Tag: Espionage

I Need to Read His Books

I’m embarassed to admit that that I have never read a book by John le Carré. With the news of his death at age 89, I am feeling rather guilty about this. 

His spy novels were a marked contrast to the cartoonish James Bond:

John le Carré, who forged thrillers from equal parts of adventure, moral courage and literary flair, has died aged 89.

Le Carré explored the gap between the west’s high-flown rhetoric of freedom and the gritty reality of defending it, in novels such as The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and The Night Manager, which gained him critical acclaim and made him a bestseller around the world.

On Sunday, his family confirmed he had died of pneumonia at the Royal Cornwall Hospital on Saturday night. “We all deeply grieve his passing,” they wrote in a statement.

Given the whole pandemic thing, I have some additional time to read.

Tweet of the Day

Vladimir Putin is personally directing a program of repeatedly using non-lethal doses of the world’s deadliest and unknown poisons on people, that are immediately taken up as causes célèbres by Western govs and media. Tight ship that guy runs.

— Denis Lavinski (@LavinskiDenis) December 15, 2020


This whole, “No Mr. Bond, I expect you to be somewhat ill and become a major news story,” thing is getting kind of old.

Live in Obedient Fear, Citizen

It appears that multiple entities in the US State Security Apparatus tracked millions of people’s phones without a warrant despite Supreme Court decisions requiring one:

The Secret Service paid for a product that gives the agency access to location data generated by ordinary apps installed on peoples’ smartphones, an internal Secret Service document confirms.

The sale highlights the issue of law enforcement agencies buying information, and in particular location data, that they would ordinarily need a warrant or court order to obtain. This contract relates to the sale of Locate X, a product from a company called Babel Street.

In March, tech publication Protocol reported that multiple government agencies signed millions of dollars worth of deals with Babel Street after the company launched its Locate X product. Multiple sources told the site that Locate X tracks the location of devices anonymously, using data harvested by popular apps installed on peoples’ phones.

Protocol found public records showed that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) purchased Locate X. One former Babel Street employee told the publication that the Secret Service used the technology. Now, the document obtained by Motherboard corroborates that finding.


“As part of my investigation into the sale of Americans’ private data, my office has pressed Babel Street for answers about where their data comes from, who they sell it to, and whether they respect mobile device opt-outs. Not only has Babel Street refused to answer questions over email, they won’t even put an employee on the phone,” Senator Ron Wyden told Motherboard in a statement.


Government agencies are increasingly at the end of that location data chain. In February The Wall Street Journal reported that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and other agencies bought an app-based location data product from a different firm called Venntel. Senator Wyden’s office then found the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) was also a Venntel customer.

Law enforcement agencies typically require a warrant or court order to compel a company to provide location data for an investigation. Many agencies have filed so-called reverse location warrants to ask Google to hand over information on what Android devices were in a particular area at a given time, for example. But an agency does not need to seek a warrant when it simply buys the data instead.


Senator Wyden is planning legislation that would block such purchases.

We should also forbid our intelligence agencies from having allies collect data that they are forbidden to collect, and the reverse for them.

The whole “Five Eyes” thing appears to be a way to allow intelligence agencies to spy on their own citizens by swapping who is looking at any given time.


A group of free press organizations have signed a letter calling for the immediate release of Julian Assange, because his actions are archetypal examples of journalism:

Press freedom groups and journalist organisations are among 40 groups to today call for the British Government to release Wikileaks founder Julian Assange on his 49th birthday.

The International Federation of Journalists, Reporters Without Borders, Pen International and the National Union of Journalists are among those to sign the letter.


The co-signers write: “This [indictment] is an unprecedented escalation of an already disturbing assault on journalism in the US, where President Donald Trump has referred to the news media as the ‘enemy of the people’.

