Russia criticizes Donald Trump’s Cuba policy, calls it: ‘Cold War rhetoric’

The US president partially reversed Washington’s diplomatic and commercial opening to Cuba that was unveiled in 2014. The Kremlin accused Trump of pandering to a small group of Cuban-American voters.

Cuban and US flags in Havana (Imago/Belga)

Russia’s Foreign Ministry slammed US President Donald Trump’s decision to roll back US relations with Cuba, accusing Trump of resorting to “Cold War” rhetoric.

“The new line towards Cuba announced by US President Donald Trump takes us back to already half-forgotten rhetoric in the style of the Cold War,” the ministry said in a statement on its website.

Watch video01:36

US-Cuba relations under Trump

The statement on Sunday added, “It’s clear the anti-Cuba discourse is still widely needed. This can only induce regret.”

Despite Trump’s campaign pledge to improve relations with Moscow, there has been no discernible improvement in cooperation between the two countries. Indeed, last week, the US Senate voted overwhelmingly to support new sanctions against Russia.

On Friday Trump ordered tighter restrictions on Americans traveling to the Caribbean island and a crackdown on US business dealings with the Cuban military. The president said he was canceling former President Barack Obama’s “terrible and misguided deal” liberalizing ties with Havana.

US President Trump holding the executive order on US-Cuba policy (Reuters/C. Barria)Trump shows-off his newly signed executive order Friday, rolling back US policy on Cuba

Obama’s opening to Cuba

In December 2014, Obama reestablished diplomatic ties with Cuba for the first time in more than half-a-century. Washington had severed diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1961, two years after communist rebels led by Fidel Castro toppled the right-wing government of Fulgencio Batista.

Watch video42:31

Cuba – Nostalgia and Change

After Castro’s regime nationalized all US property in Cuba in 1960, Washington responded by seizing all Cuban assets on US soil and tightening its comprehensive embargo against the island nation.The US leases the territory of its naval base at Guantanamo Bay, which includes the infamous US detention facility there.

Despite the sanctions, which were intended to inflict sufficient pain on the Cuban government to bring about its collapse, the Castro regime persevered. Obama concluded that the Cold War policy had failed, and sought a policy of detente with Havana.

Moscow maintains close ties with Havana, and in March signed a deal to renew oil shipments to the Caribbean island for the first time in more than a decade.

It said that easing of sanctions under Obama was a “well-thought-out political decision in which there were no losers except marginal Castro opponents.”

Gonna take a whole lot of Carriers (which was not a success) to offset foolish policy reversal cost in loss of US jobs.

bik/sms (AP, Reuters, AFP)

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$35bn hit: Zuckerberg, Gates among those to suffer massive losses amid Trump-Russia claims

Billionaires and millionaires the world over have become poorer to the tune of $35 billion, following the media scandal surrounding allegations of highly classified data being leaked by US President Donald Trump to Russia.

Stock markets suffered a meltdown on Wednesday after the alleged revelations, resulting in huge losses for almost every one of world’s 500 richest people, according to Bloomberg.

Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg took the biggest hit, estimated at more than $2 billion. Shares in the social media giant fell 3.3 percent, but Zuckerberg still holds fifth position on the global rich list with around $62.3 billion, according to the Bloomberg index.

The richest person on the planet, Bill Gates, lost around $1 billion amid the carnage, as Microsoft’s shares suffered the most significant drop in almost a year – 2.8 percent. Still, Gates’ net worth is $86.8 billion, according to Bloomberg.

Gates was fourth on the list in terms of the amount of reduced capital. Jeff Bezos, the co-founder of Amazon.com, the world’s largest online retailer, is second after Zuckerberg based on the size of losses incurred amid the political uproar.

Before the stock market dive, Bezos was second behind Gates in terms of overall wealth. The turmoil saw Amazon shares recede 2.2 percent, however, and he now stands third with a $81.9 billion – a loss of more than $1.7 billion.

Bezos was overtaken on the list by Amancio Ortega, a Spanish business tycoon and chairman of Inditex, the world’s largest clothing company, best known for its Zara chain. Ortega lost $355 million, five times less than Zuckerberg’s loss, and is now the second wealthiest person on the planet with $83.2 billion.

Wednesday’s market drop followed US media reports on alleged state secret leaks during the meeting between US President Trump and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov last week.

