Is it legal for Trump to share classified intelligence? Yes, but risky, experts say

WASHINGTON – The nation's capital is engulfed in a debate about President Trump's reported decision to leak highly classified information to top Russian diplomats – but legal analysts and secrecy experts said Monday that American presidents have broad authority to disclose classified information, making them virtually immune from prosecution.Every other government employee with a clearance could face criminal charges for disclosing classified information without prior permission. But the commander in chief has the power to unilaterally disclose any material – even the most secret intelligence – without going through any kind of formal process.Still, Trump's decision to share such sensitive information last week in a White House meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak – first reported by the Washington Post – has potentially serious consequences.Perhaps most serious, said Mark Zaid, an attorney specializing in national security matters, is the prospect that allies would lose their trust in Washington's ability to keep secrets and no longer share valuable intelligence with their American counterparts. Read more:"If we get to the point where our closest allies refuse share this information, that would be the worst outcome imaginable,'' Zaid said.Trump, according to the the Post report, disclosed highly classified information about a plot involving the Islamic State during a White House discussion with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Making matters more complex, the ambassador's past contacts with with Trump campaign and administration officials are the subject of a separate ongoing FBI investigation into possible collusion between Trump associates and Russian officials.The information shared with the Russians had been provided by a U.S. partner under terms of an intelligence-sharing agreement, Continue Reading

Senate Intelligence Committee finds ‘no indications that Trump Tower was the subject of surveillance’

WASHINGTON — The leadership of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday flatly refuted President Trump's claims that his New York offices were wiretapped by the Obama administration in advance of the November election.“Based on the information available to us, we see no indications that Trump Tower was the subject of surveillance by any element of the United States government either before or after Election Day 2016," Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., and Vice Chairman Mark Warner, D-Va., said in a joint statement.The rebuke comes a day after the House Intelligence Committee offered a similar assessment, leaving the White House virtually alone in asserting the surveillance claim.The unusually strong, bipartisan statement left little room for the White House to continue its defense of Trump's extraordinary allegations that implied that former president Barack Obama engaged in a possible criminal act.Later Thursday, a combative White House spokesman Sean Spicer said the president "stands by'' general contentions that the government had engaged in some type of surveillance prior to last year's election. He also maintained that the Senate and House committees made their conclusions without the input of the Justice Department. (Earlier this week, Justice officials asked for additional time to determine whether any evidence of surveillance at Trump Tower existed.)Spicer also gave a lengthy recitation of past news reports — based on anonymous sources — as possible evidence of surveillance. Yet, Spicer acknowledged that the president himself has not directly asked government intelligence officials to provide any evidence that may support his claims that his offices were monitored in advance of the election."There's a ton of media reports out there that indicate that something was going on during the 2016 election," Spicer said.Earlier this week, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., chairman of the House Intelligence panel, and Continue Reading

DUBYA LABELS HIS OWN. intelligence info ‘naive’

WASHINGTON - President Bush criticized his own intelligence agencies yesterday as "naive" for saying the Iraq war was spreading terror worldwide and rallying new recruits for Al Qaeda. In heated remarks, Bush said, "I think it's a mistake for people to believe that going on the offense against people that want to do harm to the American people makes us less safe. " "To suggest that if we weren't in Iraq we would see a rosier scenario, with fewer extremists joining the radical movement, requires us to ignore 20 years of experience" of terror attacks, Bush said. "I think it is naive. " Bush ordered excerpts of the highly classified National Intelligence Estimate to be made public yesterday because he implied they would support his argument. But excerpts of the estimate, compiled by 16 spy agencies including the CIA, appeared to contradict Bush. "The Iraq conflict has become a 'cause célèbre' for jihadists," the estimate said, and the occupation was "breeding a deep resentment of U. S. involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement. " The estimate also said that "the Iraq jihad is shaping a new generation of terrorist leaders and operatives. " Bush released the document and made his remarks against the backdrop of furious last-minute positioning by Republicans and Democrats on the top national security issue before Congress adjourns this week before the November elections. The President said the secret document was initially leaked last week for political reasons. "I think it's a bad habit for our government to declassify every time there's a leak," Bush said. "But once again there's a leak out of our government, coming right down the stretch in this campaign, in order to create confusion in the minds of the American people. " Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N. Y.) said the estimate showed that, "The writing is on the wall and it doesn't say 'Mission Accomplished. ' It says: It's time Continue Reading

U.S.-led coalition takes direct role in battle for Tikrit, launching surveillance flights, sharing intelligence with Iraqi forces

