Friday, May 26, 2017

Texas GOP wants to redistrict before the 2018 elections

They are concerned that unfavorable redistricting may be imposed on them in an upcoming July trial

Go to Original

At least one Texas Republican wants the party’s leader, Gov. Greg Abbott, to take advantage of an upcoming special session to redraw their state’s 36 congressional districts.
That doesn’t seem likely.
The concern seems to be that, because a panel of federal judges is meeting in July for a five-day trial on the state’s current district boundaries, they may wind up facing less favorable political conditions in the impending 2018 midterm elections, according to a report by the Texas Tribune. Three judges in San Antonio ruled in March that the boundaries drawn up for federal congressional districts in 2011 were racially discriminatory, and in April they arrived at the same conclusion about state House districts. If the court that meets in July decides that the current state map is unconstitutional, they could impose redistricting that winds up reducing the Republicans’ gerrymandered advantage in future elections.
On the other hand, using the special session to redraw the districts could help them take control of the situation.
As Republican Rep. Randy Weber told the Tribune, “I can’t speak for my whole delegation but I’ve already reached out to some of my friends back in the legislature…I said, ‘Give me a holler.’ My thought is, if the legislature doesn’t [redraw the map], then the court is going to drop the map, which I think is way outside their constitutional purview.”
Of course, there is no way of knowing that the five-panel judge will in fact order a redistricting, which could make any move from the legislature by Texas Republicans premature.
As Rep. Bill Flores put it to the Tribune, “One attorney will tell you one thing, another attorney will tell you something different. There’s more confusion than consensus.”

Secret court rebukes NSA for 5-year illegal surveillance of U.S. citizens

Go to Original

U.S. intelligence agencies conducted illegal surveillance on American citizens over a five-year period, a practice that earned them a sharp rebuke from a secret court that called the matter a “very serious” constitutional issue.
The criticism is in a lengthy secret ruling that lays bare some of the frictions between the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and U.S. intelligence agencies obligated to obtain the court’s approval for surveillance activities.
The ruling, dated April 26 and bearing the label “top secret,” was obtained and published Thursday by the news site Circa.
It is rare that such rulings see the light of day, and the lengthy unraveling of issues in the 99-page document opens a window on how the secret federal court oversees surveillance activities and seeks to curtail those that it deems overstep legal authority.
The document, signed by Judge Rosemary M. Collyer, said the court had learned in a notice filed Oct. 26, 2016, that National Security Agency analysts had been conducting prohibited queries of databases “with much greater frequency than had previously been disclosed to the court.”
It said a judge chastised the NSA’s inspector general and Office of Compliance for Operations for an “institutional ‘lack of candor’ ” for failing to inform the court. It described the matter as “a very serious Fourth Amendment issue.”
The Fourth Amendment protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures by the government, and is a constitutional bedrock protection against intrusion.
Parts of the ruling were redacted, including sections that give an indication of the extent of the illegal surveillance, which the NSA told the court in a Jan. 3 notice was partly the fault of “human error” and “system design issues” rather than intentional illegal searches.
The NSA inspector general’s office tallied up the number of prohibited searches conducted in a three-month period in 2015, but the number of analysts who made the searches and the number of queries were blacked out in the ruling.
The NSA gathers communications in ways known as “upstream” and “downstream” collection. Upstream collection occurs when data are captured as they move through massive data highways – the internet backbone – within the United States. Downstream collection occurs as data move outside the country along fiber optic cables and satellite links.
Data captured from both upstream and downstream sources are stored in massive databases, available to be searched when analysts need to, often months or as much as two years after the captures took place.
The prohibited searches the court mentioned involved NSA queries into the upstream databanks, which constitute a fraction of all the data NSA captures around the globe but are more likely to contain the emails and phone calls of people in the United States.
Federal law empowers the NSA and CIA to battle foreign terrorist actions against the United States by collecting the electronic communications of targets believed to be outside the country. While communications of U.S. citizens or residents may get hoovered up in such sweeps, they are considered “incidental” and must be “minimized” – removing the identities of Americans – before broader distribution.
The court filing noted an NSA decision March 30 to narrow collection of “upstream” data within the United States. Under that decision, the NSA acknowledged that it had erred in sweeping up the communications of U.S. citizens or residents but said those errors “were not willful.” Even so, the NSA said it would no longer collect certain kinds of data known as “about” communications, in which a U.S. citizen was merely mentioned.
The NSA announced that change publicly on April 28, two days after the court ruling, saying the agency would limit its sweeps to communications either directly to or from a foreign intelligence target. That change would reduce “the likelihood that NSA will acquire communications of U.S. persons or others who are not in direct contact with one of the agency’s foreign intelligence targets.”
The court document also criticized the FBI’s distribution of intelligence data, saying it had disclosed raw surveillance data to sectors of its bureaucracy “largely staffed by private contractors.”
The “contractors had access to raw FISA information that went well beyond what was necessary to respond to the FBI’s requests,” it said, adding that the bureau discontinued the practice on April 18, 2016.


