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TBR News March 10 ,2017

Mar 10 2017

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. March 10, 2017: “Every time WikiLeaks releases thousands of revealing intercepted documents,  panic, rage and fear manifest themselves in official Washington and in the leading members of the American oligarchic business community. Instead of addressing the issues raised, officialdom takes pathetic refuge in heaping fictional blame on perceived enemies. And to counter these awful revelations, officialdom is preparing the means to silence the results of them. As is typical of an empire in decay, diplomacy (scarce at best) is replaced with police repression. And James Watt demonstrated that if you block the spout of a boiling tea kettle, the lid blows off.”

Table of Contents

  • Washington Post Anti-Trump Headlines March 9
  • Do We Live in a Police State?
  • Excerpts on US Military Domestic Repression
  • Murder by Accident
  • What the CIA thinks of your anti-virus program
  • Trump ‘extremely concerned’ by WikiLeaks CIA release
  • CIA’s New “Digital Innovation” Division Can’t Seem to Keep Its Own Secrets
  • I.A. Scrambles to Contain Damage From WikiLeaks Documents
  • SECRECY NEWS
  • Bully nation: Is America hardwired for war & aggression
  • Wall Street spent a record $2bn trying to influence US elections – report

Washington Post Anti-Trump Headlines March 9

 

  • There’s no place for Trump’s hyperbole in the Oval Office
  • Jon Huntsman’s strange odyssey to become President Trump’s man in Moscow
  • Why the Trump administration hates multilateral trade agreements the most
  • Trump’s media-bashing is making it easier for foreign regimes to gag the press
  • Rejecting Trumpcare is a no-brainer for GOP House members
  • Democratic congresswoman claims ‘sex actions’ in Trump dossier are true despite a lack of evidence
  • Republicans launch new tactic in latest attack on federal unions
  • 4 Pinocchios for Trump’s claims of creating jobs since Election Day
  • The most powerful check on President Trump
  • Are Trump’s attacks on the media a threat to freedom of the press?
  • The best cartoons making fun of Trump’s new health-care plan

Do We Live in a Police State?

The latest WikiLeaks revelations tell us the answer is ‘yes’

March 10, 2017

by Justin Raimondo,

AntiWar

WikiLeaks and Julian Assange would have gone down in history as the greatest enemies of government oppression of all kinds in any case, but their latest release – a comprehensive exposé of the US intelligence community’s cyberwar tools and techniques – is truly the capstone of their career. And given that this release – dubbed “Vault 7” – amounts to just one percent of the documents they intend to publish, one can only look forward to the coming days with a mixture of joyful anticipation and ominous fear.

Fear because the power of the Deep State is even more forbidding – and seemingly invincible – than anyone knew. Joyful anticipation because, for the first time, it is dawning on the most unlikely people that we are, for all intents and purposes, living in a police state. I was struck by this while watching Sean Hannity’s show last [Wednesday] night – yes, Fox is my go-to news channel – and listening to both Hannity and his guests, including the ultra-conservative Laura Ingraham, inveigh against the “Deep State.” For people like Hannity, Ingraham, and Newt Gingrich (of all people!) to be talking about the Surveillance State with fear – and outrage – in their voices says two things about our current predicament: 1) Due to the heroic efforts of Julian Assange in exposing the power and ruthlessness of the Deep State, the political landscape in this country is undergoing a major realignment, with conservatives returning to their historic role as the greatest defenders of civil liberties, and 2) American “liberalism” – which now champions the Deep State as the savior of the country –   has become a toxic brew that is fundamentally totalitarian.

On the first point: yes, there are more than a few holdouts, like Bill O’Reilly and the neocons, but the latter are increasingly isolated, and the former is increasingly irrelevant. What we are seeing, as the role of the “intelligence community” in basically leading a seditious conspiracy against a sitting President is revealed, is a complete switch in the political polarities in this country: what passes for the “left” has become the biggest advocate of the Surveillance State, and the rising populist right is coming to the hard-won conclusion that we are rapidly becoming a police state.

Ah, but wait! That’s not the whole story: bear with me for a while.

The material in “Vault 7” is extensive: it ranges from examining the ways in which a Samsung television set that is seemingly turned off can be– and no doubt has been – used to spy on the conversations and activities of a room’s occupants, to the various ways in which our spooks infiltrate and subvert common electronic devices, such as the I-Phone, in order to gather information. “Infected phones,” we are told in the introduction to the material, “can be instructed to send the CIA the user’s geolocation, audio and text communications as well as covertly activate the phone’s camera and microphone.” The CIA is even working on remotely controlling the electronic steering systems installed in cars – a perfect route to pulling off an assassination that looks like an “accident.” Not that the intelligence services of the “leader of the Free World” would ever consider such an act.

The massive infection of commonly used software and electronic devices leads to a major problem: proliferation. As these viruses and other invasive programs are unleashed on an unsuspecting public, they fall into the hands of a variety of bad actors: foreign governments, criminals, and teenagers on a lark (not necessarily in descending order of malevolence). This plague is being spread over the Internet by a veritable army of CIA hackers: “By the end of 2016,” WikiLeaks tells us, “the CIA’s hacking division, which formally falls under the agency’s Center for Cyber Intelligence (CCI), had over 5000 registered users and had produced more than a thousand hacking systems, trojans, viruses, and other ‘weaponized’ malware.” The inevitable end result: a world infected with so much malware that computers become almost useless – and this parlous condition is paid for by you, the American taxpayer.

This is, in effect, the cybernetic equivalent of the Iraq war – an invasion that led to such unintended consequences as the rise of ISIS, the devastation of Syria, and the empowerment of Iran. In short, a war that made us less safe.

One aspect of the Vault 7 data dump that’s drawing particular attention is the CIA’s Remote Devices Branch’s “Umbrage group,” which, we are told, “collects and maintains a substantial library of attack techniques ‘stolen’ from malware produced in other states including the Russian Federation.” The idea is to mask the Agency’s cyberwar operations by attempting to hide the unique forensic attributes of its techniques. The process of attribution, WikiLeaks explains, is “analogous to finding the same distinctive knife wound on multiple separate murder victims. The unique wounding style creates suspicion that a single murderer is responsible. As soon one murder in the set is solved then the other murders also find likely attribution.”

