WASHINGTON — The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee claimed Wednesday evening that he has seen “more than circumstantial evidence” that associates of President Donald Trump colluded with Russia while the Kremlin attempted to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the Ranking Member on the committee, was asked by Chuck Todd on “Meet The Press Daily” whether or not he only has a circumstantial case.
“Actually no, Chuck,” he said. “I can tell you that the case is more than that and I can’t go into the particulars, but there is more than circumstantial evidence now.”
House Intel Cmte. Creates Confusion As Chairman Releases Trump Details 1:59
Questioned whether or not he has seen direct evidence of collusion, Schiff responded, “I don’t want to get into specifics but I will say that there is evidence that is not circumstantial and is very much worthy of an investigation.”
The Trump campaign and the White House have repeatedly denied that Trump’s associates were at all connected to any activities related to Russia’s attempts to influence the last election.
Schiff’s comments came after Republican committee chair Devin Nunes said that he had seen reports from the U.S. intelligence community showing communication from members of the transition team — and possibly the president himself — were “incidentally collected” as part of a broader surveillance effort.
Nunes said it appeared most of the information was collected after the election and during the transition, it appears it was collected legally, and none of it was related to Russia or the investigation into Russia. He said he did not know who ordered the alleged surveillance.
The disclosure drew condemnation from some Democrats. Schiff bristled at the fact that Nunes did not share the information with him before updating reporters and the White House.
“The chairman will need to decide whether he is the chairman of an independent investigation into conduct, which includes allegations of potential coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russians, or he’s going to act as a surrogate of the White House. Because he cannot do both,” Schiff said.
Full Interview: Schiff on His Confidence in House Intel Committee 8:40
Nunes said at a press conference that “the intelligence community incidentally collected information about American citizens involved in the Trump transition.”
“From what I know right now it looks like incidental collection, we don’t know exactly how that was picked up, but we’re are trying to get to the bottom of it,” Nunes said.
Trump said he felt somewhat vindicated by Nunes’ disclosure: “I somewhat do. I very much appreciated the fact that they found what they found,” the president said.
Nunes said he has not seen any evidence that former President Barack Obama had Trump’s “wires tapped” before the election — a claim Trump made on Twitter. The director of the FBI said Monday he has no evidence backing up the tweeted claim.
Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark Warner, D-Virginia, said he was “absolutely mystified by Chairman Nunes’ actions,” and the decision to brief Trump on the information “seems pretty inappropriate to me.”
Republican Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, told MSNBC’s Greta Van Susteren that the back-and-forth among the top members of the committee was “bizarre” and he said partisan fighting had cost Congress its credibility to investigate Russian interference the election.
“No longer does the Congress have credibility to handle this alone, and I don’t say that lightly,” McCain, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said.
McCain: Select Committee On Russia Now A ‘Requirement’10:36
On Monday, FBI Director James Comey confirmed that an investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia had been ongoing since July. Comey said the probe was included in the agency’s investigation into what the U.S. intelligence community concluded was an attempt by Russia to interfere with the 2016 election with the purpose of helping Trump win.
The House and Senate Intelligence Committees are conducting their own investigations.
The FBI investigation would examine possible links between individuals in the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was co-ordination between the Trump campaign and Russia, Mr Comey said.
The FBI would also assess whether crimes were committed, he said.
Mr Comey said the investigation was “very complex” and he could not give a timetable for its completion.
“We will follow the facts wherever they lead,” he said.
National Security Agency (NSA) chief Admiral Mike Rogers also appeared before the committee.
He said the NSA stood by an intelligence community report published in January, which said that Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered a campaign to harm the campaign of Mr Trump’s rival, Hillary Clinton.
This was despite looking carefully for such evidence, he said. The Department of Justice also had no information, he said.
Analysis – BBC North America reporter Anthony Zurcher
What FBI Director James Comey didn’t say during intelligence hearings today on possible Russian meddling in the 2016 US election was as important as what he did say.
Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, who had ties to pro-Russian Ukrainian politicians? No comment. Long-time Trump adviser Roger Stone, who reportedly had communications with individuals who hacked the Democratic National Committee emails? No comment. Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who was forced to resign after leaked evidence surfaced that he had communicated with a Russian ambassador about US sanctions? No comment.
“I don’t want to answer any questions about a US person,” Mr Comey said.
All of this is evidence that the investigation isn’t just ongoing, it’s substantive and far-reaching.
While Democrats will likely be encouraged by this, it was telling that Republicans pursued the White House line that the topic of greatest concern was the intelligence leaks that put this story in the headlines.
If Mr Trump can consolidate his party’s support, it will go a long way towards insulating the president against any fallout from this investigation.
Meanwhile, Admiral Rogers strongly denied that the NSA had asked Britain’s GCHQ intelligence agency to spy on Mr Trump – a claim that had been repeated by Mr Trump’s spokesman, Sean Spicer.
The allegation “clearly frustrates a key ally of ours”, he added.
GCHQ has described the claim as “utterly ridiculous”.
Mr Trump’s recent joke about how Mr Obama had wiretapped both German Chancellor Angela Merkel and him “complicates things” with an ally, Admiral Rogers added.
However, Devin Nunes, the Republican chairman of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, said it was still possible that other surveillance activities had been used against Mr Trump and his associates.
What are the allegations?
In January, US intelligence agencies said Kremlin-backed hackers had broken into the email accounts of senior Democrats and released embarrassing messages in order to help Mr Trump defeat Hillary Clinton.
“That was a fairly easy judgement for the community,” Mr Comey said. “Putin hated Secretary Clinton so much that the flipside of that coin was he had a clear preference for the person running against the person he hated so much.”
However, late last summer the Russians concluded that Mr Trump had no chance of winning, based on polls at the time, and so focused on undermining Mrs Clinton, Mr Comey said.
Both intelligence chiefs said that Russia had made its intervention in last year’s election campaign unusually obvious, perhaps to further its aim of undermining US democracy.
Mr Comey said Russia had succeeded in this goal, by sowing chaos, division and discord.
Mr Trump has since faced allegations that his campaign team had links to Russian officials.
Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has said he saw no evidence of any collusion, up until the time he left his post in January.
Which campaign members have been accused of deception?
Two senior officials in the Trump administration have been caught up in the allegations – former national security adviser Michael Flynn, and Attorney-General Jeff Sessions.
Mr Flynn was fired last month after he misled the White House about his conversations with the Russian ambassador before he was appointed national security adviser.
He allegedly discussed US sanctions with ambassador Sergei Kislyak. It is illegal for private citizens to conduct US diplomacy.
(CNN) FBI Director James Comey warned Wednesday that Americans should not have expectations of “absolute privacy,” adding that he planned to finish his term leading the FBI.
“There is no such thing as absolute privacy in America; there is no place outside of judicial reach,” Comey said at a Boston College conference on cybersecurity. He made the remark as he discussed the rise of encryption since 2013 disclosures by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden revealed sensitive US spy practices.
“Even our communications with our spouses, with our clergy members, with our attorneys are not absolutely private in America,” Comey added. “In appropriate circumstances, a judge can compel any one of us to testify in court about those very private communications.”
But, he also said Americans “have a reasonable expectation of privacy in our homes, in our cars, in our devices.
“It is a vital part of being an American. The government cannot invade our privacy without good reason, reviewable in court,” Comey continued.
In the last four months of 2016, the FBI lawfully gained access to 2,800 devices recovered in criminal, terrorism and counterintelligence investigations and the FBI was unable to open 43% of those devices, Comey said.
Americans’ desire for privacy and security should never be viewed as incompatible, he said.
“We all value privacy. We all value security. We should never have to sacrifice one for the other,” Comey said. “Our founders struck a bargain that is at the center of this amazing country of ours and has been for over two centuries.”
