October 11, 2017

In 2014 and 2015, Israeli government hackers watched in real time as Russian spies used Russian firm Kaspersky Lab's antivirus software as "a sort of Google search for sensitive information" using code names for U.S. intelligence programs, The New York Times reported Tuesday, and among the things the Israelis discovered on Kaspersky's network were hacking tools from the U.S. National Security Agency. Israel warned the NSA, which tracked the breach to an employee who had brought classified documents home and put them on his home computer, which used Kaspersky antivirus software, inadvertently handing the tools to the Russians.

On Sept. 13, the Homeland Security Department ordered U.S. government agencies to quickly phase out the use of Kaspersky software, citing the risk of cyber intrusions on behalf of Russian intelligence. Kaspersky said on Tuesday that it "does not have inappropriate ties to any government, including Russia," and "has never helped, nor will help, any government in the world with its cyberespionage efforts." Experts aren't sure how much of a role, if any, Kaspersky Lab played in the Russian cyber theft.

The NSA does not allow Kaspersky software on its computers — antivirus software "is the ultimate back door," former NSA operator Blake Darché tells the Times — but nearly two dozen government agencies did, including the Pentagon, the State Department, and the Energy Department. Peter Weber

12:39 p.m.

There's something to be said for self-awareness — especially in the 2020 Democratic primaries.

Addisu Demissie, the campaign manager for Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), suggested in a memo Saturday that the Democratic presidential candidate will bow out of the race if he doesn't raise $1.7 million in 10 days. The memo noted that only four campaigns have the funds to compete seriously for the nomination and Booker's is not currently among them. "Without a fundraising surge to close out this quarter, we do not see a legitimate long-term path forward," Demissie said.

Later, in a call with reporters, Demissie was even more forthright, answering in the affirmative when asked if Booker would drop out if the team fails to reach its goal. That will likely be tough, but Booker did raise $1.4 million at the end of the first quarter, so it's not inconceivable.

Booker's biggest problem when it comes to fundraising has been an inability to bring in small donations — just 21 percent of his presidential fundraising comes from donors who gave $200 or less, The Wall Street Journal reports. He also spent more than he raised in the second fundraising quarter which ended in June.

Still, Booker was able to qualify for the most recent debate in September, and there are several other candidates who trail him in the polls that will likely keep their campaigns going for far longer than Booker (if he can't come up with the money, of course.) Perhaps, it's really about getting out with your head held high. Read more at The Wall Street Journal. Tim O'Donnell

12:14 p.m.

Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-Mass.) has entered the race.

Kennedy made the long-awaited announcement Saturday that he'll challenge Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) for his seat in 2020. The 39-year-old grandson of the late Robert Kennedy said he plans to change Washington from the Senate. "Donald Trump has forced a reckoning without question," he said to a crowd in a community center in East Boston. "But to meet this moment it requires more than just beating him, it requires taking on a broken structure that allowed him to win in the first place."

Kennedy has an early lead on Markey in the polls, but Markey — who, like Kennedy, is considered a progressive — has a lot more institutional sport, both at the state and national levels. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) all support the incumbent, for instance.

But Kennedy reportedly isn't too concerned about that. Instead, his campaign will likely focus more heavily on turning out new voters, especially immigrants and people of color — a strategy that worked well for Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) in 2018, Politico reports. His name, it turns out, doesn't seem to hurt, either. "People still care about the Kennedy name," said Scott Ferson, founder of Liberty Square Group, a strategic communications firm. "It's a very, very powerful legacy." Tim O'Donnell

10:40 a.m.

Iran on Saturday sent veiled warnings to the United States and Saudi Arabia, shortly after Washington announced Friday that President Trump had approved a decision to deploy troops to Saudi Arabia following last week's strikes on Saudi oil facilities. Both the U.S. and Saudi Arabia allege that Iran was behind the attacks, but Tehran denies the accusations.

While U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the "modest" deployment would be "defensive in nature," Iran is apparently preparing for alternative scenarios and they seemingly want any country to think twice before launching any sort of military operation. "Be careful and make no mistake," General Hossein Salami, the chief of Iran's elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, said Saturday during a speech. He added that his forces are "ready for any scenario" and have carried out war exercises. "Our readiness to respond to any aggression is definitive," Salami said. "We will never allow a war to enter our land."