Go to Original

WHAT’S THE PERFECT GIFT for a world leader who has everything? How about secretly buying a $25 million oil tanker for his family? That’s what Azeri billionaire Mübariz Mansimov did for Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the increasingly authoritarian Turkish president, back in 2008. The discovery, published Friday by the Black Sea, El Mundo and other outlets, is the result of a monthslong project by the European Investigative Collaboration network.
Mansimov became a Turkish citizen two years earlier and adopted a Turkish name, Mübariz Gurbanoglu, allegedly at Erdogan’s suggestion. After the deal was struck, his business dealings in Turkey took off, including lucrative contracts with state firms.
Mansimov is also “a friend” of Donald Trump and attended his presidential inauguration. “When the 39 floors of residential and office block Trump Towers opened in Istanbul in 2009, Mansimov was the first customer — buying eight apartments, including the penthouse,” according to the Black Sea.
The deal is complex but, in a nutshell, goes like this: Mansimov purchased a ship and opened a Maltese holding company for it in 2007. In October 2008, another company registered in the Isle of Man that belonged to Erdogan’s brother-in-law and his son purchased all shares for $25 million. The next day, that firm took out a $18.4 million loan arranged by Mansimov. Normal, so far. However, documents show that Mansimov pledged to pay off the entire seven-year loan plus interest in exchange for leasing rights through 2015 (the remaining $7 million of the purchase price was paid by a close personal friend of Erdogan for reasons unknown). Mansimov’s company, which controls two-thirds of Black Sea oil shipping, extended the leasing option through 2020 for $1.2 million a year. All told, the deal amounts to a $21.2 million cash transfer from Mansimov to Erdogan’s family. Despite having supposedly sold the ship to the close friend who paid $7 million in 2011, in three instances since then, Erdogan’s brother-in-law signed documents attesting to be the “sole beneficial owner” of the tanker.
Design: Corino Dragomir
The paper trail for this tangled web of transactions begins in the Malta Files, an investigation led by the EIC, based on a leaked cache of 150,000 documents from Credence Corporate & Advisory Services, a Malta-based “provider of a full range of legal, financial and corporate services,” as well as a scraped version of the Malta Public Register of companies. In total, more than 50,000 companies are included. The project brought together 49 journalists from 13 media organizations in 16 countries, including The Intercept Brasil, L’Espresso, Le Soir, NRC, Der Spiegel, the Romanian Centre for Investigative Journalism /, Mediapart, Politiken, NewsWeek Serbia, El Mundo, Expresso, Dagens Nyheter, Malta Today, and Agência Sportlight.
Malta, a Mediterranean archipelago with less than half a million residents, boasts the lowest effective corporate tax rate in the European Union and has become a preferred destination for tax avoidance in the EU. Malta Files reporting has also exposed offshoring schemes of the Italian mafia, a Russian billionaire’s payday loan empireTurkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirimsoccer stars, and yacht-owning European oligarchs, among others.
While the international webs of interlocking companies and owners are often quite convoluted, the gist of the main scheme is easy to follow: The French corporate tax rate is 33.33 percent; in Malta, the effective rate for the overseas activities of foreign-owned companies is only 5 percent; taking advantage of the open border policies afforded to EU member states, a Parisian firm can open a subsidiary in Malta, declare profits under that subsidiary, pay 5 percent to the Maltese government, and repatriate the rest of the profits back home tax-free, legally stiffing France of any revenues. Malta gets money for nothing, the firm saves 85 percent on its tax bill, and the French taxpayers lose out on millions.
An investigation by the Malta Today newspaper estimates that the business-friendly tax policy netted the country nearly 248 million euros in revenue in 2015 and cost other nations 4.2 billion euros in lost tax income. Those figures increased more than tenfold from 2006. A study commissioned by Green MEPs in the European Parliament found that 14 billion euros in EU taxes went unpaid from 2012 to 2015.
Corporate structures available in Malta that obscure a firm’s owners can also be utilized to facilitate fraud and illegal activities, something the nation denies, but which led a German financial minister to label Malta the “Panama of Europe.”
Malta’s Finance Minister Edward Scicluna said that the Malta Files are “fake news,” adding that the reporting is “unfair and endangers the economy and jobs.” Other EU countries “want to taste our success, especially in the iGaming industry,” he said.
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, responding to the reporting, said, “They tried to say that there is something illegal in our financial services, when the truth is that our financial systems are the same as when we joined the European Union. It is approved by the EU and OECD and we are compliant.”

