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  1. #101
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    Poisoned KGB Agent Said Putin Has A 'Good Relationship' With One Of The World's Top Mobsters

    • Jan. 23, 2015, 1:45 PM
    • 6,694

    FBISemion Mogilevich, a known Russian mob boss
    See Also

    Tape Reveals Poisoned Ex-KGB Spy Making Accusations Against Putin

    Meet New York's Most Dogged Russian Mob Reporter

    Meet The 10 Most Wanted Fugitives In America

    Before his death by poisoning, ex-KGB spy Alexander Litvinenko, recorded a tape.
    In it, he claims that Russian President Vladimir Putin had a "good relationship" with one of the most notorious mobsters in the world, a Ukrainian man named Semion Mogilevich.
    The Federal Bureau of Investigation believes that Mogilevich, one of the top 10 most wanted fugitives, has spent the last few decades trafficking drugs, trading nuclear material, and orchestrating contract murders and international prostitution.
    Indicted in 2003 for countless fraud charges, Mogilevich now primarily lives in Moscow. His location allows him to maintain close ties to the Bratva, or The Brotherhood, aka the Russian mob.
    The 'Boss Of Bosses'

    A 5'6" and a portly chain smoker, Mogilevich is known as "boss of bosses" in one of the biggest mafia states in the world.
    Born in 1946 in Kiev, Ukraine, Mogilevich once acted as the key money laundering contact for the Solntsevskaya Bratva, a super-gang based in Moscow. He has since held over 100 front companies and bank accounts in 27 different countries, all to keep the cash flowing.
    In 1998, the FBI released a report naming Mogilevich as the leader of an organization with about 250 members. Only in operation only four years, the group's main activities included arms dealing, trading nuclear material, prostitution, drug trafficking, oil deals, and money laundering.
    Between 1993 and 1998, however, Mogilevich caught the FBI's attention when he allegedly participated in a $150 million scheme to defraud thousands of investors in a Canadian company, YBM Magnex, based just outside Philadelphia, which supposedly made magnets. With his economics degree and clever lies, Mogilevich forged documents for the Securities and Exchange Commission that raised the company's stock price nearly 2,000%.
    When asked about YBM by BBC in 2007, Mogilevich replied: "Well if they found old-fashioned hanky panky [i.e., suspicious activity], it's up to them to prove it. Unfortunately, I don't have access to FBI files."
    "What makes him so dangerous is that he operates without borders," said Special Agent Peter Kowenhoven, who has worked on Mogilevich's case since 1997. "Here’s a guy who managed to defraud investors out of $150 million without ever stepping foot in the Philadelphia area."
    In 1998, the Village Voice reported on hundreds of previously classified FBI and Israeli intelligence documents. They placed Mogilevich, also known as "Brainy Don," as the leader of the Red Mafia, a notorious Russian mob family infamous for its brutality. Based in Budapest, members held key posts in New York, Pennsylvania, Southern California, and even New Zealand.
    "He's the most powerful mobster in the world," Monya Elison, one of Mogilevich's partners in a prostitution ring, told the Voice. He claimed he's Mogilevich's best friend.
    Geopolitical Influence

    Arguably one of Mogelivich's most concerning characteristics is his influence in Europe's energy sector. With only a $100,000 bounty on his head, he controls extensive natural gas pipelines in Russia and Eastern Europe.
    Right now, Russia supplies about 30% of Europe's gas. Ironically, the country's largest pipeline to the rest of Europe shares a name with the mob — Bratstvo.
    John Wood, a senior anti-money laundering consultant at IPSA International wrote an entire report on Mogelivich. According to his research, the Ukrainian-born Russian mobster had long planned his stake in Europe's gas.
    In 1991, Mogilevich started meddling in the energy sector with Arbat International. For the next five years, the company served as his primary import-export petroleum company. Then, in 2002, an Israeli lawyer named Zeev Gordon, who represented Mogilevich for more than 20 years, created Eural Trans Gas (ETG), the main intermediary between Turkmenistan and Ukraine. Some reports show that Gordon registered the company in Ukrainian oligarch Dmitry Firtash's name.
    After that, Russia’s energy giant Gazprom and Ukraine's Centragas Holding AG teamed up to establish Swiss-registered RosUkrEnergo (RUE) to replace ETG. Firtash and Gazprom reportedly roughly split the ownership of RUE.
    In 2010, however, then prime minister of Ukraine, Yulia Tymoshenko, said she had "documented proof that some powerful criminal structures are behind the RosUkrEnergo (RUE) company," according to WikiLeaks. Even before, the press had widely speculated about Mogilevich's ties to RUE.
    ReutersDmytro Firtash, one of Ukraine's richest men, (R) and Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich take part in an opening ceremony of a new complex for the production of sulfuric acid in Crimea region in April 2012.
    Although Firtash has repeatedly denied having any close relationship with Mogilevich, he has admitted to asking permission from the mobster before conducting business in Ukraine as early as 1986, Reuters recently reported. At the request of the FBI, Firtash was arrested in Austria for suspicion of bribery and creating a criminal organization.
    Mogilevich may even have a working relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to a published conversation between Leonid Derkach, the former chief of the Ukrainian security service, and former Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma.
    "He's [Mogilevich] on good terms with Putin," Derkach reportedly said. "He and Putin have been in contact since Putin was still in Leningrad."
    A Free Man

    In 2007, Mogelivich told BBC that his business was selling wheat and grain.
    In 2008, however, Russian police arrested Mogelivich, using one of his many pseudonyms, Sergei Schneider, in connection with tax evasion for a cosmetics company, Arbat Prestige. Mogilevich ran that company with his partner, Vladimir Nekrosov. Three years later, the charges were dropped.
    Considering the US doesn't have an extradition treaty with Russia, as long as Mogilevich stays within Putin's borders, the "boss of bosses" will likely remain a free man. He's believed to have Russian, Israeli, Ukrainian, and Greek passports.
    Libertatem Prius!

