Showing posts with label Russia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Russia. Show all posts

February 18, 2017

Three Different FBI Investigations into Russia’s Election Hacking






The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation is pursuing at least three separate probes relating to alleged Russian hacking of the U.S. presidential elections, according to five current and former government officials with direct knowledge of the situation.

While the fact that the FBI is investigating had been reported previously by the New York Times and other media, these officials shed new light on both the precise number of inquires and their focus.

The FBI's Pittsburgh field office, which runs many cyber security investigations, is trying to identify the people behind breaches of the Democratic National Committee's computer systems, the officials said. Those breaches, in 2015 and the first half of 2016, exposed the internal communications of party officials as the Democratic nominating convention got underway and helped undermine support for Hillary Clinton.

The Pittsburgh case has progressed furthest, but Justice Department officials in Washington believe there is not enough clear evidence yet for an indictment, two of the sources said.

Meanwhile the bureau’s San Francisco office is trying to identify the people who called themselves “Guccifer 2” and posted emails stolen from Clinton campaign manager John Podesta’s account, the sources said. Those emails contained details about fundraising by the Clinton Foundation and other topics.

Beyond the two FBI field offices, FBI counterintelligence agents based in Washington are pursuing leads from informants and foreign communications intercepts, two of the people said.

This counterintelligence inquiry includes but is not limited to examination of financial transactions by Russian individuals and companies who are believed to have links to Trump associates. The transactions under scrutiny involve investments by Russians in overseas entities that appear to have been undertaken through middlemen and front companies, two people briefed on the probe said.

Reuters could not confirm which entities and individuals were under scrutiny.

Scott Smith, the FBI's new assistant director for cyber crime, declined to comment this week on which FBI offices were doing what or how far they had progressed.

The White House had no comment on Friday on the Russian hacking investigations. A spokesman pointed to a comment Trump made during the campaign, in which he said: “As far as hacking, I think it was Russia, but I think we also get hacked by other countries and other people."

During a news conference Thursday, President Donald Trump said he had no business connections to Russia.

The people who spoke to Reuters also corroborated a Tuesday New York Times report that Americans with ties to Trump or his campaign had repeated contacts with current and former Russian intelligence officers before the November election. Those alleged contacts are among the topics of the FBI counterintelligence investigation.

(Reporting by Joseph Menn in San Francisco. Additional reporting by Dustin Volz in San Francisco and Mark Hosenball, John Walcott and Steve Holland in Washington; Editing by Jonathan Weber and Tomasz Janowski)

February 14, 2017

Michael Flynn is Out but Trump Wont Be Able to Shake this Loose



 Alt. Right Sr. Advr.Bannon, National Sec Advr. Flynn, New AG Sessions



Throughout the confusion of Donald Trump's campaign and the chaotic events of his early days in the White House, one controversy has clung to the Trump train like glue: Russia.
The sudden departure of Michael Flynn from his role as national security adviser on Monday was the latest in a string of controversies tying the administration to apparent Russian interests.
Mr Flynn resigned after misleading the president, and Vice-President Mike Pence, over whether he discussed sanctions with Russia’s ambassador in the weeks before Mr Trump took office - which would violate a law that prohibits private citizens from conducting diplomacy.
 
Early warning signs

It was back in May 2016 that the first reports emerged of hackers targeting the Democratic Party. Over the next two months, the reports suggested US intelligence agencies had traced the breaches back to Russian hackers.
In July, on the eve of the Democratic National Convention, Wikileaks published 20,000 internal emails stolen by the hackers. US intelligence officials said they believed with "high confidence" that Russia was behind the operation, but the Trump campaign publicly refused the accept the findings.
Instead, at a press conference, Mr Trump caused outrage by inviting Russian hackers to target Hillary Clinton’s controversial personal email server, saying: "Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing".

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The first casualty

About the same time the hacking scandal was beginning to unfold, Mr Trump's then campaign manager, Paul Manafort, was accused of accepting millions of dollars in cash for representing Russian interests in the Ukraine and US, including dealings with an oligarch with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
While Mr Manafort was running the campaign, the Republican Party changed the language in its manifesto regarding the conflict in Ukraine, removing anti-Russian sentiment, allegedly at the behest of two Trump campaign representatives.
Mr Manafort was investigated by the FBI and quit as Mr Trump's campaign chairman. Like Mr Flynn, Mr Manafort, a political operative with more than 40 years' experience, was supposed to marshal some of the chaos and controversy around Mr Trump, but ended up falling prey to it.
 
At odds with the intelligence

In October, the US intelligence community released a unanimous statement formally accusing Russia of being the perpetrator behind the hacking of the Democratic National Committee (DNC).
Mr Trump continued to argue against the finding, claiming in a presidential debate that it "could be Russia, but it could also be China, it could also be lots of other people. It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds”.

The same day that the intelligence agencies released their finding, the explosive "Access Hollywood" recording emerged of Mr Trump's obscene remarks about women in 2005. An hour later, Wikileaks began dumping thousands more leaked Clinton emails.
Mr Trump continued to refuse to acknowledge the consensus that Russia was behind the hack.
 
Jump media playerMedia player helpOut of media player. Press enter to return or tab to continue.
Media captionTrump praises Putin's leadership
 
‘I always knew Putin was smart!'

In December, the FBI and Department of Homeland Security published a report of the US intelligence findings linking Russia to the hack.
In response, President Barack Obama expelled 35 Russian diplomats and levied new sanctions on Russia. The world awaited Mr Putin's response but he chose not retaliate. Mr Trump, by then the president-elect, sided with the Russian president, tweeting: "Great move on delay (by V. Putin) - I always knew he was very smart!”

Mr Putin's decision not to respond in kind struck many as a canny PR move, but reportedly set off suspicions among US intelligence officials that Russia was confident the sanctions would not last.
The same month, Mr Trump picked Rex Tillerson as his nominee for secretary of state, arguably the most important job in the cabinet. The biggest hurdle for Mr Tillerson's confirmation? Close ties to Mr Putin.

