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Russian spies in the U.S. collected encrypted FBI radio traffic in huge operation, but did they crack it?

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WASHINGTON — Russian spies in the U.S. conducted a massive operation to track and collect encrypted FBI radio traffic, but there is no evidence they ever cracked the codes and obtained the contents of the communications, two former senior FBI officials tell NBC News.

Nonetheless, the Russian intelligence success, first reported by Yahoo News, provided Vladimir Putin’s government unprecedented insights into the activities of secret FBI surveillance teams tracking Russian operatives in the U.S., the former officials said. The breach occurred sometime around 2010, and was well understood by 2012, the former officials said.

Much of the message traffic the Russians collected was processed in two Russian diplomatic facilities that the Obama administration closed in 2016, citing Russia’s interference in the presidential election.

“We knew that they were on to us in terms of radio traffic,” one former senior official told NBC News. “They had a huge effort they threw at it. But we never saw content.”

Yahoo News cited former officials who said the Russians had access to “likely the actual substance of FBI communications,” but the two former officials told NBC News they did not believe that to be true. The two former senior officials said they had seen nothing to suggest Russia successfully decoded encrypted U.S. government communications. Rather, the Russians were able to detect and locate secret FBI radio transmissions, they said.

“What they saw was traffic around certain meetings with people who were talking to them,” one former official said.

In some cases, the insights the Russians gleaned from the location and movements of FBI surveillance teams led them to stop meeting with sources in the U.S. the former official said.

The former official added that the FBI and CIA learned of the Russian success through some espionage successes of their own, which he declined to detail.

The Russian operation came at a time when the U.S. was developing its own capability to identify covert Russian communications. From March through May of 2010, FBI agents in New York were able to detect specialized encrypted communications sent from the laptop of a Russian spy, Anna Chapman, to a minivan driven by a Russian government official, according to her indictment.

Chapman was arrested along with nine other Russians, who were accused of acting as a network of sleeper agents sent to live in the U.S. under non-official cover. They were deported to Russia in a spy swap.

It was long known that the Russians were using their diplomatic compounds in Maryland and New York as listening posts, which is why the Obama administration seized them in December 2016, officials said. But the CIA and FBI also learned that wives of Russian diplomats were working in the facilities to process FBI radio traffic, said the former senior official, who had direct knowledge of the matter.

The news of the Russian success comes after revelations that the CIA’s method of communicating with its informants had been compromised.

NBC News and other organizations reported in 2018 that a secret FBI–CIA task force investigating the case of an American CIA officer spying for China concluded that the Chinese government penetrated the CIA’s method of clandestine communication with its spies, using that knowledge to arrest and execute at least 20 CIA informants, according to multiple current and former government officials.

Yahoo News then reported in November that Iran also had cracked the CIA’s covert communications system, resulting in a cascading crisis that put at risk foreigners around the world who had been recruited by the American spy agency to provide information.

Both of these matters are known to the Congressional oversight committees, officials tell NBC News, but since they are classified, there has been no public accountability.



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‘Every dirty trick in the BOOK!’ Voters DEMAND Corbyn disclose his leaked documents source

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FURIOUS voters have demanded Jeremy Corbyn reveal how he obtained Government documents he claimed proved Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal would lead to customs checks between the UK and Northern Ireland and that he would sell off the NHS in an exclusive poll after the Prime Minister branded the papers “nonsense”.

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Amid mounting pressure, Buttigieg calls on McKinsey consulting firm to release his past client list

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Pete Buttigieg on Friday called on McKinsey & Company, the international consulting firm where he worked for nearly three years, to release his list of clients at the company.

Buttigieg’s request for his former employer to release the list comes as pressure mounts on the 2020 Democratic candidate to be more transparent about his years at McKinsey, amid news stories about the consulting firm’s work with controversial clients like U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) — a federal agency that handles immigration enforcement and deportations.

In an interview with New Hampshire Public Radio on Friday, Buttigieg said he felt “that McKinsey should release the client list of the clients that I served.”

“It’s something they can do,” said the South Bend mayor, who worked at McKinsey from 2007-2010. Buttigeig explained that he’d signed a nondisclosure agreement at the firm under which “you promise to keep your client information confidential.”

“But right now I am calling on McKinsey to release that information. Maybe they’re not used to doing that, but they’re not used to having somebody who used to work there being seriously considered for the American presidency,” Buttigieg said. “This information should come up and I’m happy to speak to it when it does.”.

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Buttigieg’s latest comments came one day after The New York Times published an editorial calling on him to reveal more information about his time at McKinsey, including who his clients there were — either by way of having the company release him from his nondisclosure agreement, or by agreeing to a “more permissive” arrangement.

Earlier in the week, The Times reported on how McKinsey had advised the Trump administration on how to carry out its crackdown on immigrants, including providing guidance on “detention savings opportunities” that would help the agency save money by housing detainees in cheaper ways.

When asked by a reporter about Buttigieg’s work at McKinsey, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., one of Buttigieg’s main challengers for the Democratic nomination, was asked about the mayor’s involvement with McKinsey at an event Thursday night, chose to call out her rival for his private fundraising events, not specifically his time at the consulting company.

“I think that voters want to know about possible conflicts of interests,” she said. “It is even more important that the candidates expose possible conflicts of interests right now.”

In addition, four immigration advocacy groups have called on Buttigieg to return campaign contributions made by McKinsey employees.

Buttigieg, for his part, told New Hampshire Public Radio Friday that the reports of McKinsey’s dealings with ICE were “disgusting” and evidence of the “amoral turn of mind that increasingly dominates corporate America.”

Later Friday, during a discussion with New Hampshire voters, Buttigieg responded to a question about his time with McKinsey by saying that, “What I did at McKinsey was consulted for clients and my specialties including grocery pricing, and part of it is publicly available because I worked on a project to fight climate change that involved energy efficiency.”

In an interview with NBC News a day earlier, Buttigieg said he had no regrets about his time at McKinsey.

He responded “no,” when asked if he had regrets about representing any of his clients, about whether he’d ever represented a foreign government, and about whether he’d ever represented a pharmaceutical company.

He said his job at the firm “mostly consisted of preparing spreadsheets and PowerPoints.”

NBC News has reached out to McKinsey directly about Buttigieg’s work there.

Amanda Golden contributed.



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Brexit Party: Election candidate run off the road after death threats from far-left

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A BREXIT Party candidate who was sent sick death threats from far left activists was run off the road while campaigning in Doncaster.

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