US intelligence officials called to resign despite Trump’s Russia retraction

Putin and TrumpSeveral American former intelligence officials have called on their active colleagues to resign despite President Donald Trump’s retraction of his remarks about Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 presidential elections. On Tuesday, the US president issued an unusual retraction and correction of his public statement on Monday in Helsinki, Finland, in which he appeared to side with the Kremlin over his own Intelligence Community’s views. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), which is the coordinating body of the US Intelligence Community, has said that Russia tried to systematically interfere in the 2016 US presidential elections. According to the ODNI, the Kremlin’s goal was to augment the already heightened discord in American political life and deepen the mistrust between the electorate and state institutions, including Congress and the White House.

But President Trump dismissed those conclusions on Monday, while speaking alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin following the US-Russia summit in the Finish capital. During the joint press conference of the two leaders, the US president was asked to publicly adopt the US Intelligence Community’s conclusion that Russia interfered in the 2016 elections. But instead of doing so, Trump said his Russian counterpart had strongly denied the American accusations. “My people came to me”, said Trump, referring by name to his Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Dan Coats, and “said they think it’s Russia”. However, Trump continued, “President Putin […] just said it’s not Russia. I will say this, I don’t see any reason why it would be”. Following strong criticism of that comment, much of it from his own supporters, the US president retracted it on Tuesday in Washington, saying he misspoke in Helsinki. According to Trump, he said “would” when he meant to say “wouldn’t”.

The US president’s odd retraction came just hours after DNI Coats –a Trump appointee– issued a rare public statement rejecting Trump’s comments in Helsinki. “We have been clear in our assessments of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and their ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy”, said Coats, adding that his office’s conclusion had been based on “unvarnished and objective intelligence”. Coats’ predecessor, former ODNI James Clapper, said during an interview with CNN on Tuesday that, if he still led the ODNI and had been “publicly thrown under the bus” by the president in that manner, he “would have stepped down in a heartbeat”. Read more of this post

US intelligence to begin briefing Donald Trump’s transition team

Donald TrumpMembers of the United States Intelligence Community will soon begin sharing top-secret information with the White House transition team of president-elect Donald Trump. According to a report by CBS News, Trump’s team will receive “practically the same briefings” as those given by intelligence personnel to US President Barack Obama. The briefings will be delivered by career intelligence officers who are reportedly ready to brief Trump’s transition team as soon as the latter requests it.

The 70-year-old business tycoon was confirmed as the president-elect in the early hours of Wednesday, after scoring one of the greatest electoral upsets in American political history. He is scheduled to meet President Obama at the White House this week, where he will discuss with him the pending transition of his executive team, as well as pressing matters of national security. According to CBS, the President has already authorized the Intelligence Community to brief Trump and his senior aides on certain topics. Obama will continue to authorize intelligence briefings given to the Trump team until January 20 of next year, when the Republican president-elect will replace President Obama at the White House. As soon as Trump’s transition team members provide the names of his chosen cabinet officials, the Intelligence Community will begin to brief them as well.

Meanwhile US Air Force four-star General Michael Hayden (ret.) raised doubts on Wednesday about Trump’s ability to understand the way intelligence works. General Hayden, who led the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency in under the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations, told CBS that Trump won Tuesday’s presidential election by “showing anger [and] being accusatory”. These are qualities that are “very alien to the way intelligence works” and do not fit “into the intelligence picture”, he said. General Hayden was one of 50 senior Republican national-security officials who signed an open letter in August, claiming that Trump “lacks the character, values and experience” to be president and “would put at risk [America’s] national security and well-being”. The 50 included former directors of the CIA, the NSA, the Office of National Intelligence, the Department of Homeland Security, and others.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 10 November 2016 | Permalink

News you may have missed #875 (CIA edition)

Boris PasternakBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
►►Ex-CIA head criticizes Pollard release rumors. General Michael Hayden, the former Director of the CIA, said Sunday that he doesn’t think releasing Jonathan Pollard to save the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks is a good idea. Hayden, a Bush administration appointee, told Fox News Sunday that “it’s almost a sign of desperation that you would throw this into the pot in order to keep the Israelis talking with the Palestinians”.
►►CIA official dies in apparent suicide. An unnamed senior CIA official has died in an apparent suicide this week from injuries sustained after jumping off a building in northern Virginia. A source close to the agency said the man who died was a middle manager and the incident occurred after the man jumped from the fifth floor a building in Fairfax County. CIA spokesman Christopher White confirmed the death and said the incident did not take place at CIA headquarters in McLean, Va.
►►How the CIA turned Doctor Zhivago into a Cold War weapon. Newly disclosed documents indicate that the operation to publish Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago in several Eastern European languages was run by the CIA’s Soviet Russia Division, monitored by CIA director Allen Dulles and sanctioned by President Dwight Eisenhower’s Operations Coordinating Board, which reported to the National Security Council at the White House. The board, which oversaw covert activities, gave the CIA exclusive control over the novel’s “exploitation”. The “hand of the United States government” was “not to be shown in any manner”, according to CIA records. IntelNews has reported previously on allegations that the CIA may have influenced teh Swedish Academy’s decision to award the 1958 Nobel Prize for Literature to Pasternak.

