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HHS: Ransomware groups will continue focus on healthcare, leveraging legacy tech

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The latest Department of Health and Human Services Cybersecurity Coordination Center alert pointed to healthcare delivery organizations as a key target of ransomware attacks, often due to its heavy reliance on outdated and legacy technologies, as well as limited security resources.

The alert reaffirms previous Forescout data that showed on average, healthcare delivery organizations have 20,000 devices on the network at any time, and 32% of those devices operate on unsupported Windows versions. Another 0.4% of devices operate on even older platforms like XP.

HC3 reviewed ransomware activity from July 1 and Sept. 30 and identified 10 major ransomware groups impacting healthcare entities and their subsidiaries creating the greatest disturbance across the sector. The team only reviewed incidents for which there was data, warning that there were likely unreported incidents left out of the analysis.

In total, 68 ransomware incidents affected healthcare organizations across the world during the third quarter this year, with 63% impacting the U.S. and 37% compromising global healthcare environments. At least 20 health centers and medical clinics fell victim to ransomware during Q3, and Conti claimed the most US health center and clinics as victims.

The top ten ransomware groups exploiting global healthcare sector targets are Conti, Avaddon, and the REvil/Sodinokibi ransomware-as-as-service (RaaS) groups. The FIN12 group should also be included in this list, as Mandiant is now tracking the prolific ransomware affiliate due to its aggressive targeting of providers,

Further, while Avaddon was the second-most observed threat group on a global scale, data show that just one US healthcare provider was exploited by the hackers during the analyzed time period. Hive is another notable threat, with at least four US healthcare victims in Q3.

The states seeing the most ransomware incidents include California, Florida, and Illinois, among others. Some states may see more incidents due to size and population. 

The data concluded that the Hive and Vice Society ransomware groups will likely continue to target healthcare entities in the U.S. for the foreseeable future. Both threat actors emerged in June 2021 amid a number of ransomware groups rebranding to evade law enforcement and other takedown efforts.

HC3 warns that these threats are likely to continue at the current pace and scope throughout the remainder of the year. In the last month, at least two Indiana providers fell victim to ransomware attacks that drove clinicians back to paper processes.

Johnson Memorial Hospital is continuing to recover its systems alongside an outside security team after an Oct. 2 attack. Schneck Medical Center recently brought the majority of its systems back online, nearly two weeks after its attack.

The largest targets continue to be health and medical clinics, followed by healthcare industry services and hospitals. The HC3 alert shows similar findings to an August report from Clinical Insights that showed outpatient facilities and specialty clinics were compromised nearly as much as hospitals during the first half of 2021. In short, all healthcare entities need to be on alert.

“While it may be tempting to think that clinics do not require the same level of cybersecurity diligence as large healthcare systems, that idea is mistaken,” researchers explained at the time. “Attackers look for the easiest target. Smaller organizations run the same systems and use the same technology as hospital systems, making them potentially just as vulnerable.”

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The Spies of World War II

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The years between 1918 and 1939 were marked by intense turmoil for much of the world, as Europe, ravaged by World War I, struggled to rebuild and recover, while the U.S. brought home her late-to-the-war troops and once again downsized its military. In the Pacific, the Japanese military, who had played a limited role in the war on the side of the Entente, took advantage of Germany’s defeat to advance its interests in the region by acquiring the German military colony at Tsingtao, China. All of these events would form the perfect storm that would become the Second World War. The interwar years would find many of the world’s intelligence services lacking and playing catch up.


For Germany, the years between the world wars were as much a time of refitting and rearmament as they were of recovery. German territory had largely been untouched by the war, but being on the losing side came with consequences. An effective British blockade had brought about famine and hunger, and the largely unpopular war led to the Kaiser and the royal families abdicating, to be replaced by the Weimar Republic. Economically, Germany was suffering from hyperinflation at a time when the rest of the world was reeling from the effects of the Great Depression.

Abwehr, Germany’s military intelligence unit, was formally born in 1920. This was despite the provisions of the Treaty of Versailles, which clearly prohibited the formation of any German intelligence agency. Ignoring this, the German defense ministry established what they labeled as a “defense against foreign espionage.” (Over time, this would morph into something else completely.) The fledgling Abwehr was tasked with domestic and foreign intelligence gathering — the majority of it via HUMINT (human intelligence) — along with counterespionage.

Then in 1929, each individual military branch’s intelligence units were combined and placed under the umbrella of the Ministry of Defense under General Kurt Schleicher. Much like today, the Abwehr operated out of domestic and foreign stations. The foreign stations were first set up in neutral countries and then in occupied nations as the Blitzkrieg rolled on. In 1938, Hitler replaced the Abwehr with the OKW (or Oberkommando der Wehrmacht, “Supreme Command of the Armed Forces”) and made it a part of his personal sphere of influence.

According to an article in the online publication The Armchair General, Germany’s greatest intelligence successes came via communications intercepts and deception. Allegedly, the famous German lieutenant general (later Field Marshal) Erwin Rommel gained his best intelligence from the American military attaché in Cairo. Rommel was able to read his dispatches and gain information on the disposition of British forces in North Africa.

German HUMINT officers operated throughout Europe, Russia (early on in the war and before), and even in Asia and the United States. They gathered intelligence and recruited spies to report on everything from enemy troop movements to their own neighbors.


Most historians view Japanese intelligence during the war as largely a failure. But not everyone agrees. In a 2009 book titled “Japanese Intelligence in World War 2,” Japanese scholar Ken Kotani cautioned that the naysayers are basing their opinion mostly on the latter years of the war when the Japanese Army and Navy were fighting enemies on multiple fronts. Kotani examined the pre-war and early war years. He argues that if it were not for the intelligence gathered by Japanese spies and communications intercept forces, numerous victories over Russia, China, and Great Britain would likely not have been possible.

HUMINT and SIGINT were the hallmark methods of Japanese spying against foreign targets, while the Kampeitai (IJA police) and the War Ministry’s Investigative Department handled counterintelligence operations. The Japanese also made extensive use of OSINT (open-source intelligence) collection and support from organizations such as the South Manchurian Railway Company and the Domei News Agency.