As CEO of the ExxonMobil oil company, Mr Tillerson cultivated a close personal relationship with the Russian leader, leading many to speculate on whether he was fit to serve as America's most senior foreign diplomat.
Mr Tillerson was sworn in as secretary of state on 2 February.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, right, and Rex Tillerson, ExxonMobilImage copyrightAP
Image caption
Rex Tillerson has cultivated close ties with Vladimir Putin

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The ‘compromising claims' dossier

In January, Buzzfeed published a dossier compiled by Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence official and Russia expert, which alleged that Moscow had compromising material on the then-president-elect, making him liable to blackmail.

Among the various memos in the dossier was an allegation that Mr Trump had been recorded by Russian security services consorting with prostitutes at a Moscow hotel.
Mr Trump dismissed the claims as fake news.

CNN revealed that President Obama and President-elect Trump had been briefed on the existence of the dossier by intelligence officials, and Buzzfeed went one further, publishing the entire thing.
The document went off like a hand grenade tossed into the already febrile political scene and generated a backlash against Buzzfeed for publishing what were essentially unverified claims.
 
Michael Flynn encouraged a softer policy on Russia
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The evidence against Flynn

In February, the most concrete and damaging Russia scandal finally surfaced, months after suspicions were raised among intelligence officials.

A Washington Post report said Mr Flynn had discussed the potential lifting of Mr Obama’s Russia sanctions with the Russian ambassador, Sergei Kislyak, before Mr Trump took office.

Mr Flynn, who had appeared regularly on Russian propaganda channel RT and once attended dinner with Mr Putin, resigned as Mr Trump’s national security adviser, saying he had "inadvertently briefed the vice-president-elect and others with incomplete information regarding my phone calls with the Russian ambassador" late last year.

It is illegal for private citizens to conduct US diplomacy.
Mr Trump has made no secret of his regard for Mr Putin and his desire to establish closer ties with Russia. But the more pressing question, and one which the president just can’t seem to shake, is just how close those ties already go.


January 16, 2017

DirectorGives Trump Warning on Russia/Trump Slams it//Priebus Warns Ethics Head




  
CIA Director John Brennan has offered a stern parting message for Donald Trump days before the Republican US president-elect takes office, cautioning him against loosening sanctions on Russia and warning him to watch what he says.

Brennan rebuked Trump for comparing US intelligence agencies to Nazi Germany in comments by the outgoing CIA chief that reflected the extraordinary friction between the incoming president and the 17 intelligence agencies he will begin to command once he takes office on Friday.
In an interview with Fox News Sunday, Brennan questioned the message sent to the world if the president-elect broadcasts that he does not have confidence in the United States’ own intelligence agencies.

"What I do find outrageous is equating the intelligence community with Nazi Germany. I do take great umbrage at that, and there is no basis for Mr Trump to point fingers at the intelligence community for leaking information that was already available publicly," Brennan said.
Brennan’s criticism followed a tumultuous week of finger-pointing between Trump and intelligence agency leaders over an unsubstantiated report that Russia had collected compromising information about Trump.

The unverified dossier was summarised in a US intelligence report presented to Trump and outgoing President Barack Obama this month that concluded Russia tried to sway the outcome of the November 8 election in Trump's favour by hacking and other means. The report did not make an assessment on whether Russia's attempts affected the election's outcome.
Trump has accused the intelligence community of leaking the dossier information, which its leaders denied. They said it was their responsibility to inform the president-elect that the allegations were being circulated.

Later on Sunday, Trump took to Twitter to berate Brennan and wrote, "Was this the leaker of Fake News?" In a separate posting, Trump scolded "those intelligence chiefs" for presenting the dossier as part of their briefing. "When people make mistakes, they should APOLOGIZE," he wrote.
Brennan also sounded an alarm on US relations with Russia. Trump has vowed to improve relations with Moscow even as he faces criticism that he is too eager to make an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Trump does not yet have a full understanding of Russia's actions, Brennan said, noting its seizure of Crimea from Ukraine, its support for President Bashar al-Assad in Syria's civil war and Moscow's aggressive activities in the cyber realm.
"Mr. Trump has to understand that absolving Russia of various actions it has taken in the past number of years is a road that he, I think, needs to be very, very careful about moving down," Brennan said.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal published on Friday, Trump suggested he might do away with sanctions imposed by the Obama administration on Russia in late December in response to the cyber attacks if Moscow proves helpful in battling terrorists and reaching other US goals.
Brennan also said Trump needs to be mindful about his off-the-cuff remarks once he assumes the presidency, alluding to Trump's penchant for making broad pronouncements on Twitter.
"Spontaneity is not something that protects national security interests," Brennan said. "So therefore when he speaks or when he reacts, just make sure he understands that the implications and impact on the United States could be profound."
"It's more than just about Mr Trump. It’s about the United States of America," Brennan said

Doina ChiacuReuters


Trump answers Director’s advice by slamming it

President-elect Donald Trump blasted outgoing CIA Director John Brennan on social media Sunday after Brennan said Trump does not have a “full understanding” of Russia’s power and threat to the world.

“I don’t think he has a full understanding of Russian capabilities and the actions they are taking on the world,” Brennan told “Fox News Sunday.”

He also suggested that Trump lacks a “full appreciation” of Russia’s aggression or about why President Obama imposed sanctions on the Kremlin for meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

“Mr. Trump has to understand that absolving Russia is a road that he needs to be very, very careful about moving down,” Brennan said.

Trump responded with a two-tweet message that criticized the CIA’s record under Brennan and questioned whether the director had leaked a dossier of unverified allegations that Russia spies had obtained compromising personal and financial information about Trump.

Source: Fox 

Priebus Warns! Head of Ethics

Incoming White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus warned the head of the Office of Government Ethics on Sunday to “be careful” in his criticisms of President-elect Donald Trump.

OGE Director Walter Shaub last week panned Trump’s plan to address his business conflicts as “meaningless,” marking the second time the director called on the president-elect to fully divest his assets before he assumes the presidency this week.

