Tag Archives: nsa

Susan Rice Did Nothing Wrong, Part the Millionth

Mother Jones

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I missed this a couple of days ago, but Nancy LeTourneau alerts me to a recent CNN report about Susan Rice’s requests to “unmask” the names of individuals in intelligence reports that she received when she was Obama’s National Security Advisor. This was all part of the great Devin Nunes fiasco, where he went to the White House to read the reports, came back to Capitol Hill to hold a press conference, and then rushed back to the White House to tell President Trump all about it. But there’s no there there:

After a review of the same intelligence reports brought to light by House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes, both Republican and Democratic lawmakers and aides have so far found no evidence that Obama administration officials did anything unusual or illegal….Over the last week, several members and staff of the House and Senate intelligence committees have reviewed intelligence reports related to those requests at NSA headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland.

One congressional intelligence source described the requests made by Rice as “normal and appropriate” for officials who serve in that role to the president.

Fine. Susan Rice did nothing wrong. It’s not as if we didn’t know that already, but it’s nice to see it confirmed. Rice must be getting really tired of being a handy Republican punching bag.

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Susan Rice Did Nothing Wrong, Part the Millionth

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Trump: Obama Tapped My Phone, He’s a Sick Guy

Mother Jones

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It’s Saturday. I figured I’d sleep in and eat breakfast before I checked in on the news. After all, how much can happen on a Saturday morn—

Oh FFS. Fine. Let’s hear the evidence:

Then, just to show how serious this is, an hour later Trump tweets about Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “pathetic” ratings on Celebrity Apprentice. Then it’s off to the golf course.

So what’s going on? Did Obama really tapp Trump Tower during the sacred election process? I hope so! If he did, it would mean a judge had found probable cause that Trump had committed a crime of some kind.

Alternatively, it could mean that the FBI or the NSA was listening to a foreign phone call and Trump was on the other end. That would be great too.

Or, of course, Trump might be full of shit. Sadly, this is the most likely possibility. But you never know. Maybe there’s some real dirt here and Trump is trying to get ahead of it. When it leaks, he’ll try to convince everyone that the real issue is all the illegal leaks. Or the Nixonian/McCarthyite use of wiretaps. Or the fact that Obama is a sleaze, which is guaranteed to excite the base.

In any case, our next White House press briefing should be interesting, don’t you think?

UPDATE: Hmmph. Breitbart News ran a story yesterday summarizing a Mark Levin radio show that outlined a bunch of stuff that’s already been reported, including the fact that a FISA warrant was obtained to monitor the communications of some Trump aides:

In summary: the Obama administration sought, and eventually obtained, authorization to eavesdrop on the Trump campaign; continued monitoring the Trump team even when no evidence of wrongdoing was found; then relaxed the NSA rules to allow evidence to be shared widely within the government, virtually ensuring that the information, including the conversations of private citizens, would be leaked to the media.

Is that it? The Washington Post reports that the Breitbart story “has been circulating among Trump’s senior staff.” How boring.

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Trump: Obama Tapped My Phone, He’s a Sick Guy

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Can Trump Ever Be Convinced That Russia Is Behind Election Meddling?

Mother Jones

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President-elect Donald Trump met on Friday with the heads of several US intelligence agencies for a personal briefing about the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 president election. But it’s still unclear whether Trump believes what he was apparently told—or what it would take to convince him to accept the government’s findings that Moscow hacked Democratic targets to help Trump win the election.

After the briefing, Trump issued a statement noting that “Russia, China, other countries, outside groups and people are consistently trying to break through the cyber infrastructure of our governmental institutions, businesses and organizations including the Democrat National Committee.” But he did not say he accepts the US intelligence community’s conclusion that Moscow did so during the 2016 campaign and was behind the leaking of Democratic emails through WikiLeaks and other sites. Trump did insist that “there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election including the fact that there was no tampering whatsoever with voting machines.” Given that Trump repeatedly cited the WikiLeaks material during the campaign, his claim that Russian hacking had no effect on the election is hard to prove.

The meeting comes a day after several top intelligence officials briefed a Senate committee on the matter. Hours after the Senate hearing, the Washington Post reported that US intelligence officials claim to have identified people who passed stolen Democratic emails and other materials to WikiLeaks and that intercepted communications between senior Russian government officials revealed Vladimir Putin’s regime had celebrated Trump’s victory. Several other media outlets later confirmed the Post‘s account.