Brazil’s Malta Connections

Articles published by The Intercept Brasil in collaboration with Agência Sportlight found that multiple individuals implicated in Brazil’s sprawling Operation Car Wash corruption investigation have opened companies in Malta. Notably, two brothers who confessed to laundering $100 million on behalf of disgraced former Rio de Janeiro Gov. Sérgio Cabral opened two companies in Malta just months before signing plea agreements with federal prosecutors. The brothers, Marcelo and Renato Chebar, used Saint Kitts and Neves passports and did not mention the companies in their sworn testimony.
Last week, Ricardo Saud became a household name in Brazil when clandestine video recordings emerged of him delivering briefcases loaded with half a million reals ($152,000) each to representatives of Sen. Aécio Neves and President Michel Temer. Saud, a top executive at the world’s largest meat processor, JBS, opened two companies in Malta in 2010 with the son of Paraguay’s ex-president and a Brazilian real estate investor once convicted for election tampering. The three have a long history of deals in the cattle business, but this enterprise appears to be an attempt to launch an online gambling site just as it was expected that the Brazilian government would legalize the industry. The vote did not pass — a major argument against it at the time was that it would facilitate money laundering — and the site is no longer active.
A Maltese company is also at the center of an alleged influence peddling and kickback scheme related to the 3.7 billion euro sale of 22.4 percent of Brazilian firm Oi to Portugal Telecom in 2010. José Dirceu, a disgraced former top adviser to ex-President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, is being investigated by Portuguese authorities as part of an operation that landed the former Portuguese prime minister in jail.
A full list of individuals and firms with connections to Brazil who appear in the Malta Files can been seen here.
Click here to see all Malta Files articles from EIC partners (the list will continue to be updated as new stories are published).

Trump 'complained to Belgian PM of difficulty setting up golf resorts in EU'

US president said his view of Europe was based on experiences trying to do business, according to account of Brussels meeting

