FBI Declines Cooperation with State Dept. Hillary Server

Update: More data released via Judicial Watch

Judicial Watch today released more than 50 pages of new emails from the clintonemail.com server account of Huma Abedin, a former top aide to Hillary Clinton during her tenure in the State Department. The emails discuss seemingly sensitive security and foreign affairs issues and raise questions about the handling of classified material during Hillary Clinton’s tenure at the State Department.  The documents were obtained as result of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit seeking Huma Abedin’s government business emails conducted on non-state.gov email accounts (Judicial Watch, Inc. v. U.S. Department of State (No. 1:15-cv-00684)).  The emails were produced from a search of State Department records, as the agency continues to delay full production of records turned over by Ms. Abedin recently.

In 2012, then-Secretary of State Clinton traveled to Finland (June 27-28), Latvia (June 28), Russia (June 28-29), and Switzerland (June 29-30).  On June 26, 2012, former Principal Deputy Executive Secretary Pamela Quanrud, writes to Abedin:

Huma – if I could lobby to get to Geneva on Friday night. We have a big data dump to get from beth jones and others there to prep for Saturday, and it would be a lot better for us to work through the night there (with access to classified) than be stuck in St. Pete with no classified at all.

Abedin responds from her [email protected] account the next morning (June 27):

i had no idea about no comms

of course

we need secure

makes total sense

The emails show Abedin used the non-secure clintonemail.com server to discuss sensitive travel and operations security information that could have placed the personal security of Clinton and other government officials at risk, such as real-time location information while traveling abroad, and other hotel and travel arrangements.

On May 31, 2012, as Clinton and her State Department entourage are traveling in Scandinavia, Abedin writes to Clinton’s then-Special Assistant Lona J. Valmoro:

Abedin to Valmoro: “Let me know when u r leaving.”

Valmoro: “We are en route to airport now. Could we do during the 45 minute drive from Oslo airport to hotel.  Everyone can dial into Ops and will have minis.”

Abedin: “When? Who’s in car with her?”

Valmoro: “Cheryl is with her now. If we are wheels up by 9:35 pm, land at 11:25, start call by 11:35 or 5:35 pm EDT?

Abedin: “[I] could barely hear [Hillary Clinton] with the background….”

On June 25, 2012, Abedin writes that she is willing to discuss travel details while on a “packed train.” With the subject line “Could we get on the phone together at 11:30 – in advance of the [Russia] trip call?” Abedin writes to several people, including Quanrud:

I see call got moved to noon. We can talk right before then if you want. All shuttles were canceled this morning and I am sitting on a packed train so hard for me to talk but we can def do calls. [Emphasis added]

Other emails also provide details of Clinton’s plans and schedules for the 2012 trip that included Russia, including the timing of calls on trip planning.

The documents show that State Department officials sent duplicate emails about government business to Abedin’s official State Department address and her clintonemail.com account.

Other emails show sensitive foreign affairs information is contained on Abedin’s Clinton server account.  A June29, 2012, email discloses a move to hold a meeting concerning Syria in Geneva.  Pamela Quanrud writes Abedin and Clinton aide Valmoro an email with the subject:  “UK and P3 meeting requests”:

UK has asked to meet at 8:45 ahead of a 9:30 with UK.US and France to coordinate. Jake thought P3 meeting necessary – what about UK? Should we say yes to 8:45?

Abedin writes back two hours later:

UK meaning hague?

Another email details a request from the Iraqi Foreign Minister for a bilateral discussion with Clinton.  Abedin uses her clintonemail.com account to approve the “pull aside,” writing, “fine to add to list.”

Another document shows Abedin approving, weeks ahead of time, the Hanoi Sheraton for Clinton’s trip on July 10-11, 2013, to Vietnam.  A June 22, 2012, email from Tulinabo S. Mushingi, who is now the U.S. Ambassador to Burkina Faso, details the hotel options in Hanoi for Abedin, with Sheraton as the number one option.  The email details both the luxury and security aspects of the hotel:

The Sheraton hosted the Secretary in July 2010 and October 2010 and much of the hotel staff remains, so they know the drill The July 2010 visit S stayed in the Imperial Suite (shown in attachment and the suite available for this visit); in October 2010, since another Head of State was also in the Sheraton and occupied the Imperial Suite S stayed in the Presidential Suite. The Imperial suite is spacious and very bright and airy, with lake views. It has a large bathroom with Jacuzzi style tub and walk in shower. The Sheraton was redecorated and refurbished within the past 12 months, so it is in excellent condition and is very attractive. From a logistics perspective the hotel is excellent as it has a very large parking area for staging motorcades. It’s location is in close proximity to government buildings where most meetings are likely to be held.


