U.S. needs to stop Russian electoral interference, NSA’s top civilian leader says

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

U.S. needs to stop Russian electoral interference, NSA’s top civilian leader says

March 25 at 6:48 PM
The U.S. government has not figured out how to deter the Russians from meddling in democratic processes, and stopping their interference in elections, both here and in Europe, is a pressing problem, the top civilian leader of the National Security Agency said.The NSA was among the intelligence agencies that concluded that Russian President Vladi­mir Putin ordered a cyber-enabled influence campaign in 2016 aimed at undermining confidence in the election, harming Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and helping elect GOP nominee Donald Trump.“This is a challenge to the foundations of our democracy,” said NSA Deputy Director Richard Ledgett, 58, who is retiring at the end of April, in an interview at Fort Meade, Md., the agency’s headquarters. “It’s the sanctity of our process, of evaluating and looking at candidates, and having accurate information about the candidates. So the idea that another nation-state is [interfering with that] is a pretty big deal and something we need to figure out. How do we counter that? How do we identify that it’s happening — in real-time as opposed to after the fact? And what do we do as a nation to make it stop?”The lack of answers, he said, “as an American citizen . . . gives me a lot of heartburn.”

Ledgett, known as a straight-shooting, unflappable intelligence professional, began his NSA career in 1988 teaching cryptanalysis — how to crack codes — and rose to become the agency’s top civilian leader . The NSA, with 35,000 civilian and military employees, gathers intelligence on foreign targets overseas through wiretaps and increasingly by cyberhacking. Its other mission is to secure the government computers that handle classified information and other data critical to military and intelligence activities.

Asked whether the NSA had any inkling that the Kremlin was going to orchestrate the release of hacked Democratic National Committee emails last July, he demurred. “I actually don’t want to talk about that.”

At the same time, he said, what Moscow did was “no strategic surprise.” Rather, “what may have been a tactical surprise was that they would do it the way they did.”

Campaigns of propaganda and disinformation, dating back to the Soviet Union, have long been a staple of the Kremlin’s foreign policy. Now, however, it is making effective use of its hacking prowess to weaponize information and combine it with its influence operations, or what intelligence officials call “active measures.”

“In general, if you’re responding to nation-state actions like that, you have to find out what are the levers that will move the nation-state actors and are you able and willing to pull those levers?” said Ledgett when asked how the United States should respond.

The Obama administration slapped economic sanctions on two Russian spy agencies involved in hacking the DNC, three companies believed to have provided support for government cyber operations, and four Russian cyber officials. The administration also ordered 35 Russian operatives to leave the United States and shut down Russian-owned facilities on Maryland’s Eastern Shore and on Long Island believed to have been used for intelligence purposes.

Yet, intelligence officials including NSA Director Michael S. Rogers and FBI Director James B. Comey said on Monday that they believe Moscow will strike again — in 2020, if not in 2018.

So should the government mull other options, such as hacking Russian officials’ emails or financial records and releasing them in a bid to embarrass or show corruption? “I think every element of national power is something we should consider,” he said. “That would probably fall under something like a covert action. But if that’s the right answer, that’s the right answer.”

Ledgett is probably most well-known for leading the agency task force that handled the fallout from the leaks of classified information by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden in 2013. The disclosures prompted a national and global debate about the proper scope of government surveillance and led Congress to pass some reforms, including the outlawing of bulk collection of Americans’ phone metadata.

But the disclosures also caused great upheaval in NSA’s collection efforts, hurt morale, and damaged relations with allies and with tech firms that enable court-ordered surveillance, Ledgett said. “It was a terrible time for the agency,” he said.

He oversaw the probe of the internal breach; relations with Congress, the White House, foreign governments and the press; and the effort to prevent a recurrence. “There was a bit of a narrative on the outside about this evil agency that hoovered up all the communications in the world and rooted through them for things that were interesting, and that wasn’t actually true.”

The operational hit was significant, he said. More than 1,000 foreign targets — whether a person or a group or an organization — altered or attempted to alter their means of communications as a result of the disclosures, he said. They “tried with varying degrees of success to remove themselves from our ability to see what they were doing,” he said.

The agency, which has some 200 stations worldwide, reworked capabilities including virtually all of its hacking tools. “In some cases, we had to do things very differently” to gather the same foreign intelligence as before.

Raj De, a former NSA general counsel, said Ledgett was relied on heavily by both Rogers and Rogers’s predecessor, Keith B. Alexander. “He has really been a source of steadiness for the agency,” said De, now head of the Cybersecurity & Data Privacy practice at Mayer Brown, a global law firm. “What is particularly notable about Rick is his willingness to engage with all types of people, to keep an open mind.”

In December 2013, Alexander, when he was the NSA director, said that Snowden should be given no amnesty. But Ledgett told CBS’s “60 Minutes” then that “my personal view is yes, it’s worth having a conversation about.”

In his interview earlier this week, however, he said what he meant was that by engaging Snowden in conversation, the agency might have been able to learn what material had not been released and where it was.

Today, he said, there is no longer any need to talk to Snowden. “He’s past his usefulness to us.” Snowden, who is living in Moscow under a grant of asylum, has been charged with violating the Espionage Act, and Ledgett said he should not be pardoned. “I’ve always been of the idea that ‘Hey, I think he needs to face the music for what he did.’ ”

Julie Tate contributed to this report.

If You’re A Poor Person In America, Trump’s Budget Is Not For You

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

If you’re a poor person in America, Trump’s budget is not for you

March 16 at 11:40 AM

If you’re a poor person in America, President Trump’s budget proposal is not for you.

Trump has unveiled a budget that would slash or abolish programs that have provided low-income Americans with help on virtually all fronts, including affordable housing, banking, weatherizing homes, job training, paying home heating oil bills, and obtaining legal counsel in civil matters.

During the presidential campaign last year, Trump vowed that the solution to poverty was giving poor people incentives to work. But most of the proposed cuts in his budget target programs designed to help the working poor, as well as those who are jobless, cope.

And many of them carry out their missions by disbursing money to the states, which establish their own criteria.

“This is a budget that pulled the rug out from working families and hurts the very people who President Trump promised to stand up for in rural America and in small towns,” said Melissa Boteach, vice president of the poverty to prosperity program at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank in Washington.

The White House budget cuts will fall hardest on the rural and small town communities that Trump won, where one in three people are living paycheck to paycheck — a rate that is 24 percent higher than in urban counties, according to a new analysis by the center.