FBI director at center of many controversies
Comey’s leadership of the FBI has been marked by controversy in the wake of the bureau’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email controversy and President Donald Trump’s baseless accusations that President Barack Obama ordered the wiretapping of phones at Trump Tower.
The latest revelations about U.S. government’s powerful hacking tools potentially takes surveillance right into the homes and hip pockets of billions of users worldwide, showing how a remarkable variety of every day devices can be turned to spy on their owners.
Televisions, smartphones and Internet-connected vehicles are all vulnerable to CIA hacking, according to the Wikileaks documents released Tuesday. The capabilities described include recording the sounds, images and the private text messages of users, even when they use encrypted apps to communicate. The CIA also studied whether it could infect vehicle control systems used by modern cars and trucks, which Wikileaks said could allow “nearly undetectable assassinations.”
In the case of a tool called “Weeping Angel” for attacking Samsung SmartTVs, Wikileaks wrote, “After infestation, Weeping Angel places the target TV in a ‘Fake-Off’ mode, so that the owner falsely believes the TV is off when it is on, In ‘Fake-Off’ mode the TV operates as a bug, recording conversations in the room and sending them over the Internet to a covert CIA server.”
The documents, which The Washington Post could not independently verify and the CIA has declined to confirm, list supposed tools for cracking into such widely popular devices as Apple’s iPhone or the Android smartphones whose operating system is made by Google, but there are marked differences from the 2013 revelations by the National Security Agency’s former contractor Edward Snowden.
His documents largely described mass surveillance of Internet-based communications systems, more often than the individual devices that appear to have been the focus of the CIA. By targeting devices, the CIA could gain access to even well-encrypted communications, on such popular apps as Signal and WhatsApp, without having to crack the encryption itself. The Wikileaks reports appear to acknowledge that difference by saying the CIA “bypassed” as opposed to defeated encryption technologies.
Resignation and frustration rippled through Silicon Valley on Tuesday as technologists grappled with revelations of yet another government attempt to exploit their systems.
“The argument that there is some terrorist using a Samsung TV somewhere – as a reason to not disclose that vulnerability to the company, when it puts thousands of Americans at risk — I fundamentally disagree with it, “ said Alex Rice, chief technology officer for Hacker One, a startup that enlists hackers to report security gaps to companies and organizations in exchange for cash.
Privacy experts say the CIA may have been forced into focusing on vulnerable devices because the Internet overall has become more secure through more widespread deployment of encryption. In this new world, devices have become the most vulnerable link.
“The idea that the CIA and NSA can hack into devices is kind of old news,” said Johns Hopkins cryptography expert Matthew Green. “Anyone who thought they couldn’t was living in a fantasy world.”
Snowden’s revelations and the backlash made strong encryption a major, well-funded cause for both privacy advocates and, perhaps more importantly, technology companies that had the engineering expertise and budgets to protect data as it flowed across the world.
Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo and many other companies announced major new initiatives, in part to protect their brands against accusations by some users that they had made it too easy for the NSA to collect information from their systems. Many Web sites, meanwhile, began encrypting their data flows to users to prevent snooping. Encryption tools such as Tor were strengthened.
Encrypting apps for private messaging, such as Signal, Telegram and WhatsApp exploded in popularity, especially among users around the world who were fearful of government intrusion. In the days following the U.S. presidential election, Signal was among the most downloaded in Apple’s app store and downloads grew by more than 300 percent.
Open Whispers Systems, which developed Signal, released a statement: “The CIA/Wikileaks story today is about getting malware onto phones, none of the exploits are in Signal or break Signal Protocol encryption.” WhatsApp declined to comment, and Telegram did not respond to requests for comment. Google declined to comment, while Samsung and Apple did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
U.S. government authorities complained loudly that the new wave of encryption was undermining their ability to investigate serious crimes, such as terrorism and child pornography. The FBI sued Apple in hopes of forcing it to unlock an iPhone used by the San Bernadino killers before announcing it had other ways to crack the device amid heavy public criticism.
Against that backdrop, many privacy advocates argued that devices — often called “endpoints” for their place on chains of communications that can criss-cross continents — were the best available target left in a world with widespread online encryption. The Wikileaks documents suggests that the CIA may have reached the same conclusion.
“It would certainly be consistent with the hypothesis that we’ve made real progress in the encryption we’ve been introducing,” said Peter Eckersley, technology projects director for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based civil liberties group. “It’s impossible to be 100 percent certain, but reading the tea leaves, it’s plausible.”
The Wikileaks revelations also will serve as a reminder that, for whatever the political backlash to revelations about digital spying, it is not going away and probably will continue to grow. The focus on hacking into individual devices — rather than the messages traveling between them — is likely to increase pressure on companies to make those devices safer because, as experts have long said, they are the most vulnerable target in a long chain of digital interactions.
That could be especially important for U.S. tech companies, such as Google, Apple and Facebook, that have worked to rebuild their reputations as stewards of their users’ privacy in recent years.
Cybersecurity experts, meanwhile, reacted with alarm to the news of the Wikileaks release.
“This is explosive,” said Jake Williams, founder of Rendition Infosec, a cybersecurity firm. The material highlights specific antivirus products that can be defeated, going further than a release of NSA hacking tools last year, he said.
The CIA hackers, according to WikiLeaks, even “discussed what the NSA’s …hackers did wrong and how the CIA’s malware makers could avoid similar exposure.”
Hackers who worked at NSA’s Tailored Access Operations unit said the CIA’s library of tools looked comparable. The description of the implants, which are software that enable a hacker to remotely control a compromised device, and other attack tools appear to be “very, very complex” and “at least on par with the NSA,” said one former TAO hacker who spoke on condition his name not be used.
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The WikiLeaks release revealed that they have sophisticated “stealth” capabilities that enable hackers not only to infiltrate systems, but evade detection, as well as abilities to “escalate privileges” or move inside a system as if they owned it.
“The only thing that separates NSA from commodity malware in the first place is their ability to remain hidden,” the former TAO hacker said. “So when you talk about the stealth components, it’s huge that you’re seeing a tangible example here of them using and researching stealth.”
Computer security experts noted that the release includes no actual tools or exploits, “so we don’t know if WikiLeaks did not get them or is just not choosing to publish them,” Nicholas Weaver, a computer security researcher at the University of California at Berkeley. “However we should assume that whoever stole this data has access to the exploits and tools.”
He noted that the dates in the files suggest the tools were taken in February or March 2016 and that there are at least two documents marked Top Secret, “which suggests that somebody in early 2016 managed to compromise a Top Secret CIA development system and is willing to say that they did.”
One internal CIA document listed a set of Apple iPhone “exploits” — or tools that can be used to compromise the device by taking advantage of software flaws. Some of the tools are based on “zero-days,” which are software vulnerabilities that have not been shared with the manufacturer. So “some of these descriptions will allow Apple to fix the vulnerabilities,” Weaver said. “But at the same time, they’re out in the public and whoever stole this data could use them against U.S. interests.”
New York (CNN) A former reporter who was fired for fabricating sources was arrested Friday and accused of making some of the bomb threats against Jewish institutions that have so rattled Jews recently.
Juan Thompson, 31, was charged with one count of cyber-stalking for making at least eight threats as part of an attempt to intimidate a particular person after their romantic relationship ended, according to a criminal complaint filed in the Southern District of New York.
The accusation against Thompson accounts for just a small minority of the 101 total bomb threats that have been received by Jewish institutions since 2017 began, according to data from the JCC Association of North America.
“No one has been arrested for making the nationwide robocall JCC threats,” New York State Police’s Beau Duffy said. “That’s still an active FBI investigation.”
The complaint alleges Thompson had emailed and phoned in threats to the Anti-Defamation League and other Jewish institutions. Some of those threats mentioned a “Jewish Newtown,” according to the complaint, an apparent reference to the infamous 2012 school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.
