Tag: spy

Spy probe starved of resources

The Senate’s main investigation into allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election has little funding and staff, which will make it hard to get a decent a clear result.

According to Reuters the investigation has been given only seven staff members and as a result progress has been sluggish and minimal.

A weak Senate investigation could renew calls by some Democrats and other Trump critics for a commission independent of the Republican-led Congress to investigate the allegations.

The intelligence committees of the Senate and House of Representatives have taken the lead in Congress in examining whether Russia tried to game the election in Republican Trump’s favour, mostly by hacking Democratic operatives’ emails and releasing embarrassing information, or possibly by colluding with Trump associates.

Previous investigations of national security matters have been much larger in terms of staffing according to a review of official reports produced by those inquiries.

The House committee formed to investigate the 2012 attacks on a US diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans had 46 staffers and eight interns.

The Senate Intelligence Committee’s years-long study of the CIA’s “enhanced” interrogation techniques during President George W. Bush’s administration had 20 staff members, according to the panel’s official report.

The special commission separate from Congress that reviewed the intelligence that wrongly concluded former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction ahead of the 2003 invasion of Iraq involved 88 staffers.

Assange caught out on another bluff

Julian AssangeJulian Assange has back tracked on another bluff he made with the American government.

Assange said that if the US let Chelsea Manning go, he would turn himself in.

At the same time, it made him look like Assange cared about Manning, despite mostly ignoring the person who made him and Wikileaks famous. He was on safe ground with this promise.  He thought that the US would never let Manning go in a month of Sundays.

Yesterday though, President Barak Obama reduced Manning’s sentence to the point where she will be out in May. This is a 120 day transition period, which gives people time to prepare and find somewhere to live,

But Assange is using that lag to once again avoid facing the music on his rape case.

Assange’s lawyers initially seemed to suggest that promise would be carried through  but it appears now that Assange will stay inside the embassy where it is nice and safe and no-one will charge him with rape.

Barry Pollack, Assange’s US-based attorney said that while Assange welcomed the announcement that Ms. Manning’s sentence will be reduced and she will be released in May, but this is well short of what he sought.

“Assange had called for Chelsea Manning to receive clemency and be released immediately.”

Since this is physically impossible, the whole “I will be extradited if Manning is let go” was all a PR stunt in which Assange once again tried to milk Manning’s bravery as a whistle-blower to draw attention to himself.

Julian Assange has been inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since summer 2012, refusing to meet prosecutors in Sweden, where he is wanted on a rape allegation. He has said that he fears that if he leaves he will be extradited to the US on espionage charges.

However, Assange does not face extradition to the US. Authorities and Wikileaks lawyers have refused to state whether such an extradition has requested, and this threat is entirely in Assange’s own head. If the US had wanted Assange gracing its cells it would have got an extradition when he was in the UK. If anything, Sweden is less likely to grant the US an extradition under those circumstances than the UK.

Chelsea Manning has her sentence shortened

Chelsea_Manning_with_wigPresident Barack Obama has shortened the prison sentence of Chelsea Manning, the former US military intelligence analyst who was responsible for a 2010 leak of classified materials to anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks.

Manning has been a focus of a worldwide debate on government secrecy since she provided more than 700,000 documents, videos, diplomatic cables and battlefield accounts to WikiLeaks – a leak for which she was sentenced to serve 35 years in prison. Obama, in one of his final acts before leaving office, reduced her sentence to seven years.

Manning was working as an intelligence analyst in Baghdad in 2010 when she gave WikiLeaks a trove of diplomatic cables and battlefield accounts that included a 2007 gunsight video of a US Apache helicopter firing at suspected insurgents in Iraq, killing a dozen people including two Reuters news staff.

Manning was born male but revealed after being convicted of espionage that she identifies as a woman. The White House said her sentence would end on May 17 this year.

Prison has been tough on Manning who has tried to kill herself twice. Obama said that one of the reason that she has been pardoned is that she accepted responsibility for leaking the material.

The official said Obama’s decision was rooted in Manning’s sentence being longer than sentences given to others who had committed comparable crimes. Obama, who leaves office on Friday and is scheduled to give his final news conference on Wednesday, is expected to discuss his decision then.

The move has been welcomed by Amnesty International which has said that Chelsea Manning exposed serious abuses, and her own human rights have been violated by the US government for years.

The Republicans are furious claiming that Manning’s leaks had put US lives in danger. Of course that is not as dangerous as having a president who owes the Russians lots of money.

Snowden knows that Trump was given a hand by Putin

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, an analyst with a U.S. defence contractor, is pictured during an interview with the Guardian in his hotel room in Hong KongWhile the FBI, CIA and President Barack Obama all agree that Russia hacked the DNC and asserted its will on the US presidential election they seem to be having difficulty convincing the world.

