Tag Archives: intelligence

The Intercept Discloses Top-Secret NSA Document on Russia Hacking Aimed at US Voting System

Mother Jones

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On Monday, the Intercept published a classified internal NSA document noting that Russian military intelligence mounted an operation to hack at least one US voting software supplier—which provided software related to voter registration files—in the months prior to last year’s presidential contest. It has previously been reported that Russia attempted to hack into voter registration systems, but this NSA document provides details of how one such operation occurred.

According to the Intercept:

The top-secret National Security Agency document, which was provided anonymously to The Intercept and independently authenticated, analyzes intelligence very recently acquired by the agency about a months-long Russian intelligence cyber effort against elements of the US election and voting infrastructure. The report, dated May 5, 2017, is the most detailed US government account of Russian interference in the election that has yet come to light.

While the document provides a rare window into the NSA’s understanding of the mechanics of Russian hacking, it does not show the underlying “raw” intelligence on which the analysis is based. A US intelligence officer who declined to be identified cautioned against drawing too big a conclusion from the document because a single analysis is not necessarily definitive.

The report indicates that Russian hacking may have penetrated further into US voting systems than was previously understood. It states unequivocally in its summary statement that it was Russian military intelligence, specifically the Russian General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate, or GRU, that conducted the cyber attacks described in the document:

Russian General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate actors … executed cyber espionage operations against a named U.S. company in August 2016, evidently to obtain information on elections-related software and hardware solutions. … The actors likely used data obtained from that operation to … launch a voter registration-themed spear-phishing campaign targeting U.S. local government organizations.

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The Intercept Discloses Top-Secret NSA Document on Russia Hacking Aimed at US Voting System

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Donald Trump Doesn’t Like Dealing With Peasants

Mother Jones

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The Washington Post reports that President Trump prefers to receive his daily intelligence briefing in comic book form, but we already knew that. However, this is new to me:

Most mornings, often at 10:30, sometimes earlier, Trump sits behind the historic Resolute desk and, with a fresh Diet Coke fizzing and papers piled high, receives top-secret updates on the world’s hot spots. The president interrupts his briefers with questions but also with random asides. He asks that the top brass of the intelligence community be present, and he demands brevity.

….Though career intelligence analysts often take the lead in delivering them, Trump likes his political appointees — Pompeo and Coats — to attend, along with national security adviser H.R. McMaster. Pompeo and Coats, whose offices are in McLean, Va., have had to redesign their daily routines so that they spend many mornings at the White House.

It’s appropriate for the intelligence chiefs to be present periodically. But forcing two of them to blow off an hour or two of their time every day isn’t. It’s dumb management.

So why does Trump do it? Mostly for ego and dominance reasons, I suppose. He might also still be convinced that the intelligence community is his enemy and will play games with the orders he gives them. So he wants his own appointees present to make sure they do what he wants.

These are both the marks of an insecure leader. It’s not a good sign.

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Donald Trump Doesn’t Like Dealing With Peasants

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The Intel Community Needs to Fire Someone—Fast

Mother Jones

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The US intelligence community has screwed up. Someone (or multiple someones) passed along British intel about the Manchester bombing to US reporters before it had been publicly released. This is bad for at least three reasons:

It quite possibly impedes an active investigation.
It pisses off British intelligence.
It gives Donald Trump a very reasonable excuse to demand an investigation into leaking from our intelligence agencies.

This is a bit like the reporters who fail to verify their stories properly and end up making mistakes. It might not happen very often, but it gives Trump ammunition for his claims that the media is out to get him with endless fake news. For that reason, reporters in the age of Trump need to be doubly careful about what they write.

If the intel community is smart, it will figure out where these leaks came from and fire someone fast. But are they smart?

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The Intel Community Needs to Fire Someone—Fast

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British Officials Angered by US Leaks of Manchester Intelligence to Media

Mother Jones

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High-ranking British officials, including Home Secretary Amber Rudd, are speaking out against the United States, after a number of confidential details in the ongoing investigation into Monday’s Manchester attack appeared in American media before British authorities confirmed them.

“The British police have been very clear that they want to control the flow of information to protect operational integrity, the element of surprise,” Rudd said in an interview Wednesday with BBC’s Radio 4. “So it is irritating if it gets released from other sources.”

“I have been very clear with our friends that that should not happen again,” she continued.

The information in question includes the suspected attacker’s identity and the detail that the attack was likely a suicide-bombing—intel that emerged in American reports hours before authorities publicly verified them. BuzzFeed reports CBS News and the Associated Press were among the American media to cite anonymous US intelligence officials in the reports in question. Notice the time-stamps below:

Meanwhile, British news outlets adhered to police exhortations and waited to disclose such details until officials were ready to reveal them.

