American computer programmer jailed for giving technical know-how to North Korea

North Korea PyongyangAN AMERICAN COMPUTER PROGRAMMER has been jailed for 63 months for providing “highly technical information” to North Korea, which related to cryptocurrency systems, according to United States officials. The programmer, Virgil Griffith, 39, also known as “Romanpoet”, became widely known in the early 2000s, when he began describing himself as a “disruptive technologist”. He later consulted with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other law enforcement agencies in the area of the dark web and cryptocurrencies.

In later years, however, Griffith developed what his lawyer described as a “curiosity bordering on obsession” with North Korea. The FBI arrested Griffith in November of 2019, accusing him of deliberately providing the North Korean government with “highly technical information” relating to blockchain and cryptocurrency systems. According to US government prosecutors, Griffith committed a crime when he delivered an invited presentation at an international conference on cryptocurrencies in Pyongyang, North Korea, in April of 2019.

Prior to attending the conference, Griffith had been barred from traveling to North Korea by the United States Department of State. He managed to get there anyway and, according to US prosecutors, “advised more than 100 people” on the use of cryptocurrencies to evade banking regulations and international sanctions. Griffith should have known that many of those he spoke to were employees of the North Korean government, US prosecutors said. They argued that Griffith’s actions amounted to an illegal transfer of highly technical knowledge. By attending the conference, Griffith essentially provided services to a foreign power that is hostile to the United States, prosecutors claimed.

Griffith has been given a 63-month prison sentence, which will be followed by a 3-year supervised release. He has also been fined $100,000. As intelNews has previously reported, a United Nations report warned earlier this year that the North Korean missile program has developed rapidly in recent times, partly due to an influx of stolen cryptocurrency, which has now become “an important revenue source” for Pyongyang.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 13 April 2022 | Permalink

FBI arrests two men who tried to influence Secret Service agents – motive unknown

Jill and Joe BidenTHE FEDERAL BUREAU OF Investigation arrested two men on Wednesday, who allegedly tried to influence four agents of the United States Secret Service with money and gifts, according to an affidavit. The men were identified on Thursday as Haider Ali, 36, and Arian Taherzadeh, 40. Both are United States citizens and residents of Washington, DC. On the same day, FBI personnel searched five apartments and a number of cars that belong to the two men.

According to the FBI, in February of 2020 the two men began posing as employees of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). At around the same time, they began telling people they knew that they were involved in undercover investigations. After the United States Capitol attack of January 6, 2021, they told neighbors they had been tasked with uncovering the identities of participants in the attack. The FBI alleges that the two men spent thousands of dollars on buying equipment that would help them pass for DHS employees, including a black sports utility vehicle equipped with emergency lights. They had also rented several apartments in Washington, at the cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

Eventually they became friendly with four Secret Service agents, one of whom served on the protection detail of Dr. Jill Biden, the wife of President Joe Biden. They gradually began giving their Secret Service agent friends gifts, including a flat screen television, a power generator, as well as “law enforcement paraphernalia”.

The FBI has not provided a motive for the activities of the two men, saying only that the investigation into their activities is “ongoing”. According to the New York Times, Ali told witnesses he was connected to the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, which is the primary intelligence agency of Pakistan. It is also believed that Ali’s passport contains a number of entry visas issued by Pakistani and Iranian authorities, the paper said.

The two men appeared on Thursday at a court hearing in Washington, via videoconference. They are scheduled to attend a detention hearing later today. Meanwhile, the Secret Service agents who were befriended by the two suspects have been placed on administrative leave, according to a Secret Service spokesperson. The investigation into the case continues.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 08 April 2022 | Permalink

Secret CIA training program helping Ukrainians fight Russian troops, sources say

Kyiv Molotovs UkraineA SECRET TRAINING PROGRAM run by the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), which began shortly after Russia invaded eastern Ukraine in 2014, is now helping the Ukrainians beat back Russian military advances. According to Yahoo News, which revealed the existence of the CIA program earlier this week, the CIA began training Ukrainian special operations forces personnel in eastern Ukraine, starting in 2015. That was only months after the Kremlin sparked a separatist war in eastern Ukraine and the Crimea, eventually pulling them away from the control of Kyiv.

