U.S. Government and Tech Firms Push Back on Russia (and Trump)

Over the past two weeks, United States Cyber Command and a group of companies led by Microsoft have engaged in an aggressive campaign against a suspected Russian network that they feared could hold election systems hostage come November.

Then, on Monday, the Justice Department indicted members of the same elite Russian military unit that hacked the 2016 election for hacking the French elections, cutting power to Ukraine and sabotaging the opening ceremony at the 2018 Olympics. And in Silicon Valley, tech giants including Facebook, Twitter and Google have been sending out statements every few days advertising how many foreign influence operations they have blocked, all while banning forms of disinformation in ways they never imagined even a year ago.

It is all intended to send a clear message that whatever Russia is up to in the last weeks before Election Day, it is no hoax. The goal, both federal officials and corporate executives say, is to disrupt Russia’s well-honed information-warfare systems, whether they are poised to hack election systems, amplify America’s political fissures or get inside the minds of voters.

But behind the scenes is a careful dance by members of the Trump administration to counter the president’s own disinformation campaign, one that says the outcome on Nov. 3 will be “rigged” unless he wins.

So while President Trump continues to dismiss the idea of Russian intervention, a combination of administration and industry officials are pushing a different narrative: that U.S. intelligence agencies, Facebook, Twitter, Google and others are avoiding the mistakes of four years ago, when they all had their radars off.

But there is also no assurance it will work.

“We don’t like to admit it, but the Russians may not be deterrable,” said James A. Lewis, the director of the technology and public policy program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “How far do we have to go? Is this far enough? We are still scoping that out.”

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No one will be able to assess the effectiveness of the counteroffensive until after Election Day, when Washington circulates the cyberequivalent of battle-damage reports. But even now there are reasons to question whether the efforts to take on Russia, some of which began in the 2018 midterm elections, have been too timid.

It is hardly a coincidence that the indictments announced on Monday against hackers with Russia’s G.R.U. were unsealed 15 days before the election. But it is unclear what deterrent effect indictments can have when the G.R.U.’s officers are unlikely to ever see the inside of an American courtroom.

One of the hackers named in the indictment was previously charged with hacking U.S. election administrators four years ago. That did not stop him from a brazen hack on the country of Georgia last year. Likewise, even after Russia was outed for hacking the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics, that apparently did nothing to dissuade it from hacking the postponed 2020 Tokyo games, British officials revealed Monday.

John P. Carlin, the former assistant attorney general for national security who developed much of the Justice Department’s strategy for indicting foreign hackers, and later wrote about it in the book “Dawn of the Code War,” said Mr. Trump’s denial of what happened four years ago gave Russia lots of leeway.

“The details in the indictment are stunning and reveal Russian operatives at the direction of the state attacking the whole world,” he said, adding that “the conspicuous absence of leadership from President Trump” on the issue was all the more striking given the efforts “to expose and disrupt this activity.”

“These attacks on countries and civilian behavior won’t stop until the commander-in-chief calls it out and works with the rest of the victimized world to deter future indiscriminate attacks,” Mr. Carlin said.

If the indictments are the public face of the offensive against the Russians, the effort to dismantle Trickbot — a vast network of infected computers used by ransomware groups — is the more covert element.

Late last month, the military’s Cyber Command started neutralizing Trickbot with a series of attacks. Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit secured federal court orders to shut down Trickbot’s infrastructure around the world.

On Tuesday, Microsoft said the operation had been largely successful. It has taken down over 90 percent of Trickbot’s command-and-control servers. The idea is to keep the Russians on the run, so distracted that they are unable to use those systems for ransomware attacks that could hold the election hostage.

“These guys are really good and really move fast, and we knew they would react to rebuild their systems,” said Tom Burt, the Microsoft executive who is running the team. “We were prepared to follow them, and tear down whatever they build up.”

But as Cyber Command and Microsoft were taking aim at Trickbot, a new hacking threat emerged.

Over the past two months, a different group of Russian hackers — known as “Energetic Bear” or “Dragonfly,” and believed to be operating within the country’s Federal Security Service, or F.S.B., the successor to the Soviet-era K.G.B. — has been targeting American state and local networks, according to government and private security researchers.

