Friday, May 15, 2020

Sheldon versus Julian

"“The American friends”: New court files expose Sheldon Adelson’s security team in US spy operation against Julian Assange" (Blumenthal) (this is ridiculously good, so I'm posting a lot of it):
"As the co-founder of a small security consulting firm called UC Global, David Morales spent years slogging through the minor leagues of the private mercenary world. A former Spanish special forces officer, Morales yearned to be the next Erik Prince, the Blackwater founder who leveraged his army-for-hire into high-level political connections across the globe. But by 2016, he had secured just one significant contract, to guard the children of Ecuador’s then-President Rafael Correa and his country’s embassy in the UK.

The London embassy contract proved especially valuable to Morales, however. Inside the diplomatic compound, his men guarded Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, a top target of the US government who had been living in the building since Correa granted him asylum in 2012. It was not long before Morales realized he had a big league opportunity on his hands.

In 2016, Morales rushed off alone to a security fair in Las Vegas, hoping to rustle up lucrative new gigs by touting his role as the guardian of Assange. Days later, he returned to his company’s headquarters in Jerez de Frontera, Spain with exciting news.

“From now on, we’re going to be playing in the first division,” Morales announced to his employees. When a co-owner of UC Global asked what Morales meant, he responded that he had turned to the “dark side” – an apparent reference to US intelligence services. “The Americans will find us contracts around the world,” Morales assured his business partner. 
Morales had just signed on to guard Queen Miri, the $70 million yacht belonging to one of the most high profile casino tycoons in Vegas: ultra-Zionist billionaire and Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson. Given that Adelson already had a substantial security team assigned to guard him and his family at all times, the contract between UC Global and Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands was clearly the cover for a devious espionage campaign apparently overseen by the CIA."
and:
"Throughout the black operations campaign, US intelligence appears to have worked through Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands, a company that had previously served as an alleged front for a CIA blackmail operation several years earlier. The operations formally began once Adelson’s hand-picked presidential candidate, Donald Trump, entered the White House in January 2017.

In its coverage of the alleged relationship between the CIA, UC Global, and Adelson’s Sands, the New York Times claimed it was “unclear whether it was the Americans who were behind bugging the embassy.” Though he outlined work for an “American client” in company emails, Morales insisted before a Spanish judge that the spying he conducted in the embassy was performed entirely on behalf of Ecuador’s SENAIN security services. He has even claimed to CNN Español that he was merely seeking to motivate his employees when he boasted about “playing in the first division” after returning from his fateful trip to Las Vegas.

This investigation will further establish the US government’s role in guiding UC Global’s espionage campaign, shedding new light on the apparent relationship between the CIA and Adelson’s Sands, and expose how UC Global deceived the Ecuadorian government on behalf of the client Morales referred to as the “American friends.” Thanks to new court disclosures, The Grayzone is also able to reveal the identity of Sands security staff who presumably liaised between Morales, Adelson’s company and US intelligence.

According to court documents and testimony by a former business associate and employees of Morales, it was Adelson’s top bodyguard, an Israeli-American named Zohar Lahav, who personally recruited Morales, then managed the relationship between the Spanish security contractor and Sands on a routine basis. After their first meeting in Vegas, the two security professionals became close friends, visiting each other overseas and speaking frequently.

During the spying operation, Lahav worked directly under Brian Nagel, the Director of Global Security for Las Vegas Sands. A former associate director of the US Secret Service and cyber-security expert, Nagel was officially commended by the CIA following successful collaborations with federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies. At Sands, he seemed to be an ideal middleman between the company and the US national security state, as well as a potential guide for the complex surveillance tasks assigned to Morales.  
When Adelson’s favored candidate, Donald Trump, moved into the Oval Office, the CIA came under the control of Mike Pompeo, another Adelson ally who seemed to relish the opportunity to carry out illegal acts, including spying on American citizens, in the name of national security."
and:
"On February 26, 2017, Wikileaks announced the forthcoming release of a major tranche of CIA files revealing details of the agency’s hacking and electronic surveillance tools. One such spying application called “Marble” allowed agency spies to implant code that obfuscated their identity on computers they had hacked. Other files contained evidence of programs that allowed hackers to break into encrypted messaging applications like Signal and Telegram, and to turn Samsung smart TV’s into listening devices.

