US court rejects challenge of pre-publication review by ex-intelligence employees

4th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia

A COURT OF APPEALS in the United States state of Virginia has rejected a lawsuit by former intelligence employees who claimed that the system of pre-publication review violated their freedom of speech. The case centered on the requirement for current and former employees of American intelligence agencies to submit for review any material they intend to publish in the unclassified domain, in case it contains government secrets.

The lawsuit originated in 2019, when it was brought before a court by five former employees of the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and the Department of Defense. All five plaintiffs intended to publish books on topics including the history of the CIA, government surveillance, as well as the prevalence of sexual violence and racism in the US armed forces.

The plaintiffs claimed that the pre-publication review system is unclear and confusing, that its scope is too broad, and that the process takes too long. They also claimed that many of the edits made on their manuscripts aimed to protect government agencies from embarrassment and criticism, rather than protect national security. Furthermore, they claimed that many of the alleged secrets that were edited out of manuscripts referred to information that was already available in the open domain. All five plaintiffs were represented by lawyers from the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University and the American Civil Liberties Union. The government was represented by the US Department of Justice.

Last year, a US District Court in the US state of Maryland dismissed the claim on the grounds that the government was justified in wanting to protect its secrets, and that the pre-publication system was intricate but unambiguous. On Wednesday, the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, upheld the District Court’s ruling. In a unanimous vote, the court’s three judges concluded that, by voluntarily agreeing to submit to the pre-publication review system, the plaintiffs had waived their right to challenge the system’s legality under the 1st Amendment of the US Constitution.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 24 June 2021 | Permalink

FBI warns some QAnon online supporters plan to transition to ‘real-world violence’

QAnon - IA

A NEW INTELLIGENCE REPORT warns that some supporters of the QAnon conspiracy theory, who in the past have limited their activities to the online domain, may now be transitioning to “real-world violence”. The unclassified report (pdf) was co-produced by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security. It was released on Monday by Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM), who called for coordinated action to protect national security from QAnon militants.

Adherents of the QAnon conspiracy theory view former President Donald Trump as a central figure in a behind-the-scenes battle against a sinister cabal of enemies, known as the “deep state”. According to the QAnon theory, Trump’s first term in office would culminate in a victory against this “deep state”. The latter is believed by QAnon conspiracy theorists to consist of Satan-worshiping cannibals who traffic children for sex. These cannibals would be routed during “The Storm”, a final reckoning between Trump and the “deep state”, which would result in the arrest and execution of all “deep state” officials.

When Trump failed to get re-elected last year, some QAnon adherents attempted to bring about “The Storm” by joining the mob who attached the US Capitol Complex —an unprecedented violent action that resulted in the death of five people. According to the Associated Press, at least 20 QAnon adherents have so far been charged with federal crimes relating to the January 6 attack on the US Capitol.

The new intelligence report by the FBI and the DHS warns that, frustrated by Trump’s departure from the office of the presidency, some QAnon adherents, including leading figures in the movement, are now promoting a new conspiracy theory. According to this new theory, Trump is now operating as a “shadow president” who is continuing his secret battle against the Satan-worshiping cannibals. The latter purportedly include President Joe Biden and most senior Democrats in office, who will eventually be unseated by Trump and his movement.

Not all QAnon adherents believe in this new theory, according to the report. Indeed, some supporters of QAnon are feeling disillusioned and are now “pulling back”, after realizing that they can no longer “trust the plan” spelled out by Q —the mysterious figure that supposedly is at the center of the QAnon theory. This is not necessarily good news, however, according to the report. This is because some disillusioned QAnon supporters are now deciding that, rather than waiting for Q’s promised actions to occur, they should act to make them happen.

