The New Yorker has fired up and coming journalist Ryan Lizza – the guy who published the full transcript of his call with very brief Trump admin comms director Anthony Scaramucci, in which he famously said “I’m not Steve Bannon, I’m not trying to suck my own cock,” among other things.Comments »
Monthly Archives: December 2017
In what may be the largest overstatement of a public official’s net worth in history, Forbes claims that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross Jr. flat out lied about being worth $3.7 billion, and the former Rothschild banker and investor has less than $700 million in assets.
In an article to be published in the December 12 issue of Forbes, journalist Dan Alexander performed a deep-dive into disclosure forms filed by Ross, which revealed a net worth of under $700 million, putting the Commerce Secretary at serious risk of removal from the coveted Forbes 400 list . The 79-year-old Ross didn’t take the news sitting down – claiming he transferred over $2 billion into family trusts “between the election and the nomination.”
“As long as you explain that the reason is that assets were put into trust, I’m fine with that,” Ross told Forbes.
Forbes then spent the next month digging for the truth about Ross’ missing $2 billion, only to come to the following conclusion: “That money never existed. It seems clear that Ross lied to us, the latest in an apparent sequence of fibs, exaggerations, omissions, fabrications and whoppers that have been going on with Forbes since 2004.”
It was 2004 when Ross first appeared on the Forbes 400 list, with a net worth listed at $1 billion – an amount Forbes claims was around four times the real figure.
“I told him we’re going to start him at $1 billion,” added the reporter, who no longer works at Forbes . “And he said ‘Yep, fine, thank you.’ ”
“Everyone that I knew that worked with Wilbur knew it wasn’t true,” says a former colleague of Ross. A legend was born, and like most legends, this one had its roots in a myth. –Forbes
In 2015, Ross sent Forbes a detailed list of holdings for the Forbes 400 list, noting $1.1 billion in municipal bonds, $1.25 billion in partnership interests, $500 million in equities, $200 million in art, $110 million in real estate and $200 million in cash – for a total of $3.4 billion. Forbes felt the figure was bogus, but listed him at $2.9 billion, where he currently sits – perhaps for not much longer.
Former associates and employees of Ross were apparently well aware of Ross’ overinflated pocketbook. When Ross took the job as Trump’s Commerce Secretary, one ex-employee stated “It was surprising because he would have to reveal to the world that he wasn’t a billionaire,” adding “I was surprised that he would take that risk.”
“Wilbur doesn’t have an issue with bending the truth,” according to Forbes contact David Wax, who worked alongside Ross for 25 years and served as the No. 3 person in his firm. Another former colleague, who requested anonymity, was less circumspect: “He’s lied to a lot of people.”
Known as the “King of Bankruptcy,” Ross took a job at the Rothschild investment – pocketing nearly $6 million a year by the early 1990s and helping the bank raise $200 million for an internal private equity fund that would leverage his bankruptcy experience to identify, restructure and flip companies in financial trouble.
Three years later in 2000, Ross bought the fund out and named it after himself. Two years after that, his firm invested in a bankrupt steel company, LTV, which had gotten itself into trouble after overextending itself with a $1.2 billion investment into new plants while having to lay off 7,500 union employees and face a $3.4 billion pension burden. Ross turned the company around and flipped the company to Indian billionaire Lakshmi MIttal in 2005 for around $4.5 billion cash and stock.
That looked great on paper, however Forbes determined that Ross’s cut was an estimated $260 million – far less than the $1 billion needed to be on the Forbes 400 list.
In the ensuing years, Ross raised a $1.1 billion investment fund and sold WL Ross & Co to Invesco for $100 million up front plus a $275 million optional payment depending on how much money Ross could raise. With a fire lit under him, Ross raised $4.1 billion in 2007 – putting about $70 million of his own money into that and another fund, according to three former employees.
Forbes says Ross lied to them in 2007, listing his net worth at $1.7 billion when it was most likely around $400 million.
That wasn’t enough. “I would say the total now is a bit more than $2 billion,” Ross wrote in a 2011 email, according to notes taken at the time. In 2013, a different Forbes reporter realized that prior estimates seemed to include not just Ross’ money but that of the investors in his funds. Ross strung us along, leading us to believe he would provide evidence of his assets, but never did. Just months later, he was insisting that he was even richer, and Forbes continued to largely fall for it. “2.75 [billion] is a bit low but probably close enough,” he wrote in an email around the start of 2014. In September, he was arguing for a valuation of $3.45 billion but begrudgingly accepted a smaller figure: “3.1 [billion] is low, but I understand why you wish to be conservative.” -Forbes
In 2010, Ross opened a new private equity fund, hoping to raise $4 billion in the wake of the financial crisis. After two years, he was able to raise just $640 million, while telling the media he had raised $2.2 billion by including assets which came from other funds or accounts that paid virtually no fees. Invesco clarified the matter on an earnings call.
