Watch for the morning news

The NY TIMES and the Washington POST will be turning up two more whistleblowers. One is from the intelligence community and reportedly has even more and better evidence about corrupt phone calls to Ukraine. Another is from the IRS and has info about Trump and Giuliani getting report(s) on Trumpo’s sleazy taxes stashed in limbo.

Our fake president tries as well as he can to shut down a free press. But, good, bad, or indifferent, he has not succeeded and isn’t likely to.

CIA yanked top spy from Russia — feared Trump would expose him


мой питомец

❝ In a previously undisclosed secret mission in 2017, the United States successfully extracted from Russia one of its highest-level covert sources inside the Russian government, multiple Trump administration officials with direct knowledge told CNN.

❝ A person directly involved in the discussions said that the removal of the Russian was driven, in part, by concerns that President Donald Trump and his administration repeatedly mishandled classified intelligence and could contribute to exposing the covert source as a spy.

Whether or not the Fake President is a willing stooge for Putin – or simply incompetent – is moot. He’s already proven himself untrustworthy by any executive security standards.

Solving the Mystery of the White Box That Fell From the Sky

❝ Fifty-five years ago, in the woods outside Moncton, New Brunswick, around 160 miles east of the Maine border, David McPherson Sr. found a very large white box adorned with some very large lenses. It was attached to a parachute, so McPherson thought it might be an American spy camera, possibly launched by the Central Intelligence Agency. The fact that Canadian military tried to take the box from him — before McPherson and his family voluntarily relinquished it in exchange for answers that never came — only added to his suspicions.

McPherson died 18 months ago, never having gotten to the bottom of the mystery. But this week his son, David McPherson Jr., said that his father had been right all along. Declassified CIA documents reveal that the white box was part of a CIA program to send cameras into the sky with balloons to spy on the Soviets. The McPhersons’ box likely hit some wind and went astray…

❝ The CBC helped the McPhersons crack the mystery after running a story Monday about the “thing in the woods.” A rush of tips soon came in, leading the family to some declassified documents on the CIA website, in addition to the Military Communications and Electronics Museum in Kingston, Ontario, both of which had photos of apparatuses that looked like the one they had found. Documents also reveal that the box was likely part of Project Genetrix, a program started under President Dwight D. Eisenhower that used balloons to conduct surveillance over Russia and China, according to the CBC.

It’s unclear where the box is now — maybe in a government warehouse somewhere — but the McPhersons still have some two-dozen photos from its discovery. They also now have closure.

Of course it would have been beyond stupid to think this thing was a weather balloon. Anymore than the replacement – shot down over the Society Union, the U2 spy plane – was doing weather research. The sad bit is that our government simply never feels there is an appropriate time to tell the truth to taxpayers picking up the tab.

Wonder what’s on the shelf labeled ROSWELL?

Six agencies, federal cops, investigate Russia paying for pro-Trump hackers


“Oh, Look. This one has Donald’s name engraved on it.”

❝ The FBI and five other law enforcement and intelligence agencies have collaborated for months in an investigation into Russian attempts to influence the November election, including whether money from the Kremlin covertly aided President-elect Donald Trump…

The agencies involved in the inquiry are the FBI, the CIA, the National Security Agency, the Justice Department, the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network and representatives of the director of national intelligence…

❝ Investigators are examining how money may have moved from the Kremlin to covertly help Trump win, the two sources said. One of the allegations involves whether a system for routinely paying thousands of Russian-American pensioners may have been used to pay some email hackers in the United States or to supply money to intermediaries who would then pay the hackers…two sources said.

The informal, inter-agency working group began to explore possible Russian interference last spring, long before the FBI received information from a former British spy hired to develop politically damaging and unverified research about Trump…

❝ Trump’s presidential transition team did not respond to a request for comment about the inquiry.

❝ FBI Director Comey refused at a recent Senate hearing to comment on whether the bureau was investigating Russia’s hacking campaign for possible criminal prosecutions. Spokespeople for the FBI, the Justice Department and the national intelligence director declined to comment…

❝ The BBC reported that the FBI had obtained a warrant on Oct. 15 from the highly secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court allowing investigators access to bank records and other documents about potential payments and money transfers related to Russia…

RTFA for the whole context. Importantly, this started before the Chris Steele dossier surfaced with the FBI. That the FBI was able to get a FISA warrant indicates they were able to establish probable cause the target was a foreign power – and the surveillance was likely to produce foreign intelligence.

