National Security

Mattis Privately Tells Lawmakers Budget Not Enough

“Defense Secretary James Mattis has privately told Congress the Trump administration’s Pentagon budget request isn’t sufficient to cover the cost of rebuilding the military as President Trump has vowed to do,” CNN reports.

“Mattis is not publicly raising concerns about the $603 billion Pentagon budget plan, aligning himself with the White House’s decision, though it’s a stance that’s sparking frustration from some Republican defense hawks in Congress.”

CIA and FBI Launch Manhunt for Leaker

CBS News has learned that a manhunt is underway for a traitor inside the Central Intelligence Agency.

“The CIA and FBI are conducting a joint investigation into one of the worst security breaches in CIA history, which exposed thousands of top-secret documents that described CIA tools used to penetrate smartphones, smart televisions and computer systems.”

“Sources familiar with the investigation say it is looking for an insider — either a CIA employee or contractor — who had physical access to the material.”

Aircraft Carrier Wasn’t Sailing to Deter North Korea

“As worries deepened last week about whether North Korea would conduct a missile test, the White House declared that ordering an American aircraft carrier into the Sea of Japan would send a powerful deterrent signal and give President Trump more options in responding to the North’s provocative behavior,” the New York Times reports.

“The problem was, the carrier, the Carl Vinson, and the four other warships in its strike force were at that very moment sailing in the opposite direction, to take part in joint exercises with the Australian Navy in the Indian Ocean, 3,500 miles southwest of the Korean Peninsula.”

Trump Embraces Use of Military Might

Washington Post: “As he searches for a coherent foreign policy during his first months in office, Trump has celebrated but often inflated the effect of military actions. The massive shows of strength, at times, have seemed to be a strategy unto themselves.”

“Trump’s full-on embrace of military force offers a sharp contrast to Barack Obama, who promised to end America’s wars and who worried publicly about escalation and overreach, often to the point of paralysis. Trump has taken the polar opposite approach, and for the moment he seems to be benefiting.”

Pompeo Mocks Idea of ‘Microwave Surveillance’

CIA Director Mike Pompeo “mocked those who fear intelligence officials conduct surveillance through microwaves, saying the agency tries to ignore such claims,” Politico reports.

“While White House counselor Kellyanne Conway suffered blowback last month when she suggested microwaves could be deployed as surveillance devices, the CIA said later Thursday that Pompeo was not directly referencing Conway’s controversial comments.”

McFarland Ousted from National Security Council

“K.T. McFarland has been asked to step down as deputy National Security Advisor to President Donald Trump after less than three months and will become U.S. ambassador to Singapore,” Bloomberg reports.

“The departure of the 65-year-old former Fox News commentator comes as Trump’s second National Security Advisor, Lt General H.R. McMaster, puts his own stamp on the National Security Council after taking over in February following the firing of Michael Flynn.”

McMaster Solidifies Control of National Security Council

National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster “quietly slipped out of the White House grounds last week to seek the counsel of one of his aging predecessors, another three-star general who ran the National Security Council in a time of political turmoil and congressional probes,” Politico reports.

“McMaster’s session with 92-year-old Brent Scowcrof… was the clearest indication yet that McMaster, who took the reins of the NSC in February after his predecessor Mike Flynn was ousted, intends to radically depart from the approach taken by Flynn and President Donald Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, who was removed from his seat on Wednesday.”

Washington Post: “McMaster has become a blunt force within the administration who has made clear to several top officials and the president that he does not want the NSC to have any political elements.”

Bannon Removed from National Security Council

President Trump “reorganized his National Security Council on Wednesday, removing his chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, and downgrading the role of his Homeland Security Adviser, Tom Bossert, according to a person familiar with the decision and a regulatory filing,” Bloomberg reports.

“Under the move, the national intelligence director, Dan Coats, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford, are again “regular attendees” of the NSC’s principals committee.”

Ex-Trump Adviser Met with Russian Spy

“A former campaign adviser for Donald Trump met with and passed documents to a Russian intelligence operative in New York City in 2013,” BuzzFeed reports.

“The adviser, Carter Page, met with a Russian intelligence operative named Victor Podobnyy, who was later charged by the US government alongside two others for acting as unregistered agents of a foreign government. The charges, filed in January 2015, came after federal investigators busted a Russian spy ring that was seeking information on US sanctions as well as efforts to develop alternative energy. Page is an energy consultant.”

ABC News: “Two years before joining the Trump campaign as a foreign policy adviser, Page was targeted for recruitment as an intelligence source by Russian spies promising favors for business opportunities in Russia, according to a sealed FBI complaint.”

Trump’s Secret Plan to Defeat ISIS Looks Like Obama’s

“Donald Trump promised during the campaign to implement a ‘secret plan’ to defeat ISIS, including a pledge to ‘bomb the hell out of’ the terror group in Iraq and Syria.”

“Now, the Pentagon has given him a secret plan, but it turns out to be a little more than an ‘intensification’ of the same slow and steady approach that Trump derided under the Obama administration,” two senior officials who have reviewed the document told NBC News.

No, Microwave Ovens Can’t Spy on You

Wired: “It’s true that lots of things can be turned into listening devices. It’s also true that attackers can compromise internet-connected gadgets. And yes, the WikiLeaks data outlines various (alleged) CIA methods of compromising cellphones and Samsung TVs to surveil targets.”

“Kellyanne Conway isn’t even the only one who associates microwave ovens with government spying. ‘Is the CIA listening to me through my microwave oven, and through my TV, and through my cell phone,’ asked late-night host Stephen Colbert of former CIA and NSA head Michael Hayden last week. (The answer was ‘no,’ at least if you’re an American citizen.)”

“Still, it must be said: Microwave ovens are not an effective spy tool.”

Trump Gave CIA Power to Launch Drone Strikes

President Trump “has given the Central Intelligence Agency secret new authority to conduct drone strikes against suspected terrorists, changing the Obama administration’s policy of limiting the spy agency’s paramilitary role and reopening a turf war between the agency and the Pentagon,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“The new authority, which hadn’t been previously disclosed, represents a significant departure from a cooperative approach that had become standard practice by the end of former President Obama’s tenure: The CIA used drones and other intelligence resources to locate suspected terrorists and then the military conducted the actual strike.”

Mar-a-Lago Is an Espionage Risk

Politico: “While Trump’s private club in South Florida has been transformed into a fortress of armed guards, military-grade radar, bomb sniffing dogs and metal-detection checkpoints, there are still notable vulnerabilities, namely the stream of guests who can enter the property without a background check.”

“And security experts warn that the commander in chief’s frequent visits — four since he took office in January — afford an unprecedented opportunity for eavesdropping and building dossiers on the president’s routines and habits, as well as those of the inner circle around him. They add that with each repeat visit, the security risk escalates.”

CIA Scrambles to Contain Damage from Leak

“The C.I.A. scrambled on Wednesday to assess and contain the damage from the release by WikiLeaks of thousands of documents that cataloged the agency’s cyberspying capabilities, temporarily halting work on some projects while the F.B.I. turned to finding who was responsible for the leak,” the New York Times reports.

“Investigators say that the leak was the work not of a hostile foreign power like Russia but of a disaffected insider… The F.B.I. was preparing to interview anyone who had access to the information, a group likely to include at least a few hundred people, and possibly more than a thousand.”