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  2. #102
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    Foreign Firm Funding U.S. Green Groups Tied to State-Owned Russian Oil Company

    Executives at a Bermudan firm funneling money to U.S. environmentalists run investment funds with Russian tycoons

    Rosneft, owned by the Russian state, is the world's largest oil company / AP

    BY: Lachlan Markay

    A shadowy Bermudan company that has funneled tens of millions of dollars to anti-fracking environmentalist groups in the United States is run by executives with deep ties to Russian oil interests and offshore money laundering schemes involving members of President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle.

    One of those executives, Nicholas Hoskins, is a director at a hedge fund management firm that has invested heavily in Russian oil and gas. He is also senior counsel at the Bermudan law firm Wakefield Quin and the vice president of a London-based investment firm whose president until recently chaired the board of the state-owned Russian oil company Rosneft.

    In addition to those roles, Hoskins is a director at a company called Klein Ltd. No one knows where that firm’s money comes from. Its only publicly documented activities have been transfers of $23 million to U.S. environmentalist groups that push policies that would hamstring surging American oil and gas production, which has hurt Russia’s energy-reliant economy.

    With oil prices plunging as a result of a fracking-induced oil glut in the United States, experts say the links between Russian oil interests, secretive foreign political donors, and high-profile American environmentalists suggest Russia may be backing anti-fracking efforts in the United States.

    The interest of Russian oil companies and American environmentalist financiers intersect at a Bermuda-based law firm called Wakefield Quin. The firm acts as a corporate registered agent, providing office space for clients, and, for some, “managing the day to day affairs,” according to its website.

    As many as 20 companies and investment funds with ties to the Russian government are Wakefield Quin clients. Many list the firm’s address on official documentation.

    Klein Ltd. also shares that address. Documents filed with Bermuda’s registrar of companies list just two individuals associated with the company: Hoskins, Wakefield Quin senior counsel and managing director, and Marlies Smith, a corporate administrator at the firm.

    According to documents filed with Bermuda’s registrar of companies, Klein Ltd. was incorporated in March 2011 “exclusively for philanthropic purposes,” meaning “no part of the net earnings … inures to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual.”

    “The company does not propose to carry on business in Bermuda,” the documents stated.

    The only publicly available documentation of any business conducted by Klein Ltd. were two Internal Revenue Service filings by the California-based Sea Change Foundation, which showed that Klein had contributed $23 million to the group in 2010 and 2011. Klein Ltd. was responsible for more than 40 percent of contributions to Sea Change during those years.

    The foundation passed those millions along to some of the nation’s most prominent and politically active environmentalist groups. The Sierra Club, the Natural Resource Defense Council, Food and Water Watch, the League of Conservation Voters, and the Center for American Progress were among the recipients of Sea Change’s $100 million in grants in 2010 and 2011.

    Neither Wakefield Quin nor Sea Change responded to multiple requests for more information about their relationships with Klein Ltd.

    “None of this foreign corporation’s funding is disclosed in any way,” the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee wrote of the company in a report last year. “This is clearly a deceitful way to hide the source of millions of dollars that are active in our system, attempting to effect political change.”

    The Sierra Club, which received nearly $8.5 million from Sea Change in 2010 and 2011, launched its “Beyond Natural Gas” campaign the following year. The effort has become one of the largest and best-funded environmentalist campaigns combating fracking and the extraction of natural gas in general.
    Sea Change’s “skeletal staff quietly shovels tens of millions of dollars out the door annually to combat climate change. And that’s pretty much all it does,” noted Inside Philanthropy, which awarded the foundation its “sharpest laser focus in grantmaking” award last year.

    Nathaniel Simons and his wife run the foundation and are, except for Klein Ltd., its only donors. Simons, a hedge fund millionaire who commutes to work across San Francisco Bay aboard a 50-foot yacht, also runs a venture capital firm that invests in companies that benefit from environmental and energy policies that Sea Change grantees promote.

    Simons himself has ties to Klein Ltd. Several Wakefield Quin attorneys are listed as directors of hedge funds that his firm manages, and in which Sea Change has assets.

    Senior counsel Rod Forrest was listed on documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission as a director of two investment funds, Medallion International Ltd. and Meritage Holdings Ltd., in which Sea Change had tens of millions invested while it received money from Klein Ltd.

    Simons’ company runs the Meritage Fund. The Medallion Fund is run by Renaissance Technologies, the hedge fund management firm run by his father, billionaire and Democratic mega-donor Jim Simons. Both funds listed Wakefield Quin’s Hamilton, Bermuda, address on SEC filings.

    Wakefield Quin’s Hoskins and Smith, as well as a number of other employees of Wakefield Quin, have worked in some capacity for companies or investment funds owned by or tied to Russian state-owned corporations and high-level officials in the country.

    Hoskins, Forrest, and another Wakefield employee named Penny Cornell were all listed as executives of Spectrum Partners Ltd., a fund with offices in Moscow, Cypress, and Bermuda, Cornell at the address of Wakefield Quin’s offices.

    According to a performance report for one of Spectrum Partners’ funds, its portfolio consisted of “Russian and CIS [former Soviet state] securities and securities outside of Russia or CIS but having significant economic or business involvement with Russia and/or CIS.”

    As of 2008, more than half of the fund’s holdings were in the oil and gas sectors.

    Numerous executives at Wakefield Quin have ties to Russian oil and gas companies, including Rosneft, which is majority-owned by the Russian government and in 2013 became the largest oil company in the world.

    Hoskins is the vice president of a London-based company called Marcuard Services Limited, and a member of the firm’s board, according to its website.
    The company’s president, and the chairman of its parent company, Bermuda-based Marcuard Holding Limited, is Hans-Joerg Rudloff. Rudloff is also a former vice-chairman of the Rosneft’s board.

    Hoskins is also a director at a Bermuda-based subsidiary of Russian investment bank Troika Dialog. That firm organized an initial public offering for Timan Oil & Gas, which is run by Russian oligarch Alexander Lebedev.

    The Environmental Policy Alliance, which provided the Washington Free Beacon with a copy of an upcoming report on Klein Ltd.’s Kremlin ties, said Wakefield Quin’s ties to environmental financiers and Russian oil barons merit closer scrutiny.

    “The American public deserves to know whether environmentalists are attacking US energy companies at the behest of a Russian government that would like nothing more than to see their international competition weakened,” Will Coggin, a senior research analyst at the EPA, said in an emailed statement.