Their goal is still unclear, but the timing — so close to the election — and the actor, which was previously caught hacking American nuclear, water, and electric plants, has sent alarm bells ringing at Cyber Command and at security firms like FireEye. CyberScoop earlier published details of a leaked FireEye report on the campaign on Tuesday.

Officials worry that even if those hacks do not amount to much, the Russians’ very presence inside U.S. state and local systems could be used to support the president’s baseless allegations that the election is “rigged.”

That was part of the motivation behind an unusual nine-minute video posted online this month — titled “Safeguarding Your Vote”— featuring senior American law enforcement, intelligence and cybersecurity officials.

“We are not going to tolerate foreign interference in our elections or criminal activity that threatens the sanctity of your vote or undermines public confidence in the outcome of the election,” Christopher A. Wray, the F.B.I. director, assured voters.

Mr. Wray and his counterparts have been contradicted at every turn by the president, who continues to assail mail-in voting as an avenue for fraud, for which there is no evidence. Mr. Trump’s claims are often amplified by the Russians, whose main interest is to cast doubt about the credibility of free elections.

“Trump has been a godsend to Russia,” Mr. Lewis said.

In Silicon Valley, executives believe a “perception hack” may pose the greatest threat to the election and have been mounting their own counternarrative.

Facebook, Twitter and Google have all talked up coordination with one another and the government. The companies were credited, with Cisco’s Talos cybersecurity unit, as having played a role in the indictments of the six G.R.U. officers announced on Monday.

Twitter has talked up its takedown of state-backed influence campaigns from Russia, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Cuba and Iran, and has slapped more overt warning messages on tweets that violate its policies, including those from the president.

Facebook has advertised its takedowns of foreign influence campaigns from China and the Philippines and 300 Russian assets. It has also lowered its tolerance for disinformation.

After years of allowing Holocaust deniers a place on its platform, Facebook started censoring that content this month and stepping up its crackdown of QAnon, which promotes a conspiracy that the world is run by Satan-worshiping pedophiles plotting against Mr. Trump.

The question is whether these efforts, so late in the election cycle, will have the intended effect, since the president has already primed his supporters, and others, to distrust the “fake news,” the “deep state” and now, the election.

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Whistle-Blower Brian Murphy Says D.H.S. Downplayed Threats From Russia and White Supremacists

“Mr. Murphy followed proper, lawful whistle-blower rules in reporting serious allegations of misconduct against D.H.S. leadership, particularly involving political distortion of intelligence analysis and retaliation,” Mark S. Zaid, Mr. Murphy’s lawyer, said in a statement.

Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee asked Mr. Murphy to testify in private on Sept. 21, a possible precursor to a public hearing in the weeks before Election Day.

“We will get to the bottom of this, expose any and all misconduct or corruption to the American people, and put a stop to the politicization of intelligence,” said Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California and the chairman of the committee. He said the allegations of politically censored intelligence assessments were particularly worrisome in light of the Trump administration’s decision last month to stop briefing lawmakers in person on election security threats.

Sarah Matthews, a White House spokeswoman, said in a statement that Mr. O’Brien had “never sought to dictate the intelligence community’s focus on threats to the integrity of our elections or on any other topic.” She called Mr. Murphy a “disgruntled former employee” whom Mr. O’Brien had never heard of. But, she added, the national security adviser “consistently and publicly advocated for a holistic focus on all threats to our elections — whether from Russia, Iran, China or any other malign actor.”

Alexei Woltornist, the spokesman for the Homeland Security Department, rejected Mr. Murphy’s allegations.

“We flatly deny that there is any truth to the merits of Mr. Murphy’s claim,” Mr. Woltornist said. “D.H.S. looks forward to the results of any resulting investigation, and we expect it will conclude that no retaliatory action was taken against Mr. Murphy.”

As president, Mr. Trump has clashed frequently with the intelligence community, particularly over the issue of election interference. At a news conference in 2018 in Helsinki, Finland, Mr. Trump sided with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and said he did not think Moscow was responsible for the 2016 interference. A few months later, Mr. Trump dismissed the C.I.A.’s assessment that the Saudi crown prince was responsible for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a prominent Washington Post columnist. In February 2019, after intelligence chiefs offered Congress assessments on North Korea and Iran that were at odds with the White House, the president told them to “go back to school.”

