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“Investigate the investigators” is one of President Donald Trump’s favorite attack lines against the Russia probe into 2016 election interference.
And now at least one internal Justice Department review of the Russia investigation has morphed into a criminal inquiry. The New York Times reported late Thursday that John Durham, the prosecutor tapped by Attorney General Bill Barr to assess the Russia investigation, is pursuing a criminal inquiry, which will allow him to subpoena witnesses and convene a grand jury if necessary. Though what, exactly, that criminal inquiry is looking into remains unclear. The Washington Post also backed up this reporting on Thursday.
NBC News reported over the weekend that Barr had expanded the review, and that Durham is now interested in interviewing “a number of current and former intelligence officials involved in examining Russia’s effort to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, including former CIA director John Brennan and former director of national intelligence James Clapper.”
Justice Department officials told NBC News that Durham had found something “significant,” but did not specify what.
Durham’s review has been closely overseen by Barr, who’s long expressed skepticism about the origins of the Russia investigation that was later overseen by special counsel Robert Mueller.
In recent weeks, Barr has been globetrotting in an apparent effort to find proof of a conspiracy theory, pushed by Trump and some of his Republican allies, that the entire Russia inquiry started because of a plot by the Obama administration and/or Hillary Clinton to thwart Trump’s presidential campaign.
The expansion of the Justice Department review raises concerns that Barr is injecting politics into this inquiry and using the full weight of law enforcement to pursue right-wing talking points and discredit the special counsel’s probe — just as Trump is facing the threat of impeachment for pressuring Ukraine, including over the conspiracy theory that Ukraine, not Russia, hacked the Democratic National Committee in 2016.
Barr ordered this review of the Russia probe back in May, even though the Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz was already pursuing a similar inquiry. The IG has a lot of powers, including to subpoena documents and witnesses, but he can’t charge people with crimes or even discipline individuals — though he can make recommendations to prosecutors.
The inspector general’s investigation has been ongoing since March 2018. According to the New York Times, Horowitz told Congress Thursday that they are wrapping up that investigation, but the public has been hearing that the IG is a few weeks from releasing his report since the spring.
It’s not clear whether Horowitz might have made a criminal referral to the Justice Department, but if and when the report is released, it might offer some clues as to what Barr and Durham are looking at.
Horowitz told Congress in September that he had shared information with Durham. “I have had communications with him, but it’s really — they’re a separate entity that he’s working on at the direction of the attorney general,” Horowitz said. “I’m obviously independent.”
All of which is to say Barr’s “investigation into the investigators” is still really opaque and somewhat alarming because the details are so fuzzy.
Special counsel Robert Mueller did not find a criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, but it made clear that the Trump campaign welcomed the Kremlin’s efforts.
It also documented Russia’s interference in the 2016 election to benefit Trump, including its online propaganda campaign and its hacking of the Democrats, which led to multiple indictments. The findings have been backed up by the intelligence community and a GOP-led Senate panel.
Russia is at it again (along with China and Iran), so this latest news obviously raises concerns that it might muddle the central findings of the Russia investigation ahead of the 2020 elections.
But just because the review now appears to be a criminal inquiry doesn’t necessarily mean there’s anything criminal to be found — or even if there is, that it will confirm the GOP’s talking points about the investigation. Still, Trump has long wanted to diminish the credibility of the Russia “witch hunt.” The question is whether the Justice Department is helping him do that.
What does this criminal investigation mean?
Barr tapped Durham in May to lead this other review of the Russia investigation. Though Barr picked Durham for the job, Barr has made it clear that he himself is also deeply involved — and deeply concerned about the origins of the Russia investigation and the actions the FBI took during the 2016 campaign.
“Government power was used to spy on American citizens,” Barr told the Wall Street Journal in May. “I can’t imagine any world where we wouldn’t take a look and make sure that was done properly.”