“Whereas previous presidents have prosecuted whistleblowers and other journalistic sources under the Espionage Act for leaking classified information, the Trump Administration has taken the further step of going after the publisher. ”


Full list of the groups calling for Julian Assange’s release

Nathan Fuller, Executive Director, Courage Foundation

Rebecca Vincent, Director of International Campaigns, Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
Adil Soz, International Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech
Anthony Bellanger, General Secretary – International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)
Archie Law, Chair Sydney Peace Foundation
Carles Torner, Executive Director, PEN International
Christine McKenzie, President, PEN Melbourne
Daniel Gorman, Director, English PEN
Kjersti Løken Stavrum, President, PEN Norway
Lasantha De Silva, Freed Media Movement
Marcus Strom, President, MEAA Media, Australia
Mark Isaacs, President of PEN International Sydney
Michelle Stanistreet, general secretary, National Union of Journalists (NUJ)
Mousa Rimawi, Director, MADA – the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms
Naomi Colvin, UK/Ireland Programme Director, Blueprint for Free Speech
Nora Wehofsits, Advocacy Officer, European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
Peter Tatchell, Peter Tatchell Foundation
Ralf Nestmeyer, Vice President, German PEN
Rev Tim Costello AO, Director of Ethical Voice
Robert Wood, Chair, PEN Perth
Ruth Smeeth, Chief Executive Officer, Index on Censorship
Sarah Clarke, Head of Europe and Central Asia, ARTICLE 19
Silkie Carlo, Director, Big Brother Watch
William Horsley, Media Freedom Representative, Association of European Journalists
Foundation for Press Freedom (Fundación para la Libertad de Prensa)
Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)
Bytes for All (B4A)
Center for Media Freedom & Responsibility (CMFR)
The Center for Media Studies and Peacebuilding (CEMESP-Liberia)
The Centre for Investigative Journalism (CIJ)
Free Media Movement Sri Lanka
Freedom Forum Nepal
IFoX / Initiative for Freedom of Expression – Turkey
International Association of Democratic Lawyers
International Press Centre (IPC)
The International Press Institute (IPI)
Media Foundation for West Africa
Mediacentar Sarajevo
National Lawyers Guild International Committee
Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)
South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)
World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC)

Meanwhile, the journalists who actually worked with him to break the story are studiously silent.

Weep for the Overpaid Executives

There are claims that Russia is trying to steal coronavirus vaccine research from the US, UK, and Canada.

The hand wringing over this is kind of silly for two reasons:

  • The more people who have access to this research, the more chance there is for a successful vaccine to be developed and manufactured.
  • The only people who could possibly be harmed are big-pharma profiteers.

I’m sorry, but, “Think of the overpaid pharmaceutical executives’ bonuses,” is just not something that inspires me to paroxysms of fear.

Tweet of the Day

cheerily walking into the HOA meeting with this handy guide pic.twitter.com/wHXYx4xVtb

— womanfredo tafuri (@mcmansionhell) July 1, 2020

As an FYI, the section reproduced by the tweeter is from a World War II vintage OSS manual on sabotage, specifically,  sections 11 and 12 of the OSS’s Simple Sabotage Field Manual.

Using this at a HOA meeting is the most appropriate use of the dark arts ever.

Not a Surprise

Former deputy CIA Director Avril Haines is a major security advisor to the Biden campaign.

She has scrubbed her bio to remove any reference to Palantir, Peter Thiel’s surveillance contractor.

To say that Palantir is controversial, given Thiel’s prominent position with the right wing, and the firm’s function as a cut-out to enable surveillance by the US State Security Apparatus would be an understatement:

In the run-up to the 2020 election, former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign is putting together a foreign policy team for a potential future administration. Among those described as being part of the team is Avril Haines, former deputy director of the CIA during the Obama administration. According to an NBC News report from last week, Haines has been tapped to work advising on policy, as well as lead the national security and foreign policy team.

In addition to her past national security work and impressive presence in the D.C. think tank world, Haines has in the past described herself as a former consultant for the controversial data-mining firm Palantir. Haines’s biography page at the Brookings Institute, where she is listed as a nonresident senior fellow, boasted of this affiliation until at least last week, when it suddenly no longer appeared on the page.

The nature of the consulting work that Haines did for Palantir is not clear. As of press time, requests for comment to her, the Biden campaign, Palantir, and Brookings were not answered. Prior to being removed from the Brookings page, the connection to the data-mining company was listed alongside a long list of other affiliations that were similarly pared down.

