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LongRead -- "The Digital Vigilantes Who Hack Back: Companies that fall victim to data breaches want to retaliate against the culprits. But can they do so without breaking the law?" by Nicholas Schmidle: "Eran Reshef, a former Israeli intelligence officer, has learned the dangers of fighting a shadowy opponent online. In 2004, he co-founded a company called Blue Security, which he marketed as the ultimate anti-spamming service. Subscribers to Blue Security became part of a mutually protective community; whenever a member received a piece of spam, it was automatically forwarded to all the others, which simultaneously returned the message to its sender, overwhelming the spammer’s server."
"Blue Security’s service was starting to catch on when a Russian spammer warned Reshef to stop. He refused, even though he suspected that the spammer had ties to organized crime. The Russian launched a distributed denial-of-service attack against Blue Security’s Web site and its service provider. Reshef didn’t waver. He spammed the Russian while fending off intensifying attacks."
"One day, Reshef went with a colleague to see a friend, Nadav Aleh, who at the time worked for Unit 8200, Israel’s equivalent to the N.S.A. Aleh recalled Reshef’s visit: “When they came into my office, they were pale.” Reshef told Aleh about some alarming e-mail correspondence from the Russian, which included, as an attachment, a recent photograph showing a Blue Security executive’s children playing outside, in Tel Aviv. Reshef soon shut down Blue Security... Aleh told me, “If you think about hacking back from a military perspective, it’s like going into battle with little intelligence. Your weapon sets won’t fit the target set. These are not good odds to win.”" [NewYorker]
REPORT -- “Trump team hired spy firm for ‘dirty ops’ on Iran deal” by Mark Townsend and Julian Borger: “People in the Trump camp contacted private investigators in May last year to “get dirt” on Ben Rhodes and Colin Kahl, deputy assistant to Obama, as part of an elaborate attempt to discredit the deal Sources said that officials linked to Trump’s team contacted investigators days after Trump visited Tel Aviv a year ago... Investigators were also apparently told to contact pro-deal journalists – from the New York Times, MSNBC television, the Atlantic, Vox website and Haaretz, the Israeli newspaper among others – who had frequent contact with Rhodes and Kahl in an attempt to establish whether they had violated any protocols by sharing sensitive intelligence It is not clear how much work was actually undertaken, for how long or what became of any material unearthed.” [TheGuardian]
-- "Israeli Operatives Who Aided Harvey Weinstein Collected Information on Former Obama Administration Officials" by Ronan Farrow: "Two sources familiar with the effort told me on Sunday that the operation was carried out by Black Cube—a firm... that offers its clients access to operatives from “Israel’s élite military and governmental intelligence units,” including the Mossad... The documents show that Black Cube compiled detailed background profiles of several individuals, including Rhodes and Kahl, that featured their addresses, information on their family members, and even the makes of their cars... The campaign is strikingly similar to an operation that Black Cube ran on behalf of Harvey Weinstein, which was reported in The New Yorker last fall... The company compiled a list of more than thirty reporters who it believed were in touch with Obama Administration officials." [NewYorker]
"Source Says Israeli Black Cube Hired by Business Entity, Not Trump" by Yotam Berger: "Israeli intelligence company Black Cube was hired to spy on former aides in the Obama administration last year. A source close to the company says that the Israeli intelligence company was acting on behalf of a business entity, however, and not on behalf U.S. President Donald Trump’s aides. However, the source refused to say who hired Black Cube." [Haaretz]
DRIVING THE WEEK -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is stepping up the pressure on Iran ahead of President Trump’s looming decision about U.S. participation in the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. “We are determined to block Iran’s aggression against us even if this means a struggle. Better now than later,” Netanyahu said at the weekly cabinet meeting. On Wednesday, Netanyahu is expected to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow to discuss "regional issues."
Israel believes Iran is determined to retaliate for the April 9th strike on Syria’s T4 base, Israeli media reported. Defense sources said Israel’s anti-missile systems are prepared to deal with an expected missile barrage from Iran proxies in Syria. Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said in an interview Monday, "If Syrian President Bashar Assad continues allowing the Iranians to operate out of Syria, it would be the end of him, the end of his regime."
