Posted tagged ‘Russia and US elections’

LISTEN: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson takes questions in off-camera news briefing

July 7, 2017

LISTEN: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson takes questions in off-camera news briefing, PBS via YouTube, July 7, 2017

According to the blurb beneath the video,

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spoke and took questions at an off-camera news briefing on Friday after participating in talks with Russia at the G20. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin also spoke briefly before Tillerson.

Fix Is In: House Committee on ‘Russian Hacking’ Includes Only DNC-Hired Tech Experts

March 9, 2017

Fix Is In: House Committee on ‘Russian Hacking’ Includes Only DNC-Hired Tech Experts, Breitbart, Lee Stranahan, March 9, 2017

CrowdStrike

The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence says that initial witness invitation lists “may be expanded or modified as warranted.”

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A list of witnesses scheduled to appear at a House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Open Hearing on “Russian Active Measures” contains a glaring problem: the only technical experts scheduled to testify are from CrowdStrike. CrowdStrike is a firm hired by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and has become the primary source of the narrative about “Russian hacking” of the 2016 election and has acted as a mouthpiece for the Democrats since last June.

The initial witness list released by House Intelligence includes a number of intelligence officials, all appointed during the Obama administration, such as former CIA Director John Brennan, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, but the sole technical people on the invitation list are two representatives of CrowdStrike, President Shawn Henry, and the co-founder Dmitri Alperovitch.

Breitbart News has interviewed tech experts who do not agree with the CrowdStrike assessment or Obama administration’s claims that the DNC/DCCC hacks clearly committed by Russian state actors, with much criticism aimed at the FBI/DHS Joint Analysis Report (JAR) “Grizzly Steppe” that was released at the end of December. As ZDNet reported after the JAR report was released by the Obama administration on the same day that they announced sanctions against Russia:

The JAR included “specific indicators of compromise, including IP addresses and a PHP malware sample.” But what does this really prove? Wordfence, a WordPress security company specializing in analyzing PHP malware, examined these indicators and didn’t find any hard evidence of Russian involvement. Instead, Wordfence found the attack software was P.AS. 3.1.0, an out-of-date, web-shell hacking tool. The newest version, 4.1.1b, is more sophisticated. Its website claims it was written in the Ukraine.

Mark Maunder, Wordfence’s CEO, concluded that since the attacks were made “several versions behind the most current version of P.A.S sic which is 4.1.1b. One might reasonably expect Russian intelligence operatives to develop their own tools or at least use current malicious tools from outside sources.”

True, as Errata Security CEO Rob Graham pointed out in a blog post, P.A.S is popular among Russia/Ukraine hackers. But it’s “used by hundreds if not thousands of hackers, mostly associated with Russia, but also throughout the rest of the world.” In short, just because the attackers used P.A.S., that’s not enough evidence to blame it on the Russian government.

Independent cybersecurity experts, such as Jeffrey Carr, have cited numerous errors that the media and CrowdStrike have made in discussing the hacking in what Carr refers to as a “runaway train” of misinformation.

For example, CrowdStrike has named a threat group that they have given the name “Fancy Bear” for the hacks and then said this threat group is Russian intelligence. In December 2016, Carr wrote in a post on Medium:

A common misconception of “threat group” is that [it] refers to a group of people. It doesn’t. Here’s how ESET describes SEDNIT, one of the names for the threat group known as APT28, Fancy Bear, etc. This definition is found on p.12 of part two “En Route with Sednit: Observing the Comings and Goings”:

As security researchers, what we call “the Sednit group” is merely a set of software and the related network infrastructure, which we can hardly correlate with any specific organization.

Unlike CrowdStrike, ESET doesn’t assign APT28/Fancy Bear/Sednit to a Russian Intelligence Service or anyone else for a very simple reason. Once malware is deployed, it is no longer under the control of the hacker who deployed it or the developer who created it. It can be reverse-engineered, copied, modified, shared and redeployed again and again by anyone.

Despite these and other criticisms from technical experts with no political axe to grind, the House Intelligence committee has called no independent cybersecurity professionals to challenge the Democrats’ claims of “Russian hacking” that have been repeated ad naseum by the media.

Instead of presenting counter-arguments to allow the general public to make up their own minds, the House committee has invited Shawn Henry and Dmitri Alperovitch from CrowdStrike,

The danger is especially high since the subject involves technical details that the public—and, frankly, most politicians—don’t understand and can be easily fooled about. A presentation with no rebuttal at all from other technical experts will lead to even more disinformation being given to the American people.

There are a number of reasons to be skeptical of the objectivity of CrowdStrike’s assessments.

