10 Dec

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective


US politics >>

Intelligence agency reportedly believes individuals acting for Moscow hacked Democratic party emails and gave them to WikiLeaks

The CIA determined that individuals linked to Moscow stole Democratic party emails, according to the Washington Post.

The CIA determined that individuals linked to Moscow stole Democratic party emails, according to the Washington Post. Photograph: Alex Wong/Getty Images

US intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia interfered in last month’s presidential election to boost Donald Trump’s bid for the White House, according to reports.

A secret CIA assessment found that Russian operatives covertly interfered in the election campaign in an attempt to ensure the Republican candidate’s victory, the Washington Post reported, citing officials briefed on the matter.

A separate report in the New York Times said intelligence officials had a “high confidence” that Russia was involved in hacking related to the election.

The revelations came after the US president, Barack Obama, ordered a review of all cyberattacks that took place during the 2016 election cycle, amid growing calls from Congress for more information on the extent of Russian interference in the campaign.

According to the Washington Post, individuals with connections to Moscow provided the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks with emails hacked from the Democratic national committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chief, among others.

Those individuals were “one step” removed from the Russian government, consistent with past practice by Moscow to use “middlemen” in sensitive intelligence operations to preserve plausible deniability, the report said.

“It is the assessment of the intelligence community that Russia’s goal here was to favour one candidate over the other, to help Trump get elected,” a senior US official briefed on an intelligence presentation last week to key senators was quoted as saying. “That’s the consensus view.”

CIA agents told the lawmakers it was “quite clear” that electing Trump was Russia’s goal, according to officials who spoke to the Post, citing growing evidence from multiple sources.

However, some questions remain unanswered and the CIA’s assessment fell short of a formal US assessment produced by all 17 intelligence agencies, the report said. For example, intelligence agents do not have proof that Russian officials directed the identified individuals to supply WikiLeaks with the hacked Democratic emails.

The WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has denied any links with Russia.

President-elect Trump has rejected the intelligence community’s conclusion of Russian involvement. “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction,” Trump’s transition team said on Friday.

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Human Rights Day: US and EU call on China to release political prisoners

‘I remain extremely concerned about the ongoing detention of Chinese lawyers,’ the US ambassador to China says

China’s President Xi Jinping

China’s president, Xi Jinping, has presided over a widespread crackdown on freedom of expression, rights lawyers, feminists and religion. Photograph: Jason Lee/Reuters

More than half a dozen political prisoners in China should freed, the United States and European Union have said, citing a deteriorating human rights situation that has seen hundreds lawyers and activists detained in the past year.

Since coming to power in 2012 the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, has presided over a wide-ranging crackdown on freedom of expression, rights lawyers, feminists, activists and religion. About 250 lawyers and activists were detained by police starting in July last year in what some have called a “war on law”.

“I remain extremely concerned about the ongoing detention of Chinese lawyers,” Max Baucus, the US ambassador to China, said in a statement. “China’s treatment of these lawyers and advocates calls into question its commitment to the rule of law.”

Crusading attorneys Li Heping, Wang Quanzhang, Xie Yang and Xie Yanyi all remain remain behind bars, and Baucus singled out their cases and called for their release. The EU echoed many of the same sentiments and highlighted the same jailed lawyers.

“We urge China to immediately release any individual who has been detained … for seeking to exercise, protect or promote their own rights or the rights of others,” the EU statement said.

The US and EU made the calls to mark Human Rights Day, a United Nations holiday commemorating the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which China signed.

“During the past year, we have been extremely troubled about the deterioration of the situation with respect to freedom of expression and association,” the EU statement said.

“We are equally concerned about all human rights defenders and their family members who have been harassed and punished because of their work in promoting rights which are protected in China’s Constitution and international law.”

Both the US and EU called for Nobel Peace prize laureate and democracy activist Liu Xiaobo, who has been in prison since 2008, to be freed.

Tashi Wangchuk, a jailed Tibetan language advocate, was also mentioned by both governments. His case is emblematic of the hardline stance China has taken towards ethnic minorities who do not toe the Communist party line. Another victim of those policies is Ilham Tohti, a Muslim Uighur academic sentenced to life in prison, who the EU said should be released.

“I can tell you that China’s approach to human rights directly impacts our overall bilateral relationship,” Baucus said. “While other countries celebrate when their citizens win the Nobel Peace prize, Chinese Peace prize winner Liu Xiaobo remains jailed.”

The strongly-worded statement on human rights from the US may be its last for a while, Chinese activists worry. They fear president-elect Donald Trump will pull back from defending right around the world.

Curiously absent from the EU statement was Gui Minhai, a Swedish national and publisher of books critical of China’s leaders, who was allegedly abducted from Thailand a year ago. He later appeared in China, giving a televised “confession”.

More than 120 authors also took the opportunity of Human Rights Day to call on Xi to his end his government’s fierce crackdown on writers and dissidents, with the authors saying they “cannot stand by as more and more of our friends and colleagues are silenced”.

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The week in wildlife – in pictures

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Three New Yorkers selling NASTY WOMAN tee shirts on election day 2016 with the proceeds going to charity. In New York City.H8BHEG Three New Yorkers selling NASTY WOMAN tee shirts on election day 2016 with the proceeds going to charity. In New York City.

‘Lucky for us, irritating a narcissistic wannabe-despot doesn’t take much effort. It’s especially easy for women.’ Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

As the majority of Americans who didn’t vote for Donald Trump come to terms with having elected a shameless bigot and liar as our next president, there’s been quite a bit of pontificating about how best to make progress under his administration. Do we pay attention to tweets or cabinet appointments? Focus on making sure the white supremacists celebrating Trump’s win aren’t normalized in the media? Take on fake news?

Unfortunately, progressives and those who care about our country’s future will have to do it all. But what we don’t need to – and shouldn’t – do is heed the wide calls for everyone to embrace “unity” moving forward. Trump’s campaign was built on a foundation of racism and misogyny; to ask marginalized people to woo those who think we’re worthless is a waste of precious time better spent on more urgent issues. Especially now that so many Americans’ rights are at risk.

As Kara Brown at Jezebel smartly wrote, the love and kindness tactic “suggests blindness, endless patience and a great deal of emotional labor on the part of people who are already exhausted”.

Instead, let’s do something both effective and enjoyable: become big, sharp, nasty thorns in Trump’s side. Get under his skin and reside there for four years.

Lucky for us, irritating a narcissistic wannabe-despot doesn’t take much effort. It’s especially easy for women. Our president-elect says he “goes through the roof” when he comes home and dinner isn’t ready. (So please, ladies, step away from the oven for a while and cook up some plans on how to defend Planned Parenthood instead.) Trump has also said that “putting a wife to work is a very dangerous thing”, he has bemoaned women who “shout” at or criticize him, and he has expressed disgust with any sort of female body function, from breastfeeding to urinating. It turns out all women have to do to be “nasty” in Trump’s eyes is exist.

But anyone, regardless of gender, can get on Trump’s bad side; all you have to do to infuriate the thin-skinned reality star is disagree with him. Indiana union leader Chuck Jones, for example, is the latest target of Trump’s ire. Twenty minutes after Jones corrected Trump’s numbers about jobs saved on the Carrier deal, our soon-to-be commander-in-chief tweeted an insult about Jones that resulted in scores of threats against him.

In this sort of political climate, where the president-elect targets individual citizens and hate crimes have skyrocketed across the country, calls for reconciliation feel more like a demand for acquiescence: unify, or else. But people can’t be expected to be gracious losers when what we’re losing is our healthcare, safety, families and rights. In a time like this, being disagreeable is necessary.

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