Unpacking the New CIA Leak: Don’t Ignore the Aluminum Tube Footnote 

This post will unpack the leak from the CIA published in the WaPo tonight.

 writes: Before I start with the substance of the story, consider this background. First, if Trump comes into office on the current trajectory, the US will let Russia help Bashar al-Assad stay in power, thwarting a 4-year effort on the part of the Saudis to remove him from power. It will also restructure the hierarchy of horrible human rights abusing allies the US has, with the Saudis losing out to other human rights abusers, potentially up to and including that other petrostate, Russia. It will also install a ton of people with ties to the US oil industry in the cabinet, meaning the US will effectively subsidize oil production in this country, which will have the perhaps inadvertent result of ensuring the US remains oil-independent even though the market can’t justify fracking right now.

The CIA is institutionally quite close with the Saudis right now, and has been in charge of their covert war against Assad.

This story came 24 days after the White House released an anonymous statement asserting, among other things, “the Federal government did not observe any increased level of malicious cyber activity aimed at disrupting our electoral process on election day,” suggesting that the Russians may have been deterred.

[Read the full text here, at emptywheel]

This story was leaked within hours of the time the White House announced it was calling for an all-intelligence community review of the Russia intelligence, offered without much detail. Indeed, this story was leaked and published as an update to that story.

Which is to say, the CIA and/or people in Congress (this story seems primarily to come from Democratic Senators) leaked this, apparently in response to President Obama’s not terribly urgent call to have all intelligence agencies weigh in on the subject of Russian influence, after weeks of Democrats pressuring him to release more information. It was designed to both make the White House-ordered review more urgent and influence the outcome.

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So here’s what that story says.

In September, the spooks briefed “congressional leaders” (which for a variety of reasons I wildarseguess is either a Gang of Four briefing including Paul Ryan, Nancy Pelosi, Mitch McConnell, and Harry Reid or a briefing to SSCI plus McConnell, Reid, Jack Reed, and John McCain). Apparently, the substance of the briefing was that Russia’s intent in hacking Democratic entities was not to increase distrust of institutions, but instead to elect Trump.

The CIA has concluded in a secret assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump win the presidency, rather than just to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system, according to officials briefed on the matter.

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[Read more at The Washington Examiner]

The difference between this story and other public assessments is that it seems to identify the people — who sound like people with ties to the Russian government but not necessarily part of it — who funneled documents from Russia’s GRU to Wikileaks.

Intelligence agencies have identified individuals with connections to the Russian government who provided WikiLeaks with thousands of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and others, including Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, according to U.S. officials. Those officials described the individuals as actors known to the intelligence community and part of a wider Russian operation to boost Trump and hurt Clinton’s chances.

[snip]

[I]ntelligence agencies do not have specific intelligence showing officials in the Kremlin “directing” the identified individuals to pass the Democratic emails to WikiLeaks, a second senior U.S. official said. Those actors, according to the official, were “one step” removed from the Russian government, rather than government employees.

NSA headquarters. Image: Wikimedia Commons

[Read the full analysis here, at emptywheel]

This is the part that has always been missing in the past: how the documents got from GRU, which hacked the DNC and John Podesta, to Wikileaks, which released them. It appears that CIA now thinks they know the answer: some people one step removed from the Russian government, funneling the documents from GRU hackers (presumably) to Wikileaks to be leaked, with the intent of electing Trump.

Not everyone buys this story. Mitch McConnell doesn’t buy the intelligence. Read the rest of this entry »


New York Post Dreaming of a White Christmas

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New Photos of John Coltrane Rediscovered 50 Years After They Were Shot

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During the recording of A Love Supreme in 1964, Chuck Stewart caught the jazz legend in his element.

Nelson George writes: On December 9, 1964, saxophonist John Coltrane led a quartet that featured pianist McCoy Tyner, drummer Elvin Jones and bassist Jimmy Garrison into Rudy Van Gelder’s studio in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, where countless jazz recording sessions were held in the 1950s and ’60s. For photographer Chuck Stewart, Van Gelder’s was a short drive from his home in Teaneck.

[See the exclusive photos here, at Smithsonianmag.com]

That day nearly 50 years ago the band recorded a Coltrane composition titled A Love Supreme, a profound expression of his spiritual awakening divided into four movements—“Acknowledgement,” “Resolution,” “Pursuance,” “Psalm.” For its soaring ambition, flawless execution and raw power, it was hailed as a groundbreaking piece of music when it was released in February 1965, and it has endured as a seminal part of the jazz canon. The work and its composer will be highlighted anew this April during Jazz Appreciation Month, an annual event launched in 2001 by the National Museum of American History, whose collection includes Coltrane’s original manuscript for A Love Supreme.