As Esquire reported in a long profile piece, the DNC specifically used Alperovitch and Henry as part of an anti-Trump publicity plan related to the hacking in early June 2016:

The DNC wanted to go public. At the committee’s request, Alperovitch and Henry briefed a reporter from The Washington Post about the attack.

Alperovitch told me he was thrilled that the DNC decided to publicize Russia’s involvement. “Having a client give us the ability to tell the full story” was a “milestone in the industry,” he says. “Not just highlighting a rogue nation-state’s actions but explaining what was taken and how and when. These stories are almost never told.”

The Esquire piece also indicates that as the election wore on, the Obama administration was also using Alperovitch and CrowdStrike’s claims to push the Democrat narrative that the Russians were behind the attack:

On October 7, two days before the second presidential debate, Alperovitch got a phone call from a senior government official alerting him that a statement identifying Russia as the sponsor of the DNC attack would soon be released. (The statement, from the office of the director of national intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security, appeared later that day.)

It is worth noting that CrowdStrike and Alperovitch’s story has evolved over time to match a Democrat narrative. In an article in Inc. on June 14, 2016, titled “Why the DNC Hired This Cybersecurity Firm to Fight Russian Spies,” Alperovitch claimed that the purpose of the DNC hack was to expose Donald Trump:

On Tuesday, it was revealed that the Russian government is implicated in a security breach of the Democratic National Committee’s computer network, through which opposition research on the bombastic presidential candidate was lifted.

“Every world leader is trying to figure out who Mr. Trump is, especially if he’s elected president, and they want to know what his foreign policies would be. Russia is no exception,” says Dmitri Alperovitch, co-founder and CTO of CrowdStrike. His firm was hired to manage the breach. “The actors are also interested in any other information the DNC might have in their opposition research to use it against Trump if he becomes president,” says Alperovitch, who leads the Intelligence, Technology and CrowdStrike Labs teams.

There is no justification for a technical expert like Alperovitch ascribing motives to the hackers or making statements about what “world leaders” think. It is simply outside his area of expertise, but the point of the Democrats using Alperovitch and Henry to promote their “Russian hacking” narrative is to provide a technical veneer to their story to score political points.

Shawn Henry, the other House witness from CrowdStrike scheduled to testify on March 20 before House Intelligence, said on his LinkedIn page that he also works for NBC News, where he says his role is to “advise NBC News on all aspects of national, homeland, and cyber security, to include on-air appearances on all NBC, MSNBC, and CNBC News programs.” He added that he is to “regularly appear on Nightly News, The Today Show, and MSNBC news programming.”

CrowdStrike also has a financial connection to one of Hillary Clinton and the Democrats’ most high-profile supporters in Silicon Valley: Google.

In 2015, CrowdStrike raised $100 million in a new round of financing, according to the New York Timeswhich reported that “the investment was led by Google Capital, one of the technology giant’s venture capital arms, in its first cybersecurity deal.”

As Breitbart News reported, the WikiLeaks releases showed that Eric Schmidt, executive of Google Capital parent company and financier Alphabet, appeared to be working directly with the Clinton campaign.

All of this makes the reliance of the House Committee and the media on CrowdStrike disturbing, but even worse, earlier this year, BuzzFeed reported that the FBI did not examine the servers of the Democratic National Committee but, instead, based their assessment on CrowdStrike’s evaluation:

Six months after the FBI first said it was investigating the hack of the Democratic National Committee’s computer network, the bureau has still not requested access to the hacked servers, a DNC spokesman said. No US government entity has run an independent forensic analysis on the system, one US intelligence official told BuzzFeed News.

The FBI has instead relied on computer forensics from a third-party tech security company, CrowdStrike, which first determined in May of last year that the DNC’s servers had been infiltrated by Russia-linked hackers, the U.S. intelligence official told BuzzFeed News.

“CrowdStrike is pretty good. There’s no reason to believe that anything that they have concluded is not accurate,” the intelligence official said, adding they were confident Russia was behind the widespread hacks.

Despite that claim by an unnamed intelligence official, there is reason to believe that what CrowdStrike has concluded is not accurate. At this point, however, the House Committee and the American people will not see it.

Breitbart News has requested an interview with Dmitri Alperovitch, but at press time there was no response.

The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence says that initial witness invitation lists “may be expanded or modified as warranted.”

House Conservatives Back Investigation to Get ‘Full Understanding’ of Flynn Call

February 15, 2017

House Conservatives Back Investigation to Get ‘Full Understanding’ of Flynn Call, PJ MediaNicholas Ballasy, February 14, 2017

(Please see also Former Obama Officials, Loyalists Waged Secret Campaign to Oust Flynn. — DM)

congressonflynnReps. Scott Perry (R-Pa.), left, Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), and Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) leave a meeting of the House Republican Conference in the Capitol on Feb. 24, 2016. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

WASHINGTON – Members of the House Freedom Caucus signaled today that they would support an investigation of retired Gen. Mike Flynn’s contacts with Russian officials.