If you post news about the hack anywhere online you will normally get otherwise sane people parroting the mantra that “there is no proof.”

So far most of the proof has come from private security companies who normally would be accepted without question, but for some reason no one is believing them this time. Official comments from the spooks are short on anything that people call proof.

Donald (Prince of Orange) Trump has done his best to claim that it was not his good chum President Putin. He claims that hacking is hard to prove.
Only it really isn’t. According to a new document leaked by Edward Snowden, the NSA has successfully traced a hack back to Russian intelligence at least once before.

A classified excerpt from page from the NSA’s internal wiki shows that the NSA once verified that Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya’s email account had been targeted by Russian Federal Intelligence Services a year before her 2006 murder.

The information is classified as “Top Secret Signals Intelligence” which means that the NSA knows Politkovskaya’s email was hacked by Russian operatives because they were able to trace the hack back to Russian intelligence.

The entry itself doesn’t specifically say how this trace was accomplished or provide the evidence — but the existence of the entry shows that the NSA is wholly capable of tracing such hacks back to their source.

While it does not prove that the Russia gamed the US election, it shows that the US intelligence agencies can gather the proof. It also shows that when the proof is found it is classified. The US does not want to risk showing its hand to foreign operators.

This would lead to a strange situation where President Obama, all the spooks and the White House dog all know that Russia gamed the election and can take action against Russia, but the rest of the world will not know why.

When Trump takes office in a couple of weeks he will know too, but it is unlikely he will say anything. After all he owes Putin’s Oligarch mates rather a lot of money.

Czech form police fake news unit to defend against Putin

putin-buzz1The Czech Republic is setting up a new counter-terrorism unit to combat the rise of fake news or “foreign disinformation campaigns.”

Dubbed the “The Center Against Terrorism and Hybrid Threats” the unit will start operations on January 1.

Apparently the new center will monitor internal security threats, including attacks on soft targets and extremism, as well as “disinformation campaigns related to internal security.”

Czech spooks have been allowed that the Russians have been running disinformation and cyber-espionage activities against the Czech Republic, European Union and NATO. The Czech Republic is due to hold a general election next year and it is a bit worried that Tsar Putin will attempt to put his favour candidate in power – in much the same way as he did in the US elections.

According to the Czech Security Information Service (BIS) annual report, Russia in 2015 used “influence and information operations” to try to manipulate public opinion in the Czech Republic in relation to Syria and Ukraine. Russia is involved in conflicts in both these countries.

The report claimed that Russia’s hybrid warfare operations included “weakening the strength of Czech media” through “covert infiltration of Czech media and the Internet, massive production of Russian propaganda and disinformation controlled by the state.”

Russian operations included founding puppet organizations, the “covert and open support of populist or extremist subjects,” and “disrupting the coherence and readiness of NATO and the EU.”

“The above-mentioned activities pose a threat to the Czech Republic, EU and NATO not only in relation to the Ukrainian and Syrian conflicts. “The infrastructure created for achieving these goals will not disappear with the end of the two conflicts. It can be used to destabilise or manipulate Czech society or political environment at any time, if Russia wishes to do so.”

According to the Czech interior ministry, its new unit won’t be interrogating anyone, censoring online content or bringing legal proceedings, nor will it “have a button for ‘switching off the internet.'” But it will monitor threats, inform the public about “serious cases of disinformation” and promote internal security expertise.

Carly Fiorina might get intelligence

CarlyPresident-elect Donald “Prince of Orange” Trump might be set to ask former HP supremo Carly Fiorina to take on the job as the US’s top spook.

The news comes from the New York Times which got it from its deep throats in the Trump transition team.

The move is unexpected as not only does Fiorina have a pussy to grab but she also said some rather nasty things about Trump during the primary debates.

In her days at HP, executives were terrified as corporate axemen ruled the building downsizing what had been a hugely successful business empire. This effort doubled when Fiorina spent a fortune buying one of the world’s largest PC makers, Compaq which needed to be integrated into HP’s empire.

If there are any obvious parallels between HP and politics it could be a rather bloody time for the intelligence community. However, rumours like this have been played out by the Trump transition committee for a while now so it might never happen.

Assange cancels anti-Clinton announcement

Julian AssangeJail bird Julian Assange has been telling the world+dog that he would announce to the world leaked emails that will finish Hillary Clinton’s US presidential campaign on Tuesday.

The leaked emails are believed to have come from the Russian disinformation unit and were given to Wikileaks as part of the Russian bid to get its tax-dodging Donald Trump into the White House. They prefer Trump to Clinton because he appears to owe rather a lot to Russian oligarchs.

However, Assange suddenly cancelled the announcement, which he was going to make from the balcony of London’s Ecuadorian Embassy, because of “security concerns”.  Assange is going to speak to a conference by a live link tomorrow but it does not look like the emails are on the agenda there either. Odd really how “security concerns” can stop a leak of information.  It might stop the presentation of information but not a leak. All Assange has to do is film a video and put it on the internet along with the documents.

