In historic first, alleged North Korean spy to face trial in the United States

DPRK North Korean embassy in Malaysia

FOR THE FIRST TIME in history, an alleged intelligence officer of North Korea is going to be tried in a United States court, according to American government officials. In a surprise move last week, Malaysia extradited to the US an export-finance trader named Mun Chol-myong. Aged 55, Mun is a North Korean citizen based in Singapore, where until 2019 he worked for a company called Sinsar Trading Pte. Ltd. The Malaysians arrested him in May 2019 and charged him with using his position to defraud a number of international banks and launder money though the US financial system.

Responding to a US request to have Mun tried in a US court, Malaysia announced his extradition last week, angering Pyongyang. Shortly following Mun’s extradition to the US, North Korea shut down its embassy in Kuala Lumpur, one of only 46 embassies maintained by Pyongyang across the world. Then last Wednesday North Korea fired two ballistic missiles in violation of United Nations sanctions designed to restrict the country’s nuclear weapons program. North Korea’s fury at Mun’s extradition can perhaps be explained by information contained in the newly unsealed indictment [pdf], which dates to 2018. The indictment accuses Mun and a number of other unnamed suspects of being North Korean “intelligence operatives”.

Specifically, the indictment accuses Mun of being an undercover employee of the Reconnaissance General Bureau (RGB), North Korea’s primary foreign-intelligence agency. The RGB operates under the supervision of the General Staff Department of the Korean People’s Army and the Central Committee of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea. According to the indictment, Mun utilized shell companies set up by Pyongyang in order to hide his connections with the RGB. His primary mission was allegedly to gain access to international banking institutions and wire services, with the aim of laundering illicit North Korean cash and breaking sanctions imposed on Pyongyang by the United Nations and the United States. The indictment accuses Mun of having personally participated in the laundering of $1.5 million in funds in recent years.

In a statement released last week, John Demers, assistant attorney general for the National Security Division of the US Department of Justice, described Mun as “the first North Korean intelligence operative —and the second ever foreign intelligence operative— to have been extradited to the United States”. Meanwhile, the administration of US President Joe Biden said last week it was still reviewing “in depth” the state of US-North Korean relations following the administration of Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 29 March 2021 | Permalink

American spy for Israel Jonathan Pollard gives rare interview to Israeli newspaper

Jonathan Pollard

JONATHAN POLLARD, AN AMERICAN who spied on his country for Israel in the 1980s, and is now free after spending 30 years in prison, has given a rare interview to Israel Hayom, Israel’s most widely distributed newspaper. Pollard, who is now 66, is a former intelligence analyst for the United States Navy. He was released from an American prison in 2015, after serving a lengthy sentence for selling US government secrets to Israel. Throughout Pollard’s time in prison, the government of Israel lobbied for his release, but failed to have Pollard freed prior to serving the entirety of his sentence. Initially barred from leaving the United States, the former spy was eventually allowed to relocate to Israel by the administration of US President Donald Trump. He and his wife arrived in Israel in December, where they received a hero’s welcome.

A few snippets from Pollard’s interview with Israel Hayom were published on Monday. The paper said that the full interview, edited for brevity, will be published on Friday. In his comments, Pollard defends his decision to share US government secrets with Israel as a “duty” that he says he felt compelled to carry out, claiming: “I know I crossed a line, but I had no choice”. He adds that Washington was “stabbing Israel in the back” by refusing to share intelligence about Arab militaries, which included “serious” threats to the security of the Jewish state.

Pollard claims that he secretly managed to warn his Israeli recruiter, Aviem Sella, who did not have diplomatic immunity in the United States, and who was able to escape arrest in the US. Sella was pardoned by the Trump administration late last year. But Pollard also criticizes the decision of the Israelis to not give him protection at their embassy in Washington, DC, where Pollard tried to claim asylum as he was being followed by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. The former spy also describes his life in Israel as “wonderful” and says he can tell the Israeli people see him as “someone [who] was willing to sacrifice his life for them”.

Israel Hayom, which interviewed Pollard, was founded by the Sheldon Adelson, an American casino magnate who was a major financial backer of Donald Trump until his death in January of this year. Adelson was also a major supporter of Israel’s current Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. The Associated Press notes that Adelson sent his private plane fly Pollard and his wife to Israel in December, after the former spy was permitted to leave American soil by the Trump administration.

