|Mike Nova’s Shared NewsLinks|
|US Democrats Accuse Russia of ‘Targeting’ Balkans :: Balkan Insight|
A new report produced by US Democrats says Russia is aggressively targeting countries that have taken “tangible steps” to integrate with Western institutions like the EU or NATO in order to impede integration processes.
It added that Russian interference in places like Serbia is less visibly aggressive and focuses more on “cultivating sympathetic elements of society to deter government efforts to integrate with the West”.
“This renewed focus included propaganda, support for NGOs and political parties, and culminated in an alleged Russian effort to overthrow the government following the 2016 parliamentary election,” it added.
US Democrats have accused Donald Trump’s election team of colluding with Russia to win the US presidential election and have fiecely opposed Trump’s call for the US to establish warmer ties to the Kremlin at last in their joint struggle against Islamist terrorists.
|Chinas Stealthy Advance in Balkans Should Worry EU :: Balkan Insight|
comment11 Jan 182018-01-11 11:06:10
While Europe focuses on the threat of Russian penetration in Eastern Europe, it is neglecting the subtler dangers than come from China’s growing influence in the region.
The region is still unaware of potential risks of dealing with China. Hence, it’s not whether or not to do business with China; the question is how to make yourself able to negotiate a fair deal.
When EU officials, including foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, refer to the Balkans as a new “chessboard where the big power game can be played”, Russia, not China, seems to be on their mind.
But, whether or not they wish to recognize it, China is becoming a powerful player in the strategic chess game in the Balkans.
Beijing’s “One Belt One Road” policy is already affecting the Balkans, and its presence is visible in almost every corner of the region.
|The Republicans Fake Investigations – The New York Times|
Republicans have refused to release full transcripts of our firm’s testimony, even as they selectively leak details to media outlets on the far right. It’s time to share what our company told investigators.
We don’t believe the Steele dossier was the trigger for the F.B.I.’s investigation into Russian meddling. As we told the Senate Judiciary Committee in August, our sources said the dossier was taken so seriously because it corroborated reports the bureau had received from other sources, including one inside the Trump camp.
The intelligence committees have known for months that credible allegations of collusion between the Trump camp and Russia were pouring in from independent sources during the campaign. Yet lawmakers in the thrall of the president continue to wage a cynical campaign to portray us as the unwitting victims of Kremlin disinformation.
We suggested investigators look into the bank records of Deutsche Bank and others that were funding Mr. Trump’s businesses. Congress appears uninterested in that tip: Reportedly, ours are the only bank records the House Intelligence Committee has subpoenaed.
We told Congress that from Manhattan to Sunny Isles Beach, Fla., and from Toronto to Panama, we found widespread evidence that Mr. Trump and his organization had worked with a wide array of dubious Russians in arrangements that often raised questions about money laundering. Likewise, those deals don’t seem to interest Congress.
We explained how, from our past journalistic work in Europe, we were deeply familiar with the political operative Paul Manafort’s coziness with Moscow and his financial ties to Russian oligarchs close to Vladimir Putin.
Finally, we debunked the biggest canard being pushed by the president’s men — the notion that we somehow knew of the June 9, 2016, meeting in Trump Tower between some Russians and the Trump brain trust. We first learned of that meeting from news reports last year — and the committees know it. They also know that these Russians were unaware of the former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele’s work for us and were not sources for his reports.
Yes, we hired Mr. Steele, a highly respected Russia expert. But we did so without informing him whom we were working for and gave him no specific marching orders beyond this basic question: Why did Mr. Trump repeatedly seek to do deals in a notoriously corrupt police state that most serious investors shun?
What came back shocked us. Mr. Steele’s sources in Russia (who were not paid) reported on an extensive — and now confirmed — effort by the Kremlin to help elect Mr. Trump president. Mr. Steele saw this as a crime in progress and decided he needed to report it to the F.B.I.
We did not discuss that decision with our clients, or anyone else. Instead, we deferred to Mr. Steele, a trusted friend and intelligence professional with a long history of working with law enforcement. We did not speak to the F.B.I. and haven’t since.
After the election, Mr. Steele decided to share his intelligence with Senator John McCain via an emissary. We helped him do that. The goal was to alert the United States national security community to an attack on our country by a hostile foreign power. We did not, however, share the dossier with BuzzFeed, which to our dismay published it last January.
We’re extremely proud of our work to highlight Mr. Trump’s Russia ties. To have done so is our right under the First Amendment.
It is time to stop chasing rabbits. The public still has much to learn about a man with the most troubling business past of any United States president. Congress should release transcripts of our firm’s testimony, so that the American people can learn the truth about our work and most important, what happened to our democracy.
|Fusion GPS Speaks | TrumP Россия|
Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritsch, the two former Wall Street Journal reports who founded Fusion GPS, have broken their silence about their role in the Trump-Russia affair.
Simpson and Fritsch penned an opinion piece in today’s New York Times. The purpose of the opinion piece was to let the public know what they spent 21 hours explaining to three congressional committees.
Most of the piece rebuts the many rumors surrounding Fusion GPS, including one big one — former British spy Christopher Steele’s sources were not paid for the information that he compiled about Trump, including the scandalous watersports-in-Moscow story. This is big because paying sources undermines their credibility.
Simpson and Fritsch note their “dismay” that Buzzfeed published the Steele dossier in January 2017. This bothers me because Fusion GPS was shopping Steele and this dossier to every major news outlet who would listen. I guess this is the Washington game, but washing your hands in dirty water is not how you stay clean.
For Trump-Russia investigators, they did offer up a few tidbits:
There is a lot of information packed in to those few sentences.
Simpson and Fritsch also note, as we did recently here, that Trump’s allies in Congress have dug through their bank records to tarnish the firm and punish them for bringing light into the darkness of Trump’s Russia dealings.
One person who lit up after reading this piece was Bill Browder, Putin’s self-styled enemy No. 1 who was once his biggest fan. Here he is, borrowing from the Devin Nunes “attack the client” strategy, as he vented his anger on Twitter today:
The Steele dossier, unfortunately, is a distraction. It is raw intelligence, not evidence, and was never intended to be used in a court of law. In the public’s mind, however, it has been impossibly conflated with the legitimate investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
It does Browder no credit that he stokes this confusion and allows his hatred of Fusion GPS to become grist for conservative media outlets that seek to undermine the Mueller inquiry. (“The dossier is the foundation on which the case for Russiagate, including Mueller’s investigation, is built.”)
