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 »
“The worrisome thing here is the outside partner. This is not just a three sided game, North Korea, South Korea, and the U.S. — it’s the Chinese reaction. The Chinese are watching the United States after eight years of withdrawal, accommodation, and essentially no response to Chinese expansion — they’re seeing the United States now asserting itself. The U.S.S. Carl Vinson an aircraft carrier is now in the South China Sea. Trump has just sent B-52’s into South Korea as a way to threaten the North Koreans, and everyone knows what they carry, they carry nuclear weapons. But the worst thing from the Chinese point of view is the THAAD: This is the antimissile system. The Chinese react to that the way the Russians did to the anti-missile system we wanted to put in Eastern Europe. They get very upset because it can be applied against them. Yes, our reason for doing it is to defend the South Koreans against the North. But the overall effect is to put up a missile shield that could degrade and weaken the Chinese arsenal. They know that. They are very worried about that. And they’re getting semi-hysterical. Global Times which is a government-friendly publication just this week said that the government of China will no longer rule out a first nuclear strike. That’s a big deal. That’s not an official statement, but it tells you how much the Chinese are upset, which is why we are now rushing to install the THAAD by the end of April before the election so at least it’s a fait accompli — but this is a tinderbox.”
Source: National Review
Iran seeking revenge for Trump’s halt on immigration
Adam Kredo reports: The Trump administration is emphasizing warnings against travel to Iran by U.S. citizens in light of the Islamic Republic‘s latest effort to implement a travel ban on Americans, which comes in response to the White House’s new immigration order temporarily halting all immigration from Iran and several other Muslim-majority nations designated as terrorism hotspots, according to U.S. officials.
Iranian officials announced this week that they are poised to implement their own travel ban on U.S. individuals and entities they described as aiding “terrorist groups or [helping] regional dictatorial rulers crack down on their nations,” according to comments carried in the country’s state-controlled media.
Iran said the effort is part of a package of reprisals against the United States for the Trump administration’s latest immigration order, which stops Iranian citizens and others from entering the United States for several months as American authorities seek to strengthen vetting procedures.
When questioned about Iran’s potential travel ban on Monday, a State Department official confirmed to the Washington Free Beacon that the Trump administration is aware of the effort and emphasized current warnings against travel to Iran by U.S. citizens. Read the rest of this entry »
Russian intelligence agencies sought to influence the 2016 presidential election through coordinated cyber and propaganda activities, three U.S. intelligence leaders told a Senate hearing Thursday.writes:
“This was a multifaceted campaign, so the hacking was only one part of it. It also entailed classical propaganda, disinformation, fake news.”
Additionally, Senate testimony revealed that the National Security Agency, the government’s key cyber intelligence and technical spying service, confirmed the Russian intelligence service’s covert cyber and propaganda effort to influence the election campaign.
Wow, the DNI’s report, presented in this tweet in its entirety, is pretty amazing: pic.twitter.com/U1gtUS5jqd
— Sonny Bunch (@SonnyBunch) January 6, 2017
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper previewed a forthcoming government report, to be released as early as Monday, on the Russian intelligence operations that included intrusions into Democratic National Committee computers and the email account of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign chairman, John Podesta.
The Russians then orchestrated the release of hacked internal information through three propaganda conduits in a coordinated campaign.
“Our assessment now is even more resolute than it was with that statement on the 7th of October. I don’t think we’ve ever encountered a more aggressive or direct effort to interfere in our election.”
“This was a multifaceted campaign, so the hacking was only one part of it,” Clapper told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “It also entailed classical propaganda, disinformation, fake news.”
The forthcoming report will describe the full range of Russian intelligence activities during the campaign, Clapper said.
Clapper confirmed the details of the Oct. 7 statement issued jointly by his office and the Department of Homeland Security accusing Russia of interfering with the 2016 election. That statement identified three entities, the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks, another site called DCLeaks.com, and a hacker code-named Guccifer 2.0, as the outlets for the hacked information.
“There’s actually more than one motive, so that’ll be described in the report.”
“Our assessment now is even more resolute than it was with that statement on the 7th of October,” Clapper said. “I don’t think we’ve ever encountered a more aggressive or direct effort to interfere in our election.”
Asked if the earlier assessments about Moscow’s disinformation program had changed, Clapper stated: “No. In fact, if anything, what we’ve since learned just reinforces that statement the 7th of October.”
NSA Director Mike Rogers told the hearing that the report was “done essentially” by the CIA, FBI, and NSA.
The inclusion of NSA in the report is the first time NSA’s role in assessing the Russian cyber attacks was mentioned.
NSA’s capability to monitor foreign cyber intelligence operations is highly advanced. Documents disclosed by renegade NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed the agency in the past has broken into foreign intelligence service networks and stolen information those services were gathering from spies—without being detected. Read the rest of this entry »
A truck plowed into a crowded Christmas market in Berlin Monday night, killing at least nine people and injuring dozens of others in what witnesses described as a deliberate attack.
The large Scania truck with a Poland license plate crashed into the market outside the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. Television footage showed the truck with its windshield smashed out on the sidewalk alongside the market, with a swarm of ambulances nearby. A large Christmas tree with a gold star on top was toppled over nearby in the street, and tree branches were crushed under the truck’s tires.
Police said a suspect believed to be the driver was arrested nearby and a passenger was dead. Authorities estimated that 50 people were injured, but an exact number was not immediately available.
Police said they are still investigating whether the crash was an accident or an attack, but the incident had a chilling echo of the July 14 truck attack in Nice, France that killed 86 people.
ISIS claimed responsibility for the Nice attack, which was carried out by a Tunisian living in France. ISIS and Al Qaeda have both called on followers to use trucks in particular to attack public places.