One of Japan’s most prolific spies, Velvalee Dickinson, was actually an American. Dickinson was a shop owner in New York City who specialized in dolls. Using this as a cover, Dickinson was able to travel to the West Coast, “bump” unsuspecting targets, who had access to U.S. Navy shipyards and ask them seemingly innocent questions to gather information on ship dispositions. She would then draft a letter, again using real but unsuspecting citizens’ addresses as the point of origin, hiding the details of the intelligence within. This method of concealing a file, message, image, or video within another file, message, image, or video is known as a stenographic message.

In February 1942, in the incident that would lead to her arrest two years later, a letter was brought to the attention of the FBI. The letter, intercepted by wartime censors, was supposedly from a woman in Portland, Oregon to a correspondent in Buenos Aires, South America. It discussed a “wonderful doll hospital.” The letter also noted that the writer had sent the correspondent “three Old English dolls” for repairs, and mentioned “fishnets” and “balloons.” After pouring over the details, FBI cryptographers concluded that it was likely that the “dolls” described three warships and that the “doll hospital” was a West Coast-based shipyard where repairs were made, while the “fishing nets” and “balloons” likely described coastal defenses.

The subsequent investigation revealed an intricate network of falsified letters and money that originated from Japanese naval intelligence officers in Washington DC and New York. Dickinson was charged with espionage against the United States and was sentenced to 10 years in prison (she only served seven before being released.) In a final act of treachery, she maintained that her husband, who was of decreased mental capacity, was in fact the spy for Japan. (Indeed for better or for worse!)

United States

Probably the most “famous” spies of WWII were American, British, and French (note, I did not say the best.) The FBI maintained a highly capable domestic intelligence program and was largely responsible for spoiling German plans to incite German-Americans, which they were somewhat successful at (though it did not amount to much strategically). Yet, abroad they were a bit out of their element. More suited to the task was the Office of Strategic Service (OSS). OSS was founded in June 1942 as means of both providing a central holding for intelligence and as a way to placate the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who did not trust President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Coordinator of Information, William Donovan. Ironically, Donovan became the first director of OSS, thus furthering the rift.

The exploits of the OSS were the stuff of legend. OSS was the precursor of the Central Intelligence Agency as well as a model for today’s U.S. Army Special Forces and unconventional warfare. Many famous names passed through its ranks, including chef Julia Childs, Pulitzer Prize winner Arthur Schlesinger, and Morris “Moe” Berg, an American catcher and coach in Major League Baseball.

A graduate of Princeton University and Columbia Law School, Berg spoke several languages and allegedly read 10 newspapers a day. As a spy, he traveled to Yugoslavia to gather intelligence on resistance groups the U.S. government was considering supporting. He was later sent on missions to Italy, where he met with and interviewed various physicists concerning the Nazi atomic program. After the war, Berg was occasionally employed by the CIA, but, by the mid-1950s, was unemployed. He spent the last two decades of his life without work, living with various siblings.

Great Britain

Following the fall of France, Prime Minister Winston Churchill tasked Minister of Economic Warfare, Hugh Dalton, with forming SOE with the instruction to ‘set Europe ablaze,’ by helping local resistance movements and conducting espionage and sabotage in enemy-held territories. Research and development stations were set up near Welwyn in Hertfordshire. Colonel Colin Gubbins was named as SOE’s first head of training and operations.

SOE recruits received extensive training in unarmed combat, firearms, sabotage, and wireless communication techniques. SOE graduates operated in countries under Nazi occupation, including France, Belgium, Greece, Albania, Yugoslavia, and Italy. They also operated, as Force 136, in the Far East against the Japanese. Agents were generally dropped by parachute, although some were transported by submarine. There was also had a Naval Section, which used small boats to put agents ashore.

At its peak, SOE boasted over 13,000 men and women within the ranks.

SOE operators volunteered, knowing fully well the risks and costs. Of the 470 members of Section F operating in France, 118 were never seen again, usually as a result of Axis counterintelligence networks. But SOE had its share of important victories, one of the most famous being the destruction of the Norsk Hydro Plant in Norway in 1943, which was manufacturing heavy water for the Nazis’ atomic bomb program.

Soviet Union

Facing a German onslaught from the west and a possible invasion from Japan in the east, Soviet leaders desperately needed intelligence on enemy troop dispositions and the intent of Axis leaders. Soviet intelligence, in the form of the NKVD (domestic security and the KGB’s forerunner) and GRU (military intelligence), had agents around the world, including in the United States.

Nevertheless, General Secretary of the Communist Party Joseph Stalin seemed more interested in which of his countrymen were traitors then on German troop movements. In fact, the long and bloody fight against Hitler’s armies in the west might have been less bloody had Soviet leadership listened to one of its most prolific spies, Richard Sorge.

Sorge was a Soviet military intelligence officer, who was active before and during the war, working undercover as a German journalist in both Nazi Germany and Japan under the codename “Ramsay.” Sorge was most famous for his time in Japan in 1940 and 1941 when he provided information about Germany’s plan to attack the Soviet Union, (though not the exact date of the attack.) Stalin chose to ignore the information, and the resulting battles ended in the deaths of millions of Soviet civilians, as well as thousands of German and Russian soldiers.

But Sorge’s efforts were not without reward.

In late 1941, he informed the Soviet command of his discovery that Japan was not going to attack the Union anytime in the near future. This allowed Stalin to order the transfer of 18 divisions, 1,700 tanks, and over 1,500 aircraft from Siberia and the Far East to the Western Front against Germans during the most dangerous months of the Battle for Moscow — one of the turning points of the whole of the war.

For his work on behalf of his country, Sorge was posthumously awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union in 1964.

Whatever the nation, big or small, victor or conquered, the war had changed the world forever. Territory was partitioned, walls were built, and once again, ideologies were set against one another resulting in an Iron Curtain being drawn across the Soviet Union. The United States and her allies would now, more than ever, have to rely on the men and women of their intelligence agencies to find out what went on behind it.

This article was originally published in 2015.

