White House considers barring Donald Trump from receiving intelligence briefings

Joe BidenUNITED STATES PRESIDENT JOE Biden and his senior aides are “reviewing” the possibility of preventing his predecessor, Donald Trump, from receiving briefings containing classified information. Such an eventuality would constitute a dramatic break from the longstanding tradition of providing intelligence briefings to former American presidents, who wish to continue to receive them after leaving office.

The reasoning behind granting former American presidents access to classified information, even after leaving office, is that they usually maintain a visible diplomatic presence with worldwide influence. Many keep a busy schedule that involves regular meetings with foreign dignitaries, in which affairs of state are discussed. Intelligence briefings can therefore be useful in allowing them to speak with authority on various matters of domestic and international policy.

But Trump may not be granted that ability, according to reports in several American media. The reports were sparked by an answer given by White House press secretary Jen Psaki to a question asked by NBC reporter Geoff Bennett on Monday. Bennett asked Psaki if the Biden administration had decided whether Trump should continue to have access to classified information. Psaki responded by telling Bennett he had asked “a good question”, and added that the issue was “obviously under review”. However, “no determination” had been made yet, said Psaki.

Psaki’s confirmation that the matter is under review follows comments by the incoming White House chief of staff, Ron Klain, who said last month that the new president would make a decision following recommendations by his intelligence advisors. Some former senior security and intelligence officials have come out strongly in support of barring Trump from having access to intelligence. Among them are former Federal Bureau of Investigation director James Comey, as well as Susan M. Gordon, former principal deputy director of national intelligence, who briefed Trump regularly for two years. Gordon argued in an a Washington Post op-ed last month that Trump’s foreign liabilities and close associations with “foreign entities” render him a “potential national security risk”.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 02 February 2021 | Permalink

Iranian spymaster on trial in Belgium had contacts all over Europe, evidence shows

National Council of Resistance of IranAN IRANIAN DIPLOMAT, WHO in reality was the head of Iran’s European spy network, had contacts all over Europe, which are now being investigated by Western intelligence agencies, according to reports. Four Iranians are currently on trial in Holland Belgium, accused of plotting to bomb the annual conference of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) —an umbrella group of Iranian expatriates who are opposed to the government in Tehran. Participants at the high-profile conference, which took place in June 2018 in a Paris, included over 30 senior United States officials. Among them was the then-US President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, who addressed the meeting. Stephen Harper, Canada’s former prime minister, also spoke at the conference.

According to Belgian authorities, the four members of the Iranian sleeper cell were planning to bomb the NCRI conference on instructions by the Iranian government. The leader of the cell was reportedly Assadollah Assadi, who was arrested in Germany on July 1, 2018. Prosecutors claim that Assadi was stationed under official cover at the Iranian embassy in Vienna. In reality, however, he was allegedly the Europe bureau chief for the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence. Prosecutors claim that Assadi traveled to Luxembourg, where he met two Belgium-based members of the cell, Amir Saadouni and Nasimeh Naami.

During their meeting at a Pizza Hut restaurant, Assadi reportedly gave Saadouni and Naami a bag with 500g of explosives, a USB stick with instructions on how to build a bomb, a new cell phone, and £16,000 in cash. The two spy cell operatives then built the bomb, placed it in a toiletry bag and handed it over to the fourth alleged member of the spy cell, Mehrdad Arefani, who was tasked with placing it inside the NCRI conference hall. However, German and Belgian security services foiled the plot, allegedly after a tip from Israeli intelligence.

Now a new report claims that Western spy agencies are combing through “a green notebook” found in the car that Assadi was driving when he was arrested in Germany. The notebook allegedly contains “289 places across 11 European countries”, where Assadi is thought to have met with Iranian spies operating in Europe. According to the report, the locations recorded in Assadi’s notebook include parks, hiking trails, tourist sites, restaurants, hotels and retail stores. They are located in countries like Germany, France, Italy, Holland, Sweden, Belgium, Switzerland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Luxembourg.

