Hitting Putin Where It Hurts

But the prime minister should have gone in harder. If she really wanted to teach Russia a lesson, she should have announced measures allowing her government to scrutinize the billions of dollars invested in Britain by Russian oligarchs and their associates, some of whom have criminal or intelligence backgrounds. This kind of transparency would hit President Vladimir Putin and his allies where it hurts most: their bank accounts.

To this day, anybody from Mexican cartels to Saudi arms dealers to Russian oligarchs (and even American real estate magnates) can invest money in Britain through anonymous companies registered in Crown Overseas Territories like the British Virgin Islands. In London’s central borough of Westminster alone, some 10,000 apartments and houses are owned by companies whose proprietors are entirely unknown to the government.

.. In 2016, Mrs. May’s predecessor, David Cameron, was preparing legislationto force anonymous companies to reveal their real owners. Then he lost the referendum on Britain’s membership in the European Union.

.. Mrs. May probably has her reasons for not going forward with the law. She is the country’s weakest prime minister to assume office since World War II. Brexit has not only polarized public opinion but also created bitter divisions in her cabinet, and several ministers are open about their desire to take her place.

Because of this, she has had to handle the relationship with Russia after the murder attempt with great care. If she gets it wrong, her already enfeebled administration could collapse.

.. Mr. Putin may have realized how weak Mrs. May is, which is why he would decide to act now to take revenge on a man he sees as a traitor and to cause Britain new headaches.
Russia’s motivation is understandable. Its economy faces serious structural problems, including a dangerous overreliance on oil and gas. At the same time, business leaders are worried about the country’s long-term demographic decline. Mr. Putin seeks to bolster his domestic popularity by looking powerful as he sows discord with the West.
.. The government is reaping the dubious rewards of having opened the City of London since the late 1990s to foreign capital with no questions asked about its origin.
 The initial aim of this permissive approach was to persuade investors that London — rather than New York — was best suited to be the world’s financial capital. Among the many to take advantage of the light-touch regulations were oligarchs, spies and gangsters.
.. Russian oligarchs have made an indelible mark on London. Some own newspapers, others our most successful soccer clubs, while many more own huge chunks of high-end property in the most fashionable parts of the capital.
.. And some of those characters are close collaborators and friends of President Putin.
.. If Mrs. May is convinced that Russia is behind this attack, then she needs to devise a way of getting to President Putin’s friends and collaborators. And that means great transparency. She should reintroduce the stalled proposal to force anonymous companies to reveal the sources of their cash.

Donald Trump laughed when Rodrigo Duterte called the media ‘spies.’ Not good.

When they finally got into the room, reporters asked questions of the two leaders regarding Duterte’s controversial human rights record and whether Trump would raise it with him. Here’s what happened next:
Duterte: “We will be discussing matters that are of interest to both the Philippines and … with you around, guys, you are the spies.”
“Hah, hah, hah,” Trump said laughing.
“You are,” Duterte repeated.
Um, what?
Even after his meeting with Duterte, Trump — in an open session of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meeting — seemed entirely unfazed by his colleague’s view on the press. He thanked Duterte “very much for the way you treated all of us.”

Former Trump Aide Carter Page Was on U.S. Counterintelligence Radar Before Russia Dossier

Court documents, testimony show foreign-policy adviser was known to authorities as early as 2013

Carter Page, who served as a foreign-policy adviser to Donald Trump’s campaign, was known to U.S. counterintelligence officials for years before he became a prominent figure in a dossier of unverified research about the future president’s ties to Russia.