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6 hours ago
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SonicWall: 'The Year of Ransomware' Continues with Unprecedented Late-Summer Surge

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·5 min read

- 148% surge in global ransomware attacks (495 million) year to date, making 2021 the worst year SonicWall has ever recorded

- Record-breaking total of 714 million ransomware attacks predicted by close of 2021

- Company recorded 1,748 ransomware attempts per customer through Q3

- 33% rise in IoT malware globally; upticks in North America, Europe

- 21% increase in cryptojacking with massive 461% growth across Europe

- SonicWall's patented Real-Time Deep Memory Inspection™ discovered 307,516 'never-before-seen' malware variants through September

MILPITAS, Calif., Oct. 28, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- SonicWall, the publisher of the world's most quoted ransomware threat intelligence, recorded a 148% increase in global ransomware attacks through the third quarter of 2021. With 495 million ransomware attacks logged by the company this year to date, 2021 will be the most costly and dangerous year on record.

This month, the current U.S. administration hosted a global ransomware summit to pledge 'all national tools' to stop cyberattacks on critical sectors. Leading governments, including the UK, India, Australia, Germany and France, as well as the European Union, attended. SonicWall's latest research now confirms leaders have cause for concern.

"As we see it, ransomware is on a nearly unimaginable upward trend, which poses a major risk to businesses, service providers, governments and everyday citizens," said SonicWall President and CEO Bill Conner. "The real-world damage caused by these attacks is beyond anecdotal at this point. It's a serious national and global problem that has already taken a toll on businesses and governments everywhere. I'm hopeful that the recent global ransomware summit is the next step toward a greater response at global, national and state levels."

Ransomware rise not slowing
2021 has been the most active year for ransomware on record — and is showing no sign of slowing. After posting a groundbreaking high in June (78.4 million), these malicious attacks continue to see aggressive growth in Q3.

"The techniques deployed by ransomware actors have evolved well beyond the smash-and-grab attacks from just a few years ago," said SonicWall Vice President of Platform Architecture Dmitriy Ayrapetov. "Today's cybercriminals demonstrate deliberate reconnaissance, planning and execution to surgically deploy toolchains targeting enterprise and government infrastructure. This results in larger victims and leads to higher ransoms."

With 190.4 million ransomware attempts in Q3 alone, this makes it the highest quarter ever recorded by SonicWall, nearly eclipsing the 195.7 million total ransomware attempts logged during the first three quarters of 2020.

"While the world has been attempting to return to normal in a stop-and-go fashion, cybercriminals have never let up, driving ransomware campaigns to record numbers through the first three quarters of 2021," said Conner. "These criminal organizations will continue to launch highly sophisticated cyberattacks that are designed to target organizations and business with weak or lax security controls."

Despite movements to secure cyber infrastructures from respective national governments, the U.K. has seen a 233% surge in the number of ransomware attacks, and the U.S. has witnessed a 127% year-to-date increase.

All told, SonicWall logged 1,748 ransomware attempts per customer through Q3 — the equivalent to 9.7 ransomware attempts per customer each business day. SonicWall predicts that year-end 2021 ransomware totals will near 714 million, a staggering 134% year-over-year increase.

"As long as organizations continue to overlook or fail to implement cybersecurity best practices to reduce their attack surface, ransomware groups will only increase investments in time, resources and money for launching campaigns that result in massive payouts," said Ayrapetov.

Patented RTDMI technology finding more new variants than ever
SonicWall's patented Real-Time Deep Memory Inspection (RTDMI) technology discovered 307,516 never-before-seen malware variants (+73%) during the first three quarters of 2021, with an average of 1,126 discoveries per day. If there is still a consistent number of attacks, alongside rapid diversification, nations will need to start addressing malignant cybercrime sooner rather than later.

Included as part of SonicWall's cloud-based Capture Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) sandbox service, RTDMI leverages proprietary memory inspection and CPU instruction-tracking with machine-learning capabilities. This allows Capture ATP with RTDMI to become increasingly efficient at recognizing and mitigating cyberattacks never seen by anyone in the cybersecurity industry — including threats that do not exhibit any malicious behavior and hide their weaponry via encryption.

ICSA Labs issues SonicWall third straight 'perfect score'
As secured previously, SonicWall ATP has earned its third consecutive 'perfect score' in the ICSA Labs Advanced Threat Defense (ATD) testing for Q3 2021.

During 28 days of testing, ICSA Labs subjected Capture ATP to 653 malicious samples and 695 innocuous apps. As a result, Capture ATP detected 100% of malicious files sent through the system while ignoring harmless apps, thus generating zero false positives. SonicWall has now received seven consecutive ICSA Labs ATD certifications.

About SonicWall Capture Labs
SonicWall Capture Labs threat researchers gather, analyze and vet cross-vector threat information from the SonicWall Capture Threat network, consisting of global devices and resources, including more than 1 million security sensors in nearly 215 countries and territories. SonicWall Capture Labs, which pioneered the use of artificial intelligence for threat research and protection over a decade ago, performs rigorous testing and evaluation on this data, establishes reputation scores for email senders and content, and identifies new threats in real-time.

About SonicWall
SonicWall delivers Boundless Cybersecurity for the hyper-distributed era in a work reality where everyone is remote, mobile and unsecure. SonicWall safeguards organizations mobilizing for their new business normal with seamless protection that stops the most evasive cyberattacks across boundless exposure points and increasingly remote, mobile and cloud-enabled workforces. By knowing the unknown, providing real-time visibility and enabling breakthrough economics, SonicWall closes the cybersecurity business gap for enterprises, governments and SMBs worldwide. For more information, visit www.sonicwall.com or follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram.

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9 hours ago
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Ex-US Embassy staffer accused of drugging, molesting women worked in CIA, FBI urges victims to come forward

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The FBI is urging additional victims to come forward if they suffered at the hands of a former U.S. Embassy staffer who has pleaded guilty to abusive sexual conduct of numerous women over a span of 14 years. 

Brian Jeffrey Raymond, 45, pleaded guilty in July 2021 to two counts of sexual abuse in which the victims were incapable of consent and one count of transporting obscene material, the FBI said

Brian Jeffrey Raymond (FBI)

Federal authorities began investigating Raymond in May 2020 after a naked woman was seen screaming for help from the balcony of his residence in Mexico City, where he was an employee of the U.S. Embassy. 