Yahoo news reports that the CIA carried out the training with the help of personnel from the Special Activities Center (SAC, called Special Activities Division in 2015, when the secret program began). The SAC operates under the Agency’s Directorate of Operations. Within the SAC, paramilitary operations and training are carried out by the Special Operations Group (SOG). A small team from SOG, “in the low single digits”, arrived in eastern Ukraine and began training Ukrainian forces in a variety of military and paramilitary techniques.

The news website claims that the Ukrainians were taught by the CIA how to engage in anti-tank warfare, which included the use of American-supplied FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank missiles. They were also taught sniping techniques, as well as how to operate in insurgency formations without being detected by Russian electronic surveillance tools. The CIA program took place alongside a more extensive, US-based training program for Ukrainian special operations forces, which was run by the United States military. That program also began in 2015, according to Yahoo News.

The training program continued for a number of years, according to Yahoo News. In fact, members of SAC/SOG were on the ground in Ukraine in early February, just days before the Russian invasion began. At that time, the administration of US President Joe Biden, expecting a Russian invasion, ordered that all CIA personnel should leave Ukraine, fearing that they could get captured by Russian forces. Yahoo News’ Zach Dorfman said he spoke to “over half a dozen former officials”, who claimed to have recognized CIA-style training in the tactics being employed on the ground by the Ukrainians.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 18 March 2022 | Permalink

China may be preparing to give Russia military aid for Ukraine, sources claim

Vladimir Putin Xi JinpingTHE RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT HAS asked China to supply it with military hardware, as well as diplomatic and financial support, which would allow it to weather Western-imposed sanctions against it, according to Western officials. In what bears the marks of a controlled leak by the White House, several American and British news outlets reported late last night that Moscow had approached Beijing with a request for support across many levels, as the war in Ukraine continues to escalate.

The New York Times said that “an official” in the US government had confirmed that Russia and China were in communication about the possibility of Beijing providing Moscow with military support for its war in Ukraine. However, the official would not comment about the intelligence sources and methods that the US employed to secure this information. Separately, Politico reported yesterday that the details of Russia’s alleged request remained secret. According to the American news outlet CNN, China’s response to Russia’s request was not known as of last night.

Later in the evening, London-based newspaper The Financial Times said there were early “indicators that China may be preparing to help Russia” in Ukraine. American officials told news outlets last night that Washington was “watching closely” to see whether Moscow’s request would be granted by the Chinese. The BBC reported late last night that the administration of US President Joe Biden was urgently putting pressure on China, hoping to convince it to refrain from taking steps to help Russia in Ukraine, militarily or economically.

This development comes less than 24 hours before President Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, is scheduled to hold a closed-door meeting in Rome, Italy, with Yang Jiechi, director of the Communist Party of China’s Central Foreign Affairs Commission. The Commission is chaired by no other than Chinese Premier and Communist Party of China General Secretary Xi Jinping. Moscow will need the Commission’s support for its request for Chinese military assistance, if it is to receive it in the coming days.

There is a general consensus among observers that the meeting in Rome between Sullivan and Yang is of critical importance for the future of the war in Ukraine. The United States will try to convince China that it has much to lose economically by siding with Russia in this war. Meanwhile, Liu Pengyu, a spokesman for the embassy of China in Washington, was telling Western news media last night that the embassy had “never heard” of a request for military assistance from Russia.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 14 March 2022 | Permalink

US strategy of revealing raw intelligence on Russia seen as ‘unusual’, ‘unprecedented’

Ukraine Russia borderTHE DECISION BY UNITED States officials to release what appears to be raw intelligence about Russia’s intentions on Ukraine is being described by observers as “highly unusual” and even “unprecedented”. Two weeks ago, American officials said they were in possession of intelligence about an alleged Russian false-flag operation targeting Ukraine. The operation revolved around a fake video, allegedly using paid actors, which would be used by Moscow as evidence of a campaign of ethnic cleansing by Kiev against eastern Ukraine’s Russian population.

