Hat tip to NSA FBI for Cracking Drovorub

The National Security Agency and the FBI are jointly exposing malware that they say Russian military hackers use in cyber-espionage operations.

Hackers working for Russia’s General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate’s 85th Main Special Service Center, military unit 26165, use the malware, which the Russians themselves call “Drovorub,” to target Linux systems, the NSA and FBI said Thursday in a detailed report.

The hackers, also known as APT28 or Fancy Bear, allegedly hacked the Democratic National Committee in 2016 and frequently target defense, government, and aerospace entities. The Russian military agency is also known as the GRU.

FBI e NSA descobrem novo malware Linux chamado Drovorub ...

While the alert does not include specific details about Drovorub victims, U.S. officials did say they published the alert Thursday to raise awareness about state-sponsored Russian hacking and possible defense sector vulnerabilities. The disclosure comes just months before American voters will conduct a presidential election.

“Information in this Cybersecurity Advisory is being disclosed publicly to assist National Security System owners and the public to counter the capabilities of the GRU, an organization which continues to threaten the United States and U.S. allies as part of its rogue behavior, including their interference in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election,” the NSA and FBI said in the report.

The U.S. intelligence community has assessed that multiple foreign governments may “seek to compromise our election infrastructure.” It was not clear if the Russian hackers were using Drovorub malware in any ongoing interference efforts related to the 2020 presidential elections.

The NSA and FBI urged national security personnel, including the U.S. Department of Defense, to be on the alert for Drovorub attacks.

“The malware represents a threat because Linux systems are used pervasively throughout National Security Systems, Department of Defense, and the Defense Industrial Base,” the statement said. “All stakeholders should take action as appropriate.”

The announcement comes nearly one year after the NSA stood up a new cybersecurity directorate aimed at sharing more adversary threat intelligence with the public, and in recent weeks the NSA has worked to expose a spate of Russian campaigns, including Russian hackers’ efforts to target coronavirus research.

Senior Vice President of Intelligence at CrowdStrike, Adam Meyers, told CyberScoop the release shows these hackers are not easily deterred.

“Most importantly it demonstrates that FANCY BEAR has more tools and capabilities that are still being identified. This actor didn’t pack up and go home, they still have tricks up their sleeve,” Meyers told CyberScoop, adding that the news should raise alarm bells about Linux security. “Another important take away is that Linux is an area that organizations need to keep in mind from a malware perspective, many have not invested in similar security tools for this platform as they have for user platforms.”

Attacks employing Drovorub may be linked with previous Russian military efforts against connected devices, according to the NSA and the FBI. An APT28 attack that Microsoft security researchers identified last year against devices such as an office printer or a VOIP phone, for instance, was linked with an IP address that has also been used to access the Drovorub command and control IP address, the NSA and FBI said.

In such attacks, the hackers appeared interested in exploiting so-called internet of things devices in order to gain access to broader networks, other insecure accounts, and sensitive data, according to Microsoft.

The joint NSA and FBI release also has the effect of alerting the Russian government that U.S. officials are capable of tracking some of their work. The 780th Military Intelligence Brigade, which currently works with the Pentagon’s offensive cyber arm, Cyber Command, tweeted information out about the malware, and tagged a state-funded media outlet, RT, to flag the news for them.

The Drovorub malware consists of several components, the NSA and the FBI said, including an implant, a kernel module rootlet, a file transfer tool, and an attacker-controlled command and control server.

“When deployed on a victim machine, the Drovorub implant (client) provides the capability for direct communications with actor-controlled C2 infrastructure; file download and upload capabilities; execution of arbitrary commands as ‘root’; and port forwarding of network traffic to other hosts on the network,” the NSA and FBI said.

More detail for zdnet:

“Technical details released today by the NSA and FBI on APT28’s Drovorub toolset are highly valuable to cyber defenders across the United States.”

To prevent attacks, the agency recommends that US organizations update any Linux system to a version running kernel version 3.7 or later, “in order to take full advantage of kernel signing enforcement,” a security feature that would prevent APT28 hackers from installing Drovorub’s rootkit.

The joint security alert [PDF] contains guidance for running Volatility, probing for file hiding behavior, Snort rules, and Yara rules — all helpful for deploying proper detection measures.

Some interesting details we gathered from the 45-page-long security alert:

  • The name Drovorub is the name that APT28 uses for the malware, and not one assigned by the NSA or FBI.
  • The name comes from drovo [дрово], which translates to “firewood”, or “wood” and rub [руб], which translates to “to fell”, or “to chop.”
  • The FBI and NSA said they were able to link Drovorub to APT28 after the Russian hackers reused servers across different operations. For example, the two agencies claim Drovorub connected to a C&C server that was previously used in the past for APT28 operations targeting IoT devices in the spring of 2019. The IP address had been previously documented by Microsoft.

Obama Admin Ok’d China Huge Investments in US, Security Threats

In recent months, perhaps years, we have witnessed how China is a major threat to our national security. What we don’t know is the depth and width of that threat matrix but the Trump administration is for sure addressing the issues as fast as they can.

China says US orders it to close its consulate in Houston ... source

The theft by the Chinese Communist Party of intellectual property appears to have no limit and hence the cost cannot be determined either. Below are just a few items of interest that prove the points above.

  1. (Reuters) – The U.S. Justice Department on Tuesday indicted two Chinese nationals over their role in what the agency called a decade-long cyber espionage campaign that targeted defense contractors, COVID researchers and hundreds of other victims worldwide. U.S. authorities said Li Xiaoyu and Dong Jiazhi stole terabytes of weapons designs, drug information, software source code, and personal data from targets that included dissidents and Chinese opposition figures. They were contractors for the Chinese government, rather than full-fledged spies, U.S. officials said. An unnamed “UK artificial intelligence and cancer research firm” was on the list of 25 victims released by the US Department of Justice
  2. The United States ordered the Chinese government and diplomatic staff to shutter the Chinese consulate located in Houston and to leave the country in 72 hours. In a Tweet by Senator Marco Rubio:“# The Chinese Consulate in Houston is a massive spy center, forcing it to close is long overdue,” he said, describing it as a “central node” of the Chinese Communist Party’s spy operations. .“It had to happen,” he tweeted. (locals called the fire department to report a fire at that location, but upon arrival found they could not enter sovereign land and it was merely Chinese personnel burning documents) A firetruck is positioned outside the Chinese Consulate Wednesday, July 22, 2020, in Houston. Authorities responded to reports of a fire at the consulate. Witnesses said that people were burning paper in what appeared to be trash cans, according to police. China says the U.S. has ordered it to close its consulate in Houston in what it called a provocation that violates international law. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip) source

    Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said during a news conference Wednesday that “the unilateral closure of China’s consulate general in Houston within a short period of time is an unprecedented escalation of its recent actions against China.”

    He warned of firm countermeasures if the U.S. does not reverse itself. Besides its embassy in Beijing, the U.S. has five consulates in mainland China, according to its website. They are in Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Wuhan and Shenyang.