Raymond admitted to having sex with the woman, but she told investigators she blacked out after having dinner and drinks with Raymond, according to the FBI. 

Brian Jeffrey Raymond (FBI)

Federal investigators recovered Raymond’s electronic devices which contained hundreds of photographs and videos of more than 20 unconscious and nude or partially nude women, the FBI said. The material had been created between 2006 and May 2020. 

The FBI said nearly all of the women depicted in the illicit material experienced memory loss during their time with Raymond and had no knowledge of this material. 


In a plea agreement, Raymond admitted to having sex with two of the women depicted when both were unable to give their consent. He also admitted to touching the breasts, buttocks, and/or genitalia of other women who were passed out and couldn’t give consent. 

Brian Jeffrey Raymond (FBI)

The FBI revealed Monday that Raymond had worked for some years for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). A person familiar with the matter said Raymond resigned from the CIA after the agency learned of the DOJ's criminal proceedings against him. 

Originally from California, Raymond resided in Washington, D.C., but traveled extensively for work and for leisure. He also lived in foreign countries, including Peru and Mexico, and spoke both Spanish and Mandarin Chinese. 


Raymond lived in Mexico City from August 2018 to May 2020 while working at the U.S. Embassy. He met many of his victims on various dating applications, the FBI said. 

The CIA said it "condemns in the strongest terms the crimes committed by former Agency officer Brian Jeffrey Raymond." 

The FBI is asking anyone who believes they may have been a victim of Raymond or has relevant information to fill out a secure questionnaire which can be found at fbi.gov/BrianJeffreyRaymond. 


Raymond will be sentenced in the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., in February following a pre-sentencing evidentiary hearing in January. 

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Former Ambassador Michael McFaul on Putin's Russia

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In this episode of "Intelligence Matters," host Michael Morell speaks with Michael McFaul, former U.S. ambassador to Russia and current director of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University. Morell and McFaul discuss Russian President Vladimir Putin's main geopolitical objectives and personal anxieties about the West. McFaul shares behind-the-scenes details of meeting and negotiating with Putin, as well as thoughts on how the Biden administration should approach its relationship with the Kremlin.


Putin's attitude: "[H]e's been in power for over two decades. So he thinks he knows everything. He doesn't listen even to his closest advisers anymore. They're all second-tier people compared to him. It kind of reminds me of what I used to read about Stalin. He has no peers inside the country anymore, in his view. So he's quite arrogant."

Putin's negotiating techniques: "He likes to stare. He's done it to me. And believe me, it's scary, especially when you're sitting in his office on his side of the wall and your bodyguards are on the other side. He's got an intense way of looking at you. He did this once to me when he was basically accusing me of supporting the opposition in Russia, and he wants you to blink literally and figuratively." 

Emboldening Putin: "From his perspective, he's gotten away with a lot recently, right? He annexed Crimea and he said, "I dare you to unravel it," and we failed to do so, right. We played a game of chicken in Syria...In 2016, when he violated our sovereignty and our elections, he dared us to push him out and to make him pay, and from his perspective, he doesn't think that he personally has paid a price, even though many oligarchs have and most certainly the Russian people have."  

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MICHAEL MORELL: Mike, thanks for joining us on Intelligence Matters. It's great to have you on the show.

MICHAEL MCFAUL: Great to be here.

MICHAEL MORELL: So Mike, I want to start with with a little bit about you. For our listeners, and I'd love to hear about how you got interested in Russia and how did you find your way to the government the first time?

MICHAEL MCFAUL: Well, I got interested in Russia from high school debate. I grew up in Montana and my junior year, we moved to a town called Bozeman, and I tried to get the easiest English credit I could, and I was told, 'Take the debate class.' So I just I want to underscore the serendipity there.

And the topic that year was U.S. trade policy. And so my debate partner and I ran a case, as it's called in high school debate, on increasing trade with the Soviet Union. This was 79-80. I don't think I would have supported that idea a couple of years later, but I didn't know better back then.

And that's when I first got interested in the Soviet Union. My debate partner, by the way, is a guy named Steve Daines. He's now Senator Daines from Montana, and we both just became intrigued with the Soviet Union. And then as a freshman at Stanford, I showed up here as a 17 year old kid and I took 'How Nations Deal with Each Other' a course on international relations, and first year Russian. And then I just I had a theory that, you know, if we could just understand that society better, we might be able to reduce tensions or at least not have misperceptions in terms of U.S.-Soviet relations. And, you know, in a way, I've been kind of thinking about testing that hypothesis for the last three or four decades. So that was the initial interest in Russia.

I then later studied there in '83, '85, '88 and most importantly, '90-91. So the year the Soviet Union collapsed I was at Moscow State University and became quite interested in under what conditions do regimes collapse and under what conditions do political movements, democratic movements coalesce? That's been a part of my academic research ever since then.

And that really, I would say, was a formative year that made me interested not just in understanding Russia and the Soviet Union, but becoming more involved in a kind of, I guess we would call it policy, now, I would say I was more of an activist back then. Kind of an anti-communist activist.

MICHAEL MORELL: Do you remember what the mood was like on the ground when the Soviet Union fell apart and you were there?

MICHAEL MCFAUL: Yes, I was physically not there in August 1991. I left Moscow in June of 1991. I was there for the run up and I went to all the demonstrations and I interacted with a group called Democratic Russia. I started working for an American NGO at the time, it's called The National Democratic Institute. So I did become, you know, I wasn't just an analyst, if you will. I was writing my PhD still, but I was also becoming a bit of an activist and it was -- I then flew back in October, right after the coup failed in August 1991. And the mood was euphoric. I mean, the mood was, 'We have defeated communism, we have destroyed the Soviet empire.' -- These are my friends, right? You know, these are Russians that I was interacting with, right? - "And we are now joining the West?"