    “In the face of mounting evidence, environmental groups are going to have to start answering hard questions about their international funding sources,” Coggin said.

    The overlap between executives at firms with ties to Russian oil interests and a multi-million-dollar donor to U.S. environmentalist groups has some experts worried that Russians may be replicating anti-fracking tactics used in Europe to attack the practice in the United States.

    “I have met allies who can report that Russia, as part of their sophisticated information and disinformation operations, engaged actively with so-called non-governmental organizations—environmental organizations working against shale gas—to maintain European dependence on imported Russian gas,” Anders Fogh Rasmussen, formerly NATO’s secretary general, said last year.

    It is unlikely that the Kremlin is directly involved in doing so in the United States, according to Ron Arnold of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise.

    “If anybody in Russia is behind all the secretive Bermuda investment house and law firm action, it’s most likely some oligarch bidding against U.S. competition,” he said in an email.

    Arnold, the author of Undue Influence: Wealthy Foundations, Grant Driven Environmental Groups, and Zealous Bureaucrats That Control Your Future, said that the opacity of Klein Ltd.’s involvement with the Sea Change Foundation exemplifies attempts to shield the source of donations to such groups.

    “In my experience of trying to penetrate offshore money funnels for U.S. leftist foundations and green groups, I have found that Liechtenstein, Panama and Bermuda are the Big Three green equivalents of the Cayman Islands for hedge fund managers—totally opaque and impervious to my specially designed research tools,” Arnold said.

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  3. #103
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    Money laundering, corruption, and underhanded business dealings exemplify the supposed environmentalist movement. Behind it all is shady money and political pushing and shoving.

    Someone with a better understanding of economics help me out here. It's been stated more than once that current low oil prices have been spurred by over production of oil from US fracking activities. From where I sit, with an eye on Colorado oil operations, oil companies are ceasing exploration and laying off field employees because current oil prices cannot support operations. Why would US oil companies produce oil to the point where it disrupts their own productivity and performance? Is there another reason oil prices have plummeted? Something more global?
    Last edited by MinutemanCO; January 27th, 2015 at 19:18.

  4. #104
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    The Saudis are pumping all out partly to punish Putin (oil is a huge chunk of their economy) and partly to drive US oil producers out of business to reduce competition long term (because they know US producers can't sustain opreations at low prices for an extended period of time).

    Compounded with the fact that Venezuela is pumping all out because, as is typical with Socialism, you always run out of other people's money and they are trying to bring in hard currency with the only thing they have of value.

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    Russians Destroyed And Removed Material From Shuttered Compounds, Officials Say

    June 23, 2017

    When U.S. officials entered shuttered Russian compounds in Maryland and New York last December, they found damaged materials that could have been used in intelligence gathering and that former officials say could have been useful in the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

    The compounds, which had been used for decades as retreats for Russian diplomats, were shut down by the Obama administration as part of a package of punitive measures in response to Russia's meddling in the election. The White House expelled 35 diplomats, saying at the time they were targeted because of ongoing harassment of U.S. personnel in Russia.

    But at least some of the 35 diplomats were kicked out because they were suspected of being involved in election-interference operations, according to one of the former officials.

    The Russians were given 24 hours to get out of the compound and 72 hours to leave the country. Current U.S. officials tell CBS News they vacated the compounds before the 24-hour deadline, striking some as odd and raising the question of whether the diplomats had been tipped off about their expulsion.

    Among the destroyed materials discovered at the compounds were antennas, electronics, computers, file cabinets and other gear, according to a former official. Other material was missing.

    While the Russians would have been expected to destroy intelligence and equipment before leaving the country, the revelation raises the significance of the compounds in connection with Russia's election-interference operations.

    In December, President Barack Obama said the compounds were "used by Russian personnel for intelligence-related purposes." Current and former officials describe the facilities as significant listening posts and centers of intelligence gathering, backing up concerns that they were part of the election interference infrastructure.

    Last month, the Washington Post reported that the Trump administration was moving toward handing back the compounds. The Senate last week passed a bill in a 98-2 vote that would impose additional sanctions on Russia for its election activities. The measure includes a provision requiring congressional approval over any move by the administration to return the compounds back to the Russians.

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    Russia Warns US Over Seized Diplomatic Compounds

    July 18, 2017

    Russia has described any possible conditions set by Washington to return two of the country's diplomatic compounds in the US that were closed down late last year as "unacceptable."

    The two compounds, in New York State and Maryland, have sat empty since then-President Barack Obama closed them in December as part of sanctions imposed against the Russian government for its alleged meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

    "We have repeatedly said that we think any conditions are unacceptable. We think that the diplomatic property must be returned without any conditions and talks," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told CNN Monday.

    "What is happening is -- de facto and de jure -- a violation of international law," he said. "Contacts are happening between the foreign policy departments. Kremlin, as it is, does not really participate but as you know this issue was raised by President [Vladimir] Putin during his G20 meeting with President Trump in a quite straightforward manner."

    When asked about the dispute in a White House briefing, Press Secretary Sean Spicer referred reporters to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who Spicer claimed had been "having discussions." Spicer did not say whom Tillerson had been having discussions with.

    Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov met with US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon in Washington on Monday to discuss the compounds.

    As Ryabkov left the State Department after more than two and a half hours a reporter shouted a question: "Did you get your compounds back?" He responded: "Almost, almost." Shannon did not comment.

    Senator Jean Shaheen, a New Hampshire Democrat, raised the issue of Russia's compounds with Deputy Secretary of State John J. Sullivan during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Monday.

    "Those properties to which you refer are part of a larger dialogue with the Russian Federation," Sullivan said. "There are a whole host of issues we're discussing with the Russian Federation, but my commitment is that we will consult with you on this issue before any final implementation of an agreement that we don't have yet with the Russian Federation."

    Shaheen responded saying, "I don't think we should be rewarding Russia until we see their behavior change."

    Trump has repeatedly cast doubt over the US intelligence community's assessment that Russian intelligence agencies interfered in the election.

    Putin did not retaliate to the seizure of the compounds at the time. But Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova warned last month that the Kremlin could retaliate if the compounds were not returned.

