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Jan. 11, 2024
Notes from the Pentagon

Former NSA counterspy says Jeffrey Epstein was part of Israeli network

By Bill Gertz
Former National Security Agency counterspy John Schindler says he has connected the intelligence dots regarding the late convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein and linked him to an Israeli influence operation.

Epstein and his operation to fly powerful figures to his private island for sex with underage women received fresh public attention recently with the release of court papers revealing the names of many who traveled to what has been dubbed “Lolita Island.”

Mr. Schindler, who has called for CIA Director William J. Burns to be fired after it was disclosed Mr. Burns once sought career advice from Epstein, said in a long report on his Top Secret Umbra blog this week that Epstein appears to have been part of a shadowy Israeli influence operation known as MEGA.

Epstein was a wealthy mogul when he was arrested in July 2019 on sex trafficking charges. He died a month later in a New York jail under mysterious circumstances.

The recently released court documents included names of the rich and powerful traveling to the Epstein island, including former President Bill Clinton, Britain’s Prince Andrew, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and lawyer Alan Dershowitz.

Sexual escapades aside, Mr. Schindler said that the real questions about Epstein focus on where he obtained his wealth and whether he was secretly working for a foreign power.

Epstein was a college dropout who became a financial guru with just one known client, billionaire retailer Les Wexner. The Bath and Body Works chain founder was named in the court papers and the two men had a close relationship for decades.

Mr. Schindler noted the suspiciousness of counterintelligence work, the often-arcane business of identifying and countering foreign spies.

“There’s a venerable spook joke that you need to move on from counterintelligence work when, at least once a week, you stare at yourself in the mirror while shaving and think: ‘I wonder who he’s really working for?’”

Mr. Schindler said that Epstein appears to have been part of a larger organization that provided funds for his activities and also to buy off victims or otherwise intimidate them into silence.

“That’s not a one-pedophile job and, given the industrial scale of Epstein’s abuse over decades, with at least hundreds of victims, it would take a considerable retinue if not a small army to keep that sordid operation going and out of public view for any extended period,” he said.

One clue was provided by journalist Nick Bryant, who reported in 2019 that Epstein had been clandestinely recording people with hidden cameras in his residences. The recordings could be used to compromise people for intelligence purposes.

“In other words, the heart of the Epstein saga was a clandestine intelligence operation devoted to compromising and blackmailing rich and powerful people,” Mr. Schindler said.

The Justice Department gave Epstein a pass in 2008 from sex charges because he had “belonged to intelligence,” without elaborating, he notes. However, any connections between the CIA and FBI to Epstein remain unknown, he said.

Mr. Schindler noted direct parallels to the activities of British media mogul Robert Maxwell, who Mr. Schindler says worked for several spy services with a primary linkage to Israel and its Mossad.

Like Epstein, Maxwell died under mysterious circumstances, in 1991. Maxwell was also the father of Epstein’s close aide and paramour Ghislaine Maxwell, who in 2021 was found guilty of child sex trafficking.

Mr. Schindler also reveals a famous Mossad joke that goes, “May we read about you in the newspapers!”

“That’s precisely what happened to the National Security Agency in May 1997, when The Washington Post ran a sensational story that exposed shocking goings-on inside Israeli intelligence,” he said.

The article revealed how the NSA had intercepted a communication between a senior Israeli intelligence officer in Washington and a spy handler in Tel Aviv.

The spy said he was tasked by the Israeli ambassador to get a copy of a secret letter given to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat by then-Secretary of State Warren Christopher for a source identified only as “MEGA.”

“The ambassador wants me to go to MEGA to get a copy of this letter,” the Israeli spy said, to which the superior replied, “This is not something we use MEGA for.”

The counterintelligence report was an embarrassment for the NSA and Israel sought to deflect the identification of MEGA by claiming it referred not to an individual but to the CIA.

The leak set off a major hunt for MEGA, believed to be an Israeli mole in the State Department and other agencies.