So how does the CIA hide its “fingerprints”?

It simply draws on computer code used by its adversaries – and not only Russia – and inserts it into its own handcrafted malware and other invasive programs, thus leaving Russian (or Chinese, or North Korean) fingerprints on the handiwork of CIA hackers.

Now you’ll recall that the attribution of the DNC/Podesta email hacks was “proved” by the DNC’s hired hands on the basis of the supposedlyunique characteristics of the programs used by the supposed Russian hackers. One of these alleged Russians even left behind the name of Felix Dzerzhinsky – founder of the Soviet KGB – embedded in the code, hardly the height of subtlety. So now we learn that the CIA has perfected the art of imitating its rivals, mimicking the Russians – or whomever – in a perfect setup for a “false flag” scenario.

After months of the nonstop campaign to demonize the Russians as “subverting our democracy” and supposedly throwing the election to Donald Trump by hacking the DNC and Podesta, a new possibility begins to emerge. I say “possibility” because, despite the craziness that is fast becoming the norm, there has got to be a limit to it – or does there?

No, I’m not suggesting the CIA hacked the DNC and poor hapless John Podesta. Yet others are suggesting something even more explosive.

In an appearance on Sean Hannity’s Fox News television program, retired Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer, a former senior intelligence officer, told the audience that he had heard from his intelligence contacts that retired NSA officials were responsible for hacking the DNC and Podesta, and then releasing the materials to WikiLeaks His co-guest, William Binney, a former NSA insider who was among the first to expose the extent of that agency’s surveillance of American citizens, agreed.

This is nothing new: Judge Andrew Napolitano said the same thing months ago. The alleged motivation was animus toward Mrs. Clinton.

Although “the Russians did it” is now the accepted conventional wisdom, which hardly anyone bothers to question anymore, the level of evidence proffered to support this conclusion has been laughably inadequate. And you’ll note that, although the CIA and the FBI, along with other intelligence agencies, advanced this hypothesis with “high confidence,” the NSA demurred, awarding it with only “moderate” confidence.

And one more thing: I found it extremely odd that, when the hacking of the DNC and John Podesta’s email was discovered, party officials refused to let the FBI and other law enforcement agencies examine either their server or Podesta’s devices. Instead, they gave it over to CrowdStrike, a private firm that regularly does business with the DNC. CrowdStrike then came out with the now-accepted analysis that it was a Russian job.

Could it be that the “explanation” for the hacking was determined in advance?

I don’t know the answer to that question. Nor do I necessarily buy Col. Shaffer’s thesis. What I’m saying is that it’s entirely possible – indeed, it is just as likely, given what we know now, as pinning the blame Vladimir Putin.

So what is the lesson of all this?

We have created a monster, a Deep State with such unchecked power, armed with such Orwellian technology, that it represents a clear and present danger to our constitutional republic. This threat is underscored not only by the latest WikiLeaks revelations, but also by the intelligence community’s intervention in our domestic politics, which has been documented in the headlines of the nation’s newspapers for the past few months.

This cancer has been allowed to grow, undiagnosed and unopposed, within the vitals of our government in the name of “national security.” Accelerated by our foreign policy of perpetual war, the national security bureaucracy has accumulated immense power, and our elected leaders have neglected to provide any oversight. Indeed, they are at its mercy.

The latest WikiLeaks revelations should be a wake-up call for all of us who want to preserve what’s left of our constitutionally-guaranteed liberties. Either we slay the monster or it will enslave us.

Excerpts on US Military Domestic Repression

Significant selections from a current official U.S. Army document on dealing with anticipated civil disobedience in the United States

March 10, 2017

by Harry von Johnston, PhD

 

Domestic Counterinsurgency Operations

In the event of organized and/or armed rebellion against constitued authority the methodology of confronting and destroying resistance is herewith presented in detail

 

Classification: Top Secret-Noforn as of 1 April 2016

Distribution Restriction: Distribution authorized to the DOD and DOD contractors only to maintain operations security. This determination was made on 1 April 2016. Other requests for this document must be referred to Commander, US Army Combined Arms Center and Fort Leavenworth, ATTN: ATZL-CD (FMI 3-07.22), 1 Reynolds Avenue (Building 111), Fort Leavenworth, KS 66027-1352.

Destruction Notice: Destroy by any method that will prevent disclosure of contents or reconstruction of the document.

Counterinsurgency are those military, paramilitary, political, economic, psychological, and civic actions taken by a government to defeat insurgency (JP 1-02). It is an offensive approach involving all elements of national power; it can take place across the range of operations and spectrum of conflict

  • Protect the population.
  • Establish local political institutions.
  • Reinforce local governments.
  • Eliminate insurgent capabilities.
  • Exploit information from local sources.

An insurgency is organized movement aimed at the overthrow of a constituted government through use of subversion and armed conflict (JP 1-02). It is a protracted politico-military struggle designed to weaken government control and legitimacy while increasing insurgent control. Political power is the central issue in an insurgency.

Rising up against constituted authority has been present throughout history. The causes for such uprisings have been as numerous as human conditions. Uprisings against indigenous regimes have normally been termed “rebellions.” Uprisings against an external occupying power have normally been termed “resistance movements.” Historical particulars can at times combine the two.

Intelligence Indicators

Anti-government Activity Indicators—Indigenous Population

General Activities

  • Identification of agitators, insurgents, militias or criminal organizations, their supporters, and sympathizers who suddenly appear, in, or move out of, an area.
  • Emergence of new leaders among the population.
  • New faces in a rural community.
  • Unusual gatherings among the population.
  • Disruption of normal social patterns.
  • Mass urban rural migration or vice versa.
  • Massing of combatants of competing power groups.

.         •Increased travel by suspected subversives or leaders of competing power bases to countries hostile to the United States or opposed to the current intervention.