Thompson made some of the threats in the victim’s name, while others were made in his own name, according to the complaint. Thompson then claimed that those threats had actually been made by the victim in an attempt to frame him, the complaint alleges.
It could not be immediately determined if Thompson has an attorney.
Thompson’s arrest, in St. Louis, was the result of the ongoing investigation into those bomb threats, officials said.
“Thompson’s alleged pattern of harassment not only involved the defamation of his female victim, but his threats intimidated an entire community,” FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. said in a statement.
Thompson previously worked as a reporter for The Intercept, the online news publication, according to previous CNN reporting and a review of Thompson’s Twitter account.
Several tweets from his Twitter account, @JuanMThompson, are referenced in the criminal complaint. That Twitter account is linked to articles bearing his byline at The Intercept.
Thompson was fired from the website in 2016 for fabricating quotes, The Intercept’s editor-in-chief wrote at the time in a special note to readers. He had worked there from November 2014 until January 2016.
In one story, Thompson quoted a man he identified as the cousin of Dylan Roof, the man convicted of killing nine people at a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina. Intercept editors retracted that story after members of Roof’s family said they did not know of that cousin.
Jewish groups react
Evan Bernstein, the New York regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, praised the arrest of Thompson but noted that the threats remained an issue.
“The diligence of law enforcement at such a critical time for the Jewish community is very reassuring,” said Bernstein. “Just because there’s been an arrest today around our bomb threat does not mean that the threats have disappeared or will stop.”
FBI director James Comey met with JCC leaders on Friday.
Leaders in the Jewish community met with FBI director James Comey on Friday to discuss the recent spate of threats against Jewish institutions, according to the JCC Association of North America.
The JCC released a photo of the meeting and said in a press release that leaders had the “highest confidence” that the FBI would resolve the issue as quickly as possible.
Despite the many threats, NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and Counterterrorism John Miller affirmed that there has been “no specific, credible threat of violence” made to Jewish institutions in New York.
CNN’s David Shortell, Shimon Prokupecz, Evan Simko-Bednarski, Tom Kludt, Sarah Jorgensen and Kristina Sgueglia contributed to this report.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI DAILY NEWS)
DETERMINING whether poison killed the half-brother of North Korea’s leader in a busy airport is proving difficult for Malaysian officials, who said yesterday that autopsy results are so far inconclusive.
More than a week has passed since Kim Jong Nam was approached by two women at a budget air terminal in Kuala Lumpur and apparently attacked in the face with an unknown substance. Kim did not suffer a heart attack and had no puncture wounds, such as those a needle would have left, Director General of Health Noor Hisham Abdullah told reporters. He did not dismiss poison as a potential cause.
“We have to confirm with the lab report before we can make any conclusive remark,” he said.
He added that medical specimens had been sent to experts for analysis.
However, Rahmat Awang, director of Malaysia’s National Poison Center in Penang, said he had not yet received any samples despite expecting them to arrive two days ago. He said with such a high-profile case, specimens were likely being sent to his lab and to facilities abroad to seek the cause of death or confirm findings already reached in Kuala Lumpur.
Identifying a specific poison could be challenging, especially if a minute amount was used and it did not penetrate fat cells in the victim’s tissue. If the toxin only entered the bloodstream, it could leave the body very quickly. And even if a substance was found, it would need to match the symptoms Kim Jong Nam experienced before death.
The more unique the poison, the harder it was to find.
“Our lab, for example, traces the usual chemicals,” Awang said. “If the substance involved is not something we often see, the likelihood is that we might not be able to detect it.”
Highly sophisticated facilities, such as in Japan or at the FBI’s crime lab in the United States, are among those that have greater capabilities for discovering unusual toxic substances.
The case has perplexed leading forensic toxicologists who study murder by poison. They say the airport attack is a bizarre case, and question how the two women could walk away unscathed after deploying an agent potent enough to kill Kim Jong Nam before he could even make it to the hospital.
Some type of nerve gas or ricin, a deadly substance found in castor beans, have been suggested as possible toxins used. A strong opioid compound could also have been liquidized, though that would likely have incapacitated the victim immediately. Surveillance footage instead shows Kim walking calmly downstairs to the airport’s clinic.
Kim, the older half-brother of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un, had spent most of the past 15 years living in China and Southeast Asia. The victim is believed to have had at least three children with two women. No family members have come forward to claim the body.
The attack spiraled into diplomatic fury when Malaysia refused to hand over Kim Jong Nam’s corpse to North Korean diplomats after his death, and proceeded with an autopsy over the ambassador’s objections.
The two nations have made a series of increasingly angry statements since then, with Malaysia insisting it is simply following its legal protocols, and North Korea accusing Malaysia of working in collusion with its enemy South Korea.
Seoul’s spy agency believes North Korea was behind the killing, but has produced no evidence.
Kim Jong Nam was not known to be seeking political power.
The wife of Omar Mateen, the man who killed 49 people in a shooting rampage at a Orlando nightclub last June, was arrested Monday on a charge of obstructing justice, a federal law enforcement official told USA TODAY.
Noor Salman was taken into custody by the FBI at her Northern California home, The New York Times reports.
The law enforcement official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the case, told USA TODAY Salman will likely face her first court appearance Tuesday.
CBS News said Salman also faces a charge of aiding and abetting.
Salman, in interviews with federal investigators after the shooting, allegedly acknowledged driving Mateen to the Pulse nightclub at least once before her husband launched the assault.
Salman told the Times in November that she was unaware of his true intentions until he sent her a 4:00 AM text message the night of the shooting, asking if she had seen what happened on the news.
According to Salman, the last message from her husband was a text message saying, “I love you babe.”
Salman met Mateen online and they married in 2011. The couple has a 3-year-old son. Salman, who has Palestinian roots, grew up in the small suburb of Rodeo, Calif., about 25 miles northeast of San Francisco.
WASHINGTON — When Special Agent Adrian Hawkins of the Federal Bureau of Investigation called the Democratic National Committee in September 2015 to pass along some troubling news about its computer network, he was transferred, naturally, to the help desk.
His message was brief, if alarming. At least one computer system belonging to the D.N.C. had been compromised by hackers federal investigators had named “the Dukes,” a cyberespionage team linked to the Russian government.
The F.B.I. knew it well: The bureau had spent the last few years trying to kick the Dukes out of the unclassified email systems of the White House, the State Department and even the Joint Chiefs of Staff, one of the government’s best-protected networks.
Yared Tamene, the tech-support contractor at the D.N.C. who fielded the call, was no expert in cyberattacks. His first moves were to check Google for “the Dukes” and conduct a cursory search of the D.N.C. computer system logs to look for hints of such a cyberintrusion. By his own account, he did not look too hard even after Special Agent Hawkins called back repeatedly over the next several weeks — in part because he wasn’t certain the caller was a real F.B.I. agent and not an impostor.
“I had no way of differentiating the call I just received from a prank call,” Mr. Tamene wrote in an internal memo, obtained by The New York Times, that detailed his contact with the F.B.I.
It was the cryptic first sign of a cyberespionage and information-warfare campaign devised to disrupt the 2016 presidential election, the first such attempt by a foreign power in American history. What started as an information-gathering operation, intelligence officials believe, ultimately morphed into an effort to harm one candidate, Hillary Clinton, and tip the election to her opponent, Donald J. Trump.
Like another famous American election scandal, it started with a break-in at the D.N.C. The first time, 44 years ago at the committee’s old offices in the Watergate complex, the burglars planted listening devices and jimmied a filing cabinet. This time, the burglary was conducted from afar, directed by the Kremlin, with spear-phishing emails and zeros and ones.
