hacking

Two Iranians charged in US over hacking defense materials

WASHINGTON — Two Iranians were indicted Monday in the United States for hacking a defense contractor and stealing sensitive software used to design bullets and warheads, according to the Justice Department.

According to the newly unsealed indictment, businessman Mohammed Saeed Ajily, 35, recruited Mohammed Reza Rezakhah, 39, to break into companies’ computers to steal their software for resale to Iranian universities, the military and the government.

The two men — and a third who was arrested in 2013 and handed back to Iran in a prisoner swap last year — allegedly broke into the computers of Vermont-based Arrow Tech Associates.

The indictment said they stole in 2012 the company’s Prodas ballistics software, which is used to design and test bullets, warheads and other military ordnance projectiles.

The material stolen from Arrow Tech was protected by US controls on the export of sensitive technologies, and its distribution to Iran was banned by US sanctions on the country.

The two men were charged in the Rutland, Vermont, federal district court, which issued arrest warrants for the two, who are believed to be in Iran.

In 2013 the US secured the arrest in Turkey of a third Iranian in the case, Nima Golestaneh, 30, who was extradited to the United States.

In December 2015 he pleaded guilty to charges of wire fraud and computer hacking.

One month later he was freed as part of a prisoner exchange with Tehran, which returned four Americans in exchange for seven Iranians who had been arrested in separate schemes to obtain and smuggle to Iran sensitive US technologies.

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UAE said to be behind hacking of Qatari media, sparking regional upheaval

WASHINGTON (AP) — The United Arab Emirates orchestrated the hacking of a Qatari government news site in May, planting a false story that was used as a pretext for the current crisis between Qatar and several Arab countries, according to a Sunday report by The Washington Post.

The Emirati Embassy in Washington released a statement in response calling the Post report “false” and insisting that the UAE “had no role whatsoever” in the alleged hacking.

The report quotes unnamed US intelligence officials as saying that senior members of the Emirati government discussed the plan on May 23. On the following day, a story appeared on the Qatari News Agency’s website quoting a speech by Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani, in which he allegedly praised Iran and said Qatar has a good relationship with Israel. Similarly incendiary statements appeared on the news agency’s Twitter feed.

The agency quickly claimed it was hacked and removed the article. But Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt all blocked Qatari media and later severed diplomatic ties.

The ongoing crisis has threatened to complicate the US-led coalition’s fight against the Islamic State group as all participants are US allies and members of the anti-IS coalition. Qatar is home to more than 10,000 US troops and the regional headquarters of the US Central Command while Bahrain is the home of the US Navy’s 5th Fleet.

President Donald Trump has sided strongly with Saudi Arabia and the UAE in the dispute, publicly backing their contention that Doha is a supporter of Islamic militant groups and a destabilizing force in the Middle East. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recently concluded several days of shuttle diplomacy in the Gulf, but he departed the region without any public signs of a resolution.

Russian Espionage Piggybacks on a Cybercriminal’s Hacking

To the F.B.I., Evgeniy M. Bogachev is the most wanted cybercriminal in the world. The bureau has announced a $3 million bounty for his capture, the most ever for computer crimes, and has been trying to track his movements in hopes of grabbing him if he strays outside his home turf in Russia.

He has been indicted in the United States, accused of creating a sprawling network of virus-infected computers to siphon hundreds of millions of dollars from bank accounts around the world, targeting anyone with enough money worth stealing — from a pest control company in North Carolina to a police department in Massachusetts to a Native American tribe in Washington.

In December, the Obama administration announced sanctions against Mr. Bogachev and five others in response to intelligence agencies’ conclusions that Russia had meddled in the presidential election. Publicly, law enforcement officials said it was his criminal exploits that landed Mr. Bogachev on the sanctions list, not any specific role in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee.

But it is clear that for Russia, he is more than just a criminal. At one point, Mr. Bogachev had control over as many as a million computers in multiple countries, with possible access to everything from family vacation photographs and term papers to business proposals and highly confidential personal information. It is almost certain that computers belonging to government officials and contractors in a number of countries were among the infected devices. For Russia’s surveillance-obsessed intelligence community, Mr. Bogachev’s exploits may have created an irresistible opportunity for espionage.

While Mr. Bogachev was draining bank accounts, it appears that the Russian authorities were looking over his shoulder, searching the same computers for files and emails. In effect, they were grafting an intelligence operation onto a far-reaching cybercriminal scheme, sparing themselves the hard work of hacking into the computers themselves, officials said.

The Russians were particularly interested, it seems, in information from military and intelligence services regarding fighting in eastern Ukraine and the war in Syria, according to law enforcement officials and the cybersecurity firm Fox-IT. But there also appear to have been attempts to gain access to sensitive military and intelligence information on infected computers in the United States, often consisting of searches for documents containing the words “top secret” or “Department of Defense.”

The Russian government has plenty of its own cyberspace tools for gathering intelligence. But the piggybacking on Mr. Bogachev’s activities offers some clues to the breadth and creativity of Russia’s espionage efforts at a time when the United States and Europe are scrambling to counter increasingly sophisticated attacks capable of destroying critical infrastructure, disrupting bank operations, stealing government secrets and undermining democratic elections.

This relationship is illustrated by the improbable mix of characters targeted with the sanctions announced by the Obama administration. Four were senior officers with Russia’s powerful military intelligence agency, the G.R.U. Two were suspected cyberthieves on the F.B.I.’s most wanted list: an ethnic Russian from Latvia named Alexsey Belan with a red-tinted Justin Bieber haircut, and Mr. Bogachev, whose F.B.I. file includes a photograph of him holding his spotted Bengal cat while wearing a matching set of leopard-print pajamas.

From Thief to Russian Asset?

His involvement with Russian intelligence may help explain why Mr. Bogachev, 33, is hardly a man on the run. F.B.I. officials say he lives openly in Anapa, a run-down resort town on the Black Sea in southern Russia. He has a large apartment near the shore and possibly another in Moscow, officials say, as well as a collection of luxury cars, though he seems to favor driving his Jeep Grand Cherokee. American investigators say he enjoys sailing and owns a yacht.

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Anapa, Russia, a resort town on the Black Sea where Mr. Bogachev lives. CreditDmitry Feoktistov/TASS, via Getty Images

Running the criminal scheme was hard work. Mr. Bogachev often complained of being exhausted and “of having too little time for his family,” said Aleksandr Panin, a Russian hacker, now in a federal prison in Kentucky for bank fraud, who used to communicate with Mr. Bogachev online. “He mentioned a wife and two kids as far as I remember,” Mr. Panin wrote in an email.

Beyond that, little is known about Mr. Bogachev, who preferred to operate anonymously behind various screen names: slavik, lucky12345, pollingsoon. Even close business associates never met him in person or knew his real name.

“He was very, very paranoid,” said J. Keith Mularski, an F.B.I. supervisor in Pittsburgh whose investigation of Mr. Bogachev led to an indictment in 2014. “He didn’t trust anybody.”

Russia does not have an extradition treaty with the United States, and Russian officials say that so long as Mr. Bogachev has not committed a crime on Russian territory, there are no grounds to arrest him.

Attempts to reach Mr. Bogachev for this article were unsuccessful. In response to questions, his lawyer in Anapa, Aleksei Stotskii, said, “The fact that he is wanted by the F.B.I. prevents me morally from saying anything.”

A line in Mr. Bogachev’s file with the Ukrainian Interior Ministry, which has helped the F.B.I. track his movements, describes him as “working under the supervision of a special unit of the F.S.B.,” referring to the Federal Security Service, Russia’s main intelligence agency. The F.S.B. did not respond to a request for comment.

That Mr. Bogachev remains at large “is the most powerful argument” that he is an asset of the Russian government, said Austin Berglas, who was an assistant special agent in charge of cyberinvestigations out of the F.B.I.’s New York field office until 2015. Hackers like Mr. Bogachev are “moonlighters,” Mr. Berglas said, “doing the bidding of Russian intelligence services, whether economic espionage or straight-up espionage.”