Assadi faces 20 years in prison, if convicted. The other three Iranians face between 10 and 15 years in prison. A judge in the Belgian city of Antwerp is expected to deliver the court’s verdict and impose sentence on the Iranians on Thursday of this week.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 1 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

CIA tells retired personnel to refrain from working for foreign governments

CIATHE CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY has told its retired personnel to refrain from working for foreign governments, “either directly or indirectly”. This was communicated in a note that, according to The New York Times, was drafted several months ago, but was sent out this week by Sheetal Patel, who serves as assistant director for counterintelligence at the CIA.

In the note, Patel reportedly writes that the agency has been noticing a “detrimental trend” of former CIA employees being hired by “foreign governments”, whose goal is to “build up their spying capabilities”. She adds that former CIA personnel who are employed by foreign governments “either directly or indirectly” may effectively undermine the mission of the CIA and “benefit […] foreign adversaries”.

In her note, Patel also urges retired CIA personnel to limit their participation in the media, including television broadcasts, conference panels, podcasts and activity on social media platforms. Media activity by former CIA personnel embodies “[t]he risk of unintended disclosure of classified information or confirmation of classified information by our adversaries”, writes Patel. This risk “increases with each exposure outside of established US government channels”, she concludes.

The paper said it contacted CIA spokeswoman Nicole de Haay, who rejected the claim that Patel’s note was unusual in any way. The CIA “routinely reiterate[s] counterintelligence guidance to current and former CIA officers alike”, said de Haay, adding that “reading more into [Patel’s note] than that is a mistake”.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 27 January 2021 | Permalink

White nationalists are accosting disillusioned Trump, 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

North Korean diplomat, related to top regime official, defected to South, say sources

Kuwait CityA NORTH KOREAN ACTING ambassador, who is believed to be the son of one of the most senior officials of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), reportedly defected with his family to South Korea, according to sources. Two South Korean news outlets, the Yonhap News Agency and the Maeil Business Newspaper, reported the alleged defection on Monday. They both cited sources in the South Korean government.

The alleged defector is Ryu Hyun-Woo, who was serving as acting charge d’affaires at the North Korean embassy in Kuwait City, Kuwait. He assumed his post in October 2017, when the Kuwaiti government expelled the North Korean ambassador from the country. The expulsion was ordered in response to a nuclear test conducted by Pyongyang in September of that year, which was in violation of a United Nations Security Council resolution barring the communist state from carrying out nuclear activities.

The government in Pyongyang attributes major significance to its embassy in Kuwait City, since it constitutes its sole diplomatic presence in the Gulf region. Personnel who serve at the embassy are carefully vetted and come from some the most loyal families in the inner circle of the WPK. However, it appears that Ryu, who headed the embassy after October 2017, defected with his wife and children in September 2019. The family reportedly flew to South Korea, where they requested asylum upon arrival. According to the Maeil Business Newspaper, Ryu said he defected in order “to provide his children with a better future”.

According to the South Korean reports, Ryu is the son-in-law of Jon Il-Chun, who formerly directed the Central Committee Bureau 39 —or Office 39— of the WPK. This is the agency tasked by the North Korean regime with securing highly-sought-after hard foreign currency for use by the ruling family and their closest aides. It has been described as the operational nerve center of the North Korean government. If the reports of Ryu’s defection are correct, they would mark a major incident of disloyalty to the regime by a member of the innermost circle of the ruling elite.

Last October it was reported that Jo Song-gil, North Korea’s ambassador to Italy, who disappeared without trace in 2018, was believed to have resettled in South Korea. If true, that would make him the most senior official to defect from North Korea in over 20 years, and it would make Ryu the second most senior official to defect during that time.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 25 January 2021 | Permalink

NSA places its Trump-appointed lawyer on administrative leave, pending probe

NSAAMERICA’S LARGEST SPY AGENCY, the National Security Agency, has reportedly placed on administrative leave its general counsel, who was installed on orders by the White House just hours before the end of Donald Trump’s presidency. Michael Ellis worked as an aide to Representative Devin Nunes (R-Ca) until 2017, when he joined the White House as the senior associate counsel to President Trump and deputy legal advisor to the National Security Council (NSC). In 2020 he was promoted to NSC’s senior director for intelligence.