Barr’s “spying” reference is tangled up in a web of Republican conspiracy theories about the investigation and its origins in the summer of 2016. The first has to do with the so-called Steele dossier, a lengthy report compiled by former MI6 agent Christopher Steele. Steele’s dossier contained explosive allegations which the Mueller investigation didn’t bear out, so Republicans have been arguing that US intelligence inappropriately relied on this “phony” dossier.
That includes using the dossier in the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Act (FISA) warrant for Carter Page, a former Trump campaign aide with Russia contacts. Republicans believe that the FBI inappropriately relied on this information to surveil Page.
And finally, GOPers have cried foul about the use of confidential informants to talk to former Trump aide George Papadopoulos to find out what he knew about Russia’s efforts to hurt Hillary Clinton, after he spilled to an Australian diplomat that the Russians had political “dirt” on Clinton in the form of thousands of emails. The Australian diplomat tipped off US officials, which prompted the investigation in July 2016. (Yes, these are very complicated conspiracy theories, so if you need a more detailed refresher, read here and here.)
Horowitz, the inspector general, was already looking into these origins of the Russia investigation, which is why Barr’s decision to pursue his own probe was so unusual. And by all accounts, the attorney general has been personally involved, jet-setting to Italy (regarding a professor who met with Papadopoulos) and the UK (Christoper Steele) to get more information. They’ve also been talking to Australia. Oh, and Ukraine, because of a baseless conspiracy theory that Kyiv framed Russia for the hacking of the Democrats in 2016. (For more on the conspiracy world tour, read here.)
Foreign governments have rebuffed the US’s overtures so far. Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte dismissed the idea Italy had any involvement in the opening of the Russia investigation. Australia defended its diplomat and dismissed allegations that he had acted inappropriately. And Ukraine, well, that’s now its own separate mess.
NBC News and the New York Times also report that Durham wants to speak to current and former intelligence officials, though he has not interviewed high-level folks in the Obama administration, such as former CIA director John Brennan or director of national intelligence James R. Clapper. But, according to the Times, in Durham’s interviews with other officials, he asked whether the CIA officials “might have somehow tricked the FBI into opening the Russia investigation.”
New York Times also reported over the weekend that Durham was looking into former FBI officials involved in the case, interviewing nearly two dozen current and former officials. Durham, however, has not interviewed some key players, including former FBI director James Comey and former deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe, both frequent targets of Trump.
Durham is also reportedly looking into FBI agent Peter Strzok, who opened the investigation after getting a tip from the Australian diplomat. Strzok, of course, was removed from the case after anti-Trump text messages between him and Department of Justice lawyer Lisa Page emerged in the investigation.
All of this information is coming in bits and pieces, which means there are a lot of unknowns about what Barr and Durham are looking into with this review. The big question here is whether Barr and Durham are going into this clear-eyed or are specifically looking for information to fit the narrative that’s been pushed by the president about rogue Trump-haters at the FBI and CIA who conspired to cook up an investigation into a presidential candidate.
The Russia investigation was a sprawling inquiry, and it was also unprecedented. It is possible that intelligence or law enforcement officials made missteps or acted inappropriately along the way. That’s what the inspector general, the independent watchdog, was supposed to investigate.
But the deep involvement of Barr — who’s made it clear from the start that he’s fine protecting the president — rightfully raises concerns about whether politics are at play here. Trump is enduring an impeachment battle that grows more damning by the day — but it would be quite a win if the Russia investigation was diminished, too.
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The FBI’s Remote Operations Unit (ROU), tasked with hacking into computers and phones, is one of the Bureau’s most elusive departments. But a recent report from the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for the Department of Justice has now publicly acknowledged the unit’s existence seemingly for the first time. The report also revealed that the ROU has used classified hacking tools—techniques typically reserved for intelligence purposes—in ordinary criminal investigations, possibly denying defendants the chance to scrutinize evidence, as well as destabilizing prosecutors’ cases against suspects.
“Using classified tools in criminal cases is risky for all sides,” Ahmed Ghappour, associate professor of law at Boston University School of Law, and who has researched law enforcement hacking extensively, told Motherboard in a Twitter message.