Such an arrangement offers the Kremlin a convenient cover story and an easy opportunity to take a peek into the extensive networks of computers infected by Russian hackers, security experts say. Russian intelligence agencies also appear to occasionally employ malware tools developed for criminal purposes, including the popular BlackEnergy, to attack the computers of enemy governments. The recent revelations by WikiLeaks about C.I.A. spying tools suggest that the agency also kept a large reference library of hacking kits, some of which appear to have been produced by Russia.

It also hints at a struggle to recruit top talent. A job with the Russian intelligence agencies does not command the prestige it did in the Soviet era. The Russian state has to compete against the dream of six-figure salaries and stock options in Silicon Valley. A recruiting pitch from a few years ago for the Defense Ministry’s cyberwarfare brigade offered college graduates the rank of lieutenant and a bed in a room with four other people.

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Former Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell, of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, announced the effort to disrupt GameOver ZeuS in 2014. Criminal charges against Mr. Bogachev were also unsealed.CreditGary Cameron/Reuters

And so the Kremlin at times turns to the “dark web” or Russian-language forums devoted to cyberfraud and spam. Mr. Bogachev, according to court papers from his criminal case, used to sell malicious software on a site called Carding World, where thieves buy and sell stolen credit card numbers and hacking kits, according to the F.B.I. One recent posting offered to sell American credit card information with CVV security numbers for $5. A user named MrRaiX was selling a malware supposedly designed to pilfer passwords from programs like Google Chrome and Outlook Express.

Rather than shut down such sites, as the F.B.I. typically tries to do, Russian intelligence agents appear to have infiltrated them, security experts say.

Some of the forums state specifically that almost any type of criminality is allowed — bank fraud, counterfeiting documents, weapons sales. One of the few rules: no work in Russia or the former Soviet Union. In Carding World, and in many other forums, a violation results in a lifetime ban.

The F.B.I. has long been stymied in its efforts to get Russian cybercriminals. For a time, the bureau had high hopes that its agents and Russian investigators with the F.S.B. would work together to target Russian thieves who had made a specialty of stealing Americans’ credit card information and breaking into their bank accounts. “Here’s to great investigations,” F.B.I. and F.S.B. agents would toast each other at Manhattan steakhouses during periodic trust-building visits, Mr. Berglas said.

But help rarely seemed to materialize. After a while, agents began to worry that the Russian authorities were recruiting the very suspects that the F.B.I. was pursuing. The joke among Justice Department officials was the Russians were more likely to pin a medal on a suspected criminal hacker than help the F.B.I. nab him.

“Almost all the hackers who have been announced by the U.S. government through indictments are immediately tracked by the Russian government,” said Arkady Bukh, a New York-based lawyer who often represents Russian hackers arrested in the United States. “All the time they’re asked to provide logistical and technical support.”

While it was a widely held suspicion, it is tough to prove the connection between cyberthieves and Russian intelligence. But in one case, Mr. Berglas said, F.B.I. agents monitoring an infected computer were surprised to see a hacker who was the target of their investigation share a copy of his passport with a person the F.B.I. believed to be a Russian intelligence agent — a likely signal that the suspect was being recruited or protected. “That was the closest we ever came,” he said.

Fishing for Top Secrets

Mr. Bogachev’s hacking career began well over a decade ago, leading to the creation of a malicious software program called GameOver ZeuS, which he managed with the help of about a half-dozen close associates who called themselves the Business Club, according to the F.B.I. and security researchers. Working around the clock, his criminal gang infected an ever-growing network of computers. It was able to bypass the most advanced banking security measures to quickly empty accounts and transfer the money abroad through a web of intermediaries called money mules. F.B.I. officials said it was the most sophisticated online larceny scheme they had encountered — and for years, it was impenetrable.

Mr. Bogachev became extremely wealthy. At one point, he owned two villas in France and kept a fleet of cars parked around Europe so he would never have to rent a vehicle while on vacation, according to a Ukrainian law enforcement official with knowledge of the Bogachev case, who requested anonymity to discuss the continuing investigation. Officials say he had three Russian passports with different aliases allowing him to travel undercover.

At the height of his operations, Mr. Bogachev had between 500,000 and a million computers under his control, American officials said. And there is evidence that the Russian government took an interest in knowing what was on them.

Beginning around 2011, according to an analysis by Fox-IT, computers under Mr. Bogachev’s control started receiving requests for information — not about banking transactions, but for files relating to various geopolitical developments pulled from the headlines.

Around the time that former President Barack Obama publicly agreed to start sending small arms and ammunition to Syrian rebels, in 2013, Turkish computers infected by Mr. Bogachev’s network were hit with keyword searches that included the terms “weapon delivery” and “arms delivery.” There were also searches for “Russian mercenary” and “Caucasian mercenary,” suggesting concerns about Russian citizens fighting in the war.

Ahead of Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine in 2014, infected computers were searched for information about top-secret files from the country’s main intelligence directorate, the S.B.U. Some of the queries involved searches for personal information about government security officials, including emails from Georgia’s foreign intelligence service, the Turkish Foreign Ministry and others, said Michael Sandee, one of the researchers from Fox-IT.

And at some point between March 2013 and February 2014, there were searches for English-language documents, which seemed to be fishing for American military and intelligence documents. The queries were for terms including “top secret” and “Department of Defense,” said Brett Stone-Gross, a cybersecurity analyst involved in analyzing GameOver ZeuS. “These were in English,” he said. “That was different.”

Cybersecurity experts who studied the case say there is no way to know who ordered the queries. But they were so disconnected from the larceny and fraud that drove Mr. Bogachev’s operation that analysts say there can be no other motive but espionage.

Whether the searches turned up any classified document or sensitive government material is unknown, although the odds are good that there were a number of federal government employees or military contractors with infected personal computers.

“They had such a large number of infections, I would say it’s highly likely they had computers belonging to U.S. government and foreign government employees,” Mr. Stone-Gross said.

In the summer of 2014, the F.B.I., together with law enforcement agencies in over half a dozen countries, carried out Operation Tovar, a coordinated attack on Mr. Bogachev’s criminal infrastructure that shut down his network and liberated computers infected with GameOver ZeuS.

Prosecutors said they were in talks with the Russian government, trying to secure cooperation for the capture of Mr. Bogachev. But the only apparent legal trouble Mr. Bogachev has faced in Russia was a lawsuit filed against him by a real estate company in 2011 over payment of about $75,000 on his apartment in Anapa, according to court papers there. And even that he managed to beat.

These days, officials believe Mr. Bogachev is living under his own name in Anapa and occasionally takes boat trips to Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula that Russia occupied in 2014. Mr. Mularski, the F.B.I. supervisor, said his agents were “still pursuing leads.”

Obama Administration Rushed to Preserve Intelligence of Russian Election Hacking

WASHINGTON — In the Obama administration’s last days, some White House officials scrambled to spread information about Russian efforts to undermine the presidential election — and about possible contacts between associates of President-elect Donald J. Trump and Russians — across the government. Former American officials say they had two aims: to ensure that such meddling isn’t duplicated in future American or European elections, and to leave a clear trail of intelligence for government investigators.

American allies, including the British and the Dutch, had provided information describing meetings in European cities between Russian officials — and others close to Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin — and associates of President-elect Trump, according to three former American officials who requested anonymity in discussing classified intelligence.

Separately, American intelligence agencies had intercepted communications of Russian officials, some of them within the Kremlin, discussing contacts with Trump associates.

The disclosures about the contacts came as new questions were raised about Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s ties to the Russians. According to a former senior American official, he met with the Russian ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak, twice in the past year. The details of the meetings were not clear, but the contact appeared to contradict testimony Mr. Sessions provided Congress during his confirmation hearing in January when he said he “did not have communications with the Russians.”