Two days after Wikileaks’ initial announcement, on February 28, Morales was junketed from Spain to a hotel in Alexandria, Virginia – just a stone’s throw from CIA headquarters in Langley. Though UC Global had no publicly known contracts with any company in Virginia, court documents obtained by The Grayzone establish that Morales sent encrypted emails from an Alexandria IP address and paid bills from a local hotel for the next eight days.

From that point on, he traveled back and forth almost each month between Spain, the DC area, New York City, Chicago, or the Las Vegas base of Adelson’s operations.

When in DC, Morales sent emails from a static IP address at the Grand Hyatt Hotel just four blocks from the White House.

The Instagram posts of Morales’ wife and travel partner, Noelia Páez, highlighted the frequency of his trips:Instagram posts by Morales’ wife, Noelia Páez, posted while in Las Vegas on January 20, 2017

Fellow UC Global executives began to grow suspicious of Morales and his secretive dealings in the US. According to their testimonies, he spoke constantly about his working relationship with the Americans. Yet UC Global had been contracted by Ecuador’s intelligence agency, SENAIN, to provide security to the country’s embassy in London – not to spy on its occupants.

It was increasingly clear to them that Morales was deceiving one client in Quito to serve a more powerful force in Washington.

“I remember that David Morales asked a person from the company to prepare a safe phone, with safe applications, just like an encrypted computer to communicate with ‘the American friends,’ to take his relationship with the US out of the company’s range,” a former UC Global employee recalled.

A former business partner at UC Global stated in their testimony, “Sometimes, when I insistently asked him who his ‘American friends’ were, on some occasions David Morales answered that they were ‘the US intelligence.’ However, when I asked him for a particular person from intelligence he was meeting with to give them information, Mr. Morales cut the conversation and pointed out that the subject was exclusively managed by him aside from the company.”

The ex-partner suspected that Morales was receiving payments from US intelligence through a bank account managed by his wife, Páez. “On one occasion,” they testified, “I heard a conversation related to payments to that account from which Mr. Morales didn’t want to inform the rest of the company members about.” 
Suspicion turned to rage when the former UC Global partner recognized the full extent of Morales’ subterfuge. “I started [lashing out] at him openly in violent discussions in which I reiterated to him that a company like ours is based on ‘creating trust’ and that he can’t ‘give out information to the opposing side,’” the ex-associate recalled. At the end of several such arguments, he said Morales tore open his shirt, puffed out his chest and exclaimed, “I am a wholehearted mercenary!”"
and:
"A 2016 security industry fair in Las Vegas at the Sands Expo provided the occasion for Adelson’s company – and presumably the CIA – to enlist David Morales. His personal recruiter, according to witness testimony, was Lahav.

When Morales returned from Vegas to his home base in Spain, he divulged details of the deal to his then-business partner.

“I deduced from the conversations with David Morales, where he confessed in detail his agreements achieved at his US trip,” the ex-partner later testified in Spanish court, “the head of security of Las Vegas Sands, a Jewish guy named Zohar Lahav, made contact with Mr. Morales, getting to become good friends with him at the security fair in Las Vegas. I sense that this person offered him to collaborate with American intelligence authorities to send information about Mr. Assange.”

Morales confirmed his and Lahav’s close friendship during an interview in Spanish court conducted this February by Aitor Martinez, a Spanish lawyer representing Assange in the case. In an earlier court appearance, the Spanish prosecutor asked Morales directly about the connection between Lahav and US intelligence services; Morales claimed he had no idea.

A former business partner of Morales recalled an incident “when Zohar [Lahav] came to Spain and stayed at [Morales’] usual house for a week.”

Further evidence of the relationship between Lahav and Morales can be found in an undated recommendation letter Lahav wrote for his pal. Authored on Sands letterhead, Lahav stated that he had “worked with Mr. David Morales CEO in UC Global S.L. for 3 years,” praising him for his “loyalty and consistency.”

 
By the end of 2017, the alleged collaboration between Morales and Sands had fully matured, with the CIA apparently providing a guiding hand. Together, these entities ratcheted up their surveillance of Assange’s associates and foiled his plan to leave the embassy under the protection of diplomatic inviolability."
and:
"Guillaume Long, the Foreign Minister of Ecuador under Correa, told The Grayzone the US-coordinated spying operation targeting Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy was “a major breach of sovereignty, of international law and the rules by which international diplomacy is regulated. And it’s completely illegal and I would argue, really undermines the US case for the extradition of Julian Assange.” 
The alleged robbery of an Ecuadorian official in Quito was consistent with another violent plan divulged by a former UC Global employee in the Spanish court. 
The ex-staffer recalled Morales mentioning that “the Americans were desperate” to end Assange’s presence in the embassy. Thus they were “proposing to activate more extreme measures against him,” including “the possibility of leaving one diplomatic mission door open, arguing that it was an accidental mistake, to allow the entrance and kidnapping of the asylum seeker; or even the possibility of poisoning Mr. Assange.”

