Intelligence Community

CIA conducted aggressive covert cyber operations against Iran, China, as Trump gave it more power

The Central Intelligence Agency, using new powers, carried out aggressive covert cyber operations against countries including Iran, North Korea, China and Russia, a new report says. The operations came after President Trump gave the CIA “sweeping authorization” in 2018 by signing a “presidential finding,” according to Yahoo News, citing U.S. officials with knowledge of the matter. With a presidential finding, the president authorizes covert action necessary to support “identifiable foreign policy objectives” that are deemed “important to the national security of the United States,” according to a U.S. government document. The authorization undoes “many restrictions that had been in place under prior administrations,” and gives the CIA more leeway in authorizing its own covert cyber operations, the Yahoo News report said. Countries mentioned as possible targets include Russia, China, Iran and North Korea. “The White House wanted a vehicle to strike back. And this was the way to do it,” the report added, quoting a former U.S. government official. The new powers gave the CIA more latitude to “damage adversaries’ critical infrastructure, such as petrochemical plants, and to engage in the kind of hack-and-dump operations that Russian hackers and WikiLeaks popularized,” the report explained. The hack-and-dump tactic involves leaking stolen documents or data to journalists or posting it on the Internet. Initially, the Obama administration considered retaliating against Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election by using hack-and-dump but, in the end, the CIA was told to “stand down,” the report stated. John Bolton’s appointment as the National Security Adviser in the Trump administration changed that, Yahoo News reported, citing a passage in Bolton’s memoir, “The Room Where It Happened.” In September 2018, the White House announced a new national cybersecurity strategy to bolster the government’s defenses against foreign adversaries. While cyber-defense was central to the strategy, Bolton also called for a better offense. “We’re going to do a lot of things offensively and I think our adversaries need to know that,” John Bolton told reporters at the time, according to Cyberscoop. “We will identify, counter, disrupt, degrade, and deter behavior in cyberspace that is destabilizing and contrary to national interests, while preserving the United States’ overmatch in and through cyberspace,” Bolton added. Another change that came with the presidential finding was the lowering of the bar for “evidentiary requirements,” thereby expanding the CIA’s ability to conduct covert cyber operations against “media organizations, charities, religious institutions or businesses believed to be working on behalf of adversaries’ foreign intelligence services,” the report added.

This is encouraging.  With China, North Korea, and Iran acting the way they’ve been, we need to step up our offensive game.  Giving the CIA and other members of the Intelligence Community (IC) (i.e. NSA, NGA, DIA, etc,) expanded powers to go after our adversaries like this is a good thing.  After all, they’ve been doing it to us for years, even decades, and we’ve been sitting on our hands and taking it like suckers.  Kudos to President Trump and his administration for not taking it anymore and being proactive in this area.  Excellent!!     🙂

Senate confirms John Ratcliffe as the next Director of National Intelligence

The Senate on Thursday confirmed Rep. John Ratcliffe, Texas Republican, as the next director of national intelligence. His confirmation — which was approved by a 49-44 vote largely along party lines — came roughly two weeks after his nomination hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee. During the hearing, Mr. Ratcliffe vowed to keep political considerations out of his work, amid reports of tension between the White House and intelligence analysts over China’s role in the coronavirus pandemic. Mr. Trump tapped Mr. Ratcliffe to head the intelligence community at the end of February, days after he fired the former acting DNI chief Joseph Maguire. In the following weeks, Mr. Trump removed a small handful of top intelligence officials, including Michael Atkinson, former inspector general for the intelligence community. During Mr. Ratcliffe’s nomination hearing, he said that, if confirmed, an immediate priority will be to probe the origins of the new coronavirus, as Mr. Trump and top aides escalate a war of words with China over the handling of the outbreak. A U.S. intelligence consensus has reportedly concluded the virus most likely originated naturally, but Mr. Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo say they have seen evidence that a Chinese lab in Wuhan could have played a role in releasing the new virus. In general terms, Mr. Ratcliffe said China was the country’s “greatest threat actor right now.” His confirmation was welcomed by Republicans in the Senate, namely by Sen. Marco Rubio, who was recently picked to be the acting chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. “I look forward to working with Director Ratcliffe as he oversees the efforts of our nation’s 17 intelligence agencies,” the Florida Republican said in a statement following the vote. “In a time when the threats to our nation are many and varied, it is critical to have a Senate-confirmed DNI ensuring the wide array of intelligence agencies are sharing information across lines, coordinating capabilities, and working in the furtherance of our nation’s security using 21st century, cutting-edge capabilities,” Mr. Rubio said, adding that he is “confident” Mr. Ratcliffe will fulfill these responsibilities.

Agreed.  We congratulate Congressman John Ratcliffe (R-TX) on his confirmation by the Senate, and wish him well in his new assignment as the DNI.

