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Jeff Stein

Washington, United States of America
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About Jeff
Jeff Stein has covered the spy agencies, military affairs and foreign policy in Washington for nearly 40 years. From 2013 to 2019, he was Newsweek's national security correspondent and SpyTalk columnist. His SpyTalk column originated in 2005 at Congressional Quarterly, where in 2003 he was the founding editor of the award-winning CQ Homeland Security daily, and later, national security editor. Following the sale of CQ in 2009, he wrote SpyTalk as a daily blog for The WashingtonPost for a year, then moved to Newsweek. Previously, he was deputy foreign editor at UPI. An Army Intelligence case officer in Vietnam, Jeff is also the author of three books, including "A Murder in Wartime: The Untold Spy Story that Changed the Course of the Vietnam War," about the 1969 prosecution of top Green Beret officers for the execution of a suspected enemy spy. As a freelance, he has written for most major magazines and newspapers, including The New York Times, New York magazine, Esquire, GQ, Playboy, The New Republic, The Nation, Mother Jones, the Boston Globe Sunday Magazine and The Washington Post Sunday Magazine.  He has appeared frequently on CNN, MSNBC, NBC, Fox, ABC, PBS Newshour and NPR as an authority on espionage, national security and homeland security or in conjunction with his own exclusives.
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Amid competing U.S. security priorities, Ukraine could get left behind

04 Apr 2024  |  seattletimes.com
U.S. congressional support for Ukraine is waning amidst other national security priorities such as Israel and the U.S. southern border. With a potential government shutdown looming, the likelihood of additional aid for Ukraine is uncertain. The Pentagon is rationing its remaining provisions for Kyiv, and the U.S. Agency for International Development warns of Ukraine's economic instability without further U.S. economic aid. Bipartisan proponents still favor aid, but face challenges in passing President Biden's $61 billion request. Ukraine also confronts a significant budget deficit, with only a third expected to be covered by the EU. Ukrainian officials continue to lobby U.S. lawmakers, emphasizing the strategic interest for the U.S. in Ukraine's victory.

Biden’s dreams of ending poverty crumbled. Will he get a second chance?

20 Mar 2024  |  washingtonpost.com
Despite President Biden's initial ambitions to expand the social safety net and reduce poverty, many of his plans, including increased child tax credits and federal aid for child care, have not been realized. This has left individuals like Amber Bhagwatsingh, who lost her job due to unaffordable child care costs, struggling to make ends meet. The expiration of pandemic-era assistance has led to increased food insecurity, homelessness, and child poverty. With the 2024 presidential election approaching, it is uncertain how these issues will influence voters, especially in swing states like Michigan. While Biden's administration and Democratic officials consider child care expansion a top priority, many affected voters remain unaware of these legislative efforts and are disillusioned by the unfulfilled promises.

Biden calls American ownership of U.S. Steel ‘vital’ as he opposes deal

13 Mar 2024  |  washingtonpost.com
President Biden opposes Nippon Steel's proposed acquisition of U.S. Steel, citing the importance of maintaining American ownership for national security and political support in Pennsylvania. The move, which could affect U.S.-Japan relations, has been criticized by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and comes ahead of Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's state visit. The deal is under review by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, and Biden's stance has raised concerns about politicization. U.S. Steel, a historically significant company, has struggled financially in recent years.

Behind closed doors, Trump eyes second round of corporate tax cuts

12 Jan 2024  |  Washington Post
Donald Trump's campaign team has publicly stated a focus on tax cuts for working-class families and small businesses if he is re-elected. However, Trump has privately expressed to allies his strong interest in further reducing corporate tax rates.

Economists disagree on Biden’s polling. Even when they’re in love.

27 Dec 2023  |  Washington Post
University of Michigan economists Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers, a couple, find themselves on opposing sides of a debate concerning voter sentiment about the economy, which has implications for the 2024 election. Stevenson sought Wolfers' input for a column she was writing, leading to a professional exchange in their shared home office in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Trump, U.S. conservatives embrace Argentina’s controversial new leader

08 Dec 2023  |  washingtonpost.com
U.S. conservatives, including Donald Trump and several Republican House members, are showing support for Argentina's president-elect Javier Milei, a far-right libertarian. Trump wanted to attend Milei's inauguration but faced logistical issues. Milei's anti-establishment stance and economic policies resonate with conservatives in Washington, who see his presidency as a chance to counter the leftward shift in Latin America. Despite some policy differences, Trump and Milei share a disdain for governing institutions and a pro-business platform. High-profile conservatives like Ben Shapiro and Elon Musk have also rallied behind Milei. Democrats, including former president Bill Clinton, have engaged with Milei, signaling a willingness to work with him. Milei's strong support for Israel and Ukraine contrasts with skepticism from other leftist Latin American leaders. His presidency is seen as an opportunity to strengthen U.S.-Argentina relations and push back against influence from China, Russia, and Iran in the region.

The far right toppled McCarthy over spending. What has it gotten them?