  3.  In 2015, Chinese company acquired a Texas oil fields in $1.3 billion deal where Yantai Xinchao acquire oil assets in the western Texas Permian Basin that are currently owned by Tall City Exploration and Plymouth Petroleum. The deal is part of a larger transaction between Yantai Xinchao and a second Chinese firm. The purchase, which includes oil fields in the state’s Howard and Borden counties, has already been approved by the U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment, the filing said.
  4. China (CNOOC) has increasingly been looking to the Americas for raw materials it needs to sustain the boom. As private investment dwindled with the global financial crisis, the cash-flush Chinese went on a regional shopping spree. Noted in 2018: — Goldman Sachs (GS) said it would create a $5 billion fund with China Investment Corporation, the country’s sovereign wealth fund, to invest in US companies.
    Qualcomm (QCOM) signed $12 billion in non-binding deals to supply semiconductors to Chinese smartphone brands Xiaomi, Oppo and Vivo.
    Sinopec (SHI), China’s state-owned oil and gas company, said it would explore an investment of up to $43 billion in Alaska’s energy sector.
    China Energy Investment Corp., which is also state-owned, signed a non-binding agreement with the state of West Virginia to invest nearly $84 billion in shale gas and chemical manufacturing projects.
    Boeing (BA) announced that it would sell about $37 billion worth of planes to a government holding company that buys jets for state-owned carriers such as Air China and China Southern Airlines.
  5. Perhaps worst of all is Nike and Apple.               Why? Slave labor known as Uighars. Per the Australian Strategic Policy Institute in part:The Chinese government has facilitated the mass transfer of Uyghur and other ethnic minority1 citizens from the far west region of Xinjiang to factories across the country. Under conditions that strongly suggest forced labour, Uyghurs are working in factories that are in the supply chains of at least 83 well-known global brands in the technology, clothing and automotive sectors, including Apple, BMW, Gap, Huawei, Nike, Samsung, Sony and Volkswagen.This report estimates that more than 80,000 Uyghurs were transferred out of Xinjiang to work in factories across China between 2017 and 2019, and some of them were sent directly from detention camps.2 The estimated figure is conservative and the actual figure is likely to be far higher. In factories far away from home, they typically live in segregated dormitories,3 undergo organised Mandarin and ideological training outside working hours,4 are subject to constant surveillance, and are forbidden from participating in religious observances.5 Numerous sources, including government documents, show that transferred workers are assigned minders and have limited freedom of movement.6

    (gotta wonder where former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick is now right?) –>Since 2017, more than a million Uyghurs and members of other Turkic Muslim minorities have disappeared into a vast network of ‘re-education camps’ in the far west region of Xinjiang,11 in what some experts call a systematic, government-led program of cultural genocide.12 Inside the camps, detainees are subjected to political indoctrination, forced to renounce their religion and culture and, in some instances, reportedly subjected to torture.13 In the name of combating ‘religious extremism’,14 Chinese authorities have been actively remoulding the Muslim population in the image of China’s Han ethnic majority.

    The ‘re-education’ campaign appears to be entering a new phase, as government officials now claim that all ‘trainees’ have ‘graduated’.15 There is mounting evidence that many Uyghurs are now being forced to work in factories within Xinjiang.16 This report reveals that Chinese factories outside Xinjiang are also sourcing Uyghur workers under a revived, exploitative government-led labour transfer scheme.17 Some factories appear to be using Uyghur workers sent directly from ‘re-education camps’.

    The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) has identified 27 factories in nine Chinese provinces that are using Uyghur labour transferred from Xinjiang since 2017. Those factories claim to be part of the supply chain of 83 well-known global brands.18 Between 2017 and 2019, we estimate that at least 80,000 Uyghurs were transferred out of Xinjiang and assigned to factories through labour transfer programs under a central government policy known as ‘Xinjiang Aid’ (援疆).19

The Kill Shot Against Gen. Flynn was Not Russia, it was Iran

RussiaGate was concocted. RussiaGate was globally choreographed. But it was never about Russia, the real covert truth and story is Iran.

Lee Smith has confirmed what I knew in my gut to be true. Smith authored titled The Plot Against the President. I read it and Smith was gracious enough to come on my radio show to discuss the book, which you must read. Congressman Devin Nunes knew in his gut the RussiaGate story did not compute either.

A huge high five to Nunes and Smith and on with the story. It is a long one. Once you sit back and read it all, the clue, tips and indicators begin to fall into place. But we must go back several years for context, patterns and the cunningness of politicians and powerplayers.

1. Remember the first set of WikiLeaks cables where it was determined that Hillary had her staff collect as much oppo-research as possible on her adversaries and foreign dignitaries such that she had to go on an apology tour after the cables were published?

2. Remember the scandal that surrounded Sharyl Attkisson and the computer intrusion(s) she experienced during the Obama administration that she is still fighting legally? She too wrote a book titled Stonewalled telling that story.

3. Remember the journalists that collaborated with Edward Snowden, one being Barton Gellman? By the way I have zero use for what Snowden did but there is an interesting part of the story that Gellman tells in The Atlantic magazine. He too was a victim of major computer intrusions perhaps more significant than that of Sharyl Attkisson.

4. Remember when President Obama had to apologize to German Chancellor Merkel and and French President Hollande for surveilling their phones?

5. Remember when Eric Holder had to admit he issued subpoenas for journalists phone and email records?

6. Remember when the Obama administration ‘scooped-up’ the communications between members of Congress and Israeli leaders during the Iran nuclear deal talks?

7. Remember when CIA Director, John Brennan spied on Senator Dianne Feinstein staffers working the on the torture reports, lied about it and then had to admit it?

8. Remember Operation Cassandra that was shut down completely by the Obama White House? The Former DEA Special Agent on this operation and I have become friends in the last couple of years. This was a global investigation into Hezbollah, narcotics and used cars. (This too included Bruce Ohr)

Okay, so the rest of the story. It is a big one but it holds all the truths. Again, a HUGE hat tip to Lee Smith and Devin Nunes.

*** It started in 2009, took of in a big way in 2012 and Oman was the back channel.


Barack Obama warned his successor against hiring Michael Flynn. It was Nov. 10, 2016, just two days after Donald Trump upset Hillary Clinton to become the 45th president of the United States. Trump told aide Hope Hicks that he was bewildered by the president’s warning. Of all the important things Obama could have discussed with him, the outgoing commander in chief wanted to talk about Michael Flynn.

The question of why Obama was so focused on Flynn is especially revealing now. The Department of Justice recently filed to withdraw charges against the retired three-star general for making false statements to the FBI in a Jan. 24, 2017, interview regarding a phone call with a Russian diplomat. The circumstances surrounding the call and subsequent FBI interview have given rise to a vast conspiracy theory that was weaponized to imprison a decorated war hero and a strategic thinker whose battlefield innovations saved countless American lives. There is no evidence that Flynn “colluded” with Russia, and the evidence that Flynn did not make false statements to the FBI has been buried by the bureau, including current Director Christopher Wray.

So if the Obama administration wasn’t alarmed by Flynn’s nonexistent ties to Russia, why was he Obama’s No. 1 target? Why were officials from the previous administration intercepting his phone calls with the Russian ambassador?

The answer is that Obama saw Flynn as a signal threat to his legacy, which was rooted in his July 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran—the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Flynn had said long before he signed on with the Trump campaign that it was a catastrophe to realign American interests with those of a terror state. And now that the candidate he’d advised was the new president-elect, Flynn was in a position to help undo the deal. To stop Flynn, the outgoing White House ran the same offense it used to sell the Iran deal—they smeared Flynn through the press as an agent of a foreign power, spied on him, and leaked classified intercepts of his conversations to reliable echo chamber allies.

In March 2017, after seeing evidence of the Obama administration’s surveillance of Trump associates, Congressman Devin Nunes said it had nothing to do with Russia or the FBI’s ongoing Russia investigation, or similar Russia probes conducted by congressional committees. Nunes’ contention was difficult to make sense of at the time. Wasn’t everything about Russia and whether or not there was, as Congressman Adam Schiff said, more than circumstantial evidence of collusion?

In fact, as Trump prepared to take office after his 2016 upset victory, the Obama White House was focused on the Middle East. “Russia collusion” was the narrative that Hillary Clinton operatives seeded in the media and fed to the FBI to obtain a warrant to spy on the Trump campaign. After the election, the Obama team took it over and used it to hobble the incoming administration.