These QAnon supporters believe that they must no longer limit their role in the movement to simply being “digital soldiers” in support of Q. Instead, they are now “pivoting” toward “engaging in real-world violence”, the report suggests. This newfound role includes planning actions that aim to physically harm “perceived members of the ‘cabal’ such as Democrats and other political opposition”, the report warns.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 15 June 2021 | Permalink

US Senate report details missed intelligence prior to January 6 attack on US Capitol

US Capitol - IA

A BIPARTISAN REPORT BY two committees of the United States Senate has highlighted crucial intelligence that was missed or disregarded by government agencies prior to the insurrection of January 6, 2021. Five people died during a concerted attempt by thousands of supporters of the then-President Donald Trump to storm the US Capitol Complex and invalidate the election victory of Joe Biden. Over 450 participants in the insurrection are now facing charges for storming the Capitol.

The report (.pdf) was produced jointly by the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration and the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. It took the two committees five months to issue their findings, which are based on thousands of internal documents and closed-door interviews with senior government officials. Officials interviewed include the then-acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller and General Mark Milley, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The report details failures in the areas of intelligence collection and exploitation, security preparations and emergency response measures both prior to and during the insurrection. It states that the US Capitol Police was in possession of intelligence from a pro-Trump website, in which militants were urging participants in the president’s “March to Save America” rally to “bring guns”. Armed demonstrators were also urged to surround every exit from the US Capitol Complex, in order to trap members of Congress and their staff inside the building.

However, the intelligence gathered from websites and social media platforms was not utilized, not communicated to officers, or simply dismissed by the US Capitol Police, according to the Senate report. Additionally, once the insurrection was underway, the Department of Defense did not authorize the deployment of the Washington DC National Guard until a full three hours after it was requested to do so by the police.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, the US Capitol Police said it welcomed the joint Senate report on the January 6 insurrection. It added, however, that “at no point prior to the 6th [of January did its analysts] receive actionable intelligence about a large-scale attack” on the US Capitol Complex. This is likely to be the last Congressional investigation into the attack on the US Capitol Complex, as Republican Senators have blocked the creation of an independent 9/11-type commission to investigate it.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 09 June 2021 | Permalink

Russia-linked PR firm asked social media influencers to spread doubts about vaccines

Coronavirus COVID-19

A PUBLIC RELATIONS FIRM with alleged links to Russia offered to pay French and German social media influencers if they published content casting doubts on the safety of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. The allegations about the firm’s efforts were made on Twitter and on French websites, and later appeared in Britain’s Guardian newspaper.

According to the reports, French and German social media bloggers and influencers who are active on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and other social media platforms, were contacted last week by a public relations firm. The firm is called Fazze. It claims to be based in London and describes itself as an “influencer marketing platform […] connecting bloggers and advertisers”.

In an email sent to social media influencers, Fazze reportedly asked them to post information that draws attention to “the death rate among the vaccinated with Pfizer which is almost 3x higher than the vaccinated by AstraZeneca” [sic]. The email from Fazze also reportedly asked the social media influencers to draw attention to a leaked report that supposedly questions the safety of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. The report, published recently by French newspaper Le Monde, is based on an internal document that was stolen by Russian hackers from the European Medicines Agency and was later posted on the Dark Web. The document contains no evidence of the supposed danger of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. However, it has become the basis of anti-vaccine conspiracies on social media in Europe and the United States.

The social media influencers were encouraged to tell their audiences that the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is “dangerous to the health of the people” and to question why “governments [are] actively purchasing” this vaccine. They were also instructed to “act like you have the passion and interest in this topic” [sic] and to present the material “as your own independent view”. When asked, Fazze reportedly refused to identify its client, but said that its budget for the project was “considerable” and invited the social media influencers to name “the rate you wish” for their financial compensation.

The company claimed to be based at 5 Percy Street in London, but it is not registered there, according to the Guardian. The British paper also claimed that the company’s management “come from Moscow and have worked for an agency reportedly founded by a Russian entrepreneur”.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 27 May 2021 | Permalink

US warship seizes massive cache of illicit weapons in North Arabian Sea

uss monterey

AN AMERICAN WARSHIP HAS seized a massive cache of illicit Russian- and Chinese-made weapons, which were found hidden inside a small fishing vessel sailing in the North Arabian Sea, according to the United States Navy. A statement describing the seizure was issued on Monday by the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, which is based in the Gulf state of Bahrain. It said that the seizure was carried out by a US Coast Guard Team aboard the USS Monterey, which is a guided-missile cruiser.

