Trump Dossier Timeline

screen-shot-2017-01-11-at-102210For sourcing click following link:

Jun 18, 2013: Donald Trump tweets: “Do you think Putin will be going to The Miss Universe Pageant in November in Moscow – if so, will he become my new best friend?”

Nov 9, 2013 Trump visits Moscow for Miss Universe pageant.

Nov. 9, 2013 Interviewed in Moscow, Trump is asked by MSNBC whether he has a relationship with Vladimir Putin. “I do have a relationship, and I can tell you that he’s very interested in what we’re doing here today.”

Nov. 9, 2013 Trump tells Tass news service that he plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow and was in negotiations with billionaire Aras Agarlov’s Crocus Group. During his Moscow visit, Trump also meets with Herman Gref, CEO of state-controlled Sberbank PJSC, Russia’s biggest bank, which is under US sanctions. Sberbank and Crocus sponsor the beauty contest.

Nov 12, 2013 Trump tells Real Estate Weekly that the pageant was a good networking opportunity. “The Russian market is attracted to me. I have a great relationship with many Russians, and almost all of the oligarchs were in the room.”

May 27, 2014 At National Press Club lunch, Trump says, “I was in Moscow recently and I spoke, indirectly and directly, with President Putin, who could not have been nicer.”

June 2016: Fusion GPS, a Washington research firm run by former journalists, hires Christopher Steele, a respected former MI6 officer who once served in Moscow, to gather opposition material on Donald Trump’s ties to Russia. Steele reportedly paid 200,000 pounds for his work.

June 20, 2016: Steele reports that Russian intelligence has videotapes of “perverted conduct” of Trump and prostitutes recorded in a Moscow hotel suite in 2013 during Miss Universe pageant. Trump’s behavior in Russia has “compromised him sufficiently to blackmail him.” Steele reports that Russian authorities have been “cultivating, supporting and assisting” Trump for years and he has accepted a regular flow of intelligence on his Democratic rivals.

Early July 2016: Steele, the former MI6 officer, acting on his own initiative, sends material he has gathered on Trump to the FBI.

July 7, 2016: Trump campaign adviser Carter Page travels to Moscow to give speech critical of U.S. policy. According to Reuters, Page declines to say whether he was planning to meet anyone from the Kremlin, the Russian government or Foreign Ministry during his visit.

July 19, 2016: Steele reports that Carter Page had held a secret meeting with Igor Sechin, head of the Rosneft state-owned oil company who is considered Vladimir Putin’s “defacto deputy.” Sechin and Page discuss lifting US sanctions against Russia. Sechin offered Page the “brokerage” on a 19 percent stake in Rosneft if sanctions lifted. According to Steele, Page also met Igor Divyekin, an internal affairs official with a background in intelligence, who warns Page that Moscow had kompromat on Trump

August, 2016: FBI asks Christopher Steele, the former MI6 officer, for all information in his possession and asked him to explain how the material had been gathered and to identify his sources.

August, 2016: A retired spy tells the BBC’s Paul Wood that he had been informed of videotapes of compromising material on Trump by the head of an East European intelligence agency.

Aug. 5, 2016: Steele’s memo identifies Dmitry Peskov, Kremlin spokesman, as the “chief protagonist” in Russia’s campaign to aid Trump and harm Clinton. Chief of staff Sergei Ivanov, longtime friend and top Putin lieutenant, said to be angry that Peskov’s team had gone too far.

Sept. 25, 2016: Carter Page sends letter to FBI Director James Comey saying that he is subject of a “witch hunt” and has not met with any “sanctioned official” in Russia in the past year.

Oct. 30, 2016 Sen. Harry Reid reveals in public letter that FBI Director James Comey possesses “explosive information of close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisors and the Russian government” and urges him to share it with the American people.

Oct. 31, 2016: Mother Jones interviews Christopher Steele, and publishes article, without naming him, that reveals existence of Steele’s memos, reporting in vague terms that Russian intelligence had “compromised” Trump during his visits to Moscow and could “blackmail him.”

Nov. 4, 2016: Newsweek reports that the Kremlin has both video and audio recordings of Trump in a kompromat file.

Nov. 8, 2016: Donald Trump elected president

Nov. 18, 2016: Sir Andrew Wood, a British ambassador to Russia, speaks with Sen. John McCain at a conference in Halifax, Canada. Wood tells McCain “how Mr Trump may find himself in a position where there could be an attempt to blackmail him with Kompromat and claims that there were audio and video tapes in existence.”