What prompted the FBI to suspect that Mr. Page was acting as an agent of Russia?
.. the former Trump aide has been known to U.S. counterintelligence officials dating back to at least 2013, nearly three years before he joined the Trump campaign.
.. Mr. Page’s dealings with Russia date back to more than a decade before Mr. Trump ran for president and his opponents began crafting the dossier.For three years, starting in 2004, Mr. Page was living in Moscow, where he opened an office for the investment banking firm Merrill Lynch & Co. He also served as an adviser on “key transactions” involving the Russian state-owned energy company PAO Gazprom and RAO UES, the Russian state-controlled electricity monopoly, according to Mr. Page’s biography.
.. In January 2013, Mr. Page was in New York at an Asia Society event on China and energy development, when he met Victor Podobnyy, a junior attaché at the Russian consulate in New York City who was in the audience
..  March 2013, Mr. Page met with Mr. Podobnyy again over coffee or a Coke, he told the House panel in his testimony. Mr. Page, asked why he had sought out Mr. Podobnyy a second time, said he wanted to practice his Russian.
.. He was interviewed by FBI counterintelligence agent Gregory Monaghan and another FBI agent, who were investigating whether Mr. Podobnyy was a Russian intelligence agent
.. In 2015, Mr. Podobnyy was charged with posing as a U.N. attaché under diplomatic cover while trying to recruit Mr. Page as a Russian intelligence source.
.. The criminal complaint filed by U.S. federal prosecutors alleged Mr. Podobnyy was an agent for the SVR, Russia’s foreign intelligence service. The complaint also detailed Mr. Podobnyy’s discussion in April 2013 with Igor Sporyshev, a second alleged SVR agent posing as a Russian trade representative, about efforts to recruit “a male working as a consultant in New York City.” Mr. Podobnyy was afforded diplomatic immunity and left the country.
.. Mr. Page had provided the Russians with documents, which Mr. Page said were “nothing more than a few samples from the more detailed lectures” he was preparing for a course he was teaching at New York University at the time.
.. Over the course of the campaign, Mr. Page traveled to Russia at least twice and kept top Trump campaign advisers abreast of his travels
.. In the speech, he criticized the U.S. and European states for their behavior toward states of the former Soviet Union for their “often hypocritical focus on ideas such as democratization, inequality, corruption and regime change.”
.. He declined to answer questions after the speech about U.S. politics, saying that the purpose of his speech was academic, and refused to meet with reporters, leaving the auditorium through an exit backstage.
.. Mr. Page told the House that while in Moscow, he “briefly said hello” to Arkady Dvorkovich, deputy prime minister of Russia, and met with Andrey Baranov, head of investor relations at Russian oil giant PAO Rosneft... Before hiring Mr. Steele, the firm’s research had been paid for by a conservative news outlet that opposed Mr. Trump. 
.. Mr. Page’s name surfaced repeatedly in the fall of 2016 in classified briefings given to high-level members of Congress, according to people familiar with the matter. That was around the same time the FBI and the Justice Department were applying for a surveillance warrant against Mr. Page in the FISA court.

Foreign spies are watching — and probably targeting — Fox News Channel

So if I were a spymaster in the employ of a hostile foreign service, I’d devote some significant effort to penetrating one specific private institution: Fox News Channel.

.. It’s no secret that Fox News — specifically, shows such as “Hannity,” “Fox & Friends,” “Tucker Carlson Tonight” and “Justice with Judge Jeanine” — have outsize influence on the inner workings of how certain policies are carried out by the U.S. government.

.. Mediate recently argued that the most influential people working in the media today are “Fox & Friends” hosts Steve Doocy, Brian Kilmeade and Ainsley Earhardt, because “they have captured the President’s attention — which often then gets tweeted and covered by the media — the topics they cover essentially set the national agenda for the rest of the day.”

.. When Fox News broadcasts, the president often reacts impulsively. His tweet threatening North Korea with his “Nuclear Button” at 7:49 p.m. last Tuesday appeared to have been spurredby a Fox News segment on the very same topic that occurred 12 minutes beforehand

.. The Kremlin has indicated that Russian President Vladimir Putin reads Trump’s tweets and views them as official White House statements. Pakistan recently summoned the U.S. ambassador in Islamabad to account for Trump’s tweet bashing what he called the country’s “lies & deceit.”

.. Trump’s unfiltered Twitter feed provides world intelligence operatives with “a real-time glimpse of a major world leader’s preoccupations, personality quirks and habits of mind” — traits to be exploited in further dealings on the global stage.

.. A truly aggressive intelligence effort would not just monitor what’s being said on the network. It would target the on-air talent, as well as the folks behind the scenes who make the network’s programming possible: producers, bookers, associate producers, production assistants and the like.

..  Trump reportedly calls Sean Hannity after his show. If hostile foreign services compromise Hannity’s phone (or place a listening device in the room where Hannity takes his private calls), that could provide real-time intelligence on the American president and his thoughts.

.. For Russian intelligence, a systematic effort to threaten, coerce and co-opt journalists is a decades-old practice.

.. Kalugin wrote that the KGB’s Tumanov helped spread rumors and disinformation within Radio Liberty for years, turning staff against each other and identifying further potential targets for recruitment. He even had a hand in the bombing of Radio Liberty’s headquarters in Munich in 1981.

.. Compared to government workers, Fox employees would make easy targets.

.. Also, it’s television — full of trade secrets, big personalities and titanic egos. Most wouldn’t expect to be compromised by a hostile intelligence power, especially on American soil.

.. Few, if any, have the sort of counterintelligence training the U.S. government administers to people in sensitive positions

.. One of the major rationales for Putin’s behavior is to cause chaos, ultimately weakening and undermining his American adversaries. It’s his real long game.