“The head of the government ethics ought to be careful because that person is becoming extremely political,” Priebus said on ABC News’ “This Week.”

huffingtonpost.com

January 14, 2017

If Any Part of the Dossier is Proven True it Will Bring Trump Down









The The Irish Independent had a warning for Trump today: If any of the reported is proven it will bring you down.

In seven days, Donald Trump will be the president of the United States.
The man who takes to Twitter in a flying rage when his vice-president is criticized by actors in a musical will be at the helm of the most powerful military in the world.
The man who has filed for bankruptcy six times will have critical influence on the US - and therefore the global - economy.

The man who has openly bragged about grabbing women "by the pussy" will set America's human rights agenda.
Anyone holding out hope that Mr Trump would, after the election, morph into a person ready to take on this awesome responsibility with the dignity and respect it deserves, will have been disavowed of that notion this week.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Mr Trump proved that the braggadocio, aggression and incoherence displayed in his presidential campaign was no act.
He is exactly what you would expect a casino mogul and television show host to be: entertaining, callow and surrounded by the whiff of scandal.

So strap in, ladies and gentlemen. The next four years are going to be a wild ride.
In part, the shock of the Trump presidency is aesthetic. After eight years of Barack Obama, possibly the best orator on the planet, Mr Trump's simplistic grasp of the English language grates all the more.

All matters - however nuanced - are judged with basic adjectives: good, bad, terrific, terrible.
Where Mr Obama's addresses are a skilful, sensitive weave of the complexities of a problem, Mr Trump gravitates to schematic extremes.

At Wednesday's press conference, his first since winning the election, he presented himself, without irony, as the leader of "a movement like the world has never seen before".
He vented his fury at intelligence agencies that he accused of leaking unsubstantiated reports that Russia was in possession of compromising material about him by invoking Nazi Germany.

His discussion of the claims that Russia launched cyber attacks to interfere in the US election sounded like a disquisition on a football game: chastising the Democratic National Committee for not having sufficient "hacking defence".
But it's not just Mr Trump's inarticulate style that speaks to the drama of the coming years.

The dossier put together by a British former MI6 agent for an opposition research group - published by Buzzfeed this week - is raw intelligence, a collection of unfiltered and unverified accounts from contacts in the FSB, the successor to the KGB.
But if even one of the allegations laid out against Mr Trump in its 35 pages proves to be true, Watergate would pale in comparison to its consequences. There is reason to believe there is more to come out.

As one Washington insider pointed out to me, the leaders of the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency, tend to be at loggerheads, often briefing against one another as their agencies vie for power and influence.

For all three to agree, as they did last week, that the contents of the dossier were credible enough to attach a two-page summary to a classified report given to Mr Trump and Mr Obama, indicates they know more than has been admitted.
And some of the allegations have been repeated elsewhere.

In the summer of last year, I spoke to a former US intelligence source who told me that the Russians were in possession of a "kompromat" - blackmail videotape, showing Donald Trump with prostitutes in a Moscow hotel.

He knew this, he said, from communications that had been intercepted by a Eastern European intelligence agency.
The former agent also urged me to follow the money.

Not just the election, but Mr Trump's whole career, he claimed, is wrapped up in questionable financing from Russia.

"It's like every part of his business is somehow tied up in it," he said.
Much has been written about Bayrock, the property development firm that was building Trump SoHo, his towering building in New York and other projects.

A key principal in Bayrock was Felix Sater, a Russian convicted of helping to lead a massive mafia-linked Wall Street stock fraud scheme. (Mr Sater also attacked a man at a New York bar by stabbing him in the face with the broken stem of a Martini glass).

Two lawyers, Frederic Oberlander and Richard Lerner, who have spent much of their careers tracking Bayrock's dealings, allege in court documents that Bayrock "for most of its existence was substantially and covertly mob-owned and operated".
In a petition to the US Supreme Court, they write that Mr Sater's father, Michael Sheferofsky, worked for Semion Mogilevich, the Russian mafia boss allegedly described by the FBI as "the most dangerous mobster in the world".

The company was based in Trump Tower, and, despite Mr Trump's claims that he barely knows Mr Sater, there is much reporting to show the opposite.

David Johnston, an American journalist who has spent years looking into connections between Mr Trump and the mafia, wrote in 'Politico' during the election that no other candidate for the White House "has anything close to Trump's record of repeated social and business dealings with mobsters, swindlers, and other crooks".
Then there is the most serious claim in the dossier: that the Trump campaign had colluded with Russia, in Moscow's alleged efforts to intervene in the presidential election.

At the press conference, Cecilia Vega of ABC News gave Mr Trump the opportunity to put this explosive allegation to bed.

She asked: "Mr president-elect, can you stand here today, once and for all and say that no one connected to you or your campaign had any contact with Russia leading up to or during the presidential campaign?"
Mr Trump's answer? It never came. (© Daily Telegraph London)
Irish Independent

Ruth Sherlock

January 13, 2017

A British Retired James Bond Got the Alleged Goods on Trump





The former British intelligence agent at the center of the maelstrom over a 35-page dossier about Donald Trump and the Russians is named Christopher Steele, but an ex-colleague refers to him by a more familiar moniker. 
"He's James Bond," said Nigel West, the intelligence historian and spy-novel author. "I actually introduced him to my wife as James Bond." 
Like the movie character, the 52-year-old Steele attended Cambridge University, where he was president of the Cambridge Union Debating Society. He was recruited by the Secret Intelligence Service, Britain's counterpart to the CIA, better known as MI6, right out of university, West said. 


Image: Former British spy Christopher Steele, seen here in 2015.