Dec. 7, 2016: Rosneft sells 19.5 percent ($11B) stake to Glencore Plc and Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund

Dec. 8, 2016: Carter Page revisits Moscow

Dec. 9, 2016: Sen. John McCain, who had also acquired Steele’s memos, turns them over to FBI Director James Comey.

Dec. 26, 2016: Oleg Erovinkin, a former general in the KGB and its successor the FSB, described as a key aide to Igor Sechin, found dead in the back of his car in Moscow.
2017

Jan. 6, 2017: Heads of US intelligence agencies brief PEOTUS and POTUS and leaders of House and Senate intelligence committees on Steele’s kompromat material on Trump. Kompromat material not included in public portion of report.

Jan. 10, 2017: CNN reveals that PEOTUS and POTUS were briefed on kompromat material and were given a two-page summary of allegations.

Jan. 10, 2017: Buzzfeed.com publishes 35 pages of Steele’s dossier. Included are allegations that Trump had a golden shower party with prostitutes in the Ritz Carlton hotel in 2013. Steele’s sources also say that Russia has an alliance with Trump that goes back several years.

Jan. 10, 2017: Donald Trump derides kompromat dossier as “FAKE NEWS!”

Jan. 11, 2017: DNI James Clapper says the U.S. Intelligence Community “has not made any judgement that the information in the document is reliable, and we did not rely on it in any way for our conclusions. However, part of our obligation is to ensure that policymakers are provided with the fullest possible picture of any matters that might affect national security.”

Jan. 11, 2017: Trump tweets, “Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to ‘leak’ into the public. One last shot at me. Are we living in Nazi Germany?”

Jan. 11, 2017: Former MI6 agent Christopher Steele, author of the Trump kompromat memos, goes into hiding.

Jan. 12, 2017: Yedioth Ahranoth reports that at post-election meeting US intelligence officials warned Israeli counterparts that Russia had “levers of pressure” on Donald Trump and that information passed to the White House could be relayed to Russia and Iran.

Jan. 15, 2017: The Guardian reports that UK intelligence officials have sought assurances from the CIA that the identity of British agents in Russia will be protected because of the Trump team’s closeness to Russia.

Jan. 17, 2017: At news conference, Vladimir Putin says kompromat file was a fake used to smear Trump. “Why would he run to a hotel to meet up with our girls of limited social responsibility? Although they are, of course, the best in the world. But I doubt that Trump fell for it.”

Jan. 20, 2017: Trump inaugurated as 45th US president

Jan. 23, 2017: Steve Hall, retired CIA chief of Russia operations, tells NPR that there is a “live question” now at the CIA about what to do if President Trump asks for the source of information on something that puts Vladimir Putin in a bad light.

Jan. 24, 2017: The Wall Street Journal identifies Sergei Millian, a Trump associate and supporter, as an indirect source for Christopher Steele’s dossier, including existence of compromising videotapes

Feb. 10, 2017: CNN reports that, for the first time, US investigators say they have corroborated some of the communications detailed in Steele’s kompromat dossier. Confirmations were made with SIGINT (foreign intercepts) and relate to conversations with foreign nationals, not the the salacious “golden showers” allegations in the dossier. Confirmations give intelligence officials “greater confidence” in Steele dossier.

Report: FSB Helped CIA Pinpoint Election Hacks

Two Russian FSB officers recently arrested on treason charges helped US intelligence agents pinpoint Russian hacking during the presidential election and spied for the CIA for seven years, according to a story on the Russian Rosbalt news agency.

Sergei Mikhailov, deputy director FSB’s Centre for Information Security (see my previous post), and Dmitri Dokuchayev, said to be an ex-hacker named “Forb” who joined the FSB under threat of prosecution, were paid to pass secret data, Rosbalt reported.

Ruslan Stoyanov (via Securelist.com)

Ruslan Stoyanov (via Securelist.com)

The FSB officers relayed their secrets to Ruslan Stoyanov, a manager from the cybersecurity and anti-virus company Kaspersky Lab and an unnamed representative of another cybersecurity company. The information was then transferred to “acquaintances abroad who worked closely with foreign special service.”

“This is not a one-off story, this activity was carried out for a minimum of seven years and caused substantial harm to the interests of the Russian Federation,” the source told Rosbalt.

Rosbalt reportedly has good connections to Russian intelligence. Its editor in chief,  Natalia Cherkesova, is the wife of Viktor Cherkesov, a former KGB operative who served under Vladimir Putin in the FSB. Sunday’s report in Rosbalt was picked up today by the reputable Times of London.

Stoyanov, Mikhailov, and Dokuchayev all face 20 year prison terms for treason.

