WIKILEAKS RELEASES CIA HACKING DOCUMENTS
WikiLeaks released “thousands of documents that it said described sophisticated software tools” by the CIA it calls “Vault 7” on Tuesday. The tools were used, according to WikiLeaks, to “break into smart phones, computers and even Internet-connected televisions.” The New York Times adds, “If the documents are authentic, as appeared likely at first review,” it would no doubt be a blow to U.S. intelligence and another boon to Julian Assange’s shadowy group that was so useful in menacing the 2016 electoral process by strategically releasing hacked emails linked to Hillary Clinton and her campaign manager, John Podesta, and others. As per their modus operandi, WikiLeaks claims these documents “included 7,818 web pages with 943 attachments” are just a teaser to the “entire archive of C.I.A. material consists of several hundred million lines of computer code”. WikiLeaks claims, “the C.I.A. and allied intelligence services had managed to bypass encryption on popular phone and messaging services such as Signal, WhatsApp and Telegram” and “government hackers can penetrate Android phones” and collect “audio and message traffic before encryption is applied.” According to The New York Times, the documents originate from the “C.I.A’s Center for Cyber Intelligence, are dated from 2013 to 2016” and “One former intelligence officer who briefly reviewed the documents on Tuesday morning said some of the code names for C.I.A. programs, an organization chart and the description of a C.I.A. hacking base appeared to be genuine.” The CIA spokesman has declined to comment. According to The Washington Post, some of the tools had names like “Medusa” and “Assassin”.
TRUMP’S CAMPAIGN MEETING WITH KISLYAK UNDER SCRUTINY
Trump gave his first major foreign policy address at the Mayflower Hotel in April 2016, and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak sat in the front row. Previously, it had been reported that Trump and Kislyak met in a receiving line at that time, but now it seems there was more than a mere handshake involved. Bloomberg reports it was “a VIP reception,” and we all know how much Trump likes to imagine himself at one of those, always. Three other ambassadors were present and evidently Trump “warmly greeted Kislyak,” according to a Wall Street Journal report published in May of 2016 cited by Bloomberg. Now that meeting is getting a much closer look. Evidently there was an arrival reception and the White House is acknowledging at least five minutes spent there. ABC News reports that last May, the Wall Street Journal reported “Trump met the ambassador at a private reception prior to speech, sponsored by the Center for the National Interest, a non-partisan think tank.”
KEEP THE SANCTIONS FOR THE SAKE OF OUR NATIONS
Eastern European diplomats from the Baltics, Poland and Georgia met with a Senate subcommittee and urged that the sanctions regime against Russia remain in place. Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin insisted, “Appeasement and concessions made to the aggressor would only encourage it for further aggression.” Committee Chairman Senator Lindsay Graham organized the hearing.
MEETING OF THE MILITARIES IN ANTALYA
The leaders of the American, Russian and Turkish militaries met in the Turkish seaside resort town of Antalya to “defuse escalating tensions outside a strategic Syrian town” called Manbij. The U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford, Russian Chief of the General Staff Valeriy Gerasimov and the Turkish Chief of the General Staff Hulusi Akar met to discuss “joint issues related to regional security, including Syria and Iraq,” according to a statement on the website of the Turkish military cited in a Bloomberg report. Turkey has threatened to attack the town “which is controlled by Kurdish groups seen by the U.S. as key allies in the fight against Islamic State.” Hurriyet Daily News goes one step further and calls it, a “first-of-its-kind tripartite summit”.
LIVE FROM FOGGY BOTTOM, THE STATE DEPARTMENT IS BACK!
The lights went back on at Foggy Bottom’s State Department daily briefings yesterday and it was 100% less toxic than anything Sean Spicer does because these are diplomats not the incompetent criminals in the White House. According to Foreign Policy, acting State Department spokesman Mark Toner “sought to clarify a series of Trump administration policies, but also struggled to explain some of the president’s most controversial moves.” Those controversial policies are obvious from a State Department perspective: “Trump’s revised executive order banning immigration from six Muslim-majority countries, and a proposal to slash the State Department and foreign aid budget by 37 percent” – which Toner seemed firm would not hold. Toner refuted claims of a diminished State Department and Tillerson having limited power in Trump’s cabinet. Toner is a career diplomat and was a deputy spokesman under Obama. Foreign Policy notes, “He was watched from a distance by Trump’s State Department aide Jennifer Hazelton.”
From Foreign Policy.
IT’S OFFICIAL UNOFFICIAL BUSINESS
One of Trump’s fired campaign managers, the first one, Corey Lewandowski said the campaign knew about advisor Carter Page’s trip to Moscow and gave the green light. Page gave a July 7 speech at the New Economic School there. According to former Pentagon spokesman and Trump aide J.D. Gordon as reported by POLITICO, “Page asked J.D. Gordon, his supervisor on the campaign’s National Security Advisory Committee, for permission to make the trip, and Gordon strongly advised against it… Page then emailed Lewandowski and spokeswoman Hope Hicks asking for formal approval, and was told by Lewandowski that he could make the trip, but not as an official representative of the campaign.”