Following the recent visits by French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel to the White House, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is visiting the U.S. hoping to convince Trump to uphold the deal. Johnson is expected to meet with Vice President Mike Pence, National Security Adviser John Bolton and other senior administration officials this week.
Israel hasn't yet been informed of Trump's decision whether he will withdraw from the Iran deal before Saturday’s deadline. “I don’t know what Trump will decide because he hasn’t told me,” a senior Israeli official was quoted as saying yesterday. In a briefing to foreign reporters yesterday, Netanyahu insisted that the nuclear deal “has to be either fully fixed or fully nixed.”
“As Deadline on Nuclear Deal Nears, Israel and Iran Issue Warnings” by Isabel Kershner and Thomas Erdbrink: “An Israeli intelligence official who briefed the foreign reporters, on the condition of anonymity in line with his agency’s rules, said that only a fraction of the stolen Iranian archive had been presented publicly. He added that 99 percent of it was new to Israel in the quantity and quality of information it provided about Iran’s military nuclear project.” [NYTimes] So far only the U.S. has seen the material in its entirety, a senior Israeli official told reporters. [Bloomberg]
“Giuliani: Trump is 'committed to' regime change in Iran” by Brent Griffiths: “Rudy Giuliani pushed for regime change in Iran on Saturday, saying President Donald Trump is “as committed to regime change as we are.” It's “the only way to peace in the Middle East” and “more important than an Israeli-Palestinian deal,” Giuliani told reporters after giving a speech to the Iran Freedom Convention for Democracy and Human Rights in Washington At one point in his speech, Giuliani pretended that his notes were the Iran nuclear deal, ripping them up and spitting on them.” [Politico; Video]
Phil Gordon writes “Trump Is About to Provoke an Unnecessary Crisis With Iran: I don’t know how or when the Iranian people are going to bring about change in Tehran, but I do like the fact that the JCPOA blocks Iran from getting anywhere close to a nuclear weapons capability until at least 2030—at a minimum it would seem to make sense to wait to assess the situation then rather than provoke a nuclear crisis now.” [TheAtlantic]
Dennis Ross writes “Israel’s intel coup actually provides good arguments for staying in the Iran nuclear deal: Maybe the Israeli disclosures and the materials will convince the British, French and Germans that the deal requires corrections The Trump administration should use the Israeli revelations as a new source of leverage to “fix” the deal and not simply walk away from it.” [WashPost]
-- INBOX: Former Ambassador Dennis Ross joined DC-based WestExec Advisors as a senior advisor. Ross is also the William Davidson Distinguished Fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
“John Kerry quietly seeking to salvage Iran deal he helped craft” by Matt Viser: “[Kerry] sat down at the United Nations with [Iranian] Foreign Minister Javad Zarif to discuss ways of preserving the pact... It was the second time in about two months that the two had met to strategize over salvaging a deal they spent years negotiating during the Obama administration Kerry has also met with French President Emmanuel Macron in both Paris and New York... The quiet lobbying campaign is being conducted below the radar because he and his allies believe a high-profile defense of the deal by prominent Democrats would only backfire and provoke Trump... In recent weeks he’s placed dozens of phone calls and, often with [former Energy Secretary Ernest] Moniz by his side, has lobbied members of Congress, including House Speaker Paul Ryan.” [BostonGlobe]
HEARD YESTERDAY -- Former Senator Joe Lieberman on Fox News’ Sunday Morning Futures: “John Kerry is not negotiating on behalf of the U.S. government – I hope everybody he’s talking to knows that. But in my opinion, what he’s doing is inappropriate and he shouldn’t be doing it.”