  • Reports of opposition or disaffected indigenous population receiving military training in foreign countries.
  • Increase of visitors (for example, tourists, technicians, businessmen, religious leaders, officials) from groups or countries hostile to the United States.
  • Close connections between diplomatic personnel of hostile countries and local opposition groups.
  • Communications between opposition groups and external supporters.
  • Increase of disaffected youth gatherings.
  • Establishment of organizations of unexplained origin and with unclear or nebulous aims.
  • Establishment of a new organization to replace an existing organizational structure with identical aims.
  • Appearance of many new members in existing organizations such as labor unions.
  • Infiltration of student organizations by known agitators.
  • Appearance of new organizations stressing grievances or interests of repressed or minority groups.
  • Reports of large donations to new or revamped organizations.
  • Reports of payment to locals for engaging in subversive or hostile activities.
  • Reports of formation of opposition paramilitary or militia organizations.
  • Reports of lists of targets for planned opposition attacks.
  • Appearance of “professional” agitators in gatherings or demonstrations that result in violence.
  • Evidence of paid and armed demonstrators’ participation in riots.
  • Significant increase in thefts, armed robberies, and violent crime in rural areas; increase in bank robberies in urban areas.

Opposition-Directed Activities

  • Refusal of population to pay or unusual difficulty to collect rent, taxes, or loan payments.
  • Trends of demonstrated hostility toward government forces.
  • Unexplained population disappearance from or avoidance of certain areas.
  • Unexplained disappearance or dislocation of young people.
  • Reported incidents of attempted recruitment to join new movements or underground organizations.
  • Criminals and disaffected youth who appear to be acting with and for the opposition.
  • Reports of extortion and other coercion by opposition elements to obtain financial support from the population.
  • Use of fear tactics to coerce, control, or influence the local population.

Activities Directed Against the Government

  • Failure of police and informer nets to report accurate information, which may indicate sources are actively supporting opposition elements or are intimidated.
  • Decreasing success of government law enforcement or military infiltration of opposition or disaffected organizations.
  • Assassination or disappearance of government sources.

Rebellions and resistance movements are transformed into an insurgency by their incorporation into an armed political campaign. A popular desire to resist is used by an insurgent movement to accomplish the insurgents’ political goal. The insurgency thus mounts a political challenge to the state through the formation of, or desire to, create a counterstate.

The support of the people, then, is the center of gravity. It must be gained in whatever proportion is necessary to sustain the insurgent movement (or, contrariwise,

to defeat it). As in any political campaign, all levels of support are relative.

Insurgent movements begin as “fire in the minds of men.” Insurgent leaders commit themselves to building a new world. They construct the organization to carry through this desire. Generally, popular grievances become insurgent causes when interpreted and shaped by the insurgent leadership. The insurgency grows if the cadre that is local insurgent leaders and representatives can establish a link between the insurgent movement and the desire for solutions to grievances sought by the local population.

Insurgent leaders will exploit opportunities created by government security force actions.

The behavior of security forces is critical. Lack of security force discipline leads to alienation, and security force abuse of the populace is a very effective insurgent recruiting tool. Consequently, specific insurgent tactical actions are often planned to frequently elicit overreaction from security force individuals and units

Insurgencies are dynamic political movements, resulting from real or perceived grievance or neglect that leads to alienation from an established government.

A successful counterinsurgency results in the neutralization by the state of the insurgency and its effort to form a counterstate. While many abortive insurgencies are defeated by military and police actions alone, if an insurgency has tapped into serious grievances and has mobilized a significant portion of the population, simply returning to the status quo may not be an option. Reform may be necessary, but reform is a matter for the state, using all of its human and material resources. Security forces are only one such resource. The response must be multifaceted and coordinated, yet states typically charge their security forces with “waging counterinsurgency.” This the security forces cannot do alone.

  • Reports of attempts to bribe or blackmail government officials, law enforcement employees, or mission personnel.
  • Reports of attempts to obtain classified information from government officials, government offices, or mission personnel.
  • Classified information leaked to the media.
  • Sudden affluence of certain government and law enforcement personnel.
  • Recurring failure of government or mission force raids on suspected opposition organizations or illegal activities apparently due to forewarning.
  • Increased hostile or illegal activity against the legitimate government, its law enforcement and military organizations, foreigners, minority groups, or competing political, ethnic, linguistic, or religious groups.
  • Demonstrations against government forces, minority groups, or foreigners designed to instigate violent confrontations with government or mission forces.
  • Increased antigovernment or mission force rhetoric in local media.
  • Occurrence of strikes in critical areas intended to cast doubt on the legitimate government’s ability to maintain order and provide for the people.
  • Unexplained loss, destruction, or forgery of government identification cards and passports.
  • Recurring unexplained disruption of public utilities.
  • Reports of terrorist acts or extortion attempts against local government leaders and businessmen.
  • Murder of kidnapping of government, military, and law enforcement officials or mission force personnel.

Murder by Accident

March 9, 2017

by Harry von Johnston, PhD

In the latest WikiLeaks release, we learn that among other intrusive, and illegal, actions on the part of the CIA, that “The agency explored hacking into cars and crashing them, allowing ‘nearly undetectable assassinations’”

“As of October 2014 the CIA was also looking at infecting the vehicle control systems used by modern cars and trucks.The purpose of such control is not specified, but it would permit the CIA to engage in nearly undetectable assassinations.”WikiLeaks has claimed the CIA planned to hack cars and trucks to carry out assassinations.”

In this, as it has so many times in the past, WikiLeaks has been entirely correct. Not only was the Company looking at such things but has actually practiced them.

The first contrived accident occurred on June 18, 2013, in Los Angeles, California when one Michael Mahon Hastings, an editor for Rolling Stone magazine, had his car suddenly swerve off the highway, smash into the side of the road and explode. It appears Mr. Hastings had incurred the displeasure of the CIA through his investigative writings.

The second contrived accident occurred on June 2, 2014 when IndianUnion Minister Gopinath Munde lost his life in a road accident when a speeding Indica car suddenly swerved and, at a high speed rammed into his Maruti SX4 sedan

Munde, 64, was on his way to the IGI airport when the speeding car travelling at 80-90 km/hour hit the sedan on the left side at 6.20am in Aurobindo Chowk.

Mr. Munde was considered persona non grata in Langley for his actions.

The third contrived accident occurred on September 2, 2014 when the BMW limousine of Russian President Vladimir Putin traveling on Kutuzovsky Avenue in Moscow was suddenly rammed by a Mercedes Benz traveling in the opposite direction at a high speed. The Benz accelerated and suddenly swerved into oncoming traffic. The BMW was demolished and the chauffer killed instantly. A subsequent police report indicated that no one in the Putin car could have survived the impact. President Putin was out of the country at the time of the incident

All of the vehicles involved had computer systems on board.