“ROUGH ROAD… PEEPS”
John Schindler, a former National Security Agency (NSA) analyst turned columnist for The New York Observer, which is owned by Jared Kushner and currently in a Kushner family trust, who has also been hammering Trump for months on Twitter claims that Russian intelligence is helping Trump go after journalists. Yesterday, he Tweeted, “Learned fm very reliable IC sources that Trump WH, w/help fm Russian intel, is targeting US journalists. Rough road ahead. Get ready, peeps”. The only thing surprising there is the use of “peeps” as an exclamation of sorts at the end. It evokes the smell of beer sweat. Otherwise, this comes as no surprise to those of us reporting on Russia and Trump ties for months and those of us who have spent years working in Russia or their imaginary backyard in Eastern Europe.
From The Independent.
HONEY POT PLOT IN ANKARA?
A Russian citizen being identified as “Ekaterina B, 33” in a Turkish media report cited elsewhere was arrested in Turkey over links to Mevlut Mert Altintas, the assassin responsible for killing the Russian Ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov, in an Ankara gallery last November. Reportedly the woman had contacts with Altintas over social media, allegedly via WhatsApp until late November and “is believed to have worked in the sex industry in Turkey, supplying call girls to businessmen in five star hotels in Ankara”. According to The Daily Mail, “Russia is seeking to clarify the reasons for the woman’s detention.” Both papers are not the most reputable but The Daily Mail has pictures.
MARCH 20 KICKOFF!
The House Intelligence Committee has scheduled a t-off for the first big hearing on Trump’s Russia ties for March 20. If we are two and a half minutes to midnight now, according to the nuclear clock set by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, assume we are about thirty seconds when that starts – but that does not mean we should not risk everything for the sake and fate of our nation. Wake up! Wake up! It’s an all star cast that includes “former CIA Director John Brennan, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former acting Attorney General Sally Yates, who was fired by President Donald Trump in January after refusing to defend his travel ban executive order in court. FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director Mike Rogers were also asked to testify.” This is like the Superbowl, All Star Game and Eurovision of national security and politics rolled into one. Yee-haw! Butter your popcorn.
CIA GIVING RAW INTEL TO CONGRESS
This is great news for a few reasons and terrible news for one very real reason. But first, the news! POLITICO reports, “Lawmakers are trekking to CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., to review classified evidence on Russia’s involvement in the presidential election. The House has scheduled its first public hearing on the issue. And the Senate is preparing to interview witnesses.” Whenever anything migrates to the Hill, the leaks usually start. It also means lawmakers are receiving the real info from the source. The terrible reason of course is that this means the CIA, which Trump likened to Nazis just before taking office, is fighting for its life, throwing the kitchen sink at it and is ringing every alarm in this 10 alarm political fire it can.
DEPUTY AG WON’T COMMIT TO SPECIAL PROSECUTOR
Yesterday was Rod Rosenstein’s confirmation hearing on the Hill. In keeping with Trump team’s tendency to treat this all like a reality show, we will call this an audition for the role of Deputy Attorney General, Jeff Session’s immediate subordinate. During his audition, Rosenstein would not commit to a special prosecutor. “If I were confirmed, I would need to familiarize myself with the facts… I’m not aware of any requirement for me to recuse at this time. But as a lawyer I would need to know what I am recusing from,” he told the Senate Judiciary Committee.
From US News and World Report.
SUPPLEMENTS DON’T WORK
Senator Al Franken said you do not get a redo to offer a “supplement” to your sworn testimony before Congress when you are caught in a lie as Attorney General Jeff Sessions was by Franken. During his confirmation hearing, Franken asked Sessions if he had met with any Russian officials during the campaign – then it was revealed he had two meetings last year with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak (the same ambassador now ousted National Security Advisor Michael Flynn spoke with FIVE times the day Obama imposed sanctions on Russia last December for election-related hacking) when he was a prominent Trump campaign surrogate, including one in his office. Franken told CNN, “”It’s hard to come to any other conclusion than he just perjured himself”. Indeed.
KNOW YOUR ENEMY
NATO NEEDS A RETHINK
Gee, you think? In graduate school, a professor once said if you ever have trouble sleeping at night, get a job involving NATO. Not any more. General Philip Breedlove, Supreme Allied Commander of NATO until last year when he retired would spin it slightly differently. In a report released by the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), a British counterpoint to RAND stateside, the biggest conclusion concerned naval assets in Europe, namely, “NATO needs a new command structure to build up the alliance’s 300-strong maritime command and establish a more sustained naval presence in North Atlantic waters.” The Baltic Sea and likely the Black Sea as well are at play, in other words. Breedlove lobbied for a greater naval presence “achieving mixed results” from the Pentagon.