According to the statement, the weapons were found on May 6, during a “routine operation” aimed to verify the ship’s registry. The statement describes the vessel as “a stateless dhow”, a term referring to traditional sailing vessels found in the Indian Ocean and the North Arabian Sea. The vessel was boarded by a US Coast Guard Advanced Interdiction Team, whose members are trained in boarding vessels with potentially non-compliant crews.

The Coast Guard force found thousands of Chinese- and Russian-made weapons onboard the ship, according to the US Navy. They included several dozen advanced anti-tank guided missiles and thousands of Chinese-made Type 56 rifles, which are variants of the Russian-made AK-47 automatic rifle. The cache also included rocket-propelled grenade launchers, machine guns, sniper rifles, and advanced optical sights. So large was the volume of weapons that it took two days to transfer them onboard the USS Monterrey.

The US Navy said that the source of the illicit weapons is currently unknown. Additionally, the destination of the ship remains under investigation. However, several experts noted on Monday that similar shipments of weapons that have been confiscated in the North Arabian Sea in recent years were destined for Yemen, where a civil war has been raging since 2015. The Yemeni government, supported by the United States and Saudi Arabia, is fighting a coalition of Shiite rebels, known as the Houthis, who are aided by Iran.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 11 May 2021 | Permalink

Belgian minister raises spy concerns about Chinese e-retail center at Liege airport

Liège Airport

BELGIUM’S MINISTER OF JUSTICE has raised espionage concerns about a new logistics hub that is under construction in eastern Belgium by a firm operating on behalf of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba. The hub is currently being built on a lot adjacent to the Liège Airport, which is situated 25 miles southwest of the Dutch city of Maastricht.

Based in the Chinese province of Zhejiang, Alibaba is a multinational technology firm that specializes in e-commerce and e-retail. It is often described as the Chinese version of the American e-retail giant Amazon. Today it is among the world’s 10 wealthiest companies and among the 30 largest public firms in the world. In its effort to expand its area of operations beyond Asia, Alibaba recently announced the construction of six global logistics hubs, which will enable it to deliver products anywhere in the world within 72 hours.

Scheduled to become operational by the end of this year, the logistics center in Liège is part of that larger effort by Alibaba. When completed, the center will be operated by Cainiao, which is Alibaba’s logistics arm. When it was announced last year, the project was praised by Belgian officials in the state of Wallonia, where the hub will be based, as a great innovation that will create new jobs and other employment opportunities for local people.

But now Belgium’s Justice Minister, Vincent Van Quickenborne, has expressed concerns about the project. Speaking last Thursday before the Belgian Federal Parliament’s Committee on Justice, Van Quickenborne was asked by a parliamentarian whether the Alibaba hub posed security concerns for the state. The minister responded saying that the placement of Chinese workers and logisticians at the hub could potentially be exploited by the Chinese government to plant intelligence operatives at the airport. Additionally, the logistics center could have access to commercial and personal data of Alibaba’s European customers, and could share them with Beijing, said Van Quickenborne.

The minister claimed that, like every other Chinese firm, Alibaba is obligated to “obey the Chinese security apparatus” and hire government spies as employees when asked to do so. He added that “this interest [by the Chinese state] is not limited to intelligence and security purposes but can be viewed within a broader political and economic framework”. Van Quickenborne concluded his remarks by saying that his ministry had been warned by the Surete de l’Etat —Belgium’s counterintelligence agency— of the security dangers embedded in China’s growing economic influence in the country.

On Friday a press statement issued by the embassy of China in Brussels decried Van Quickenborne’s comments as “baseless allegations” that harmed relations between Belgium and China. The statement added that, contrary to reports in the Western media, the Chinese state does not “demand Chinese enterprises to engage in activities that breach local laws or regulations”.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 10 May 2021 | Permalink

Foreign espionage at highest level since the Cold War, says Canada’s spy agency

CSIS Canada

CANADA’S PRIMARY INTELLIGENCE AGENCY said in a new report this week that foreign espionage activities on Canadian soil are at their highest level since the end of the Cold War. In its unclassified Public Report for the year 2020, published on Monday, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) said that espionage threats against Canadian interests grew during 2020, but also accelerated in force and evolved in character.

