Official: Trump team overruled 25 security clearance denials

A career official in the White House security office says dozens of people in President Donald Trump’s administration were granted security clearances despite “disqualifying issues” in their backgrounds, such as concerns about foreign influence, drug use and criminal conduct.

Tricia Newbold, an 18-year government employee who oversees the issuance of clearances for some senior White House aides, says she compiled a list of at least 25 officials who were initially denied security clearances last year because of their backgrounds. But she says senior Trump aides overturned those decisions, moves that she said weren’t made “in the best interest of national security.”

Newbold’s allegations were detailed in a letter and memo released Monday by Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, chairman of the House Oversight and Reform committee. Cummings panel has been investigating security clearances issued to senior officials including Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, former national security adviser Michael Flynn, and former White House aide Rob Porter.

The documents don’t identify the officials on Newbold’s list but they note that two are “current senior White House officials.”

The release of the information comes about a month after The New York Times reported that Trump ordered officials to grant Kushner a clearance over the objections of national security officials and after Newbold spoke out to NBC News and other news outlets about her concerns. It also sets the stage for another fight between the White House and the Democratic-controlled House. Cummings said he will move this week to authorize his first subpoena in the probe.

Cummings said the subpoena will be for the deposition of Carl Kline, who served as the White House personnel security director and supervised Newbold. He has since left the White House for the Defense Department.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.

Rep. Jim Jordan, the committee’s ranking Republican, said in a statement that Cummings’ probe is a “partisan attack” and an “excuse to go fishing” through personnel files. He also said that one person on Newbold’s list is a GSA custodian.

Newbold laid out her experience in the White House during a March 23 interview with bipartisan committee staff. Portions of that interview were in the memo released by Cummings.

According to the memo, Newbold’s list of overturned security clearance denials included “two current senior White House officials, as well as contractors and individuals throughout different components of the Executive Office of the President.”

“According to Ms. Newbold, these individuals had a wide range of serious disqualifying issues involving foreign influence, conflicts of interest, concerning personal conduct, financial problems, drug use, and criminal conduct,” the memo says.

Newbold said she raised her concerns up the chain of command in the White House to no avail. Instead, she said, the White House retaliated, suspending her in January for 14 days without pay for not following a new policy requiring that documents be scanned as separate PDF files rather than one single PDF file.

Newbold said that when she returned to work in February, she was cut out of the security clearance process and removed from a supervisory responsibility.

The committee has previously singled out Flynn, Porter and Kushner as it sought records from the White House about how their clearances were handled.

Flynn maintained his clearance even after the White House learned he lied to the FBI about his conversations with Russia’s ambassador and that he was under federal investigation by the Justice Department for his previous foreign work.

Kushner failed to initially disclose numerous foreign meetings on security clearance forms, and according to the Times, career officials recommended against granting him one before Trump personally overruled them.

Porter had high-level access with an interim security clearance even though the FBI repeatedly told the White House of past allegations of domestic violence lodged against him by two ex-wives.

Porter resigned after the allegations becoming public.

FOLLOW THE LINK FOR THE FULL REPORT – JR

https://apnews.com/1759ac2858ee4aafb041f91cbd6d86e9

Advertisements

Facebook security app used to ‘spy’ on competitors

A report by a Commons committee has detailed Facebook’s use of an application to “spy” on users.

The cross-party group said that Facebook used its Onavo virtual private network (VPN) app to gather information on competitors.

The MPs claim Facebook “intentionally and knowingly violated both data privacy and anti-competition laws”.

The report, which is more than 100 pages long, also details the influence of fake news on the site in elections.

Monitoring competitors

The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee wrote that through the use of Onavo, which was billed as a way to give users an extra layer of security, Facebook could “collect app usage data from its customers to assess not only how many people had downloaded apps, but how often they used them”.

The report added: “This knowledge helped them to decide which companies were performing well and therefore gave them invaluable data on possible competitors. They could then acquire those companies, or shut down those they judged to be a threat.”

A graph the committee includes in the report shows an analysis of data collected with Onavo, detailing how commonly apps were used by Facebook owned and rival services.