P.S. Post reminded us that the entire focus of the Hanoi stop is to promote U.S. businesses and trade. Given the purpose of the stop, the optics of staying at the available quality American name brand hotels would carry the same message, hence another for choosing The Sheraton.

Mushingi also suggests that one other hotel choice is not up to par in that “the suite bathroom is nice, but not quite to the standard of the Sheraton.”

Again, Abedin receives and responds to this email on her non-government account, writing back the next day:

Sheraton worked perfectly fine.

On August 8, in response to a FOIA lawsuit, Judicial Watch obtained a sworn declaration from the former secretary of state in which she claimed to have turned over to the agency “all my e-mails on clintonemail.com” and conceded that “Huma Abedin did have such an account which was used at times for government business.”  Neither the State Department, Clinton, nor Abedin has provided information about the status of Abedin’s emails (or the emails of any other government employee) on the clintonemail.com server.

“These emails Judicial Watch forced out through a federal lawsuit show that Huma Abedin used her separate clintonemail.com account to conduct the most sensitive government business, endangering not only her safety but the safety of Hillary Clinton and countless others,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.  “And why would Ms. Abedin and Mrs. Clinton use this unsecure system to discuss foreign affairs and sensitive matters such as the Syria conflict?  Hillary Clinton’s email games were a danger to the nation’s security.”

The FBI is probing Hillary Clinton’s personal email and data server but will not provide any progress report or findings to the Department of Justice or the State Department. Further, the FBI refuses to even reveal to the State Department exactly what the FBI technology team is researching. The judge has forced the State Department to cooperate with the FBI but it is clearly not a two way street.

One particular area of concern for the FBI team is to determine the evidence of hacking which could in fact be used to build on existing foreign hacking investigations. For the FBI to determine digital traces of foreign intelligence services and even more the likelihood of damage assessments is tantamount to the FBI investigation in the realm of cyber-espionage. The FBI is owning this process exclusively and not collaborating with the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, at least at this time.


FBI refuses to cooperate in Hillary Clinton email server probe

WashingtonTimes: The FBI refused to cooperate Monday with a court-ordered inquiry into former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s email server, telling the State Department that they won’t even confirm they are investigating the matter themselves, much less willing to tell the rest of the government what’s going on.

Judge Emmet G. Sullivan had ordered the State Department to talk with the FBI and see what sort of information could be recovered from Mrs. Clinton’s email server, which her lawyer has said she turned over to the Justice Department over the summer.

The FBI’s refusal, however, leaves things muddled. “At this time, consistent with long-standing Department of Justice and FBI policy, we can neither confirm nor deny the existence of any ongoing investigation, nor are we in a position to provide additional information at this time,” FBI General Counsel James A. Baker wrote in a letter dated Monday — a week after the deadline the Justice Department had set for the FBI to reply.

Judicial Watch, a conservative public interest law firm that is pursuing at least 16 open-records cases seeking emails from Mrs. Clinton and her top aides, said at this point it’s not even clear what Mrs. Clinton provided, since all that’s been made public at this point are the former secretary of state’s public comments and some assertions, made through her lawyer, to the State Department.

Judicial Watch is prodding the courts to try to delve more deeply into Mrs. Clinton’s emails, and the group said a number of questions persevere about both Mrs. Clinton and top aides such as Huma Abedin, who did public business on an account tied to the server Mrs. Clinton maintained.

“We still do not know whether the FBI – or any other government agency for that matter – has possession of the email server that was used by Mrs. Clinton and Ms. Abedin to conduct official government business during their four years of employment at the State Department,” Judicial Watch said.

“We also do not know whether the server purportedly in the possession of the FBI – an assumption based on unsworn statements by third parties – is the actual email server that was used by Mrs. Clinton and Ms. Abedin to conduct official government business during their four years of employment at the State Department or whether it is a copy of such an email server. Nor do we know whether any copies of the email server or copies of the records from the email server exist,” the group said in its own court filingMonday afternoon.

Judicial Watch did release more than 50 pages Monday of emails it obtained from Ms. Abedin’s account on Mrs. Clinton’s server, and said it was clear she was talking about “sensitive” topics that shouldn’t have been discussed on an insecure account.

Many of those were details of Mrs. Clinton’s movements overseas, such as hotels she was staying at.

“These emails Judicial Watch forced out through a federal lawsuit show that Huma Abedin used her separate clintonemail.com account to conduct the most sensitive government business, endangering not only her safety but the safety of Hillary Clinton and countless others,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.