 

Making China Great Again

As Donald Trump surrenders America’s global commitments, Xi Jinping is learning to pick up the pieces.

The hero, Leng Feng, played by the action star Wu Jing (who also directed the film), is a veteran of the “wolf warriors,” special forces of the People’s Liberation Army. In retirement, he works as a guard in a fictional African country, on the frontier of China’s ventures abroad. A rebel army, backed by Western mercenaries, attempts to seize power, and the country is engulfed in civil war. Leng shepherds civilians to the gates of the Chinese Embassy, where the Ambassador wades into the battle and declares, “Stand down! We are Chinese! China and Africa are friends.” The rebels hold their fire, and survivors are spirited to safety aboard a Chinese battleship.

.. For decades, Chinese nationalism revolved around victimhood: the bitter legacy of invasion and imperialism, and the memory of a China so weak that, at the end of the nineteenth century, the philosopher Liang Qichao called his country “the sick man of Asia.” “Wolf Warrior II” captures a new, muscular iteration of China’s self-narrative, much as Rambo’s heroics expressed the swagger of the Reagan era.

.. “In the past, all of our movies were about, say, the Opium Wars—how other countries waged war against China,” he said. “But Chinese people have always wanted to see that our country could, one day, have the power to protect its own people and contribute to peace in the world.”

.. For years, China’s leaders predicted that a time would come—perhaps midway through this century—when it could project its own values abroad. In the age of “America First,” that time has come far sooner than expected.

.. Trump often portrays America’s urgent task as one of survival. As he put it during the campaign, “At what point do you say, ‘Hey, we have to take care of ourselves’? So, you know, I know the outer world exists and I’ll be very cognizant of that, but, at the same time, our country is disintegrating.”
.. China’s approach is more ambitious. In recent years, it has taken steps to accrue national power on a scale that no country has attempted since the Cold War, by increasing its investments in the types of assets that established American authority in the previous century: foreign aid, overseas security, foreign influence, and the most advanced new technologies, such as artificial intelligence.
.. It has become one of the leading contributors to the U.N.’s budget and to its peacekeeping force, and it has joined talks to address global problems such as terrorism, piracy, and nuclear proliferation.
.. This was an ironic performance—for decades, China has relied on protectionism—but Trump provided an irresistible opening. China is negotiating with at least sixteen countries to form the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, a free-trade zone that excludes the United States, which it proposed in 2012 as a response to the T.P.P. If the deal is signed next year, as projected, it will create the world’s largest trade bloc, by population.
.. By setting more of the world’s rules, China hopes to “break the Western moral advantage,” which identifies “good and bad” political systems
.. Meng Hongwei, a Chinese vice-minister of public security, became the first Chinese president of Interpol, the international police organization; the move alarmed human-rights groups, because Interpol has been criticized for helping authoritarian governments target and harass dissidents and pro-democracy activists abroad.

.. Moreover, China’s economic path is complicated by heavy debts, bloated state-owned enterprises, rising inequality, and slowing growth. The workers who once powered China’s boom are graying.

.. In 2000, the U.S. accounted for thirty-one per cent of the global economy, and China accounted for four per cent. Today, the U.S.’s share is twenty-four per cent and China’s fifteen per cent.

.. in the past we were used to going to the White House to get our work done,” Shivshankar Menon, India’s former foreign secretary and national-security adviser to the Prime Minister, told me. “Now we go to the corporations, to Congress, to the Pentagon, wherever.”

.. everybody else in the world will look around and say, I want to be friends with both the U.S. and the Chinese—and the Chinese are ready, and I’ll start with them.”

.. He presented China as “a new option for other countries,” calling this alternative to Western democracy the zhongguo fang’an, the “Chinese solution.”

.. The state press ran a profile of Xi that was effusive even by the standards of the form, depicting him as an “unrivalled helmsman,” whose “extensive knowledge of literature and the arts makes him a consummate communicator in the international arena.”

.. Xi has inscribed on his country a rigid vision of modernity. A campaign to clean up “low-end population” has evicted migrant workers from Beijing, and a campaign against dissent has evicted the most outspoken intellectuals from online debate.

.. Foreign universities with programs in China, such as Duke, have been advised that they must elevate a Communist Party secretary to a decision-making role on their local boards of trustees.

.. The Party is encouraging dark imaginings about the outside world: posters warn the public to “protect national secrets” and to watch out for “spies.”

.. Last June, Yao Chen, one of China’s most popular actresses, received a barrage of criticism online after she tried to raise awareness of the global refugee crisis. (She was forced to clarify that she was not calling for China to accept refugees.)