Graph of data useImage copyrightCULTURE, MEDIA & SPORT COMMITTEE

In 2013, Facebook offered to buy rival Snapchat for $3bn (£2.32bn). It acquired Instagram a year earlier for $1bn.

In 2014, the company successfully acquired WhatsApp for $19bn in cash and shares.

Limiting Vine

The report also details the way the company could shut off access to its services to competitors.

For example, in 2013 Facebook founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg was informed about the launch of the Vine video service by social media rival Twitter.

He was told via email that Twitter was going to allow Vine users to find friends on Facebook.

“Unless anyone raises objections, we will shut down their friends’ API access today.” the email read – a move that would prevent Vine users from inviting their Facebook friends to the service.

Zuckerberg agreed to the move, replying “Yup, go for it.”

Twitter eventually chose to close Vine in 2016.

Whitelisting

According to the report, as of November 2013, more than 5,000 apps on Facebook were “whitelisted”, meaning that they could gain special access to user data and the data of those user’s Facebook friends.

Whitelisted companies included ride-hailing app Lyft, Airbnb and Netflix.

An internal email discussed linking a yearly spend of $250,000 on advertising to maintain company access to user Facebook data.

An email from Mr Zuckerberg, sent in October 2012, outlined his scepticism about the risk of data leaks happening between Facebook application developers.

“I think we leak info to developers, but I just can’t think of any instances where that data has leaked from developer to developer and caused a real issue for us,” he wrote.

Last year, Facebook was fined £500,000 by the UK’s data protection watchdog for its role in the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

The Information Commissioner’s Office said that the social media giant had given developers access to user data “without clear consent”.

User data which was collected through a personality quiz was used by Cambridge Analytica to profile potential voters.

FOLLOW THE LINK FOR THE FULL REPORT – JR

https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-47281906

Social Security Benefits Have Lost One-Third of Their Purchasing Power Since 2000

The latest survey from the Senior Citizens League (SCL) revealed that Social Security, the welfare program originally designed to help workers in their old age, is instead slowly impoverishing them:

Over the past 18 years, Social Security benefits have lost 34 percent of their buying power, according to the findings of this study.

Many of the goods and services purchased by typical retirees increased several times faster than annual Social Security cost of living adjustments (COLAs) from January 2000 through January 2018.

As The New American recently pointed out, for three out of every five of the more than 60 million Americans receiving Social Security, that monthly check represents half or more of their total monthly income. Because many have not planned for the future, or been able to, by the time workers start receiving their benefits, four out of 10 will be living at or near the poverty level.

There have been previous attempts to “adjust” the purchasing power of those checks including using cost-of-living-adjustments or COLAs. For 2019 those 62 million Social Security recipients will see their checks increase by 2.8 percent.

But since 2000 those COLAs have fallen far behind the real costs of living by those over 65. Said the SCL: “Since 2000, COLAs have increased Social Security benefits a total of just 46 percent, while typical senior expenses grew more than twice as quickly — 96.3 percent.” For example, a homeowner heating his or her home with heating oil has taken a terrible beating. In January 2000 he or she would have paid $575 to fill a 500-gallon tank, while Social Security was paying an average of $845 a month. But fast forward to 2018: filling that tank now costs more than $1,600 while Social Security paid an average of $1,200. That’s a shift in costs that moves that homeowner from a “plus” $275 a month (after paying for heat) to a “minus” $400 a month — a negative shift of nearly $700 a month.

Read more

FOLLOW THE LINK FOR THE FULL REPORT – JR

https://www.infowars.com/social-security-benefits-have-lost-one-third-of-their-purchasing-power-since-2000/

Armed drones, iris scanners: China’s high-tech security gadgets

From virtual reality police training programmes to gun-toting drones and iris scanners, a public security expo in China showed the range of increasingly high-tech tools available to the country’s police.