Comment: Since the appearance of this article, we have received reports from viewers of over twenty five such suspect “accidents”, all involving political or media figures whom some considered to be opposed to American domestic or foreign policies. We will publish these in a later edition. Ed

 What the CIA thinks of your anti-virus program

March 8, 2017

by Raphael Satter

Associated Press

PARIS (AP) — Peppering the 8,000 pages of purported Central Intelligence Agency hacking data released Tuesday by WikiLeaks are reviews of some of the world’s most popular anti-virus products.

The hackers are quoted taking potshots at anti-virus firms, suggesting the American intelligence agencies are keenly aware of flaws in the products meant to be keeping us all safe online.

The data published by WikiLeaks isn’t systematic enough to draw firm conclusions about the reliability of one product or another and the uncertain dating means the CIA’s critiques provide more of a snapshot than an overview.

Still, the posts show America’s top cyberspies aren’t always flattering about commonly used security software.

COMODO

The CIA appears to give mixed praise to the anti-virus solution by Comodo, the self-described “global leader in cyber security solutions.”

One post by an apparent CIA hacker published by WikiLeaks said Comodo is “a colossal pain in the posterior. It literally catches everything until you tell it not to.”

Just don’t upgrade to Comodo 6.

That version “doesn’t catch nearly as much stuff,” the hacker appears to say, describing a particularly glaring vulnerability as a “Gaping Hole of DOOM.”

Melih Abdulhayoglu, Comodo’s chief executive, emphasized the first part of the post, saying that being called a pain by the CIA was “a badge of honor we will wear proudly.” In a statement, he said that the vulnerability described by the CIA was obsolete. Comodo 6 was released in 2013; Comodo 10 was released in January.

KASPERSKY LAB

This is one of the world’s leading providers of security protection. But it may not keep you safe from the CIA.

A flaw in the code “enables us to bypass Kaspersky’s protections,” according to another post .

Founder Eugene Kaspersky dismissed the comment, saying in a Twitter message that the flaw identified in the CIA leak was fixed “years ago.”

A statement from his company said a second flaw apparently identified by the agency was fixed in December 2015.

AVIRA

A CIA hacker appears to say that this German-engineered anti-virus product is “typically easy to evade.”

The firm said in a statement that it had fixed what it described as “a minor vulnerability” within a few hours of the WikiLeaks release.

It added that it had no evidence that any of its users had been affected by the bug.

AVG

The CIA apparently had a trick to defeat AVG that was “totally sweet.”

Ondrej Vlcek, the chief technology officer for AVG’s owner, Netherlands-based Avast, said that the CIA appeared to be discussing a “theoretical bypass” of AVG’s scanning engine which would have required additional work to successfully deploy as malicious software.

“We would not consider it critical,” he said of the issue. Speaking via email, he added that it seemed the post was written “some time” ago.

“This is in fact not an issue today given the current operation of the AVG products,” he said.

F-SECURE

One CIA hacker appeared to be particularly scathing about this Finnish firm’s security software. It’s a “lower tier product that causes us minimal difficulty,” one apparent hacker said .

F-Secure noted that the company was described elsewhere , along with Avira, as an “annoying troublemaker.” It said there was a broader point to be made about the CIA’s apparent decision not to warn anti-virus companies about the flaws in their products.

The agency “considered it more important to keep everybody unsecure … and maybe use the vulnerability for its own purposes or counter terrorism purposes,” F-Secure’s chief research officer Mikko Hypponen said in a statement.

BITDEFENDER

The posts aren’t complete enough to say for sure, but Bitdefender, a Romanian anti-virus product, seemed to cause CIA hackers a lot of trouble.

One post appears to suggest that Bitdefender could be defeated by a bit of tinkering.

Or maybe not.

“Alas, we’ve just tried this,” a response to the post said. “Bitdefender is still mad.”

Bitdefender representative Marius Buterchi said the only conclusion to draw was that “we are detecting the CIA tools.”

This story has been corrected to show that the last name of Bitdefender’s representative is Buterchi.

Meg Kinnard in Columbia, South Carolina contributed to this report

 Trump ‘extremely concerned’ by WikiLeaks CIA release

The White House has vowed that those behind the disclosure of confidential information would face serious consequences. Reports suggest that the leak likely came from employees working for CIA contractors

March 9, 2017

DW

The White House and US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) have blasted the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks for publishing a trove of confidential intelligence materials detailing CIA hacking operations.

White House spokesperson Sean Spicer said on Wednesday that President Donald Trump was “extremely concerned” about the CIA security breach that led to the leak, adding that the disclosure should have everybody outraged.

“This is the kind of disclosure that undermines our country, our security and our well-being,” he told reporters

The CIA, meanwhile, accused WikiLeaks of endangering American lives, aiding US adversaries and hampering the fight against terror threats by disclosing the intelligence agency’s hacking tools.

“The American public should be deeply troubled by any WikiLeaks disclosure designed to damage the intelligence community’s ability to protect America against terrorists and other adversaries,” CIA spokeswoman Heather Fritz Horniak said. “Such disclosures not only jeopardize US personnel and operations but also equip our adversaries with tools and information to do us harm.”

Widespread spying capability

WikiLeaks on Tuesday published some 9,000 confidential documents detailing how the CIA could use sophisticated software to hack into Apple iPhones and devices running Google’s Android operating system to capture text and voice messages before they become encrypted.

The documents also revealed how the CIA could turn a TV into a listening device, purportedly bypass popular encryption applications on smartphones and even potentially control a target’s car.

Major technology brands, including Apple, Google parent company Alphabet, Samsung and Microsoft, said they would be looking into how their products are affected.

Investigations pending

Although the CIA has yet to confirm whether the leaked documents are authentic, US media reported Wednesday that the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) would launch a probe in conjunction with the CIA into the leak. The investigation will reportedly explore how the files came into WikiLeaks’ possession and establish whether the breach came from inside or outside the CIA.

Meanwhile, congressional officials have indicated that the US Senate and House of Representatives Intelligence Committee are expected to open their own inquiries into the leak.