Then, in 2016, Invesco-owned WL Ross settled charges related to fund transparency amid claims that the firm had overcharged investors between 2001 and 2011, paying a $2.3 million fine. Invesco also paid an additional $43 million in reimbursements and regulatory expenses incurred over the previous two years. While public filings don’t explicitly mention WL Ross, four former employees told Forbes they were all tied to Wilbur Ross’ firm.
Several former employees have also gone after Ross for various allegations. Via Forbes:
In 2012, Ross’ longtime No. 2, David Storper, left the firm but said he retained interests in many of the funds. Three years later, Storper alleged in a lawsuit that the firm sent him inaccurate financial information after his departure and that Wilbur Ross stole his interests outright. Ross denied the allegations, and the lawsuit remains ongoing. A few years earlier, a vice chairman of WL Ross sued Wilbur Ross for more than $20 million, alleging that Ross tried to cut him out of interest and fees he had been promised. The parties had reached a settlement by 2007, which former employees say cost about $10 million.
The Storper case has other ex-employees looking back to be sure they were sent proper information. Joseph Mullin, a former member of WL Ross’ 15-person investment team, filed his own suit against WL Ross & Co., also alleging that Ross took his interests after he left. The firm filed a motion to dismiss in February, but the case remains active. A third ex-colleague, who is not in litigation, argues that Ross’ tactics went beyond hard-nosed negotiating: “Everybody does some cheating, everybody does some lying. Not everybody steals from their employees.”
So when Ross told Forbes that he transferred $2 billion in assets to a family trust, bringing his publicly disclosed net worth to under $700 million, Forbes had questions. Why would Ross have done this, triggering over $800 million in gift taxes – right before President Trump might be eliminating the estate tax?
After an October 16 report in Forbes detailing questions over Ross’ finances, six Senate Democrats wrote a letter to Trump’s top ethics official, asking him to figure out what was going on with Ross’ finances. “It is imperative that Congress and the Office of Government Ethics know the full extent of Mr. Ross’s holdings to ensure he is not putting personal gain ahead of the interests of the American people,” the letter read.
And after the Department of Commerce issued a statement saying the $2 billion gift never happened, Forbes points out:
The only problem with that statement: The person who told Forbes that the transfer had taken place, that it had happened after the election and that it had meant more than $2 billion of family assets weren’t on the disclosure was none other than the sitting secretary of commerce, Wilbur Ross.Comments »
A 19 year old Chicago woman who live-streamed the racially charged kidnapping, torture and mutilation of a mentaly disabled teen was given 200 hours of community service and four years of probation on Friday.
Brittany Herring Covington – who went by “Herring” on Social Media before her arreest, and “Covington” in recent reports, avoided a possible 33 years in prison on multiple counts, including a hate crime, aggravated battery and aggravated kidnapping – a charge which was dropped along with several others as part of a plea agreement.
Cook County Circuit Judge William Hooks handed down the slap on the wrist to Covington, who pleaded guilty to a hate crime, aggravated battery and intimidation charges – telling the teen that he could have sent her to prison, but told her “I’m not sure if I did that you’d be coming out any better.”
Hooks warned Covington that should she violate the terms of her probation – which includes a ban from social media for four years, she would face prison time. As part of the plea deal, prosecutors agreed to drop additional charges including kidnapping.
“Do not mess this up,” Judge Hooks said to Covington, who stood in front of him in a blue jumpsuit. Hooks is notably the first African-American president of Chicago’s Federal Bar Association, a past president of the Cook County Bar Association, and a member of the Muslim Bar Association of Chicago.
The brutal attack took place in early January, after four black Chicago teens kidnapped the mentally disabled white teen and held him captive for nearly two days – binding his hands and feet with duct tape and gagging him with a sock, before using a knife to cut and stab the victim while laughing, shouting racial slurs and issuing death threats. In one segment of the livestreamed attack, one of the females can be seen laughing as she punches the victim. At another point, one of the male attackers wraps a cord around the victim’s neck while he groaned in pain, and in another a male approaches the victim with a knife and asks the others “Should I shank his ass?” Other notable quotes include:
“Fuck Donald Trump, Fuck white people”
“There’s gonna be a murder. Pop pop pop”
“We gonna put this bitch in the trunk, put a brick on the gas, like aaaaaaaaah”
“Pistol whip his ass, fool“
After nearly 48 hours, the kidnapped teen escaped after the kidnappers left the apartment to confront a neighbor who had called 911 to complain about the noise coming out of their apartment where the torture was taking place.