As Browder surely knows, since he’s paid for many an investigation himself, who hired Fusion GPS doesn’t really matter. The bottom line is that if Fusion GPS didn’t dish up facts, it wouldn’t be in business. Period.
|Today’s Headlines and Commentary|
President Donald Trump is expected to continue economic sanctions relief to Iran as part of the Iran nuclear deal, but he will impose new targeted sanctions on Iranian individuals and businesses for their involvement in Irans ballistic missile program and human rights abuses, the AP reported. Trump faces a deadline on Friday to extend or cancel sanctions relief for Irans central bank, which was lifted as part of the 2015 multilateral agreement. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary James Mattis and national security adviser H.R. McMaster have recommended that Trump extend the sanctions. The administration has not yet made a final decision. Maintaining the core sanctions relief while adding new targeted measures could allow the nuclear deal to remain in place while satisfying the administrations desire to put pressure on Iran.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein released the transcript of Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpsons interview with Senate Judiciary Committee investigators about the Steele dossier, the Washington Post reported. Simpson spoke to the committee about Fusion GPS, the firm he co-founded, and its work on the dossier. Republicans have tried to discredit the Trump-Russia dossier as a politically-motivated document. Sen. Chuck Grassley, the committees chairman, had refused to release the transcript. Simpson said in his testimony that the FBI believed some of the allegations Steele shared with its investigators about the Trump campaigns ties to Russia because of other intelligence already in the bureaus possession, including information related to a person in the Trump campaign.. That person is believed to be George Papadopoulos, a campaign foreign policy adviser who spoke to an Australian diplomatwhose government then relayed to the FBIinformation about Russian efforts to undermine the Clinton campaign. The testimony refutes GOP talking points that say the dossier served as the basis for opening the investigation into possible collusion with the Russian government.
Separately, Michael Cohen, an attorney and business partner of Trump, filed defamation lawsuits against Fusion GPS and BuzzFeed for publishing the dossier, Politico reported. The dossier discusses Cohens ties to Russia. BuzzFeeds editor said in an op-ed in the New York Times that it was the right decision to publish the dossier.
Senate Democrats released a report saying Russia conducted a broad campaign to undermine democratic institutions in Western Europe and North America using military operations, cyber attacks, and disinformation over the past 20 years, the Wall Street Journal reported. The 200-page report from the Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee says Russian President Vladimir Putins goal was to undermine the transatlantic alliance. It makes 30 policy recommendations, including freezing Russian finances linked to corruption, supporting democratic institutions abroad and levying new sanctions against Russia. Senate Republicans declined to join the report.
Tillerson is opening a State Department investigation into the mysterious attacks on U.S. personnel stationed at the U.S. embassy in Cuba, the New York Times reported. Senators told senior State Department officials that it should have opened the Accountability Review Board inquiry much earlier to look into the strange illnesses that afflicted U.S. diplomats serving in Cuba. The Cuban government has denied any responsibility for the incidents.
A bill to reauthorize surveillance authorities under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act advanced to the House floor after the Rules Committee approved it in a 6-3 vote, Politico reported. The bill would renew Section 702, which is currently scheduled to expire on Jan. 19, for six more years. It is a combination of competing bills from the House intelligence and judiciary committees. Devin Nunes, chairman of the House intelligence committee, said the measure is likely to pass both the House and Senate. Sen. Mark Warner, the top democrat on the Senate intelligence committee, said the bill would receive support in the Senate.
The Islamic State called on its fighters to attack the militant organization Hamas, saying Hamas had betrayed Palestinians by refusing to release Palestinian extremists and by participating in Palestinian elections, the New York Times reported. A video released from the Egyptian affiliate of the Islamic State, which is currently fighting Egyptian security forces in the Sinai peninsula, showed Islamic State fighters denouncing Hamas. The feud between the militant organizations makes an already unstable situation near the Sinai-Gaza border even more hostile.
Prosecutors in Myanmar formally charged two Reuters journalists who have been detained in the country for more than a month with violating a law protecting state secrets, the Times reported. The journalists were investigating mass graves in areas where Myanmars military has carried out a campaign of ethnic cleansing against Rohingya Muslims. They denied any wrongdoing. American and European diplomats in Myanmar called for the journalists release.
ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare
Mieke Eoyang, Ben Freeman and Benjamin Wittes shared their analysis of polling data on government and national security matters from December 2017.
Samuel Estreicher discussed separation of powers issues with the Iran nuclear deal agreement.
Robert Chesney and Steve Vladeck provided a primer on the merits issues in ACLU v. Mattis.
J. Dana Stuster updated the Middle East Ticker, covering the Iran protests, austerity for the royal family in Saudi Arabia and possible U.S. cuts to U.N. relief for Palestine.
Matthew Kahn posted the transcript of the Senate Judiciary Committees interview with Glenn Simpson.
Kahn shared Lawfares resource page for documents related to FISA Section 702 reauthorization.
Kahn posted the text of a speech FBI Director Christopher Wray gave on Jan. 9 about encryption and cyber security.
Vanessa Sauter shared the Lawfare Podcast, featuring an interview between Alina Polyakova and Julia Ioffe about Ioffes recent piece on Putins goals.
Paul Rosenzweig explained the context for the Trump administrations decision to end Temporary Protected Status for El Salvadorans.
Email the Roundup Team noteworthy law and security-related articles to include, and follow us on Twitter and Facebook for additional commentary on these issues. Sign up to receive Lawfare in your inbox. Visit our Events Calendar to learn about upcoming national security events, and check out relevant job openings on our Job Board.
|A Jersey Shore doctor killed his wife after she threatened to expose the drug ring he ran, prosecutors say|
|social media infiltration by russian intelligence – Google Search|
<a href=”http://NBCNews.com” rel=”nofollow”>NBCNews.com</a>–Dec 20, 2017
Thousands of Russian trolls targeted national events during the 2016 U.S. presidential election to infiltrate the online conversations of millions of Americans, …. but we knew there were underground networks to spread content that would undermine Hillary,” said Emmy Bengtson, former deputy social media …
Bolivar Herald-Free Press–42 minutes ago
Putin and his disciples have infiltrated numerous public and private institutions and made off with information sensitive to both our government and its citizens. They have exploited our free press, spread disinformation through social media, and have created online propaganda networks and websites.
Washington Post–Jan 4, 2018
Trump and his top advisers were distributors of the Russian social media propaganda, retweeting and distributing it widely. And much of this happened after Trump was briefed in July by top U.S. professional counterintelligence officers who warned him of a Russian effort to infiltrate the 2016 campaign.
The Atlantic–Dec 28, 2017
Two weeks before the inauguration of President Donald Trump, the U.S. intelligence community released a declassified version of its report on Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. It detailed the activities of a network of hackers who infiltrated voting systems and stole documents from the Democrati
|us media infiltration by russian intelligence – Google Search|
CNNMoney–15 hours ago
Twitter missed a Senate Intelligence Committee deadline to answer questions about Russian meddling in the 2016 election and its platform, Senator Mark … testified before the committee in November on how a Russian troll army had set up accounts posing as American in an effort to influence U.S. politics.