Die Welt newspaper reported that a Polish TV station had interviewed a man named Ariel Zurawski, who said that his cousin was assigned to drive the truck involved in the incident. Zurawski claimed he had last spoken to his cousin at noon Monday and said he suspected the truck had been hijacked. He added that the truck had been loaded with steel structures weighing 25 tons. Read the rest of this entry »
USCIS, which handles immigration cases and the distribution of green cards, was found to have produced at least 19,000 green cards during the past three years that were duplicates or contained incorrect information.
During the same period, more than 200,000 green card holders reported their cards missing and an increasing number of cards were sent to incorrect addresses, posing a risk to national security.
USCIS, which handles immigration cases and the distribution of green cards, was found to have produced at least 19,000 green cards during the past three years that were duplicates or contained incorrect information, according to a new report by the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general. Read the rest of this entry »
According to a recent report from openthebooks.com, non-military spending on guns, ammo and military-style equipment soared from $119.3 million in 2008, President George W. Bush’s last year in office, to a high of $224.7 million dollars in 2012, the year Obama won re-election.
Kellan Howell report: The U.S. Agriculture Department’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service doesn’t seem like a Wild West sort of federal agency since its biologists mostly check on the human health impact of animal and plant species.
“Much of this spending on guns, ammunition and military-style equipment is redundant, inefficient and unnecessary.”
But it reported buying $4.7 million in high-powered weapons, ammunition and military gear during the last decade, including shotguns, night vision goggles, and propane cannons, according to federal purchasing records reviewed by the nonpartisan government spending watchdog openthebooks.com.
About $1.7 million of that spending occurred in 2014 alone.
The agency says it needs the equipment to protect its workers in the wild from feral swine, more commonly known as wild hogs. But spending critics like openthebooks.com see such purchases as part of a much larger trend toward militarizing federal civilian agencies and local police at taxpayer expense.
“Beyond automatic rifles, armored cars and hollow-round bullets, some agencies seemed to have expanded their purchases to the more sublime, even booking hundreds of thousands of dollars of paint ball equipment, the report showed.”
And the irony is such purchases have massively expanded over the last decade, even as President Obama has repeatedly pushed to limit access to high-powered gun and weapons in America, most recently after the Orlando terror attack last month.
“This massacre is, therefore, a further reminder of how easy it is for someone to get their hands on a weapon that lets them shoot people in a school, or in a house of worship, or a movie theater, or in a nightclub,” the president said after the most recent mass shooting.
But on his watch, government agencies are arming themselves more than ever before.
According to a recent report from openthebooks.com, non-military spending on guns, ammo and military-style equipment soared from $119.3 million in 2008, President George W. Bush’s last year in office, to a high of $224.7 million dollars in 2012, the year Obama won re-election.
In 2014, the latest year for which there are complete records, total militarized spending by civilian federal agencies dropped to $150 million, still much higher than the end of the Bush years.
Hackers have stolen sensitive information from American energy companies — and have planted malware in the energy grid with the intent to turn off the lights in the future.
Jose Pagliery reports: They even managed to infect at least three energy companies with Cryptolocker ransomware, a particularly nasty computer virus that locks digital files and demands a ransom payment.
Newly released documents from the Department of Homeland Security are finally shedding some light on what exactlyhackers are doing when they sneak into the American electrical grid.
Some of the attacks described in the report are potentially serious.
Aggressive foreign government hackers broke into American companies 17 times between October 1, 2013 and September 30, 2014, according to DHS. In two cases they snuck into U.S. petroleum organizations, and hackers are “suspected of exfiltrating data” from one of them.
It’s rare, but highly sophisticated foreign government hackers have gotten inside the energy grid, DHS said. They hack “primarily to conduct cyber espionage … to conduct a damaging or disruptive attack in the event of hostilities with the United States,” DHS stated in a recent internal “intelligence assessment.”
That sounds alarming, but DHS is throwing cold water on any present worries. The agency concluded that damaging cyberattacks against the American energy sector is “possible but not likely.”
That calm demeanor doesn’t sit well with some cybersecurity experts. Ryan Duff is a researcher and former member of U.S. Cyber Command, the American military’s hacking unit. He warned that once a hacker gets into a computer — even if physical damage hasn’t been caused yet — the potential is there.
“While I agree with the DHS assessment overall, it’s still pretty frightening,” he said. “The fact is that the ability to cause destruction exists. Their assessment that attack is unlikely is based on political realities instead of technical realities. Attack is way more than technically possible.”
DHS prefers to label these cyber incidents as “espionage or some other activity,” rather than “cyberattacks.” To date, there have been “no damaging or destructive attacks against the U.S. energy sector,” DHS said.
“The majority of malicious activity occurring against the U.S. energy sector is low-level cybercrime that is … not meant to be destructive,” DHS analysts wrote.
“Most of the attacks that we’ve witnessed against this sector are in fact criminal in nature,” he told CNNMoney. “In some cases we even see criminals not realizing the importance of some of the machines [they gained access to.]”
Tim Cushing writes: We live in a world where a 16-year-old who goes by the handle of “penis” on Twitter can dive into the servers of two of America’s most secure federal agencies and fish out their internal files.
This 16-year-old is allegedly part of the same crew that socially engineered their way into the inboxes of CIA director John Brennan, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and the administration’s senior advisor on science and technology, John Holdren.
We also — somehow — live in a world where these same agencies are arguing they should be entrusted with massive amounts of data — not just on their own employees, but on thousands of US citizens.
The DHS, FBI and NSA all want more data to flow to them — and through them. The cybersecurity bill that legislators snuck past the public by attaching it as a rider to a “must pass” appropriations bill contains language that would allow each of these affected agencies to partake in “data sharing” with private companies. This would be in addition to the data these agencies already gather on American citizens as part of their day-to-day work.