And so, when I hear that, oftentimes it's phrased that, the United States won the Cold War. Well, yes, the United States most certainly played a big role in winning the Cold War. But these Russians that I knew they were victors as well in the Cold War and Ukrainians and Estonians and Georgians who I knew at the time as well. So it was a euphoric moment. It felt like that Russia was going to join the West and become a democratic system of government and a market society, market capitalism. And of course, we know that's not the way that story ended, but back then it was quite euphoric. 

MICHAEL MORELL: So your first job in the government? What was that? How did that happen?

MICHAEL MCFAUL: So my first job was at the National Security Council. You know these words well, but I didn't know them that well. I was senior director for Russia and Eurasia Affairs, and I was an SAP, Special Assistant to the President. And I started -- President Obama was sworn in on a Tuesday, and I started that job on a Wednesday. I landed that job through, I worked on his campaign and there was a group of advisers and one of them was a friend of mine from Stanford and Oxford, where I went to school, Susan Rice. And I signed up pretty early on, Mike, back when I honestly didn't know much about Senator Obama at the time, but I trusted Susan's instincts. And she said, "This is one of the smartest guys I've ever met and he's going to be elected president and you should get on this bandwagon." And I did. And that was a great ride. So that was my first job.

And then as I tried to leave that job and go back to Stanford - remember, you know, academics spend, I think the average is 18 months in the government. Many universities have a requirement that you have to come back after two years. And so that was always kind of the clock in my head. But in 2011, my immediate boss at the time, Tom Donilon, he was the national security adviser at the time. This will sound funny now, but he was like, "Mike, how can you leave now? We're in such a cooperative time with Russia, with President Medvedev." And we'd just gotten in the start treaty done. We just got the Iran nuclear deal done. They were about to join the WTO and they just voted with us -- or they abstained, to be clear, to allow the use of force against Libya, something Russia had never done. So the height of cooperation. And he's like, "You can't leave now."

And he called me back a couple of hours later, he said, "I talked to the boss and he said, 'You can't leave either,' - President Obama." And that's how it was from that conversation until the end of the year that they proposed that I stay in the government but do a more family-friendly job, which turned out to be true, by the way. And that's how I became the ambassador to Russia starting in January 2012.

MICHAEL MORELL: Any particular memories stand out of your time in Moscow.

MICHAEL MCFAUL: Oh, well, Moscow was a fantastic job. I mean, in many ways it was a difficult time in terms of my day job, which was, you know, right as I landed in Moscow on the streets of Russia in Moscow and St. Petersburg and other big cities were the biggest demonstrations against the regime since 1991. Since that year I was describing, 1991, and that meant, you know, for Putin that that we were out to get him. And he blamed Obama. He blamed America. And when I got there, he blamed me personally for seeking to foment revolution in Russia. And you need to remember, in his mind, I've always worked for the CIA, and I want to be clear, I've never worked for the CIA.

MICHAEL MORELL: I can attest to that.

MICHAEL MCFAUL: You can attest to that. But, you know, in their coating of things going way back to 1991, I was a revolutionary fomenter. And so I arrived in that initial -- the weekend I arrived as the U.S. ambassador, there was a 20 minute hit job on national television describing my mission to Moscow, which was to overthrow Putin. So that was the main drama, if you will, in terms of my service there.

And no matter what we said, that was a useful story for him. And it wasn't just instrumental. I used to think it was just instrumental. I came later to believe that actually, Putin is quite paranoid and thinks that we are trying to overthrow his regime. And by the way, I don't know if we are or not today. I want to be clear about that. When I was in the government, we were not.

MICHAEL MORELL: We were not. We were absolutely not. Yeah.

MICHAEL MCFAUL: So I got there right as U.S.-Russia relations started to deteriorate. Now they got a lot worse after I left. People blame me for the breakdown, and I like to remind people that Putin did not annex Crimea when I was ambassador, he waited until the day I left. So it's been in a negative trajectory ever since 2012, right? Because of Putin needing this narrative of the West out to get him. That was the hard story. And playing defense, trying to avoid worsening things happening. That was my my government bilateral job with the Russian government.

But being the ambassador, I hope it's like this in every country, but certainly in Russia, it's a vast, incredibly complex society. I would host Russian basketball players and ballerinas and musical groups. And the other thing you get to do is you get to present America in all of its different dimensions to the Russian people, the kind of public diplomacy part of that job. And I loved that part of the job.

In fact, one of my best memories, Mike, I'm from Montana, as I already mentioned. And one of the first groups ever to come to Moscow while I was ambassador was from Montana, a country western group, and my father was a country western musician. So, you know, that's a milieu I know well and I go down to the ballroom and there's no dance floor and I go to my staff, I was like, "Where people are going to dance?" And they said, "Mr. Ambassador, people do not dance at Spaso House. This is a concert." And I said, "No, in Montana, you don't have a group like this, come -- we will offend them. It will be culturally offensive if we don't dance."

So we had this big standoff between the Russian staff and the new American ambassador, and we compromised. We took out three rows. And of course, nobody danced, she was right, until my wife and I got up. And then there was just this explosion of 300 Russians doing the two-step rather poorly, by the way, but with great enthusiasm. And that was a fun night because it was a really tense moment in terms of US-Russia relations. But there were senators there and members of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, you know, mixing it up with a band from Montana.

MICHAEL MORELL: That's great. So Mike, what are those things that Russia does that we see as inconsistent with our and our allies' interests? And why do they do those things?

MICHAEL MCFAUL: Yeah, that's a big, hard question. And the first thing I would say is over time, I would answer that question differently. So if we were talking in the summer of 1992, for instance, when I moved back to Moscow to open the office of an American NGO, the government of Russia invited us. We were a democracy promotion organization, the National Democratic Institute, and our host was the Russian government, president Yeltsin. And that's because they wanted the affinity with the United States. And at least they pretended to share our values, and I don't think it was pretending. I think they wanted to be a part of the West. So I just think that's important to remind people that, over the years, Russia and the Soviet Union and even going back, you know, 200 years, that's -- you would answer that question differently at different times.

But today, I think it's pretty clear. Putin, somebody I've known for a long time and written about and met for the first time in the spring of 1991 - he also has changed his views, by the way - but today he's decided that the West is out to get him, that the West wants to overthrow regimes that we don't like. And by the way, we have done that from time to time. So he's got some data to support his hypothesis.


