What Russian Journalists Uncovered About Russian Election Meddling ...
Here’s a rundown of what we learned from the Russian press this year:
In an updated edition of their book, The Red Web, Russian journalists Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan—veteran reporters on the Russian secret services—revealed how and when Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the attack on the American election. It happened, according to Soldatov and Borogan, at a meeting in April between Putin and a small inner circle of his national security advisors, most of them former KGB officers. Putin’s decision was also reportedly an emotional, knee-jerk one, in retaliation to the release of the Panama Papers, which implicated him. Because of Putin’s highly conspirological mindset, he apparently blamed Goldman Sachs and Hillary Clinton for the release of the embarrassing information, Soldatov and Borogan reported.
An October report from the Russian business media outlet RBC explained in great detail how the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency, also known as the “troll factory,” operated during the 2016 election. The report, authored by two Russian journalists, detailed the funding, budget, operating methods, and tactics, of the 100 trolls who spent 2016 populating American social media sites with divisive commentary and imitating civil rights groups. The report showed how the Agency was financed through its owner, Putin’s court caterer Yevgeny Prigozhin. It also detailed the reach of various politically inflammatory posts. It showed, for example, how the Agency produced over 20 Facebook posts that gathered over a million unique views each.
That same month, TVRain, Russia’s last independent television network, interviewed “Maxim,” a man who had worked as a troll at this factory. He revealed that the factory was largely staffed by college students from the prestigious St. Petersburg State University, Russia’s #2 university; their majors included international relations, linguistics, and journalism. They were, in other words, young, educated, worldly, and urban—the very cohort Americans imagine would rise up against someone like Putin. Instead, they worked in the factory, making nearly double the average Russian’s salary, sowing discord on Twitter, Facebook, and in the comments sections of various websites. They were instructed not to mention Russia, but instead to focus on issues that divided Americans, like guns and race. They learned their subject matter by reading Americans’ social media posts and by watching House of Cards, effectively weaponizing American culture and openness.
Last week, TVRain ran a written interview with Konstantin Kozlovsky, who is currently in a Russian prison for hacking into various Russian banks. He confessed to hacking the DNC and to creating the viruses Lurk and Wanna Cry, the latter of which is responsible for a ransomware attack that paralyzed computer networks across the world. Kozlovsky told the journalists how he had been entrapped and blackmailed into working for the FSB, the main Russian security agency, nearly a decade ago. He said that when he hacked into the servers of the DNC, he purposely left behind a calling card: a data file with the number of his visa to the Caribbean Island of St. Martin, as well as his passport number. Kozlovsky also said that he was arrested now because the FSB wanted “to hide the digital traces” of what he did. (It’s worth noting that many of these claims are unverified.)
Earlier this month, the Bell, a scrappy upstart website based outside of Russia, published a detailed exposé by the legendary Russian investigative journalist Svetlana Reiter about the four Russian men—two of them high-ranking FSB cyber warriors—arrested in Moscow last December in connection with the 2016 election hack. Reiter delved into the mystery of why the men were charged with, of all things, passing information to the CIA about the Russian cyber-attack. According to Reiter, they had been set up by a rival faction in Russian military intelligence, the GRU. The rivalry, which Soldatov and Borogan had also reported on, centered on securing both the prestige and budgetary funds that came with penetrating U.S. government cyber-defenses. This had previously been the exclusive domain of the FSB—once run by Putin—and the GRU was trying to muscle in on the FSB’s territory and money. A side effect of this internal rivalry, Reiter concluded, was how the Americans discovered the hack.
Business Insider - Natasha Bertrand: Meet the Russia specialist who worked on 2 of Fusion GPS' most controversial projects
Adding:Dutch intelligence agency spied on Russian hacking group: media
AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The Dutch intelligence agency AIVD spied on the Russian group believed to be behind the hack of the Democratic Party ahead of U.S. elections, local media reported on Thursday.
Current affairs program Nieuwsuur and newspaper de Volkskrant based the story on several anonymous intelligence sources in the Netherlands and the United States.
The Moscow-based group known as Cozy Bear is widely suspected of hacking the Democratic Party and is believed to be linked to the Russian government.
Agents with the AIVD gained access to the group’s headquarters and between 2014 and 2017 passed along information to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency, the report said.
The Dutch intelligence may have contributed to the Federal Bureau of Investigation inquiry into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election race, the report said.