More recently, the United States government claimed that Russia was potentially preparing to attack Ukraine on Wednesday, February 16. Such specific intelligence about an adversary’s intentions is rarely released to the public, especially during periods of international tension like the present. The decision by the US government to release this intelligence on an almost daily basis is being described by observers as “unprecedented”. It is broadly seen as one of the most aggressive “transparency-as-strategy” campaigns by American intelligence agencies since at least the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.

One such observer, Thomas Rid, Professor of Strategic Studies at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, calls this novel approach by the US Intelligence Community “ambitious”. It is too early to say, however, whether this approach has actually helped prevent a conflict that the Russians were otherwise determined to see erupt in Ukraine. It is even more difficult to say whether this strategy will prove successful for the US government and the US Intelligence Community in the long run.

This is especially pertinent in relation to “sources and methods”—namely the precise source or sources that are presumably providing Washington with actionable intelligence from Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle. Douglas London, a recently retired Central Intelligence Agency case officer, points out that, the more Washington reveals precise details about the Kremlin’s intentions, the more it risks helping the Russians narrow in on the potential mole that is supplying America with intelligence. This tactic might provide the US with “a short-term gain right now in the Ukraine”, says London; however, it runs the risk of blinding American intelligence agencies “in the future to what the Russians are planning there and elsewhere”, he warns.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 17 February 2022 | Permalink

Even Russian military commanders don’t know what Putin’s plans are on Ukraine

Vladimir PutinEVEN RUSSIAN MILITARY COMMANDERS and intelligence officials on the ground near the Ukrainian border are in the dark about whether the Kremlin intends to invade Ukraine in the coming weeks, according to a report. The American news network CNN reported on Monday that Russian “intelligence and military operatives” stationed near the Ukrainian border are “not really understanding what the game plan is”.

Citing “four people familiar with the intelligence” on the matter, the news network said United States spy agencies had intercepted communications between Russian military and intelligence officials on the ground near Ukraine. The intercepts suggest that at least some Russian government personnel are concerned that the Kremlin may have miscalculated the tactical, financial and logistical challenges of a possible full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

The CNN report noted that Russian military commanders on the ground are unlikely to oppose, or even hesitate to carry out, a direct order to invade Ukraine by the government in Moscow. However, there is reportedly concern among the Russian military and intelligence forces at the border that logistical support remains inadequate. It is currently believed that the size of the Russian military force along the Ukrainian border remains about 30 percent below what is needed to mount a full-scale military invasion of Ukraine.

Nevertheless, there are now indications that crucial supply lines needed to provide frontline Russian troops with war materiel, fuel, medicine, food, and other supplies, are being assembled. These supply lines could potentially allow the Kremlin’s forces to persist during a protracted conventional war through the upcoming spring and summer months. However, the intentions of Russian President Vladimir Putin remain a mystery, even to most Russian government officials. American intelligence agencies have “insights into the Russian military and foreign ministry”, according to CNN. However, they still lack adequate access to Putin’s inner circle, whose members remain firmly in control of plans for a possible invasion of Ukraine.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 08 February 2022 | Permalink

Lawyers of alleged Venezuelan coup mastermind claim CIA knew about his activities

Cliver Alcala CordonesLAWYERS FOR A FORMER Venezuelan military officer, who tried to topple President Nicolás Maduro in 2020 with the help of American former soldiers, have claimed that senior officials in the United States Central Intelligence Agency were aware of his activities “at the highest levels”. The court case centers on Major General Clíver Alcalá Cordones, a retired member of Venezuela’s Bolivarian Army, who is being tried in a Manhattan court. Alcalá is accused of being a member of a drug smuggling ring that worked closely with Colombian terrorist organizations to smuggle over 250 metric tons of cocaine to the US.