In Germany, a spokesman for the German Federal Prosecutor’s Office said it would “initiate an investigation if we see evidence of concrete criminal acts or specific perpetrators” after the materials revealed how the CIA had run a hacking hub in Germany from the US consulate in Frankfurt.

Contractors likely behind leak

News agency Reuters reported that CIA contractors were likely behind the security breach and handing over confidential documents to WikiLeaks, citing two anonymous officials.

One official reported that contractors were investigating which of their employees had access to the leaked dossiers, as well as examining computer and email logs.

Upon releasing the trove of documents, WikiLeaks accused the CIA of losing control over an archive of hacking measures that had been circulated “among former US government hackers and contractors in an unauthorized manner, one of whom has provided WikiLeaks with portions of the archive.”

According to officials, federal budget constraints had led to a rapid rise in the number of people with access to information with the highest classification of secrecy.

Federal agencies have also reportedly struggled to keep up with technological advances, such as the “internet of things” that connects household devices to computer networks, and been unable to offer salaries that compete with the private sector.

CIA’s New “Digital Innovation” Division Can’t Seem to Keep Its Own Secrets

March 8 2017

by Mattathias Schwartz

The Intercept

Two years ago, John Brennan, who was then director of the Central Intelligence Agency under President Obama, announced a far-reaching and controversial reorganization of the CIA. Before, most agency employees were assigned to one of four “directorates.” The Directorate of Operations, the agency’s eyes and ears, handled espionage in the field. The Directorate of Intelligence was the brains, processing and synthesizing raw intelligence, then writing it up into “assessments” and “estimates,” which percolated all the way up to the Oval Office. The Directorate of Science and Technology made the gear. The Directorate of Support managed the back office and kept the ships running on time.

Brennan’s reorganization added a brand-new Directorate of Digital Innovation, or DDI. Officially, the new directorate was responsible for “the integration of our digital and cyber capabilities.” This meant retrofitting the CIA for cyberwar, where victory depends on hacking other peoples’ secrets and protecting your own. Now, with the “Vault 7” release from WikiLeaks, it looks as though the youngest wing of the CIA is surprisingly porous. While it remains to be seen exactly what the rest of “Vault 7” will bring, the first batch of files appear to come almost exclusively from within the new directorate.

Of course, has CIA long engaged in cyber-espionage. Before Brennan established a new digital directorate, offensive cyber operations were undertaken by the CIA’s Information Operations Center. One of the Vault 7 files, called “Fine Dining,” gives a detailed overview of how the CIA’s cyber capabilities support operations in the field. Spies could request support to digitally surveil everyone from foreign governments to system administrators to their own “assets” or sources, even if their contact with the target was less than one minute long.

Unlike the Snowden disclosures, the initial Vault 7 release does not have much to say about exactly who the CIA was targeting and whether it have engaged in domestic spying. The techniques described in the files—surreptitiously implanted malware, hoarded “zero day” attacks,” and eavesdropping to smart TVs—are advanced but not mind-blowing. What is more surprising is how an agency charged with protecting the nation’s secrets apparently failed to keep track of its own. Vault 7 figures to be the most serious public breach of CIA secrecy since 1969, when case officer Philip Agee resigned and wrote a firsthand exposé on covert CIA activities in Latin America.

Last summer, the new directorate’s deputy director told Bloomberg that a “well-meaning but incompetent insider” is at fault for cyber breaches. That the WikiLeaks documents would come from within the new DDI is especially embarrassing for Brennan, who served as Obama’s White House counter-terrorism advisor during years when the administration pursued multiple investigations into journalists and their sources. Even as Brennan was publicly blaming Edward Snowden for the 2015 Paris attacks, he appears to have had some trouble mopping up the leaks in his own house. According to WikiLeaks, the CIA’s “hacking arsenal” was “circulated among former U.S. government hackers and contractors in an unauthorized manner.” While it is possible that the unauthorized circulation occurred after Brennan’s departure, in January 2017, the documents themselves date from 2013 to 2016, years when Brennan was pushing through his internal overhaul.

In November, Reuters published a long report on Brennan’s re-organization plan, which concluded the plan would involve “weakening the role of the Directorate of Operations.” The CIA has long had internal friction between Operations and Analysis. The Intercept reported in November last year that Trump’s national security team is considering reversing Brennan’s reforms. The most controversial part of Brennan’s re-organization is the creation of ten new “mission centers,” based around individual issues and regions, that brought analysts and career case officers together on a single staff. Some in Operations saw Brennan as representative of perceived defects in the analyst culture—data-driven, risk-adverse, with an increasing bias for signals intelligence over on-the-ground human sources.

A former CIA employee from the directorate of operations, who asked not be named because of the classified nature of their work, said many inside the agency were critical of Brennan’s reforms. “The joke we’d tell about Brennan was that big ops carry big risk, little ops carry little risk, and no ops carry no risk,” they said.

C.I.A. Scrambles to Contain Damage From WikiLeaks Documents

March 8, 2017

by Matthew Rosenberg, Scott Shane and Adam Goldman

The New York Times

WASHINGTON — The C.I.A. scrambled on Wednesday to assess and contain the damage from the release by WikiLeaks of thousands of documents that cataloged the agency’s cyberspying capabilities, temporarily halting work on some projects while the F.B.I. turned to finding who was responsible for the leak.

Investigators say that the leak was the work not of a hostile foreign power like Russia but of a disaffected insider, as WikiLeaks suggested when it released the documents Tuesday. The F.B.I. was preparing to interview anyone who had access to the information, a group likely to include at least a few hundred people, and possibly more than a thousand.

An intelligence official said the information, much of which appeared to be technical documents, may have come from a server outside the C.I.A. managed by a contractor. But neither he nor a former senior intelligence official ruled out the possibility that the leaker was a C.I.A. employee.

The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation into classified information. The C.I.A. has refused to explicitly confirm the authenticity of the documents, but it all but said they were genuine Wednesday when it took the unusual step of putting out a statement to defend its work and chastise WikiLeaks.

The disclosures “equip our adversaries with tools and information to do us harm,” said Ryan Trapani, a spokesman for the C.I.A. He added that the C.I.A. is legally prohibited from spying on individuals in the United States and “does not do so.”