That Obama has publicly criticized the Justice Department’s decision to withdraw its case against the retired general shows how personal the anti-Flynn campaign still is for the former president. In leaking his supposedly off-hand comments to Michael Isikoff, a journalist whose work was central in pushing the Trump-Russia collusion conspiracy theory, Obama was effectively taking credit for pushing the larger anti-Trump operation that grew out of the anti-Flynn campaign. While the Russia collusion story was a handy instrument for many to advance all manner of personal and political interests, for Obama the purpose of Russiagate was simple and direct: to protect the Iran deal, and secure his legacy.

Obama and his foreign policy team were hardly the only people in Washington who had their knives out for Michael Flynn. Nearly everyone did, especially the FBI. As former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Pentagon’s spy service, and a career intelligence officer, Flynn knew how and where to find the documentary evidence of the FBI’s illegal spying operation buried in the agency’s classified files—and the FBI had reason to be terrified of the new president’s anger.

The United States Intelligence Community (USIC) as a whole was against the former spy chief, who was promising to conduct a Beltway-wide audit that would force each of the agencies to justify their missions. Flynn told friends and colleagues he was going to make the entire senior intelligence service hand in their resignations and then detail why their work was vital to national security. Flynn knew the USIC well enough to know that thousands of higher-level bureaucrats wouldn’t make the cut.

Flynn had enemies at the very top of the intelligence bureaucracy. In 2014, he’d been fired as DIA head. Under oath in February of that year, he told the truth to a Senate committee—ISIS was not, as the president had said, a “JV team.” They were a serious threat to American citizens and interests and were getting stronger. Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael Vickers then summoned Flynn to the Pentagon and told him he was done.

“Flynn’s warnings that extremists were regrouping and on the rise were inconvenient to an administration that didn’t want to hear any bad news,” says former DIA analyst Oubai Shahbandar. “Flynn’s prophetic warnings would play out exactly as he’d warned shortly after he was fired.”

Flynn’s firing appeared to be an end to one of the most remarkable careers in recent American intelligence history. He made his name during the Bush administration’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where soldiers in the field desperately needed intelligence, often collected by other combat units. But there was a clog in the pipeline—the Beltway’s intelligence bureaucracy, which had a stranglehold over the distribution of intelligence.

Flynn described the problem in a 2010 article titled “Fixing Intel: A Blueprint for Making Intelligence Relevant in Afghanistan,” co-written with current Deputy National Security Adviser Matt Pottinger. “Moving up through levels of hierarchy,” they wrote, “is normally a journey into greater degrees of cluelessness.” Their solution was to cut Washington out of the process: Americans in uniform in Iraq and Afghanistan needed that information to accomplish their mission.

“What made Flynn revolutionary is that he got people out in the field,” says Shahbandar, who served in Iraq under Flynn in 2007-08 and in Afghanistan in 2010-11. “It wasn’t just enough to have intelligence, you needed to understand where it was coming from and what it meant. For instance, if you thought that insurgents were going to take over a village, the first people who would know what was going would be the villagers. So Flynn made sure we knew the environment, the culture, the people.”

Influential senior officers like Gens. David Petraeus and Stanley McChrystal credited Flynn for collecting the intelligence that helped defeat al-Qaida in Iraq in 2007. In 2012, he was named DIA chief. The next year he secured access for a team of DIA analysts to scour through the documents that had been captured during the 2011 operation to kill Osama bin Laden.

“The bin Laden database was unorganized,” says a former senior DIA official. “There had been very little work on it since it was first captured. The CIA had done machine word searches to identify immediate threats, but they didn’t study it for future trends or strategic insight.” Flynn arranged for a team from United States Central Command, based in Tampa, Florida, to come up to Washington. The subject of their investigation was a potentially sensitive one. “We were looking for ties between al-Qaida and Iran,” says Michael Pregent, a former Army intelligence officer who was working on the bin Laden documents as a contractor. “We’re arguing with everyone—NSA, whoever else—telling them what we wanted and they kept saying ‘there’s nothing there, we already went through it.’ The CIA and others were looking for immediate threats. We said ‘we’re DIA, we’re all-source analysts and we want everything to get a full picture.’”

Just as the CENTCOM team was preparing for their trip to Northern Virginia, they were shut down. “Everything was set,” says Pregent. “we had our hotel reservations, a team of translators, and access to all of the drives at the National Media Exploitation Center. Then I get a call in the middle of one of the NCAA basketball tournament games from the guy who was running our team. He said that [CIA Director John] Brennan and [National Security Adviser Susan] Rice pulled the plug.”

The administration was, it appears, clearing space for Obama to implement his big foreign policy idea—the Iran nuclear deal. Another aide, Ben Rhodes, had said in 2013 that the Iran Deal was the White House’s key second-term initiative. Evidence that Tehran was coordinating with a terror group that had slaughtered thousands in Manhattan and at the Pentagon would make it harder to convince American lawmakers of the wisdom in legitimizing Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

What was the information about al-Qaida’s ties to Iran that Flynn wanted his CENTCOM team to get out? According to published news reports, the bin Laden database included “letters about Iran’s role, influence, and acknowledgment of enabling al-Qaida operatives to pass through Iran as long as al-Qaida did its dirty work against the Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan.” One of those letters showed that “Al-Qaeda was working on chemical and biological weapons in Iran.”

After decades of anti-Iran campaigning, Republicans were expected to oppose Obama’s deal, but didn’t have the numbers to stop it in the Senate. What concerned the White House therefore was their own party. Senior Democrats on Capitol Hill were uneasy about the deal, as were large numbers of Jewish voters—more than half of whom identify as Democrats.

Jewish organizations offered two major objections to the deal: First, the outlines of Obama’s nuclear deal suggested that it might legalize a bomb pointed at the Jewish state. Second, in striking an agreement with Iran, the White House might normalize relations with a regime that embodies anti-Semitism.

In return, Obama confronted Iran Deal skeptics in his own party with a hard choice—either support the deal, or you’re out. There would be no room in the Democratic Party for principled disagreement over the keystone of Obama’s foreign policy legacy. Opponents were portrayed in harsh, uncompromising terms: They had been bought off, or were warmongers, or Israel-firsters.

In a meeting of Senate Democrats in early 2015, Obama had his eye on New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez when he spoke of pressures “from donors and others” to reject the deal. Menendez was offended. He said he’d “worked for more than 20 years to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions and had always been focused on the long-term implications.”

The way that Obama framed it, it was only the money laid out against the initiative by lobbyists and donors that kept Americans from seeing how excellent his deal truly was. “If people are engaged, eventually the political system responds,” Obama told Jon Stewart. “Despite the money, despite the lobbyists, it still responds.”

Obama kept talking about money, donors, and lobbyists as if a secret cabal was tossing bags of dark foreign cash around Washington. What he was referring to was the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)—an American organization run by American Jews to promote America’s alliance with its most important Middle East ally.

AIPAC’s leadership trusted Obama to do the right thing. They described him as a great friend of Israel and assured themselves he wouldn’t put the Jewish state in danger by giving the bomb to a regime that regularly called for its destruction. But Obama didn’t trust AIPAC or the capacity of the American people to recognize the excellence of the Iran deal, which is why he kept the deal and its contents hidden from public view for as long as possible.

In 2012, the administration began secret negotiations with Iran. At the same time, the administration called off a multi-agency task force targeting the billion-dollar criminal enterprise run by Iran’s Lebanese ally, Hezbollah. The administration told Congress that the nuclear deal would not grant Iran access to the U.S. financial system, but a 2018 Senate report showed how the Obama White House lied to the public and was secretly trying to grant Iran that access. The Obama administration had misled Congress about secret deals it made regarding verification procedures, and then secretly shipped $1.7 billion in cash for Iran to distribute to its terror proxies.