Many of the changed characteristics of foreign espionage against Canadian targets over the past year related to the outbreak of COVID-19 and the ensuing pandemic. Specifically, the large number of people working from home during the coronavirus pandemic prompted foreign threat actors to take advantage of telework environments. These actors “sought to exploit the social and economic conditions created by the pandemic” in order to collect intelligence, according to the CSIS report.

The report singled out China and Russia as two of the most aggressive espionage actors against Canadian interests. What is more, these two countries carried out a growing portion of their espionage operations through “nontraditional collectors”, namely individuals or entities who are not officially connected with their sponsoring governments. These can be academic researchers or private sector employees, who are tasked by their governments to collect sensitive military, political and economic information in and about Canada.

Lastly, the CSIS report points to the intensification of foreign intelligence operations against expatriate communities in Canada. These communities, who often voice criticism of the state in their country of origin, are targeted by that country’s intelligence services with threats and intimidation. In other cases, adversarial intelligence services will try to infiltrate these communications in order to collect intelligence on dissidents and other outspoken individuals. Such activities “constitute a threat to Canada’s sovereignty and to the safety of Canadians”, the CSIS report concludes.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 13 April 2021 | Permalink

US designates two African armed groups as foreign terrorist organizations

THE UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT of state has designated two armed groups, based in Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as foreign terrorist organizations. In a statement released last week, the US Department of State identified the groups as Mozambique’s Ahlu Sunnah Wa-Jama and Congo’s Allied Democratic Forces (ADF). In its statement, the US Department of State also said that the two groups have declared allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Established in Uganda in 1996, the ADF has had a presence in the eastern regions of Congo for over two decades. The ADF insurgency is rooted in regional ethnic rivalries. However, the group’s rhetoric became increasingly Islamist-centered in the 2000s. In 2013, following an intense recruitment campaign in Uganda, the ADF launched a series of attacks in northeastern Congo. It is currently involved in an insurgency against the Congolese military, which launched a major offensive against the group in 2019. Mozambique Ahlu Sunnah Wa-Jama, known locally as Al-Shabab (no relation to the Somali group by the same name), first appeared in 2017. Two years later, its leader, Abu Yasir Hassan, declared the group’s allegiance to ISIS and proclaimed that its goal was to establish an Islamic emirate in Mozambique.

US officials regularly refer to the two groups as “ISIS-DRC” and “ISIS-Mozambique”. In the spring of 2019, ISIS declared that the two groups were the armed wings of the so-called Islamic State Central Africa Province (ISCAP). The militant group added that the mission of ISCAP was to build a caliphate in central, eastern, and eventually southern Africa. In addition to designating ISIS-DRC and ISIS-Mozambique as foreign terrorist organizations, the US Department of State named their leaders, Seka Musa Baluku and Abu Yasir Hassan, as “specially designated global terrorists”.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 16 March 2021 | Permalink

Informant helped FBI infiltrate US militia accused of plot to kidnap politician

Michigan governor mansionA CONFIDENTIAL INFORMANT, WHO infiltrated an armed militia on behalf of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, will testify in a United States court about an alleged plot to kidnap the governor of Michigan. State prosecutors accuse members of Wolverine Watchmen, a self-styled anti-government militia, with plotting to kidnap Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer in October of last year. A total of 14 men have been charged in connection with the alleged plot.

Two days or preliminary hearings have taken place this week, relating to three of those charged. Pete Musico, 43, Joseph Morrison, 26, and Paul Bellar, 22, are facing several charges, including providing material support to acts of terrorism and belonging to Wolverine Watchmen, which the FBI says was a domestic terrorist organization. According to the FBI, the group was founded specifically to recruit individuals who agreed with the goal of capturing and killing politicians, including Governor Whitmer.

