Tag Archives: Cyber War

Trump and GOP Congress leave our elections vulnerable to Russian attack, Democrats offer a plan to secure our elections

Following the announcement on Friday that 13 Russians and an American citizen have been indicted for their role in foreign interference in the 2016 election, our Twitter-troll-in chief responded like a defendant demonstrating Consciousness of Guilt:

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Trump has posted a series of tweets over the weekend asserting his innocence and attempting to cast blame on others for the Russian attack on the 2016 election. But Trump has not responded as any American president would, whose solemn duty it is to protect the nation at war with a hostile adversary. Trump has not been critical of his pal Vladimir Putin, nor condemned the Russian interference in the 2016 election, nor kicked Russian diplomats out of the country, nor imposed the sanctions mandated by Congress that he has so far refused to impose. He has done nothing to hold Russia accountable for its actions.

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Spy v. Spy: James Risen explains how the U.S. knows so much about the Russian cyber attack on the U.S. election

James Risen is a former New York Times national security reporter who won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting for his stories about President George W. Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program. He also was a member of The New York Times reporting team that won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting for coverage of the September 11th attacks and terrorism. Risen also authored two books about the CIA, The Main Enemy: The Inside Story of the CIA’s Final Showdown with the KGB (Random House) (2003), and State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration (The Free Press) (2006).

You may recall that Risen was subject to being held in contempt for refusing to comply with a subpoena to testify about the sources of his information in United States v. Sterling. In the end, Risen was not called to testify at a trial, which ended a seven-year legal fight over whether he could/would be forced to identify his confidential sources.

James Risen is now working as an investigative reporter for The Intercept. In his first column for The Intercept, his latest investigative reporting is the provocatively titled IS DONALD TRUMP A TRAITOR?:Trump and Russia Part 1 (excerpts):

The fact that such an unstable egomaniac occupies the White House is the greatest threat to the national security of the United States in modern history.

Which brings me to the only question about Donald Trump that I find really interesting: Is he a traitor?

Did he gain the presidency through collusion with Russian President Vladimir Putin?

One year after Trump took office, it is still unclear whether the president of the United States is an agent of a foreign power. Just step back and think about that for a moment.

His 2016 campaign is the subject of an ongoing federal inquiry that could determine whether Trump or people around him worked with Moscow to take control of the U.S. government. Americans must now live with the uncertainty of not knowing whether the president has the best interests of the United States or those of the Russian Federation at heart.

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First shoe to drop: Robert Mueller indicts 13 Russians and corporate entities associated with Putin’s troll farm

Remember all the times that Donald Trump dismissed Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election as a “Democratic hoax,” Every Russia story Trump said was a hoax by Democrats: A timeline (June 1, 2017), a claim frequently repeated by our Trump trolls and Putin’s troll farm in comments at this blog? This premise has been repudiated today.

On Friday, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team announced a “speaking” indictment of 13 Russians and corporate entities associated with Putin’s troll farm in St. Petersburg, Russia for “Information warfare against the United States of America” in social media,
part of a larger interference operation known as “Project Lakhta” which began in 2013. Read the Internet Research Agency, LLC Indictment (.pdf).

This specific indictment does not address the Russian hacking of the DNC or John Podesta. This specific indictment also does not address any coordination or cooperation by the Trump Campaign with the Russian interference in the U.S. election, beyond unnamed local grassroots Trump campaign activists referenced in this indictment as “unwitting Americans.”

This specific indictment also does not call into question the role that America’s social media platforms, e.g., Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google, etc., may have played in the Russian attack.

Today’s indictment was just the first shoe of several more shoes to drop in the Special Counsel’s Russia investigation.

The Washington Post reports, Russian troll farm, 13 suspects indicted for interference in U.S. election:

The Justice Department’s special counsel announced the indictment Friday of a notorious Russian troll farm — charging 13 individuals with an audacious scheme to criminally interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

The Internet Research Agency, based in St. Petersburg, was named in the indictment as the hub of an ambitious effort to trick Americans into following Russian-fed propaganda that pushed U.S. voters toward then-Republican candidate Donald Trump and away from Democrat Hillary Clinton.

The indictment charges that some of the Russian suspects interacted with Americans associated with the Trump campaign, but those associates did not realize they were being manipulated.

Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein called the charges “a reminder that people are not always who they appear on the Internet. The indictment alleges that the Russian conspirators want to promote social discord in the United States and undermine public confidence in democracy. We must not allow them to succeed.”