The question of how this allegedly long-running spy operation was exposed remains unclear, and the timing of the arrests raises troubling questions given the Trump administration’s ties to Russia.

As noted in an earlier post, the U.S. Director of National Intelligence reported Jan. 6 that “further information has come to light since Election Day” that helped increase the U.S. intelligence community’s assessments of Russia’s motivations and goals in the election hacking.

One month later, Mikhailov was led out of an FSB with a bag over his head.  Again we ask: Is there a mole in the White House?

Rosbalt also reported that in an unrelated case, Mikhailov also gave a representative of the foreign intelligence services “counterintelligence materials.”

 

Today in Trump-Russia

Sanctions

  • The Treasury Department made some limited exceptions to sanctions imposed against Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) that affected the sale of cell phones and other electronics that use encryption.
  • House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi issued a statement calling the easing of sanctions a “thank you” from President Trump for Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election. “I have been asking the same question for a while:  what do the Russians have on President Trump?” Pelosi stated.
  • Russia’s state news agency TASS celebrated the easing of sanctions as a thaw in relations. Nikolai Kovalyov, a member of the Duma and a former director of the FSB, said the move paves the way for an anti-terrorism coalition.
  • At the United Nations, US Representative Nikki Haley said sanctions will remain in place until Russia returns control over the Crimean Peninsula to Ukraine. Haley also condemned Russia for an upsurge of violence in Eastern Ukraine.

A New Investigation

  • The US Senate Judiciary Subcommitee on Crime and Terrorism announced investigation of Russian efforts to influence democratic elections, both in the US and abroad. “Our efforts will be guided by the belief that we have an obligation to follow the facts wherever they may lead,” subcommittee chairman Lindsey Graham wrote in a statement. This is the third Congressional investigation into Russia’s election meddling.

War in the Ukraine

  • During a press conference with the Hungarian prime minister, Vladimir Putin falsely accused the Ukrainian government of stoking violence the country’s east in a bid to win support from Donald Trump

“Certain oligarchs, certainly with the approval of the political leadership, funded this candidate, or female candidate, to be more precise. Now they need to improve relations with the current administration, and using a conflict to do so is always a better, easier way to draw the incumbent administration into addressing Ukrainian problems and thus establish a dialogue.”

A Mole in the White House?

We now have a confirmation of sorts that the Russian FSB agents arrested last month were working for the CIA.

Today’s news, via the private Russian news agency, Interfax, concerns the arrest of Sergei Mikhailov and others on charges of treason. Mikhailov was serving as deputy director FSB’s Centre for Information Security (see my earlier post for background on this agency).

He reportedly was arrested in December during an FSB meeting and led out with a bag over his head.

Also arrested was Dmitry Dokuchayev, a former hacker going by the pseudonym Forb who agreed to work for the FSB, and Ruslan Stoyanov, a senior researcher at a prominent Russian computer security company, Kaspersky Lab.

Interfax reports that a fourth suspect has also been arrested, and the spy ring involves a total of eight people a total of eight people are under suspicion.

Based on a reading of the scant information in the public record, some inferences can be drawn that raise troubling questions about the speed of these arrests.

In its Jan. 6 report, the U.S. Intelligence Community was able to state with “high confidence” that Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered a campaign to influence the 2016 U.S. election, including the hacking of Democratic party computer networks and email accounts. Russia’s goal was to undermine confidence in American democracy and help Donald Trump get elected.

Until then, the U.S. Intelligence Community had only expressed  its “confidence” that Russia had hacked the election. In an Oct. 7 statement, the U.S. Director of National Intelligence stated that the releases of hacked Democratic Party documents and emails were “consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts.” The IC was silent about the goal of helping Trump.

There’s an important distinction between “high confidence” and just plain “confidence” that reflects the quality of the intelligence underlying the analysis. These are not academic distinctions. The United States can and does go to war over intelligence, as in Iraq in 2003. In fact, the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq led to the use of these levels of analytic confidence.

What changed? What gave the DNI “high confidence” in its conclusions that Russia hacked the election?

This sentence from the Jan. 7 DNI report is telling:

Further information has come to light since Election Day that, when combined with Russian behavior since early November 2016, increases our confidence in our assessments of Russian motivations and goals. (emphasis added)

The report did not spell out this new source of information in any detail. However, a few days later, The New York Times, filled in some of the blanks. This further source of information was human intelligence or HUMINT.

But one current and one former United States official, speaking about the classified recruitments on condition of anonymity, confirmed that human sources in Russia did play a crucial role in proving who was responsible for the hacking.