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Rod Rosenstein Stopped A Full Investigation Into Trump’s Russia Ties

Rod Rosenstein limited Robert Mueller and made sure that the Department of Justice never fully investigated Trump’s ties to Russia.

According to The New York Times:

The special counsel who finished the investigation, Robert S. Mueller III, secured three dozen indictments and convictions of some top Trump advisers, and he produced a report that outlined Russia’s wide-ranging operations to help get Mr. Trump elected and the president’s efforts to impede the inquiry.

But law enforcement officials never fully investigated Mr. Trump’s own relationship with Russia, even though some career F.B.I. counterintelligence investigators thought his ties posed such a national security threat that they took the extraordinary step of opening an inquiry into them. Within days, the former deputy attorney general Rod J. Rosenstein curtailed the investigation without telling the bureau, all but ensuring it would go nowhere.

Trump basically shut the Russia investigation down through Rosenstein. There has never been a real federal law enforcement investigation of Trump’s ties to Russia, such an investigation has become more relevant and critical than ever with Trump canceling election security briefings and reports that the Russians are the only foreign country interfering in the election to help Trump.

Mueller wanted to do a full investigation. The FBI wanted to do a full investigation, but they were stopped by Trump’s DOJ political appointees.

For more discussion about this story join our Rachel Maddow and MSNBC group.

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Reddit Shuts Down Bill Binney While He Provides Evidence Refuting the Russia Collusion Sham

Famous US government whistleblower Bill Binney attempted to give a presentation on the bogus Russia collusion coup attempt of President Trump and his administration.  But Reddit did not like it so after a 20 minutes into his presentation, Reddit shut it down.

We’ve reported on Binney’s claims for some time. The whole “Russia hacked the DNC and provided their hacked emails to WikiLeaks” is a lie according to Binney and others.

This was the basic claim underlying the Trump – Russia collusion sham and the eventual Mueller Special Counsel coup and it was a lie!

Trump friend Roger Stone was indicted after being charged by the Mueller gang based on this key question – who provided the DNC and Podesta emails to WikiLeaks?

TRENDING: Kyle Rittenhouse Was Working as a Lifeguard in Kenosha the Day of the Shooting, Went to Clean Vandalism at School After Work

The corrupt FBI and Mueller team claim the emails were hacked but neither entity inspected the DNC server which was supposedly hacked. Stone was indicted related to this claim.

The DNC instead hired a firm Crowdstrike, with connections to Mueller and former Obama Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who provided a redacted report to the FBI and Mueller stating the emails were hacked by Russia.  But later under oath in front of the House, the CEO of Crowdstrike claimed they had no proof Russia hacked the DNC and provided emails to WikiLeaks.

Former NSA whistleblower Bill Binney claimed he had evidence the DNC emails were not hacked but were copied most likely onto a flashdrive or something similar in an interview shared on Twitter a year ago:

Bill Binney, is more than an expert, he is “A Good American”. Binney developed a system for the NSA that would have identified the 9-11 terrorist attack before it occurred, but the NSA shut down his project. This is all documented in the documentary “A Good American”. We encourage you to watch this video about Binney’s work with the NSA and their subsequent follow up after 9-11 below –

Now today Binney attempted to again get the word out that the DNC was not hacked by Russia and that it is much more likely the emails given to WikiLeaks were stolen from within the DNC.  But Reddit shut him down.

Binney is right.  The Deep State, the MSM, the social media companies are all the same.  They want to control the information provided to the masses just like the communists of East Germany.  God help us.

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Breaking New

Former Green Beret charged with spying for Russia

A former U.S. Army Green Beret conspired with Russia’s foreign intelligence arm, the GRU, providing them with national defense information from 1996 to 2011, federal prosecutors said Friday in an indictment.

Peter Rafael Dzibinski Debbins, of Gainesville, Virginia, faces a single count of conspiracy to gather or deliver defense information to aid a foreign government. He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted.

Debbins first visited Russia when was 19 years old, according to the federal indictment. His mother was born in the Soviet Union, and he met his wife in Chelyabinsk, Russia, where the couple later married. His father-in-law was a former an officer in the Russian military.

Debbins, 45, was born in Minnesota. It was unclear Friday whether he has an attorney.