.. In Rao’s view, Trump’s “America First” slogan is an honest declaration, a realist vision stripped of false altruism and piety.

.. “In this world, power speaks,” he said, making a fist, a gesture that Trump adopted in his Inauguration speech and Xi displayed in a photo taken at the start of his new term.

.. “I think Trump is America’s Gorbachev.” In China, Mikhail Gorbachev is known as the leader who led an empire to collapse. “The United States will suffer,” he warned.

.. In 1991, when Bush, Sr., launched the war against Iraq, it got thirty-four countries to join the war effort. This time, if Trump launched a war against anyone, I doubt he would get support from even five countries.

.. For Chinese leaders, Yan said, “Trump is the biggest strategic opportunity.” I asked Yan how long he thought the opportunity would last. “As long as Trump stays in power,” he replied.

.. When Trump won, the Party “was in a kind of shock,”

.. “They feared that he was their mortal enemy.” The leadership drafted potential strategies for retaliation, including threatening American companies in China and withholding investment from the districts of influential members of Congress.

.. Before he entered the White House, China started assembling a playbook for dealing with him.

.. “China knows Trump can be unpredictable, so we have weapons to make him predictable, to contain him. He would trade Taiwan for jobs.”

.. there were two competing strategies on China. One, promoted by Stephen Bannon, then the chief strategist, wanted the President to take a hard line, even at the risk of a trade war. Bannon often described China as a “civilizational challenge.” The other view was associated with Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, who had received guidance from Henry Kissinger and met repeatedly with the Chinese Ambassador, Cui Tiankai. Kushner argued for a close, collegial bond between Xi and Trump, and he prevailed.

.. While Xi was at the resort, the Chinese government approved three trademark applications from Ivanka’s company, clearing the way for her to sell jewelry, handbags, and spa services in China.

.. During the transition, Kushner dined with Chinese business executives while the Kushner Companies was seeking their investment in a Manhattan property.

.. In May, Kushner’s sister, Nicole Kushner Meyer, was found to have mentioned his White House position while she courted investors during a trip to China.

.. During the Mar-a-Lago meetings, Chinese officials noticed that, on some of China’s most sensitive issues, Trump did not know enough to push back.

.. “Trump is taking what Xi Jinping says at face value—on Tibet, Taiwan, North Korea,”

.. “The Chinese felt like they had Trump’s number,” he said. “Yes, there is this random, unpredictable Ouija-board quality to him that worries them, and they have to brace for some problems, but, fundamentally, what they said was ‘He’s a paper tiger.’ Because he hasn’t delivered on any of his threats. There’s no wall on Mexico. There’s no repeal of health care. He can’t get the Congress to back him up. He’s under investigation.”

.. a Beijing think tank, published an analysis of the Trump Administration, describing it as a den of warring “cliques,” the most influential of which was the “Trump family clan.”

.. The Trump clan appears to “directly influence final decisions” on business and diplomacy in a way that “has rarely been seen in the political history of the United States,” the analyst wrote. He summed it up using an obscure phrase from feudal China: jiatianxia—“to treat the state as your possession.”

Harvey Weinstein’s Army of Spies

The film executive hired private investigators, including ex-Mossad agents, to track actresses and journalists.

The same operative, using a different false identity and implying that she had an allegation against Weinstein, met twice with a journalist to find out which women were talking to the press

.. In other cases, journalists directed by Weinstein or the private investigators interviewed women and reported back the details.

The explicit goal of the investigations, laid out in one contract with Black Cube, signed in July, was to stop the publication of the abuse allegations against Weinstein that eventually emerged in the New York Times and The New Yorker.

.. He also enlisted former employees from his film enterprises to join in the effort, collecting names and placing calls that, according to some sources who received them, felt intimidating.

.. In some cases, the investigative effort was run through Weinstein’s lawyers, including David Boies

.. Boies personally signed the contract directing Black Cube to attempt to uncover information that would stop the publication of a Times story about Weinstein’s abuses, while his firm was also representing the Times, including in a libel case.

.. Boies said that his firm’s involvement with the investigators was a mistake. “We should not have been contracting with and paying investigators that we did not select and direct,” he told me. “At the time, it seemed a reasonable accommodation for a client, but it was not thought through, and that was my mistake. It was a mistake at the time.”

.. because such relationships are often run through law firms, the investigations are theoretically protected by attorney-client privilege, which could prevent them from being disclosed in court. The documents and sources reveal the tools and tactics available to powerful individuals to suppress negative stories and, in some cases, forestall criminal investigations.

.. In a statement, Weinstein’s spokesperson, Sallie Hofmeister, said, “It is a fiction to suggest that any individuals were targeted or suppressed at any time.”

