Deniss Metsavas was a well-known military officer who frequently appeared on TV on behalf of his country's armed forces. He was also, thanks to a event of passion, blackmail and a constant fear of incarceration, a Russian intelligence asset. In this emotional video from The Atlantic, Metsavas talks about the consequences of his being blackmailed into becoming a witting Russian asset and the quick, dark path that led him to betraying his uniform and the country that he served.
Image vis Klickr, courtesy of Thomas Depenbusch (Depi) Read the rest
The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (also known as the PKK,) has been taking pot shots at the Turkish government, in the name of Kurdish independence, since 1984. In 2013, Turkey's ruling high rollers, the Justice and Development (light on the former and regularly delivering on the latter) Party, managed to agree upon a delicate ceasefire, which lasted for around two years. Since the ceasefire's collapse in 2015, the Turkish government has been hot and horny over the thought of putting the PKK into the ground, permanently. Easier said than done, my son: PKK have proven resilient both in open combat and in less dynamic environments. It's hard to find their people, especially since much of the PKK's membership consists of supporters who provide financial and political support far from Turkey's borders. As a result, Turkey sent their intelligence operatives out across Europe, looking for ways to reign the PKK in. They started off in countries like Iran, Russia and China. But, it was soon found that the German state of Baden-Württemberg was where the out-of-nation action was hottest and heaviest. There's close to three million Turks living in Germany. 15% of that total can be found in Baden-Württemberg. There's no way that the Turkish intelligence community could possibly deploy enough assets to keep abreast of what all those former Turkish citizens were getting up to.
So, they did what the rest of the industrialized world has been doing: they developed a smartphone app that would allow the ex-pats to police themselves.
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Turkey’s spy agency has developed a smart phone application to enable pro-government Turks living in Germany inform on their compatriots who speak out against the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
The action was brought in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, Maryland, against DNI Dan Coats, CIA Director Gina Haspel, NSA Director Paul Nakasone, and Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan.
The Property of the People transparency group (previously) has published another damning US intelligence file, this one a report circulated by the Regional Organized Crime Information Center (RICOC, a joint state/federal intelligence body), revealing how the US intelligence bodies advised local law enforcement after the Charlottesville white supremacist march.
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If you want an example of how big of a problem Chinese espionage is, you needn't look any further than the warnings that Canada and the United States have been throwing at corporations and governmental organizations about the use of gear built by tech companies with ties to the Chinese government.
Apparently, the issue extends beyond the use of smartphones and cellular networking hardware built by Huawei and ZTE: the US Government is thinking about conducting deep background checks on Chinese nationals coming to the United States in pursuit of their education. Spies! They're everywhere!
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...the Trump administration is reportedly considering the possibility of imposing deeper background checks and additional vetting on all Chinese nationals wishing to study in the US. Citing “a US official and three congressional and university sources”, Reuters said on Thursday that the measures would apply to all Chinese students wishing to register in undergraduate and graduate academic programs in the US. The news agency quoted a “senior US official” as saying that “no Chinese student who’s coming [to the US] is untethered from the state […. They all have] to go through a party and government approval process”. Reuters reported that the proposed plan includes a comprehensive examination of the applicants’ phone records and their presence on social media platforms. The goal would be to verify that the applicants are not connected with Chinese government agencies. As part of the proposed plan, US law enforcement and intelligence agencies would provide counterintelligence training to university officials.
Gina Haspel, the director of the United States Central Intelligence Agency, is reported to be traveling to Turkey late Monday to assist in “an investigation” over the death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Read the rest
Former Air Force language specialist and intelligence contractor Reality Winner has been sentenced to 63 months in prison. Read the rest
The White House is making it clear to intelligence officials from current and former presidential administrations: criticize Donald Trump and you'll lose your security clearance. Read the rest
Representatives from 8 of America's largest technology companies met with U.S. intelligence officials in May to talk about how to respond to the ongoing Russian cyber-attacks and foreign influence campaigns that affected our 2016 elections, and could alter the course of year’s midterms. Read the rest
Who is smarter: dogs or cats? It's not really meaningful question. Cats have brains suited to the life of a cat, and dogs have the perfect brain for being a dog. But it's interesting to learn about the relative cognitive power and density of animals, which are presented in an article in this month's Scientific American called "Battle of the Brains." The article is behind a paywall, but here are some highlights:
*A bigger brain doesn’t necessarily make an animal smarter. Calculating neuron density within the cerebral cortex provides a better understanding of cognitive power.