The leak was perhaps most awkward for the White House, which found itself criticizing WikiLeaks less than six months after the group published embarrassing emails from John D. Podesta, the campaign chairman for Hillary Clinton, prompting President Trump to declare at the time, “I love WikiLeaks.”

Sean Spicer, the White House spokesman, said the release of documents “should be something that everybody is outraged about in this country.”

There was, he added, a “massive, massive difference” between the leak of classified C.I.A. cyberspying tools and personal emails of political figures.

The documents, taken at face value, suggest that American spies had designed hacking tools that could breach almost anything connected to the internet — smartphones, computers, televisions — and had even found a way to compromise Apple and Android devices. But whether the C.I.A. had successfully built and employed them to conduct espionage remained unclear on Wednesday.

A number of cybersecurity experts and hackers expressed skepticism at the level of technical wizardry that WikiLeaks claimed to uncover, and pointed out that much of what was described in the documents was aimed at older devices that have known security flaws. One document, for instance, discussed ways to quickly copy 3.5-inch floppy disks, a storage device so out of date that few people younger than 35 have probably used one.

One indication that the documents did not contain information on the most highly sensitive C.I.A. cyberespionage programs was that none of them appeared to be classified above the level of “secret/noforn,” which is a relatively low-level of classification.

Some technical experts pointed out that while the documents suggest that the C.I.A. might be able to compromise individual smartphones, there was no evidence that the agency could break the encryption that many phone and messaging apps use.

If the C.I.A. or the National Security Agency could routinely break the encryption used on such apps as Signal, Confide, Telegram and WhatsApp, then the government might be able to intercept such communications on a large scale and search for names or keywords of interest. But nothing in the leaked C.I.A. documents suggests that is possible.

Instead, the documents indicate that because of encryption, the agency must target an individual phone and then can intercept only the calls and messages that pass through that phone. Instead of casting a net for a big catch, in other words, C.I.A. spies essentially cast a single fishing line at a specific target, and do not try to troll an entire population.

“The difference between wholesale surveillance and targeted surveillance is huge,” said Dan Guido, a director at Hack/Secure, a cybersecurity investment firm. “Instead of sifting through a sea of information, they’re forced to look at devices one at a time.”

Mr. Guido also said the C.I.A. documents did not suggest that the agency was far ahead of academic or commercial security experts. “They’re using standard tools, reading the same tech sites and blogs that I read,” he said.

Some of the vulnerabilities described by the C.I.A. have already been remedied, he said: “The holes have been plugged.”

But Joel Brenner, formerly the country’s top counterintelligence official, said he believed the leak was “a big deal” because it would assist other countries that were trying to catch up to the United States, Russia, China and Israel in electronic spying.

He added that the intelligence agencies would have to again assess the advisability of sharing secrets widely inside their walls. “If something is shared with hundreds or thousands of people, there’s a sense in which it’s already no longer a secret,” he said.

The WikiLeaks release included 7,818 web pages with 943 attachments. Many were partly redacted by the group, which said it wanted to to avoid disclosing the code for the tools.

But without the code, it was hard to assess just what WikiLeaks had obtained — and what it was sitting on. The documents indicated that the C.I.A. sought to break into Apple, Android and Windows devices — that is, the vast majority of the world’s smartphones, tablets and computers.

While the scale and nature of the C.I.A. documents appeared to catch government officials by surprise, there had been some signs a document dump was imminent. On Twitter, the organization had flagged for weeks that something big, under the WikiLeaks label “Vault 7,” was coming soon

On Feb. 16, WikiLeaks released what appeared to be a C.I.A. document laying out intelligence questions about the coming French elections that agency analysts wanted answers to, either from human spies or eavesdropping. When WikiLeaks released the cyberspying documents on Tuesday, it described the earlier document as “an introductory disclosure.”

SECRECY NEWS

From the FAS Project on Government Secrecy

Volume 2017, Issue No. 18

March 9, 2017

CIA ASSERTS STATE SECRETS PRIVILEGE IN TORTURE CASE

The Central Intelligence Agency formally asserted the state secrets privilege this week in order to prevent disclosure of seven categories of information concerning its post-9/11 interrogation program, and to prevent the deposition of three CIA officers concerning the program.

The move was first reported in the New York Times (“State Secrets Privilege Invoked to Block Testimony in C.I.A. Torture Case” by James Risen, Sheri Fink and Charlie Savage, March 8).

“Over time, certain information about the [CIA interrogation] program has been officially declassified and publicly released,” acknowledged CIA director Michael Pompeo, in a March 2 declaration explaining the CIA’s justification for asserting the state secrets privilege. “For example, the enhanced interrogation techniques employed with respect to specific detainees in the program, and their conditions of confinement, are no longer classified.”

“Nonetheless, many details surrounding the program remain highly classified due to the damage to national security that reasonably could be expected to result from disclosure of that information. For this reason, the CIA has withheld or objected to the disclosure of certain information implicated in discovery in this case,” he wrote.

“The Government has undertaken significant, good faith efforts to produce as much unclassified discovery as possible,” the Justice Department said in its March 8 motion. But “The Government has satisfied the procedural requirements for invoking the state secrets privilege.”

The government said that it had followed the guidance issued by Attorney General Eric Holder in 2009 that was intended to increase internal oversight of state secrets claims by elevating them to the attention of the Attorney General, among other steps.

“These standards and procedures were followed in this case, including personal consideration of the matter by the Attorney General and authorization by him to defend the assertion of the privilege,” Justice attorneys wrote.

The state secrets privilege has often been used in the past to terminate litigation altogether by barring introduction of essential evidence. But not in this case.

“The Government is not seeking dismissal here,” the Justice Department motion said. So even if the state secret privilege claims are granted by the court, as seems likely, the lawsuit could still move forward.

“We think [the] case can proceed on [the] public record,” tweeted attorney Hina Shamsi of the ACLU, which represents the plaintiffs in the case against two CIA psychologists.

HISTORY OF ATTORNEY GENERAL RECUSAL, AND MORE FROM CRS

“The recent announcement by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions that he would recuse himself from any investigations into President Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign has raised questions about how often recusals by the Attorney General have happened in the past.”

