National Security Agency (NSA)

January 6, 2017 – The DOJ OIG report on Comey’s memos details plans to ambush Trump with Moscow sex allegation

(L-R) James Comey, John Brennan, James Clapper, and Adm. Michael Rogers testify about “worldwide cyber threats” during an open hearing of the House Intelligence Committee on September 10, 2015. (Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

(…) “On Friday, Jan. 6, 2017, Comey, along with CIA head John Brennan, national intelligence chief James Clapper, and NSA Director Mike Rogers, met with Trump in Trump Tower in New York. Together, they briefed the president-elect on the findings of the intelligence community investigation into Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 election.

But the group, and especially Comey, had bigger plans than that. Before the meeting, they agreed that after briefing Trump on Russian efforts, the others would leave and Comey would stay to brief Trump alone about the Steele Moscow sex allegation.

Comey and top FBI officials prepared meticulously for the moment. The IG report says Comey had a planning meeting with FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, chief of staff James Rybicki, general counsel James Baker, and “the supervisors of the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference with the 2016 presidential election.” (It is unclear who was in that last group, although the now-famous FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page played large roles in the investigation.)

The IG report says the group “agreed that the briefing needed to be one-on-one so that Comey could present the ‘salacious’ information in the most discreet and least embarrassing way.” But however it was presented, the FBI leaders worried that Trump might “perceive the one-on-one briefing as an effort to hold information over him like a ‘Hoover-esque type of plot.'” That was a reference to the FBI’s notorious founding director J. Edgar Hoover, who relished keeping (and using) embarrassing secrets on top political leaders.

The group discussed how Trump might react. In particular, they considered whether he would “make statements about or provide information of value to the pending Russia interference investigation” known as “Crossfire Hurricane.”

Perhaps Trump would say something incriminating. The FBI officials made plans for Comey, immediately after leaving the meeting, to write down everything he could remember about whatever Trump said. Comey also wanted to discuss Trump’s reactions with top aides immediately. Comey told the inspector general it was “important for FBI executive managers to be ‘able to share in [Comey’s] recall of the salient details of those conversations.'” Bureau officials also wanted to be able to respond if Trump publicly “misrepresent[ed] what happened in the encounter.”

So, preparations were made. “Comey said he had a secure FBI laptop waiting for him in his FBI vehicle and that when he got into the vehicle, he was handed the laptop and ‘began typing as the vehicle moved,'” the report says. He worked on his account as the FBI car took him to the New York field office, where aides had set up a secure video teleconference with Rybicki, McCabe, Baker, and the “Crossfire Hurricane” supervisors. Comey continued to work on his memo after that and sent the group a final version the next day, Saturday, Jan. 7.

In his memoir, A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership, Comey wrote that at the Trump Tower briefing he assured the president-elect, “We are not investigating you, sir.” At the moment Comey said those words, he had the “Crossfire Hurricane” team ready for a secure video conference on Trump’s response to the Steele dossier allegation.” (Read more: Washington Examiner, 8/29/2019)

May 6, 2019 – Symantec determines China used the same NSA hacking tools that were later dumped by the Shadow Brokers

The server room at Symantec in Culver City, Calif. The company provided the first evidence that Chinese state-sponsored hackers had acquired some of the National Security Agency’s cybertools before other hackers. (Credit: Michal Czerwona/The New York Times)

“Chinese intelligence agents acquired National Security Agency hacking tools and repurposed them in 2016 to attack American allies and private companies in Europe and Asia, a leading cybersecurity firm has discovered. The episode is the latest evidence that the United States has lost control of key parts of its cybersecurity arsenal.

Based on the timing of the attacks and clues in the computer code, researchers with the firm Symantec believe the Chinese did not steal the code but captured it from an N.S.A. attack on their own computers — like a gunslinger who grabs an enemy’s rifle and starts blasting away.

The Chinese action shows how proliferating cyberconflict is creating a digital wild West with few rules or certainties, and how difficult it is for the United States to keep track of the malware it uses to break into foreign networks and attack adversaries’ infrastructure.

The losses have touched off a debate within the intelligence community over whether the United States should continue to develop some of the world’s most high-tech, stealthy cyberweapons if it is unable to keep them under lock and key.

The Chinese hacking group that co-opted the N.S.A.’s tools is considered by the agency’s analysts to be among the most dangerous Chinese contractors it tracks, according to a classified agency memo reviewed by The New York Times. The group is responsible for numerous attacks on some of the most sensitive defense targets inside the United States, including space, satellite and nuclear propulsion technology makers.

Now, Symantec’s discovery, unveiled on Monday, suggests that the same Chinese hackers the agency has trailed for more than a decade have turned the tables on the agency.