MICHAEL MCFAUL: Therefore, when we use the words "liberal," "democracy, he hears, in those words, threats to his regime. And by the way, he's right about that. At one point, are we funding opposition groups to overthrow him? The answer to that is no. But do our values undermine his legitimacy in his country and around the world? The answer to that is yes.

And so he has -- initially he consolidated power inside his country, propagating a kind of nationalist, populist set of ideas, anti-democratic ideas. He would use the word "conservative." He would say he's a man of conservative values, traditional values. That's the way he would describe it. And in the last decade, he's now started to export those set of ideas, looking for like-minded leaders in places like Hungary and Italy, and even here in the United States, putting a lot of money into propaganda to propagate those ideas around the world using his vast and - I don't need to tell you - but he's invested a lot in his intelligence services, again, in the service of sometimes of propagating those views. And he really does define the liberal West as his enemy today, and therefore he's pretty engaged in what he considers an ideological struggle with the West.

MICHAEL MORELL: And can you describe him as a person and what's he like? What's he like to deal with? What drives him, what motivates him? He paints himself as a great chess master. Is that right? Is he that much of a strategic thinker? Spend a little bit of time talking about Putin, the man.

MICHAEL MCFAUL: Sure. So the first time I met him, he was the deputy mayor for a very charismatic pro-Western leader, Anatoly Sobchak was his name. And I want to be clear, Putin made no impression on me whatsoever. If you'd asked me back in 1991, you know, name 500 people that'll be the next president to replace President Yeltsin, he would have not made my list. And I think that's important for people to understand. He was an accidental president chosen by Yeltsin. It wasn't some populist demand for who he was. And so his views and his ways have changed over the years and decades.

But today, I would say a couple of things about his mannerisms. Remember, he's been in power for over two decades. So he thinks he knows everything. He doesn't listen even to his closest advisers anymore. They're all second-tier people compared to him. It kind of reminds me of what I used to read about Stalin. He has no peers inside the country anymore, in his view. So he's quite arrogant.

And number two, he has that view about the world. The last great leader, in his view, that was a peer to him in the West was Angela Merkel, and now her time is coming to a close. Xi Jinping, he admires. That's real, and I think we should understand that to be real. There is a kind of affinity there ideologically, and I think on a personal level. But the rest of the world, he doesn't think he has any peers.

Third, Mike, you'll appreciate this. He is a well-trained intelligence officer. Remember, he did counterintelligence. So he comes into meetings really well-briefed. And I've seen it many times with Secretary of State Clinton, with President Obama, with National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, Secretary Kerry. These are various people have been in meetings with Putin, with where he will try to, you know, get people off their game, say something surprising. He wants to see how they'll react. He'll then say, "Oh, I was just kidding."

At one point, he said to Vice President Biden, the last time they met - they met in Geneva most recently - but the last time before then was in Moscow. I was in that meeting. And when the press break came in, he said, "Oh, Vice President Biden and I just agreed to visa-free travel between our two countries," and he just wanted to see how Biden would react, right? So he does that kind of stuff.

He likes to stare. He's done it to me. And believe me, it's scary, especially when you're sitting in his office on his side of the wall and your bodyguards are on the other side. He's got an intense way of looking at you. He did this once to me when he was basically accusing me of supporting the opposition in Russia, and he wants you to blink, literally and figuratively.

MICHAEL MORELL: So stare without speaking or stare while you're talking or -?

MICHAEL MCFAUL: The pregnant pause. He's very comfortable just staring at you and waiting, with kind of a glare, in my case.

Meeting with Secretary Kerry, for instance -a the principal in the room is Secretary Kerry. I'm just the ambassador, right? I'm just there's part of the team. And at one point, he just pivoted to me and said, "We know what your embassy is doing here." And he just stared right at me and he said, "And we're going to stop it because we're really good at it." And it was this, you know, it was kind of macho, KGB, you know, "We know what you guys are doing."

And by the way - we always used to wonder about this, by the way - if he really knows what we're doing and we have no reason to not believe that, why is he so paranoid? But he wanted to elicit a reaction and and he deliberately moved away from Kerry and stared at me to create tension in the room. And he plays those kinds of psychological games.

I'm talking about negative ones. He also does it in a positive way, for instance, when he met with Obama in 2009, and I need to be careful here about what I'm going to talk about. But he was trying to make the case that there can be circumstances under which Russian and American cooperation on intelligence could be good for them and good for us. You've heard that many, many times. And for many decades.. But for dramatic effect - I won't talk about the specifics, that's classified - but for dramatic effect, he dismissed all of the help staff that was there. This was at his dacha and he told them to all leave the room. And then he kind of leaned in to talk to Obama, you know, with a whisper. That was very dramatic. And I remember it made an impression on President Obama, right? It was effective theater.

MICHAEL MORELL: So I want to ask you a question, and I've been thinking about this. At the end of the day, I'm wondering if history is going to look back on Putin as someone who advanced the interests of the Russian state or someone who helped lead to its decline. As an example, I'm thinking about, at, the end of the day, who was the big loser in the Ukraine crisis, right? Obviously, the Ukrainians had their ambitions dashed, the West for looking impotent. But you know, at the end of the day, it's probably the Russian economy and the Russian middle class and Russia itself, right, because of what's happened in the aftermath. And I'm just wondering how you think about how history will see this guy.

MICHAEL MCFAUL: Yeah, that's a great question. And I obviously don't have a great answer. And part of it depends on who has the pen for writing that, right? Whether it's people out here at Stanford or it's people at Moscow State and what happens in the post Putin era.

