Shhhhh, Two Other Government Secrets

Do you ever wonder who your neighbor really is? Do you ever wonder how people actually are allowed into the United States? Do you ever wonder who approves visas for foreigners and what they are doing when they get here?



Item one —>>

WASHINGTON — To those who lost loved ones in the suicide bombing of the American Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, in April 1983, it is often called “the forgotten bombing” — overshadowed by an even deadlier attack on a Marine barracks at the Beirut airport six months later.

Now, a new book shines a spotlight on the embassy bombing, which killed 63 people, 17 of them American, including eight Central Intelligence Agency officers. One of those was Robert C. Ames, a C.I.A. operative who is the hero of the book, “The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames,” by Kai Bird.

Mr. Bird explores Mr. Ames’s shadowy path in the Middle East, where he formed an unlikely friendship with the intelligence chief of the Palestine Liberation Organization and used it to try to draw the Israelis and Palestinians together in peace negotiations.

But in sifting through the long-dead embers from the embassy bombing, Mr. Bird makes a startling assertion: that an Iranian intelligence officer who defected to the United States in 2007 and is still living here under C.I.A. protection, oversaw the 1983 bombing, as well as other terrorist attacks against Americans in Lebanon.

“When it comes out that at least one of the intelligence officers associated with planning these truck bombings is living in the U.S., the relatives of these victims are going to go ballistic,” Mr. Bird said in an interview last week.

“This is a classic intelligence dilemma,” he continued. “When do you deal with bad guys? When do you agree to give them asylum? In my opinion, this goes over the line.”

Mr. Bird, who shared a Pulitzer Prize with Martin J. Sherwin for their book, “American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer,” spoke to more than 40 current and retired C.I.A. officers, though the agency declined to cooperate with him. He also consulted numerous sources in the Israeli Mossad and in Lebanon, including a Lebanese businessman with ties to the Palestine Liberation Organization.

A spokesman for the C.I.A., Todd Ebitz, declined to comment on Sunday about Mr. Bird’s assertion. “As a general rule, the C.I.A. does not comment on allegations that someone may or may not have worked as a source for the agency,” Mr. Ebitz said.

The disclosures in “The Good Spy” are timely, given that the United States is in a critical phase of negotiating a nuclear deal with Iran. The decision to grant asylum to the Iranian intelligence officer, Ali Reza Asgari, was made by the George W. Bush administration in 2007, Mr. Bird writes, because he had valuable information about Iran’s nuclear program, including that it had built a uranium enrichment facility at Natanz.

Mr. Asgari’s information has since been superseded by new disclosures, including that a second enrichment facility had been built in a mountain near the holy city of Qum. But even now, a critical negotiating issue is how many centrifuges Iran will be allowed to operate at these facilities.

On paper, Ali Reza Asgari would be a treasure trove for the C.I.A. He joined the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps soon after the 1979 revolution, and was sent to Lebanon in 1982, when Iran was bankrolling a wave of terrorism against Americans, through its proxy, the Islamic militant group Hezbollah. Later, he returned to Iran and rose to a senior post in the Revolutionary Guards, which oversees the nuclear program.

“He would have the crown jewels,” said Robert Baer, a retired C.I.A. agent who had his own career in the Middle East and spoke to Mr. Bird for his book.

But while Mr. Baer said Mr. Bird’s reporting is persuasive — he said he knows some of the sources the author consulted in the region — he noted that the book contains no smoking gun establishing Mr. Asgari’s whereabouts. Indeed, Mr. Asgari may no longer be in the United States.

Mr. Bird said that when he asked a former senior Bush official about the decision to grant Mr. Asgari asylum, he received a cryptic reply: “At the unclassified level, I cannot elaborate on this issue.” He cited a report in Der Spiegel, the German newsmagazine, that Mr. Asgari twice called a fellow Iranian defector — from Washington, where he had been held in a C.I.A. safe house, and from “somewhere in Texas.”

Stuart H. Newberger, a Washington lawyer who represents victims of the 1983 attack, said he believed the book was accurate, though he could not corroborate the Asgari disclosure himself. He said he had supplied Mr. Bird with trial transcripts and internal government documents he had obtained for his litigation.

“Asgari got a get-out-of-jail-free card because of the Iran nuclear issue,” Mr. Newberger said.

For the Obama administration, Mr. Bird’s revelations could be awkward. Mr. Newberger said it should make terrorism an issue in any negotiation about relaxing sanctions against Iran. But the White House has tried to keep the nuclear negotiations tightly focused on technical questions of Iran’s enrichment capability and international inspections.

“The Good Spy” is a vivid reminder of Iran’s prolific sponsorship of terrorism against the United States — a not-so-distant legacy. In January, Iran’s foreign minister and the leader of its nuclear negotiating team, Mohammad Javad Zarif, laid a wreath at the grave of Imad Mugniyeh, a lethal Hezbollah operative who the C.I.A. believes had an operational role in the embassy and barracks bombings. Mr. Mugniyeh was assassinated in 2008, probably by the Mossad, on information supplied by Mr. Asgari, who acted as his control officer during the 1980s, according to Mr. Bird.

None of this history is helpful to a White House eager to conclude a landmark nuclear deal. “People just don’t want to hear about Iranian terrorism,” Mr. Baer said. “Nobody has the appetite to dig this up. You focus on the battle you can win, which is nuclear.”