“While there is no official compilation of recusals, it appears that Attorneys General of the United States have recused themselves at least 15 times since 1989,” according to the Congressional Research Service, which tabulated those 15 instances. See A Brief History of Attorney General Recusal, CRS Legal Sidebar, March 8, 2017.

Other new and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service include the following.

Six Justice Court to Decide Liability of Officials for Post 9/11 Detention, CRS Legal Sidebar, March 7, 2017

What Is the Effect of Enacting a Congressional Review Act Resolution of Disapproval?, CRS Insight, March 3, 2017

WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement, March 3, 2017

Northern Ireland’s Snap Assembly Elections: Outcome and Implications, CRS Insight, March 7, 2017

The Greek Debt Crisis: Continuing Challenges, CRS Insight, March 2, 2017

Marine Corps Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV) and Marine Personnel Carrier (MPC): Background and Issues for Congress, updated March 8, 2017

Resolutions of Inquiry in the House, CRS Insight, March 6, 2017

Federal Land Ownership: Overview and Data, updated March 3, 2017

Bully nation: Is America hardwired for war & aggression?

March 9, 2017

by Robert Bridge

RT

Watching Washington attack one sovereign state after another since the collapse of the Soviet Union prompts the question: Are we Americans behaving out of some inherent aggression, or is this just old-fashioned empire building by a global superpower?

Growing up in America is by nature an isolated event. Inhabiting a vast and diverse landmass with oceans for bookends, and Canada and Mexico as barely-tolerant neighbors, we are just secluded enough to possess a cultural superiority complex that makes us think everybody on the planet envies us.

Our leaders, outstanding public servants that they are, happily manipulate this blind patriotism to undertake heinous acts of unprovoked aggression around the planet. Many Americans, blissfully unaware as to what is being done to innocent people in their names, believe that all terrorists hate them just because of their freedoms.

And then… the cold, bracing slap of reality when we wake up and discover the painful truth.

It’s becoming impossible to ignore and explain how the United States is behaving in foreign lands, and especially those that have been blessed (cursed?) with an abundance of natural resources needed to fuel our oil-based power trip. We slap them with the ‘terrorist’ label and then proceed to methodically destroy them in true bully fashion. Indeed, America appears less the amiable police officer, twirling his baton and tipping his hat to mothers and children as he walks the global beat, and more a bloodthirsty opportunist who never misses a chance to avoid diplomacy when the option of war is knocking.

It is tedious listening to statistics, but for the benefit of those who were curled up inside a bomb shelter for the last year without a fresh news source, consider this: US President Barack Obama left office having been at war longer than any president in American history. Yes, America is a young, impetuous country, but that is still an amazing feat and not least because America’s first black president was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize just months into his tenure. But then again, the Norwegian Committee awarded Bob Dylan a Nobel Prize for Literature, so what were we really expecting?

Medea Benjamin, co-founder of CodePink, summed up the Obama regime in the Guardian:

“While candidate Obama came to office pledging to end George W. Bush’s wars, he leaves office… the only president to serve two complete terms with the nation at war.

Benjamin admits that Obama reduced the number of US soldiers fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, but that is not the same thing as promoting peace. Obama “dramatically expanded the air wars and the use of special operations forces around the globe. In 2016, US special operators could be found in 70 percent of the world’s nations, 138 countries – a staggering jump of 130 percent since the days of the Bush administration.”

Micah Zenko, a member of the influential Council on Foreign Relations, reported that in Obama’s last year in office, the US military “dropped 26,171 bombs in seven countries.” Zenko explains, however, that estimate is “undoubtedly low, considering reliable data is only available for airstrikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya, and a single ‘strike,’ according to the Pentagon’s definition, can involve multiple bombs or munitions.”

This column, however, is not meant to criticize the policies of any one president or party. After all, it has become second nature to blame failed US foreign policy on this or that particular leader – presidents who invariably hail from either the Democrats or Republicans. In other words, two heads of the same venomous snake. Regardless of what war party holds the White House, the American thirst for aggression has not taken a drink for decades.

Instead of lambasting US foreign policy and presidents, which has got us nowhere, I’d like to consider a question – or rather start a conversation – that will be impossible to finish here: Are Americans a naturally aggressive people? Before you bark out, ‘F*ck NO!’ consider this startling fact: The United States has been at war 93 percent of the time – 222 out of 239 years – since 1776. Yes, from fighting Native American Indians (who would certainly have been branded ‘terrorists’ had the dubious term existed then), Mexicans and assorted European colonial powers, America is rarely at peace, and least of all with itself. During one of its many expansionist moods, it even attempted an invasion of Canada in 1812, before limping back home momentarily humbled.

Incidentally, among the numerous wars the United States has been involved in over the last two centuries, none can compare to the death toll when Americans fought against themselves. In the Civil War (1861-1865) some 620,000 Americans lost their lives, a toll that surpassed the number of Americans killed in World Wars I & II combined (521,000).

More to the point, from the jungles of Vietnam to the deserts of Mesopotamia, America rarely goes to war to defend itself, but rather to pursue its global hegemonic and strategic interests. But does that automatically mean Americans are “hardwired for war and aggression,” or is it simply a case of empire-building opportunism?

Violent Americans?

My personal opinion is ‘yes’, there is something about Americans that makes us more prone to lash out physically than other people on this finite planet, where we must all find a way to live in peace – or suffer the consequences – which could be in the shape of a mushroom cloud on the horizon. However, this could just be due to our impulsiveness of being a young nation trying to find its way, a bit like a reckless, rambunctious puppy that didn’t intend to trash the living room; it just happened. Or, on the other hand, it could be something more complex.

Our national history notwithstanding, which is filled with endless chapters of war and bloodshed, there is something deep inside American culture, I believe, that leans heavily towards the violent that cannot be easily explained away as the ‘immaturity’ of youthfulness. Hollywood, for example, the world’s factory when it comes to entertainment, has practically written the script on violent films that other countries now feel somehow obliged to imitate.

The 1990s saw the rise of a sleek and stylish ‘new violence’ – perhaps best characterized by the work of Quentin Tarantino, who directed such family favorites as Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs and Kill Bill. Groundbreaking film-making, many would argue, but the sheer level of ultra-violence accompanying such productions cannot be denied.

