Friday, November 2, 2018

Last Call for Meanwhile In Gunmerica...

Another mass shooting, this time in Tallahassee as five were shot at a yoga studio, killing at least one and putting several more in the hospital.  Andrew Gillum, Democratic candidate for Florida governor and current mayor of Tallahassee, is taking time off the campaign trail in the final days to oversee the city's response.

Tallahasee Mayor and Florida Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum said Friday he will return to the state’s capitol city after of a shooting there at a yoga studio.

“I’m deeply appreciative of law enforcement's quick response to the shooting at the yoga facility in Tallahassee today. No act of gun violence is acceptable. I'm in close communication with law enforcement officials and will be returning to Tallahassee tonight,” Gillum tweeted Friday evening.

A lone shooter entered a yoga studio in Tallahassee and shot five people, killing one and injuring four, who remain in critical condition. The shooter is dead from what appears to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound, a Tallahassee police spokesperson told The Hill.

Police said they do not believe there is any further threat to the public and do not yet know the identity of the shooter.

The shooting Friday comes four days ahead The Sunshine State’s gubernatorial election between Gillum and former Rep. Ron DeSantis (R) to replace Gov. Rick Scott (R). The race has been one of the nation’s tightest contests, with The Cook Political Report rating it a “toss up,” and an average of polls calculated by RealClearPolitics showing Gillum up 2.7 points.

It is unclear if and how the shooting and Gillum’s absence from the campaign trail will impact the race.

The race continues to be extremely close heading into the home stretch, but good for Gillum to continue his duties as mayor.  It's the right thing to do both morally and politically.

Spies Like Us, Con't

Yahoo News is reporting a major story today on how in 2009 the CIA got so complacent with their online system used to secretly recruit foreign assets in Iran, China, North Korea and elsewhere that they had no idea how easy it was to compromise.  That led directly to the deaths of dozens of CIA assets worldwide during Obama's first term, and culminated in Edward Snowden's 2012 defection to Russia with the crown jewels of US intelligence operations.

One of the largest intelligence failures of the past decade started in Iran in 2009, when the Obama administration announced the discovery of a secret Iranian underground enrichment facility — part of Iran’s headlong drive for nuclear weapons. Angered about the breach, the Iranians went on a mole hunt, looking for foreign spies, said one former senior intelligence official.

The mole hunt wasn’t hard, in large part, because the communications system the CIA was using to communicate with agents was flawed. Former U.S. officials said the internet-based platform, which was first used in war zones in the Middle East, was not built to withstand the sophisticated counterintelligence efforts of a state actor like China or Iran. “It was never meant to be used long term for people to talk to sources,” said one former official. “The issue was that it was working well for too long, with too many people. But it was an elementary system.”

“Everyone was using it far beyond its intention,” said another former official.

The risks posed by the system appeared to have been overlooked in part because of it was easy to use, said the former intelligence officials. There is no foolproof way to communicate — especially with expediency and urgency — with sources in hostile environments like Iran and China, noted the former officials. But a sense of confidence in the system kept it in operation far longer than was safe or advisable, said former officials. The CIA’s directorate of science and technology, which is responsible for the secure communications system, “says, ‘our s***’s impregnable,’ but it’s obviously not,” said one former official.

By 2010, however, it appears that Iran had begun to identify CIA agents. And by 2011, Iranian authorities dismantled a CIA spy network in that country, said seven former U.S. intelligence officials. (Indeed, in May 2011, Iranian intelligence officials announced publicly that they had broken up a ring of 30 CIA spies; U.S. officials later confirmed the breach to ABC News, which also reported on a potential compromise to the communications system.)

Iran executed some of the CIA informants and imprisoned others in an intelligence setback that one of the former officials described as “incredibly damaging.” The CIA successfully exfiltrated some of its Iranian sources, said former officials.

The Iranian compromise led to significantly fewer CIA agents being killed than in China, according to former officials. Still, the events there hampered the CIA’s capacity to collect intelligence in Iran at a critical time, just as Tehran was forging ahead with its nuclear program.

U.S. authorities believe Iran probably unwound the CIA’s asset network analytically — meaning they deduced what Washington knew about Tehran’s own operations, then identified Iranians who held that information, and eventually zeroed in on possible sources. This hunt for CIA sources eventually bore fruit — including the identification of the covert communications system.

A 2011 Iranian television broadcast that touted the government’s destruction of the CIA network said U.S. intelligence operatives had created websites for fake companies to recruit agents in Iran by promising them jobs, visas and education abroad. Iranians who initially thought they were responding to legitimate opportunities would end up meeting with CIA officers in places like Dubai or Istanbul for recruitment, according to the broadcast.

Though the Iranians didn’t say precisely how they infiltrated the network, two former U.S. intelligence officials said that the Iranians cultivated a double agent who led them to the secret CIA communications system. This online system allowed CIA officers and their sources to communicate remotely in difficult operational environments like China and Iran, where in-person meetings are often dangerous.

A lack of proper vetting of sources may have led to the CIA inadvertently running a double agent, said one former senior official — a consequence of the CIA’s pressing need at the time to develop highly placed agents inside the Islamic Republic. After this betrayal, Israeli intelligence tipped off the CIA that Iran had likely identified some of its assets, said the same former official.

The losses could have stopped there. But U.S. officials believe Iranian intelligence was then able to compromise the covert communications system. At the CIA, there was “shock and awe” about the simplicity of the technique the Iranians used to successfully compromise the system, said one former official.

In fact, the Iranians used Google to identify the website the CIA was were using to communicate with agents. Because Google is continuously scraping the internet for information about all the world’s websites, it can function as a tremendous investigative tool — even for counter-espionage purposes. And Google’s search functions allow users to employ advanced operators — like “AND,” “OR,” and other, much more sophisticated ones — that weed out and isolate websites and online data with extreme specificity.

According to the former intelligence official, once the Iranian double agent showed Iranian intelligence the website used to communicate with his or her CIA handlers, they began to scour the internet for websites with similar digital signifiers or components — eventually hitting on the right string of advanced search terms to locate other secret CIA websites. From there, Iranian intelligence tracked who was visiting these sites, and from where, and began to unravel the wider CIA network.

And while the Iranians and Chinese cleaned house, the Russians, led by Putin, ran with it and cooked up an even more dastardly counter-intelligence plot that eventually led to Edward Snowden's defection with the keys to the NSA's kingdom and from there, the ability to freely compromise the US government at will, along with an operation to put one of their key enablers in the White House.

All because we decided Gulf War internet security technology and sloppy spycraft were still "probably" good enough ten years later.

Jesus wept.

Trump's Race To The Bottom, Con't

Apparently Trump's open white nationalism in the final days of the 2018 midterm campaign is finally a bridge too far for suburban GOP voters, who are now looking for the exits in suburban purple House districts.

Two years ago, the presidential election hinged in large part on a rightward shift among working-class whites who deserted Democrats.

Tuesday’s House election may turn on an equally significant and opposite force: a generational break with the Republican Party among educated, wealthier whites — especially women — who like the party’s pro-business policies but recoil from President Trump’s divisive language on race and gender.

Rather than seeking to coax voters like these back into the Republican coalition, Mr. Trump appears to have all but written them off, spending the final days of the campaign delivering a scorching message about preoccupations like birthright citizenship and a migrant “invasion” from Mexico that these voters see through as alarmist.

In Republican-leaning districts that include diverse populations or abut cities that do — from bulwarks of Sunbelt conservatism like Houston and Orange County, Calif., to the well-manicured bedroom communities outside Philadelphia and Minneapolis — the party is in danger of losing its House majority next week because Mr. Trump’s racially-tinged nationalism has alienated these voters who once made up a dependable constituency.

One of those disenchanted voters is J. Mark Metts, a 60-year-old partner at one of this city’s prestigious law firms. Mr. Metts had never voted for a Democratic presidential candidate until 2016. Now he and some of his neighbors in the moneyed River Oaks enclave of Houston are about to oppose a Republican once again, to register their disapproval of President Trump.

“With Congress not really standing up to Trump, this election is becoming a referendum,” Mr. Metts said, explaining why he would no longer support the re-election of Representative John Culberson, an eight-term Republican.

Mr. Culberson is now running roughly even with the Democratic candidate, Lizzie Pannill Fletcher, according to a New York Times/Siena College poll last week — an extraordinary development in a district that has not elected a Democrat since before an oilman named George H.W. Bush won here in 1966, and one that illustrates how difficult Mr. Trump has made it for his party to retain control of the House.

The president amplified his fear-peddling Wednesday night with an online video that is being widely condemned as racist, showing a Mexican man convicted of killing two California deputies with a voice-over saying “Democrats let him into the country.”

Trump knows as long as he keeps 50 Republican senators, he gets all the federal judges, Supreme Court justices, and treaty agreements he wants.  Another two years of the Mitch McConnell federal judge factory, and god forbid another Supreme Court justice, means it doesn't matter what Democrats do in the House in the short run.

Sure, it means investigations and oversight.  But on the big issues, Trump can turn to the courts, and grind down the civil rights era one decision at a time until we're back to the 1950's...or the 1850's.  There's nothing that makes me believe that Trump won't finish out his term and be a clear favorite for re-election unless he crashes the economy, a legitimate concern.  And even then, Trump can blame House Democrats.

And remember, all these Republicans who hate Trump would come back to the party in a heartbeat if Mike Pence was running.  We'd be right back to 2016, only without Trump.

The Republicans will be fine without the House.  If anything, it gives Trump what he loves the most: an "enemy of the people" to scream at on Twitter every day for the next two years.


Related Posts with Thumbnails