For Anne Dammarell, a retired American aid officer gravely injured in the Beirut bombing, Mr. Bird’s book solved a mystery of who masterminded the attack that nearly killed her.

But she said she was not outraged by the disclosure about Mr. Asgari. In the murky world of spying, she said, such trade-offs were sometimes necessary. “Most people understand that deals get cut,” she said. “You can be a very corrupt person and still die in your sleep.”

Item two –>

Some of our longtime readers will recall the case of Dongfan “Greg” Chung, a Chinese-born American engineer for Boeing, who was convicted in 2009 of passing US space program secrets to China. The case is arguably far more important than it might have seemed at the time, as Chung was technically the first American to be jailed for economic espionage. Many at the Federal Bureau of Investigation view the Chung conviction as a landmark case for providing clear legal proof of Chinese espionage in the US. Little is known, however, about how the FBI managed to uncover Chung’s espionage activities, which are believed to have gone on for nearly three decades. In the latest issue of The New Yorker, Yudhijit Bhattachargjee reveals for the first time the fascinating background of how the Bureau got to Chung. It did so through another American engineer of Chinese origin, named Chi Mak. Unlike Chung, who was ideologically committed to Maoism and was recruited by Chinese intelligence after immigrating to the US, Mak was an accredited intelligence operative who was allegedly specifically planted in the US by the Chinese. He came to America from Hong Kong in 1979 and worked for California-based defense contractor Power Paragon. He almost immediately began stealing secrets relating to US Navy systems. The FBI first started monitoring Mak and his wife, Rebecca, in 2004, following a tip. The effort evolved in one of the Bureau’s biggest counterintelligence cases, involving elaborate physical and electronic surveillance that lasted for nearly 18 months. During that time, FBI and Naval Criminal Investigation Service agents installed surveillance cameras outside the Maks’ residence, followed the suspects around, and monitored their telephone calls. Eventually, the surveillance team managed to acquire a warrant allowing them to clandestinely enter the Maks’ home and conduct a secret search. The nondestructive entry team discovered numerous stacks of secret documents “some two or three feet high” all around the suspects’ house. Among the findings was an address book containing the names of other engineers of Chinese origin living in the state of California. That, says Bhattachargjee, was the first time the FBI came across Chung’s name. During a subsequent covert entry into Mak’s house, the surveillance team installed a surveillance camera. The information collected from the camera led the FBI to Mak’s younger brother, Tai Mak, who had been living in the US since 2001, along with his wife, Fuk Li, and their two children. It turned out that Tai was acting as a courier, transporting to China various pieces of intelligence collected by his brother. The FBI eventually managed to arrest Tai and his wife at the Los Angeles International Airport as he was preparing to leave the US, carrying an encrypted CD with secret documents stolen by his brother. In 2007, Chi Mak was sentenced to 24.5 years in prison, Tai Mak to 10 years, and Chi’s wife, Rebecca, to three years. The remaining members of the two families were deported to China.

Operation Choke Point, Choke Tubes

Announced and launched in 2014, the White House in collusion with the Department of Justice created an edict in the national banking system that is allegedly to protect consumers, from what exactly is still to be determined, but Operation Choke Point leads to the assassination of private business and then it is an attack on customers. There are some bankers that are happy to comply, yet others not so much.

In a recent weekly address in Spanish, White House Director of the Domestic Policy Council Cecilia Muñoz weaved the President’s budget proposal into a fictitious narrative aimed to assure the Hispanic community that the administration’s policies will contribute to provide opportunity, economic growth, and prosperity, promising “it will grow the middle class.”

But as has all-too-often been the case during the last few years, the administration’s rhetoric concerning economic opportunity flies in the face of heavy-handed political maneuvers that destroy chances for upward mobility.


Choke Point

For example, the Obama administration has been employing clandestine policies to cut off easy access to cash by systematically eliminating alternative lending options. In August 2013, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Justice Department was “targeting banks that service a broad range of what it considers questionable financial ventures, including online payday lenders.” Additionally, banks like Capital One have already closed the accounts of check-cashing companies. By going after these companies, hardworking Hispanics without a bank account may not have a place to cash their paychecks.

This affects anyone who finds themselves strapped for cash, including self-employed and blue-collar workers. The administration’s regulatory assault is not an assault on the short-term lending industry, but rather on any consumer who relies on having access to cash in cash flow emergencies, especially in underserved communities. For example, two-thirds of all Hispanics work in the service industry, and they will feel the brunt of these policies more than others. In addition, alternative lenders can cater to newer immigrants without substantial credit histories — a demographic that banks fail to serve.

Contrary to the administration’s claim that these targeted financial businesses have a “disparate impact” on minorities, the truth is that these heavy-handed regulations will have a disparate impact on the country’s minorities, many of which live in communities with limited access to traditional banks. And the answer is not capping rates or creating artificial “waiting periods” as the controversial Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has considered. Those remedies will ultimately ensure that the companies will stop providing these services since they are no longer profitable.

In addition to restricting financial options for blue-collar workers, lending regulation will also hurt small-business owners and entrepreneurs, an area where Hispanics have contributed greatly to the American economy. Hispanic entrepreneurs fortified the U.S. economy by an estimated $468 billion last year. This has been pivotal for the nation’s economy, especially in the face of the economic recession.