An examination by The Times of the Russian operation — based on interviews with dozens of players targeted in the attack, intelligence officials who investigated it and Obama administration officials who deliberated over the best response — reveals a series of missed signals, slow responses and a continuing underestimation of the seriousness of the cyberattack.
The D.N.C.’s fumbling encounter with the F.B.I. meant the best chance to halt the Russian intrusion was lost. The failure to grasp the scope of the attacks undercut efforts to minimize their impact. And the White House’s reluctance to respond forcefully meant the Russians have not paid a heavy price for their actions, a decision that could prove critical in deterring future cyberattacks.
The low-key approach of the F.B.I. meant that Russian hackers could roam freely through the committee’s network for nearly seven months before top D.N.C. officials were alerted to the attack and hired cyberexperts to protect their systems. In the meantime, the hackers moved on to targets outside the D.N.C., including Mrs. Clinton’s campaign chairman, John D. Podesta, whose private email account was hacked months later.
By last summer, Democrats watched in helpless fury as their private emails and confidential documents appeared online day after day — procured by Russian intelligence agents, posted on WikiLeaks and other websites, then eagerly reported on by the American media, including The Times. Mr. Trump gleefully cited many of the purloined emails on the campaign trail.
Many of Mrs. Clinton’s closest aides believe that the Russian assault had a profound impact on the election, while conceding that other factors — Mrs. Clinton’s weaknesses as a candidate; her private email server; the public statements of the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, about her handling of classified information — were also important.
While there’s no way to be certain of the ultimate impact of the hack, this much is clear: A low-cost, high-impact weapon that Russia had test-fired in elections from Ukraine to Europe was trained on the United States, with devastating effectiveness. For Russia, with an enfeebled economy and a nuclear arsenal it cannot use short of all-out war, cyberpower proved the perfect weapon: cheap, hard to see coming, hard to trace.
“There shouldn’t be any doubt in anybody’s mind,” Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency and commander of United States Cyber Command, said at a postelection conference. “This was not something that was done casually, this was not something that was done by chance, this was not a target that was selected purely arbitrarily,” he said. “This was a conscious effort by a nation-state to attempt to achieve a specific effect.”
“It was just a sucker punch to the gut every day,” Ms. Tanden said. “It was the worst professional experience of my life.”
The United States, too, has carried out cyberattacks, and in decades past the C.I.A. tried to subvert foreign elections. But the Russian attack is increasingly understood across the political spectrum as an ominous historic landmark — with one notable exception: Mr. Trump has rejected the findings of the intelligence agencies he will soon oversee as “ridiculous,” insisting that the hacker may be American, or Chinese, but that “they have no idea.”
Mr. Trump cited the reported disagreements between the agencies about whether Mr. Putin intended to help elect him. On Tuesday, a Russian government spokesman echoed Mr. Trump’s scorn.
“This tale of ‘hacks’ resembles a banal brawl between American security officials over spheres of influence,” Maria Zakharova, the spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, wrote on Facebook.
Over the weekend, four prominent senators — two Republicans and two Democrats — joined forces to pledge an investigation while pointedly ignoring Mr. Trump’s skeptical claims.
“Democrats and Republicans must work together, and across the jurisdictional lines of the Congress, to examine these recent incidents thoroughly and devise comprehensive solutions to deter and defend against further cyberattacks,” said Senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Chuck Schumer and Jack Reed.
“This cannot become a partisan issue,” they said. “The stakes are too high for our country.”
A Target for Break-Ins
Sitting in the basement of the Democratic National Committee headquarters, below a wall-size 2012 portrait of a smiling Barack Obama, is a 1960s-era filing cabinet missing the handle on the bottom drawer. Only a framed newspaper story hanging on the wall hints at the importance of this aged piece of office furniture.
Andrew Brown, 37, the technology director at the D.N.C., was born after that famous break-in. But as he began to plan for this year’s election cycle, he was well aware that the D.N.C. could become a break-in target again.
There were aspirations to ensure that the D.N.C. was well protected against cyberintruders — and then there was the reality, Mr. Brown and his bosses at the organization acknowledged: The D.N.C. was a nonprofit group, dependent on donations, with a fraction of the security budget that a corporation its size would have.
“There was never enough money to do everything we needed to do,” Mr. Brown said.
The D.N.C. had a standard email spam-filtering service, intended to block phishing attacks and malware created to resemble legitimate email. But when Russian hackers started in on the D.N.C., the committee did not have the most advanced systems in place to track suspicious traffic, internal D.N.C. memos show.
Mr. Tamene, who reports to Mr. Brown and fielded the call from the F.B.I. agent, was not a full-time D.N.C. employee; he works for a Chicago-based contracting firm called The MIS Department. He was left to figure out, largely on his own, how to respond — and even whether the man who had called in to the D.N.C. switchboard was really an F.B.I. agent.
“The F.B.I. thinks the D.N.C. has at least one compromised computer on its network and the F.B.I. wanted to know if the D.N.C. is aware, and if so, what the D.N.C. is doing about it,” Mr. Tamene wrote in an internal memo about his contacts with the F.B.I. He added that “the Special Agent told me to look for a specific type of malware dubbed ‘Dukes’ by the U.S. intelligence community and in cybersecurity circles.”
Part of the problem was that Special Agent Hawkins did not show up in person at the D.N.C. Nor could he email anyone there, as that risked alerting the hackers that the F.B.I. knew they were in the system.
Mr. Tamene’s initial scan of the D.N.C. system — using his less-than-optimal tools and incomplete targeting information from the F.B.I. — found nothing. So when Special Agent Hawkins called repeatedly in October, leaving voice mail messages for Mr. Tamene, urging him to call back, “I did not return his calls, as I had nothing to report,” Mr. Tamene explained in his memo.
In November, Special Agent Hawkins called with more ominous news. A D.N.C. computer was “calling home, where home meant Russia,” Mr. Tamene’s memo says, referring to software sending information to Moscow. “SA Hawkins added that the F.B.I. thinks that this calling home behavior could be the result of a state-sponsored attack.”
Mr. Brown knew that Mr. Tamene, who declined to comment, was fielding calls from the F.B.I. But he was tied up on a different problem: evidence suggesting that the campaign of Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Mrs. Clinton’s main Democratic opponent, had improperly gained access to her campaign data.
Ms. Wasserman Schultz, then the D.N.C.’s chairwoman, and Amy Dacey, then its chief executive, said in interviews that neither of them was notified about the early reports that the committee’s system had likely been compromised.
Shawn Henry, who once led the F.B.I.’s cyber division and is now president of CrowdStrike Services, the cybersecurity firm retained by the D.N.C. in April, said he was baffled that the F.B.I. did not call a more senior official at the D.N.C. or send an agent in person to the party headquarters to try to force a more vigorous response.
“We are not talking about an office that is in the middle of the woods of Montana,” Mr. Henry said. “We are talking about an office that is half a mile from the F.B.I. office that is getting the notification.”
“This is not a mom-and-pop delicatessen or a local library. This is a critical piece of the U.S. infrastructure because it relates to our electoral process, our elected officials, our legislative process, our executive process,” he added. “To me it is a high-level, serious issue, and if after a couple of months you don’t see any results, somebody ought to raise that to a higher level.”
The F.B.I. declined to comment on the agency’s handling of the hack. “The F.B.I. takes very seriously any compromise of public and private sector systems,” it said in a statement, adding that agents “will continue to share information” to help targets “safeguard their systems against the actions of persistent cybercriminals.”
By March, Mr. Tamene and his team had met at least twice in person with the F.B.I. and concluded that Agent Hawkins was really a federal employee. But then the situation took a dire turn.
A second team of Russian-affiliated hackers began to target the D.N.C. and other players in the political world, particularly Democrats. Billy Rinehart, a former D.N.C. regional field director who was then working for Mrs. Clinton’s campaign, got an odd email warning from Google.