The administration’s promise that the deal would prevent Iran from ever getting a bomb was validated by their communications infrastructure: The messaging campaign brought together friendly journalists, newly minted arms-control experts, social media stars, and progressive advocacy groups like the regime-friendly National Iranian American Council (NIAC). As Obama’s top national security communications lieutenant Ben Rhodes told The New York Times: “They were saying things that validated what we had given them to say.”

One strategy employed by Rhodes’ echo chamber assets was to engage critics in esoteric debates over details of the Iran deal. For instance, how many centrifuges would Iranian reactors be allowed to spin? Had Iran’s supreme leader declared a genuine fatwa against nuclear weapons? Was this or that nuclear site a military facility?

Among the handful of honest reporters covering the deal, most didn’t have enough information, time, or energy to continue fighting a wall of static noise. And that was the point of Obama’s media campaign—to drown out, smear, and shut down opponents and even skeptics. Thus, echo chamber allies purposefully obscured the core issue. The nature of the agreement was made plain in its “sunset clauses.” The fact that parts of the deal restricting Iran’s activities were due to expire beginning in 2020 until all restrictions were gone and the regime’s nuclear program was legal, showed that it was a phony deal. Obama was simply bribing the Iranians with hundreds of billions of dollars in sanctions relief and hundreds of billions more in investment to refrain from building a bomb until he was safely gone from the White House, when the Iranian bomb would become someone else’s problem. The Obama team thought that even the Israelis wouldn’t dream of touching Iran’s nuclear program so long as Washington vouchsafed the deal. They called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “chickenshit.”

If Obama was just kicking the can down the road, why did he expend so much effort to get the deal? How was it central to his legacy if it was never actually intended to stop Iran from getting the bomb? Because it was his instrument to secure an even more ambitious objective—to reorder the strategic architecture of the Middle East.

Obama did not hide his larger goal. He told a biographer, New Yorker editor David Remnick, that he was establishing a geopolitical equilibrium “between Sunni, or predominantly Sunni, Gulf states and Iran.” According to The Washington Post’s David Ignatius, another writer Obama used as a public messaging instrument, realignment was a “great strategic opportunity” for a “a new regional framework that accommodates the security needs of Iranians, Saudis, Israelis, Russians and Americans.”

The catch to Obama’s newly inclusive “balancing” framework was that upgrading relations with Iran would necessarily come at the expense of traditional partners targeted by Iran—like Saudi Arabia and, most importantly, Israel. Obama never said that part out loud, but the logic isn’t hard to follow: Elevating your enemy to the same level as your ally means that your enemy is no longer your enemy, and your ally is no longer your ally.

Obama demonstrated to Jerusalem the gravity of his intentions every time an administration official leaked reports of Israeli raids on Hezbollah and other Iranian allies in Syria and Lebanon. That put the Israelis on the defensive, and also showed the Iranians that Obama could and would bring Israel to heel. Therefore, Tehran should trust him.

“Obama wants this as the centerpiece of his legacy,” an American diplomat told the press in Vienna where Secretary of State John Kerry and his team came to terms with the Islamic Republic. “He sees himself as a transformative president in the Reagan mold,” said a former Obama adviser, “who leaves his stamp on America and the world for decades to come.”

For all of Obama’s talk of money and lobbies, he was himself creating a large international constituency for the deal. Sanctions on Iran had kept foreign companies out of the country for decades, but the promise of new markets for major industries, like energy and automotive, had European and Asian industry chomping at the bit. The American president not only promised to relieve sanctions, but also to help drum up business by assuring the world that it was safe to invest in Iran. John Kerry was keen to turn the State Department into Iran’s Chamber of Commerce.

Obama’s talk of the pro-Israel lobby only got louder as his negotiators came closer to striking the deal. He was talking about the Jews, and to them. If they didn’t back the deal, the sewers would spill over with traditional anti-Semitic conceits about Jewish money and influence, dual loyalties, Jews leveraging their home country on behalf of their co-religionists, and fomenting war. This wasn’t a fringe White nationalist figure, but a popular two-term Democrat. John Kerry said it outright: If Congress failed to pass the deal, it would put Israel at risk of being “more isolated and more blamed.” There was no alternative to the deal, said Kerry, except war.

Jewish community leaders complained about how the debate over the deal was being framed. “If you are a critic of the deal, you’re for war,” a senior official at a pro-Israel organization told me at the time. “The implication is that if it looks like the Jewish community is responsible for Congress voting down the deal, it will look like the Jewish community is leading us off to another war in the Middle East.”

Nonetheless, Obama kept hammering away at his chosen messaging. In a speech at American University he argued there are only two choices: The Iran Deal or war. The one government that did not think this is “such a strong deal” was Israel.

If the smear campaign targeting Iran Deal opponents as rich, dual-loyalist, right-wing warmongers was the public face of Obama’s push for the deal, there was an even less savory component hidden within the advanced technology of the U.S. Intelligence Community: The administration was spying on its domestic opponents, American legislators, and pro-Israel activists. Noah Pollak—formerly head of the Emergency Committee for Israel, a nonprofit organization that opposed the nuclear agreement with Iran—says, “I was warned that my conversations with senior Israeli officials were possibly being monitored.”

Speaking to me for my 2019 book The Plot Against the President, Pollak said that “the administration did things that seemed incontrovertibly to be responses to information gathered by listening to those conversations.” He continued: “At first we thought these were coincidences and we were being paranoid. Surely none of us are that important. Eventually it simply became our working assumption that we were being spied on via the Israeli officials we were in contact with.”

A 2015 Wall Street Journal story provided details of the administration’s domestic espionage operation. “The National Security Agency’s targeting of Israeli leaders and officials also swept up the contents of some of their private conversations with U.S. lawmakers and American-Jewish groups,” explained writers Adam Entous and Danny Yadron. “That raised fears—an ‘Oh-s— moment,’ one senior U.S. official said—that the executive branch would be accused of spying on Congress.”

The names of Americans are minimized in transcripts of intercepted foreign communications to protect their privacy. For instance, an American swept up in an intercept might be referred to as a “U.S. Person.” It is not illegal or even necessarily improper for U.S. officials to deminimize, or “unmask,” their identities and find out who “U.S. Person” is, provided there are genuine national security reasons for doing so.

The story the Journal tells is evidence Obama officials knew what they were doing was wrong. In the account shaped by the Obama team, responsibility fell on the shoulders of the National Security Agency, responsible for the bulk of America’s signals intelligence. White House officials “let the NSA decide what to share and what to withhold,” according to the Journal story. “We didn’t say, ‘do it,’” a senior U.S. official said. “We didn’t say, ‘don’t do it.’”

Any use of NSA intercepts to target Jewish organizations and anti-Iran Deal legislators would not be an innocent mistake. Obama aides would know they were abusing surveillance programs ostensibly pointed at Israeli officials if they used them to know which US lawmakers and pro-Israel activists were planning to oppose the deal, what they were saying, and who they were talking to. Indeed, it appears that to get in front of the possibility that their domestic spying operation would be exposed, Obama officials leaked it to friendly reporters in order to shape the story to their advantage: OK, yes, we heard, but only by accident. And in any case, it was the NSA that passed it on to us.

In June 2015, a month before the deal was struck in Vienna, Michael Flynn was on Capitol Hill testifying about Iran and the deeply flawed deal on the table. He described Iran’s destabilizing actions throughout the region, how the regime killed American troops in Iraq and later Afghanistan. He warned about Iran’s ties to North Korea, China, and Russia. Flynn emphasized that Iran’s “stated desire to destroy Israel is very real.” He said Obama’s Iran policy was one of “willful ignorance.”