From Stars and Stripes.
RUSSIAN TO BUILD UP
Reuters has a story headlined, “Russia expands military transport fleet to move troops long distances”. That should set fears alight well beyond the Baltic region and make my exclamations of recent months, “we’re at war! We’re at war!” slightly more credible. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Russia is looking at “urgently” expanding its fleet to include “long-range ships to improve its ability to move troops and hardware to distant locations” to Syria specifically. According to Reuters, the move “underscores Moscow’s expanded geopolitical ambitions”. Currently Russia’s auxiliary fleet has less than 500 ships and only about 100 of them don’t date back to Soviet times. Shoigu also said the Russian Navy will get two advanced new frigates armed with cruise missiles and a new defensive missile system in the next three years.
New video has emerged showing Russian jets buzzing the U.S.S. Porter on February 10 “as the destroyer conducted exercises with NATO forces in the Black Sea,” a story TRUMPISTAN WATCH first included yesterday. The Navy Times reports, “According to Gen. Tod Wolters, commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe and U.S. Air Forces Africa, Russian aircraft conducted separate encounters with both U.S. and NATO aircraft, in addition to the encounter with the Porter.” The destroyer is forward deployed to Rota, Spain and left the Black Sea region at the conclusion of training exercises in the region.
From The Navy Times.
My initial reaction to the coup here last November was only deep state can solve this, and by solve, I mean lead our country down the path of fresh never-before-seen in America dysfunction. Why did I think this? Years spent in Turkey. The Washington Post examines what it means to really have a deep state involved in national politics with the very classic cases of Turkey and Egypt. After a few years in Turkey and observing the mechanisms of our own state at work trying to dispel the cancer of Trump, two general thoughts: we don’t have a true deep state in the classic sense of either Turkey or Egypt but we do have civilian elders who step in and advise and can steer things in a general direction but are certainly more “light touch” than the classic militarized deep state. What does this mean? Outcomes are less certain but also, interestingly, civilian control of the military does not appear to have come totally unhinged all the while. Others in government know more, much more. Well worth reading The Washington Post’s breakdown of the meaning of deep state. Pay attention to the Egyptian case of Morsi. My second thought after the coup is this ends for Trump in a fuel crisis.
From The Washington Post.
NRA – IS THE “R” FOR RIFLE OR RUSSIA?
A delegation of senior officials from America’s National Rifle Association (NRA) met with Dmitri Rogozin, a Russian Deputy Prime Minister sanctioned by the U.S. following the March 2014 invasion of Crimea. “Eighteen months later, the National Rifle Association, Donald Trump’s most powerful outside ally during the 2016 election, sent a delegation to Moscow that met with him.” The Daily Beast reports the meeting “which hasn’t been previously reported in the American press,” while not illegal if no business was done, certainly raises eyebrows, or as The Daily Beast puts it, “is one strand in a web of connections between the Russian government and Team Trump”. Former NRA President and current board member David Keene was on the Moscow trip and said the meeting had nothing to do with geopolitics. Rogozin it seems took the NRA delegation on a tour of the Russian Shooting Federation’s headquarters (deep in Lubyanka?) and even tweeted about it for posterity purposes. Rogozin of course wears many hats beyond the shooting federation and his portfolio includes the Russian defense industry. He’s known as being hardline beyond Putin and for his interest in hybrid cyber warfare. At one point Rogozin was the head of nationalist party Rodina, or Motherland, which includes reclaiming Alaska for Russian greatness (watch out, Sarah Palin), which evidently he calls “Russian America,” as well as a former Ambassador to NATO. Democratic members of Congress on the House Intelligence Committee Mike Quigley and Eric Swalwell expressed a fair degree of outrage over the disclosure.
From The Daily Beast.
RADIO MOSCOW: STORIES FROM OUR PRESS AND THEIRS
STEPHEN COLBERT BRINGS OUT “THE FIGURE IT OUT-A-TRON”
It’s a chalkboard! And it does the trick of linking Trump and Putin to all these things from the last year! They include: Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn and Jeff Sessions. Then the CIA, FBI and NSA all agree the two are linked! And also administration leaks and WikiLeaks seem to tie Trump to Putin. “He is drowning in P, which stands for Putin!” Guess what?! It’s a reference to the “golden showers” from the leaked Steele dossier. This is the mass culture, very reduced version of TRUMPISTAN WATCH, I suppose, but whatever works for the American people.
EVEN AMBASSADOR CHURKIN WATCHED “THE AMERICANS”
Something he probably did only to humor diplomatic newbie, the former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, who wrote in her obituary for him published on The New York Times op-ed page that she encouraged him to watch it. He called it “a bit ridiculous,” but allegedly “watched compulsively” nonetheless. NPR profiles the show which people who enjoy American pop culture much more than me seem to. Evidently there was a 1987 miniseries on American television called “Amerika” that precedes it that might be worth digging up.
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