Former British spy Christopher Steele, seen here in 2015. The Cambridge Union via YouTube

He was posted to Moscow in the early 1990s and then Paris, according to people who knew him at the time. He served as the case officer for poisoned former KGB spy Alexander Litvinenko and more recently ran a course for new agents, West said. 
About eight years ago, he left Her Majesty's service and co-founded his own security firm, Orbis Business Intelligence, with partner Christopher Burrows. 
Unlike James Bond, Steele wasn't a household name — until he burst into the public consciousness this week after being unmasked as the author of a sensational, unverified report commissioned and circulated by unknown clients opposed to Trump. 
Steele — described as a compact, clean-cut man with an intense manner — has not commented on the uproar that was unleashed when media outlets reported the dossier had been presented to both Trump and President Obama and, in one case, published the document. 
But those who know Steele or his work say that the widowed father of three children enjoyed a reputation as a meticulous professional among current and former members of the intelligence community. 
"He's a squared-away guy," said former senior CIA officer John Sipher, who was posted to Russia in the 1990s and helped manage its efforts against Moscow before retiring in 2014. 


Image: Journalists gather outside the headquarters of Orbis Business Intelligence, the company run by former intelligence officer Christopher Steele, on Jan. 12 in London.


Journalists gather outside the headquarters of Orbis Business Intelligence, the company run by former intelligence officer Christopher Steele, on Jan. 12 in London. Leon Neal / Getty Images

Trump weighed in Friday morning, calling Steele a "failed spy" in a tweet. 
To some, the dossier's errors and far-out claims stand in stark contrast to Steele's usual approach to intelligence-gathering. West noted that only one intelligence officer was listed as a direct source. 
"Nobody is saying he believes in any of this," West said. "What he was hired to do was write a series of reports based on info he could glean from his contacts. His contacts are very good but they're more in the business community than the intel community." 
"He's highly professional, very effective," West added. "He's an impressive individual, knows a lot of the people about whom he speaks — but he's got to earn a living like the rest of us." 
But West did say that Steele is not dispassionate when it comes to Vladimir Putin, noting that he was the MI6 officer in charge of Litvinenko, who was fatally poisoned with radiation in 2006 after seeking asylum in the United Kingdom. 
"He feels very strongly that the Putin Kremlin tore up the rule book and the convention by which intelligence agencies do not attack each other's personnel," West said of Steele. "He also feels passionately about what you'd call the Kremlin kleptocracy. He doesn’t believe there is a business deal in the past 10 years that has been legit."

by   and 

January 11, 2017

Trump’s Interactions with Russia (Interactive Graph)







December 19, 2016

Russian Ambassador to Turkey Killed (Update}






 The Russian ambassador to Ankara was shot in an attack at an art gallery in the Turkish capital on Monday and the Russian RIA news agency said he had died of his wounds.

The Anadolu news agency said the gunman had been "neutralized" soon after the attack, which appeared to mark one of the most serious spillovers of the Syria conflict in Turkey. Relations between Moscow and Ankara have long been fraught over the conflict, the two supporting opposing sides.

Ambassador Andrei Karlov made a speech at the opening of a photographic exhibition. Hurriyet newspaper said Turkish special forces had surrounded the building. NTV said three other people were wounded.
{Reuters}

November 6, 2016

If We Loose Electric The Russians Will Also be in the Dark (Retaliation Plan)



Moscow Cathedral in the dark

U.S. military hackers have penetrated Russia's electric grid, telecommunications networks and the Kremlin's command systems, making them vulnerable to attack by secret American cyber weapons should the U.S. deem it necessary, according to a senior intelligence official and top-secret documents reviewed by NBC News.

American officials have long said publicly that Russia, China and other nations have probed and left hidden malware on parts of U.S critical infrastructure, "preparing the battlefield," in military parlance, for cyber attacks that could turn out the lights or turn off the internet across major cities.

It's been widely assumed that the U.S. has done the same thing to its adversaries. The documents reviewed by NBC News — along with remarks by a senior U.S. intelligence official — confirm that, in the case of Russia.

U.S. officials continue to express concern that Russia will use its cyber capabilities to try to disrupt next week's presidential election. U.S. intelligence officials do not expect Russia to attack critical infrastructure — which many believe would be an act of war — but they do anticipate so-called cyber mischief, including the possible release of fake documents and the proliferation of bogus social media accounts designed to spread misinformation.

On Friday the hacker known as "Guccifer 2.0" — which U.S. officials say is a front for Russian intelligence — tweeted a threat to monitor the U.S. elections "from inside the system."

As NBC News reported Thursday, the U.S. government is marshaling resources to combat the threat in a way that is without precedent for a presidential election.

                                                                           



The cyber weapons would only be deployed in the unlikely event the U.S. was attacked in a significant way, officials say.
U.S. military officials often say in general terms that the U.S. possesses the world's most advanced cyber capabilities, but they will not discuss details of highly classified cyber weapons.

James Lewis, a cyber expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, says that U.S. hacks into the computer infrastructure of adversary nations such as China, Russia, Iran and North Korea — something he says he presumes has gone on for years — is akin to the kind of military scouting that is as old as human conflict.

"This is just the cyber version of that," he said.

In 2014, National Security Agency chief Adm. Mike Rogers told Congress that U.S. adversaries are performing electronic "reconnaissance" on a regular basis so that they can be in a position to disrupt the industrial control systems that run everything from chemical facilities to water treatment plants.

"All of that leads me to believe it is only a matter of when, not if, we are going to see something dramatic," he said at the time.

Rogers didn't discuss the U.S.'s own penetration of adversary networks. But the hacking undertaken by the NSA, which regularly penetrates foreign networks to gather intelligence, is very similar to the hacking needed to plant precursors for cyber weapons, said Gary Brown, a retired colonel and former legal adviser to U.S. Cyber Command, the military's digital war fighting arm.

"You'd gain access to a network, you'd establish your presence on the network and then you're poised to do what you would like to do with the network," he told NBC News. "Most of the time you might use that to collect information, but that same access could be used for more aggressive activities too."
Brown and others have noted that the Obama administration has been extremely reluctant to take action in cyberspace, even in the face of what it says is a series of Russian hacks and leaks designed to manipulate the U.S. presidential election.