As the 2016 election cycle approached, a number of Republican candidates solicited his advice—including Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, and Ted Cruz. In a sense, the retired general chose Trump as much as Trump chose him. At the time, the candidate’s understanding of what he called “the swamp”—a confederation of bureaucrats, elected officials, consultants, and contractors enriching themselves at the expense of the American taxpayer, was mostly theoretical. From Trump Tower in New York City more than 200 miles away, Washington sure looked wasteful. But Flynn had detailed knowledge of how the Beltway worked.

The two hit it off and Flynn traveled with the candidate regularly. He was vetted for the vice presidency, but Trump decided instead on Mike Pence, a congressman from Indiana who could help win both the evangelical and the Midwestern vote. Still, outside of Trump’s own family, Flynn was his closest adviser. The foreign policy initiatives he articulated were the president-elect’s and when he spoke to foreign officials, he was speaking for Trump.

Flynn not only made it clear that he wanted to undo the Iran Deal, he also broadcast his determination to find the documents detailing the secret deals between Obama and Iran, and to publicize them. With Flynn on the march, the outgoing administration was keen to shield the JCPOA. Obama diplomats consulted with their European counterparts and gave the clerical regime more sanctions relief, even after the Senate agreed with a 99 to 0 vote to renew the Iran Sanctions Act. Kerry called his Iranian counterpart to tell him not to worry.

Notably, Russia weighed in on the Obama team’s side. It would be “unforgivable,” according to the Russian Foreign Ministry, if the incoming Trump administration forfeited the JCPOA. The White House agreed to let Russia export more than 100 tons of uranium to Iran—enough to make more than 10 bombs, according to some estimates. “The point was to complicate any effort to tear up the deal,” says a senior U.S. official involved in the fight over the JCPOA. “It gave Iran an insurance policy against Trump.”

By early December 2016, only weeks after Trump’s surprise election, the anti-Flynn campaign was well underway. A December 3, 2016, New York Times article portrayed Flynn as a martinet who brooked no disagreement, and insisted his subordinates corroborate the intelligence assessments he sought. In his worldview, wrote the Times, “America was in a world war against Islamist militants allied with Russia, Cuba, and North Korea.” The piece carried the bylines of Matthew Rosenberg, Mark Mazzetti, and Eric Schmitt, with additional reporting by Adam Goldman and Michael S. Schmidt—reporters who would share in the Times’ 2018 Pulitzer Prize for national reporting on the Russiagate conspiracy theory.

Parts of the Times story were then recycled in a joint statement signed by progressive advocacy groups allied with the Obama White House in the Iran deal fight, like MoveOn.org and J Street, demanding Trump withdraw his appointment of Flynn. Among other concerns, the statement cited Flynn’s work on behalf of Turkish interests and, incongruously, his ostensibly negative views on Muslims, as expressed in his book—as well as his position on Iran.

A one-time USIC lawyer and editor at the national security bureaucracy blog Lawfare, who was destined to become a leading Russiagate conspiracy theorist, highlighted sections from Flynn’s book on social media. “Shocking,” tweeted Susan Hennessey. It had only been a year and a half since the Obama team had steamrolled congress to win the JCPOA and now their communications infrastructure had swung into action again to protect the Iran Deal from the Trump White House.

It was in this early December 2016 period when the Iran deal spying and media operation merged into Russiagate. The structure of the two operations was identical—only some of the variables had changed. Opponents were no longer tagged as Israel-firsters, now they were Putin assets. The message, however, was the same. Opponents are not simply wrongheaded, or mistaken, or even dumb—rather, they are disloyal; agents of a foreign power.

Clandestine spying targeting Flynn began no later than Dec. 2. That day, DNI James Clapper and U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power unmasked Flynn’s name from a classified U.S. intercept of communications between Russian officials. It seems the Obama officials were interested in a Trump Tower meeting Flynn and Jared Kushner held with Russia’s U.S. Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. The envoy then reported his meeting to Moscow, communications that U.S. officials appear to have leaked to Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporters Greg Miller, Ellen Nakashima, and Adam Entous, who had moved over from The Wall Street Journal.

Leaking information from classified intercepts is a felony. Concerned U.S. officials’ use of the press to illuminate government crimes and abuses is a keystone of the American political process. However, the many times that Flynn’s name was illegally leaked from intercepts during the transition period and the first several weeks of the new administration shows that the classified information passed to journalists was not whistleblowing but was instead an aspect of the political surveillance operation targeting the Trump team.

According to a recently declassified document, there were 39 Obama officials who unmasked Flynn’s identity a total of 53 times. Power led the list with seven unmaskings of Flynn—a small part of her sum total of more than 330 unmaskings between 2015-16, making her, according to former Congressman Trey Gowdy, the “largest unmasker of U.S. persons in our history.”

Power was one of 30 Obama officials who unmasked Flynn between Dec. 14-16. The list includes Clapper, Brennan, FBI Director James Comey and Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, as well as six other Treasury officials including Patrick Cronin, the director of the Office of Intelligence and Analysis—Treasury’s intelligence shop. It appears they were interested in a Dec. 15 meeting in which Flynn, Kushner, and Steve Bannon hosted the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan.

Obama’s former National Security Adviser Susan Rice also unmasked Flynn for this meeting, though she’s not on the declassified Flynn unmasking list. She said that she was irked Emirati leadership had come to the United States without notifying the Obama White House. Rice’s description of her emotional state may well be accurate, though it doesn’t explain why she requested the identities of presidential transition officials.

But it’s not hard to figure out why she and 30 other Obama officials wanted to know about that meeting. Spying on the Trump team’s conversations with Arab officials would tell them how the next administration’s Middle East policies would affect Obama’s, especially the JCPOA. Seven Treasury officials spying on the same meeting suggests they wanted to know about Trump’s plans for Iran sanctions. Sure, John Kerry told the Iranians not to worry about sanctions, but what could the Obama team do to counter Trump if he was planning to restore them?

On Dec. 22, Flynn spoke with Russian Ambassador Kislyak about the vote scheduled to take place at the United Nations the next day. The Obama team had coaxed Egypt into introducing U.N. Security Council Resolution 2334, holding that Israel was occupying the territories it had taken in the June 1967 war. Israel, according to 2334, was in “flagrant violation” of international law. Under the terms of the resolution, even the Western Wall of the Temple Mount was an illegal Israeli settlement.

President-elect Trump got Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi on the phone on Dec. 22 and convinced him to withdraw the proposal. But the transition team knew someone else would sponsor the resolution. Flynn was speaking with foreign officials from Israel, Egypt, and Senegal—which at the time held one of the rotating positions on the security council. Flynn later told the FBI that he knew the math and at least five countries had to abstain to block the resolution and he didn’t think his calls would affect the final vote. He compared the exercise to a battle drill, to see how quickly he could get foreign officials on the phone.

The FBI knew that Flynn had called Kislyak, too. It’s not clear when the bureau learned of the call but they asked him about it during his pivotal Jan. 24 interview. Flynn said he didn’t try to influence the Russian envoy, but just wanted to know where the Russians stood.

The next day UNSCR 2334 passed 14-0, with Samantha Power casting a vote to abstain, forsaking America’s customary role of blocking anti-Israel actions at the U.N. Obama had reinforced his regional realignment strategy by balancing opposing forces—weakening Israel and empowering the Palestinians. That’s the generous reading. It was the 44th president’s parting shot at America’s most important regional ally.

Within the week, Obama aides were zeroing in on Flynn. The outgoing White House claimed it wanted to know why Putin announced on Dec. 30 that he would refrain from responding to the expulsion of dozens of Russian diplomats. The FBI said it had an answer—the bureau had a record of a phone call between Kislyak and Flynn from the day before Putin made his decision public.

Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe writes in his 2019 book, The Threat, that he was alerted to the information by an analyst and passed it on to Comey, who told Clapper, who briefed Obama. Comey corroborated McCabe’s account in congressional testimony, while Clapper swore under oath that he did not brief the president.

Clapper may be telling the truth. The unmasking list shows that Obama officials were listening in on Flynn’s conversations in real time. It’s possible Obama didn’t need Clapper to tell him about the call. According to former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, Obama knew about the Flynn-Kislyak call no later than Jan. 5, when he was discussing it in an Oval Office meeting. She says Comey was the only other official present—which contradicts Susan Rice’s account. Obama’s former National Security Advisor said she and Vice President Joe Biden were also there.

This week, acting DNI Richard Grenell declassified a previously redacted passage from an email Rice sent to herself on inauguration day 2017 regarding the Jan. 5 meeting. The newly unredacted section showed that Obama was fully read into the anti-Flynn operation.

According to the Rice email, Obama asked if the FBI director was saying that they “should not pass sensitive information related to Russia to Flynn.” Obama knew at the time there was no evidence that Flynn had any untoward relationship with Russia—the FBI had been investigating the allegations for more than four months and found “no derogatory information” on Flynn.

On Jan. 7, the DNI official who gave Obama his daily intelligence briefing requested to have Flynn’s name unmasked, making the information accessible to numerous Obama officials with whom the briefing was shared, and thus expanding the pool of possible sources.

Adam Entous was offered the leak of the Dec. 29 call early on. “I didn’t know what to make of it,” the writer, now at The New Yorker, told a Georgetown audience. “There were divisions within the newsroom. At that point, I’m at The Washington Post. There are divisions about this: Why is it news that Michael Flynn is talking to the Russian ambassador? He should be talking to the Russian ambassador.”

Then the leak was offered to Entous’ Post colleague David Ignatius. “This is something a columnist can do, unlike me as a news reporter,” said Entous. “He was able to just throw this piece of red meat out there.” Indeed, it’s how the Obama team intended to bloody the waters. On Jan. 10, according to Flynn’s lawyer Sidney Powell, Clapper told Ignatius to “take the kill shot on Flynn.” Ignatius published the leak in his Jan. 12 column, describing Flynn’s Dec. 29 conversation with Kislyak. “According to a senior U.S. government official,” wrote Ignatius, “Flynn phoned Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak several times on Dec. 29, the day the Obama administration announced the expulsion of 35 Russian officials … What did Flynn say, and did it undercut the U.S. sanctions?”

The story ignited the Trump-Russia collusion narrative, which was intended to damage Flynn while disguising the nature and purpose of the campaign. The criminal leak of a classified intercept was evidence that the Obama White House was spying on the transition team, and for the same reason they’d spied on lawmakers and pro-Israel activists—to know the plans of Iran deal opponents.

To conceal their illegal surveillance of the incoming NSA and other Trump officials, Obama aides repurposed Hillary Clinton’s Trump-Russia collusion narrative, which had fed dozens of pre-election news reports and won the FBI a warrant to spy on the Trump campaign. Now the media had the Trump White House on the defensive, identifying likely “points of collusion” everywhere, while covering up Obama’s spying operation.

The outgoing administration caught another break when the transition team made an unforced error. Days after the Ignatius story broke, Vice President Mike Pence said on TV that Flynn had assured him there was no talk of sanctions. Either Pence had misunderstood, or Flynn didn’t explain himself clearly enough. Later Flynn took responsibility for the mix-up. He was sorry he’d put Pence “in a position,” and he “should have said, ‘I don’t know. I can’t recall,’ which is the truth.” Flynn further elaborated on the call with Kislyak: “It wasn’t about sanctions. It was about the 35 guys who were thrown out.” Flynn said that he told the Russian envoy when they come to office, “’We’ll review everything.’ I never said anything such as, ‘We’re going to review sanctions,’ or anything like that.”

There was no promise to relieve sanctions on Russia and tamper with Obama’s policy before Trump came to office, never mind collusion. But the discrepancy between Pence’s statement and the transcript of Flynn’s conversation with Kislyak gave Comey and McCabe a window of opportunity. On Jan. 24, they sent two FBI agents to interview Flynn at the White House. They came back and reported that they didn’t think Flynn lied. That didn’t matter either. The FBI edited the record of the interview.

Meanwhile, Flynn continued to do the job the president had chosen him for. After Iran conducted a ballistic missile test and its Yemeni proxies attacked a Saudi naval ship, he announced in the White House press room: “As of today, we are officially putting Iran on notice.” Former Obama aides fumed: The Trump administration had no choice but to stay in the JCPOA. Then they flipped through the dog-eared pages of the Iran Deal playbook and pushed into the press rumors regarding the loyalties of a combat veteran who served his country in uniform for more than three decades. Had Michael Flynn sold out his country to Russia?

On Feb. 9, Entous finally got his chance to publish the leaked intercept of the Kislyak call. He and Washington Post colleagues Greg Miller and Ellen Nakashima found nine current and former U.S. officials to confirm that Flynn had discussed sanctions with the Russian. It went unremarked that the article provided evidence of yet another leak of Flynn’s name from a classified intercept, and thus proof of a massive spying operation targeting the Trump team.

Trump had been warned. Obama was serious when he told him not to bring on Flynn. The new president’s hand was forced, and the national security adviser left the White House on Feb. 13. Within the year, prosecutors from Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation threatened to charge Flynn’s son with lobbying violations if he didn’t plead guilty to making false statements to the FBI.

By then, Russiagate was in overdrive—one of the most destructive conspiracy theories in U.S. history was well on its way to poisoning minds around the country. It appeared to cast an even deeper spell on the elite urban classes whose peers in the press and government had fueled it in the name of “resisting” Trump. And yet only a small fraction of those who imagined themselves to have the inside story of the Trump team’s secret collusion with Russia to defeat Clinton understood the origins of the fantasy world they had been engulfed by.

Russiagate was not a hoax, as some conservative journalists call it. Rather, it was a purposeful extension of the Obama administration’s Iran Deal media campaign, and of the secret espionage operation targeting those opposed to Obama’s efforts to realign American interests with those of a terror state that embodies the most corrosive forms of anti-Semitism.

It’s not hard to see why the previous president went after Flynn: The retired general’s determination to undo the Iran Deal was grounded in his own experience in two Middle Eastern theaters of combat, where he saw how Iran murdered Americans and threatened American interests. But why Obama would choose the Islamic Republic as a partner and encourage the tactics typically employed by third-world police states remain a mystery. (reprinted in full from The Tablet)




Unmasking List is not Complete

Primer: Crossfire Razor = LTG Flynn investigation, launched July 2016, cleared January 2017 (calls with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak included the call in question which was December 29, 2016. There were clearly requests prior to Samantha Power, it is unclear yet by whom and those results. We are told there will be more releases.

Crossfire Typhoon = George Papadopoulos

Crossfire Hurricane full FBI investigation operation

* The list below is hardly a full list of unmasking requests during the late part of the Obama presidency. This report was released by Senator Grassley. For example, Susan Rice is not listed. The below documents are for a specific time-frame. Note the requests prior to the main phone call that has raised the ire of the Democrats. For additional reference, LTG Flynn had the official job as National Security Advisor to President Trump from January 23, 2017 to February 13, 2017.

Other designations listed below are as follows:

DOE in Briefer is the Department of Energy (nuclear weapons division)

COS can be both Chief of Staff or Chief of Station (CIA)

CMO is Collection Management Officer

DCOS is Deputy Chief of Station

CMO is Chief of Missions Officer (Reports Officer)

CIA/CTMC Counter Terrorism Military Coordinator

Image Image


* Samantha Power: U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, married to Cass Sunstein who was the Information and Regulatory Czar for President Obama.