Lieberman, Chairman of United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), added: “I’m encouraged by what the president has said so far and I hope he does pull out.” [Video]
"Verifying the End of a Nuclear North Korea ‘Could Make Iran Look Easy'" by David Sanger and William Broad: “North Korea could make Iran look easy,” Ernest J. Moniz... said last week. “This isn’t ‘Trust, but verify,’” he said, using President Ronald Reagan’s phrase from arms control negotiations with the Soviet Union. “It’s ‘Distrust everything and verify, verify, verify.’” [NYTimes]
TALK OF THE REGION -- “At the Israeli-Gaza Strip border, a growing sense of anxiety and fear” by Noga Tarnopolsky: “The anxiety of Israelis living by the border is escalating as May 15 approaches. That's when Palestinians observe Nakba, or catastrophe dayand this year Palestinians are planning to mark the day with huge protests at the Israeli-Gaza Strip border. Hamas projects that thousands of Gazans will storm the insubstantial fence that marks the border." [LATimes]
JERUSALEM EMBASSY WATCH -- Road signs pointing to ‘US Embassy’ go up in Jerusalem: "Jerusalem’s city hall says it has put up road signs pointing to the new U.S. Embassy... Mayor Nir Barkat placed the first signs on Monday in the southern Jerusalem neighborhood where the embassy is to be located." [AP; Video] New US Embassy building in Jerusalem unveiled [Ynet]
"Most of Israeli Opposition Not Invited to U.S. Embassy Opening Gala With Kushner" by Noa Landau: "The event, slated for Sunday night in Jerusalem, will include Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, U.S. Ambassador David Friedman, U.S. President Donald Trump's adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner and daughter Ivanka, as well as Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and a delegation of U.S. lawmakers. Also invited are members of the Israeli government, Knesset members who are on the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and all MKs that are members of the ruling coalition. However, besides chairman of the opposition, MK Isaac Herzog of the Zionist Union, not a single member of the opposition was invited who does not hold a spot on the key committee." [Haaretz]
“Israel fears ‘explosion of violence’ as US prepares to open embassy in Jerusalem” by Oliver Holmes: “Israel’s police spokesman, Micky Rosenfeld, said officers were assessing the level of security needed for the opening, including deploying CCTV cameras and guards in the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Arnona “We’re still waiting to see if the US president will come here for the opening move. The level of security will be raised accordingly,” he said." [TheGuardian]
Fresh from recent White House visit, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Israel’s Meet the Press program: "Nothing comes for free, and the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem will come at a price and it is worth paying it. We should be prepared to pay a price." [Haaretz; Reshet]
FOGGY BOTTOM -- “Kuwait blocks UN statement criticizing Palestinian leader” by Edith M. Lederer: “Kuwait blocked the U.N. Security Council on Friday from issuing a U.S.-sponsored statement sharply criticizing Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for what Washington called “vile anti-Semitic slurs and baseless conspiracy theories.” The proposed statement would have expressed the Security Council’s “firm and unequivocal rejection of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial” and called on Abbas “to refrain from anti-Semitic comments.”” [WashPost]
Germany to support Israel if it gets on UN Security Council: “The German foreign ministry said Saturday that Israel’s decision to withdraw its candidacy “is a further incentive for us to stand up for the interests and safety of our Israeli friends” if Germany wins a Security Council seat. Friday’s withdrawal by Israel virtually guarantees Germany and Belgium victory in the June 8 election and seats on the council.” [AP]