How Russian cyberwar hackers invaded the U.S.


A filing cabinet broken into in 1972 as part of the Watergate burglary sits beside a computer server that Russian hackers breached during the 2016 presidential campaign

❝ When Special Agent Adrian Hawkins of the Federal Bureau of Investigation called the Democratic National Committee in September 2015 to pass along some troubling news about its computer network, he was transferred, naturally, to the help desk.

His message was brief, if alarming. At least one computer system belonging to the D.N.C. had been compromised by hackers federal investigators had named “the Dukes,” a cyberespionage team linked to the Russian government…

❝ Yared Tamene, the tech-support contractor at the D.N.C. who fielded the call, was no expert in cyberattacks. His first moves were to check Google for “the Dukes” and conduct a cursory search of the D.N.C. computer system logs to look for hints of such a cyberintrusion. By his own account, he did not look too hard even after Special Agent Hawkins called back repeatedly over the next several weeks — in part because he wasn’t certain the caller was a real F.B.I. agent and not an impostor…

❝ It was the cryptic first sign of a cyberespionage and information-warfare campaign devised to disrupt the 2016 presidential election, the first such attempt by a foreign power in American history. What started as an information-gathering operation, intelligence officials believe, ultimately morphed into an effort to harm one candidate, Hillary Clinton, and tip the election to her opponent, Donald J. Trump.

❝ Like another famous American election scandal, it started with a break-in at the D.N.C. The first time, 44 years ago at the committee’s old offices in the Watergate complex, the burglars planted listening devices and jimmied a filing cabinet. This time, the burglary was conducted from afar, directed by the Kremlin…instead of Republican President Richard Nixon.

RTFA. Journalism from the NY TIMES mostly unadulterated by editorial requirements. Well done tale of the level of cyber-ignorance common to much of our government, a significant chunk of the global corporate world.

A worthwhile read for you and me – long before the movie comes out. And it will.

Trump says OK to skip intelligence briefings because he’s “a smart person”

❝ During a Fox News Sunday interview, President-elect Donald Trump acknowledged he’s not receiving daily intelligence briefings, but argued he doesn’t need them because he’s “a smart person.”

Trump said he gets briefings “when I need it” because “I don’t have to be told — you know, I’m, like, a smart person. I don’t have to be told the same thing in the same words every single day for the next eight years. Could be eight years — but eight years. I don’t need that.”

❝ Trump’s comments came two days after the Washington Post reported the CIA informed informed U.S. senators last week it is “quite clear” from a “growing body of intelligence from multiple sources” that Russia used cyberattacks to meddle in the presidential election, specifically to help Trump defeat Hillary Clinton.

Right around the same time the Fox News interview was airing on Sunday morning, a bipartisan group of senators released a statement saying Americans should be alarmed by the CIA’s findings…

Fact-checkers concluded that Trump’s criticisms were without merit.

What could possibly go wrong?

A cluster of politicians, spies, and a Trumpkin – run a casino in the middle of the Pacific Ocean

On a tiny island in the western Pacific, at the end of a duty-free mall wedged between a one-story laundromat and a cell-phone shop, you’ll find what may be the most successful casino of all time.

The awkwardly named Best Sunshine Live hardly looks like a high-roller hub. Construction workers bet $5 or $10 at a time on roulette and baccarat in a fug of nicotine. Clustered in a far corner are a handful of tables for so-called VIP gamblers, which at 8:30 p.m. on a September Saturday are almost empty. A nearby bar has just a couple of patrons.

Nothing about the facility, which opened last year on the U.S. island of Saipan, hints at the money flowing through it — table for table, far more than at the biggest casinos in Macau, the world’s number-one gambling capital. Nor is there any sign of the connections of its owner, Hong Kong-listed Imperial Pacific International Holdings Ltd., which has a market value of $2.4 billion.

