Tag: groups

Anti-government paramilitary groups in plot against Michigan governor also discussed kidnapping Virginia governor, FBI agent says

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — Members of anti-government paramilitary groups discussed kidnapping Virginia’s governor during a June meeting in Ohio, an FBI agent testified Tuesday during a court hearing in Michigan.

Special Agent Richard Trask was part of the investigation that led to six men being arrested and charged last week with plotting to kidnap Michigan’s Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Seven other men face state terrorism charges.

Trask did not name Virginia’s Democratic governor, Ralph Northam, during his testimony in a federal courtroom in Grand Rapids. He said members of anti-government groups from multiple states attended the meeting.

“They discussed possible targets, taking a sitting governor, specifically issues with the governor of Michigan and Virginia based on the lockdown orders,” Trask said. He said the people at the meeting were unhappy with the governors’ response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Trask did not discuss further planning aimed at Northam.

The FBI did not brief Northam on any potential threat, according to a state official with knowledge of the governor’s briefings who was not authorized to speak publicly.

The June meeting was part of the FBI’s investigation of various anti-government groups, leading to last week’s stunning announcement that six men had been arrested for an alleged plot to kidnap Whitmer.

Tuesday’s court hearing was to review investigators’ evidence against Adam Fox, Ty Garbin, Kaleb Franks, Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta and whether they should be detained before trial. The men are all Michigan residents.

A sixth man, Barry Croft, was being held in Delaware.

The FBI used confidential sources, undercover agents and clandestine recordings to foil the alleged kidnapping conspiracy. Some defendants had conducted coordinated surveillance of the Democratic governor’s vacation home in northern Michigan in August and September, according to a criminal complaint.

The men were trying to retaliate against Whitmer due to her “uncontrolled power” amid the coronavirus pandemic, authorities said. They said four of the men had planned to meet last week to pay for explosives and exchange tactical gear.

Whitmer, who was considered as Joe Biden’s running mate and is nearly halfway through a four-year term, has been widely praised for her response to the virus outbreak but also sharply criticized by Republican lawmakers and people in conservative areas of the state. The Capitol has been the site of many rallies, including ones with gun-toting protesters calling for her ouster.

Whitmer put major restrictions on personal movement and the economy, although many of those limits have been lifted since spring.

Fox, who was described as one of the leaders, was living in the basement of a vacuum shop in Grand Rapids. The owner said Fox was opposed to wearing a mask during the pandemic and kept firearms and ammunition at the store.

The defendants face up to life in prison if convicted.

Seven others linked to a paramilitary group called the Wolverine Watchmen were charged in state court for allegedly seeking to storm the Michigan Capitol and providing material support for terrorist acts by seeking a “civil war.”

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U.K. Arts Groups Welcome Government’s COVID Cash Injection

Recipients of the government funding include major organizations such as the London Symphony Orchestra, which received 846,000 pounds, and tiny venues such as London’s 50-seat Finborough Theatre, which got just under 60,000 pounds. Liverpool’s Cavern Club, where The Beatles shot to fame, received a grant of 525,000 pounds.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said in a statement that the money was “a vital boost for the theaters, music venues, museums and cultural organizations that form the soul of our nation.”

Julian Bird, chief executive of umbrella body U.K. Theatre, said the news was “warmly welcomed, and will help create work and retain jobs.”

Britain’s museums, galleries, theaters and music venues all closed when the country went into lockdown in March. Some have managed to reopen, with reduced capacity and at a financial loss, but coronavirus restrictions make most live performances impossible.

Thousands of arts workers also have not been supported by government job-retention programs because they are freelancers.

Many felt slighted when Treasury chief Rishi Sunak said the government would protect jobs that were “viable,” though Sunak denied he was suggesting jobs in the arts were unviable.

Some in the arts world expressed further outrage on Monday about a government-backed ad showing a young dancer lacing up her ballet pumps alongside the words “Fatima’s next job could be in cyber. (She just doesn’t know it yet).”