The budget proposes housing “reforms” that add up to more than $6 billion in cuts while promising to continue assisting the nation’s 4.5 million low-income households. If enacted, the proposed budget would result in the most severe cut to the Department of Housing and Urban Development since the early 1980s, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

Trump’s budget plan, by the numbers

President Trump just released his budget plan for the next fiscal year, which proposes some big changes in government spending. Here’s a look at what agencies are helped and hurt by the proposal. (Video: Jenny Starrs/Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

It would also eliminate the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, which coordinates the federal response to homelessness across 19 federal agencies.

The administration’s reforms include eliminating funding for a $3 billion Community Development Block Grant program, one of the longest continuously run HUD programs that’s been in existence since 1974.

The program provides cities with money to address a range of community development needs such as affordable housing, rehabilitating homes in neighborhoods hardest hit by foreclosures, and preventing or eliminating slums and community blight. It also provides funding for Meals on Wheels, a national nonprofit that delivers food to homebound seniors.

Robert Rector, a senior fellow who focuses on welfare at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative Washington-based think tank, calls the community block grants a “slush fund for urban government.”

The White House touts its cuts to what the administration characterizes as “a number of lower priority programs” as a way to “promote fiscal responsibility.” In actuality, it guts federal funding for affordable housing and kicks the financial responsibility of those programs to states and local governments.

Gone would be $35 million in funding for well-known programs such as Habitat for Humanity and Youth Build USA, fair housing planning, and homeless assistance, among other housing help for needy Americans.

Other targets include funding for neighborhood development and a home-buying program through which low-income individuals help build their own homes. Trump also plans to cut the Home Investment Partnership Program, the largest federal grant to state and local governments that is designed to create affordable housing.

“There is no coordinated plan for how to fulfill the same mission. Saying states, local governments and philanthropy are going to help is just passing the buck,” said a HUD official who is not authorized to speak to the media.

The official said workers at the agency Thursday morning were feeling “demoralized” and “worried.”

“This is just a tough, tough time,” the official said. “HUD is no different from any other domestic agency in just feeling as though these cuts are all very arbitrary and unnecessary.”

Poor people need not lean on community banks for financial help, either, because Trump plans to eliminate the $210 million now dedicated toward Community Development Financial Institutions. The program, administered through the Treasury Department, invests in community banks that provide loans and financial services to people living in some of the most distressed communities of the country.

“Cutting that program would be nothing short of a disaster, and the ripple effect would be felt in urban areas and some rural areas all over America,” said Michael A. Grant, president of the National Bankers Association, a lobbying group for black-owned banks.

The administration would also eliminate the Energy Department’s weatherization assistance program, which dates back to 1976 when Gerald Ford was president. Since then, it has provided states with grants that have helped insulate the homes of about 7 million families, using low-cost techniques that have large payoffs, saving money for those families and curtailing U.S. energy consumption. It has also helped establish weatherization job training centers in states such as Utah and New York.

Also on the chopping block: the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, known widely by its acronym LIHEAP. This program, part of the Health and Human Services budget, helps homeowners cover monthly energy costs, or repair broken or inefficient furnaces and air conditioners. The program is usually underfunded; LIHEAP says that on average, only about 20 percent of the households that qualify for assistance receive benefits before the money runs out. Congress sometimes adds funding during emergencies or energy shortages when costs spike.

Trump’s proposed budget would eliminate the Community Services Block Grant, a $715 million program within HHS that funds more than 1,000 local anti-poverty organizations around the country. The organizations provide services ranging from job training to food assistance to more than 16 million people in 3,000 counties. The grants also help communities respond quickly to natural disasters, plant closures and other economic shifts.

Without the grants, there would be little coordination between faith groups, local governments, private companies and nonprofits in addressing the needs of the poor — “just a few unconnected programs that don’t have nearly the impact they have now,” said David Bradley, who founded the National Community Action Foundation and wrote the legislation behind the grants in the early ’80s.

Bradley, though, is “absolutely confident” that Congress will reject the proposal.

“This is the work of a radical right that goes hard after anti-poverty programs,” he said.

The Trump budget would also target the Legal Services Corp., an independent agency that provided $343 million to 134 legal aid organizations for the poor who are tangled up in cases of wrongful eviction, custody disputes, child support or domestic violence.

Legal Services was launched as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s war on poverty with the support of the American Bar Association led by Lewis F. Powell Jr., who later served on the Supreme Court. President Richard Nixon later created a free-standing corporation to administer legal aid funds.

“Here each day the old, the unemployed, the underprivileged, and the largely forgotten people of our Nation may seek help,” Nixon wrote in a 1971 message to Congress. “Perhaps it is an eviction, a marital conflict, repossession of a car, or misunderstanding over a welfare check — each problem may have a legal solution. These are small claims in the Nation’s eye, but they loom large in the hearts and lives of poor Americans.”

In 2015, Legal Services offices closed 755,774 cases — more than 100 for every lawyer and paralegal employed. About 70 percent of its clients are women, and the majority of its clients are white and between the ages of 36 and 59. The program provides lawyers only to people earning no more than 125 percent of the federal poverty guideline, which is currently $15,075 for an individual and $30,750 for a family of four.

“We have a legal system that was created by lawyers for lawyers and assumes you have a lawyer,” said James J. Sandman, president of Legal Services Corp. “If you’re a tenant facing eviction and you’re up against a landlord who has a lawyer, if you’re the victim of domestic violence from someone who has a lawyer, you are not playing on a level field. Legal aid is about fairness in the justice system.”

Alaska’s rural poor get hit by the budget proposal, too, despite having two Republican senators. The Agriculture budget would eliminate the Denali Commission, designed to deliver services to remote, rural communities in Alaska, including Native Americans. The commission, established in 1998, contributes to the construction of health-care facilities, water and sewer systems, power generation and communication systems.

The budget would also zero out funds to help native Alaskan villages obtain access to clean drinking water and modern sewage systems.

Cuts to the Agriculture budget also eliminate the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Delta Regional Authority that encourage economic growth in distressed rural communities. And while the budget allocates $6.2 billion to “serve all projected participants” in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, that is $150 million less than USDA had budgeted.

The White House proposed shrinking Job Corps, a program administered by the Labor Department that provides education and job training to more than 60,000 young people and disadvantaged youth. The proposal called for closing centers that do a “poor job” of preparing students for the workforce, but did not elaborate on how many of the 125 centers nationwide would be targeted.