Then and now, Mr. Trump has denied that his campaign had any contact with Russian officials, and at one point he openly suggested that American spy agencies had cooked up intelligence suggesting that the Russian government had tried to meddle in the presidential election. Mr. Trump has accused the Obama administration of hyping the Russia story line as a way to discredit his new administration.

At the Obama White House, Mr. Trump’s statements stoked fears among some that intelligence could be covered up or destroyed — or its sources exposed — once power changed hands. What followed was a push to preserve the intelligence that underscored the deep anxiety with which the White House and American intelligence agencies had come to view the threat from Moscow.

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President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. CreditAlexei Nikolsky/Sputnik

It also reflected the suspicion among many in the Obama White House that the Trump campaign might have colluded with Russia on election email hacks — a suspicion that American officials say has not been confirmed. Former senior Obama administration officials said that none of the efforts were directed by Mr. Obama.

Sean Spicer, the Trump White House spokesman, said, “The only new piece of information that has come to light is that political appointees in the Obama administration have sought to create a false narrative to make an excuse for their own defeat in the election.” He added, “There continues to be no there, there.”

As Inauguration Day approached, Obama White House officials grew convinced that the intelligence was damning and that they needed to ensure that as many people as possible inside government could see it, even if people without security clearances could not. Some officials began asking specific questions at intelligence briefings, knowing the answers would be archived and could be easily unearthed by investigators — including the Senate Intelligence Committee, which in early January announced an inquiry into Russian efforts to influence the election.

At intelligence agencies, there was a push to process as much raw intelligence as possible into analyses, and to keep the reports at a relatively low classification level to ensure as wide a readership as possible across the government — and, in some cases, among European allies. This allowed the upload of as much intelligence as possible to Intellipedia, a secret wiki used by American analysts to share information.

There was also an effort to pass reports and other sensitive materials to Congress. In one instance, the State Department sent a cache of documents marked “secret” to Senator Benjamin Cardin of Maryland days before the Jan. 20 inauguration. The documents, detailing Russian efforts to intervene in elections worldwide, were sent in response to a request from Mr. Cardin, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, and were shared with Republicans on the panel.

“This situation was serious, as is evident by President Obama’s call for a review — and as is evident by the United States response,” said Eric Schultz, a spokesman for Mr. Obama. “When the intelligence community does that type of comprehensive review, it is standard practice that a significant amount of information would be compiled and documented.”

The opposite happened with the most sensitive intelligence, including the names of sources and the identities of foreigners who were regularly monitored. Officials tightened the already small number of people who could access that information. They knew the information could not be kept from the new president or his top advisers, but wanted to narrow the number of people who might see the information, officials said.

More than a half-dozen current and former officials described various aspects of the effort to preserve and distribute the intelligence, and some said they were speaking to draw attention to the material and ensure proper investigation by Congress. All spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were discussing classified information, nearly all of which remains secret, making an independent public assessment of the competing Obama and Trump administration claims impossible.

The F.B.I. is conducting a wide-ranging counterintelligence investigation into Russia’s meddling in the election, and is examining alleged links between Mr. Trump’s associates and the Russian government. Separately, the House and Senate intelligence committees are conducting their own investigations, though they must rely on information collected by the F.B.I. and intelligence agencies.

On Wednesday, a Justice Department official confirmed that Mr. Sessions had two conversations with Ambassador Kislyak last year, when he was still a senator, despite testifying at his Jan. 10 confirmation hearing that he had no contact with the Russians. At that hearing, Mr. Sessions was asked what he would do if it turned out to be true that anyone affiliated with the Trump team had communicated with the Russian government in the course of the campaign. He said he was “not aware of any of those activities.”

“I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I didn’t have — did not have communications with the Russians, and I’m unable to comment on it,” Mr. Sessions said at the time.

However, Justice officials acknowledged that Mr. Sessions had spoken with Mr. Kislyak twice: once, among a group of ambassadors who approached him at a Heritage Foundation event during the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July and, separately, in an office meeting on Sept. 8. The contacts were first reported by The Washington Post.

Sarah Isgur Flores, Mr. Sessions’s spokeswoman, said “there was absolutely nothing misleading about his answer” because he did not communicate with the ambassador in his capacity as a Trump campaign surrogate. She said Mr. Sessions had at least 25 conversations in 2016 with ambassadors from a range of nations — including Britain, Japan, China, Germany and Russia — while on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The revelation prompted congressional Democrats to issue a torrent of statements reiterating their demands that Mr. Sessions recuse himself from overseeing any investigation into Russia’s contacts with the Trump campaign. So far, Mr. Sessions has demurred.

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Dan Coats, President Trump’s nominee for director of national intelligence, has pledged cooperation in investigating the Russia allegations. CreditAl Drago/The New York Times

Representative Adam B. Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement on Wednesday that if the reports about Mr. Sessions were accurate, “it is essential that he recuse himself from any role in the investigation of Trump campaign ties to the Russians.” Mr. Schiff added, “This is not even a close call; it is a must.”

At a CNN town hall on Wednesday, Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said he did not know if there was anything between the Trump campaign and the Russians. But he added that if there was, “it is clear to me that Jeff Sessions, who is my dear friend, cannot make this decision about Trump.”

At his confirmation hearing on Wednesday, former Senator Dan Coats, Mr. Trump’s nominee for director of national intelligence, told the Senate Intelligence Committee that “I think it’s our responsibility to provide you access to all that you need.”

Some Obama White House officials had little faith that a Trump administration would make good on such pledges, and the efforts to preserve the intelligence continued until the administration’s final hours. This was partly because intelligence was still being collected and analyzed, but it also reflected the sentiment among many administration officials that they had not recognized the scale of the Russian campaign until it was too late.

The warning signs had been building throughout the summer, but were far from clear. As WikiLeaks was pushing out emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee through online publication, American intelligence began picking up conversations in which Russian officials were discussing contacts with Trump associates, and European allies were starting to pass along information about people close to Mr. Trump meeting with Russians in the Netherlands, Britain and other countries.

But what was going on in the meetings was unclear to the officials, and the intercepted communications did little to clarify matters — the Russians, it appeared, were arguing about how far to go in interfering in the presidential election. What intensified the alarm at the Obama White House was a campaign of cyberattacks on state electoral systems in September, which led the administration to deliver a public accusation against the Russians in October.

But it wasn’t until after the election, and after more intelligence had come in, that the administration began to grasp the scope of the suspected tampering and concluded that one goal of the campaign was to help tip the election in Mr. Trump’s favor. In early December, Mr. Obama ordered the intelligence community to conduct a full assessment of the Russian campaign.

In the weeks before the assessment was released in January, the intelligence community combed through databases for an array of communications and other information — some of which was months old by then — and began producing reports that showed there were contacts during the campaign between Trump associates and Russian officials.

The nature of the contacts remains unknown. Several of Mr. Trump’s associates have done business in Russia, and it is unclear if any of the contacts were related to business dealings.

The New York Times, citing four current and former officials, reported last month that American authorities had obtained information of repeated contacts between Mr. Trump’s associates and senior Russian intelligence officials. The White House has dismissed the story as false.

Since the Feb. 14 article appeared, more than a half-dozen officials have confirmed contacts of various kinds between Russians and Trump associates. The label “intelligence official” is not always cleanly applied in Russia, where ex-spies, oligarchs and government officials often report back to the intelligence services and elsewhere in the Kremlin.

Steven L. Hall, the former head of Russia operations at the C.I.A., said that Mr. Putin was surrounded by a cast of characters, and that it was “fair to say that a good number of them come from an intelligence or security background. Once an intel guy, always an intel guy in Russia.”

The concerns about the contacts were cemented by a series of phone calls between Mr. Kislyak and Michael T. Flynn, who had been poised to become Mr. Trump’s national security adviser. The calls began on Dec. 29, shortly after Mr. Kislyak was summoned to the State Department and informed that, in retaliation for Russian election meddling, the United States was expelling 35 suspected Russian intelligence operatives and imposing other sanctions. Mr. Kislyak was irate and threatened a forceful Russia response, according to people familiar with the exchange.