Mother Jones - Kevin Drum: New Report Says Dutch Have Absolute Proof Russia Was Behind 2016 Election Hacking
Ars Technica: Candid camera: Dutch hacked Russians hacking DNC, including security cameras
AIVD shared data on "Cozy Bear" with US, helping thwart 2014 State Department hack.
Russian Programmer Detained in Spain Has Been Extradited to U.S.
Spanish authorities said Friday that an alleged Russian cybercriminal they detained last year at Washington’s request has been extradited to the U.S., a move likely to anger Kremlin officials, who say Russian citizens are being hunted down.
Russian programmer Pyotr Levashov —who the U.S. Justice Department says is one of the world’s most sophisticated hackers—was handed to U.S. Marshals, Spain’s National Police said.
The Justice Department and Mr. Levashov’s Spanish lawyer didn’t respond to requests for comment. During court proceedings, the 37-year-old Russian had fought against his possible extradition, saying he feared he would be drugged and tortured once in U.S. custody.
Mr. Levashov was arrested in April while vacationing in Spain with his wife and son. At the time, U.S. authorities accused him of operating a vast network of compromised computers for malicious purposes. The Justice Department said Mr. Levashov allegedly spread a potent malware known as Kelihos since about 2010, harvesting login credentials, and gaining control of hundreds of thousands of computers.
Spain’s National Court approved Mr. Levashov’s extradition to the U.S. in October, rejecting a counter-extradition claim filed by Russia.
U.S. authorities have dismissed speculation that Mr. Levashov’s case was related to investigations into alleged foreign interference in the 2016 U.S. elections. Still, it is emblematic of a series of extradition battles pitting Washington against Moscow in third countries.
New York Times
New York Times
Adding: h/t GuppyU.S. Spies, Seeking to Retrieve Cyberweapons, Paid Russian Peddling Trump Secrets
BERLIN — After months of secret negotiations, a shadowy Russian bilked American spies out of $100,000 last year, promising to deliver stolen National Security Agency cyberweapons in a deal that he insisted would also include compromising material on President Trump, according to American and European intelligence officials.
The cash, delivered in a suitcase to a Berlin hotel room in September, was intended as the first installment of a $1 million payout, according to American officials, the Russian and communications reviewed by The New York Times. The theft of the secret hacking tools had been devastating to the N.S.A., and the agency was struggling to get a full inventory of what was missing.
Several American intelligence officials said they made clear that they did not want the Trump material from the Russian, who was suspected of having murky ties to Russian intelligence and to Eastern European cybercriminals. He claimed the information would link the president and his associates to Russia. Instead of providing the hacking tools, the Russian produced unverified and possibly fabricated information involving Mr. Trump and others, including bank records, emails and purported Russian intelligence data.
The United States intelligence officials said they cut off the deal because they were wary of being entangled in a Russian operation to create discord inside the American government. They were also fearful of political fallout in Washington if they were seen to be buying scurrilous information on the president.
gupwalla wrote: ↑Sat Feb 10, 2018 2:12 pmStatement from CIA office of public affairs:
"The people swindled here were James Risen and Matt Rosenberg. The fictional story that CIA was bilked out of $100,000 is patently false."
Rosenberg is doubling down in the comments. We didn't say CIA was source of the funds, said it was back channels, etc etc blah blah.
Spooks who talk to the press are working an agenda, and good reporters ought to reflect on that before publishing.
I posted a small part of this in the congress section the other day, but I think it's worth having it in full.
Analysis Refutes Criminal Referral of Christopher Steele
Feb 09 2018
Washington—Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today released a minority view analysis on behalf of all Judiciary Committee Democrats of the Christopher Steele criminal referral sent last month by Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). A classified memo that accompanied the criminal referral was declassified this week.
“The criminal referral of Christopher Steele has nothing to do with accountability,” Feinstein said. “Clearly its goals included undermining the FBI and Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation, attacking Christopher Steele and deflecting attention from collusion and obstruction of justice investigations.”
“Not a single revelation in the Steele dossier has been refuted. Unfortunately, the claims in the criminal referral rely on classified information, so it’s difficult to fully repudiate them here. However, as much as possible using unclassified information, the following points lay out the flaws in the criminal referral.”
The following analysis rebuts a series of claims in the Grassley-Graham criminal referral:
1. The criminal referral is not based on any allegation that Steele lied or misrepresented facts about Carter Page or what is included in the Steele dossier. In fact, neither provide any evidence that any of the information in Steele’s dossier is wrong. Instead, the referral is limited to a single baseless allegation: that Steele lied about his contacts with the press.