“Someone just used your password to try to sign into your Google account,” the March 22 email said, adding that the sign-in attempt had occurred in Ukraine. “Google stopped this sign-in attempt. You should change your password immediately.”
Mr. Rinehart was in Hawaii at the time. He remembers checking his email at 4 a.m. for messages from East Coast associates. Without thinking much about the notification, he clicked on the “change password” button and half asleep, as best he can remember, he typed in a new password.
The FBI may have scored a big win with operation Playpen, which helped dismantle a ring of TOR-based pedophiles and prosecute its members (thanks, Rule 41), but that was just one battle in the ongoing war against the sexual exploitation of children. That fight is now a bit easier for European law enforcement, which as debuted a new machine learning AI system that hunts for child porn on P2P networks.
The system, known as iCOP (Identifying and Catching Originators in P2P Networks), works similarly to Microsoft’s Photo DNA, wherein images of child porn are tagged with a digital signature after being collected in the course of an investigation. These signatures are then shared as a global database for law enforcement. If the same images or videos resurface during other investigations, they’re automatically flagged. This saves law enforcement the stomach-turning drudgery of manually checking the images against the database. This saves time, manpower and accelerates investigations. What’s more, it automatically identifies new material (anything that doesn’t get flagged), which provides fresh leads on more recent crimes.
And given that, according to the UN, 16 percent of people who possess this sort of material have themselves abused children, reducing the amount of time between discovery and arrest can help save children from further exploitation. The iCOP system is designed for use on Gnutella and has been trained with tens of thousands of images ranging from adult porn and benign images of kids to the full-on sexual abuse of minors.
Interpol has already begun testing iCOP for its own use in the Lyon region of France. Once installed on the Interpol system and linked to other databases like Project Vic, iCOP returned false positives in less than 8 percent of images and in just over 4 percent of videos.
“It significantly reduces the overhead for investigators,” Awais Rashid, a professor at Lancaster University (which helped develop the system) told WIRED. “Instead of having to trawl through large numbers of images and videos to identify new child abuse material, investigators are provided with automated matches which are highly accurate. In practice, this means investigators having to look at a small number of images and videos rather than thousands.” Given its initial success with Interpol, the iCOP team hopes to expand the system out to TOR-obscured networks.
AUTHOR: GARRETT M. GRAFF.GARRETT M. GRAFF SECURITY
DATE OF PUBLICATION: 22.214.171.124.17.16
TIME OF PUBLICATION: 6:00 AM.6:00 AM
AMERICA’S TOP SPY TALKS SNOWDEN LEAKS AND OUR OMINOUS FUTURE
[OnThursdaymorning, November 17,JamesClapper announced that he had submitted his letter of resignation. He will serve out the remaining 64 days of his term.]PUBLIC APPEARANCES DON’T come easily to James Clapper, the United States director of national intelligence. America’s top spy is a 75-year-old self-described geezer who speaks in a low, guttural growl; his physical appearance—muscular and bald—recalls an aging biker who has reluctantly accepted life in a suit. Clapper especially hates appearing on Capitol Hill, where members of Congress wait to ambush him and play what he calls “stump the chump.” As he says, “I rank testimony—particularly in the open—right up there with root canals and folding fitted sheets.”
One of the things Clapper does profess to enjoy about his job is meeting with the men and women who make up his covert empire of 17 agencies, which range from brand names like the CIA, NSA, DEA, and FBI to lesser-known units like the Treasury Department’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis. As he has traveled the country and the world over his six years in office, he has hosted scores of town hall meetings with intelligence officers, analysts, and operatives. The events are typically low-key, focusing less on what’s in the news than on the byzantine and, to Clapper, almost soothing minutiae of the military-intelligence bureaucracy.
And so it was that he found himself in late August in an auditorium at US Strategic Command near Omaha, Nebraska, headquarters of the nation’s nuclear forces, taking questions from a group of 180 civilian and military personnel. There were fairly routine queries about China, recruiting, and coordination between the intel services. Then an older man in a suit, a lifer like Clapper, reached for the microphone and asked him something no one ever had in his tenure as director of national intelligence.
For a moment the question stopped Clapper in his tracks.
“Is spying moral?”
BACK IN THE EARLY 1970’s, James Clapper was a young military assistant to the director of the NSA when the entire US intelligence establishment was thrown into upheaval. A team of antiwar activists had broken into an FBI field office in Media, Pennsylvania, and made off with thousands of files. In them was evidence of multiple illegal domestic spying programs, conducted by J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI, aimed largely at neutralizing left-wing dissent in America. Public faith in US intelligence, already poisoned by the CIA’s cold war regime of dirty tricks, plummeted further. And Congress moved to rein in America’s spies, hardening laws and norms against domestic surveillance.
Some 40 years later, Clapper now presides over a broader intelligence purview than any one of his bosses did back in the ’70s. And hanging over his tenure is a sense that our spies have once again overstepped the bounds of acceptable behavior. Many in the public today regard former NSA contractor Edward Snowden as a whistle-blower and a hero for exposing another era of domestic surveillance. Clapper has found himself defending his agencies from the charge that they’re leading the nation into a dystopian future in which an all-seeing government kills from the sky with no accountability, Hoovers up vast troves of data from law-abiding people the world over, and undermines personal computer security through backdoors, malware, and industry side deals. He argues, though, that today’s scandals pale by comparison to those of an earlier era. The programs exposed by Snowden, he says, “had all kinds of oversight by all three branches of government, very limited sets of data, and a very small cadre of people who had access to it. We had none of that in the ’70s.”
SENATOR RON WYDEN, MATT BLAZE AND SUSAN LANDAU
The Feds Will Soon Be Able to Legally Hack Almost Anyone
LILY HAY NEWMAN
How Baltimore Became America’s Laboratory for Spy Tech
Edward Snowden: The Untold Story
Clapper says he has never doubted the morality of his profession. The job of the intelligence community is, in his view, honorably straightforward: to provide policymakers with objective analysis derived from intelligence gathered through legally authorized methods. It’s the battlefield that’s confusing and dystopian. From Clapper’s standpoint, the country is locked in a seemingly constant state of war against a protean and often faceless set of enemies, at a time when a single employee can walk out with a thumb drive containing decades’ worth of secrets. It’s enough to make him nostalgic for the comparatively uncomplicated era of nuclear détente. “Sometimes I long for the halcyon days of the cold war,” he tells me. “We had a single adversary and we understood it.”
Rather than worry whether his spies have gone too far, Clapper worries that leaders in Washington are ill-equipped to tackle the multiplying, metastasizing set of threats that face America. His annual appearances on Capitol Hill—filled with discussions about ISIS, cyber war, North Korea’s nuclear program, and new Russian and Chinese aggression—have been so routinely pessimistic that he refers to his yearly global threat assessment as the Litany of Doom. Unpredictable instability has been a constant for this administration and will be, he says, for the next one too.
But in mere weeks, when a new presidential administration takes office, all those issues will be someone else’s problem. For Clapper, the transition can’t come soon enough. He has spent much of this year literally counting down the days he has left. Some mornings, when he briefs the commander-in-chief, known as Intelligence Customer Number One, President Barack Obama will ask him what the current tally is and then offer Clapper a fist bump. In his final months in the role, Clapper and more than a dozen of his top aides and advisers provided WIRED with an unprecedented series of interviews discussing the state of America’s intelligence apparatus and the threats they’ll be handing off to a new administration come January 20. Even six years in, such exchanges don’t come naturally. “In this job,” Clapper says, “I’ve found the less I talk, the better.”