Job Corps, which was created in 1965 as part of President Johnson’s anti-poverty agenda, helps young adults between the ages of 16 and 24 earn high school diplomas and receive vocational training.

The program faced scrutiny several years ago for going over budget and has been forced to freeze enrollment multiple times since 2011 because of the monetary shortfalls. In 2013, a report from the Office of Inspector General found that the budgetary missteps were caused by inaccurate cost estimates and inconsistent monitoring of actual costs. But since then, the program has taken several steps to keep better track of costs and payments.

The Trump administration would also ax the Senior Community Service Employment Program, which aims to help low-income job seekers age 55 and up find work by pairing them with nonprofit organizations and public agencies. The loss of the program could serve as another setback for older Americans who are still struggling to find steady work after the Great Recession.

The unemployment rate for workers 55-plus was 3.4 percent in February, according to the most recent jobs report. But the rate rises to 7.1 percent if workers with part-time jobs who want to be working full-time, and those who have given up on the job search within the past year, are included, according the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis at the New School.

The goal of the senior employment program is to help participants find permanent work by providing them with training and job experience. Workers are assigned part-time jobs and paid the minimum wage, with the hope that the experience can help them find jobs that are not subsidized by the government. In its budget proposal, the Trump administration called the approach “ineffective” because up to one-third of participants do not complete the program. Of those who do finish, about half succeed in finding more permanent jobs.

Not everyone, though, believes the cuts will be a disaster for the poor.

Rector, of the Heritage Foundation, said the cuts cannot be evaluated in isolation when they represent less than 1 percent of the $1.1 trillion the government spent on more than 80 poverty programs last year.

“The basic line from the left is ‘this program alone is standing between the poor and destitution,’” Rector said. “We have a very large welfare state, and there is waste in that welfare state. It’s important to prune the waste and make these programs much more effective.”

Jonnelle Marte and Caitlin Dewey contributed to this article.

Read more on the budget: 

Poland Confirms Minnesota Man Was Nazi Commander

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

Poland confirms Minnesota man was Nazi commander

March 13 at 2:37 PM
WARSAW, Poland — Poland will seek the arrest and extradition of a Minnesota man exposed by The Associated Press as a former commander in an SS-led unit that burned Polish villages and killed civilians in World War II, prosecutors said Monday.Prosecutor Robert Janicki said evidence gathered over years of investigation into U.S. citizen Michael K. confirmed “100 percent” that he was a commander of a unit in the SS-led Ukrainian Self Defense Legion.He did not release the last name in line with privacy laws but the AP has identified the man as 98-year-old Michael Karkoc, from Minneapolis.

“All the pieces of evidence interwoven together allow us to say the person who lives in the U.S. is Michael K., who commanded the Ukrainian Self Defense Legion which carried out the pacification of Polish villages in the Lublin region,” Janicki said.

The decision in Poland comes four years after the AP published a story establishing that Michael Karkoc commanded the unit, based on wartime documents, testimony from other members of the unit and Karkoc’s own Ukrainian-language memoir.

Karkoc’s family has repeatedly denied he was involved in any war crimes and his son questioned the validity of the evidence against him after Poland’s announcement, calling the accusations “scandalous and baseless slanders.”

“There’s nothing in the historical record that indicates my father had any role whatsoever in any type of war crime activity,” said Andriy Karkoc.

He questioned the Polish investigation, saying “my father’s identity has never been in question nor has it ever been hidden.”

Prosecutors with the state National Remembrance Institute, which investigates Nazi and Communist-era crimes against Poles, have asked a regional court in Lublin to issue an arrest warrant for Karkoc. If granted, Poland would seek his extradition, as Poland does not allow trial in absentia, Janicki said.

“The prosecutor in Lublin intends to direct a motion to the U.S. justice authorities asking that the suspect … be handed over to Poland,” the institute said in a statement.

Janicki added the man’s age was no obstacle in seeking to bring him before justice.

“He is our suspect as of today,” Janicki said.

If convicted of contributing to the killing of civilians in 1944, Karkoc could face life in prison.

The U.S. attorney’s office in Minnesota declined to comment on the case.

Efraim Zuroff, the head Nazi hunter for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, applauded the decision as an important signal even at this late stage.

“Any legal step that’s taken against these people is very important,” he said by telephone from Jerusalem. “It sends a very powerful message, and these kinds of things should not be abandoned just because of the age of a suspect.”

Prosecutors in Germany shelved their own investigation of Karkoc in 2015 after saying they had received “comprehensive medical documentation” from doctors at the geriatric hospital in the U.S. where he was being treated that led them to conclude he was not fit for trial.

Karkoc’s family says he suffers from Alzheimer’s disease.

Zuroff urged that he be reassessed by independent doctors.

“It is a very common occurrence that elderly individuals facing prosecution for World War II crimes make every effort to look as sick and as infirm as possible,” he said.

The investigations in Germany and Poland began after AP’s story in June 2013, which established Karkoc was a commander of the unit and then lied to American immigration officials to get into the United States a few years after the war.

A second report uncovered evidence that Karkoc himself ordered his men in 1944 to attack a Polish village in which dozens of civilians were killed, contradicting statements from his family that he was never at the scene.

“The Associated Press stands by its stories, which were well-documented and thoroughly reported,” said Lauren Easton, director of AP’s media relations, on Monday.

The special German prosecutor’s office that investigates Nazi crimes concluded that enough evidence existed to pursue murder charges against Karkoc.

AP’s initial investigation found that Karkoc entered the U.S. in 1949 by failing to disclose to American authorities his role as a commander in the SS-led Ukrainian Self Defense Legion. The investigation found that Karkoc was in the area of the massacres, but did not uncover evidence linking him directly to atrocities.

The second story, based upon an investigative file originally from the Ukrainian intelligence agency’s archive, revealed that a private under Karkoc’s command testified in 1968 that Karkoc ordered an assault on the village of Chlaniow in retaliation for the slaying of the SS major who led the Legion, in which Karkoc was a company commander.

A German roster of the unit confirmed that Pvt. Ivan Sharko, a Ukrainian, served under Karkoc’s command at the time.

Other eyewitness accounts, both from villagers and members of Karkoc’s unit, corroborated the testimony that the company set buildings on fire and gunned down more than 40 men, women and children.