Go to Original

Donald Trump offered an insight into his approach to political life during his 30 hours in Belgium while munching “lots of” Belgian chocolates, it has been reported.
Le Soir, a Belgian daily newspaper, reported that the US president acclaimed the chocolates, which were a gift from the Belgian government, during a meeting with the country’s prime minister, Charles Michel.
“These are the best,” he said, before explaining that his ambivalent attitude towards the EU was a consequence of his experiences trying to set up businesses, notably golf resorts, on the continent.
“He made a lot of references to his personal journey. He explained, for example, the functioning of Europe on the basis of his difficulties in doing business in Ireland,” one source told the Francophone paper.
A second source told the newspaper: “Every time we talk about a country, he remembered the things he had done. Scotland? He said he had opened a club. Ireland? He said it took him two and a half years to get a licence and that did not give him a very good image of the European Union. One feels that he wants a system where everything can be realised very quickly and without formalities.”
Sources further told the newspaper that while Trump was not afraid to interrupt Michel and others, he came with a “positive approach”.
The paper reports: “Donald Trump had no idea of the economic weight of Belgium and even less of what the country represents for trade with the United States. Then he was introduced to the thing in a very visual way. But the president only gave vague attention to it.”
Trump left Brussels on Thursday for the G7 summit in Taormina, Sicily, after meetings with EU and Nato leaders. A French official said Trump, who had spoken favourably of Marine Le Pen, told the newly elected French leader, Emmanuel Macron: “You were my guy” in the presidential vote.
The official, who spoke anonymously to the Associated Press, said Trump told Macron he hadn’t endorsed Le Pen. Trump in April described Le Pen as “the strongest on what’s been going on in France” and said: “Whoever is the toughest on radical Islamic terrorism, and whoever is the toughest at the borders, will do well in the election.”
Trump never spoke publicly about Macron before the vote but called him after his victory and tweeted congratulations, saying he looked forward to working with him.
Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, had endorsed Macron.
Trump’s meeting with Macron was also notable for a long and awkward handshake. Pictures and video showed the two leaders gripping each other’s hands while grimacing slightly.

DHS Public Database Includes Personal Information of Abuse Victims

A Trump administration effort to highlight crimes by immigrants has put victims in potential danger.

Go to Original

The Trump administration's effort to highlight crimes committed by undocumented immigrants has become a nightmare for immigrant victims of abuse, with the personal information of undocumented victims appearing in a publicly searchable database launched last month by the Department of Homeland Security.
Last month, DHS created the Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement (VOICE) office, aimed at assisting the victims of crimes committed by immigrants. At the same time, it rolled out a database called Victim Information and Notification Exchange, or DHS-VINE, ostensibly to provide information on the custody status and detention information of immigrants who have been accused of crimes. But the database appears to contain information about a much broader group of people, including undocumented immigrants in detention who are not suspected of crimes other than lacking legal status—and who are sometimes themselves victims of abuse.
The problem was first highlighted by the Tahirih Justice Center, which supports immigrant women and girls escaping gender-based violence. On Thursday, the group wrote a letter to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement explaining that the personal information of immigrant survivors was searchable in DHS-VINE.
Earlier this month, the center was able to find the personal information of one of its clients in the database. The group then reached out to attorneys who work with immigrant survivors; together, they confirmed that the names, custody status, and detention location of other survivors were searchable in the DHS-VINE system. The database also includes information about where detainees are housed and sends notifications when they are transferred or released, potentially allowing abusers or traffickers to find their victims and cause further harm. "Their listing in the public database is a violation of federal statute which carries significant penalties under the law, and puts survivors' lives in danger," the center notes in its letter.
Immigrant advocates first notified ICE of the problem earlier this month but received no response. They then sent a second letter on May 25, calling for the information of survivors to be pulled from the system immediately or for DHS-VINE to be shut down by Friday.
"We're concerned that DHS does not seem to be seriously considering the concerns of victims of crime," says Archi Pyati, chief of policy for the Tahirih Justice Center. The inclusion of survivors' information, she says, is a violation of federal law protecting the information of people applying for special visas or other protections for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or human trafficking.  
In statements to Mother Jones and other media outlets, ICE said that it was aware of the problems with the database. "ICE continually strives to ensure that information protected both by policy and law is never divulged," the agency said. "When the agency receives evidence suggesting that non-releasable information is unintentionally available, immediate actions are taken to ensure proper mitigation both to correct and to prevent further disclosures." The agency did not respond to questions about how long it would take to remove survivors from the DHS-VINE database. Earlier on Friday, the Guardian reported that some names were removed from the database after the outlet sent an inquiry to ICE. But the names of other survivors remain in the system.
The VOICE office has been criticized for painting immigrants as uniquely engaged in criminal activity despite evidence that immigrants commit crimes at lower rates than US citizens. Shortly after the office launched, the Los Angeles Times reportedthat it was able to find the information of children as young as three years old in the VINE database.
The controversy over the DHS-VINE is the latest blow to immigrant victims of abuse, who have already moved into the shadows as the Trump administration continues to push aggressive immigration enforcement. A recent survey of service providers working with immigrant victims of domestic violence and sexual assault found that three in four providers had worked with survivors concerned about opening themselves up to deportation if they contacted the police or went to court to address their abuse.
Thomas Homan, acting director of ICE, reached out to the Tahirih Justice Center on Friday about the issue. "I assure you that we are implementing additional measures to strengthen the information protections of the system," he wrote.
If survivors' names are still in the database next week, Pyati says advocates will reach out to the agency again. "Now that they're on notice, we are going to pursue every avenue that we can to ensure that victims are safe," she says.