21 Nov 2023  |  Washington Post
Congress approved a deal to fund the government without any spending cuts, prompting criticism from Rep. Chip Roy of the Freedom Caucus. Roy questioned his Republican colleagues on the House floor, demanding to know when they would fulfill their promises to curb spending and challenging them to present any significant achievements of the Republican majority.

House GOP proposes two-step plan to fund government, raising shutdown risk

11 Nov 2023  |  washingtonpost.com
House Speaker Mike Johnson has proposed a two-step continuing resolution to extend federal funding, which has been rejected by the Senate and White House, increasing the likelihood of a government shutdown. The plan, originally favored by the House Freedom Caucus, would set different expiration dates for funding various federal agencies, leading to multiple deadlines and potential partial shutdowns. The staggered funding plan has been criticized by both parties, and its passage is uncertain due to Republican infighting and opposition to current spending levels without cuts. The proposal excludes President Biden's requests for military aid to Ukraine and global humanitarian aid. A government shutdown could suspend many federal services and affect millions of workers.

Far from war in Gaza, Hamas chief oversees vast financial network

02 Nov 2023  |  Washington Post
Ismail Haniyeh, the top Hamas political leader, oversees a vast financial network while living in Qatar, far from the conflict in Gaza. Despite being under U.S. sanctions since 2018, Haniyeh faces increased economic pressure from the West following Hamas's attack on Israel on October 7. U.S. officials are intensifying efforts to dismantle Hamas's financial networks, with senior Treasury officials traveling to various countries to target funding sources. Hamas raises significant funds through taxation, black market smuggling, and international support, including from Iran and Qatar. The group's financial resources starkly contrast with the poverty in Gaza, exacerbated by the ongoing conflict. The U.S. Treasury Department is focused on undermining Hamas's financial flows, while experts call for more stringent measures. Haniyeh's luxurious lifestyle outside Gaza has drawn criticism, and there are calls for Qatar to hand him over to U.S. or Israeli authorities.

GOP plan to fund Israel aid with IRS cuts would cost $90 billion, tax chief says

01 Nov 2023  |  Stars and Stripes
House Republicans' plan to fund $14 billion in emergency aid to Israel by cutting the IRS budget would increase the deficit by $90 billion over ten years, according to IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel. The proposal, unveiled by Speaker Mike Johnson, aims to reallocate funds from the IRS expansion approved under the Inflation Reduction Act. Critics argue that reducing IRS audits on the wealthy and large corporations would hamper revenue collection, while supporters see it as a strategy to curb federal spending. The plan faces opposition within the GOP and is expected to undergo negotiations in the Senate.

House GOP demands IRS budget cuts to pay for Israel aid

30 Oct 2023  |  SFGATE
House Republicans proposed a bill to fund emergency military aid for Israel by cutting the IRS budget, specifically targeting funds aimed at improving taxpayer services and enforcement against wealthy tax cheats. The bill seeks to approve approximately $14 billion in aid to Israel, offset by equivalent cuts from the IRS budget, a move that diverges from President Biden's proposal which did not suggest budget offsets. The GOP's initiative reflects their ongoing effort to reverse the IRS expansion from the Inflation Reduction Act. The White House and Democrats oppose the bill, with White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre criticizing the politicization of national security interests. Senate Democrats largely reject the bill, while some Senate Republicans support the IRS cuts. The debate sets the stage for a political battle over fiscal priorities and national security.

U.S. to warn crypto firms against financing Hamas, terror groups

26 Oct 2023  |  www.washingtonpost.com
The U.S. Treasury Department is intensifying efforts to disrupt international financial networks supporting Hamas, following a deadly attack in Israel. Sanctions have been imposed on Hamas members and entities, and Treasury officials are in Qatar addressing terrorist group financing. A report by Elliptic indicated that Hamas and other groups raised significant funds in cryptocurrency, a figure used by Senator Elizabeth Warren to advocate for tighter crypto regulations. Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo is set to emphasize the importance of preventing terrorist access to financial resources, warning that the U.S. will target any facilitators. Hamas has halted crypto donations due to donor privacy concerns, and a Gaza-based digital currency exchange was recently sanctioned.

As child-care crisis looms, Biden asks Congress for urgent help

25 Oct 2023  |  Washington Post
The Biden administration has requested $16 billion from Congress to address the looming child-care crisis, part of a broader $56 billion domestic funding package. This request aims to stabilize over 225,000 child-care providers across the U.S. following the expiration of pandemic-era aid. The White House also seeks additional funds for disaster relief, internet access, and other domestic needs. Economists warn that the lack of child-care options could reverse recent workforce gains, particularly among women. The administration emphasizes the urgency of addressing this issue alongside national security priorities.

U.S., Qatar agree to stop Iran from tapping $6 billion fund after Hamas attack

12 Oct 2023  |  flipboard.com
U.S. officials and the Qatari government have agreed to prevent Iran from accessing a $6 billion humanitarian assistance account following Hamas's attack on Israel. Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo informed House Democrats of this decision, highlighting a coordinated effort to limit Iran's financial resources in response to the conflict.