<a href=”http://NBCNews.com” rel=”nofollow”>NBCNews.com</a>–Dec 20, 2017
Thousands of Russian trolls targeted national events during the 2016 U.S. presidential election to infiltratethe online conversations of millions of …. we knew there were underground networks to spread content that would undermine Hillary,” said Emmy Bengtson, former deputy social media director for the …
The Atlantic–Dec 28, 2017
Two weeks before the inauguration of President Donald Trump, the U.S. intelligence community released a declassified version of its report on Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. It detailed the activities of a network of hackers who infiltrated voting systems and stole documents from the Democratic …
|Grim dossier claim spurs speculation about possible Russian rubout|
A bombshell revelation made public Tuesday that “somebody’s already been killed” as a result of the publication of an unconfirmed anti-Trump dossier has sparked speculation that it was a reference to an ex-KGB agent mysteriously found dead in his car a year ago in Moscow.
The attorney for Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson told Senate investigators in a 300-page deposition released Tuesday that a murder had been carried out as a result of the publication of an unverified and salacious dossier about Donald Trump.
“Somebody’s already been killed as a result of the publication of this dossier and no harm should come to anybody related to this honest work,” said Joshua Levy in the deposition, which was taken Aug. 22, but released by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The cryptic reference spurred a guessing game about who the unlucky person was. The best guess, at least for now, seems to be former KGB general, Oleg Erovinkin, who was found dead in the back of his car on a Moscow street in December 2016.
According to a January 2017 report in British newspaper The Telegraph, Erovinkin was a top aide to Igor Sechin, a former deputy prime minister who was named repeatedly throughout the dossier. The KGB chief was also suspected at the time of helping former MI6 spy Christopher Steele compile info on Trump for the dossier.
Erovinkin and details of his death were published in the book, “Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia Helped Donald Trump win.” It alleges that the street his body was found on in Moscow was desolate with no cafes or other businesses and not much pedestrian traffic, making it an ideal spot to carry out an assassination.
“The vehicle had halted in Kitaigorodsky Proyezd – a street devoid of pedestrians and home to government buildings and an unfinished office block,” reads a line from the book detailing where Erovinkin’s body and the car were found. “It was three weeks after [Center for Information Security head Sergei] Mikhailov’s arrest, Monday, December 26. At number 9 there is a military academy named after Peter the Great. Guards turn back any errant drivers who try to enter the courtyard.”
Local media reports suggested at the time of his death that foul play was involved, but it was later claimed that his death was a result of a heart attack.
Glenn Simpson, the founder of Fusion, which commissioned the dossier, was deposed in August (Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
In the aftermath of his death, media reports speculated that Erovinkin was an unnamed informant for the dossier and Christo Grozev of Risk Management Lab, a think-tank based in Bulgaria claimed in a January 2017 Haaretz article eluded to the former KGB general being the main source of information for the dossier.
“Insiders have described Erovinkin to me alternately as ‘Sechin’s treasurer’ and ‘the go-between between Putin and Sechin,’” Grozev said to the newspaper. “One thing that everyone seems to agree – both in public and private sources – is that Erovinkin was Sechin’s closest associate.”
“I have no doubt that at the time Erovinkin died, Mr. Putin had Mr. Steele’s Trump dossier on his desk. He would – arguably – have known whether the alleged… story is based on fact or fiction,” Grozev also said. “Whichever is true, he would have had a motive to seek and find the mole… He would have had to conclude that Erovinkin was at least a person of interest.”
Levy did not immediately return messages requesting information about who he was referring to.
Perry Chiaramonte is a reporter for <a href=”http://FoxNews.com” rel=”nofollow”>FoxNews.com</a>. Follow him on Twitter at @perrych
|Trump dossier – Google Search|
ABC News–3 hours ago
BuzzFeed’s top editor says he’s “proud” that the organization published an uncorroborated dossierabout Donald Trump and his presidential campaign. Ben Smith writes in an opinion column in The New York Times that it’s clear “the dossier is unquestionably real news.” Smith argues that the investigation …
Trump lawyer files lawsuits against BuzzFeed, Fusion GPS over …
CNN–12 hours ago
I’m Proud We Published the Trump-Russia Dossier
Highly Cited–New York Times–16 hours ago
Trump Russia Dossier: Fusion GPS Transcript, Glenn Simpson …
Featured–<a href=”http://RollingStone.com” rel=”nofollow”>RollingStone.com</a>–2 hours ago
6 times the firm behind the infamous dossier contradicted Trump’s …
Opinion–Chicago Tribune–15 hours ago
Fusion GPS founder claimed FBI had Trump source during campaign
In-Depth–Washington Post–21 hours ago
<a href=”https://twitter.com/search/Trump+dossier” rel=”nofollow”>https://twitter.com/search/Trump+dossier</a>
|bitcoin as digital currency – Google Search|
|bitcoin as digital currency – Google Search|
USA TODAY–Jan 8, 2018
The unpredictable cryptocurrency market continued its wild ride to start the week, with all of the 10 most-valuable digital currencies, including Bitcoin, suffering steep declines. None of the largest digital currencies ranked by market value were spared, according to data from <a href=”http://coinmarketcap.com” rel=”nofollow”>coinmarketcap.com</a>. Bitcoin …
Why Ripple and Other Cryptocurrencies Are Crashing Right Now
Money Magazine–Jan 9, 2018
Ethereum hits a fresh record high and is up over 13000% in a year
CNBC–7 hours ago
4 Cryptocurrencies That Could Surpass Bitcoin
Motley Fool–Jan 9, 2018
South Korea clampdown on bitcoin gathers pace
Financial Times–Jan 9, 2018
Bitcoin’s time could be up: Are government-backed cryptocurrencies …
In-Depth–Firstpost–6 hours ago
CNBC–Jan 5, 2018
One reason some analysts say bitcoin will ultimately rise further is that investors will bet on a payout from more splits in the digital currency. When some bitcoin developers decide to implement their own upgrade of the bitcoin network, bitcoin investors at the time of the split receive equal amounts of the …
|The Early Edition: January 10, 2018|
Signup to receive the Early Edition in your inbox here.
Before the start of business, Just Security provides a curated summary of up-to-the-minute developments at home and abroad. Heres todays news.