According to the indictment, Debbins was slowly groomed and indoctrinated into the Russian intelligence apparatus starting in December 1996 when Debbins traveled to Chelyabinsk as part of an independent study program, according to the indictment filed in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Virginia.

He was assigned a code name by Russian intelligence agents and signed a document saying he wanted to serve Russia, the Department of Justice said.

Debbins allegedly shared classified information about his time in the Special Forces, including names and information on his former team members that Russian agents could evaluate and possibly approach those people to see if they would cooperate.

“When service members collude to provide classified information to our foreign adversaries, they betray the oaths they swore to their country and their fellow service members,” said G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “As this indictment reflects, we will be steadfast and dogged in holding such individuals accountable.”

The investigation was conducted with the help of the FBI, Army Counterintelligence, the U.K.’s Metropolitan Police and their internal security apparatus, MI5.

According to prosecutors, a member of the Russian intelligence service contacted Debbins and later set up a meeting in 1996. Debbins was taught tradecraft and was given an assignment to get the names of four nuns at a Catholic church that Debbins visited, a task he accomplished at the behest of a Russian intelligence officer.

When Debbins graduated from the University of Minnesota in September 1997, he returned to Russia and again met with Russian intelligence, which gave him the code name “Ikar Lesnikov.” and signed a statement saying he wished to serve Russia.

Debbins joined the U.S. Army in July 1998, and before he left Russia, he was given a telephone number to use with his code name to contact the GRU.

Then, in 1999, when Debbins was on leave from a tour in South Korea, he returned to Russia and reached out to one of his Russian intelligence handlers. At that meeting, he apparently provided information about his platoon, the unit’s assignment and its mission.

Debbins told the Russian he wanted to leave the Army, but his handler encouraged him to stay, according to charging documents.

The Russians questioned him and asked if he was actually a spy for the U.S., which Debbins apparently denied, saying he loved and was committed to Russia.

He allegedly told the Russians that the U.S. was too dominant in the world and needed to be cut down to size.

— NBC News’ Alicia Victoria Lozano contributed.

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Ex-F.B.I. Lawyer Expected to Plead Guilty in Review of Russia Inquiry

WASHINGTON — A former F.B.I. lawyer intends to plead guilty after he was charged with falsifying a document as part of a deal with prosecutors conducting their own criminal inquiry of the Russia investigation, according his lawyer and court documents made public on Friday.

The lawyer, Kevin Clinesmith, 38, who was assigned to the Russia investigation, plans to admit that he altered an email from the C.I.A. that investigators relied on to seek renewed court permission in 2017 for a secret wiretap on the former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, who had at times provided information to the spy agency. Mr. Clinesmith’s lawyer said he made a mistake while trying to clarify facts for a colleague.

President Trump immediately promoted the plea agreement as proof that the Russia investigation was illegitimate and politically motivated, opening a White House news conference by calling Mr. Clinesmith “corrupt” and the deal “just the beginning.” Mr. Trump has long been blunt about viewing the investigation by the prosecutor examining the earlier inquiry, John H. Durham, as political payback whose fruits he would like to see revealed in the weeks before the election.

Attorney General William P. Barr has portrayed Mr. Durham’s work as rectifying what he sees as injustices by officials who sought in 2016 to understand links between the Trump campaign and Russia’s covert operation to interfere in the election.

Mr. Clinesmith had written texts expressing opposition to Mr. Trump. But prosecutors did not reveal any evidence in charging documents that showed Mr. Clinesmith’s actions were part of any broader conspiracy to undermine Mr. Trump. And the Justice Department’s independent inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, has found that law enforcement officials had sufficient reason to open the Russia investigation, known inside the F.B.I. as Crossfire Hurricane, and found no evidence that they acted with political bias.

As part of their efforts to dissuade prosecutors from charging Mr. Clinesmith, his lawyers argued that his motives were benign, and other evidence indicated that he had not tried to hide the C.I.A. email from his colleagues,

“Kevin deeply regrets having altered the email,” Mr. Clinesmith’s lawyer, Justin Shur, said in a statement. “It was never his intent to mislead the court or his colleagues as he believed the information he relayed was accurate. But Kevin understands what he did was wrong and accepts responsibility. ”

Mr. Clinesmith, who resigned over the matter last year, was expected to be charged in federal court in Washington with a single felony count of making a false statement. A spokesman for Mr. Durham declined to comment.

