Pompeo: China, not Russia, poses greatest long-term threat
Bill Gertz 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.”
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 »
Mediha Medy Salkicevic has claimed that her support of ISIS constituted “legitimate warfare” and that she was waging war against the regime of Bashar al-Assad, just as the U.S. government is doing by supporting Syrian rebels.
Salkicevic was working for a cargo company at Chicago’s International O’Hare Airport when she was arrested in 2015. Investigators allege she said she wanted to “bury unbelievers alive” and kill infidels.
“Under United States law, acts of legitimate warfare during a civil war are not murder and are entitled to combatant immunity,” her attorneys said. They argue that Americans are “protected from prosecution as acts of legitimate warfare under the doctrine of combatant immunity.”
On Friday, her attorneys filed a motion to dismiss two charges: conspiracy and providing material support to terrorists.
Salkicevic and her alleged co-conspirators stand accused of sending money and military equipment to Bosnian national Abdullah Ramo Pazara, an ISIS leader in Syria. Read the rest of this entry »
Sam Webb reports: An astonishing video showing a Kurdish sniper laughing after a bullet fired by an ISIS terrorist narrowly misses her head has emerged online.
After she takes her own shot, a chunk of the wall just behind her head explodes, showering the room with dust and plaster.
She immediately ducks down and laughs at her close brush with death — and is even seen sticking her tongue out sheepishly.
The footage, which has not been verified, was posted online by a Kurdish journalist embedded with the YPJ fighters.
Timing of hack occurred within days of the nuclear deal overcoming opposition in Congress.
Susan Crabtree writes: State Department officials determined that Iran hacked their emails and social media accounts during a particularly sensitive week for the nuclear deal in the fall of 2015, according to multiple sources familiar with the details of the cyber attack.
The attack took place within days of the deal overcoming opposition in Congress in late September that year. That same week, Iranian officials and negotiators for the United States and other world powers were beginning the process of hashing out a series of agreements allowing Tehran to meet previously determined implementation deadlines.
Critics regard these agreements as “secret side deals” and “loopholes” initially disclosed only to Congress.
Sources familiar with the details of the attack said it sent shockwaves through the State Department and the private-contractor community working on Iran-related issues.
It is unclear whether top officials at the State Department negotiating the Iran deal knew about the hack or if their personal or professional email accounts were compromised. Sources familiar with the attack believed top officials at State were deeply concerned about the hack and that those senior leaders did not have any of their email or social media accounts compromised in this particular incident.
Wendy Sherman, who served as Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs for several years during the Obama administration and was the lead U.S. negotiator of the nuclear deal with Iran, could not be reached for comment.
A spokeswoman for Albright Stonebridge LLC, where Sherman now serves as a senior counselor, said Tuesday that Sherman is “unavailable at this time and cannot be reached for comment.”
Asked about the September 2015 cyber-attack, a State Department spokesman said, “For security reasons we cannot confirm whether any hacking incident took place.”
At least four State Department officials in the Bureau of Near East Affairs and a senior State Department adviser on digital media and cyber-security were involved in trying to contain the hack, according to an email dated September 24, 2015, and multiple interviews with sources familiar with the attack.
The Obama administration kept quiet about the cyber-attack and never publicly acknowledged concerns the attack created at State, related agencies, and within the private contractor community that supports their work.
Critics of the nuclear deal said the Obama administration did not publicly disclose the cyber-attack’s impact out of fear it could undermine support right after the pact had overcome political opposition and cleared a critical Congressional hurdle.
The hacking of email addresses belonging to the State Department officials and outside contractors began three days after the congressional review period for the deal ended Sept. 17, according to sources familiar with the details of the attack and the internal State Department email.
In the week leading up to that deadline, Senate Democrats blocked several attempts to pass a GOP-led resolution to disapprove of the nuclear deal. The resolution of disapproval needed 60 votes to pass but the most it garnered was 58.
President Trump, during his trip to the Middle East in late May, talked tough against Iran and its illicit ballistic missile program but has so far left the nuclear deal in place. A Trump State Department review of the deal is nearing completion, the Free Beaconrecently reported, and some senior Trump administration officials are pushing for the public release of the so-called “secret side deals.”
State Department alerts outside contractors of cyber-attack
State Department officials in the Office of Iranian Affairs on Sept. 24, 2015 sent an email to dozens of outside contractors. The email alerted the contractors that a cyber-attack had occurred and urged them not to open any email from a group of five State Department officials that did not come directly from their official state.gov accounts. Read the rest of this entry »
Hugh Dugan writes: With his surprise, 180-degree decision to avenge innocents in Syria, President Donald Trump entered the particle accelerator that is foreign affairs.