The group’s ultimate goal, says the FBI, was to overthrow the government of the state of Michigan and then launch an all-out war against the federal government of the United States. The plan would begin with an attack on the Michigan governor’s residence, during which the assailants would use Molotov cocktails to draw out members of law enforcement. They would then detonate home-made bombs and other explosive devices to kill law enforcement responding to the fire.

However, according to testimony delivered on Thursday by FBI Special Agent Henrik Impola, a member of Wolverine Watchmen, who did not agree with the plot, contacted the authorities. The FBI then convinced the disillusioned member of the group to continue to attend meetings, in order to infiltrate the organization and provide further evidence of the plot. According to reports, the confidential informant is scheduled to testify at the hearing in the coming days.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 05 March 2021 | Permalink

Venezuelan intelligence spied on Citgo executives on US soil, spy alleges

CitgoVENEZUELAN INTELLIGENCE SERVICES SPIED on executives of the Citgo Petroleum Corporation in the United States for at least a year, according to court testimony by a Venezuelan former counterintelligence official. The espionage targeted six executives of Citgo, a Texas-headquartered oil company owned by the Venezuelan government. The executives have been named as Gustavo Cardenas, Jose Luis Zambrano, Jose Pereira, Alirio Jose Zambrano, Tomeu Vadell and Jorge Toledo. Five of them are reportedly American citizens.

In 2017 the Venezuelan government accused the six executives of knowingly involving Citgo in a corrupt refinancing agreement, thus damaging the company’s financial wellbeing. They were arrested in Caracas and last year were given prison sentences ranging from eight to 13 years. The United States government condemned the court proceedings for lack of impartiality, and late last year imposed sanctions on the judge and leading prosecutors in the case.

On Wednesday the Reuters news agency said it had reviewed court documents from the appeal of the so-called “Citgo Six”. The documents include testimony from Ramon Balza, who in 2017 was director of operations for the Directorate General of Military Counterintelligence (DGCIM). The DGCIM is the military counterintelligence agency of Venezuela. According to Reuters, Balza told the appeals court on August 11 that the DGCIM and other Venezuelan intelligence agencies have been monitoring senior Citgo officials “ever since [Citgo] became Venezuelan”. He added that the monitoring includes physical surveillance, as well as wiretaps.

Balza’s testimony suggests that DGCIM and other Venezuelan intelligence personnel spied on the six (and possibly other) Citgo executives on American soil prior to their arrest in 2017. It is also possible, says Reuters, that the espionage against the executives was carried out by non-diplomatic foreign agents of Venezuela.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 04 March 2021 | Permalink

Top Syrian chemical weapons scientist spied for CIA for 14 years, new book claims

Syrian Scientific Studies and Research CenterTHE TOP SCIENTIST IN Syria’s chemical weapons program, reputed to be among the world’s deadliest, spied for the United States Central Intelligence Agency for 14 years, according to a new book by Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Toby Warrick. The claim is included in Warrick’s latest book, Red Line: The Unraveling of Syria and America’s Race to Destroy the Most Dangerous Arsenal in the World, which has been published this week by Doubleday.

The scientist, whose name Warrick is withholding from publication, was partly educated in the United States in the 1980s, after receiving an academic scholarship. Upon returning to Syria, he became a senior researcher in Institute 3000, a secret chemical weapons program that was hidden within the Damascus-based Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC). Known mostly by its French name, Centre D’Etudes et de Recherches Scientifiques (CERS), the center coordinated scientific research throughout the country. Camouflaged as a CERS engineering outfit, Institute 3000 maintained over 40 research and storage facilities that manufactured and housed Damascus’ stockpiles of military grade sarin, mustard gas, VX, and other nerve agents.

Citing interviews with “three former US intelligence officials familiar with the case”, and with a Syrian defector who knew the scientist, Warrick claims that the scientist was in his 30s when he reached out to the CIA. It allegedly happened in the mid-1990s, when the scientist was attending a conference in Europe. A number of months later, the scientist, who is simply referred to as “Ayman” in Warrick’s book, was approached in Damascus by a CIA case officer. He soon began sharing classified information with the CIA, which included samples of nerve agents that the Syrians were working on. In return he received regular payments from the US spy agency “in the form of cash transfers to a foreign bank account”, according to Warrick.