The transcript of the Glenn R. Simpsons interview with the Senate Judiciary Committee was unilaterally made public by the top Democrat on the panel, Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Simpson is the co-founder of the opposition research firm Fusion G.P.S. and the transcript provides details about the commissioning of a dossier which alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russia compiled by former British Intelligence officer Christopher Steele. In an op-ed for the New York Times last week, Simpson and his co-founder Peter Fritsch called on the Judiciary Committee to release the transcript, but this was met with a pushback from Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa). Nicholas Fandos, Matthew Rosenberg and Sharon LaFraniere report at the New York Times.
The transcript of Simpsons testimony is available at Just Security.
Steele sat down for a full debriefing with the F.B.I. in September 2016 over his concerns about possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, and that Trump could have been blackmailed over an alleged sexual escapade at a hotel in Moscow in 2013. Ken Dilanian and Mike Memoli report at NBC News.
An internal Trump campaign source reported his or her concerns about Trump-Russia connections to the F.B.I., Simpson said in the testimony, also saying that Steele severed his relationship with the F.B.I. as he was concerned based on an article that was published by the New York Times in October 2016 that agents were being manipulated by Trump insiders. Alan Yuhas, Julian Borger and Stephanie Kirchgaessner report at the Guardian.
Its political rhetoric to call the dossier phony. We can argue about whats prudent and whats not, but its not a fabrication, Simpson said in the interview, adding that Fusion G.P.S. were mostly concerned with Trumps business dealings until Steele brought back something very different. Katie Bo Williams and KJonathan Easley report at the Hill.
Somebodys already been killed as a result of the publication of the Steele dossier, Simpsons testimony claimed, declining to reveal further details because, Simpsons lawyer claimed, he wanted to be very careful to protect his sources. Brandon Carter reports at the Hill.
Feinstein said that she decided to release the transcript because the American people deserve the opportunity to see what he [Simpson] said and judge for themselves, a spokesperson for Grassley said that Feinstein made the transcript public with no agreement from committee Republicans and accused her of undermining the integrity of the committees oversight work. Kyle Cheney reports at POLITICO.
Speculation over the New York Times article published in October 2016 has increased following the release of Simpsons testimony, Erik Wemple explains at the Washington Post.
The key points from Simpsons interview are provided by Amber Phillips at the Washington Post.
Trumps personal lawyer Michael Cohen has filed a defamation lawsuit against BuzzFeed for publishing the Steele dossier, Cohen said that allegations against him in the dossier are provably false, including claims that Cohens wife is Russian and that her father is a leading property developer in Russia. Alex Johnson reports at NBC News.
The editor in chief of BuzzFeed News has defended his websites decision to publish the Steele dossier in an op-ed at the Washington Post, saying that a year of government inquiries and blockbuster journalism has made clear the dossier is unquestionably real news.
Twitter has failed to meet a deadline to provide lawmakers with further information on Russian interference in the 2016 election, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee Mark Warner (Va.) yesterday expressed disappointment with the social media company. Ali Breland reports at the Hill.
U.S.-Russia relations would be done if Russia attempts to interfere in the 2018 midterm elections, the U.S. ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman said yesterday in a closed-door session with members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Andrew Desiderio reports at The Daily Beast.
North Korea has agreed to send a delegation to the Winter Olympics in South Korea next month but the issue of North Koreas nuclear weapons program was not mentioned in the joint statement released after yesterdays inter-Korean talks, which were the first official face-to-face talks in over two years, with North Koreas chief delegate saying that the nuclear weapons were strictly aimed at the U.S. and it would be ridiculous to discuss the program. Andrew Jeong reports at the Wall Street Journal.
I am giving a lot of credit to President Trump, the South Korean President Moon Jae-in said in a press conference today, recognizing Trumps contribution to forcing North Korea to engage in discussions, but adding that relations between the two Koreas were ultimately dependent on Pyongyangs willingness to dismantle its nuclear weapons program. Choe Sang-Hun reports at the New York Times.
While Moon praised Trump, he also warned that pressure on North Korea could raise tensions and bring about unintentional clashes, James Griffiths reports at CNN.
South Korea presented North Koreas agreement to send athletes to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics as a significant breakthrough in bilateral relations, however it is unclear whether North Korea would engage sincerely with South Korea to further improve relations. Anna Fifield reports at the Washington Post.
The talks between North and South Korea were a good first step in the process to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, a spokesperson for the U.S. State Department, Steve Goldstein, said yesterday in response to the North and South Korea joint statement. Christine Kim and David Brunnstrom report at Reuters.
President Moon said today that he was willing to meet with the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un under certain conditions, saying that a summit must be committed to resolving the nuclear issue and not just for the sake of holding a summit. Bryan Harris and Katrina Manson report at the Financial Times.
The U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres welcomed the progress made at the inter-Korean talks and welcomed North Koreas decision to send a delegation to the Winter Olympics. The U.N. News Centrereports.
North Korea stepped up its criticism of the U.S. and Trump as the talks with South Korea took place, putting forward a message that calls on the U.S. to steer clear of the crisis and let Koreans solve the issue, however such a message would be hard for South Koreans to accept due to Seouls close relationship with Washington. Eric Talmadge provides an analysis at the AP.
The State Department has proposed a military sale of more than $133m worth of missiles and equipment to Japan to counter the North Korean threat, the State Department told Congress yesterday. Ellen Mitchell reports at the Hill.
A profile of President Moon, and a discussion of whether he has the ability to resolve the crisis on the Korean Peninsula, is provided by Paula Hancocks and James Griffiths at CNN.
The inter-Korean talks offered Kim a propaganda victory and drove a wedge between the U.S. and South Korea, President Moon faces huge obstacles in achieving reconciliation and the presence of the a U.S. military aircraft off the coast of Korea during the Olympics offers a more reliable guarantor of peace than the gestures of a young dictator who pretends to want peace even as he threatens war. The Wall Street Journal editorial board writes.
Moon and Kim are well-placed to resolve the crisis due to their respective abilities to leverage political capital, they must now use this political capital to promote the possibility for peace. S. Nathan Park writes at Foreign Policy.
[Trump] must realize that these extreme and psychotic episodes wont be left without a response, the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said yesterday, blaming the U.S. for fomenting the recent unrest in Iran. Thomas Erdbrink reports at the New York Times.
Iran foiled the U.S., Britain and others in their attempts to overthrow the Islamic Republic, Khamenei also said, making the comments as the protests in Iran have started to wind down. Babak Dehghanpisheh reports at Reuters.
Around 3,700 people have been arrested during the demonstrations in Iran, according to an Iranian member of parliament. Al Jazeera reports.
Withdrawing from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal could make it difficult to make an agreement with North Korea in the future, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) warned yesterday, making the comments ahead of a series of deadlines that Trump faces regarding the deal and whether to continue to waive sanctions on Iran. Rebecca Kheel reports at the Hill.