The revelations were dismissed by Russia, with President Vladimir Putin calling them “political schizophrenia.” Earlier, the Russian Foreign Ministry also dismissed the media claims, saying that reading US newspapers can “not only be harmful, but dangerous.”

The eight richest people on Earth are estimated to possess wealth equal to that of the 3.6 billion people who make up the poorest half of humanity.

According to the latest Bloomberg estimates, the top 500 billionaires and millionaires are valued at around $4.9 trillion. A 2016 report by Boston Consulting Group said only 1 percent of the world’s population owns almost half of its wealth, and that the wealth of the rich is only growing.

READ MORE: 1% of world population owns almost half of its wealth

More victims expected in unprecedented cyberattack as users log on Monday

An unprecedented global “ransomware” attack has hit at least 100,000 organizations in 150 countries, Europe’s police agency said Sunday — and predicted that more damage may be seen Monday as people return to work and switch on their computers.

The attack that began Friday is believed to be the biggest online extortion attack ever recorded, spreading chaos by locking computers that run Britain’s hospital network, Germany’s national railway and scores of other companies, factories and government agencies worldwide.

Steven Wilson, Head of Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre, told Sky News that it was now important that IT departments checked their systems on Monday morning to ensure they had not been compromised.

He added: “It’s not a massively sophisticated attack. What is new is the use of a worm to propagate through systems.

“It is beyond anything we have seen before.”

NATIONS BATTLE CYBERATTACK DAMAGES; UK FOCUSES ON HOSPITALS

Wilson spoke as hospitals in the United Kingdom were beginning to get back to normal, although some were still experiencing problems after the global attack which hit 48 National Health Service trusts in England and 13 Scottish health boards, according to Sky News.

President Donald Trump ordered his homeland security adviser, Tom Bossert, to hold an emergency meeting Friday night to assess the threat posed by the cyberattack, senior administration official told Reuters.

Senior security staff held another meeting in the White House Situation Room on Saturday, and the FBI and National Security Agency were trying to identify the perpetrators of the massive cyber attack, said the official, who spoke on condition on anonymity to the news agency to discuss internal deliberations.

Security experts warned that further cyberattacks are likely.

“The global reach is unprecedented and beyond what we have seen before,” Rob Wainwright, director of the Netherlands-based Europol said Sunday “The latest count is over 200,000 victims in at least 150 countries, and those victims, many of those will be businesses, including large corporations.”

“At the moment, we are in the face of an escalating threat. The numbers are going up,” he added. “I am worried about how the numbers will continue to grow when people go to work and turn on their machines on Monday morning.”

Jan Op Gen Oorth, spokesman for Europol, said the number of individuals who have fallen victim to the cyberextortion attack could be much higher.

Wainwright said the attack was indiscriminate, fast-spreading and unique, because the ransomware was being used in combination with a worm, which means the infection of one computer automatically could spread it through a whole network.

22-YEAR-OLD CYBERSECURITY RESEARCHER HELPED THWART UNPRECEDENTED CYBERATTACK

The Europol spokesman said it was too early to say who is behind the onslaught and what their motivation was. The main challenge for investigators was the fast-spreading capabilities of the malware, he said, adding that so far not many people have paid the ransoms that the virus demands.

The effects were felt across the globe, with Russia’s Interior Ministry and companies including Spain’s Telefonica, FedEx Corp. in the U.S. and French carmaker Renault all reporting disruptions.

Had it not been for a young cybersecurity researcher’s accidental discovery of a so-called “kill switch,” the malicious software likely would have spread much farther and faster. Security experts say this attack should wake up every corporate board room and legislative chamber around the globe.

Nonetheless, the experts say such widespread attacks are
tough to pull off.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.  

Thousands of ransomware cyberattacks reported worldwide

Thousands of ransomware cyberattacks reported worldwide
A ransomware virus is reported to be spreading aggressively around the globe, with over 50,000 computers having been targeted. The virus infects computer files and then demands money to unblock them.

An increase in activity of the malware was noticed starting from 8am CET (07:00 GMT) Friday, security software company Avast reported, adding that it “quickly escalated into a massive spreading.”

In a matter of hours, over 57,000 attacks have been detected worldwide, the company said.

57,000 detections of (aka aka ) by Avast today. More details in blog post: https://blog.avast.com/ransomware-that-infected-telefonica-and-hns-hospitals-is-spreading-aggressively-with-over-50000-attacks-so-far-today 

Photo published for Ransomware that infected Telefonica and HNS hospitals is spreading aggressively, with over 50,000...