But a day later, Mr. Putin said his government would not retaliate, prompting a Twitter post from Mr. Trump praising the Russian president — and puzzling Obama White House officials.

On Jan. 2, administration officials learned that Mr. Kislyak — after leaving the State Department meeting — called Mr. Flynn, and that the two talked multiple times in the 36 hours that followed. American intelligence agencies routinely wiretap the phones of Russian diplomats, and transcripts of the calls showed that Mr. Flynn urged the Russians not to respond, saying relations would improve once Mr. Trump was in office, according to multiple current and former officials.

Beyond leaving a trail for investigators, the Obama administration also wanted to help European allies combat a threat that had caught the United States off guard. American intelligence agencies made it clear in the declassified version of the intelligence assessment released in January that they believed Russia intended to use its attacks on the United States as a template for more meddling. “We assess Moscow will apply lessons learned,” the report said, “to future influence efforts worldwide, including against U.S. allies.”

TRUMP, PUTIN AND THE HIDDEN HISTORY OF HOW RUSSIA INTERFERED IN THE U.S. PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

Prior to the November presidential vote, Newsweek published an article revealing the scope, intent, mechanisms and global impact of Russia’s interference with the American election, based largely on information from European intelligence services. Given the recent release of declassified government documents confirming large portions of the original article, we are combining new reporting with extensive information from the first Newsweek piece that has yet to be declassified and has been described by individuals from and connected to several foreign intelligence services who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

At the Kremlin last August, officials began to worry that they had committed a massive blunder. Donald Trump, they feared, was psychologically unstable.

Moscow’s hacking and disinformation campaign, designed to interfere with the American election, had been underway for months. In a series of operations overseen by Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, Russia had engaged in similar interference in the Netherlands, Estonia, Germany, Britain and other nations with mixed success. But by late July, some Russian officials believed Peskov’s work had gone too far. Sergei Ivanov, the chief of staff for the presidential executive office in the Kremlin, was furious at what he saw as a botched and ill-conceived attempt to use hacking and disinformation to interfere in a failed coup attempt in Turkey. As for the American effort, Ivanov and Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian prime minister, had grown increasingly afraid of a backlash as news articles appeared implying that Russia had been trying to split the supporters of Democrats Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton while building up Republican Donald Trump. Still, Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, had remained pleased with Moscow’s progress. Even Ivanov expressed his belief that, while Washington had failed to split the Russian elite with sanctions over its invasion of Ukraine, the cyberattacks had created political division in the U.S.

Related: Russian hackers claim to have sensitive information on Trump

Then came the Democratic National Convention, and the appearance of Khizr and Ghazala Khan, parents of an Army captain who had died in the Iraq war. While the father, Khizr, gave a powerful speech condemning Trump, few could have expected the Republican nominee to spend days drawing attention to it. On Twitter and in public comments, again and again, the GOP nominee attacked the Khans, who—as parents who lost a son in war—were traditionally considered off-limits from criticism by politicians. But Trump would not let it go.

Trump PutinDonald Trump pauses before answering questions during a campaign stop in Herndon, Virginia on October 3. REUTERS/MIKE SEGAR 

The inexplicable behavior led top Russian officials to believe that Trump would be forced to withdraw from the race because of his mental state and apparent unsuitability to be president, according to information obtained by a Western intelligence service. In particular, Kremlin officials feared they could not predict what the impact on Russia would be should Trump step aside. As a result, Moscow decided to stop forwarding documents obtained by its hackers through channels to WikiLeaks, which had been disseminating the records publicly.

Still, some material was already being passed from cutout-to-cutout on its way to WikiLeaks, and Russian officials feared that intervening to stop the flow of records might provide more evidence of their involvement.

About that time, according to reports obtained by Western intelligence, a Trump associate met with a pro-Putin member of Russian parliament at a building in Eastern Europe maintained by Rossotrudnichestvo, an agency under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that is charged with administering language, education and support programs for civilians. While Newsweek could not determine the purpose of the meeting, a Western intelligence official said that surveillance of the meeting was conducted by or on behalf of the Estonian Information Board (EIB), the foreign intelligence service of Estonia. (Last year, EIB advised government leaders that the Russian government posed the greatest near-term danger to the security of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia. As a result, Trump’s apparent support for Putin during the campaign raised concerns within the Baltic governments that, with a Trump presidency, they would face increased national security threats from Russia.) However, no evidence has emerged that Trump knew of the meeting or was briefed about it afterward.

By that time, however, the internal controversy at the Kremlin over the cyberattacks and disinformation campaign had taken its toll. On August 12, Ivanov—a close ally of Putin for decades and the staunchest critic of the hacking and disinformation program—was forced out of office by the Russian strongman and replaced by Anton Vaino, who had been the deputy chief of staff.

Putin TrumpRussian President Vladimir Putin attends a session of the Valdai International Discussion Club in Sochi, Russia on October 27, 2016. SPUTNIK/KREMLIN/MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV VIA REUTERS 

But suggestions of possible Russian interference flared up in the United States. Two days after Ivanov stepped down, The New York Times reported that Paul Manafort, then Trump’s campaign manager, may have illegally received $12.7 million from Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s Party of Regions; Manafort has denied any wrongdoing, and his lawyer, Richard Hibey, said his client never received any such payments. Manafort resigned from the Trump campaign not long after the article ran. According to information obtained from inside Russia by Western intelligence, Putin later met with Yanukovych in secret near the city of Volgograd. Yanukovych assured Putin there was no documentary trail showing payments to Manafort, although Putin told associates he did not believe the Ukrainian president, according to the information obtained by the Western intelligence source. (The Trump campaign never responded to any of the issues raised in the original Newsweek article. The transition team did not respond to an email on Tuesday evening regarding this update.)

On October 7, the Obama administration finally said publicly that it was aware of the Russian campaign. “These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the U.S. election process,” Jeh Johnson, the secretary of homeland security, and James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, said in a statement. “We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities.” The White House stated that President Barack Obama was considering a “proportional response”—a statement that suggested the United States would be launching cyberattacks against Russia.

About that time, “buyer’s remorse” had set in at the Kremlin, according to a report obtained by Western counterintelligence. Russia came to see Trump as too unpredictable and feared that, should he win, the Kremlin would not be able to rely on him or even anticipate his actions.

It appears the controversy regarding Trump’s ties to Russia could continue for a long time to come. The New York Times and other outlets reported on Tuesday that Trump and Obama had been presented with unsubstantiated reports that Russia had gathered salacious information about Trump. (The president-elect appeared to be referring to the media reports on Tuesday when he tweeted: “FAKE NEWS – A TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT!”) Large portions of the documents, which were assembled by political operatives attempting to thwart Trump’s march to the White House, could not be confirmed by Newsweek or other outlets. However, a Western European official who currently works for an intelligence agency said that the Kremlin had assembled a dossier of information about Trump during his visits to Moscow years ago, which included video and audio recordings. Newsweek could not determine if there was anything compromising in those records.

While there was widespread agreement among Western European and American intelligence agencies about the Russian effort—it was the British who first alerted the United States to its scope—there remain subtle disagreements regarding its intent. Over many weeks of debate, American intelligence agencies concluded that the campaign, which they believe was authorized by Putin, was intended to help Trump become president. Some Western European intelligence officials instead believe the Kremlin’s efforts were motivated not to support Trump, but to hurt Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee. Some of these overseas agencies also believe the effort was not set in motion by Putin, but received his support once underway. During Clinton’s time as secretary of state, Putin publicly accused her of interfering in Moscow’s affairs. For example, her statement that Russian parliamentary elections in December 2011 were “neither free nor fair” infuriated him.

