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Hackers Target US Nuclear Weapons Agency in Massive Cyber Attack

“This is a developing situation.”

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A major cyber espionage attack has hit a number of U.S. federal agencies, including networks belonging to the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and Department of Energy (DOE), which are responsible for maintaining the country’s massive stockpile of nuclear weapons.

On Thursday, officials swiftly began coordinating notifications about the security breach to congressional oversight bodies following a briefing by DOE Chief Information Officer Rocky Campione, reports Politico.

Authorities were alarmed after suspicious activity was detected in a number of networks belonging to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) as well as the Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories in New Mexico and Washington. Networks belonging to the Office of Secure Transportation and Richland Field Office of the Department of Energy were also reportedly breached.

Officials close to the incident claim that hackers were able to do more damage at FERC than the other networks, according to the report.

Authorities have scoured the networks to ascertain how much data has been accessed or stolen, but officials are still largely in the dark about the extent to which government networks have been compromised. According to the report, officials at DOE could take weeks to understand how much damage was wrought by the attacks.

It is believed that the attack on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission could have been part of a broader attempt to disrupt the U.S. electric grid. While FERC isn’t involved in the direct management of power flows, the data it stores could potentially reveal the most critical locations in case of future attacks.

The National Nuclear Security Administration, on the other hand, is the key agency tasked with managing the U.S. nuclear arsenal, and its operations take up the bulk of the DOE budget. Likewise, the Sandia and Los Alamos laboratories are critical sites where atomic research related to both nuclear weapons and civil nuclear power takes place. The Office of Secure Transportation is in charge of moving enriched uranium and other material related to the maintenance of the U.S. nuclear stockpile.

Federal officials have expressed concern about the breach, which is feared to have impacted computer systems not only in the U.S. and across the globe. So far, Russian hackers tied to the country’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) are being looked at as the most likely culprit. However, Moscow has denied any involvement in the attacks.

The attack on DOE networks appears to signal the potent threat posed by hackers even when they are up against core components of the U.S. national security enterprise.

It is believed that the hackers were able to compromise the federal networks by exploiting security flaws in the networking software sold by IT company SolarWinds, which has hundreds of clients across the U.S. government and the private sector.

On Thursday, the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) issued an ominous warning about a significant computer intrusion, noting that it “poses a grave risk” to governments on the federal, state, and local levels.

On Wednesday, the FBI, CISA, and Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued a joint statement acknowledging their collaboration in an “ongoing” cybersecurity campaign, noting that they had only begun their work in earnest in recent days after learning of the incident.

“This is a developing situation, and while we continue to work to understand the full extent of this campaign, we know this compromise has affected networks within the federal government,” the statement explained.

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Corruption

Chris Cuomo “indefinitely” gone from CNN after his deep role in brother’s sex scandal is revealed

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CNN anchor Chris Cuomo was suspended indefinitely by CNN on Tuesday after it was revealed by the New York Attorney General’s Office that the star anchor, the most popular on the news network, was deeply involved in assisting his scandal-embroiled brother, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, amid a flurry of sexual harassment allegations that ultimately led to him resigning.

While Chris Cuomo had apologized in the past for advising his brother’s senior aides – effectively shattering the wall typically standing between policymakers and journalists – the thousands of pages released by Attorney General Letitia James show that the anchor played a deeply intimate role in damage control efforts stemming from the accusations.

The network and its top leadership, including president Jeff Zucker, had backed their star anchor to the hilt in recent months despite accumulating info showing Cuomo’s breach of basic journalistic standards. The anchor also had apologized for advising the governor while simultaneously downplaying or omitting the extent of his direct involvement in the scandal.

Late Tuesday, the network released a statement acknowledging that “the documents, which we were not privy to before their public release, raise serious questions.”

“When Chris admitted to us that he had offered advice to his brother’s staff, he broke our rules and we acknowledged that publicly,” the statement explained. “However, these documents point to a greater level of involvement in his brother’s efforts than we previously knew. As a result, we have suspended Chris indefinitely, pending further evaluation.”