For frame of reference, from 2010 to 2012, the total number of American entrepreneurs declined by 250,000. Yet in the same period, there were 160,000 new Hispanic entrepreneurs in the U.S.

From 1990 to 2012, entrepreneurship among Hispanics multiplied nearly 10 times that of the general population. Many of them utilized these alternative loan products for quick access to capital, capital that is harder than ever to receive from traditional banks due to the passage of the Dodd-Frank Act.

Targeting payday lenders is only the tip of the iceberg of the administration’s broader initiative, which they tellingly named Operation Choke Point, a maneuver designed to literally choke private businesses at their financial wellsprings by intimidating banks and lending institutions into compliancy. These purely political maneuvers hold no promise for actual economic recovery.

In addition to targeting short-term lenders, another goal of the Obama Administration’s Operation Choke Point is to obstruct multi-level marketing companies, where new entrepreneurs often get their start.

Take Herbalife, a company where Hispanics make up 60 percent of direct sellers. The administration opts to gut profitable companies, condemning sales practices that they judge to be inferior while at the same time initiating no real recovery measures. These policies hurt minorities, who disproportionately make up the lower echelon of workers that are forced to seek irregular forms of employment.

Government agencies and the folks who seek to empower them with more control over the lives of ordinary people are quick to claim “disparate impact” as a justification for their regulatory excesses. But in order to understand the full story, policymakers should look at the impact those very same regulations have on the economy at large, all the people whose jobs and livelihoods are tied to the impacted industries, and the disparate impact the destruction of those industries will have on underserved communities all across the country.

Without a sane analysis, efforts like Operation Choke Point can really only be interpreted as political operatives prioritizing an ideological crusade over an interest in actual economic recovery.

Now for the Choke Tube component, it is the gun dealers and the parts dealers……the backdoor method to infringe again on the 2nd Amendment.

BankUnited N.A., which dropped Top Gun Firearms Training & Supply in  Miami from its customer list, declined to comment.

In a statement to The Washington Times, Bank of America said: “We would not  deny banking services to an organization solely on the basis of its  industry.”

The banking giant blamed a misunderstanding with the Arizona gun  manufacturers McMillan Group International and American Spirit Arms.

However, the American Banking Association, the industry’s advocacy group in  Washington, said businesses deemed “risky” will be frozen out of the financial  system if the Justice Department continues Operation Choke Point because the  regulatory burden and risk of investigation will be too great for  less-specialized banks to bear.

“We’re being threatened with a regulatory regime that attempts to foist on us  the obligation to monitor all types of transactions,” Richard Riese, a senior  vice president at the American Bankers Association, said in the April 28 issue  of American Banker. “All of this is predicated on a notion that the banks are a  choke point for all businesses.”

In an interview with The Times, Mr. Riese said the cost of doing business  with gun retailers outweighs the benefits for some banks, given that regulators  deem the industry as “risky,” state laws vary on the sale of guns and  ammunition, and the Justice Department’s enforcement.

The Independent Community Bankers of America, an association for small banks,  said enforcement actions from the Justice Department are too broad and overly  aggressive.

“While preventing fraud is a top concern for community banks, it needs to be  balanced with ensuring that businesses and consumers that operate in accordance  with applicable laws can still access payment systems,” bankers association  President Camden Fine told the Justice Department in an April 7 letter. “ICBA  requests that the DOJ suspend Operation Choke Point immediately and focus its  resources directly on businesses that may be violating the law, rather than  targeting banks providing payment services.”

Justice’s operation threatens to “close access to the financial system to  law-abiding businesses, because the mere prospect of an enforcement action is  sufficient to cause financial institutions to restrict access to their payment  systems to only established companies that present low risks,” the organization  said.

‘No statutory authority’

Regulations on the financial industry have increased over the past few years,  said Thomas P. Vartanian, chairman of Dechert LLP, a global law firm  specializing in regulatory and financial matters.

He noted the chilling effect of overregulation by the Financial Fraud  Enforcement Task Force, an interagency behemoth that includes the departments of  Commerce, Justice, Labor, Education, Homeland Security and Justice along with  the Internal Revenue Service, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Secret  Service, the FBI, the Social Security Administration and the Federal Trade  Commission.

“The key to effective regulation is the balancing between too little and too  much regulation,” Mr. Vartanian said. “The problem here is that there are now so  many regulators, including the Department of Justice, with their fingers on the  scales on that balancing act.”

Congressional Republicans say the Obama administration is using its  regulatory powers to shutter industries it doesn’t like. Last year, 31  Republicans accused the Justice Department and the Federal Deposit Insurance  Corp. of intimidating banks and payment processors to “terminate business  relationships with lawful lenders.”

In a March hearing before the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs  subcommittee on consumer protection, Sen. David Vitter, Louisiana Republican,  complained that several payday lenders — another industry labeled “risky” by the  administration — were being dropped by their banks in his home state.

“There is a determined effort from [the Justice Department] to the regulators  to cut off credit and use other tactics to force [payday lenders] out of  business,” Mr. Vitter said. “I find that deeply troubling because it has no  statutory basis, no statutory authority.”