The affiliation — and its apparent disappearance — raises questions for a campaign that has posed itself as the antithesis to President Donald Trump’s far-right governance. Co-founded by a far-right, Trump-supporting tech billionaire, Palantir, whose business has benefited from a slew of government contracts, has been accused of aiding in the Trump administration’s immigration detention programs in the U.S. and helping the Trump administration build out its surveillance state.

Palantir has been profiting off of invading people’s privacy for the state since the Bush administration, and anyone having an involvement with the organization should be viewed with a lot of suspicion.

The ties to the Trump administration aren’t the only aspect of Palantir’s history that raises questions. The company has also been accused in the past of plotting to intimidate journalists involved in reporting documents released by WikiLeaks. And Palantir has also provided services to police — another move that appears to put the company out of step with the current political moment. The company also aided the National Security Agency by creating the tools to facilitate worldwide spying.

Haines’ involvement with Palantir is problematic when juxtaposed with her prominent position in the Biden campaign.

The decision to scrub her record is even more concerning.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?

Senior executives at eBay, including their former senior director of safety and security, and director of global resiliency, have just been arrested for cyber-stalking a blogger who wrote unfavorably about a legal dispute between the auction site and Amazon.com.

By cyber-stalking, I don’t mean that they were trolling them on Twitter and Facebook. I mean that they were sending them bloody pig masks, cockroaches, funeral wreaths, late night pizza deliveries, and explicitly labeled pr0n.

Not only that, it appears that the (also former) CEO of eBay, while not arrested, may have been fired as a result of these activities.

This is f%$#ed up and sh%$:

Six former eBay employees were “charged with leading a cyberstalking campaign” against a newsletter editor and publisher, which “included sending the couple anonymous, threatening messages, disturbing deliveries—including a box of live cockroaches, a funeral wreath, and a bloody pig mask—and conducting covert surveillance of the victims,” the US Department of Justice and US Attorney’s Office in Massachusetts announced today.

James Baugh, 45, is eBay’s former senior director of safety and security, and David Harville, 48, is eBay’s former director of global resiliency—both were arrested today and charged with conspiracy to commit cyberstalking and conspiracy to tamper with witnesses. Each charge “carr[ies] a sentence of up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release, a fine of up to $250,000 and restitution,” the DOJ said.

The bloody pig mask was a Halloween mask and shipped via Amazon.com, a court document said. The mask arrived at the victims’ home the same day one of the victims “received an email reporting that a ‘Preserved Fetal Pig’ had been ordered online to be sent to the Victims’ house,” the document said. A few days later, the victims “received a box of cockroaches” that was purchased from a roach breeder and seller.

The alleged targets were a couple in Natick, Massachusetts, who publish an online newsletter that covers e-commerce companies and which “eBay executives viewed as critical of the company,” the DOJ said. One alleged victim is a reporter and editor for the newsletter, while her husband is the publisher. The alleged victims’ names and the news website they operate are not identified in the charging documents filed in US District Court for the District of Massachusetts.


SAC Joe Bonavolonta, MA USA Andy Lelling & Natick Police Chief Jim Hicks announce charges against six @eBay employees for an aggressive cyberstalking campaign targeting the editor & publisher of an online newsletter. They’re also charged with obstructing our investigation. pic.twitter.com/yBRWL7SvaO

— FBI Boston (@FBIBoston) June 15, 2020

The alleged crimes took place in August and September 2019. Four other former eBay employees weren’t arrested today but face the same charges. They are Stephanie Popp, 32, eBay’s former senior manager of global intelligence; Stephanie Stockwell, 26, former manager of eBay’s Global Intelligence Center (GIC); Veronica Zea, 26, a former eBay contractor who worked as an intelligence analyst in the GIC; and Brian Gilbert, 51, a former senior manager of special operations for eBay’s Global Security Team. Harville is from New York City while the other five defendants are from California.