Flynn resigned from his position as national security advisor in the Trump administration late Monday.

“We have to be careful because of commenting without the facts, but at the same time I don’t know how you get the facts without doing some investigation, so let me say that. I think there needs to be a full accounting so we understand what happened there,” Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) said on Capitol Hill. “But I would also say from my standpoint that Gen. Flynn’s service both in uniform and out and is beyond reproach and I don’t want to question that. I’m not going to question that at all. I think maybe his actions were premature based on what I’ve heard.”

The White House has acknowledged reports that Flynn and the Russian ambassador had conversations that included discussion of sanctions before Trump took office, and that the Justice Department alerted the White House of the conversations and the potential that Flynn could be blackmailed by the Kremlin. However, Perry said Congress does not know the context of those Flynn conversations.

“I’m concerned that the heat has become hot based on the accusations without any facts to support them, but I think we do need to have a full understanding of what occurred,” he said.

Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) agreed with Perry’s comments.

“I would support an investigation if it’s warranted based on information from the intelligence community, and the first step would be for the intelligence committees to have that understanding with the intelligence community,” Amash said. “The rest of us in Congress wouldn’t have immediate access to the same information, so really it’s incumbent upon the intelligence community and the intelligence committees to work together so we know whether an investigation is warranted.”

Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) questioned why the U.S. having a “good relationship” with Russia is being portrayed in the media as a “bad thing.”

“We need to be careful what we are saying because we don’t have all the facts, but I do think it’s incumbent upon the intelligence committees to determine what the facts are and see if there has to be further investigation,” he said. “I do find it a little bit fascinating that having a good relationship with Russia all of a sudden is a bad thing when you guys never said a peep about it when the president of the United States said that he would have more flexibility when he won re-election, when Hillary Clinton said she wanted a reset with Russia, when all these different things happened where they were trying to have better relationships with Russia.”

Labrador said the intelligence committees in the House and Senate need to examine the Flynn situation to find out exactly what happened.

“All of a sudden, having a good relationship with Russia apparently is a negative thing. But there’s no question about it in my mind that the intelligence committees need to look first, obviously in confidential meetings and others, but they need to figure out exactly what happened,” he said.

“And I think Gen. Flynn, he offered his resignation, did the right thing because the moment he misled the vice president of the United States, I think he had lost the confidence of the administration whether it was intentional of not, it was a significant enough issue where it should have been a straightforward answer,” he added.

Flynn said in his resignation that he “inadvertently briefed the vice president elect and others with incomplete information regarding my phone calls with the Russian ambassador.”

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said at a press conference today that the obvious question about Flynn’s contact with Russian officials is, “What did the president know and when did he know it?” Cummings called for an “emergency” public hearing with Flynn.

“I know he’s now resigned, but he’s not going to get off that easy. We need some answers to a whole lot of questions, but the obvious questions are what did the president know and when did he know it? Was the president aware of Flynn’s efforts? Did he support them?” he said. “Another question, why did Flynn continue to sit in on the most sensitive classified meetings until just two days ago? Ladies and gentlemen, something is wrong with that picture.”

Cummings also said he wants to see Flynn’s security clearance documents.

“I want to see them. I want to see what he put in those documents to find out if he was honest on those forms, and we need to know how much he got paid to have dinner with Putin – but that is only the beginning,” he said. “The Republicans need to join us. This is not a Democratic issue. This is not a Republican issue. It’s not an independent issue. This is an American issue for the soul of our democracy.”

The Democrats’ Nauseating Putin Hypocrisy

December 12, 2016

The Democrats’ Nauseating Putin Hypocrisy, PJ MediaRoger L. Simon, December 11, 2016

(Please see also, Renowned Russian Scholar Valery Solovei: ‘The New American Administration Will React From A Position Of Strength, And We Can Never Win In This Competition’. — DM)

The degree to which the Democrats have changed their tune on Vladimir Putin almost on a proverbial dime is either black comic or nauseating or both, depending on how you want to look at it. Whatever it is, it is a extremely obvious example of how party politics is conducted in our era (possibly always).

If your side does it, it’s diplomatic genius bound to yield peace in our time. If the other side does the exact same thing, it’s a horrendous mistake bordering on treason likely to cause a national calamity, if not global Armageddon.

If there were any decent, even semi-even-handed political science departments left in our country (okay, maybe there are one or two), what we might call the Democrats’ “Great Putin Flip Flop” would be a textbook case for classroom discussion.