“I couldn’t shoot during the take because the recording equipment would pick up the clicks. So what I did was meander around the studio. When I saw a picture I thought worked, I’d take it.”

— Photographer Chuck Stewart

For Stewart, whose photographs have graced thousands of album covers, from Ellington to Davis, from Basie to Armstrong, that session with Coltrane—a friend of his since 1949—was no different from countless others. “When I did a session I would go in and shoot the rehearsal before they did any takes,” the 86-year-old photographer recalls, sitting in his cozy, picture-filled living room in Teaneck. “I couldn’t shoot during the take because the recording equipment would pick up the clicks. So what I did was meander around the studio. When I saw a picture I thought worked, I’d take it.”

[Read the full story here, at Smithsonianmag.com]

Stewart still has the Rolleiflex camera he used at the session, and the contact sheets as well. Many of the images he shot have been seen on CDs, as well as in numerous books and magazine articles. But 72 photographs from six rolls of film never made it beyond the contact-sheet stage, and so haven’t been published. Stewart’s son David recently rediscovered those images in his father’s collection, and now Stewart is scheduled to include some of them in a donation to the museum this month. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] South Korea Parliament Impeaches President Park Geun-Hye

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Seoul (AFP) – South Korean lawmakers on Friday passed an impeachment motion against President Park  stripping away her sweeping executive powers over a corruption scandal that paralysed her administration and triggered massive street protests.

The National Assembly motion — passed by 234 votes to 56 — transfers Park’s authority to the prime minister, pending a decision by the Constitutional Court on whether to ratify the decision and permanently remove the president from office.

Update: South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s impeachment Friday means she has been stripped of power — but not the perks.

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Even as her prime minister governs in her stead, Park gets to keep living at the presidential Blue House, using her official car and plane, collecting the same monthly salary (about $15,000 reportedly) and receiving round-the-clock security.

She also holds onto the title “President.”

But with nothing officially to do, it’s uncertain how she’ll spend her days during the up-to-six months the country’s Constitutional Court has to decide whether to accept the impeachment and formally end her presidency. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Hillary Clinton Worried About Fake News, Forgets She Lied About Coming Under Fire in Bosnia

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John Glenn, the First American Astronaut to Orbit the Earth, Dies at 95 

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One of the original “Magnificent Seven” astronauts in NASA’s Mercury program, John Glenn captured the nation’s attention in 1962 when he first circumnavigated the globe and returned as a hero who had scaled heights no American had reached before. In his post-NASA career, Glenn served four terms as a U.S. senator from Ohio. Following his […]

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Source: The Washington Post


A Tale of Two Covers

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Global Film Industry Rocked as Germany’s Prime Minister Calls for Ban on Merkins

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Comunismo Funciona! The Jeep with Fidel Castro’s Ashes Breaks Down, Has to be Pushed

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Incident during farewell acts dictator Fidel Castro in Cuba. The jeep carrying the ashes of the Cuban leader, who died last November 25, is broken during the official procession to Santiago de Cuba. The soldiers guarding the vehicle had to push him, creating an unusual image. [Note: Translated from Spanish, Original source here]

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The snapshot for the story is a story in acts of remembrance of former prime minister (1959-1976) and President of the Republic of Cuba (1976-2008), which will conclude on Monday with a private and family farewell at the Santa Ifigenia cemetery .

Before the funeral procession, renamed Freedom Ride, it has traveled over a thousand kilometers across the Caribbean island, including the Moncada Barracks, the starting point of the Cuban Revolution that triumphed in 1959.

funeral-fidel-2 Read the rest of this entry »


Pundit From Another Planet: Ready for 2017

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China Complains After President-Elect Trump Speaks to Taiwan Leader Tsai Ing-wen

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Beijing (AFP) – China protested to Washington Saturday after US President-elect Donald Trump broke with decades of foreign policy and spoke with the president of Taiwan.

“It was not immediately clear whether Trump’s telephone call with Tsai Ing-wen marked a deliberate pivot away from Washington’s official ‘One China’ stance, but it fuelled fears he is improvising on international affairs.”

It was not immediately clear whether Trump’s telephone call with Tsai Ing-wen marked a deliberate pivot away from Washington’s official “One China” stance, but it fuelled fears he is improvising on international affairs.

