The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has been elbows-deep in the investigation of the Novichok nerve agent attack on Sergei and Yulia Skirpal. As part of their investigation into where the nerve agent may have originated, the OPCW sent samples of the chemical weapon to a number of independent labs.
Using multiple labs provides a fail safe against false positive results and bias – two things you'd want to avoid considering the fact that the results of the tests could trigger a significant international incident. One of the labs that the OPCW may have used (I mean, they're not going to come right out and say that this is where they're sending dangerous shit) was Switzerland's Spiez Laboratory. Since Russia has denied that it had any role in the poisoning of the Skirpals and the other collateral victims of the Novichok attack, it's really really surprising to be surprised by the surprise expulsion of two Russian intelligence agents (surprise!) from The Hague, where OPCW is based. Apparently, they were trying to tinker with Spiez Laboratory's computers.
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Swiss and Dutch authorities did not immediately respond to NPR's request for comment. Andreas Bucher, a spokesperson for Spiez Laboratory, also declined to comment on the deportations. However, he confirms the laboratory's computer systems have been probed by unknown hackers in recent months.
"We've had indications that we were in the crosshairs," Bucher says. No data has been stolen from the lab, he adds.
Although Spiez Laboratory has not officially acknowledged receiving a sample, it is widely believed to have done so, according to Jean Pascal Zanders, an independent chemical weapons expert based in France.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, the political opposition who showed up in Russia's streets was old and grey: people who had lived through the Soviet era and then watched as their state industries and national wealth were looted by oligarchs, and who wanted an equitable system with broadly shared prosperity.
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President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, is pleading guilty to two criminal charges under plea deal terms to include his cooperation as a witness in the investigation led by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. Read the rest
A U.S. judge ruled Monday that the accused Russian military operative Maria Butina must remain in jail, saying she poses a “very real risk of flight,” and also granted the government prosecutors' request for a gag order in the high-stakes case. Read the rest
Kazakh blogger Lyubov Kalugina has been charged under Russia's Article 282, an "anti-extremism" law now being used by men who claim women sharing jokes and memes offend them. Via Quartz: Read the rest
Former Trump campaign adviser (and coffee boy) George Papadopoulos was sentenced to 14 days in jail, a year of supervised release, 200 hours of community service, and a $9,500 fine after pleading guilty to lying to federal agents in connection with the Russia investigation. Read the rest
Congressman Devin Nunes, who is an oddly enthusiastic supporter of President Donald Trump's personal legal interests and chairman of the U.S. House Intelligence Committee, unsuccessfully tried to meet the leaders of Britain’s three intelligence agencies on a recent trip to London, report multiple news agencies today citing sources familiar with Nunes' travel schedule. Read the rest
Why does the Russian embassy want to visit accused hacker Yevgeniy Nikulin so very badly, lawyers ask. Good question. Read the rest
Paul Manafort's money-laundering conviction makes a convenient peg to hang Buzzfeed's investigation into shell companies in the UK off of; and what their excellent reporting reveals is a playground for money-launderers who operate in the most brazen way, using a complex system of shell companies all over the world, but using the UK as the the lynchpin for their schemes.
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Former Air Force language specialist and intelligence contractor Reality Winner has been sentenced to 63 months in prison. Read the rest
The latest read from Alex Stamos bears an appropriately grim title. Read the rest
Andy Greenberg (previously) is a veteran Wired security reporter who has chronicled the frightening and chaotic world of cyberwar since its earliest days; in a forthcoming book called "Sandworm," Greenberg tells the fascinating and terrible tale of Notpetya (previously), a Russian cyberweapon (built on leaked NSA cyberweapons!) that disguised itself as criminal ransomware, but which was designed to identify and destroy key Ukrainian computer systems and networks.
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Facebook announced today they are taking down 652 pages, groups and fake accounts for "coordinated inauthentic behavior." Read the rest
In the trial of U.S. vs. Paul Manafort, a jury has found Donald Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort guilty on 8 counts. He faces a maximum of 80 years in prison. Judge T.S. Ellis declared a mistrial on 10 counts for which the jury couldn't reach consensus. Read the rest
It’s been a while since we’ve heard a lot about the so-called Islamic State. Since the "defeat" of ISIS in Iraq and the majority of Syria, much of the focus in the war-torn regions of the Middle East has been on: the ongoing pissing match between the United States, Russia and Turkey in Syria, what will become of the civilians whose lives were shattered during the Syrian Civil War, hostilities between Iran and damn near everyone, Palestinian rights, and what the Israelis have cooking in regards to Gaza and the protection of their populace from a variety of aggressors.
Would you be surprised to learn that ISIS is still kind of a big deal? Because it sort of sounds like the United Nations was. According to the CBC, a report from U.N. Terrorism experts says that ISIS is still doing fine, thank you very much, boasting as many as 30,000 members stationed in Syria and Iraq. However, after multiple ass-kickings at the hands of professional and volunteer military forces across the Middle East, they’ve decided to tone things down a bit. That overt, "we're gonna build a freaking caliphate" look of theirs? SO last year. Currently, ISIS is playing it cool by conducting covert operations in its bases of operation while the terrorist group regroups and rebuilds.
From The CBC:
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While many ISIS fighters, planners and commanders have been killed in fighting, and many other fighters and supporters have left the immediate conflict zone, the experts said many still remain in the two countries — some engaged militarily, "and others hiding out in sympathetic communities and urban areas."
Good God. We should have listened to Dave Foley. He knew the score for YEARS before election tampering and a compromised government were even glints in Vladimir Putin's eye. Aside from the fact that the Russians are no longer Communists? Dead. On.
I guess that means we should start preparing for a killer bee attack. Read the rest
Know who loves Trump? Folks in Russia who make asbestos.
Nearly a thing of the past, asbestos causes lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma. The Trump Administration is eager to bring asbestos back, because sanity had almost eliminated it. New EPA regulations are opening up opportunities for Russians to sell asbestos in the US.
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One of the world’s biggest producers of asbestos, a Russian company with ties to Vladimir Putin, is praising President Trump for allowing asbestos to remain legal in the U.S.
The company’s applause for Trump comes as Russia is poised to become the leading importer to the U.S. of asbestos, which causes diseases that kill an estimated 15,000 Americans a year. A recent study led by Jukka Takala, president of the International Commission on Occupational Health, found the death toll from asbestos exposure may be much higher, at nearly 40,000 Americans a year and more than 255,000 a year worldwide.
On June 25, the asbestos producer Uralasbest posted photos on its Facebook page of pallets of its signature product, chrysotile asbestos, wrapped in plastic adorned with Trump’s image. Trump’s picture is at the center of a large red seal declaring: “APPROVED BY DONALD TRUMP, 45th PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES.”