Administration officials did, however, deliver a back channel warning to Russian against any attempt to influence next week's vote, officials told NBC News.

The senior U.S. intelligence official said that, if Russia initiated a significant cyber attack against critical infrastructure, the U.S. could take action to shut down some Russian systems — a sort of active defense.

Retired Adm. James Stavridis, who served as NATO commander of Europe, told NBC News' Cynthia McFadden that the U.S. is well equipped to respond to any cyber attack.

"I think there's three things we should do if we see a significant cyber-attack," he said. "The first obviously is defending against it. The second is reveal: We should be publicizing what has happened so that any of this kind of cyber trickery can be unmasked. And thirdly, we should respond. Our response should be proportional."
The U.S. use of cyber attacks in the military context — or for covert action — is not without precedent.

During the 2003 Iraq invasion, U.S spies penetrated Iraqi networks and sent tailored messages to Iraqi generals, urging them to surrender, and temporarily cut electronic power in Baghdad.

In 2009 and 2010, the U.S., working with Israel, is believed to have helped deploy what became known as Stuxnet, a cyber weapon designed to destroy Iranian nuclear centrifuges.

Today, U.S. Cyber Command is engaged in cyber operations against the Islamic State, including using social media to expose the location of militants and sending spoof orders to sow confusion, current and former officials tell NBC News.

One problem, officials say, is that the doctrine around cyber conflict — what is espionage, what is theft, what is war — is not well developed.

"Cyber war is undefined," Brown said. “There are norms of behavior that we try to encourage, but people violate those."

nbcnews.com

PBS Report 3 wks ago 

November 1, 2016

Comey Wont Divulge Russian Connect.to Trump Nor for Hacking “It Might Interfere with Elections”


                                                                    



FBI Director James Comey argued against publicly disclosing the U.S. intelligence community's conclusion that Russia was behind hacks into U.S. political institutions, highly placed sources told NBC News on Monday.

A former senior law enforcement official with detailed knowledge of the matter said on condition of anonymity that Comey argued that disclosing that operatives based in Russia were behind the widespread hacking not only might interfere with the U.S. election but also could violate Justice Department guidelines.

Comey's opposition to the Russia report was first disclosed Monday by CNBC, which said Comey was concerned about being seen as interfering with next week's general election.

A senior FBI official, however, disputed that account, telling NBC News that Comey did raise concerns about publicly naming Russia but that those concerns were based on the potential impact on any related investigation, not the U.S. elections.

Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign and supporters in Congress have objected that Comey also shouldn't have disclosed last week that investigators had uncovered more emails that could be related to the investigation of Clinton's private email server.

Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook on Monday called Comey's actions irresponsible.

"It's impossible to view this as anything less than a blatant double standard," Mook said in a calls with reporters. " That Director Comey would show more discretion in a matter concerning a foreign state actor than one involving the Democratic nominee for president is nothing short of jaw dropping."

Law enforcement officials told NBC News over the weekend that the Justice Department strongly advised against disclosing the Clinton email developments because of the election, and the former senior law enforcement source said Monday that he was surprised by Comey's decision in the Clinton investigation.

As for the hacking, a senior U.S. intelligence official told NBC News that there was no disagreement over Russia's culpability. The concern, that official said, was about “naming and shaming” the Russians.

The FBI wasn't specifically mentioned in the statement that the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued Oct. 7, which said: "The U.S. Intelligence Community (USIC) is confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from U.S. persons and institutions, including from U.S. political organizations.

"These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the U.S. election process," it said.

Officials noted that while the FBI was initially opposed to publicly naming Russia, the Bureau did ultimately sign on.

Official sources have told NBC News that the Russian cyber espionage campaign began more than a year ago and has been far more extensive than has been publicly disclosed, overwhelmingly targeting Democrats.

  and 

October 29, 2016

Russia Lost Seat on UN Human Rights Council





 Aleppo, Syria after a Russian bombing




[UN] Russia narrowly lost its seat on the main United Nations body devoted to human rights on Friday, signaling international dismay over the military power’s conduct in Syria.

The vote was to select countries to represent Eastern Europe on the United Nations Human Rights Council. Russia lost by two votes to Croatia and by 32 votes to Hungary. All 193 members of the United Nations General Assembly voted, and when the results were announced, there was a “small intake of air” in the large hall, said the New Zealand envoy, Gerard van Bohemen.

He said he believed that Russia’s conduct in the war in Syria, including the aerial bombardment of Aleppo, “must have played a part.”

The Russian ambassador, Vitaly I. Churkin, declined to answer a reporter’s question about whether Syria had anything to do with the vote. “We need a break,” he said.

Mr. Churkin said his country was more “exposed to the winds of international diplomacy” than the two countries from his region selected for the council.

The Human Rights Council, made up of 47 member nations, is sometimes described by critics as a rogues’ gallery of rights abusers. Current members include Burundi, China, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela.

In Friday’s vote, both China and Saudi Arabia were re-elected, essentially unopposed for seats representing Asian countries. Britain and the United States were also re-elected, essentially unopposed.

In the contested races, Russia’s loss was the most significant.

It was the first time a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council had lost a seat on the Human Rights Council, an intergovernmental body established in 2006 to strengthen “the promotion and protection of human rights.” The council’s members are elected for three-year terms.

The United States previously experienced a similar blow. In 2001, it lost an election to the council’s predecessor, known as the Human Rights Commission. At the time, the Bush administration appeared surprised by the setback, which it attributed to contentious American positions on China, Cuba and the Israeli-Palestinian crisis. Colin L. Powell, then secretary of state, said that “we left a little blood on the floor.”

The United States regained its seat on that body the next year.

In 2006, the United States also lost a seat on the International Law Commission. That was seen as a response to the Bush administration’s perceived repudiation of international law. That commission, though lesser known, usually writes first drafts of far-reaching global treaties.