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

Domestic extremism quickly ‘metastasizing’, US intelligence report warns

US Capitol

A MAJOR INTELLIGENCE REPORT produced for the United States Congress and the White House warns that violent extremism by ethnically and racially motivated militants is “metastasizing”, and “will almost certainly” result in further attacks in 2021. The report was produced by the National Counterterrorism Center of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, in cooperation with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security. A declassified version of the report was released online, shortly after the White House and Congress were given a classified briefing on the matter.

The report —the first of its kind to be issued after the January 6 attack on the US Capitol Complex, points to threats from several strains of domestic violent extremism, ranging from environmental activists to animal rights extremists, anarchists and adherents of far-right ideologies. It states, however, that by far the greatest threat to public security is presented by ethnically and racially motivated violent extremists, in combination with armed militias. These groups “will almost certainly” grow more active in the coming months, due to a number of economic, political and social factors. Their members are feeling emboldened following the January 6 attacks, and social media are allowing these groups to expand their presence among the population. Widespread conspiracy theories about last November’s presidential elections are also fueling rightwing armed militancy, according to the report.

The same can be said about the economic pressures caused by the coronavirus pandemic and associated lockdowns, which anti-government extremists view as the imposition of tyranny by a government that should be overthrown. These kinds of social disruptions “will almost certainly” fuel further violence this year, according to the report. Members of domestic extremist organizations are currently exchanging ideas on methods of violence, and devising “innovations in targeting and attack tactics”, it adds. Additionally, white supremacist groups appear to rely on “the most persistent and concerning transnational connections” of any type of domestic violent extremist organizations.

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

Nashville Christmas Day bombing was not terrorism, FBI concludes

Nashville Tennessee

A MAN WHO LAST December detonated a massive bomb in Nashville, capital of the American state of Tennessee, was not motivated by political ideology, but by paranoid alien conspiracies, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Anthony Quinn Warner kept the bomb inside his recreational vehicle, which he had parked in downtown Nashville. He was inside the vehicle as he detonated the bomb at 6:30 a.m. on Christmas Day, 2020, killing himself and injuring three people. Minutes before the explosion, Warner used an outdoor speaker attached to his vehicle’s sounds system to broadcast a pre-recorded message warning that a bomb was about to detonate.

The incident has perplexed authorities, because Warner did not seem to have a clear motive for his action. Additionally, his background did not fit that of a typical ideologically or racially motivated violent extremist. Now, however, after nearly three months of research, which included over 250 interviews with people who knew Warner, the FBI has concluded its investigation. The law enforcement agency said that Warner acted completely alone, and that he was not motivated by an ideological belief, nor was he aiming to bring about social or political change. This means that his violent action cannot be officially classified as terrorism.

The FBI investigation also rejects the intense speculation that took place following the attack, according to which Warner may have been motivated by fringe conspiracy theories about 5G technology. These rumors emerged due to the location of the attack. The latter caused extensive damage to a facility owned and operated by AT&T, one of the world’s largest telecommunications providers. However, the FBI concluded that Warner was not concerned about AT&T or 5G technologies. Instead, he was apparently motivated by a concoction of conspiracy theories fueled by paranoia. Most of these conspiracy theories revolved around a race of reptiles that Warner believed had secretly infiltrated human societies. He told some of his friends that he saw his personal mission as hunting down these aliens.

In addition to alien conspiracy theories, Warner’s act of violence was triggered by a number of personal relationships that deteriorated in the months prior to his suicide. However, his violent act was not aimed as revenge fueled by grievances against specific individuals or groups of people that lived near the site of the explosion, according to the FBI.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 17 March 2021 | Permalink

US designates two African armed groups as foreign terrorist organizations

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

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

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

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

CIA base in northern Niger expands, as Islamism spreads in the Sahel

Dirkou NigerA REMOTE BASE THAT houses an outpost of the United States Central Intelligence Agency in northeast Niger appears to have expanded in recent months, as Islamist groups continue to make their presence felt in Africa’s Sahel region. The base was built quietly in 2018 in Dirkou, a small oasis town and commune located 800 miles northeast of Niamey, Niger’s capital. The area where the CIA base is located is sparsely populated and arid, making it one of the world’s most inhospitable regions.

