ISTANBUL — As Jamal Khashoggi prepared to enter the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, a squad of men from Saudi Arabia who investigators suspect played a role in his disappearance was ready and in place. They had arrived from Riyadh, the Saudi capital, early that morning and checked in at two international hotels in Istanbul before driving to the consulate in the leafy Levent neighborhood, said two people with knowledge of the investigation. One of them, the Mövenpick Hotel Istanbul, is a few minutes from the consulate by car.By the end of the day, a 15-member Saudi team had conducted its business and left the country, departing on planes bound for Cairo and Dubai, according to flight records and the people familiar with the investigation.
Well, this is disturbing.
ISTANBUL — Turkey has concluded that Jamal Khashoggi, a prominent journalist from Saudi Arabia, was killed in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul last week by a Saudi team sent “specifically for the murder,” two people with knowledge of the probe said Saturday.Turkish investigators believe a 15-member team “came from Saudi Arabia. It was a preplanned murder,” said one of the people. Both spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing investigation.
China seems willing to gamble its huge manufacturing industry in service to its spying. Why should foreign companies trust their manufacturing to China anymore? Regardless of the economic price China will pay for this, it can never be fully trusted again.
A new report is alleging the Chinese government directly interceded to insert small microchips into motherboards from a company called Supermicro, that are in use in servers everywhere from the adult film industry to U.S. military and U.S. Intelligence Community data centers, which make them vulnerable open them up to remote hacks. If the claims turn out to be true, it would be an intelligence operation of historic proportions that would have far-reaching and long-lasting ramifications.
On Oct. 4, 2018, Bloomberg Businessweek published its story, which is the culmination of years of investigative work and cites nearly 20 anonymous sources from both the U.S. government and private companies reportedly involved in the affair. The piece says that American authorities first became aware of the existence of the chips in 2015, that the classified probe is still ongoing, and that U.S. officials have identified an unspecified unit of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) as being responsible for sneaking the malicious hardware into the servers.
I was sorry to learn that Hong Kong’s freedom-of-speech protections are under attack by mainland China.
Mainland China frequently denies visas to foreign journalists and scholars—a preferred way to force out those whose reporting or research officials object to. But Hong Kong has long offered a welcoming visa regime that made it a safe hub for journalists in the region.
That may be changing. The Hong Kong Free Press on Friday (Oct. 5) reported that the Hong Kong Immigration Department denied a work visa renewal to highly-regarded Financial Times journalist Victor Mallet, the paper’s Asia news editor. The Financial Times said in a statement, “This is the first time we have encountered this situation in Hong Kong. We have not been given a reason for the rejection.”
As usual, I’ve had a ton of irons in the fire, squeezing as much out of the waning summertime days as I can. That hasn’t left much time nor inspiration for blogging but I’m hoping to get back on track with this.
Major stuff I’ve been doing around in my free time includes replacing the falling-apart wooden steps on my back deck with composite decking. This project took two sweltering Saturdays to complete but I’m very pleased with how the steps came out. Next up is the deck surface itself which, frankly, will be easier than the steps since there’s far less cutting needed. After that I’ll have to dream up a good plan for replacing the wooden railing but I’ve got a little time to figure that out.
I hope the whole project will be done by fall. Then I’ll combine the scrap wood from my deck with the scrap fencing from my fence job and haul it all away for a clean yard again. Yay!
The Russian woman arrested this week on charges of being a foreign agent has ties to Russian intelligence operatives and was in contact with them while in the United States, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.
Maria Butina, 29, also cultivated a “personal relationship” with an American Republican consultant as part of her cover and offered sex to at least one other person “in exchange for a position within a special interest organization,” according to a court filing.
After a hearing on Wednesday afternoon, U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson denied Butina’s request to be released on bail, finding that no combination of conditions would ensure her return to court.
Prosecutors with the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington had argued strongly against her release, noting “her history of deceptive conduct.” They said Butina could slip into a Russian Embassy or a Russian diplomatic vehicle and get out of the country, and had connections with wealthy business executives linked to the Putin administration.
In the middle of Tuesday’s presidential walkback about Russian election interference, I couldn’t (or maybe I could, I’m not sure) help but think of a scene from the 1997 comedy “Excess Baggage.” In the scene, would-be car thief but inadvertently-turned-kidnapper Benicio del Toro asks his unexpected victim Alicia Silverstone, who had been hiding in the trunk of her dad’s expensive car, “How stupid do you think I am?” To which Silverstone replies, “How stupid is there?” To my mind, that just about sums it up when it comes to the president’s view of the American people.
To review the events this week, for the benefit of anyone who until recently has been hiding in the trunk of their own car, President Trump was attempting by the addition of a contraction to rectify what CNN’s Anderson Cooper rightly described as “one the most disgraceful performances” ever given by an American president at a summit.
In Helsinki on Monday, US President Donald Trump touted the “direct, open, deeply productive dialogue” he had with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
And experts warn Putin played Trump like a fiddle.
That was the broad consensus of national-security and intelligence veterans following a bizarre press conference during which Trump stood next to Putin and spent more time denigrating his political opponents and intelligence agencies than he did a hostile foreign power.
Asked by Reuters’ Jeff Mason on Monday whether he held Russia accountable for anything, Trump stunned observers when he said he held “both countries responsible” for the deterioration in US-Russia relations.Trump failed to mention Russia’s aggression toward Ukraine, its annexation of Crimea, its involvement in Syria, and its aggressive cyber operations around the globe, as well as allegations that it has poisoned former Russian spies abroad, that it played a role in the downing of a Malaysian airliner in 2014, and, above all, that it interfered in the 2016 US election.
In 2016, our country was targeted by an attack that had different operational objectives and a different overarching strategy, but its aim was every bit as much to devastate the American homeland as Pearl Harbor or 9/11. The destruction may not send pillars of smoke into the sky or come with an 11-digit price tag, and there’s no body count or casualty statistics—but the damage done has ravaged our institutions and shaken our belief in our immovability. But two years on, we still haven’t put any boats or men in the proverbial water. We still have not yet acted—just today, President Donald Trump, a beneficiary of this attack, exonerated the man who ordered it: Russian strongman Vladimir Putin.
Remember when I wondered why CIA leaker Josh Schulte was found with kiddie porn on his computers? A tweet by the US district attorney’s office in New York spawned a comment that makes it all make sense:
I wonder if he was being blackmailed to send national security stuff to Wikileaks because he was a pedophile?
— Connie Rodebaugh (@connie_rodeconn) June 19, 2018
Of course this is what happened. Even so, I’m surprised Schulte’s dirty little secret didn’t derail his intel career much sooner than it did.