National Intelligence Bulletin for 27 April 2018

The National Intelligence Bulletin is a weekly look at national security, domestic systems disruption, the risk of failing critical infrastructure, and threats to social, political, economic, and financial stability in the United States. This report is available each week for National Intelligence subscribers.


In this National Intelligence Bulletin… (3,792 words)

  • Scientists rush to understand massive active volcano in Yellowstone National Park  
  • Cyber-researchers discover malware installed on computer cleanup tool CCleaner 
  • New study says even low-level antibiotics over time can create resistance 
  • U.S.-Mexico border regions becoming more volatile, violent 
  • ISIS in Indonesia threatens ‘satanic’ CNN, NASA, Hollywood 
  • Naked Waffle House shooter in Tennessee had his guns taken away a year ago 
  • D.C. police employee busted for passing sensitive info to street gang 
  • “Calexit” getting a second chance as secession movement lives on 
  • Two Dallas police officers remain in critical condition after being shot 
  • New York governor sends ‘cease and desist’ letter to ICE following immigration raid
  • More…

InFocus: By far the most entertaining event in the culture war this week was the Kanye West/Candace Owens/Donald Trump fallout. Let me set up some context.

Exhibit A: Kanye West is a rapper who’s been known to rap about racial issues, including his 2013 hit “New Slaves” linking black consumerism to the new form of slavery. This is the same Kanye West who said on national television, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, that then-President George W. Bush “doesn’t care about black people”. But in late 2016, Kanye met with President-Elect Donald J. Trump to talk about issues facing the black community. Kanye recently said in an interview that for eight years, Obama refused to meet with him to discuss black issues. After that 2016 meeting, Kanye’s became a Trump guy — although on multiple occasions he’s been targeted for criticism and harassment for that support — but that’s not to say that Kanye is a Republican.

Exhibit B: Candace Owens gained internet fame through her YouTube channel RedPill Black. Owens is a black conservative and was recently hired on at Turning Point USA, a youth-driven conservative organization.

Last Saturday, Kanye tweeted, “I love the way Candace Owens thinks.” [source] That tweet was followed by others that read, “only free thinkers”, “question everything”, and “get past the past”, among others that encouraged open-mindedness. Four days later, during a deluge of criticism and as some thought Kanye was going to fold, he doubled down and posted a picture of himself wearing a Make America Great Again hat. [source] Shortly after that, he tweeted a picture of his hat signed by President Trump. And he’s also tweeted that “the mob can’t make me not love him [Trump]”.

Does this matter and, if so, why? Yes, it matters. This could be the start of a more conservative movement within America’s black community; not a pro-white, cozy-up-to-conservatives movement, but a ‘Let’s Reassess What We’re Doing’ one. (The Hotep movement, led by blacks — some of whom are conservative and Republican — also focuses on “self-accountability”, anti-progressive/liberal, and pro-family values.) To be fair, no one is expecting blacks to flip 20 points in the next election, but I do expect that Kanye, Candace Owens, and others are working to break the mental chains of the Democrat Party. (Chicago-native Chance the Rapper also tweeted that “Black people don’t have to be democrats” and then promptly apologized, although he again admitted that it’s true.) While others have accused him of self-promotional and provocative behavior ahead of his upcoming June album release, Kanye doesn’t need this kind of attention. If he wanted attention and album sales, he could have come out swinging and made the next album a soundtrack to the anti-Trump resistance movement. Kanye released part of a new song called “Lift Yourself” in a video for TMZ, which includes the lines, “See, I say what they say when the mic is off/Parents are the strippers/Strip kids of their confidence/Teach white dominance/Question your common sense.” No one is expecting Kanye to stop talking about racism and “white supremacy”, but he has undoubtedly written a new narrative in the culture war. To be clear, this is not a defection, and it may not result in a counter-thought revolution. But if it doesn’t go any further than this, then Kanye is at least giving a reason for blacks to question their loyalty to the Democratic Party. – SC


Priority Intelligence Requirements

PIR1: What are new the indicators of systems disruption and threats to critical infrastructure?

PIR2: What are the new indicators of potentially disruptive social, cultural or political conditions or events?