Northeast Niger, where Dirkou is located, is part of the Sahara. The region is largely inhabited by nomads, who journey in caravans between networks of oases that include Dirkou. In recent years, however, the territories of north-central Niger, northern Mali, southern Algeria, northern Chad and southern Libya, have witnessed an alarming growth of extremist groups, many of which are affiliated with al-Qaeda or the Islamic State. Increasing numbers of young men are joining these groups, whose leaders also exploit local grievances stemming from poverty, ethnic divisions and the dramatic effects of climate change.

Since 2014, France, the region’s former colonial power, has spearheaded a counterinsurgency campaign led by a 5,000-strong military force stationed in the Chadian capital, N’Djamena. But the effort has seen few successes, and its commanders have been forced to downgrade their objectives: instead of their original goal of neutralizing the Islamist insurgency, they now hope to contain it in the Sahara, and not let it spread to the region’s urban areas. It is within this context that the CIA outpost in Dirkou was set up in 2018.

The New York Times, which first reported the existence of the CIA outpost three years ago, said last week that it has seen no evidence to suggest that the outpost has been used for anything more than to carry out airborne surveillance using drones. However, the outpost now has a paved runway, which appears to be twice the length of the original landing strip of 2018. There are also a new buildings at the outpost, as well as a fixed perimeter, which indicates increased security, according to The Times. This, says the paper, shows that the CIA would now “be ready to carry out armed drone strikes” in the region, if authorized to do so by the White House.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Turkey and United States co-examine Russian missile system captured in Libya

Mitiga International AirportTURKEY AND THE UNITED States, two North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies with a checkered relationship, have agreed to jointly examine a Russian missile system that was captured by fighters in Libya. Turkish troops are present on the ground in Libya, where they are fighting in support of the United Nations-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli. The United Arab Emirates and Russia support the Tobruk-based Libyan National Army (LNA) of General Khalifa Haftar.

Last year, General Haftar led the LNA in a major offensive aimed at capturing Tripoli and ending the conflict between the two sides, which has raged for nearly a decade. He was supported by Emirati advisors and Russian troops, which are ostensibly in Libya as private security contractors, but are commonly thought to receive directions from the Kremlin. In a surprise move, Turkey sent troops to assist in the defense of Tripoli. These troops were instrumental in beating back the LNA, and effectively terminating General Haftar’s ambitions.

In the process of beating back General Haftar’s’s offensive, GNA fighters took over the LNA’s airbase in Al-Watiya, 100 miles southwest of Tripoli, which LNA forces abandoned in haste. Among the looting was a Russian-built Pantsir missile defense system —reportedly captured in pristine condition. This is the Russian armed forces’ state-of-the-art self-propelled anti-aircraft system, which fires medium-range surface-to-air missiles. It had reportedly been given to the LNA by the Emiratis.

The captured Pantsir system disappeared for a few weeks, and eventually reappeared in the hands of a local militia in the town of Zawiya. The militia is commanded by Mohamed Bahroun, a Libyan warlord with links to the Islamic State. Turkish troops struck a deal with Bahroun, whose forces agreed to deliver the Pantsir to the Turkish-controlled Mitiga International Airport on the outskirts of Tripoli. Shortly afterwards, the United States warned Turkey that it was prepared to forcibly take control of the missile system, fearing that it could fall in the hands of the Islamic State. Washington also wanted to get its hands on Russia’s state-of-the-art anti-aircraft system.

According to reports, the two countries reached a deal in recent weeks. The United States sent a C-17 Globemaster cargo plane to Mitiga airport from its AFRICOM base in Germany, and collected the Pantsir. It then delivered it to Ankara, where it is now being examined by a joint team of Turkish and American weapons experts. Some weapons specialists suggest that this development could significantly affect Russia’s ability to counter NATO military systems, given that the Pantsir’s technology will now be compromised.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 03 March 2021 | Permalink

Rumors of federal informants are splintering American far-right groups

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

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

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

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

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

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

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