In a House hearing in April, FDIC acting General Counsel Richard Osterman  defended his agency’s definition of what constitutes a “risky” business —  subject to money laundering or other criminal behavior — but made it clear that  no bank is outright prohibited from serving any such companies.

“We have actually put out a policy statement on this issue to make it very  clear from the very top that as long as financial institutions are properly  managing their relationships and the risks, they’re neither prohibited nor  discouraged from providing these services,” Mr. Osterman said.

“Basically, what we’re saying is, these types of programs can be, can involve  high-risk activities that could create litigation risk and reputation risk for  financial institutions,” he said. “So, they need to do due diligence to ensure  that  the folks who they’re banking are acting in a safe and sound manner.”

But the cost of that due diligence, coupled with the threat of a lawsuit for  doing business with a customer in an industry the government has defined as  risky, is having a chilling effect on legitimate companies such as gun dealers,  said Mr. Weinstock, the Hunton & Williams lawyer.

“We are one of the most heavily regulated industries in America,” said Mr.  Sirochman of American Spirit Arms. “We have to ship our guns to another federal  licensed dealers for pickup. The people that are picking up the rifles have to  go through a background check to make sure they don’t have any felonies. You  can’t own a gun or pass the background check if you do.

“All this is, is an assault on our Second Amendment rights.”


Cyber: When War Isn’t War

The most under reported war across the globe is cyber-spying. It has only been this week that Eric Holder and the Department of Justice decided to arrest a handful of Chinese that have been cyber-spying on America for years among other factions.

Cyber threats and hackers is nothing new, but it is rarely reported until it involves citizens like in the matter of Target stores last year. The question that remains officially unanswered is just why has the United States been so soft on cyber-wars against the United States? The answer is in fact foreign policy trumps everything and that should cause some real head-scratching as foreign policy under Barack Obama via Hillary Clinton and John Kerry is decayed.

There is the Syrian Electronic Army, Turkey’s RedHack, Serbia’s TeslaTeam, China has them, Russia has them, Iran has them. Hackers are the 21st century nuclear weapons. In fact nuclear weapons secrets is just what the Chinese hackers were after and are now sought by Eric Holder.

The United States brought first-of-its kind cyber-espionage charges Monday against five Chinese military officials accused of hacking into U.S. companies to gain trade secrets.

According to the indictment, hackers targeted the U.S. nuclear power, metals and solar products industries and are accused of stealing trade secrets and economic espionage. The victims are Alcoa World Alumina, Westinghouse Electric Co., Allegheny Technologies, U.S. Steel Corp., United Steelworkers Union, and SolarWorld, Attorney General Eric Holder said.

The charges underscore a longtime Obama administration goal of prosecuting state-sponsored cyber threats.

“The alleged hacking appears to have been conducted for no other reason than to advantage state-owned companies and other interests in China at the expense of businesses here in the United States,” Holder told a news conference at the Justice Department. “This is a tactic that the United States government categorically denounces.”

Said Bob Anderson Jr., executive assistant director of the FBI’s criminal, cyber response and services division: “This is the new normal. This is what you’re going to see on a recurring basis.”

In a statement, China’s Foreign Ministry said the U.S. charges were based on “fabricated facts” and jeopardize China-U.S. “cooperation and mutual trust.”

US Government: China Cited in Cyber-spying Case

US Government: China Cited in Cyber-spying Case

“China is steadfast in upholding cybersecurity,” said the statement. “The Chinese government, the Chinese military and their relevant personnel have never engaged or participated in cyber theft of trade secrets. The U.S. accusation against Chinese personnel is purely ungrounded and absurd.”

The charges against the Chinese military officials come on the heels of a separate worldwide operation over the weekend that resulted in the arrest of 97 people in 16 countries who are suspected of developing, distributing or using malicious software called BlackShades, Holder said. The software allows criminals to gain surreptitious control of personal computers. An announcement on those arrests was expected for later Monday in New York.

“These two cases show that we are stepping up our cyber enforcement efforts really around the globe,” Holder said, adding that the U.S. will not tolerate these activities.

U.S. officials have previously asserted that China’s army and China-based hackers had launched attacks on American industrial and military targets, often to steal secrets or intellectual property. China has said that it faces a major threat from hackers, and the country’s military is believed to be among the biggest targets of the NSA and U.S. Cyber Command.

“It is our hope that the Chinese government will respect our criminal justice system,” Holder said.

Attorney General Eric Holder, accompanied by, from …

In recent months, Washington has been increasingly critical of what it describes as provocative Chinese actions in pursuit of territorial claims in disputed seas in East Asia. For its part, Beijing complains that the Obama administration’s attempt to redirect its foreign policy toward Asia after a decade of war in the Middle East is emboldening China’s neighbors and causing tension.

The hackers allegedly stole emails and other communications that could have helped Chinese firms learn the strategies and weaknesses of American companies involved in litigation with the Chinese government or Chinese firms.

Despite the ominous-sounding allegations, at least one of the firms downplayed the hacking.

“To our knowledge, no material information was compromised during this incident, which occurred several years ago,” said Monica Orbe, Alcoa’s director of corporate affairs. “Safeguarding our data is a top priority for Alcoa, and we continue to invest resources to protect our systems.”