Other soldiers who served under Karkoc backed up Sharko’s testimony about civilian killings.

Pvt. Vasyl Malazhenski, for example, told Soviet investigators that in 1944 that unit was directed to “liquidate all the residents” of Chlaniow — although he did not say who gave the order.

Sharko also testified in the investigative documents that Karkoc’s company was directly involved in a “punitive mission” against Poles near the village of Sagryn in 1944.

Rising reported from Berlin. Steve Karnowski in Minneapolis contributed to this report.

Iowa Congressman Steve King Blasted For Making ‘Racists’ Comments

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF USA NEWS)

Rep. Steve King blasted for “our civilization” tweet

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) sparked controversy on Sunday for a tweet that expressed support for the far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders. Time
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U.S. Rep. Steve King, an Iowa Republican who last July said white Christians have contributed more to Western civilization than any other “subgroup,” on Sunday found himself again the subject of criticism, this time for saying that Muslim children are preventing “our civilization” from being restored.

King, who was retweeting a message endorsing Geert Wilders, a far-right candidate for Dutch prime minister, said Wilders “understands that culture and demographics are our destiny. We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.”

The original tweet, from the anti-European Union Voice of Europe, media organization, displays a cartoon with an image of Wilders plugging a hole in a wall labeled “Western Civilization.” Nearby, bearded protesters hold signs that say, “Infidels, Know Your Limits” and “Freedom of Speech Go To Hell.”

The caption reads: “Hundreds of Islamists shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Wilders is right for over 10 years.”

King was on the receiving end of criticism from both sides of the political spectrum.

Conservative columnist Bill Kristol tweeted, “Is it worth making the obvious point that what American history has been about is ‘restoring’ ourselves with ‘somebody else’s babies?'”

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean called King “a total ignoramus and no one takes him seriously. He does give off good quotes to outrage people though.”

In a pair of tweets endorsing King’s tweet, former Ku Klux Klan Imperial Wizard David Duke said that if Americans were considering moving, “sanity reigns supreme in Iowa’s 4th congressional district,” in the state’s northwest area, which King represents.

The Washington Post last month noted that while just 64% of the U.S. population is white and non-Hispanic, nearly 89% of Iowa’s population describe themselves that way.

Duke on Sunday also tweeted, simply: “GOD BLESS STEVE KING!!! #TruthRISING”

King has often made provocative comments about “civilization” and what he perceives as a declining role in its development for white Christians.

CLOSE

Meeting last September with Wilders and another anti-immigrant politician, Frauke Petry of Germany, King tweeted a photo with the caption, “Cultural suicide by demographic transformation must end.”

During the Republican National Convention in July, King created an uproar by asserting that white people have contributed more to the advancement of human civilization than any other “sub-group of people.”

Last September, King spoke out against silent protests by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, calling them “activism that’s sympathetic to ISIS.”

The often strident Wilders is sometimes referred to as the “Dutch Trump.” He earned the nickname not just for his love of extreme comments — he has tweeted about “left wing elitist losers,” among others — but also for explicit anti-Muslim views. Wilders has called for the Koran to be banned, and his party’s platform calls for prohibiting new mosques, which he compares to “Nazi Temples.” He has also proposed closing Dutch borders and making “the Netherlands ours again,” The Post reported.

Like Trump, Wilders also sports an outrageous blonde hairdo and is married to a woman of Eastern European descent.

Polls for the Netherlands’ March 15 election have shown Wilders in a close race with incumbent Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

Follow Greg Toppo on Twitter: @gtoppo

Wikileaks: The CIA Is Using Popular TVs, Smartphones And Cars To Spy On Their Owners

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

Wikileaks: The CIA is using popular TVs, smartphones and cars to spy on their owners

March 7 2017

Wikileaks posts alleged trove of CIA hacking tools

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Anti-secrecy group Wikileaks on Tuesday said it had obtained a top-secret trove of hacking tools used by the CIA to break into phones, communication apps and other electronic devices, and published confidential documents on those programs. (Reuters)

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.

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.”

Trump Accuses Obama Of “Nixon/Watergate” Type “Bugging” Of Trump Tower Phones

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

President Trump on Saturday angrily accused former president Barack Obama of orchestrating a “Nixon/Watergate” plot to tap the phones at his Trump Tower headquarters last fall in the run-up to the election.

Citing no evidence to support his explosive allegation, Trump said in a series of five tweets sent Saturday morning that Obama was “wire tapping” his New York offices before the election in a move he compared to McCarthyism. “Bad (or sick) guy!” he said of his predecessor, adding that the surveillance resulted in “nothing found.”

Trump offered no citations nor did he point to any credible news report to back up his accusation, but he may have been referring to commentary on Breitbart and conservative talk radio suggesting that Obama and his administration used “police state” tactics last fall to monitor the Trump team. The Breitbart story, published Friday, has been circulating among Trump’s senior staff, according to a White House official who described it as a useful catalogue of the Obama administration’s activities.

A spokesman for Obama did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Trump has been feuding with the intelligence community since before he took office, convinced that career officers as well as holdovers from the Obama administration have been trying to sabotage his presidency. He has ordered internal inquiries to find who leaked sensitive information regarding communications during the campaign between Russian officials and his campaign associates and allies, including ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

What is next for Trump and the intelligence community?

Washington Post reporter Adam Entous breaks down Friday’s intelligence report on Russian involvement in the 2016 election. (Dalton Bennett/The Washington Post)

Some current and former intelligence officials cast doubt on Trump’s assertion.

“It’s highly unlikely there was a wiretap on the president-elect,” said one former senior intelligence official familiar with surveillance law who spoke candidly on the condition of anonymity. “It seems unthinkable. If that were the case by some chance, that means that a federal judge would have found that there was either probable cause that he had committed a crime or was an agent of a foreign power.”

A wiretap cannot be directed at a U.S. facility, the official said, without finding probable cause that the phone lines or Internet addresses were being used by agents of a foreign power — or by someone spying for or acting on behalf of a foreign government. “You can’t just go around and tap buildings,” the official said.

Trump sent the tweets from Palm Beach, Fla., where he is vacationing this weekend at his private Mar-a-Lago estate. It has long been his practice to stir up new controversies to deflect attention from a damaging news cycle, such as the one in recent days about Sessions and Russia.