The video, which can be seen here, or here immediately went viral. After the teens were arrested, Chicago PD initially said it was not racially motivated, despite it clearly being a hate crime. Jordan Hill, 18, of Carpentersville; Tesfaye Cooper, 18, of Chicago; and Brittany Herring’s sister Tanishia, 24, were each charged with aggravated kidnapping, hate crimes, aggravated unlawful restraint and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.
After her arrest, Brittany Herring Covington bragged on Facebook from a smart phone she was able to sneak into jail, posting “yall mad?” and “Sittin in dis cell on my celly talking to yall trippin. Erbody got phones in her these day,” and typing “Tfse” which stands for “The Funniest Shit Ever.”
And for her participation in the brutal crime, Herring-Covington only received 200 hours of community service and four years of probation. Meanwhile, a Broward County, Florida man who vandalized a Mosque and left bacon inside was sentenced to 15 years in prison last week.
The three other kidnappers charged along with Herring-Covington are still awaiting trial. Perhaps Judge Hooks will give them the key to the city.
Originally published by ZeroHedgeComments »
Comey Outs Himself As Pseudo-Intellectual Trying To Troll Trump, Attributes Snooty Quote To Wrong Author
As we previously reported, James Comey has been quite the chatterbox on Twitter since revealing his new @Comey handle – firing off tweets about nature scenes, bible quotes, social gatherings, and recently quoting himself – proclaiming how ‘honest’ and ‘strong’ the FBI is despite what seem to be daily revelations of the agency’s political bias. He’s quite the intellectual!
“I want the American people to know this truth: The FBI is honest. The FBI is strong. And the FBI is, and always will be, independent.”
Me (June 8, 2017) pic.twitter.com/OZ1ZiBrMNL
— James Comey (@Comey) December 3, 2017
Here’s Comey, deep in intellectual thought…
Goodbye Iowa. On the road home. Gotta get back to writing. Will try to tweet in useful ways. pic.twitter.com/DCbu3Yvqt3
— James Comey (@Comey) October 23, 2017
And here’s a picture of a river which Comey tweets along with a quote about – get this – lying:
“If you want truth to go round the world you must hire an express train to pull it; but if you want a lie to go round the world, it will fly; it is light as a feather and a breath will carry it.” Rev. Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1855). pic.twitter.com/YZf4q88wyi
— James Comey (@Comey) November 11, 2017
And last week, Comey threw around bible verse Amos 5:24, “But justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” Kind of ironic for a guy who couldn’t wait for “justice” to roll down before drafting Hillary Clinton’s exoneration letter.
Which brings us to Comey’s latest attempt at depth after President Trump tweeted a video of himself outside of Air Force One with the caption “On my way to Pensacola, Florida. See everyone Soon! #MAGA”
Less than an hour later, Comey tried to roast Trump with a pithy quote about grandstanding for attention – which, ironically, Comey tweeted for attention while promoting his book tour.
“Applause is the spur of noble minds, the end and aim of weak ones.” – Edmund Burke (1730-1797)
— James Comey (@Comey) December 9, 2017
Cute, except Comey attributed the quote to the wrong author!
— Josh Hammer (@josh_hammer) December 9, 2017
The reactions have been priceless:
Comey works for CNN now?
— Phil (@navydoc201) December 9, 2017
— Ellis Wyatt (@TradeschoolA) December 9, 2017
Comey being extremely careless with his quotations https://t.co/EpkGSlQI94
— Buck Sexton (@BuckSexton) December 9, 2017
h/t TwitchyComments »
You may have read about the giant CNN retraction over a #FakeNews story about Donald Trump Jr. in which the network claimed two sources both happened to misread the date on an email and accidentally concluded that Wikileaks was passing information to the Trump campaign before it was made public – when in fact the emails had been published days before.
In the wake of all that, George Takei tried to launch his own follow-up ‘gotcha’ at Trump Jr., tweeting ‘Uh-oh, Donnie’ – with a link to a new article from a left-leaning news outlet with a mixed reputation for factual reporting, which claims that a Russian social media executive emailed Jr. and campaign aide Dan Scavino, invited them to create an account. OH MY GOD, EVEN IF TRUE. (…………crickets………..)
Uh-oh, Donnie. https://t.co/sg74JR6VSp
— George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) December 8, 2017
In response, Trump Jr. launched a quantum torpedo and blasted Mr. Sulu into deep space…
Wrong again Georgie… I guess you have a bit more free time to read #fakenews now that it’s a bit tougher to ply kids with alcohol to assault them??? You know with all the added scrutiny. https://t.co/xUbvbfhMxN
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) December 10, 2017
Trump Jr. was, of course, referring to the accusation lodged against Takei by a former model who says that in 1981 he was invited to the ‘Star Trek’ icon’s house when he was 23, plied with possibly spiked alcohol, and woke up to Mr. Sulu fondling his balls.