The staffers were shocked when they learned of the proposal and protested to Morales that the direction he was taking “was starting to get dangerous.”"
and:
"During the first extradition hearing this February 24, Assange was confined to a glass box that prevented him from directly conferring with his lawyers. Observers including former British diplomat Craig Murray said they noticed US agents conferring outside the courtroom with UK prosecutors.

One witness to the extradition hearing provided The Grayzone with photographs of several attendees they claimed were US Department of Justice officials who sat directly behind British prosecutors throughout the proceedings. The photos, seen below, show the alleged officials outside the courtroom.

 
After the hearing began, according to Assange’s lawyer, Martinez, a female British barrister arrived and demanded permission to observe. She was representing Las Vegas Sands, a clear indication that Adelson was deeply concerned about the outcome of the proceedings."
There's obviously a lot of input from angry employees of Morales, but this is so good and documented that I have to wonder if it contains input from a national intelligence agency.

In any normal trial, a defense motion to dismiss would already have been granted based on just a small portion of the wrongdoing of Sheldon/Morales/CIA, but the 'judge' is obviously CIA so normal rules don't apply.

"Declassified Mueller investigation transcripts confirm no evidence WikiLeaks colluded with Russia" (Scripps):
"Newly released testimony given to the House Intelligence Committee (HIC) confirms that these intelligence officials and Democratic Party operatives were deliberately spreading a lie. The source of the claim that Russian agents had hacked the DNC server was cyber security company CrowdStrike, hired by the Democratic Party to investigate its data breach. But, when interviewed by the HIC in December 2017, CrowdStrike President Shawn Henry admitted they had no good evidence that data was even hacked from the DNC’s server, let alone that Russian hackers had done so.

His testimony has been covered up for more than two years. According to journalist Aaron Maté, in September 2018 the HIC voted unanimously to release the transcripts of witness interviews (including Henry’s). But in March 2019, Democratic Representative Adam Schiff—who was one of those conducting the interview with Henry—ordered the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) to withhold the documents from White House lawyers intending to review them for executive privilege. Schiff refused to release the transcripts until a few days ago, after Trump ally and acting ODNI Director Richard Grenell threatened to release them himself.

Henry’s statements to the Intelligence Committee make repeated reference to “indicators” and “circumstantial evidence” of a hack, but these cannot disguise the fact that no hard proof could be produced. He makes this admission in several of his answers to Committee members’ questions:

“We did not have concrete evidence that the data was exfiltrated [moved electronically] from the DNC, but we have indicators that it was exfiltrated.”

“There are times when we can see data exfiltrated, and we can say conclusively. But in this case it appears it was set up to be exfiltrated, but we just don’t have the evidence that says it actually left.”

“There’s not evidence that they were actually exfiltrated. There’s circumstantial evidence but no evidence that they were actually exfiltrated.”

“There is circumstantial evidence that that data was exfiltrated off the network… We didn’t have a sensor in place that saw data leave. We said that the data left based on the circumstantial evidence. That was the conclusion that we made.”

As for the allegation that agents of the Russian state were responsible for this Schrödinger’s hack, Henry simply told the Intelligence Committee what he “believed” to be the case.

“There are other nation-states that collect this type of intelligence for sure,” he said, “but the—what we would call the tactics and techniques were consistent with what we’d seen associated with the Russian state.”

CrowdStrike’s internal investigation “saw activity that we believed was consistent with activity we’d seen previously and had associated with the Russian Government.”

CrowdStrike has multiple ties to pro-Democratic Party sections of the US elite, hellbent on an aggressive confrontation with Russia. 
Before joining the company, Henry himself was an executive assistant director at the FBI while Mueller was director. CrowdStrike’s co-founder Dmitri Alperovitch is a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, a leading think-tank for American imperialism. And, as Maté reports, the declassified testimony confirms that the company was hired to investigate the DNC data breach by Michael Sussman, a lawyer at Perkins Coie. The same law firm, with ties to the Democratic Party, hired intelligence company Fusion GPS to produce the infamous Steele dossier—a collection of uncorroborated gossip alleging Trump’s connections with Russian President Vladimir Putin."
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