The Human Rights Council is politically influential. Its responsibilities include establishing panels to investigate human rights abuses in specific countries. Human rights advocates had hoped that the council would impanel an inquiry into rights abuses in Yemen. It was vigorously opposed by Saudi Arabia, which was re-elected on Friday for another three-year seat.

“It’s hard to imagine the atrocities happening in Aleppo were not on the minds of those casting their ballots today,” said Akshaya Kumar of Human Rights Watch, which had vigorously lobbied against both Russia and Saudi Arabia in recent weeks. The group called for competitive elections for all geographic blocs.

September 10, 2016

Agreement Reached with US-Russia to Reduce Violence


 
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced Friday that the U.S. and Russia have finalized a plan to reduce violence in war-torn Syria and allow humanitarian access.

Kerry called it a possible "turning point" in the five-year civil war.

The deal calls for a nationwide ceasefire to begin at sunset on Sept. 12. If the ceasefire holds for 7 days, it could lead to Russian and U.S. military coordination, Kerry said.

"If this arrangement holds, then we will see a significant reduction in violence across Syria," Kerry said in an address in Geneva.

The agreement also pullbacks from both sides in a major road in the war-torn city of Aleppo and the creation of a demilitarized zone, and unhindered humanitarian access.

Under the agreement the U.S. would work with opposition groups and the Russians with the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad to make sure the cease fire holds.

"I want to emphasize: These measures can only be implemented effectively if all the parties live up to their obligations," Kerry said.
 
Kerry said that if "legitimate opposition groups" want to be considered legitimate parties they "need to distance themselves in every way possible" from the terror groups al-Nusra Front and ISIS.

"And we expect that Russia will ensure that the Syrian government will adhere to all of its requirements about its air activities and about the access for humanitarian deliverance," Kerry said.

The agreement would involve a joint center to share initial information and delineate territories controlled by opposition groups as part of the broader peace effort, Kerry said.

Eventually, U.S. and Russian experts would work together to defeat ISIS and al-Nusra in the country, he said.

The deal looked like it might not occur earlier Friday. ussian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said he was considering "calling it a day" and blamed Washington for an impasse.

Shortly before midnight Geneva time (7 p.m. ET), Lavrov appeared with several boxes of pizza, saying: "This is from the U.S. delegation." A few minutes later he returned with two bottles of vodka, adding: "This is from the Russian delegation."

Kerry and Lavrov said two weeks ago that the two countries were "close" to a deal but that technical details remained and there was more work to do.

A nationwide ceasefire was declared in February, but it collapsed after frequent violations.

PHIL HELSEL

July 24, 2016

Russian Doping Report Confirms Widespread Doping but…


but Russians will not be blanket banned.         Tomorrow’s news today at Adamfoxie*



Russian athletes have avoided a blanket ban from the Rio Olympics after the International Olympic Committee elected to allow individual sport federations to determine their role in state-sponsored doping.

The 387 members of the Russia team faced the prospect of a ban from the competition next month after a Wada report published details on a “culture” of systematic, state-sponsored doping

The IOC’s decision, revealed on Sunday afternoon, means the individual federations have 12 days to review each athletes’ conduct on a case-by-case basis in a defining moment of president Thomas Bach’s tenure on the committee.  

Richard McLaren on Russian investigation
Calls for a blanket ban had intensified with Olympic skeleton racer and British IOC member Adam Pengilly saying: “The scale, leadership and co-ordination of a system like this is arguably the most heinous crime possible against the Olympic movement.”

Swimmer Rebecca Adlington and hurdler Sally Gunnell are also among the signatories who have endorsed a letter sent by The Times newspaper to the IOC which urged them to ban Russia from Rio.

It follows a report commissioned by Wada and undertaken by Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren which reaffirmed allegations that the Russian sports ministry oversaw an expansive doping programme, including the manipulation of urine samples at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi.

It additionally revealed that doping in 28 summer sports from 2011 to 2015 had also received state sponsorship. Bach said the findings showed a “shocking and unprecedented attack on the integrity of sports and on the Olympic Games” and declared the IOC “will not hesitate to take the toughest sanctions available against any individual or organization implicated.”

Background

The McLaren report's key findings
The Moscow Laboratory operated, for the protection of doped Russian athletes, within a State-dictated failsafe system, described in the report as the Disappearing Positive Methodology.
The Sochi Laboratory operated a unique sample swapping methodology to enable doped Russian athletes to compete at the Games.
The Ministry of Sport directed, controlled and oversaw the manipulation of athletes' analytical results or sample swapping, with the active participation and assistance of the FSB (the Russian federal security service), CSP, and both Moscow and Sochi Laboratories.
 independent.co.uk

Nation Doping Violators: ioc-will-allow-russians-that-dope-to compete

June 7, 2016

Gay Men in Russia 'Easy targets for Crime Gangs’

Image result for anti gay russia


                                                                         
                                                                         








  
Criminal gangs in Russia, operating through gay dating sites, have found a lucrative new blackmail target: homosexual men.

A St. Petersburg economist, one of their latest victims, said several men burst into the apartment where he was meeting his date. Claiming that his date was under age, they threatened to call the police and to release a video they had secretly filmed unless he paid up.

The gay rights group Vykhod, or Coming Out, said they registered 12 such attacks in St. Petersburg in 2015 and at least six more gay men have come to them so far this year. LGBT activists believe the real number is far higher and say the attacks have increased in the past two years.

Since homosexuality finds little acceptance in Russian society, many gays keep their sexual orientation hidden from their families, friends and co-workers. This makes them easy extortion targets for criminals.

Vykhod spokeswoman Nika Yuryeva said most of the recent attacks have followed the same pattern as the one seen by the St. Petersburg economist.

Alexander Loza, a legal adviser at Positive Dialogue, an organization that provides consulting services for gays, particularly those living with the HIV virus, has heard similar stories.

“Many gay people in Russia lead a double life, unwilling to disclose their sexual orientation to their family or at work,” Loza said. “In the case of such setup dates, they are afraid to disclose their status, to be accused of pedophilia, and therefore they are afraid to appeal to the police.”