Trump’s tweets took numerous top White House aides by surprise, according to a second White House official who was not authorized to speak publicly. There was an expectation that Saturday would be a “down day, pretty quiet,” this official said, and there was little if any attempt to coordinate the president’s message on the wire-tapping allegations.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos Shows Her Hypocrisy And Ignorance After Visiting A Public School

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

Newly minted Education Secretary Betsy DeVos had a hard time getting inside the District’s Jefferson Middle School Academy last week when protesters briefly blocked her from entering. But at the end of her visit — her first to a public school since taking office — she stood on Jefferson’s front steps and pronounced it “awesome.”

A few days later, she seemed less enamored. The teachers at Jefferson were sincere, genuine and dedicated, she said, they seemed to be in “receive mode.”

“They’re waiting to be told what they have to do, and that’s not going to bring success to an individual child,” DeVos told a columnist for the conservative online publication Townhall. “You have to have teachers who are empowered to facilitate great teaching.”

DeVos, who has no professional experience in public education, is an avowed proponent of voucher schools, charter schools, online schools and other alternatives to traditional public schools. Teachers across the country have been galled by what they see as her lack of faith in — and understanding of — the public schools that educate nearly nine in 10 of the nation’s children.

Jefferson educators found her comments about their work hard to take: On Friday evening, the school responded to DeVos via its Twitter account, taking exception to the education secretary’s characterization of Jefferson teachers.

“We’re about to take her to school,” the first of 11 rapid-fire tweets said.

The tweetstorm singled out teachers like Jessica Harris, who built Jefferson’s band program “from the ground up,” and Ashley Shepherd and Britany Locher, who not only teach students ranging from a first- to eighth-grade reading level, but also “maintain a positive classroom environment focused on rigorous content, humor, and love. They aren’t waiting to be told what to do.”

“JA teachers are not in a ‘receive mode,’” the tweets concluded. “Unless you mean we ‘receive’ students at a 2nd grade level and move them to an 8th grade level.”

An Education Department spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Antwan Wilson, who accompanied DeVos on her visit to Jefferson, offered praise after the visit for the “dynamic classroom instruction” they both witnessed there.

Asked Saturday to respond to DeVos’s comments about Jefferson teachers, Wilson provided a statement:

I’ve worked in schools for my entire professional life — as a teacher, principal, and superintendent. I have learned from much experience what it takes to prepare students for college success. The teaching and learning at Jefferson will put our students on a path to college, successful careers, and beyond. I see that. Our teachers see that. Our students see that. And our parents see that. Defying expectations takes experience and a lifelong dedication to all students. DCPS is rich with educators who have this experience.

 

“I find it very interesting that the chancellor saw teachers that were pushing rigorous learning, students asking each other high-level questions and cultivating high-level responses, and teachers who take initiative and give their lives to the education of these children,” said Jefferson teacher Caroline Hunt. “DeVos saw something so different. … Maybe if DeVos knew more about education she would realize just how amazing the students, teachers and staff are.”

Jefferson is five years into a turnaround effort and is one of the fastest-improving schools in the city’s public school system. While fewer than half of students are meeting or approaching grade-level expectations, according to new Common Core tests, the school’s growth has won it classification as a “rising” D.C. school.

The West’s largest coal-fired power plant is closing. Not even Trump can save it

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

The West’s largest coal-fired power plant is closing. Not even Trump can save it

February 14 at 6:51 PM

As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump promised to help revive the struggling coal industry.

It’s looking like a tough promise to keep.

In the past three weeks, owners of two of the nation’s biggest coal-fired power plants have announced plans to shut them down, potentially idling hundreds of workers. One plant in Arizona is the largest coal-fired facility in the western United States.

“[We’re] bringing back jobs, big league,” President Trump said Tuesday after signing legislation that would scrap requirements for natural resources companies to disclose payments to foreign governments. “We’re bringing them back at the plant level. We’re bringing them back at the mine level. The energy jobs are coming back.”

Yet even with his efforts to roll back Obama-era energy regulations, a lot of coal jobs won’t ever return, mainly because of harsh economic realities.

Case in point: The decision this week by the utilities that own the Navajo Generating Station outside Page, Ariz., to decommission the plant at the end of 2019, decades earlier than expected.

The 2,250-megawatt plant has faced increasing financial pressure in the face of record-low natural gas prices, which have made it more expensive to produce electricity at the facility than to purchase it from cheaper sources.

“The utility owners do not make this decision lightly,” said Mike Hummel, deputy general manager of Salt River Project, which operates the plant and owns it along with several utility companies and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

“NGS and its employees are one reason why this region, the state of Arizona and the Phoenix metropolitan area have been able to grow and thrive,” he added in a statement. “However, [its owners have] an obligation to provide low-cost service to our more than 1 million customers, and the higher cost of operating NGS would be borne by our customers.”

Environmental activists welcomed the prospect of closing the plant, one of the biggest polluters in the country. The Navajo Generating Station was third on a 2014 Environmental Protection Agency list of major carbon-emitting facilities.

But its closure would deal its community a significant economic blow. Between the plant itself and the Kayenta Mine — located roughly 80 miles away, it provides all the coal for the generating station — nearly 800 workers could find themselves out of work. Many are members of the Navajo and Hopi tribes, which also receive royalties from the plant. In their announcement, the plant’s owners said the tribes or others could still step in to operate the facility beyond 2019.

Less than three weeks ago, Dayton Power and Light reached an agreement with the Sierra Club to close its Killen and Stuart coal-fired power plants in Ohio due to economic reasons. The plants would close in June 2018, the company and nonprofit said.

The Stuart plant, built in the early 1970s, has a capacity of 2,440 megawatts. The Killen plant, built-in 1982, has a capacity of 666 megawatts.

Dayton Power and Light submitted a closure plan for approval by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. The utility said it would develop solar and wind projects generating at least 300 megawatts of power no later than 2022. It also proposed a variety of energy-efficiency steps and grid improvements.

The Sierra Club applauded the moves, which it said would save $37 million a year in health-care costs by avoiding more than 1,200 asthma attacks, 100 heart attacks and nearly 100 deaths linked to the two plants’ emissions. Both facilities are among the largest sources of pollution in the United States, affecting residents as far away as the Atlantic coast.

“The economics of coal are increasingly bad,” said Bruce Nilles, a Sierra Club lawyer. State governments and utilities commissions “will do a lot to prop up” ailing plants, he said, but “it gets increasingly expensive.”

Dayton Power and Light is a subsidiary of Virginia-based AES Corp.