NSA Finalizes $6.7 Billion in Classified Tech Contracts

The National Security Agency is quietly beginning work on a new series of three communications contracts valued at $6.7 billion. Details are sparse because the classified contracts—collectively called Greenway—were secretly awarded to telecommunications giant AT&T and defense contractors General Dynamics and ManTech International over the past year. Redacted legal documents following a protest of one of the contracts in March indicate the NSA’s goal is to “technically evolve” its IT environment. NSA’s Greenway program is a continuation of its classified Groundbreaker program, which dates back to then-NSA Director Michael Hayden’s decision to outsource the agency’s IT operations to industry. At the time, Hayden said the contract would allow NSA to “refocus assets on the agency’s core missions of providing foreign signals intelligence and protecting U.S. national security-related information systems by turning over several information technology infrastructure services for industry’s purview.” NSA awarded the first $5 billion Groundbreaker contract in 2001 to a joint alliance of contractors called the Eagle Alliance, led by Computer Science Corp., which became CSRA. The same Eagle Alliance companies, which included Northrop Grumman, held the business for well over a decade before the NSA decided to break the Groundbreaker program up into smaller pieces, resulting in Greenway. As Nextgov reported in September 2017, CSRA won the first Greenway contract worth up to $2.4 billion over the next decade. The company announced the award through a Securities and Exchange Commission filing, where it acknowledged the value and duration of the contract without naming the customer agency or contract’s name. Months later, a redacted decision by the Government Accountability Office on a protest of the contract revealed CSRA’s portion of Greenway is called “Global Enterprise Services.” The documents state “Global Enterprise Services” will focus “on services on a global scale and more virtual in nature.” Following the contract, CSRA was purchased by General Dynamics, a northern Virginia-based defense contractor. In January 2018, AT&T won the second Greenway contract, called “Regional Infrastructure Services I.” AT&T’s award became public following two protests lobbied against it by competitors DXC Technology and Enterprise Services LLC. According to GAO, Regional Infrastructure Services I has a maximum value of $3.3 billion over 10 years. According to the redacted documents, AT&T will “operate, maintain and technically evolve” the NSA and Central Security Service’s IT environment. ManTech International captured the third and final Greenway phase, called “Regional Infrastructure Services II.” As reported by Washington Technology, ManTech announced the contract—worth up to $1 billion over 10 years—in a May 1 earnings call. Little else is known about the deal, although the redacted GAO documents state Greenway’s Regional Infrastructure Services will provide “services more localized and physical in nature and provisioned at specific zones throughout the world.”

Clapper, lawmakers defend intel community’s work on ISIS after Obama remarks

The top U.S. intelligence official, in a memo to staff obtained by Fox News, praised his analysts for their work bringing attention to the Islamic State’s gains over the past two years — as Republican lawmakers likewise jumped to their defense after President Obama claimed they “underestimated” the threat.

I’m no fan of retired Lieutenant General James Clapper…and thought he knowingly mislead Congress about some of the intelligence Community’s (IC) activities. That said, it wasn’t his fault that he was put between a rock and a hard place. Again, LTG Clapper is put in the same position by his boss, Obama. And, I think this shows leadership on his part, sending this memo to his staff members. So, good on him.

As for what Obama knew about ISIS/ISIL.. Its clear he knew about them, and the threat they posed, for WELL over a year. That much we know for sure. And, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) says SHE (as a member of Congress) was aware of ISIS for almost TWO years…and she noted that the President has access to MUCH more information about such things than members of Congress do…which is also true. Given the two, I’d trust the Congresswoman, who isn’t running for re-election and has nothing to lose, ALL day long over Obama.

A Thumbs-up for NSA Internet Spying on Foreigners

A Thumbs-up for NSA Internet Spying on Foreigners

A smart decision…  After all, foreigners here in America do NOT have the same rights that we enjoy here.  They do NOT have a right to privacy.  Its truly breathtaking how dumb some of these so-called “activists” are.  The NSA, CIA, DIA, and other (“alphabet soup”) agencies of the Intelligence Community (IC) exist to protect us.  Their job is to collect intel (i.e. useful information) on foreigners, especially those from countries that MIGHT do us harm, and get that intel to our decision makers (i.e. the President and federal legislators in Congress).  So, this is perfectly reasonable, and makes all the common sense in the world.  Ever since that little weasel Snowden violated his non-disclosure agreement last year (for which he should be brought up on charges of treason and executed), all hell has reigned down on NSA.  And so the NSA and the rest of IC have been the target of non-stop abuse, and downright persecution, from the media and politicians piling on the band wagon.  Sure, there probably could be some better processes put in place to ensure that the civil liberties of American citizens (within reason) are respected, and those charged with oversight could probably do a better job.  I think MOST people would agree with that.  However, the greater picture is that there are thousands of intel professionals out there every day working hard to make sure another 9/11 doesn’t occur.  And the only way for that to happen, is for us to step back and let them do their job (instead of hounding them and tying their hands behind their back)…and maybe thank them, as we stop at our local coffee shop and get a latte…without getting blown up.  We’re a society full of self-centered, and self-righteous spoiled brats.  Its nauseating..