Scandal Drove Brussels’s Mayor From Office. Now He’s Nowhere to Be Seen — Trump-Russia inquiry: President ‘probed for obstruction of justice’ — NSA links Wannacry worm to North Korea — CIA Gina Haspel: Trump’s Darling

Scandal Drove Brussels’s Mayor From Office. Now He’s Nowhere to Be Seen — NYT

BRUSSELS — The former mayor of Brussels has vanished.

On Thursday night, the mayor, Yvan Mayeur, offered his resignation at a tumultuous City Council meeting, hours after a government-ordered audit found that he had been paid 36,000 euros (about $40,000) over two years to attend board meetings of an agency that helps the homeless, even though there was no evidence such meetings took place.

Since then, Mr. Mayeur has been out of view. On Friday, Belgian journalists reported that he was meeting with colleagues about his political future in an undisclosed location. On Monday, hundreds of residents held a sit-in on the Grand Place in Brussels to demand that Mr. Mayeur address the city about its future. Tuesday came and went without any evident public statement by Mr. Mayeur, 57, who had been in power since 2013.

The bizarre resignation is only the latest of several corruption scandals that have ensnared politicians and sowed doubt about the health of democracy in Belgium, a country where power is divided along regional and linguistic lines, and across multiple layers of government: federal, regional, communal, provincial and local. The country famously went 541 days without a functioning government after a June 2010 election in which no party gained dominance.

The complexity of governing in Belgium — which some critics have called the world’s wealthiest failed state— may create a welcoming environment for corruption. Even Mr. Mayeur’s job is hard to explain: He was mayor of the City of Brussels, which has a population of 178,552 and is one of the 19 municipalities that make up the Brussels capital region (population 1.2 million).

Trump-Russia inquiry: President ‘probed for obstruction of justice’ — BBC

President Donald Trump is being investigated by special counsel Robert Mueller for possible obstruction of justice, US media reports say.

They say senior intelligence officials will be interviewed about whether Mr Trump tried to end an inquiry into his sacked national security adviser.

Mr Trump’s legal team said the latest leak to the media was “outrageous”.

Mr Mueller is overseeing an FBI inquiry into Russia’s alleged meddling the 2016 US election and any Trump links to it.

President Trump has repeatedly denied any collusion with Russia, describing the ongoing inquiry as a “witch hunt”.

The latest development was first carried in the Washington Post. Later the New York Times and Wall St Journal reported the story, citing their own sources.

The Washington Post said the decision by Mr Mueller to investigate President Trump’s own conduct is a major turning point in the investigation, which until recently focused on the Russian angle.

NSA links Wannacry worm to North Korea — BBC

The Wannacry worm that infected organisations in 150 countries in May has been blamed on North Korea by the US’s National Security Agency (NSA).

The Washington Post said there was “moderate confidence” in the report’s findings, while the spy agency said the worm was meant to boost regime coffers.

Security company Symantec also believes a hacking group linked to North Korea was behind the attack.

But North Korea’s involvement has been disputed by other security firms.

Wannacry victims included more than 60 NHS trusts in the UK as well as Fedex, Renault and Telefonica.

 Those hit by the worm were asked to pay a ransom to have their data restored.

The newspaper said the NSA report claims that the worm was created by a hacker group “sponsored” by North Korea’s spy agency – the Reconnaissance General Bureau.

The assessment chimes with conclusions drawn by Symantec which said it was put together by the Lazarus hacker group working on behalf of the regime.

The Washington Post said the evidence gathered in the report was “not conclusive” but strongly suggested North Korea’s involvement.

CIA Gina Haspel: Trump’s Darling — Zeit Online

Gina Haspel, the new No. 2 at the CIA, played a leading role in the torture of terror suspects following 9/11. Now German lawyers are seeking criminal action against her.

In late March of 2002, Gina Haspel had very little time to prepare for the torture to come. Haspel ran the “Cat’s Eye,” a secret CIA jail located near Bangkok, the capital city of Thailand. It was very warm, 34 degrees Celsius (93 degrees Fahrenheit), with the kind of humidity that makes your clothes stick to you, but inside the black site, also known as “Detention Site Green,” the air conditioning had been cranked up to make it extremely cold. The cells had Spartan furnishings: a plank bed, four halogen lights, four meters by four meters (13 feet by 13 feet) of confinement with no windows.

America’s Central Intelligence Agency planned to use this site to test, for the first time, the new “enhanced interrogation” techniques President George W. Bush had approved six months earlier. Al-Qaida fighters’ will was to be broken through waterboarding, sleep deprivation or humiliation through forced nudity until they could be turned into valuable sources in the “war on terror,” which had been declared by the U.S. after the 2001 attacks on New York and Washington in 2001. Haspel, a 45-year-old intelligence agent, was to carry out the first torture sessions in Thailand.

Fifteen years later, in 2017, President Donald Trump would appoint Haspel as the CIA’s deputy director. (…)

CIA officials have been convicted in absentia twice. A few years ago, an Italian court imposed prison sentences on 23 U.S. agents for their involvement in the kidnapping of a suspected terrorist in Milan. And in 2007, the district court in Munich issued arrest warrants for 10 members of a renditions team. The agents are alleged to have kidnapped German citizen Khaled el-Masri and to have taken him to Afghanistan, where he was held in a secret prison. These intelligence officials are now on wanted lists in over 180 countries around the world. International travel is no longer a possibility for them.

That’s precisely the deterrent effect ECCHR is hoping to achieve with its complaint against Haspel. Even if there is little hope that legal proceedings would ever be initiated in Germany, an international arrest warrant would at least send a message to all other CIA officials: If they participate in crimes that violate international law, they will no longer be able to travel to Europe.




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