The DHS — one of the more recent hacking victims — is the only agency that expressed a reluctance to partake in the new data haul. This isn’t because it wouldn’t like to have access to the data, but because it would be the agency responsible for “scrubbing” the data before passing it on to other agencies. DHS officials likely took a look at this requirement and saw it for what it was: a scapegoat provision. Should any legal action or public outcry have resulted from the new “sharing” demands, the DHS would have been the agency offered up to appease the masses.
Fortunately for the DHS — but less fortunately for anyone concerned about expanding domestic surveillance efforts — this requirement has been altered. A bit. The Attorney General will now examine the DHS’s “scrubbing” efforts and determine whether or not they’re Constitutionally adequate. Of course, the Attorney General is more likely to side with whatever level of scrubbing provides the maximum flow of data to underling agencies like the FBI, so that’s not all that reassuring. On the other hand, it puts the AG in the crosshairs should something backfire.
This is the government that feels it can protect the nation from hackers: the government that can’t protect itself from hackers. Read the rest of this entry »
Catherine Herridge, Pamela K. Browne report: The intelligence community has deemed some of Hillary Clinton’s emails “too damaging” to national security to release under any circumstances, according to a U.S. government official close to the ongoing review. A second source, who was not authorized to speak on the record, backed up the finding.
The determination was first reported by Fox News, hours before the State Department formally announced Friday that seven email chains, found in 22 documents, will be withheld “in full” because they, in fact, contain “Top Secret” information.
The State Department, when first contacted by Fox News about withholding such emails Friday morning, did not dispute the reporting – but did not comment in detail. After a version of this report was first published, the Obama administration confirmed to the Associated Press that the seven email chains would be withheld. The department has since confirmed those details publicly.
The decision to withhold the documents in full, and not provide even a partial release with redactions, further undercuts claims by the State Department and the Clinton campaign that none of the intelligence in the emails was classified when it hit Clinton’s personal server.
Fox News is told the emails include intelligence from “special access programs,” or SAP, which is considered beyond “Top Secret.” A Jan. 14 letter, first reported by Fox News, from intelligence community Inspector General Charles McCullough III notified senior intelligence and foreign relations committee leaders that “several dozen emails containing classified information” were determined to be “at the CONFIDENTIAL, SECRET, AND TOP SECRET/SAP levels.”
The State Department is trying to finish its review and public release of thousands of Clinton emails, as the Democratic presidential primary contests get underway in early February. Read the rest of this entry »
Carlos Tejada reports: The U.S. Embassy in Beijing issued a rare security alert for Westerners in the Chinese capital city on Christmas Eve, prompting a number of other foreign embassies to follow suit.
The notice posted on Thursday said the embassy had received “information of possible threats against Westerners” patronizing the area around Sanlitun, the site of a number of tony shops and restaurants catering to foreigners and affluent Chinese alike. The area is also close to a number of embassies, though not the U.S. embassy.
It said U.S. citizens should be vigilant. An embassy spokesman said he didn’t have additional information.
Beijing police didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Via social media, they issued their own security alert, though it didn’t specify any specific threats. It wasn’t clear whether the police notice was related to the embassy advisories. Chinese authorities have routinely issued security notices during holidays, even during foreign holidays such as Christmas.
A Foreign Ministry spokesman referred questions to other authorities. He added that Chinese authorities would do their best to ensure the safety of foreigners in the country.
A small group of armed troops were stationed in front of the Tai Koo Li mall, a high-end shopping center famous for housing an Apple Store that is sometimes the scene of scuffles when the gadget maker updates one of its popular products. Chinese security personnel also erected spiked barricades near embassies in the area. Read the rest of this entry »
Jordan Schachtel writes: An FBI chart has surfaced depicting connections between the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas. Obtained by the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT) via a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, the chart shows CAIR falling under the umbrella of the jihadi outfit.
This FBI chart details the Hamas-related groups, which included CAIR, that were created to ultimately support the Palestinian terrorist organization. It also established Nabil Sadoun’s (former CAIR national board of directors member and vice chairman) connections to Hamas.
The IPT also obtained groundbreaking new Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) documents that trail CAIR back to its roots as a subversive Hamas-related group.
In 2007, CAIR was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation (HLF) trial, a Hamas financing case that would result in the FBI ceasingits working relationship with CAIR. The HLF trial was the largest terror-financing case in American history. In 2008, during a retrial of the HLF case, an FBI Special Agent labeled CAIR as “a front group for Hamas” during her trial testimony. In 2010, a federal judge reiterated that his court had “ample evidence” that CAIR wasinvolved in “a conspiracy to support Hamas.” CAIR, which relies upon millions of dollars in Saudi cash, was recently listed by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as a terrorist organization.
The group, which fashions itself as a civil rights voice for American Muslims, was founded by members of the Palestine Committee (PALCOM), an organization “established to support Hamas,” according to the chart. Nihad Awad, currently CAIR’s executive director, was previously an official at PALCOM.
The FBI declaration submitted in connection with removal proceedings for Nabil Sadoun (a former top CAIR official) said PALCOM members used coded language to discuss the “true nature” of their clandestine operations in support of Hamas. Read the rest of this entry »
EXCLUSIVE: Catherine Herridge and Pamela Browne report: An intelligence community review has re-affirmed that two classified emails were indeed “top secret” when they hit Hillary Clinton’s unsecured personal server despite a challenge to that designation by the State Department, according to two sources familiar with the review.
“The sources, who were not authorized to speak on the record, told Fox News that while the emails were indeed “top secret” when they hit Clinton’s server, one of them remains “top secret” to this day — and must be handled at the highest security level.”
The sources described the dispute over whether the two emails were classified at the highest level as a “settled matter.”
“The findings have been transmitted to the State Department, which continues to challenge the intelligence community’s conclusions about the classification of all the emails. But the department has no authority to change the classification since it did not originate the information.”