The exhibition, which ran Tuesday to Friday in Beijing, emphasised surveillance and monitoring technology just as the Communist government’s domestic security spending has skyrocketed.Facial-recognition screens analysing candid shots of conference attendees were scattered around the exhibition hall, while other vendors packed their booths with security cameras.More innocuous applications, like smart locks for homes and big data applications to reduce traffic congestion, also occupied large swathes of the conference.But the high-end devices on display highlighted the emphasis that China has put on equipping its security forces with gear of the future.Megvii, an artificial intelligence company backed by e-commerce giant Alibaba, demoed different pairs of “smart” sunglasses, which sound an alarm when they spot a suspect.And they don’t come cheap — one pair costs around 20,000 yuan ($2,900), according to an employee manning Megvii’s booth.Similar eyewear made global headlines in February when police in the central city of Zhengzhou used them to spot potential suspects in a crowded train station.Multiple companies also showed off iris scanners, which specialise in detecting and matching unique patterns on the iris, the coloured part of the human eye.”From fetal stage to adolescence to adulthood, the iris stays the same,” James Wang, marketing director at IrisKing, explained to AFP.Compared to fingerprinting and facial recognition, the error rate for matching irises is also lower.”Since iris recognition is done in vivo, it’s also very hard to fake,” he added.- Big spending -China spent an estimated 1.24 trillion yuan on domestic security in 2017, a 12.4 percent increase from the year before, according to a March report by Adrian Zenz, a China security expert at Germany’s European School of Culture and Theology.Bolstering security in China’s minority regions has been a priority, according to Zenz’s report.In Tibet, where numerous Tibetans have self-immolated in protest at Beijing’s policies over the years, domestic security spending rose more than 400 percent between 2007 and 2016 — almost double the growth in spending across all provinces and regions for the same period.In the restive northwest region of Xinjiang, where the government has used an array of surveillance equipment, the security spending spree ballooned nearly 100 percent in 2017 — twice its spending on healthcare, according to Zenz.A UN panel has cited estimates that up to one million ethnic Uighurs and other Muslim minorities have been placed in internment camps in Xinjiang, a charge rejected by Beijing, which says it is combating separatism and religious extremism through vocational education.- Killer drones -The rapid deployment of surveillance-focused technology across China is not new — police in Guiyang tracked down a BBC reporter in just seven minutes for a report on the southwest city’s network of cameras last year.But the security expo shows how broadly technology is being applied to a variety of challenges for the country?s public security forces.A Shenzhen-based tech company called ZNV is using video analysis, such as the detection of facial “micro-expressions”, to analyse emotional responses. One application is police interrogation, though the product is still in the pilot stage.At a booth run by the First Research Institute of the public security ministry, conference attendees took turns trying a VR game meant to teach police about proper firearm usage. One attendee waved around a fake gun in a simulated takedown of thieves who had robbed a fruit shop.Feedback from public security departments has been very good, said Gan Tian, the chief marketing officer at Wuhan-based tech company KitSprite, which is partnering with the First Research Institute.For instance, using VR, practical training of standard procedures can be conducted “in an unlimited time and space”, Gan told AFP.So far, the ministry has over 30 VR training modules for police, all developed by KitSprite.In the pursuit of high-tech police products, however, some companies seem to have got a little carried away.For instance, drones developed by Harwar, a Shenzhen-based company, can come with a number of add-ons, including a “net gun module” that launches a net to ensnare criminals on the run.