Rudd’s admonishment comes as the latest setback in the United States’ intelligence-sharing relationships with key allies, after the Washington Post reported last week that President Donald Trump divulged highly classified information to the Russian ambassador and foreign minister during a meeting in the Oval Office. The bombshell allegation raised concern that Trump’s reveal could jeopardize relations with the intelligence-sharing partner—later reported to be Israel—who relayed the information to the United States in the first place.

On Monday, Trump stepped into it again, when he appeared to inadvertently confirm that the source was in fact Israel.

“This is a leaky administration,” Thomas Sanderson of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in DC told the Guardian. “What does that mean for sharing information we need to going forward? The UK and Israel are probably our two biggest sources of intelligence. Now they’re thinking, ‘Is this going to cause us damage every time we share?'”

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British Officials Angered by US Leaks of Manchester Intelligence to Media

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Look at the Difference in Trump and Obama’s Notes for Israel’s Holocaust Memorial

Mother Jones

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Before leaving Israel’s Holocaust museum Yad Vashem Tuesday morning, President Donald Trump continued the tradition of US leaders who have visited the memorial before him, including former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, by writing a message in the Book of Remembrance.

“It is a great honor to be here with my friends!” Trump’s signature read. “So amazing and will never forget!”

The president’s note quickly attracted criticism for its strangely upbeat tone, with many mocking the message for appearing out of step with the memorial’s somber setting, especially when compared with former president Barack Obama’s 2008 message when he was still a senator.

The note on Tuesday is the latest in a series of awkward moments for Trump during his first overseas trip as president. The day before, while addressing reporters at a press conference alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump appeared to inadvertently confirm that Israel was the source that provided the intelligence he shared with high-ranking Russian officials in the Oval Office last week.

Trump’s unusually lighthearted Book of Remembrance message is only the most recent example of tone deafness coming from the administration regarding the Holocaust. In February, the administration sparked by the ire of Jewish groups when it released a statement commemorating International Holocaust Remembrance Day that failed to mention the word Jews. White House press secretary also once called Nazi concentration camps “Holocaust centers” while positively comparing Adolf Hitler to Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad.

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Look at the Difference in Trump and Obama’s Notes for Israel’s Holocaust Memorial

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Ex-CIA Chief: There Was Intel About Trump Campaign-Russia Contacts That FBI Needed to Probe

Mother Jones

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Former CIA director John Brennan testified on Monday that he grew alarmed last summer about efforts by the Russian government to “suborn”—perhaps unwittingly—members of the Trump campaign, and that his concerns formed the basis for the FBI’s probe into possible collusion between Trump officials and the Kremlin. His remarks came during a hearing of the House intelligence committee, which is investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, including potential coordination with the president’s campaign.

When Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) pressed Brennan on whether he had seen any evidence of collusion, Brennan replied: “I encountered and am aware of information and intelligence that revealed contacts and interactions between Russian officials and US persons involved in the Trump campaign that.” He added, “I don’t know whether or not such collusion…existed…but I know that there was a sufficient basis of information and intelligence that required further investigation by the bureau to determine whether or not US persons were actively conspiring, colluding with Russian officials.”

Later in the hearing, Gowdy continued to push Brennan about whether he had seen “evidence of collusion, coordination, conspiracy between Donald Trump and Russia state actors.” Brennan said he could answer that query more fully in a subsequent closed hearing, but noted that the intelligence regarding Russian contacts and the Trump campaign “raised concerns in my mind about whether or not those individuals were cooperating with the Russians—either in a witting or unwitting fashion—and that served as the basis for the FBI investigation to determine whether such collusion, cooperation occurred.”

Brennan, who stepped down when Trump took office and took the unusual step of criticizing an incoming president, explained it was not the CIA’s job to make a judgment about whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia but to supply the FBI with the evidence it had gathered to investigate the case.

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Ex-CIA Chief: There Was Intel About Trump Campaign-Russia Contacts That FBI Needed to Probe

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The Entire World Is Adapting to Having an Idiot in the White House

Mother Jones

Over at the Washington Post, Greg Miller and Greg Jaffe report that President Trump is an idiot:

President Trump revealed highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in a White House meeting last week, according to current and former U.S. officials, who said that Trump’s disclosures jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State….The partner had not given the United States permission to share the material with Russia, and officials said that Trump’s decision to do so risks cooperation from an ally that has access to the inner workings of the Islamic State.

….“This is code-word information,” said a U.S. official familiar with the matter, using terminology that refers to one of the highest classification levels used by American spy agencies. Trump “revealed more information to the Russian ambassador than we have shared with our own allies.”

Meanwhile, over at Foreign Policy, Robbie Gramer reports that our allies think Trump is an idiot too:

NATO is scrambling to tailor its upcoming meeting to avoid taxing President Donald Trump’s notoriously short attention span. The alliance is telling heads of state to limit talks to two to four minutes at a time during the discussion, several sources inside NATO and former senior U.S. officials tell Foreign Policy. And the alliance scrapped plans to publish the traditional full post-meeting statement meant to crystallize NATO’s latest strategic stance.