PIR3: How are state and federal agencies preparing for domestic conflict, emergencies, or other instability?

PIR4: What are the new indicators of systems disruption and threats to the economic or financial industry?


PIR1: What are new the indicators of systems disruption and threats to critical infrastructure?

Scientists rush to understand massive active volcano in Yellowstone National  Park

While they don’t believe that an eruption is imminent, scientists and geologists say that when the active volcano underneath Yellowstone National Park, at 44 miles across, does blow, it will be a global-changing event — and certainly a massive natural disaster for the United States. Scientists only fully realized that the volcano was fully active in the 1980s, having only mapped its breadth in the 1960s. They say the volcano, which has shown some unusual activity of late, is capable of an eruption thousands of times more powerful and violent than Mount St. Helens, which last erupted in 1980. “A major eruption would be a low-probability, high-consequence event, a proverbial Black Swan, something that could have societal and planetary effects. The problem for scientists is that these big ‘supervolcano’ eruptions rarely happen, and the most important action is out of sight, many miles below the surface, involving chaotic forces, complex chemistry, and enigmatic geological features.” An eruption would leave the northern Rockies buried in multiple feet of ash, while ash would rain down on nearly everyone in the U.S. “It’d be a bad day.” [source] Analyst comment: The volcano underneath Yellowstone first erupted 2.1 million years ago, scientists and geologists believe, while the most recent explosion was 630,000 years ago. Some even believe that the volcano is ebbing now, having peaked hundreds of thousands of years ago. But it’s worth noting that the potential still exists for a major natural disaster in the region that would quickly become a real-life catastrophe for the country.

SC: Two years ago, I wrote: “Of course, [the Yellowstone] caldera is ‘overdue’ for an eruption, but keep in mind that a one percent deviation from its roughly 600,000 year cycle is still 6,000 or more years.

Cyber-researchers discover malware installed on computer cleanup tool CCleaner

In September 2017, cybersecurity researchers at Cisco Talos and Morphisec made a nightmarish discovery: The ubiquitous computer cleaning tool CCleaner had been compromised by hackers for longer than a month. Software updates users were downloading from CCleaner owner Avast, itself a cybersecurity firm, were tainted with a malware backdoor, exposing millions of computers and reinforcing the threat of so-called supply chain attacks — instances were trusted and widely used software is infected. Ultimately 2.27 million downloads of the corrupt CCleaner version were downloaded, according to Avast officials. Fortunately, company officials, working with the FBI, managed to dramatically limit the hack; of the 2.27 million downloads, some 1.65 million copies of CCleaner malware ‘phoned home’ to the attacks. But they only targeted 40 computers with a second-stage attack, the installation of ShadowPad, which, when activated, allows attackers to download more malware modules or steal corporate and other data. [source]

New study says even low-level antibiotics over time can create resistance

A new Swedish study confirms that regular antibiotic use will cause bacteria to develop a resistance, leading to further rise in so-called “superbugs.” But what makes this new study unique is that researchers say even small concentrations of antibiotics — used over time — can also lead to resistance. That’s important because there are low levels of antibiotics present in our environment. The study, published in Nature Communications by researchers from Uppsala University, “demonstrated that Salmonella exposed repeatedly to an amount of streptomycin that was not strong enough to kill the bacteria or inhibit growth still evolved high-level resistance.” The scientists say their research indicates that the number of genes associated with the development of antibiotic resistance may be underestimated and that the genes could become a “stepping stone” to more resistant bacteria. [source] Analyst comment: Not many people know this, but there has been a growing body of research over the past decade showing that antibiotics are found in our water supply — lakes, rivers, tidal estuaries, etc. — that come from households, hospitals, pharmaceutical plants, and more. So we’re getting low-dose antibiotics much more often than we know. 


PIR2: What are the new indicators of potentially disruptive social, cultural or political conditions or events?