The barrage of urgencies—inhumanity, chemical weapons, Syrian civil war, North Korean missiles, Russian warships, truck bombings, ISIS—has streamed his focus into a statesmanship that impresses even his detractors. This reminds us of Trump’s speech to Congress in February where he grew visibly into his presidential shoes.
Taking decisive action in Syria indeed was in the U.S. national interest, not only an understandable human response to a human atrocity. How is it in the national interest? Chemical weapons cannot be tolerated a bit. No excuse exists. Any shadow of their acceptability would quickly become a black cloud over a world cowed into suspicion and fear. Our national interest depends upon a world open to itself and to the future. Read the rest of this entry »
Source: Covers | New York Post
Jennifer Griffin and Lucas Tomlinson report: The United States launched nearly five dozen cruise missiles at a Syrian airfield early Friday in response to a chemical weapons attack that killed dozens of civilians, the first direct assault on the Damascus government since the beginning of that country’s bloody civil war in 2011.
“It is in the vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons,” President Donald Trump said in a statement. “Tonight I call on all civilized nations to join us in seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria, and also to end terrorism of all kinds and all types.”
Fifty-nine Tomahawk missiles targeted an airbase at Shayrat, located outside Homs. The missiles targeted the base’s airstrips, hangars, control tower and ammunition areas, officials said.
Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said initial indications were that the strike had “severely damaged or destroyed Syrian aircraft and support infrastructure and equipment … reducing the Syrian Government’s ability to deliver chemical weapons.” There was no immediate word about any casualties.
Trump said the base was used as the staging point for Tuesday’s chemical weapons attack on rebel-held territory, which killed as many as 72 civilians, including women and children.
“Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children,” Trump said from Mar-a-Lago, Fla. “Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack. No child of God should ever suffer such horror.”
National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said the strike should cause a “big shift in Assad’s calculus.”
“Obviously the regime maintains a certain capability to commit mass murder with chemical weapons beyond this air field,” McMaster said. “But it was aimed at this airfield because we could trace that attack back to this facility. It was not a small strike.”
The U.S. missiles hit at 8:45 p.m. Eastern time, 3:45 a.m. Friday morning in Syria. Syrian state TV called the attack an “aggression” that lead to “losses.”
U.S. military officials said they informed their Russian counterparts of the impending attack in an effort to avoid any accident involving Russian forces. Nevertheless, Russia’s Deputy U.N. ambassador Vladimir Safronkov warned that any negative consequences from the strikes would be on the “shoulders of those who initiated such a doubtful and tragic enterprise.”
Davis, the Pentagon spokesman, confirmed that “there are Russians at the base,” but said they had been warned “multiple times” to leave. He did not know whether Russian aircraft were at the base when the missiles hit. Read the rest of this entry »
[VIDEO] WSJ’s Strassel: ‘I Don’t Remember Protests, Lawsuits, when Obama Paused Iraqi Immigration to U.S. in 2011’Posted: January 31, 2017
Trent Baker reports: On Sunday’s “Meet the Press” on NBC, Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberley Strassel reminded viewers that nobody protested or filed lawsuits in 2011 when former President Barack Obama suspended Iraqi refugees from entering the United States for six months over terrorism fears, although President Donald Trump has received much criticism for temporarily suspending visas for “immigrants and non-immigrants” from Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, Yemen, Iran and Iraq.
“Look, this is also not unprecedented, by the way,” Strassel said. “I mean, Barack Obama put a pause for six months on refugees coming from Iraq back in 2011. I don’t remember protestors and I don’t remember lawsuits. So I think the bigger question if this is a temporary pause, which is designed for us to improve and look at our vetting processes, and indeed temporary, I don’t necessarily think that’s an outrageous idea. Read the rest of this entry »
In March 2015, The Atlantic magazine ran a cover story titled “What ISIS Really Wants.” The author was Graeme Wood, journalist, correspondent for The Atlantic, and lecturer at Yale University. His reporting and research on ISIS has now become a book, “The Way of the Strangers: Encounters with the Islamic State” (Random House, 2016), which examines the origins, plans, and followers of ISIS.