It seems there would be a price to pay for all of this gratuitous destructiveness. And so there was.

As J. David Slocum wrote in his book, ‘Violence and American Cinema’, “Later in the 1990s a spate of school shootings, culminating in the shooting deaths of fifteen at Columbine High School, in Littleton, Colorado, forcibly renewed discussions about the role of violent films and other media in the development of American children and adolescents.”

Aside from the murders themselves, there are some disturbing aspects about the Columbine massacre that are revealing. As Bill Korach wrote in the Report Card blog, “On April 20, 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold launched an assault on Columbine High School… murdering 13 and wounding 23 before turning the guns on themselves. Although it is impossible to know exactly what caused these teens to attack their own classmates and teachers, a number of factors probably were involved. One possible contributing factor is violent video games. Harris and Klebold enjoyed playing the bloody, shoot-’em-up video game Doom, a game licensed by the U.S. military to train soldiers to effectively kill… ”

Does that prove Americans are “hardwired for war and aggression?” It’s hard to say, but there were other glaring factors at play in America’s worst mass shooting. As director Michael Moore famously noted in his film ‘Bowling for Columbine’, there was a telling connection between the tragedy in Columbine and a US battlefield thousands of miles away in a place once known as Yugoslavia.

As historian Carl Savich explained, “Moore uses the Kosovo conflict and the illegal US and NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999 to show the connection between a society and culture of violence and the implications for US foreign policy. The bombing of Serbia by the US is central to the plot of the Oscar-winning movie ‘Bowling for Columbine’. Kosovo is central to the movie.

In the key scene of the movie, the date “April 20, 1999” flashes on the screen. This was the day of the Columbine shooting. This was also the “largest one day bombing by the U.S. in the Kosovo war,” Savich wrote.

There are other cultural cues we may consider regarding American violence. For example, America’s most popular sport, football, not to be confused with European ‘soccer,’ which is arguably the world’s most violent sport.

Here is one of those ‘chicken and the egg’ quandaries as to what came first. Was it due to a natural tendency for violence and aggression that led Americans to invent the game of football, a hugely-popular entertainment sport that requires head-to-toe protective gear to avoid serious injury, or was it the game itself that helped spawn a more violent society, which, by the way, now has more guns than people

First, I find it rather telling that America’s favorite sport has never managed to take root globally in the way it has in the United States. In America, no school – from grade school to the university level – would be caught dead without a football team and football field to boast of. In fact, I’d say if a school had to choose between football jerseys or books, most school boards would choose the former.

It would be difficult for non-Americans to really appreciate the massive popularity of football in the US. Personally, I can think of no other spectacle that unites the country like this game. As of 2012, over 1 million American high school athletes and 70,000 college athletes play the sport in the US annually. Meanwhile the Super Bowl ranks among the most-watched sporting events in the world. And every weekend, from coast to coast, Americans gather to watch grade school and high school kids knocking heads to college-level and professional athletes doing the very same thing. Meanwhile, many would agree that the most popular and respected kids in American schools are not the smartest and brainiest – the ‘nerds’ – but rather the swiftest, fastest and strongest on the field of dreams. Support them or not, the jocks rule campuses.

Do these cultural predilections that lean towards open violence translate into Americans being naturally aggressive and more prone to engage in warfare? That is a question I think Americans are better qualified than anybody to answer. As US-led wars continue around the globe, it may be good time to open a discussion on the matter.

Wall Street spent a record $2bn trying to influence US elections – report

March 9, 2017

RT

Wall Street spent a record $2 billion in contributions to political campaigns during the last US election cycle. The staggering sums made the financial sector by far the biggest business contributors, however the real figure could be much higher.

A new report from Americans for Financial Reform has found that the total amount of money spent on campaign contributions for presidential, Senate, and House of Representatives candidates reached $1.1 billion, with another $898 million spent on lobbying

The huge sums made the financial sector by far the largest source of campaign contributions. The total is more than $400 million more than was spent during the 2012 election cycle. The daily spend topped $2.7 million and more than $3.7 million was spent per member of congress.

The sector, including both institutions and their individual employees, chipped in nearly twice as much as any other business sector.

The report is based on data from officially reported expenditures which was collected by the Center for Responsive Politics. It details the spending of more than 400 financial companies and trade associations with at least $500,000 in declared lobbying expenditures and campaign contributions.

It reveals that Republicans garnered 55 percent of party-encoded contributions while 45 percent went to Democratic hopefuls. It also showed that donors frequently donated to both parties in a given race.

“The numbers reflect the industry’s relentless efforts to roll back financial regulations put in place after the crisis, lobby Congress to weaken the rules, and to forestall deeper changes to the financial system,” a statement released with the report said.

The list was topped by former presidential candidates Senator Marco Rubio, who raised $8.69 million, and Ted Cruz, who raised $5.48 million. Senator Chuck Schumer, who came in third, was the only Democrat to break into the top five.

The top spender was the National Association of Realtors who contributed a whopping $118,622,462. Three hedge funds – Renaissance Technologies ($53,479,983), Paloma Partners ($41,334,000) and Elliott Management ($28,020,354) – ranked among the top five individual spenders. The American Bankers Association completed the top five with $25,750,687 in donations.

The biggest spending banks were Wells Fargo, Citigroup and Goldman Sachs. However, they contributed comparatively modest sums of between $12 million and $15 million.

Despite the outrageously high figures, Americans for Financial Reform note that the actual sums spent by Wall Street are surely much higher as none of the totals include “dark money” from non-profit organizations. Non-profits do not have to disclose who their donors are and they have only to report part of their political spending to the Federal Election Commission (FEC).

“The entire apparatus of government operates in an environment flooded with millions of dollars in Wall Street cash on a daily basis,” said Lisa Donner of Americans for Financial Reform. “If you want to understand why finance too often hurts consumers, investors and businesses far from Wall Street, take a look at these numbers.”

Donner told the Financial Times that much of the lobbying had succeeded in “slowing or weakening” proposed reforms. “That is really what the money story is about,” she said. “We end up with outcomes that are not what people voted for.”

Americans for Financial Reform receives funding from the Democracy Alliance. A network of donors including George Soros.

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