Some of the same N.S.A. hacking tools acquired by the Chinese were later dumped on the internet by a still-unidentified group that calls itself the Shadow Brokers and used by Russia and North Korea in devastating global attacks, although  there appears to be no connection between China’s acquisition of the American cyberweapons and the Shadow Brokers’ later revelations.

But Symantec’s discovery provides the first evidence that Chinese state-sponsored hackers acquired some of the tools months before the Shadow Brokers first appeared on the internet in August 2016. (Read more: The New York Times, 5/06/2019)

February 25, 2016 – The Obama administration is set to expand sharing data that the NSA intercepts

Obama meets with his National Security Council and wants more intelligence experts to see information intercepted by the National Security Agency. (Credit: Zach Gibson/The New York Times)

“The Obama administration is on the verge of permitting the National Security Agency to share more of the private communications it intercepts with other American intelligence agencies without first applying any privacy protections to them, according to officials familiar with the deliberations.

The change would relax longstanding restrictions on access to the contents of the phone calls and email the security agency vacuums up around the world, including bulk collection of satellite transmissions, communications between foreigners as they cross network switches in the United States, and messages acquired overseas or provided by allies.

The idea is to let more experts across American intelligence gain direct access to unprocessed information, increasing the chances that they will recognize any possible nuggets of value. That also means more officials will be looking at private messages — not only foreigners’ phone calls and emails that have not yet had irrelevant personal information screened out, but also communications to, from, or about Americans that the N.S.A.’s foreign intelligence programs swept in incidentally.

Civil liberties advocates criticized the change, arguing that it will weaken privacy protections. They said the government should disclose how much American content the N.S.A. collects incidentally — which agency officials have said is hard to measure — and let the public debate what the rules should be for handling that information.

“Before we allow them to spread that information further in the government, we need to have a serious conversation about how to protect Americans’ information,” said Alexander Abdo, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer.

Robert S. Litt, the general counsel in the office of the Director of National Intelligence, said that the administration had developed and was fine-tuning what is now a 21-page draft set of procedures to permit the sharing. (Read more: New York Times, 2/25/2016

February 19, 2019 – ODNI and NSA impede lawmakers review of Obama admin ‘unmasking’ requests

The Director of National Intelligence oversees the 16 federal organizations that make up the intelligence community. (Credit: Linked in)

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the National Security Agency still have not granted access to Republican lawmakers to review hundreds of unmasking requests made on Americans by Senior Obama Administration officials, SaraACarter.com has learned.

Despite an order from President Trump more than a year ago, ranking member Rep. Devin Nunes, R-CA, on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence said his committee has been stymied in its investigation into the unmasking requests that rocked Washington D.C. when discovered in 2017.

The ODNI and NSA were ordered by President Trump to make available the highly classified documents for congressional review. In order to make those classified documents available the ODNI needed to set up a secured repository for lawmakers on the committee to review the documents, added Nunes.

Ordinarily, Americans names are redacted or minimized by the NSA before being shared with outside intelligence sources. The names of Americans in these communications with foreign persons are considered highly classified and are rarely unmasked. However, it was discovered that many senior officials in the Obama Administration unmasked more frequently than previous administration. In some cases the names were unmasked, in other cases they were specific enough that the American’s identity was easily ascertained, intelligence sources had told this reporter.

“The NSA and ODNI were to put in safe guards – a repository so we could go and review (the documents)- they have yet to do it,” said Nunes. “The president ordered them to do it more than a year ago. We have yet to see that implemented.” (Read more: Sarah Carter, 2/19/2019)

December 18, 2018 – Four major blows to the credibility of the Steele dossier…why the lies in the Steele dossier matter

(…) “The continued and proven failures of the Steele dossier matter. Not only was it used in obtaining the Page FISA warrant, but was also used in intelligence-community documents provided to Obama and his administration.

Former CIA Director John Brennan has claimed he never used the dossier in the Intelligence Community assessment. That claim was later disputed by his co-author, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who said on CNN that “some of the substantive content, not all of it, but some of the substantive content of the dossier, we were able to corroborate in our Intelligence Community assessment from other sources in which we had very high confidence to it.”

Former NSA Director Mike Rogers was more specific:

“In a March 5, 2018, letter to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, Adm. Rogers informed the committee that a two-page summary of the dossier—described as ‘the Christopher Steele information’—was ‘added’ as an ‘appendix to the ICA [Intelligence Community Assessment] draft,’ and that consideration of that appendix was ‘part of the overall ICA review/approval process.’”

