March - 2017

March 31, 2017 – WikiLeaks’ latest release of CIA cyber-tools could blow the cover on agency hacking operations

Wikileaks Vault 7 Logo (Credit: Wikileaks)

“WikiLeaks’ latest disclosure of CIA cyber-tools reveals a technique used by the agency to hide its digital tracks, potentially blowing the cover on current and past hacking operations aimed at gathering intelligence on terrorists and other foreign targets.

The release Friday of the CIA’s “Marble Framework” comes less than a month after the WikiLeaks dumped onto the Internet a trove of files — dubbed “Vault 7” — that described the type of malware and methods the CIA uses to gain access to targets’ phones, computers and other electronic devices.

“This appears to be one of the most technically damaging leaks ever done by WikiLeaks, as it seems designed to directly disrupt ongoing CIA operations and attribute previous operations,” said Nicholas Weaver, a computer security researcher at the University of California at Berkeley.

The material includes the secret source code of an “obfuscation” technique used by the CIA so its malware can evade detection by anti-virus systems. The technique is used by all professional hackers, whether they work for the National Security Agency, Moscow’s FSB security agency or the Chinese military. But because the code contains a specific algorithm — a digital fingerprint of sorts — it can now be used to identify CIA hacking operations that had previously been detected but not attributed.” (Read more: Washington Post, 3/31/2017)

Late March, 2017 – Cabal of wealthy donors financing $50 million Trump-Russia investigation

Daniel J. Jones (Credit: Zero Hedge)

“A group of wealthy donors from New York and California have forked out $50 million to fund a Russia investigation being conducted by Christopher Steele, Fusion GPS and a former Senate staffer for Dianne Feinstein.

That bombshell revelation is made in a footnote to the House Intelligence Committee’s newly released report on Russian interference in the presidential campaign.

While the dossier project failed to help former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton win the presidency, Fusion GPS and Steele have continued their investigative work.

That’s according to statements from Daniel Jones, a former Feinstein staffer who runs the Penn Quarter Group (PQG), a Washington, D.C., consulting firm.”

(…) “The House report states that in March 2017, Jones told the FBI about a project he is working on with Steele and Fusion GPS that is being funded to the tune of $50 million by 7 to 10 wealthy donors from New York and California.

In late March 2017, Jones met with FBI regarding PQG, which he described as ‘exposing foreign influence in Western election,’” reads the committee’s report.” (Read more: The Daily Caller, 04/27/2018)

March 30, 2017 – Senator Mark Warner contacts lobbyist for Russian oligarch, seeking access to dossier author, Christopher Steele

“Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee who has been leading a congressional investigation into President Trump’s alleged ties to Russia, had extensive contact last year with a lobbyist [Adam Waldman] for a Russian oligarch [Oleg V. Deripaska], who was offering Warner access to former British spy and dossier author Christopher Steele, according to text messages obtained exclusively by Fox News.

“We have so much to discuss u need to be careful but we can help our country,” Warner texted the lobbyist, Adam Waldman, on March 22, 2017.

“I’m in,” Waldman, whose firm has ties to Hillary Clinton, texted back to Warner.”

 

(…) Secrecy seemed very important to Warner as the conversation with Waldman heated up March 29, when the lobbyist revealed that Steele wanted a bipartisan letter from Warner and the committee’s chairman, North Carolina Republican Sen. Richard Burr, inviting him to talk to the Senate intelligence panel.

Throughout the text exchanges, Warner seemed particularly intent on connecting directly with Steele without anyone else on the Senate Intelligence Committee being in the loop — at least initially. In one text to the lobbyist, Warner wrote that he would “rather not have a paper trail” of his messages.

(…) “Waldman noted repeatedly that Steele was concerned about leaks and was “spooked” by all of the attention he had received around the world. Steele, he said, was skittish about talking to Warner.

Warner texted back on March 30: “We want to do this right private in London don’t want to send letter yet cuz if we can’t get agreement wud rather not have paper trail.”

 

(…) “Over the course of four months between February and May 2017, Warner and Waldman also exchanged dozens of texts about possible testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee from Deripaska, Waldman’s primary Russian billionaire client.” (Credit: Fox News, 2/28/2018) (Link to text messages)

March 30, 2017 – Comey’s statement for the record on his phone call with Trump

Statement for the Record

Senate Select Committee on Intelligence
James B. Comey
June 8, 2017

Chairman Burr, Ranking Member Warner, Members of the Committee

Thank you for inviting me to appear before you today. I was asked to testify today to describe for you my interactions with President-Elect and President Trump on subjects that I understand are of interest to you. I have not included every detail from my conversations with the President, but, to the best of my recollection, I have tried to include information that may be relevant to the Committee.