Prior to his arrest for drug trafficking, Alcalá had been living in Colombia since at least 2019, from where he allegedly masterminded the so-called “enfrentamiento en El Junquito” (“El Junquito raid”), or “Operación GEDEÓN”. GEDEÓN refers to a failed coup plot against Maduro, which was carried out on May 3 and 4 by a group of up to 60 armed men. It is alleged that the coup was launched from Colombia with the support of Silvercorp USA, a private security group led by Jordan Goudreau, a Canadian-born former sergeant in the US Green Berets. At least six coup plotters, who participated in the first phase of the operation, are believed to have been killed by the Venezuela military. Many more were arrested before being able to reach a network of safe houses that had allegedly been set up their supporters inside Venezuela. At least two of the arrestees, Airan Berry and Luke Denman, are American citizens and former soldiers.

On January 28, the Associated Press reported that lawyers for Alcalá have filed a letter that claims his “efforts to overthrow the Maduro regime have been well known to the United States government”. This is because these activities were “reported to the highest levels of the Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Council, and the Department of the Treasury”, according to Alcalá’s lawyers. The letter provides no details about which officials in the US government allegedly knew about Alcalá’s activities. In an accompanying document, however, the lawyers for the accused are seeking “documents and information” containing relevant communications between a number of US officials, including former Attorney General William Barr, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, senior White House officials, as well as the CIA station in Colombia.

According to the news agency, Alcalá’s lawyers hope that, by providing proof that the US government knew about their client’s paramilitary activities, his argument that he was not operating illegally will be bolstered. More broadly, however, the accusation raises fresh questions about what the administration of US President Donald Trump knew about the coup plot in Venezuela, which involved several American citizens. The government of the United States has consistently rejected allegations by the Venezuelan government that the coup was planned with American assistance or knowledge. The Associated Press said it contacted the CIA for comment, but received no response.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 31 January 2022 | Permalink

Havana syndrome unlikely to be caused by adversary action, CIA report finds

CIAMOST CASES OF THE so-called “Havana syndrome”, a mysterious medical condition affecting mostly American government officials abroad, are unlikely to have been caused by a directed energy weapon or other device constructed by a foreign adversary, according to the United States Central Intelligence Agency. The condition is believed to have afflicted around 1,000 American and Canadian diplomats around the world in recent years, and many claim it is the result of a mystery weapon built by Russia or other adversaries of the United States.

The matter first came to light in 2017, when Washington recalled the majority of its personnel from its embassy in Havana, Cuba, and at least two more diplomats from its consulate in the Chinese city of Guangzhou. The evacuees reported experiencing “unusual acute auditory or sensory phenomena” and hearing “unusual sounds or piercing noises”. Subsequent tests showed that the diplomats suffered from sudden and unexplained loss of hearing, and possibly from various forms of brain injury. In the most recent known case, “about two dozen” personnel at the US embassy in Vienna showed Havana syndrome symptoms in the first half of 2021.

But now a study by the CIA has concluded that the vast majority of Havana syndrome cases could be “explained by environmental causes, undiagnosed medical conditions or stress”. The study, described as “comprehensive” by CIA sources, supports the view that environmental causes, rather than “a sustained global campaign by a foreign power”, could explain most Havana syndrome cases. According to The Times, the conclusion of the CIA study is broadly shared by other members of the United States intelligence community, though confidence levels vary.

The Director of the CIA, William Burns, said yesterday that the agency had “reached some significant interim findings”, but would continue to investigate the Havana syndrome, given that two dozen cases remained difficult to explain. However, the conclusions of the study appear to have displeased many victims, according to The Times. One organized group of victims described the CIA study as “interim” and said that its results “cannot and must not be the final word on the matter”.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 21 January 2022 | Permalink

United States charges New York man with spying for Egyptian government

Egyptian embassy in WashingtonA RESIDENT OF NEW York has been charged by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation with engaging in espionage operations on behalf of the government of Egypt, according to court documents unsealed on Thursday. The FBI claims that the spy “tracked and obtained information regarding political opponents” of Egypt’s ultra-authoritarian president, retired General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. El-Sisi took power in Egypt in a military coup d’etat in 2013, which was followed by heavily staged election in 2014. With most of the opposition refusing to participate, the election resulted in a victory for the Egyptian strongman with 97% of the vote.

