Russian operative CASHED IN with US spy agencies; $100K payday after promises to deliver cyberweapons and TRUMP DIRT

(National SentinelDeep State: A Russian operative managed to bilk U.S. spy agencies out of $100,000 last year over what turned out to be phony promises to deliver cyber weapons and compromising information about President Donald J. Trump.

As reported by The New York Times, the money was delivered to the operative in a suitcase in a hotel room in Berlin in September and was intended to be the first installment of a $1 million payout, according to U.S. officials, the Russian operative and documents reviewed by the paper.

At issue: Theft of secret hacking tools used by the National Security Agency at a time when officials within the NSA were attempting to learn the full extent of what had been stolen.

The Times noted further that the NSA was apparently not interested in the alleged information regarding the president, in part because they didn’t believe it was valid:

Several American intelligence officials said they made clear that they did not want the Trump material from the Russian, who was suspected of having murky ties to Russian intelligence and to Eastern European cybercriminals. He claimed the information would link the president and his associates to Russia. Instead of providing the hacking tools, the Russian produced unverified and possibly fabricated information involving Mr. Trump and others, including bank records, emails and purported Russian intelligence data.

The United States intelligence officials said they cut off the deal because they were wary of being entangled in a Russian operation to create discord inside the American government. They were also fearful of political fallout in Washington if they were seen to be buying scurrilous information on the president.

The Times noted that the NSA worked through an American businessman who is based in Germany in order to provide the agency with cover. Also, the paper noted that the NSA spent months tracking the Russian operative’s “flights to Berlin, his rendezvous with a mistress in Vienna and his trips home to St. Petersburg.”

Also, the paper said the NSA used its official Twitter account on several occasions to send coded messages to the Russian.

The Times noted further:

The episode ended this year with American spies chasing the Russian out of Western Europe, warning him not to return if he valued his freedom, the American businessman said. The Trump material was left with the American, who has secured it in Europe.

The Russian claimed to have access to a staggering collection of secrets that included everything from the computer code for the cyberweapons stolen from the N.S.A. and C.I.A. to what he said was a video of Mr. Trump consorting with prostitutes in a Moscow hotel room in 2013, according to American and European officials and the Russian, who agreed to be interviewed in Germany on the condition of anonymity. There remains no evidence that such a video exists.

The paper noted that U.S. spies became suspicious of the Russian after he expressed an eagerness to sell the “kompromat” — compromising material — because it “raised suspicions among officials that he was part of an operation to feed the information to United States intelligence agencies and pit them against Mr. Trump.”

The Times noted that U.S. spies were far more interested in the hacking tools the Russian operative allegedly possessed:

The cyberweapons had been built to break into the computer networks of Russia, China and other rival powers. Instead, they ended up in the hands of a mysterious group calling itself the Shadow Brokers, which has since provided hackers with tools that infected millions of computers around the world, crippling hospitals, factories and businesses.

Also, U.S. counterintelligence officials believe that Russian spy services are working to exploit what they see as political divisions in the U.S. regarding various scandals involving some FBI and DOJ officials under the previous administration, the Times reported.

“Russian hackers are targeting American voting databases ahead of the midterm election this year, they said, and using bot armies to promote partisan causes on social media,” the Times reported. “The Russians are also particularly eager to cast doubt on the federal and congressional investigations into the Russian meddling, American intelligence officials said.”

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WHISTLEBLOWERS: Obama’s FBI used NSA surveillance as ‘back door’ to SPY on Americans

(National SentinelSpies Like Us: Several former U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials familiar with the program say that the FBI regularly used NSA surveillance to gain warrantless “backdoor” access to Americans’ communications.

Investigative reporter Sara Carter notes on her website that the whistleblowers, who have recently disclosed the program’s process to congressional oversight committees, noted that concern over the warrantless surveillance increased when it was revealed earlier this year that Obama administration officials had accessed and unmasked the communications of Team Trump members, allegedly without any real justification.

One of them was Trump’s first national security advisor, Michael Flynn, who recently agreed to plead guilty in federal court for lying to FBI agents about his contacts with Russian officials. None of those contacts, reports later noted, were improper, so it isn’t clear why Flynn felt the need to conceal them.

Carter wrote:

The process, known as ‘reverse targeting,’ occurs when intelligence and law enforcement officials use a foreign person as a legal pretense for their intended target, an American citizen, the officials stated. The program, as it exists, failed to prevent terror attacks and in many cases made incorrect connections between a foreign target and an innocent American, they stated.

The officials said the program was set up after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, but that it has not resulted in preventing any future threats. Rather, they said, it infringes on Fourth Amendment privacy protects and was ripe for political abuse.

 

“The program can be misused by anyone with access to it,” a former Intelligence official with knowledge of the program told Carter. “There needs to be an extensive investigation of all the Americans connected to President Trump and the campaign who were unmasked in connection with the 2016 election.”

Carter noted further:

The former intelligence source said the extent of abuses under the surveillance program has been debated both publicly and privately throughout the Bush and Obama administrations, both which promised to revamp the covert program and stop warrantless surveillance of Americans. It didn’t happen.

The program was first disclosed in a New York Times article from 2005 , and was later outed by its codename Stellar Wind when whistleblower, now fugitive, Edward Snowden released thousands of classified government documents showing the extensive Internet and phone surveillance of American’s by the NSA, according to reports. Since 2001, various legal authorities were put in place to justify the access to communications and giving the appearance that the practice of warrantless surveillance was strictly regulated.

Added another intelligence official aware of the program: “The warrantless surveillance program had the appearance of being shut down following the 2005 New York Times article that exposed it. However, a few weeks later, the FISC (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court) approved what is known as bulk FISA collection. This FISA authority allowed for the targeting of domestic numbers believed to be tainted.”

Members of Congress are preparing to vote on whether to reauthorize Section 701 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which will expire at year’s end. Critics of the section noted that in the course of U.S. intelligence agencies putting legitimate foreign targets under surveillance, Americans’ communications are often swept up as well.

Most often, their identities are hidden in final intelligence products and reports. But in rare instances, administration officials and intelligence agencies can request that Americans’ names be “unmasked,” which is what happened to Flynn.

As Carter and her intelligence sources noted, the process can be politicized, which appears to have been the case involving Team Trump members last year.

NSA whistleblower William Binney, who spent close to 40 years working on Signals Intelligence operations, told Carter the heart of abuse lies with Executive Order 12333, which was issued in 1981 by President Ronald Reagan.

Specifically, he said, section 2.3 paragraph C allows for the collection of all Internet and phone communications.

Binney left the NSA in 2001, after learning how intrusive and unconstitutional the program had become.

An FBI unit managing the program was known as “Team 10.” The expert analysts were based in a special division inside the NSA which was known as “Homeland” and located at Fort Meade, Md.

“The program is not inherently bad or corrupt,” an intelligence official, with knowledge of the program, told Carter. “It needs a major tweak, a restructuring of processes and authorities. If left unchallenged and unchecked, rampant abuse will continue and increase as we have seen for some time.”

During testimony before Congress before he was fired by Trump, then-FBI Director James Comey told lawmakers that any warrantless data access by the bureau was “lawfully collected, carefully overseen and checked.”

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Botched Russia meddling analysis makes U.S. intel agencies appear politically motivated

(National SentinelFaulty Assessment: Just two weeks before President-elect Donald J. Trump took office, President Obama’s intelligence heads made public a unanimous analysis that Russian operatives, under orders from President Vladimir Putin, staged an influence campaign in order to help Trump win the 2016 election.

As the Washington Times reported, it was a significant event: The CIA, NSA, and FBI were all challenging the legitimacy of a presidential election.

While the charges at the time seemed persuasive and sharp, some 10 months later they are unraveling, which is raising questions about the legitimacy of the initial assessment and whether it was politically motivated to undermine the incoming commander-in-chief.

“It left me scratching my head,” said one intelligence source with personal access to former Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper and former CIA Director John O. Brennan, two of the men who had signed off on the assessment.

Both men have since publicly criticized Trump, which in and of itself is nearly unprecedented.

What’s more, the Times reported:

The 15-page document presented to the president-elect at Trump Tower in Manhattan was mostly filler — a republication of a years-old CIA analysis of the Kremlin’s global television network Russia Today. A mere five pages were dedicated to [the] charge that Moscow blended cyberhacking with state-backed propaganda and social media trolls to defeat Mr. Trump’s Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.

There was no supporting documentation of how America’s top spies arrived at the brazen conclusion that Russians had “gained access to” and “exfiltrated large volumes of data” from Democratic National Committee computers, an explosive claim that sent shock waves across the U.S. political and intelligence landscapes.

And yet, because of the source of the report, those five pages have cast a pall over Trump’s presidency ever since, hurting his credibility abroad and forming the backdrop for five separate congressional and special counsel investigations.

This, despite the fact that the document’s singular conclusion — Russian collusion with Team Trump — looks less and less believable by the day.

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And now, members of both parties say that the Russian efforts to undermine the November election were neither new nor aimed at electing Trump, but merely to ‘undermine’ American democratic processes.

The Times said in interviews with scores of former U.S. national security, intelligence community vets at the highest levels as well as foreign diplomats who all thought the initial assessment was devoid of much detail.

“I actually called them both the day after it came out and asked, ‘Why was it so thin?’” said the source close to Clapper and Brennan. “The answer I got was simple: There was a serious counterintelligence operation going on.”

The Times noted, “U.S. spies were neck-deep in an elaborate counterintelligence operation, and they didn’t want to jeopardize it by revealing too many details, according to various officials inside and outside the intelligence community.”

Trump did not see it that way; he believed that the Obama intelligence apparatus had been politicized and, as we have learned since, it likely was, just like Obama’s Justice Department.

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Other intelligence vets agree:

Fred Fleitz, a 19-year CIA veteran who served as a chief of staff for John R. Bolton during the George W. Bush administration, first laid out the argument in a Fox News op-ed the day after the assessment was made public.

The entire purpose of the report was apparently “to undermine the legitimacy of Trump’s election,” Mr. Fleitz wrote on Jan. 7. He called the assessment “rigged for political purposes” and lamented that it contained “serious accusations of Russian interference” but “did not back them up with evidence.”

At least one Russian envoy interviewed by the Times agreed. “I believe it was a total fraud and it was very badly concocted, to say the least,” he said. “It was clearly done to divert attention away from all the infighting and backstabbing that was going on inside the Democratic Party. It was also a perfect move to place the blame on someone else — a foreign power — for Hillary’s defeat.”

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Clueless in Washington: NSA had no data on number of employees with access to download top secret data prior to Snowden leak

(National SentinelEspionage: As technologically advanced as our intelligence community is, a new report has found that our preeminent foreign surveillance wing had no data on how many of its employees and contractors had sufficient clearance to download our nation’s most sensitive secrets prior to the biggest compromise of data in recent history

As reported by the Washington Free Beacon, before former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden’s historic breach, a recent declassified August report from the Department of Defense’s Office of Inspector General also found that the NSA was unable to meaningfully slash the number of officials with “privileged” access its most sensitive databases.

The report, which was heavily redacted, was obtained via a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by The New York Times.

The Free Beacon noted further:

The agency struggled to achieve the mandated reductions because it had no idea how many employees or contractors were designated data transfer agents or privileged access users prior to the leaks.

NSA officials told the inspector general they lost a “manually kept spreadsheet” that tracked the number of privileged users after receiving multiple requests from the inspector general to provide documents identifying the initial number. The lapse made it impossible for the agency to determine its baseline of privileged users from which reductions would be made.

The report said the NSA then “arbitrarily removed” privileged access from users, who were told to reapply for the authorization. While this enabled the agency to determine how many personnel were granted special access, the NSA still had no way of measuring how many privileged users had lost the clearance.

The inspector general said the NSA should have used this new baseline as a “starting point” to reduce privileged users instead of using the number to declare a reduction in those personnel.

In the case of data transfer agents, the NSA’s “manually kept list” tracking the number of officials authorized to use removable devices, such as thumb drives, to transfer data to and from the agency’s servers was “corrupted” in the months leading up to the Snowden leaks, the report said.

Without a baseline to measure potential reductions, the NSA then mandated data transfer agents to reapply for the authorization. Again, though this allowed the agency to determine how many personnel were given the authority, the NSA still had no way of gauging how many reductions were made, if any.

This isn’t the first government report that puts the NSA in a negative light over Snowden and access to sensitive files. In December, NationalSecurity.news reported that both the NSA and the Central Intelligence Agency. Citing a declassified congressional study, the report further noted that Snowden’s theft and disclosure of some 1.5 million documents most definitely harmed U.S. national security.

What all of this shows more than anything is that the intelligence community has grown so large and so autonomous that neither internal or external oversight (the latter via Congress) is sufficient enough to check and prevent the loss of huge amounts of highly sensitive data.

When you’re the nation’s foremost foreign intelligence agency and you have no idea how many people have access to your most sensitive information, that’s a big, fat red flag warning that data loss will happen again.

You know, like it did just recently with Reality Leigh Winner’s breach.

Trump admin makes first arrest for leaks of classified data to media: More to come?

(National SentinelIntelligence leaks: The Trump administration has made good on its threat to crack down on the leaking of classified data to the media, with the arrest of a federal contractor in Georgia who is charged with mailing a top secret NSA document to reporters.

chief-organics-msmAs reported by the New York Post, the contractor, Reality Winner, 25, has been charged with leaking an NSA document that shows Russian military intelligence attempted to hack into at least one electronic voting machine vender while trying to ensnare about 100 state election employees with a spear phishing attack:

The highly classified intelligence document, published Monday by The Intercept, describes how Russia managed to infiltrate America’s voting infrastructure using a spear-phishing email scheme that targeted local government officials and employees.

It claims the calculated cyberattack may have even been more far-reaching and devious than previously thought.

The report is believed to be the most detailed US government account of Russia’s interference to date.

It was allegedly provided to the Intercept by 25-year-old Reality Leigh Winner, of Augusta, who appeared in court Monday after being arrested at her home over the weekend.

“Releasing classified material without authorization threatens our nation’s security and undermines public faith in government,” Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein explained in a statement. “People who are trusted with classified information and pledge to protect it must be held accountable when they violate that obligation.”

The Post noted that a federal official told NBC News that Winner had, in fact, sent the document to The Intercept. The document was sent in early May.

Now, two things: The lengthy story by The Intercept mentioned President Donald J. Trump exactly two times, and in neither instance did it provide any evidence at all that a) Russia was attempting to hack the election to favor the president; and b) that there was “collusion” between Team Trump and Russian intelligence. For all we know at this point, this “attack” was nothing more than business as usual for Russian intelligence, which has long attempted to interfere in U.S. elections, as the director of national intelligence’s office noted in January. Also, the CIA and NSA have the ability to hack into systems and make it look like a foreign state is responsible. Just something else to consider here.

Secondly, this first arrest is likely one of many more to come. We’ve been reporting now for weeks that the Trump administration was close to identifying, and firing, several people within the White House itself. As Lifezette noted last month, the Trump administration’s focus on finding leakers was transitioning from the intelligence community and Obama-era holdovers to the White House staff.

But clearly, the arrest of Winner, who worked for Pluribus International Corporation in Augusta, Ga., is part of the Trump administration’s overall effort to staunch leaks of highly sensitive information that not only damage our national security but have sought to undermine the president himself as he attempts to put his own foreign policy in place.

One other thing: If this entire episode does not convince states to return to paper balloting and keep their voting systems offline, nothing will.

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House Intelligence Committee issues subpoenas in “Russia investigation,” demands to know who unmasked Team Trump officials

(National SentinelCongress: The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on Wednesday issued more than a half-dozen subpoenas, four which were related to its investigation into Russian “meddling” in the 2016 presidential election, and three dealing specifically with the unmasking of officials on President Donald J. Trump’s transition team and subsequent administration.

The panel, it seems, is getting serious about zeroing in on former Obama administration officials who, on the surface at least, appear to have used U.S. intelligence as a political weapon — and quite possibly at the former president’s direction.

As reported by The Wall Street Journal, the three subpoenas are likely tied to Republican panel members’ efforts to get to the bottom of the unmasking — that is, the revealing of Americans’ identities caught up in intelligence surveillance of foreign subjects — that is highly irregular and unusual or, at least, it used to be before the Age of Obama. (Related: Most Americans think Leftist ‘establishment media’ is committing treason by publishing classified info.)

The paper noted:

The Republican-led committee issued four subpoenas related to the Russia investigation. Three subpoenas are related to questions about how and why the names of associates of President Donald Trump were unredacted and distributed within classified reports by Obama administration officials during the transition between administrations.

Specifically, the committee sent subpoenas regarding unmasking to the National Security Agency, the Central Intelligence Agency and the FBI. GOP members of the panel have sought a more complete understanding about how Trump campaign officials and associates were exposed in classified intelligence reports — exposures that were subsequently illegally leaked to the disgusting “establishment” media.

