CIA chief: Russians will meddle in coming US election

Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo said in a BBC interview he remained “confident that America will be able to have a free and fair election” despite Russian interference. (Reuters)
Updated 30 January 2018

CIA chief: Russians will meddle in coming US election

WASHINGTON: Russian election interference has not stopped and Moscow can be expected to meddle in the 2018 US vote, Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo said in an interview released Monday.
“I haven’t seen a significant decrease in their activity,” Pompeo told the BBC of the Russians.
“I have every expectation that they will continue to try and do that, but I’m confident that America will be able to have a free and fair election (and) that we will push back in a way that is sufficiently robust that the impact they have on our election won’t be great.”
The leading US intelligence agencies concluded at the end of 2016 that Russian President Vladimir Putin had directed a broad intelligence effort to influence the presidential election that year to undermine the campaign of Democrat Hillary Clinton and boost Donald Trump’s chances.
That effort included hacking and releasing emails and documents from the Clinton campaign, filling social media with posts and “news” items aimed at discrediting her, as well as targeted voter-registration operations and election databases.
Trump has repeatedly dismissed the idea that Moscow helped him — and allegations his campaign colluded with the Russians — as “fake news.”
Pompeo, whom Trump appointed to the US spy agency, has deftly avoided that controversy while emphasizing he accepts the conclusions of his predecessor.
His interview came on the same day the Trump administration declined to impose new sanctions on Russia, the FBI’s number two stepped down after being involved in a probe into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia, and a Republican-led panel voted to release a memo claiming FBI abuses in the investigation.
Trump has accused Andrew McCabe, the FBI’s deputy director, of being a Democratic partisan.
In a party-line vote, the House Intelligence Committee voted to make publicly available a Republican-drafted classified memo that reportedly says the FBI abused a surveillance law when it used an opposition research dossier on Trump’s Russia ties as part of its probe.
But the panel also voted against releasing a competing memo written by Democrats.
The president now has five days to allow or object to releasing the Republican memo.
“Committee Republicans JUST voted to declassify their spin ‘memo’ and prohibit release of the Democratic response in what they claimed was ‘the interests of full transparency,’” the committee’s top Democrat, Representative Adam Schiff, tweeted.
“It was transparent alright — transparently cynical and destructive.”
Special prosecutor Robert Mueller is believed to be focusing on whether Trump illegally interfered with the Russia investigation, particularly when he fired FBI director James Comey last year.
Mueller, himself a former FBI director, is also examining the extent of communications between Russians and Trump campaign officials.
Three congressional committees have also been probing Russian meddling in US politics, though they come at a time of a toxic political environment in a sharply divided Congress.


Manchester bomber came to security service’s attention 18 times

Updated 59 min 4 sec ago

Manchester bomber came to security service’s attention 18 times

  • The security service had been informed twice of Abedi’s intentions to travel to Syria and his pro-Daesh extremist views
  • Abedi also visited convicted terrorist Abdalraouf Abdallah in British prisons twice

LONDON: The man responsible for the bombing of Manchester Arena in 2017, Salman Abedi, came to the attention of the UK’s domestic counter-intelligence and security service, MI5, at least 18 times, including for his links to Daesh fundraisers, UK daily The Times reported on Thursday.
The public inquiry into the bombing heard that Abedi, 22, had been flagged after associating with six MI5 subjects of interest (SOI), including a man previously linked to terrorist organization Al-Qaeda, who was under investigation for helping fundamentalists travel to Syria.
Abedi had also traveled to Istanbul, a city through which terrorists often travel on their way to Daesh territory, a year before he killed 22 people as they left the Manchester Arena.
The security service had also been informed twice of Abedi’s intentions to travel to Syria and his pro-Daesh extremist views. The information was disregarded after he did not travel to the country.
MI5 was also aware of the fact that one of Abedi’s contacts had links to a senior Daesh figure, The Times reported.
Lawyers representing the Home Office said that the decisions made in Abedi’s case were mostly “reasonable and understandable” after the families of victims asked why the police and MI5 had failed to take action that might have prevented the attack.
Home Office lawyer Cathryn McGahey said that the bomber came to MI5’s attention in 2010 and was made an SOI in 2014 because of his links to a Daesh recruiter. The case was closed that same year because there was “no intelligence indicating that he posed a threat to national security,” The Times reported.
The security service admitted that information had come to its attention in mid-2016 that led it to consider reopening the case, but a meeting to consider the step was scheduled on a date after the attack had taken place.
The bomber had also appeared on MI5’s radar on other occasions for his links to suspects affiliated with Daesh in Libya and his multiple trips to that country. However, the security services decided that this was not suspicious behavior, as Abedi had family there. 
Abedi also visited convicted terrorist Abdalraouf Abdallah in British prisons twice, once in February 2015 and again in January 2017.
The inquiry also heard that intelligence was received by MI5 twice in the lead-up to the attack, but that it was dismissed as relating to “possibly innocent activity” or to “non-terrorist criminality.” While the intelligence was relevant to the Manchester attack, its significance was not fully appreciated.
McGahey said there were “enormous challenges in assessing intelligence, trying to work out what the risk is, who poses the greatest risk and seeking to predict what individuals are intending to do next,” and said that even if MI5 had taken different decisions in the months before the attack it still may not have stopped Abedi from carrying out the bombing.