Mr. Barr had previewed the agreement on Fox News’ “Hannity” on Thursday night, announcing that a development would occur in the investigation on Friday. “It’s not an earth-shattering development, but it is an indication that things are moving along at the proper pace, as dictated by the facts in this investigation,” he said.

It is highly unusual for law enforcement officials to publicly discuss ongoing investigations, but Mr. Barr has long made clear his distaste for the Russia investigation and his view that Mr. Durham would remedy any issues with it.

Though the sprawling Russia investigation that was eventually run by a special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, uncovered the Kremlin’s complex operation to subvert the election and the Trump campaign’s expectation that it would benefit from foreign involvement, Republicans have seized on a narrow aspect of the inquiry — the investigation into Mr. Page — in a long-running quest to undermine it.

An energy executive with contacts in Russia, Mr. Page was brought on to advise the Trump campaign in the spring of 2016 as the candidate was solidifying his unexpected lead in the Republican primary race and scrambled to cobble together a foreign policy team.

Investigators eventually suspected that Russian spies had marked Mr. Page for recruitment. They first obtained permission from the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in October 2016 to wiretap Mr. Page, who had left the campaign by then, and the court agreed to extend the order three times in subsequent months.

After Republicans raised concerns about the information that investigators relied on to seek the court’s approval to eavesdrop on Mr. Page, Mr. Horowitz began an exhaustive review of the process.

In a report made public last year, Mr. Horowitz revealed that the applications were riddled with serious errors and omissions. Among other things, he had learned of a troubling series of events in which Mr. Page’s association with the C.I.A. was not accurately conveyed to the Justice Department and ultimately kept from the judges who approved the surveillance warrants.

Mr. Page had for years provided information to the C.I.A. about his contacts with Russian officials. In C.I.A. jargon, he was known as an operational contact — someone who agrees to be debriefed by agency personnel but cannot be assigned to collect information.

That relationship might have given law enforcement officials reason to be less suspicious of him. And the F.B.I. was told about it: A C.I.A. lawyer provided a list of documents in the August 2016 email at the heart of the case against Mr. Clinesmith that explained Mr. Page’s relationship with the agency.

But an F.B.I. case agent who learned about Mr. Page’s ties to the C.I.A. played them down while preparing the first wiretap application, according to the inspector general’s report. At the time, Mr. Clinesmith was not involved in determining whether Mr. Page was a C.I.A. source, people familiar with the case said.

But later in 2017, a supervisory F.B.I. agent handling the third and final renewal application asked Mr. Clinesmith for a definitive answer on whether Mr. Page had been an agency source, according to Mr. Horowitz’s report.

Mr. Clinesmith incorrectly said that Mr. Page was “never a source” and sent the C.I.A.’s information to the supervisor. He altered the original email to say that Mr. Page had not been a source — a material change to a document used in a federal investigation.

The agent relied on the altered email to submit the application seeking further court permission to wiretap Mr. Page, the inspector general wrote. By changing the email and then forwarding it, Mr. Clinesmith misrepresented the original content of the document, which prosecutors said was a crime.

Mr. Clinesmith did not change the document in an attempt to cover up the F.B.I.’s mistake. His lawyers argued that he had made the change in good faith because he did not think that Mr. Page had been an actual source for the C.I.A.

Mr. Clinesmith’s lawyers also argued that their client did not try to hide the C.I.A. email from other law enforcement officials as they sought the final renewal of the Page wiretap. Mr. Clinesmith had provided the unchanged C.I.A. email to Crossfire Hurricane agents and the Justice Department lawyer drafting the original wiretap application.

Mr. Clinesmith had also urged investigators to send any information about an informant’s meeting in October 2016 with Mr. Page, including any exculpatory statements, to the Justice Department lawyer drafting the wiretap application. Mr. Clinesmith said this was “probably the most important” information to provide to the lawyer drafting the wiretap application.