Ransomware that infected Telefonica and HNS hospitals is spreading aggressively, with over 50,000…

Avast reports on WanaCrypt0r 2.0 ransomware that infected NHS and Telefonica.

blog.avast.com

Seventy-four countries around the globe have been affected, with the number of victims still growing, according to the Russian multinational cybersecurity and anti-virus provider, the Kaspersky Lab.

So far, we have recorded more than 45,000 attacks of the ransomware in 74 countries around the world. Number still growing fast.

The ransomware, known as WanaCrypt0r 2.0, or WannaCry, is believed to have infected National Health Service (NHS) hospitals in the UK and Spain’s biggest national telecommunications firm, Telefonica.

Britain and Spain are among the first nations who have officially recognized the attack. In Spain, apart from the telecommunications giant, Telefonica, a large number of other companies has been infected with the malicious software, Reuters reported.

The virus is said to attack computers on an internal network, as is the case with Telefonica, without affecting clients.

Attackers are allegedly demanding for 300Ƀ which equals £415k & give a deadline of May 19: https://on.rt.com/8bgz 

Computers at Russia’s Interior Ministry have been infected with the malware, the ministry said Friday evening.

Some 1,000 Windows-operated PCs were affected, which is less than one percent of the total number of such computers in the ministry, spokeswoman Irina Volk said in a statement.

The virus has been localized and steps are being taken to eliminate it.

The servers of the ministry have not been affected, Volk added, saying it’s operated by different systems for Russia-developed data processing machines.

Several” computers of Russia’s Emergency Ministry had also been targeted, its representative told TASS, adding, that “all of the attempted attacks had been blocked, and none of the computers were infected with the virus.”

Russian telecom giant, Megafon has also been affected.

The very virus that is spreading worldwide and demanding $300 to be dealt with has been found on a large number of our computers in the second half of the day today,” Megafon’s spokesperson Pyotr Lidov told RT.

Вот что появилось на экранах всех рабочих компьютеров Мегафон Ритейл @eldarmurtazin

The internal network had been affected, he said, adding that in terms of the company’s customer services, the work of the support team had been temporarily hindered, “as operators use computers” to provide their services.

The company immediately took appropriate measures, the spokesperson said, adding that the incident didn’t affect subscribers’ devices or Megafon signal capabilities in any way.

British Prime Minister Theresa May has said the cyberattack on UK hospitals is part of a wider international attack.

In Sweden, the mayor of Timra said “around 70 computers have had a dangerous code installed,” Reuters reported.

According to Avast, the ransomware has also targeted Ukraine and Taiwan.

The virus is apparently the upgraded version of the ransomware that first appeared in February. Believed to be affecting only Windows operated computers, it changes the affected file extension names to “.WNCRY.”

It then drops ransom notes to a user in a text file, demanding $300 worth of bitcoins to be paid to unlock the infected files within a certain period of time.

While the victim’s wallpaper is being changed, affected users also see a countdown timer to remind them of the limited time they have to pay the ransom. If they fail to pay, their data will be deleted, cybercriminals warn.

According to the New York Times, citing security experts, the ransomware exploits a “vulnerability that was discovered and developed by the National Security Agency (NSA).” The hacking tool was leaked by a group calling itself the Shadow Brokers, the report said, adding, that it has been distributing the stolen NSA hacking tools online since last year.

In light of today’s attack, Congress needs to be asking @NSAgov if it knows of any other vulnerabilities in software used in our hospitals.

Syria Strike Puts U.S. Relationship With Russia at Risk

Photo

The Russian Navy frigate Admiral Grigorovich in the Bosporus in Istanbul on Friday, on its way to the Mediterranean Sea. CreditYoruk Isik/Reuters

WASHINGTON — The American military strike against Syria threatened Russian-American relations on Friday as the Kremlin denounced President Trump’s use of force and the Russian military announced that it was suspending an agreement to share information about air operations over the country, devised to avoid accidental conflict.

Mr. Trump, who has made repairing strained ties with Moscow a central ambition of his presidency, even amid criticism of Russian meddling in last year’s American election, found that goal at risk as the countries traded harsh words in a diplomatic confrontation reminiscent of past dark moments between the two powers.