Salami went on to say that Iran "will pursue any aggressor" and "will continue until the full destruction of any aggressor." Salami was speaking generally, but there is little doubt the U.S. was the subject of his ire. Tim O'Donnell

9:39 a.m.

The United States and El Salvador signed a "cooperative asylum agreement" Friday in what is seen as another attempt by the Trump administration to curb the flow of migrants from Central America coming into the U.S.

Few details about how the agreement will work or when it will go into effect were provided, but acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan said the pact "is one significant step forward" and that it will build on what the U.S. has "accomplished already" with neighboring Guatemala, which is trying to implement a "safe third country" agreement with the U.S. signed earlier this summer. El Salvador's Foreign Minister Alexandra Hill Tinoco told The Associated Press that the agreement could similarly lead to migrants from third countries obtaining refuge in El Salvador if they pass through on their way to the U.S., although most northern migration routes don't include the country.

Criticism was swift, with opponents arguing that El Salvador is not safe enough to serve as a refuge. "If this agreement goes into effect, the U.S. will be forcing the most vulnerable communities to seek safety in a country that is not equipped to protect its own citizens or provide economic opportunity," said Oscar Chacon, the executive director of Alianza Americas, a network of immigrant-led organizations. Read more at NPR and The Associated Press. Tim O'Donnell

8:24 a.m.

The Pentagon announced Friday that President Trump has agreed to send a "modest deployment" of American troops to Saudi Arabia in response to strikes last week against two major Saudi Arabian oil facilities. The Trump administration and Saudi Arabia believe the attacks were orchestrated by Iran, but Tehran denies the allegations.

In addition to the hundreds of troops, the U.S. will deploy air and missile defense systems. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the decision was "defensive in nature" and was reportedly made in response to requests from Saudi Arabia and the UAE, who are seeking protection for their "critical infrastructure." When asked if the White House was considering a military strike against Iran, Esper said "that's not where we are right now." That seems to echo Trump's rhetoric about showing restraint for the time being.

Still, the threat of a conflict, though far from imminent, has been palpable of late, with Tehran warning that a U.S. or Saudi military strike would result in "an all-out war," while the White House ramped up sanctions against Iran on Friday. Read more at The Washington Post and The New York Times. Tim O'Donnell

September 20, 2019

Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan announced Friday that white supremacy would become a top priority under the department's new strategy to fight terrorism and "targeted violence." The ramped up mission comes as mass shootings motivated by white supremacy seem to happen every week in the U.S., and McAleenan cites last month's shooting in El Paso, Texas as a major reasoning behind the change, The Atlantic reports.

After the shooting in a Walmart left 21 people dead, McAleenan told The Atlantic he recalled thinking "this is an attack on all of us." The shooting in a largely Hispanic community was seemingly motivated by racism, and much of DHS' workforce, especially at the southern border, is Hispanic. This and other shootings soon "galvanized" DHS to look "beyond terrorists operating abroad" and start tackling "violent extremists of any ideology," McAleenan said in a Friday speech.

The revised plan calls for analyzing the "nature and extent" of domestic terror threats and working more closely with local law enforcement to prevent them, NBC News reports. DHS will also crack down on technology companies who host hate-filled websites, provide more active shooter training to local law enforcement, and run antiviolence messaging campaigns, per the proposal.

The report came just hours after the House Oversight Joint Subcommittee held a hearing on confronting white supremacy, where conservative provocateur Candace Owens said that "white nationalism" isn't a problem for "minority Americans." As DHS's shifting priorities and general facts of life make clear, it definitely is. Kathryn Krawczyk

September 20, 2019

Antonio Brown is out of a job.

The wide receiver was released from the New England Patriots on Friday following an investigation into allegations of sexual assault. A woman has accused him of rape and sexual assault and sending threatening text messages, which Brown has denied through an attorney.

Earlier Friday, Patriots Coach Bill Belichick told a press conference of reporters that he wouldn't answer any questions about Brown. They asked anyway, and he abruptly ended the conference.

Brown has been at the center of several claims of wrongdoing, allegedly refusing to comply with NFL equipment policies and facing fines after an altercation with the general manager of the Oakland Raiders, in addition to allegedly failing to pay former assistants. He was released from the Raiders before the season began and picked up by the Patriots, playing one game with New England under a $15 million contract as the allegations became public. Kathryn Krawczyk

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