U.S.-Mexico border regions becoming more volatile, violent

As Congress continues to thwart President Trump’s plans to build a border wall along most of the U.S.-Mexico boundary, various border regions are becoming more volatile and deadly. Last weekend, for instance, 11 people were murdered in a 24-hour period in Tijuana, which is just across the border from San Diego. As is most often the case, the violence is tied to warring drug cartels that the Mexican government and military can’t seem to control. The deaths in Tijuana brought the year’s total to 650, though that was seven days ago and there have been more murders since. In April alone authorities had reported 100 murders. Worse, according to the attorney general’s office in Baja California, most homicides are going unsolved — which is probably due in large part to lack of effort because officials are murdered by cartels almost as effortlessly as rival cartel members. And there’s no end in sight. [source] Analyst comment: When or how this spills over into parts of the United States remains to be seen. But as long as demand for illegal drugs remains high in the U.S., the cartels will continue filling orders. 

ISIS in Indonesia threatens ‘satanic’ CNN, NASA, Hollywood

So many threats, so little time and resources. This time the threat is coming from members of the Islamic State in Indonesia, who are threatening “satanic” CNN, along with Universal Studios Hollywood and even NASA through their online threats. “Those who believe fight in the way of Allah and those who disbelieve fight in the way of Taghut [un-Islamic rulers],” says a poster. Dajjal, the antichrist in Islamic theology, is “behind the modern name whether you can or not see it,” the poster warns. Mark Mitchell, acting assistant secretary for special operations and low-intensity conflict at the Defense Department, told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in December, “Indonesia increasingly has become a haven for Islamic extremists. And we’ve seen it not just in the society at large, but also in the government.” He warned that many are becoming radicalized in prisons. [source]

 

D.C. police employee busted for passing sensitive info to street gang

A civilian employee of the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department has been arrested on charges she passed sensitive information to a gang member who has been charged with murder. The employee, Ronnika Jennings, has been indicted on conspiracy and obstruction of justice charges. She worked as a clerk at the Seventh District station before being placed on leave last fall. The indictment says Jennings and three others she was allegedly passing information to – Derek Turner, known as “Fats,” his girlfriend Marshay Hazelwood, a security guard, and Duan Hill, who is known as “Smile-Dog.” It also says Turner and Hill were members of the Southeast D.C. street gang linked to Wahler Place, which at the time was warring with a street gang linked to Trenton Park. Turner has been accused of killing Andrew McPhatter 1 March 2017. The indictment says that Jennings and the others sought to obstruct the case for six months. Jennings, investigators say based on electronic data and other evidence, pledged to keep Turner’s girlfriend informed of any developments in the case. [source]

“Calexit” getting a second chance as secession movement lives on

A proposed California secession measure has passed a hurdle and has been cleared to begin the signature-gathering phase to qualify as a ballot issue. The so-called “Calexit” effort failed to gather enough signatures to qualify for the ballot shortly after Trump’s 2016 election victory, which is what prompted the secession effort and continues to drive it as his administration ‘wars’ with Sacramento over everything from immigration to environmental policies. A rival effort financed by billionaire Tim Draper would divide the county’s most populous state into three new states and it, too, could make the Nov. 6 ballot. Yet one more effort, dubbed “New California,” seeks to split off rural counties into a 51st U.S. state; the regions are very critical of the state’s “sanctuary” policies which bar local police from cooperating with federal immigration authorities under penalty of law. [source] Analyst comment: Despite the various efforts, a poll released a year ago found that Californians opposed secession 2-1 (though those figures could have changed by now). Then there is the hurdle of getting congressional approval to divide up the world’s sixth-largest economy. That said, there are strong divisions in the state and political partisanship remains high and divisive. The anti-sanctuary faction is getting more vocal and rebellious.