    "It is best to immediately return our property, otherwise Russia has the right to come up [with a] tit-for-tat response in relation to American property in Russia. I want to confirm that the retaliatory measures are in the works," Zakharova told reporters.

    Asked what the Kremlin would do if nothing comes out of Monday's meeting, Peskov said: "Let's not jump ahead, the situation is quite sensitive and -- let's be straight -- it's quite difficult. And, you know, some excessive words can only do harm. We still hope that our American colleagues express some sort of political wisdom and political will."

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    Black Smoke Seen Pouring From Russian Consulate in San Francisco

    Neighbors said they often wondered what type of equipment was housed in sheds on the roof of the consulate

    September 1, 2017

    Acrid, black smoke was seen pouring from a chimney at the Russian consulate in San Francisco Friday, a day after the Trump administration ordered its closure amid escalating tensions between the United States and Russia.

    Firefighters who arrived at the scene were turned away by consulate officials who came from inside the building.

    An Associated Press reporter heard people who came from inside the building tell firefighters that there was no problem and that consulate staff were burning unidentified items in a fireplace.

    Mindy Talamadge, a spokeswoman from the San Francisco Fire Department, said the department received a call about the smoke and sent a crew to investigate but determined the smoke was coming from the chimney.

    "They had a fire going in their fireplace," she said.

    Talmadge said she did not know what they were burning on a day when normally cool San Francisco temperatures had already climbed to 95 degrees by noon.

    "It was not unintentional. They were burning something in their fireplace,'' she said.

    The consulate's workers are hurrying to shut Russia's oldest consulate in the U.S. ahead of a Saturday deadline.

    The order for Russia to vacate the consulate and an official diplomatic residence in San Francisco—home to a longstanding community of Russian emigres and technology workers—escalated an already tense diplomatic standoff between Washington and Moscow.

    Friday morning, a handful of people with business at the embassy were allowed into the building. A day earlier, Russian citizens said they were able to pick up and renew their passports if they had preexisting appointments. Consular officials did not comment as they got into cars with diplomatic plates.

    Those without appointments were already being turned away.

    Yuri Alexandrovski, a U.S.-Russian dual citizen who works in the tech industry, said he had hoped to renew his passport to go to the World Cup next year in Russia, but was not allowed because he did not have an appointment.

    "It seemed like I was asking questions they didn't have answers for,'' said Alexandrovski. "I'm assuming I will have to fly to Seattle to get that done.''

    The State Department also ordered Russia to close trade missions housed in satellite offices in Washington and New York. By next week, Russia will have just three consulates in the U.S.—in Washington, D.C., Seattle and Houston—the same number that the U.S. has in Russia, department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said.

    The closures on both U.S. coasts marked perhaps the most drastic diplomatic measure by the United States against Russia since 1986, when the nuclear-armed powers expelled dozens of each other's diplomats.

    American counterintelligence officials have long kept a watchful eye on Russia's outpost in San Francisco, concerned that people posted to the consulate as diplomats were engaged in espionage.

    Neighbors said they often wondered what type of equipment was housed in sheds on the roof of the consulate, which has a clear line of sight to maritime movement throughout the bay.

    Last December, the U.S. kicked out several Russians diplomats in San Francisco in response to allegations that Russia interfered in the presidential election. This time, the State Department did not expel any of the consulate's staff from the United States. In addition to Consul Sergey Petrov, the consulate's website showed 13 other Russian officials working at the San Francisco post.

    Russia has a long history in the San Francisco Bay Area, where there are three Russian cathedrals marking the different facets of the Orthodox church.

    The Bay Area has more than 75,000 Russian-speaking residents, with as many as 300,000 Russian speakers in the greater Sacramento, California, area about 90 miles (145 kilometers) northeast of San Francisco.

    Shops that cater to the city's large community of Russian emigres line the streets near the consulate. It sits a few blocks from the Presidio, which used to be a U.S. military fort and the headquarters of the Sixth U.S. Army before it was inactivated.

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    Russian Sleeper-Cell Spy Ring Targeted Hillary Clinton

    October 23, 2017

    Remember Anna Chapman? The FBI arrested and deported the woman who acted as a sleeper intelligence agent in 2010 along with nine others, and Chapman’s good looks got almost all of the attention — even overshadowing the operation. As John Solomon and Alison Spann report for The Hill, that operation turned out to be a lot more effective than first thought. The FBI’s arrest and sudden deportation of the ring was triggered by a fear that one of the women had gotten too close to Hillary Clinton … and it wasn’t Chapman after all, but Cynthia Murphy who scored a position with a major Democratic fundraiser for Hillary:

    A female Russian spy posing as an American accountant, for instance, used a false identity to burrow her way into the employ of a major Democratic donor in hopes of gaining intelligence on Hillary Clinton’s department, records show. The spy was arrested and deported as she moved closer to getting inside the secretary’s department, agents said. …

    “Murphy had several work-related personal meetings with [a prominent New York-based financier, name omitted] and was assigned his account,” one FBI record from the case read. “The message accurately described the financier as ‘prominent in politics,’ ‘an active fund-raiser’ for [a major political party, name omitted] and a ‘personal friend’ of [a current Cabinet official, name redacted].”

    Multiple current and former officials confirmed to The Hill that the Cabinet officer was Hillary Clinton, the fundraiser was New York financier Alan Patricof and the political party was the Democratic National Committee. None of the Americans were ever suspected of illegalities, but the episode made clear the Russian spies were stepping up their operations against the new administration after years of working in a “sleeper” capacity, officials said.

    As Solomon and Spann recall, the State Department claimed at the time that there was “no reason to think the Secretary was a target of this spy ring.” That turned out to be untrue; the FBI arrests were in fact a response to just how close Murphy got to Hillary, and a worry that she could penetrate even further:

    “In regards to the woman known as Cynthia Murphy, she was getting close to Alan, and the lobbying job. And we thought this was too close to Hillary Clinton. So when you have the totality of the circumstance, and we were confident we had the whole cell identified, we decided it was time to shut down their operations,” Figliuzzi said.