Takei denied the assault, saying the encounter “simply did not occur,” however the actor’s frequent appearances on the Howard Stern show where he admitted to ‘grabbing men to persuade them‘ for sex and jerked off a guest didn’t help his case.
I think it’s safe to say, once again: Sulu down
In a trend which should surprise exactly nobody, another member of the Mueller team has been found to have deep ties to Trump’s opponents.
Fox News host Tucker Carlson has obtained documents which reveal Aaron Zebley – considered to be Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s “right hand man,” defended Hillary Clinton IT staffer Justin Cooper – a Bill Clinton aide that installed the “private, illegal” server in the Clintons’ Chappaqua home described by Politico as “jerry-rigged.”
Zebley, a former WilmerHale partner who defended Cooper in 2015 in front of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, was specifically called out by in a letter to Cooper for stonewalling the investigation, and his “complete refusal to engage the committee in a discussion about how to further assuage your concerns.”
Carlson points out that Zebley’s history as an attorney linked to Hillary Clinton is a compromised position.
Take that in for a minute. A lawyer who played a defense role in the federal investigation into Hillary Clinton is now playing an offensive role in the federal investigation into President Trump. –Tucker Carlson
Imagine my shock – the Zebley story is directly linked to FBI agent Peter Strzok – the man fired from Mueller’s probe who headed up both the Clinton email investigation and the original Trump-Russia investigation and was caught sending anti-Trump / pro-Hillary text messages to his mistress. This makes two original Mueller investigators linked to the Clinton email investigation.
And according to journalist Sara Carter, more anti-trump messages have reportedly been sent by members of Mueller’s team, stating on Sean Hannity’s program this week “A lot more is going to come out.”
As more and more people are coming to realize, the special counsel is a hot partisan mess – stacked with investigators who have donated to Obama, Clinton and other Democrat causes. As Jessica McBride reported inHeavy:
- Andrew Weissmann: Weissmann is a Barack Obama and Democratic campaign donor, according to federal records. “Weissmann, who led the Enron investigation, previously gave $2,300 to Obama’s first presidential campaign in 2008 and $2,000 to the Democratic National Committee in 2006
- Jeannie Rhee: donated $5,400 to Hillary Clinton in 2015 and 2016, according to FEC records. The records show she gave $2,500 each to Obama for America and Obama Victory Fund 2012 in 2011
- Andrew Goldstein: According to Fox News, “Goldstein contributed a combined $3,300 to Obama’s campaigns in 2008 and 2012”
- Greg Andres: FEC records show that Andres has donated at least $2,700 to Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
- James Quarles: Donated thousands of dollars to the campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. He has also donated money recently to other Democrats, including Friends of Chuck Schumer and two other Democrats. He has a lengthy donation history dating back years. He did donate to two Republicans over the years, however.
- Elizabeth Prelogar: A former law clerk to Justics Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagen, gave $250 to Hillary Clinton in 2016, according to FEC records. She also gave $500 total to Obama for America and the Obama Victory Fund 2012.
- Brandon Van Grack: gave small amounts to ActBlue, an effort to raise money for Democrats, and to a Democratic candidate for Congress in 2012. In 2008, he gave about $286 to Barack Obama.
- Rush Atkinson: donated $200 to Clinton’s campaign in 2016.
- Kyle Freeny: In 2012, Freeny gave $300 to Obama. In 2008, Freeny also gave $250 to Obama, FEC records show.
One wonders if the special counsel is now so tainted that it whatever they conclude will forever be mired in doubt.Comments »
With just four days to go before the Alabama special election to fill Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ vacant Senate seat, a woman who accused Roy Moore of sexaul assault just admitted she altered the infamous yearbook inscription…
In an appearance on ABC’s Good Morning America, Nelson is coached through her answer as she admits she made some ‘notes’ underneath what she claims is Moore’s entry in her 1977 yearbook – confirming what many believe is Moore’s last name, title, date, and location which appear to have been added later – constituting a forgery.
“Nelson admits she did make notes to the inscription,” ABC News tells us. “But the message was all Roy Moore.”
“Beverly, he signed your yearbook,” ABC News reporter Tom Llamas says.
“He did sign it,” she replies.
“And you made some notes underneath.”
“Yes,” Nelson says.
Beverly Young Nelson, one of the women accusing GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore of sexual misconduct, tells @GMA it “sickens” her to think what might happen if Moore is elected. https://t.co/wuEGWr0kng pic.twitter.com/lcp5OY4x3A
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) December 8, 2017
Last month, Nelson’s attorney Gloria Allred refused to confirm the authenticity of the yearbook, and wouldn’t hand it over to handwriting experts unless a US Senate Committee agreed to conduct a hearing first.