Ongoing Russia probe having major financial impact on Trump allies

The never-ending federal and congressional probes into alleged “collusion” between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russia is having a devastating financial effect on allies of the president. Former Trump campaign advisor Michael Caputo, for example, has said that so far a conservative estimate of his legal fees — which include lengthy congressional hearings costing about $25,000 a pop — have topped $125,000, and they could rise if he is called to appear before a grand jury convened by special counsel Robert Mueller. And Caputo, having only been called to appear before congressional committees, isn’t even a suspect in any criminal wrongdoing. Trump’s first national security advisor, retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty to one count of lying to FBI agents, became so strapped for cash he had to sell his home. Caputo said his status as a mere witness is even more reason to go into congressional hearings fully prepared via legal counsel “even if you’re telling a story about ice cream because these are some of the most irresponsible people on earth,” he said — a reference to Congress. He also added that being tied to Trump and swept up in scandal has cost him clients, and his family has also suffered from the exposure. “Last month, my wife received part of a sniper rifle in the mail,” he said. “I have guns in my house and in my office that I never had there before. If they’re coming for me, I’m going to take them out first.” [source] Analyst comment: Some say that this has been part of the strategy against Trump all along — to cause so much damage to his friends and allies they would abandon him. The fact is there still is no evidence of any “collusion” or anything illegal or nefarious at all, which begs the question of why this probe is allowed to continue. In fact, we have heard rumors this week that Mueller is finding more and more evidence that this entire Russia thing was nothing more than a ‘deep state’ scheme hatched by both Democrats and Republicans to hamper an unconventional president whom they do not believe ‘belongs’ in the White House. If so, this isn’t going to end well for more people than just Trump’s allies.

Two Dallas police officers remain in critical condition after being shot

A pair of Dallas Police officers, both three-year vets, remain in critical condition a few days after being shot by a suspect named Armando Luis Juarez, 29. A third officer was killed; he was initially detained by a member of a Home Depot loss-prevention officer, Scott Painter, because on suspicion of theft and because he was acting suspiciously. Two on-duty officers, Rogelio Santander and Crystal Almeida, were called to the store and, along with a Home Depot loss-prevention officer, were speaking with Juarez in an office. An off-duty officer working part-time at the store learned that Juarez had an outstanding felony warrant after he was detained by store clerks for alleged theft. The off-duty officer stepped out of the office where he was being held with the other three before rushing back after hearing a report of “shots fired” over a police radio. The off-duty offer found all three — Santander, Almeida, and the loss prevention officer — on the floor with gunshot wounds. Bodycam footage reviewed by DPD officials shows Juarez pulling a handgun from his pocket as the two officers attempted to cuff him. Santander died of his injuries. [source] Analyst comment: Shooting Dallas police officers is getting to be too common. In 2016 four DPD officers and a transit officer were killed by a sniper by a black man towards the end of a protest regarding police shootings of unarmed black men. It’s not clear whether Juarez is in the country legally but local media spoke to a parent and grandparent who reported that he was a “good boy” who had bad friends.

Slew of candidates running as open Socialists in 2018 elections

Several candidates running for elected office in November are taking a cue from Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and running as open, avowed socialists — something that would have been unheard of just a decade ago. Nearly two dozen candidates have either registered as socialists or are running as far-Left Democrats. One of the candidates is from, of all places, Texas. Attorney Franklin Bynum claimed this week publicly he is running on a “far-Left” agenda while touting his Democratic Socialists of America “comrades.” He ran last month unopposed in a Democratic primary for a post as a Houston criminal courts judge (!). Another, from Hawaii, Kaniela Ing, is running for Congress. [source] SC: Some 15 Democratic Socialists of America candidates were elected in November 2016, joining 20 already in office. Although many run as “Independents”, the DSA is building in-roads into neo-liberal, progressive, and Far Left strongholds to expand ballot access for their party and get their candidates into higher offices.  


PIR3: How are state and federal agencies preparing for domestic conflict, emergencies, or other instability?

Border Patrol arrests, targeting of immigrant activists, rises in Vermont

Empowered by the Trump administration, the U.S. Border Patrol is stepping up its interior enforcement, as evidenced in, of all places, Vermont, home to the Swanton Border Patrol Sector. According to stats from Customs and Border Protection and the Department of Homeland Security, the number of illegal aliens arrested in the sector rise from 291 to 449 — 54 percent — from fiscal year 2016 to 2017. The rise in arrests come even as the CBP reports the lowest number of illegal border crossings on record. That suggests the agency is pursuing all illegal immigrants already in the U.S. rather than those who are crossing illegally. Immigrant rights group Migrant Justice is accusing the Border Patrol and DHS of “racial profiling.” [source]

 

New York governor sends ‘cease and desist’ letter to ICE following immigration raid