IN THE SPOTLIGHT... "How Michael Cohen, Trump's Fixer, Built a Shadowy Business Empire" by William K. Rashbaum, Danny Hakim, Brian Rosenthal, Emily Flitter and Jesse Drucker: "It was through his wife’s family that Mr. Cohen would be introduced to the taxi business, which would ultimately allow him to pull in millions of dollars. Mr. Cohen’s father-in-law, [Fima] Shusterman, initially found work as a taxi driver after arriving in the United States... Mr. Shusterman circulated among his fellow taxi operators, trying to help Mr. Cohen find work. He introduced his son-in-law to Ilya Palinsky, a longtime fixture in the business. Mr. Palinsky said his impression of Mr. Cohen was that “he talks a lot, screams, you know. He’s a hyper guy.” [NYTimes]
MUELLER WATCH -- "Mueller team questions Trump friend Tom Barrack" by Tom Lobianco, Jonathan Lemire and Alan Suderman: "Barrack was interviewed as part of the federal investigation of possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia in the 2016 election... A second person with knowledge of the Barrack interview said the questioning was broader and did include financial matters about the campaign, the transition and Trump’s inauguration in January 2017." [AP]
"Behind the Trump n' Rudy show" by Jonathan Swan: "A White House official told me there were "a couple of Mooch references" in the West Wing last week, as Giuliani’s performance recalled Anthony Scaramucci's frenzied 11-day stint last summer as White House communications director... And West Wingers raised their eyebrows when he took a gratuitous shot at Jared Kushner, describing the president's son-in-law as "disposable." [Axios]
-- "After Rudy Giuliani called Jared Kushner “disposable” ... the president’s son-in-law watched the clip himself to see what all the fuss was about... As long as his wife didn’t call him “disposable,” he joked to people, everything was going just fine." [Politico]
"Dershowitz: Trump team playing 'into the hands' of Mueller investigation" by Kailani Koenig: “The Trump team has to speak with a single narrative," [Alan Dershowitz] said [on Fox News]. "They have to get their story clearly set out. It has to be put in writing. It shouldn't be put on television shows off the cuff. This is not the way to handle a complicated case."[NBCNews]
TOP TALKER: "At His Ranch, John McCain Shares Memories and Regrets With Friends" by Jonathan Martin: "Mr. McCain is using a new book and documentary to reveal his regret about not selecting former Senator Joseph I. Lieberman as his running mate in 2008... He calls the decision not to pick Mr. Lieberman “another mistake that I made” in his political career... Mr. Lieberman said he didn’t know Mr. McCain felt that regret until he watched the film. “It touched me greatly,” he said." [NYTimes]
SPOTTED IN DC: Secretary of Treasury Steve Mnuchin "was snapped bringing a $22 bottle of red wine on a visit to Jared Kushner's house in Washington DC on Sunday... Kushner opened the door for Mnuchin and gave him a hug before Mnuchin handed him the wine, which appeared to be a gift." [DailyMail]
2018 WATCH -- "Neo-Nazi Senate candidate kicked out of California Republican Party convention" by Phil Willon and Seema Mehta: "An anti-Semitic GOP Senate candidate was kicked out of the California Republican Party’s convention in San Diego on Saturday morning, with one witness saying he was dragging and kicking an Israeli flag while being escorted out. Party officials said that, from the outset of the convention the candidate, Patrick Little, was not welcome at the gathering." [LATimes]
"A Scramble For Cash In Senate Races" by Peter Overby: "Sheldon Adelson of Las Vegas hasn't invested in Heller yet, but he is backing the GOP candidate for governor, Adam Laxalt." [NPR]
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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Shari Redstone makes concessions on Viacom CEO in bid to clinch CBS deal [Reuters] Private equity firm KKR to convert to a corporation after U.S. tax reform, Henry Kravis and George Roberts announce [Reuters] Simon and David Reuben, the billionaire owners of Chepstow and Doncaster racecourses, clinch £300m deal to buy the Burlington Arcade in Mayfair [TheTimes] British Ambassador Leads British Real Estate Companies to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange [Calcalist]