He questioned what reason Ms. Abedin — who did maintain an account, [email protected], on State.gov servers — would have for using the other account for important business. Mrs. Clinton said she kept only one account, the one on the clintonemail.com server, because it was more convenient, but that reasoning does not appear to apply to Ms. Abedin.

The State Department is making all of Mrs. Clinton’s emails public under order of Judge Rudolph Contreras. But the department has said it won’t make all of the emails public from Ms. Abedin or other top Clinton aides Cheryl Mills or Philippe Reines. Instead the department only plans to release those messages specifically requested in open-records demands.

Mrs. Clinton turned over about 30,000 email messages in December, while her aides turned over more than 100,000 pages between them, with the final set only being returned, by Ms. Abedin, earlier this month, the department said in court filings.

Without those documents in hand, the State Department has been unable to do full and complete searches in response to subpoenas, congressional inquiries or Freedom of Information Act requests.

The State Department has asked for dozens of cases to be put on hold while it tries to get a single judge to coordinate all of its searches in more than two dozen cases. But the people requesting the records have objected, and say the State Department has nobody to blame but itself.

“The State Department acts as if Ms. Abedin’s and Ms. Mills’ documents fell from the sky on the eve of the State Department’s production deadline, but that is not remotely the case,” Citizens United, one of the plaintiffs who’s sued under the FOIA, said in a filing late last week.

Citizens United says the State Department missed its own deadline for producing Ms. Mills’s and Ms. Abedin’s documents.

The Obama administration countered that it went above and beyond its duties under the law by asking Ms. Abedin and Ms. Mills to return their records and then to search them in response to open-records requests. The State Department says it’s moving as quickly as possible, but says the sheer number of documents — and the number of requests for them — calls for a stay in most cases.

But of the 26 requests where the State Department has sought to halt proceedings, six have already been denied. Only one has been granted, one was granted in part and denied in part by the same judge, and another is being held in abeyance.

The State Department told one of the federal judges Monday that it’s facing nearly 100 different open-records lawsuits — not all of them related to Mrs. Clinton’s email server — that have stretched officials to their limit.

Monday’s FBI letter underscores the tangled situation Mrs. Clinton’s emails have produced. The letter was addressed to Mary McLeod, a lawyer at the Justice Department, which oversees the FBI — and which means, in effect, that the FBI is refusing to talk to its own parent department about the matter.

Mr. Baker pointedly noted in his letter that he was aware the response would be submitted to the court, which would presumably make it public.

Earlier this month the Justice Department, in another pleading, insisted Mrs. Clinton didn’t do anything wrong in being the one who decided which of her messages were official business records that must be returned to the government, and which were purely personal and able to be expunged.

Judicial Watch said that raises thorny questions for a department that is supposedly investigating Mrs. Clinton.

Last week Sen. John Cornyn, the second-ranking Republican in the Senate, called for Attorney General Loretta Lynch to name a special counsel to oversee the investigation, citing too many potential conflicts of interest.

Stop the Migrants, Support H.R. 3314

No one, including the FBI, law enforcement or even the State Department can or will assure much less guarantee there will be NO risk to our national security. It must also be noted, the migrants are from many countries including Afghanistan, Iran and even Pakistan to list a few.

Top 10 nationalities applying for asylum in Germany

Congressman Brian Babin of Texas is striking back hard on the immigration issue with direct attention placed on the migrant issue in Europe as the White House and the State Department are preparing to increase the number of migrants up to 100,000.

Representative Babin has introduced legislation, H.R. 3314 that requires our attention and support to advance it in the House.

Meanwhile, per orders of the White House, the taxpayer is giving yet another $419 million to Syrian refugees.

The United States will give $419 million more in humanitarian aid to assist Syrian refugees and the countries that are hosting them, administration officials said Monday.

The new aid brings the total U.S. donation since the Syrian conflict began in 2011 to $4.5 billion, more than any other country. It was announced a day after Secretary of State John F. Kerry said the United States would raise its annual refu­gee resettlement cap from 70,000 this fiscal year to 85,000 next year and 100,000 in 2017.

The United States has been the single largest donor of humanitarian aid to Syrians who have been displaced within their war-torn country or who have become refugees. But the administration has been criticized for not admitting more Syrians to America in the face of an epic wave of people fleeing the war zone. More details here.

The migrant issue in Europe has surpassed critical conditions, with regard to costs, housing, medical assistance, rescue/recovery, food, transportation, paperwork processing, jobs and challenges the legal system.

Embedded image permalink

The Hungarian government placed full-page advertisements in Lebanese and Jordanian newspapers Monday, warning migrants that they can be jailed if they enter the country illegally.

The “strongest possible action is taken against those who attempt to enter Hungary illegally,” the ads said in English and Arabic. Lebanon is reported to host nearly 1.2 million Syrian refugees while around 630,000 are currently in Jordan.