The agencies that owned and originated that intelligence – the CIA and National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency or NGA – reviewed the emails to determine how they should be properly stored, as the State Department took issue with their highly classified nature. The subject matter of the messages is widely reported to be the movement of North Korean missiles and a drone strike. A top secret designation requires the highest level of security, and can include the use of an approved safe.
The sources, who were not authorized to speak on the record, told Fox News that while the emails were indeed “top secret” when they hit Clinton’s server, one of them remains “top secret” to this day — and must be handled at the highest security level. The second email is still considered classified but at the lower “secret” level because more information is publicly available about the event.
The findings have been transmitted to the State Department, which continues to challenge the intelligence community’s conclusions about the classification of all the emails. But the department has no authority to change the classification since it did not originate the information. Read the rest of this entry »
Out of Touch: Obama Stubbornly Opposing American National Security Interests; House Passes Refugee Bill in Defiance of Veto ThreatPosted: November 19, 2015
Jack Martinez reports: “National security and public safety are not simply factors to be considered,” in policy decisions said Trey Gowdy, the South Carolina representative who heads the House Special Committee on Benghazi, during debate over a refugee bill in the House of Representatives. Instead, he argued, they are the main issues, the most important issues that should be considered in making every decision.
That appears to the be the rationale behind HR 4038, a bill authored by Republican Michael McCaul of Texas and backed by Paul Ryan, the new Speaker of the House. Debate raged on for hours over the bill, which ultimately passed with votes from all but three Republican representatives, and 48 Democrats.
The bill, if signed into law, would introduce new checks on refugee admission into the United States. Under current policy, defined mostly by the Refugee Act of 1980,the State Department has broad discretion to determine refugee admission and resettlement, in consultation with the FBI. Congressional Republicans want the FBI, the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security to play a greater role; the law would require all three entities to approve each individual refugee admitted to the United States after conducting background checks.
The bill does not contain any specific provisions for what the new vetting would look like, nor how it would differ from current vetting, but it does emphasize that the new measures would apply to refugees from Syria and Iraq. One house Democrat characterized the vote as purely symbolic, a way of “patting ourselves on the back” without making any policy changes to ensure the safety of the American public. Others expressed concern about a growing anti-refugee sentiment on Capitol Hill, and the likelihood that the bill would effectively pause resettlement efforts, or otherwise severely hamper them. Read the rest of this entry »
Screening outposts to be set up in Iraq, Lebanon as U.S. urges Arab nations to do more.
The Obama administration is moving to increase and accelerate the number of Syrian refugees who might be admitted into the United States by opening new screening outposts in Iraq and Lebanon, administration officials told Reuters on Friday.
The move comes after President Barack Obama pledged in September to admit an additional 10,000 Syrian refugees in 2016, torn by four years of civil war and disorder.
The U.S. State Department confirmed the plans to open a refugee settlement processing centre in Erbil, Iraq, before the end of 2015, and to resume refugee processing in Lebanon in early 2016, said spokeswoman Danna Van Brandt.
The White House would not say how many additional refugees it may take in beyond the 10,000, but two senior administration officials said they are seeking ways to increase the number.
“We want to be in a place where we can push out really ambitious goals,” said one of the officials, who spoke to Reuters on the condition of anonymity.
The State Department runs nine screening centres worldwide that serve as meeting points for refugees and U.S. Department of Homeland Security employees who have to decide who is suitable for resettlement in the United States.
The additional centres will double the number available to refugees in the Middle East. Read the rest of this entry »
L. Gordon Crovitz writes: “I’m still clinging to my BlackBerry, ” President-elect Obama said in early 2009. “They’re trying to pry it out of my hands.” The National Security Agency was so anxious about foreign intelligence agents gaining access to classified information that it assigned dozens of technologists to work for months before the inauguration to modify a BlackBerry Mr. Obama could use. The new president was told his device could safely communicate with fewer than a dozen other people, after their devices were loaded with special encryption.
“From what has been released so far, that includes the name of a CIA source on Libya that Mrs. Clinton divulged in unprotected email to confidant Sidney Blumenthal.”
His secretary of state took a different approach.
“Other emails identified as containing classified information include those dealing with discussions of Iran’s nuclear program, spy satellites and drone strikes.”
Hillary Clinton set up her own private email server. By avoiding use of government servers, she succeeded in keeping emails off-limits to information requests from congressional overseers and journalists—but American counterintelligence agents must now assume that Chinese, Russian and possibly other agents had full access. A Pentagon counterintelligence official told the Daily Beast that if he were in charge of a foreign intelligence agency, “I’d fire my staff if they weren’t getting all this.”
“The AP reported attempted hacks on Mrs. Clinton servers from China and Russia. It identified a hacker using a computer in Serbia who scanned the server in the basement of her Chappaqua, N.Y., home multiple times in 2012.”
Mr. Obama jumped the gun on the FBI inquiry into Mrs. Clinton’s handling of classified material by saying earlier this month that “this is not a situation in which America’s national security was endangered.”
The New York Times reported that Mr. Obama’s comments “raised the ire of officials who saw an instance of the president trying to influence the outcome of a continuing investigation.”
“There’s good reason to assume that foreign intelligence agencies were able to read the Clinton emails. Government servers are not hackproof, but they offer basic defenses and alerts. An Associated Press investigation found that the Clinton setup didn’t use a virtual private network, a common corporate safeguard. This meant her email server could be accessed over an open Internet connection.”
