Category Archives: Spooks

Headlines of the day: Surrealism in TrumpAmerica™


Today a collection of headlines form the London Daily Mail, revealing the surreal nature of life under President Pussygrabber:

We begin with a cancelled celebration:

Philadelphia Cinco de Mayo parade organizers make ‘sad but responsible’ decision to cancel this year’s event due to immigration crackdown fears

  • El Carnaval de Puebla, Philadelphia’s largest Cinco de Mayo celebration, will not be held this year
  • It normally attracts as many as 15,000 people from as far away as Chicago
  • Organizers decided not to hold due to fears over federal immigration crackdown

Next up, cause for cabinet paranoia in Big Brother’s world:

White House has eyes and ears in cabinet agencies: ‘Special assistants’ sit near secretaries’ offices and report back to the West Wing

  •  The White House has installed 16 senior advisors at cabinet agencies
  •  The officials keep watch over agency activities and report back to the White House
  • EPA administrator Scott Pruitt has shut the advisor out of some staff meetings, the Washington Post reports
  • The Pentagon’s minder has been nicknamed ‘commisar’ 
  • The advisors report back to the White House, and are charged with ensuring loyalty to White House objectives

And a denial:

‘I have no information that supports those tweets’: FBI Director Comey knocks down Trump’s claim Obama tapped his phones at Trump Tower – but there IS a probe into collusion with Russia

  • FBI Director James Comey appeared before the House Intelligence Committee today to talk about Russian meddling in the presidential election
  • He stated during questioning that he does not have information corroborating President Trump’s claim that he had his phones tapped at Trump Tower 
  • Denies engaging in ‘McCarthyism’ 
  • Was also there to talk about Trump’s claim that Obama wiretapped him 
  • ‘There was no FISA warrant that I’m aware of to tap Trump Tower,’ the California Republican stated on Fox News Sunday 
  • Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House panel, accused Trump of leading Congress on a ‘wild goose chase’ in a competing interview on NBC 
  • Will Hurd, a Republican on the panel, said Sunday that he believes it’s time for Trump to apologize for the incredible assault on the former president

And some hysteria:

Trump says Democrats ‘made up’ story about his campaign’s Russia ties: ‘This story is FAKE NEWS and everyone knows it’

  • President unleashed a barrage of tweets as Congress prepares to hear testimony about  alleged conspiracy between his campaign and Russia
  • ‘The Democrats made up and pushed the Russian story as an excuse for running a terrible campaign,’ he claimed
  • ‘This story is FAKE NEWS and everyone knows it’ 
  • Trump also tweeted that the ‘real story that Congress, the FBI and all others should be looking into is the leaking of Classified information’

Plus some disbelief:

The Chancellor of shade! Angela Merkel’s epic side-eye to President Trump over Obama wiretapping claims becomes online sensation

  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel looked incredulous on Friday when President Trump claimed that former President Obama wiretapped them both 
  • Photos and video of Merkel’s side-eye have since gone viral 
  • One Instagram user made a meme about the look, writing ‘That moment when you realize you are now the leader of the Western World!’

Plus outright rejection:

Majority of young adults see Trump’s presidency as ‘illegitimate’ including close to three-quarters of African Americans according to new poll

  • A new poll found that 57 percent of Americans age 18 to 30 believe that Trump is an ‘illegitimate’ president
  • Among young adults of color,  74 percent of African Americans and 71 percent of Latinos/as believe Trump’s presidency is illegitimate 
  • A majority of those polled in all racial groups said that they believe Russia has compromising information on President Trump 
  • Just 22 percent of young adults approve of the job Trump is doing as president according to the GenForward poll
  • That number if far lower than the 37 percent approval rating President Trmp received in a Gallup poll also released on Monday  
  • The poll was conducted by the Black Youth Project at the University of Chicago with The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research

And to close, calling a spade a spade:

Fareed Zakaria accuses President Trump of ‘bulls***ing’ his way to the White House after spending his ‘whole life bulls***ing’, in foul-mouthed rant on CNN

  • Fareed Zakaria got brutally honest on his opinion about the President: that he is a bulls***ter 
  • The CNN Host said that he thinks that the President is indifferent to true and false
  • He used the word s*** four times in the interview, causing Twitter to go wild

Oh, and here’s the video of Zakaria’s interview:

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Headlines of the day: Time for TrumpTales™


We begin with top two headlines from the New York Times:

White House Tries to Soothe Britain, Angry Over Spy Claim

  • The White House scrambled to deal with an unusual rupture after suggesting that former President Barack Obama used a British spy agency to wiretap Donald J. Trump during the campaign.
  • A spokesman for the prime minister said Britain had been assured the “allegations would not be repeated.”
Add a dash from the Guardian:

White House-GCHQ row reveals a leader willing to alienate allies to save face

  • The extraordinary public rebuke by the United States’ closest surveillance partner has revealed an emerging characteristic of Donald Trump’s White House: a willingness to antagonize even its allies instead of admitting error.
  • GCHQ, the UK surveillance mammoth intimately linked to the National Security Agency (NSA), has taken public exception to an allegation repeated from the White House podium that, if true, would probably shatter the Five Eyes intelligence alliance so dear to both Washington and London.
  • Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, credulously repeated on Thursday an account by a Fox News pundit, Andrew Napolitano, that GCHQ laundered surveillance on Trump at the behest of Barack Obama. Napolitano, who is in no position to actually know, made the allegation apparently to explain away the emerging consensus, even from senior Republicans on the intelligence committees, that there is no basis to Trump’s claim that Obama ordered that surveillance.
  • GCHQ practically never responds to stories about its operations. But the implications of this one are severe. There would be no way for the NSA and GCHQ, which are joined at the hip, to continue their partnership if GCHQ was willing to interfere in the US political process.

And top it all off with the London Daily Mail and an act from the sideshow:

Frantic search for Secret Service agent’s STOLEN laptop containing Trump Tower floor plans and Clinton email details after she left it in her parked car

  • A Secret Service agent’s laptop was reportedly stolen from her vehicle parked in her driveway in Brooklyn, New York Thursday morning 
  • The agency and the NYPD have been frantically trying to find the computer, which reportedly has ‘sensitive’ information that could harm national security
  • The contents of the computer include floor layouts for Trump Tower and information about the Clinton email investigation 
  • A thief was seen on surveillance footage breaking into the car and then walking away with a backpack

CIA spooks only doing what corporations do


Following up on our previous post; there’s this from New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice:

Don’t say we didn’t warn you about this one: your “smart” TV may be spying on you. Really.

According to classified documents leaked this week, the CIA found a way to hack the microphone on televisions equipped with voice control and send the audio back to headquarters. It can even record in “Fake-Off” mode – when the TV looks like it’s off but isn’t, according to notes on project “Weeping Angel.”

See, this is why we can’t have nice things.

Way back in 2014, we noticed a rather ominous waring in the novella-length privacy policy that came with our new smart TV: “Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party.”

That news was bad enough, creating a big privacy problem thanks to the so-called “third-party doctrine,” a legal artifact of the pre-Internet age. It basically means you don’t have any privacy in the data you send through third parties like Google or Apple – or Samsung. We’re looking at you too, Amazon Echo.

Now, it appears the CIA has found a way to exploit this vulnerability directly. And it’s a safe bet they’re not the only ones.

To be clear, there is a big difference between tapping a phone line, bugging a hotel room, and breaking the internet – or in this case, the Internet of Things. And sometimes a cliché is worth repeating: this may be a means to an end, but it’s a hell of a means.

(Pro tip: You don’t have to connect your smart TV to the internet.)

We would also note that here at esnl, we’ve also covered the privacy threat from your television, and video game controllers as well,

That bottom line is that technology has rendered privacy virtually [pun intended] obsolete.

Chart of the day: How the CIA can spy on you


From Agence France Presse, which reports that the founder of Wikileaks said there more revelations to come, but he’s staying mum till tech companies can see what’s coming:

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Thursday accused the CIA of “devastating incompetence” for failing to protect its hacking secrets and said he would work with tech companies to develop fixes for them.

“This is a historic act of devastating incompetence, to have created such an arsenal and then stored it all in one place,” Assange said.

“It is impossible to keep effective control of cyber weapons… If you build them, eventually you will lose them,” Assange said.

Assange was speaking in a press conference streamed live from Ecuador’s embassy in London, where he has been living as a fugitive from justice since 2012.

He said his anti-secrecy website had “a lot more information” about the Central Intelligence Agency’s hacking operation but would hold off on publishing it until WikiLeaks had spoken to tech manufacturers.

CIA hackers in Germany; when TV watches you


Germans were alarmed when Edward Snowden’s NSA document dump revealed that American spies were eavesdropping on their government more intensely than was the case elsewhere in Europe, and the latest WikiLeaks dump reveals that their compatriots at the CIA may be busy in Germany doing much the same.

And they might be watching them through their big screen TVs.