Trump’s ability to save the Navajo plant and others like it is limited, despite his rhetoric. Even if his administration follows through on its promises to relax regulations on the coal industry, those changes aren’t likely to change coal’s fading market.

And if the owners of coal-fired plants lose money when they operate their facilities, keeping them running makes little economic sense.

188,000 Evacuated As California’s Massive Oroville Dam Threatens Catastrophic Floods

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

188,000 evacuated as California’s massive Oroville Dam threatens catastrophic floods

February 13 at 4:13 PM

Massive dam threat forces 188,000 to evacuate. Here’s what you need to know.

Authorities ordered an emergency evacuation in Oroville, Calif., after a damaged spillway threatened the area with flooding. Here’s what you need to know about the situation. (Monica Akhtar/The Washington Post)

About 188,000 residents near Oroville, Calif., were ordered to evacuate Sunday after a hole in an emergency spillway in the Oroville Dam threatened to flood the surrounding area. Thousands clogged highways leading out of the area headed south, north and west, and arteries major and minor remained jammed as midnight approached on the West Coast — though by early Monday, Lake Oroville’s water level had dropped to a point at which water was no longer spilling over, and the crisis appeared to be stabilizing.

The level in the massive man-made lake reached its peak of 902.59 feet at about 3 a.m. Sunday and dropped to 898 feet by 4 a.m. Monday, according to the Sacramento Bee. Water flows over the emergency spillway at 901 feet.

“The drop in the lake level was early evidence that the Department of Water Resources’ desperate attempt to prevent a catastrophic failure of the dam’s emergency spillway appeared to be paying dividends,” the Bee reported Monday.

Officials doubled the flow of water out of the nearly mile-long primary spillway to 100,000 cubic feet per second, with the hope of lowering the lake level by 50 feet to leave room for upcoming rain. The normal flow is about half as much, but increased flows are common at this time of year, during peak rain season, officials said.

Officials also warned that damaged infrastructure could create further dangers as storms approach in the week ahead. During a midday news conference on Monday, they said they’re continuing to monitor the spillway for erosion. It also remains unclear when residents will be allowed back into their homes. Inmates at the Butte County Jail also have been moved to Alameda County about 170 miles away.

“I recognize that this is displacing a lot of people,” Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea told reporters. “We did this because our primary purpose is to ensure public safety. It was a hard decision to make.”

Dry start to the week, but that will be changing. A series of Pacific frontal systems are lined up and taking aim on the west.

An early morning inspection of the main spillway revealed no additional erosion, the Bee reported, and the Department of Water Resources said water would continue to flow at 100,000 cubic feet per second.

Officials also will have to determine whether the damaged primary spillway will be able to handle high levels of water through the rest of the rainy season, Jay Lund, a civil engineering professor at the University of California at Davis, told the Bee.

Lake Oroville is one of California’s largest man-made lakes, with 3.5 million acre-feet of water and 167 miles of shoreline. And the 770-foot-tall Oroville Dam is the nation’s tallest, about 44 feet higher than the Hoover Dam on the Colorado River. The lake is the linchpin of California’s government-run water delivery system, sending water from the Sierra Nevada for agriculture in the Central Valley and for residents and businesses in Southern California.

After a record-setting drought, California has been battered by potentially record-setting rain, with the Northern California region getting 228 percent more than its normal rainfall for this time of year. The average annual rainfall of about 50 inches had already been overtaken with 68 inches in 2017 alone.

Water overflows into Calif. dam’s emergency spillway

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Water started overflowing into the emergency spillway of Lake Oroville’s dam in California on Feb. 11. (The Washington Post)

There was never any danger of the dam collapsing. The problem was with the spillway, which are safety valves designed to release water in a controlled fashion, preventing water from topping over the wall of the colossal dam that retains Lake Oroville.

Earlier this month, unexpected erosion crumbled through the main spillway, sending chunks of concrete flying and creating a large hole. Then sheets of water began spilling over the dam’s emergency spillway for the first time in its nearly 50-year history.

Water from rain and snow rapidly flowed into the lake, causing it to rise to perilous levels, and sending water down the wooded hillside’s emergency spillway, carrying murky debris into the Feather River below.

“Once we have damage to a structure like that, it’s catastrophic,” Bill Croyle, acting director of the state’s Department of Water Resources, said at a news conference late Sunday, in reference to the erosion of the main spillway. “We determined we could not fix the hole. You don’t just throw a little bit of rock in it.”

Anticipating a possible catastrophe for the Lake Oroville area, located about 75 miles north of Sacramento and about 25 miles southeast of Chico, the Butte County Sheriff’s Office ordered evacuations, adding in a news release that it was “NOT a drill.”

But as the reservoir’s water levels lowered, the flows over the emergency spillway ceased late Sunday night.

California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) issued an emergency order to boost the state’s response to the evacuation efforts and spillway crisis, which Brown called “complex and rapidly changing.” The Federal Emergency Management Agency sent an incident management team to the governor’s Office of Emergency Services.

Despite the minimized threats, Honea, the sheriff, said that he would not be lifting the mandatory evacuation order until water resources officials had a better grasp on the anticipated risks.

The evacuation took residents by surprise.

April Torlone, 18, was at work at a Dollar General in Live Oak, Calif., Sunday evening when she received a flood emergency alert on her phone. She hurried home, she said, where she had about 10 minutes to gather some clothes and her late father’s ashes.

Torlone drove with her mother and sister to her grandmother’s house in Sacramento, arriving well after midnight. The roughly 40-mile trip took six hours, she said. Gas stations were packed and stores were running out of food. Along the way, they saw more than 30 people camped out in their cars on the side of the road, many with trunks full of belongings, Torlone said.

“I just hope everyone is safe and finds a place to stay, and that no one’s homes are damaged,” she told The Washington Post. “It’s honestly so sad.”

Shelters, churches, schools and seven Sikh temples opened their doors, and people offered to open their homes to strangers via Twitter messages. Hotels and motels out of harm’s way filled up quickly, creating communities of the suddenly displaced. Beale Air Force Base, east of Marysville, also opened its gates to area residents and said early Monday that it had received approximately 250 evacuees.

The dam itself remained structurally sound, the state Department of Water Resources said, and officials said helicopters would be deployed to drop bags of rocks into the crevice and prevent any further erosion.