Meddling with the FBI investigation is only part of the problem. Mrs. Clinton’s conduct in office is forcing U.S. counterintelligence agencies to review her emails to identify what sources and methods of U.S. intelligence they have to assume were burned. Read the rest of this entry »
Repent! Pope Francis Lectures America on Immigration, Abortion, Gay Marriage and the Syrian Refugee CrisisPosted: September 24, 2015
J. Taylor Rushing, Us Political Reporter In Washington and David Martosko, Us Political Editor For Dailymail.com report: Pope Francis delivered a stinging blow to nativist conservatives bent on keeping illegal immigrants and Middle Eastern refugees out of the United States, saying Thursday in a landmark address to Congress that Americans should show compassion to immigrants of all stripes.
“I cannot hide my concern for the family, which is threatened, perhaps as never before, from within and without.”
‘When the stranger in our midst appeals to us, we must not repeat the sins and the errors of the past,’ the Roman Catholic pontiff said. ‘We must resolve now to live as nobly and as justly as possible, as we educate new generations not to turn their back on our “neighbors” and everything around us.’
“Francis told lawmakers that the ‘Golden Rule … reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development.'”
Speaking in English – a language he has learned only recently – Francis also dropped coded messages to conservatives about gay marriage and abortion, and made an impassioned plea for a left-leaning approach to capital punishment in an unprecedented visit to Capitol Hill by a sitting Pope.
‘I cannot hide my concern for the family, which is threatened, perhaps as never before, from within and without,’ Francis told a packed House chamber filled with legislators, Supreme Court justices and multiple presidential candidates.
Pope Francis on Thursday morning became the first-ever pontiff to address the US Congress
Francis took the opportunity to lecture lawmakers on a variety of topics ranging from social to environmental issues. Known as a forceful advocate, he did not disappoint
Francis about to be introduced at the door to the House chamber
Francis’s address was heard by an audience of several hundred, including lawmakers, Supreme Court justices and presidential candidates
“Fundamental relationships are being called into question, as is the very basis of marriage and the family.”
And without mentioning abortion by name – or the name of the embattled domestic Planned Parenthood organization – Francis told lawmakers that the ‘Golden Rule … reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development.’
Francis spoke calmly but emphatically, never raising his voice as presidents often do in their State of the Union addresses to joint congressional sessions.
He was greeted by polite applause at certain points – particularly when he began reciting the Golden Rule but was interrupted before he could finish – ‘do unto others as you would have done unto you.’
Also, notably, applause broke out after these words: ‘The Golden Rule reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of development.’
But the applause was never raucous, a sign that members heeded party leaders’ directive not to applaud effusively or ‘glad-handle’ Francis if they got close to him.
Behind him on the raised speaker’s dais, close watchers got a different show during the speech, as both Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner – both well-known emotional men – proved to be almost as watchable.
“Francis’s speech was sprinkled with references to American history, as the pontiff repeatedly referenced and occasionally quoted from President Abraham Lincoln, civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr., Catholic Worker Movement founder Dorothy Day and Cistercerian monk Thomas Merton.”
Throughout the speech, Biden gravely nodded his head and looked down as if in serious thought. But Boehner appeared to tear up at several points, and was openly crying later on the Speaker’s Balcony after the address.
Francis’s speech was sprinkled with references to American history, as the pontiff repeatedly referenced and occasionally quoted from President Abraham Lincoln, civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr., Catholic Worker Movement founder Dorothy Day and Cistercerian monk Thomas Merton.
The pontiff made clear his firmness on the sanctity of human life, not only the veiled reference to abortion but also his opposition to the death penalty.
Francis and House Speaker John Boehner meet for the first time near the House of Representatives chamber
Biden, a Roman Catholic who co-presided over the Joint Session of Congress as the constitutionally appointed president of the U.S. Senate, caused a stir this week by declaring that he believes life begins at conception.
But it’s Francis’ comments about immigrants that will be most sharply felt as the U.S. deals with the twin crises of Syrian refugees and an immigrant invasion from Mexico and Central America, both of which the Obama administration has taken steps to pacify by loosening America’s borders as a show of compassion. Read the rest of this entry »
Sean Davis reports: A review of recently released e-mails shows that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton repeatedly originated and distributed highly classified national security information. Clinton’s classified e-mail missives were not constrained to State Department staff, either. She also sent classified information to Sidney Blumenthal, a former Clinton White House operative banned by the Obama White House.
An analysis by The Federalist of e-mails released by the State Department late Monday shows that scores of e-mails sent by Clinton contained highly confidential national security information from the beginning, even if they weren’t marked by a classification authority until later.
The original date of classification of Hillary’s e-mails can be discerned by noting the declassification dates noted next to redactions in the e-mails. Under a 2009 executive order signed by President Barack Obama, classified material in most circumstances is to be automatically declassified after 10 years. In some instances, that duration may be extended up to 25 years. In certain circumstances, classification authorities may adjust the classification duration based on the nature of the underlying information.
In this July 2010 e-mail, for example, the entirety of Hillary Clinton’s message was redacted prior to its public release under the federal FOIA law. The redactions of the material were provided pursuant to a provision of law protecting national security information. The printed redaction code “1.4(D),” cited next to the redaction and at the top of the document next to the official classification date, pertains to information on “[f]oreign relations or foreign activities of the United States, including confidential sources[.]” At the top of the document, a declassification date of July 1, 2025 is clearly noted:
That declassification date is highly significant because it is precisely 15 years after the date on which the e-mail was sent, rather than the date on which it was marked. Read the rest of this entry »
Did Hillary Clinton know emails on server were classified?
Catherine Herridge and Pamela Browne report: An FBI “A-team” is leading the “extremely serious” investigation into Hillary Clinton’s server and the focus includes a provision of the law pertaining to “gathering, transmitting or losing defense information,” an intelligence source told Fox News.
“It is not clear how the FBI team’s findings will impact the probe itself. But the details offer a window into what investigators are looking for.”