From Der Spiegel:

WikiLeaks says the CIA has its own cyberwar division and that around 200 experts belonging to the division are able to infiltrate computers around the world using tools specifically developed to steal data. The CIA hackers work at the agency’s headquarters in Langley, Virginia, WikiLeaks says, but adds that the agency maintains at least one base outside of the United States.

The documents indicate that the CIA hacking experts are also active in the U.S. Consulate General in Frankfurt, Germany, the largest American consulate in the world. According to WikiLeaks documents, the consulate grounds also house a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, or SCIF, a building that is only accessible to CIA agents and officers from other U.S. intelligence agencies. These digital spies apparently work independently of each other in the facility so as not to blow their cover.

There are apparent references in the documents to trips taken to Frankfurt by these CIA hacking experts, complete with what passes for humor in the intelligence agency: “Flying Lufthansa: Booze is free so enjoy (within reason),” one of the documents reads. There is advice for ensuring privacy in the recommended hotels: “Do not leave anything electronic or sensitive unattended in your room. (Paranoid, yes but better safe than sorry.)”

One of the tools described in the documents, codename “Weeping Angel,” is specifically designed for hacking into Samsung F8000-Series smart televisions. According to the document, CIA agents are able to switch the televisions into “Fake Off,” which fools their owners into thinking it has been switched off. But the hackers are nevertheless able to use the TV’s microphone and webcam for surveillance purposes.

Chart of the day: Who’s reading your messages?


From Wikileaks, the relevant section of a CIA organizational chart organizational revealing the names of the agency departments with the power to hack into every aspect of your life should you come under their ever-watchful gaze:


Implants branch?

Sound the tinfoil hat alarm.

And just so you don’t get confused, here’s their official seal:

And the announcement. . .

Finally, from the announcement Wikileaks made today about their latest remarkable haul of top secret documents:

Today, Tuesday 7 March 2017, WikiLeaks begins its new series of leaks on the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. Code-named “Vault 7″ by WikiLeaks, it is the largest ever publication of confidential documents on the agency.

The first full part of the series, “Year Zero”, comprises 8,761 documents and files from an isolated, high-security network situated inside the CIA’s Center for Cyber Intelligence in Langley, Virgina. It follows an introductory disclosure last month of CIA targeting French political parties and candidates in the lead up to the 2012 presidential election.

Recently, the CIA lost control of the majority of its hacking arsenal including malware, viruses, trojans, weaponized “zero day” exploits, malware remote control systems and associated documentation. This extraordinary collection, which amounts to more than several hundred million lines of code, gives its possessor the entire hacking capacity of the CIA. The archive appears to have been circulated among former U.S. government hackers and contractors in an unauthorized manner, one of whom has provided WikiLeaks with portions of the archive.

“Year Zero” introduces the scope and direction of the CIA’s global covert hacking program, its malware arsenal and dozens of “zero day” weaponized exploits against a wide range of U.S. and European company products, include Apple’s iPhone, Google’s Android and Microsoft’s Windows and even Samsung TVs, which are turned into covert microphones.

Since 2001 the CIA has gained political and budgetary preeminence over the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA). The CIA found itself building not just its now infamous drone fleet, but a very different type of covert, globe-spanning force — its own substantial fleet of hackers. The agency’s hacking division freed it from having to disclose its often controversial operations to the NSA (its primary bureaucratic rival) in order to draw on the NSA’s hacking capacities.

By the end of 2016, the CIA’s hacking division, which formally falls under the agency’s Center for Cyber Intelligence (CCI), had over 5000 registered users and had produced more than a thousand hacking systems, trojans, viruses, and other “weaponized” malware. Such is the scale of the CIA’s undertaking that by 2016, its hackers had utilized more code than that used to run Facebook. The CIA had created, in effect, its “own NSA” with even less accountability and without publicly answering the question as to whether such a massive budgetary spend on duplicating the capacities of a rival agency could be justified.

In a statement to WikiLeaks the source details policy questions that they say urgently need to be debated in public, including whether the CIA’s hacking capabilities exceed its mandated powers and the problem of public oversight of the agency. The source wishes to initiate a public debate about the security, creation, use, proliferation and democratic control of cyberweapons.

Headline of the day: Say goodbye to privacy


From the New York Times, the latest bombshell from WikiLeaks:

WikiLeaks Files Describe C.I.A. Tools to Break Into Phones

  • The documents describe software tools allegedly used by the C.I.A. to break into phones, computers and TVs.
  • The release said intelligence services managed to bypass encryption on popular messaging services such as Signal, WhatsApp and Telegram.