THE NATION’S FIRST director of national intelligence, John Negroponte, opened shop in 2005 with a staff of 11 crammed into a small office close to the White House—filling a new post created in the aftermath of 9/11 in recognition that the country needed a single figure to oversee its intelligence efforts. By the time Clapper arrived in the job five years later, the staff occupied a 51-acre complex in McLean, Virginia.
Though discreetly identified only by a roadside sign, 1550 Tyson’s McLean Drive is actually easily visible to passengers landing at Reagan National Airport. From the air, its two buildings form an L and an X, a nod to it’s gratuitously patriotic post-9/11 moniker, Liberty Crossing, or “LX” in government-speak. The compound houses the 1,700 employees of the office of the director of national intelligence as well as the National Counterterrorism Center, another post-9/11 creation, whose multi story command post was built to mimic the fictional one in Kiefer Sutherland’s drama 24. It’s a city unto itself, with a police force, a Dunkin’ Donuts, and a Starbucks.
Clapper’s office, on the sixth floor of the L building, is large but mostly barren except for standard-issue government-executive dark wood furniture. One notable exception: a poster by the door of a stern bald eagle, with the caption “I am smiling.”
Clapper’s armored, antenna-topped black SUV—more tank than car—has a satellite dish to keep him in secure contact wherever he’s driving around DC.
Clapper is about as steeped in the intelligence business as any American ever has been. His father worked in signals intelligence during World War II. And when the young James met President John F. Kennedy in 1962 as a 21-year-old Air Force ROTC cadet, he told the commander in chief that he too intended to become an intelligence officer. It’s the only profession he ever really aspired to. Clapper met his wife at the NSA (her father also was an intelligence officer), and in Vietnam he shared a trailer with his father, who was the NSA’s deputy chief of operations there. By now Clapper has devoted more than a half century to the field. In 2007, then–secretary of defense Robert Gates installed him as the Pentagon’s undersecretary of defense for intelligence, overseeing all four of its defense-related intel offices.
Then in 2010, angry over the intelligence community’s intransigence and failure to connect the dots to prevent the Christmas Day bombing attempt aboard a Northwest Airlines flight, Obama turned to Clapper and made him the nation’s fourth director of national intelligence in just five years. Clapper figured he’d spend his tenure working behind the scenes, coordinating the nation’s many-tentacled intelligence apparatus.
Clapper’s life is a whirl of video teleconferences and nondescript spaces—subterranean briefing rooms, flat screen-lined command centers, and eavesdropping-proof chambers called sensitive compartmented information facilities, or SCIFs (pronounced “skiffs” in spook speak). His armored, antenna-topped black SUV—more tank than car—even has a satellite dish to keep Clapper in secure contact wherever he’s driving around DC. When he travels, a special team converts a hotel room into a secure communications suite. His digital hearing aids are regularly checked by security to ensure that no foreign adversary is listening, and his counterintelligence team dumb down the iPods he uses to brief the president in the Oval Office so that they can’t transmit or eavesdrop.
Clapper will be remembered for something that originated inside his workforce: one of the most significant intelligence breaches in US history.
Clapper holds one of the broadest portfolios in government. The entire world is his domain: every election, economic upheaval, technological advance, terrorist plot, or foreign leader’s bad hair day. “I never get a pass in meetings,” he says.
Thanks to the documents leaked by Snowden, the American public now knows that Clapper’s empire encompasses more than 107,000 employees, roughly equivalent to the population of Green Bay, Wisconsin. Their combined budget exceeds $52 billion, including $10 billion for the NSA and $14 billion for the CIA, $2.6 billion of which goes for covert action programs like drone strikes and sabotaging Iran’s nuclear program.
It’s inside that workforce where Clapper has had his biggest successes, making headway in areas like procurement reform and IT upgrades or building partnerships with foreign governments and domestic agencies. Clapper has also tried hard to improve diversity, which he says still has a long way to go, and he became an unlikely champion for integrating LGBT employees into the intelligence community. “If I’d been able to work all the time on improving the institution and the community, that’d have been much more satisfying,” he says. But he knows that few outsiders will recall any of that.
Instead he will most likely be remembered for something else that originated inside his workforce: one of the most significant intelligence breaches in US history.
ON SATURDAY, JUNE 8, 2013, Clapper was at the office, giving a rare TV interview to NBC’s Andrea Mitchell in an attempt to quell the growing controversy over a series of leaks in The Guardian and The Washington Post about the nation’s post-9/11 surveillance programs. “It is literally—not figuratively, literally—gut-wrenching to see this happen, because of the huge, grave damage it does to our intelligence capabilities,” Clapper told Mitchell. Minutes later, a member of his security detail—plainclothes, Glock-carrying CIA guards who each wear generic badges identifying them as a US special agent—interrupted to say Clapper had to take an urgent telephone call. That’s when he first heard the name that would, more than any other person, define his tenure: Edward Snowden.
In addition to the general shock waves that Snowden’s leaks sent, they caused a particular problem for Clapper personally. Upon discovering that the NSA had been vacuuming up global internet communications under a program codenamed Prism, the media quickly directed a spotlight on a seemingly innocuous Capitol Hill exchange that had occurred three months earlier between Clapper and US senator Ron Wyden. In a hearing on March 12, 2013, Wyden had asked Clapper, “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions, or hundreds of millions, of Americans?”
“No, sir,” Clapper replied.
“It does not?” Wyden asked, somewhat dumbfounded, since as a high-ranking intelligence committee member he knew otherwise.
“Not wittingly,” Clapper said. “There are cases where they could inadvertently, perhaps, collect, but not wittingly.”
The hearing moved on with hardly a note of the exchange, but Wyden and his intelligence staffer were floored by what seemed to be an outright lie.
Edward Snowden on Clapper: “He saw deceiving the American people as what he does, as his job, as something completely ordinary.”
Wyden, along with US senators Dianne Feinstein and Mark Udall, had spent years pushing back against the worst excesses of the post-9/11 surveillance state. Wyden had watched as intelligence leaders at the NSA, who reported to Clapper, issued a series of purposefully misleading statements about their programs. They had already spent years on a “deception spree,” Wyden tells me. “He presided for years over an intelligence community that was riddled with examples.” These included then–NSA director Keith Alexander’s 2012 comment at the DefCon hacker convention that the agency didn’t collect dossiers on millions of Americans, which Wyden calls “one of the most false statements ever made about US intelligence.”
According to Snowden, it was Clapper’s response to Wyden that sent him over the edge. Though Snowden did not respond to an interview request for this story, he told WIRED in 2014 that he was horrified by how glaring and banal Clapper’s lie was: “He saw deceiving the American people as what he does, as his job, as something completely ordinary.”
Clapper brusquely rejects the idea that his exchange with Wyden motivated Snowden. “He’s tried to sell that story, but it’s bullshit,” he says, pointing to the fact that Snowden’s document-gathering began months before Clapper entered that Senate committee room.
“If for whatever reason Snowden felt compelled to expose what he felt were abuses related to so-called quote-unquote ‘domestic surveillance,’ I might be able to understand what he did. But he exposed so much else that had nothing to do with domestic surveillance that has been profoundly damaging,” Clapper says. “I think he’s a narcissist. I don’t buy the idealism that he professes. I don’t buy that a bit.”
After a series of evolving explanations, Clapper tried to clean up his mess of a statement to Wyden by writing an apology of sorts to Intelligence Committee chair Feinstein, two weeks after the Snowden leaks started: “My response was clearly erroneous.” He resisted calls to resign, even as critics called for his indictment for perjury. Senator Rand Paul said Clapper should share a jail cell with Snowden himself.
“I’m convinced that if we’d explained the program and the need, Prism would have been no more controversial than the FBI storing millions of fingerprints.”