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Xiamen University

Zhang Wensheng, of Xiamen University, was more circumspect, dismissing Trump’s use of the term ‘president’ as ‘personal greetings’ that ‘do not reflect a political position whatsoever’.

China regards self-ruling Taiwan as part of its own territory awaiting reunification under Beijing’s rule, and any US move that would imply support for independence would likely trigger fury.

[ALSO SEE – Commentary: Trump, Taiwan and China – punditfromanotherplanet]

During Friday’s discussion, Trump and Tsai noted “the close economic, political and security ties” between Taiwan and the United States, according to the president-elect’s office.

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Even before the call with Taiwan, Trump’s unorthodox diplomatic outreach had raised eyebrows, and, for some critics, in extending his hand to Taiwan, Trump crossed a dangerous line.

“President-elect Trump also congratulated President Tsai on becoming President of Taiwan earlier this year,” it said.

Beijing on Saturday offered a robust response.

“We have already made solemn representations about it to the relevant US side,” the Chinese foreign ministry said.

“There is no change to our longstanding policy on cross-Strait issues. We remain firmly committed to our ‘One China’ policy,” she added. “Our fundamental interest is in peaceful and stable cross-Strait relations.”

— National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne

“It must be pointed out that there is only one China in the world. Taiwan is an inalienable part of China’s territory,”ObaMao

China also urged “relevant parties in the US… to handle Taiwan-related issues with caution and care to avoid unnecessarily interfering with the overall situation of Sino-US relations.”

Trump, who had come under fire for the telephone call, hit back — on Twitter.

“Interesting how the U.S. sells Taiwan billions of dollars of military equipment but I should not accept a congratulatory call,” Trump tweeted.

– ‘How wars start’ –

President Barack Obama’s White House said the outgoing US administration had not changed its stance on China-Taiwan issues.

“There is no change to our longstanding policy on cross-Strait issues,” National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne told reporters. Read the rest of this entry »


Commentary: Trump, Taiwan and China

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Today’s South China Morning Post:


BREAKING: Facebook Helps Users Block The New York Times, CBS, NBC, ABC, with ‘B.S. Detector’, Fake News Warning Plugin 

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Not only is Facebook not providing little red warnings along with links to potentially specious news—it’s now blocking links to the plugin that did.

Over the past week, some Facebook users reported seeing content warnings next to links from established fake news domains, apparently without realizing a third party was responsible. We reported this phenomenon, later clarifying that B.S. Detector is in fact a third party plugin that both we and a number of Facebook users mistook as a testing feature. Irony!

Now, if you attempt to share a link to B.S. Detector on Facebook, you’ll be met with this message. Apparently, blocking fake news (detectors) is quite simple!

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“I believe they are doing this because of TechCrunch article that came out yesterday, falsely identifying a screenshot of my plugin as a Facebook feature under development,” Daniel Sieradski, design technologist and creator of B.S. Detector, told TechCrunch. “It would seem I’ve caused them some embarrassment by showing them to be full of bull when it comes to their supposed inability to address fake news and they are punishing me for it.”

Jeff Fager (L), chairman CBS News and executive producer '60 Minutes', Scott Pelley, anchor and managing editor CBS Evening News and David Rhodes (R) president CBS News, speak at the CBS Television Network's 2011 Summer Television Critics Association Press Tour in Beverly Hills, California August 3, 2011. REUTERS/Fred Prouser (UNITED STATES - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT BUSINESS) - RTR2PL1B

For now, the B.S. Detector plugin itself remains functional, as do links to the plugin on Product Hunt and the Chrome app store. Read the rest of this entry »


Russia: Progress MS-04 Space Ship Malfunctions, Breaks up Over Siberia 

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The Progress MS-04 cargo craft broke up at an altitude of 118 miles over the remote Russian Tuva region in Siberia that borders Mongolia.

An unmanned Russian cargo spaceship heading to the International Space Station broke up in the atmosphere over Siberia on Thursday due to an unspecified malfunction, the Russian space agency said.

The Progress MS-04 cargo craft broke up at an altitude of 190 kilometers (118 miles) over the remote Russian Tuva region in Siberia that borders Mongolia, Roscosmos said in a statement. It said most of space ship’s debris burnt up as it entered the atmosphere but some debris fell to Earth over what it called an uninhabited area.