But I'd say a couple of things. I mean, my own view is, you know, I have no qualms with the statement of Russians that want Russia to be a great power in the world. That's fine by me, as long as it's a democratic Russia and playing by the rules of the game. And Putin very cleverly has convinced - I don't know if it's a majority, but a large segment of the Russian society - that his strategy is the strategy for making Russia great in the world. But you can run the counterfactual and remember he was an accidental president picked out of obscurity. Had there not been the 1998 financial crash around the world, I'm convinced it would have been somebody else. In fact, everybody does. It's a fairly well-known story that the heir apparent back in 1998 was a guy named Boris Nemtsov, and Nemtsov was a pro-democratic, liberal, pro-market leader from a town called Yekaterinburg, Sverdlovsk, very industrial town in the middle of the Urals, and he won re-election twice during an economic crash throughout the 1990s. By the way, he was Jewish. So this notion of ethnicity - he overcame those circumstances. And I knew him. He was an incredibly talented politician. And had that crash not happened, there's no doubt in my mind that Yeltsin would have chosen him. And run that tape - they could be one of the leading players in Europe today, as opposed to being in opposition to Europe. And I think they could be a much greater power today than the path that Putin went down them because there have been real consequences for that economy as a result of annexation of Crimea and meddling in our elections in 2016.

What I don't know is who writes that history, right? Because Putin was lucky in that he was chosen by Yeltsin, then ratified by the people of Russia, right as the Russian economy began to grow. And that would have happened no matter who was chosen, they would have ridden that upside of six or seven percent growth for 10 years. But, I think he will probably be remembered as the leader that brought Russia back from state collapse in the 1990s and an economic depression of the 1990s. I just think it was a bit of an accident that it will be Putin that gets the credit for doing that.

MICHAEL MORELL: So you do see the argument right, Mike, from time to time, that if Putin wasn't in the job, there'd be somebody else like Putin in the job because that's what the Russian people want. What do you think of that argument?

MICHAEL MCFAUL: Well, I think it's partly true and partly not. So let me explain that. So, that's what people said when Stalin died. They loved Stalin. People cried for three days when Stalin died. The massive, massive lines went to walk by his open casket. And yet, three years later, you had a guy named Khrushchev that did de-Stalinisation. So that continuity, even in the Soviet period, wasn't there.

And remember, in the Brezhnev era, it was a period we called it "Zastoi," it was Russian stagnation. But nobody - and I was living there in 1983. In fact, I was living there in 1985 when Mikhail Gorbachev came along. Nobody in '83 and '85 was saying, "Well, this system is going to radically transform," let alone collapse five years later. So I'm very skeptical of the kind of trajectory, culture doesn't change, history doesn't change. I think there is an action-reaction between culture, history and individuals and political change.

And when I think about Putin, I think, what's the more radical prediction: that 20 years from now, this basic, corrupt, poorly functioning system will be in place 20 years from now or that something will replace it after the end of the Putin era? I don't think Putin himself will lose power, but I'm skeptical that what he's built will last, you know, another decade or two.

Now, I'm not comfortable in trying to predict what might replace it. Something even worse could replace it. But there could also be this opening for democratic renewal. And I would just say, if you look at the data - it's hard to do public opinion work in Russia. Believe me, you have no incentive in that society to express your true preferences. People need to remember that when they look at polling from places like China or Russia or Iran, right? And we know that from history that if you're sitting out there in Vladivostok and you know, Volodya from Moscow calls from a polling firm and he says, "Hey, we want to know what you think," There's really only one rational answer to that: "Of course he's doing great." There's no upside to expressing what you might truly think. So with all those caveats, yes, it still is the case that that there's quite a bit of disenchantment in Russia today with the economy. They don't blame Putin, right? He's been able to separate himself from the performance of his government, but they're not excited about what's happening in their country today. And, you know, they still do support, should leaders be elected versus chosen by God or chosen by a party, they still think that leaders should be elected. So I actually think those there's a lot of volatility coming in the Russian political system in the post-Putin era.

And there's one other thing I would say, you know, putting on my social science hat now, we're not - I don't know how you think about the CIA's ability to predict the future. But we in political science are pretty bad at it.

MICHAEL MORELL: Everybody is.

MICHAEL MCFAUL: We're not good at point predictions. But we we are pretty good at some long-term trajectory things, over hundreds of years, right? Over hundreds of years, there's a pretty strong correlation between the more well-to-do a society is, the more educated it is, the more urban it is, the more income GDP per capita, the more likely there is to be demand for democracy.

And if you look at GDP per capita, eight of the top 20 countries in the world, if you kick out the oil exporters, they're all democracies. I don't think that's a spurious correlation. Russia is one of the richest countries in the world today, GDP per capita, Singapore, Russia, Kazakhstan that are not democratic. And I sometimes - if you're betting, you think that's going to last or will some, over decades, not not in two to three years, but over decades, will Russia become more like Europe? My prediction is they'll probably become more like Democratic Europe.

MICHAEL MORELL: Mike, one more question on Putin. What worries him? What is he afraid of? And I'm asking that question in the context of what might deter him, what might lead him from the kind of behavior that has so worried us.

MICHAEL MCFAUL: Yeah, that's a great question. I think it's the fundamental question for the Biden administration and all Democratic governments in Europe.

From his perspective, he's gotten away with a lot recently, right? He annexed Crimea and he said, "I dare you to unravel it," and we failed to do so, right. We played a game of chicken in Syria, still when I was in the government. And President Obama used to make the argument to him that if we don't stop this contest, this conflict, even back in 2011, when it was still peaceful, it's going to get more violent and there's going to be more radicals there. And Putin said, "Yeah, and I know what to do with that. We have the experience of Chechnya. We'll just back a strongman until he succeeds."

And he took that bet and he deployed his air force in 2015. And from his perspective, he thinks that that was the right course there. In 2016, when he violated our sovereignty and our elections, he dared us to push him out and to make him pay, and from his perspective, he doesn't think that he personally has paid a price, even though many oligarchs have and most certainly the Russian people have. So I think it's hard. I want to be clear about that.

Having said that, I do think there's two or three things one can do. Number one, you need to make more credible our commitments to our allies and reduce to near zero any doubt in Putin's mind that if he does use force against a NATO ally, there will be a response from that alliance. Now I applaud President Obama and President Trump for doing more with respect to our Article Five commitments as they're called to NATO. But I think we need to do more. I think there's still too much doubt and I really worry about some minor skirmish in one of our NATO allies, and then he pulls back and then we don't respond. That's my nightmare scenario, but that's number one. Number two, for those countries we're not going to defend militarily - I'm thinking of Ukraine first and foremost. I think we have to give them as much capacity as possible to defend themselves. And that's why I applaud the recent upping of military assistance to Ukraine.