The decision to whether to waive or re-impose sanctions on Iran is expected to be made Friday, the State Department said yesterday, Reuters reporting.
Trump should waive sanctions on Iran and play the long game, with the aim of fixing the nuclear deal. Michael Doran writes at the Wall Street Journal.
The U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley faces a difficult task when it comes to Iran and the nuclear deal, if she aspires to be president, she would be wise to avoid trouble with Iran that could easily backfire. Richard Gowan writes at POLITICO Magazine.
The Syrian army has started to advance on the rebel-held Idlib province, leading to around 70,000 civilians to flee the area. Kareem Shaheen reports at the Guardian.
Turkey today urged Russia and Iran to pressure Syria to respect the de-escalation zone in Idlib and to stop the Syrian military advance. Tuvan Gumrukcu reports at Reuters.
A spate of attacks on the Russian Hmeimim air base in Syria has raised numerous questions, it is unclear who is responsible and it appears to be part of a concerted assault. Liz Sly reports at the Washington Post.
Russia appeared to suggest that the U.S. were behind the attacks in a statement yesterday, the APreports.
Russias ambassador to the U.N. yesterday expressed hope that a new round of U.N.-led peace talks in Geneva would be more fruitful and contribute to the peace initiative being held in the Russian city of Sochi. The AP reports.
U.S.-led airstrikes continue. U.S. and coalition forces carried out 58 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria and Iraq between December 29, 2017 and January 4, 2018. [Central Command]
CUBA EMBASSY INCIDENTS
The U.S. are exploring a range of theories in relation to the symptoms experienced by employees at the U.S. Embassy in Cuba in 2016, the State Department said yesterday, 24 U.S. personnel and family members experienced mysterious illnesses in Havana and there have been speculation that they were subjected to some sort of acoustic or sonic attack. Matt Spetalnick reports at Reuters.
The State Department did not follow the law in failing to set up a review board months ago to establish what happened in Havana, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said at a hearing yesterday. Gardiner Harris reports at the New York Times.
An Israeli man was killed by a suspected Palestinian gunman yesterday, according to Israeli military and medical officials, the man was a resident of a West Bank settlement near the Palestinian city of Nablus. Reuters reports.
The Israeli military has conducted raids near Nablus following the shooting, Al Jazeera reports.
The Swedish ambassador to the U.N. yesterday expressed concern about the Trump administrations plan to review funding for the U.N.R.W.A. aid agency for Palestinian refugees, saying that such action would have negative humanitarian implications and would be destabilizing for the region. Reutersreports.
The Trump administrations nuclear posture review plans to loosen constraints on the use of nuclear weapons, according to what is believed to be the final draft of the review. Julian Borger reports at the Guardian.
Ecuador has been exploring ways for the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to leave its embassy in London, the Ecuadorean foreign relations minister said, who was quoted as saying that it was unsustainable for Assange to remain at the embassy indefinitely and that the solution would require international cooperation and the cooperation of the U.K., Ryan Dube reports at the Wall Street Journal.
Trump has signed a memorandum calling on the Director of National Intelligence to establish a new policy on unmasking Americans in intelligence reports, Morgan Chalfant reports at the Hill.
Senior National Security Council official Kevin Harrington proposed withdrawing some U.S. troops from Eastern Europe to please the Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to two former administration officials. Spencer Ackerman reveals at The Daily Beast.
Trump and the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are playing the same game, both are embroiled in domestic issues that involve their sons and both are pursuing illiberal agendas. Ishaan Tharoor writes at the Washington Post.
|Foreign spies are watching and probably targeting Fox News Channel|
|Doctor Charged With Having Wife Killed to Protect Drug Ring – U.S. News & World Report|
|inquiry on electronic mass surveillance of eu citizens – Google Search|
The Guardian–Jan 9, 2014
The inquiry by the European parliament’s civil liberties committee says the activities of America’s National Security Agency (NSA) and its British counterpart, GCHQ, appear to be illegal … The former allows the NSA to conduct mass surveillance on EU citizens through the servers of US internet companies.
PCWorld–Mar 7, 2014
The European Parliament had invited Snowden to provide testimony for an inquiry into the electronic mass surveillance of EU citizens. That surveillance, often instigated by the NSA but carried out with help of EU member states, is quite extensive, he wrote. The NSA has been pressuring EU member states …
The Guardian–Nov 19, 2016
Even in Germany, with East Germany’s history of mass surveillance by the Stasi and where Snowden’s revelations produced the most outcry, the Bundestag recently passed legislation giving the intelligence agencies more surveillance powers. The US passed a modest bill last year curtailing bulk phone …
Investigatory Powers Bill: ‘Snoopers Charter 2’ to pass into law …
In-Depth–The Independent–Nov 18, 2016
EUobserver–Jan 17, 2017
Executive power grabs and counter-terrorism laws are rolling back freedoms across the EU, according to a report by Amnesty International. … Germany, Poland, and the UK, among others, have recently passed laws described by London-based Privacy International as “a new era of mass surveillance” in …
|electronic mass surveillance of eu citizens – Google Search|
The Boston Globe
EFF–Oct 3, 2017
The decision confirms the suspicion of Ireland’s privacy regulators (and EFF) that Facebook’s business practices are not the only matters under the microscope in Europe: the EU courts also care about the American mass surveillance of ordinary innocent Europeans. The judge in the matter, Justice Caroline …
European court may rule on Facebook data transfers to US, where …
The Boston Globe–Oct 3, 2017
EU court to probe new Facebook data challenge
EUobserver–Oct 3, 2017
High Court asks ECJ to examine Facebook case
International–Irish Times–Oct 3, 2017
High Court asks European Court of Justice to examine Facebook …
International–Independent.ie–Oct 3, 2017
|mass surveillance in the us – Google Search|
Daily Beast–Jan 9, 2018
It’s the NSA’s most cherished mass–surveillance law, albeit one civil libertarians consider dubiously constitutional. … include in the bill an unrelated a provision on so-called unmasking, the process that intelligence agencies use to reveal the names of U.S. persons who may be involved in crimes like spying.