TIKRIT, Iraq — The U.S.-led coalition targeting the Islamic State group has begun surveillance flights over the extremist-held city of Tikrit and sending intelligence to Iraqi forces fighting to retake Saddam Hussein’s hometown, a senior official said Tuesday. The flights and intelligence sharing, which began Saturday, mark the first time the coalition has been involved in the offensive, which up to now largely has been supported by Iranian advisers including Gen. Qassem Soleimani, commander of the powerful Revolutionary Guard Quds Force. The coalition official, who spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to journalists about the matter, said the support began at the request of the Iraqi government. He declined to comment on whether they are providing airstrikes, saying he cannot discuss current or future operations. He also declined to discuss whether U.S. forces were directly communicating with Iranians on the ground there. U.S. officials repeatedly have said they are not in contact with Iranians in Iraq Iraqi security forces, backed by Iranian-supported Shiite militias, launched a large-scale offensive to recapture Tikrit earlier this month. The U.S. previously had said that the Iraqi government never asked them to participate in the campaign. A senior Iraqi military official said that coalition is not providing airstrikes in support of the Tikrit operation at this time, but launched airstrikes in the nearby oil refinery town of Beiji on Tuesday. He added that Soleimani has just left Tikrit after providing front-line assistance and advising since the start of the operation. “He will come back if we need him to,” said the Iraqi official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he’s not authorized to brief journalists. Tikrit, the capital of Salahuddin province, lies about 130 kilometers (80 miles) north of Baghdad. It is one of the largest Continue Reading

On Iran’s support of terrorism, a new federal report is an insult to the intelligence

Good news, everyone: President Obama’s national security team says that Iran, long known as the world’s chief sponsor of terrorism, has left the dark side. Just as Obama is trying to wrap up a nuclear deal with the mullahs, his intelligence experts have published the annual Worldwide Threat Assessment. Turn to the section on terror. You’ll find not a word about Iran or its proxy in bloodshed, Hezbollah. Three years ago: “We are also concerned about Iranian plotting against U.S. or allied interests overseas.” Two years ago: “We continue to assess that (Hezbollah) maintains a strong anti-U.S. agenda but is reluctant to confront the United States directly outside the Middle East.” Last year: “Iran and Lebanese Hezbollah continue to directly threaten the interests of U.S. allies.” This year: silence, despite the fact that, as the Washington Institute for Near East Policy concluded in 2014: “Over the past few years, Iran’s state sponsorship of terrorism has increased dramatically to levels not seen since the late 1980s and early 1990s.” Obama is courting Iran as an ally against ISIS. And Obama is struggling to reach an Iranian nuke pact. Meanwhile, justly afraid that the President is on the verge of a disastrous deal, many in Congress are offering scathing assessments of the potential terms as they’ve been outlined. For Obama, now would have been a terrible moment to brand Iran as a sponsor of terrorism. The question that demands an answer: Did his administration massage the intelligence report to avoid giving offense to the mullahs or ammunition to his critics? Seems so. Continue Reading

EYE ON A.I.: Chinese search big Baidu unveils what it calls the world’s smartest artificial intelligence

Chinese web search giant Baidu unveiled its latest technology Monday, saying it had taken the lead in the global race for true artificial intelligence. Minwa, the company's supercomputer, scanned more than 1 million images and taught itself to sort them into about 1,000 categories — and did so with 95.42% accuracy, the company claims, adding that no other computer has completed the task at that same level. Google's system scored a 95.2% and Microsoft's, a 95.06%, Baidu said. All three companies' computers, however, exceed human performance. The concept of "deep learning," or self-learning, algorithms is not unique to Minwa. Yet Baidu seems to have the upper hand and is not slowing down: the company has announced plans to build an even faster computer in the next 2 years, one capable of 7 quadrillion calculations per second. Detailed results of Baidu's report can be viewed at: Continue Reading

SEE IT: Intelligent Speed Limiter in Ford S-Max forces drivers to obey speed limits

Speeding tickets could be a thing of the past with Ford's new car technology that forces drivers to obey the limit. The S-Max is kitted out with the so-called Intelligent Speed Limiter that slows the vehicle down when it thinks it's in a danger zone. A special windshield-mounted camera scans the road for traffic signs, according to the company. FOLLOW DAILY NEWS AUTOS ON FACEBOOK. ‘LIKE’ US HERE. The Limiter then forces the car to slow down to the posted speed. Then, when the limit rises, the system lets the driver accelerate - but not go over the new limit. "Drivers are not always conscious of speeding and sometimes only become aware they were going too fast when they receive a fine in the mail or are pulled over by law enforcement," said Ford of Europe's active safety supervisor Stefan Kappes. WATCH MORE AUTOS VIDEOS HERE. "Intelligent Speed Limiter can remove one of the stresses of driving," he added. Other gizmos to come with the new car include a so-called Pedestrian Detection system, which Ford says it hopes will "reduce the severity of some collisions involving vehicles and pedestrians, or help drivers avoid some impacts altogether." Continue Reading