Thirdly, the defendants allegedly conducted surveillance of the editor/publisher couple. After registering for a software-development conference as a pretext to go to Boston, “Baugh, Harville, and Zea (and later Popp) allegedly drove to the victims’ home in Natick several times, with Harville and Baugh intending at one point to break into the victims’ garage and install a GPS tracking device on their car,” the DOJ said. “As protection in the event they were stopped by local police, Baugh and Harville allegedly carried false documents purporting to show that they were investigating the victims as ‘Persons of Interest’ who had threatened eBay executives. The victims spotted the surveillance, however, and notified the Natick police, who began to investigate. The police learned that Zea had rented one of the cars used by the defendants and reached out to eBay for assistance.”


eBay issued a statement today saying that it “immediately launched a comprehensive investigation” upon being notified by law enforcement. “As a result of the investigation, eBay terminated all involved employees, including the company’s former Chief Communications Officer, in September 2019,” eBay said.

eBay further said that it “does not tolerate this kind of behavior” and “apologizes to the affected individuals and is sorry that they were subjected to this.”

Devin Wenig was the CEO of eBay at the time of the incidents and left the company in September 2019. eBay said that its “internal investigation found that, while Mr. Wenig’s communications were inappropriate, there was no evidence that he knew in advance about or authorized the actions that were later directed toward the blogger and her husband. However, as the company previously announced, there were a number of considerations leading to his departure from the company.”

Also, even without the whole fetal pig thing, the fact that eBay has a senior manager of global intelligence, a manager of their Global Intelligence Center (GIC), with intelligence analysts, and a senior manager of special operations for eBay’s Global Security Team is completely and totally whack.

I understand the need for security to prevent things like industrial espionage, but the fact that eBay has a paramilitary wing is an indication of some deeper problems in the organization.

The FBI Does Not Care About Your Civil Rights

There is good news and bad news in response to accusations that the FBI abused its authority in getting a FISA warrant in the Carter Page investigation.

The good news is that the FBI engaged in a completely routine investigation in this case.

The bad news is that this every one of the 29 investigation was defective:

A Justice Department audit of the FBI’s use of secret surveillance warrants has found widespread problems with the law enforcement agency’s process for ensuring that facts are backing up the claims made to judges when seeking a warrant.

The finding of broader failings in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act program came in a review launched by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz after an earlier inquiry found numerous errors in applications to monitor former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page. In a bid to assess whether the faults in the Page’s surveillance process were an aberration or a chronic problem, Horowitz’s audit team zeroed in on 29 applications for surveillance of U.S. citizens or green-card holders over a five-year period.

Horowitz found an average of 20 errors in each of the applications.

The systemic failures in the FBI’s FISA process are sure to animate allies of President Donald Trump who have claimed that the surveillance tool was weaponized against the president’s campaign in 2016. But the findings also bolster arguments by critics of that claim who have suggested that errors in the Page application were likelier attributable to systemic sloppiness than sinister intentions.

For each of the 29 applications, Horowitz’s team reviewed whether the “Woods procedures” for justifying an application were properly followed.

“We do not have confidence that the FBI has executed its Woods Procedures in compliance with FBI policy, or that the process is working as it was intended to help achieve the ‘scrupulously accurate’ standard for FISA applications,” Horowitz wrote in “a management advisory” addressed to FBI Director Chris Wray.

It should be noted that I am pretty sure that the FBI considers this is a feature, and not a bug.

Having a compliant court that allows the FBI to get bullsh%$ warrant requests approved was always the goal of the FISA program.

Today in Hack Journalism

The New York Times has a particularly egregious article about Russian meddling in elections.

Most of the article is non specific threats related by, “American officials briefed on recent intelligence.”

It’s just that there are some people sowing dissent, and maybe some people saying nice things about American Nazis, (Maybe it’s those Nazis we should worry about) and possibly some bogus BLM groups.

They never give specific groups, or posts.

The ONLY specific actions mentioned in the article (actual quotes) wait until the last paragraph, and they are 1 story, and 2 OP/EDs from the Kremlin owned RT:

There is no reason that this editor should not have sent this back with a big red “BS” on the cover.


At least, there is symmetry.