Last November, days after losing the presidential election, Trump attempted to appoint Ellis as NSA general counsel —effectively the chief legal officer at the spy agency. There was speculation that Trump’s move was part of an effort to declassify documents that he believed would harm the reputation of his domestic political enemies. But the NSA resisted the move, with its director, General Paul Nakasone, allegedly dismissing it as “an attempt to burrow a political appointee [who is] not qualified for the post into a career civil service position”. The Trump administration persisted, however, and last week the then-acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller ordered General Nakasone to appoint Ellis, as instructed, effective by 6:00 pm on January 16. The NSA continued to stall the move, but it eventually appointed Ellis as its general counsel at 6pm on January 19.

Now, however, it appears that Ellis has been placed on administrative leave, pending an investigation into his NSA appointment, which has been launched by the Department of Defense’s Office of the Inspector General. According to The Washington Post, the investigation concerns “the circumstances of [Ellis’] selection” to serve as NSA’s general counsel. CBS News cites “a source familiar” with the case, who claims that Ellis is also facing allegations that he may have mishandled classified documents.

The NSA said it would not “comment on personnel matters”. The Department of Defense’s Office of the Inspector General said it would not confirm nor deny that Ellis was under investigation.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 22 January 2021 | Permalink

Trump pardons alleged recruiter of US Navy analyst who spied for Israel

Jonathan PollardDURING HIS LAST DAY in office, United States President Donald Trump issued a federal pardon for Aviem Sella, an Israeli former intelligence officer, who allegedly recruited Jonathan Pollard, an American who sold secrets to Israel. Pollard was released in November of 2015, after serving a 30-year sentence for being what US government prosecutors called “one of the most damaging spies in American history”. The convicted spy recently relocated to Israel, where many see him as a national hero.

In 1987, along with Pollard, the US government indicted Sella, accusing him of recruiting and helping handle Pollard on behalf of Israeli intelligence. Sella, who today is 75, was a fighter pilot in the Israeli Air Force. He allegedly began working for Israeli intelligence in the early 1980s. He left the US just days before Pollard was arrested while trying to enter the grounds of the Israeli embassy in Washington, seeking political protection. Israel refused to extradite him to the US and refused to charge him with a crime.

But in his last day in office yesterday, President Trump included Sella’s name in a list of 144 names of individuals to whom he granted last-minute federal pardons. In a statement, the White House explained Trump’s decision by saying that Israel had “issued a full and unequivocal apology [for Pollard’s spying], and has requested the pardon in order to close this unfortunate chapter in US-Israeli relations”. In a statement issued a few hours later, Pollard and his Israeli wife, Esther, said they were “truly happy” about Trump’s decision. They went on to day that pardoning Sella “puts an end to the affair’s bleeding wounds after 35 years”.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 21 January 2021 | Permalink | Thanks to A.B. for corrections

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

CIA chief ‘threatened to resign’ to prevent her replacement by Trump loyalist

Gina HaspelTHE DIRECTOR OF THE United States Central Intelligence Agency, Gina Haspel, reportedly threatened to resign on the spot in order to prevent a plan by the White House to replace her with a loyal ally of President Donald Trump. This was reported on Saturday by the American news website Axios, which cited three anonymous “senior administration officials” with direct knowledge of the matter.

President Trump reportedly planned to fire the heads of several federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies, including CIA, if he was re-elected in November. Following his electoral defeat, he discussed with his closest aides the possibility of proceeding with his plan to fire senior security and intelligence officials, as a form of retaliation against a part of the federal government that he views as disloyal to him. In particular, the president appears to believe that the CIA is in possession of secret documents that, if declassified, would harm the reputation of his domestic political enemies.