The exhibition, which ran Tuesday to Friday in Beijing, emphasised surveillance and monitoring technology just as the Communist government’s domestic security spending has skyrocketed.Facial-recognition screens analysing candid shots of conference attendees were scattered around the exhibition hall, while other vendors packed their booths with security cameras.More innocuous applications, like smart locks for homes and big data applications to reduce traffic congestion, also occupied large swathes of the conference.But the high-end devices on display highlighted the emphasis that China has put on equipping its security forces with gear of the future.Megvii, an artificial intelligence company backed by e-commerce giant Alibaba, demoed different pairs of “smart” sunglasses, which sound an alarm when they spot a suspect.And they don’t come cheap — one pair costs around 20,000 yuan ($2,900), according to an employee manning Megvii’s booth.Similar eyewear made global headlines in February when police in the central city of Zhengzhou used them to spot potential suspects in a crowded train station.Multiple companies also showed off iris scanners, which specialise in detecting and matching unique patterns on the iris, the coloured part of the human eye.”From fetal stage to adolescence to adulthood, the iris stays the same,” James Wang, marketing director at IrisKing, explained to AFP.Compared to fingerprinting and facial recognition, the error rate for matching irises is also lower.”Since iris recognition is done in vivo, it’s also very hard to fake,” he added.- Big spending -China spent an estimated 1.24 trillion yuan on domestic security in 2017, a 12.4 percent increase from the year before, according to a March report by Adrian Zenz, a China security expert at Germany’s European School of Culture and Theology.Bolstering security in China’s minority regions has been a priority, according to Zenz’s report.In Tibet, where numerous Tibetans have self-immolated in protest at Beijing’s policies over the years, domestic security spending rose more than 400 percent between 2007 and 2016 — almost double the growth in spending across all provinces and regions for the same period.In the restive northwest region of Xinjiang, where the government has used an array of surveillance equipment, the security spending spree ballooned nearly 100 percent in 2017 — twice its spending on healthcare, according to Zenz.A UN panel has cited estimates that up to one million ethnic Uighurs and other Muslim minorities have been placed in internment camps in Xinjiang, a charge rejected by Beijing, which says it is combating separatism and religious extremism through vocational education.- Killer drones -The rapid deployment of surveillance-focused technology across China is not new — police in Guiyang tracked down a BBC reporter in just seven minutes for a report on the southwest city’s network of cameras last year.But the security expo shows how broadly technology is being applied to a variety of challenges for the country?s public security forces.A Shenzhen-based tech company called ZNV is using video analysis, such as the detection of facial “micro-expressions”, to analyse emotional responses. One application is police interrogation, though the product is still in the pilot stage.At a booth run by the First Research Institute of the public security ministry, conference attendees took turns trying a VR game meant to teach police about proper firearm usage. One attendee waved around a fake gun in a simulated takedown of thieves who had robbed a fruit shop.Feedback from public security departments has been very good, said Gan Tian, the chief marketing officer at Wuhan-based tech company KitSprite, which is partnering with the First Research Institute.For instance, using VR, practical training of standard procedures can be conducted “in an unlimited time and space”, Gan told AFP.So far, the ministry has over 30 VR training modules for police, all developed by KitSprite.In the pursuit of high-tech police products, however, some companies seem to have got a little carried away.For instance, drones developed by Harwar, a Shenzhen-based company, can come with a number of add-ons, including a “net gun module” that launches a net to ensnare criminals on the run.

FOLLOW THE LINK FOR THE FULL REPORT – JR

https://www.france24.com/en/20181026-armed-drones-iris-scanners-chinas-high-tech-security-gadgets

Hardline Border Security Advocate Scott Morrison Australia’s New PM

Australia has a new prime minister. Treasurer Scott Morrison, architect of the country’s famously tough migration and border policies, claimed the country’s top position on Friday after a party room ballot sealed the fate of Malcolm Turnbull.

Mr. Morrison, 50, won a closed door leadership vote 45-40 to end Mr. Turnbull’s troubled time at the nation’s helm. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, another ally of the former prime minister, was also in the running but was eliminated in the opening voting round.

Mr. Turnbull is the fourth Australian PM in 10 years to be ousted by party colleagues. He had been under pressure from poor polling and what he described as an “insurgency” by fellow conservative coalition MPs.

FOLLOW THE LINK FOR THE FULL REPORT – JR

https://www.infowars.com/hardline-border-security-advocate-scott-morrison-australias-new-pm/

Trump Revokes Ex-CIA Chief Brennan’s Security Clearance

The Trump administration has revoked the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan, according to a statement from the president.

“As the head of the Executive Branch and Commander-in-Chief, I have a unique constitutional responsibility to protect the nation’s classified information, including by controlling access to it. Today, in fulfilling that responsibility, I’ve decided to revoke the security clearance of John Brennan, former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said reading Trump’s statement.

“Historically, former heads of intelligence and law enforcement agencies have been allowed to retain access to classified information after their government service so that they can consult with their successors regarding matters about which they may have special insights and as a professional courtesy. Neither of these justifications supports Mr. Brennan’s continued access to classified information.”