Last September, President Barack Obama discussed cybersecurity issues on the sidelines of a summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“China not only does not support hacking but also opposes it,” Premier Li Keqiang said last year in a news conference when asked if China would stop hacking U.S. websites. “Let’s not point fingers at each other without evidence but do more to safeguard cyber security.”


But hacking still does threaten common citizens and yet no one tells us much less provides the tools to protect us.

Computer hacker forums lit up last week as Federal Bureau of Investigation agents and police in 17 countries began knocking on doors, seizing computers and making arrests.

On the popular websites where cyber criminals buy and sell software kits and help each other solve problems, hackers issued warnings about police visits to their homes.

The hackers quickly guessed that a major crackdown was underway on users of the malicious software known as Blackshades.

The malware sells for as little as $40. It can be used to hijack computers remotely and turn on computer webcams, access hard drives and capture keystrokes to steal passwords — without victims ever knowing it.

Criminals have used Blackshades to commit everything from extortion to bank fraud, the FBI said.

Last week, watching it all play out were about two dozen FBI cybercrime investigators holed up in the New York FBI’s special operations center, high above lower Manhattan.

Rows of computer screens flickered with updates from police in Germany, Denmark, Canada, the Netherlands and elsewhere. Investigators followed along in real time as hundreds of search warrants were executed and suspects were interviewed.

One of the largest global cybercrime crackdowns has yielded the arrests of over 100 people linked to the Blackshades malware.

The sweep, capping a two-year operation, was coordinated so suspects didn’t have time to destroy evidence. It included the arrest in Moldova of a Swedish hacker who was a co-creator of Blackshades. Prosecutors in the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office are expected to announce the results of the probe later Monday.

700,000 victims around the world: Inside the FBI special operations center, six large computer monitors displayed key parts of the probe. Agents kept an eye on one screen showing a popular website where Blackshades was sold. The site was taken down by the FBI.

Another monitor showed a heatmap of the world displaying the locations of the 700,000 estimated victims, whose computers have been hijacked by criminals using the Blackshades software. Splotches of green on the map indicated concentrations of infected computers in highly populated parts of the U.S., Europe, Asia and Australia.

The FBI said that in just a few years Blackshades has become one of the world’s most popular remote-administration tools, or RATs, used for cybercrime.

Leo Taddeo, chief of the FBI’s cybercrime investigations in New York, said the unprecedented coordination with so many police agencies came about because of concern about the fast growth of cybercrime businesses.

“These cyber criminals have paid employees, they have feedback from customers — other cyber criminals — to continually update and improve their product,” Taddeo said recently. While he spoke, agents took calls from counterparts working the case in more than 40 U.S. cities.

Blackshades had grown rapidly because it was marketed as off-the-shelf, easy to use software, much like legitimate consumer tax-preparation software.

“It’s very sophisticated software in that it is not very easy to detect,” Taddeo said. “It can be installed by somebody with very little skills.”

Hack victim: I felt completely violated’: For victims whose personal computers were turned into weapons against them, the arrests bring reassurance.

Cassidy Wolf, the reigning Miss Teen USA, received an ominous email message in March 2013.

The email, from an unidentified sender, included nude photos of herself, obviously taken in her bedroom from her laptop. “Either you do one of the things listed below or I upload these pics and a lot more … on all your accounts for everybody to see and your dream of being a model will be transformed into a porn star,” the email said.

And so began what Wolf describes as three months of torture.

The email sender demanded better quality photos and video, and a five-minute sex show via Skype, according to FBI documents filed in court. He told her she must respond to his emails immediately — software he had installed told him when she opened his messages.

“I felt completely violated,” Wolf said in an interview. “I felt scared because I didn’t know if this person was a physical threat. My whole sense of security and trust was gone.”

A former classmate she knew, Jared Abrahams, had installed Blackshades malware on Wolf’s laptop. In March, the 20-year-old computer science student was sentenced to 18 months in prison after pleading guilty to extortion and unauthorized access of a computer.

Abrahams had been watching her from her laptop camera for a year, Wolf later learned. The laptop always sat open in her bedroom, as she played music or communicated with her friends.

Abrahams had used Blackshades to target victims from California to Maryland, and from Russia to Ireland. He used the handle “cutefuzzypuppy” to get tips on how to use malware, according to FBI documents. In all, he told the FBI, he had controlled as many as 150 computers.

Cybercriminals like Abrahams often rely on weak links in computer security, and mistakes by victims, to infect computers.

Many computer users don’t update anti-virus software. Many click on links sent in messages on social media sites such as Facebook, or in email, without knowing what they’re clicking on. In seconds, malware is downloaded. Often computer users have no idea infection has taken place.

“A hacker is going to go for the low-hanging fruit,” said Tyler Cohen Wood, a cybersecurity expert at the Defense Intelligence Agency and author of the book “Catching the Catfishers.”

Victims often don’t realize how easy they make themselves to be targeted and can better protect themselves by being careful about what they reveal online, Wood said.

Taddeo, the FBI cyber chief, said the most common way criminals have used Blackshades to target victims is by sending emails that seem legitimate, perhaps with a marketing offer, and with a link to click. “Anyone who signs on to the internet is potentially a victim of this tool,” he said.

In Wolf’s case, she received a Facebook message related to teen pageants. When her computer was infected it sent messages to other friends, whose computers also became infected.