[T]he 37-page indictment provides the most detailed description from the U.S. government of Russian interference in the election.

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Special Counsel interviews Stephen Bannon, working on a plea deal with Rick Gates

After being fired by the White House and losing his “wingnut welfare” from his enablers Robert and Rebekah Mercer, as well as his white nationalist propaganda platform at Breitbart News, it appears that Stephen Bannon may have decided to take his revenge on his boy Donald Trump.

Bannon reportedly is cooperating by fully answering all of the Special Counsel’s questions in more than 20 hours of interviews this past week, while he is stonewalling Devin Nunes’s House Intelligence Committee so that Nunes cannot provide his testimony to the Trump White House.

Well played, sir. “Revenge is a dish best served cold,” likely in a tell-all book.

NBC News reports that Steve Bannon met with Mueller multiple times over the past week:

Steve Bannon, who served as President Donald Trump’s chief strategist, was interviewed by special counsel Robert Mueller over multiple days this week, NBC News has learned from two sources familiar with the proceedings.

Bannon spent a total of some 20 hours in conversations with the team led by Mueller, who is investigating possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia as well as other issues that have arisen around the probe.

Bannon left his job as a senior White House adviser in August and returned to a leadership role at Breitbart, the right-wing news site based out of Washington. But he fell out of favor with the site’s financial backers, the Mercer family, after criticizing the president and his family in “Fire and Fury,” a book about the Trump administration published earlier this year by author Michael Wolff.

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The White House is stonewalling the Trump-Russia investigations (Updated)

A highly anticipated House Intelligence Committee interview with Stephen Bannon has been postponed until next week the committee said on Tuesday, as negotiations continue over the terms of his appearance. Bannon’s House Intel testimony postponed:

Bannon, the former White House chief strategist, was expected to skip his scheduled appearance Tuesday before the House Intelligence Committee, according to sources familiar with his plans. The move sets the stage for a showdown with lawmakers who had issued a bipartisan subpoena for his testimony.

“This is unacceptable, and the Committee remains united on this matter — the Committee’s subpoena remains in effect and his interview has been rescheduled for next week. Testifying before the Special Counsel does not obviate Mr. Bannon’s obligations under the subpoena issued by the Committee,” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-California, the committee’s ranking Democrat said on Tuesday in a statement. “Should Bannon maintain his refusal to return and testify fully to all questions, the Committee should begin contempt proceedings to compel his testimony.”

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(Update) Analysis by former FBI agent of Nunes Memo

In an earlier post, House Intelligence Committee releases controversial Nunes Memo – and an analysis that destroys it, I included a link to an analysis by Asha Rangappa, a former FBI agent who has been through the process of obtaining these kinds of warrants under the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Act (FISA), written before the release of the Nunes Memo. Five Questions the Nunes Memo Better Answer.

Asha Rangappa has updated her analysis in an op-ed at the Washington Post after the Nunes Memo has been released. Devin Nunes tried to discredit the FBI. Instead, he proved it’s onto something.

The point of the memo written by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and released Friday afternoon was supposed to be to expose corruption at the highest levels of the FBI. But what the memo actually did — albeit surely not intentionally — was exactly the opposite. In a brief 3½ pages, Nunes managed to confirm that the investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible ties with Russia has a very solid basis and that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III must keep looking into the case.

As a former special agent for the FBI working on counterintelligence, I used to obtain Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants, so I’m familiar with the procedures Nunes implies the FBI abused in this case. To initiate surveillance on former Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page in October 2016, the government would have had to demonstrate that Page was “knowingly engaging in clandestine intelligence gathering activities for or on behalf of” Russia. Importantly, the “knowingly” requirement applies only to “U.S. persons” such as Page, not to foreign nationals — which means the government had a slightly higher burden in his case. It takes months and even years to obtain enough relevant evidence for a FISA application, which can include details from physical surveillance, phone and financial records, items recovered from the target’s trash and intelligence obtained from other sources. So the FISA application would probably have outlined the bureau’s efforts going all the way back to 2013, when Page was approached by the FBI, which warned him, based on recordings of Russian intelligence officers, that he was being targeted for recruitment as a Russian spy. (That same year, Page also reportedly wrote in a letter to an academic publisher that he was an “informal advisor to the staff of the Kremlin.”) In counterintelligence investigations, this kind of interview would have been intended to “neutralize” the Russians: The idea is that anyone who was being unwittingly developed as a spy, as Page appeared to be, would be dismayed to realize what was happening and would immediately cease further contact with their intelligence contacts.

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