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CIA Gives More Power to Spies to Bolster Intelligence Operations

Pompeo: China, not Russia, poses greatest long-term threat

 reports: The Central Intelligence Agency under President Trump is giving more authority to field operatives and cutting excessive bureaucracy in a bid to boost intelligence operations, CIA Director Mike Pompeo says.

In his first news interview since taking charge of the agency in January, Pompeo also said he believes America’s greatest long-term security challenge is the threat posed by China, not Russia. Excerpts of the interview can be found here.

During the wide-ranging interview on the sidelines of a security conference in Aspen, Colo., Pompeo revealed the CIA is preparing intelligence options for the president, including covert action, for use against North Korea in efforts to counter the threat of a future nuclear missile attack.

He also outlined how the CIA is stepping up counterintelligence programs against foreign spies and leaks of intelligence.

Other disclosures by the CIA chief included new details of North Korea’s drive to develop reliable strategic nuclear missiles and a renewed CIA focus on stealing foreign secrets.

“Look, our primary mission is foreign intelligence,” Pompeo told the Washington Free Beacon.

“That is at the core of what we do, and so the ability to go collect against the most difficult places, the most difficult targets in a way that is not one off, that is deep and robust and redundant, is something this agency is really good at when they are allowed to do it. And the president is going to go let us do it.”

Mike Pompeo

Mike Pompeo

Similar to the Pentagon shift in giving military commanders greater authority to act in the field, the CIA is unleashing its spying power—clandestine operations, intelligence analysis, and technical prowess.

The CIA chief said decentralizing spying authority presents both risks and promise.

“In nearly every one of those cases it increases the risk level,” he said. “It also greatly enhances the likelihood you’ll achieve the outcome you’re looking for.”

The shift followed an internal agency review earlier this year that identified several areas where the CIA needed new guidance, or CIA activities that are allowed under law but had been restricted under President Barack Obama’s administration, Pompeo said.

The CIA director said he meets regularly with Trump during intelligence briefings and noted that the president has been very supportive of agency reforms aimed at improving CIA operations.

A former Army officer who until January was a Republican member of the House, Pompeo said the two most immediate security threats are Islamic State terrorists fleeing the Middle East and North Korea’s aggressive effort to field long-range missiles with nuclear warheads that can strike the United States.

U.S. Faces Growing Threats From China, North Korea

Over the longer term, however, Pompeo singled out China as the most serious security challenge.

While China, Russia, and Iran all are expected to pose significant problems in the future, China is a greater threat because of its robust economy and growing military power—both aimed against the United States.

“I think China has the capacity to present the greatest rivalry to America of any of those over the medium and long term,” he said.

China’s military is building up forces that are aimed at countering U.S. power projection around the world, he said.

“So you see that, whether it’s going on in the South China or East China Sea, or the work they’re doing in other parts of the world,” Pompeo said. Read the rest of this entry »

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CIA Plane Lands at Wellington Airport Ahead of Five Eyes Meeting 

Chloe Winters reports: Secret agents from one of the most powerful spy agencies in the world may have just touched down in the capital.

What looks to be just another private jet parked at Wellington Airport may in fact be carrying a plane-load of spies who are said to be in the country for a secret meeting in Queenstown.

The tail number – five small, black digits on the back of the plane – reveals the private jet belongs to none other than the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency, also known as the CIA.

SCOTT HAMMOND/FAIRFAX NZ

SCOTT HAMMOND/FAIRFAX NZ

The aircraft’s arrival ties in with a top-secret meeting of the Five Eyes nations in Queenstown.

The plane, with the registration number 10030, was spotted at Wellington Airport on Saturday morning, NewsHub reports. Read the rest of this entry »


Why Didn’t Obama Reveal Intel About Russia’s Influence on the Election? 

obama-oval-solo

His decision may have cost Clinton the presidency.

On Friday, the Obama administration turned a bright spotlight onto the Russian government’s attempts to influence America’s presidential election. The White House announced that the president had ordered the intelligence community to perform a “full review” of election-related hacking, kicking off a sweeping investigation that officials say should be complete before President Obama’s second term ends in less than six weeks.

“For one, the White House was probably afraid of looking like it was tipping the scale in Hillary Clinton’s favor, especially in an election that her opponent repeatedly described as rigged.”

That evening, administration officials leaked the results of a secret CIA investigation into Russia’s motives for launching election-related cyberattacks to The Washington Post. The CIA had concluded that Russia “intervened in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump win the presidency.”

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Members of Congress who called on the White House to release more information about Russian involvement in the 2016 election—and who repeatedly hinted that the administration hadn’t publicized everything it knows on the issue—were vindicated by the revelations. But the news came too late to make a difference in the election.