The government said the ad was part of a long-running campaign encouraging young people from a variety of backgrounds to consider careers in cybersecurity. But Dowden acknowledged it appeared “crass.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman, James Slack, said “this particular piece of content was not appropriate and has been removed from the campaign.”

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Indonesia Islamic groups, students join movement to scrap jobs law

JAKARTA (Reuters) – Wearing white Islamic garb and waving red and white Indonesian flags, more than 1,000 protesters from Islamic and student groups gathered in the world’s most populous Muslim nation on Tuesday to show discontent over a divisive new jobs law.

Conservative Islamic groups are among the latest to join the volatile street demonstrations, during which police fired tear gas on Tuesday to try to break up crowds, as pressure mounts on the government to repeal a law they say undermines labour rights and environmental protections.

The country’s largest Islamic organisation, Nahdlatul Ulama, is among its opponents and says it favours conglomerates while “trampling” on the rights of working-class Indonesians.

Hamdan, a 53-year-old teacher who goes by one name, said he would keep protesting until the law was repealed.

“People can’t go out, some people can’t even eat and unemployment is still high,” he told Reuters in Jakarta. “Even my son still can’t find a job.”

Protests against the so-called omnibus law took place in multiple locations involving thousands of Indonesians last week, some of which saw streets blocked, tyres burned and rocks hurled, leading to more than 6,000 people being detained.

“The bill will definitely affect myself, my job, my relatives, my friends and everything,” said engineer Rafi Zakaria, 30.

“It doesn’t only affect labourers. Our students here joined the protest because they’re concerned about their parents’ jobs.”

The law, designed to reduce red tape and attract investors, has yet to be published and the unofficial versions circulating in the media and online have led to speculation and confusion.

Deputy house speaker Azis Syamsyuddin told Reuters the law would be sent to the president and made public on Wednesday.

The government is standing by the legislation and President Joko Widodo has blamed the public outcry on disinformation. Indonesia’s defence minister has blamed the demonstrations on “foreign interference”.

“There are those who do not want to see Indonesia as conducive to investors, and want to always benefit from that,” the ministry spokesperson, Dahnil Anzar Simanjuntak, said, without elaborating.

(This story corrects name of deputy house speaker in paragraph 10 to Azis Syamsyuddin, not Achmad Baidowi)

Writing by Kate Lamb; Editing by Martin Petty

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Indonesia Islamic Groups, Students Join Movement to Scrap Jobs Law | World News

By Yuddy Cahaya Budiman and Agustinus Beo Da Costa

JAKARTA (Reuters) – Wearing white Islamic garb and waving red and white Indonesian flags, more than 1,000 protesters from Islamic and student groups gathered in the world’s most populous Muslim nation on Tuesday to show discontent over a divisive new jobs law.

Conservative Islamic groups are among the latest to join the volatile street demonstrations, during which police fired tear gas on Tuesday to try to break up crowds, as pressure mounts on the government to repeal a law they say undermines labor rights and environmental protections.

The country’s largest Islamic organization, Nahdlatul Ulama, is among its opponents and says it favours conglomerates while “trampling” on the rights of working-class Indonesians.

Hamdan, a 53-year-old teacher who goes by one name, said he would keep protesting until the law was repealed.

“People can’t go out, some people can’t even eat and unemployment is still high,” he told Reuters in Jakarta. “Even my son still can’t find a job.”

Protests against the so-called omnibus law took place in multiple locations involving thousands of Indonesians last week, some of which saw streets blocked, tyres burned and rocks hurled, leading to more than 6,000 people being detained.

“The bill will definitely affect myself, my job, my relatives, my friends and everything,” said engineer Rafi Zakaria, 30.

“It doesn’t only affect labourers. Our students here joined the protest because they’re concerned about their parents’ jobs.”

The law, designed to reduce red tape and attract investors, has yet to be published and the unofficial versions circulating in the media and online have led to speculation and confusion.