Trump tweeted that reporters were given access to the materials because of “Politics!” and later questioned how the government could be confident in its conclusions, pointing to a report that the Democratic National Committee blocked or delayed access to its servers, according to the FBI. (The DNC and others noted that it was not necessary or customary for FBI investigators to access the servers in order to investigate the hack.) On Friday, Trump tweeted that he was “asking the chairs of the House and Senate committees to investigate top secret intelligence shared with NBC prior to me seeing.”

On Friday morning, before his briefing, Trump told the New York Times that the intense focus on Russian hacking is “a political witch hunt” led by people embarrassed that Trump won in November.

“Making this about the election and not the subversion of a foreign government is beyond disturbing,” a former CIA official tells Mother Jones. “This isn’t about politics; it’s about espionage. He needs to get his head wrapped around the fact that he will be the target the moment he steps into office as POTUS.”

The Trump transition team and Hope Hicks, his campaign spokeswoman, did not respond to a request for comment. Incoming White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer has complained this week that reporters have gone too far in declaring Russia the culprit.

But security researchers say there is plenty of information in the public domain to conclude that the Russian government was involved in the hacks. That involvement was first reported by the Washington Post in June and has since been bolstered by several formal government announcements. The most recent government report, issued jointly by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security on December 29, offered a basic outline of the US government’s conclusions and explained some of the technical evidence that led the US intelligence community to pin the blame on Russia.

“The evidence is airtight,” says Dave Aitel, a former NSA research scientist who now runs a security research firm. “I don’t know anyone in the industry that takes the doubts seriously. Within the industry, it’s not a question.”

Matt Tait, a security researcher and former information security specialist for the Government Communications Headquarters, the United Kingdom’s version of the National Security Agency, said the information that’s been presented so far by the US government and private security research firms who have investigated the hacks supports the case against the Russians.

“The public evidence for this hack is unusual in how compelling it is compared with almost all other breaches, and that to people who are motivated and technical enough to go through it properly, it provides a solid case even without access to the secret sources and methods used by the U.S. Intelligence Community,” Tait writes in an email to Mother Jones.

“There is additional information that the IC could provide,” he adds, “but frankly, for people who are not persuaded by the evidence that is currently public, I suspect there is no quantity of additional evidence that the IC could release that will be persuasive to those people.”

But Jeffrey Carr, a private information security researcher, believes there needs to be more independent vetting of the intelligence community’s conclusions. “I want to see a chain of verifiable evidence available for peer review that is internally consistent, that is not dependent solely upon technical evidence, and that brings us to reasonable certainty as defined by international law,” he wrote on Medium this month.

Still, it’s not clear that anything would convince Trump to accept Russia’s role in the hacks. “Based on the already overwhelming public evidence, what—short of a video of Putin himself at the keyboard—could change Trump’s mind?” former NSA lawyer Susan Hennessey tweeted Friday morning. Her next tweet: “Trump isn’t actually interested in being persuaded by evidence. His only question is whether he can maintain plausible deniability.”

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Can Trump Ever Be Convinced That Russia Is Behind Election Meddling?

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2016 Is the Most Policy-Heavy Election in Decades

Mother Jones

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It’s conventional wisdom that this year’s presidential campaign is one of the most policy-free of all time. The reason is obvious: Donald Trump is a policy void. He knows nothing, doesn’t want to know anything, and brags frequently about how everything you need to know to be president can be learned in an hour or two. His milieu is entertainment and insults, not policy wonkery.

I think this view is wrong, and I’d like to present a thoughtful, nuanced argument against it. Unfortunately, I don’t have that in me at the moment. Instead, here’s a quickie blog-length micro-essay making my case.

Among political junkies, “policy” means white papers. It means understanding the details of how government programs work. It means charts and tables. It means historical context. It means stuff generally written by folks with PhDs who have deep subject matter expertise.

This is my meat and drink. If this blog had a mission statement, it would be something like this: Bringing policy lite to the masses. I like reading academic papers and trying to explain them in plain English that any ordinary educated person can understand. I like historical context. I respect folks with deep subject matter expertise. I adore charts and tables. And I want to spread all this stuff to more people.

But we live in a country where a third of the population can’t name the three branches of government and something like 95 percent probably have no idea how Social Security works. Feel free to sneer if you must, but most people just aren’t interested in policy deep dives. And why should they be? Being a political junkie is basically a hobby, like collecting stamps or writing bad poetry. You probably aren’t interested in that stuff, and there’s no reason lots of people should be interested in your hobby.