Meanwhile, author and former music journalist Thomas Wictor pointed out what appeares to be different ink used on portions of Nelson’s yearbook:
Well, unretouched CNN photo DEFINITELY shows that "Moore D.A. 12-22-77 Olde Hickory House" was written in different-colored ink than the rest of the inscription.
It appears that this jalopy of an accusation has completely fallen apart. pic.twitter.com/IiA0QP0l2R
— Thomas Wictor (@ThomasWictor) November 14, 2017
Meanwhile Nelson’s stepson, Darrel Nelson, claims that his stepmother’s accusations are “one hundred percent a lie,” stating “I know for a fact that there is a lot that that woman does not tell the truth on,” Nelson claimed in an in-person interview with Breitbart News. “Do I think that Beverly is trustworthy? No, I really don’t. Could I see her making it up? …The odds are in that favor.”
Everything from Nelson’s age when she began working at the Olde Hickory House – where she claims the assault took place, to the restaurant’s hours, to the physical layout of the location Nelson says Moore assaulted her have been called into question – aided by the testimony of former Old Hickory House employee Rhonda Ledbetter, a waitress at Olde Hickory House for almost three years from 1977-1979, along with another former employee.
In addition, two former waitresses and two former customers say they never say Moore come into the restaurant, despite Nelson’s claim that he was there “almost every night.”
- According to Ledbetter, Olde Hickory House required employees to be 16 years old. Nelson claims she was 15 when she started.
- According to two former employees, the dumpsters were on the side of the building. Nelson claimed that they were in the back.
- Olde Hickory House sat right off of the four-lane highway and had a wrap-around porch with lights all around it. Nelson claimed that the surroundings were “dark and isolated.”
- Rhonda Ledbetter, who worked at Olde Hickory House for almost 3 years, states that the earliest it closed was at 11 p.m. but she believes it was open until midnight. She is certain it did not close at 10:00 because Goodyear was next door, and employees came to eat when their shift ended at 10 p.m. Nelson claims her story occurred after the restaurant closed at 10 p.m.
- It is unlikely that there was an entrance from the back of the parking lot, which Nelson claimed existed. Multiple sources have claimed that everyone parked on the sides of the building because there wasn’t much room behind the restaurant, according to Rhonda not enough room to turn around. Renee Schivera stated that a neighborhood backed up to the parking lot and it was adjacent to the backyards of people’s houses, so she did not see how there would have been a back entrance as it would have gone through someone’s yard.
- Nelson claimed that Judge Roy Moore came in almost every night and sat at the counter, but former employees state that customers at the counter were served by the bartender or short order cook – not served by the waitresses and had no reason to interact with the wait staff. Additionally, two former waitresses and two former patrons state they never saw Judge Moore come into the restaurant.
Other Moore accusers have been called out
As Radio host Mark Levin pointed out on his show last week that there are several aspects of the case which don’t really make sense. To recap; a Washington Post reporter overheard a rumor at a Roy Moore event in Alabama about Moore sexually abusing four girls 38 years ago, then found the women, interviewed them, and the rest is history.
Levin raised the following questions:
- How did the WaPo reporter know there were four women, who they were, and how to contact them?
- How is it that the reporter happened to overhear a rumor about four women who don’t know each other and have never met, yet the anonymous source the WaPo reporter ran into happened to know each girl’s story and how to contact them?
- Why hasn’t any of this been reported in Moore’s 38 years in politics? And why now – a month before an important election to fill Jeff Sessions’ senate seat?
Adding to the list of questionable circumstances is the revelation that one of Moore’s accusers, Debbie Gibson, worked as a sign language interpreter for Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, and is actively campaigning for Moore’s Democrat opponent, Doug Jones.
As New York Times bestselling author, Attorney and Law professor James Hirsen points out:
The Washington Post failed to disclose that one of Moore's accusers was a sign language interpreter for Joe Biden and is a volunteer for Moore's Democrat opponent.
— James Hirsen (@thejimjams) November 10, 2017
Here’s Gibson, hard at work for Hillary:
Another Moore accuser, Leigh Corfman, has claimed “several pastors at various churches made sexual advances at her.” This 3x divorcee who has also filed for bankruptcy three times.
Purportedly Moore’s main accuser Leigh Corfman has had three divorces, filed for bankruptcy three times, and has been charged with multiple misdemeanors.
Posts on Moore's FB page indicate that Corfman, has claimed several pastors at various churches made sexual advances at her.
— James Hirsen (@thejimjams) November 10, 2017
The Star reports:
She says that her teenage life became increasingly reckless with drinking, drugs, boyfriends, and a suicide attempt when she was 16.