Deputy house speaker Achmad Baidowi told Reuters the law would be sent to the president and made public on Wednesday.

The government is standing by the legislation and President Joko Widodo has blamed the public outcry on disinformation. Indonesia’s defence minister has blamed the demonstrations on “foreign interference”.

“There are those who do not want to see Indonesia as conducive to investors, and want to always benefit from that,” the ministry spokesperson, Dahnil Anzar Simanjuntak, said, without elaborating.

(Writing by Kate Lamb; Editing by Martin Petty)

Copyright 2020 Thomson Reuters.

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U.K. Arts Groups Welcome Government’s COVID Cash Injection

The British government on Monday announced grants of 257 million pounds ($335 million) to help almost 1,400 arts and cultural organizations survive the coronavirus pandemic.

The money — the first chunk to be spent from a 1.57-billion-pound Culture Recovery Fund — was welcomed by arts organizations that have accused the government of neglecting them while supporting other businesses.

But just after the announcement, the government was forced to withdraw an advertisement that appeared to suggest ballet dancers should retrain for jobs in cybersecurity.

Recipients of the government funding include major organizations such as the London Symphony Orchestra, which received 846,000 pounds, and tiny venues such as London’s 50-seat Finborough Theatre, which got just under 60,000 pounds. Liverpool’s Cavern Club, where The Beatles shot to fame, received a grant of 525,000 pounds.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said in a statement that the money was “a vital boost for the theaters, music venues, museums and cultural organizations that form the soul of our nation.”

Julian Bird, chief executive of umbrella body U.K. Theatre, said the news was “warmly welcomed, and will help create work and retain jobs.”

Britain’s museums, galleries, theaters and music venues all closed when the country went into lockdown in March. Some have managed to reopen, with reduced capacity and at a financial loss, but coronavirus restrictions make most live performances impossible.

Thousands of arts workers also have not been supported by government job-retention programs because they are freelancers.

Many felt slighted when Treasury chief Rishi Sunak said the government would protect jobs that were “viable,” though Sunak denied he was suggesting jobs in the arts were unviable.

Some in the arts world expressed further outrage on Monday about a government-backed ad showing a young dancer lacing up her ballet pumps alongside the words “Fatima’s next job could be in cyber. (She just doesn’t know it yet).”

The government said the ad was part of a long-running campaign encouraging young people from a variety of backgrounds to consider careers in cybersecurity. But Dowden acknowledged it appeared “crass.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman, James Slack, said “this particular piece of content was not appropriate and has been removed from the campaign.”

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Barr Violated Election Law, Ethics Groups Say in Call to Impeach

(Bloomberg) — Two groups promoting ethics in government called for the impeachment of U.S. Attorney General William Barr, accusing him of violating laws and undermining public confidence in the Justice Department.

Barr has used the department to further President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign, a bipartisan group of lawyers from the Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law at the University of Pennsylvania and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington wrote in a report released Monday, three weeks ahead of U.S. elections.



a man in glasses looking at the camera: NYC Bar Association Asks Congress to Investigate AG Barr for Bias


© Bloomberg
NYC Bar Association Asks Congress to Investigate AG Barr for Bias

William Barr

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

The authors warned that Barr’s appointment of U.S. Attorney John Durham to review the origins of the Russia investigation, and Barr’s willingness to discuss the investigation in news interviews, point to efforts to create a politically orchestrated “October surprise.” Such actions could violate the Hatch Act, which forbids government officials from using their offices to support a particular candidate in an election, they wrote.

The authors, some of whom held top legal and ethics posts in previous Republican and Democratic administrations, are the latest to raise concerns that Barr is pursuing an agenda of partisan politics and selective law enforcement. Earlier this month, 1,600 former Justice Department officials signed an open letter criticizing what they called Barr’s willingness to use the department to support Trump’s re-election effort. Although the Justice Department has traditionally kept live investigations under wraps, it recently advised prosecutors they could publicize investigations into election issues, including alleged ballot fraud.