In this Bradley Lecture, Mr. Wood will discuss his firsthand encounters with ISIS’s true believers, which will help clear away common misunderstandings about this distinctive variety of Islam. Please join us for Mr. Wood’s first public lecture on the book in Washington, DC. A reception and book signing will follow. Read the rest of this entry »
The Syrian regime says it has taken full control of Aleppo, marking a major turning point in the nation’s five-year civil war. Syrian government forces and their allies are now in control of eastern Aleppo, ending more than four years of rebel rule in the area. The government made significant territorial gains in eastern Aleppo after forces backed by airstrikes entered rebel-held areas in late November. An estimated 400,000 Syrians have been killed and more than 4.81 million have fled the country since the war began in 2011, according to the United Nations….(developing)
Russian Diplomat is Shot Dead at his Home in Moscow Hours After the Assassination of Ambassador in AnkaraPosted: December 20, 2016
A high ranking Russian diplomat has been found dead from gun shot wounds in Moscow, it was reported early today.
Petr Polshikov, 56, was found at his home in the capital city with a bullet wound to his head.
The shooting disclosed by Ren TV came soon after news broke of the assassination of Russian ambassador to Ankara, Andrey Karlov.
The circumstances of the shooting remained unclear, and it is understood police are examining all possible theories as to his death.
Two empty bullet shells were found in the flat on Balaklavsky Prospekt.
A gun was discovered under the sink in the bathroom.
Ren TV showed footage from the crime scene. Read the rest of this entry »
David French writes: The world just got more dangerous. A gunman shot and killed the Russian ambassador to Turkey and then stood over his body, shouted “Allahu Akhbar” and began ranting about Syria and Aleppo. I won’t embed video of the shooting, but you can see the entire thing here. Warning, the footage is extremely disturbing.
Early reports are often wrong, but it appears the shooter was a Turkish police officer:
— Ali Hashem علي هاشم (@alihashem_tv) December 19, 2016
We can’t forget that this incident comes just a little more than a year after Turkish forces shot down a Russian jet, and it comes after Erodgan has comprehensively purged Turkish security forces to allegedly leave only his loyalists on staff. Read the rest of this entry »
Gen. James Mattis questions White House strategy in Iraq and Afghanistasn, ponders what’s happening in Syria and bemoans America’s lack of influence in the Middle East.
Suspects planned ‘synchronized’ attacks in Kosovo and Albania, police say; weapons, ammunition and a drone seized in sweep
Police said the arrests were made over the past 10 days and that the suspects had planned “synchronized terror attacks,” without going into further detail.
“They were planning to commit terrorist attacks in Kosovo and also [an attack] against [the] Israeli football team and their fans during the Albania-Israel match,” Kosovo police said in a statement on Wednesday, adding that weapons, explosives, ammunition and a drone were seized during the sweep.
The police said the suspects were communicating and receiving orders from an Islamic State member, Lavdrim Muhaxheri, the self-declared “commander of Albanians in Syria and Iraq.” Read the rest of this entry »
This is as serious as you say it is, and it tells you how far we have fallen in the region. We were the ones, before the evacuation in Iraq, we were the ones — for all the blood and the toil and the waste of the initial invasion — who controlled that area. We controlled the airspace. We had airbases in Iraq — we controlled everything. No country would ever have said to us, and nobody was in a position to say to us, ‘You can’t have a no-fly zone, or we will patrol and shoot you down.’”
“The Russians are now in Syria, they have the approval of the government, so they have international law — I think it is ridiculous to worry about that, but the administration does — on their side, and they are telling the United States, which were the dominant power for half a century here: ‘If you go up in the air we’ll shoot you down.’ They have just installed in Tartus — which is a naval base, the Russian naval base — S-300 missiles which can do that, meaning they actually have not only a threat, but they have the capacity to shoot American airplanes down. Its probably a bluff because it could trigger a war, it could trigger something extremely serious. But it means we are excluded and the Russians are in charge. Think about the reversal of fortunes, of a place where we were the dominant power since the 1970s.”
Their mission: to seek out new life and new civilizations, and leave them alone. Trade with them if they want, but mostly leave them the hell alone.
Arguing that the Obama administration is affected by the Iran payment, Charles Krauthammer said that the information as well as how it came to light are humiliating.
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks in Laos and delivers an adress to the people of Laos. He is the first US President to visit the country.
…He also accused Americans of being isolated and ignorant because the United States is such a big country.
“The United States is and can be a great force for good in the world. But because we’re such a big country, we haven’t always had to know about other parts of the world,” he said. “If you’re in the United States, sometimes you can feel lazy and think we’re so big we don’t have to really know anything about other people.”
