CIA director brands WikiLeaks a ‘hostile intelligence service’

Mike Pompeo said WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange portrays himself as a crusader but in fact helps enemies of the United States, including Russia

Mike Pompeo, the director of the CIA, has branded WikiLeaks a “hostile intelligence service,” saying it threatens democratic nations and joins hands with dictators.

In his first public remarks since becoming chief of the US spy agency in February, Pompeo focused on the group and other leakers of classified information like Edward Snowden as one of the key threats facing the United States.

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“Mother of All Bombs” Never Used Before Due to Civilian Casualty Concerns

Fulfilling Donald Trump’s campaign promise to “bomb the shit” out of ISIS, the Pentagon dropped the “mother of all bombs” — one of its largest non-nuclear munitions — for the first time on Thursday, in Afghanistan. The 21,600 pound weapon was developed over a decade ago, but was never used due to concerns of possible massive civilian casualties.

The Pentagon said it used the weapon on an ISIS-affiliated group hiding in a tunnel complex in the Nangarhar province. The group, according to the Pentagon, is made up of former members of the Taliban.

The Massive Ordnance Air Blast Bomb (MOAB), nicknamed the “mother of all bombs,” has a mile-long blast radius.

When it first introduced the bomb, the Pentagon said it was designed to terrify America’s enemy into submission. “The goal is to have the capabilities of the coalition so clear and so obvious,” Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in 2003, “that there is an enormous disincentive for the Iraqi military to fight against the [invading] coalition.”

Thursday’s attack drew condemnation from Hamid Karzai, the U.S.-backed former president of Afghanistan. “This is not the war on terror,” he said, “but the inhuman and most brutal misuse of our country as testing ground for new and dangerous weapons.”

Marc Garlasco, a former senior targeting official in the Bush-era Pentagon, told The Intercept on Thursday that the weapon was never put to use “due to collateral damage concerns.”

Garlasco was the Pentagon’s chief of high-value targeting, and ran the intelligence cell whose goal was to “find, target, and kill Saddam Hussein.”

Marc Garlasco, a senior military analyst for the Human Rights Watch organization gestures as he speaks during a press conference in Jerusalem, Tuesday, June 30, 2009. Israeli soldiers' negligence when firing missiles from pilotless drones led to the unnecessary deaths of at least 29 civilians during the country's recent war in Gaza, Human Rights Watch charged in a report released Tuesday. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

Marc Garlasco, a senior military analyst for the Human Rights Watch organization gestures as he speaks during a press conference in Jerusalem, on June 30, 2009.

Photo: Sebastian Scheiner/AP

The Pentagon considered using the MOAB in Iraq in 2003, he said.

“We were going after a target, I would say, in a similar manner,” said Garlasco. “But the concern there was that once the weapon was put forward as an option, we reviewed it, did a collateral damage estimate, and well let’s just say the collateral damage was impressive. It was decided that the civilian harm greatly outweighed the military gain.”

Garlasco said the strike would have been in a “high-collateral region.” And he said that to his knowledge that was the only time the use of the MOAB was ever suggested.

“It’s got a huge blast radius. I mean, it’s beyond huge,” Garlasco said. “I’m sure the collateral damage estimate is going to be fairly extensive. And you’re not talking about just blast, and people within that blast, you have to consider secondary and tertiary effects of use of the weapon. So looking at things like: How does that affect the water supply to people? Is it going to destroy power within the area?”

Thursday’s bomb drop came a week after the death of Army Special Forces Sgt. Mark De Alencar, the first combat death in Afghanistan in 2017. Alencar was assisting Afghan forces in an operation against a local ISIS group when he was hit with small-arms fire, the Pentagon said.

While the MOAB strike has attracted far more media attention, the U.S. and Afghan government forces have killed increasing numbers of people lately. According to a U.N. report in February, airstrikes from the Afghan government forces and the U.S.-led coalition killed nearly 600 civilians — almost double the number in 2015 — and have been repeatedly accused of bombing residential areas.

Top photo: The MOAB, a precision-guided munition weighing 21,500 pounds, is prepared for testing at the Eglin Air Force Armament Center.

The post “Mother of All Bombs” Never Used Before Due to Civilian Casualty Concerns appeared first on The Intercept.

Trump picks the biggest bomb on the menu | The minute

Got a minute? Largest conventional warhead used for first time in Afghanistan … UK spies first flagged Trump camp interactions with Russia … and everything else today in US politics. By Tom McCarthy

10.03pm BST

The US dropped its largest non-nuclear bomb ever used in combat on Afghanistan. The military said it had targeted an Isis “tunnel complex” and that it took “every precaution to avoid civilian casualties” but did not describe those precautions.