“First, at this point in my administration, any benefits that senior officials might glean from consultations from Mr. Brennan are now outweighed by the risks posed by his erratic conduct and behavior,” Sanders continued.

“Second, that conduct and behavior has tested and far exceeded the limits of any professional courtesy that may have been due to him. Mr. Brennan has a history that calls into question his objectivity and credibility.”

As one example, Trump’s statement referred to when Brennan lied in 2014 about the CIA spying on Congress.

Additionally, Sanders pointed out Brennan also lied to Congress under oath last year, claiming the intelligence community did not utilize the infamous Steele Dossier to secure FISA warrants in the surveillance of Trump campaign officials in 2016.

Sanders also said Brennan’s “unfounded and outrageous allegations” and “wild outbursts” about Trump disqualifies him from retaining access to classified information which he “leverages” on MSNBC, where he now works as a commentator.

FOLLOW THE LINK FOR THE FULL REPORT – JR

https://www.infowars.com/trump-revokes-ex-cia-chief-brennans-security-clearance/

Homeland Security employees warned of increased threats amid immigration uproar

The acting deputy secretary of homeland security warned employees Saturday that “there may be a heightened threat” against them, according to a memo obtained by CBS News. The warning comes amid the increasing furor over the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy.

“This assessment is based on specific and credible threats that have been levied against certain DHS employees and a sharp increase in the overall number of general threats against DHS employees — although the veracity of each threat varies,” says the message from Claire M. Grady. “In addition, over the last few days, thousands of employees have had their personally identifiable information publically [sic] released on social media.”

The memo recommends numerous safety precautions, including not displaying work badges in public, being careful with public conversations and using caution on all social networks. It also recommends DHS employees “always keep doors and windows locked” and “be aware of unexpected changes in and around your home.”

DHS employees are encouraged to call 911 if they feel threatened and if local law enforcement doesn’t respond, to call Federal Protective Service.

FOLLOW THE LINK FOR THE FULL REPORT – JR

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/homeland-security-memo-today-increased-threats-2018-06-23/

Ecuador orders withdrawal of extra Assange security from embassy in London

“The President of the Republic, Lenin Moreno, has ordered that any additional security at the Ecuadorian embassy in London be withdrawn immediately,” the government said in a statement. “

From now on, it will maintain normal security similar to that of other Ecuadorian embassies,” the statement said.

Ecuador suspended Assange’s communication systems in March after his pointed political comments on Twitter.

Moreno has described Assange’s situation as “a stone in his shoe.”

FOLLOW THE LINK FOR THE FULL REPORT – JR

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-ecuador-assange/ecuador-orders-withdrawal-of-extra-assange-security-from-embassy-in-london-idUSKCN1IJ08X

Trump decides to remove national security adviser, who’s next?

President Trump has decided to remove H.R. McMaster as his national security adviser and is actively discussing potential replacements, according to five people with knowledge of the plans, preparing to deliver yet another jolt to the senior ranks of his administration.

Trump is now comfortable with ousting McMaster, with whom he never personally gelled, but is willing to take time executing the move because he wants to ensure both that the three-star Army general is not humiliated and that there is a strong successor lined up, these people said.

The turbulence is part of a broader potential shake-up under consideration by Trump that is likely to include senior officials at the White House, where staffers are gripped by fear and un­certainty as they await the next move from an impulsive president who enjoys stoking conflict.

FOLLOW THE LINK FOR THE FULL REPORT – JR

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-decides-to-remove-national-security-adviser-and-others-may-follow/2018/03/15/fea2ebae-285c-11e8-bc72-077aa4dab9ef_story.html

US embassy in Turkey to be closed over ‘security threat’

The US embassy in the Turkish capital Ankara will be closed to the public on Monday over a “security threat”, the mission announced on its website.

The embassy was the target in 2013 of a suicide bombing claimed by a far-left group that killed a Turkish security guard.

Relations between NATO allies Washington and Ankara are strained over a number of issues, notably the US arming of a Syrian Kurdish militia, the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).

FOLLOW THE LINK FOR THE FULL REPORT – JR

https://www.yahoo.com/news/us-embassy-turkey-closed-over-security-threat-214502210.html