Erik Prince is the billionaire mercenary who behind the private military contracting empire of Blackwater and their many war crimes. He's also the brother of US education secretary Betsy Devos (who in turn is married to the guy who pioneered pyramid schemes) and has served as a kind of "shadow advisor" to Trump, including an effort to privatize the entire war in Afghanistan and an alleged secret trip to the Seychelles to negotiate with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
He's basically Destro from GI JOE, but in real life, and somehow more evil (and without the shiny head).
The Intercept had previously reported that the Trump Administration had considered using Prince's black-ops services to counter the made-up threat of the "Deep State." Now the New York Times has confirmed that this happened, in a way that's both shadier than I would've expected and somehow still not all that surprising:
Read the rest
One of the former spies, an ex-MI6 officer named Richard Seddon, helped run a 2017 operation to copy files and record conversations in a Michigan office of the American Federation of Teachers, one of the largest teachers’ unions in the nation. Mr. Seddon directed an undercover operative to secretly tape the union’s local leaders and try to gather information that could be made public to damage the organization, documents show.
Using a different alias the next year, the same undercover operative infiltrated the congressional campaign of Abigail Spanberger, then a former C.I.A. officer who went on to win an important House seat in Virginia as a Democrat.
One of the strangest contradictory sensations of the Trump era is the man's relationship towards and with the various U.S. intelligence agencies. In many cases, Trump's broad criticisms about the unaccountable and seemingly limitless scope of intelligence gathering are valid. Or would be, anyway, if the man actually cared about those issues for any reason beyond his larger tantrum over the way those agencies have undermined his ego. Or if he wasn't simultaneously trying to use that same wide jurisdiction to target his own political enemies.
In other words, Trump's not necessarily wrong about the potential abuses of secret and/or warrantless surveillance (or "wiretapping" as he puts it). But he's only mad about those things because they can be used to threaten him and his friends, instead of reinforcing his hunches. Otherwise, illegal spying and invasions of privacy are totally fine with him—as long as they target the right people.
There are moments, then, where it becomes a case of "My enemy's enemy is my friend" — except that "friend" is also an enemy of sorts, which further complicates the whole mess. Case in point: this recent Just Security post by Douglas London, a former CIA operative. In it, London talks about the way that the CIA's priorities have been forced to shift from general intelligence gathering to just kind of soothing Trump's ego, and retroactively justifying all of the man's random baseless instincts:
Read the rest
The revealing and most disconcerting aspect of this episode was not that Pompeo presumed the worst from his workforce before getting the full story, nor his vicious dressing down of a dedicated senior official and decorated officer.
With the midterm elections creeping up, everyone in the media's been busier than a cat trying to bury a turd in a marble floor watching for signs of Russian interference. Given the amount of chaos that Russia's cyber operatives have been responsible for over the past few years, this is totally understandable. However, it might be a good idea for the media to keep an eye on China's online comings and goings, as well.
According to a report released by the French government, Chinese cyber operatives have been hard at work attempting to compromise or enlist thousands of well-placed professionals and intellectuals online to leverage in the real world.
The report describes Chinese efforts to approach senior French scientists, business executives, academics and others, as “widespread and elaborate”, and warns that it poses an “unprecedented threat against the national interests” of the French state. It goes on to state that nearly 4,000 carefully selected French citizens have been approached by Chinese intelligence operatives via the LinkedIn social media platform. Of those nearly half, or 1,700, have leading posts in French industry, while the remaining 2,300 work in the public sector. In their totality, those targeted are involved nearly every area of industry and government administration, including those of nuclear energy, telecommunications, computing and transportation, said the report.
In many cases, the Chinese operatives used fake identities, pretending to be headhunters for overseas corporations and think tanks on LinkedIn. As part of the ruse, the ops would invite their targets on all-expenses-paid trips to China for job interviews or research symposiums – whatever turned their target's crank. Read the rest