“It’s also possible that the administration, like most pollsters and pundits, was overconfident in its assessment that Clinton would win the election.”

The CIA only shared its latest findings with top senators last week, the Post reported, but it’s not clear when the agency made the determination. In an interview with MSNBC on Saturday, however, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid—who is known for making bold accusations—said FBI Director Jim Comey has known about Russia’s ambitions “for a long time,” but didn’t release that information.

intel

If that’s true, why didn’t the Obama administration push to release it earlier?

For one, the White House was probably afraid of looking like it was tipping the scale in Hillary Clinton’s favor, especially in an election that her opponent repeatedly described as rigged. Though Obama stumped for Clinton around the country, the administration didn’t want to open him up to attacks that he unfairly used intelligence to undermine Trump’s campaign, the Post reported.

[Read the full story here, at The Atlantic]

Instead, top White House officials gathered key lawmakers—leadership from the House and Senate, plus the top Democrats and Republicans from both houses’ intelligence and homeland security committees—to ask for a bipartisan condemnation of Russia’s meddling.

The effort was stymied by several Republicans who weren’t willing to cooperate, including, reportedly, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. (On Sunday morning, a bipartisan statement condemning the hacks came from incoming Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Jack Reed, a Democrat, and Republicans John McCain and Lindsey Graham.)

It’s also possible that the administration, like most pollsters and pundits, was overconfident in its assessment that Clinton would win the election. Officials may have been more willing to lob incendiary accusations—and risk setting off a serious political or cyber conflict with Russia—if they had thought Trump had a good chance to win.

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 09: U.S. President Barack Obama makes a statement on the election results as Vice President Joseph Biden listens in the Rose Garden at the White House November 9, 2016 in Washington, DC. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has won the election and will become the 45th president of the United States. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The silence from the White House and the CIA was a stark contrast to the Comey’s announcement just weeks before the election that it was examining new documents related to its investigation into Clinton’s emails. Read the rest of this entry »


OH YES HE DID: Romanian Hacker Guccifer Breached Clinton Server, ‘It Was Easy’ 

guccifer-tmagArticle

The hacker spoke freely with Fox News from the detention center in Alexandria, Va., where he’s been held since his extradition to the U.S. on federal charges relating to other alleged cyber-crimes. Wearing a green jumpsuit, Lazar was relaxed and polite in the monitored secure visitor center, separated by thick security glass.

  report: The infamous Romanian hacker known as “Guccifer,” speaking exclusively with Fox News, claimed he easily – and repeatedly – breached former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s personal email server in early 2013.

“For me, it was easy … easy for me, for everybody,” Marcel Lehel Lazar, who goes by the moniker “Guccifer,” told Fox News from a Virginia jail where he is being held.

“I was not paying attention. For me, it was not like the Hillary Clinton server, it was like an email server she and others were using with political voting stuff.”

— Marcel Lehel Lazar

Guccifer’s potential role in the Clinton email investigation was first reported by Fox News last month. The hacker subsequently claimed he was able to access the server – and provided extensive details about how he did it and what he found – over the course of a half-hour jailhouse interview and a series of recorded phone calls with Fox News. Fox News could not independently confirm Lazar’s claims.

[Read the full story here, at Fox News]

The former secretary of state’s server held nearly 2,200 emails containing information now deemed classified, and another 22 at the “Top Secret” level.

proxy-1

The 44-year-old Lazar said he first compromised Clinton confidant Sidney Blumenthal‘s AOL account, in March 2013, and used that as a stepping stone to the Clinton server. He said he accessed Clinton’s server “like twice,” though he described the contents as “not interest[ing]” to him at the time.

“I was not paying attention. For me, it was not like the Hillary Clinton server, it was like an email server she and others were
using with political voting stuff,” Guccifer said.

The hacker spoke freely with Fox News from the detention center in Alexandria, Va., where he’s been held since his extradition to
the U.S. on federal charges relating to other alleged cyber-crimes. Wearing a green jumpsuit, Lazar was relaxed and polite in the monitored secure visitor center, separatedHillary_Clinton_at_the_1992_Inaugural_Ball by thick security glass.

“For example, when Sidney Blumenthal got an email, I checked the email pattern from Hillary Clinton, from Colin Powell from anyone else to find out the originating IP. … When they send a letter, the email header is the originating IP usually. Then I scanned with an IP scanner.”

— Marcel Lehel Lazar

In describing the process, Lazar said he did extensive research on the web and then guessed Blumenthal’s security question. Once inside Blumenthal’s account, Lazar said he saw dozens of messages from the Clinton email address.

Asked if he was curious about the address, Lazar merely smiled. Asked if he used the same security question approach to access the Clinton emails, he said no – then described how he allegedly got inside.