Mr. Clinesmith was among the F.B.I. officials whom Mr. Mueller removed from the Russia investigation after Mr. Horowitz found messages they had exchanged expressing political animus against Mr. Trump. Shortly after Mr. Trump’s election victory, Mr. Clinesmith texted another official: “I honestly feel like there is going to be a lot more gun issues, too, the crazies won finally. This is the tea party on steroids. And the GOP is going to be lost.”

In another text, he wrote, “viva le resistance.”

Mr. Clinesmith told the inspector general that he was expressing his personal views but did not let them affect his work.

Mr. Clinesmith also argued against the prospect of wiretapping another former Trump campaign adviser, George Papadopoulos, who served two weeks in jail on a charge of lying to the F.B.I., according to the Horowitz report. The inspector general said the bureau never sought to surveil him.

The prosecution of Mr. Clinesmith is just one aspect of Mr. Durham’s expansive investigation. He has also been examining the intelligence community’s most explosive conclusion about Russian interference in the 2016 election: that President Vladimir V. Putin intervened to benefit Mr. Trump.

Mr. Durham has also been scrutinizing the use of a notorious dossier in the wiretap applications that was compiled by a former British intelligence officer, Christopher Steele.

Mr. Durham, who has previously investigated F.B.I. and C.I.A. abuses, has not tipped his hand at what he has found, though Mr. Barr has said some of the findings are “troubling.” Mr. Durham has said in a rare statement that he disagreed with some of Mr. Horowitz’s conclusions about how and why the F.B.I. opened the inquiry in the summer of 2016.

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Pompeo Says He and Military Warned Russia on Bounties for Killing U.S. Troops

The Times first reported in June that the C.I.A. had concluded that the Russian operatives had covertly offered and paid bounties to a Taliban-linked criminal network to incentivize more frequent attacks on American and other coalition troops in Afghanistan amid peace talks to end the long-running war there. But even though the National Security Council assembled a range of potential responses, like a diplomatic warning or sanctions, months had passed and the White House authorized none of them.

Amid bipartisan criticism, the White House has defended its months of inaction by falsely suggesting that no one deemed the C.I.A. assessment worthy of sharing with Mr. Trump — in fact, it was in his written briefing in February, although officials have told Congress that his aides did not orally bring his attention to it — and by portraying the information as uncertain.

Amid the turbulence, details about its basis have trickled out. The constellation of evidence included the accounts of interrogated Afghan detainees, a large seizure of cash found in a raid, data showing transfers of funds from a bank account controlled by the G.R.U. to the Taliban, and travel records showing intermediaries going between Russia and Afghanistan.

There was an additional clue, two officials confirmed this week: At least one passport number used by someone suspected of involvement in the bounty operation was close to a narrow range of passport numbers that Western intelligence officials say are known to have been assigned to operatives from the G.R.U.’s Unit 29155, suggesting it came from the same batch.

The Times asked officials about passport numbers after an anonymously run blog called Nightingale, which focuses on Russian covert operations, reported on Tuesday that a businessman named Rahmatullah Azizi used a Russian passport number near that range. American and Afghan officials have identified Mr. Azizi as a key middleman believed to have handed out Russian money to Taliban-linked fighters for targeting coalition troops in Afghanistan. He is believed to be in Russia.

The officials confirmed that batch passport numbers were generally part of the intelligence that contributed to the C.I.A.’s assessment without discussing the blog’s specific claims. But the disclosure of the additional type of evidence further undercut the White House’s portrayal of the intelligence as too insubstantial to merit presidential attention.

Unit 29155 has primarily been known for its links to several partly botched covert operations that came to light in Europe, including the 2018 nerve agent poisoning in Salisbury, England, of Sergei Skripal, a former G.R.U. officer who had worked for British intelligence and then defected, and his daughter; an attempted coup in Montenegro in 2016; and the poisoning of an arms manufacturer in Bulgaria a year earlier.

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Breaking New

Spain Quarantine, Russia Protests, Olivia de Havilland: Your Monday Briefing

(Want to get this briefing by email? Here’s the sign-up.)

Good morning.

We’re covering new quarantine rules on travelers from Spain, continuing protests in Russia against President Vladimir Putin and the death of a Hollywood Golden Age star.

But the speed blindsided many Britons who had traveled to Spain assuming they could return home without restrictions — including the transportation secretary responsible for aviation policy, Grant Shapps, who was on vacation.