In August, Brennan did an interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow that was discussed in an Epoch Times article, “Did Brennan Admit to Using Reverse Targeting to Spy on the Trump Campaign?” During that interview, Brennan repeatedly stated his knowledge of Russian contacts with U.S. citizens. Maddow pursued his conclusions from those contacts:

Maddow: While you were in office as CIA director, before you left on inauguration day, did you conclude that U.S. persons were successfully leveraged in that effort?

Brennan: No.

The look of shocked surprise on Maddow’s face was notable at Brennan’s denial that the Russians had successfully engaged Americans to obtain their goals.

The Steele dossier, written by a British national and former MI6 agent, was used by both the FBI and the CIA and a summary of the document was provided directly to Obama. And yet, for all the weight attached to this document, most of its assertions have never been proven to be factual, many have been proven to be false and it remains unverified to this day.

Which is perhaps fitting for a document that had its origination as something to be used by Hillary Clinton to challenge the election in the then-unlikely event she lost.” (Read more: The Epoch Times, 12/18/2018)

September 26, 2018 – The former number two guy at the NSA, Rick Ledgett, joins the board of Hakluyt Cyber, a British corporate intelligence firm that helped Brennan spy on Trump

Richard H. Ledgett (Credit: public domain)

“Rick Ledgett recently joined the new advisory board of Halkuyt [sic] Cyber, the specialist subsidiary of the upscale British corporate intelligence firm Hakluyt. The unit, which opened discreetly in 2015, is headed by Nicholas ‘Nick’ Bidmead. A member of the US Chamber of Commerce, Ledgett will help develop Hakluyt Cyber’s business in the US and Canada.

In June this year, Ledgett also became an advisor to the cybersecurity giant Palo Alto Networks. After retiring from the NSA in 2017, he joined the board of M&T Bank. He is also an advisor to Polaris Alpha, Peter Cannito’s firm, which was acquired in May by the infrastructure protection giant Parsons, and to QiO Technologies, a cloud security and data mining company.

Ledgett is also a member of the Alliance for Securing Democracies (ASD), a pressure group founded in response to the hacking of the Democratic Party in 2016. Both Republican and Democratic iconic senior officials including Michael Chertoff and John Podesta, who was targeted by hackers in 2016, are members of the pressure group.

At Hakluyt Cyber, which employs a number of former interceptions staff of Five Eyes alliance member states (IOL 789), Ledgett will work with two British technical interceptions heavyweights, Iain Lobban, who headed GCHQ, Britain’s equivalent of the NSA, from 2008 to 2014, and his former number two, Andrew France. Lobban and France are also in high demand in the cyber sector. Iain Lobban is an advisor to C5 Capital, the fund established by Andre Pienaar, as well as to the cryptology start-up SQR System and Standard Chartered Bank (IOL 757), while Andy France advises Darktrace, Deep Secure, Prevalent AI, RedQ and Telstra (IOL 807, IOL 767). (Intelligence Online, 9/26/2018)  (Archive)

September 11, 2018 – Ex-NSA Director disputes report that Trump asked him to push back on collusion probe

Admiral Michael Rogers appears before the Senate Armed Services Committee on April 5, 2016. (Credit: CSpan3)

Former National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers on Tuesday disputed a report published in May 2017 alleging that President Donald Trump asked him to push back against the FBI’s collusion investigation.

“I’ve never had a discussion with collusion with the president of the United States,” Rogers said at an event held at George Mason University, according to CBS News.

“I’ve never been directed to do anything, coerced — any time I had a discussion I felt I was able to say, ‘Hey, here’s my view on that.’”

The Washington Post reported May 22, 2017, that Trump separately asked Rogers and Dan Coats, the director of the office of national intelligence, to push back against the FBI’s investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian government.

The alleged request came after then-FBI Director James Comey testified that the bureau was investigating whether members of the Trump team conspired with the Kremlin to influence the 2016 presidential election.

Citing multiple anonymous sources, WaPo reported that Rogers refused to comply with Trump’s request. The newspaper also reported that a senior NSA official wrote a memo detailing the interaction between Trump and Rogers.” (Read more: The Daily Caller, 9/12/2018)

July 24, 2017 – Intel vets challenge ‘Russia Hack’ evidence

In a memo to President Trump, a group of former U.S. intelligence officers, including NSA specialists, cite new forensic studies to challenge the claim of the key Jan. 6 “assessment” that Russia “hacked” Democratic emails last year. 

MEMORANDUM FOR: The President

FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)

SUBJECT: Was the “Russian Hack” an Inside Job?