As the years went on, Corfman says, she did not share her story about Moore partly because of the trouble in her life. She has had three divorces and financial problems. While living in Arizona, she and her second husband started a screen-printing business that fell into debt. They filed for bankruptcy protection three times, once in 1991 with $139,689 in unpaid claims brought by the Internal Revenue Service and other creditors, according to court records.
In 2005, Corfman paid a fine for driving a boat without lights. In 2010, she was working at a convenience store when she was charged with a misdemeanor for selling beer to a minor. The charge was dismissed, court records show.
The WaPo reporter who penned the article wrote fake check, according to an 2011 Red State report
Ms. McCrummen has a rather interesting criminal history herself, as public criminal records in multiple states stretching across 4 time zones have shown.
Ms. McCrummen’s criminal history began with North Carolina Case # 1992 CR 00654, a violation of the Article 19 – False Pretenses and Cheats section of the North Carolina Criminal Code. Ms. McCrummen was convicted of a crime punishable by up to six months of imprisonment for writing a hot check that was deemed worthless.
With the election just four days away, Beverly Nelson’s admission seems like legal ass covering. Can you imagine of Moore lost and then it emerged that she altered the yearbook?Comments »
Originally published by ZeroHedge
A seven-year-old Israeli firm founded by three veterans of Israel’s military intelligence unit is raking in millions selling CIA-tier hacking software to governments around the world. With over 200 employees, a sales arm in Bethesda, Maryland, and a long list of clients identified by watchdogs which have dubious civil rights records, the NSO Group – owned by U.S.-based Francisco Partners, charges $500,000 plus $65K per phone to completely hack and infiltrate a device with their flagship “Pegasus” software suite.
Housed in an office complex in the northern Tel Aviv district of Herzelia, the NSO Group has created the world’s most invasive mobile spy kit responsible for some of the most aggressive attacks in the world of espionage. From Mexico’s misuse of NSO’s software, to the UAE targeting dissidents, to the ex-President of Panama using Pegasus to spy on his enemies, researchers at Canada’s Citizen Lab have uncovered dozens of instances of inappropriate hacking.
The Pegasus software suite uses similar techniques to the CIA for hacking an iPhone, according to Forbes:
Of the similarities between NSO Group and the CIA techniques, the researcher said: “They both use the same vulnerability, but implementation differs a bit.” NSO Group had not responded to a request for comment. It’s entirely possible the CIA used the same technique without going through NSO. -Forbes
The software works by luring people to websites in SMS text messages, where the Pegasus malware package is surreptitiously installed on the device to take advantage of a “zero-day” exploit. As Fast Company explains “anything you can do on the phone, Pegasus can do on your phone,” says John Scott-Railton, a senior researcher at Citizen Lab, which released its initial findings on the spyware in August 2016. “Turning on the camera and watching somebody in the room, turning on the microphone and listening to somebody: It can even do some things that you can’t, like put files on the phone and take files off, to manipulate data on the phone.”
The software can even foil encryption – intercepting messages and calls either before or after they are encrypted. Moreover, Pegasus can delete itself, foiling forensic researchers who have called it “the most sophisticated commercial spyware yet to be made public.”
And if it can do all that, perhaps, just perhaps, it can also camouflage itself as a Russian hacker and penetrate John Podesta’s email system.
Apple and Google have issued security patches to eliminate the “zero-day” exploit used by the NSO (and the CIA) to gain access, however many Android devices have not yet received recent security updates. On top of that, according to Fast Company, “Since Pegasus was first deployed, at least three years ago, security researchers says it’s likely that NSO and other cyberarms makers have developed even more sophisticated techniques.”
While NSO’s client list is private, Canadian watchdog group Citizen Lab also discovered that NSO has registered several web domains in countries with dubious civil rights records, ostensibly used for hacking purposes – including Uzbekistan, Bahrain, Kenya, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Turkey, Qatar, Yemen, Hungary.
In June, Citizen Lab released a report with the New York Times which detailed an extensive effort by the Mexican government to use Pegasus spyware on journalists, human-rights activists, lawyers and others looking into corruption, murders, and even the disappearance of dozens of college students – paying NSO Group $80 million for the software. The Pegasus malware had even been used against scientists and public health advocates trying to battle childhood obesity, such as Mexico’s “Soda Tax.”
While NSO said that it only sells to “authorized” government customers, a huge potential for misuse of the system reportedly ended up killing a $400 million deal by Blackstone Group to acquire part of NSO group from Francisco Partners, after Citizen Lab and other human rights groups told Blackstone that NSO could not prevent customers from misusing the spying tool – pointing to over 20 documented cases of reckless misuse.
“We would expect such a track record to trigger exceptional due diligence by an American company, and we asked Blackstone if they had done so,” says Scott-Railton of Citizen Lab. “We also asked what oversight Blackstone proposed to implement to prevent future misuse, if the purchase had gone through.”