Chinese hackers accessed sensitive information of intelligence, military personnel in second U.S. data breach

WASHINGTON — Chinese hackers have accessed the sensitive security clearance information of intelligence and military personnel in a second stunning breach of U.S. government data. The cyberthieves targeted the records collected in Standard Form 86, which includes information about applicants’ mental illnesses, drug and alcohol use, past arrests and bankruptcies, the Associated Press reported Friday, citing sources. The forms also require information about contacts and family, potentially exposing any foreign relatives of U.S. intelligence employees to coercion. Social Security numbers could also be exposed. “This tells the Chinese the identities of almost everybody who has got a United States security clearance,” Joel Brenner, a former top U.S. counterintelligence official, told the news service. “That makes it very hard for any of those people to function as an intelligence officer. The database also tells the Chinese an enormous amount of information about almost everyone with a security clearance. That’s a gold mine. It helps you approach and recruit spies.” Millions of security clearance holders — including CIA, National Security Agency and military special operations personnel — are potentially exposed in the security clearance breach, the officials said. More than 2.9 million people had been investigated for a security clearance as of October 2014. The Office of Personnel Management, which was the target of the hack, has not officially notified military or intelligence personnel whose security clearance data was affected. Officials said they believe the hack into the security clearance database was separate from the breach of federal personnel data announced last week. And Friday congressional aides and federal officials said that breach was worse than originally thought. As many as 14 million current and former federal employees could have had their records stolen, up Continue Reading

William Hurt, star of sci-fi ‘Humans,’ says the march of technology needs more intelligence

William Hurt isn’t concerned that we will someday create robots that could spin out of our control. Because we already have. “They’re inevitable,” he says. “They’re already here.” So far they just don’t look like the “synths” on the new AMC show “Humans,” which premieres Sunday at 9 p.m. Hurt plays Dr. George Millican, a retired scientist who worked on the original generation of synths and now is drawn into new drama as synths and their technology evolve. These synths look like humans and are programmed to do human tasks. They also respond to cues from humans: learning names, remembering favorite foods and so on, all in the name of better service. George has a vintage synth named Odi, whom he seems to treat as a son. FOLLOW THE DAILY NEWS ON FACEBOOK. CLICK HERE TO 'LIKE.' “George doesn’t feel this is at all abnormal,” says Hurt. “He uses Odi for a very specific purpose: to hold his memories of his [deceased] wife.” The problems arise elsewhere. A young family buys a model-gorgeous robot named Anita (Gemma Chan), who not only enchants the teenage son but starts doing unprogrammed “human” things. That evolution of “behavior” is what we really should focus on, Hurt says, as we program the “artificial intelligence” we already find in programs as common as the Siri device on iPhones. “What could happen when robots analyze information and make decisions is what people are afraid of,” Hurt says, “and to some extent that fear is justified. “What’s not justified is panic. But we do need to start creating software to make that analysis and those decisions ethical,” says Hurt. “The ratio of people who are creating software to just make robots work faster versus the number who are creating software to make their analysis more ethical is Continue Reading

Amazon named building after company’s first customer, who spent $27.95 on artificial intelligence book in 1995

First! Software engineer John Wainwright spent only $27.95 to unknowingly go down in history as Amazon’s first customer, a feat that gave his name its own spot on the company’s Seattle campus. After all these years, Wainwright, a self-confessed “hoarder” and “geek,” still has the packing slip from 1995 that marked the company’s first sale when he bought “Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought,” he told Marketwatch. “It seemed like a reasonable way of catching up with what was going on around the 1990s,” Wainwright said of Douglas Hofstadter’s book, which he still has. “I could have sworn that I had gotten rid of it. I’m waiting for Jeff Bezos to come and offer me a large amount of money for it.” The charge to his credit card — just to satisfy his curiosity about artificial intelligence — inspired Amazon to name a building it acquired along Terry Ave. in Seattle after Wainwright, an Amazon spokesperson told the Daily News in an email. Wainwright’s order history now includes household items for the kitchen and gear for his astrophotography hobby, which requires long hours to capture far away galaxies and nebulae. His account history even dates back to the 1995 purchase. The Silicon Valley engineer said he nearly worked at Amazon in its early years, a decision that could have earned him millions like his friend, one of the company’s founding engineers who egged him into making that first buy 20 years ago, but he declined. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading