Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Last Call For Killing The Messenger

The Trump regime is now in the "lashing out" phase as the DoJ now says it plans to hunt down anyone who leaks to the press and bury them.

Under intense pressure from the White House, the Justice Department is prepared to aggressively prosecute government officials who leak classified information. Justice Department officials told The Daily Beast that targeting leakers will be a priority during Jeff Sessions’ time as attorney general—a posture that will hearten national security hawks, while concerning advocates of whistleblower protections. 
“As the Attorney General has said, the Department of Justice takes unlawful leaks very seriously and those that engage in such activity should be held accountable,” an official told The Daily Beast. 
On Monday afternoon, the Washington Post broke the news that Trump shared classified information about ISIS with Russian officials. And on Tuesday, the New York Times reported that that intelligence initially came from Israel. Both stories cited anonymous individuals as sources of the information. 
Those stories generated searing criticism for the president, and chaos at the White House. But his allies say the leak is the real story. Breitbart, the far right site formerly helmed by Steve Bannon, has pushed this line enthusiastically. They aren’t alone in that view. 
“The fact that the president shared classified information with a foreign government official, in and of itself, is classified,” a former senior intelligence official told The Daily Beast. “So whoever was trying to burn him for thinking he’s doing something wrong actually is the only one that committed a crime here.” 
That all adds up to massive pressure on the Justice Department to track down and prosecute the officials responsible for the leaks. And the department’s new leadership could be uniquely up to the task.

Rod Rosenstein, Sessions’ top deputy at the Justice Department, is no stranger to leak prosecutions; one of the most high-profile cases he worked on as the Maryland U.S. Attorney was the prosecution of James Cartwright, the former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on charges related to leaking. The DOJ announced on Oct. 17, 2016 that Cartwright had pled guilty to making false statements to federal investigators. Obama pardoned him a few days before Trump’s inauguration, and before his sentencing. 
Rosenstein, meanwhile, was unequivocal about his view that Cartwright deserved to do prison time. 
People who gain access to classified information after promising not to disclose it must be held accountable when they willfully violate that promise,” he said when the plea deal was announced.

Pay attention to this, as the obvious right-wing crusade here will be to attack leakers and the press that publishes the leaks, and for both groups to be exterminated by Trump.

This is the real test of how authoritarian we're going to be under Trump, more than a few times Trump officials have casually mentioned things like "putting journalists in prison" or that America needs the equivalent of the UK's State Secrets Act allowing that to happen.

Don't be surprised if we start going that route, especially the closer we get to finding out the truth on Trump and Russia.  The call to start rounding up reporters will be very loud, and there will be tens of millions of Americans who will want to go along with it.

The rest of us have to be ready to resist.

Double The Breaking, Double The News

Two massive stories breaking tonight, first, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as a special counsel to investigate Trump's ties to Russia.

The U.S. Justice Department said on Wednesday it appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate possible collusion between President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign team and Russia.

The move followed rising demands for an independent probe of alleged Russian efforts to sway the outcome of November's presidential election in favor of Trump and against Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Pressure has been building on Trump over the Russia issue since his firing last week of FBI chief James Comey, who had been leading a federal probe into the matter.

U.S. intelligence agencies said earlier this year that Russia interfered in the U.S. election.

"My decision (to appoint a special counsel) is not the finding that crimes have been committed or that any prosecution is warranted. I have made no such determination," Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said in a statement.

"I determined that a special counsel is necessary in order for the American people to have full confidence in the outcome," he said.

This would be a massive story in its own right, but it gets even worse for the Republicans this evening as somebody in the GOP leaked a recording from June of House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy telling other House leaders that he believed Putin was paying Trump off.

A month before Donald Trump clinched the Republican nomination, one of his closest allies in Congress — House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy — made a politically explosive assertion in a private conversation on Capitol Hill with his fellow GOP leaders: that Trump could be the beneficiary of payments from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump,” McCarthy (R-Calif.) said, according to a recording of the June 15, 2016 exchange, which was listened to and verified by The Washington Post. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher is a Californian Republican known in Congress as a fervent defender of Putin and Russia.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) immediately interjected, stopping the conversation from further exploring McCarthy’s assertion, and swore the Republicans present to secrecy.

Before the conversation, McCarthy and Ryan had emerged from separate talks at the U.S. Capitol with Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman, who had described a Kremlin tactic of financing populist politicians to undercut Eastern European democratic institutions.

News had just broken the day before in The Washington Post that Russian government hackers had penetrated the computer network of the Democratic National Committee, prompting McCarthy to shift the conversation from Russian meddling in Europe to events closer to home.

Swore them to secrecy...and one of them not only had recorded the conversation but gave it to the Washington Post.  And remember, this happened the day after the Russian hack of the DNC story broke.

More as it comes.

Russian To Judgment, Con't

While the fallout over yesterday's news that fired FBI Director James Comey kept the receipts on Trump pressuring him to drop the federal investigation into former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn piles up, the federal investigation into former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort continues full speed ahead, with NBC News reporting now that Manafort's mysterious real estate dealings have been subpoenaed as the follow the money game presses on.

Federal investigators have subpoenaed records related to a $3.5 million mortgage that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort took out on his Hamptons home just after leaving the campaign, according to a source familiar with the matter. 
The mortgage document that explains how Manafort would pay back the loan was never filed with Suffolk County, New York — and Manafort's company never paid up to $36,000 in taxes that would be due on the loan. 
In addition, despite telling NBC News previously that all his real estate transactions are transparent and include his name and signature, Manafort's name and signature do not appear on any of the loan documents that are publicly available. A Manafort spokesperson said the $3.5 million loan, which was taken out through a shell company, was repaid in December, but also said that paperwork showing the repayment was not filed until he was asked about the loan by NBC News. 
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is also taking a "preliminary look" at Manafort's real estate transactions, according to a separate source. The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that the Justice Department has requested Manafort's banking records. 
Jason Maloni, a spokesperson for Manafort, said, "Mr. Manafort has not been contacted by any authorities other than the United States Congress and officials responsible for FARA guidance, and he is cooperating with those inquiries."

So a $3.5 million home in the Hamptions, a shell company mortgage, no paperwork, possible tax evasion...yeah, there's nothing suspicious here.  Also note that NY AG Eric Schniederman wants in on this action too, so if the Feds somehow don't break this wide open, you can bet he will.

Again, building a RICO case seems to be the way to go here, the ol' "They got Capone on tax evasion in the end" adage is true for a reason.  Follow the money and the rest comes out.  I'm betting that trail leads to our friends in Moscow.

Very Dark Shadows

So, not only are the hacker collective known as the Shadow Brokers taking responsibility for last week's WannaCry ransomware chaos (gosh, I was correct about who was behind that), they are now promising a monthly attack unless they are paid handsomely. Lawfare's Nick Weaver:

Yesterday I was interviewed by NPR about the Shadow Brokers and their relationship to WannaCry. Overall I think it went well, especially since NPR is very comfortable with answers that start with “we don’t know” and then set out the evidence we do know. But I may have been wrong on one significant thing: I thought the Windows tools were the most damaging the Shadow Brokers have to offer. Today, with the announcement of the Shadow Broker’s Data Dump of the Month club, I may need to eat some crow
Recall that the Shadow Brokers are an unidentified actor or group of actors who appears to have penetrated the NSA and then released the stolen information. They have conducted four releases so far: of a 3 year old collection of router exploits that nonetheless included a Cisco zero-day, a similar collection of mailserver exploits, a collection of Windows exploits, and the apparent internal working directory of an NSA operation aimed at gathering intelligence about SWIFT bank transactions in the Middle East. All indications point to this data being legitimate. 
I’m pretty sure that these releases do not derive from a single source. Both the mailserver and router exploits seem to be active working directories because they include notes and other information that should identify the actual source. The SWIFT release, on the other hand, is most likely the internal, Internet-connected workstation of a Texas NSA analyst because it consists entirely of operational notes and an in-progress slide deck detailing the operation. The only release which didn’t include massive pointers enabling the NSA to find the particular source is the Windows exploits. 
And now the Shadow Brokers are back with yet another missive. Although this could be a hoax, assuming it is legitimate, it should raise serious alarm bells. Although I still believe the auction & payment demands are very much theater designed to attract attention, the Shadow Brokers have earned a reputation for honesty about what they’ve obtained. 
Part of their statement is effectively a disclaimer of responsibility for WannaCry. They note that their published directory listing in January resulted in the NSA notifying Microsoft, which in turn released a patch. So by the time the Shadow Brokers released the Windows tools they were no longer zero-days. This disclaimer is fair: All systems exploited were either unpatched or running an obsolete, unsupported version of Windows. 
But the Shadow Brokers’ threat to launch a “dump of the month” service if they aren’t paid is ominous. Again, I think the Bitcoin payment demand is little more than a bit of theater intentionally paired with the amusingly awful English, but what are they threatening to release? It could be, according to them: 
  • web browser, router, handset exploits and tools
  • select items from newer Ops Disks, including newer exploits for Windows 10
  • compromised network data from more SWIFT providers and Central banks
  • compromised network data from Russian, Chinese, Iranian, or North Korean nukes and missile programs
Given the Shadow Brokers’ demonstrated willingness to reveal incredibly sensitive NSA material—including tools that even Wikileaks would hesitate to publish because of the damage to benefit ratio—we have to take this threat seriously.

And given the evidence that our good friends the Russians are bankrolling the Shadow Broker operation, I wouldn't hold your breath on seeing that "compromised Russian network data".  The whole problem with the notion that Russia was hardest hit by WannaCry is that the people reporting that are 1) the Russian government and 2) Kaspersky Labs, the anti-virus lab headed by Eugene Kaspersky, former GRU agent and Putin protege.

Ahh but the most successful of Putin's operations was of course our friend Eddie Snowden, who is very busy attacking the NSA these days, and that led to WikiLeaks and now the Shadow Brokers running loose and causing damage.

I'll tell you what, Putin has done more to harm the US than any nuclear weapon could so far.  Expect more of this as the months go by.


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