Democrats should take the initiative in ending warrantless surveillance
The Hill–Jan 8, 2018
RT–Dec 20, 2017
As early as tonight, Congress plans to sneak an expansion of mass surveillance into law. Only your call, right now, can stop them. The @ACLU and I are here to help, doing a live Q&A on @reddit in a half hour (<a href=”https://t.co/qlo4REMoFl” rel=”nofollow”>https://t.co/qlo4REMoFl</a> @ 2PM EST). Ask usanything! (SuddenlySnowden) pic.twitter.com/ …
Reason (blog)–22 hours ago
A DEA training slide on parallel constructionAlthough mass surveillance is usually identified with the war on terror and the National Security Agency, a subsequent USA Today investigation found the DEA and Justice Department had been collecting logs of billions of phone calls originating from the U.S. in a …
The Intercept–20 hours ago
Federal agents at the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration speak in veiled terms about the secret DEA unit that shares intelligence from the National Security … The Special Operations Division receives raw intelligence from the NSA’s surveillance programs, including from the mass surveillance programs …
Washington Examiner–Dec 20, 2017
Last week, the two gave a joint talk at George Washington University about the implication of mass surveillance and the eroding of the Fourth … This lessens their confidence in the U.S. economy and can lead to fewer jobs for millennials, who will be shouldering the brunt of expenses when it comes to …
|mass electronic surveillance – Google Search|
WIRED–Dec 23, 2017
For the first time, the American people learned that the NSA was collecting millions of their phone calls and electronic communications—emails, Facebook … Hanging in the balance is the legal framework the government largely relies on to conduct mass surveillance of foreigners, and Americans who …
EFF–Dec 19, 2017
According to reports published Tuesday evening by Politico, a group of surveillance hawks in the House of Representatives is trying to ram through a bill that would extend mass surveillance by the National Security Agency. We expect a vote to happen on the House floor as early as tomorrow, which means …
Congress is sneaking through a major expansion of NSA …
The Verge–Dec 20, 2017
ACT NOW: Only hours remain to stop Congress from sneaking in …
Boing Boing–Dec 20, 2017
EFF–Dec 28, 2017
“[T]he volume of documents and electronic data that the government defendants must review for potentially responsive information is massive,” the … “We have long advocated for reining in NSA mass surveillance, and the ‘incidental’ collection of Americans’ private communications under Section 702 …
Newsmax–Dec 12, 2017
Just in time for Christmas, the deep state wants to give America the gift that keeps on giving — never-ending mass surveillance. … second of every day, the American people are being spied on by the U.S. government’s vast network of digital peeping Toms, electronic eavesdroppers and robotic snoops.
|How the Government Hides Secret Surveillance Programs|
In 2013, 18-year-old Tadrae McKenzie robbed a marijuana dealer for $130 worth of pot at a local Taco Bell in Tallahassee, Florida. He and two friends had used BB guns to carry out the crime, which under Florida law constituted robbery with a deadly weapon. McKenzie braced himself to serve the minimum four years in prison.
But in the end, a state judge offered McKenzie a startlingly lenient plea deal: He was ordered to serve only six months’ probation, after pleading guilty to a second-degree misdemeanor. The remarkable deal was related to evidence McKenzie’s defense team uncovered before the trial: Law enforcement had used a secret surveillance tool often called Stingray to investigate his case.
Stingrays are devices that behave like fake cellphone towers, tricking phones into believing they’re pinging genuine towers nearby. By using the device, cops can determine a suspect’s precise location, outgoing and incoming calls, and even listen-in on a call or see the content of a text message.
McKenzie’s lawyers suspected cops had used a Stingray because they knew exactly where his house was, and knew he left his home at 6 a.m. the day he was arrested. The cops had obtained a court order from a judge to authorize Verizon to hand over data about the location of Mckenzie’s phone. But cell tower data isn’t precise enough to place a device at a specific house.
The cops also said they used a database that lets law enforcement agencies locate individuals by linking them with their phone numbers. But the phone McKenzie was using was a burner, and not associated with his name. Law enforcement couldn’t adequately explain their extraordinary knowledge of his whereabouts.
The state judge in the case ordered police to show the Stingray and its data to McKenzie’s attorneys. They refused, because of a non-disclosure agreement with the FBI. The state then offered McKenzie, as well as the two other defendants, plea deals designed to make the case go away.
The cops in McKenzie’s case had ultimately failed to successfully carry out a troubling technique called “parallel construction.”
First described in government documents obtained by Reuters in 2013, parallel construction is when law enforcement originally obtains evidence through a secret surveillance program, then tries to seek it out again, via normal procedure. In essence, law enforcement creates a parallel, alternative story for how it found information. That way, it can hide surveillance techniques from public scrutiny and would-be criminals.
A new report released by Human Rights Watch Tuesday, based in part on 95 relevant cases, indicates that law enforcement is using parallel construction regularly, though it’s impossible to calculate exactly how often. It’s extremely difficult for defendants to discern when evidence has been obtained via the practice, according to the report.
“When attorneys try to find out if there’s some kind of undisclosed method that’s been used, the prosecution will basically stonewall and try not to provide a definitive yes or no answer,” says Sarah St. Vincent, the author of the report and a national security and surveillance researcher at Human Rights Watch.
In investigation reports, law enforcement will describe evidence obtained via secret surveillance programs in inscrutable terms. “We’ve seen plenty of examples where the police officers in those reports write ‘we located the suspect based on information from a confidential source;’ they use intentionally vague language,” says Nathan Freed Wessler, a staff attorney at the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology project. “It sounds like a human informant or something else, not like a sophisticated surveillance device.”
Sometimes, when a savvy defense attorney pushes, an unbelievable plea deal is offered, or the the case is dropped entirely. If a powerful, secret surveillance program is at stake, a single case is often deemed unimportant to the government.
“Parallel construction means you never know that a case could actually be the result of some constitutionally problematic practice,” says St. Vincent. For example, the constitutionality of using a Stingray device without a warrant is still up for debate, according to the Human Rights Watch report. Some courts have ruled that the devices do violate the Fourth Amendment.
Hemisphere, a massive telephone-call gathering operation revealed by The New York Times in 2013, is one of the most well-documented surveillance programs that government officials attempt to hide when they use parallel construction. The largely secret program provides police with access to a vast database containing call records going back to 1987. Billions of calls are added daily.
In order to create the program, the government forged a lucrative partnership with AT&T, which owns three-quarters of the US’s landline switches and much of its wireless infrastructure. Even if you change your number, Hemisphere’s sophisticated algorithms can connect you to your new line by examining calling patterns. The program also allows law enforcement to have temporary access to the location where you placed or received a call.
The Justice Department billed Hemisphere as a counter-narcotics tool, but the program has been used for everything from Medicaid fraud to murder investigations, according to documentation obtained in 2016 by The Daily Beast.
“What Hemisphere’s capabilities allow it to do is to identify relationships and associations, and to build people’s social webs,” says Aaron Mackey, staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). “It’s highly likely that innocent people who are doing completely innocent things are getting swept up into this database.”
The EFF filed Freedom of Information Act and Public Records Act requests in 2014 seeking info about Hemisphere, but the government only provided heavily redacted files. So the EFF filed a lawsuit in 2015. It’s currently waiting for a California judge to decide whether more information can be made public without impeding law enforcement’s work.