Hillary Clinton Donald Trump debateDonald Trump and Hillary Clinton, in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 19, 2016. MIKE BLAKE/REUTERS 

The hacking campaign, according to this analysis, was designed to split the Democratic Party so that as president, Clinton would have to spend enormous amounts of time dealing with domestic discord driven by Republicans and progressives tricked into believing that the Democratic National Committee had rigged her nomination. For example, as part of the campaign, Russian hackers obtained emails from the DNC that were then sliced into small bits and put out on the internet through participants in the propaganda effort. In many of these instances, the real documents were misrepresented. For example, WikiLeaks released a number of May 2016 emails on the eve of the Democratic convention that made it appear as if the DNC was solely pulling for Clinton; in many online postings, the date was removed so readers would have no idea unless they searched for the original document that was written at a time when Sanders could not possibly have won the nomination.

Either way, some Western European intelligence agencies have concluded, Putin’s larger goal is to damage NATO so the allied nations would be less likely to interfere in Russia’s domestic affairs and less capable of responding to the Kremlin’s military campaigns or cyberattacks on neighboring nations.

The American and Western European intelligence agencies do, however, agree on how the campaign worked: Hackers pilfered information from a variety of organizations both inside and outside Western governments; they distributed it to individuals who fed it into what a source told a European intelligence expert was a “pipeline.” This so-called pipeline involved multiple steps before the hacked information was disclosed by a large group of propagandists around the world on social media—in comments sections of websites and other locations online. For example, that source reported that documents in the United States intended to disrupt the American election are distributed through WikiLeaks. However, there are so many layers of individuals between the hackers and that organization that there is a strong possibility WikiLeaks does not know with certainty the ultimate source of these records.

The Russian penetration in the United States is far more extensive than has been revealed publicly, although most of it has been targeted either at government departments or nongovernment organizations connected to the Democratic Party. Russian hackers penetrated the White House, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the State Department. They also struck at organizations with looser ties to the Democratic Party, including think tanks such as the Brookings Institution, where some of Clinton’s longtime friends and colleagues work, as well as some organizations connected to the Republican National Committee.

0109_Donald_Trump_inauguration_01Vice President-elect Mike Pence, right, introduces President-elect Donald Trump during an event in Orlando, Florida, on December 16. The two men will be sworn into office on January 20 at the U.S. Capitol. LUCAS JACKSON/REUTERS 

While the campaign has disturbed Western nations around the globe, American allies have been dumbstruck by Trump’s response, not only after the election but during the campaign. A Western European intelligence official said that he had been informed Trump was briefed on the Russian campaign while he was a candidate; moreover, the allies believed he had to have been aware of the public statements in early October by top American intelligence officials and the Obama administration about Moscow’s interference.

Yet Trump continued to dismiss the evidence and instead came to the Kremlin’s defense. Intelligence and other government officials in Britain were horrified, according to one person with direct knowledge of the reaction there. In the course of one of the presidential debates, Trump attacked Clinton for saying that 17 American intelligence agencies had concluded Russia was interfering with the election. Trump stated that “our country has no idea” about Russian hacking. But all of the NATO allies were convinced Russia was behind it. All of America’s intelligence agencies were too. The foreign intelligence services had been sharing what they knew about this with the Americans, and Trump had been told about it. But he blithely dismissed their conclusions.

“A lot of people are now trying to connect the dots of all the data [in the intelligence files] to try and understand Trump,” says one former British official who has spoken to numerous members of the government about Trump’s comments in that debate. “There certainly are a lot of conspiracy theories being bandied about, but no question there is a lot of concern about what’s going on in Trump’s head…and whether we would be able to work with him.”

Even as Trump was disputing the role played by the Kremlin in the hacking, his campaign was scouring sites publicly identified by American intelligence as sources for Russian propaganda. Ten days before the third debate, Newsweek published an article exposing how Trump had cited—as fact—a document altered by Russian propagandists and put out on the internet, suggesting (erroneously) that Clinton’s closest allies believed she bore responsibility for the attack on the American mission in Benghazi, Libya.

Sputnik, which has been publicly identified by intelligence agencies as a key disinformation site of the Kremlin, published an article citing the document. The site, which later took down the article, published another one attacking Newsweek and essentially denying the news organization was controlled by the Kremlin. Before the day was out, the Trump campaign was emailing links of that article to multiple reporters, including at publications like The Daily Caller, urging them to pursue the story.

Officials in Western Europe say they are so dismayed, they now feel compelled to gather intelligence on a man who is set to become the next president of the United States. According to a Western intelligence source, at least one allied nation is currently conducting intelligence operations in the United States, collecting details on officials surrounding Trump and executives in his company, the Trump Organization; the source, who works in government, expressed disbelief that such an effort had been deemed essential.

Moscow is seen as a direct threat to the interests of NATO and other American allies—both in its aggressive efforts to reshape global alliances and for its power to damage Western Europe, which obtains almost 40 percent of its natural gas from Russia. Should the United States, the last remaining superpower, tilt its policies away from NATO to the benefit of Russia, the alliance between America and Western Europe could be transformed in unprecedented ways. And so, for perhaps the first time since World War II, countries in Western Europe fear that the American election of Trump could trigger events that imperil their national security and irreparably harm the alliances that have kept the continent safe for decades.

EX-CIA AGENT ON REPORT TYING RUSSIA TO ELECTION HACKING: ‘ABSOLUTELY NO EVIDENCE’

putin-obama-staredown_0

by Carey Wedler

On Thursday, the FBI and Department of Homeland Security released a joint analysis report addressing persistent allegations that the Russian government hacked the U.S. election.

Though, as the White House fact sheet asserts, the report largely consists of tips to improve cyber security and prevent future attacks, it also appears to cite evidence Russian Intelligence Services (RIS) actively attempted to hack into U.S. systems, a campaign the government has named “GRIZZLY STEPPE.”

But as the media runs with the story and many outlets accept the 13-page report as fact, veterans of the intelligence community have pointed out flaws with the FBI-DHS analysis.

According to Philip Giraldi, a former CIA agent, the report fails to prove Russia is behind the hack. In a recent Facebook post, he asserted that “apart from assertions of Russian activity connected to an unnamed political party, [the report] provides absolutely no evidence that the alleged intrusions into the DNC servers were anything beyond normal intelligence agency probing for vulnerabilities.”

In fact,” he adds, “it doesn’t even provide the evidence for that.”

Further, he argues:

There is no evidence of particular mal-intent that can be traced back to the Russian government, much less to Vladimir Putin. Nine of the thirteen pages of the report deal with advice on how to keep your system from being hacked.”

Robert M. Lee, a former U.S. Air Force Cyber Warfare Operations Officer and founder and CEO of cyber security firm Dragos, explains the report is confusing because it states early on that its intention is to aid “defenders” of the U.S. However, the report makes a point of declaring RIS guilty, veering away from the stated public service goals.

Lee highlights this convolution, highlighting two alleged groups included in the report:

The public is looking for evidence of the attribution, the White House and the DHS/FBI clearly laid out that this report is meant for network defense, and then the entire discussion in the document is on how the DHS/FBI confirms that APT28 and APT29 are RIS groups that compromised a political party.”

But that’s not the only problem. As Lee points out, the report notes the FBI has previously refrained from naming specific actors in joint analysis reports — but does so for the purposes of this investigation, claiming they can confirm indicators of an attack from private sector attribution. Yet “the GRIZZLY STEPPE report reads like a poorly done vendor intelligence report stringing together various aspects of attribution without evidence,” Lee writes.

Jeffrey Carr, a cybersecurity consultant and author of Inside Cyber Warfare, has bluntly rejected the allegations contained in the report:

It merely listed every threat group ever reported on by a commercial cybersecurity company that is suspected of being Russian-made and lumped them under the heading of Russian Intelligence Services (RIS) without providing any supporting evidence that such a connection exists.”

In contrast, Lee shies away from fully disregarding the report, issuing a “thank you” to “the government operators who did fantastic work and tried their best to push out the best information.” But he also has words for those who conducted “the sanitation of that information and the report writing.”