MET GALA -- "The Man Who Bought New York" by Jacob Bernstein: "Stephen A. Schwarzman’s birthday bash with camels and Ms. Stefani may have been cheaper than last year’s Costume Institute gala, but it is thanks to his fortune ($12.3 billion, according to Forbes) that there’s another Costume Institute gala this year. He and his wife helped underwrite the exhibition “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination,” handing over a check that two sources close to the museum said was in the ballpark of $5 million... Jimmy Lee, a friend of Mr. Schwarzman’s, has joked that Mr. Schwarzman has given more money to the archdiocese than any Jew in New York. Partly, this is because his wife, Christine, is Catholic." [NYTimes]
"Israel offended Japan's prime minister by serving him dessert out of a shoe, which Japanese people 'despise'" by Alex Lockie: "Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife had their dinner with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife interrupted by an offensive cultural faux pas — dessert was served in a shoe... "There is nothing more despised in Japanese culture than shoes. Not only do they not enter their houses while wearing shoes, you will not find shoes in their offices either. Even the prime minister, ministers and members of parliament do not wear shoes to work... It is equivalent to serving a Jewish guest chocolates in a dish shaped like a pig," [a senior Israeli] diplomat said."[BusinessInsider]
TALK OF THE TOWN -- "Anti-Semitism controversy exposes D.C.’s fault lines — and a leadership vacuum" by Peter Jamison: "The fallout from a D.C. lawmaker’s claim that Jewish financiers control the weather has laid bare divisions that many in the nation’s capital would just as soon ignore. It has also exposed what critics say is a leadership vacuum among the city’s elected officials... [Rabbi Shmuel] Herzfeld — who interrupted a meeting of District lawmakers Tuesday, shouting “shame on you” — said in an interview that both the mayor and council had taken the easy way out, mouthing platitudes rather than condemning specific actions. “I don’t think we as citizens should allow our elected officials to make political calculations when it comes to bigotry and hatred,” said Herzfeld." [WashPost]
HEARD AT THE ADL NATIONAL LEADERSHIP SUMMIT -- ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt: “When there is a nominee for high office that has spouted anti-Muslim or homophobic beliefs, you better believe that ADL will speak out even if it means we won't be invited to the holiday party... When authorities try to put in place a Muslim ban, you better believe that we will take a stand and fight them in court. When those in power try to deny the centrality of Jews to the Holocaust, we will speak out for the six million... When a city councilman here in our Nation’s capital bizarrely claims that a Jewish family controls the weather... and gives taxpayer dollars to the anti-Semitic, bigoted, and homophobic Louis Farrakhan or when other prominent leaders... refuse to condemn Farrakhan – no matter what other good they may profess to do, the ADL will speak out." [Video]
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein quoted President Trump twice about condemning hatred and fighting hate crimes in remarksat the conference last night. "Opposing parties are at war, figuratively," Rosenstein said. "But in [President Abraham] Lincoln’s time, people were literally at war. The differences of opinion then were deeper than any of ours today. Still, Lincoln insisted that his opponents not be treated as enemies, because they were all Americans... President Trump echoed that sentiment with his remarks last summer: “We must rediscover the bonds of love and loyalty that bring us together as Americans.”
New ADL report: At least 4.2 million anti-Semitic tweets were shared or re-shared in English on Twitter over the 12-month period ending January 28, 2018. Those 4.2 million tweets were sent from an estimated three million Twitter handles. Philanthropist George Soros figures prominently in anti-Semitic tweets, with claims that he directly uses his largess to fund false flag events. “This new data shows that even with the steps Twitter has taken to remove hate speech and to deal with those accounts disseminating it, users are still spreading a shocking amount of anti-Semitism and using Twitter as a megaphone to harass and intimidate Jews,” Greenblatt said in a statement.
