Police investigating Manchester bombing suspend intelligence sharing with the U.S.

BBC News reports: Police investigating the Manchester Arena bomb attack have stopped sharing information with the US after leaks to the media, the BBC understands.

UK officials were outraged when photos appearing to show debris from the attack appeared in the New York Times.

It came after the name of bomber Salman Abedi was leaked to US media just hours after the attack.

Theresa May said she would tell Donald Trump at a Nato meeting that shared intelligence “must remain secure”.

The UK’s National Police Chiefs’ Council described the “unauthorised disclosure” as a breach of trust which had potentially undermined a “major counter-terrorism investigation”.

Counter-terrorism detectives have spoken in the past about how a delay of about 36 hours before the public know who is being investigated can allow known associates of the suspect to be arrested without being tipped off.

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said the leaks had worried him “greatly”, and he had raised them with the US ambassador. [Continue reading…]

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How a dubious Russian document influenced the FBI’s handling of the Clinton probe

The Washington Post reports: A secret document that officials say played a key role in then-FBI Director James B. Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation has long been viewed within the FBI as unreliable and possibly a fake, according to people familiar with its contents.

In the midst of the 2016 presidential primary season, the FBI received what was described as a Russian intelligence document claiming a tacit understanding between the Clinton campaign and the Justice Department over the inquiry into whether she intentionally revealed classified information through her use of a private email server.

The Russian document cited a supposed email describing how then-Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch had privately assured someone in the Clinton campaign that the email investigation would not push too deeply into the matter. If true, the revelation of such an understanding would have undermined the integrity of the FBI’s investigation.

Current and former officials have said that Comey relied on the document in making his July decision to announce on his own, without Justice Department involvement, that the investigation was over. That public announcement — in which he criticized Clinton and made extensive comments about the evidence — set in motion a chain of other FBI moves that Democrats now say helped Trump win the presidential election.

But according to the FBI’s own assessment, the document was bad intelligence — and according to people familiar with its contents, possibly even a fake sent to confuse the bureau. The Americans mentioned in the Russian document insist they do not know each other, do not speak to each other and never had any conversations remotely like the ones described in the document. Investigators have long doubted its veracity, and by August the FBI had concluded it was unreliable. [Continue reading…]

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After Trump gives green light, Bahrain launches deadly crackdown on political opponents

The Washington Post reports: A raid by forces in Bahrain against a pro-opposition stronghold has left at least five people dead and hundreds detained in one of the deadliest crackdowns since protests erupted in 2011 against the Persian Gulf nation’s Western-backed monarchy.

Bahrain’s Interior Ministry said it had carried out the raid on Tuesday in the village of Duraz and officers had come under attack, including from assailants wielding explosives, the state news agency said.

Opposition activists said that the police had targeted a peaceful sit-in outside the home of Bahrain’s leading Shiite cleric and that the dead included an environmental activist.

Protests and clashes have flared for years in the tiny but strategic island nation between the Sunni-led monarchy and Bahrain’s large Shiite population, which claims it suffers discrimination and other abuses. Bahrain hosts the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet.

In addition to the death toll in Tuesday’s raid, the timing was striking, coming two days after President Trump publicly assured the king of Bahrain that their relationship would be free of the kind of “strain” that had occurred in the past — an apparent reference to periodic chiding of Bahrain by the Obama administration for human rights violations.

“Our countries have a wonderful relationship together, but there has been a little strain, but there won’t be strain with this administration,” Trump said during a photo session with the king, Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, at a conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, according to the Reuters news agency. [Continue reading…]

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Theresa May will confront Donald Trump over U.S. officials leaking Manchester bombing evidence

The Guardian reports: Theresa May will confront Donald Trump over the stream of leaks of crucial intelligence about the Manchester bomb attack when she meets the US president at a Nato summit in Brussels on Thursday.