On November 9, the president summarily fired Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and replaced him with Chris Miller, who until then was serving as director of the National Counterterrorism Center. He also installed Kash Patel as Miller’s chief of staff. Patel is an attorney whose rise within the ranks of the Trump administration has been nothing short of meteoric. In 2019, after serving as Principal Deputy to the Director of National Intelligence for a number of months, Patel became senior director of the Counterterrorism Directorate at the National Security Council. He was also a former aide to Representative Devin Nunes (R-Ca), and is believed to have been the main author of a memorandum issues by Nunes, which accuses the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation of participating in a conspiracy to destroy Trump.

This memorandum, claims Axios, convinced Trump that Patel would make a good acting CIA director. He therefore planned to replace the CIA’s current deputy director, Vaughn Bishop, with Patel. He then planned to fire Haspel, which would elevate Patel to acting CIA director, according to Axios. The website claims that the president instructed the White House chief of staff Mark Meadows to begin the process of replacing Bishop with Patel in early December. However, once Haspel was notified of the plan, she threatened to resign before Patel was installed at the CIA. Her resignation would mean that Trump would have to also fire Haspel’s replacement, Bishop, in order to place Patel at the helm of the agency.

By December 11, Trump had reportedly been convinced to keep Haspel as CIA director. A relatively amicable meeting between him and Haspel, followed by the counsel of his senior aides, allegedly contributed to his decisoin. Among those who spoke in Haspel’s favor was Vice President Mike Pence and Pat Chipollone, who serves as White House Counsel. At that time, said Axios, Meadows contacted Haspel to inform her that the president had reversed his decision, and canceled the paperwork for installing Patel at the CIA.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 18 January 2021 | Permalink

Analysis: Emergence of an armed insurgency is now a distinct possibility in the US

US CapitolWITH DOWNTOWN WASHINGTON RESEMBLING a large military encampment, a repeat of last week’s shocking assault on the Capitol Complex is highly improbable. But America could witness escalating levels of violence across many states, as supporters of the January 6 insurrection continue to organize themselves into a coherent armed movement. Their ability to threaten American national security will depend on whether they can overcome major internal divisions. It will also be determined by the speed with which United States authorities will respond to the rise of what is quickly becoming a dangerous militant movement.

Supporters of the nationalist insurrection that shook the nation on January 6 could possibly return to Washington in time to make a show of force during the Inauguration of Joe Biden. Intelligence reports by US federal agencies mention as many as 17 separate events being planned in the nation’s capital by a variety of militant groups. If these events materialize, the US is likely to witness the largest armed protests in its history. Other gatherings —many of them involving armed militants— are scheduled to take place in all 50 states between January 16 and 20.Q Quote 1

The militants who will descend on Washington in the coming days are unlikely to engage in all-out hostilities against as many as 20,000 members of the US National Guard. The latter have reportedly been given clear rules of engagement, which include the use of lethal force against assailants. The command and control capabilities that are needed to seriously threaten a 20,000-strong professional army, make it unlikely that the insurrectionists will attempt such a suicidal mission. Nevertheless, the possibility that one or more small groups of die-hard militants will descend on Washington determined to engage in direct combat against the US military should not be disregarded. Their chances of a martial victory are extremely slim, but victory can also be achieved through what their supporters will interpret as heroism and —ultimately— martyrdom.

What is far more likely to happen is that the insurrectionists will engage the forces of the government asymmetrically —that is, by resorting to strategies and tactics of unconventional warfare. Such scenarios are more likely to materialize in the coming months, or even years, in the countryside of so-called ‘red states’, where some supporters of President Donald Trump may be willing to help the insurgents by giving them protection and cover. Read more of this post

Domestic extremists now pose the ‘greatest terrorism threat’ to the US, says report

US Capitol - IADOMESTIC EXTREMISTS, MOTIVATED BY conspiracy theories and opposed to mitigation measures against the coronavirus, pose “the greatest domestic terrorism threats” against the United States in 2021, according to a new government report. The report, dated January 13, is contained in a Joint Intelligence Bulletin, which is produced jointly by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Homeland Security, and the National Counterterrorism Center. It was accessed by Yahoo News, which reported on its contents on Wednesday.

Using blunt language, the bulletin warns that the attack on the Capitol on January 6 is very likely to motivate extremists to carry out more violent attacks across the country in 2021. In the coming months, violence will likely be “more sporadic, lone actor or small cell violence”, and will be carried out by “a loosely organized, sustained, and significant […] population” of domestic violent extremists (DVEs). These can be grouped into anti-government or anti-authority violent extremists (AGAAVE), militia violent extremists (MVEs), and racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists (RMVEs), according to the bulletin.

These actors broadly view the riot as a success for their cause and perceive it “as a step toward achieving their initiatives”. It will therefore “likely serve as a significant driver of violence [and] inspire others to commit” further violence in the coming weeks and months, the bulletin warns. The attack on the Capitol should therefore be seen as “part of an ongoing trend, in which extremists use demonstrations to carry out ideologically motivated violence”. Such violence is increasingly directed against members of the media, who are seen by DVEs as being complicit “in a system hostile to their beliefs”.

The bulletin also cautions that the recent purges of DVE users from mainstream social media platforms is prompting them to resort to fringe platforms, which they perceive as more secure. This mass migration is “further challenging” the ability of the authorities “to identify and warn of specific threats”, the bulletin concludes.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 14 January 2021 | Permalink

Austria expels alleged assassin accused of working for Turkish government

Berivan AslanAUSTRIAN AUTHORITIES HAVE REPORTEDLY expelled from the country an Italian citizen of Turkish origin, who was allegedly hired by the Turkish government as an assassin. The man, Feyyaz Öztürk, 53, reportedly turned himself in to Austrian intelligence last year. According to the British press, Öztürk claimed he had been hired by the Turkish government to assassinate Berivan Aslan (pictured). Aslan, who is of Kurdish heritage, is a Viennese parliamentarian and a leading critic of Turkey’s treatment of its minority Kurdish population.

News reports claimed Öztürk’s mission was to terrorize members of the Kurdish expatriate community in Austria and elsewhere in Europe, who tend to be vocal critics of the Turkish government’s human rights record. British newspaper The Telegraph claimed that Öztürk had been tasked by Ankara to “ensure [Aslan] was hurt or died”, so that “other politicians get the message”. Öztürk also claimed that Turkish intelligence officials had blackmailed him in order to force him to carry out Alsan’s assassination. Moreover, he had been asked to kill two more Austrian public figures who are of Kurdish origin.

However, Öztürk reportedly aborted the assassination operation in March of last year, after he broke his leg in an accident during a trip to the northern Italian city of Rimini. Austrian prosecutors confirmed that an official investigation on Öztürk had concluded. It found that he had carried out “military espionage on behalf of a foreign state”, but did it not identify the state. Turkey has strongly denied that its intelligence agencies have any connection with Öztürk.

Öztürk’s espionage trial has been scheduled for February 4. However, according to Austrian law, he cannot be held in pre-trial detention and must be freed prior to his day in court. Rather than allow him freedom of movement inside Austria, the authorities decided to expel him to Italy. Öztürk’s lawyer said yesterday that her client had been designated “an imminent danger to public security” and taken to the Italian border shortly before Christmas.

The lawyer added that Öztürk wishes to return to Austria to attend his trial in February. There are suspicions among intelligence observers that the Austrian state would prefer Öztürk not to return to Austria, so as to avoid exposing espionage methods and sources in court. Meanwhile, Aslan said she remains under police protection, which was initially extended to her last year, when the alleged assassination plot against her became known.

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

Analysis: Potential espionage aspects of attack on US Capitol must be considered

US CapitolTHE INSURGENTS WHO STORMED the United States Capitol Building Complex on January 6 may have unwittingly provided cover for teams of foreign spies, who could have stolen or compromised sensitive electronic equipment. This largely neglected security-related aspect of the attack is discussed in an insightful article by David Gewitz, a ZDNet and CNET columnist who writes about cybersecurity affairs.