The activists said Russian criminals have been emboldened by a 2013 law that made it a crime to expose children to gay “propaganda,” part of a Kremlin-backed effort to defend traditional family values and counter the influence of what it considers a decadent West.

Alexander Zhelezkin, who manages outreach programs at Positive Dialogue, said the law was what made him decide to become a gay activist.

“Now, my coming out is my defense,” he said.

For prominent television journalist Anton Krasovsky, however, that move ended his career in Russia. He was fired after he came out on the air in 2013 and hasn’t been able to find a job in television since.

Krasovsky said it will be a long time before gays in Russia feel protected enough to speak publicly about their sexual orientation.

“To stop being afraid, they need to begin to trust the state where they live, but they don’t trust the state where they live now,” he said.

The St. Petersburg economist, however, did go to the police. He spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity out of fear that his attackers, who know where he lives, would seek retribution if they learned that he had reported them.

The economist, who gave his age as “about 30,” said he thought they were lying about his date being a minor. But he said the attackers beat and threatened him – and suggested they had friends in the police force who they said would lock him up on fabricated charges.

He said they demanded more than 100,000 rubles ($1,500). One of them took his bank card and cleaned out his account, and they released him only after he agreed to transfer the balance the next day, he said.

The crime gangs who carry out such attacks are not necessarily anti-gay, but have identified a profitable niche where they feel they can operate with impunity, Loza and Yuryeva said.

The economist agreed.

“They commit these crimes not because they are homophobes – they are simply taking advantage of the situation,” knowing that few people would go to the police after such an experience, he said. “I think they are just common criminals who chose this kind of method.”

St. Petersburg police spokesman Vyacheslav Stepchenko said he had not heard about these blackmail cases and said he wasn’t aware of any anti-gay attacks being registered in the city in recent years.

He offered to check with the specific police station that the economist reported the crime to, but the economist didn’t want to draw public attention to his case by disclosing which station it was.

Timur Bulatov, an anti-gay activist who claims to have helped get a number of teachers fired after outing them as homosexuals, said he sees no need to resort to the blackmail used by criminal gangs.

“Why attack a sick person? Such a person needs treatment,” he said. “I have a bunch of legal methods to use to influence such a person, to put pressure on him.”

Bulatov, who wears camouflage outfits and carries a handgun in a hip holster, said gays are the “enemies” of Russian society and its children, but should be opposed only through legal means.

He said the law banning gay propaganda among minors was intentionally made vague so it can be applied in a wide range of circumstances. The law, for instance, has made it easy to target gay and lesbian teachers in Russia because they work directly with children.

The federal law was modeled on a 2012 St. Petersburg law authored by Vitaly Milonov, a city lawmaker and outspoken opponent of LGBT rights.

“This law is a preventive measure. It was introduced not to punish anyone, but to prevent such public actions as gay parades, because parents in Russia don’t want their children to see these things,” Milonov told the AP.

Milonov, who has a large portrait of the Russian Orthodox Church patriarch on his office wall, said his mission was to promote “normal” families with many children.

“There is no oppression of homosexual people in Russia,” he said. “When gay organizations complain of such harassment, they do it in order to get more money from soft-hearted Europeans.”

VERONIKA SILCHENKO AND IRINA TITOVATHE ASSOCIATED PRESS

May 23, 2016

Surviving as Dictator in a World Full of Democracies



                                                                         
                                                                                                                                               
It was a frigid winter in Uzbekistan and Sanjar Umarov stood shoeless and shivering in the middle of the prison courtyard for hours, fighting the freezing cold. It was torture. But his punishment was light in comparison to the other prisoners, he knew. He could hear their bloodcurdling screams. Like him, a notorious opposition leader, many were guilty of simply standing up to the president, Islam Karimov.

Umarov and the men and women who shared his pain in that Uzbek prison are not alone, of course. Political repression has survived the end of the Cold War and the advent of the internet quite nicely, thank you — just look to Bashar al-Assad’s Syria or Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe. Indeed, 2,600 years after its birth in Athens, democracy is having a tougher go of it than one might expect. In its 2015 Democracy Index, the Economist Intelligence Unit reckons that just 12 percent of the world’s population lives in what it calls “full democracy,” down from about 15 percent in 2014. Three in 10 people live under regimes where challenging the status quo is likely to land them in prison, get them tortured or worse. The headline of a survey by the nonprofit Freedom House tells a similar tale. Its title: “Discarding Democracy: Return to the Iron Fist.”
No doubt that technology has made it harder for dictatorships “to stay isolated,” says Natasha Ezrow, an expert in authoritarian regimes at the University of Essex. Repressive rulers now have to deal with insurgencies on Facebook and Twitter; a Whatsapp group can be tougher to quash than, say, an assembly in the town square (unless, of course, you don’t mind shutting down the whole country’s telecom, which, hey, happens). “But that doesn’t mean they are going to disappear anytime soon.”

The Democracy Index counts 51 dictatorships around the world. These are states without free elections, civil liberties and an independent media, governed by rulers who knock down Umarov and others who try to stand up. Few of these strongmen — and the vast majority are men — attract global attention. Surprisingly or not, the world’s lesser-known rulers with an iron fist can be just as awful as, if not more so, the Kim Jong-uns of the world. Which is to say: Long after Vladimir Putin finally rides into his sunset — shirtless and bareback, of course — his tyrannical brethren will still be with us.

***

There are those who argue that dictatorship has its benefits — and not just for the dictators. Authoritarians, they say, can stabilize volatile regions, where elections are often a gamble that risks sparking violent turmoil. Don’t be surprised if you see Western powers turning a blind eye to Paul Kagame’s ever-longer rule in Rwanda. Many, inside and out, credit him for restoring stability and a kind of harmony to the country, which lay in genocidal ruin 20 years ago, and for its economic growth.

