Friday, January 06, 2017

Latest on the Russians

-- Obama got his classified report on Russian interference in the 2016 election yesterday; the outgoing president said he needed "no additional evidence" to eject the Russian diplomats from the country last month.  Trump is getting his briefing this morning.

Note the first source I linked to above.  It's the most thorough and comprehensive report I have found, and it's also the same source James Clapper denigrated in his testimony before Congress yesterday.  Read RT's account of Clapper's opinion of RT here, after you read the link in the previous sentence.

-- This is compelling:

US intelligence has identified the go-betweens the Russians used to provide stolen emails to WikiLeaks, according to US officials familiar with the classified intelligence report that was presented to President Barack Obama on Thursday.

And so is this.

Via NBC's William Arkin, Ken Dilanian and Hallie Jackson: "A senior U.S. intelligence official with direct knowledge confirmed to NBC News that the report on Russian hacking delivered to President Obama Thursday says that U.S. intelligence picked up senior Russian officials celebrating Donald Trump's win. The source described the intelligence about the celebration, first reported by the Washington Post, as a minor part of the overall intelligence report, which makes the case that Russia intervened in the election."

More, from the Washington Post's original story: "The ebullient reaction among high-ranking Russian officials — including some who U.S. officials believe had knowledge of the country's cyber campaign to interfere in the U.S. election — contributed to the U.S. intelligence community's assessment that Moscow's efforts were aimed at least in part at helping Trump win the White House. Other key pieces of information gathered by U.S. spy agencies include the identification of "actors" involved in delivering stolen Democratic emails to the WikiLeaks website, and disparities in the levels of effort Russian intelligence entities devoted to penetrating and exploiting sensitive information stored on Democratic and Republican campaign networks."

-- Clapper testified that Julian Assange and Wikileaks put American lives at risk, reported by the AP and widely distributed from news gatherers across the nation and the world.  That assertion was disproved three and one-half years ago.

The US counter-intelligence official who led the Pentagon's review into the fallout from the WikiLeaks disclosures of state secrets told the Bradley Manning sentencing hearing on Wednesday (July 13, 2013) that no instances were ever found of any individual killed by enemy forces as a result of having been named in the releases.

Brigadier general Robert Carr, a senior counter-intelligence officer who headed the Information Review Task Force that investigated the impact of WikiLeaks disclosures on behalf of the Defense Department, told a court at Fort Meade, Maryland, that they had uncovered no specific examples of anyone who had lost his or her life in reprisals that followed the publication of the disclosures on the internet. "I don't have a specific example," he said.

So maybe Clapper was talking about Edward Snowden.  The report on that from two years ago has a whole lot of redactions; too many, in fact, to be inferred by the reader that Snowden's disclosures threatened anyone's life, and too many even to be implied by the writers of the report.

The DIA, which provides military intelligence to the DOD, summarized the task force's work in a 39-page report dated December 18, 2013 and titled "DoD Information Review Task Force-2: Initial Assessment, Impacts Resulting from the Compromise of Classified Material by a Former NSA Contractor." (Jason Leopold) obtained a copy of the heavily redacted report last year, which concluded that "the scope of the compromised knowledge related to US intelligence capabilities is staggering."

But explicit details about the alleged damage Snowden caused, identified in the 39-page report as "grave," were omitted from that document as well. In fact, the existence of the DIA's report had been unknown until the White House secretly authorized the declassification of select portions of it so two Republican lawmakers could undercut the media narrative painting Snowden as a heroic whistleblower.

-- The report that Obama received and Trump is getting is to be made public very shortly, maybe even this afternoon, with as much classified information Clapper says can be declassified as possible.

I'll wait for that news before I change my mind about this all being an obsession.  Note that two long-term and highly tenured former employees of the NSA and the CIA asserted yesterday that the DNC emails were leaked and not hacked, and carefully explains the difference.

Hack: When someone in a remote location electronically penetrates operating systems, firewalls or other cyber-protection systems and then extracts data. Our own considerable experience, plus the rich detail revealed by Edward Snowden, persuades us that, with NSA's formidable trace capability, it can identify both sender and recipient of any and all data crossing the network.

Leak: When someone physically takes data out of an organization — on a thumb drive, for example — and gives it to someone else, as Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning did. Leaking is the only way such data can be copied and removed with no electronic trace.

Because NSA can trace exactly where and how any "hacked" emails from the Democratic National Committee or other servers were routed through the network, it is puzzling why NSA cannot produce hard evidence implicating the Russian government and WikiLeaks. Unless we are dealing with a leak from an insider, not a hack, as other reporting suggests. From a technical perspective alone, we are convinced that this is what happened.

Lastly, the CIA is almost totally dependent on NSA for ground truth in this electronic arena. Given Mr. Clapper's checkered record for accuracy in describing NSA activities, it is to be hoped that the director of NSA will join him for the briefing with Mr. Trump.

Former NSA director Mike Rogers is indeed among the four heads of national security briefing Trump this morning.  Look out for a Tweet from Trump today about it.

-- Assuming the Russian/Wikileaks dots are eventually connected, Trump has problems that go beyond being proved mistaken, and having to repair relations with the DHS, NSA, CIA, etc.  Congress is establishing a formal objection to his Twitter criticism of America's spooks and spies, forcing the prez-elect to backtrack slightly.

Within the transitioning administration to come, there are serious differences of opinion about the roles of the various agencies.  Remember: NSA-designate Michael Flynn, like Trump, admires the Russkies.  CIA chief-to-be Mike Pompeo is the farthest thing from a friend of the Kremlin, however.  Clinton's CIA director, James Woolsey, abruptly left his role as adviser to the transition team earlier this week, possibly because of this opinion of whatever game it is Trump is playing.  But the new DNI guy overseeing the whole lot is former Indiana Senator Dan Coats, whose own views of Russia have been so critical that Moscow has banned him from traveling there.

So that's all I got for now.  More as it develops.

Update: Michael Dorf posits the various what-ifs, with a great deal of food for thought.  And Juan Cole has the righteous smackdown of everyone.  The following excerpt does not do justice to a full understanding of the matter; read the whole thing and then read it again.

(Chuck) Schumer seems to have been celebrating that we are no longer a democracy, but that even an elected president has to defer to the intelligence establishment in Washington or else must fear that they will play dirty tricks on him and undermine him.

Shouldn’t the Democratic Party senate minority leader be standing for democratic values, not advising the president to shut up if he knows what’s good for him?

So to conclude, this is a sorry spectacle. Yes, Putin is a thug who should not have unilaterally annexed Crimea, and so created a European crisis that has yet to be resolved. But yes, the US has acted thuggishly -- the unprovoked and monstrous invasion of Iraq is a recent example -- and US aggressiveness toward Moscow after the collapse of the Soviet Union bears some of the blame for Russia’s bullying insecurity. And yes, Russia likely engaged in hacking during the US election and hoped to tilt the playing field toward Trump; but they likely failed to have any significant effect on the outcome. And yes, Clapper and other US intelligence officials have hacked everybody and his brother both abroad and inside the US, so they are hardly morally superior to Putin.

Now we have a food fight full of ignorance and hypocrisy or both, in which the Washington Establishment professes itself shocked, shocked that any hacking of one country by another could have gone on. Trump has continued his creepy bromance with the Kremlin and wants to get his information from any source that agrees with his prejudices. The Democrats have taken advantage of the story to paint Trump as a Manchurian candidate, and some of them seem to delight in the idea that Trump may provoke the CIA to do to him what Oliver Stone thinks it did to JFK.

Nobody and nothing here to admire.

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