“[The government] is obscuring what we believe to be warrantless or otherwise unconstitutional surveillance techniques, and they’re also jeopardizing a defendant’s ability to obtain all the evidence that’s relevant,” says Mackey.
Parallel construction can also involve a simple event like a traffic stop. In these instances, local law enforcement follows a suspect and then pulls them over for a mundane reason, like failing to use a turn signal. While the stop is meant to look random, cops are often working on a tip they received from a federal agency like the DEA.
“Sometimes when tips come through, the federal authorities don’t even tell the local authorities what they’re looking for,” says St. Vincent. The tip could be as simple as to watch out for a car at a specific place and time.
These stops are referred to as “wall off” or “whisper” stops, according to the Human Rights Watch report. In these instances, local law enforcement has to find probable cause for pulling the suspect over to avoid disclosing the tip. The tip is then never mentioned in court, and instead the beginning of the investigation is said to be the “random” stop.
The Human Rights Watch report concludes that Congress should pass legislation forbidding the use of parallel construction because it impedes on the right to a fair trial. Some representatives, like Republican Senator Rand Paul, have also called for banning the practice.
Opponents of parallel construction believe it should be outlawed because it prevents judges from doing their jobs. “It really gives a lot of power to the executive branch,” says St. Vincent. “It cuts judges out of the role of deciding whether something was legally obtained.”
One of the most concerning aspects of the practice is it shields government surveillance technology from public scrutiny. Stingrays, the cellphone-tracking device used in the Florida robbery case, have existed for years, but they’ve only recently been disclosed to the public. Lawyers and legal scholars haven’t yet conclusively decided whether their use without a warrant violates the Fourth Amendment, in part because so little is known about them. That means many people may have been convicted using techniques that violated their rights.
In the future, if the government hides new surveillance technology like facial recognition, the public will be unable to discern if it’s biased or faulty. Unless judges and citizens understand how surveillance techniques are used, we also can’t evaluate their constitutionality.
The public needs to determine if hiding surveillance programs is something it’s comfortable with at all. On one hand, keeping certain techniques secret likely helps authorities apprehend criminals. But if we don’t know how at least the basic contours of how a program works, it’s hard to have any discussion at all.
|How the Government Hides Secret Surveillance Programs – WIRED|
|9:16 PM 1/9/2018 FBI was being manipulated for political ends by the Trump people, Simpson said FBI knew of possible Trump-Russia collusion, according to Glenn Simpsons Senate testimony Mike Novas Shared NewsLinks|
“Steele broke off contact with the FBI sometime between Oct. 31, 2016, and the election on Nov. 8, Simpson said, because Steele concluded that the information he had given to the FBI was not elevated to the highest levels of the bureau and was not being vigorously pursued. A front-page New York Times article on Oct. 31 … Continue reading“9:16 PM 1/9/2018 – “FBI was being manipulated for political ends by the Trump people”, Simpson said” – FBI knew of possible Trump-Russia collusion, according to Glenn Simpson’s Senate testimony – Mike Novas Shared NewsLinks”
|Pakistan halts intelligence cooperation with US, but US embassy denies knowledge|
Pakistan said on Tuesday that it had suspended military and intelligence cooperation with the United States in the wake of Washingtons decision to stop security assistance to Pakistan. But the US embassy in Islamabad said it had no information about Khans announcement.
|Democratic Senator Releases Transcript of Interview with Dossier Firm|
“The American people deserve the opportunity to see what he said and judge for themselves,” she said. “The innuendo and misinformation circulating about the transcript are part of a deeply troubling effort to undermine the investigation into potential collusion and obstruction of justice. The only way to set the record straight is to make the transcript public.”
For Ms. Feinstein and Mr. Grassley, two senior senators who worked closely last summer to initiate a joint Russia investigation, the breach was striking. But it reflects the growing divide between the two parties.
Republicans have repeatedly and vocally raised concerns that the dossier — a set of reports paid for by Democrats — could have been mishandled by the F.B.I. as it was opening its own investigation into the Russian effort and the Trump campaign. Democrats say scrutiny of the dossier’s provenance is a distraction from the central question: Did the Trump campaign knowingly seek aid from Russia?
The Fusion GPS founder appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee in Aug. 2017 to answer questions about the dossier on President Trump that the research company compiled with the assistance of Christopher Steele, a former British spy.
Democrats were still seething on Tuesday at the decision by Mr. Grassley and another Republican on the panel, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, to issue a criminal referral last week for Mr. Steele. The senators said they had reason to believe Mr. Steele had lied to federal authorities about his contacts with the media and urged the Justice Department to investigate.
A spokesman for Mr. Grassley said Ms. Feinstein’s decision was “totally confounding.”
“Her action undermines the integrity of the committee’s oversight work and jeopardizes its ability to secure candid voluntary testimony,” the spokesman, Taylor Foy, said.
Mr. Simpson said he hired Mr. Steele in the late spring of 2016, and the former spy grew alarmed soon after getting to work. With Mr. Simpson’s blessing, he reached out to an old contact at the F.B.I. in early July.
“To me, it was like, you know, you’re driving to work and you see something happen, and you call 911,” Mr. Simpson said.
Current and former American and foreign officials with direct knowledge of the investigation say that the federal inquiry did not start with Mr. Steele’s dossier, early parts of which did not reach counterintelligence investigators at the F.B.I. until August, after the bureau’s inquiry had already begun. But the officials have said that the dossier added material and buttressed what American law enforcement and spy agencies were gleaning from other sources.
According to Mr. Simpson, it was not until late September, nearly two months after the F.B.I. investigation had begun, that the F.B.I. reached out to Mr. Steele. He then met with agents in Rome to brief them on his work.
At that meeting, Mr. Steele learned that his information was considered credible by the F.B.I. “because they had other intelligence that indicated the same thing and one of those pieces of intelligence was a human source from inside the Trump organization,” Mr. Simpson testified.
Mr. Simpson did not disclose the identity of the human source in his August testimony. But people familiar with the matter said that Mr. Steele, after being questioned by the F.B.I., came to believe that the bureau’s human source was George Papadopoulos, a former Trump campaign foreign adviser.
In fact, the source was an Australian diplomat who had spent a night drinking in London with Mr. Papadopoulos in the spring, and then shared with American officials what he had learned from the Trump aide.
Mr. Simpson said Fusion played no role in deciding what to include in the memos that would eventually be compiled into the dossier.
But Mr. Simpson said that Mr. Steele “broke off” his connections with the F.B.I. after The New York Times ran an article on Oct. 31 that said the bureau had found no conclusive or direct link between Mr. Trump and the Russian government.