Addressing the report’s list of alleged RIS groups, Lee points out that the list contains both the names of hacking campaigns and types of malware. He explains “the list of reported RIS names includes relevant and specific names such as campaign names, more general and often unrelated malware family names, and extremely broad and non-descriptive classification of capabilities.”

This, like the report’s jumbled intentions, confuses the data. Lee explains:

It was a mixing of data types that didn’t meet any objective in the report and only added confusion as to whether the DHS/FBI knows what they are doing or if they are instead just telling teams in the government ‘contribute anything you have that has been affiliated with Russian activity.’”

Lee also criticized the report for its failure to distinguish between data gleaned from the private sector versus the public sector, noting these different types of intelligence bear different confidence ratings. “[A]lways tell people where you got your data, separate it from your own data which you have a higher confidence level in having observed first hand, and if you are using other people’s campaign names, data, analysis, etc. explain why so that analysts can do something with it instead of treating it as random situational awareness,” he advises.

He also tackles the IP addresses listed in the report, noting “many (30%+) of these IP addresses are mostly useless as they are VPS, TOR exit nodes, proxies, and other non-descriptive internet traffic sites.” He explains that in order for the addresses to be valid indicators of an attack, they “must contain information around timing. I.e. when were these IP addresses associated with the malware or campaign and when were they in active usage.” The report does not include this information.

In the same vein, Lee notes that while the report does contain examples of 30 malicious files, “all but two have the same problems as the IP addresses in that there isn’t appropriate context as to what most of them are related to and when they were leveraged.”

Other experts had more general critiques of the report.

John McAfee, founder of the well-known McAfee anti-virus software and former Libertarian Party presidential candidate argued that hackers from countries besides Russia could have intentionally made the attack appear Russian. “If I was the Chinese and I wanted to make it look like the Russians did it, I would use Russian language within the code, I would use Russian techniques of breaking into the organization,” McAfee said. He added that “there simply is no way to assign a source for any attack.”

At least one journalist, Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi, pointed out a similar problem. Though he acknowledges “Grizzly Steppe” is a “sexy” name, he notes “we don’t learn much at all about what led our government to determine a) that these hacks were directed by the Russian government, or b) they were undertaken with the aim of influencing the election, and in particular to help elect Donald Trump.”

In spite of this pushback from seasoned members of the intelligence community and the award-winning journalist, media outlets that have parroted the “Russia did it” narrative continued to do so with the recent report. Taibbi pointed out that the New York Times headline for the story treated the report as fact. “Obama Strikes Back at Russia for Election Hacking,” it read, though Taibbi did note some outlets were careful to walk the line, “using ‘Obama says’ formulations” in their headlines.

Ultimately, he observes problems with media outlets simply repeating the statements of government institutions and agents:

The problem with this story is that, like the Iraq-WMD mess, it takes place in the middle of a highly politicized environment during which the motives of all the relevant actors are suspect. Nothing quite adds up.”

He also doubts the existence of substantial evidence implicating Russia:

If the American security agencies had smoking-gun evidence that the Russians had an organized campaign to derail the U.S. presidential election and deliver the White House to Trump, then expelling a few dozen diplomats after the election seems like an oddly weak and ill-timed response. Voices in both parties are saying this now.”

Similarly, Carr noted:

If the White House had unclassified evidence that tied officials in the Russian government to the DNC attack, they would have presented it by now. The fact that they didn’t means either that the evidence doesn’t exist or that it is classified.”

Of course, the opinions of experts do not wholly disprove the theory Russia hacked the election, and detailed evidence is expected to be presented in a report to Congress before President-elect Donald Trump takes office. As Taibbi bluntly asserts, “I have no problem believing that Vladimir Putin tried to influence the American election. He’s gangster-spook-scum of the lowest order and capable of anything.”

Similarly, Graham Cluley, a cyber security expert based in the U.K., wrote in a blog post that he believes Russia was likely behind the attack. But as even he notes, “what’s to say that that Russian server isn’t itself under the control of hackers in an entirely different country who are covering their tracks? It’s hard to put a water-tight case together unless you have the ‘boots-on-the-ground’ willing assistance of local law enforcement to properly investigate if an overseas computer is itself acting as a proxy for someone else or not.”

Joining Democrats, GOP senators condemn Russian political hacking

WASHINGTON — The Republicans on the Senate Armed Services Committee said Sunday they were joining with Democrats in calling for an examination of reports that Russia interfered in the presidential election.

The leaders said they will push “to unify our colleagues around the goal of investigating and stopping the grave threats that cyber-attacks conducted by foreign governments pose to our national security.” Russia was the only country mentioned in the statement.

Republican Senators John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina have also said they plan to pursue investigations into Russian election interference.

McCain, incoming Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and others said in a joint statement Sunday that the CIA’s report of Russia’s efforts in the election “should alarm every American.”

Senate Minority Leader-elect Chuck Schumer of New York in an interview with The Associated Press in his office on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Nov. 18, 2016. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Schumer, a Democrat of New York, said he would press for a congressional investigation in the new year. “That any country could be meddling in our elections should shake both political parties to their core,” he said. “It’s imperative that our intelligence community turns over any relevant information so that Congress can conduct a full investigation.”

Other Republicans have played down the reports. Texas Sen. John Cornyn wrote on Twitter Saturday that Russian hacking had been going on for years. He said the matter was “serious, but hardly news.”

Donald Trump’s presidential transition team on Saturday challenged the veracity of US intelligence assessments that Russia was trying to tip the November election to the Republican.

The CIA has now concluded with “high confidence” that Moscow was not only interfering with the election, but that its actions were intended to help Trump, according to a senior US official. The assessment is based in part on evidence that Russian actors had hacked Republicans as well as Democrats but were only releasing information harmful to Trump’s rival, Hillary Clinton.

The official was not authorized to discuss the private intelligence assessment publicly and insisted on anonymity.

Trump’s public dismissal of the CIA assessment raises questions about how he will treat information from intelligence agencies as president. His view also puts Republicans in the uncomfortable position of choosing between the incoming president and the intelligence community.

In a statement late Friday, Trump’s transition team said the finger-pointing at Russia was coming from “the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.” On Saturday, spokesman Sean Spicer told CNN there were “people within these agencies who are upset with the outcome of the election.”

Spicer denied a New York Times report that Russia had broken into the Republican National Committee’s computer networks. The US official who disclosed the CIA assessment to The Associated Press said only that Republican entities had been targeted during the election.

There was no immediate official response from Moscow. But Oleg Morozov, a member of the foreign relations committee in the upper house of the Russian parliament, dismissed the claim of Russian interference as “silliness and paranoia,” according to the RIA Novosti news agency. Morozov described the allegations as an attempt to force the next administration to stick to Obama’s anti-Russian course.

RNC Communications Director Sean Spicer leaves Trump Tower in New York. November 13, 2016 . (AFP PHOTO / Bryan R. Smith)

President Barack Obama has ordered a full-scale review of campaign-season cyber-attacks to be completed before he leaves office in January.

The investigation ordered by Obama will be a “deep dive” into a possible pattern of increased “malicious cyber activity” timed to the campaign season, White House spokesman Eric Schultz said Friday, including the email hacks that rattled the presidential campaign. It will look at the tactics, targets, key actors and the US government’s response to the recent email hacks, as well as incidents reported in past elections, he said.

The president ordered up the report earlier in the week asked that it be completed before he leaves office next month, Schultz said.

“The president wanted this done under his watch because he takes it very seriously,” he said. “We are committed to ensuring the integrity of our elections.”

The Kremlin has rejected the hacking accusations.

In the months leading up to the election, email accounts of Democratic Party officials and a top Clinton campaign aide were breached, emails leaked and embarrassing and private emails posted online. Many Democrats believe the hackings benefited Trump’s bid.

Schultz said the president sought the probe as a way of improving US defense against cyber-attacks and was not intending to question the legitimacy of Trump’s victory.