It’s a power list that includes a former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, a former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and three former U.S. governors, including past chairmen of both the Democratic and Republican National Committees. Behind them all: a Donald Trump protege, Mark Brown, who ran the Republican president-elect’s Atlantic City casino empire and is now Imperial Pacific’s chief executive officer.

With that backing, Best Sunshine is posting numbers that stagger industry veterans. The daily reported revenue for each of its VIP tables in the first half of the year, about $170,000, is almost eight times the average of Macau’s largest casinos. Its 16 VIP tables alone generate revenue that’s more than half of the receipts from 178 high-stakes tables at Wynn Resorts Ltd.’s flagship casino in the Chinese territory, a 20-story palace with three Michelin-starred restaurants.

The revenue figures, or actual wins by the house, are just a fraction of total bets. In September, Imperial Pacific reported a record $3.9 billion in bets at its casino — meaning the 100 or so high-rollers who it says come through its doors monthly each wagered an average of $39 million.

Those volumes of cash are drawing the attention of law-enforcement officials. The U.S. Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, which is responsible for alerting prosecutors and other authorities of suspicious financial flows, has taken notice of the activity at Best Sunshine…

Nothing new about accusations of money laundering via casinos whether overtly owned by the mob like the old days in Las Vegas or contemporary arrangements stacked with public figures from the world of American politics and covert intelligence. Beacoup funds passing through an operation that can’t even attract regular air flights.

“A legitimate high-stakes gambler wouldn’t want to spend time in this place,” said Greg Hunter, plaintiff in a suit against the Saipan casino law, said of Best Sunshine. “Have you seen it? It’s a duty-free store with a fresh coat of paint and some chandeliers.”

RTFA. A delightful piece of investigative journalism and writing by folks who usually report on economics and high finance throughout Asia for Bloomberg. Impressive.

The future of propaganda – Q&A about big data and the War of Ideas


One pair of these feet belongs to George W. Bush

❝ In 2009, Sean Gourley, an Oxford-trained physicist, gave a TED talk called “The Mathematics of War.” Gourley had been working with the Pentagon, the United Nations and the Iraqi Government to help them better understand the nature of the insurgency in Iraq, and in his presentation he announced something fairly striking: After analyzing the location, timing, death toll and weapons used in thousands of deadly incidents around the country, he and his small team had discovered that the violence actually had a consistent footprint. In other words, you could develop an equation that would predict the likelihood of an attack of a certain size happening at a certain time.

And this wasn’t just true in Iraq: Gourley’s team had also analyzed insurgent-led wars in other parts of the world — from Colombia to Senegal — and had discovered the very same pattern, even though the underlying issues in those conflicts were totally different.

❝ Gourley has since moved on from war zones. He helped found a company called Quid that does big data projects for companies like Intel, Visa and Samsung. In March, he spoke at [the] Structure:Data conference in New York, where he talked about the difference between “data science” – which is about finding correlations – and “data intelligence” – which is about solving problems. He said we need to shift our focus toward the latter if we want to tackle the biggest challenges our world is facing.

From edited transcript of an interview with Gourley:

❝ Q: How would you use data differently in Iraq if you were doing it all over again?

A: It’s important to remind ourselves in 2013 where the information landscape was at the start of the Iraq war. In 2003, the world was very excited about something called blogging. We didn’t have Twitter. Cellphone coverage at the start of the war was exceedingly low. What we’ve seen over the past decade as the war unfolded was one of the biggest changes in the information landscape from a militaristic perspective in a long, long time…

Now, there is already more information being collected by the collective intelligence than by the military intelligence. One one hand, we’re moving into a world where you have drones recording continuous HD video. But we’re also seeing an upscaling in human reporting now with the likes of Instagram. You’re not just tweeting — you’re taking pictures that are triangulated.

The crowdsourced info is still going to be more complete and at a higher resolution than even the stuff that is done with the advent of drones and sensors by the military.

RTFA. Lots more interesting questions and even when answers are in short supply – there is more information about what’s coming. This isn’t only about technology it is about the political use of that tech.

I’d suggest it is in your own interest to learn about what’s coming – announced or undercover and hidden.