"Video of man berating hassidic boy goes viral" by Amy Spiro: "A video of an adult man berating a small hassidic boy over his appearance was pulled from Twitter late Sunday night, but not before it had been viewed more than 1 million times and liked more than 100,000 times... New York City council member Brad Lander wrote that the video was "gross viral anti-Semitism" and it is "critical to push back against this small-minded & dehumanizing hate." [JPost]
"Poland's Holocaust law triggers tide of abuse against Auschwitz museum" by Christian Davies: "Officials at the Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial and museum have described how they were subjected to a wave of “hate, fake news and manipulations” as a result of the controversy surrounding a contentious Holocaust speech law passed by Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party earlier this year. The campaign of disinformation and abuse at the hands of Polish nationalists has raised concerns about pressure being exerted on official guides at the site in southern Poland, after the home of one foreign guide was attacked and supporters of a convicted antisemite filmed themselves repeatedly hectoring their guide during a visit to the camp last month." [TheGuardian]
ON THE HILL -- "Why Does the House Even Have a Chaplain? Tradition" by Noah Feldman: "The real reason we still have a House chaplain is that we’ve always had one. The Continental Congress overcame some internal dissension to pick a chaplain. And the first Congress established under the Constitution continued the tradition... Speaker Paul Ryan’s failed attempt to get rid of Catholic House chaplain Patrick Conroy is a case in point. Had Ryan respected tradition and let the chaplain stay in office, there would have been no public speculation about whether he was being removed to placate evangelicals who wanted a Protestant sympathetic to their point of view. The lesson is that, even constitutionally, it can sometimes be best to let sleeping dogs lie." [Bloomberg]
REMEMBERING -- "Rabbi Aaron Panken, President of Jewish Seminary Killed in Plane Crash in Hudson Valley" by Matt Stevens: "Rabbi Panken was elected to serve as the 12th president of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 2013 and was installed the next year... While presiding over the graduation ceremonies this month he noted that the world was “particularly challenging and painful” in a way that “transcends anything I have seen in my lifetime.” “But here’s the thing,” he continued. “The Jewish people, and our religious friends of other faiths, have seen this before, and we have lived through it, and thrived and built again and again and again.”" [NYTimes]
SPORTS BLINK -- Lance Armstrong travels to Israel for work: "Armstrong has been following the Grande Partenza of the iconic Giro d’Italia race with his cycling podcast, “Stages.” He was covering the event over the weekend — starting in Jerusalem on Friday and then in stages from Haifa to Tel Aviv and Be’er Sheva to Eilat on Sunday." [NYPost]
DESSERT -- "Lipkin’s Bakery returns to South Philly" by Sandy Smith: "When the Lipkin family started their kosher bakery at Fourth and McKean streets many decades ago, the neighborhood surrounding it was 90 percent Jewish... Lipkin’s return to South Philly, with a retail store at 2153 S. Hancock St., has generated an enthusiastic response from the bakery’s many fans, Jewish and otherwise, and it hasn’t even opened yet..." [PassyunkPost]
BIRTHDAYS: Billionaire who converted Chris-Craft Industries from the small boat business into a large media holding company, then sold Chris Craft to Rupert Murdoch in 2001 for $5.3 billion, Herbert J. Siegel turns 90... Ontario-based politician, psychiatrist, academic and public servant, served in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as a member and leader of the Liberal Party (1975-1982), Stuart Lyon Smith turns 80... Winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1989, professor of molecular, cellular and developmental biology and chemistry at Yale University, Sidney Altman turns 79... Member of the New York State Assembly since 1993, representing parts of Westchester and Putnam counties, Sandra R. "Sandy" Galef turns 78... Napa, California-based media executive and interview host, Jeffrey Schechtman turns 68... Deputy US Secretary of State (2009-2011), Deputy National Security Advisor (1996-2000), currently a professor at Syracuse University, James Steinberg turns 65... Professional poker player and hedge fund manager, Daniel Shak turns 59...
Emmy Award-winning film and television director, Adam Bernstein turns 58... Member of the Virginia House of Delegates from the City of Alexandria since 2016 and host of a nationally syndicated progressive public policy radio program, Mark H. Levine turns 52... Democratic member of the US House of Representatives since 2010, representing parts of Palm Beach and Broward counties, Theodore Eliot "Ted" Deutch turns 52... Director of floor legislative operations for Minority Leader Pelosi, Keith Stern turns 44... Member of the Knesset for the Jewish Home party since 2013, Israeli Minister of Justice since 2015, Ayelet Shaked turns 42... AIPAC national board member, Yana J. Lukeman... Director of corporate communications at Citadel LLC, a leading alternative asset manager, Robert Warren Saliterman turns 36 (h/t Playbook)... CEO of Austin-based Harris Media, he served as Chief Digital Strategist for Senator Rand Paul and assisted PM Netanyahu and the Likud in the 2014 Israeli elections, Vincent Robert Harris turns 30... Las Vegas-based fashion blogger, model and writer, Bebe Zeva (a pseudonym of Rebeccah Hershkovitz) turns 25... Jane Press...
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