The subpoenas are aimed at uncovering any requests by former National Security Advisor Susan Rice, former CIA Director John Brennan (a noted Obama hack) and former United Nations Ambassador Samantha Power to unmask Americans whose identities were previously concealed in classified intercepts. The three former Obama officials were not sent subpoenas personally, a source familiar with the documents told The WSJ.

Up to now, Powers was not included on any witness lists to appear before the Intelligence Committee, so the fact that her name came up in the three subpoenas probably indicates the panel is widening its probe.

“Typically, information about Americans intercepted in foreign surveillance is redacted, even in classified reports distributed within the government, unless a compelling need exists to reveal them. Unmasking requests aren’t uncommon by top intelligence community officials but Republicans want to know whether any of the unmaskings of Trump campaign officials during the transition were politically motivated,” the paper reported.

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is also conducting its own probe of whether Russia interfered in the election and whether Trump associates were colluding with Moscow on any level; so far, there has been no evidence that happened, and even top Democrats have admitted they’ve not yet seen anything that would even suggest collusion.

For his part, Trump has consistently called the probes a Democrat-media-created “witch hunt.” (Realted: Insane Democrat Base Demanding Nothing Short Of Impeachment For Trump But The Party Knows It Can’t Deliver.)

For months now, the discredited fake news media has insinuated that Team Trump and the Kremlin were equal partners in a multi-year effort to “steal” the election from Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. No one believed that before Clinton lost to Trump, mind you, but as we’ve learned from additional reporting, that didn’t stop the Obama regime from illegally spying on Team Trump in a desperate bid to find something — anything — which could help Clinton.

Though it’s unclear what else the House and Senate intelligence committees are after in terms of information, one aspect of this entire episode has yet to be publicly explored: What did Obama know about all of this and when did he know it? What role did he play? What instructions did he give to his operatives and the intelligence community?

And why hasn’t any of that information been leaked?

This story originally appeared at NewsTarget.com.

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Comey circus: FBI illegally shared intel on Americans with unauthorized third parties

(National SentinelCorruption: If you’re one of those people who are still mourning the firing of former FBI Director James Comey, maybe you ought to read this first.

Continuing its yeoman work into uncovering the blatant and, it seems chronic, unconstitutional behavior of the Obama administration (of which Comey did his part to protect by not recommending and obviously guilty Hillary Clinton for prosecution), Circa News reported Thursday that a recently declassified document shows the FBI routinely – and illegally – shared intel on Americans with unauthorized third parties, decimating their Fourth Amendment right to privacy in the process.

The site noted further that the document, filed before the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court in late April, “undercut the bureau’s public assurances about how carefully it handles warrantless spy data to avoid abuses or leaks,” Circa News reported, adding:

In his final congressional testimony before he was fired by President Trump this month, then-FBI Director James Comey unequivocally told lawmakers his agency used sensitive espionage data gathered about Americans without a warrant only when it was “lawfully collected, carefully overseen and checked.”

Once-top secret U.S. intelligence community memos reviewed by Circa tell a different story, citing instances of “disregard” for rules, inadequate training and “deficient” oversight and even one case of deliberately sharing spy data with a forbidden party.

For example, the site noted, a FISA court ruling that was declassified earlier this month contains 10 pages’ worth of information listing hundreds of violations of the bureaus’ rules requiring minimization of information that were implemented during the former director’s tenure.

At one point, the bureau “was forced to admit its agents and analysts shared espionage data with prohibited third parties, ranging from a federal contractor to a private entity that did not have the legal right to see the intelligence,” said Circa.

“The behavior the FBI admitted to a FISA judge just last month ranged from illegally sharing raw intelligence with unauthorized third parties to accessing intercepted attorney-client privileged communications without proper oversight the bureau promised was in place years ago,” the site reported.

The court even said it believed that there likely were many more violations than what the FBI copped to.

“The Court is nonetheless concerned about the FBI’s apparent disregard of minimization rules and whether the FBI is engaging in similar disclosures of raw Section 702 information that have not been reported,” last month’s ruling stated.

The FISA court is not the only oversight mechanism for the U.S. intelligence community, which includes elements within the FBI. In fact, the Department of Justice’s inspector general voiced concerns in 2012 that the bureau was not fully complying with minimization rules, “indicating it had a clean record complying with spy data gathered on Americans without a warrant,” Circa noted.

Under normal circumstances, the FBI is not permitted to put Americans under surveillance without a warrant issued by the FISA court. However, under changes made in 2008 to Section 702 of the Foreign Surveillance Act – first passed in 1978 and amended a number of times since – the NSA was permitted to share intel with the FBI collected without a warrant, including communications between “foreign targets” and American citizens.

Circa:

But the FISA court watchdogs suggest FBI compliance problems began months after Section 702 was implemented. 

The FBI’s very first compliance report in 2009 declared it had not found any instances in which agents accessed NSA intercepts supposedly gathered overseas about an American who in fact was on U.S. soil.

But the IG said it reviewed the same data and easily found evidence that the FBI accessed NSA data gathered on a person who likely was in the United States, making it illegal to review without a warrant.

“We found several instances in which the FBI acquired communications on the same day that the NSA determined through analysis of intercepted communications that the person was in the United States,” the declassified report revealed.

The FBI says its intentions were good and that such privacy violations occur in only a very small part of its investigations. Or, as Circa reported, “Almost all are unintentional human errors by good-intentioned agents and analysts under enormous pressure to stop the next major terror attack, the officials said.”

Boilerplate excuse.

Clearly the FBI – and large portions of the intelligence community, sadly, – are unable to police themselves. Worse, the community has obviously been politicized and weaponized by successive U.S. administrations against the very people – American citizens – they have sworn to protect.

This all matters now more than ever because of all the revelations of privacy violations, unmasking of Americans and the never-ending FBI/Justice Dept. probe of alleged “Trump-Russia collusion” nonsense. But it also matters because Section 702 of the FISA Act is up for renewal later this year.

“No one on the Hill wants to look like we are soft on terrorism when you have increasing threats like Manchester-style attacks. But the evidence of abuse or sloppiness and the unending leaks of sensitive intelligence in the last year has emboldened enough of us to pursue some reforms,” a senior congressional aide told Circa, speaking only on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to talk to the media. “Where that new line between privacy and security is drawn will depend on how many more shoes fall before the 702 renewal happens.”

One of the ways lawmakers and the Trump administration can renew our faith in the intelligence system is by identifying the lawbreakers and either firing them (Comey) or prosecuting them, period – a reality not lost on some members of Congress.

“The bottom line is the law has to be followed and when it isn’t there has to be consequence that is of significance so that it deters others from breaking the same law,” Rep. Trent Frank, R-Ariz., a member of the House Judiciary Committee that will help craft the 702 renewal legislation, said.

For all the accusations by Democrats that Russian “influence” is destroying Americans’ faith in our institutions, it seems like our institutions are doing a fine job of destroying their own credibility.

What’s Congress going to do about it?

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Abuse: Classified docs prove Obama illegally spied on Americans for YEARS

(National SentinelCrime: As a U.S. senator who would soon run for the nation’s highest elected office, Barack Obama lambasted then-President George W. Bush for directing the National Security Agency to illegally capture electronic data on nearly every American’s communications, even sponsoring legislation to make it even harder to do that.

Then, after he won the presidency, he adopted the very same unconstitutional policies to become the spyer-in-chief.

As reported by Circa, Obama’s NSA “routinely violated” privacy protections by scooping up and pouring over overseas intercepts, then failing to disclose the extent of the spying until just before GOP presidential nominee Donald J. Trump won the Nov. 8 election, “according to once top-secret documents that chronicle some of the most serious constitutional abuses to date by the U.S. intelligence community.”

The site noted further that Obama, unlike Bush, did not spy for the benefit of protecting Americans, but rather used the intelligence community as his own private political operation:

More than 5 percent, or one out of every 20 searches seeking upstream Internet data on Americans inside the NSA’s so-called Section 702 database violated the safeguards Obama and his intelligence chiefs vowed to follow in 2011, according to one classified internal report reviewed by Circa.

The Obama administration self-disclosed the problems at a closed-door hearing Oct. 26 before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that set off alarm. Trump was elected less than two weeks later.

The normally supportive court censured administration officials, saying the failure to disclose the extent of the violations earlier amounted to an “institutional lack of candor” and that the improper searches constituted a “very serious Fourth Amendment issue,” according to a recently unsealed court document dated April 26, 2017.

The admitted violations undercut one of the primary defenses that the intelligence community and Obama officials have used in recent weeks to justify their snooping into incidental NSA intercepts about Americans.

Previously, the web site reported that there was a three-fold increase in data searches by the NSA involving American citizens, as well as a resultant rise in unmasking of many U.S. persons caught up in those searches after Obama “loosened the privacy rules in 2011,” which turned out to be primarily for political purposes.

Obama sycophants like former National Security Advisor Susan Rice used Obama’s rule-change to argue their unmasking of (mostly Trump campaign officials) was fine and dandy, and that intel agencies were “strictly monitored to avoid abuses,” Circa reported.

Yeah, not so much, as the FISA court found.

“Since 2011, NSA’s minimization procedures have prohibited use of U.S.-person identifiers to query the results of upstream Internet collections under Section 702,” the unsealed court ruling noted, Circa reported. “The Oct. 26, 2016 notice informed the court that NSA analysts had been conducting such queries inviolation of that prohibition, with much greater frequency than had been previously disclosed to the Court.”

In an interview with Fox News on Tuesday, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said essentially that something stinks here – and badly.

“If we determine this to be true, this is an enormous abuse of power,” Paul said, stating he believed there was a concerted effort by the Obama regime to unmask more Americans. “This will dwarf all other stories.”

“There are hundreds and hundreds of people,” Paul added.

The big scandal story in D.C. is not the “Trump-Russia collusion” BS, but the serial abuse, for political purposes, of the U.S. intelligence community by one of the most corrupt presidents in history, Barack Hussein Obama.

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Ransomware attack striking thousands more computers; Putin blames U.S.

(National SentinelCyberwar: The ransomware attack that began and spread rapidly on Friday is continuing to encircle the globe, with thousands more computers affected on Monday as Russian President Vladimir Putin puts the blame on the United States.

Hackers using malware they stole from the National Security Agency hit dozens of countries on Friday in a massive ransomware attack that some cyber analysts believe was a sort of dry run in advance of a much larger assault, we reported last week.

Putin, in China for a state-to-state visit, said his country had “nothing to do” with the attacks as he laid the blame squarely on the U.S.

“Malware created by intelligence agencies can backfire on its creators,” said Putin, as reported by The Telegraph. He also noted that world leaders needed to discuss cyber security at a “serious political level” and said the U.S. has backed away from signing a cyber security agreement with Russia.

The paper added:

Authorities fear a second wave of the “WannaCry” ransomware could hit systems as people return to work and switch on their computers on Monday morning.

Japanese computer experts said around 2,000 PCs had been affected while the Chinese news agency Xinhua reported that almost 30,000 had been hit.

At present no one knows who is responsible for the attacks, but cyber experts are nearly universal in their opinion that this won’t be the last one. A group calling itself the Shadow Brokers leaked the stolen NSA malware.

What’s more, the attacks make it clear that computer systems the world over remain extremely vulnerable to cyber assaults, as IT system security around the world is a maintained via a patchwork of various levels that do not coordinate with each other.

“When people ask what keeps you up at night, it’s this,” Chris Camacho, the chief strategy officer at Flashpoint, a New York security firm tracking the attacks, told The New York Times.

Ransomware works by locking users out of their system, encrypting their files and then demanding a ransom – often via Bitcoin so it cannot be tracked – in order to get their computers unlocked.

The ransomware used is called WannaCry and Shadow Brokers has been dumping it and other stolen software online since last year.

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Scores of countries hit in massive global ransomware attack – with NSA software

(National SentinelCyberwar: Hackers using malware they stole from the National Security Agency hit dozens of countries on Friday in a massive ransomware attack that some cyber analysts believe was a sort of dry run in advance of a much larger assault.

As The New York Times reported, British hospitals appear to be the hardest hit by the attack, though by far were not the only victims. Ironically, though the malware utilized was stolen from the NSA, the United States was not among the hardest hit:

Corporate computer systems in many other countries — including FedEx of the United States, one of the world’s leading international shippers — were among those affected.

Kaspersky Lab, a Russian cybersecurity firm, said it had recorded at least 45,000 attacks in as many as 74 countries. The worst hit by far was Russia, followed by Ukraine, India and Taiwan, the company said. Users in Latin America and Africa were also struck.

At present no one knows who is responsible for the attacks, but cyber experts are nearly universal in their opinion that this won’t be the last one. A group calling itself the Shadow Brokers leaked the stolen NSA malware.

What’s more, the attacks make it clear that computer systems the world over remain extremely vulnerable to cyber assaults, as IT system security around the world is a maintained via a patchwork of various levels that do not coordinate with each other.

“When people ask what keeps you up at night, it’s this,” Chris Camacho, the chief strategy officer at Flashpoint, a New York security firm tracking the attacks, told The New York Times.

Ransomware works by locking users out of their system, encrypting their files and then demanding a ransom – often via Bitcoin so it cannot be tracked – in order to get their computers unlocked.

The ransomware used is called WannaCry and Shadow Brokers has been dumping it and other stolen software online since last year.

The malware was particularly effective against Microsoft systems. The company issued a patch in March but it was not universally installed by users around the world.

“It’s one of the first times we’ve seen a large international global campaign,” Camacho said, as reported by the Washington Post.

“There is going to be a lot more of these attacks,” he said. “We’ll see copycats, and not just for ransomware, but other attacks.”

Ironically, the attacks came a day after President Donald J. Trump signed an executive order requiring federal agencies to strengthen cyber security.

“The President will hold heads of executive departments and agencies (agency heads) accountable for managing cybersecurity risk to their enterprises,” the order states.

“In addition, because risk management decisions made by agency heads can affect the risk to the executive branch as a whole, and to national security, it is also the policy of the United States to manage cybersecurity risk as an executive branch enterprise.”

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Foreign nations preparing cyber attacks aimed at disrupting, destroying U.S. infrastructure

(National SentinelCyberwar: Many military strategists see the cyber realm as the next major area of conflict, given that modern states have become so dependent on computer networks for survival.

Given that, U.S. Navy Adm. Mike Rogers, head of U.S. Cyber Command and director of the National Security Agency, told a congressional panel Tuesday that foreign nations are working diligently to improve their cyber war capabilities and would likely use them against the U.S. in any future conflict.

As reported by the Washington Free Beacon:

Foreign nations’ cyber intrusions into key infrastructure network are preparation for damaging attacks in a future conflict, the commander of Cyber Command told Congress Tuesday.

…Rogers…said one of his major concerns is cyber attacks on critical infrastructures used to run the electric grid, financial systems, communications networks, the transportation systems, and others.

“We assess that several countries, including Iran, have conducted disruptions or remote intrusions into critical infrastructure systems in the United States,” Rogers said in his prepared statement.

Iranian hackers were linked to cyber disruptions of U.S. financial institutions last year, and Russian-linked BlackEnergy malware was used in cyber attacks against Ukraine’s electrical power systems.

Homeland Security also has warned U.S. critical infrastructure administrators to be alert for the use of BlackEnergy cyber attacks here.

“Infiltrations in U.S. critical infrastructure—when viewed in the light of incidents like these—can look like preparations for future attacks that could be intended to harm Americans, or at least to deter the United States and other countries from protecting and defending our vital interests,” Rogers said.

Cyber Command officials are hopeful that the private sector will share telemetry data used by infrastructure monitors so that hack attacks can be quickly detected and defended.

Rogers said one critical area where infrastructure disruption would harm military operations is the island of Guam, which is a major military hub.

“The pace of international conflict and cyberspace threats has intensified over the past few years,” Rogers told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “We face a growing variety of advanced threats from actors who are operating with ever more sophistication and precision.”

Rogers added that the Pentagon, at the direction of the Trump administration, is working on a new cyber strategy and policy, and that it is expected soon.

“Cyber war is not some future concept or cinematic spectacle, it is real and here to stay,” Rogers said.

“The fact that it is not killing people yet, or causing widespread destruction, should be no comfort to us as we survey the threat landscape. Conflict in the cyber domain is not simply a continuation of kinetic operations by digital means, nor is it some science fiction clash of robot armies. It is unfolding according to its own logic, which we are continuing to better understand.”

This said, the United States has one of the most potent – if not the most potent – offensive cyber warfare capability in the world. The difference is, the populations of many of our enemies are not as reliant on power grids as are Americans.

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Obama admin spied on THOUSANDS of Americans in months leading up to 2016 election

(NationalSentinelPolitical espionage: Lost amid the furor of the Obamacare repeal vote yesterday was a much more explosive story that hopefully garnered the attention of Congress and the Trump Justice Department.