Speaking in parliament Monday, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said millions of migrants are “laying siege” to Europe’s borders.

He said “the migrants are not just banging on our door, they are breaking it down” and insisted that razor-wire fences the country is building on its borders with Serbia, Croatia and Romania are needed to defend Hungary and Europe, the Associated Press reported.

Hungary closed its border with Serbia on Sept. 15 and reopened it Sunday for vehicles, which are being checked by authorities.

In Turkey overnight, about 700 mainly Syrians who waited at Istanbul’s main bus station for a week after authorities suspended ticket sales to the northwestern town of Edirne, set off on foot toward the town — 150 miles away near the Greek border — in an effort to reach Europe, Agence France-Presse reported.

Some managed to board buses and private vehicles en route, but those who failed to do so were blocked by police about 31 miles from Istanbul, according to the news agency.

In Greece, fewer boats than normal landed on the island of Lesbos — a major transit point for Syrian refugees heading to Europe from Turkey — on Monday morning, ahead of an expected thunderstorm, Reuters reported.

It came after 13 migrants died when their boat collided with a ferry off Turkey on Sunday.

Hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees, many of them from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Eritrea, have headed to Europe this year fleeing conflict at home as countries along the route struggle to cope.

Monday, Austrian police spokesman Helmut Marban said nearly 24,000 refugees entered the country during the weekend, and another 3,200 arrived at the Nickelsdorf crossing — the main border crossing from Hungary — on Monday morning. Greek police also said 8,500 asylum-seekers crossed into neighboring Macedonia in the last 24 hours, the AP reported.

Foreign ministers from Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic were meeting Monday, and were expected to voice opposition to Germany’s call for a more even distribution of migrants, the BBC reported. Germany says it is expecting at least 800,000 migrants this year.

European Union interior ministers are due to discuss the crisis on Tuesday and on Wednesday, EU leaders will gather for an extraordinary meeting in Brussels on how to deal with the influx of migrants and refugees.

The Croatian government said that 29,000 refugees entered the country by 6 a.m. local time Monday.

Speaking at a camp housing migrants near the eastern town of Tovarnik, Croatia’s Interior Minister Ranko Ostojic said he will seek to stop the flow of migrants from Greece at Tuesday’s meeting, Reuters reported.

He added: “It is absolutely unacceptable to have Greece emptying its refugee camps and sending people towards Croatia via Macedonia and Serbia.”

Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday said that the U.S. will accept 85,000 refugees from around the world next year, up from the previous quota of 70,000. He also said the total would rise to 100,000 in 2017.

USA TODAY reporter Kim Hjelmgaard is currently traveling the land route taken by many migrants from Lesbos, Greece, to Berlin, Germany. Follow his journey here:


Obama Admin Rewards China in Spite of Hacking


Every president stays at the Waldorf Astoria in New York especially during a United Nations General Assembly. Yet, since China bought the iconic hotel, the White House has expressed real concerns over intelligence conflicts, spying and hacking, hence Obama will not use the Waldorf hotel during his stay.

The Crime, Chinese Hacking

Report: Chinese Hackers Used OPM Data To Steal US Military Intel; ‘Significant Risk To US Military’

EXCLUSIVE TO FORBES: Screen shot of directory of data stolen by Iron Tiger from U.S. Defense Contractor Source: Trend Micro

Chinese hackers used data stolen from April’s OPM breach in recent thefts of terabytes of sensitive data from U.S. defense contractors, according to Trend Micro’s Vice President of Cybersecurity Thomas Kellerman. As previously reported, Trend Micro published a report on Thursday entitled Operation Iron Tiger, detailing these extensive confirmed breaches by Chinese cyber spies.

In followup to yesterday’s article on this report, I interviewed Kellerman and had further discussions last night with Dr. Ziv Chang, Sr. Director, Cyber Safety Solutions, Core Technology at Trend Micro and lead author on the report. No contact has been made with Trend representatives since last night. Kellerman stated during that interview that he believes OPM data was used in formulating the attacks discussed in the Iron Tiger Report.

OPM data was used in formulating attacks on U.S. military interests

Kellerman said he believes that data stolen from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in the April 2015 breach of the OPM systems has been and is being used by Chinese cyber spies, named by Trend Micro as “Iron Tiger.” He said that the OPM data enabled Iron Tiger to precisely target U.S. military contractor victims as well as to know the types of information each victim would hold, determine the best methods to use to attack them and to execute attacks.

