Mary Louise Kelly

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Politics may be at play in the appearance of a draft presidential order that could revive the CIA's "black site" prisons, one former CIA director says.

The appearance of the document, first reported by the New York Times, drew an immediate outcry from both Democratic and Republican lawmakers, as well as CIA veterans.

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Let's sort through what we know and don't know about President-elect Trump and Russia. We start with words he resisted saying for months.

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DONALD TRUMP: As far as hacking, I think it was Russia.

William Evanina holds two official job titles: national counterintelligence executive and director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center.

Eyes glazing over? Here's a simpler way to think of him: as the nation's spy catcher in chief.

As the head of U.S. counterintelligence, Evanina is in charge of keeping America's secrets out of enemy hands. 2016 has proved an exceptionally challenging year, between Russian hacks and another massive data breach at the National Security Agency.

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The world is entering a new cyber era — one with no ground rules, and with the potential for traditional espionage to be "turbocharged" by the Internet, President Obama told

Mike Pompeo, a Republican congressman from Kansas and Donald Trump's pick to run the CIA, is no stranger to Russian intrigue.

After graduating first in his class from West Point in 1986, he headed to Europe. There, according to his official bio, he served as a cavalry officer, "patrolling the Iron Curtain before the fall of the Berlin Wall."

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I was boarding a plane to Istanbul when a friend recommended the Yashim series of mystery novels.

Great reads, he told me, about a Turkish detective who whips up marvelous feasts in between solving crimes. That sounded promising, so I downloaded the first book for the flight. And I was hooked, racing through chapters with Yashim as he prowls Istanbul's dark alleys, spice markets and kitchens.

In a cavernous, dimly-lit auditorium in Washington last month, three officials took the stage.

They settled themselves into tan, leather armchairs and fielded questions, including this one: Name a global flashpoint you're looking to with concern?

"North Korea," came the reply from one. "And how the United States and China deal with that situation."

The exchange is worth noting because the three people on stage were current or former CIA officials.

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Just when you thought U.S.-Russia relations couldn't get worse, diplomatic deals on both Syria and nuclear security fell apart this week.

Moscow went first, announcing that it was pulling out of a landmark agreement on plutonium. Russia's President Vladimir Putin blamed "unfriendly actions" by the United States.

Hours later, Washington said it was breaking off talks on a ceasefire in Syria. "This is not a decision that was taken lightly," State Department spokesman John Kirby wrote in a statement. "Unfortunately, Russia failed to live up to its own commitments."

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Two weeks from now in Surrey, England, a coroner's inquest is scheduled for a most peculiar death.

Here are the facts: In November 2012, a 44-year-old man died while out jogging near his Surrey home. The man was reported to have been in robust health, and police declared that the death was not suspicious.

But here are a few more facts: The jogger was a Russian banker who had fled Russia after helping expose tax fraud that implicated both the Mafia and the Russian state. Traces of a rare, poisonous flowering plant were found in his stomach.

In a courtroom in Knoxville, Tenn., the latest legal twist is unfolding in a case involving China — and alleged nuclear espionage.

Szuhsiung "Allen" Ho has been jailed since April. He's a nuclear engineer and consultant, born in Taiwan and educated in the U.S.

Ho's case is one of a number involving scientists the U.S. government suspects may also be spies. The scientists in question are all American citizens; they were all born in mainland China or Taiwan.

Success on the battlefield against the Islamic State won't translate into an immediate reduction in the threat from attacks in the West, the top U.S. counterterrorism leader told NPR.

Nicholas Rasmussen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, said the tactical gains the U.S. military and its partners are making in Iraq and Syria are a "necessary" part of quashing the danger it poses — but not "sufficient."

"We do need that success — but there'll be a lag in the benefits we accrue," he said.

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Even by the strange standards of this long, strange election season, this past week has stood out. First came word of a Kremlin conspiracy - Russia trying to meddle in U.S. politics by hacking into the servers of the Democratic National Committee.

Donald Trump on Wednesday called for Russia to hack Hillary Clinton's email and recover messages from her tenure as secretary of state. His comments followed reports that U.S. officials believe Russian hackers stole emails from the Democratic National Committee and arranged for their release.

When you start packing for a reporting trip to Russia, you get a lot of advice.

Take a clean phone, advised my journalist friends in Moscow. Take a clean laptop. That means one that has been wiped and re-imaged and from which I've never logged on with my usual user accounts and passwords. The reason? Russian intelligence will be monitoring you from the moment you land, they said.

"Really?" I replied. "You think they'll be that interested in a random American reporter flying in?"

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If you were a Soviet spy, chances are you knew your way around the menu at the restaurant Aragvi, in Moscow. That's where Stalin's security chief held court, and where KGB spooks met for power lunches. Movie stars ate there, too, as did cosmonauts. It was the place to be seen for Moscow's elite.

After the Soviet Union collapsed, Aragvi shut down. It stayed shuttered for many years. But it's just reopened.

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It's not every day that the man who ran Russia's foreign espionage service offers to buy you a drink.

I'd been chasing Vyacheslav Trubnikov for an interview, when a message landed in my inbox: Hotel Metropol, 5 o'clock.

The Metropol is one of Moscow's grande dame hotels, just steps from Red Square, with polished dark wood, sparkling crystal decanters, velvet armchairs. Trubnikov settled in and ordered a double espresso.

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High on a hill, in a leafy, residential neighborhood between Georgetown and the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., the Russian Embassy sits behind tall gates. It was right here, in the 1980s, at the height of the Cold War, that the FBI and the National Security Agency built a tunnel — a secret tunnel that started beneath one of the pleasant-looking houses lining Wisconsin Avenue and extended over to the neighboring embassy.

It was built so that American spies could eavesdrop on what was happening inside.

In Purcellville, Va., on Saturday, CIA veterans are gathering for the funeral of one of the agency's best-known and most flamboyant characters — Duane "Dewey" Clarridge.

Clarridge, known both for founding the CIA's Counterterrorism Center and for his role in what became known as the Iran-Contra scandal, died April 9 at the age of 83.

When Defense Secretary Ashton Carter landed in Iraq for a surprise visit this week, he came armed with this news: More than 200 additional U.S. troops are headed to that country. They'll join the fight to retake the Iraqi city of Mosul from the Islamic State.

As that battle unfolds on the ground, a parallel war against ISIS is unfolding in cyberspace.

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This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Michel Martin's off today. I'm Mary Louise Kelly. And we start with politics and the presidential race moving on to Wisconsin.

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