And number three, I hate to sound like a cold warrior because it's not the right analogy; there's lots of things that have changed. But this is an ideological struggle with Putin. And I think we have to up our game into, one, just supporting those that support independent reporting. So that's one dimension that I just think we need to do more of as a government and as a democracy in the world.

But two, I think we have to get back into the game of supporting and explaining why democracy is better than autocracy. And that is threatening to Putin. And we do do some of that, but I think we could do a whole lot more.

MICHAEL MORELL: So Mike, your assessment of President Biden's approach so far to Russia and to Putin.

MICHAEL MCFAUL: Well, the greatest achievement is that we have one policy towards Russia today, not two, as we did during the Trump administration, where you had basically, not entirely, but almost the entire administration had one policy that they were pursuing, and the president himself, President Trump, disagreed with that and that led to a lot of bad outcomes. So thankfully t that is not happening today and you have one policy.

And I think the broad contours are correct, which is, low expectations for reversing the negative trend but trying to at least slow down the negative trend and to cooperate on matters where our interests overlap. And first and foremost, that relates to arms control. I think that's the right strategy.

I would like to see more on the ideological dimension. I think there are "small D" democrats in Georgia, Ukraine, Belarus and Russia itself and "small D" democrats in the alliance and some of the frontline states - Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania - who would like to see more meat on the bones to statements that President Biden rightly says. I mean, I think he rightly has diagnosed the problem, and this is with respect to China as well, that there is a battle between democracies and autocracies. And he has said that many times and various ways, and I applaud that. I think analytically he's right about that. I think now they need to fill in, "Well, if that's the case, what are we going to do to lean in to support "small D" democrats? So by that, I mean, democratic governments. But I also mean democrats fighting in these countries against autocracy. And that part, I think needs more articulation.

MICHAEL MORELL: Mike, one final question. So looking at at your CV, I see that no matter where you go, you always find your way back to Stanford. And I'm wondering why? 

MICHAEL MCFAUL: That's true. I've left, I think, eight times and I've always come back, and I would leave again. I loved working in the government, by the way. It was the thrill of a lifetime both at the White House and in Moscow. A great honor to work with people like you.

But in the long stretch -- actually, I'll just tell you a story from one of my colleagues here, Condi Rice. I met Condi 30 or 40 years ago, and she'd just gotten back from her first tour of government. And she said -and I was still writing my DPhil, my Ph.D. at Oxford and trying to figure out whether to go into academia or government - and she said, "Well, if you go into government, you should go all in and make a career out of it. But if you're going to parachute in and out," -- as she did in her career, and this is early on in her career, she said -- "Remember one thing, that if you're going to be one of these political appointees in and out of government, remember that you're going to spend most of your time out of government, so make sure you choose a career that you really enjoy." And I love Stanford. And for lots of reasons, but two are central. One, it is my job to continue to learn here, Mike. That's a great that's a great blessing, that it is actually my job to learn. And I think sometimes people can spend too much time in government circles not learning, just treading water. So that's a great privilege.

And number two, Stanford community doesn't get any older, right? I get older, but every year - because we're talking here in the fall quarter - there are all these young new people here, and they're really smart and they ask really tough, interesting questions. And I change the courses I teach here every two or three years. I rarely teach a course more than three years because I use the classroom to learn from these students, so -- they think they're learning from me. But I know that it is a two-way street, and that's a pretty great place to spend your career.

MICHAEL MORELL: Mike, thank you so much for taking the time to join us today. Great conversation. Thank you.

MICHAEL MCFAUL: Thanks for having me.

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The "New Abwehr" remains a Hypothesis. It was formulated on the basis of the Hapsburg Group report in Mueller Investigation, which provided the third (and defining, "pathognomonic") criterion (logical "leg"): historical AUSTRIA-PHOBIA ...

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"New Abwehr" remains a Hypothesis. It was formulated on the basis of the Hapsburg Group report in the Mueller Investigation, which provided the third (and defining, "pathognomonic") criterion (third logical "leg" to stand on): the historical German 

AUSTRIA-PHOBIA which in combination with the other two may be "DIAGNOSTIC": aiming to uncover, with the high degree of certainty, the causes and the causal agents of the phenomena. The other two diagnostic criteria are: 



Psychodynamically, these are the Reaction Formations: most of the high Abwehr officers, including Canaris, were Jews or part Jews and Gay. Austria-phobia is the specific historical dislike and disdain of all things Austrian;  the high Abwehr officers tended to blame Austria and Austrians, including the start of the WW1 and Hitler after the WW2, for their defeat on the battlefield. 

The formulation above appears to be a new, novel, "medical" approach in the attempts to recognize, to diagnose the Intelligence Operations and their ultimate Authors, for whom this activity is a High Art, intensely emotionally charged. Ultimately, such attempts at recognitions, identifications and authentications are the "smell test". 

The emotions of Masters - Authors are coded in their Intelligence Operations, their work, activities and views. They provide the clues, tips, and leads for the in-depth, historical Intelligence and the Counterintelligence Investigations

With the organizations such as Abwehr and the New Abwehr, with their historicism, unique competence and skills, the described above approach may be one of the most productive in the attempts at understanding them and the todays' security and the political climates. 

Generally speaking, I think that this new emerging field of the 

Open Source Strategic Intelligence and Counterintelligence Analysis

should be actively developed, and the publications and the "scientific" (or as much of it) competition within this field should be actively promoted. 

It looks like we could get good value for a dollar here, if it is managed well. 

Michael Novakhov, M.D. 

8:28 AM 10/4/2021 - Post Link 

See also this and other recent posts on this subject: 

#FBI FBI: #RussianMob, closely allied with the #Russian, #Israeli, UAE, possibly other States, & under ultimate #NewAbwehr control, appears to be behind many if not all acts of mass terror... The #NewAbwehrHypothesis By Michael Novakhov - 10.2.21


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