A separate source, who also was not authorized to speak on the record, said the FBI will further determine whether Clinton should have known, based on the quality and detail of the material, that emails passing through her server contained classified information regardless of the markings. The campaign’s standard defense and that of Clinton is that she “never sent nor received any email that was marked classified” at the time.
It is not clear how the FBI team’s findings will impact the probe itself. But the details offer a window into what investigators are looking for — as the Clinton campaign itself downplays the controversy.
“Somebody in the government, with a clearance and need to know, then delivered the information to someone not entitled to receive it, or otherwise moved it from where it was supposed to be lawfully held.”
— Attorney Edward MacMahon Jr.
The FBI offered no comment, citing the ongoing investigation.
A leading national security attorney, who recently defended former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling in a leak investigation, told Fox News that violating the Espionage Act provision in question is a felony and pointed to a particular sub-section. Read the rest of this entry »
The inquiries by the FBI follow concerns from government officials that potentially hundreds of e-mails that passed through Clinton’s private server contained classified or sensitive information.
Carol D. Leonnig, Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamburger report: The FBI has begun looking into the security of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s private e-mail setup, contacting in the past week a Denver-based technology firm that helped manage the unusual system, according to twogovernment officials.
“The inquiries are bringing to light new information about Clinton’s use of the system and the lengths to which she went to install a private channel of communication outside government control — a setup that has emerged as a major issue in her campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.”
Also last week, the FBI contacted Clinton’s lawyer, David Kendall, with questions about the security of a thumb drive in his possession that contains copies of work e-mails Clinton sent during her time as secretary of state.
The FBI’s interest in Clinton’s e-mail system comes after the intelligence community’s inspector general referred the issue to the Justice Department in July. Intelligence officials expressed concern that some sensitive information was not in the government’s possession and could be “compromised.” The referral did not accuse Clinton of any wrongdoing, and the two officials said Tuesday that the FBI is not targeting her.
Kendall confirmed the contact, saying: “The government is seeking assurance about the storage of those materials. We are actively cooperating.”
A lawyer for the Denver company, Platte River Networks, declined to comment, as did multiple Justice Department officials.
The inquiries are bringing to light new information about Clinton’s use of the system and the lengths to which she went to install a private channel of communication outside government control — a setup that has emerged as a major issue in her campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.
For instance, the server installed in her Chappaqua, N.Y., home as she was preparing to take office as secretary of state was originally used by her first campaign for the presidency, in 2008, according to two people briefed on the setup. A staffer who was on the payroll of her political action committee set it up in her home, replacing a server that Clinton’s husband, former president Bill Clinton, had been using in the house.
The inquiries by the FBI follow concerns from government officials that potentially hundreds of e-mails that passed through Clinton’s private server contained classified or sensitive information. At this point, the probe is preliminary and is focused on ensuring the proper handling of classified material.
Nick Merrill, a spokesman for Clinton’s campaign, declined to comment on the FBI’s actions. He noted that Clinton has called repeatedly for the State Department to release her e-mails to the public, a process that is ongoing.
In a statement, Merrill said that Clinton “did not send nor receive any emails that were marked classified at the time. We want to ensure that appropriate procedures are followed as these emails are reviewed while not unduly delaying the release of her emails. We want that to happen as quickly and as transparently as possible.”
The controversy over Clinton’s e-mail dates to the summer of 2014, when, according to government officials, State Department lawyers realized they didn’t have access to some of her records as they prepared responses to congressional requests related to the 2012 attacks on a U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya. Read the rest of this entry »
The Obama-tied leftist group that helped a gunman commit an act of terrorism against a conservative organization has assembled a starter kit for Islamists to attack American women who refuse to comply with Sharia law, the authoritarian doctrine that inspires Islamists and their jihadism.
It’s the summer special from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), an extremist nonprofit that lists conservative organizations that disagree with it on social issues on a catalogue of “hate groups.” A few years ago a gunman received a 25-year prison sentence for carrying out the politically-motivated shooting of the Family Research Council (FRC) headquarters after admitting that he learned about the FRC from the SPLC “hate map.” Prosecutors called it an act of terrorism and recommended a 45-year sentence.
Now the SPLC, which has conducted diversity training for the Obama Department of Justice (DOJ), is targeting female bloggers, activists and television personalities who refuse to comply with Sharia law which is rooted in the Quran. The European Court on Human rights has repeatedly ruled that Sharia is “incompatible with the fundamental principles of democracy” yet politically-connected radical Muslim groups—such as the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR)—keep pushing to implement it in the United States and the movement has gained steam.
Among those resisting this effort publicly are the high-profile women being targeted by the SPLC. Some of them are colleagues or friends of Judicial Watch and now they must fear for their safety simply for practicing their rights under the U.S. Constitution. The new hate list is titled Women Against Islam/The Dirty Dozen and includes illustrations and detailed information on all the women, who are branded “the core of the anti-Muslim radical right.” The new SPLC hate brochure further targets them by claiming that they’re “a dozen of the most hardline anti-Muslim women activists in America.”
Political activist and commentator Pamela Geller is branded the “country’s most flamboyant and visible Muslim-basher” for, among other things “smearing and demonizing Muslims.” Blogger Ann Barnhardt is identified as one of the “most extreme Muslim-bashers in the United States” and radio talk-show host Laura Ingram made the list for saying that hundreds of millions of Muslims were delighted that 12 people were massacred by Islamic terrorists in the Paris headquarters of a satirical magazine. Read the rest of this entry »
OPM IT Outsourced to Foreigner Contractors, with Root Access, Working from their Home Country. In this Case, Oh Yeah, ChinaPosted: June 17, 2015
Encryption ‘would not have helped’ at OPM, says DHS official: Attackers had valid user credentials and run of network, bypassing security
Sean Gallagher reports: During testimony today in a grueling two-hour hearing before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Director Katherine Archuleta claimed that she had recognized huge problems with the agency’s computer security when she assumed her post 18 months ago. But when pressed on why systems had not been protected with encryption prior to the recent discovery of an intrusion that gave attackers access to sensitive data on millions of government employees and government contractors, she said, “It is not feasible to implement on networks that are too old.” She added that the agency is now working to encrypt data within its networks.