    At the same time, the Russians began operating their extortion and bribery operations in hopes of gaining even more connections within the administration. The opportunities from Bill and Hillary Clinton’s public speaking business and the Clinton Foundation were nearly endless, and quickly exploited. Literally the day after the arrests, Bill collected a $500,000 check for a one-hour speech to Renaissance Capital, the bank connected to the Uranium One deal that would put 20% of American uranium in Russian hands:

    Other activities were perfectly legal and sitting in plain view, such as when a subsidiary of Russia’s state-controlled nuclear energy company hired a Washington firm to lobby the Obama administration. At the time it was hired, the firm was providing hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in pro bono support to Bill Clinton’s global charitable initiative, and it legally helped the Russian company secure federal decisions that led to billions in new U.S. commercial nuclear business, records show.

    Agents were surprised by the timing and size of a $500,000 check that a Kremlin-linked bank provided Bill Clinton with for a single speech in the summer of 2010. The payday came just weeks after Hillary Clinton helped arrange for American executives to travel to Moscow to support Putin’s efforts to build his own country’s version of Silicon Valley, agents said.

    That may not have been the end of it. NBC News reports this morning that Robert Mueller’s special-counsel investigation into Russian influence has now ensnared Tony Podesta right along with Paul Manafort for possible violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA):

    Manafort had organized a public relations campaign for a non-profit called the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine (ECMU). Podesta’s company was one of many firms that worked on the campaign, which promoted Ukraine’s image in the West.

    The sources said the investigation into [Tony] Podesta and his company began as more of a fact-finding mission about the ECMU and Manafort’s role in the campaign, but has now morphed into a criminal inquiry into whether the firm violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act, known as FARA. …

    The Podesta Group filed a FARA registration for its work with ECMU only after the payments were reported by the media. Manafort’s firm also filed a FARA registration after media reports in June disclosed its work in Ukraine from 2012 through 2014.

    It’s not the first time Manafort and Podesta have been linked together in an investigation. The Department of Justice was allegedly looking into FARA issues with Podesta in the summer of 2016, too. At the time, the Podesta Group said they had relied on assurances from the European Centre that their work had nothing to do with the government in Ukraine or Russia, but at the time Tony Podesta himself had not been the target of the probe. That has apparently changed under Mueller.

    Note that none of the FARA issues come later than 2014, long before Trump began his run for the presidency. The Podestas have long ties to the Clintons and the Obamas; Tony’s brother John was Hillary’s campaign manager in the last election, but also served as Barack Obama’s White House chief of staff in 2014 and a few weeks into 2015, and was his transition chief in 2008. Manafort was mainly outside Washington circles, but both Podestas were well connected with both the Clintons and the Obamas. If the Russians wanted influence on American politics and were willing to sink their sleeper-cell operation to get it, Tony and John Podesta look a lot more promising as vehicles and Hillary Clinton as a target than $100,000 in Facebook ads.

    If Mueller is chasing the Podesta chain, then he’s looking at a lot more than just the 2016 election. This could get ugly for a lot of people.

  9. #109
    Creepy Ass Cracka & Site Owner Ryan Ruck's Avatar
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    Default Re: Putin's Spies in America

    We're just now finding out the details?

    Russia Carried Out A 'Stunning' Breach Of FBI Communications System, Escalating The Spy Game On U.S. Soil

    September 16, 2019

    On Dec. 29, 2016, the Obama administration announced that it was giving nearly three dozen Russian diplomats just 72 hours to leave the United States and was seizing two rural East Coast estates owned by the Russian government. As the Russians burned papers and scrambled to pack their bags, the Kremlin protested the treatment of its diplomats, and denied that those compounds — sometimes known as the “dachas” — were anything more than vacation spots for their personnel.

    The Obama administration’s public rationale for the expulsions and closures — the harshest U.S. diplomatic reprisals taken against Russia in several decades — was to retaliate for Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. But there was another critical, and secret, reason why those locations and diplomats were targeted.

    Both compounds, and at least some of the expelled diplomats, played key roles in a brazen Russian counterintelligence operation that stretched from the Bay Area to the heart of the nation’s capital, according to former U.S. officials. The operation, which targeted FBI communications, hampered the bureau’s ability to track Russian spies on U.S. soil at a time of increasing tension with Moscow, forced the FBI and CIA to cease contact with some of their Russian assets, and prompted tighter security procedures at key U.S. national security facilities in the Washington area and elsewhere, according to former U.S. officials. It even raised concerns among some U.S. officials about a Russian mole within the U.S. intelligence community.

    “It was a very broad effort to try and penetrate our most sensitive operations,” said a former senior CIA official.

    American officials discovered that the Russians had dramatically improved their ability to decrypt certain types of secure communications and had successfully tracked devices used by elite FBI surveillance teams. Officials also feared that the Russians may have devised other ways to monitor U.S. intelligence communications, including hacking into computers not connected to the internet. Senior FBI and CIA officials briefed congressional leaders on these issues as part of a wide-ranging examination on Capitol Hill of U.S. counterintelligence vulnerabilities.

    These compromises, the full gravity of which became clear to U.S. officials in 2012, gave Russian spies in American cities including Washington, New York and San Francisco key insights into the location of undercover FBI surveillance teams, and likely the actual substance of FBI communications, according to former officials. They provided the Russians opportunities to potentially shake off FBI surveillance and communicate with sensitive human sources, check on remote recording devices and even gather intelligence on their FBI pursuers, the former officials said.

    “When we found out about this, the light bulb went on — that this could be why we haven’t seen [certain types of] activity” from known Russian spies in the United States, said a former senior intelligence official.

    The compromise of FBI systems occurred not long after the White House’s 2010 decision to arrest and expose a group of “illegals” – Russian operatives embedded in American society under deep non-official cover – and reflected a resurgence of Russian espionage. Just a few months after the illegals pleaded guilty in July 2010, the FBI opened a new investigation into a group of New York-based undercover Russian intelligence officers. These Russian spies, the FBI discovered, were attempting to recruit a ring of U.S. assets — including Carter Page, an American businessman who would later act as an unpaid foreign policy adviser to Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

    The breaches also spoke to larger challenges faced by U.S. intelligence agencies in guarding the nation’s secrets, an issue highlighted by recent revelations, first published by CNN, that the CIA was forced to extract a key Russian asset and bring him to the U.S. in 2017. The asset was reportedly critical to the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that Russian President Vladimir Putin had personally directed the interference in the 2016 presidential election in support of Donald Trump.