President Vladimir V. Putin’s office called the Tomahawk cruise missile strike on Syria a violation of international law and a “significant blow” to the Russian-American relationship, while Prime Minister Dmitri A. Medvedev said it had “completely ruined” it. Trump administration officials suggested Russia bore some responsibility for the chemical weapons attack on Syrian civilians that precipitated the American response.

At home, Mr. Trump found support among a broad cross-section of normally critical establishment Republicans and Democrats, including Hillary Clinton and Senator John McCain, who backed the sort of action that President Barack Obama refused to take under similar circumstances four years ago. Mr. Trump was among those who urged Mr. Obama not to order a strike back then, even though many more civilian

But in a sign of the complicated nature of domestic politics after nearly 16 years of American wars abroad, an odd-bedfellow mix of ideological enemies joined together to criticize Mr. Trump’s action, including antiwar liberals who said it violated the Constitution and isolationist conservatives who called it a betrayal of the values he expressed as a candidate. Even some who supported his action, like Mrs. Clinton, called Mr. Trump hypocritical for lamenting the deaths of Syrian babies while seeking to bar Syrian refugees from the United States.

The strike also roiled world capitals and dominated a session of the United Nations. Led by Russia, Syria and its backers denounced it, while American allies in Europe and in Israel, Turkey and Saudi Arabia cheered Mr. Trump on. The debate raged as the president was in Florida hosting a high-stakes summit meeting with President Xi Jinping of China to discuss, among other things, how to contain another international pariah state, North Korea.

Mr. Trump left it to others to address the issue on Friday, but his team signaled that no further military strikes were imminent unless the government of President Bashar al-Assad again used chemical weapons against Syria’s people.

“The United States took a very measured step last night,” Nikki R. Haley, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, said Friday during a special meeting of the Security Council focused on Syria. “We are prepared to do more, but we hope that will not be necessary.”

Even as Mr. Trump ordered the first direct American attack on Syria’s government in six years of grinding civil war, the White House indicated no further move to unseat Mr. Assad, leaving the strike to speak for itself. “This action was very decisive, justified and proportional,” said Sean Spicer, the president’s press secretary. “It sent a very strong signal not just to Syria, but throughout the world.”

Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson characterized the strike as an “overwhelming success” and said Americans should be proud of the “overpowering” force of the American military. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced that the United States would impose additional sanctions on Syria, but he did not discuss the timing or targets.

But the strike inserted the United States, for a moment at least, into one of the world’s most intractable conflicts and demonstrated the potential dangers of Russian and American forces’ operating in proximity. As many as 100 Russian troops were believed to be stationed at the Syrian air base targeted on Thursday. An American official said the Russians on the ground had been given 60 to 90 minutes’ notice that the missiles were coming and had not been advised whether to take shelter or flee.

Although Russia did not deploy its air defense system in Syria against the American missiles, it flexed its military muscles after the attack. Moscow said it would bolster Syria’s air defenses, and the Russian news agency Tass reported that a frigate would enter the Mediterranean Sea on Friday and visit the logistics base at Tartus, a Syrian port.

The Russian military said it would shut down a hotline established to prevent accidental clashes in the skies over Syria. While the two sides used the channel earlier on Friday, Russian officials said it would be cut off at the end of the day. The United States and Russia have other ways to track each other’s aircraft and avoid collisions, but American officials considered the hotline an important vehicle to ensure safety, as well as a valuable political connection.

Even as Moscow protested, American officials pointed fingers back, faulting the Kremlin for not enforcing a 2013 agreement it brokered with Syria to eliminate its chemical weapons. “Clearly, Russia has failed in its responsibility to deliver on that commitment from 2013,” Mr. Tillerson said late Thursday night. “So either Russia has been complicit or Russia has been simply incompetent in its ability to deliver on its end of that agreement.”

Russia, which sent armed forces to Syria in 2015 to bolster Mr. Assad against insurgents, denied that his government was behind the chemical attack on Tuesday in Idlib Province that left more than 80 people dead, calling that a pretext. Instead, Moscow said a conventional strike had hit a chemical weapons warehouse controlled by insurgents, an explanation dismissed in the West.

“The Syrian Army has no chemical weapons at its disposal,” said Dmitri S. Peskov, a spokesman for Mr. Putin, blaming “terrorists” for the attack.

Video

Trump’s Syria Missile Strike: Here’s What Happened

President Trump retaliated against the Assad government for a chemical attack in Syria that killed more than 80 civilians.