Trump son-in-law had undisclosed contacts with Russian envoy

Go to Original
By Ned Parker and Jonathan Landay

U.S. President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and close adviser, Jared Kushner, had at least three previously undisclosed contacts with the Russian ambassador to the United States during and after the 2016 presidential campaign, seven current and former U.S. officials told Reuters.
Those contacts included two phone calls between April and November last year, two of the sources said. By early this year, Kushner had become a focus of the FBI investigation into whether there was any collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin, said two other sources - one current and one former law enforcement official.
Kushner initially had come to the attention of FBI investigators last year as they began scrutinizing former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s connections with Russian officials, the two sources said.
While the FBI is investigating Kushner’s contacts with Russia, he is not currently a target of that investigation, the current law enforcement official said.
The new information about the two calls as well as other details uncovered by Reuters shed light on when and why Kushner first attracted FBI attention and show that his contacts with Russian envoy Sergei Kislyak were more extensive than the White House has acknowledged. 
NBC News reported on Thursday that Kushner was under scrutiny by the FBI, in the first sign that the investigation, which began last July, has reached the president’s inner circle.  
The FBI declined to comment, while the Russian embassy said it was policy not to comment on individual diplomatic contacts. The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
Kushner's attorney, Jamie Gorelick, said Kushner did not remember any calls with Kislyak between April and November.

