NEWS AND ANALYSIS:
U.S. intelligence agencies are said to be closely watching Russian online blogs and other postings for any signs that Moscow hackers have covertly obtained the bulk of Hillary Clinton‘s email messages stolen from her private email server and are preparing to make them public.
A U.S. intelligence official told Inside the Ring that the indications of the email release are being closely watched, although the veracity of at least two postings on the matter could not be confirmed as authoritative.
A State Department official has said Russia is one of at least three foreign governments likely to have obtained the full content of the former secretary of state’s server through covert hacking operations. The other two are China and Israel.
Russian intelligence agencies are suspected of cyberintrusions that obtained sensitive political information contained in Democratic National Committee networks. Last week, reports surfaced that computer networks of the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation were also compromised, also by Russian hackers.
Russian intelligence is considered to be the most capable nation-state cyberespionage and cyberwarfare power, and its intelligence-gathering operations in the U.S. are said to be going at Cold War levels.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, a former KGB intelligence officer schooled in the black arts of covert operations, would be the top authority to order the release of the Clinton emails, if in fact Moscow has obtained the tens of thousands of private emails.
A possible Russian motive for making public all the emails would be to undermine any Justice Department influence in the ongoing FBI investigation of the private email server, an investigation said by FBI sources to have expanded into whether the server was used improperly to boost the fortunes of the Clinton Foundation.
Federal sources have complained that portions of the Justice Department have been politicized to support the liberal agenda of the Obama administration, citing a 2010 investigation into how terrorist detainees at the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, obtained photos of CIA interrogators. During a counterintelligence probe, Donald Vieira, chief of staff at the Justice Department’s National Security Division, was forced to recuse himself from the investigation. The reason was not made public, but officials said some in the Justice Department in the past worked as advocates for the detainees at nongovernmental organizations and were linked to the CIA officer photos found inside the detainees’ cells.
Mr. Putin may being calculating that the release of some of the highly classified information within the emails could be used against Mrs. Clinton to influence the U.S. presidential election.
Alternatively, Mr. Putin could use his access to the emails for blackmail should Mrs. Clinton win the election in November.
Some intelligence officials suspect Mr. Putin, who was posted in East Germany during the Cold War, may be using similar tactics against German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The Russian leader also could attempt to influence the election in favor of Donald Trump, the likely Republican nominee, whom he has called “bright.” Mr. Trump has said Mr. Putin is a leader he could “get along very well with.”
CHINA SENT MISSILE VEHICLES TO PAKISTAN
China has transferred key parts of mobile missile launchers to Pakistan that are now the base for mobile launchers for nuclear-capable, medium-range missiles, according to Indian diplomatic sources.
A recent assessment by the Indian government determined that two Chinese-made WS-21200 chassis — 16-wheel heavy transport vehicles — were delivered to Pakistan in late February or early March and that the two vehicles contained some design flaws.
However, the vehicles are being used as the mobile element of transporter-erector launchers, or TELs, for Pakistan’s new Shaheen-III medium-range nuclear missile, the sources disclosed to Inside the Ring.
“There is no doubt that China is involved in the proliferation of missile technology,” said one Indian official.
China’s transfer of missile vehicles is the second nuclear-related arms transfer of its type by Beijing.
In 2011, China sold North Korea similar chassis, designated as WS-51200. The chassis were unveiled in a military parade in Pyongyang in April 2012 carrying the new KN-08 road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile. The KN-08 is North Korea’s first mobile nuclear-armed long-range missile.
Analysts say the vehicle transfers to Pakistan appear to violate China’s commitment to the 1987 Missile Technology Control Regime. The regime, an informal export control accord, prohibits signees from exporting missile components, including launchers, for nuclear systems.
According to the Indian government, Pakistan’s National Engineering and Scientific Commission has set up an assembly line at the National Development Complex where missile TELs are being assembled. The Chinese missile vehicle transfer was first reported Wednesday by HIS Jane’s Defense Weekly. According to Jane’s, the WS-21200 is manufactured by the Hubei Sanjiang Space Wanshan Special Vehicle Co. of the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp.
“The Shaheen-III’s WS-21200 TEL and the WS-51200 used by North Korea have much in common, including the same headlight and direction indicator patterns,” the Jane’s report said.
The Shaheen-III was made public for the first time in March during a military parade in Pakistan and is said to be capable of carrying a nuclear or conventional warhead 1,708 miles. A State Department spokeswoman declined to comment, citing a policy of not discussing intelligence matters. A Chinese Embassy spokesman did not return an email request for comment.
The State Department, concerned about upsetting relations with China, took no action against Beijing for violating U.N. sanctions on North Korea by exporting the missile-launch vehicles. A U.N. panel reported that the Chinese claimed the KN-08 launch vehicles were sold as lumber haulers.
If confirmed, the Pakistan missile transfer appears to violate Category 2 of the Missile Technology Control Regime, which prohibits sales of missile components for systems with ranges greater than 186 miles.
China’s arms proliferation activities have received little attention under the Obama administration.
A rare exception were frank comments on Chinese arms sales made in January by Thomas Countryman, assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation. The official noted that for both North Korea and Iran, “the place they like to shop is China.”
China also was credited with transferring nuclear weapons design information that helped Pakistan become a nuclear power.
CONTROVERSIAL STATE ARMS OFFICIAL NAMED TO NATO
A senior State Department official whom congressional Republicans have charged with misleading Congress on Russian arms violations was named NATO’s deputy secretary general this week. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg appointed Rose Gottemoeller, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, to the post, the alliance announced in a statement from Brussels.
Ms. Gottemoeller will replace Alexander Vershbow in October.
In March, a group of 13 House Republicans called for Ms. Gottemoeller to be blocked from the NATO post for misleading lawmakers about when the U.S. government first learned of Russia’s violation of the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty.
The congressmen argued in a letter to Secretary of State John F. Kerry that Ms. Gottemoeller kept details of the violation — development of ground-launched cruise missile banned by the treaty — secret from Congress in order to facilitate Senate ratification of the 2010 New START arms treaty.
Earlier this month, three Senate Republicans joined the House members in opposing the appointment.
“Our main concern with Secretary Gottemoeller’s appointment is an apparent unwillingness to keep the North Atlantic Council and individual member states apprised of key updates on Russian arms control violations associated with the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, her frequent public ‘misstatements’ on this topic, and her reputation as a ‘Russia apologist,’” Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, James E. Risch of Idaho and Marco Rubio of Florida wrote in their letter to Mr. Kerry.
State Department spokesmen defended Ms. Gottemoeller but did not address the charges that she misled Congress on the Russian treaty violations.
Ms. Gottemoeller has been the Obama administration’s key national security policymaker who critics say has favored the arms control process as more important than concluded effective and verifiable agreements. The appointment of someone who is regarded as holding pro-Russian views comes as many of the NATO alliance’s Eastern members are coming under increasing threats from Russia under Vladimir Putin.
• Contact Bill Gertz on Twitter via @BillGertz.