Let’s connect these dots:

  1. By its own admission the U.S. Intelligence Community gained valuable information after Trump’s election on Nov. 8.
  2. If — and this is a huge if — that information came from Mikhailov, the treasonous FSB officer, then he and his co-conspirators were exposed in little more than a month.

A month. Exposing a spy ring in a month is pretty darn fast. The FBI spent years investigating the network of Russian “illegals” — deep cover secret agents — before arresting them in 2010.

The question Langley must be asking itself is: How was Mikhailov exposed?  And even more troubling: Is there a mole in the White House?

This is not complete lunacy. Steve Hall, former CIA chief of Russia operations, told NPR that there is a “live question” now at the CIA about what to do if President Trump asks for the source of information on something that puts Vladimir Putin in a bad light. Can the CIA tell him they don’t trust him?

Rumors are swirling around the world’s intelligence communities that Russia holds a thick folder of kompromat, or blackmail on President Trump. There are reports of multiple videotapes of Trump’s dalliances with Russia prostitutes who, as Putin himself boasted, are “the best in the world.” Trump’s own strange relationship with the Russian president (see Trump-Putin Timeline) take some of the starch out of his denials that this is all, as he put it, “fake news.”

Then, there are reports that American spies have reached out to their Israeli colleagues and told them to be careful what information they share with the Trump administration because there was a back channel to Moscow. Her Majesty’s Secret Service is said to be nervous as well.

Before we go too deep down this rabbit hole, let’s consider that it’s quite possible that Mikhailov and company were not working for the CIA, and the whole story is Russian disinformation meant to further weaken our increasingly fragile democracy by continuing to focus interest on this story. This is not only possible, but highly plausible.

Of course, it’s also possible that Russia did not hack the U.S. election at all. Some former intelligence professionals suspect that a Democratic party insider, not the Russians, leaked the emails and documents to Wikileaks. Craig Murray, a former British ambassador who said he received the leaked DNC documents, has made the same claim.

Another possibility: Assuming Russia did hack the U.S. election to elect Trump, is it possible that Trump’s denials that he has nothing to do with Russia are true?  Maybe there is another Aldrich Ames running around the CIA feeding secrets back to Moscow?

Given the pathetic state of the current Russia’s spy agencies, this seems highly implausible.

The Soviet Union’s KGB used to be one of the world’s best spy agencies. The KGB ran  agents deep inside the FBI and CIA for years without detection, stole our nuclear secrets and led the CIA’s molehunters into mazes of deception and subterfuge.

Today’s Russian spies are, by comparison, something of joke. Consider that network of “illegals” the FBI exposed in 2010 that I mentioned earlier. These deep cover agents were practicing pretty sloppy tradecraft. For starters, they were in touch with each other, which is a huge no-no for deep cover agents, according to Oleg Kalugin, a former KGB general who was the longtime director of Soviet espionage operations in the United States.

“They really looked like amateurs,” Kalugin said during this Spycast podcast in 2010. “To me, it’s probably an illustration of the current state of Russian intelligence: Run by unprofessionals at a very high level.” The conduct exposed in the 2015 arrest of another Russian illegal was almost laughable.

If Russia’s spies are such a joke, as Kalugin says, they needed help in exposing the Mikhailov ring.

Question is: From whom?

 

What Is Russia’s Centre for Information Security?

The New York Times reports on a series of arrests involving Russia’s FSB, the successor agency to the KGB that may be connected to the hacking of the 2016 U.S. Election.

According to the Times, one of those arrested, Sergei Mikhailov, was serving as deputy director FSB’s Centre for Information Security. He was arrested on a charge of treason. Earlier in the month, the head of the Centre, Andrei Gerasimov, was dismissed.

What is the FSB’s Centre for Information Security?

Some answers come from Jeffrey Carr, a security consultant out of Seattle who runs the consulting firm TAIA Global and published Inside Cyber Warfare. Carr describes the FSB’s Centre for Information Security (also known as Military Unit 64829) as the organization in charge of protecting Russia’s Internet.

“In sum, any Internet operation originating in Russia are almost certainly monitored and probably overseen by the FSB ISC,” Carr wrote in this analysis. “Current Russian press covers Russian intentions to implement further restrictions on RuNet to counter foreign attempts to wage “information warfare” against Russian and ideologically subvert the Russian population. Whatever final form the new restrictions take, the FSB ISC will be heavily involved.”