Travelers will now have to isolate themselves for 14 days when they return. As a result, many in Britain are rethinking their plans, and some airlines canceled flights to Spain.

The decision had been made after data received on Friday showed a jump in Spanish cases, the foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, said.

Details: Scotland, which had lifted its quarantine rules for Spain just a few days ago, said it would reimpose them. France on Friday also advised against travel to Catalonia, Spain’s northeastern region bordering France, where hundreds of thousands of residents were in temporary lockdown this month.

In the last week, Spain’s daily average has topped 1,700 cases — as many as Britain, France and Italy combined.

In other news:

  • Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s leader, placed a city near the country’s border with the South under lockdown and declared a national emergency after acknowledging that his country might have its first case of the coronavirus.

  • President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil said on Saturday that he no longer had the coronavirus, appearing to have experienced only mild symptoms from a scourge he has repeatedly downplayed. More than 86,000 people in Brazil have died from the virus.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

Tens of thousands of demonstrators rallied for the third straight weekend in Khabarovsk, in Russia’s Far East. The outpouring of anger, fueled by the arrest of a popular governor, has little precedent in modern Russia. It highlights the discontent that President Vladimir Putin now faces across the country.

Just this month, Mr. Putin won a scripted referendum that will allow him to stay in office until 2036. Still, public disenchantment with corruption, stifled freedoms and stagnant incomes has worsened with the pandemic.

Bigger picture: Across the country, fear of the police and the seeming hopelessness of effecting change has largely kept people off the streets, and many believe an alternative to Mr. Putin could be worse. He still enjoys about a 60 percent approval rating, though that is falling.

Related: Facebook hired a Ukrainian group battling Russian disinformation to flag misleading posts. But the group has been battling accusations of ties to the Ukrainian far right and of bias in its fact-checking — raising questions about who is a neutral fact checker in a country at war.

Hungary’s most widely read news site was thrown into disarray last week after the organization’s editor in chief was fired and scores of journalists quit in protest, as the government moved closer to complete control over the country’s media landscape.

The takeover of’s advertising unit by an ally of Prime Minister Viktor Orban was part of an effort to limit dissenting voices and silence critics. The site is one of many independent media outlets in Central Europe that have been pressured financially and politically by governments bent on controlling public discourse.

Context: The decline of such outlets in Hungary is part of a troubling pattern. Since returning to power, Mr. Orban has rewritten Hungary’s constitution to favor his party and has overhauled the judicial system. Poland’s press also faces pressure following a presidential election.

Quote of note: “Imagine all the media in a U.S. state were to come under the ownership of a single political group,” one media think tank commentator said, “and all of these media outlets are funded by taxpayer money.”

For many French citizens of Algerian descent whose families migrated across the Mediterranean, summer in Algeria is a cornerstone of their cross-cultural identity — what they call “bled,” a word derived from Arabic that refers to the countryside.

This year, with Algeria’s borders closed, they are stuck, and the pain is acute. “It’s sacred for us to leave,” Malika Haï said. Above, women in Toulouse shared emotional memories of trips to Algeria.

U.S. unrest: Weeks of violent clashes between federal agents and protesters in Portland, Ore., galvanized thousands to march through the streets of U.S. cities over the weekend. In Seattle, the police confronted a crowd of about 5,000 people, some of whom were setting fires, they said. Officers fired flash grenades, and showered protesters with pepper spray.

Nantes fire: A Rwandan refugee who volunteered at the 15th-century cathedral in France has confessed to setting a fire that severely damaged the interior of the church this month. Prosecutors have charged him with arson.

In memoriam: Olivia de Havilland, an actress who gained movie immortality in “Gone With the Wind,” died on Sunday in Paris. She was 104 and one of the last surviving stars of Hollywood’s fabled Golden Age.

Paris deputy quits: The longtime deputy mayor resigned on Thursday, after protests over his links with Gabriel Matzneff, a French writer once embraced by France’s elite who openly promoted pedophilia for decades.

Snapshot: Above, Muslim worshipers at the Hagia Sophia on Friday in Istanbul. It was the first time in nearly nine decades that the Byzantine structure opened as a working mosque.

Cook: Fried chicken biscuits with hot honey butter could be a weeknight dinner with a side of greens, but they’re also perfect for a picnic.