The Progress cargo ship had lifted off as scheduled at 8:51 p.m. (1451 GMT) from Russia’s space launch complex in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, to deliver 2.5 metric tons of fuel, water, food and other supplies. It entered an orbit nine minutes later and was set to dock with the space station on Saturday. Read the rest of this entry »


More Guns Were Sold in 2016 Than Any Year in History

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Trump election does not slow gun sales

So far this year, the FBI has processed24,767,514 checks through its National Instant Criminal Background Check System, known as NICS, which puts 2016 more than 160,000 checks above the yearly record set in 2015. The record comes after November 2016 set its own monthly record with 2,561,281 checks, nearly 320,000 more than the previous record set last November. This gun sales spike has lasted for over a year and resulted in monthly records for 19 straight months.

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November’s record comes as the firearms industry is beginning its seasonal upswing with millions of Americans purchasing firearms in the lead up to the holiday season. That upswing is likely to add to 2016’s record because December has traditionally seen the highest number of NICS checks for the year.

“Reports of the industry’s demise were greatly exaggerated by the liberal anti-gun media,” Larry Keane, the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s senior vice president, said of the new record.

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The number of checks processed through the FBI’s system is generally considered one of the strongest indicators of gun sales in the United States because nearly all sales made through federally licensed firearms dealers require a NICS check. However, the number of NICS checks made in a given period of time is not a perfect representation of the number of guns actually sold in that same period of time for a number of reasons. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] SUPERCUTS! Democrats Accept Election Results–If They Win

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‘His Schedule Doesn’t Permit it’

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Outrage and mockery about Trudeau’s fond words for Castro has threatened to end the Liberal leader’s long honeymoon.

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Andrea Hopkins reports: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will not attend the funeral of Fidel Castro, his office said on Monday, days after Trudeau’s warm comments about the late Cuban leader sparked a backlash.

Trudeau referred on Saturday to Castro as a “remarkable leader” and expressed his sorrow at the death of “Cuba’s longest serving president.”

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Trudeau acknowledged on Sunday that Castro had been a dictator as political opponents called on him to boycott the funeral.

Outrage and mockery about Trudeau’s fond words for Castro, who had been an honorary pallbearer at the funeral in 2000 of Trudeau’s father, former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, has threatened to end the Liberal leader’s long honeymoon.

Noting the “many questions” about whether Trudeau would attend the funeral, spokeswoman Andree-Lyne Halle said in an email the prime minister would skip the event. Read the rest of this entry »


Ohio State Suspect Abdul Razak Ali Artan Left Cryptic Facebook Message Before Attack

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Abdul Razak Ali Artan was killed by a police officer after the car-and-knife ambush.

—  Abdul Razak Ali Artan, on Facebook

Abdul Razak Ali Artan, 18, wrote on what appears to be his Facebook page that he had reached a “boiling point,” made a reference to “lone wolf attacks” and cited radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.

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“America! Stop interfering with other countries, especially Muslim Ummah [community]. We are not weak. We are not weak, remember that,” the post said.

Two hours before that, a cryptic post on the page said: “Forgive and forget. Love.”

Officials cautioned that they have not determined a motive for the ambush, which sent 11 people to the hospital Monday morning. A senior law enforcement official told NBC News that investigators are trying to determine whether Artan had personal problems or something else that might have pushed him over the edge.

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A photo of Abdul Razak Ali Artan that accompanied an interview in the OSU publication The Lantern. Kevin Stankiewicz / The Lantern

“He told a campus publication that on his first day at OSU, he was ‘kind of scared’ to pray in public.”

A police officer was on the scene within a minute and killed the assailant, likely saving lives, university officials said. “He engaged the suspect and eliminated the threat,” OSU Police Chief Craig Stone said.

Law enforcement officials told NBC News that Artan was a Somali refugee who left his homeland with his family in 2007, lived in Pakistan and then came to the United States in 2014 as a legal permanent resident.

[Read the full story here, at NBC News]

He lived briefly in a temporary shelter in Dallas before settling in Ohio, according to records maintained by Catholic Charities.

Artan attended Columbus State Community College for two years, graduating cum laude with an associate’s degree before moving on to Ohio State to continue his studies. He told a campus publication that on his first day at OSU, he was “kind of scared” to pray in public.

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“If people look at me, a Muslim praying, I don’t know what they’re going to think, what’s going to happen.”

“If people look at me, a Muslim praying, I don’t know what they’re going to think, what’s going to happen,” Artan was quoted as saying in the Lantern.

The violence unfolded just before 10 a.m. ET Monday near an academic hall on the Columbus, Ohio, campus, where 60,000 students are enrolled.

Officials said Artan drove onto campus by himself and rammed the car past the curb and into a crowd on the sidewalk. Read the rest of this entry »