nothing to support those claims, he said. He added the Justice Department had asked him to also tell the committee that that agency has no such information, either.

Under questioning from the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif,), Comey said no president could order such surveillance.

Committee chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) said in his opening statement, “The fact that Russia hacked U.S. election-related databases comes as no shock to this committee. We have been closely monitoring Russia’s aggressions for years…However, while the indications of Russian measures targeting the U.S. presidential election are deeply troubling, one benefit is already clear – it has focused wide attention on the pressing threats posed by the Russian autocrat. In recent years, Committee members have issued repeated and forceful pleas for stronger action against Russian belligerence. But the Obama administration was committed to the notion, against all evidence, that we could ‘reset’ relations with Putin, and it routinely ignored our warnings.”

Nunes said he hoped the hearing would focus on several key questions, including what actions Russia undertook against the United States during the 2016 election and did anyone from a political campaign conspire in these activities? He also wants to know if the communications of any campaign officials or associates were subject to any improper surveillance.

“Let me be clear,” he said. “We know there was not a wiretap on Trump Tower. However, it’s still possible that other surveillance activities were used against President Trump and his associates.”

Finally, Nunes said he is focused on leaks of classified information to the media. “We aim to determine who has leaked or facilitated leaks of classified information so these individuals can be brought to justice,” he said.

In his opening statement, Schiff said, “We will never know whether the Russian intervention was determinative in such a close election. Indeed it is unknowable in a campaign in which so many small changes could have dictated a different result. More importantly, and for the purposes of our investigation, it simply does not matter. What does matter is this: the Russians successfully meddled in our democracy, and our intelligence agencies have concluded that they will do so again.”

He added: “Most important, we do not yet know whether the Russians had the help of U.S. citizens, including people associated with the Trump campaign. Many of Trump’s campaign personnel, including the president himself, have ties to Russia and Russian interests. This is, of course, no crime. On the other hand, if the Trump campaign, or anybody associated with it, aided or abetted the Russians, it would not only be a serious crime, it would also represent one of the most shocking betrayals of our democracy in history.”

Just hours before the start of the hearing, Trump posted a series of tweets claiming Democrats “made up” the allegations of Russian contacts in an attempt to discredit the GOP during the presidential campaign. Trump also urged federal investigators to shift their focus to probe disclosures of classified material.

“The real story that Congress, the FBI and all others should be looking into is the leaking of Classified information,” Trump wrote early Monday. “Must find leaker now!”

Republican members pressed hard on the subject of leaks to the media that resulted in news stories about contacts between Russian officials and the Trump campaign or administration officials. Nunes sought an admission from the officials that the leaks were illegal under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court act, the law that governs foreign intelligence-gathering on U.S. soil or of U.S. persons overseas.

“Yes,” Comey answered. “In addition to being a breach of our trust with the FISA court.”

One story in particular that apparently upset the Republicans was a Feb. 9 story by The Washington Post reporting that Trump’s national security advisor, Michael Flynn, discussed the subject of sanctions with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, in the month before Trump took office. The Post reported that the discussions were monitored under routine, court-approved monitoring of Kislyak’s calls.

Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.) pressed Rogers to clarify under what circumstances it would be legitimate for Americans caught on tape speaking with people under surveillance to have their identities disclosed publicly, and whether leaking those identities would “hurt or help” intelligence collection.

“Hurt,” Rogers noted.

Rogers stressed that the identities of U.S. persons picked up through “incidental collection” – that being the way intelligence officials picked up on Flynn’s phone calls with Kislyak – are disclosed only on a “valid, need to know” basis, and usually only when there is a criminal activity or potential threat to the United States at play.

Rogers added that there are a total of 20 people in the NSA he has delegated to make decisions about when someone’s identity can be unmasked.

The FBI probe combines an investigation into hacking operations by Russian spy agencies with efforts to understand how the Kremlin sought to manipulate public opinion and influence the election’s outcome.

In January, the intelligence community released a report concluding that Russian President Vladi­mir Putin wanted to not only undermine the legitimacy of the election process but also harm the campaign of Hillary Clinton and boost Trump’s chances of winning.

Hackers working for Russian spy agencies penetrated the computers of the Democratic National Committee in 2015 and 2016 as well as the email accounts of Democratic officials, intelligence official said in the report. The material was relayed to WikiLeaks, the officials said, and the anti-secrecy group began a series of damaging email releases just before the Democratic National Convention that continued through the fall.

On Friday, the Justice Department delivered documents to the committee in response to a request for copies of intelligence and criminal wiretap orders and applications. Nunes, speaking Sunday, said the material provided “no evidence of collusion” to sway the election toward Trump and repeated previous statements that there is no credible proof of any active coordination.

But Schiff, also speaking Sunday, said there was “circumstantial evidence of collusion” at the outset of the congressional investigations into purported Russian election meddling, as well as “direct evidence” that Trump campaign figures sought to deceive the public about their interactions with Russian figures.

The concerns about Moscow’s meddling are also being felt in Europe, where France and Germany hold elections this year. “Our allies,” Schiff said, “are facing the same Russian onslaught.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/fbi-director-to-testify-on-russian-interference-in-the-presidential-election/2017/03/20/cdea86ca-0ce2-11e7-9d5a-a83e627dc120_story.html?utm_term=.2b44421224ec

*******************************

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON – FBI Director James Comey confirmed Monday that the bureau is investigating possible links and coordination between Russia and associates of President Donald Trump as part of a broader probe of Russian interference in last year’s presidential election.

The extraordinary revelation came at the outset of Comey’s opening statement in a congressional hearing examining Russian meddling and possible connections between Moscow and Trump’s campaign. He acknowledged that the FBI does not ordinarily discuss ongoing investigations, but said he’d been authorized to do so given the extreme public interest in this case.

“This work is very complex, and there is no way for me to give you a timetable for when it will be done,” Comey told the House Intelligence Committee.

Earlier in the hearing, the chairman of the committee contradicted an assertion from Trump by saying that there had been no wiretap of Trump Tower. But Rep. Devin Nunes, a California Republican whose committee is one of several investigating, said that other forms of surveillance of Trump and his associates have not been ruled out.

Comey was testifying at Monday’s hearing along with National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers.

Trump, who recently accused President Barack Obama of wiretapping his New York skyscraper during the campaign, took to Twitter before the hearing began, accusing Democrats of making up allegations about his campaign associates’ contact with Russia during the election. He said Congress and the FBI should be going after media leaks and maybe even Hillary Clinton instead.

“The real story that Congress, the FBI and others should be looking into is the leaking of Classified information. Must find leaker now!” Trump tweeted early Monday as news coverage on the Russia allegations dominated the morning’s cable news.

Trump also suggested, without evidence, that Clinton’s campaign was in contact with Russia and had possibly thwarted a federal investigation. U.S. intelligence officials have not publicly raised the possibility of contacts between the Clintons and Moscow. Officials investigating the matter have said they believe Moscow had hacked into Democrats’ computers in a bid to help Trump’s election bid.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


PUBLISHED: MARCH 20, 2017, 8:01 A.M. 

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

March 18, 2017

BBC News

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

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

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

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

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

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

GCHQ had also dismissed the allegation as nonsense.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-39312176

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