But even if the systems had been encrypted, it likely wouldn’t have mattered. Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for Cybersecurity Dr. Andy Ozment testified that encryption would “not have helped in this case” because the attackers had gained valid user credentials to the systems that they attacked—likely through social engineering. And because of the lack of multifactor authentication on these systems, the attackers would have been able to use those credentials at will to access systems from within and potentially even from outside the network.
House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) told Archuleta and OPM Chief Information Officer Donna Seymour, “You failed utterly and totally.” He referred to OPM’s own inspector general reports and hammered Seymour in particular for the 11 major systems out of 47 that had not been properly certified as secure—which were not contractor systems but systems operated by OPM’s own IT department. “They were in your office, which is a horrible example to be setting,” Chaffetz told Seymour. In total, 65 percent of OPM’s data was stored on those uncertified systems.
Chaffetz pointed out in his opening statement that for the past eight years, according to OPM’s own Inspector General reports, “OPM’s data security posture was akin to leaving all your doors and windows unlocked and hoping nobody would walk in and take the information.”
When Chaffetz asked Archuleta directly about the number of people who had been affected by the breach of OPM’s systems and whether it included contractor information as well as that of federal employees, Archuleta replied repeatedly, “I would be glad to discuss that in a classified setting.” That was Archuleta’s response to nearly all of the committee members’ questions over the course of the hearing this morning.
At least we found it
Archuleta told the committee that the breach was found only because she had been pushing forward with an aggressive plan to update OPM’s security, centralizing the oversight of IT security under the chief information officer and implementing “numerous tools and capabilities.” She claimed that it was during the process of updating tools that the breach was discovered. “But for the fact that OPM implemented new, more stringent security tools in its environment, we would have never known that malicious activity had previously existed on the network and would not have been able to share that information for the protection of the rest of the federal government,” she read from her prepared statement. Read the rest of this entry »
WASHINGTON — Millions of federal workers are starting to receive notices from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management that their identity may be compromised following the recent data breach.
Neutralized by Legal Setbacks, Obama Administration Appears to Stop Work on its Illegal Illegal Immigration ProgramPosted: June 8, 2015
Jerry Markon reports: A series of legal setbacks have halted the government’s intensive preparations to move forward with President Obama’s executive actions shielding millions of illegal immigrants from deportation, even as community organizations continue a rapid push to get ready for the programs, according to U.S. officials and immigrant advocacy groups.
“After Texas and 25 other states sued the administration, calling the moves unconstitutional, a federal judge in Texas in February put them on hold until the case is resolved. A federal appeals court recently upheld that injunction, with legal observers now saying the court fight could last until late in Obama’s term.”
Since a federal judge first blocked the new programs in February, the Department of Homeland Security has suspended plans to hire up to 3,100 new employees, most of whom would be
housed in an 11-story building the government has leased for $7.8 million a year in Arlington, Va. That building, in the Crystal City area, is now sittig mostly unused, DHS employees say.
“The legal battle highlights the explosive nature of the immigration debate, which has emerged as an early issue in the 2016 presidential race even as immigration legislation remains stalled in Congress.”
Yet inside and outside the Beltway, community groups are mobilizing, educating immigrants and training volunteers to help them apply for relief, even though it remains unclear whether the program will ever begin. Most recently, a foundation headed by billionaire George Soros, undaunted by the court rulings, pledged at least $8 million to that effort.
“We’re full speed ahead,” said Josh Hoyt, executive director of the Chicago-based National Partnership for New Americans, a coalition of pro-immigrant groups that have held more than 700 information sessions on the new programs and trained more than 2,000 volunteers to aid immigrants in applying for them.
Obama announced in November that up to 5 million illegal immigrants would be eligible to be shielded from deportation — including undocumented parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents — as long as they met certain criteria. One of the signature initiatives of his presidency, the plan also expands a 2012 program that has deferred the deportations of more than 600,000 immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children and has granted most of them work permits.
“The fate of Obama’s executive action benefiting immigrant parents, known as Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA, will resonate into the next administration.”
But after Texas and 25 other states sued the administration, calling the moves unconstitutional, a federal judge in Texas in February put them on hold until the case is resolved. A federal appeals court recently upheld that injunction, with legal observers now saying the court fight could last until late in Obama’s term. The 2012 program remains unaffected.
“As soon as Obama took his actions on Nov. 20, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services ‘immediately began efforts to implement those initiatives,’ said Marsha Catron, a DHS spokeswoman. The next day, the agency leased a 280,000-square-foot building on Crystal Drive in Crystal City to house DAPA employees, according to DHS documents sent to Congress.”
The legal battle highlights the explosive nature of the immigration debate, which has emerged as an early issue in the 2016 presidential race even as immigration legislation remains stalled in Congress. The fate of Obama’s executive action benefiting immigrant parents, known as Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA, will resonate into the next administration. Most Republican presidential candidates have pledged to overturn Obama’s immigration actions, while leading Democratic candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton has strongly endorsed them.
“The building came fully furnished but required about $26 million in start-up costs, including $2.7 million for workstation and desktop equipment, documents show.”
As soon as Obama took his actions on Nov. 20, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services “immediately began efforts to implement those initiatives,’’ said Marsha Catron, a DHS spokeswoman. The next day, the agency leased a 280,000-square-foot building on Crystal Drive in Crystal City to house DAPA employees, according to DHS documents sent to Congress.
“Most recently, a foundation headed by billionaire George Soros, undaunted by the court rulings, pledged at least $8 million to that effort.”