The episode has made Wolf into a campaigner to urge young people to be better educated about online safety. She said her passwords are now more complicated and unique for each account, and she changes them often. She uses updated security software.

“I really didn’t think that everything I worked for could be lost because of this,” she said. “This can happen to anybody.” To top of page


The Persian Incursion the U.S. Ignores

Once again, John Kerry’s attempt to restart the peace talks between Israel and Palestine failed again yesterday with no progress. Talks are slated to go another round in June, all of this is a fool’s errand.

While Kerry is on his way to log as many travel miles as Hillary flew during her term at SecState, Kerry has abandoned concentration on several fronts least of which is Iran’s nuclear program. Rouhani is moving completely unchecked and quite aggressively against the United States with regard to declaring victory in Syria, his nuclear weapons program and signing deals all over the globe. Diplomatic efforts by Barack Obama and John Kerry  are folly. Yet, what else is Iran doing that should terrify America? One victory Iran is having is their clandestine cyber war, titled Saffron Rose.

A group of Iranian hackers have allegedly been targeting American defense contractors, and attempting to quell dissent in Iran itself, in an elaborate and technically advanced campaign that American security researchers call “Operation Saffron Rose.” The attacks began in October 2013 and continued until at least April 8, according to Milpitas, California-based security company FireEye, which documented the operation in a report released yesterday (May 13).

FireEye suspects that the group behind Saffron Rose is Ajax Security Team, whose members are thought to have conducted politically-motivated website defacements for several years. The group’s “graduation”  from vandalism to espionage shows that Iranian actors in the cyber attack space are becoming more sophisticated, FireEye says.

The “proxy software” was, of course, malicious.

According to FireEye, Ajax Security Team often uses a type of spyware that FireEye calls “Stealer.” Stealer often arrives as a Trojan horse, secretly bundled into other software such as proxies or VPN clients.

Once a target installs an infected program, Stealer runs a program called IntelRS.exe, which snoops on infected computers in a variety of ways. These methods include keylogging, taking screenshots, gathering system information (IP addresses, usernames, hostnames, open ports, installed applications), collecting email and instant messaging information, and collecting browser-based information such as login credentials, browsing history, cookies and bookmarks.

Stealer encrypts the data it gathers, then sends it to a command-and-control server. FireEye said one such server contained information on 77 individuals targeted in Operation Saffron Rose.

Many of the programs used to conceal Stealer are anti-censorship programs such as Psiphon, which don’t seem to be targeted toward the American defense companies that have been Ajax Security Team’s most recent targets. (One of Psiphon’s lead developers at the University of Toronto was Nart Villeneuve, who went on to become a malware researcher and is lead author of FireEye’s Saffron Rose report.)

The anti-censorship programs often appeared to be set to Iran Standard Time (which is uniquely three and a half hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time) and had a Persian-language setting. FireEye believes that Ajax Security Team may also be targeting Iranians who use anti-censorship programs to dodge Iran’s strict Internet regulations.

Interestingly, FireEye’s report observed that Ajax Security Team has not been spotted using zero-day exploits, or secret vulnerabilities in program code, although the team has been seen using publicly known and unpatched exploits in its cybervandalism activities.

“It is unclear if they or other Iranian actors are capable of producing or acquiring exploit code,” FireEye’s researchers wrote.

FireEye’s report compared Saffron Rose to Shamoon, a highly destructive espionage campaign that targeted the Saudi Arabian oil company Saudi Aramco in August 2012. The Shamoon spyware gathered company data from infected computers, then disabled them by overwriting their master boot records, which PCs need to start up. Some experts suspected Shamoon came from Iran, but nothing has been proven.

The relationship between Ajax Security Team and the Iranian government is unclear, but FireEye said that Saffron Rose is proof that Iran’s online capabilities are becoming more sophisticated.

“There is increasing evidence to suggest that the hacker community in Iran is engaged in a transition from politically motivated defacements and denial-of-service attacks to cyberespionage activities,” its report concluded.

As Iran continues unchecked, it is important to know what else Iran is doing.



Washington-based analysts say Iran has pressed ahead with operations at a military base suspected to have hosted nuclear weapon-related experiments.

An April 25 satellite image of Iran’s Parchin installation suggests the nation, since January, has moved “possible building material and debris” near a building that the International Atomic Energy Agency has sought unsuccessfully for more than two years to visit, according to a Monday assessment by the Institute for Science and International Security. The U.N. nuclear watchdog believes the structure may once have been capable of hosting explosion tests relevant to nuclear-arms development.

“Two trucks or containers have been removed from the area surrounding the suspected high-explosives test building, while a larger object, possibly a truck or large container, appears slightly north of it,” ISIS analysts David Albright and Serena Kelleher-Vergantini said in their report.

Iran, which insists that its atomic ambitions are strictly peaceful, began altering the Parchin facility weeks after IAEA officials began seeking access to the location, the independent experts said.

The nation last year undertook a months-long pause in activities at the site, but a January image analysis revealed an apparent resumption of operations there, the analysis says.

This week’s findings came as Iran launched a new round of multilateral talks aimed at defusing international fears over Tehran’s suspected nuclear-arms aspirations.