It turns out that Eric Prince’s mercenary operations may be a part of a Chinese government intelligence operation:

The really important fact about Erik Prince that is not mentioned in The New York Times reporting that he has been using retired US and British spies, presumably human intelligence offers (HUMINTers), to teach James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas employees to be more effective is not that Prince founded and used to run Blackwater, nor that he’s Secretary of Education Betsy DeVoss’s brother, nor that he’s very close with the President and others in the administration and the reelection campaign. The really important fact is that Erik Prince’s Frontier Services Group, the company of military contractors that he runs, is owned by DVN Holdings, which would ultimately make Prince its chairman. DVN Holdings is owned by Hong Kong investor Johnson Ko Chun and the Chinese International Trust Investment Corporation (Citic), which is a People’s Republic of China (PRC) owned investment fund. Johnson Ko Chun is also on the board of directors of Cambridge Analytica’s spin off Emerdata Ltd along with Rebekah Mercer, her sister Jennifer, as well as former senior officials from Cambridge Analytica. Emerdata is also still tied to the former Cambridge Analytica’s parent firm SCL Group.

The important fact that everyone keeps missing is that Erik Prince’s operations are funded by the People’s Republic of China. He is now their asset. If he is involved with O’Keefe’s merry band of political ratfuckers, then he is only involved so long as Xi and the PRC want him to be. The same goes for Emerdata. And anything else that Prince involves himself with. Despite having a long history of looting his own companies and skimming from his investors and backers, such as the Crown Prince of the United Arab Emirates, Prince’s financial backing from the PRC state owned Chinese International Trust Investment Corporation means that he works for the PRC and does so only as long as he advances their interests.

I am so not surprised.  Eric Prince and Blackwater, Xe, Academi have done more damage to the United States than almost any other entity connected to the US state security apparatus.

The idea that they are being backed by the PRC in order to subvert the United States makes perfect sense.

Cue the Death Squads

Following mass protests and demands from the military, Bolivian President Evo Morales has resigned.

We are now seeing the coordinated efforts to put the setting fire to official residences and the home of Morales’ sister.

I expect to see assassination of labor and environmental activists to proceed forthwith, as happened in Honduras following the 2009 coup.

It should be noted that, notwithstanding the OAS statements to the contrary, there were no statistical anomalies in the election returns indicative of fraud.

I’m sure that someone in Langley will be getting a permission over this.

Prudent Move

When you consider the fact that Devin Nunes (Moo) leaked sensitive details of the House Intelligence Committee to the White House when he was chairman of the House Intelligence Committee,* it seems prudent that the current committee leadership is considering concealing the identity of the various whistle-blowers from Republicans ont he committee.

After all, they have already shown that they cannot be trusted to handle classified information responsibly:

House Democrats are weighing extraordinary steps to secure testimony from a whistleblower whose complaint prompted their impeachment inquiry, masking his identity to prevent President Trump’s congressional allies from exposing the individual, according to three officials familiar with the deliberations.

The steps under consideration include having the whistleblower testify from a remote location and obscuring the individual’s appearance and voice, these officials said.

The efforts reflect Democrats’ deepening distrust of their GOP colleagues, whom they see as fully invested in defending a president who has attacked the whistleblower’s credibility and demanded absolute loyalty from Republicans.


In a further sign of the breakdown of comity, the committee majority restricted access to the visitor logbook after GOP staffers leaked names of individuals signing in for job interviews when the majority was hiring new staffers in early 2019, according to a committee aide who spoke on the condition of anonymity to freely describe the situation.

That is amazingly chicken sh%$, but typical for for Republicans.

Their goal is to out the whistle-blower, and then allow their MAGA knuckle draggers to harass them and their family as a warning to others.


This is Not Going to End Well………

One of the problems with cyber-weaponry is that any time you use it, you are giving the detailed plans of that weapon, and the means to produce that weapon to use against you.

One needs only to look at the history of Stuxnet, where, once it was out in the wild, it was repeatedly repurposed in other attacks.

Needless to say, the permanent war crowd in the seems to think that whatever they do to someone else will never reflect back upon them.

So it comes as no surprise that we now have reports that the United States is launching attacks on the Russian power grid.

Not only are we giving the Russians these cyber weapons, but we have just validated attacks on our infrastructure every state and non-state actor so inclined:

The United States is stepping up digital incursions into Russia’s electric power grid in a warning to President Vladimir V. Putin and a demonstration of how the Trump administration is using new authorities to deploy cybertools more aggressively, current and former government officials said.

In interviews over the past three months, the officials described the previously unreported deployment of American computer code inside Russia’s grid and other targets as a classified companion to more publicly discussed action directed at Moscow’s disinformation and hacking units around the 2018 midterm elections.