“This is not an effort to challenge the outcome of the election,” Schultz said.

Obama’s move comes as Democratic lawmakers have been pushing Obama to declassify more information about Russia’s role, fearing that Trump, who has promised a warmer relationship with Moscow, may not prioritize the issue.

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-California, ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in Washington, May 12, 2015. (AP/Alex Brandon, File)

Given Trump’s statements, “there is an added urgency to the need for a thorough review before President Obama leaves office next month,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, a Democrat of California, senior Democrat on the House intelligence committee. If the administration doesn’t respond “forcefully” to such actions, “we can expect to see a lot more of this in the near future,” he said.

The White House said it would make portions of the report public and would brief lawmakers and relevant state officials on the findings.

It emphasized the report would not focus solely on Russian operations or hacks involving Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and Democratic National Committee accounts. Schultz stressed officials would be reviewing incidents going back to the 2008 presidential campaign, when the campaigns of Sen. John McCain and Obama were breached by hackers.

Intelligence officials have said Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney were targets of Chinese cyber-attacks four years later.

U.S. Officials Defend Integrity of Vote, Despite Hacking Fears

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration said on Friday that despite Russian attempts to undermine the presidential election, it has concluded that the results “accurately reflect the will of the American people.”

The statement came as liberal opponents of Donald J. Trump, some citing fears of vote hacking, are seeking recounts in three states — Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania — where his margin of victory was extremely thin.

A drive by Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, for recounts in those states had brought in more than $5 million by midday on Friday, her campaign said, and had increased its goal to $7 million. She filed for a recount in Wisconsin on Friday, about an hour before the deadline.

In its statement, the administration said, “The Kremlin probably expected that publicity surrounding the disclosures that followed the Russian government-directed compromises of emails from U.S. persons and institutions, including from U.S. political organizations, would raise questions about the integrity of the election process that could have undermined the legitimacy of the president-elect.”

That was a reference to the breach of the Democratic National Committee’s email system, and the leak of emails from figures like John D. Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman.

“Nevertheless, we stand behind our election results, which accurately reflect the will of the American people,” it added.

Supporters of Mrs. Clinton have enthusiastically backed the notion of challenging the results in the three states as a last-ditch effort to reverse Mr. Trump’s clear majority in the Electoral College. They have seized on suggestions by some computer scientists that the states, which were crucial to Mr. Trump’s victory, need to manually review paper ballots to ensure the election was not hacked.

The campaign, uniting around the hashtag #AuditTheVote, has picked up momentum among grass-roots activists still mourning Mr. Trump’s victory. But the pleas for recounts have gained no support from the Clinton campaign, which has concluded that it is highly unlikely to change the outcome.

In Michigan, Ms. Stein must wait for a Monday meeting of the state’s Board of Canvassers to certify the results of the Nov. 8 balloting before filing for a recount. In Pennsylvania, where paper ballots are used only in some areas, election officials said that the deadline to petition for a recount had passed, but that a candidate could challenge the result in court before a Monday deadline.

The recount efforts have generated pushback by experts who said it would be enormously difficult to hack voting machines on a large scale. The administration, in its statement, confirmed reports from the Department of Homeland Security and intelligence officials that they did not see “any increased level of malicious cyberactivity aimed at disrupting our electoral process on Election Day.”

The administration said it remained “confident in the overall integrity of electoral infrastructure, a confidence that was borne out.” It added: “As a result, we believe our elections were free and fair from a cybersecurity perspective.”

Photo

Emails of John D. Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, were leaked after Russian government-directed hacking. CreditSam Hodgson for The New York Times

However, intelligence officials are still investigating the impact of a broader Russian “information warfare” campaign, in which fake news about Mrs. Clinton, and about United States-Russia relations, appeared intended to influence voters. Many of those false reports originated from RT News and Sputnik, two state-funded Russian sites.

Those fake-news reports were widely circulated on social media, independent studies, including one set for release soon, have shown, sometimes in an organized fashion by groups that appear to have had common ownership. Individuals, conservative talk-show hosts and activists recirculated them, often not knowing, or apparently not caring, about the accuracy of the reports.

But the misinformation effort is far from black-and-white. Many people who spread false news have no connections to any foreign power, including a man in Austin, Tex., who posted a Twitter message saying that paid protesters were being bused to an anti-Trump demonstration there. Though the report quickly went viral, the buses, it turned out, were there for a corporate conference.

Other examples, including one studied by a group called Propaganda or Not and first cited by The Washington Post, appear to have more concrete connections to Russia. In late August, stories suggesting that Mrs. Clinton might have Parkinson’s disease were circulated on trupundit.com, which often runs pro-Russian material. It clearly twisted an email sent by one of Mrs. Clinton’s top aides about a drug called Provigil that is used to treat sleepiness. It has also been prescribed to patients with sleepiness as a side effect from several different ailments, the email added, including “Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis.”

That single reference was enough to create a fake story suggesting that Mrs. Clinton was being treated for Parkinson’s.

The allegation was quickly shot down by several news organizations. It made little difference: Propaganda or Not, made up of former national security, intelligence and other professionals, and some workers at Google and other technology firms, concluded that it was reproduced tens of thousands of times, sometimes by botnets, and viewed millions of times.

But it is not known whether that news was circulated under Russian government direction, or simply by Russian sympathizers, or Mrs. Clinton’s opponents.

The barrage of online efforts to influence the election this year has prompted broader concerns that similar attempts, directed by the Kremlin or its surrogates, could now be focused on elections next year in Germany and France. The goal, intelligence officials and outside experts fear, is to undermine the cohesiveness of the Western alliance, particularly NATO members, by calling into question the validity of democratic elections.

“We simply don’t know what the effects of the ‘fake news’ and other disinformation was,” said Jason Healey, an expert on cyberconflict at Columbia University. “If they were able to influence in favor of Trump by one or two percentage points in some places, they will be encouraged to try again for the French and the Germans.”

The efforts have also prompted debate inside Facebook and other social media firms about their responsibility to filter out false news. But doing so is a complex task, akin to editing a news operation, and it comes with complex political calculations: Once social media firms begin editing here to American standards, they will be under pressure from authoritarian regimes to do the same to their standards.

In its statement, the administration focused chiefly on the threat of Russian manipulation of the vote on Election Day, not on the proliferation of propaganda and fake news.

Ms. Stein, of the Green Party, acknowledged on Thursday in an interview with the PBS “NewsHour” that it was unlikely that recounts could change the results. Still, she said that “this was an election in which we saw hacking all over the place,” and that “at the same time, we have a voting system which has been proven to basically be wide open to hackers.”

Claims of Hacking and Rigging the Election Could Lead to Chaos in America

http://www.renegadetribune.com/claims-hacking-rigging-election-lead-chaos-america/

 

People who are regular readers of Renegade Tribune will realize that elections are not really up to the voters, but are really just a way for the ruling elite to install their puppets, all while presenting the illusion of choice. This allows for them to blame the populace when the economy turns upside down and wars erupt.

You don’t like the direction the US is going? Well, you asked for it! Vote better next time.

This system of ensuring consent of the governed only works if people actually believe in the results of the election. When a person feels his vote is meaningless, he may either become despondent and withdraw from all political matters or start taking direct activist action to change the course of the country. In either case, consent is removed, and democracy is revealed as a sham.

Leaders are not elected by us, rulers are selected for us!

What is amazing to me is how many people were once disillusioned with the political process, especially after seeing the Ron Paul Revolution squashed by the political and media establishment, and even sandbagged from within the campaign itself, only to now be right back into the system, riding the Trump train. They think that “rocking the vote” is the only way to save America. Some even think this election is the last stand of the White race, and that if Trump loses, all hope is lost.