Read Spencer Ackerman’s coverage

10.02pm BST

The attack was announced as the US admitted killing 18 fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces in a separate friendly-fire incident this week. Asked whether he had authorized the use of the giant GBU-43/B bomb, Donald Trump replied…

Assad: chemical attack ‘fabrication’

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Trump 90 Days Ago: “My People Will Have a Full Report on Hacking Within 90 Days!”

Exactly 90 days ago — on Friday, January 13 — Donald Trump, then president-elect, issued a series of tweets attacking the claims in former British MI6 officer Christopher Steele’s “dossier” that the Russian government had long been “cultivating, supporting and assisting” Trump.

Trump called the allegations “phony” and “totally made up” and pledged that “My people will have a full report on hacking within 90 days!”

No such full report has appeared, nor is there any evidence that any investigation by the Trump administration is currently underway — or was ever initiated.

Reached by phone, Senior Assistant White House Press Secretary Michael Short said, “I’m in the parking lot, I don’t have an update” on the promised report. Asked when he might be able to provide an update, Short repeated, “I’m in the parking lot.” Then he said “I’ve got to run” and hung up.

In fairness to Trump, he might have meant that his administration would produce a full report within 90 days of his inauguration.

That leaves them another week.

 

Top photo: President Donald Trump speaks at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla., on April 6, 2017.

The post Trump 90 Days Ago: “My People Will Have a Full Report on Hacking Within 90 Days!” appeared first on The Intercept.

Lawmakers Who Championed Repeal of Web Browsing Privacy Protections Raked in Telecom Campaign Cash

The two lawmakers most responsible for rolling back landmark internet browsing privacy protections were richly rewarded by telecommunication giants.

Congress voted last month to repeal privacy rules written by the Obama administration to prevent internet service providers from harvesting and selling users’ internet browsing history. The main — in fact only — constituency for the repeal was the telecom industry.

Verizon, AT&T, Cox Enterprises, the U.S. Telecom Association, and CTIA, the trade association for the major cell phone carriers, appeared to single out the original sponsors of the repeal resolution — Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn. — for particularly generous campaign contributions.

A Verizon political action committee filing shows that most lawmakers received between $500 and $1,000 from the firm during the first three months of this year. But Flake received $8,000 and Blackburn received $4,500.

Blackburn received $5,000 from the CTIA, the most of any House member. Speaker Paul Ryan only received $2,500 from the group during the same time period.

US Republican Senator from Arizona Jeff Flake speaks to reporters after a closed briefing by Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford at the Capitol in Washington, DC, on April 7, 2017 the day after the US hit Syria. / AFP PHOTO / NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

Republican Senator from Arizona Jeff Flake speaks to reporters after a closed briefing at the Capitol in Washington, on April 7, 2017.

Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

The U.S. Telecom Association, which includes CenturyLink and Verizon, also singled out Blackburn for more donations than any other lawmaker in the beginning of this year, providing $3,000 to her campaign account.

The repeal legislation passed both houses of Congress and was quietly signed by President Donald Trump.

Major telecom firms have already signaled their interest in breaking into the lucrative online advertising market, which analysts say is worth $83 billion.

The repeal of privacy protections incited anger on pro-Trump online forums, leaving many to wonder if Congress was simply acting in the interest of the telecom lobby.

“They betrayed you for chump change,” wrote the Verge’s T.C. Sottek, in a blog post highlighting the career donations from firms such as Comcast and AT&T to members of Congress.

A few progressive civil rights group opposed the privacy rule. As we previously reported, they were also recipients of telecom donations, and their decision to lobby against the FCC rule was organized by a group infamous for acting on behalf of the telecom industry.

Direct, reportable campaign donations are, of course, only one small way that major corporations secure their agenda in Washington. For instance, many large corporations provide campaign support to loyal politicians not through disclosed political action committees, but through campaign entities that are not required to disclose any donor information. Verizon or Comcast may donate several million dollars to a group like the American Action Network, which does not disclose donor information, that may spend an unlimited amount on behalf of politicians that are known to toe the line to the telecom industry legislative agenda. The revolving door between high-paying corporate jobs and Capitol Hill is also a powerful incentive for staffers and lawmakers.

Top photo: Rep. Marsha Blackburn is surrounded by reporters after leaving the office of Speaker of the House Paul Ryan at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, on March 23, 2017.

The post Lawmakers Who Championed Repeal of Web Browsing Privacy Protections Raked in Telecom Campaign Cash appeared first on The Intercept.