Theft of highly-sensitive, mission critical data 

When asked to characterize the types of data that Iron Tiger targeted on contractor systems Chang commented that the following types of data were targeted and exfiltrated:

  • Base Operations Support
  • Engineering, Procurement & Construction
  • Information Technology & Systems Engineering
  • Intelligence Analytics & Training
  • Language & Cultural Analysis
  • Operations and Maintenance
  • Security Assessment & Training


Stolen data presents a significant and serious risk to US military interests

Both Kellerman and Chang confirmed when asked that the data stolen by Iron Tiger presented a significant and serious risk to U.S. military interests and operations. Kellerman said that appropriate representatives within the US government had been notified and provided a copy of the report as well as all relevant details not included in the report such as victim (target) names and data stolen, two days before Trend Micro made the report public on its site. The latest data hacks by Iron Tiber on U.S. military interests were observed was August 21, 2015.

Kellerman stated that he believes the attacks are ongoing but may be slowed in response to global discussions about possible sanctions for breaches on civilian entites. Trend Micro is continuing to monitor the group and will report to victims and authorities as appropriate, Kellerman said. Much more here.

The Reward for China

A computer rendering of the XpressWest train.

China, U.S. Reach Agreement on High-Speed Rail Before Xi Visit

Bloomberg: A China Railway Group-led consortium andXpressWest Enterprises LLC will form a joint venture to build a high-speed railway linking Las Vegas and Los Angeles, the first Chinese-made bullet-train project in the U.S.

Construction of the 370-kilometer (230-mile) Southwest Rail Network will begin as soon as next September, according to a statement from Shu Guozeng, an official with the Communist Party’s leading group on financial and economic affairs. The project comes after four years of negotiations and will be supported by $100 million in initial capital. The statement didn’t specify the project’s expected cost or completion date.

The agreement, signed days before PresidentXi Jinping’s state visit to the U.S., is a milestone in China’s efforts to market its high-speed rail technology in advanced economies. The country has beenpushing the technology primarily in emerging markets — often with a sales pitch from PremierLi Keqiang– as a means to project political influence. A $567 million contract last October to supply trains forBoston’s subway system was China’s first rail-related deal in the U.S.

The agreement also represents an important victory in China’s high-speed rail rivalry withJapan, as the two countries havecompeted for train contracts throughout Asia. The parent company ofJR Central, Japan’s largest bullet-train maker, hadexpressed interest in the Los Angeles-Las Vegas line several years ago, and China and Japan are both expected tobid to supply train cars for a proposed high-speed rail line in California’s Central Valley.

“This is the first high-speed railway project where China and the U.S. will have systematic cooperation,” Yang Zhongmin, a deputy chief engineer with China Railway Group, said after a news conference in Beijing. “It shows the advancement of China-made high-speed railways.”

The Los Angeles-Las Vegas project will create new technology, manufacturing and construction jobs in the region, Shu’s statement said.

Through July, China had built more than 17,000 kilometers (10,565 miles) of domestic high-speed rail lines, according to the officialXinhua News Agency.

Apart from the railway project, China National Machinery Industry Corp. andGeneral Electric Co. signed a memo of understanding to invest $327 million to develop 60 wind power stations in Kenya, Shu said at the Beijing news conference.

During Xi’svisit starting next week, China and the U.S. are expected to reach agreements on trade, energy, climate, finance, aviation, defense and infrastructure construction, China Foreign MinisterWang Yi said Wednesday. Xi is due to visitBoeing Co.’s factory in Everett, Washington as China makes a push to build its own passenger planes.

“Economic and trade cooperation will be a major topic for president Xi’s visit to the U.S.,” Shu said in Beijing. “China and the U.S. share common interests and have solid foundation for cooperation.”

U.S. Confrontation, Obama Tells Navy Put Tail Between Propellers

U.S. Navy video

Obama Blocks Navy from Sailing Near Disputed Chinese islands

FreeBeacon: The Obama administration has restricted the U.S. Pacific Command from sending ships and aircraft within 12 miles of disputed Chinese-built islands in the South China Sea, bolstering Beijing’s illegal claims over the vital seaway, Pentagon leaders revealed to Congress on Thursday.

“The administration has continued to restrict our Navy ships from operating within 12 nautical miles of China’s reclaimed islands,” Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) said in opening remarks criticizing the failure to guarantee safe passage for international commercial ships in Asia.

“This is a dangerous mistake that grants de facto recognition of China’s man-made sovereignty claims,” he said.

The South China Sea is a strategic waterway used to transport $5 trillion annually in goods, including $1.2 trillion in trade to the United States.

David Shear, assistant defense secretary for Asian and Pacific affairs, sought to play down the restrictions on Navy ship transits close to the islands. According to Shear, a regional freedom of navigation exercise took place in April and the tactic is “one tool in a larger tool box … and we’re in the process of putting together that tool box.”