Advocates of the more aggressive strategy said it was long overdue, after years of public warnings from the Department of Homeland Security and the F.B.I. that Russia has inserted malware that could sabotage American power plants, oil and gas pipelines, or water supplies in any future conflict with the United States.

But it also carries significant risk of escalating the daily digital Cold War between Washington and Moscow.

Gee, you think?


But now the American strategy has shifted more toward offense, officials say, with the placement of potentially crippling malware inside the Russian system at a depth and with an aggressiveness that had never been tried before. It is intended partly as a warning, and partly to be poised to conduct cyberstrikes if a major conflict broke out between Washington and Moscow.

The commander of United States Cyber Command, Gen. Paul M. Nakasone, has been outspoken about the need to “defend forward” deep in an adversary’s networks to demonstrate that the United States will respond to the barrage of online attacks aimed at it. 

Again, if your opponent discovers this, they have the same tech that you do, as well as the means to manufacture and deliver the payload.

This is shortsighted and dangerous.

But there is also something even scarier:


Two administration officials said they believed Mr. Trump had not been briefed in any detail about the steps to place “implants” — software code that can be used for surveillance or attack — inside the Russian grid.

Pentagon and intelligence officials described broad hesitation to go into detail with Mr. Trump about operations against Russia for concern over his reaction — and the possibility that he might countermand it or discuss it with foreign officials, as he did in 2017 when he mentioned a sensitive operation in Syria to the Russian foreign minister.

It appears that the only thing scarier than Trump being in charge is Trump NOT being in charge.

The idea that military and intelligence authorities could initiate attacks on a potential adversary without any sort of authorization from civilian authorities is profoundly terrifying

This is Supposed to Have a Chilling Effect

Julian Assangehas now been charged under the espionage act for publishing information that the government did not want published.

Publishing information that someone does not want published is journalism.  Anything else is stenography:

Julian Assange could face decades in a US prison after being charged with violating the Espionage Act by publishing classified information through WikiLeaks.

Prosecutors announced 17 additional charges against Assange for publishing hundreds of thousands of secret diplomatic cables and files on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Assange, 47, was previously charged with working to hack a Pentagon computer system, in a secret indictment that was unveiled soon after his arrest at Ecuador’s embassy in London last month.

“Assange’s actions risked serious harm to United States national security to the benefit of our adversaries,” the justice department said in a statement. Officials said the publication of secret files by WikiLeaks was “one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States”.


WikiLeaks editor-in-chief, Kristinn Hrafnsson, labelled the new charges facing Assange as “the evil of lawlessness in its purest form”.

He added: “With the indictment, the ‘leader of the free world’ dismisses the First Amendment – hailed as a model of press freedom around the world – and launches a blatant extraterritorial assault outside its border, attacking basic principles of democracy in Europe and the rest of the world.”

I agree with this characterization.

The new charges against Assange raise profound questions about the freedom of the press under the first amendment of the US constitution. They may also complicate Washington’s attempts to extradite him from London.

Barry Pollack, a lawyer for Assange in the US, said in a statement: “These unprecedented charges demonstrate the gravity of the threat the criminal prosecution of Julian Assange poses to all journalists in their endeavor to inform the public about actions taken by the US government.”

The charges were roundly condemned by press freedom advocates. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press said the charges posed a “dire threat” to journalists publishing classified information in the public interest. The Freedom of the Press Foundation described the prosecution as “terrifying”.

Terrorizing journalists is the goal here.

Manning Jailed Again

Seeing as how they already have his testimony from his plea, my only conclusion is that the prosecutors are trying to suborn perjury against Assange:

Chelsea Manning was again behind bars on Thursday night after she was jailed for a second time for contempt of court, having refused to cooperate with a grand jury.

A defiant Manning told Judge Anthony Trenga in a federal district court in Alexandria, Virginia, that she would “rather starve to death” than do what the state insisted and give testimony before the grand jury. Having already served 62 days in jail, 28 of which were spent in solitary confinement, she now faces up to 18 months more in custody.

To quote Anatole France, “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges.”

Well, Now We Know Who the NSA Works For

It turns out that the NSA knew about plans to murder journalist Jamal Khashoggi and did nothing, despite the fact that they are required to do so.