Hundreds of unauthorized people entered the US Capitol last Wednesday. Many of them entered the offices of several members of Congress, some of whom are members of Congressional committees on intelligence, armed services, defense, and other sensitive matters. According to Gewitz, “there is absolutely no knowing what actions were taken against digital gear inside the building” by the intruders. Most of them were clearly members of disorganized mobs, who appeared to have no concrete plan of action once inside the Capitol. However, points Gewitz, it would have been easy for foreign actors to blend in with the crowd of wild-eyed rioters and surreptitiously entered the Capitol in order to steal or compromise sensitive electronic equipment.

In addition to stealing electronic equipment, foreign spies could have stolen sensitive documents, access codes and passcodes, says Gewitz. He adds that more sophisticated efforts could have included loading malware onto Capitol computer systems, or plugging surreptitious USB drives into the internal ports of tower PCs —a process that takes less than two minutes for someone who is equipped with an pocket-size electric screwdriver. Foreign actors could also have left dozens of “generic USB drives in various drawers and on various desks” around the Capitol, hoping that members of Congress or their aides will make use of them in the coming days or weeks. For all we know, says Gewitz, the place could now be riddled with USB chargers with built-in wireless key-loggers, devices that look like power strips but actually hide wireless network hacking tools, fake smoke detectors, electric outlets or switches that contain bugs, and many other surreptitious spying devices.

What should Capitol security personnel do to prevent the potential espionage fallout from the January 6 attack? Gewitz argues that, given the extremely sensitive nature of the information that is stored in the Capitol’s digital systems, federal cybersecurity personnel should “assume that ALL the digital devices at the Capitol have been compromised”, he writes. They will therefore need to resort to “a scorched Earth remediation effort”, meaning that they will have to “completely scrub” those systems, and even lock the USB drive slots of every PC in the building complex. This damage will take months, even years, to clean up, he concludes.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 12 January 2021 | Permalink

FBI, NYPD forewarned Capitol Police of serious violence by Trump supporters

US CapitolTHE FEDERAL BUREAU OF Investigation and the New York Police Department gave Capitol Police officials specific warnings that supporters of United States President Donald Trump were determined to engage in serious violence on January 6, according to federal officials. The FBI even made contact with known far-right radicals across the United States in early January, and warned them not to travel to Washington for the pro-Trump rally that resulted in the bloody attack on the US Capitol, according to NBC News.

Citing “senior law enforcement officials”, including “a senior FBI official”, NBC reported on Sunday that the FBI had “credible and actionable information” about specific far-right radicals who intended to join the protest on January 6. This information was allegedly communicated to Capitol Police officials, according to the report. The senior FBI official, who is not named in report, told NBC that the Bureau made contact with those radicals and warned them not to travel to Washington for the protest. Citing “multiple law enforcement officials”, the news network also said that the Capitol Police was given extensive intelligence by NYPD about planned acts of violence on January 6. The intelligence was “specific”, “detailing the threats and extremist rhetoric on social media”, according to the news network.

Despite these warnings, however, Capitol Police reportedly turned down an offer of assistance by the US National Guard three days before the fateful siege of the Capitol Building Complex by thousands of pro-Trump insurgents, many of whom were armed. According to the Associated Press, despite the advanced and detailed warnings given to it, “the Capitol Police planned only for a free speech demonstration”.

Meanwhile, the experts warning of a significant risk of widespread violence on January 20, when President-Elect Joe Biden is scheduled to be sworn into office, are growing in number. On Sunday, Cindy Otis, a former Central Intelligence Agency analyst and vice-president of the Alethea Group, which tracks online threats, warned that “we are in a tinderbox situation right now”. She pointed to numerous threats made online, which claim that last Wednesday’s attack on the Capitol was “just a taste of things to come”. There are reports that far-right insurgents are preparing for a violent showdown in DC, aimed at preventing Biden from entering the White House on January 20. Other reports suggest that groups of insurgents seek to organize synchronous potentially violent rallies in every state of the union that day.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 11 January 2021 | Permalink