British officials were infuriated on Wednesday when the New York Times published forensic photographs of sophisticated bomb parts that UK authorities fear could complicate the expanding investigation into the lethal blast in which six further arrests have been made in the UK and two more in Libya.

It was the latest of a series of leaks to US journalists that appeared to come from inside the US intelligence community, passing on data that had been shared between the two countries as part of a long-standing security cooperation.

A senior Whitehall source said: “These images from inside the American system are clearly distressing to victims, their families and other members of the public. Protests have been lodged at every relevant level between the British authorities and our US counterparts. They are in no doubt about our huge strength of feeling on this issue. It is unacceptable.”

Police chiefs also criticised the leaking of information from the investigation. A National Counter Terrorism Policing spokesperson said: “We greatly value the important relationships we have with our trusted intelligence, law enforcement and security partners around the world.

“When that trust is breached it undermines these relationships, and undermines our investigations and the confidence of victims, witnesses and their families. This damage is even greater when it involves unauthorised disclosure of potential evidence in the middle of a major counter-terrorism investigation.” [Continue reading…]

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‘Dirty Irish bastards’: Irish in Manchester remember hostility after IRA bombing

TheJournal.ie reports: “Dirty Irish bastards.” It was just over two decades ago that Brian Kennedy was listening to this abuse on the other end of a phone line at the Irish World Heritage Centre in Manchester. The threats and the slurs have stuck in his memory.

The hostile phone calls followed an IRA bombing in June 1996 that injured more than 200 people and destroyed a large chunk of the city.

Although the Irish in Manchester have come a long way since then, they feel a resonance with the Muslim community this week following the bombing at the Manchester Arena.

They know what it is like to lower their voices in public to hide an accent. They know what it is like to suddenly feel tension in a place they call home.

They know being Muslim does not automatically mean you are a terrorist, just like being Irish did not mean they supported the devastation caused by the IRA more than 20 years ago. [Continue reading…]

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Top Russian officials discussed how to influence Trump aides last summer

The New York Times reports: American spies collected information last summer revealing that senior Russian intelligence and political officials were discussing how to exert influence over Donald J. Trump through his advisers, according to three current and former American officials familiar with the intelligence.

The conversations focused on Paul Manafort, the Trump campaign chairman at the time, and Michael T. Flynn, a retired general who was advising Mr. Trump, the officials said. Both men had indirect ties to Russian officials, who appeared confident that each could be used to help shape Mr. Trump’s opinions on Russia.

Some Russians boasted about how well they knew Mr. Flynn. Others discussed leveraging their ties to Viktor F. Yanukovych, the deposed president of Ukraine living in exile in Russia, who at one time had worked closely with Mr. Manafort.

The intelligence was among the clues — which also included information about direct communications between Mr. Trump’s advisers and Russian officials — that American officials received last year as they began investigating Russian attempts to disrupt the election and whether any of Mr. Trump’s associates were assisting Moscow in the effort. Details of the conversations, some of which have not been previously reported, add to an increasing understanding of the alarm inside the American government last year about the Russian disruption campaign. [Continue reading…]

CNN reports: Attorney General Jeff Sessions did not disclose meetings he had last year with Russian officials when he applied for his security clearance, the Justice Department told CNN Wednesday.

Sessions, who met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at least two times last year, didn’t note those interactions on the form, which requires him to list “any contact” he or his family had with a “foreign government” or its “representatives” over the past seven years, officials said.

The new information from the Justice Department is the latest example of Sessions failing to disclose contacts he had with Russian officials. He has come under withering criticism from Democrats following revelations that he did not disclose the same contacts with Kislyak during his Senate confirmation hearings earlier this year. [Continue reading…]

ABC News reports: Even with the Senate Intelligence Committee focused this week on its investigation of Russia’s alleged meddling in last year’s presidential election, the committee met behind closed doors today for a classified briefing from senior FBI and Homeland Security officials over another alleged threat emanating from Moscow: a major software company whose products are used widely across the United States.