It appears that the House of Saud is their real employer:

In the six months since Jamal Khashoggi was murdered by a Saudi “Rapid Intervention Group” in the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, press reports have described a variety of information swept up by U.S. intelligence that foretold or foreshadowed the heinous crime. The reporting has cast a rare light not only on our spy agencies’ activities and capabilities, but also on the complicated moral dilemmas that accompany mass surveillance. And it has intensified questions over whether the intelligence agencies that gathered this information carried out a legally required duty to warn the journalist that his life was in danger.

The press reports make for sobering reading. A week after Khashoggi was killed, the Washington Post described intercepted communications discussing a plan to lure the U.S.-based journalist back to Saudi Arabia—information that an unnamed U.S. official said “had been disseminated throughout the U.S. government and was contained in reports that are routinely available to people working on U.S. policy toward Saudi Arabia.” A December Wall Street Journal report described messages intercepted in August of 2017 suggesting that if the plot to lure Khashoggi to Saudi Arabia did not succeed, “we could possibly lure him outside Saudi Arabia and make arrangements,” and a February New York Times story described a conversation the NSA intercepted in September 2017 between Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and a close aide of his in which the Crown Prince vowed, if efforts to lure Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia or to repatriate him by force failed, to go after him “with a bullet.” A March New York Times report revealed that U.S. intelligence had collected information that showed the same “Rapid Intervention Group” that murdered Khashoggi had been involved in the kidnapping and forcible repatriation for detention and torture of several other Saudi dissidents over the previous three years. (At least three of these operations, involving members of the Saudi royal family, had been described by the BBC before Khashoggi’s murder.)

These stories rely on a combination of leaks by anonymous sources and information compiled in the classified November 2018 CIA assessment of the Khashoggi murder, which was quoted or summarized by sources or by reporters who were shown sections of the report. The intelligence described in these reports has not been officially confirmed, and the articles generally include pushback from the White House and intelligence community suggesting the information was less conclusive than the articles imply, or that the information existed as raw intelligence that had only been reviewed and processed in the wake of the murder. Missing from any of the pushback, however, is any assertion that U.S. intelligence agencies do not engage in this kind of surveillance, or that they did not routinely deploy these tools against Mohammed bin Salman both before and after he was named Crown Prince in June of 2017.


We now know, thanks to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and litigation filed by the Knight First Amendment Institute and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) in the days after Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, exactly what an NSA employee who finds herself in this situation is supposed to do. This is the first time these documents have been publicly released.

A July 2017 “Duty to Warn Standard Operating Procedures (SOP),” and a May 20, 2018 NSA and Central Security Service (CSS) Policy Instruction on the Duty to Warn, lay out a specific roadmap for what intelligence officers must do to comply with Intelligence Community Directive 191, which is the 2015 order that recognized and codified the responsibility to warn someone who is known to be in danger. A legal obligation first defined for health professionals who learn in the course of caring for a patient that the patient may pose a risk to himself or to others, the “Duty to Warn” as defined for NSA and CSS officers is described in the SOP this way:

Any NSA/CSS element that collects or acquires credible and specific information indicating an impending threat of intentional killing, serious bodily injury, or kidnapping directed at a person or group of people (hereafter referred to as “intended victim”) shall have a duty to warn the intended victim or those responsible for protecting the intended victim, as appropriate….The term “intended victim” includes both U.S. persons…and non-U.S. persons.

The directive is clear: Anyone who fields credible and specific threat information must act. The NSA guidelines then lay out the process by which threats are evaluated and warnings delivered, and describe at least five specific points in the process that must be documented—including the justifications for any decision to waive the duty to warn requirement and opt out of the obligation to issue a warning. The guidelines even reproduce the template an NSA employee must complete to forward the warning to either the FBI or CIA for delivery to the intended victim.

The Knight Institute and CPJ specifically sought documents like the ones required in these NSA procedures in their FOIA requests to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), the NSA, CIA, FBI, and the State Department. In addition to the guidelines each of these agencies uses in determining whether and how to deliver warnings, we also requested records relating to any Duty to Warn decisions and actions the agencies may have taken in connection with threats to Khashoggi, and any records they may have concerning debates or discussions between agencies related to those threats.