By ROBIN LINDSAY and DAVE HORN on Publish DateApril 7, 2017. Photo by Ford Williams/U.S. Navy. Watch in Times Video »

Syria condemned the American strike as “a disgraceful act,” news agencies reported. A statement from Mr. Assad’s office said the cruise missile strike was a result of “a false propaganda campaign.” Syria has denied that it has chemical weapons.

The cruise missiles struck Al Shayrat airfield at 3:40 a.m. Friday local time (8:40 p.m. Thursday in Washington), targeting the base that American officials said had conducted the chemical weapons attack. The missiles were aimed at Syrian aircraft, hardened aircraft shelters, radars, air defense systems, ammunition bunkers and fuel storage sites. American military planners avoided sites that they suspected held chemical agents, officials said.

Syrian officials and news outlets reported that six soldiers and nine civilians had been killed. Talal Barazi, the governor of Homs Province, said the civilians had died from shrapnel wounds.

American military officials said 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles had struck their targets at the airfield, destroying 20 to 25 aircraft: roughly 20 percent of the Seventh Wing of the Syrian Air Force. One missile aborted after launch and fell into the Mediterranean.

But a spokesman for the Russian military, Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, called the effectiveness of the American airstrikes “extremely low,” asserting that just 23 had hit their targets. The American missiles, according to the Russian military, destroyed a warehouse of matériel and technical property, a training building, a canteen, six MIG-23 aircraft in repair hangars, and a radar station. Evgeny Poddubny, a Russian television reporter who was at the air base, said nine planes had been destroyed.

The strike plan was put together at the United States Central Command in Tampa, Fla., and alternatives were developed within hours of the chemical attack. When Defense Secretary Jim Mattis briefed Mr. Trump on Thursday, the options had already been winnowed to a Tomahawk cruise missile strike at Al Shayrat.

Two American destroyers, the Porter and the Ross, were already in position in the eastern Mediterranean. Mr. Trump gave the order on Thursday afternoon, shortly before hosting Mr. Xi for dinner, and confided in the Chinese leader only as the meal was breaking up, aides said.

The presence of Russian military personnel at the airfield complicated the decision. Given the Russians’ presence, American officials said they must have known about or turned a blind eye to the Syrian chemical weapons. The United States notified the Russian forces on the ground in a conversation described as lengthy, with the Russians doing much of the talking. The Russians were at a part of the base that was not struck, Pentagon officials said.

The chemical assault on Tuesday struck the town of Khan Sheikhoun with what Turkey has identified as sarin, a banned nerve agent. American officials said intelligence agencies had monitored the attack, mapping the radar tracks showing Syrian warplanes leaving and returning to the base.

The attack killed 84 people, and 546 others were injured, Tarik Jasarevic, a spokesman for the World Health Organization, told reporters in Geneva, citing health officials in Idlib Province.

United Nations officials said heavy fighting in other parts of Syria had killed hundreds more civilians. Bombings in Idlib and Raqqa Provinces in recent weeks, including by a United States-led coalition, were the most intensive recorded in the Syrian conflict, said Ravina Shamdasani, a spokeswoman for the United Nations’ human rights office.

More than 130 civilians were killed and 170 injured in the same month in Raqqa, the center of the Islamic State — the vast majority in coalition airstrikes, Ms. Shamdasani said. Syrian government airstrikes conducted over two days in early April on Eastern Ghouta, a suburb of the capital, Damascus, killed at least 42 civilians, she added.

In the hours after the American missile strike, Iran — Russia’s main ally in the region in helping Mr. Assad — condemned it as “dangerous, destructive and a violation of international law.” But Britain expressed support, as did Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and President François Hollande of France, who issued a joint statement saying that Mr. Assad “bears sole responsibility.”

A spokesman for Turkey’s government said the American strike had been a positive response to “war crimes” in Syria, while a Saudi official praised the “courageous decision” by Mr. Trump. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel said he hoped it would “resonate not only in Damascus, but in Tehran, Pyongyang and elsewhere.”

Clues to how Moscow will respond might not come until Tuesday, when Mr. Tillerson, the former chief executive of Exxon Mobil and an old friend of the Kremlin, is set to make his first visit to Russia as secretary of state.