The building came fully furnished but required about $26 million in start-up costs, including $2.7 million for workstation and desktop equipment, documents show. Those costs were to be funded with fees collected from immigrants who had applied for other government programs, and DHS says DAPA would have no impact on any existing programs. Read the rest of this entry »
China hacked into the federal government’s network, compromising four million current and former employees
Ellen Nakashima reports: China is building massive databases of Americans’ personal information by hacking government agencies and U.S. health-care companies, using a high-tech tactic to achieve an age-old goal of espionage: recruiting spies or gaining more information on an adversary, U.S. officials and analysts say.
“This is part of their strategic goal — to increase their intelligence collection via big data theft and big data aggregation. It’s part of a strategic plan.”
— U.S. government official, on condition of anonymity
Groups of hackers working for the Chinese government have compromised the networks of the Office of Personnel Management, which holds data on millions of current and former federal employees, as well as the health insurance giant Anthem, among other targets, the officials and researchers said.
“We wish the United States would not be full of suspicions, catching wind and shadows, but rather have a larger measure of trust and cooperation.”
— Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei
“They’re definitely going after quite a bit of personnel information,” said Rich Barger, chief intelligence officer of ThreatConnect, a Northern Virginia cybersecurity firm. “We suspect they’re using it to understand more about who to target [for espionage], whether electronically or via human recruitment.”
The targeting of large-scale databases is a relatively new tactic and is used by the Chinese government to further its intelligence-gathering, the officials and analysts say. It is government espionage, not commercial espionage, they say.
“They would leverage this data to get to diplomatic, political, military and economic intelligence that they typically target.”
“This is part of their strategic goal — to increase their intelligence collection via big data theft and big data aggregation,” said a U.S. government official, who, like others, spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive topic. “It’s part of a strategic plan.”
One hack of the OPM, which was disclosed by the government Thursday, dates at least to December, officials said. Earlier last year, the OPM discovered a separate intrusion into a highly sensitive database that contains information on employees seeking or renewing security clearances and on their background investigations.
“So now the Chinese counterintelligence authorities know which American officials are meeting with which Chinese.”
Once harvested, the data can be used to glean details about key government personnel and potential spy recruits, or to gain information useful for counterintelligence. Records in OPM’s database of background investigations, for instance, could contain a complete history of where an individual has lived and all of his or her foreign contacts in, say, China. “So now the Chinese counterintelligence authorities know which American officials are meeting with which Chinese,” a China cyber and intelligence expert said.
“For bigger data storage, for bigger data theft. And when you can gain it in bulk, you take it in bulk.”
— China cyber and intelligence expert
The data could help Chinese analysts do more effective targeting of individuals, said a former National Security Agency official. “They can find specific individuals they want to go after, family members,” he said. Read the rest of this entry »
The survey comes amid reports that federal prosecutors in Pittsburgh have indicted 15 Chinese citizens for allegedly taking part in a college exam scheme
Liyan Qi reports: As tens of thousands of Chinese students prepare to study in the U.S., they might reflect on the experience of some of those who went before them. According to an estimate by a U.S. education company, some 8,000 Chinese students were expelled from American universities last year alone – and the main reasons were poor grades and cheating.
“This is an issue not just about students in the U.S., but about the entire higher-education system in China.”
The estimate by WholeRen Education, a U.S. company that caters to Chinese students, was based on official U.S. data and a survey of 1,657 students expelled from American universities last year. More than 80% of these students were expelled because of poor academic performance or dishonesty, the company said.
“Chinese students used to be considered top-notch but over the past five years their image has changed completely — wealthy kids who cheat.”
— Chen Hang, chief development officer at WholeRen
The company surveyed students about their U.S. study experience a year earlier but didn’t make any estimate for expulsions.
The survey comes amid reports that federal prosecutors in Pittsburgh have indicted 15 Chinese citizens for allegedly taking part in a college exam scheme.
Stacked up against the huge numbers of Chinese students who go to American universities every year, the failure rate isn’t so bad, WholeRen said, though it does suggest a change in the once-shining image of students from China. Read the rest of this entry »
Interview: Martin Ford, Author Of ‘Rise Of The Robots’
From the self-checkout aisle of the grocery store to the sports section of the newspaper, robots and computer software are increasingly taking the place of humans in the workforce. Silicon Valley executive Martin Ford says that robots, once thought of as a threat to only manufacturing jobs, are poised to replace humans as teachers, journalists, lawyers and others in the service sector.
“As we look forward from this point, we need to keep in mind that this technology is going to continue to accelerate. So I think there’s every reason to believe it’s going to become the primary driver of inequality in the future, and things are likely to get even more extreme than they are now.”
“There’s already a hardware store [in California] that has a customer service robot that, for example, is capable of leading customers to the proper place on the shelves in order to find an item,” Ford tells Fresh Air’s Dave Davies.
In his new book, Rise of the Robots, Ford considers the social and economic disruption that is likely to result when educated workers can no longer find employment.
“As we look forward from this point, we need to keep in mind that this technology is going to continue to accelerate,” Ford says. “So I think there’s every reason to believe it’s going to become the primary driver of inequality in the future, and things are likely to get even more extreme than they are now.”
Any jobs that are truly repetitive or rote — doing the same thing again and again — in advanced economies like the United States or Germany, those jobs are long gone. They’ve already been replaced by robots years and years ago.
So what we’ve seen in manufacturing is that the jobs that are actually left for people to do tend to be the ones that require more flexibility or require visual perception and dexterity. Very often these jobs kind of fill in the gaps between machines.
For example, feeding parts into the next part of the production process or very often they’re at the end of the process — perhaps loading and unloading trucks and moving raw materials and finished products around, those types of things. Read the rest of this entry »