Analysis: Should the CIA kill less and spy more?

CIA headquartersBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The Central Intelligence Agency’s awkward silence about the recent resignation of its Director, General David Petraeus, is indicative of an organization that remains distinctly uncomfortable with publicity. The added layer of the sexual nature of Petraeus’ impropriety has increased exponentially the degree of unease at Langley. Yet sooner or later the news media will move on to something else and General Petraeus will fade into the distance. For seasoned intelligence observers, however, the question of the CIA’s future will remain firmly in the foreground. In an interview earlier this week with Wired magazine, former CIA Director General Michael Hayden (ret.) opined that Petraeus’ resignation presents the Agency with the opportunity to return to its operational roots. Hayden, who led the CIA from 2006 to 2009, said that the Agency has been “laser-focused on terrorism” for many years. Consequently, much of its operational output “looks more like targeting than it does classical intelligence”, he said. His views were echoed by the CIA’s former Acting Director, John McLaughlin, who told Wired that the most significant challenge for the post-Petraeus CIA “may be the sheer volume of problems that require [good old-fashioned] intelligence input”. Yesterday, meanwhile, saw the publication of two opinion pieces by two of America’s most experienced intelligence watchers. In the first one, The Washington Post’s Walter Pincus urges United States President Barack Obama to pause and think about the role of America’s foremost external intelligence organization before appointing a successor to General Petraeus. For over a decade, argues Pincus, the CIA’s focus has been to fulfill covert-action tasks in the context of Washington’s so-called “war on terrorism”. But through this process, the Agency “has become too much of a paramilitary organization” and has neglected its primary institutional role, which is to be “the premier producer and analyst of intelligence for policymakers, using both open and clandestine sources”. Read more of this post

Ex-CIA Director cautions Israel against attacking Iran

Michael HaydenBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The former Director of the United States Central Intelligence Agency has warned that an Israeli attack on Iran would likely backlash and might actually push Tehran to build nuclear weapons earlier than currently projected. General Michael Hayden, the only person to lead both the CIA and the US National Security Agency, told Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz on Monday that Iran is not yet close to building a nuclear weapon and that Israel should carefully consider how to respond to its neighbor’s alleged nuclear weapons ambitions. During his CIA tenure, General Hayden supervised the 2007 US National Intelligence Estimate, produced cooperatively by all 16 agencies of the US intelligence community, which concluded that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons activities. In his interview on Monday, Hayden said that, in his view, the conclusion of the 2007 NIE “still holds”, as Tehran has not yet made the decision to weaponize its missile and fissile material. Hayden, who was recently appointed as national security adviser to Republican Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, said that, by rushing to attack Iran now, Israeli military leaders would “actually push [Tehran] to do that which [an attack] is supposed to prevent: getting nuclear weapons”. The retired General added that any military attack on Iran would “pose a difficult challenge” in terms of its strategic outcome, since “there is no absolute certainty that all targets are known” inside Iran. Furthermore, he said, even if Israel decided to attack Iran militarily, it would have to go beyond mere air raids, and would soon discover that its resources were limited. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #748 (US edition)

Michael HaydenBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►US lawmakers probe China companies over spy concerns. In letters sent last week to Chinese communications hardware firms Huawei Technologies and ZTE Corporation, a group of senior members of the US House of Representatives Intelligence Committee have outlined concerns about the companies’ ties with the Chinese government, including the role of a “party committee” at Huawei. The lawmakers have also asked about Huawei’s relationships with five US consulting firms and requested an expansive collection of documents, including the contracts between the firms and Huawei.
►►Lone Senator resists Bush/Obama NSA wiretapping plan. The Obama administration wanted a quick, no-questions-asked-or-answered renewal of broad electronic eavesdropping powers that largely legalized the Bush administration’s illegal warrantless wiretapping program. That’s despite President Barack Obama’s campaign promise to revisit and revise the rules to protect Americans’ rights. Everything seemed to be going to plan after a Senate committee approved the re-authorization in secret last month. But Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) has stepped in to stop the bill because the government refuses to say how often the spy powers are being used.
►►What did Hayden tell Obama in January 2009? In December of 2008, a meeting took place between the incoming US Presiden Barack Obama and the departing CIA Director Michael Hayden. Several days later, on January 15, Hayden told journalists that Obama had privately assured him that “no plans to launch a legal inquiry” into the CIA’s use of controversial interrogation methods during the Bush administration. Now, several years later, Salon has published an insider’s account of what was said in that meeting between Obama and Hayden, as well as during the days that followed.