“By continuing to modify the site and denying the IAEA access, Iran is reducing the chances of reaching a comprehensive solution by the initial deadline of July 20,” when an interim nuclear agreement with major powers is scheduled to expire, the ISIS report says.

Certain specialists have questioned the U.N. agency’s rationale for pressing to visit the Parchin compound. The evidence prompting those requests — intelligence gathered and furnished to the agency by IAEA member governments — remains confidential.





Hillary and Kerry, Stewards of Soros Policy

Money buys influence and Soros has both. While much has been written and exposed on George Soros, at the very top U.S. leadership follows the Soros edict, follow my playbook and you will be rewarded.

Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Kerry have all left a wake of destruction globally as they have been bought by George Soros. Most recently, matters relating to Israel, Russia and the European Union appear to defy logic, when upon a closer look, Soros is at the core of policy.

Quietly, last week, John Kerry welcomed and introduced George Soros at a conference held at the George C. Marshall Center to discuss matters on civil society. When Soros speaks, leadership listens and on the subject of civil society, Soros is dictating society according to his own objectives. None of those objectives are in keeping with America’s best interests. Obama, Hillary and Kerry are complete acolytes of Soros and obey his commands.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will introduce liberal megadonor George Soros at an open forum on Tuesday, the latest evidence of the billionaire using his political connections to benefit his investments and foreign policy goals, critics say.

Kerry will introduce Soros at the 1:30 p.m. forum on May 13 at the George C. Marshall Center in Washington, D.C., according to a State Department event notice.

Soros will discuss “strengthening civil society, democracy and the world economy” with Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs Douglas Frantz following Kerry’s introduction.

Soros, a New York City hedge fund manager who amassed great wealth through his company Soros Fund Management, has used his foundation network—known as the Open Society Foundations (OSF)—to dispense more than $11 billion to groups abroad as well as numerous left-leaning U.S. groups in the last three decades.

He is perhaps the Democratic Party’s most famous donor, contributing almost $24 million to advocacy groups that supported Kerry’s failed presidential bid in 2004, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. He also donated $1 million to the Priorities USA Action Super PAC that helped reelect President Barack Obama in 2012.

Critics say Soros leverages his political connections to increase the returns on his investments.

While Soros has increased his multi-million dollar investments in both U.S. and foreign companies that extract shale oil and gas, the Obama administration has championed natural gas as a less carbon-intensive bridge fuel toward a “clean-energy future.” The administration’s proposal to offer incentives to companies that use trucks powered by natural gas would benefit Westport Innovations, a company that converts diesel engines for natural gas use and is partially owned by Soros’ hedge fund.

Soros’ political advocacy also tends to blend with his investments. He proposed in 2009 that developed countries create a “green fund” to combat climate change in developing countries by directing billions from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) toward forestry, land-use, and agricultural projects. Soros’ fund controls more than a $200 million stake in Adecoagro, a Luxembourg-based company that owns hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland in South America and would benefit from the IMF cash infusion.

Soros told the New Yorker in a 2004 interview that “there are occasionally symbiotic moments between political and business interests” that occur during his efforts to influence American policy.

Michael Rubin, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and former Pentagon adviser in the George W. Bush administration, said in an email that he hopes “Kerry will take a long shower after the event” because hosting Soros is the “diplomatic equivalent of prostitution.”

Rubin said the optics of the event are “horrible” given Soros’ longstanding ties to the administration and his past record of marrying policy advocacy with business.

“If Kerry wants to sponsor a well-deserving guest at a State Department ‘open forum,’ why not someone like Malala Yousefzai, the young school girl whom the Taliban tried to murder?” he said. “Our diplomats could learn a thing or two about moral clarity from her; they certainly won’t from Soros.”

State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf told the Washington Free Beacon that criticisms of Soros’ appearance at the event are “wholly ridiculous and have no basis in fact whatsoever.”

“This is a regular secretary’s open forum event intended to inform and educate department employees,” Harf said in an email. “George Soros was invited to discuss his views on support of civil society.”

Harf noted that the forum has hosted “guests from diverse points of view” in the past, including Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Martin Dempsey, General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt, and Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson.

Soros’ actions abroad have also conflicted with traditional U.S. foreign policy stances, raising questions about his appearance at a State Department-sponsored forum.

The OSF have financially supported groups that support boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaigns against Israel and called it an “apartheid state,” according to a report last May by NGO Monitor.

The OSF network finances groups such as the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, a Gaza-based organization that regularly accuses Israel of being an “apartheid state” and refers to terror attacks on Israeli civilians as “resistance.”

Kerry was widely criticized last month after warning that Israel could become “an apartheid state” if it failed to reach a two-state solution with the Palestinians.

Additionally, Soros has financed opposition groups and media in countries such as Azerbaijan and Armenia, two countries that are still locked in a violent and decades-old territorial dispute over the Nagorno-Karabakh region. Soros’ involvement there prompted leaders to express concerns that he could further stoke tensions and contribute to another outbreak of war.

“He pursues his own vision, undisturbed by his effect on other nations or the interests of his own,” wrote Richard Miniter, a contributor to Forbes, in 2011. “It is hard for foreign governments to hold him accountable, and his goals and methods are usually kept secret.”


Soros wrote in his 2006 book, The Age of Fallibility: The Consequences of the War on Terror, that “the main obstacle to a stable and just world order is the United States.”