Text messages show that Chris Cuomo clamored to play an increasingly direct role in the scandal, ranging from offers to draft statements for his brother to demands that he play a commanding role in strategic matters. Cuomo also looked into potential angles for news reports and researched the women who accused his brother of sexual misconduct.

“Please let me help with the prep,” Cuomo wrote at to his brother’s top aides as evidence damning the governor mounted.

The move to indefinitely suspend the argumentative and charismatic anchor came as a shock to some anchors, who were aware that he was dear to CNN management. CNN president Zucker also declined to discipline him as reports poured in about his misconduct, reports New York Times.

Chris Cuomo had long admitted that for him, the matter was about “family first, job second.”

“I can be objective about just about any topic, but not about my family,” he said on May 20. He also played down his fervent role in the scandal, claiming that he had been haplessly “looped into calls” with the governor’s inner circle, which he claims was a “mistake” that spilled over onto his work life and placed his CNN colleagues in a “bad spot.”

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Corruption

Jeffrey Epstein’s pilot testifies: Clinton, Trump, Prince Andrew among “Lolita Express” passengers

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Jeffrey Epstein’s longtime pilot took the stand on Tuesday, the second day of Ghislaine Maxwell’s trial, and detailed the names of famous passengers who rode in the private jet of the disgraced financier who has been accused of a range of crimes, including sex trafficking minors.

Testifying at the trial of Maxwell, who was Epstein’s girlfriend and alleged co-conspirator, pilot Larry Visoski explained how he met a number of notable and powerful people. The names included Prince Andrew, Donald Trump (before he was president), former President Bill Clinton, Chris Tucker, Kevin Spacey, George Mitchell, violinist Itzhak Perlman, and astronaut John Glenn.

The pilot explained that he met the celebrities over the course of decades while flying Epstein’s Boeing 727 Gulfstream jet — often referred to in media as the “Lolita Express” — as well as helicopters.

“I certainly remember President Trump, but not many people associated with him,” the pilot said during cross-examination by Maxwell’s defense team, adding that the future head of state flew on the plane before he became president in 2016.

Clinton was mentioned as Visoski testified about a meeting with a female singer in the cockpit of the jet before flying off from an airport in Palm Beach, Florida. Visoski claims that he remembered the singer, identified as Jane Doe in the courtroom, by her “piercing blue eyes” and that she didn’t appear to be young at the time.

“You’ll forgive the question, Mr. Visoski, but I think you’ll remember that at the time you saw her, you also remembered she had large breasts. Isn’t that right?” asked Assistant U.S. Attorney Maureen Comey.

“Uh. She was a mature woman,” Visoski answered in response.

According to prosecutors, Jane was 14 years old when she was essentially “recruited” by Maxwell in 1994, not long before Visoski met her in the cockpit.

“I can’t visualize her sitting in the passenger compartment like I would, say, President Clinton. It was so long ago,” the pilot said.

“Jane Doe” also testified on Tuesday and explained how she was eating ice cream at a youth summer camp when Maxwell and Epstein approached her in a friendly manner.

Before long, however, Maxwell allegedly began training her on how to “massage” Epstein.

Eventually, she explained, she took part in orgies involving both Maxwell and Esptein at the late financier’s massive homes in Palm Beach, New York City, and New Mexico.

Prosecutors have depicted Maxwell as the mastermind of a sadistic sex trafficking gang that preyed on young women and underage girls. The U.S. government has alleged that over the span of at least 10 years, from 1994 to 2004, she “assisted, facilitated, and contributed to Jeffrey Epstein’s abuse of minor girls by, among other things, helping Epstein to recruit, groom, and ultimately abuse” the girls and young women.

The British media heiress has pleaded not guilty to the six felony counts.

Epstein, 66, died of apparent suicide during his incarceration at a federal prison in Manhattan while facing a likely prison sentence of up to 45 years on charges of pedophilia and sex trafficking.