Executive Summary

Then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper (right) talks with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office, with John Brennan and other national security aides present.(Credit: Office of Director of National Intelligence)

Forensic studies of “Russian hacking” into Democratic National Committee computers last year reveal that on July 5, 2016, data was leaked (not hacked) by a person with physical access to DNC computer. After examining metadata from the “Guccifer 2.0” July 5, 2016 intrusion into the DNC server, independent cyber investigators have concluded that an insider copied DNC data onto an external storage device.

Key among the findings of the independent forensic investigations is the conclusion that the DNC data was copied onto a storage device at a speed that far exceeds an Internet capability for a remote hack. Of equal importance, the forensics show that the copying was performed on the East coast of the U.S. Thus far, mainstream media have ignored the findings of these independent studies [see here and here].

Independent analyst Skip Folden, who retired after 25 years as the IBM Program Manager for Information Technology, US, who examined the recent forensic findings, is a co-author of this Memorandum. He has drafted a more detailed technical report titled “Cyber-Forensic Investigation of ‘Russian Hack’ and Missing Intelligence Community Disclaimers,” and sent it to the offices of the Special Counsel and the Attorney General. VIPS member William Binney, a former Technical Director at the National Security Agency, and other senior NSA “alumni” in VIPS attest to the professionalism of the independent forensic findings.

The recent forensic studies fill in a critical gap. Why the FBI neglected to perform any independent forensics on the original “Guccifer 2.0” material remains a mystery – as does the lack of any sign that the “hand-picked analysts” from the FBI, CIA, and NSA, who wrote the “Intelligence Community Assessment” dated January 6, 2017, gave any attention to forensics.” (Read more: Consortium News, 7/24/2017)

April 26, 2017 – An unsealed FISC ruling reveals systematic abuses in accessing 702 data

“A damning 99-page unsealed ruling from the FISC, dated April 26, 2017, and issued by presiding Judge Rosemary Collyer, provided further insight into additional FISA abuse engaged in by the Intelligence Community in relation to Section 702 data and minimization procedures.

Section 702 permits the government to surveil foreign persons located outside the United States for the purpose of acquiring foreign intelligence information. Minimization procedures are intended to protect any U.S. person’s information that is incidentally acquired in the course of Section 702 collection.

The FISA court found that the government had been engaging in a long pattern of significant abuses that were revealed to the court by then-National Security Agency Director Adm. Mike Rogers.

“On October 24, 2016, the government orally apprised the Court of significant non-compliance with the NSA’s minimization procedures involving queries of data acquired under Section 702 using U.S. person identifiers. The full scope of non-compliant querying practices had not been previously disclosed to the Court,” the FISC ruling read.

The court noted the government’s failure to previously notify the court of these issues, referring to the government’s actions as exhibiting an institutional “lack of candor” while emphasizing that “this is a very serious Fourth Amendment issue.”

The litany of abuses described in the April 26, 2017, ruling was shocking and detailed the use of private contractors by the FBI in relation to Section 702 data. The FBI was specifically singled out by the FISC numerous times in the ruling:

“The improper access previously afforded the contractors has been discontinued. The Court is nonetheless concerned about the FBI’s apparent disregard of minimization rules and whether the FBI may be engaging in similar disclosures of raw Section 702 information that have not been reported.”

The FISA process has been the target of ongoing abuse from various elements within the intelligence community, and the processes and procedures that we have been told protect us appear to be routinely compromised at will.

As a result of the April 2017 FISC ruling, changes to the FISA process have been made. Nevertheless, a complete re-examination of the entire FISA system appears to be not only warranted, but perhaps necessary.” (Read more: Epoch Times, 2/11/2019)

March 17, 2017 – Top NSA official, Rick Ledgett, ridicules ‘nonsense’ allegation Britain spied on Trump

“Allegations from the United States that British spy agency GCHQ snooped on Donald Trump during his election campaign are “arrant nonsense,” the deputy head of the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) said in an interview on Saturday.

President Trump has stood by unproven claims that the Obama administration tapped his phones during the 2016 White House race. On Thursday his spokesman cited a media report that Britain’s GCHQ was behind the surveillance.

Richard Ledgett, deputy director of the NSA, told BBC News the idea that Britain had a hand in spying on Trump was “just crazy.”

“It belies a complete lack of understanding of how the relationship works between the intel community agencies, it completely ignores the political reality of ‘would the UK government agree to do that?’” Ledgett said.

There would be no advantage for Britain’s government in spying on Trump, given the potential cost, he said.

“It would be epically stupid,” said Ledgett, who is due to retire shortly.

Current and former NSA officials have described an acrimonious relationship between intelligence agencies and the Trump administration.” (Read more: NBC News, 3/18/2017)  (Archive)