Watch: “Muppets Now,” a new series on Disney+, is the latest attempt to take Kermit the Frog and his fuzzy companions back to their anarchic sketch comedy roots.

Listen: Taylor Swift, J. Cole, the Avalanches, Vusi Mahlasela and others are on this week’s playlist of the most notable new songs, compiled by our pop critics.

Find more ideas on what to read, cook, watch in our At Home collection.

Stationed all over the world, foreign correspondents can feel isolated. Alissa J. Rubin, our Baghdad bureau chief, wrote about a weekly call with colleagues that has helped them deal with the pandemic. Here’s an excerpt.

At The New York Times, foreign correspondents are a disparate group. We work in different countries, in different time zones, in wildly different cultures.

Only rarely do we know our colleagues in other regions, and when we do run into them, we often feel a bit shy talking to them — what would Bangkok and Warsaw have in common?

But the coronavirus changed that. It gave us common ground. In ways we never could have anticipated, Covid-19 turned out to be a leveler — of differences between editors and reporters, Sinophiles and Europeanists, newer reporters and “old hands.”

What brought us closer together was a weekly group video meeting that began as a result of a voluntary group session with a psychiatrist. The idea was to help those far from home feel less anxious as the pandemic spread to more and more of the countries where we lived and worked.

We discuss the mundane, such as ordering food or which Netflix or Amazon Prime series we are watching, but we also discuss the professional: the pros and cons of working with sources through video; long-distance transportation options (for those of us who can travel); where to stay (hotel or Airbnb?).

And, because all of us are living the story that we are reporting, sometimes we talk about the deeply personal, like writing frustrations and strategies for avoiding depression during a lockdown (one suggestion: have a call every day with a colleague).

Ernesto Londoño, the Rio de Janeiro bureau chief, offered advice on meditation. Chris Buckley, a China correspondent who had been through a draconian three-month lockdown in Wuhan, gave recommendations on structuring our days and pacing ourselves when time seemed to fall into a black hole.

Why do we keep showing up for this meeting? Because it has become our town square, our group kitchen table, a place where we see people with whom we share a way of life and can talk about all that we’ve lost without being judged.

That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.

— Isabella

Thank you
To Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh for the break from the news. You can reach the team at

• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Our latest episode is an examination of the truth, in a moment when facts can seem malleable.
• Here’s today’s Mini Crossword puzzle, and a clue: “Sesame Street” muppet who lives in a trash can (five letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• The media support network Study Hall published a profile of our Styles editor, Choire Sicha, and his unusual route to The Times.

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Rachel Maddow Praises Biden For Demonstrating How A Real Commander In Chief Stands Up To Russia

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Breaking New

Trump confirms 2018 US cyberattack against Russia

President Donald Trump on Friday confirmed for the first time that the United States launched a cyberattack against the Russian Internet Research Agency in 2018.

The IRA, a Russian company that deploys online trolls for influence operations, was blamed by U.S. officials for meddling in both the 2016 presidential election and the 2018 midterms.

Trump confirmed the attack during a two-part interview with Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen. When asked whether the U.S. had launched an attack on the IRA, Trump responded “correct.”

The Washington Post in 2019 reported on the attack, which blocked the IRA’s internet access, but Trump had not previously confirmed U.S. involvement.

The president went on to criticize former President Obama for not doing enough to address the interference ahead of the 2016 elections.

Obama “knew before the election that Russia was playing around. Or, he was told. Whether or not it was so or not, who knows? And he said nothing,” Trump said.

“And the reason he said nothing was that he didn’t want to touch it because he thought [Hillary Clinton] was winning because he read phony polls,” he added. “So, he thought she was going to win. And we had the silent majority that said, ‘No, we like Trump.’”

Obama responded to the meddling after the fact, through sanctions on Russians and Russian agencies involved and the expulsion of dozens of diplomats from the country.

The U.S. intelligence community has concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a cyber campaign in 2016 to interfere in the presidential election and it believes the IRA works at the direction of the Kremlin.

Robert Mueller’s Russia probe eventually led to Treasury Department sanctions in 2018 against the IRA, its financier, Russian businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, and nearly a dozen others for 2016 election interference.

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