*The cerebral cortex is the part of the brain that integrates all kinds of information, makes decisions, interprets emotions, solves problems, and creates complex behavior. The neurons in the cerebral cortex act like tiny information processors to form thoughts.
*A new count of these cells shows that humans have around 16 billion neurons in an average-sized cortex. A typical mutt has almost 430 million neurons in its cortex, whereas a cat has just 250 million. Raccoons beat them both with almost 440 neurons within a cat-sized cortex.
Image: By Sonsedska Yuliia/Shutterstock Read the rest
I’m starting a petition to have Arkady Babchenko henceforth referred to as "Journalism Jesus," Because holy shit, he just returned from the grave.
Less than 24 hours after it was reported that the vehemently anti-Putin journalist had died on the way to hospital after being shot in the back outside of his apartment in Kiev, Ukraine, Babchenko strolled into a press conference being thrown by the Ukrainian government, like a boss of all bosses. It seems that a hitman, hired by the Russian government to permanently silence Babchenko for the sum of $40,000, decided that instead of pulling a trigger on the contract, he’d let Ukraine’s security intelligence people in on what was supposed to be happening.
I say "supposed to," because things definitely did not go down the way that Mother Russia allegedly wanted them to.
From the New York Times:
Mr. Babchenko created a sensation in Kiev on Wednesday by appearing at a news conference, billed as a police briefing about his assassination, at which he was greeted by whoops of surprise and scattered applause. It came less than 24 hours after his wife said she had found him bleeding to death on the floor of their apartment, shot in the back.
“First of all, I would like to apologize that all of you had to live through this, because I know the horrible feeling when you have to bury your colleagues,” Mr. Babchenko, 41, told the stunned room. “Separately, I want to apologize to my wife for all the hell she had to go through.”
Holy crap. Read the rest
Scientists analyzed almost a quarter million DNA samples in the UK Biobank and found 538 new genes that appear to have a role in intellectual capabilities. Read the rest
He wasn't talking about the current President of the United States, but it sure fits today. Read the rest
Intelligence officials from the so-called "Five Eyes" network, which includes the United States' FBI, CIA and National Security Agency, are gathering for an annual intelligence-sharing exchange today in New Zealand. Reuters confirmed the get-together, at which spy agency reps from the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand will also gather.
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Capping off Donald J. Trump's No Good Very Bad Horrible Day today, the Wall Street Journal reports that senior U.S. intelligence officials are deliberately withholding sensitive information from the President because they don't trust him. Today's report cites sources inside the White House, and underscores the deep mistrust between career spies and the imploding kakistocracy. Read the rest
Do Crows hold funerals? Nah, not really, but they're up to something when one among the murder is murdered, and scientists are fascinated by their behavior around fallen comrades.
Calling to each other, gathering around, and paying special attention to a fallen comrade is common among the highly intelligent corvids, a group of birds that includes crows, jays, magpies, and ravens, says Kaeli Swift, a Ph.D student in environmental science at the University of Washington. (See "Are Crows Smarter Than Children?")
But it doesn't necessarily mean the birds are mourning for their lost buddy. Rather, they're likely trying to find out if there's a threat where the death occurred, so they can avoid it in the future.
One study involved using masks to see if crows would avoid humans who handled dead crows (and thereby implicated themselves in the investigation.) They did. On the other hand, if crows are smart enough to investigate murders, maybe they're smart enough to take one look at that mask and think: "OK, that is definitely a murderer." Read the rest
In July 2015, Freedom of the Press Foundation sued the Justice Department (DOJ) over the agency’s secret rules governing how the FBI can target members of the media with due process-free National Security Letters, and we have just received documents back in the ongoing lawsuit. Read the rest