Former Panama president Ricardo Martinelli was also caught using NSO’s Pegasus to hack citizens’ smartphones, which the government of Panama has opened an investigation into. Martinelli was reportedly running a personal NSO deployment out of a secret office, in order to spy on opponents, including Americans.
“What my colleagues and I say informally is, there is the principle of misuse, where it’s only a matter of time if you sell this kind of software to a government that doesn’t have very rigorous rules in place before it gets misused,” adds senior researcher at Citizen Lab, Scott-Railton. “It’s clear that the industry that sells the commercial spyware to governments is not wired to take that very basic fact into account and mitigate it.”
NSO claims every client is fully vetted, however, pointing to Israel’s export laws which require the Israeli government body SIBAT to promote and review all weapons exports. NSO also says they have an “ethics committee” that reviews every deal before it’s executed, according to a NSO executive who spoke with The Marker.
Citizen Lab’s Scott-Railton disagrees – insisting that companies like NSO need to institute a more stringent vetting process, and pointing to egregious abuse uncovered by Mexico, the United Arab Emirates and Panama.
NSO has a U.S. sales arm in Bethesda, Maryland called WestBridge Technologies, which bills itself as a seller of “top-of-the-line technologies to various government agencies in North America, particularly in the U.S.,” according to its LinkedIn profile. Sometime before January, 2015, WestBridge met with U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officials to discuss implementing its software, reported Motherboard, which received leaked emails regarding the meeting. While we don’t know the outcome of the meeting, and NSO’s offices have been mum on the deal, the strong possibility exists that the DEA has been using NSO software for several years.
In an interesting “small-world” coincidence, financial disclosure forms reveal that former Trump advisor and short-lived National Security Advisor Lieutenant General Michael Flynn is connected to the NSO group, earning $40,280 from May 2016 through January 2016 on an advisory board of an NSO Group offshoot, OSY Technologies based in Luxembourg. Flynn also worked for NSO Group parent company Francisco Partners, earning “less than $100,000” according to the New York Times.
When asked by Reuters about reports of NSO software being abused, NSO co-founder Omar Lavie – who is launching a new startup named, Orchestra, with a mission to ironically-enough protect phones from cyberattacks, said “I think people believe that NSO is a company that does good. [Security experts] understand the value that this company has generated for the world. I am extremely proud of NSO.”Comments »
GOP lawmakers have come forward with new allegations of political bias or interference at the FBI – this time involving the 2012 Benghazi attack. John Solomon of The Hill reports tht Rep. Ron Desantis (R-FL) recently interviewed a retired FBI supervisor who told him he was instructed by Deputy Director Andrew McCabe not to call the 2012 Benghazi attack an act of terrorism when distributing the FBI’s findings to the larger intelligence community – despite knowing exactly who conducted the attack.
The agent found the instruction concerning because his unit had gathered incontrovertible evidence showing a major al Qaeda figure had directed the attack and the information had already been briefed to President Obama, the lawmaker said. –The Hill
After the September 11, 2012 attack against U.S. government facilities in Benghazi, Libya, the Obama administration peddled a lie, telling the public that the attack was related to Muslims who had become enraged at an anti-Islam YouTube video, and not a planned act of terrorism – despite Hillary Clinton emailing Chelsea Clinton from her unsecure @clintonemail.com server the night of the attack to say exactly that.
Chelsea – using the pseudonym “Diane Reyonds” probably didn’t have the clearance to receive classified intelligence from her mother, the Secretary of State.
“Two of our officers were killed in Benghazi by an Al Queda-like group: The Ambassador, whom I handpicked and a young communications officer on temporary duty w a wife and two young children. Very hard day and I fear more of the same tomorrow.” –Hillary Clinton to Chelsea Clinton
And we now know FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe lied for the Obma administration in a clear, partisan violation of the FBI’s mandate to “detect and prosecute crimes against the United States,” not “lie for the President so as not to offend Islam.”
As Rep. DeSantis told The Hill:
“What operational reason would there be to issue an edict to agents telling them, in the face of virtually conclusive evidence to the contrary, not to categorize the Benghazi attack as a result of terrorism? By placing the interests of the Obama administration over the public’s interests, the order is yet another data point highlighting the politicization of the FBI.”
DeSantis and other GOP lawmakers say they plan to question FBI Director Christopher Wray at a Thursday hearing in front of the House Judiciary Committee about claims of growing concern among certain FBI supervisors over political bias clouding decisions at the highest levels of the agency.
The case against the FBI for overt political bias couldn’t be more clear. Over the last week we’ve learned of veteran FBI investigator Peter Strzok’s dismissal for texting his mistress anti-Trump messages, which the DOJ is handing over to the House Intelligence Committee. We also learned yesterday that a second prosecutor on Robert Mueller’s Special Counsel, Andrew Weissmann, praised then-acting Attorney General Sally Yates after she refused to defend President Trump’s travel ban.