“There will be many screams on the Russian television with people condemning the strikes, but everybody understands that this is just a symbolic act meant for Trump to look different from Obama,” said Vladimir Frolov, a foreign affairs analyst. “There won’t be any tangible reaction; this was a one-off strike.”

Others suggested that the lack of an initial Russian military reaction in Syria pointed to a realistic approach. “Moscow might not like Washington’s response,” Mark Galeotti, an expert on the Russian military, wrote in an online commentary, “but nor was it willing to stand in the way of it.”

Continue reading the main story

Intelligence official who ‘unmasked’ Trump associates is ‘very high up,’ source says

The U.S. intelligence official who “unmasked,” or exposed, the names of multiple private citizens affiliated with the Trump team is someone “very well known, very high up, very senior in the intelligence world,” a source told Fox News on Friday.

Intelligence and House sources with direct knowledge of the disclosure of classified names told Fox News that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., now knows who is responsible — and that person is not in the FBI.

For a private citizen to be “unmasked,” or named, in an intelligence report is extremely rare. Typically, the American is a suspect in a crime, is in danger or has to be named to explain the context of the report.

“The main issue in this case, is not only the unmasking of these names of private citizens, but the spreading of these names for political purposes that have nothing to do with national security or an investigation into Russia’s interference in the U.S. election,” a congressional source close to the investigation told Fox News.

The unmasking of Americans whose communications apparently were caught up in surveillance under the Obama administration is a key part of an investigation being led by Nunes, who has come under fire from Democrats for focusing on that aspect.

Nunes has known about the unmasking controversy since January, when two sources in the intelligence community approached him. The sources told Nunes who was responsible and at least one of the Trump team names that was unmasked. They also gave him serial numbers of reports that documented the activity.

This was long before Trump sent out his now-infamous March 4 tweets claiming then-President Barack Obama “wiretapped” Trump Tower during the 2016 election.

Nunes had asked intelligence agencies to see the reports in question, but was stonewalled.

He eventually was able to view them, but there was only one safe place to see the documents without compromising the sources’ identities — the old executive office building on White House grounds, which has a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) required to view classified or top secret reports. The White House did not tell Nunes about the existence of the intelligence reports, but did help him gain access to the documents at his request, the source said.

The White House, meanwhile, is urging Nunes and his colleagues to keep pursuing what improper surveillance and leaks may have occurred before Trump took office. They’ve been emboldened in the wake of March 2 comments from former Obama administration official Evelyn Farkas, who on MSNBC suggested her former colleagues tried to gather material on Trump team contacts with Russia.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Friday her comments and other reports raise “serious” concerns about whether there was an “organized and widespread effort by the Obama administration to use and leak highly sensitive intelligence information for political purposes.”

“Dr. Farkas’ admissions alone are devastating,” he said.

Farkas parted ways with the White House in 2015 and defended herself on Twitter, saying she didn’t personally “give anybody anything except advice” on Russia information and wanted Congress to ask for facts.

The communications collected from Trump team associates apparently were picked up during surveillance of foreign targets. But an intelligence source familiar with those targets said they were spied on long before Trump became the GOP presidential nominee in mid-July.

In addition, citizens affiliated with Trump’s team who were unmasked were not associated with any intelligence about Russia or other foreign intelligence, sources confirmed. The initial unmasking led to other surveillance, which led to other private citizens being wrongly unmasked, sources said.

“Unmasking is not unprecedented, but unmasking for political purposes … specifically of Trump transition team members … is highly suspect and questionable,” an intelligence source told Fox News. “Opposition by some in the intelligence agencies who were very connected to the Obama and Clinton teams was strong. After Trump was elected, they decided they were going to ruin his presidency by picking them off one by one.”

Nunes first revealed on March 22 in a press conference that the U.S. intelligence community “incidentally collected” information on Trump’s transition team, putting the information and names into various intelligence reports. His committee had been investigating whether Russia interfered in the U.S. election as well as how names of private citizens from these reports were leaked.

House Intelligence Ranking Member Adam Schiff, D-Calif., criticized Nunes for his handling of the investigation, claiming he should never have briefed Trump. Nunes apologized the following day, but said he briefed the president because the information he found was not related to Russia.

The minority members on the House Intelligence Committee were expected to visit a National Security Agency facility on Friday to view the same reports Nunes has seen, an intelligence source told Fox News.