The visit from FBI and Homeland Security officials has long been planned. But congressional sources told ABC News that in recent days the agenda expanded to specifically include an update on U.S. intelligence about Kaspersky Lab, a Moscow-based firm that has become one of the world’s largest and most respected cybersecurity firms.

Current and former U.S. officials worry that state-sponsored hackers could try to exploit Kaspersky Lab’s anti-virus software to steal and manipulate users’ files, read private emails or attack critical infrastructure in the U.S. And they point to Kaspersky Lab executives with previous ties to Russian intelligence and military agencies. [Continue reading…]

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We’re Seth Rich’s parents. Stop politicizing our son’s murder

Mary Rich and Joel Rich write: Imagine living in a nightmare that you can never wake up from. Imagine having to face every single day knowing that your son was murdered. Imagine you have no answers — that no one has been brought to justice and there are few clues leading to the killer or killers. Imagine that every single day, with every phone call you hope that it’s the police, calling to tell you that there has been a break in the case.

Imagine that instead, every call that comes in is a reporter asking what you think of a series of lies or conspiracies about the death. That nightmare is what our family goes through every day.

Our beloved son Seth Rich was gunned down in the early hours of July 10, 2016, in his Washington, D.C., neighborhood of Bloomingdale. On the day he was murdered, Seth was excited about a new job he had been offered on Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

Seth had dedicated his life to public service, and he told us that he wanted to work on the campaign’s effort to expand voter participation because he loved our country dearly and believed deeply in the promise of democratic engagement. Seth had been walking around, calling friends, family and his girlfriend, pondering the broader picture of what the job change would mean. He wondered how he would pick up and move to New York City for four months, the strain that might put on his relationships, and how it would all affect the life he had built for himself in Washington.

The circumstances of what happened next are still unclear. We know that Seth was abruptly confronted on the street, that he had been on the phone and quickly ended the call. We also know that there were signs of a struggle, including a watchband torn when the assailants attempted to rip it off his wrist. Law-enforcement officials told us that Seth’s murder looked like a botched robbery attempt in which the assailants — after shooting our son — panicked, immediately ran and abandoned Seth’s personal belongings. We have seen no evidence, by any person at any time, that Seth’s murder had any connection to his job at the Democratic National Committee or his life in politics. Anyone who claims to have such evidence is either concealing it from us or lying.

Still, conservative news outlets and commentators continue, day after painful day, to peddle discredited conspiracy theories that Seth was killed after having provided WikiLeaks with emails from the DNC. Those theories, which some reporters have since retracted, are baseless, and they are unspeakably cruel.

We know that Seth’s personal email and his personal computer were both inspected by detectives early in the investigation and that the inspection revealed no evidence of any communications with anyone at WikiLeaks or anyone associated with WikiLeaks. Nor did that inspection reveal any evidence that Seth had leaked DNC emails to WikiLeaks or to anyone else. Indeed, those who have suggested that Seth’s role as a data analyst at the DNC gave him access to a wide trove of emails are simply incorrect — Seth’s job was to develop analytical models to encourage voters to turn out to vote. He didn’t have access to DNC emails, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee emails, John Podesta’s emails or Hillary Clinton’s emails. That simply wasn’t his job. [Continue reading…]

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Pope lends weight to G-7 push to bind Trump to climate deal

Bloomberg reports: Pope Francis joined an international chorus urging Donald Trump to meet U.S. commitments on climate change in talks at the Vatican Wednesday.

Francis gave the U.S. president a copy of his 2015 encyclical calling for urgent, drastic cuts in fossil-fuel emissions after a half-hour meeting in his private study.

Francis’s choice of gift suggests he is adding his voice to those pressing Trump not to renege on the Paris accord, which is the cornerstone of global efforts to limit climate change. The Vatican said in a statement that the talks focused on international affairs and the promotion of peace, with particular emphasis on health care, education and immigration.