    Yahoo spoke about these previously unreported technical breaches and the larger government debates surrounding U.S. policies toward Russia with more than 50 current and former intelligence and national security officials, most of whom requested anonymity to discuss sensitive operations and internal discussions. While the officials expressed a variety of views on what went wrong with U.S.-Russian relations, some said the United States at times neglected to appreciate the espionage challenge from Moscow, and paid a significant price for a failure to prioritize technical threats.

    “When I was in office, the counterintelligence business was … focused entirely on its core concern, which is insider threats, and in particular mole hunting,” said Joel Brenner, the head of U.S. counterintelligence and strategy from 2006 to 2009. “This is, in fact, the core risk and it’s right that it should be the focus. But we were neither organized nor resourced to deal with counterintelligence in networks, technical networks, electronic networks.”

    The discovery of Russia’s newfound capacity to crack certain types of encryption was particularly unnerving, according to former U.S. officials.

    “Anytime you find out that an adversary has these capabilities, it sets off a ripple effect,” said a former senior national security official. “The Russians are able to extract every capability from any given technology. ... They are singularly dangerous in this area.”

    The FBI’s discovery of these compromises took place on the heels of what many hoped would be a breakthrough between Washington and Moscow — the Obama administration’s 2009 “reset” initiative, which sought to improve U.S.-Russia relations. Despite what seemed to be some initial progress, the reset soon went awry.

    In September 2011, Vladimir Putin announced the launch of his third presidential campaign, only to be confronted during the following months by tens of thousands of protesters accusing him of electoral fraud. Putin, a former intelligence officer, [url=]publicly accused then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of fomenting the unrest.

    It was around this time that Putin’s spies in the United States, operating under diplomatic cover, achieved what a former senior intelligence official called a “stunning” technical breakthrough, demonstrating their relentless focus on the country they’ve long considered their primary adversary.

    That effort compromised the encrypted radio systems used by the FBI’s mobile surveillance teams, which track the movements of Russian spies on American soil, according to more than half a dozen former senior intelligence and national security officials. Around the same time, Russian spies also compromised the FBI teams’ backup communications systems — cellphones outfitted with “push-to-talk” walkie-talkie capabilities. “This was something we took extremely seriously,” said a former senior counterintelligence official.

    The Russian operation went beyond tracking the communications devices used by FBI surveillance teams, according to four former senior officials. Working out of secret “listening posts” housed in Russian diplomatic and other government-controlled facilities, the Russians were able to intercept, record and eventually crack the codes to FBI radio communications.

    Some of the clandestine eavesdropping annexes were staffed by the wives of Russian intelligence officers, said a former senior intelligence official. That operation was part of a larger sustained, deliberate Russian campaign targeting secret U.S. government communications throughout the United States, according to former officials.

    The two Russian government compounds in Maryland and New York closed in 2016 played a role in the operation, according to three former officials. They were “basically being used as signals intelligence facilities,” said one former senior national security official.

    Russian spies also deployed “mobile listening posts.” Some Russian intelligence officers, carrying signals intelligence gear, would walk near FBI surveillance teams. Others drove vans full of listening equipment aimed at intercepting FBI teams’ communications. For the Russians, the operation was “amazingly low risk in an angering way,” said a former senior intelligence official.

    The FBI teams were using relatively lightweight radios with limited range, according to former officials. These low-tech devices allowed the teams to move quickly and discreetly while tracking their targets, which would have been more difficult with clunkier but more secure technology, a former official said. But the outdated radios left the teams’ communications vulnerable to the Russians. “The amount of security you employ is the inverse of being able to do things with flexibility, agility and at scale,” said the former official.

    A former senior counterintelligence official blamed the compromises on a “hodgepodge of systems” ineffective beyond the line of sight. “The infrastructure that was supposed to be built, they never followed up, or gave us the money for it,” said the former official. “The intelligence community has never gotten an integrated system.”

    The limitations of the radio technology, said the former senior officials, led the FBI’s surveillance personnel to communicate on the backup systems.

    “Eventually they switched to push-to-talk cellphones,” said a former counterintelligence executive. “The tech guys would get upset by that, because if they could intercept radio, they might be able to intercept telephones.”

    That is indeed what happened. Those devices were then identified and compromised by Russian intelligence operatives. (A number of other countries’ surveillance teams — including those from hostile services — also transitioned from using radios to cellphones during this time, noted another former official.)

    U.S. intelligence officials were uncertain whether the Russians were able to unscramble the FBI conversations in real time. But even the ability to decrypt them later would have given the Russians critical insights into FBI surveillance practices, including “call signs and locations, team composition and tactics,” said a former intelligence official.

    U.S. officials were also unsure about how long the Russians had been able to decipher FBI communications before the bureau realized what was happening. “There was a gap between when they were really onto us, and when we got onto them,” said a former senior intelligence official.

    Even after they understood that the Russians had compromised the FBI teams’ radios, U.S. counterintelligence officials could not agree on how they had done it. “The intel reporting was they did break our codes or got their hands on a radio and figured it out,” said a former senior intelligence official. “Either way, they decrypted our comms.”

    Officials also cautioned, however, that the Russians could only crack moderately encrypted communications, not the strongest types of encryption used by the U.S. government for its most sensitive transmissions. It was nonetheless “an incredible intelligence success” for the Russians, said the former senior official.

    While the Russians may have developed this capability by themselves, senior counterintelligence officials also feared that someone from within the U.S. government — a Russian mole — may have helped them, said former officials. “You’re wondering, ‘If this is true, and they can do this, is this because someone on the inside has given them that information?’’ said another former senior intelligence official.

    Russia has a clear interest in concealing how it gets its information, further muddying the waters. According to a former senior CIA officer who served in Moscow, the Russians would often try to disguise a human source as a technical penetration. Ultimately, officials were unable to pinpoint exactly how the Russians pulled off the compromise of the FBI’s systems.

    Mark Kelton, who served as the chief of counterintelligence at the CIA until he retired in 2015, declined to discuss specific Russian operations, but he told Yahoo News that “the Russians are a professionally proficient adversary who have historically penetrated every American institution worth penetrating.”