….“It’s kind of ridiculous how they are preparing to deal with Trump,” said one source briefed extensively on the meeting’s preparations. “It’s like they’re preparing to deal with a child — someone with a short attention span and mood who has no knowledge of NATO, no interest in in-depth policy issues, nothing,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “They’re freaking out.”

The Republican Party has a lot to answer for. When that day comes, it’s going to come hard.

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The Entire World Is Adapting to Having an Idiot in the White House

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Trump Wants More Control Over Intel Agencies

Mother Jones

Here’s a tidbit from the AP about how President Trump might “seize the reins” of the intelligence community:

Officials have expressed an interest in having more raw intelligence sent to the president for his daily briefings instead of an analysis of information compiled by the agencies, according to current and former U.S. officials. The change would have given his White House advisers more control about the assessments given to him and sidelined some of the conclusions made by intelligence professionals.

Trump seems like the kind of guy who could do his own analysis of raw intelligence. They should give it a try. What could go wrong?

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Trump Wants More Control Over Intel Agencies

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Who Was Devin Nunes’ Secret White House Source?

Mother Jones

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Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking minority member on the House Intelligence Committee, has called for Devin Nunes to recuse himself from further involvement in the Russia probe. This comes after Nunes’ bizarre unveiling of supposed evidence that the Obama White House really did surveil Trump aides during the transition. Nunes still hasn’t shown his evidence to anyone, and it appears increasingly likely that it doesn’t really show anything at all. Nor will he tell us who he met with on the White House grounds to procure his evidence. Here is Michael Isikoff:

The Schiff statement came as panel staffers speculated on the possible identity of Nunes’ White House source, focusing on Michael Ellis, a lawyer who worked for Nunes on the intelligence panel and who was recently hired to work on national security matters at the White House counsel’s office. A White House official and spokesman for Nunes declined to comment on whether Ellis was involved in providing information to Nunes, as did a spokesman for Schiff. White House press secretary Sean Spicer insisted that White House officials were not aware of Nunes’ secret trip to meet his source and referred all questions to Nunes’ office.

Democrats have been furious that Nunes has yet to describe precisely the classified intelligence he has seen. Nor has he shared any documents with others on the House intelligence panel. Nunes, for his part, defended his previously undisclosed trip to the White House grounds, telling CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that he had to view the classified documents in an executive branch location because the intelligence community had not yet provided them to Congress.

Michael Ellis is a former editor-in-chief of the Dartmouth Review and a longtime “promising young conservative.” Sadly, he’s not related to the Ellis side of the Bush family, which would have been great.

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Who Was Devin Nunes’ Secret White House Source?

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British, Dutch Passed Along Intel About Meetings Between Trump Team and Russia

Mother Jones

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The New York Times reports today on new revelations about contacts between the Trump team and Russia during the last month of the Obama administration:

American allies, including the British and the Dutch, had provided information describing meetings in European cities between Russian officials — and others close to Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin — and associates of President-elect Trump, according to three former American officials who requested anonymity in discussing classified intelligence. Separately, American intelligence agencies had intercepted communications of Russian officials, some of them within the Kremlin, discussing contacts with Mr. Trump’s associates.

Some of this is coming to light as a result of deliberate efforts by outgoing Obama officials:

Mr. Trump has accused the Obama administration of hyping the Russia story line as a way to discredit his new administration. At the Obama White House, Mr. Trump’s statements stoked fears among some that intelligence could be covered up or destroyed — or its sources exposed — once power changed hands. What followed was a push to preserve the intelligence that underscored the deep anxiety with which the White House and American intelligence agencies had come to view the threat from Moscow.

….Some officials began asking specific questions at intelligence briefings, knowing the answers would be archived and could be easily unearthed by investigators….At intelligence agencies, there was a push to process as much raw intelligence as possible into analyses, and to keep the reports at a relatively low level of classification to ensure as wide a readership as possible across the government….There was also an effort to pass reports and other sensitive materials to Congress.

….Throughout the summer…European allies were starting to pass along information about people close to Mr. Trump meeting with Russians in the Netherlands, Britain and other countries….But it wasn’t until after the election, and after more intelligence had come in, that the administration began to grasp the scope of the suspected tampering and concluded that one goal of the campaign was to help tip the election in Mr. Trump’s favor. In early December, Mr. Obama ordered the intelligence community to conduct a full assessment of the Russian campaign.

As the story acknowledges, it’s still unclear what all these meetings were about, but “the Russians, it appeared, were arguing about how far to go in interfering in the presidential election.”

This has the feel of a scandal that will pass into urban legend without anyone ever knowing for sure what actually happened. It’s pretty obvious at this point that something happened, but with every new disclosure it seems as if the truth drifts a little farther out of reach. Unless someone has a smoking gun tape somewhere, it’s not clear if this story will ever get resolved.

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British, Dutch Passed Along Intel About Meetings Between Trump Team and Russia

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