Malia Zimmerman is an award-winning investigative reporter focusing on crime, homeland security, illegal immigration crime, terrorism and political corruption. Follow her on twitter at @MaliaMZimmerman

Adam Housley joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in 2001 and currently serves as a Los Angeles-based senior correspondent.

FBI scrutinized by Congress over probe into alleged Russia-Trump link

Two leading House and Senate committees are examining the FBI’s handling of its investigation into Russia’s possible links to Trump campaign associates and the country’s alleged interference with the 2016 presidential election.

The Senate Judiciary Committee, headed by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, is investigating whether the FBI wrongly included political opposition research from Trump’s opponents in its probe, and then paid the author of that controversial report, a former British spy, to work for the FBI on its investigation. The committee’s probe began March 6 with the letter Grassley sent the FBI and was furthered Monday with requests for information from the company that did the opposition research.

“When political opposition research becomes the basis for law enforcement or intelligence efforts, it raises substantial questions about the independence of law enforcement and intelligence from politics,” Grassley said Monday.

The House Intelligence Committee, headed by Rep. Devin Nunes, R- Calif., is looking into how classified documents containing foreign surveillance transcripts with references to Trump’s transition team were illegally disclosed to the media. The committee’s probe began Jan. 25.

The leaks could have come from the FBI, a source close to the investigation notes, because that agency requested multiple Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants that helped capture some of the foreign surveillance. In addition, sources say, the FBI is not cooperating with the House investigation, unlike the National Security Agency, which has been transparent with the committee. In addition, multiple sources suggest that British intelligence also passed along information to U.S. intelligence agencies.

Meanwhile, the FBI will take full control over the law enforcement investigation into Russia’s interference in the election, Trump’s possible ties to Russia, as well as the leaks, Fox News has learned.

In Grassley’s probe, he is calling into question the FBI’s use of a “controversial and unsubstantiated dossier” compiled by a political opposition research company against then-presidential candidate Trump.

Fusion GPS, a Washington, D.C.-based research and strategic intelligence company, was paid during the campaign by backers of Trump’s Republican and Democrat opponents to perform opposition research, Grassley said. And that company hired former British spy Christopher Steele to write the dossier that was distributed widely to political opponents, the media and the FBI.

The unverified reported was published by the online publication BuzzFeed and included embarrassing allegations that Russian intelligence supposedly could use against Trump.

Most concerning, Grassley said, is that “Fusion GPS and Steele reportedly shared the dossier with the FBI, which then offered to pay Steele to continue his political opposition research on Trump.”

Grassley wants to determine “the extent to which the FBI has relied on the political dossier in its investigation.” The senator also has requested documentation from Fusion GPS as to who hired and paid them, when Steele was hired, how the FBI got involved and whether Fusion GPS was aware of the FBI paying Steele.

Meanwhile, House Intelligence Chairman Nunes said last Wednesday that a source in the intelligence community presented him with “dozens” of reports that were produced from “incidentally collected” communications between members of the Trump transition team and foreign targets. Nunes met with his intelligence source at a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) in the old executive office building on the White House grounds where they could access the computers without being noticed. They couldn’t go to the source’s agency and use the secured computer network, a source told Fox News, because it would “out” the source.

Nunes said Trump staff members’ identities reportedly were “unmasked” within intelligence agencies through foreign surveillance unrelated to Trump or Russia, and the names were illegally disseminated among intelligence agencies and to the media in what many believe was an effort to embarrass Trump and undermine his presidency.

At least one of those unmasked was former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who had information about his communication with the Russian ambassador leaked to press, resulting in a public scandal and his resignation.

Nunes’ committee, like the FBI, has been looking into what actions Russia took against the U.S. during the 2016 election, whether anyone from a political campaign conspired in the activities; whether the communications of officials or associates of any campaign were subject to any kind of improper surveillance; and which intelligence officials leaked classified information that exposed foreign surveillance, conversations between President Trump and other world leaders.

While Nunes refutes Trump’s claims that Obama had him wiretapped during the campaign, Nunes said “…. it’s still possible that other surveillance activities were used against President’s Trump and his associates.”

An FBI spokesperson said the agency does not have a comment on Grassley’s letter or any additional comments on the House probe.

Malia Zimmerman is an award-winning investigative reporter focusing on crime, homeland security, illegal immigration crime, terrorism and political corruption. Follow her on twitter at @MaliaMZimmerman

Adam Housley joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in 2001 and currently serves as a Los Angeles-based senior correspondent.

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