Then, in 1998, The Wall Street Journal solved the mystery. The newspaper published a story on U.S. titans of industry working for Jewish philanthropy that called themselves the “Mega Group.” It included 20 of America’s wealthiest and most influential Jewish businessmen who met twice a year.

Among the members of the group were Hollywood director Steven Spielberg, Seagram Chairman Edgar Bronfman Sr. and former hedge fund manager Michael Steinhardt. The group was founded in 1991 by two billionaires: Charles Bronfman, Edgar’s brother and Seagram co-chairman, and Mr. Wexner.

“We know that MEGA was viewed by Israel intelligence officials as a vehicle for espionage and influence operations in the United States,” Mr. Schindler concluded. “We know that it was co-founded by Jeffrey Epstein’s billionaire benefactor. The rest remains speculation.”

The former NSA counterspy said those bits of information should be the starting point for Congress or investigative news reporters to begin unraveling the full details of the Epstein network.

NSA official says AI used to stop China hacks
Rob Joyce, head of the National Security Agency’s cybersecurity directorate, said in New York this week that the NSA is now using artificial intelligence technology to stop Chinese cyber operations.

Mr. Joyce, who from 2013 to 2017 ran the agency’s once-secret “tailored access operations” hacking program, also said China’s notorious cyber forces use AI and machine learning to get inside critical infrastructure networks for future sabotage.

“They’re not there for intelligence. They’re not there for financial motivation. They’re in places like electric, transportation and ports, trying to hack in so they can cause societal disruption and panic at a time and place of their choosing,” Mr. Joyce said.

China’s cyber operations, mainly carried out by the Ministry of State Security and the People’s Liberation Army, have been targeting U.S. transportation networks, pipelines and ports with clandestine methods that can be disguised as those used for approved remote controls, he said.

“They’re using flaws in the architecture, implementation problems and other things to get a foothold into accounts or create accounts that then appear like they should be part of the network,” Mr. Joyce said in remarks at a cybersecurity conference at Fordham University.

The Chinese infiltrations into computer networks that control critical infrastructure such as electric grids involves a technique called “living off the land” — tools, software and access built into the targeted networks themselves. The penetrations are more difficult to detect because the hackers avoid using malware that can be readily spotted by security software.

Mr. Joyce said Chinese cyber operations are exploiting holes, misconfigurations and unchanged default passwords to remotely access targeted networks. The hackers then set up accounts or user identities that appear legitimate and can move easily within networks.

“Machine learning, AI and Big Data help us surface those activities,” Mr. Joyce said. “You’re going to see that on both sides, people that use AI/ML will do better,” he added, referring to the use of the tools for defensive cyber operations.

China was caught recently conducting covert cyber operations involving critical infrastructure on the Pacific island of Guam, a key military hub for the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.

Navy chief outlines priorities
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Lisa Franchetti sent a notice to all Navy personnel this week outlining warfighting priorities for the sea service.

“We deliver power for peace but are always postured and ready to fight and win as part of the joint force and alongside our allies and partners,” she said.

“The threats to our nation and our interests are real and growing,” Adm. Franchetti warned. “The strategic environment has changed; gone are the days of operating from a maritime sanctuary against competitors who cannot threaten us.”

Top Navy goals include preparing to win in a war with China and meeting the challenge of Russian aggression, she said.

Advanced weapons are needed to maintain the Navy’s edge, including hypersonic missiles and unmanned systems along with other disruptive arms. The main priority is to deliver decisive combat power during war.

“America is counting on us to deter aggression, defend our national security interests, and preserve our way of life,” Adm. Franchetti said.

“With the right tools, a winning mindset, and the highest levels of integrity, we will operate safely as a team to deliver warfighting excellence.”

Notably, the new Navy chief’s message did not reference any “woke” agenda items such as promoting diversity, equity and inclusion in the ranks.

  • Contact Bill Gertz on Twitter via @BillGertz.

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