2. The criminal referral omits key facts. The Department of Justice has provided documents regarding its interactions with Mr. Steele to the Judiciary Committee both before and after the criminal referral was made. Despite this, the Majority did not modify the criminal referral and pressed forward with its original claims, which do not take into account the additional information provided after the initial January 4 referral.
Instead of providing a comprehensive analysis, the criminal referral selectively focuses on some facts while omitting others.
For example, the criminal referral includes incomplete and misleading allegations regarding an October 19, 2016, report that Mr. Steele received from a “friend of the Clintons.”
The criminal referral alleges that Mr. Steele was using this additional reporting from “the Clinton friend” as the basis for his own work – implying there was no independent investigative work done by Steele. The criminal referral fails to address the fact that 14 of the 17 memos in the Steele dossier published by Buzzfeed were created by Mr. Steele before this October 19 report. It would have been impossible for Mr. Steele to include information that he received in an October 19 report from “a friend of the Clintons” in his 14 earlier reports, which date back to June 20, 2016.
3. The criminal referral fails to make a case that Christopher Steele lied to the FBI. The referral states that “it appears that either Mr. Steele lied to the FBI or the British court, or that the classified documents reviewed by the Committee contain materially false statements.” These allegations are made regarding Mr. Steele’s interactions with the press and whether he lied about those interactions to the FBI.
18 U.S.C. § 1001, the legal authority cited by the criminal referral, provides that: “[W]hoever, in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of the Government of the United States, knowingly and willfully makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation” shall be punished accordingly.
Importantly, the criminal referral fails to identify when, if ever, Mr. Steele was asked about and provided a materially false statement about his press contacts.
Tellingly, it also fails to explain any circumstances which would have required Mr. Steele to seek the FBI’s permission to speak to the press or to disclose if he had done so.
Rather, the criminal referral cites occasions where Mr. Steele spoke to the press at the end of September 2016. Specifically, it focuses on a Yahoo News article written by Michael Isikoff.
If Mr. Steele had been asked by the FBI about his contacts with Mr. Isikoff for this September article, and if he had spoken with this reporter, then he should have disclosed that fact. But the criminal referral provides no evidence that Steele was ever asked about the Isikoff article, or if asked that he lied.
It is also important to note, that in October 2016, the FBI learned that Mr. Steele had disclosed “his relationship with the FBI” to a reporter, David Corn. Because of this, the FBI then suspended its relationship with Mr. Steele and informed the FISA court of these developments in its renewal requests.
The FBI made clear, however, that it still considered Steele’s reporting to be reliable regardless of his contacts with the press.
The FISA court granted three renewals after having been informed of Steele’s contacts with the press.
4. Christopher Steele is a respected and reliable expert on Russia. He served more than 20 years as an intelligence officer with the British intelligence service MI6, and worked in Moscow under diplomatic cover from 1990 to 1993. Mr. Steele has a history of providing useful information that has assisted law enforcement in criminal investigations.
For example, in 2010, Mr. Steele gave information to the FBI that led to indictments of several officials from the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) and the termination of the organization’s president, Sepp Blatter. Citing U.S. officials, Reuters noted that Steele’s work on the FIFA matter “lent credence to his reporting on Trump’s entanglements in Russia.”
Reports also indicate that between 2013 and 2016, Steele collaborated successfully with the FBI’s Eurasian Joint Organized Crime Squad on Russia- and Ukraine-related matters. According to the Washington Post, “Steele was known for the quality of his past work and for the knowledge he had developed over nearly 20 years working on Russia-related issues for British intelligence.”
5. Mr. Steele came forward voluntarily out of concern for U.S. national security. In early July 2016, Mr. Steele shared with the FBI what he viewed as alarming information about Russian interference in the 2016 election and a potentially compromised candidate. 
Specifically, Mr. Simpson testified under oath to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence that Mr. Steele said, “I'm a former intelligence officer, and we're your closest ally. You know, I have obligations, professional obligations. If there's a national security emergency or possible national security issue, I should report it.” … “And I [Simpson] said: ‘So you're telling me that you think this is serious enough that it needs to be reported to law enforcement, and that you're confident enough in your sources, it's your professional judgment and your professional obligation, that you should report this to the FBI?’ And he [Steele] said, ‘Yes.’”
6. The criminal referral contains no new information. All the information in the criminal referral was already available to the FBI and the Department of Justice.
In fact, the referral relies on publicly available information and information that was provided to Congress from DOJ and the FBI.
7. The facts about Carter Page are not disputed. As has been widely reported, the FBI was aware of Page’s extensive connections to Russia several years before he joined the Trump campaign. In fact, the FBI determined in 2013 that Russian intelligence operatives had been attempting to recruit him and warned Mr. Page about this. That same year, Mr. Page reportedly described himself as an “informal advisor to the staff of the Kremlin.” Page continued to cultivate Russian investments and business – something that the FBI believed could be used by Russia to cultivate him as a source.
On March 21, 2016, then-candidate Donald Trump named Page to his foreign policy team. In July 2016, and with the approval of Campaign Manager Corey Lewandowski, Mr. Page traveled to Moscow to speak at the New Economic School. During his trip, Mr. Page emailed the Trump campaign about “some incredible insights and outreach I’ve received from a few Russian legislators and senior members of the Presidential Administration here.” 
That same month, Mr. Steele reported that Russia and the Trump campaign “had a mutual interest in defeating Democratic presidential candidate HILLARY CLINTON, whom President PUTIN apparently both hated and feared.” Mr. Steele reported that Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was using “foreign policy advisor, Carter PAGE, and others as intermediaries” between the campaign and Russia and that Mr. Page had meetings with Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin and Presidential Administration official Igor Divyekin.
During his testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, Mr. Page denied meeting with Mr. Sechin or Mr. Divyekin. He did admit, however, that he met with Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister, Arkady Dvorkovich. He also admitted meeting with Andrey Baranov – a close associate of Mr. Sechin. And, in December 2016, after the election, Mr. Page went back to Moscow and again met with high-ranking Russian officials, including Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich and Rosneft executive Andrey Baranov.
None of these facts are disputed in the Grassley-Graham criminal referral.
In June 2016, Mr. Steele began uncovering information indicating that Russia was interfering in the U.S. presidential election, and that the Trump campaign might be assisting Russia in its efforts. Under any circumstances, the right thing to do would be to go to law enforcement and turn over this information. And that is exactly what Mr. Steele did.
Steele’s reporting was deemed reliable by the FBI. The FISA court granted three renewals of the FISA warrant on Carter Page after learning of Mr. Steele’s contacts with the press, a fact that did not cause the FBI to question the reliability of his underlying reporting.
The President’s decision to declassify and release the Nunes memo has confirmed that the Russia investigation started because of another Trump campaign foreign policy advisor – George Papadopoulos – who was told in April that Russia had “dirt” on Clinton in the form of thousands of emails. Unlike Mr. Steele, Mr. Papadopoulos did not affirmatively share what he had learned with the FBI.
This Committee should dedicate its resources and attention to getting to the bottom of exactly what Russia did during the 2016 election and who was involved – not attacking voluntary sources and the nation’s leading law enforcement agencies.
 Memorandum from Hon. Charles E. Grassley and Hon. Lindsey O. Graham to Hon. Rod J. Rosenstein, Deputy Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice, Jan. 4, 2018, at 6 (hereinafter “Grassley/Graham Memo”).
 Grassley/Graham Memo, at 1.
United States v. Worthington, 822 F.2d 315, 310 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 484 U.S. 944 (1987) (A false or fictitious statement or representation is an assertion that is untrue when made or when used, and that is known by the person making it to be untrue); see also United States v. Anderson, 579 F.2d 455 (8th Cir.), cert. denied, 439 U.S. 980 (1978); United States v. Race, 632 F.2d 1114 (4th Cir. 1980) (If a defendant’s statement, or the government’s question requiring an answer, is ambiguous, it is incumbent on the government to negate any reasonable interpretation that could make the defendant’s statement factually correct).
Memorandum from HPSCI Majority Staff to HPSCI Majority Members, “Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Abuses at the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation,” Jan. 18, 2018, at 2 (hereinafter “Nunes Memo”).
 Nunes Memo, Jan. 18, 2018, at 2-3; Grassley/Graham Memo, at 4.
 Grassley/Graham Memo, at 4.
 Grassley/Graham Memo, at 4; Nunes Memo, Jan. 18, 2018, at 1.
 Vanity Fair, “How Ex-Spy Christopher Steele Compiled His Explosive Trump-Russia Dossier,” Apr. 2017; see also The Guardian, “How Trump walked into Putin’s web,” Nov. 15, 2017.
 Washington Post, “The British spy behind the Trump dossier helped the FBI bust FIFA,” Jan. 13, 2017.