“The working group came to the reluctant conclusion that Attorney General Barr is using the powers of the Department as a vehicle for supporting the political objectives of President Donald Trump,” they wrote. “It appears that the Department has transitioned from one that is subject to law, to become one that instead views the application of law as politically discretionary; moving from rule of law to rule by law.”

The Justice Department didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Barr has defended the propriety of the department’s work. Although he has echoed some of Trump’s election-related allegations, he has also come under fire from the president because Durham hasn’t produced bombshell prosecutions. Durham isn’t expected to issue charges or release a report before the election, a Justice Department official has said.

The Durham investigation is one of eight areas in which Barr’s conduct appeared to contradict the presumption that the Justice Department enforces the nation’s laws fairly and without political influence, the group said. In nearly 300 pages, they spelled out actions they said violated not only the Hatch Act but also obstruction of justice laws.

They focused on areas in which Barr’s conduct sparked widespread criticism, including the way in which they said he “intentionally mischaracterized” Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia report when he presented it to the American public. They looked at Barr’s assignment of several U.S. attorneys, including Durham, to conduct counter-investigations that the report says are “designed to discredit” the

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COVID-hit UK arts groups welcome government cash infusion

LONDON (AP) — The British government on Monday announced grants of 257 million pounds ($335 million) to help almost 1,400 arts and cultural organizations survive the coronavirus pandemic.



FILE - In this Saturday, Aug. 1, 2020 file photo, theatre workers protest outside the National Theatre, against the mass redundancies of low-paid art jobs due to the coronavirus outbreak, in London. The British government on Monday Oct. 12, 2020, announced grants of 257 million pounds ($335 million) to help almost 1,400 arts and cultural organizations survive the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali, File)


© Provided by Associated Press
FILE – In this Saturday, Aug. 1, 2020 file photo, theatre workers protest outside the National Theatre, against the mass redundancies of low-paid art jobs due to the coronavirus outbreak, in London. The British government on Monday Oct. 12, 2020, announced grants of 257 million pounds ($335 million) to help almost 1,400 arts and cultural organizations survive the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali, File)

The money — the first chunk to be spent from a 1.57-billion-pound Culture Recovery Fund — was welcomed by arts organizations that have accused the government of neglecting them while supporting other businesses.

But just after the announcement, the government was forced to withdraw an advertisement that appeared to suggest ballet dancers should retrain for jobs in cybersecurity.

Recipients of the government funding include major organizations such as the London Symphony Orchestra, which received 846,000 pounds, and tiny venues such as London’s 50-seat Finborough Theatre, which got just under 60,000 pounds. Liverpool’s Cavern Club, where The Beatles shot to fame, received a grant of 525,000 pounds.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said in a statement that the money was “a vital boost for the theaters, music venues, museums and cultural organisations that form the soul of our nation.”

Julian Bird, chief executive of umbrella body U.K. Theatre, said the news was “warmly welcomed, and will help create work and retain jobs.”

Britain’s museums, galleries, theaters and music venues all closed when the country went into lockdown in March. Some have managed to reopen, with reduced capacity and at a financial loss, but coronavirus restrictions make most live performances impossible.

Thousands of arts workers also have not been supported by government job-retention programs because they are freelancers.

Many felt slighted when Treasury chief Rishi Sunak said the government would protect jobs that were “viable,” though Sunak denied he was suggesting jobs in the arts were unviable.

Some in the arts world expressed further outrage on Monday about a government-backed ad showing a young dancer lacing up her ballet pumps alongside the words “Fatima’s next job could be in cyber. (She just doesn’t know it yet).”

The government said the ad was part of a long-running campaign encouraging young people from a variety of backgrounds to consider careers in cybersecurity. But Dowden acknowledged it appeared “crass.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman, James Slack, said “this particular piece of content was not appropriate and has been removed from the campaign.”