The linchpin of the dictatorship-can-be-good argument is China. Economically, it has outperformed its equally populous but democratic neighbor India, and some political observers credit an authoritarian government that pushed through radical economic reforms. “This could not have been done without strong leadership bent on pushing such policies, perhaps even to the point of employing coercion against opponents,” argues Honorary Professor of Development Studies at the Graduate Institute of Geneva Claude Auroi in his book The Role of the State in Development Processes. The argument has its many critics, many of them Chinese.

Dictators are not fundamentally different from democratic political leaders…. They want the same: to impose their will.
Bruce Bueno de Mesquita

Of course, the line between democracy and dictatorship can be blurry. The Democracy Index rates the United States a full democracy — but only barely, thanks to race-based police violence, Congressional gridlock and wiretapping. Even in countries with regular elections, it’s easy to question the legitimacy of an election when candidates are bankrolled by a handful of über-wealthy donors and no new parties stand a chance of entering the political arena. In recent months, commentators left and right have wrung their hands over Donald J. Trump’s alleged dictatorial tendencies. Others argue that the American two-party system itself functions as a kind of repression.

“Dictators are not fundamentally different from democratic political leaders,” argues Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, political scientist, professor at New York University and author of The Dictator’s Handbook: Why Bad Behavior Is Almost Always Good Politics. “They operate in a different environment, but they want the same: to impose their will.”

But living in a dictatorship is much different than living in democracy. It is to live in terror, to fear saying the wrong thing to the wrong person — and to accept that terror as the normal state of affairs. Whether in Southeast Asia or sub-Saharan Africa, our requests to interview citizens about their strongmen rulers were met with some version of the same answer: “Please don’t contact me again,” “I know you’re just trying to do your job, but I can’t help you,” “This is completely off the record, right? Because I want to be able to go back…” And their press offices? Radio silence.

Autocratic regimes do not survive on brute force, intimidation and media control alone. Nearly all of them rely on a little help from their friends. Laos, for example, has buddied up with its autocratic neighbors Thailand, Vietnam and older brother China. Russia is a good patron to a number of small dictatorships, including Belarus, a country that’s remained impermeable to democratic change despite its proximity to Europe. Sometimes the strategy can backfire if your sugar daddy goes broke — in the wake of Russia’s economic downturn, Belarus President Lukashenko’s throne is starting to wobble.

In dictatorships, like so much else, size matters. And smaller is better.
If bigger and badder allies are not an option, another way to get away with dictatorship is to have deeply troubled neighbors — ideally a combination of human-rights violators and terrorists. Ethiopia, for example, a repressive regime without a doubt, comes across like a prodigal child next to the bombshell that is Somalia. The same goes for Uzbekistan, which is being courted by both Russia and the U.S. despite its grisly body count of dissidents. Why? Afghanistan. Karimov’s country is the geopolitical cork in the bottle of terrorism and heroin trafficking that no one is willing to pop. Hence the recent multimillion-dollar military donation to a man who is reputed for boiling prisoners alive.

In dictatorships, like so much else, size matters. And, with the exception of China, smaller is better. Rivers of ink flow about Zimbabwe’s elections while nothing is written about the lack thereof in tiny Swaziland. Its king would likely be a monster if he ruled a large country, but with fewer subjects than residents of Manhattan, King Mswati’s eccentricities may seem more cute than cruel. The same goes for Nicaragua. The country that had the U.S. obsessed during the Cold War now flies comfortably under its radar, even as President Ortega continues to hoard power and threatens to split the country in two with a pharaonic new channel.

***

Enough on how dictators stay in power. How to put an end to these half-forgotten black holes of human rights? The first step might be to dispense with the notion that a popular uprising is enough. The image of citizens flocking the streets demanding change makes for great television, but few autocrats have been toppled by protest, and the ensuing power vacuums can be dangerous. Five years after the wave of hope and outrage that was the Arab Spring, Syria has become the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II.

Similarly, international interventions aren’t enough, either. Even NATO-freed Libya has descended into chaos, bad enough that citizens in the capital, Tripoli, “have started to look back on the Qaddafi period as one of stability,” says journalist Callum Paton, who has been covering the conflict. The 174,000 dead civilians from the war in Iraq and Afghanistan show that planting the “seed of democracy” can be a bloody business.

Instead, ridding the world of dictators will likely require fresh, counterintuitive approaches. Like asking nicely. Seriously: Some believe that carrots work better than sticks, and their reasoning is sound. After all, being a dictator is a dangerous job: Two out of three are ousted and it must be hard to sleep knowing that, somewhere at International Criminal Court, there’s a fat dossier with your name on it. Even democratic leaders need soft landings. Until last year, Boston University ran an “African President-in-Residence” program for ex-African presidents. And, as an incentive for democratic behavior, there’s the Ibrahim Prize — a $5 million payment plus a couple hundred thousand every year — for a former African head of state or of government who sticks to his constitutionally mandated term.

“What needs to done is to bring everyone together, the ruler, the opposition, the civil society and the business community, and draw a road map toward genuine democracy,” says Jeffrey Smith, an expert in small dictatorships at the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights. The examples are few but encouraging. The king of Spain in 1973 was given total power yet decided to turn the country into a democracy. In the ’90s, several West African nations drew such road maps. Olusegun Obasanjo in Nigeria, for example, gave away his power to later be democratically elected.

The other winning strategy is to strengthen the rule of law. Instead of backing rebels who are likely to become dictators as soon as they step into the presidential palace, why not help create an army of lawyers and judges? It’s a fine idea, one that nearly everyone supports — but generating the resolve and long-term investments is another story. Judges, courthouses and clerks receive “very little funding,” says Ezrow.

So democracy could, indeed, win someday. We only need to sweet talk megalomaniacs into letting go of their hard-won, and addictive, power while educating an entire generation of would-be law students. Just that.

The governments of Uzbekistan, Syria, Zimbabwe, Jordan, Oman, China, India, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Belarus, Russia, Somalia, Afghanistan, Swaziland, Nicaragua, Eritrea, Yemen, Libya, Spain and Nigeria did not reply to requests for comment for this story.

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