The ROU is part of the FBI’s Operational Technology Division (OTD), which handles the Bureau’s more technical surveillance methods. The OIG’s report says ROU “provides computer network exploitation capabilities” and has “engineers and vendors who attempt to develop techniques that can exploit mobile devices.” A previous Wall Street Journal report said the FBI can use malware to remotely activate microphones on Android devices.
In 2013, then American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) principal technologist Chris Soghoian uncovered ROU’s existence by piecing together LinkedIn profiles and sections of documents released through the Freedom of Information Act. Soghoian found that an Eric Chuang heads the ROU, and it appears Chuang is still leading the unit now—the OIG report mentions the current head became chief in 2010.
While most of the OIG’s new report focuses on how the FBI did not fully explore its technical options for accessing the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino terrorists in 2016, several sections shine more light on the ROU, and how they are using their hacking tools. One mentions the ROU chief, based on long standing policy, sees a “line in the sand” against using national security tools in criminal cases—this was why the ROU initially did not get involved at all with finding a solution to unlocking the San Bernardino iPhone. Indeed, it’s important to remember that as well as a law enforcement agency, the FBI also acts as an intelligence body, gathering information that may be used to protect the country, rather than bring formal charges against suspects.
But that line can be crossed with approval of the Deputy Attorney General to use the more sensitive techniques in ordinary investigations, the report adds.
“The ROU Chief was aware of two instances in which the FBI invoked these procedures,” a footnote in the report reads. In other words, although it seemingly only happened twice, the FBI has asked for permission to use classified hacking techniques in a criminal case.
It’s not clear which two cases the ROU Chief is referring to. However, the FBI previously deployed a Tor Browser exploit to over 8,000 computers around the world, including some in China, Russia, and Iran, based on one, legally contentious warrant. At the time of the operation in February 2015, the tool was unclassified. But as Motherboard found using court records, the following year the FBI moved to classify the exploit itself for reasons of national security, despite the case being a criminal child pornography investigation.
Motherboard’s recent investigation into the exploit industry found that an Australia-based company called Azimuth Security, along with its partner Linchpin Labs, has provided exploits to the FBI, including one for breaking through the Tor Browser.
Using classified tools in a criminal investigation may pose issues for both prosecutors and defendants. If the FBI used a classified technique to identify a suspect, does the suspect find out, and have a chance to question the legality of the search used against them?
“When hacking tools are classified, reliance on them in regular criminal investigations is likely to severely undermine a defendant’s constitutional rights by complicating discovery into and confrontation of their details,” Brett Kaufman, a staff attorney at the ACLU, told Motherboard in an email. “If hacking tools are used at all, the government should seek a warrant to employ them, and it must fully disclose to a judge sufficient information, in clear language, about how the tools work and what they will do,” he added.
And on the flip side, if the FBI uses a classified and sensitive tool in an ordinary case, and has to reveal information about it in court, the exploit may then be fixed by the affected vendor, such as, say, Apple. Some may seen that as a positive, but the FBI might have to drop their charges against a criminal as well.
“It’s also a risk for the government, who may be ordered to disclose classified information to the defense to satisfy due process, or face dismissal of the case,” Ghappour said.
With the mentioned Tor Browser attack, a judge ordered the FBI to give defense counsel the code of the exploit; the FBI refused, meaning the evidence the related malware obtained was thrown out altogether.
A spokesperson for the FBI declined to comment on the ROU’s cross-over into criminal cases, and instead pointed to page 16 of the report, which reads, in part, that “FBI/OTD has realigned mission areas for several Units in preparation for a larger re-organization.”
The post The #FBI Used #Classified #Hacking #Tools in Ordinary #Criminal #Investigations appeared first on National Cyber Security Ventures.
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FireEye has caught the hacker behind a well-publicised attack that leaked a security researcher’s details and claimed to infiltrate the company’s networks earlier this year.
Mandiant employee Adi Peretz was the attack’s main victim as a number of his online accounts were exposed. Mandiant is a division of FireEye.