“Thank you, thank you,” Trump told Francis as they shook hands after the meeting. “I won’t forget what you said.” Trump has said climate change might be a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese.

For his part, Trump gave Francis a special edition of the works of U.S. civil rights leader Martin Luther King. [Continue reading…]

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The common acts of kindness that mark our species

George Monbiot writes: It is a blow to the heart: an atrocity whose purpose was to kill and maim as many children and teenagers as possible. No parent, hearing the voices of those still seeking news of their children, could fail to imagine the frantic play of hope and despair, the terrible wrenching of attachment. The person or people who did this meant to hit where it hurts most, and they succeeded.

The purpose of terrorism, whether perpetrated by lone attackers, organisations or states, is not only to change political outcomes: it is to demoralise the people at whom it is aimed, to erode and degrade their humanity. Attacking a concert crammed with happy young people, detonating a bomb apparently stuffed with nails and bolts, is the clearest possible statement of such intent.

It also allows us to see how we should respond. The terrorists want to drive us apart, to sow suspicion and fear, to oblige us to replace liberty with security and answer them with bombs and bullets of our own. For a terrorist organisation any of this, if implemented, would mean mission accomplished. So we should do the opposite. We defy them by proving that this is not what we are. And the proof is everywhere.

Human cooperation and reciprocity are so normal that we scarcely seem to notice them. We hardly see the daily acts of kindness that mark our species: people helping strangers to lift their suitcases on to a train, carrying pushchairs up flights of stairs, giving way to each other in traffic and on the pavement, listening to friends, volunteering for charities, giving their money to causes from which they cannot possibly benefit.

We might stop to notice the remarkable people who foster children or who take refugees from halfway round the world into their homes, and treat them as members of their families. But we see their tendencies as exceptional, rather than as unalloyed examples of the way that humans are naturally inclined to behave.

Because our minds are attuned to danger and difference, events like the attack on a concert in Manchester dominate perceptions of our species. We look back on the Charlie Hebdo killings in Paris in January 2015 and, remembering the perpetrators, tell ourselves that there is something evil lodged in the human mind. Less salient in our memories are the 3.7 million people in France who took to the streets to march in solidarity with the victims, and the millions who did the same elsewhere in the world. These people, not the few terrorists, represent the human norm.

This norm – cooperating with unrelated members of our own species – is, as a review article in the journal Frontiers in Psychology notes, “spectacularly unusual when compared [with] other animals.” It is a norm that is also innate. [Continue reading…]

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A great nation does not hide its history — it faces its flaws and corrects them

 

Felicia Bevel writes: On Friday, the city of New Orleans dismantled a statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee—a symbol of the Confederacy that had loomed over the city since 1884, and a direct link to the South’s dark past. The removal completed the city’s controversial decision to take down four monuments commemorating the rise and fall of the Confederacy, including statues of Jefferson Davis, its former president, and Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard, as well as a monument representing the Battle of Liberty Place.

“These monuments celebrate a fictional, sanitized Confederacy; ignoring the death, ignoring the enslavement, ignoring the terror that it actually stood for,” New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu said in a speech Friday.

But what is the right way to deal with the legacy of white supremacy? Some argue that physical monuments glorify the Confederacy and the white supremacist, pro-slavery ideology it stood for. Other protesters decry the erasure of “Southern heritage,” thereby conveniently divorcing the Confederacy from the racism at its core. And somewhere in the middle are those who understand the troubling narrative that these statues evoke, but argue that their presence is necessary because they remind us of the nation’s horrible past. Regardless of one’s personal views, one thing is clear: It will take more than removing these four monuments from the physical landscape for New Orleans to effectively deal with white supremacy. When it comes to Southern history, out of sight does not mean out of mind. [Continue reading…]

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Trump praised Philippine president’s campaign of extrajudicial killings against drug suspects

The New York Times reports: President Trump praised President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines in a phone call last month for doing an “unbelievable job on the drug problem” in the island nation where the government has sanctioned gunning down suspects in the streets. Mr. Trump also boasted that the United States has “two nuclear submarines” off the coast of North Korea but said he does not want to use them.