But the scientist’s service to the CIA ended abruptly in late 2001, says Warrick, when officers from Syria’s Mukhabarat intelligence agency appeared at his Damascus office and took him away for questioning. It turns out they were there to investigate reports that he had been asking foreign suppliers to CERS for payoffs, in return for recommending them for contracts with the research agency. But the scientist thought his work for the CIA had been betrayed, so he confessed to everything, without realizing that the Mukhabarat had no idea about his espionage. He was executed by firing squad on April 7, 2002 in the Adra Prison, on the northeast outskirts of Damascus, says Warrick.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 22 February 2021 | Permalink

Rumors of federal informants are splintering American far-right groups

Proud BoysPERSISTENT RUMORS ABOUT THE existence of federal informants in their midst are dividing some of the American far-right groups that participated in last month’s attack on the Capitol in Washington. As Yahoo News’ Will Sommer and Kelly Weille correctly point out, mutual suspicions and paranoia about government informants are nothing new in American far-right circles. These groups always assume that they are being monitored by government, and have sophisticated counterintelligence practices in place.

But mutual suspicion between leading far-right figures and their supporters has reached new heights in recent weeks, according to reports. This is most notable among the Proud Boys, which is arguably the most recognizable group in the militant fringes of the Republican Party. Ever since a report by the Reuters news agency last month claimed that the leader of the organization, Enrique Tarrio, was a federal informant, the Proud Boys have seen many of their local groups splinter. Numerous senior leaders in the organization have reportedly voiced suspicions against each other, while several state chapters have left the national organization.

The split appears to be led by several Proud Boys chapters in Indiana, which have denounced the organization’s leadership. A number of chapters in Oklahoma have followed suit. Meanwhile, Yahoo News reports that the Manitoba chapter of the Proud Boys has dissolved. Many other chapters in Canada are expected to follow suit, after the Canadian government officially declared the organization a terrorist entity. Acceding to reports, Australia and New Zealand are considering following on Canada’s steps.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 15 February 2021 | Permalink

Proud Boys leader was undercover informer for police and FBI, says Reuters

Proud BoysIN AN EXCLUSIVE REPORT published on Wednesday, the Reuters news agency claimed that Enrique Tarrio, the high-profile leader of the Proud Boys far-right group in the United States, was an undercover informer for police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The Miami-based Tarrio, 36, is the national chairman of the Proud Boys organization, whose members embrace street brawls and support physical confrontations against members of leftwing groups in the United States and Canada.

Members of the Proud Boys participated in the infamous attack on the United States Capitol Complex on January 6, 2021. It has been reported that at least five members of the Proud Boys organization have been charged for participating in the attack. Earlier this month, The Wall Street Journal newspaper said that, in a post on the messaging application Telegram, Tarrio wrote: “What if we invade it?”. One of Tarrio’s thousands of followers on Telegram responded with “January 6th is D day in America”.

However, the Reuters news agency said on Wednesday, according to information obtained from a former prosecutor, and based on a federal court proceeding involving Tarrio, it would appear that the Proud Boys leader has operated repeatedly as an undercover informant for local and federal law enforcement. The transcript of the 2014 federal court proceeding shows that both Tarrio’s defense attorney and the prosecution asked the judge in the case to reduce his prison sentence. Their request was apparently based on Tarrio having provided the government with information that led to “the prosecution of 13 people on federal charges in two separate cases”. Tarrio’s lawyer at the time said that his client had “worked undercover in numerous investigations”, while an FBI special agent described him as “a key component” in investigations by local police.

These claims appear to have been confirmed to Reuters by Vanessa Singh Johannes, a former federal prosecutor in a case involving Tarrio. She told Reuters that Tarrio had “cooperated with local and federal law enforcement, to aid in the prosecution of those running other, separate criminal enterprises, ranging from running marijuana grow houses in Miami to operating pharmaceutical fraud schemes”.