Mohamed Amin Ahmed, an activist living among the Somali-American population in Minneapolis, creates online cartoon videos for young Muslims to warn them of Islamic State recruitment. Photo: Sarah Stacke for The Wall Street Journal
A man slashed a policewoman’s face with a machete and shouted ‘Allahu Akbar’ before her fellow officer gunned him down in a chilling ‘terror’ attack.
The attacker reportedly walked up to two policewomen at the entrance of the police station in the Belgian city of Charleroi just before 4pm, pulled a machete from his bag and hacked at the officer.
After slamming the machete into the face of one officer, he then turned to another and began swinging the massive blade at her.
A third female officer raced to the front desk and then blasted the attacker in the chest and leg – knocking him to the ground.
Emergency crews then raced to the scene and began treating the policewomen – one of who was left with massive, deep cuts to her face.
Her colleague was only slightly injured but the attacker, who has not been named, died later in hospital. Read the rest of this entry »
‘It was the most confused and irresolute speech given by a sitting American president in living memory’Posted: May 18, 2016
Where It All Went Wrong for Obama
Noah Rothman writes:
“One U.S. official who has been briefed on the options on Syria said he believed the White House would seek a level of intensity ‘just muscular enough not to get mocked,’” read a report in the Los Angeles Times. In his rebuke, was the president correcting Republicans, Democrats, America’s British allies, or the members of his own Cabinet? Perhaps the answer is all of the above.
“What kind of world will we live in if the United States of America sees a dictator brazenly violate international law with poison gas, and we choose to look the other way?”
He closed the speech by asking the country to summon up the resolve to punish Assad while simultaneously justifying his predetermination to stay his hand. It was the most confused and irresolute speech given by a sitting American president in living memory…(read more)
Agustin Blazquez: America Is Turning Into Communist State
Filmmaker and American citizen Agustin Blazquez never thought his native Cuba would
become a communist country, but now he sees the same radical shift happening in America.
In this exclusive video interview for The Daily Caller News Foundation, he says the left has been clever by using “very non-threatening words,” like liberal, progressive and concerned citizens, for advancing government control of American lives
“Watching President Barack Obama travel to Cuba, he says, made him ‘want to throw up.’ This was a ‘betrayal to victims of communism.'”
The truth about Cuban politics is hard to find because of media spin and propaganda dominating American discourse.
For Blazquez, watching American youth embrace avowed socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders for president, strikes him as “absurd.” It is the end result, he says, of the cultural marxist education and media propaganda that has anesthetized too many Americans who do not defend the values that made America exceptional.
Watching President Barack Obama travel to Cuba, he says, made him “want to throw up.” This was a “betrayal to victims of communism,” the filmmaker of “Covering Cuba” says. Blazquez adds there are “so many [Nelson] Mandelas” in Cuban prisons, who are tortured, denied medical attention and abused.
Yet, prominent black elites from America, including most incredibly to him, the Congressional Black Caucus, are wined and dined by the political elites but are blind to their “betrayal of blacks in Cuba.” Read the rest of this entry »
“The government didn’t take over these pieces of property in order to protect them. They did so to acquire them.”
— Ahmet Guvener, pastor of Diyarbakir Protestant Church
The state-sanctioned seizure is just the latest in a number of worrying developments to come out of increasingly hardline Turkey, which is in advanced talks with the EU over visa-free travel for its 80 million citizens.
Included in the seizures are Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox churches, one of which is over 1,700 years old.
They claim it was made on the grounds that authorities intend to rebuild and restore the historical centre of the city, which has been partially destroyed by 10 months of urban conflict between government forces and militants from the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK).
“Earlier today, we lost contact with two small U.S. naval craft en route from Kuwait to Bahrain. We subsequently have been in communication with Iranian authorities, who have informed us of the safety and well-being of our personnel. We have received assurances the sailors will promptly be allowed to continue their journey.”
— Senior administration official
Two Navy boats are reportedly in Iranian custody, according to the Associated Press.
Iran has reportedly told the US that the crew will be returned “promptly.”
“Earlier today, we lost contact with two small U.S. naval craft en route from Kuwait to Bahrain,” a senior administration official said in a statement.
“We are working to resolve the situation such that any US personnel are returned to their normal deployment. We are hopeful it will be resolved.”
— White House Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes
“We subsequently have been in communication with Iranian authorities, who have informed us of the safety and well-being of our personnel. We have received assurances the sailors will promptly be allowed to continue their journey.” Read the rest of this entry »