The comments were part of a Philippine transcript of the April 29 call that was circulated on Tuesday, under a “confidential” cover sheet, by the Americas division of the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs. In Washington, a senior administration official confirmed that the transcript was an accurate representation of the call between the two iconoclastic leaders. The official was not authorized to publicly discuss the call and confirmed it on the condition of anonymity.

The White House also keeps transcripts of such calls, but they are routinely kept secret. The Philippine rendering of the call offers a rare insight into how Mr. Trump talks to fellow leaders: He sounds much the way he sounds in public, casing issues in largely black-and-white terms, often praising authoritarian leaders, largely unconcerned about human rights violations and genuinely uncertain about the nature of his adversary in North Korea.

Mr. Trump placed the call and began it by congratulating Mr. Duterte for the government-sanctioned attacks on drug suspects. The program has been widely condemned by human rights groups around the world because extrajudicial killings have taken thousands of lives without arrest or trial. In March, the program was criticized in the State Department’s annual human rights report, which referred to “apparent governmental disregard for human rights and due process.”

Mr. Trump had no such reservations. “I just wanted to congratulate you because I am hearing of the unbelievable job on the drug problem,” he said. “Many countries have the problem, we have a problem, but what a great job you are doing and I just wanted to call and tell you that.” [Continue reading…]

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Salman Abedi named as the Manchester suicide bomber – what we know about him

The Telegraph reports: Born in 1994, the second youngest of four children, Abedi’s parents were Libyan refugees who fled to the UK to escape Gaddafi.

His mother, Samia Tabbal, 50, and father, Ramadan Abedi, a security officer, were both born in Tripoli but appear to have emigrated to London before moving to the Whalley Range area of south Manchester where they had lived for at least a decade.

Abedi went to school locally and then on to Salford University in 2014 where he studied business management before dropping out. His trips to Libya, where it is thought his parents returned in 2011 following Gaddafi’s overthrow, are now subject to scrutiny including links to jihadists.

A group of Gaddafi dissidents, who were members of the outlawed Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), lived within close proximity to Abedi in Whalley Range.

Among them was Abd al-Baset Azzouz, a father-of-four from Manchester, who left Britain to run a terrorist network in Libya overseen by Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden’s successor as leader of al-Qaeda.

Azzouz, 48, an expert bomb-maker, was accused of running an al-Qaeda network in eastern Libya. The Telegraph reported in 2014 that Azzouz had 200 to 300 militants under his control and was an expert in bomb-making.

Another member of the Libyan community in Manchester, Salah Aboaoba told Channel 4 news in 2011 that he had been fund raising for LIFG while in the city. Aboaoba had claimed he had raised funds at Didsbury mosque, the same mosque attended by Abedi. The mosque at the time vehemently denied the claim. “This is the first time I’ve heard of the LIFG. I do not know Salah,” a mosque spokesman said at the time.

At the mosque, Mohammed Saeed El-Saeiti, the imam at the Didsbury mosque yesterday branded Abedi an dangerous extremist. “Salman showed me the face of hate after my speech on Isis,” said the imam. “He used to show me the face of hate and I could tell this person does not like me. It’s not a surprise to me.” [Continue reading…]

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Why it matters that the Manchester attack targeted girls

Emily Crockett writes: We don’t know the exact motivation behind Monday’s horrifying terrorist attack in Manchester, England, which killed 22 people, including an 8-year-old girl. And given that the bomber died in the attack, we’re unlikely to ever find out precisely what was going through his head as he detonated that device. But one thing we do know is the demographic he targeted: young girls and women. As is so often the case with acts of violence, misogyny was deeply woven into this attack.