Citing law enforcement officials, the Times article said that “none of the investigations so far have found any conclusive or direct link between Mr. Trump and the Russian government.”
Since then, investigators and journalists have developed extensive evidence linking Mr. Trump’s associates to Russian government and intelligence operatives, but as yet there is still no public evidence of a direct link between President Trump himself and the Kremlin.
At the time, many in the F.B.I. did not believe Russia was aiming to explicitly help Mr. Trump. That consensus did not emerge fully until January 2017 when American intelligence agencies released a report saying that the Kremlin’s intentions were twofold: to “undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process” and to “help President-elect Trump’s election chances.”
Mr. Simpson, in his testimony, called the Times article “a real Halloween special.”
“There was a concern that the F.B.I. was being manipulated for political ends by the Trump people and that we didn’t really understand what was going on,” Mr. Simpson said. “So he stopped dealing with them.”
The concerns prompted Mr. Steele to share his work with a former British diplomat, who passed the information to Senator John McCain after the election.
Mr. McCain is believed to have then met with James B. Comey, then the F.B.I. director, to discuss the dossier. In January, weeks before the inauguration, the dossier became public after news broke that Mr. Comey had briefed President Barack Obama and Mr. Trump on Mr. Steele’s work.
The release of the transcript broke what had more or less been a prevailing rule of secrecy around Congress’s various investigations into Russia’s efforts and the Trump campaign. Though pieces of information from witness interviews in the House and the Senate have leaked to the news media, only two complete transcripts — from House Intelligence Committee interviews with Carter Page and Erik Prince — had been publicly released among hundreds.
In a brief interview, Ms. Feinstein left open the possibility of releasing other transcripts from the committee’s investigation.
|FBI knew of possible Trump-Russia collusion, according to Glenn Simpson’s Senate testimony|
WASHINGTON — By the time the FBI sat down in September 2016 for a full interview with the ex-British spy who had been researching Donald Trump’s Russia connections, the bureau had already received information raising concerns about possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, according to a transcript made public Tuesday.
Glenn Simpson, a former newspaper reporter and the founder of a research firm called Fusion GPS, spoke to the Senate Judiciary Committee for more than 10 hours in August about his research into Trump, and on Tuesday more than 300 pages of his testimony were released by the committee’s ranking Democrat, Dianne Feinstein of California.
Feinstein releases Fusion GPS testimony on Trump dossier 3:14
Simpson told the committee that his associate, the former British intelligence operative Christopher Steele, sat down for a “full debriefing” with an FBI contact in Rome in September 2016. During the debriefing, Steele shared information from his Russian sources, who said Trump had been coordinating with the Russian election-interference campaign of hacking and leaking.
For the FBI, it wasn’t entirely new information, Simpson testified.
“They believed Chris might be credible because they had other intelligence that indicated the same thing,” Simpson said. “One of those pieces of intelligence was a human source from inside the Trump organization.” He added that the FBI had a “walk-in” whistleblower who was someone in Trump’s orbit.
‘People are entitled to know’: Sen. Feinstein responds to releasing transcripts on possible Trump-Russia collusion 1:14
However, two sources close to Fusion GPS told NBC News that Simpson’s testimony inaccurately conflated what he had been told, and that the human source was actually George Papadopoulos, the Trump campaign aide who has pleaded guilty and is cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller.
By the time Steele sat down with the FBI in September, an Australian diplomat had passed to U.S. officials details of his conversation with Papadopoulos, who seemed to know that the Russians possessed hacked Democratic emails.
Steele first reached out to the FBI in early July 2016, because he was alarmed by the information he collected in June and felt obligated to step forward, Simpson said.
“He said he was professionally obligated to do it,” Simpson testified. “Like if you’re a lawyer and, you know, you find out about a crime, in a lot of countries you must report that.”
Steele was concerned that Trump could be blackmailed by the Russians over an alleged 2013 sexual escapade Steele believed had been recorded at the Ritz Carlton hotel in Moscow, Simpson testified.
The FBI responded to Steele “by September,” Simpson said, and Steele then met in mid- or late September with an FBI legal attaché in Rome.
Steele broke off contact with the FBI sometime between Oct. 31, 2016, and the election on Nov. 8, Simpson said, because Steele concluded that the information he had given to the FBI was not elevated to the highest levels of the bureau and was not being vigorously pursued.
A front-page New York Times article on Oct. 31 about the Trump-Russia investigation said the FBI had found no conclusive link between Trump and Russia.
After the article was published, Simpson said, Steele severed his relationship with the FBI. “There was a concern that the FBI was being manipulated for political ends by the Trump people and that we didn’t really understand what was going on,” Simpson said.
It has since emerged that there was an active FBI counterintelligence investigation, which began in July 2016 but which the bureau kept secret.
Simpson said a dossier, which contained unverified allegations that Russia had been cultivating Trump for years and had gathered compromising information on Trump, contained all the memos Steele had produced for Fusion GPS, and that neither Fusion nor Simpson selected the content or edited the memos. The dossier was published by Buzzfeed.
Simpson said when he began his research into Trump, he was struck by Trump’s many connections to people linked to Russian organized crime, including Felix Sater, who pleaded guilty in 1998 to a mafia stock swindle and later helped Trump develop the Trump Soho hotel.
Simpson said he found Steele’s reports that the Russians were coordinating with the Trump campaign credible.
During the Senate hearing, he was asked to respond to a comment from a White House spokeswoman, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, that his was a “Democrat-linked firm” that “took money from the Russian government” and “created the phony dossier that’s been the basis for all of the Russia scandal fake news.”
“It’s a false allegation,” he said. “It’s political rhetoric to call the dossier phony. The memos are field reports of real interviews that Chris’s network conducted and there’s nothing phony about it. We can argue about what’s prudent and what’s not, but it’s not a fabrication.”
Simpson acknowledged that at the time he was working with Steele he was also working with a law firm that was defending a Russian oligarch in a lawsuit brought by the U.S. Attorney in New York. But he testified that the two cases were entirely separate, and did not influence one another.
Two of the people working on the New York case with Simpson were Natalia Veselnitskaya and Rinat Akhmetshin, both of whom attended a now-notorious June 2016 Trump Tower meeting that had been billed as an attempt by Russian officials to give negative information about Hillary Clinton to the Trump campaign. Simpson said he was unaware of that meeting at the time it occurred.
Simpson said he concluded from his research that Trump was not as rich as he has claimed, and that he had a lot of questionable business entanglements that bear further scrutiny.
“There were various allegations of fraudulent business practices or dishonest business practices or connections with organized crime figures,” Simpson said. “It was a long history of associations with people accused of involvement in criminal activity.”