.. Ben Wallace, a reporter at New York who was pursuing a story on Weinstein, said that the same woman met with him twice last fall.

.. Over the course of the two meetings, Wallace grew increasingly suspicious of her motives. Anna seemed to be pushing him for information

.. During their second meeting, Anna requested that they sit close together, leading Wallace to suspect that she might be recording the exchange. When she recounted her experiences with Weinstein, Wallace said, “it seemed like soap-opera acting.”

.. Last fall, Weinstein began mentioning Black Cube by name in conversations with his associates and attorneys. The agency had made a name for itself digging up information for companies in Israel, Europe, and the U.S

.. they originally believed that the assignment focussed on his business rivals

.. Boies’s law firm, Boies Schiller Flexner, wired to Black Cube the first hundred thousand dollars, toward what would ultimately be a six-hundred-thousand-dollar invoice.

.. the project’s “primary objectives” are to “provide intelligence which will help the Client’s efforts to completely stop the publication of a new negative article in a leading NY newspaper” and to “obtain additional content of a book which currently being written and includes harmful negative information on and about the Client,”

.. “a dedicated team of expert intelligence officers .. including a project manager, intelligence analysts, linguists, and “Avatar Operators” specifically hired to create fake identities on social media, as well as “operations experts with extensive experience in social engineering.”

.. After Ambra Battilana Gutierrez, an Italian model, accused Weinstein of sexually assaulting her, in 2015, she reached a settlement with Weinstein that required her to surrender all her personal devices to Kroll, so that they could be wiped of evidence of a conversation in which Weinstein admitted to groping her.

.. Los Angeles-based psops, and its lead private investigator, Jack Palladino, as well as another one of its investigators, Sara Ness, produced detailed profiles of various individuals in the saga, sometimes of a personal nature, which included information that could be used to undermine their credibility.

.. Ness sent to Weinstein last December ran for more than a hundred pages and featured McGowan’s address and other personal information, along with sections labelled “Lies/Exaggerations/Contradictions,” “Hypocrisy,” and “Potential Negative Character Wits,” an apparent abbreviation of “witnesses.” One subhead read “Past Lovers.” The section included details of acrimonious breakups, mentioning Avellan, and discussed Facebook posts expressing negative sentiments about McGowan.

.. Other firms were also involved in assembling such profiles, including ones that focussed on factors that, in theory, might make women likely to speak out against sexual abuse.

.. “Our research did not yield any promising avenues for the personal impeachment of Moss.”

.. psops also profiled Wallace’s ex-wife, noting that she “might prove relevant to considerations of our response strategy when Wallace’s article on our client is finally published.”

.. For years, Weinstein had used private security agencies to investigate reporters. In the early aughts, as the journalist David Carr, who died in 2015, worked on a report on Weinstein for New York, Weinstein assigned Kroll to dig up unflattering information about him

.. In one document, Weinstein’s investigators wrote that Carr had learned of McGowan’s allegation in the course of his reporting. Carr “wrote a number of critical/unflattering articles about HW over the years,” the document says, “none of which touched on the topic of women (due to fear of HW’s retaliation, according to HW).”

.. From the beginning, he said, he advised Weinstein “that the story could not be stopped by threats or influence and that the only way the story could be stopped was by convincing the Times that there was no rape.”

.. “If evidence could be uncovered to convince the Times the charges should not be published, I did not believe, and do not believe, that that would be averse to the Times’ interest.”

.. He conceded, however, that any efforts to profile and undermine reporters, at the Times and elsewhere, were problematic. “In general, I don’t think it’s appropriate to try to pressure reporters,” he said. “If that did happen here, it would not have been appropriate.”

.. Of his representation of Weinstein in general, he said, “I don’t believe former lawyers should criticize former clients.” But he expressed regrets. “Although he vigorously denies using physical force, Mr. Weinstein has himself recognized that his contact with women was indefensible and incredibly hurtful,” Boies told me. “In retrospect, I knew enough in 2015 that I believe I should have been on notice of a problem, and done something about it. I don’t know what, if anything, happened after 2015, but to the extent it did, I think I have some responsibility.

.. In the middle of the meeting, Weinstein asked Lubell if they could have a private conversation in his office. Lubell told me that a lawyer working with Weinstein was already there, along with Doyle Chambers. Weinstein asked if Lubell and Doyle Chambers could write a “fun book on the old times, the heyday, of Miramax.” “Pam,” she recalled him saying, “write down all the employees that you know, and can you get in touch with them?”

.. she knew that Weinstein “was a bully and a cheater,” she “never thought he was a predator.”