In the last month, however, the whole election has deliberately been thrown into doubt by both candidates. I have only been around for 33 years, but I don’t remember any other election where the Republican and Democrat nominees were both claiming a vast conspiracy is going to steal the election before it has taken place, nor have I ever read about such an election in history books, though Nixon did allege the election had been rigged for Kennedy before conceding. Even Ron Paul in 2008 and 2012 was not willing to challenge the “sacred” results of our beloved democracy, although it was very obvious that the deck was being continuously stacked against him.

election-system-hackLet’s start with Hillary Clinton, who is making the claim that Russia is going to hack the electoral process in the United States in order to hand the election to Donald Trump. The Wikileaks revelations and DNC hacks, which have relentlessly targeted Clinton, have been blamed on Russia, as is last week’s sophisticated DDoS attack that took out major websites. Although Clinton made a lucrative pay-to-play deal with Uranium One (Rosatom) a few years ago to hand over 25% of the US’s Uranium to Putin’s government, apparently they are now deadly enemies, with lots of saber rattling back and forth. Trump, on the other hand, has made numerous statements that indicate he would be able to work with Vladimir Putin, while Putin and his regime have essentially said that if Hillary gets into office it means World War III, which would inevitably result in nuclear strikes. With less than two weeks to the election, Russia has been ramping up preparations for war, while NATO is positioning extra forces along the Russian border. Perceived Russian electronic meddling with the election would be treated as an act of war.

840x473At the same time Donald Trump is making the claim that the election is being rigged by Hillary Clinton and the entrenched political establishment. These claims are backed up by legitimate evidence, such as George Soros having intimate connections to voting machine companies, as well as the many revelations that have come out since the George W. Bush victory against Al Gore, due to the hanging chads in Florida. There are so many ways to rig an election, such as illegal immigrants casting votes without IDs, dead voters rising from their graves, electronic manipulation, vote counter fraud, and more. Democrats argue that even though you need an ID to drive, buy cigarettes, or function in our society in any meaningful way, it’s inherently “racist” and unfair to require a voter to show any form of ID, making it very easy to alter results. This is nothing new, though, as American history is filled with voter fraud, with Tammany Hall being just one prominent example.

Vote early and vote often!

So whoever wins the election, the results will inevitably be in question for many people in the United States, even if the losing candidate concedes.

The elections have likely been decided long ago, with both candidates really just representing the same ruling elite, since they both have overwhelming ties to powerful jewish supremacists and each other. However, the vast majority of people actually believe in the show, even in the alternative media. When people think they have been robbed, and there is evidence to prove it, they will usually react with great anger, which leads me to think this is all being seeded in the minds of the public to ensure serious domestic disturbances in the wake of the results.

Problem -> Reaction -> Solution

What happens if Trump is elected? Hillary, most of the mainstream media, and other political figures will claim it is only due to Russia’s involvement, while also lashing out at the “White Supremacists” and “Nazis” supporting his campaign. Blacks, Latinos, feminists, and other “minority” interest groups will be out on the streets to rail against the billionaire bully who is in bed with the Russians. There could even be massive riots and cities burning; if the justified shooting of a criminal Black by police can be used as an excuse for such behavior, imagine what could be incited with a Trump victory. This would obviously require a severe crackdown by the police and national guard, or all-out martial law.

What happens if Clinton is elected? Donald Trump and his tens of millions of hardcore “deplorable” supporters will be pretty damn pissed, and see this as just another example of Hillary Clinton’s criminal corruption. Trump has been filling up stadiums while Clinton can barely make a school gym look crowded, so obviously the voters were cheated out of their choice, right? While perhaps not immediately lashing out like the anti-Trump crowd would in the previous scenario, Trump’s troops would likely plan for taking the country back through non-political avenues. As the SPLC has noted, militia membership goes up drastically during a Democratic presidency, as they feel their backs are against the wall, but die down when a Republican is in office. There would be much sympathy for such efforts amongst the average American citizen, including police and military, who all rightfully loathe the criminal Clinton cabal. Already the mainstream media is warning about Trump supporters plotting a revolution if Trump loses. Such activity could elicit a similar crackdown by the state as seen before, but in this case it would be much less popular and effective. Organized patriotic White Americans who think their country has been stolen would be a much different animal than the left-wing rabble we have recently seen on the streets.

Perhaps the elite actually want all-out civil war, which is what I am predicting would be the result of a Clinton win, and not just protests and rioting. However, this could prove to be too volatile for the ruling elite and actually spell their downfall, despite their best efforts to control the opposition. This is why I think they will actually select Trump as the winner. He will give us the illusion of change, quell White dissent, provide left-wing media with someone to rail against for at least four years, and be the perfect fall-guy to blame for a coming economic collapse, which would result in authoritarian measures.

There is even a possibility that Barack Obama might be forced to step in and remain president for a while, until order can be restored and a more “fair” election arranged.

obama-martial-law

Although unlikely, there is the possibility of two administrations claiming authority over America. There is even the potential for a coup, where some other leader entirely takes control of America. I wouldn’t even rule out a “red dawn” scenario with Russia, China, or the UN stepping in to take control, “for our own good” of course.

Regardless, Americans will be at each other’s throats, blaming each other for ruining the country, or taking out their anger on third world pawns who have been weaponized against us. Jewish globalists are seeking to inflict upon us as much chaos as possible, weakening our ability to resist as they seek to establish their world order. We should be prepared for the worst, game-planning for whatever scenario might be thrown our way. We must not only be reactive, but pro-active, exposing our enemies at every single opportunity, effectively directing American anger against our enemies.

Former Cardinals executive pleads guilty, admits hacking Astros’ computers

The Houston Astros made two modest trades on July 31, 2013, sending pitcher Bud Norris to the Baltimore Orioles and outfielder Justin Maxwell to the Kansas City Royals.

Those deals probably would not have come as news to Chris Correa, then the scouting director of the St. Louis Cardinals. On that day, in the hours preceding baseball’s nonwaiver trade deadline, Correa hacked into the Astros’ computer system and peeked at records of the team’s trade talks.

“Stupid, I know,” Correa told a federal judge in Houston on Friday, as he pleaded guilty to five counts of unauthorized access to a private computer. He faces up to five years in prison on each count, although prosecutors agreed to recommend any prison terms be served concurrently.

Correa illegally accessed the Astros’ computers for more than a year, viewing such confidential information as trade discussions, draft evaluations and analytical research projects, according to federal documents. After the Houston Chronicle published a detailed story about the Astros’ database, the team changed all passwords, and Correa hacked into an email account to discover the new password protocol and then resume his hacking.

Correa acknowledged he tried to conceal his identity and location. The value of the unauthorized information he reviewed was estimated at $1.7 million.

“Whether it’s preserving the sanctity of America’s pastime or protecting trade secrets, those that unlawfully gain proprietary information by accessing computers without authorization must be held accountable for their illegal actions,” U.S. Atty. Kenneth Magidson said in a news release.

Correa reportedly was concerned the Astros might have been able to use the Cardinals’ proprietary information after Cardinals executive Jeff Luhnow left to become the Astros’ general manager in 2011.

“You broke into their house to find if they were stealing your stuff,” U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes told Correa on Friday, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Hughes then asked if Correa had found any Cardinals information in the Astros’ database.

“I did, your honor,” Correa said.

In a statement, the Astros denied that their database “contained any information that was proprietary to the St. Louis Cardinals.” The Cardinals declined comment Friday. The team fired Correa last year, after news of the federal investigation became public and the team launched an internal investigation.

Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred could punish one team or both — fines and/or the loss of draft picks are considered the most likely sanctions — and the league said in a statement that any such action would wait in anticipation that federal agents would “share with us the results of their investigation.”

In November, Manfred alerted owners and general managers to an urgent need to protect electronic records, particularly the proprietary databases that have popped up with the embrace of analytics, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

“I think it’s a result of us realizing 25 years ago, 30 years ago intellectual property in this business was what some GM carried around in his head and he was going to take it with him when he left,” Manfred said. “There wasn’t much you could do about that. Today the business has changed. The advice we’re giving the clubs to this is reflective of the fact that we understand the business has changed.”