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Extremist group’s plot to kidnap governor included plan to kill police

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‘Operation Gridlock’ aims to jam the roads around the Michigan Capitol in Lansing to object to restrictions in the stay-home order.

Detroit Free Press

Michigan law enforcement is on high alert after the FBI revealed an alleged plot by extremist groups to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer also involved a “plan to target and kill police.”

“We’re cautious. We’re absolutely more careful,” said First Lt. Mike Shaw of the Michigan State Police. “This is one of the tactics these anti-government, domestic terrorism groups use. Law enforcement is the face of the government. if you’re mad at the government, you’re mad at the police.”

The alleged plot was unveiled last Thursday when the U.S. Department of Justice charged six men with conspiracy to kidnap Whitmer, which authorities said they wanted to carry out before Election Day. On the same day, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel brought charges against seven other men that included supporting terrorism, gang membership, and possession of a firearm in commission of a felony. 

Officials said the suspects were attempting to trigger “civil war” with a detailed plan to abduct the governor and attack other elected officials at the Statehouse. Part of the plot included plans to target police.

FBI Special Agent Richard J. Trask II cited the risk to law enforcement officers in a criminal complaint filed last Tuesday in U.S. District Court:

“The militia group had already been brought to the attention of the FBI by a local police department in March 2020 when members of the militia group were attempting to obtain the addresses of local law enforcement officers,” the filing says. “At the time, the FBI interviewed a member of the militia group who was concerned about the group’s plan to target and kill police officers and that person agreed to become a CHS (confidential human source).”

Michigan State Police First Lt. Mike Shaw, seen here outside of the 22nd District Court on July 3, 2014, says that state troopers remain on high alert with news of an alleged plot to kidnap and possibly kill Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. (Photo: Ryan Garza, Detroit Free Press)

Shaw and others said the police are on high alert as risk continues to evolve beyond traffic stops and sitting in police cars to getting fake calls for service and targeting police when they’re out of uniform. 

State Police are constantly evaluating the credibility of threats against troopers and facilities and taking measures to reduce potential for harm, Shaw said.

Michigan State Police are assigned to protect the governor. Whitmer thanked troopers for their commitment to public service after officials made the arrests in the federal case.

The Free Press interviewed current and former law enforcement officers who said the threat to Michigan police by extremist groups from both ends of the political spectrum are taken seriously and reconnaissance is provided to protect public officials, as well as those guarding them, at home and at work. 

Police told the Free Press that family members are rarely informed when individual officers

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Hacker groups chain VPN and Windows bugs to attack US government networks

usa-government.png

Hackers have gained access to government networks by combining VPN and Windows bugs, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) said in a joint security alert published on Friday.

Attacks have targeted federal and state, local, tribal, and territorial (SLTT) government networks. Attacks against non-government networks have also been detected, the two agencies said.

“CISA is aware of some instances where this activity resulted in unauthorized access to elections support systems; however, CISA has no evidence to date that integrity of elections data has been compromised,” the security alert reads.

“Although it does not appear these targets are being selected because of their proximity to elections information, there may be some risk to elections information housed on government networks,” officials also added.

Attacks chained Fortinet VPN and Windows Zerologon bugs

According to the joint alert, the observed attacks combined two security flaws known as CVE-2018-13379 and CVE-2020-1472.

CVE-2018-13379 is a vulnerability in the Fortinet FortiOS Secure Socket Layer (SSL) VPN, an on-premise VPN server designed to be used as a secure gateway to access enterprise networks from remote locations.

The CVE-2018-13379, disclosed last year, allows attackers to upload malicious files on unpatched systems and take over Fortinet VPN servers.

CVE-2020-1472, also known as Zerologon, is a vulnerability in Netlogon, the protocol used by Windows workstations to authenticate against a Windows Server running as a domain controller.

The vulnerability allows attackers to take over domain controllers, servers users to manage entire internal/enterprise networks and usually contain the passwords for all connected workstations.