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo sent a “cease and desist” order to the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency following a raid earlier this month which netted 225 arrests, most of whom (180) had been convicted of various crimes. According to an ICE press release, “more than 80” of the suspects had been issued “final order of removal” but refused to leave the United States. In a statement announced on Twitter, Cuomo said, “I am issuing a cease and desist letter to ICE to demand the immediate stop of their reckless and unconstitutional enforcement actions.” Going further, he said, “I am also issuing an Executive Order prohibiting ICE arrests in state facilities and prohibiting state agencies from inquiring about immigration status.” Last week ICE was forced to take enforcement actions on its own after the NYPD refused to cooperate; New York City has been declared a“sanctuary city” for illegal aliens. Cuomo said that New York would “sue” ICE if enforcement actions continued. [source] Analysis: The response from ICE and supporters of the Trump administration’s immigration law enforcement efforts was swift and stern. ICE Deputy Director Thomas Homan ripped Cuomo, saying the governor’s claims that ICE’s actions were “reckless and unconstitutional” were “inaccurate.” “The Governor’s comments were inaccurate and an insult to ICE law enforcement officers who conduct their lawful mission professionally and with integrity.” U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., was more direct. “This guy is out of control,” he tweeted regarding the governor. “King Cuomo believes the law is whatever he says it is. No constitution, legislature or statute will ever take precedence over this man’s political ambitions.” The rift with New York over immigration enforcement is getting as raw as it is between the Trump administration and California. There are some who see the issue of illegal immigration as divisive as that of slavery in the 19th century prior to the Civil War. We tend to agree with that analogy, and while we’re not predicting this, it wouldn’t surprise us to see an armed stand-off at some point in the near future between state law enforcement ordered to detain or otherwise physically impair federal law enforcement officers from doing their jobs. 


PIR4: What are the new indicators of systems disruption and threats to the economic or financial industry?

 

U.S. Treasury considering emergency powers to block ‘risky’ Chinese investments

The Treasury Department is considering invoking emergency powers block Chinese investment in sensitive areas deemed vital to national security. Invoking the powers could also decrease the time it takes to conduct security reviews of corporate takeovers. The move is being considered amid risking concern that China is violating U.S. intellectual property rights. Invoking the 1977 law, the International Emergency Economic Powers Act would give President Trump power to block deals after making a declaration of an “unusual and extraordinary threat.” The law was used broadly following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to block assets of militant organizations and other related illicit financial networks. [source]

Iran, other countries, to replace dollar with euro in financial reporting

The Iranian government announced plans to replace the U.S. dollar with the euro in official financial reporting following the first foreign exchange swap in Iranian rial and Turkish lira. The move comes amid a currency crisis this year that has spun out of control as the rial has fallen to a record low of more than 63,000 to the dollar. The change comes amid rising tensions with the U.S. and is meant to help Tehran circumvent restrictions on accessing dollars. The Trump administration has hinted it may renege on the 2015 nuclear deal, though it’s rumored that the EU has been making progress in convincing President Trump to remain in it. If the U.S. reneges, however, it would trigger the reimposition of sanctions that were dropped after the deal was made, which would squeeze Iran’s already bumpy economy even further. Russia is also said to be mulling payments for oil in national currencies rather than the U.S. dollar, in particular with Turkey and Iran. [source]

U.S. economy slowed in the first quarter on weak consumer spending

The economy grew at a 2.3 percent clip in the first quarter of 2018, slowing from peaks above 3 percent for most of President Trump’s first year in office. Economists said the slowdown was being attributed to weaker consumer spending. That said, they believe the weaker numbers are a blip on the radar and that the economy should continue growing as the labor market tightens and, hopefully, wages rise. Also, households should begin to experience more savings as the $1.5 trillion income tax package begins to have a positive effect on Americans’ take-home pay. Economists said that business spending also fell during the first quarter. [source]

Jon E. Dougherty is a political, foreign policy and national security analyst and reporter with nearly 30 years of experience in both fields. A U.S. Army veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, he holds BA in Political Science from Ashford University and an MA in National Security Studies/Intelligence Analysis from American Military University.

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