According to Visoski, from 1991 until 2019, he regularly flew Epstein to his private island in the Caribbean, Little St. James – an island popularly referred to as “Pedophile Island.”

“Every week to every 10 days if we weren’t elsewhere in the world, but, you know, it was a regular destination,” Visoski said.

Visoski also noted that he remembered Maxwell, a one-time girlfriend of Epstein, as an employee of the late sex criminal – albeit one whose specific role was unclear.

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Corruption

Ghislaine Maxwell trial begins as Epstein’s shadow looms large

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On Monday, opening arguments began in the widely anticipated federal trial of accused sex trafficker Ghislaine Maxwell, the notorious British socialite who allegedly helped disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein commit a dizzying array of abusive and exploitative acts toward multiple women and girls, including one as young as 14.

Epstein, 66, died of apparent suicide during his incarceration at a federal prison in New York City while facing a potential prison sentence of up to 45 years on charges of pedophilia and sex trafficking.

The Maxwell trial could be a last-ditch opportunity for the government to secure a conviction for the crimes of Epstein, in effect making this the trial that he prevented from ever occurring.

“The shadow of Epstein is going to loom large here,” former federal judge Moira Penza told the New York Times. “The case is obviously going to be about Maxwell, but he’s going to be right at the center of it as well.”

Early Monday, jury selection drew to a close.

The trial won’t be broadcast on television or online, while attendees will be prevented from broadcasting or photographing the trial, reports NPR.

Maxwell, 59, faces charges of grooming multiple minors to engage in illegal sex acts with Epstein, her ex-boyfriend, and sex-trafficking a minor. The indictment accuses the British media heiress of conspiracy, including recruiting one of her partner’s victims to help recruit other girls to be paid to undergo abuse at the hands of Epstein.

On Monday, prosecutors depicted Maxwell, who circulated in wealthy and powerful circles in the U.K. and U.S., as the mastermind of a sadistic sex trafficking gang that preyed on teenage girls. U.S. Attorneys have alleged that over the span of at least 10 years, from 1994 to 2004, she “assisted, facilitated, and contributed to Jeffrey Epstein’s abuse of minor girls by, among other things, helping Epstein to recruit, groom, and ultimately abuse” the girls and young women.

Maxwell has pleaded not guilty to the charges, while her multiple attempts to be released from the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, New York, have all been shot down.

Prosecutor Laura Pomerantz said Monday that Maxwell was a key component in Epstein’s “pyramid scheme of abuse” and criminal sex acts carried out under the color of respectability, reports BBC.

Pomerantz noted that one accuser befriended by the pair was promised bright opportunities in the future.

Prosecutors will call on witnesses including four alleged victims and experts on sexual abuse and those who can inform the jury about the credibility of the couple’s victims, including those who may not have been aware that they suffered abuse at the time.

Experts say that the prosecution will have their work cut out for them and must refrain from making the trial center too much on Epstein’s crimes rather than those of his alleged co-conspirator Maxwell.

Maxwell’s defense will also have to convince the 12-person jury that she was an unwitting player in Epstein’s game, likely by delving into the details of the deceased criminal’s dealings at the top levels of philanthropy, academia, politics, and high finance.

On Monday, the defense protested Maxwell being held liable for Epstein’s crimes and depicted her situation as being one where “memory, manipulation and money” play crucial roles.

However, federal attorneys have pushed back at the idea that she was a victim of Epstein, as opposed to a willing accomplice.

“The government’s yearslong investigation has not developed any evidence that the defendant was victimized in any way by Jeffrey Epstein,” read court papers that were recently filed by the government.

Prosecutors are expected to draw on Maxwell’s so-called “black book,” which meticulously recorded the friends and contacts of Epstein. The FBI gained possession of the book in 2019 when Epstein’s former butler tried to sell it. The government is confident that the book contains “compelling evidence of her guilt,” according to court filings.

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