 Reuters, “Former MI6 spy known to U.S. agencies is author of reports on Trump in Russia,” Jan. 12, 2017.
 Business Insider, “Congressional and FBI investigators are homing in on the Trump-Russia dossier,” Oct. 5, 2017.
 Washington Post, “FBI once planned to pay former British spy who authored controversial Trump dossier,” Feb. 28, 2017.
 Senate Judiciary Committee Interview of Glenn Simpson, Aug. 22, 2017, at 159, 164-65, 167.
 HPSCI Interview of Glenn Simpson, Nov. 14, 2017, at 60-61.
 New York Times, “Russian Spies Tried to Recruit Carter Page Before He Advised Trump,” Apr. 4, 2017.
 Time, “Carter Page Touted Kremlin Contacts in 2013 Letter,” Feb. 4, 2018.
 Bloomberg, “Trump’s New Russia Adviser Has Deep Ties to Kremlin’s Gazprom,” Mar. 30, 2016.
 Complaint at 13, U.S. v. Evgeny Buryakov, CA No. 15-cr-00073 (filed Jan. 23, 2015).
 Washington Post, “A transcript of Donald Trump’s meeting with the Washington Post editorial board,” Mar. 21, 2016.
 HPSCI Interview of Carter Page, Nov. 2, 2017, at 19; see also Politico, “Trump campaign approved adviser’s trip to Moscow,” Mar. 7, 2017.
 HPSCI Interview of Carter Page, Nov. 2, 2017, at 40.
 Company Intelligence Reports, 2016/094 and 2016/095, July 2016; Senate Judiciary Committee Interview of Glenn Simpson, at 235-36.
 HPSCI Interview of Carter Page, Nov. 2, 2017, at 12.
 Id. at 105.
 Id. at 119.
 Company Intelligence Reports, June 20, 2016 through Dec. 13, 2016.
 Nunes Memo, Jan. 18, 2018, at 4.
What I have gotten out of the whole Steele business: A British citizen has more concern for U.S. security than the U.S. president or the majority of the U.S. Congress. Or one-third of the U.S. citizenry.
I felt safer during the air raid drills of the Cold War.
I felt safer during the air raid drills of the Cold War.
FTI is a Washington-based business advisory firm that specializes in areas ranging from corporate litigation to forensic accounting, and it is a frequent post-government landing pad for FBI officials.Former Senior FBI Official Is Leading BuzzFeeds Effort to Verify Trump Dossier
Anthony Ferrante coordinated the U.S. government’s response to Russian election interference. Now he’s helping a news site defend itself from a Russian billionaire’s lawsuit.
For the last six months, a team led by a former top FBI and White House cybersecurity official has been traveling the globe on a secret mission to verify parts of the Trump dossier, according to four sources familiar with different aspects of the ongoing probe.
Their client: BuzzFeed, the news organization that first published the dossier on U.S. President Donald Trump’s alleged ties to Russia, which is now being sued over its explosive allegations.
The investigation, being conducted by FTI Consulting, is running in parallel to special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia in Kremlin-directed efforts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election. With the special counsel probe under wraps, the BuzzFeed court case could represent the first public airing of an investigation into the veracity of some of the dossier’s claims.
Russia pushes more ‘deep state’ hashtags
After the success of the viral #ReleaseTheMemo campaign, Russian-influenced Twitter accounts are test-running other hashtags designed to stoke anger, particularly among supporters of President Donald Trump, against “deep state” forces, according to analysts at Hamilton 68, a website that tracks Russian-influenced Twitter accounts.
Last weekend, a host of new hashtags trended in the network of accounts monitored by Hamilton 68, including #fisagate, #obamadeepstate, #wethepeopledemandjustice, #thememorevealsthecoup and even #obamaslegacyisobamagate.
None of those have taken hold, but the flurry of new efforts indicated to Bret Schafer, an analyst for the Alliance for Security Democracy, which runs Hamilton 68, that the Russians would continue to push issues related to the “deep state.”
“There’s still a ton of activity,” Schafer said. “It does look like they’re looking for the next hashtag. … They’re clearly looking for the next step in this process.” ...
“The activity around this hashtag was different in that it was much more concentrated, amplified and extended,” Morgan said. “I think it’s a good case study in what it looks like when somebody really turns on the machine and how vulnerable, frankly, Twitter still is to having its platform co-opted by someone who wants to push a particular narrative.”