    This remains a core worry for U.S. spy hunters. The number of ongoing espionage investigations into U.S. government personnel — at the CIA, the FBI and elsewhere — including those potentially recruited by Russia, “is not a little, it’s a lot,” said another former senior counterintelligence official.

    Once the compromises of FBI communications devices were confirmed, U.S. officials scrambled to minimize the exposure of mobile surveillance team operations, quickly putting countermeasures in place, according to former senior officials. There was a “huge concern” about protecting the identities of the individuals on the teams — an elite, secret group — said the former senior counterintelligence official. U.S. officials also conducted a damage assessment and repeatedly briefed select White House officials and members of Congress about the compromise.

    After the FBI discovered that its surveillance teams’ cellphones had been compromised, they were forced to switch back to encrypted radios, purchasing different models, according to two former officials. “It was an expensive venture,” said one former counterintelligence official.

    But the spying successes went both ways. The U.S. intelligence community collected its own inside information to conclude that the damage from the compromises had been limited, partly due to the Russians’ efforts to keep their intelligence coup secret, according to a former senior intelligence official. “The Russians were reticent to take steps [that might reveal] that they’d figured it out,” the former senior official said.

    Even so, the costs to U.S. intelligence were significant. Spooked by the discovery that its surveillance teams’ communications had been compromised, the FBI worried that some of its assets had been blown, said two former senior intelligence officials. The bureau consequently cut off contact with some of its Russian sources, according to one of those officials.

    At the time of the compromise, some of the FBI’s other Russian assets stopped cooperating with their American handlers. “There were a couple instances where a recruited person had said, ‘I can’t meet you anymore,’” said a former senior intelligence official. In a damage assessment conducted around 2012, U.S. intelligence officials concluded the events may have been linked.

    The impact was not limited to the FBI. Alerted by the bureau to concerns surrounding Russia’s enhanced interception capabilities, the CIA also ceased certain types of communications with sources abroad, according to a former senior CIA official. The agency “had to resort to a whole series of steps” to ensure the Russians weren’t able to eavesdrop on CIA communications, the former senior official said. There was a “strong hint” that these newly discovered code-breaking capabilities by Russia were also being used abroad, said another former senior intelligence official.

    The CIA has long been wary of Russian spies’ eavesdropping efforts outside of the United States, especially near U.S. diplomatic facilities. U.S. officials have observed Russian technical officers repeatedly walking close to those compounds with packages in their hands, or wearing backpacks, or pushing strollers, or driving by in vehicles — all attempts, U.S. officials believe, to collect information on the different signals emanating from the facilities. While the tools used by the Russians for these activities were “a bit antiquated,” said a former senior CIA official, they were still a “constant concern.”

    It’s not unusual for intelligence officers operating from diplomatic facilities, including the United States’s own operatives, to try and intercept the communications of the host nation. “You had to find ways to attack their surveillance,” said Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, former head of counterintelligence at the Department of Energy and a former CIA officer who first served in Moscow in the 1980s. “The Russians do everything in the U.S. that we did in Moscow.”

    Indeed, the focus on cracking radio communications was no different.

    “We put extraordinary effort into intercepting and monitoring the FSB surveillance radio networks for the purpose of understanding whether our officers were under surveillance or not,” said another former senior CIA officer who also served in Moscow.

    The discovery of the Russians’ new code-breaking capabilities came at a time when gathering intelligence on Russia and its leaders’ intentions was of particular importance to the U.S. government. U.S. national security officials working on Russia at the time received rigorous security training on how to keep their digital devices secure, according to two former senior officials. One former U.S. official recalled how during the negotiations surrounding the reset, NSC officials, partially tongue in cheek, “would sometimes say things on the phone hoping [they] were communicating things to the Russians.”

    According to a former CIA official and a former national security official, the CIA’s analysts often disagreed about how committed Russia was to negotiations during the attempted reset and how far Putin would go to achieve his strategic aims, divergences that confused the White House and senior policy makers.

    “It caused a really big rift within the [National Security Council] on how seriously they took analysis from the agency,” said the former CIA official. Senior administration leaders “went along with” some of the more optimistic analysis on the future of U.S.-Russia relations “in the hopes that this would work out,” the official continued.

    Those disagreements were part of a “reset hangover” that persisted, at least for some inside the administration, until the 2016 election meddling, according to a former senior national security official. Those officials clung to the hope that Washington and Moscow could cooperate on key issues, despite aggressive Russian actions ranging from the invasion of Ukraine to its spying efforts.

    “We didn’t understand that they were at political war with us already in the second term once Putin was reelected and Obama himself was reelected,” said Evelyn Farkas, the former deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia during the Obama administration.

    As high-level hopes for the U.S.-Russia “reset” withered, concerns about the threat of Russian spying made their way to Capitol Hill. Top officials at the FBI and CIA briefed key members of Congress on counterintelligence issues related to Russia, according to current and former U.S. officials. These included briefings on the radio compromises, said two former senior officials.

    Mike Rogers, a former Republican lawmaker from Michigan who chaired the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence from 2011 to 2015, alluded to counterintelligence concerns at a conference earlier this year in Washington, D.C.

    One of those concerns was a massive intelligence failure related to the secret internet-based communications system the CIA used to communicate with agents. The extent of that failure, first reported publicly by Yahoo News in 2018, got the attention of Congress earlier.

    But the problems were broader than that issue, according to Rogers.

    “Our counterintelligence operations needed some adjustments,” said Rogers, adding that he and his Democratic counterpart from Maryland, Dutch Ruppersberger, requested regular briefings on the subject from agency representatives. “We started out monthly until we just wore them out, then we did it quarterly to try to make sure that we had the right resources and the right focus for the entire community on counter[intelligence].”

    Rogers later told Yahoo News that his request for the briefings had been prompted by “suspected penetrations, both physical and technical, which is the role of those [Russian and Chinese] intelligence services,” but declined to be more specific.

    The former committee chairman said he wanted the intelligence community to make counterintelligence a higher priority. “Counterintelligence was always looked at as the crazy uncle at the party,” he said. “I wanted to raise it up and give it a robust importance.”