The alleged spy is 39-year-old Pierre Girgis. He is charged with conspiracy and acting as an agent of a foreign state without notifying the government of the United States —which is standard legal terminology used to convey acts of espionage. According to the FBI, Girgis’s Egyptian handlers tasked him with spying on US-based critics of President el-Sisi. The documents suggest that Girgis attempted to “covertly gather non-public intelligence” about Egyptian expatriates, and sought to secure access to law enforcement-only training sessions in Manhattan for Egyptian government officials.

In doing the above, Girgis operated “at the direction and control of multiple employees of the Egyptian government”, according to the FBI. One of those employees is alleged to have sent Girgis an encrypted message in 2018, praising him for doing “a lot of good things” and for having “become an important source [of] information collection” for the Egyptian government. The method by which the FBI was able to gain access to the contents of this encrypted communication exchange is not known.

Girgis reportedly surrendered to US authorities on the morning of Thursday, and appeared before a Manhattan federal court later on the same day. The embassy of Egypt in Washington, DC, declined to comment on the case. A spokesperson for the US Department of State said simply that Girgis’ case was “an active law enforcement matter”, which prevented the Department from commenting on it.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 07 January 2022 | Permalink

FBI confidential informant who infiltrated the KKK speaks publicly for the first time

Joseph MooreA UNITED STATES ARMY veteran and government informant, who infiltrated the white supremacist organization known as the Ku Klux Klan for over a decade, has spoken publicly about his work for the first time. The informant’s birth name is Joseph Moore, but in 2018 he changed it in order to evade detection by KKK members who might be tempted to track him down. Today the 50-year-old former Army sniper lives with his wife and four children somewhere in Florida, according to the Associated Press.

The news agency said Moore reached out to one of its reporters who had authored a series of exposés about white supremacists working in Florida’s penitentiary system. The reports relied on evidence uncovered by Moore. The former FBI informant told the Associated Press that he has never discussed his undercover work in public, until now. He added that he was not a member of the KKK before “the government approached him, and asked for his help”. That took place in 2007, according to the report.

Moore’s primary mission as an informant for the FBI was to provide evidence of active law enforcement personnel who were active in KKK groups based in Florida and Georgia. After joining the Englewood, Florida-headquartered United Northern & Southern Knights of the KKK, Moore began to regularly attend the group’s meetings wearing hidden surveillance devices. According to the Associated Press, he was able to identify “dozens of police officers, prison guards, sheriff deputies and other law enforcement officers who were involved with the Klan and outlaw motorcycle clubs”.

After a brief respite, the FBI re-established contact with Moore in 2013 and asked him to infiltrate another white supremacist group, known as the Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. Within a year, Moore had gained the group’s trust and was operating as its director of security, with tasks that included safeguarding the group’s internal communications. During that time, Moore reportedly helped the FBI “foil at least two murder plots” by KKK members, and assisted the government in identifying Klan members who were also working as law enforcement officers throughout Florida.

Moore told the Associated Press that he and his family adopted new names in 2018, in an effort to prevent the men he helped put in prison from finding him once they complete their sentences. But he fears for his and his family’s safety, which is why he chose to go public with his story, in the hope that the exposure will make it harder for the KKK to hurt him. He also said that a number of people associated with the KKK had “appeared at his house” in recent months, prompting him to contact the FBI and his local sheriff’s office. The Associated Press said it reached out to the FBI about Moore’s work as an informant, but received no response.

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

Turkey arrests American diplomat, claims he sold fake passport to Syrian refugee

Istanbul airport arrestTURKISH POLICE ARRESTED A man reported to be an American diplomat, allegedly for selling a forged passport to a Syrian refugee who then attempted to use it in order to travel from Turkey to Germany. The incident was reported on Wednesday by Turkey’s state-run news service, Anadolu Agency. The news story was soon picked up by Hürriyet, Turkey’s leading pro-government newspaper. According to the reports, the alleged American diplomat was arrested on November 11, and he remains in prison today. He is identified only as “D.J.K.” in media reports. According to Turkish sources he works at the United States embassy in Beirut, Lebanon.