Let’s start at the beginning, March 2009, but a few weeks after the first inauguration of Barack Obama, when a smiling Hillary Clinton presented Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov the red “reset” button, signaling the arrival of a supposed era of peace between the two countries.  The new administration was greeted with hosannas for their great symbolism from their loyal claque at the New York Times, Washington Post, NBC, et al., who were oblivious, needless to say, that the word “peregruzka” printed in Cyrillic on the button, thought to mean “reset” in Russian by the linguistic geniuses in our State Department, was actually the word for “overload.”

No wonder Lavrov has such a quizzical look on his face in the all the photos. (Imagine what the reaction of the press would have been had Trump’s putative secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, done something similar. Media lynch mob?) Much more important, however,  was the extreme ignorance of the Russian character, from the Czars through Lenin and Stalin and on into the present, evinced by such a naive, almost childish, “reset.” Throughout the East, of which Russia has always been a signal part despite intermittent yearnings for the West, a powerful leader has always been the center of national and tribal life.  Silly, symbolic gestures like “reset” buttons are seen as weakness, not compromises or attempts at global comity. They are something to exploit.

Barack Obama, however, went on undeterred. The U.S. president, in South Korea in March 2012 for a nuclear security summit, was caught on open mic with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev confidentially informing the Russian president, as if Medvedev would be so stupid as not to know, that  “after my election, I will have more flexibility.” Obama wanted that news conveyed to Medvedev’s boss Putin so the true Russian president would give Obama some “space.” Only Barack clearly didn’t realize Vladmir was a capo di tutti capi and would behave like one — not, say, a Republican senator from a swing state who could be swayed with a “chummy presidential phone call.”

We all know how it turned out.  Putin read Obama well. Within a couple of years Russia had retaken the Crimea, destabilized Ukraine, and, making matters so bad that even the namby-pamby John Kerry has admitted it was a mistake, Obama’s red line on Assad’s use of chemical weapons had been crossed with our president doing absolutely nothing about it, allegedly in order not to offend dear Vlad, who was making him “promises.”  The Russian air force was reputedly going to help us extinguish ISIS  — or what Obama for reasons unknown insists on calling ISIL — but ended up somehow misfiring and hitting our quasi-allies in the field, helping rend them at this point virtually non-existent, while Assad is now marching into Aleppo and has Syria, forever a Russian client, practically all to his despotic self again.

And then there’s the little matter of Iran, also a client of Russia when Putin wants it to be, financing as much mayhem as it can from Iraq to Yemen and beyond (they are believed to have camps in Venezuela), arming the terrorist thugs of Hezbollah, all with unbelievable sums of money donated by Obama for an inexplicable and unwelcome nuclear deal hardly a single American understands and about which Vladimir Putin knows far more than any member of the U.S. Congress (which never had a chance to vote on it anyway).

Has any American president done more for Russia for less reason?  (At least FDR united with Stalin to defeat Hitler.)

Obviously not, although the same media claque (aka court eunuchs) aren’t even mentioning this as they all go into a full-tilt attempt, with CIA help, to malign Donald Trump as the next American president selected (but not apparently elected) by the hackers of the Russian Republic.

Do I believe Trump actually was the Russians’ preference? That would be mighty optimistic on their part. How could they do better than Obama, considering the last eight years?  And why not just as well elect a weakened Hillary? My guess is, if (big if) they were the instigators of the hacking of the embarrassingly cyber-incompetent DNC  (what is wrong with these people — it’s 2016), they were equal-opportunity hackers, anxious to create confusion and finger-pointing (they succeed with that), rather than specific results that would be hard to control.

This would be consistent with Russian/Soviet behavior over generations.  For those who have not read it, one of the best places to understand this is Disinformation, a remarkable book by sometime PJ Media contributor Ion Pacepa, one of the highest-ranking defectors from the East.  (He once ran Romanian intelligence under Ceausescu.) Mandatory reading on a similar topic is Whittaker Chambers’ extraordinary memoir Witnesswith its stories of the Soviet infiltration of our government way back to the 1920s.

The question we should all be asking about the CIA’s sudden revelation of online tampering with our election by the Russians is how come it took our intelligence agencies so long to figure this out?  That’s assuming it’s all not a “false flag” operation, as John Bolton is alleging. (I wouldn’t bet against him.)  Nevertheless, why are we so permeable to anyone and everyone? Why did John Podesta fall for a phishing scheme most fourteen-year olds would have avoided? What’s wrong with our cyber-defenses? Didn’t we invent the Internet? Al Gore, where are you?

Well, we know.

But let me ask one last question whose answer should be evident to any sentient being not a member of the editorial board of The New York Times. Who do you think would better understand and deal with Vladimir Putin — Barack Obama or Donald Trump?

Yes, the KGB  and its successors know the difference between a community organizer and a CEO.  Don’t we all?