INTEL TODAY DIARY — June 21 2017

Julian Assange cancels planned ‘special announcement’ — Otto Warmbier, US student sent home from N Korea, dies — Using Texts as Lures, Government Spyware Targets Mexican Journalists and Their Families — Former decorated Navy SEAL and CIA special agent is arrested for ‘being part of a DRUG RING smuggling marijuana from Colombia’

Julian Assange

Julian Assange cancels planned ‘special announcement’ — Guardian

The WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, has abruptly cancelled a press conference at which he had planned to make a “special announcement”.

Journalists and supporters had gathered under a balcony at the Ecuadorian embassy in central London, from where Assange usually conducts press conferences.

The latest was to have coincided with the fifth anniversary of his taking refuge in the embassy.

The Swedish authorities have dropped an investigation into sex-related allegations, but there is an arrest warrant out for him in the UK accusing him of jumping bail.

Assange expressed hope in an interview with the Press Association ahead of the planned press conference that a standoff with the UK authorities might be resolved.

He cited various reasons to be hopeful. “We have support across many parts of the political spectrum in the United States, including most of the mainstream media.

“Within Europe there is a growing recognition that extraditing me or any of our staff to Trump’s America is not a way to win votes.”

Assange has repeatedly expressed fears that arrest in the UK would lead to his extradition to the US, where he could be charged with espionage offences. Without the UK arrest warrant, Assange would be free to fly to Ecuador, which has offered him asylum.

Otto Warmbier, US student sent home from N Korea, dies — BBC

The American student who was released last week after being held in captivity for more than 15 months in North Korea has died, his family says.

Otto Warmbier, 22, returned to the US last Tuesday, but it emerged he had been in a coma for a year.

North Korea said botulism led to the coma, but a team of US doctors who assessed him dispute this account.

Mr Warmbier was sentenced to 15 years of hard labour for attempting to steal a propaganda sign from a hotel.

He had suffered severe brain damage, and was medically evacuated from North Korea on 13 June to a hospital in his home town of Cincinnati. Ohio.

 The Warmbier family has blamed his death on what they called the torturous mistreatment he had received at the hands of the North Koreans.

“It is our sad duty to report that our son, Otto Warmbier, has completed his journey home. Surrounded by his loving family, Otto died today at 2:20pm,” a statement from the family said.

Using Texts as Lures, Government Spyware Targets Mexican Journalists and Their Families — NYT

MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s most prominent human rights lawyers, journalists and anti-corruption activists have been targeted by advanced spyware sold to the Mexican government on the condition that it be used only to investigate criminals and terrorists.

The targets include lawyers looking into the mass disappearance of 43 students, a highly respected academic who helped write anti-corruption legislation, two of Mexico’s most influential journalists and an American representing victims of sexual abuse by the police. The spying even swept up family members, including a teenage boy.

Since 2011, at least three Mexican federal agencies have purchased about $80 million worth of spyware created by an Israeli cyberarms manufacturer. The software, known as Pegasus, infiltrates smartphones to monitor every detail of a person’s cellular life — calls, texts, email, contacts and calendars. It can even use the microphone and camera on phones for surveillance, turning a target’s smartphone into a personal bug.

The company that makes the software, the NSO Group, says it sells the tool exclusively to governments, with an explicit agreement that it be used only to battle terrorists or the drug cartels and criminal groups that have long kidnapped and killed Mexicans. (…)

Increasingly, governments have found that the only way to monitor mobile phones is by using private businesses like the NSO Group that exploit little-known vulnerabilities in smartphone software. The company has, at times, operated its businesses under different names. One of them, OSY Technologies, paid Michael T. Flynn, President Trump’s former national security adviser, more than $40,000 to be an advisory board member from May 2016 until January, according to his public financial disclosures.

Former decorated Navy SEAL and CIA special agent is arrested for ‘being part of a DRUG RING smuggling marijuana from Colombia’ — Daily Mail

A former CIA special agent and decorated US Navy Seal has been arrested in connection with an ongoing federal marijuana smuggling investigation with deep ties to Columbia.

James Dennis ‘J.D.’ Smith, 49, was arrested Saturday in Charlotte, South Carolina. On the same day, two Columbia SC area brothers, Carl Rye, 41, and Bryon Rye, 43, were picked up in a Rosewood Drive house by authorities.

Smith was identified as a former Navy SEAL and CIA special agent by multiple sources familiar with the drug smuggling case, according to The State.

They are each charged with conspiring to distribute at least 1,540 pounds of marijuana since 2014 according to the complaint. Each charge carries a sentence of 5 to 40 years.

Smith and the Ryes appeared Monday in federal court, shackled hand and foot and in orange jumpsuits, in Columbia for their initial arraignment. They are held without bond.

The former Navy SEAL and CIA agent allegedly supplied the Rye brothers with the pot. Bryon Rye supplied the money to buy Smith’s marijuana, and Carl Rye sold the marijuana in South Carolina, including to a distributor in Beaufort County, according to the complaint.

On numerous occasions, Smith landed his private airplane at Jim Hamilton-Owens Field in Columbia to pick up money owed to him by the Rye brothers. Each time Smith landed at Owens Field, Bryon Rye went to a bank to get cash from a safe deposit box he kept there to pay Smith for the marijuana, the complaint said.

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INTEL TODAY DIARY — June 21 2017

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