Over the past year, the explanation that Clapper has settled on is that he simply got confused answering Wyden’s question. Clapper says he was thinking about the programs that collected content, while Wyden was asking about programs that collected metadata. “The popular narrative is that I lied, but I just didn’t think of it. Yes, I made a mistake, but I didn’t lie. There’s a big difference.”
Clapper knows the Wyden exchange and Snowden revelations will dominate his legacy. “I’m quite sure that will be in the first line of my Washington Post obituary,” he says. “But that’s life in the big city.”
IF ANYTHING, CLAPPER SAYS, the public backlash over the Snowden leaks surprised him—and the intelligence community as a whole. “The shock was a shock,” he says. His agencies thought they were doing exactly what the American people wanted them to be doing—using every tool legally available to them. “I never met a collection capability I didn’t like, you know?” he jokingly told a group of intel leaders this fall.
In his mind the adverse reaction stemmed in part from the fact that, in the era after 9/11, the Bush administration claimed too much power for its sprawling war on terror in secret. More should have been publicly debated and authorized by Congress, he says, including the sweeping domestic surveillance program that lay at the heart of Snowden’s explosive disclosures. Clapper believes that in the wake of the September 11 attacks, the public and Congress would have given the nation’s spies almost anything they requested. “We could’ve gotten legislation to drive a truck through,” Clapper says. “I’m convinced that if we’d explained the program and the need, Prism would have been no more controversial than the FBI storing millions of fingerprints.”
In fact, he says, while the legislative changes after Snowden’s revelations made the process slower for the NSA, it greatly boosted the total amount of data the agency could legally access. “Instead of the NSA storing the data, we go to the companies and ask them for it,” he says. “It actually gave us broader access across a broader range of providers than the original programs. If people think their civil liberties and privacy are going to be better protected by the providers, OK.”
THE COMING THREATS
The new presidential administration will need to look ahead to a whole range of emerging technological threats, many of which are being studied inside a spy skunkworks called the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity, led by director Jason Matheny. —G.M.G.
Human genomic modification
What if you could create a population of a million Einsteins? As gene science advances, countries will likely adopt human modifications at different rates—and might even select for different traits. “There are plausible scenarios where there are strong first-mover advantages,” Matheny says.
Increased reliance on satellites for GPS, weather forecasting, communications, imaging, and mapping will likely make space one of the first battlefields of the next major war. Russia has been building new radar jammers and laser weapons that could blind US satellites, and China has tested an anti satellite missile.
The rapid advance and miniaturization of 3-D printers will give individuals an ability to manufacture weapons that until recently belonged only to nations. “You could imagine a state 10 years from now where someone could use insect-sized drones that were built by 3-D printers, then weaponized with botulism toxin,” Matheny says.
As more companies and governments invest in machine learning programs, Matheny is concerned about the unintended consequences of letting these systems out onto the Internet. “We worry about how those systems are embedded in critical infrastructure—financial systems, energy systems, weapon systems.”
Advancing technology could allow scientists to create new superviruses—or even bring back extinct diseases. Scientists have been able to synthesize the poliovirus and make designer forms of deadly mousepox and cowpox. “There’s a line that nature is the best bioterrorist,” Matheny says. “We don’t actually know that’s true.”
Since the Snowden breach, Clapper has tried to make more of an effort to talk publicly about the intelligence community’s work and release more of its records. This is partly just a concession to an unkind reality: Clapper doesn’t really think it’s possible to prevent another Snowden. Indeed, evidence suggests there is at least one other leaker still siphoning information about more recent classified NSA programs. He believes his workforce has to get out in front of a new era in which the government can hide far less. “At some point there will need to be a fairly fundamental change in the classification system,” he warned intelligence executives this fall. The current one, he said, “was born in a hard-copy paper era, and the rules we have today really aren’t compatible with technology and the way we conduct our business.”
That’s similar to what Wyden says he’s been arguing for years. The past decade has shown that secrets don’t keep, he says, and when the American people discover they’re being misled, that undermines their trust in government and leads them to question its morality and ethics. “The whole history of America is that the truth eventually comes out,” Wyden says. “I continue to be concerned about how, in the intelligence community, too often what the American people are told isn’t in line with what I learn about privately. That’s not right.”
Among other small steps toward openness, Clapper has overseen an effort to ease into public view more information about the drone program, which has faced increasing opposition, particularly after the September 2011 killing of Anwar al-Aulaqi, an American cleric who had embraced al Qaeda and become a top leader of its affiliate in Yemen. That strike, which also killed another American, Samir Khan, and a second strike weeks later, which accidentally killed al-Aulaqi’s 16-year-old son, brought new attention to the killing of US citizens abroad by US intelligence and military without judiciary oversight.
In July, Clapper disclosed for the first time the government’s tally of civilians killed by drones in areas outside of hostile activities. Released around 6 pm on Friday of the Fourth of July holiday weekend, the tally was widely derided as laughably low—between 2009 and 2015, Clapper said, the US conducted 473 drone strikes, killing around 2,500 “combatants” and between 64 and 116 “noncombatants.” These are just a fraction of the numbers that have been compiled by nongovernmental groups, which estimate more like 450 civilian dead in Pakistan alone. But Clapper told me he stands by his figures. “We did expose the full truth,” he says. Then he adds a curious caveat: “I think that’s a fair and accurate representation to the extent that we could be public about it.”
Wyden says he has indeed seen a recent shift toward transparency in Clapper’s empire. The new NSA director, Michael Rogers, has been much more open with Congress. “I’m quite encouraged by Mike Rogers’ approach,” Wyden says. “He’s been very different.” But mostly Clapper’s critics say that while the intelligence world might be offering more transparency at the margins, they haven’t seen evidence of any major philosophical shift. The ACLU’s principal technologist, Christopher Soghoian, says that while Clapper’s office has started a tumbler and pushed to declassify some significant historical documents—including the drone casualty report and 28 long-hidden pages of a post-9/11 government investigation that dealt with Saudi Arabia’s role in financing and coordinating the attacks—it has yet to make public or confirm the existence of a single surveillance program or tool not exposed by Snowden. “To the casual observer it might seem like the DNI’s being more transparent,” Soghoian says. “What I think is that the DNI’s office has embraced transparency theater.”
One of the biggest projects of Clapper’s tenure post-Snowden has been to declassify thousands of the top-secret intelligence dossiers, known today as the President’s Daily Brief, that have been delivered to the Oval Office every morning since the Kennedy administration. Over the past year, Clapper and CIA director John Brennan have disclosed the majority of them up through the Ford administration.
In August the two men traveled to the Richard Nixon Presidential Library to mark the release of some 2,500 Nixon and Ford-era briefings. Clapper spent the flight to California hunched over his laptop, reading the declassified documents. The experience was an odd one, he admitted, because the papers still had plenty of redactions—white boxes blocking out snippets and paragraphs of text. It had been years since Clapper had read documents in which anything was redacted from his eyes. “I do have to say that as I was reading, I was thinking, ‘I wonder why we redacted that? Could we have released more? What were we covering up right there?’”
Just weeks before Election Day 2016, Clapper accused Russian officials of meddling in US politics, hacking campaigns and political parties.
Before the event at the Nixon library, he and Brennan took a private tour of the museum, which was undergoing an extensive renovation. The guide explained that once construction was complete, the tour would begin not with Nixon’s birth but with the turbulent 1960s. “We’ll start people with the chaos of 1968. By the time they finish walking through, they’ll be wondering why anyone wanted to be president then,” the energetic young guide explained.
As the two intel chiefs walked into the next gallery, Clapper muttered under his breath to Brennan, “Still a valid question.”
ONE OF THE MOST ALARMING threats that has dogged Clapper’s tenure is a form of warfare that the United States itself pioneered. In 2008 a secret team of Israeli and American operatives unleashed the Stuxnet virus on Iran’s Natanz nuclear plant, using the worm to physically destroy the plant’s uranium centrifuges. It is widely considered the first major modern cyberweapon. The covert attack came to light in 2010, just as Clapper was taking office.