As reported by Circa News, which has been out in front of the political shenanigans committed by the Obama administration against Team Trump over alleged “Russia” connections, reported Thursday that as it turns out, the Obama administration’s politicization of the U.S. intelligence committee was far worse than previously thought:

During his final year in office, President Obama’s team significantly expanded efforts to search National Security Agency intercepts for information about Americans, distributing thousands of intelligence reports across government with the unredacted names of U.S. residents during the midst of a divisive 2016 presidential election.

The data, made available this week by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, provides the clearest evidence to date of how information accidentally collected by the NSA overseas about Americans was subsequently searched and disseminated after President Obama loosened privacy protections to make such sharing easier in 2011 in the name of national security. A court affirmed his order.

The revelations are particularly sensitive since the NSA is legally forbidden from directly spying on Americans and its authority to conduct warrantless searches on foreigners is up for renewal in Congress later this year. And it comes as lawmakers investigate President Trump’s own claims that his privacy was violated by his predecessor during the 2016 election.

In all, government officials conducted 30,355 searches in 2016 seeking information about Americans in NSA intercept metadata, which include telephone numbers and email addresses. The activity amounted to a 27.5 percent increase over the prior year and more than triple the 9,500 such searches that occurred in 2013, the first year such data was kept. 

The government in 2016 also scoured the actual contents of NSA intercepted calls and emails for 5,288 Americans, an increase of 13 percent over the prior year and a massive spike from the 198 names searched in 2013.

Besides unmasking names of Team Trump members, Circa News noted further, members of Congress and their staffs were also unmasked.

The report also noted that the actual intercept numbers are likely much higher because the NSA’s No. 1 consumer of intelligence, the FBI, is not included in the total.

“There is no doubt that there was a spike in the requests to search for Americans in the NSA database,” a U.S. official familiar with the intelligence told Circa, speaking only on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the data. “It’s simply easier for people to make requests. And while we have safeguards, there is always concern and vigilance about possible political or prurient motives that go beyond national security concerns.”

The ACLU is also miffed – and in this case, the liberal legal organization is right.

“I think it is alarming. There seems to be a universal trend toward more surveillance and more surveillance that impacts Americans’ privacy without obtaining a warrant,” said Neema Singh Guliani, the ACLU’s legislative counsel.

“This data confirms that there is a lack of acknowledgment that information is being specifically and increasingly mined about Americans for investigations that have little or nothing to do with international terrorism,” Guliani added.

Without a doubt – the “trend” began during the Bush administration as the war on terror ramped up. When President George W. Bush’s NSA surveillance excesses were revealed, civil libertarians and intelligence experts predicted then that those abuses would aid and abet political abuses of the same agencies, under the guise of legitimate foreign surveillance.

Enter Barack Obama.

The “court” that affirmed Obama’s 2011 expansion of intelligence-sharing was most likely the FISA court – Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act – which meets (and rules) in secret and is staffed by judges who pull a single 7-year stint. They have no special intelligence training or education.

If anything, this report makes it even more clear that Congress should get to the bottom of unmasking actions taken by Obama’s national security advisor, Susan Rice, who this week through an attorney refused to accept an invitation from Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., to provide his Judiciary subcommittee testimony about why she requested so many Team Trump members be unmasked.

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Obama’s intel rule changes led way to NSA intercepts of Americans like Trump making their way to political operatives

(NationalSentinelIntelligence: There is little doubt that elements of the Deep State are not at all enamored with the fact that Donald J. Trump is now commander-in-chief, but there is another reason why so much intelligence involving Team Trump has been leaked to the media: President Obama changed the rules.

In 2011, ostensibly as a way to better conduct the fight against terrorism, hacking and foreign espionage, Obama expanded an earlier Reagan-era executive order governing intelligence-sharing, which included sharing with top political figures and aides in the final days of his administration.

The rule changes meant that political operatives within the Obama administration – who believed they had every reason to sabotage the incoming administration – were given access to very sensitive signals intelligence collected by the NSA that involved foreign figures and any Americans they may have talked with. In the data shared by the NSA, many of these Americans were “unmasked” – identified – while others were described in such a way it became apparent who they were.

Circa News reported today:

As his presidency drew to a close, Barack Obama’s top aides routinely reviewed intelligence reports gleaned from the National Security Agency’s incidental intercepts of Americans abroad, taking advantage of rules their boss relaxed starting in 2011 to help the government better fight terrorism, espionage by foreign enemies and hacking threats…

Dozens of times in 2016, those intelligence reports identified Americans who were directly intercepted talking to foreign sources or were the subject of conversations between two or more monitored foreign figures. Sometimes the Americans’ names were officially unmasked; other times they were so specifically described in the reports that their identities were readily discernible. Among those cleared to request and consume unmasked NSA-based intelligence reports about U.S. citizens were Obama’s national security adviser Susan Rice, his CIA Director John Brennan and then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

Some intercepted communications from November to January involved Trump transition figures or foreign figures’ perceptions of the incoming president and his administration. Intercepts involving congressional figures also have been unmasked occasionally for some time.

[…]

Today, the power to unmask an American’s name inside an NSA intercept — once considered a rare event in the intelligence and civil liberty communities — now resides with about 20 different officials inside the NSA alone. The FBI also has the ability to unmask Americans’ names to other intelligence professionals and policymakers.

If you wondered why Democrats on Capitol Hill and their allies in the discredited Washington media are now so furiously attempting to smear House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., and get him to recuse himself from the panel’s “Russia investigation” is because the NSA is expected to hand over to his committee logs “detailing who consumed reports with unmasked Americans’ identities from their intercepts since the summer of 2016,” Circa News reported.

And when that happens, Democrats know the jig is up: The president, who has famously tweeted that Obama had his “wires tapped,” will be vindicated in his allegations. There could even be criminal charges forthcoming if former Obama political operatives and officials violated federal statutes in unmasking, and the leaking, information about Team Trump, all of whom are, of course, American citizens.