CISA and the FBI say attackers are combining these two vulnerabilities to hijack Fortinet servers and then pivot and take over internal networks using Zerologon.

“Actors have then been observed using legitimate remote access tools, such as VPN and Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP), to access the environment with the compromised credentials,” the two agencies also added.

The joint alert didn’t provide details about the attackers except to describe them as “advanced persistent threat (APT) actors.”

The term is often used by cyber-security experts to describe state-sponsored hacking groups. Last week, Microsoft said it observed Iranian APT Mercury (MuddyWatter) exploiting the Zerologon bug in recent attacks, a threat actor known for targeting US government agencies in the past.

Danger of hackers chaining different VPN bugs

Both CISA and the FBI recommended that entities in both the private and public US sector update systems to patch the two bugs, for which patches have been available for months.

In addition, CISA and the FBI also warned that hackers could swap the Fortinet bug for any other vulnerability in VPN and gateway products that have been disclosed over the past few months and which provide similar access.

This includes vulnerabilities in:

  • Pulse Secure “Connect” enterprise VPNs (CVE-2019-11510)
  • Palo Alto Networks “Global Protect” VPN servers (CVE-2019-1579)
  • Citrix “ADC” servers and Citrix network gateways (CVE-2019-19781)
  • MobileIron mobile device management servers (CVE-2020-15505)
  • F5 BIG-IP network balancers (CVE-2020-5902)

All the vulnerabilities listed above provide “initial access” to servers often used

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Michigan’s history of self-styled militia groups has long vexed law enforcement

According to court papers, Null was part of a group that called itself the Wolverine Watchmen, and they engaged in regular firearms training and discussed a variety of potential attacks on law enforcement, the state capital complex, and the governor.

Leaf — who knew Null to be the founder of a different group called the Michigan Liberty Militia — said he was generally supportive of self-styled militias, which he said often grow in numbers when people feel their rights are threatened. He sought to distinguish what such groups do from the allegations against Null and the others.

“There’s your militia duties, and if they did what they’re accused of doing, those are not militia duties,” said the sheriff, adding he was shocked by the charges. “I did not see this coming. Had I caught wind they were even talking about this, I would have stopped it immediately.”

Leaf said he occasionally ran into Null at Second Amendment rallies in the state, and was introduced to his brother, Michael, who was also charged Thursday. The sheriff said William Null “seemed to be a very concerned, straight-shooting guy.” During the Flint water crisis, Leaf said Null told him he drove to Flint to pass out water bottles alongside those involved in the Black Lives Matter movement. He said Null’s group also met with Black Lives Matter supporters at a Grand Rapids protest and “were chasing out the agitators so they could have a peaceful protest.”

Since the arrests, Leaf has faced criticism not just for his past public support of Null and his compatriots but also for his suggestion, first made in an interview with a local Fox reporter, that the defendants might have been trying to make a citizen’s arrest of the governor.

“The point is that, were they going to arrest her, which they legally can, they can legally make a felony arrest . . . It was just trying to make a point of why we cannot jump to conclusions,” he said, adding later, “If there was ever a regret, that would be the statement, because it does not communicate well.”

Michigan’s history of groups like the Wolverine Watchmen has long vexed law enforcement officials.

In the more than two decades that Andrew Arena worked as an FBI agent in Michigan before retiring from the Bureau in 2012, “the 64 million dollar question,” he said, “was always: Why Michigan?

“We had representatives of every known right-wing, white supremacist, anti-government group out there. And why Michigan, we just could never tell,” said Arena, who now teaches at Western Michigan University’s Thomas M. Cooley Law School. “But obviously you got to deal with it.”

Michigan was one of the early strongholds of what was called “the militia movement,” which arose in the 1990s, and has typically manifested as paramilitary groups — often with no more than 10 or 12 members — that oppose the U.S. government, and believe it is actively involved in a conspiracy to seize Americans’ guns and enslave

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