Shear acknowledged that “we have not recently gone within 12 miles of a reclaimed area,” noting the last time a Navy ship sailed that close to a Chinese-built island was 2012.

The disclosure undermines statements made Wednesday by Defense Secretary Ash Carter who said the United States would not be coerced by China into not operating ships or aircraft in Asia. Carter said the United States “will continue to protect freedom of navigation and overflight.”

Shear insisted that in recent years the U.S. military has challenged “every category of Chinese claim in the South China Sea, as recently as this year.”

Blocking China from militarizing the new islands could include a range of options, including freedom of navigation operations, he said.

McCain, however, noted that the U.S. restrictions on close-in island military flights and ship visits were continuing despite the provocative dispatch of five Chinese warships in an unprecedented deployment to waters within 12 miles of Alaska’s Aleutian Islands—at the same time President Obama was concluding a recent visit to the state earlier this month.

A visibly angered McCain told Shear the best way to assert that international waters around the islands do not belong to China would be for American ships to make 12-mile passages by the disputed islands. “And we haven’t done that since 2012. I don’t find that acceptable, Mr. Secretary,” he said.

Adm. Harry Harris, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, was asked if he is authorized to order ships to travel within 12 miles of any of the man-made islands and answered, no. Harris also said no U.S. surveillance aircraft have flown directly over any of the islands.

Asked why not, Harris stated: “I’ll just [say] that Pacom presents options, military options to the secretary. And those options come with a full range of opportunities in the South China Sea, and we’re ready to execute those options when directed.”

The restrictions appear to be an element of the Obama administration’s conciliatory policies toward China that have increased in the months leading up to the planned visit to Washington next week by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The administration also has not taken steps to penalize China for large-scale hacking of U.S. government and private sector databases, although sanctions are planned.

China has been building islands on several reefs within the South China Sea for the past several years near the Paracels, in the northwestern sea, and near the Spratlys, near the Philippines. Several nations, including Vietnam, Philippines, and Malaysia have challenged Chinese claims to maritime sovereignty.

After ignoring the island building for several years, the Obama administration earlier this year began pressing the Chinese to halt the construction. The U.S. appeals were ignored.

A Chinese admiral recently declared that the entire South China Sea is China’s maritime territory.

“The South China Sea is no more China’s than the Gulf of Mexico is Mexico’s,” said Harris, who described himself as critic of China’s maritime behavior and large-scale military buildup.

Harris made clear implicitly during the hearing he did not agree with the restrictions on transit near the disputed islands but has been overruled by the president and secretary of defense.

“I think that we must exercise our freedom of navigation throughout the region …,” Harris said.

Pressed for his views on whether close passage of U.S. ships in the sea should be permitted, Harris said: “I believe that we should [be] allow[ed] to exercise freedom of navigation and flight—maritime and flight in the South China Sea against those islands that are not islands.”

Asked if he has requested permission for close-in island transits, Harris would not say, stating only that he has provided policy options for doing so to civilian leaders.

Harris said Pacific command surface ship commanders and crews, as well as Air Force pilots and crews, have orders when operating near China to “insist on our right to operate in international airspace and maritime space” and to respond professionally when challenged by Chinese warships or interceptor jets.

The four-star admiral warned that more incidents, such as the dangerous aerial intercept of a P-8 surveillance jet by a Chinese jet in 2014, are possible after China finishes building runways on Fiery Cross Reef and two other reefs.

With missiles, jet fighters, and warships stationed on the islands, “it creates a mechanism by which China would have de facto control over the South China Sea in any scenario short of war,” he said.

In a conflict the sites could be easily targeted, but “short of that, militarization of these features pose a threat, and certainly it poses a threat against all other countries in the region,” he said.

Shear also said the island militarization is a concern.

“The Chinese have not yet placed advanced weaponry on those features and we are going to do everything we can to ensure that they don’t,” Shear said. “This is going to be a long-term effort. There are no silver bullets in this effort. But we’re certainly complicating Chinese calculations already.”

Shear said U.S. forces are continuing to operate freely in the region and have deterred Chinese coercion of regional states.

“That we freely operate in the South China Sea is a success? It’s a pretty low bar, Mr. Secretary,” McCain said.

China’s dispatch of five warships to waters near the Bering Strait followed recent joint exercises with the Russians, after which the Chinese ships sailed near Alaska to demonstrated the ships’ ability to operate in the far north, Harris said, noting that he viewed the timing to the president’s Alaska visit as “coincidental.”