“For example, when Sidney Blumenthal got an email, I checked the email pattern from Hillary Clinton, from Colin Powell from anyone else to find out the originating IP. … When they send a letter, the email header is the originating IP usually,” Lazar explained.

[Read the full text here, at Fox News]

He said, “then I scanned with an IP scanner.”

Lazar  emphasized that he used readily available web programs to see if the server was “alive” and which ports were open. Lazar identified programs like netscan, Netmap, Wireshark and Angry IP, though it was not possible to confirm independently which, if any, he used.

In the process of mining data from the Blumenthal account, Lazar said he came across evidence that others were on the Clinton server.

hacker-hacking-ddos-keyboard

“As far as I remember, yes, there were … up to 10, like, IPs from other parts of the world,” he said.

With no formal computer training, he did most of his hacking from a small Romanian village.

Lazar said he chose to use “proxy servers in Russia,” describing them as the best, providing anonymity.

Cyber experts who spoke with Fox News said the process Lazar described is plausible. The federal indictment Lazar faces in the U.S. for cyber-crimes specifically alleges he used “a proxy server located in Russia” for the Blumenthal compromise. Read the rest of this entry »


House Republicans Seek to Cut Off Funding for Syrian Resettlement Program

The growing momentum behind new legislation, still being drafted, sets up a future clash between the White House and Congress.

John Hudson reports: Following the deadly terrorist attacks in Paris, House Republicans are proposing to block federal funding for resettling Syrian refugees until a series of new conditions are met, Foreign Policy has learned.

 “Currently, 60 million people worldwide have been forced from their homes or are otherwise considered refugees — higher than at any other time in recorded history.”

The growing momentum behind new legislation, still being drafted, sets up a future clash between the White House and Congress as the Obama administration seeks to offer residency to 10,000 Syrian refugees who currently live outside the conflict zone. Currently, 60 million people worldwide have been forced from their homes or are otherwise considered refugees — higher than at any other time in recorded history. An estimated six million to eight million displaced people are still in Syria, and more than four million Syrian refugees are in Jordan, Turkey, and Lebanon.

settle-720

“The 15 Republican lawmakers pushing the legislation aren’t the only politicians looking to slam the brakes on Obama’s resettlement program. The governors of 15 U.S. states have already said they would not allow Syrian refugees to live in their states.”

The draft legislation, a copy of which was obtained by FP, is backed by Reps. Brian Babin, Lou Barletta, Diane Black, Mo Brooks, Jeff Duncan, John Duncan, Blake Farenthold, Louie Gohmert, Frank Guinta, Gregg Harper, Walter Jones, Steve King, Mike Pompeo, Mark Meadows, and Bill Posey. It would prevent funding for the resettlement of refugees from the Middle East and North Africa until authorities adopt “processes to ensure that refugee and related programs are not able to be co-opted by would-be terrorists.” Once those processes are in place, details of the security checks must be given to Congress in both classified and public forums, and the administration must establish a “longer-term monitoring process” to track refugees in the U.S.

immigrants2-720

“Additionally, House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul plans to raise the issue of blocking Syrian refugee resettlement at a Tuesday meeting with fellow Republicans, according to two congressional sources.”

The 15 Republican lawmakers pushing the legislation aren’t the only politicians looking to slam the brakes on Obama’s resettlement program. The governors of 15 U.S. states have already said they would not allow Syrian refugees to live in their states. Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions (R) has proposed legislation to restrict U.S. funding for refugee resettlement and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul (R) has said he will introduce legislation to prevent Syrian refugees from obtaining U.S. visas. Read the rest of this entry »


‘The Essence of Science is Doubt, to Follow Truth Wherever it Leads…’

Or..Not So Much. Anti-Science Bill Nye: ‘Big Oil’ To Blame For Climate Change Doubt

From this morning’s National Review Online

Meet the Press hosted a discussion about climate change between Bill Nye of “Bill Nye the Science Guy” fame and representative Marsha Blackburn, a Tennessee Republican. During their conversation, Nye argued that Big Oil is responsible for doubt in climate change.

“This is unscientific, it is not logical,” he said. “It is a way, apparently, that the fossil fuel industry has dealt with our politics. And this is not good.”

[See also  Climate Scientists Slam Obama Science Czar’s Incoherent Ramblings on Global Warming]

Representative Marsha Blackburn responded by arguing that warming is “very slight,” but that even if Nye’s arguments were all correct, that wouldn’t mean progressive policy proposals would fix the identified problems.

“Even director McCarthy from the EPA in answering questions from Congressman Pompeo before our committee said reaching all of the 26 U.S. goals is not going to have an impact globally,” Blackburn said. “And David, what we have to look at is the fact that you don’t make good laws, sustainable laws, when you’re making them on hypotheses or theories or unproven sciences.”

Read the rest of this entry »