Last month Assange appeared on Fox News repeating his assertion that Wikileaks has damaging documents on Clinton and suggested WikiLeaks may soon release “teasers.” However more than three weeks later, that release has yet to take place.

Wikileaks has not said when it will now make its “announcement.”  But word on the street is that the information does not really exist and it is starting to look like Assange was making the whole lot up to draw attention to him during the US election. After all Fox news would put him on air if he says he has dirt on Clinton. It now appears that he never had any emails at all, or his Russian overlords failed to deliver.

New Snowden leak shows British and US cooperation

snooperNew leaks from whistle-blower Edward Snowden have lifted the lid on the UK’s use of US intelligence spy techniques.

According to the Intercept the UK’s Menwith Hill base is being used by the US NSA to aid “a significant number of capture-kill operations” across the Middle East and North Africa.

These ops are arranged thanks to powerful eavesdropping technology that can harvest data from more than 300 million emails and phone calls a day.

NSA has pioneered new spying programmes at Menwith Hill to pinpoint the locations of suspected terrorists accessing the internet in remote parts of the world. GHOSTHUNTER and GHOSTWOLF programmes have supported conventional British and American military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

However, they also were used for covert missions in countries where the US has not declared war. NSA employees at Menwith Hill collaborated on a project to help “eliminate” terrorism targets in Yemen.

The documents raise the question about British complicity in US drone strikes and other targeted killing missions. There are some suggestions that some of these attacks violated international laws or constituted war crimes.

 

US government does not have to fess up to snooping

spyThe government in the Land of the Fee (sic) claims that there is no legal basis for it to tell  Microsoft’s customers when it intercepts their e-mail.

Vole is suing the government saying that customers have a constitutional right to know if the government has searched or seized their property.  But he government says that the case should be thrown out because… well security, you know..  terrorists, that sort of thing.

The government claims federal law allows it to obtain electronic communications without a warrant or without disclosure of a specific warrant if it would endanger an individual or an investigation.

If the logic behind this defence appears half-hearted then it probably is. There is no way that the government can claim that all its warrants need to be secret because they would endanger life.  Its previous defences have also been rubbish. Last week, Microsoft persuaded an appeals court to overturn an order to turn over e-mails stored on servers in Ireland as part of a Manhattan drug prosecution.

However, the fact that the Justice Department is prepared to stand up in court and argue such weak cases indicates that it is fighting to keep tech companies on a tight leash. It is increasingly seeing tech companies as obstructing national security and law enforcement investigations.

This all started two years ago, when  Edward Snowden’s disclosures about covert data collection showed what the government was actually doing.

Microsoft argues the very future of mobile and cloud computing is at stake if customers can’t trust that their data will remain private, while investigators seek digital tools to help them fight increasingly sophisticated criminals and terrorists savvy at using technology to communicate and hide their tracks.

The government claims Microsoft doesn’t have the authority to sue over whether its users’ constitutional protections against unlawful search and seizure are being violated, the U.S. said.

Secrecy orders on government warrants for access to private e-mail accounts generally prohibit Microsoft from telling customers about the requests for lengthy or even unlimited periods, the company said when it sued. At the time, federal courts had issued almost 2,600 secrecy orders to Microsoft alone, and more than two-thirds had no fixed end date, cases the company can never tell customers about, even after an investigation is completed.

Vole admits that there may be times when the government is justified in seeking a gag order to prevent customers under investigation from tampering with evidence or harming another person. But the rules authorising the gag orders is too broad and sets too low of a standard for secrecy.

VPNs are rushing away from Putin

putin-buzz1VPN provider Private Internet Access has pulled out of Russia after Tsar Vlad Putin decided he wanted to spy on it all its traffic.

Apparently some of the company’s Russian servers were seized by coppers for not complying with the rules, which ask providers to log and hold all Russian internet traffic and session data for up to a year.

Writing in its bog, Private Internet Access said that the servers were stolen without any type of due process. However, if the authorities thought they might pick up some juicy data on people who don’t like the glorious reign of Tsar Putin, or some details of a top secret chocolate cake being manufactured by Mary Berry, they were disappointed.

The provider assured users that as it does not log any traffic or session data, no information was compromised – ‘Our users are, and will always be, private and secure.’

One Putin’s minions swooped the company immediately removed its Russian availability and announced that it would no longer be operating in the region. It was updating all of its certificates and client applications ‘with improved security measures to mitigate circumstances like this in the future, on top of what is already in place.’

Users must now update their desktop clients, and noted that its manual configurations now support the ‘strongest new encryption algorithms including AES-256, SHA-256, and RSA-4096.’