Overnight Cybersecurity: Bad Russian intel may have swayed Comey's handling of Clinton probe | Apple sees spike in data requests | More subpoenas for Flynn | DOJ's plan for data warrants

Overnight Cybersecurity: Bad Russian intel may have swayed Comey's handling of Clinton probe | Apple sees spike in data requests | More subpoenas for Flynn | DOJ's plan for data warrants
© Greg Nash

Welcome to OVERNIGHT CYBERSECURITY, your daily rundown of the biggest news in the world of hacking and data privacy. We're here to connect the dots as leaders in government, policy and industry try to counter the rise in cyber threats. What lies ahead for Congress, the administration and the latest company under siege? Whether you're a consumer, a techie or a D.C. lifer, we're here to give you ...




--FROM RUSSIA WITH SABOTAGE:  Former FBI Director James Comey's July decision to detail the FBI's findings in the Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillary Clinton to start new podcast Centrist Democrats insist Sanders would need delegate majority to win President Trump is weak against Bernie Sanders in foreign affairs MORE email case without Justice Department input was influenced by a dubious Russian document that the FBI now considers to be bad intelligence, The Washington Post reported Wednesday. The secret document, which purported to be a piece of Russian intelligence, claimed that former Attorney General Loretta Lynch had privately assured someone in the Clinton campaign that the investigation into Clinton's handling of classified information would go nowhere. Comey is said to have felt that, if Lynch made the announcement and the document were to leak, it would undermine the justice system. According to people familiar with the matter, by August the FBI had come to believe the document was unreliable -- and in fact may have been planted as a fake to confuse the FBI.

To read the rest of our piece, click here.

--MCCAUL WANTS TO REARRANGE THE DHS. (SO...DSH?): House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) is hoping to see a key cyber reorganization bill introduced as soon as next week. McCaul introduced similar legislation last year that would have replaced the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) unit in charge of securing the nation's cyber and physical infrastructure with a new, operational agency to handle cybersecurity. The bill advanced the committee in the last Congress but never went to the floor for a vote. At a national security event Wednesday, McCaul expressed optimism that the new bill -- on which he has consulted with the Trump administration -- would advance to the Senate after being introduced in the House "in about a week." "Because the administration supports this legislation, because we've been working with the department, that's a different dynamic that we're now seeing because now we have an administration that is fully supportive of this effort," McCaul said at a forum hosted by Defense Daily.  

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--HOUSE INTEL SUBPOENAS FLYNN BUSINESSES; PANEL TO HEAR FROM CARTER PAGE: Carter Page, a former adviser to President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Memo: Biden seeks revival in South Carolina Congress eyes billion to billion to combat coronavirus Sanders makes the case against Biden ahead of SC primary MORE's campaign, will testify before the House Intelligence Committee in early June, he told ABC News on Wednesday. Page, who advised Trump on foreign policy, said he also obtained legal counsel. Page has been the target of lawmakers investigating possible ties between Trump's campaign and Russia during the presidential election. An intel dossier alleged that Page met with Russian officials while working for the Trump campaign, discussing the country's interference in the 2016 U.S. election and sanctions against Russia. And The House Intelligence Committee will issue subpoenas to former national security adviser Michael Flynn in its investigation into Russian election interference, the top Democrat Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffHillicon Valley — Presented by Facebook — Federal court rules tech giants can censor content | Trump upends surveillance fight | Senate passes bill barring federal funds for Huawei equipment House Intelligence lawyer Goldman leaving committee Schiff presses top intel official to declassify part of report on Khashoggi killing MORE (D-Calif.) confirmed Wednesday.

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--SESSIONS DID NOT DISCLOSE RUSSIAN MEETINGS ON SECURITY CLEARANCE FORM: Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsDOJ puts its integrity in doubt by interfering with immigration courts Trump shakes up Justice Department, intelligence community Do people think ill of Jeff Sessions merely based on the sound of his voice? MORE did not disclose on security clearance forms that he met twice last year with Russia's ambassador, CNN reported Wednesday. The form, the SF-86, asks applicants to disclose any contacts with a foreign government or its representatives over the past seven years. Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores told CNN that an FBI employee who was helping Sessions complete the form advised him that he did not have to disclose meetings with foreign ambassadors that took place during his time in the Senate.  She said Sessions listed a year's worth of meetings with foreign officials on the form. CNN notes that federal officials do not have to list meetings that were part of foreign conferences attended while conducting government business -- though Sessions' meetings with Sergey Kislyak do not appear to fall under that exemption. 


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--RUSSIA DISCUSSED HOW TO FLIP TRUMP OFFICIALS DURING CAMPAIGN: In the summer before the presidential election, U.S. spies collected intelligence showing senior Russian officials discussing how to exert influence over Donald Trump using his advisers, The New York Times reported Wednesday. Their discussions centered around then-adviser Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort, Trump's campaign adviser at the time, according to three current and former U.S. officials. Both men had indirect ties to Moscow and the Russian officials were confident that they could be used to sway President Trump, according to The Times. Some of the officials boasted of their close ties to Flynn, while others weighed using their relationship to the deposed president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, who at one time employed Manafort. Yanukovych, who was backed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, is now living in exile in Russia. 

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OVERSEAS DATA: The Department of Justice is asking Congress to permit it to pursue reciprocal agreements to serve warrants on data with other countries, addressing what has become a sticking point in investigations at home and abroad.

The pitch came as a Senate Judiciary subcommittee held hearings Wednesday to parse out the increasingly confusing world of investigating crimes when data is stored around the world.

Modern cloud storage, including web-based email accounts and other services, can store information anywhere on earth. The problem the Department of Justice and tech companies have begun to grapple with is that data stored in a different country is quite possibly outside of the DOJ's jurisdiction for warrants.

In a landmark case, a federal court ruled that Microsoft did not have to provide emails stored in Ireland requested in a warrant. But courts have differed on the issue. It is not entirely clear whether police demanding information stored internationally but accessible from within the United States are seizing evidence from the U.S. or the other country. Microsoft may be bound to both U.S. and Irish law, even if the two conflict.

"I'll make a bet," said subcommittee Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamTrump upends controversial surveillance fight The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump on US coronavirus risks: 'We're very, very ready for this' Surveillance fight emerges as intelligence flashpoint MORE (R-S.C.). "I'll bet if Congress understands we can fix this, we will."

The solution for other countries seeking U.S stored data, the DOJ suggests, is that Congress allow it to negotiate reciprocal, bilateral agreements to serve data warrants. That suggestion has very little pushback. But the DOJ's plan for receiving data from other countries would be to reverse the Microsoft decision entirely, which would irk tech companies that would continue to be stuck in legal limbo between the laws of multiple countries.

To read the rest of our piece, click here.



MAKE YOUR OWN FIDGET SPINNER, and be the master of your own attention span.



NATIONAL SECURITY LETTERS TAKING BIGGER BITES OUT OF APPLE: Apple says the number of United States government requests for user data skyrocketed in the second half of 2016.

The computer and phone company released its twice-yearly transparency report Tuesday evening, showing that the number of National Security Letters more than doubled between the first and second half of 2016.

National Security Letters are similar to warrants but don't require the same evidentiary standard or approval from a judge for an agency to issue.

According to the report, between 5,750 and 5,999 National Security Letters were issued for data from 4,750 to 4,999 different accounts. National Security Letters (NSLs) usually contain a nondisclosure clause preventing a company like Apple from releasing information on the letters, even to users whose data has been requested. Companies can, however, issue reports giving a range of possible numbers.


This marks at least the sixth consecutive half where the number of NSLs rose. In first half of 2014, there were between 0-249 delivered to Apple. In second half 2014, there were between 250-499. In 2015, the government issued 750-999 followed by 1,250-1,499. And in the first half of 216, it issued 2,750-2,999.

To read the rest of our piece, click here.



JOE LIEBERMAN: Former Democratic candidate for vice president Joe Lieberman is reportedly no longer in the running for FBI director, as President Trump looks to open up the field to new candidates.

Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainFox's Britt McHenry confirms brain tumor, says she's got 'amazing medical team' President Trump is weak against Bernie Sanders in foreign affairs Appeals court refuses to throw out Joe Arpaio's guilty verdict after Trump pardon MORE (R-Ariz.) says that Democrats ended former Sen. Joe Lieberman's (I-Conn.) chances at becoming FBI director.

"My Democratic colleagues clearly did [kill Lieberman's chances]," he told reporters Wednesday, according to CNN.


"This is their nominee for vice president of the United States. If anything would make you cynical about this town, that's it."

Democratic senators argued Lieberman lacked the same background in federal law enforcement previous FBI directors possessed.

Lieberman is also a partner at the same law firm as Marc Kasowitz, whom Trump is expected to retain to lead a team of private attorneys to represent him for the Russia investigation.

To read the rest of our piece, click here.



Links from our blog, The Hill, and around the Web.

Paul Ryan doesn't think James Comey is a nut job. (The Hill)

A Silicon Valley trade group is skeptical about Rep. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnThe Hill's Campaign Report: Sanders top target at CPAC House Freedom Caucus chairman endorses Collins's Georgia Senate bid TikTok introduces new parental controls MORE's (R-Tenn.) internet privacy bill. (The Hill)

Comcast sued over Comcastroturf.com, a pro net-neutrality site. (The Hill)

Two senators are renewing their war on botnets. (The Hill)

Senate Intelligence was briefed on Kaspersky Lab. (ABC News)

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