Tag Archives: National Security

North Korea – U.S. tensions could spin out of control this weekend unless cooler heads prevail

Things may get very real very fast on the Korean peninsula this weekend. The hermit kingdom of North Korea is about to celebrate a birthday bash on Saturday, with a nuclear test for the candle on the birthday cake. A U.S. Navy strike group is patrolling off the coast of North Korea to snuff out their birthday candle should they try to light it. If this scenario plays out, we are going to need a lot more than Team America: World Police.

The Los Angeles Times has a good introduction in North Korea says it’s ready for war, but Pyongyang remains a city of orderly calm:

North Korea is expected to test a missile or nuclear weapon as early as Saturday — the 105th birthday of the country’s late founder Kim Il Sung — and anxiety is mounting.

President Trump has moved a Navy strike group to the Korean peninsula. Vice President Mike Pence was scheduled to travel to South Korea on Saturday. Japan has issued a warning over North Korea’s suspected chemical weapons capabilities, with officials in Tokyo discussing how to evacuate the country’s 60,000 citizens from North Korea.

Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi warned Friday morning of “storm clouds” gathering over the Korean peninsula, saying that “tit-for-tat threats between the United States and North Korea with daggers drawn has created a dangerous situation worthy of our vigilance.”

In Pyongyang, vice minister Han Song Ryol accused the United States of fomenting the trouble and vowed, “We will go to war if they choose.’’

NBC News reports, U.S. May Launch Strike if North Korea Reaches for Nuclear Trigger:

The U.S. is prepared to launch a preemptive strike with conventional weapons against North Korea should officials become convinced that North Korea is about to follow through with a nuclear weapons test, multiple senior U.S. intelligence officials told NBC News.

North Korea has warned that a “big event” is near, and U.S. officials say signs point to a nuclear test that could come as early as this weekend.

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Latest in the Trump-Putin campaign investigation

Britain’s spy agencies played a crucial role in alerting their counterparts in Washington to contacts between members of Donald Trump’s campaign team and Russian intelligence operatives, Britain’s The Guardian reports. British spies were first to spot Trump team’s links with Russia:

GCHQ first became aware in late 2015 of suspicious “interactions” between figures connected to Trump and known or suspected Russian agents, a source close to UK intelligence said. This intelligence was passed to the US as part of a routine exchange of information.

Over the next six months, until summer 2016, a number of western agencies shared further information on contacts between Trump’s inner circle and Russians, sources said.

The European countries that passed on signals intelligence – known as SIGINT – included Germany, Estonia and Poland. Australia, a member of the “Five Eyes” spying alliance that also includes the US, UK, Canada and New Zealand, also relayed material, one source said.

Another source suggested the Dutch and the French spy agency, the General Directorate for External Security or DGSE, were contributors.

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AP confirms ‘black ledger’ payments to Paul Manafort, NY Times reports loans from businesses with Trump ties

The latest AP Big Story, AP Exclusive: Manafort firm received Ukraine ledger payout has Paul Manafort now admitting that a “black ledger” he previously questioned the authenticity of is authentic, and yes, he was paid in cash:

Last August, a handwritten ledger surfaced in Ukraine with dollar amounts and dates next to the name of Paul Manafort, who was then Donald Trump’s campaign chairman.

Ukrainian investigators called it evidence of off-the-books payments from a pro-Russian political party — and part of a larger pattern of corruption under the country’s former president. Manafort, who worked for the party as an international political consultant, has publicly questioned the ledger’s authenticity.

Now, financial records newly obtained by The Associated Press confirm that at least $1.2 million in payments listed in the ledger next to Manafort’s name were actually received by his consulting firm in the United States. They include payments in 2007 and 2009, providing the first evidence that Manafort’s firm received at least some money listed in the so-called Black Ledger.

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House Intelligence Committee members refute chairman Nunes

It turns out that Rep. Devin Nunes’ breathless news conference a couple of weeks ago was much ado about nothing, a dog and pony show designed to create a grand distraction for the Trump administration after a very bad day of testimony before the House Intelligence Committee that he chairs.

Now that members of his committee and its staff have had a chance to review allegedly the same documents that White House sources shared with Nunes, their assessment is that there is nothing to see here.

CNN reports CNN Exclusive: Classified docs contradict Nunes surveillance claims, GOP and Dem sources say:

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, multiple sources in both parties tell CNN.

Their private assessment contradicts President Donald Trump’s allegations that former Obama national security adviser Susan Rice broke the law by requesting the “unmasking” of US individuals’ identities. Trump had claimed the matter was a “massive story.”

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FBI is sweeping up Russian hackers in a global dragnet

A Russian hacker arrested in Spain this past weekend is the latest suspect swept up in a global dragnet that U.S. officials hope will yield intelligence on Russian government interference in November’s presidential election. Russian Hacker Busted in Spain Latest in Global U.S. Roundup:

At least six Russians have been arrested in Europe on international warrants over the past several months, according to McClatchy Newspapers. The most recent arrest was Friday in Barcelona, where a 32-year-old Russian computer programmer was nabbed.

Pyotr Levashov, 32, was arrested Friday. A tweet from the Spanish National Police said that “In cooperation with the FBI, one of the most wanted cybercriminals has been detained in Barcelona. He is accused of scamming and data theft.” The U.S. has charged that Levashov is spam kingpin Peter Severa, who is closely associated with Russia’s most active cyber criminals.

According to Russian television, quoting Levashov’s wife, armed police stormed into their apartment in Barcelona and quizzed her husband for two hours. Later in a phone conversation from a Spanish jail, Maria Levashov said her husband told her the arrest was “linked to Trump’s election win.”

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Jared Kushner: Oops! Did I forget to mention that?

Donald Trump’s utility infielder, his son-in-law and de facto Secretary of State Jared Kushner, seems to have a memory problem. Or maybe like his father-in-law, he has a lying problem. Or is it just arrogant indifference to complying with the law?

The New York Times reports that this Trump princeling Omitted Meeting With Russians on Security Clearance Forms. Oops! Did I forget to mention that?

When Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, sought the top-secret security clearance that would give him access to some of the nation’s most closely guarded secrets, he was required to disclose all encounters with foreign government officials over the last seven years.

But Mr. Kushner did not mention dozens of contacts with foreign leaders or officials in recent months. They include a December meeting with the Russian ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak, and one with the head of a Russian state-owned bank, Vnesheconombank, arranged at Mr. Kislyak’s behest.

The omissions, which Mr. Kushner’s lawyer called an error, are particularly sensitive given the congressional and F.B.I. investigations into contacts between Russian officials and Trump associates. The Senate Intelligence Committee informed the White House weeks ago that, as part of its inquiry, it planned to question Mr. Kushner about the meetings he arranged with Mr. Kislyak, including the one with Sergey N. Gorkov, a graduate of Russia’s spy school who now heads Vnesheconombank.

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