Croyle, the acting Department of Water Resources director, said Lake Oroville would need to lower almost 50 feet to reach levels at which the system would normally operate. Croyle said that personnel were unable to access the eroded emergency spillway Sunday to do repair work. Officials aimed to continue to discharge as much water as possible ahead of upcoming storms, without adding too much pressure to the already damaged infrastructure.

“Our goal is to be able to use that infrastructure throughout this wet season,” Croyle said. Forecasts indicate that dry weather will dominate through Tuesday, but a series of Pacific storms are expected to arrive across the region Wednesday into Thursday, bringing up to four inches of rain to parts of the Central Valley, according to the National Weather Service.

Honea called the evacuation order a “critical and difficult decision” and said he recognized it would cause significant dislocations and traffic jams, which it did. Residents of Oroville, a town of 16,000 people, were ordered to head north toward Chico, while other nearby residents drove south toward Sacramento.

“I recognize how tough this situation is on people,” Honea said Sunday night. “I recognize that we’ve had to displace a lot of people.”

The California National Guard will provide eight helicopters to assist with emergency spillway repair, Adjutant General David S. Baldwin said. All 23,000 soldiers and airmen statewide received an alert to be “ready to go if needed,” Baldwin said. The last time such an alert was sent out to the entire California National Guard was the 1992 Los Angeles riots, which erupted after a trial jury acquitted four officers of the Los Angeles Police Department of the use of excessive force in the videotaped arrest and beating of Rodney King.

Officials said 250 law enforcement personnel were being deployed to patrol the evacuated areas.

Travelers reported traffic at a standstill on some routes, especially on Highway 99 between Oroville and Chico.

Nicholas Mertz, a front desk supervisor at Oxford Suites Chico, told The Post that when he started his shift at 3 p.m. on Sunday, the hotel’s 184 rooms were at 54 percent occupancy, but within an hour or two, the rooms reached full capacity. What began as a normal night quickly turned into “hectic craziness, everything all at once,” Mertz said. The hotel’s five phone lines were ringing nonstop, and hundreds of guests came pouring in.

“It’s never happened that fast,” Mertz said. Larger families of five to eight people packed into rooms, without having to pay the usual fees for additional guests, Mertz said, because “in this scenario, it’s whatever you can do.”

Many guests expressed confusion and frustration, while others spoke of their fears: What would happen to the pets they left behind? Would there be looting in the evacuated neighborhoods? Would their homes still be standing when they returned?

“Not only are you just a front desk person you’re kind of like a therapist as well,” Mertz said.

Kyle Dobson, 41, said he was visiting the dam Sunday afternoon from Yuba City, Calif., and noticed that the lake was higher than he had ever seen it. He said he got a call later in the day that Oroville was being evacuated. By the time he got home, Yuba City had also been ordered to evacuate.

Dobson said he and his wife packed about a week’s worth of clothes for themselves and their four young children, and moved pictures and other belongings to the second floor of their two-story home. For now, they are staying put, but if the situation gets worse, they will drive to Sutter, Calif., to stay with family, Dobson said.

“I’ll stay up probably all night, listen to the police scanner and watch the reports come in,” he said. “The river levels — that’s what you’ve got to watch out for.”

Adriana Weidman of Marysville, Calif., said she heard about the evacuation around 5 p.m. Fearing that nearby rivers would overflow, she rushed to pack as much as she could, then got into the car with her husband and two children, she said. By 10 p.m., the family was still sitting in gridlocked traffic on the way to Colfax, Calif., about 45 miles east.

“It’s scary,” Weidman told The Post. “I’m terrified I’m not going to have a home to come home to.”

Out of an “abundance of caution,” inmates were in the process of being evacuated from the Butte County Jail Sunday night, the sheriff’s office wrote on Facebook.

“We needed to get people moving quickly in order to protect the public and save lives if the worst case scenario did come to fruition,” Honea said.

The damaged primary spillway caused water flowing downstream to become muddy and brown with debris earlier this week, threatening the lives of millions of baby Chinook salmon in the Feather River Hatchery below. In a rescue operation, officials with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife successfully moved about 5 million Chinook salmon to a nearby annex, the department said on Facebook.

The other 3 million baby salmon will remain at the main hatchery, where staff and engineers have rigged a system of pumps, pipes and generators and a sediment pond in the hopes of filtering the water enough to support the fish.

Ironically, the state’s five years of drought caused Lake Oroville’s water levels to plunge to a low of 33 percent of capacity, according to the Los Angeles Times. The lake became a poster child for the drought. In a dramatic shift, Northern California witnessed an extraordinarily rainy winter this year that caused waters to rise to their highest levels in decades.

Berlin Truck Attacker Shot And Killed In Milan Italy

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

ISIS-linked news agency releases video of Berlin attacker swearing allegiance to the radical group

Suspected Berlin attacker killed in Milan
 
Tunisian migrant Anis Amri was shot and killed in Milan early on Dec. 23, after a massive manhunt. The 24-year-old suspect of the Berlin Christmas market attack shot a police officer in Italy before he killed in a shoot-out. (Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post)
December 23 at 10:39 AM
BERLIN — The suspect in the Berlin Christmas market attack was shot dead Friday by an Italian police trainee after an identity check in Milan, ending an international manhunt but raising new fears as an Islamic State video purported to show the attacker calling for more bloodshed in Europe.The 24-year-old Tunisian, Anis Amri, was killed following a dramatic encounter in the Piazza I Maggio in the Sesto San Giovanni area outside Milan, after a two-man patrol stopped him for questioning around 3:15 a.m. on suspicion of burglary.One of the officers requested his identification. Amri responded by pretending to fish in his backpack for documents. Instead, he pulled a gun, shooting one officer in the shoulder.Amri, who spoke Italian, then ducked behind a car, shouting “poliziotti bastardi” — police bastards. The second patrolmen — trainee Luca Scatà — fired back, killing Amri, according to Italian officials.

“He was the most-wanted man in Europe” said Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti. “There is absolutely no doubt that the person killed is Anis Amri.”

In Germany, Federal Attorney General Peter Frank said fingerprints confirmed Amri was the man killed. But German and European authorities grappled with how Amri — who Italian authorities say traveled by train through France — managed to slip out of Berlin and make it all the way to Milan almost three days after he was named as the prime suspect.

Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday thanked Italian authorities, while adding “the Amri case raises a number of questions . . . We will now press ahead and look into in how far state measures need to be changed.”