It is not known at this time whether Tarrio has cooperated with law enforcement on cases involving the Proud Boys organization or other far-right groups and individuals. Reuters said Tarrio spoke to one of its reporters on Tuesday, and “denied working undercover or cooperating” with law enforcement. When he was relayed information from the transcript of the 2014 federal court proceeding, he told the Reuters journalist: “I don’t recall any of this […]. I don’t know any of this”.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 28 January 2021 | Permalink

White nationalists accosting disillusioned Trump and QAnon supporters, experts warn

US Capitol - IAWHITE NATIONALISTS IN THE United States are launching a concerted effort to recruit disillusioned supporters of former President Donald Trump, as well as adherents of the QAnon conspiracy, according to experts who spoke to The Financial Times. Their efforts have been prompted by the mass exodus of Trump and QAnon followers from mainstream social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, in recent months. Trump has himself been barred from these online platforms, and his supporters have been urging the former president’s followers to join social media, such as Parler, Gab and Telegram, which are seen as friendly to conservatives.

Many of the former president’s most ardent supporters are convinced that Trump was cheated out of office, and are increasingly issuing calls for an uprising against the government, and even secession. Meanwhile, followers of the QAnon conspiracy movement are in disarray following Trump’s election defeat. Trump’s exit from the White House directly contradicted a major prediction adhered to by QAnon supporters. They were convinced that Trump would remain in office and fight a war to the death against a cabal of Satanist cannibals who supposedly control America.

According to experts, white nationalists, neo-Nazis and other far-right campaigners are finding fertile ground among the millions of disillusioned Trump and QAnon supporters, who are flooding into the non-mainstream corners of the social media universe. They warn that far-right activists are consciously and systematically infiltrating pro-Trump and QAnon online groups, in an attempt to “draw the remnants of these movements towards the extreme right”. These attempts appear to have been intensified after January 20, when Joe Biden was inaugurated president, experts told The Financial Times.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 26 January 2021 | Permalink

FBI is vetting all 25,000 US National Guard members at Biden’s inauguration

US Capitol attackIN AN UNPRECEDENTED MOVE, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is reportedly vetting every member of the United States National Guard who will be present at the upcoming inauguration of President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris. According to the Associated Press, the decision to vet the National Guard troops was taken after US defense officials expressed concerns about a potential “insider attack […] from service members involved in securing” the inauguration ceremony.

Approximately 25,000 members of the National Guard will be present in Washington on Wednesday, alongside police and other security personnel. Their numbers are expected to dwarf protective measures taken in previous inaugural events, including those of Barack Obama and Donald Trump. It is not uncommon for troops to undergo background checks, especially in the post-9/11 security environment. But it is highly unusual for the FBI to vet that many individuals so quickly in preparation of a specific event. It is also uncommon in recent years for the focus to be on domestic rightwing threats to security, as opposed to Islamist threats.

On Monday the Associated Press quoted the Secretary of the Army, Ryan McCarthy, who said that military officials were “conscious of the potential threat” to security by insider threats. He added that he had “warned commanders to be on the lookout for any problems within the ranks” in the run-up to Wednesday. The news agency said the FBI began vetting the troops over a week ago, and expected to complete the process in time for the inauguration.

Meanwhile, in a related report, the Associated Press said last week that investigators probing the attack on the US Capitol on January 6 were concerned about the large numbers of attackers who appeared to display evidence of military training during the riot. There were “scores of people” mixed in the crowd of insurgents who “either had military training or were trained by those who did”, said the news agency. Others sported military-style gear, such as body armor, helmets, tactical vests, and two-way radios. There were even groups of insurgents who appeared to employ military tactics, such as moving among the crowd in formation.

The US Department of Defense is reportedly conducting investigations into its members who were allegedly involved in the January 6 attack on the Capitol. Large police departments around the country, including Philadelphia, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Houston, are also investigating whether any of their employees participated in the attack on the Capitol, according to the Associated Press.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 19 January 2021 | Permalink