News you may have missed #689: NSA edition

Michael HaydenBy IAN ALLEN| intelNews.org |
►►Ex-NSA Director calls Stuxnet a ‘good idea’. General Michael Hayden, once head of the NSA and CIA, who was no longer in office when the Stuxnet attack on Iran occurred, but who would have been around when the computer virus was created, denies knowing who was behind it. He calls Stuxnet “a good idea”. But he also admits “this was a big idea, too. The rest of the world is looking at this and saying, ‘clearly, someone has legitimated this kind of activity as acceptable'”.
►►NSA develops secure Android phones. The US National Security Agency has developed and published details of an encrypted VoIP communications system using commercial off-the-shelf components and an Android operating system. A hundred US government employees participated in a pilot of Motorola hardware running hardened VoIP called ‘Project FISHBOWL’, NSA Information Assurance Directorate technical director Margaret Salter told the RSA Conference in San Francisco on Wednesday. “The beauty of our strategy is that we looked at all of the components, and took stuff out of the operating system we didn’t need”, said Salter. “This makes the attack surface very small”.
►►Senior US Defense official says DHS should lead cybersecurity. In the midst of an ongoing turf battle over how big a role the National Security Agency should play in securing America’s critical infrastructure, Eric Rosenbach, deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Cyber Policy in the Department of Defense, said on Wednesday that the NSA should take a backseat to the Department of Homeland Security in this regard. “Obviously, there are amazing resources at NSA, a lot of magic that goes on there”, he said. “But it’s almost certainly not the right approach for the United States of America to have a foreign intelligence focus on domestic networks, doing something that throughout history has been a domestic function”.

News you may have missed #577

Waihopai base

Waihopai base

►►Interview with Michael Hayden. The former director of the CIA and the NSA gave a lengthy interview in preparation for his keynote speech at the Raleigh Spy Conference. Among other things, he says that he does “not immediately conclude that senior levels of the Pakistani government knew about” Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts.
►►CIA denies helping police spy on NY Muslims. The Central Intelligence Agency is denying a news report that it helped the New York Police Department conduct covert surveillance on Muslims. The agency said suggestions that it engaged in domestic spying were “simply wrong” and that the report “mischaracterized the nature and scope” of the CIA’s support for the New York police.
►►Spy base reservoir not a pool after all... A journalist at New Zealand’s Marlborough Express newspaper noticed what looked suspiciously like a swimming pool on a satellite photo (pictured) of the super-secret Waihopai listening base near Blenheim. Do spies go swimming on the base, he asked? It turns out they don’t. According to Government Communications Security Bureau Waihopai station chief Chris Farrow, the landmark is in fact a water reservoir, to be used in case of fire.

News you may have missed #537 (bin Laden edition)

Osama bin Laden

Osama bin Laden

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Ex-CIA chief speaks on al-Qaida after Osama. The killing of Osama bin Laden will force al-Qaeda to limit its ambitions and scope of its operations, according to former CIA and NSA director Michael Hayden. General Hayden’s comments on numerous issues tend to make the news almost every other week. In his latest interview, with The Associated Press, Hayden expressed the opinion that al-Qaeda’s “future attacks are going to be more numerous but less complex, less well organized, less likely to succeed, and less lethal if they do succeed”. ►►CIA organized fake vaccination drive to get bin Laden family DNA. Speaking of Osama bin Laden, British newspaper The Guardian reported earlier this week that the CIA tried to collect DNA evidence on the late al-Qaeda founder by running a phony vaccination program in Abbottabad, the quiet Pakistani town where bin Laden was believed to be hiding along with his family. But Shakil Afridi, the Pakistani doctor who administered the vaccination program, failed to get access to bin Laden’s family DNA, even though he managed to enter the family’s compound, said the paper. It is worth noting that, as soon as Pakistani authorities learned of the fake vaccination program, they arrested Dr Afridi for collaborating with a foreign intelligence agency. ►►CIA moves to protect key analyst in bin Laden raid. Bin Laden may be dead, but it seems that he still haunts the CIA. The Agency had to move one of its senior analysts undercover this week, after he was identified in a photograph that was published by US media, following the Obama administrator’s celebratory announcement of the al-Qaeda leader’s assassination. The photo showed President Obama and other national security officials gathered in the White House situation room on the night of the bin Laden raid. Most media outlets have been referring to the analyst by his middle name, John.