But that doesn’t mean they don’t care about political issues. Many of them care more than you do. They just don’t have much a jones for white papers. Nonetheless, all of these things are policy:

Building a wall to reduce illegal immigration from Mexico.
Keeping troops in Afghanistan.
Changing our strategy for destroying ISIS.
Improving relations with Russia.
Toughening visa requirements to keep potential terrorists out of the country.
Expanding or repealing Obamacare.
Signing an agreement with Iran to halt their nuclear program.
Making college free.
Halting new trade agreements until they’re made better for American workers.
Spending more on the military.
Insisting that treaty allies pay a higher share of defense costs.
Creating a federal maternity leave and child care program.
Tackling climate change.
Whether we should make America more energy independent via more clean power or more extraction of fossil fuels.
Profiling Muslims and surveilling mosques to stay ahead of Islamic terrorism.
Appointing liberal vs. conservative Supreme Court justices.
Routine stop-and-frisk as a way of combating crime.
Raising the minimum wage.
Rebuilding infrastructure.

This is a long list, and it doesn’t even include the usual evergreens (abortion, guns, tax cuts) or stuff that hasn’t broken through enough to really affect things (vets, charter schools, NSA spying). In a nutshell, then, I’d argue not only that 2016 is a policy-heavy year, but that thanks to Donald Trump’s, um, earthy approach to things, the differences in policy between the two candidates are sharper than in nearly any election during my adult life. Lack of detail is irrelevant. Nor does it matter if you don’t like Trump’s earthiness. For the average Joe and Jane, Trump’s coarse approach makes his positions more policy-centric than arguments over whether we should use chained CPI for Social Security COLAs or support a public option for Obamacare.

There is, obviously, a vast rhetorical gap between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, but their policy gap is equally far-reaching. And my guess is that more people know about their policy differences than in any year in recent memory. If anything, 2016 has featured more policy topics making it into the spotlight than usual. It’s the year that policy truly took over an American presidential election.

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2016 Is the Most Policy-Heavy Election in Decades

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The NSA spied on top-secret climate negotiations between world leaders

The NSA spied on top-secret climate negotiations between world leaders

By on 24 Feb 2016commentsShare

Climate negotiations between the world’s powerhouses usually take place behind closed doors — unless, that is, the U.S. government is secretly listening in.

A batch of documents released by WikiLeaks on Tuesday reveal that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) spied on communications regarding international climate change agreements, including negotiations in 2008 between United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whom the NSA had reportedly been spying on for decades. The NSA listened in on a private meeting between the two leaders ahead of a 2009 conference in Copenhagen, and gleaned information about their hopes that the European Union play a major role in climate change mitigation, adding Merkel thought the “tough issue” would involve carbon trading.

An excerpt from one of the NSA memos reads:

Ban Ki-moon, in an exchange on 10 December with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, pointed out that the world would be watching the EU with “keen interest” for reassurances that it will maintain its leadership role in combating climate change … Ban also maintained that since the new U.S. administration will have a very engaging and proactive attitude on the issue, the time is right for the EU and the whole world to create conditions necessary for reaching a meaningful deal at the 2009 UN Climate Talks … Merkel believed that the climate-change issue should be discussed at the heads-of-state level, otherwise it would not work.

In a statement, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange accused “a country intent on protecting its largest oil companies” of bugging Ki-moon’s efforts to save the planet.

It’s not the first time we’ve discovered that the NSA has attempted to spy on other countries’ efforts to combat climate change. In 2014, world governments were furious to learn from a batch of documents released by the whistleblower Edward Snowden that the NSA had monitored communications between leaders of Brazil, South Africa, India, China, and several other countries. The NSA funneled information about other countries’ positions on climate change issues to U.S. negotiators for the 2009 climate conference in Copenhagen — a gathering widely considered to be a failure.

The newest climate memos, part of a larger group of WikiLeaks documents spanning 2007 to 2011, give rare insight into leaders’ hopes for the Copenhagen summit.

It’s not clear exactly what kind of advantage the U.S. managed to gain by intercepting communications between Ki-moon and Merkel, but it likely didn’t make the outcome of the Copenhagen conference any better. Just as we finally learn the full extent of the political maneuvering behind Copenhagen, the world has mostly moved on: In December, the world reached a new climate accord in Paris — one that, hopefully, will lead to real and lasting change.

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The NSA spied on top-secret climate negotiations between world leaders

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