"Mr Kushner participated in thousands of calls in this time period. He has no recollection of the calls as described. We have asked (Reuters) for the dates of such alleged calls so we may look into it and respond, but we have not received such information," she said.
In March, the White House said that Kushner and Flynn had met Kislyak at Trump Tower in December to establish “a line of communication.” Kislyak also attended a Trump campaign speech in Washington in April 2016 that Kushner attended. The White House did not acknowledge any other contacts between Kushner and Russian officials.
Before the election, Kislyak’s undisclosed discussions with Kushner and Flynn focused on fighting terrorism and improving U.S.-Russian economic relations, six of the sources said. Former President Barack Obama imposed sanctions on Russia after it seized Crimea and started supporting separatists in eastern Ukraine in 2014.
After the Nov. 8 election, Kushner and Flynn also discussed with Kislyak the idea of creating a back channel between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin that could have bypassed diplomats and intelligence agencies, two of the sources said. Reuters was unable to determine how those discussions were conducted or exactly when they took place.
Reuters was first to report last week that a proposal for a back channel was discussed between Flynn and Kislyak as Trump prepared to take office. The Washington Post was first to report on Friday that Kushner participated in that conversation.
Separately, there were at least 18 undisclosed calls and emails between Trump associates and Kremlin-linked people in the seven months before the Nov. 8 presidential election, including six calls with Kislyak, sources told Reuters earlier this month. . Two people familiar with those 18 contacts said Flynn and Kushner were among the Trump associates who spoke to the ambassador by telephone. Reuters previously reported only Flynn’s involvement in those discussions.
Six of the sources said there were multiple contacts between Kushner and Kislyak but declined to give details beyond the two phone calls between April and November and the post-election conversation about setting up a back channel. It is also not clear whether Kushner engaged with Kislyak on his own or with other Trump aides.
FBI scrutiny of Kushner began when intelligence reports of Flynn’s contacts with Russians included mentions of U.S. citizens, whose names were redacted because of U.S. privacy laws. This prompted investigators to ask U.S. intelligence agencies to reveal the names of the Americans, the current U.S. law enforcement official said.
Kushner’s was one of the names that was revealed, the official said, prompting a closer look at the president’s son-in-law’s dealings with Kislyak and other Russians.
FBI investigators are examining whether Russians suggested to Kushner or other Trump aides that relaxing economic sanctions would allow Russian banks to offer financing to people with ties to Trump, said the current U.S. law enforcement official.
The head of Russian state-owned Vnesheconombank, Sergei Nikolaevich Gorkov, a trained intelligence officer whom Putin appointed, met Kushner at Trump Tower in December. The bank is under U.S. sanctions and was implicated in a 2015 espionage case in which one of its New York executives pleaded guilty to spying and was jailed.
The bank said in a statement in March that it had met with Kushner along with other representatives of U.S. banks and business as part of preparing a new corporate strategy.
Officials familiar with intelligence on contacts between the Russians and Trump advisers said that so far they have not seen evidence of any wrongdoing or collusion between the Trump camp and the Kremlin.  Moreover, they said, nothing found so far indicates that Trump authorized, or was even aware of, the contacts.
There may not have been anything improper about the contacts, the current law enforcement official stressed.
Kushner offered in March to be interviewed by the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is also investigating Russia’s attempts to interfere in last year’s election.
The contacts between Trump campaign associates and Russian officials during the presidential campaign coincided with what U.S. intelligence agencies concluded was a Kremlin effort through computer hacking, fake news and propaganda to boost Trump’s chances of winning the White House and damage his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.