Did compromised laptop prompt Israel to bomb Syrian nuclear reactor?

Al-Kibar reactor

Al-Kibar reactor

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
One of the Middle East’s biggest mysteries in recent years concerns Operation ORCHARD, the September 6, 2007, attack by Israeli fighter jets on a site deep in the Syro-Arabian Desert. Many observers, including former CIA Director, General Michael Hayden, have called for the secrecy surrounding the covert operation to be finally lifted. But it has been more-or-less confirmed that the attack targeted a plutonium production reactor, which was part of Syria’s secret nuclear weapons program. And officials in Tel Aviv have repeatedly hinted that Israel was behind the operation. The burning question, however, is how did Israel learn of the existence of Syria’s nuclear reactor at Al-Kibar, a secret and isolated site deep in the Syro-Arabian Desert? The authoritative account of the operation, which appeared in German newsmagazine Der Spiegel in 2009, suggested that the initial tip came from the US National Security Agency, which “detected a suspiciously high number of telephone calls between Syria and North Korea”. But it also alleged that the Mossad managed to acquire vital clues about the Al-Kibar building site by installing a stealth “Trojan horse” program on the laptop of a Syrian government official, while the latter was visiting Britain. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #499 (CIA edition)

News you may have missed #483

  • Ex-CIA chief criticizes ‘too much cybersecurity secrecy’. In an article published in the new issue of the US Air Force’s Strategic Studies Quarterly, former CIA and NSA Director, General Michael “I-want-to-shut-down-the-Internet” Hayden, argues that the US government classifies too much information on cybersecurity vulnerabilities.
  • Renault arrests security chief over spy hoax. Dominique Gevrey, a ex-military intelligence agent, who is French car maker Renault’s chief of security, has been arrested in Paris, just before boarding a flight to Guinea in West Africa. He is accused of concocting the spying allegations which shook the French car giant –-and the entire motoring world-– last January. Meanwhile, Renault has apologized to the three senior executives who were fired after being accused of selling secrets about the company’s electric car strategy to “foreign interests”.
  • Analysis: Gadhafi’s spies keep watch in Libyan rebel capital. “Pro-Gaddafi spies are blamed for assassinations, grenade attacks, and sending rebels threatening text messages. Rebels believe that Gaddafi’s forces are all around them. They lurk outside the Benghazi courthouse that serves as the Capitol for the liberated east, sometimes armed with cameras. They sit in vans outside hotels that house journalists and aid workers, and silently watch who comes and goes”.

News you may have missed #435 (cyberwarfare edition)

  • Analysis: Cyber attacks test US Pentagon. US military and civilian networks are probed thousands of times a day, and the systems of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization headquarters are attacked at least 100 times a day. Meanwhile, more than 100 countries are currently trying to break into US defense networks.
  • US should be able to shut Internet, ex-CIA chief says. Cyberterrorism is such a threat that the US President should have the authority to shut down the Internet in the event of an attack, Former CIA Director Michael Hayden has said.
  • Iran battling alleged ‘spy virus’. Iranian officials have confirmed reports that a malicious computer code, called Stuxnet, was spreading throughout the nation’s nuclear infrastructure. But they have given differing accounts of the damage, said to be capable of taking over computers that operate huge facilities, including nuclear energy reactors. Did someone say ‘Israel‘?

News you may have missed #414

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News you may have missed #405

  • Democracy Now on Google-CIA partnership. Democracy Now has aired an interview with John Simpson, director of Consumer Watchdog’s Inside Google project, and Noah Shachtman, of Wired magazine’s Danger Room blog, who broke the story of the Google-CIA investment partnership.
  • Ex-CIA chief downplays cyberwar with China. Retired CIA chief Michael Hayden downplayed the notion that the US is in a raging “cyberwar” with China during a speech on Thursday at the Black Hat Technical Security Conference in Las Vegas.
  • Men held over parcel bomb sent to MI6. Two men have been arrested in north Wales, after parcel bombs were sent to the offices of the British government executive at 10 Downing Street, and the headquarters of MI6, Britain’s external intelligence agency. The two men, aged 52 and 21, are believed to be related and of Pakistani origin.

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