    The briefings, which primarily involved counterintelligence officials from the FBI and CIA and were limited to the committee leadership and staff directors, led to “some useful inquiries to help focus the intelligence community,” Rogers said. The leaders of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence were also included in some of the inquiries, according to Rogers and a current U.S. government official.

    Spokespeople for the current House and Senate intelligence committees did not respond to a request for comment. The FBI and CIA declined to comment. The Russian Embassy in Washington, D.C. did not respond to a request for comment.

    The briefings were designed to “get the counterintelligence house in order,” said Jamil Jaffer, senior counsel at the House intelligence committee from 2011 to 2013, and to ensure that Congress and the intelligence agencies were “on the same page” when it came to such matters. “There were some concerns about what the agencies were doing, there were some concerns about what Congress knew, and all of these issues, of course, had China-Russia implications.”

    Rogers and Jaffer declined to provide further details about what specific counterintelligence issues the committee was addressing, but other former officials indicated that worries weren’t limited to the compromise of FBI radio systems. Senior U.S. officials were contemplating an even more disturbing possibility: that the Russians had found a way to penetrate the communications of the U.S. intelligence community’s most sensitive buildings in and around Washington, D.C.

    Suspected Russian intelligence officers were seen conspicuously loitering along the road that runs alongside the CIA’s headquarters, according to former senior intelligence officials. “Russian diplomats would be sitting on Route 123, sometimes in cars with diplomatic plates, other times not,” a former senior intelligence executive said. “We thought, they’re out doing something. It’s not just taking down license plates; those guys are interrogating the system.”

    Though this behavior dated back at least to the mid-2000s, former officials said those activities persisted simultaneously with the compromise of the FBI’s communication system. And these were not the only instances of Russian intelligence operatives staking out locations with a line of sight to CIA headquarters. They were “fixated on being in neighborhoods” that gave them exposure to Langley, said a former senior official.

    Over time, U.S. intelligence officials became increasingly concerned that Russian spies might be attempting to intercept communications from key U.S. intelligence facilities, including the CIA and FBI headquarters. No one knew if the Russians had actually succeeded.

    “The question was whether they had capabilities to penetrate our comms at Langley,” said a former senior CIA official. In the absence of any proof that that was the case, the working theory was that the Russian activities were provocations designed to sow uncertainty within the CIA. “We came to the conclusion that they were trying to get into our heads,” the former senior official said.

    A major concern was that Russian spies with physical proximity to sensitive U.S. buildings might be exfiltrating pilfered data that had “jumped the air gap,” i.e., that the Russians were collecting information from a breach of computers not connected to the Internet, said former officials.

    One factor behind U.S. intelligence officials’ fears was simple: The CIA had already figured out how to perform similar operations themselves, according to a former senior CIA officer directly familiar with the matter. “We felt it was pretty revolutionary stuff at the time,” the former CIA officer said. “It allowed us to do some extraordinary things.”

    While no one definitively concluded that the Russians had actually succeeded in penetrating Langley’s communications, those fears, combined in part with the breach of the bureau’s encrypted radio system, drove an effort by U.S. intelligence officials around 2012 to fortify sensitive Washington-area government buildings against potential Russian snooping, according to four former officials.

    At key government facilities in the Washington area, entire floors were converted to sensitive compartmented information facilities, or SCIFs. These are specially protected areas designed to be impenetrable to hostile signals intelligence gathering.

    The normal assumption was that work done in a SCIF would be secure, but doubts arose about the safety of even those rooms. “The security guys would say, your windows are ‘tempested’”—that is, protected against the interception of emissions radiating from electronic equipment in the building —“you’re in a SCIF, it’s fine,” a former senior counterintelligence executive recalled. “The question was, ‘Is it true?’”

    Increasingly, U.S. officials began to fear it was not.

    New security practices were instituted in sensitive government facilities like the FBI and CIA headquarters, according to former officials. “It required many procedural changes on our part to make sure we were not susceptible to penetrations,” said a former senior CIA official. These included basic steps such as moving communication away from windows and changing encryption codes more frequently, as well as more expensive adjustments, said four former officials.

    Revelations about the Russian compromise of the radio systems, recalled a former senior intelligence official, “kick-started the money flowing” to upgrade security.

    While the breaches of the FBI communications systems appeared to finally spur Congress and the intelligence agencies to adopt steps to counter increasingly sophisticated Russian eavesdropping, it took the Putin-directed interference in the 2016 election to get the White House to expel at least some of those officials deemed responsible for the breaches, and to shut down the facilities that enabled them.

    Even then, the decision was controversial. Some in Washington worried about retribution by the Russians and exposure of American intelligence operations, according to a former senior U.S. national security official directly involved in the discussions. The FBI consistently supported expulsions, said another former national security official.

    More than two years later, the Russian diplomatic compounds used in the FBI communications compromises remain shuttered. The U.S. government has prevented many of the Russian spies expelled by the United States from returning, according to national security experts and senior foreign intelligence officials. “They are slowly creeping back in, but [the] FBI makes it hard,” said a senior foreign intelligence official. “The old guard is basically screwed. They need to bring in a whole new generation.”

    In the meantime, those familiar with Russian operations warn that the threat from Moscow is far from over. “Make no mistake, we’re in an intelligence war with the Russians, every bit as dangerous as the Cold War,” said a former senior intelligence officer. “They’re trying all the time ... and we caught them from time to time,” he said. Of course, he added, “you don’t know what you don’t know.”

    That’s the same message that special counsel Robert Mueller tried to convey during the highly contentious hearings to discuss his report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. “They are doing it as we sit here, and they expect to do it during the next campaign,” Mueller told lawmakers on the House Intelligence Committee about covert Russian involvement in U.S. politics.

    But a number of observers believe Mueller’s message about the threat from Russia was largely lost amid a partisan battle on Capitol Hill over President Trump.

    During his Washington conference appearance earlier this year, Rogers, the former chair of the House Intelligence Committee, also lamented that the current politicized state of the intelligence committees would make spy agencies more hesitant to admit their failures.

    “They're not going to call you to say, 'I screwed up.' They're going to say, 'God, I hope they don't find that,’” he said. “That's what's going to happen. I'll guarantee it's happening today.”

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