Only Putin is happy with Trump’s NATO Bull-in-China-Shop Catastrophe

Go to Original
By Juan Cole

Back in 2016 the talking heads on tv kept expecting candidate Trump, who made headlines almost daily saying racist and offensive things, to “transition.” Their theory was that he was acting out for his base in the GOP primaries but then would dial it back in the general election.
Months into his presidency, and he’s the same Donald Trump, a bull in the china shop of global diplomacy.
The disaster for US relations (which is already hurting the US economythrough a fall in tourism and investment from abroad) went from the personal to the substantive.
Then there was that awkward moment when he refused to affirm the US commitment under article 5 of NATO to come to the defense of members of the alliance. NATO invoked article 5 and sent tens of thousands of troops to Afghanistan for a decade after 9/11, but Trump isn’t about gratitude or appreciation of others.
The omission was significant because after Vladimir Putin’s unilateral annexation of Crimea from Ukraine and then interference in East Ukraine, European countries are depending on the US to see that the Russian Federation does not go any further.
I know that Crimea belonged to Russia until Khrushchev lightly transferred it inside the Soviet Union to Ukraine in the early 50s, and that there were legitimate Russian concerns about where Ukrainian politics were going and how they would have an impact on the 2 million Russian-heritage Ukrainians in the east. And I know that NATO made a huge error in being aggressive toward the supine Russian Federation and seeking to expand right up to its doorstep, contrary to what the US promised Premier Mikhael Gorbachev. But also in today’s world you can’t do things like annex and intervene unilaterally and by fiat, with no semblance of the rule of law. Crimea should have a referendum under UN auspices and the Minsk process should end in normalization and restoration of rule of law. And if you know the history of Poland, which Russia at some points arranged not to exist at all, you understand the fears, and the significance of Trump’s refusal to allay them.
Or the further awkward moment (does he have any other kind?) when lectured other NATO members about putting more money into the organization and complained about how much their HQ in Brussels must have cost. I think Europe can afford a building in Brussels.
There was that shove he gave the prime minister of Montenegro in his rush to get in front of the cameras, for all the world like a five year old in the kindergarten lunch line.
Or there was the interview he gave in the German press where he displayed that he wasn’t paying attention at the Wharton School when he took macro-economics 101.
The Germans are very, very bad,” he was reported to have said by Der Spiegel. “Look at the millions of cars they sell in the US. Terrible. We will stop this.”
Uh, it isn’t actually bad for the world economy for Germany to sell cars to Americans. Americans got to be the world’s biggest economy by selling cars to other people. More trade is good. American consumers get German engineering.
Consider this little item from WaPo, which says that GM now sells more cars in China than in the US: “The company sold a record 3.9 million cars in China last year, with its Chevrolet, Buick and Cadillac brands proving especially popular.” Protectionism of Trump’s sort could potentially cause the countries of the world to slap punitive tariffs on US goods, driving the world, and the US, into a Great Depression that would make 2008 look like a spring picnic.
GM had been on the verge of breaking even in its European operations last year, WaPo says, when Brexit happened and introduced such uncertainties into the market that the GM executives just decided to sell Opel etc. and turn to Asia.
Trump very publicly supported Brexit, which means he encouraged developments that harmed US manufacturing.
That is, insular white nationalism of the sort that drove the British exit from the European Union has already hurt the bottom line of Americanmanufacturers.
As for the US auto market, it is saturated and GM can’t hope for growth there.
You know what is going to be a growth sector for the automobile industry? Electric cars, to which the Paris Accords are going to give a huuje boost.
Trump is encouraging through deregulation dirty petroleum cars that put out toxic carbon dioxide, which endangers people’s lives. In the meantime, Asian powers like China and India rush to dominate the auto market of the future, electric. It is the Chevy Bolt that gives hope for GM’s future, not protectionist tariffs.
Who has oil to sell, to fuel the dirty cars? Russia and Saudi Arabia, Trump’s (and Rex Tillerson’s) authoritarian buddies.
If a Kremlin covert ops team had actually found a way to program a US president’s visit to NATO and the G7, they couldn’t have done a better job of disruption than Trump did just by being Trump.

Russian Hackers Are Using ‘Tainted’ Leaks to Sow Disinformation

Go to Original

OVER THE PAST year, the Kremlin’s strategy of weaponizing leaks to meddle with democracies around the world has become increasingly clear, first in the US and more recently in France. But a new report by a group of security researchers digs into another layer of those so-called influence operations: how Russian hackers alter documents within those releases of hacked material, planting disinformation alongside legitimate leaks.
new report from researchers at the Citizen Lab group at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Public Affairs documents a wide-ranging hacking campaign, with ties to known Russian hacker groups. The effort targeted more than 200 individuals, ranging from Russian media to a former Russian prime minister to Russian opposition groups, and assorted government and military personnel from Ukraine to Vietnam. Noteworthy among the leaks: A Russia-focused journalist and author whose emails were not only stolen but altered before their release. Once they appeared on a Russian hactivist site, Russian state media used the disinformation to concoct a CIA conspiracy.
The case could provide the clearest evidence yet that Russian hackers have evolved their tactics from merely releasing embarrassing true information to planting false leaks among those facts. “Russia has a long history of experience with disinformation,” says Ron Deibert, the political science professor who led Citizen Lab’s research into the newly uncovered hacking spree. “This is the first case of which I am aware that compares tainted documents to originals associated with a cyber espionage campaign.”