* James Clapper: Former Director of National Intelligence, previously served as the Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, the same one that LTG Flynn was Director of at the time he was fired by the Obama administration.

* Kelly Degnan, previous Deputy Chief of Mission to Italy, San Marino and was nominated by President Trump to be Ambassador to Georgia and she speaks 5 languages.

* John R. Phillips, Former Ambassador to Italy and San Marino, and presently a lawyer at the whistleblower law firm of Phillips and Cohen. His wife is Linda Douglas and is head of communications for Bloomberg in WDC.

* John Brennan, Former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, previously was the Assistant to Obama for Homeland Security. (He at CIA when he set up the system that spied on Senate staffers working for Senator Feinstein doing work on the torture report)

* Patrick Conlon, Office of Intelligence and Analysis at the Treasury Department, formerly 19 years at CIA

* Jacob Lew, Secretary of Treasury until 2017.

* Arthur Danny McGlynn, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence.

* Mike Neufeld, Deputy Assistant Secretary U.S. Treasury

* Sarah Raskin, Lawyer, formerly on the Board of the Federal Reserve and Deputy Secretary of the Treasury, married to Jamie Raskin of the 8th District of Maryland, U.S. House of Representatives.

* Nathan Sheets, Under Secretary of the Treasury for International Affairs

* Adam Szubin, Under Secretary of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence at U.S. Treasury

* Robert Bell, Civilian Representative of the Secretary of Defense in Europe and Advisor to U.S Ambassador to NATO.

* VDAM John Christenson, U.S. Military Representative to NATO Military Committee in Brussels.

* James Comey, Former Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

* LTC Paul Geehreng, Defense Policy Advisor to US Mission NATO, policy advisor on Russia.

* Douglas Lute, US Permanent Representative to NATO married to Jane Holl, currently serving as UN Special Envoy to Cyprus, former Deputy Secretary of Department of Homeland Security.

* James Hursh, Acting Secretary of Defense in Europe and Acting Defense Advisor to US Mission NATO.

* Scott Parrish, U.S. State Department, Political Officer, NATO.

* Elizabeth Sherwood Randall, US Deputy Secretary of Energy, previously White House Coordinator for Defense Policy, brother is President of ABC Disney Group and ABC News.

* Tamir Waser, NATO Operations Officer, London

* John F. Tefft, U.S. Ambassador to Russia, career Foreign Service Officer.

* Ambassador John R. Bass, Turkey, former Ambassador to Georgia. Former Chief of Staff and Policy Advisor to Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott.

* Denis McDonough, Former White House Chief of Staff for President Obama, former Senior Fellow at Center for America Progress.

* Michael Dempsey, Former Acting Director of National Intelligence for January to March of 2017, formerly with the CIA as a WINPAC Expert

* Stephanie O’Sullivan, Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence, former senior leader at CIA.

* Joseph Biden, Former Vice President for President Obama and attended the January 5, 2017 Oval Office meeting in question that included President Obama,  Susan Rice, Sally Yates and James Comey.



During routine, legal surveillance of foreign targets, names of Americans occasionally come up in conversations. Foreigners could be talking about a U.S. citizen or U.S. permanent resident by name, or a foreigner could be speaking directly to an American. When an American’s name is swept up in surveillance of foreigners, it is called “incidental collection.” In these cases, the name of the American is masked before the intelligence is distributed to administration officials to avoid invading that person’s privacy.

Unless there is a clear intelligence value to knowing the American’s name, it is not revealed in the reports. The intelligence report would refer to the person only as “U.S. Person 1” or U.S. Person 2.” If U.S. officials with proper clearance to review the report want to know the identity, they can ask the agency that collected the information — perhaps the FBI, CIA or National Security Agency — to “unmask” the name.


The request is not automatically granted. The person asking has to have a good reason. Typically, the reason is that not knowing the name makes it impossible to fully understand the intelligence provided.

The name is released only if the official requesting it has a need to know and the “identity is necessary to understand foreign intelligence information or assess its importance,” according to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s latest report, which includes statistics on unmasking. “Additional approval by a designated NSA official is also required.”

Former NSA Director Mike Rogers has said that only 20 of his employees could approve an unmasking. The names are shared only with the specific official who asked. They are not released publicly. Leaking a name, or any classified information, is illegal.


The number of unmasking requests began being released to the public in response to recommendations in 2014 from the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board.

There were 9,217 unmasking requests in the 12-month period between September 2015 and August 2016, the first period in which numbers are publicly available. The period was during the latter years of the Obama administration.

The number rose during the Trump administration. The 9,529 requests in 2017 grew to 16,721 in 2018 and 10,012 last year. More here.



When the Roads Closed in Wuhan Last October

This is what global intelligence agencies are searching for answers. It was determined that the roads around the Wuhan Laboratory in question were closed determined by the lack of cell phone activity. How is that possible? There are in fact several telecom/research firms around the globe that monitor traffic and for two weeks in October there was almost no activity. Deeper investigations are underway.

In part from an NBC News article published May 8, 2020: WASHINGTON — A private analysis of cellphone location data purports to show that a high-security Wuhan laboratory studying coronaviruses shut down in October, three sources briefed on the matter told NBC News. U.S. spy agencies are reviewing the document, but intelligence analysts examined and couldn’t confirm a similar theory previously, two senior officials say.

The report — obtained by the London-based NBC News Verification Unit — says there was no cellphone activity in a high-security portion of the Wuhan Institute of Virology from Oct. 7 through Oct. 24, 2019, and that there may have been a “hazardous event” sometime between Oct. 6 and Oct. 11. Because the Wuhan lab is a high-security facility in an adversary nation studying dangerous pathogens, it is a collection target for several U.S. intelligence agencies, multiple officials told NBC News. Data gathered would include mobile phone signals, communications intercepts and overhead satellite imagery, the officials said.

Analysts are now examining what was collected in October and November for clues suggesting any anomalies at the lab, officials said. Congressional intelligence committees have also been given the document, and Sen. Marco Rubio, R.-Fla., appeared to be alluding to it or a similar report in a tweet on Wednesday.

“Would be interesting if someone analyzed commercial telemetry data at & near Wuhan lab from Oct-Dec 2019,” Rubio tweeted. “If it shows dramatic drop off in activity compared to previous 18 months it would be a strong indication of an incident at lab & of when it happened.”
As noted also within the article, nothing yet is conclusive.


Interesting to note however, it seems that another shutdown in Wuhan happened in January if those reports are found accurate regarding the empty roads and void of cell phone traffic.

From MIT Technology in part: On January 22, China took the extraordinary step of shutting down all transportation in the city of Wuhan, where the coronavirus outbreak first began. The measure effectively put 11 million people under quarantine, which is still ongoing as public health officials work to treat individuals who have fallen ill and stop the spread of the virus. As satellite images shared with MIT Technology Review by Planet Labs and Maxar Technologies show, the metropolis has ground to a halt. Bridges and roads are empty. The city’s train stations are deserted. Wuhan’s normally busy airport has completely ceased operations.

Photo Credits: Top photo Before The Wuhan Train Station surrounded by an enormous amount of traffic on the roads. Bottom photo After Traffic around the station evaporated following the quarantine. Trains have not been running since its implementation on January 22. PLANET LABS

Also in January of 2020:

The World Health Organisation has denied a media report that claimed that Chinese President Xi Jinping personally asked WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom to ‘delay a global warning’ regarding the coronavirus outbreak during a phone call in January.

The German news outlet, Der Spiegel, published a report citing intelligence from the country’s Federal Intelligence Service, known as the ‘Bundesnachrichtendienst’ (BND), that China “urged” the WHO to “delay a global warning” about the coronavirus outbreak. As per the report, the intelligence found that Xi and Tedros spoke by phone on January 21 during which the Chinese President “urged” the WHO chief to “hold back information about a human-to-human transmission and to delay a pandemic warning.” “The BND estimates that China’s information policy lost four to six weeks to fight the virus worldwide,” the report further added.