The arrest took place at the Istanbul International Airport, Turkey’s busiest air-travel hub. Turkish media aired security camera footage, which shows D.J.K. approaching the Syrian man, identified as R.S., inside the airport’s departures hall. The two men then appear to casually swap jackets before separating. The Syrian man then goes to the departures lounge, where he presents an immigration police officer with a passport. He is arrested by police soon thereafter, as is D.J.K.

Some reports claim that D.J.K. gave R.S. his own passport, while other reports suggest that it was in actually a forged passport that bore D.J.K.’s name. Allegedly R.S. gave D.J.K. $10,000 in exchange for the passport. According to Turkish police, the cash was found inside an envelope that was in D.J.K.’s possession at the time of his arrest. The Syrian man is now facing charges of forging an official document and has reportedly been released on bail. Unlike R.S., D.J.K. remains in prison in Istanbul.

No comment has been issued by the United States embassy in Beirut. Initially, the United States Department of State refused to comment on the case. Late on Wednesday, however, the Reuters news agency cited a source in the Department of State who said D.J.K. was not an American diplomat. The footage of D.J.K. and R.S.’s arrest can be watched here.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 23 December 2021 | Permalink

US, British spy agencies preparing Ukraine to withstand Russian invasion – reports

Ukraine Russia borderBRITISH, AMERICAN AND OTHER Western intelligence agencies are quietly preparing Ukrainian military and security experts to withstand a possible Russian attack, according to a number of media reports. The New York Times reported on Monday that cyberwarfare units from the United States and the United Kingdom have been dispatched to Ukraine. Their mission is believed to be helping the former Soviet republic in confronting possible large-scale cyberattacks from Moscow.

According to The Times, Ukraine has been undergoing a widespread series of cyberattacks from Russia almost without stop during the past several years. The attacks have consisted of multiple sabotage and espionage campaigns, which have targeted nearly every Ukrainian government agency, as well as the country’s energy infrastructure. These attacks have historically been low in number and intensity. This has changed in recent months, however, according to American officials.

Some observers are concerned that a series of large-scale cyberattacks may precede a military invasion by the nearly 200,000 Russian troops that are currently present along the Russian-Ukrainian border. Were they to materialize, these cyberattacks will probably attempt to sabotage core functions of Ukraine’s economy and government, including the banking and air-traffic systems. Moscow’s broader goal, according to The Times, would be to subvert the ability of President Volodymyr Zelensky’s government to govern Ukraine. This, in turn, could lead to its fall and replacement by a pro-Russian administration. If a pro-Russian government is threatened by a pro-Western revolt —something that Ukraine has seen in the past— it could potentially request military assistance from Moscow, which would provide a political pretext for an invasion.

Meanwhile, British newspaper The Daily Mirror said on Monday that American intelligence agencies have “secretly agreed to arm and train Ukrainian troops on how to fight a guerrilla war against Russian forces if they invade”. The paper said that meetings to discuss these plans have been taking place between officials from the Central Intelligence Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency. The goal of such an effort, the report claims, would be to mirror the American help given to Afghan fighters by the CIA during the Soviet-Afghan war of the 1980s.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 21 December 2021 | Permalink

Trump transition was ‘far and away’ most difficult in CIA history, internal report claims

Donald Trump CIA

THE PERIOD IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWING the electoral victory of Donald Trump in 2016 was “far and away the most difficult” transition between administrations in the history of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). This is the conclusion of a recently declassified CIA analysis of how American presidents-elect are briefed. The term ‘president-elect’ refers to individuals who have won the US presidential election, but have yet to assume the presidency. Presidents-elect are briefed by the CIA during the transition period, which typically lasts about 75 days, from early November until late in January of the following year.

The CIA analysis appears in the most recent edition of Getting to Know the President: Intelligence Briefings of Presidential Candidates and Presidents-Elect, 1952–2016. It is authored by John L. Helgerson, a 38-year veteran of the CIA, who retired in 2009 as the Agency’s Inspector General. The volume contains lessons learned by analysts who briefed presidents-elect in over sixty years. Chapter nine of the book, which contains an assessment of Trump as president-elect, was released [pdf] last week.