Fox News reports:
A top prosecutor who is now a deputy for Special Counsel Robert Muellers Russia probe praised then-acting attorney general Sally Yates after she was fired in January by President Trump for refusing to defend his controversial travel ban.
The email, obtained by Judicial Watch through a federal lawsuit, shows that on the night of Jan. 30, Andrew Weissmann wrote to Yates under the subject line, I am so proud.
He continued, And in awe. Thank you so much. All my deepest respects.
Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton called the new Weissmann document an astonishing and disturbing find.
“The data points we have regarding politicization are damning enough but appear all the more problematic when viewed against the backdrop of investigations whose ferocity seemed to depend on the target: the Clinton case was investigated with an eye towards how to exonerate her and her associates, while the Russia investigation is being conducted using scorched earth tactics that seek to find anything to use against Trump associates,” DeSantis told The Hill.
DeSantis also said his FBI source pointed to an incident after Trump’s National Security Advisor Mike Flynn resigned over lying to Vice President Mike Pence over his contacts with Russia’s ambassador. An FBI executive is said to have made an inappropriate comment during a video teleconference indicating that the agency had a personal motive in investigating Flynn and ruining his career.
“The wildly divergent ways these investigations have been conducted appear to dovetail with the political bias that has been uncovered,” DeSantis said.
In response to the overt political bias at the FBI, the Inspector General’s office (OIG) has launched an investigation into Strzok and other officials connected to both the Clinton email investigation as well as the Trump-Russia investigation. Agent Peter Strzok who was removed for anti-Trump text messages ran both investigations, the latter Trump-Russia having been taking over by Robert Mueller’s probe which he was recently kicked off of.
Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, meanwhile, is directly under investigation by the OIG for potentially violating the Hatch Act or engaged in ethical conflicts pertaining to his wife’s run for the Virginia senate in 2015 as a Democrat. She received $700,000 in campaign contributions tied to Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe (D) – an ally of Hillary Clinton who was under FBI investigation at the time. The Hill reports that records show McCabe attended a March 2015 meeting with McAuliffe designed to secure the governor’s support of Jill McCabe’s candidacy.
As The Hill concludes:
McCabe has said he sought FBI legal advice on how to deal with his wife’s campaign. He nonetheless presided over the Clinton email case until just a few days before it was closed, when he unexpectedly recused himself.
Multiple Republican lawmakers said Wednesday they believe the email case was tainted by political favoritism and special treatment for the 2016 Democratic nominee and planned to press Wray about their concerns.
“We are here today calling for an investigation into FBI systems and procedures that have allowed special treatment and bias to run rampant,” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) said. “The law demands equal treatment for all, not ‘special’ treatment for some. There is a clear and consistent pattern of treating the Clinton investigation differently than other investigations.“Comments »
Senator Al Franlen (D-MN) announced his resignation in a Senate floor speech today, following intense pressure to step down following allegations of sexual misconduct by at least eight women.
The Minnesota senator initially brushed off the mounting allegations, however fellow Democrats withdrew their support for Franken after a woman accused Franken of trying to forcibly kiss her in 2006. Hours later, Franken was accused of squeezing a “handful of flesh” on her waist while posing for a 2009 photo.
During his address, Franken maintained his innocence, stating “some of the allegations against me are simply not true. Others, I remember very differently,” and adding “I am proud that during my time in the Senate I have used my power to be a champion of women.”
Nevertheless, today I am announcing that in the coming weeks, I will be resigning as a member of the United States Senate.
Al Franken is resigning from the Senate in the coming weeks after numerous accusations of sexual misconduct pic.twitter.com/eeOI22XvGn
— VICE News (@vicenews) December 7, 2017
Franken was sure to get a dig in at President Trump and Roy Moore:
I, of all people, am aware that there is some irony in the fact that I am leaving while a man who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault sits in the oval office, and a man who has repeatedly preyed on young girls campaigns for the Senate with the full support of his party. But this decision is not about me.
Al Franken: "There is some irony in the fact that I am leaving while a man who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault sits in the Oval Office." pic.twitter.com/CKC4qpEPgc
— Greg Hogben (@MyDaughtersArmy) December 7, 2017
Sen. Franken: "Even on the worst day of my political life, I feel like it's all been worth it." pic.twitter.com/YkcsPfYeQm
— NBC News (@NBCNews) December 7, 2017
Idk who is having a worse day today? Hamas or Al Franken? pic.twitter.com/SzjdOvCpoU
— Nick Short 🇺🇸 (@PoliticalShort) December 6, 2017