Detainee used as a lab rat for CIA torture experiments coming up for a hearing on release from Gitmo


The whole world is watching

A man the CIA used as a guinea pig for its post-9/11 torture program will plead his case for freedom from Guantanámo Bay later this month…in perhaps the hardest challenge to date for Barack Obama’s intentions to empty the infamous detention center.

Zayn al-Ibidin Muhammed Husayn, better known as Abu Zubaydah, is one of three men the CIA acknowledged that it waterboarded, a process simulating drowning, at an unacknowledged prison in Thailand. At some point during his 14-year captivity by the US, he lost the use of his left eye.

The 23 August hearing, Guantánamo’s equivalent of a parole board, will present the first time Abu Zubaydah will have an opportunity to speak about his captivity – an opportunity that contradicts the CIA’s preferences. The CIA, per a landmark 2014 Senate investigation, has contended that he ought to be held incommunicado until he dies.

Yup. Why allow someone we tortured to testify about that torture – when we deny torturing anyone?

❝ “We anticipate our client will make a statement” at the hearing, said Zubaydah’s attorney, Joseph Margulies.

Abu Zubaydah presents the hardest test thus far for the Obama administration’s last-ditch attempt at vacating the Guantánamo detention facility through the quasi-parole process. While the much-tortured Abu Zubaydah may or may not be too dangerous to release – the criterion that a multi-agency Guantánamo tribunal known as a Periodic Review Board (PRB) will evaluate later this month – he knows a vast amount about CIA torture, which makes his ultimate release doubtful…

RTFA if you care to learn what our government did in the name of freedom.

…The CIA represented [his torture] to the Bush administration and Congress as a success, and subsequently tortured at least 118 others…

Karen Greenberg, director of Fordham Law School’s Center on National Security, said the decision to permit Abu Zubaydah a hearing represented a boldness by the White House in its internal and congressional battles over closing Guantánamo.

“Abu Zubaydah is at the heart of everything that keeps Gitmo from closing: the issue of torture,” Greenberg said.

Most Congressional Republicans and many conservative Democrats have no problem with the United States torturing people. You know that. I know that. We share the same contempt for the excuses they lap up from CIA torturers and executioners.

The Senate finally voted to outlaw torture, last year.

Spy chiefs briefed 8 Congress-drones a year ago on hacking of Democrats — didn’t tell DNC “because it was a secret”

U.S. intelligence officials told top congressional leaders a year ago that Russian hackers were attacking the Democratic Party, three sources familiar with the matter said on Thursday, but the lawmakers were unable to tell the targets about the hacking because the information was so secret…

The material was marked with additional restrictions and assigned a unique codeword, limiting access to a small number of officials who needed to know that U.S. spy agencies had concluded that two Russian intelligence agencies or their proxies were targeting the Democratic National Committee, the central organizing body of the Democratic Party…

Our spy professionals decided the DNC didn’t need to know.

The alleged hacking of the Democrats and the Russian connection did not become public until late last month when the FBI said it was investigating a cyber attack at the DNC…

The congressional briefing was given last summer in a secure room called a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, or SCIF, to a group of congressional leaders informally known as the “Gang of Eight,” the sources said.

The group at the time included four Republicans: Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell and House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, and Senator Richard Burr and Representative Devin Nunes, the House and Senate intelligence committee chairs. Their Democratic counterparts were: Senator Harry Reid and Representative Nancy Pelosi, and Senator Dianne Feinstein and Representative Adam Schiff of the intelligence committees…

A bipartisan group of professional politicians who couldn’t care less about transparency, security.

The attack on the DNC later led the hackers to other party organizations, including the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which raises funds for House candidates, Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, and other groups…

One of the sources said the Clinton campaign first detected attacks on its data system in early March, and was given what the source described as a “general briefing” about it by the FBI later that month. The source said the FBI made no mention of a Russian connection in that briefing and did not say when the penetration first took place.

According to a memo obtained by Reuters, interim DNC Chair Donna Brazile said on Thursday she was creating a Cybersecurity Advisory Board “to ensure prevent future attacks and ensure that the DNC’s cybersecurity capabilities are best-in-class.”

Better update security on your own. Obviously you can’t count on our bought-and-paid-for government spies to offer any help.