Go Phish

In his 2003 book Darkness at Dawn, journalist David Satter alleged that Vladimir Putin had arranged for Russian security forces to bomb apartment buildings in Moscow in 1999, in an attempt to incite war with Chechnya. In October of last year, Satter received a phishing email that spoofed a message from Google security requiring him to enter his Gmail account credentials, the same tactic used to breach the inbox of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta last year. Satter, too, fell for the ruse.
Later that month, a Russian hacker group calling itself CyberBerkut released a collection of emails from Satter’s inbox, just as Russian hackers dumped pilfered emails from Podesta, the Democratic National Committee, the political party of French president Emmanuel Macron, and others. But in Satter’s case, one of those emails had been very clearly altered.
The original message had included a report by Satter on Russia-focused work for Radio Liberty, the US government-backed news outlet. But the version of the report released by CyberBerkut had been altered to make it appear that Satter was instead coordinating the publication of critical articles on a wide swath of Russian opposition websites, including the site of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. The additions even included a mention of an upcoming article about Russian officials and businessmen by one Russian journalist who hadn’t yet published it, suggesting that she’d been tracked or hacked as well.
CyberBerkut called the doctored leak evidence of US efforts to meddle in Russian politics, and even to inspire a popular revolution. Russian state media outlets RIA Novosti and Sputnik Radio picked up that thread, quoting sources linking the plot to the CIA.
Others have accused Russian hackers of this sort of disinformation trick. But when the Clinton campaign warned that its hacked emails, posted to WikiLeaks, shouldn’t be trusted, it couldn’t point to any specific fakes in the collection. The Macron campaign similarly warned that the emails published from its En Marche party contained unspecified spoofed documents, though in that case En Marche had seemingly planted them as well, in an effort to confuse hackers. The Satter case provides a concrete example.
Citizen Lab notes that CyberBerkut has published fake documents in other cases, as well. They confirm a Foreign Policy report that found the group had altered documents in a late 2015 release to make it appear that George Soros’ Open Society Foundation had funded Russian opposition media and Navalny’s anti-corruption group.

Hacks of State

The Citizen Lab report goes further, though, showing new evidence that the CyberBerkut isn’t just an independent hacktivist organization. They also show that CyberBerkut has key links to the group known as Fancy Bear or APT28, which cybersecurity firms and US intelligence agencies have agreed pulled off the attacks on the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign.
That detective work began when Citizen Lab analyzed the URL shortener, known as, that the hackers had used to generate the link that led Satter to the phishing site. They found they could generate “adjacent” URLs that were almost certainly created by the same user, and that one of those had been used to hack a reporter at the journalism outlet Bellingcat—an attack that the cybersecurity firm ThreatConnect had tied to Fancy Bear.
In analyzing more of the “adjacent” URLs, they found the hundreds of other likely targets of the Russian hackers, including Russian dissidents and foreign government officials. They also discovered that another of the URLs was tied to what appeared to be a test account that security firm FireEye had previously linked to Fancy Bear. And, of course, the Gmail phishing technique matched exactly with the one used against Podesta earlier in 2016.
Citizen Lab’s Deibert admits that none of this is a “smoking gun.” But it’s strong new evidence linking CyberBerkut’s fake leaks to a group already believed to be backed by the Kremlin. “All we can say is that the indicators we uncovered overlap extensively with other public reporting on APT28,” he says. “These, alongside the context of the targets—which match Russian strategic interests both domestically and abroad—provide very strong evidence that Russia is involved in some manner.”
All of which adds up to the strongest evidence yet that Russian hackers are indeed mixing fakes into their leaks—what the report calls “falsehoods in a forest of facts.” And that could reduce the credibility, Deibert says, of journalists who report on the leaks. It adds
a new layer of falsehoods to an era fraught with fake-news accusations. “Campaigns of this sort have the potential to undermine the public’s already low confidence in media,” Deibert says.
But evidence that Russian hackers are fabricating their leaks could also make them less effective. Mixing fakes in with facts may work for Russian propaganda outlets. When it comes to involving US media in Russia’s influence operations, though, reporters may now think twice about trusting the contents of the next dumped inbox covered in Russian fingerprints.