Sen. Dan Sullivan, (R., Alaska) said the Chinese action was a “provocation” and criticized the administration’s weak response. The Pentagon dismissed the Chinese ship transit as legal under international law.

“I thought it was more of a provocation and a demonstration of their interest in the Arctic,” Sullivan said. “I’m not sure that this White House would recognize a provocation if it was slapped in the face, and we need to be aware of that.”

Harris also said he is concerned by China deploying submarines, including nuclear missile submarines, further from its shores.

“We’re seeing Chinese submarine deployments extend further and further, almost with every deployment,” he said. “It has become routine for Chinese submarines to travel to the Horn of Africa region and North Arabian Sea in conjunction with their counter piracy task force operations. We’re seeing their ballistic missiles submarines travel in the Pacific at further ranges and of course all of those are of concern.”

China’s claims to have halted island construction and militarization on some 3,000 acres are false, McCain said.

“Recently released satellite images show clearly this is not true,” the senator said. “What’s more, China is rapidly militarizing this reclaimed land, building garrisons, harbors, intelligence, and surveillance infrastructure, and at least three air strips that could support military aircraft.”

Surface-to-air missiles and radars also could be added enabling China “to declare and enforce an air defense identification zone in the South China Sea, and to hold that vital region at risk,” McCain added.

Shear said the island building is nearly completed.

Meanwhile in the House, Rep. J. Randy Forbes (R., Va.), chairman of the House Armed Services subcommittee on seapower, led a group of 29 members of Congress in writing to President Obama and Carter, the defense secretary, urging the lifting of the restrictions on naval and air operations near the disputed islands.

“The longer the United States goes without challenging China’s unfounded claims to sovereignty over these artificial formations—and to territorial waters and exclusive economic rights in the surrounding water—the greater the consequences will be for regional security,” the lawmakers stated in the Sept. 17 letter.

“It is our belief that the Defense Department should act immediately to reaffirm the United States’ commitment to freedom of navigation and the rule of law.”

Example: Depths of Chinese Hacking the U.S.

Former Top FBI Lawyer and Counterintelligence Official Admits Chinese Hacked His Home Computer

September 8, 2015

China Allegedly Hacked Top Former FBI Lawyer 

Jeff Stein, Newsweek

Marion “Spike” Bowman, a top former FBI lawyer and U.S. counterintelligence official who heads an influential organization of retired American spies, says a hacker from China penetrated his home computer, beginning with an innocent-looking email last spring.

“It was an email supposedly from a woman in China, and I exchanged correspondence with her a couple of times,” says Bowman, who was deputy general counsel to three FBI directors between 1995 and 2006. “She sent me a document that a friend of hers had supposedly written, in English, and wanted my opinion on it,” he tells Newsweek. She also sent him her picture.

“I never got around to replying, so I never heard from her again,” says Bowman, who went on to become deputy director of the National Counterintelligence Executive, which is tasked with developing policies to thwart foreign spies and terrorists.

But then, a week ago, he says, he got another message from China via his email account at George Washington University, where he has lectured on national security law since 2003.

“It was apparently from a university in China asking me come to speak at a conference on the environment”—not even remotely one of his areas of expertise, Bowman says. He called the FBI.

After a forensic examination of his machine, the FBI told him “they had found a malware type that’s designed to find out what’s on my computer,” Bowman says. “It wasn’t anything to infect it.” Still, just being able to read the contents of a target’s computer can reveal lots of valuable information like emails and documents, contact files with phone numbers and other personal data, like home addresses.

“Somebody who really knows what they’re doing” can wreak havoc, he says.

The FBI didn’t tell him exactly who was behind the hack, he says, “but they think they identified the woman” in a picture she sent along with one of her emails last spring. “It was somebody that they knew,” Bowman says. “I didn’t inquire any further.”

Before joining the FBI, Bowman was a Navy lawyer assigned to advise SEAL teams on clandestine operations, among other sensitive matters. His portfolio at the FBI gave him intimate knowledge of the details of operations to counter threats from foreign spy agencies.

“I still carry lots of deep Cold War secrets in my head,” he says, although not on his computer. But he is still very active in national security circles as chairman of the board of directors of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers, an organization with several thousand members nationwide, about half of them former CIA personnel.

Bowman’s revelation follows several months of bad news about the vulnerability of government computers to foreign hackers, the latest being a report published Monday saying that Chinese and Russian intelligence agencies are “aggressively aggregating and cross-indexing hacked U.S. computer databases” to catch American spies working overseas. China-based hackers breached about 22 million files held by the federal Office of Personnel Management, officials say.

“At least one clandestine network of American engineers and scientists who provide technical assistance to U.S. undercover operatives and agents overseas has been compromised as a result” of the Russian and Chinese exploitation of the files, the Los Angeles Times reported, citing two U.S. officials.