March 30 Phone Call

James Comey (Credit: ABC News)

On the morning of March 30, the President called me at the FBI. He described the Russia investigation as “a cloud” that was impairing his ability to act on behalf of the country. He said he had nothing to do with Russia, had not been involved with hookers in Russia, and had always assumed he was being recorded when in Russia. He asked what we could do to “lift the cloud.” I responded that we were investigating the matter as quickly as we could, and that there would be great benefit, if we didn’t find anything, to our having done the work well. He agreed, but then re-emphasized the problems this was causing him.

Then the President asked why there had been a congressional hearing about Russia the previous week — at which I had, as the Department of Justice directed, confirmed the investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign. I explained the demands from the leadership of both parties in Congress for more information, and that Senator Grassley had even held up the confirmation of the Deputy Attorney General until we briefed him in detail on the investigation. I explained that we had briefed the leadership of Congress on exactly which individuals we were investigating and that we had told those Congressional leaders that we were not personally investigating President Trump. I reminded him I had previously told him that. He repeatedly told me, “We need to get that fact out.” (I did not tell the President that the FBI and the Department of Justice had been reluctant to make public statements that we did not have an open case on President Trump for a number of reasons, most importantly because it would create a duty to correct, should that change.)

The President went on to say that if there were some “satellite” associates of his who did something wrong, it would be good to find that out, but that he hadn’t done anything wrong and hoped I would find a tbrought up “the McCabe thing” because I had said McCabe was honorable, although McAuliffe was close to the Clintons and had given him (I think he meant Deputy Director McCabe’s wife) campaign money. Although I didn’t understand why the President was bringing this up, I repeated that Mr. McCabe was an honorable person.

He finished by stressing “the cloud” that was interfering with his ability to make deals for the country and said he hoped I could find a way to get out that he wasn’t being investigated. I told him I would see what we could do, and that we would do our investigative work well and as quickly as we could.

Immediately after that conversation, I called Acting Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente (AG Sessions had by then recused himself on all Russia-related matters), to report the substance of the call from the President, and said I would await his guidance. I did not hear back from him before the President called me again two weeks later. (Read more: CNN, 6/8/2017)

March 20, 2017 – FBI investigates whether McCabe leaked info about Flynn and Trump to media

Andrew McCabe (Credit: Getty Images)

“The FBI opened an investigation into an unauthorized media leak of a comment made by former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe about former national security adviser Michael Flynn and President Trump, according to bureau documents released Monday.

The documents show that the FBI’s Office of Public Affairs received a complaint about an alleged leak that involved “a statement overheard in early February 2017.”

“Specifically, the alleged comments were made by DD AG McCabe and pertained to General Michael T. Flynn and the POTUS,” one document states.

The investigation into the unauthorized media disclosure appears to have started on March 20, 2017.

The document states that McCabe was a witness in the investigation, and that the subject, or the person who leaked the comment, was unknown.

A spokesperson for McCabe declined to comment.” (Read more: The Hill, 10/16/2018)

March 18, 2017 – Steele writes to Ohr voicing concern about Comey’s upcoming testimony and hopes ‘important firewalls’ will hold

Christopher Steele (l) and Bruce Oh. (Credit: public domain)

“In March 2017, two days before former FBI Director James Comey testified to lawmakers that the bureau had an open counterintelligence investigation into President Trump’s campaign, former British spy Christopher Steele sent an urgent message to Department of Justice official Bruce Ohr hoping that “important firewalls will hold” when Comey testified.

The text message from Steele, who compiled the infamous unverified dossier on Trump, was sent on March 18, 2017 to Ohr and obtained by SaraACarter.com from a government source, familiar with the ongoing investigation.

Ohr was demoted twice by the Department of Justice for not disclosing that his wife, Nellie Ohr, worked for Fusion GPS, the now-embattled research firm which paid Steele for the documents. Ohr has been deposed for questioning by the House Judiciary Committee and is expected to speak to lawmakers behind closed doors on Aug. 28.

In the text, Steele writes Ohr, “Hi! Just wondering if you had any news? Obviously, we’re a bit apprehensive given scheduled appearance at Congress on Monday. Hoping that important firewalls will hold. Many thanks.”

Ohr writes back later that day, saying “Sorry, no new news. I believe my earlier information is still accurate. I will let you know immediately if there is any change.”

It is not certain, based on the limited communications obtained by Congress between the pair, what Ohr was referring to when he discussed “earlier information” that he delivered to Steele.” (Read more: Sarah Carter, 8/15/2018)