The alleged hacker, who went by the username of LeakTheAnalyst, has now been arrested according to reports, although their name and location have not been made public.
“These attackers rarely, if ever get caught…Over my career, I have found it frustrating how little risk or repercussions exist for the attackers, who hide behind the anonymity of the internet to cause harm to good, well-intentioned people,” Mandia says in a statement.
In addition to OneDrive accounts and PayPal invoices, Peretz’s LinkedIn login was compromised and his page was allegedly defaced by the hacker. The hacker also claimed to have gained access to Mandiant’s systems and customer data.
It was fun to be inside a giant company named ‘Mandiant’ we enjoyed watching how they try to protect their clients and how their dumb analysts are trying to reverse engineer malwares and stuffs. Now that ‘Mandiant’ knows how deep we breached into its infrastructure its so-called threat analysts are trying to block us. Let’s see how successful they are going to be :D,” the hackers’ say as part of their data dump,” a post on PasteBin said.
Two weeks later, the hacker posted another batch of information apparently from the data dump. They also claimed that FireEye was conducting a coverup.
“Well we were waiting FireEye for a public comment and FireEye lied again, and they lied in cost of their customers. They did a mistake. They knew we had access to JIRA, Their IDF workshop wasn’t a part of Adi Peretz’s job. They knew Adi Peretz wasn’t working on Bank Hapoalim,” The PasteBin dump says.
“They said our documents was “public”, are license files, private contract documents, private IDF workshops and internal network topologies public? If they weren’t public why did you removed our files and from public file hosting? Why did you removed our first Pastebin message? They knew the truth and they’re hiding it from their customers and the public,” it continues.
“Therefore, I am pleased that, in this case, we were able to impose repercussions for the attacker and achieve a small victory for the good guys,” Mandia concludes.
The post “Victory for the #good guys” – #criminal behind #Mandiant #hack arrested appeared first on National Cyber Security Ventures.
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The internet is the first thing humanity has built that humanity doesn’t understand Cyber crime is one of the fastest growing areas of criminal activity in the world and policing it is no longer considered exclusive to law enforcement. INTERPOL Secretary General Jürgen Stock in January 2016 stated “[…] cyber…
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The largest criminal marketplace on the internet, AlphaBay, has been seized by the U.S. Department of Justice with the help of Atlanta-based investigations, officials said Thursday. An AlphaBay staffer was identified through an ongoing investigation conducted in Atlanta, DOJ spokesman Bob Page said. Officials said the “dark web” operation started…
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To Purchase This Product/Services, Go To The Store Link Above Or Go To http://www.become007.com/store/ Horrific Human Trafficking Criminal Exposed in Birmingham, UK He was name as Zakaria Saqib Mahmood by the Police Zakaria Saqib Mahmood, Pakistani origin 40 years old living in 70 Eversleigh Road, …
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Singapore has recently passed amendments to the Computer Misuse and Cybersecurity Act introducing new criminal sanctions for serious data protection and cybersecurity breaches. This development reflects similar moves by data …
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A Florida mother wants to know why her 10-year-old son with autism was dragged away from his elementary school in handcuffs and forced to spend a night behind bars. Luanne Haygood told RT America’s Marina Portnaya the police were “certainly not trained.”
A mother in Florida watched as her 10-year-old son was dragged away from his elementary school in handcuffs and forced to spend the night in jail for an incident that took place last year.
Luanne Haygood captured footage of two school resource officers at Okeechobee Achievement Academy who grabbed her son by the wrists.
“I don’t want to be touched,” John Benjamin Haygood, who was slumped over in his chair, pleaded with the officers.
The post ‘Treated like a criminal’: Florida mother of arrested 10yo with autism demands answers appeared first on Parent Security Online.
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Source: National Cyber Security – Produced By Gregory Evans The parents of Karim Baratov, the Canadian accused in a massive cyberattack of half a billion Yahoo accounts, say the charges against their son are unfounded and it will be proven in court that he is being used as a … The post ‘He’s not a […]
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