The story, Bowman says, was “pretty much on target.”

*** It obviously is much worse than we know for the Obama administration to sign off on a sanction and or other consequence ahead of the Xi’s visit to the United States next week.

U.S. may punish Chinese hacking before Xi’s visit

Imposing sanctions before this month’s summit could derail other priorities.

Top government officials are floating the idea of retaliating within the next week to Chinese cyberattacks, possibly by imposing targeted sanctions on some officials and firms, people familiar with the discussions say. But outside experts say it would be wiser to wait until after this month’s White House summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“I heard from one person that it could be as early as next week,” Jim Lewis, director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Strategic Technologies Program, told POLITICO. He added, “I still think it would be best to wait for the summit.”

Calls for U.S. retalation to Chinese hacking have risen to a furor since the China-linked breach of highly sensitive security clearance forms from 21.5 million current and former federal employees, disclosed in June.

But imposing sanctions before the late-September summit would risk derailing a serious conversation on cyber issues along with myriad other topics, including China’s economic troubles, Chinese belligerence in the South China Sea and cooperation on climate change.

Some China watchers even suspect that the White House is trying to improve its bargaining position in advance of the summit by floating the possibility of sanctions in a serious way.

“My sense is that they’re floating the idea to try to create some kind of leverage in the meetings,” said Adam Segal, a China scholar and director of the Digital and Cyberspace Policy Program at the Council on Foreign Relations.

If the White House did impose sanctions before the meeting, it would be deeply embarrassing to the Chinese and to Xi personally and risk the Chinese doing something to downgrade the summit’s importance, Segal said. “I think if they’re going to do it before the summit, they’ve got to be prepared for the summit to really take a downward turn,” he said.

Business leaders are also dubious about imposing sanctions before Xi’s visit.

The White House should use the summit “as an opportunity to engage in effective dialogue on the cyber issue. If sanctions jeopardize that opportunity, we’d rather see them put it off,” the leader of a major industry organization said in an interview, speaking without attribution because he was speculating about government policy.

If the White House ultimately imposes targeted sanctions, the association leader added, the sanctions should be “based on transparent, credible evidence that’s legally sound.” They should also be designed with a clear path forward that, ultimately, leads to fewer China-linked cyberattacks, he said.

“Most business executives we’ve spoke with felt the indictments against Chinese PLA officers didn’t meet that test,” he added, referring to the May 2014 U.S. indictments of five hackers employed by China’s People’s Liberation Army. That was the Obama administration’s most significant diplomatic strike against Chinese hacking to date.

“[The indictments] didn’t seem to advance anything and they seemed to increase tension rather than reduce it around the issue,” the official said.

In the wake of the OPM hacks, some political leaders have called for much more belligerent responses to Chinese hacking. They include GOP White House contenders Mike Huckabee, who has urged the U.S. to hack back against the communist nation, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who has suggested canceling the Obama-Xi summit entirely.

But even cyber hawks warned that aggressive action could backfire in advance of the summit.

“I think everything is going to basically be on hold until the Iran deal goes through and until after President Xi comes to meet with [President Obama],” said Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), who was formerly ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee.

Ruppersberger added that “we have to eventually draw a line on cyberattacks,” and that the U.S. bargaining position relative to China may be improved now because of the tailspin in the Chinese stock market and other financial difficulties.

The White House has routinely declined to speak publicly about the possibility of sanctioning China for cyberattacks or any more forceful follow-up to the PLA indictments. Press secretary Josh Earnest has said several times that Obama plans to raise cyber concerns with Xi during their summit.

“There’s no doubt that the president will certainly raise, as he has in every previous meeting with his Chinese counterpart, concerns about China’s behavior in cyberspace,” Earnest said during an Aug. 26 news conference.

White House officials have determined they must respond to China’s hacking of OPM, but have been debating for months what the appropriate response should be and when to impose it, Lewis said.

The option of targeted cyber sanctions, which Obama created by executive order in April, has long been on the table along with additional indictments or some form of diplomatic protest, he said.

White House officials have fingered China for the OPM hack anonymously but have not done so, thus far, on the record.

A forceful response to the OPM hack and to Chinese theft of U.S. companies’ intellectual property and trade secrets has also been delayed by more pressing diplomatic priorities, Lewis said, including securing Chinese cooperation for a deal to halt Iran’s nuclear weapons program

“This administration has done more than any other on cybersecurity, but, in a lot of cases, it ends up being No. 2 because of the need to get agreement on other things,” Lewis said. “Cyber always ends up coming in second place, particularly when it comes to China.”