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As for Obama, Circa News notes that in 2011, the White House submitted changes to existing policy and protocol for approval by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court, which operates in secrecy, regarding the unmasking of American citizens:

…[T]he justification for requesting such unmasking can be as simple as claiming “the identity of the United States person is necessary to understand foreign intelligence information or assess its importance,” according to a once-classified document that the Obama administration submitted in October 2011 for approval by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. It laid out specifically how and when the NSA could unmask an American’s identity.

The NSA told Circa News that it still regards the unmasking of an American’s identity in intelligence reports as something that should not be done lightly. But obviously, when so many more people have access to sensitive information, the risk of having it purposefully leaked rises dramatically.

It will be interesting to see what Chairman Nunes with the information gleaned from the NSA’s logs. It will be more interesting to find out who is named in the logs. Stay tuned.

House Intel chair to call Comey, Rogers in for ‘closed session’ following discovery of ‘concerning info’ in intelligence reports

(NationalSentinel) Political Intrigue: House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., at an impromptu press conference earlier today, said he planned to call in FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director Adm. Mike Rogers in for a closed session of the committee after finding “concerning information” in intelligence reports.

This comes on the heels of an earlier report that the NSA was expected to provide Nunes with “smoking gun” evidence that Team Trump, and possibly the president-elect himself, were definitely under “legal” but highly improper surveillance by the Obama administration, information that essentially vindicates President Donald J. Trump’s March 4 tweets that Obama had his “wires tapped” before the Nov. 8 election.

Nunes told reporters he wanted to discuss information with Comey and Rogers “they couldn’t answer in a public setting.”

Nunes’ full statement is here:

Nunes also revealed that President Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, has volunteered to testify before the House Intelligence Committee on his alleged connections to Russia.

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Interestingly, the Washington press keeps asking Nunes to reveal his sources, though you can bet had Nunes or the White House asked the media for their sources of leaked information, they’d laugh them out of the room.

The plot thickens. As we noted earlier today, if it is discovered that Comey lied to the Intelligence Committee on Monday when he said he had “no information” regarding Trump’s tweeted allegations, the president will have a decision to make about Comey’s future in government.

One caveat: Comey also said that the FBI was still in the throes of a counterintelligence probe of Team Trump’s alleged ties to Russia, but it’s looking more like that was a made-up excuse by the press and the former administration to use as “justification” for the former president to use the power of government to spy on the campaign of a rival presidential nominee.

Here is what Nunes said on Fox News Thursday night:

Meanwhile, the Obama Pretorian guard over at the Washington Post is also demanding an investigation – into Nunes. He must really be onto something.

Report: NSA set to provide ‘smoking gun’ proof Obama spied on Trump

(NationalSentinelPolitical Intrigue: The National Security Agency is set to provide “smoking gun” evidence that President Obama, in his final months in office, authorized intelligence agencies to spy on the campaign of then-GOP nominee Donald J. Trump, likely under the phony premise of ‘Russian collusion.’

A source has told Fox News that the NSA will provide the evidence to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence that Team Trump, and possibly Trump himself, as president-elect, were definitely under Obama-ordered surveillance:

Classified intelligence showing incidental collection of Trump team communications, purportedly seen by committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., and described by him in vague terms at a bombshell Wednesday afternoon news conference, came from multiple sources, Capitol Hill sources told Fox News. The intelligence corroborated information about surveillance of the Trump team that was known to Nunes, sources said, even before President Trump accused his predecessor of having wiretappedhim in a series of now-infamous tweets posted on March 4.

The intelligence is said to leave no doubt the Obama administration, in its closing days, was using the cover of legitimate surveillance on foreign targets to spy on President-elect Trump, according to sources.

The key to that conclusion is the unmasking of selected U.S. persons whose names appeared in the intelligence, the sources said, adding that the paper trail leaves no other plausible purpose for the unmasking other than to damage the incoming Trump administration.

“What I’ve read seems to be some level of surveillance activity, perhaps legal, but I don’t know that it’s right and I don’t know if the American people would be comfortable with what I’ve read,” said Nunes, who uncovered the reports, as reported by the Washington Free Beacon.

One nugget here among many: The revelation that Nunes knew about the Team Trump surveillance even before the president sent his March 4 tweet storm accusing Obama of ordering it.

But there’s much more.

The FBI, as we reported yesterday, has not been cooperating with the Intelligence Committee’s requests for more information related to electronic surveillance of the Trump campaign and incoming administration. That is telling, given that FBI Director James Comey may have lied to the committee on Monday when he told them he had “no information” regarding President Donald J. Trump’s tweeted allegations, if the smoking gun evidence turns out to be a ‘smoking gun.’ 

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And if it does, then the president will find himself in truly uncharted waters for a modern chief executive: He’ll have to figure out if he wants to keep Comey around while he’s leading an ongoing counterintelligence investigation into him and his transition team. Politically speaking, that’s bombshell stuff, given that Comey’s boss, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, has formally recused himself from any investigation into alleged Trump-Russia election collusion.

Then again, if in fact the entire investigation into potential Russian collusion proves to be nothing more than a ruse, based on the evidence the NSA and others may provide, that will give Trump (and Sessions) all the political cover they need to “drain the FBI swamp” and set Comey on his way.

The discredited Left-wing Washington media and the Democrats they protect will howl and scream, but Team Trump should respond with the real story here, which is this: A sitting president used the power of the intelligence community to undermine the campaign and presidency of a political opponent, and following the Nixon-era changes to intelligence surveillance law, that wasn’t supposed to happen ever again.

We noted previously we suspected that, when all is said and done, Trump will be vindicated. We appear to be one day closer to that.