Author: Ken Dilanian

Russian Spies Charged in Massive Yahoo Email Hack

The Justice Department announced charges Wednesday against two Russian spies and two hackers behind the 2014 theft of data connected to half a billion Yahoo accounts, which officials called one of the largest known data breaches in American history. The four men together face 47 criminal charges, including conspiracy, computer fraud, economic espionage, theft of trade secrets and aggravated identity theft, the Justice Department said in a news release. One of them, Karim Baratov, 22, a Canadian and Kazakh national and a resident of Canada, was arrested in Canada on Tuesday, said Mary McCord, acting assistant attorney general for national security. Also charged were two agents of Russia’s Federal Security Service, known as the FSB. They are Dmitry Aleksandrovich Dokuchaev, 33, a Russian national and resident, and Igor Anatolyevich Sushchin, 43, a Russian national and resident. The other defendant, Alexsey Alexseyevich Belan, 29, a Russian national and resident, was already among the FBI’s most wanted cyber criminals, McCord said. “The criminal conduct at issue, carried out and otherwise facilitated by officers from an FSB unit that serves as the FBI’s point of contact in Moscow on cybercrime matters, is beyond the pale,” McCord said in a statement. At a news conference, she and other officials described a widespread and complex scheme that allowed the Russian spies to gather intelligence, while the hackers “lined their pockets.” Related: You Could Have...

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Flynn Attended Intel Briefings While Getting Paid To Lobby for Turkey

Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn was attending secret intelligence briefings with then-candidate Donald Trump while he was being paid more than half a million dollars to lobby on behalf of the Turkish government, federal records show. Flynn stopped lobbying after he became national security advisor, but he then played a role in formulating policy toward Turkey, working for a president who has promised to curb the role of lobbyists in Washington. White House spokesman Sean Spicer on Friday defended the Trump administration’s handling of the matter, even as he acknowledged to reporters that the White House was aware of the potential that Flynn might need to register as a foreign agent. When his firm was hired by a Turkish businessman last year, Flynn did not register as a foreign lobbyist, and only did so a few days ago under pressure from the Justice Department, the businessman told The Associated Press this week. Attempts by NBC News to reach the Turkish businessman, Ekim Alptekin, were unsuccessful Friday. Price Floyd, a spokesman for Flynn, said the retired general would have no comment. Flynn was fired last month after it was determined he misled Vice President Mike Pence about Flynn’s conversations with the Russian ambassador to the United States. His security clearance was suspended. Related: Trump National Security Advisor Pick Flynn Has Medals — And Baggage When NBC News spoke to...

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Trump Lawyer Confirms Meeting Ukrainian, Denies Carrying Peace Plan

President Trump’s personal lawyer has acknowledged to NBC News that he met privately in New York last month with a controversial Russian-born Trump associate and a member of Ukraine’s parliament, but disputes a New York Times report that the men gave him a peace plan for Ukraine that he delivered to then-National Security Adviser Mike Flynn. The episode is drawing scrutiny because of the intense interest in any dealings by Trump associates having to do with Russia or Russia-related issues. The Times reported that the meeting was called to discuss a peace plan being pushed by a Ukrainian lawmaker, Andrey Artemenko, who is associated with a former Ukrainian leader backed by Russian president Vladimir Putin and advised by Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman. Manafort is the subject of an FBI inquiry over his Ukraine dealings, and the FBI is also investigating whether any Trump associates colluded with the Russian campaign to interfere in the U.S. presidential election. In an interview with NBC News Monday, Cohen confirmed that Felix Sater, a former Trump associate with a criminal past, asked him to come to a meeting in New York last month, and brought along Artemenko. “I acknowledge that the brief meeting took place, but emphatically deny discussing this topic or delivering any documents to the White House and/or General Flynn,” Cohen said. “I didn’t see Gen. Flynn while I was...

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Official: Flynn Did Discuss Sanctions with Russia Before Taking Office

A U.S. intelligence official briefed on the matter confirmed to NBC News that National Security Advisor Mike Flynn discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador before Flynn took office, contrary to denials from Vice President Mike Pence, White House spokesman Sean Spicer and others. The official said he was told there was no quid pro quo and that there has been no finding inside the government that Flynn did anything illegal. But he said he was surprised when Flynn initially denied to the Washington Post, which first reported this story, that he discussed sanctions on Russia with the ambassador. His spokesman later said he didn’t recall and it was possible he did, according to the Post. An administration official told the Post that Pence based his comments denying that Flynn had discussed sanctions on what Flynn told him. Flynn’s contact with Sergey Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., were seen by critics as a potential violation of the law. The Obama administration imposed sanctions before leaving office to punish Russia for using hackers to interfere in the U.S. presidential election. As a candidate and as president-elect, President Trump repeatedly expressed doubt about whether Russia had interfered, despite the unanimous opinion of the intelligence community. Flynn spoke to Kislyak on Dec. 29, the same day the sanctions were announced. Prior to President Trump’s inauguration, members of the Trump transition team acknowledged...

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Want to Know What Trump Will Do? Listen to Him, Not His Cabinet

The past seven days may have answered a central question about how the Trump Administration intends to approach national security policy, at least early on. Trump, it turns out, meant what he said during the campaign. One by one last month, Trump’s nominees to lead the Pentagon, the CIA, and the State and Homeland Security Departments sat before senators during their confirmation hearings and took mainstream conservative positions that were at odds with Trump’s rhetoric over the last year on Russia, NATO, torture and other issues. How, many observers wondered, would the conventional views of Trump’s cabinet be reconciled with the more extreme positions embraced by his key White House advisers, Stephen Bannon and Michael Flynn? The answer, at least in the first week of Trump’s presidency, is that the White House will carry the day. On Friday, the administration issued a hugely consequential and controversial executive order on refugees without fully consulting the national security agencies. And then it reorganized the National Security Council in a way that awarded a spot on an important committee to a domestic political adviser — Bannon. All that happened after Trump aides circulated a draft executive order on CIA and military interrogations prepared without consulting Secretary of Defense James Mattis or CIA Director Mike Pompeo, according to officials, both of whom are on record opposing torture. If implemented as written, the memo...

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9 Things Trump Has Said That Might Make Putin Smile

Donald Trump was, according to many national security scholars, the most pro-Russian major party presidential candidate in modern American history. During his campaign, while Russia was under international sanctions for its seizure of Crimea from Ukraine, and was operating at odds with U.S. interests in the Middle East, Trump said a series of nice things about Russia and Vladimir Putin. Since winning, Trump has appointed people to major foreign policy jobs who espouse a mainstream Republican line of being tough on Russia. In confirmation hearings last week, Trump’s picks for secretary of state, secretary of defense and CIA director each articulated a view of Russia as a dangerous adversary meriting a tough American posture. But the president-elect himself has continued to offer unsolicited praise for Putin and Russia, even as U.S. intelligence agencies have accused Russia of an unprecedented covert operation designed to interfere in the election, in part to favor Trump. After weeks of casting doubt on those findings, Trump last week appeared to accept them — but didn’t say whether anything should be done in response. Instead, he has trashed Western institutions seen as bulwarks against Russian mischief, including NATO, the European Union, and the American intelligence community. “It’s shocking,” said Mark Katz, a professor of Russian studies at George Mason University. Here are some examples: On NATO: “I said a long time ago — that NATO...

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