Soros has an estimated net worth of $20 billion—much of it made through his controversial investment philosophy of making massive, highly leveraged bets on the direction of global financial markets. His involvement in the East Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s drew sharp rebukes from leaders in the region.

He is a major donor to the liberal Center for American Progress and an architect of the Democracy Alliance, a shadowy organization that disburses millions to left-leaning groups but does not disclose its donors.

Additionally, Soros has staked out controversial positions on social issues, calling in 2010 for the full legalization of marijuana in the United States.

Soros’ office did not respond to a request for comment.


George Soros

When it comes to Russia and Putin’s aggressive missions towards Crimea, Ukraine, the Baltic states, George Soros has his hands all over the policy of the United States and the European Union where the International Monetary Fund plays in the background.

The billionaire financier says in its tepid response to Russia’s Crimea land grab, the EU flubbed a key chance to breathe new life into the stale union.
George Soros, one of the world’s leading investors, has warned that the European Union is in danger of falling apart if it fails to confront Vladimir Putin’s naked aggression in Ukraine.

The billionaire financier told The Daily Beast that European governments should have seized on Russia’s land grab in Crimea to breathe new life into a union that is disintegrating and stumbling towards oblivion. Instead, he argued, squabbling European nations have failed to meet the challenge and continued to act in their own narrow self-interest. “Europe was totally unprepared for this crisis and Putin outmaneuvered Europe with no difficulty,” he said.

Soros, who became known as the Man Who Broke the Bank of England after making $1 billion by betting against Europe’s previous financial union, has long insisted that the Euro was being fatally mismanaged. His latest book, published this week, is entitled The Tragedy of the European Union. A loud supporter at the launch of the Euro currency and a cheerleader for a united Europe, Soros has been confounded by what he calls the “nightmare” reality 15 years after its introduction.

Speaking in London, he said it was heart-breaking to see European governments shrug their shoulders at the precise moment the continent was finally witnessing an unprecedented popular uprising in the name of the European Union. “Ukrainians have effectively proved that they are willing to sacrifice their lives to get closer to a Europe that is, at the same time, in the process of disintegration,” he said.

With Putin’s troops in Crimea and a referendum on joining Russia due to be held over the weekend, Soros said there was still time for Europe to act, and reinvigorate the European Union’s withering soul.

“I would argue passionately that [the European Union] should not be a failed experiment and events in Ukraine are a wake-up call to face that issue,” he said. “It’s a challenge, and I hope that Europe will respond to it and actually really rediscover its original mission because that’s what got lost in this distortion that has occurred.”

Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, indicated that Europe was willing to increase pressure on the Kremlin on Thursday during her most emotional and strident speech since the start of the Ukrainian crisis. She said a referendum orchestrated by Crimea’s pro-Russia parliament would be a “catastrophe,” and indicated that the EU was willing to impose travel bans and asset freezes on people and firms accused of helping to violate Ukraine’s territorial integrity as soon as Monday.

Soros argued that it was more important for Europe to offer positive assistance to the struggling Ukrainian government. “It’s very important to respond and respond the right way, which is not necessarily to impose sanctions on Russia, but to actually help Ukraine financially, and also with technical assistance—something  like a European Marshall Plan for Ukraine—that would be the right response,” he said.

In his new book, which asks “Is it too late to save the European Union?” Soros argues that Putin’s attempt to build a new Eastern bloc in Ukraine and beyond could eventually jolt Europe back to life. “We have just witnessed a dramatic test of strength between Russia and the European Union. Russia came out ahead,” he said. “Russia has benefited from the fact that Europe is disunited. But now that Russia is emerging as a threat to Europe, it may once again become a force that brings Europe closer together. I pin my hopes on Chancellor Merkel … one must never give up hope.”

He is hardly holding his breath, however. Soros blames the Germans for eroding Europe’s fragile union by enforcing policies of austerity and allowing southern European nations to build up debts they will never be able to repay. He accused Berlin of doing “just enough” to keep the Euro afloat: “This confirms my worst fears. It’s the nightmare I’ve been talking about and there is little chance we’ll wake up soon.”

Germany’s economic strength makes it the Eurozone’s driving force—Britain is not part of the currency union—but the nation’s history has turned it into a reluctant leader. “Germany has emerged as the imperial power, the hegemon of Europe, but the German public does not want to be in that position exactly because of the painful memory of Hitler. It is in denial and is unwilling to live up to the responsibilities,” he said.

Despite its unwillingness to assume a strong leadership role, Soros argues that Berlin’s fiscal rigidity has created a two-tier Europe where debtor countries are at a permanent disadvantage. If that does not change, he said: “We will have a Europe in which Germany is seen not as a leader but as an oppressor and exploiter. It will not be loved and admired by the rest of Europe it will be hated and resisted.”

That resistance has already begun in a swathe of countries where popular anti-European sentiment has been seen on the street and at the ballot box. Europe-wide elections in May are expected to send a record number of politicians to Brussels who are hostile to the very institutions they will be populating. In Britain, the governing Conservative Party has promised a referendum on leaving the European Union altogether. “That would be a big step forward in the disintegration of the European Union,” Soros said. “Britain’s absence would greatly diminish the weight of the EU in the world … The world badly needs Europe’s soft power.”