In the years since, other nations have attacked the US, from Iran’s theft of customer data from the Las Vegas Sands casino in 2014 to North Korea’s hack of Sony’s email servers. Just weeks before Election Day 2016, Clapper accused Russian officials of meddling in US politics, hacking campaigns and political parties. Those assaults were minuscule compared to what the US will face in the years to come, Clapper says. He’s worried not just about data destruction and theft but about what he calls the “next push of the envelope”: data manipulation, whereby adversaries subtly edit and corrupt information inside US computer systems, undermining confidence in government or industry records.
Government and private networks aren’t nearly as secure as they need to be, Clapper says. At the same time, he sees the offensive capability of the NSA and the Pentagon as key to keeping the peace online. Clapper has lamented the rapid spread of apps and services that offer end-to-end encryption; he argues that Snowden’s revelations have “sped up” the world’s adoption of advanced encryption by as much as seven years. He says that he and FBI director James Comey have never advocated for backdoor access to private data—a move that critics say is sure to make everyone more vulnerable to hacking by third parties who will inevitably discover and exploit the same back door. He believes the government needs to work with the tech industry to balance society’s desire for security with concerns over personal privacy. “I think with all the creativity and intellectual horsepower that’s in the industry, if they put their minds to it and some resources, they could come up with a solution.” He wonders if a type of escrow system in which encryption keys could be held by multiple parties would work. “There’s got to be a better way than this absolutist business, so that pornographers, rapists, criminals, terrorists, druggies, and human traffickers don’t get a pass.” Clapper has little faith in encryption as a bulwark against cyber attacks. Instead he thinks the answer lies in a strategy of deterrence.
“People understood nuclear deterrence. Cyber’s much harder to grasp. I don’t want that homework assignment.”
That’s why it doesn’t bother him that America inaugurated the era of cyber warfare. “I’m glad, if we were in fact the first,” he says. He hopes that the use of weapons like Stuxnet—and their demonstrated power to wreak real-world havoc—will eventually help keep the peace between state adversaries and perhaps even engender a strategic analogue to the cold war’s mutually assured destruction doctrine. If nations recognize that any act of cyberaggression is certain to result in retaliatory strikes that will wipe out their own critical systems, then they won’t act. “Until we create the substance and psychology of deterrence, these attacks are going to continue,” he says. He has little idea what that strategic deterrence looks like, though. “People understood nuclear deterrence. Cyber’s much harder to grasp.” That’s one problem for which he’s happy to pass the buck to his successor: “I don’t want that homework assignment.”
In other respects too, he says, the nation needs to look further ahead. America is too preoccupied with terrorism and not focused enough on the most troubling long-range threats—from war in space, as China and Russia build antisatellite capability and threaten America’s dominance of technologies like GPS, to the ways in which artificial intelligence and human genomic modification could endanger national security. I ask him if the American people should just get used to terrorism attacks like those in Paris or San Bernardino, California. “I do,” he replies, his words clipped. “Got used to the cold war—went on a long time. Decades.”
WHILE CLAPPER GRUDGINGLY accepts the damage the Snowden affair has done to his own reputation, he worries more deeply about the impact it’s had on the intelligence workforce. He hates the thought that America might turn on his employees. He fears that, in the same way the nation and Congress turned their backs on the CIA officers who ran the agency’s “black sites” and torture program in the wake of 9/11, the country will one day turn on the people who carry out drone attacks. “I worry that people will decide retroactively that killing people with drones was wrong, and that will lead us to criticize, indict, and try people who helped kill with drones,” he says.
“I find it really bothersome to set a moral standard retrospectively,” he says. “People raise all sorts of good questions about things America has done. Everyone now agrees that interning Japanese [Americans] in World War II was egregious—but at the time it seemed like it was in the best interests of the country.” Clapper, who endured a $40 million Senate investigation and condemnation of the CIA’s torture program, says he is concerned that today’s spies are at risk of similar changes in the political winds—where legally authorized actions they undertook in good faith become the basis for political witch hunts. He argues that during the past 15 years, the intelligence community has made mistakes—but it’s never willfully violated the law.
“I have always accepted intelligence was an honorable profession. We are all mindful of the need to comply with our moral values and the law.”
Just as discomfiting to Clapper is the idea that such witch hunts will in turn lead his employees to question the worth and honor of their work. That’s why the question at the Omaha town hall meeting bothered him: Is spying moral? As he stood before a sea of suits and military uniforms, formulating his answer, Clapper knew something the rest of the room didn’t. That very week the FBI was hot on the trail of yet another Booz Allen Hamilton contractor it thought might be responsible for yet another round of leaks about classified NSA surveillance programs.
After a pause, Clapper answered unapologetically: “We can do our job with a clear conscience, but we have to be careful. The history of the intelligence community is replete with violations of the trust of the American people.” That doesn’t mean that the job is immoral—it just means the job has to be done correctly. “I have always accepted intelligence was an honorable profession. We are all mindful of the need to comply with our moral values and the law.”
Clapper’s grandson—who is about the same age as Clapper was when he was commissioned in the Air Force as an intelligence officer—recently started a technology job at the CIA. The two men, 53 years apart in age, have had long conversations over the past year about technology, the future of US intelligence, and its workforce. Clapper says he believes the intelligence world is doing fine with recruiting new hires but struggles to retain staff, particularly technologists lured by private-sector salaries and fewer restrictions. “When I was commissioned in the Air Force, I was committed to the institution for a career. He and those of his generation don’t look at it that way. They’re not as wedded to institutions,” Clapper says.
“I’ve worked at least part of every day for the last six years. When we finish talking, I’m going to keep working. I’ve got to be in the Oval tomorrow morning.”
Although he’ll enjoy a single Bombay gin and tonic or martini some nights, Clapper doesn’t have much opportunity to really relax. “Have you had a day off in the last six years? Really off?” he asks me, a rhetorical question that turns uncomfortable as he waits for an answer. It’s past 10 pm aboard his Air Force Gulf stream as we travel back to DC from the Nixon library event , and we are still an hour from landing at Joint Base Andrews. “I haven’t,” he finally continues. “I’ve worked at least part of every day for the last six years. When we finish talking, I’m going to keep working. Then tonight, I’ll go to my SCIF and keep working. I’ve got to be in the Oval tomorrow morning.”
Clapper says he’s looking forward to leaving it all behind, even if many of his colleagues are anxious about what will come after him. As he said in public appearances this fall, “It makes a lot of people nervous that, with an election cycle that’s been sportier than we’re used to, we’ll drop a new president with new national security leaders into this situation.” Those officials will confront a world that he says looks little like the sound-bite versions offered at rallies. “I’m always struck by the simplicity of the campaign trail—but when I’m in the White House Situation Room, all of a sudden it’s complicated and complex,” he says. When it’s his time to leave in a few weeks, he’ll be happy to say good-bye to the SCIF’s, the briefing rooms, the armored motorcades, the ever-watchful security. He looks forward to cleaning out his basement and, most of all, being spontaneous again.
“Being under surveillance seven-by-24,” he says, pausing. “It’s stressful.” Unlike most of the foreign and domestic targets of the agencies he oversees, though, he knows he’s being watched.
truthtroubles.wordpress.com/ Just an average man who tries to do his best at being the kind of person the Bible tells us we are all suppose to be. Not perfect, never have been, don't expect anyone else to be perfect either. Always try to be very easy going type of a person if allowed to be.
#ActuallyAutistic - An Aspie obsessed with writing. This site is intend to inspire through sharing stories & experiences. The opinions of the writers are their own. I am just an Autistic woman - NOT a medical professional.