The WHO noted on Saturday that “China confirmed human-to-human transmission of the novel coronavirus on Jan. 20.” The WHO publicly declared on Jan. 22 that “data collected … suggests that human-to-human transmission is taking place in Wuhan.” The organisation declared coronavirus a pandemic in March. 

China's Silk Road and global health - The Lancet photo

If a country is not part of the China Silk Road Initiative then cooperation of any sort is limited as noted from their own website –>

China and International Community Work

Together to Build Health Silk Road

  As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads rapidly across the globe, China has made tremendous contributions to the international cooperation on combating the virus. China has actively conducted cooperation with the participating countries for the Belt and Road Initiative and international organizations, through mutual support and assistance as well as solidarity, to tide over the difficulties, in joint efforts to build the Health Silk Road and promote the global community of shared future for mankind.

As of March 31st, Chinese government has provided 120 countries and 4 international organizations with aid supplies including medical masks, N95 respirators, protective gowns, NAT kits and ventilators. Chinese local authorities have donated medical supplies to 50 countries through international sister-city channel. Chinese enterprises have donated medical supplies to over 100 countries and international organizations. Up to April 7th, China has sent 11 batches of medical specialist teams to 9 countries comprised of Italy, Serbia, Cambodia, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Laos, Venezuela, and the Philippines. China has unreservedly shared the anti-contagion information with the international community, shared the pandemic prevention and control, treatment and other technology documents with over 100 countries and 10 international and regional organizations, established the online knowledge center for the pandemic and the expert tank for international cooperation, and held more than 40 conferences on technology exchanges via remote video with over 100 countries and regions. China has donated 20 million USD to WHO in support of anti-pandemic international cooperation organized by WHO.


According to China’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative, the chance that exotic pathogens could be brought into the country has dramatically increased (7). Our new BSL-4 facility will play an integral role in preventing and controlling highly pathogenic microbes. To safely operate this facility, we designed a training program that ensures all personnel meet the institutional, national, and international standards for working in maximum-containment laboratories.

In preparation for the opening of the Wuhan BSL-4, we engaged in short- and long-term personnel exchanges focused on biosafety training through international cooperation (8). Four staff members visited the P4 Jean Mérieux-Inserm Laboratory in Lyon, France; 2 visited Galveston National Laboratory, The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, Texas, USA; and 1 visited the Australian Animal Health Laboratory, Geelong, Victoria, Australia for training and certification on BSL-4 laboratory operations, maintenance, and scientific or support work. These members are now the main instructors for our BSL-4 laboratory user training program.

Rather than being standardized, our training is specialized to fundamentally cover different BSL-4 users, including administrators and management, biosafety professionals, operations and maintenance staff, and researchers and technicians who currently work in the laboratory. The theoretical coursework is designed to help trainees understand the features of the BSL-4 laboratory and prepares them to enter the laboratory environment. We constructed the first BSL-4 training laboratory in China with the sole purpose of providing hands-on practicum for staff. This laboratory gives staff a safe environment in which they can learn all routine and emergency procedures of high-containment laboratories without the risk of exposure to dangerous pathogens. In addition, we developed an online training management software tool to support the training program and track participants’ progress towards certification.

We plan to incorporate additional user training, such as training for temporary or visiting workers from outside the institution who currently do not have access to our laboratory. In addition, we are planning specific training designed for emergency first responders, such as security staff at the institute and the city’s police and fire departments. Because these groups are tasked with responding to incidents, such as terrorism or fires, they need to be familiar with the complex design and mechanical and engineering features of the BSL-4 facility. Our expanded training will orient them to the laboratory and its operating systems so they can respond as safely as possible to any emergency at our facility.

Our rigorous training program will reduce the risk of harm or exposure to laboratory staff working with highly pathogenic agents. We encouraged all laboratory users to provide feedback and thoughts regarding how to improve and further advance our training program. China intends to build 5–7 high-containment laboratories by 2025 (9). Our BSL-4 laboratory worker training system is the starting point for developing national norms for high-containment laboratory training and preparing qualified, maximum biocontainment laboratory scientists and facility operations specialists. More detail here.

Before you go…here is an interesting item on China tracking cell phone users and how that data is used. Welcome to the Chinese Communist Party….check yourself at the door.

BEIJING/HONG KONG (Reuters) – When the man from Hangzhou returned home from a business trip, the local police got in touch. They had tracked his car by his license plate in nearby Wenzhou, which has had a spate of coronavirus cases despite being far from the epicenter of the outbreak. Stay indoors for two weeks, they requested.

After around 12 days, he was bored and went out early. This time, not only did the police contact him, so did his boss. He had been spotted near Hangzhou’s West Lake by a camera with facial recognition technology, and the authorities had alerted his company as a warning.

“I was a bit shocked by the ability and efficiency of the mass surveillance network. They can basically trace our movements with the AI technology and big data at any time and any place,” said the man, who asked not to be identified for fear of repercussions.

Chinese have long been aware that they are tracked by the world’s most sophisticated system of electronic surveillance. The coronavirus emergency has brought some of that technology out of the shadows, providing the authorities with a justification for sweeping methods of high tech social control.

Artificial intelligence and security camera companies boast that their systems can scan the streets for people with even low-grade fevers, recognize their faces even if they are wearing masks and report them to the authorities.

If a coronavirus patient boards a train, the railway’s “real name” system can provide a list of people sitting nearby.

Mobile phone apps can tell users if they have been on a flight or a train with a known coronavirus carrier, and maps can show them locations of buildings where infected patients live.

Although there has been some anonymous grumbling on social media, for now Chinese citizens seem to be accepting the extra intrusion, or even embracing it, as a means to combat the health emergency.

“In the circumstances, individuals are likely to consider this to be reasonable even if they are not specifically informed about it,” said Carolyn Bigg, partner at law firm DLA Piper in Hong Kong.


Telecoms companies have long quietly tracked the movements of their users. China Mobile promoted this as a service this week, sending text messages to Beijing residents telling them they can check where they have been over the past 30 days. It did not explain why users might need this, but it could be useful if they are questioned by the authorities or their employers about their travel.

“In the era of big data and internet, the flow of each person can be clearly seen. So we are different from the SARS time now,” epidemiologist Li Lanjuan said in an interview with China’s state broadcaster CCTV last week, comparing the outbreak to a virus that killed 800 people in 2003.

“With such new technologies, we should make full use of them to find the source of infection and contain the source of infection.”

The industry ministry sent a notice to China’s AI companies and research institutes this week calling on them to help fight the outbreak. Companies have responded with a flurry of announcements touting the capabilities of their technology.

Facial recognition firm Megvii said on Tuesday it had developed a new way to spot and identify people with fevers, with support from the industry and science ministries. Its new “AI temperature measurement system”, which detects temperature with thermal cameras and uses body and facial data to identify individuals, is already being tested in a Beijing district.

SenseTime, another leading AI firm, said it has built a similar system to be used at building entrances, which can identify people wearing masks, overcoming a weakness of earlier technology. Surveillance camera firm Zhejiang Dahua says it can detect fevers with infrared cameras to an accuracy within 0.3ºC.

In an interview with state news agency Xinhua, Zhu Jiansheng of the China Academy of Railway Sciences explained how technology can help the authorities find people who might be exposed to a confirmed or suspected coronavirus case on a train.

“We will retrieve relevant information about the passenger, including the train number, carriage number and information on passengers who were close to the person, such as people sitting three rows of seats before and after the person,” he said.

“We will extract the information and then provide it to relevant epidemic prevention departments.”