The chapter chronicles some of the challenges faced by the CIA in the days immediately after Trump’s electoral victory in 2016. Such challenges included CIA analysts having to wait for over a week for the Trump team to begin communicating them, its members “apparently having not expected to win the election”. Additionally, the Trump transition team had not thought of a way to safeguard printed documents shared with them by the CIA, which necessitated the Agency having to install a safe in the Trump transition team’s headquarters.

Eventually, president-elect Trump began receiving the President’s Daily Brief (PDB), a highly sensitive classified document produced each morning for the eyes of the president, vice president and a limited number of senior administration officials. However, unlike his vice-president elect, Mike Pence, Trump did not read the PDB, and eventually told the CIA he wanted a less text-heavy approach to the document if he was going to read it. The CIA complied with the request, as it tries to adapt its briefing method to the intelligence consumers’ preferred mode. Read more of this post

US intelligence reports suggest possible Russian military invasion in Ukraine

UkraineINTELLIGENCE OFFICIALS IN THE United States are becoming increasingly convinced that Russia is contemplating extensive military action in Ukraine, according to Western insiders. Russian troop concentrations near the Ukrainian border have been “large and unusual” for several weeks, according to observers.

The New York Times reports that American intelligence assessments do not view war in Ukraine as an inevitable outcome of Moscow’s military maneuvers in western Russia. In fact, many suggest that Russian President Vladimir Putin “has not yet decided” how to proceed in Ukraine. Nevertheless, “all the pieces are in place” for a large-scale military invasion, according to experts who spoke to The Times.

The number of American intelligence observers who believe that Moscow’s military maneuvers may represent a bluff is gradually shrinking. Some believe that the Kremlin’s goal is to establish command over a larger and more unified landmass than the one it currently controls in southeastern Ukraine, and thus secure a contiguous land linking Russian soil with the territory it occupies in Ukraine.

Washington has been sharing intelligence on this fast-changing situation with Ukraine, while also briefing its North Atlantic Treaty Organization partners. Last week, the United States Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines visited Brussels for discussions with NATO ambassadors. The unusual visit to Russia by Central Intelligence Agency Director William Burns, which took place in early November, may also be connected to the rising tensions in Ukraine, according to The Times.

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

Israel wants United States to lift sanctions on controversial cyber-spy firms

Computer hacking

THE GOVERNMENT OF ISRAEL is pressuring the United States to reverse its recent decision to blacklist two controversial digital surveillance companies, which Israel sees as “a crucial element of its foreign policy”. The US Department of Commerce placed the two firms, NSO Group Technologies and Candiru, on a sanctions list on November 3. According to a statement issued by the US Department of Commerce, the two firms engaged “in activities that are contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States”.

The move followed revelations of a spy software known as Pegasus, which is marketed by NSO Group. As intelNews and others reported back in July, Pegasus is able to install itself on targeted telephones without requiring their users to click a link or download an application. Upon installation, the software provides the spying party with near-complete control of a targeted telephone. This includes the ability to browse through the device’s contents, such as photographs and videos, record conversations, as well as activate the telephone’s built-in microphone and camera at any time, without its user’s consent or knowledge.

The US is among several Western governments that have criticized the Pegasus software as a malicious tool used by some of NSO Group’s customers to maliciously target government officials, journalists, businesspeople, activists, academics, and embassy workers”. Software tools such as Pegasus have enabled a host of governments around the world to “conduct transnational repression [by] targeting dissidents, journalists and activists outside of their sovereign borders to silence dissent”, according to the US Department of Commerce.

According to The New York Times, however, the government of Israel supports the work of NSO Group and Candiru, and “sees the Pegasus software as a crucial element of its foreign policy”. The Israelis were thus “alarmed” by Washington’s decision to blacklist the two firms, and are determined to lobby the White House on their behalf. The goal of the Israeli government, according to the paper, is to convince the American administration that the activities of NSO and Candiru, “remain of great importance to the national security of both” Israel and the US. In return for the US reversing its decision to blacklist the companies, Israel is willing to exercise “much tighter supervision” of these and other similar firms, through its software-licensing system, according to The Times.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 10 November 2021 | Permalink

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