In his book, Inside Cyber War, Carr goes a bit further.  The Centre not only defends the Russian Internet (RuNet) it can also attack.
screen-shot-2017-01-28-at-8-24-12-am
Also arrested was Dmitry Dokuchayev, a former hacker going by the pseudonym Forb who agreed to work for the FSB in exchange for dropping charges of credit card fraud. In an interview with a Russian newspaper, (or here in the original Russian) Dokuchayev/Forb said he had carried out a successful cyberattack on the US government.
screen-shot-2017-01-28-at-9-45-08-am

I would be wary of any reports that claim the Centre hacked the U.S. election. Cyberwarfare like conventional warfare is a confusing picture, with many different groups carrying out different but overlapping missions.

Different FSB components are responsible for attacks outside Russia. One is the FSB’s 16th Center, also known by the Orwellian name of the FSB Center for Electronic Surveillance of Communications, according to TAIA Global Another is the FSB’s 18th Center. Another is the FSB’s Fifth Directorate. All three were blamed for cyberattacks and propaganda during the Russian invasion of the Crimean Peninsula.

And President Obama’s executive order imposing sanctions in response to the hacking of the 2016 U.S. Election names both the FSB and the GRU, the main intelligence directorate. It’s believed that the GRU hacks were passed along to Wikileaks and other media outlets during the election.

There’s no evidence yet that the Centre for Information Security had a hand in the 2016 U.S. election hacking, but with their complete command of the Russian Internet they almost certainly would have known about it.

 

 

San Diego’s Spook Shop

Along Interstate 5 in San Diego just south of the airport, lies a hulking building with blacked out windows and a roof that looks like a long silver saw blade. The site of a former B-24 factory during World War II, this giant piece of corrugated metal is the home of the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command or SPAWAR.

I’ve long been interested in SPAWAR (pronounced spā-wôr) mostly because exactly what it does is a bit of a mystery. Its mission is “enabling information warfare superiority” for our Naval and military forces. Operating with a $2.5 billion budget, SPAWAR employs more than 2,000 scientists, specializing in areas such as cyberwarfare, information warfare and space systems. SPAWAR’s chief technology officer holds over 100 patents. I have no idea what that all means, but it sounds like they do some very interesting stuff.

About three years ago, in the midst of Edward Snowden’s revelations about the National Security Agency, I learned that the Defense Department’s Inspector General had conducted a Top Secret investigation into allegations involving SPAWAR’s “access to U.S. persons data.”

That phrase “U.S. persons data” caught my eye. Under federal law, our intelligence agencies cannot spy on U.S. persons, i.e. American citizens. The misuse of “U.S. persons data” is intelspeak for spying on Americans so I filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act for the report.

The 37-page heavily redacted report I received began as a whistleblower complaint filed in December 2006 by an unnamed government employee. This employee claimed he was mistreated and ultimately reassigned after reporting that SPAWAR had misused classified information involving U.S. persons, which is forbidden under U.S. law.

Of the two main allegations cited in the report, one remains classified under a FOIA b(1) exemption, which involves matters of national security. The whistleblower’s second allegation was that SPAWAR personnel had been in the words of the report “photographing U.S. persons.”

There are several allegations involving misuse of imagery at SPAWAR in the report, most of which are completely or partially redacted.

The only one that is readable is a charge that SPAWAR had been collecting data without notice, warrant or authority “on U.S. persons in federal parks located at Point Loma,” a hilly peninsula in San Diego.

This allegation involved a camera is mounted on a tower at SPAWAR’s command HQ, located on the southern tip of Point Loma, adjacent to Cabrillo National Monument, which is operated by the National Parks Service. The camera, which can be rotated 360 degrees, is used for calibration purposes by pointing it at different government radars, the IG’s investigation found. The video feed from the camera goes to a laboratory and is not stored.

The IG also looked for inappropriate images on another imagery system, details of which remain classified on national security grounds. The system was tested at a site on Point Loma overlooking San Diego Harbor on the USS Dolphin, a research submarine, after it had been repaired for fire damage.

Other allegations involving satellite imagery or other technologies are heavily redacted.

The investigation by the DoD’s Inspector General did not substantiate the whistleblower’s complaints that SPAWAR was mishandling intelligence and possibly compromising U.S. persons information. The Inspector General did, however, partially substantiate the allegation that SPAWAR had failed to move quickly to correct deficiencies in its handling of intelligence information. The whistleblower had not been subject to reprisals, the IG’s investigation found.

What the report makes clear is that SPAWAR is a spook shop. It does R&D work for various components of the U.S. intelligence community. Some of the imagery allegations involved an R&D project for the Office of Naval Intelligence. Officials with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), the National Reconnaissance Agency (NRO), which runs spy satellites, and one agency whose name was blacked out were interview for the IG’s report.