Hours after the shootout, the Islamic State-linked news agency, Amaq, released a video the purports to show Amri swearing allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-proclaimed caliph of the Islamic State.

Speaking in black-hooded windbreaker on Berlin bridge, only 1.5 miles from the German chancellery, he called on Muslims in Europe to rise up and strike at “crusaders.”

“God willing, we will slaughter you like pigs,” he said in the video, whose date and location was not given but looked like it was filmed in winter weather.

He added, “to my brothers everywhere, fight for the sake of Allah. Protect our religion. Everyone can do this in their own way. People who can fight should fight, even in Europe.”

The authenticity of the video could not be independently confirmed, but previous material released by Amaq has been credible.

Earlier, a statement carried on Amaq described Amri as inspired by the Islamic State.

In Oueslatia, Amri’s bleak home town in Tunisia, news of his death had reached his mother, five sisters and three brothers, who until the end held hopes that the German authorities were after the wrong guy.

His 30-year old brother Walid Amri sounded distressed and was struggling to speak over the phone. Women were wailing in the background.

“This is a very difficult time for the entire family,” he said, before his voice broke.

While Amri’s death ended the hunt for the suspect who drove a truck into a teeming Christmas market on Monday, killing 12 and wounding dozens, it also raised a whole new set of questions.

Amri appeared to travel right under the noses of European authorities, through a circuitous route.

After leaving Berlin, Amri is believed to have traveled by train through the French city of Chambery and appears to have stopped in Turin, Italy, before arriving in Milan, said Alberto Nobili, coordinator of the anti-terrorism department at the district attorney’s office in Milan. Milan police say they have surveillance video placing Amri at Milan’s train station around 1 a.m.

German officials said the investigation would accelerate toward possible accomplices and the route Amri took to escape Berlin. “If there are others who are guilty or accomplices, we will hold them accountable,” Merkel said.

Nobili said Italian authorities were sharing ballistic information with the Germans to ascertain whether the gun used to shoot the Italian police officer was the same one used to slay the Polish driver whose truck Amri is believed to have hijacked on Monday before slamming into the Christmas market, killing 12 and wounding dozens.

His death in Italy also raised serious questions about the handling of the case by German authorities. German investigators only uncovered their single biggest clue — his wallet with identification left in the truck’s cabin — the following day after the attack, suggesting the delay may have facilitated his flight from Germany.

“We need to increase international collaboration against terrorism,” Gentiloni said.

Minniti said he had phoned the wounded Italian officer, Cristian Movio, and Scatà, an agent-in-training. Already, Facebook sites and other social media sites were popping up, including ““give Luca Scatà a medal” and “Luca Scatà world HERO.”

“Thanks to him Italians can have a Merry Christmas,” Minniti said.

By heading to Italy, Amri was, to some extent, retracing his steps. He had first arrived in Europe in April 2011 on the Italian island of Lampedusa, and spent four years in jail in Sicily, where Italian officials believe he was radicalized.

The news of Amri’s death came as German police said they had thwarted yet another terrorist attack planned against a shopping mall and arrested two brothers from Kosovo.

Authorities detained the brothers, aged 28 and 31, after receiving an intelligence tip-off, according to North Rhine Westphalia police. Security at the Centro Mall in the western German city of Oberhausen has been beefed up.

Amri had a criminal record in Europe and his native Tunisia, where he was accused of hijacking a van with a gang of thieves. Italian authorities jailed him in 2011 for arson and violent assault at his migrant reception center for minors on the isle of Sicily.

There, his family noted, the boy who once drank alcohol — and never went to mosque — suddenly got religion.

He began to pray, asking his family to send him religious books. The Italian Bureau of Prisons submitted a report to a government ­anti-terrorism commission on Amri’s rapid radicalization, warning that he was embracing dangerous ideas of Islamist ­extremism and had threatened Christian inmates, according to an Italian government official with knowledge of the situation. The dossier was first reported by ANSA, the state-run Italian news service.

The Italians tried to deport Amri but could not. They sent his fingerprints and photo to the Tunisian consulate, but the authorities there refused to recognize Amri as a citizen. The Italians, officials there say, could not even establish his true identity. Italy’s solution: After four years in jail, they released him anyway — giving him seven days to leave the country.

He had previously known links to Islamist extremists, and German efforts to deport him also failed because Tunisia had initially refused to take him back.

In Germany, the case was already having serious repercussions — with talk of pushing through stricter legislation on the deportation of migrants, particularly those with criminal records. The Germans are especially seeking to deport North Africans who have claimed asylum, and whose countries of origin have refused to take them back.

Merkel said Wednesday she had earlier spoken on the phone with Tunisian president Beji Caid Essebsi.

“I told the president that we have to significantly speed up the return process and continue to increase the number of returnees.” she said. “We can be relieved at the end of this week that an acute danger has ended. The general threat of terrorism, however, continues to exist, as it has for many years.”

Pitrelli reported from Rome. Stephanie Kirchner in Berlin contributed to this report.

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Chinese, language, learn, speak, write, textbook, contract, beginner, advanced, intermediate, commercial, marketing, correspondence, characters, radicals, decomposition, business, numbers, numerals, contract, email

Scottish Muslimah

Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart - William Wordsworth

Welcome to Chanty's Cosmos

~~~Never let anyone to dull your Sparkle~~~

Blame Chocolate

and the girl who has too much of it

The Beauty of Words

Mastering social media, writing, and editing

Blog about Mexico's Riviera Maya

MyMexico.Blog : Playa del Carmen, Tulum, Cancun, Chichen Itza, Playacar, Cenotes, Sian Ka'an, Cozumel, Bacalar, Mahahual...

A Hungry Soul

Truth and love is what makes you human

lucialuz.wordpress.com/

Les Mots du Coeur

simplysands

Photography & Inspiration

HorseAddict

The world is best viewed through the ears of a horse.

this tiny blue house

striving to live simply, mindfully and intentionally.

رمادي

كلمات أرصها فأكتشف بمحض الصدفة أنها أنا.

FREE-VERSE POETRY by Douglas Gilbert

free verse for the universe

Vaca Cut Point

11785 5th Ave Ocean Marathon, Florida 33050

The Godly Chic Diaries

Smiling • Writing • Dreaming

ThumbWind

Fun in Michigan's Upper Thumb

Broken Cookies Taste Just as Sweet

there are no perfect experiences in life, but there is still much to savor

Aspie Under Your Radar

Living well on the autism spectrum - just out of public view

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