ISIS, which has claimed responsibility for the attack, is of course notorious for its ghastly treatment of women and girls – for mass imprisonments, rapes and acts of torture. It’s not yet known if the suicide bomber, whom police have named as 22-year-old British national Salman Abedi, acted alone, or what his exposure to ISIS might have been. Regardless, the symbolism of his attack is clear and devastating. During Ariana Grande’s Dangerous Woman tour, Abedi gave the world a sick reminder of the dangers of being a woman in public in 2017, attacking largely female concertgoers for doing nothing but enjoying themselves while listening to music.

These girls and women weren’t just listening to any music, either – this was feminist music. Through her songs and public statements, Ariana Grande has taken a strong stand against sexism and the objectification of women, and she does so kindly, joyfully and without apology.

All of that is threatening enough. But Grande goes even further, daring to embrace sex positivity: the idea that sexuality is healthy, that it can and should be expressed in diverse ways, and that it deserves no shame.

It hardly takes being a member of ISIS to balk at women embracing their sexuality without shame – plenty of Republican lawmakers show their discomfort with the idea by attacking basic reproductive and sexual health for women. Take away shame, and you take away one of humanity’s most powerful tools for keeping women in line; suicide bombs and oppressive laws might put women in their place, but shame is the glue that holds it all together. [Continue reading…]

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Why should we care about Russian interference in our elections?

The New York Times reports: [John] Brennan, the former C.I.A. director, said Tuesday that he became concerned last year that the Russian government was trying to influence members of the Trump campaign to act — wittingly or unwittingly — on Moscow’s behalf.

“I encountered and am aware of information and intelligence that revealed contacts and interactions between Russian officials and U.S. persons involved in the Trump campaign that I was concerned about because of known Russian efforts to suborn such individuals,” Mr. Brennan told lawmakers on the House Intelligence Committee.

“It raised questions in my mind about whether Russia was able to gain the cooperation of those individuals,” he said, adding that he did not know whether the Russian efforts were successful.

He added, “I don’t know whether such collusion existed.”

It was the first time he publicly acknowledged that he was concerned about possible ties between Russia and the Trump campaign.

He said he left office in January with many unanswered questions about the Russian influence operation. Intelligence officials have said that Russia tried to tip the election toward Mr. Trump.

Mr. Brennan became so concerned last summer about signs of Russian election meddling that he held urgent, classified briefings for eight senior members of Congress, speaking with some of them over secure phone lines while they were on recess. In those conversations, he told lawmakers there was evidence that Russia was specifically working to elect Mr. Trump as president. [Continue reading…]

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Fox News staffers ‘embarrassed’ by Hannity’s conspiracy theory crusade

The Daily Beast reports: Fox News staffers are growing increasingly dismayed as network star Sean Hannity and others continue to promote the unfounded conspiracy theory that Seth Rich, a Democratic National Committee staffer was murdered last year for talking to WikiLeaks.

The Daily Beast spoke to nearly a dozen reporters, pundits, and hosts inside Fox News who all conveyed the same sentiment: Hannity is “embarrassing” the network, and the promotion of the Rich conspiracy theory is senselessly cruel to a grieving family.

“ARE WE STILL AIRING THAT SHIT?!” one Fox News political reporter, who says they are furious that the conservative cable-news giant is entertaining the conspiracy theory, messaged The Daily Beast when informed of recent coverage. [Continue reading…]

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Manchester spirit: Tony Walsh recites ‘This Is The Place’ at a vigil for the bombing victims

HuffPost: Poet Tony Walsh became an instant symbol of Manchester’s defiance in the face of terror after reading his powerful ode to the city at a vigil to victims of the Manchester bombing.

Addressing thousands gathered at Manchester’s central Albert Square, the poet – known as ‘Longfella’ – gave a recital of his poem This Is The Place that paid tribute to the city’s rich history as an industrial and musical powerhouse. [Continue reading…]

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