Why on earth are our intelligence agencies are bowing down before the House of Saud, arguably the most corrupt and brutal despots on the face of the earth, is completely beyond me.

It needs to stop.

The Definitive Statement on Venezuela

When a CIA-backed military coup is attempted by a long term CIA puppet, roared on by John Bolton and backed with the offer of Blackwater mercenaries, in the country with the world’s largest oil reserves, I have no difficulty whatsoever in knowing which side I am on.

Craig Murray

Even ignoring the catastrophic human toll of such efforts, CIA backed regime change operations have ended up making the United States less secure in the long term.

Assange Expelled from Embassy and Arrested

The British charges are for jumping bail, which is not in dispute, he spent 7 years in the Ecuadoran embassy avoiding an extradition hearing.

However, the US government also has an extradition request, claiming conspiracy to hack (but not actual hacking of) government servers.

According to the indictment filed by the Department of Justice this consisted of: (See also this tweet storm)

  • Receiving leaked documents from Manning.
  • Using encrypted communications.
  • Deleting logs to protect Manning’s identity.
  • Encouraging Manning to dig up more documents.

It looks increasingly like the jailing of Chelsea Manning is an attempt to get her to testify (lie) that Assange engaged in a specific conspiracy with her to hack government computers.

Assange is a complete asshole.

He is also a biased* journalist, thought it is understandable:   while Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton called for his apprehension and/or murder.

But he is still a journalist, and what he is being prosecuted for is classic journalism.

Here are links from from Craig Murray, Matt Taibbi, Just Security, and The Intercept.

Murray is a SitRep on Assange, and the other 3 are on the potential 1st amendment issues, which are legion.

My guess is that the Poodles in the UK will extradite Assange, and he will be convicted at a trial where he won’t have meaningful access to the evidence against him, and the judge will disallow any arguments that his actions were journalistic in nature.

Also, he will be tortured through prolonged solitary confinement while in custody.

*Kind of understandable though, since many avatars of conventional political and foreign policy wisdom were calling for his assassination.

In the Annals of Unconvincing Denials………

An air cargo shipper and its client on Friday both denied knowledge of the small shipment of weapons that Venezuelan authorities said arrived in the city of Valencia earlier this week on a flight from Miami International Airport.

A Boeing 767 operated by 21 Air, which maintains an operating facility at MIA, delivered cargo earlier this week that included 19 assault rifles, telescopic sights, radio antenna and other materiel to the international airport in Valencia, according to a Bolivarian National Guard general, Endes Palencia.

The charge drew sharp denials both from the Greensboro, North Carolina-based air cargo company and a second company that arranged the shipment.

A lawyer for 21 Air, Alberto N. Moris, said Friday that the company was never formally notified by Venezuela of any arms seizure and had no knowledge of the cargo that was aboard its plane since it had been chartered by a second company.

“All of the cargo on board our aircraft was from the GPS-Air, who chartered the aircraft,” Moris said. The Transportation Security Administration “is going to investigate the party responsible for the cargo,” he added.


“Only a fool would try sending guns out of the airport,” said Cesar Meneses, who identified himself as a manager at the cargo shipper, which has done business with 21 Air and other companies. He said the arms shipment report was a fabrication by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to make himself appear as a victim.


Because there is no one in the US State security apparatus who has expressed interest in overthrowing the Maduro government. (Not)

The denials only added to the mystery of the alleged shipment — a mystery compounded by perhaps coincidental ties between the chairman and a key employee of 21 Air with a company that Amnesty International says once took part in a CIA program to whisk suspected terrorists to “black site” jails around the world, a procedure known as rendition.

The chairman and majority owner of 21 Air, Adolfo Moreno, has set up or registered at least 14 other companies in Florida over the past two decades. Among the people brought on to 21 Air when it formed in 2014 was Michael Steinke, its director of quality control.

Both men appear to have either coincidental or direct ties to Gemini Air Cargo, a company that Amnesty International described in a 2006 report as being among more than 30 air charter services believed to have taken part in a CIA program of rendition in which suspected terrorists were abducted abroad and taken to third-country secret “black sites” for interrogation.

There is nothing to worry about though, as the CIA has never attempted to overthrow foreign governments  ……… Right?