U.S., Qatar agree to stop Iran from tapping $6 billion fund after Hamas attack

12 Oct 2023  |  www.pressherald.com
U.S. and Qatari officials have agreed to block Iran from accessing a $6 billion humanitarian fund following Hamas's attack on Israel. This decision comes amid bipartisan pressure in the U.S. to prevent the funds from being used by Iran, which is scrutinized for its links to Hamas. The move could impact internal Iranian politics and potentially shift the regime's stance on nuclear weapons. Iran's supreme leader has declared nuclear weapons forbidden by Islam. The decision has sparked debate among U.S. lawmakers and foreign policy experts.

House rejects Ukraine aid in spending bill, despite Pentagon lobbying

30 Sep 2023  |  freerepublic.com
The House of Representatives approved a government spending deal that excluded aid to Ukraine, despite last-minute lobbying from Pentagon officials. The Defense Department emphasized the importance of the aid for Ukraine's defense against Russia. The decision has sparked various reactions, with some praising the move and others criticizing it, including remarks from Fetterman and MTG.

Our war was finally over

01 Apr 2023  |  Newsweek
The article recounts the personal journey of a former U.S. Army intelligence operative who returns to Vietnam to meet his wartime adversary, Major General Tran Tien Cung, a former North Vietnamese military intelligence deputy commander. The author, who once controlled a network of Vietnamese spies during the war, describes his past experiences and the challenges of espionage in a war setting. He details his attempts to meet with Cung, the bureaucratic hurdles he faced, and his reflections on the war's aftermath. The story culminates in a poignant meeting with the ailing general, where the author is able to ask one question about Cung's greatest espionage triumph. Cung's response highlights the loyalty and protection he received from local Vietnamese, a stark contrast to the American experience. The article provides a deep insight into the complexities of intelligence work during the Vietnam War and the long-lasting impact of the conflict on those involved.

American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History

01 Apr 2023  |  www.bookforum.com
Jeff Stein, a former military intelligence officer, reviews 'American Sniper', a memoir by ex-Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, co-authored with Scott McEwen and Jim DeFelice. The book details Kyle's experiences as a sniper during the Iraq War, where he is credited with over 150 kills. Stein contrasts Kyle's unapologetic narrative with the more reflective tone of Vietnam War sniper Carlos Hathcock, highlighting the cultural shift in the perception of snipers and their glorification post-9/11. The article also touches on the psychological toll of being a sniper, as seen in Kyle's post-military life struggles with alcohol and aggression. Stein criticizes the memoir for its simplistic portrayal of the enemy and the war, suggesting it feeds into a fantasy that ignores the complex realities of conflict and its aftermath.

Four Books About the C.I.A.’s Exploits and Secrets

29 Aug 2019  |  www.nytimes.com
A former C.I.A. and F.B.I. counterterrorism official, Mudd, provides an insider's perspective on the C.I.A.'s covert interrogation program post-9/11. The program faced leaks and was criticized in a Senate Intelligence Committee report for being based on torture and ineffective, with agency officials accused of lying about its results. The book offers firsthand accounts and reflects on the bureaucratic challenges and moral dilemmas faced by officials under pressure from President George W. Bush to protect American lives within the bounds of the law.

Flynn's Plan to Build Nuclear Plants in the Middle East: For Safety, or Profit?

20 Apr 2019  |  Newsweek
The article discusses Michael Flynn's involvement in a plan to build U.S. nuclear power plants in the Middle East, with funding from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries. Flynn, who served as an adviser to X-Co Dynamics Inc./Iron Bridge Group, traveled to Egypt and Israel to gauge attitudes towards a U.S.-Russian-Saudi program to control the Arab world's nuclear power acquisition. The plan aimed to revive the U.S. nuclear industry and ensure security for the plants and radioactive waste. Flynn's financial disclosure form was amended to detail foreign payments, including his advisory role. The project faced opposition from the Obama administration but seemed to gain an inside track with Trump's election and Flynn's appointment as national security adviser. However, the project's future became uncertain with the FBI's investigation into Russian collusion and Flynn's eventual firing. The article also corrects previous inaccuracies regarding Flynn's involvement and the potential security benefits of the nuclear power plant plan.

A compendium of my SpyTalk blogs at The Washington Post

Jeff Stein

20 Apr 2019  |  Newsweek
Jeff Stein is a journalist with a focus on intelligence, defense, and foreign policy. He currently writes for Newsweek in Washington and is known for his SpyTalk column, which began at Congressional Quarterly in 2005 and later moved to The Washington Post in 2010. Stein has a background in security, having served as homeland security editor at Congressional Quarterly and deputy foreign editor at UPI. His experience extends to the field, as he was an Army Intelligence case officer in Vietnam. In addition to his journalism career, Jeff Stein is an accomplished author, with books such as 'A Murder in Wartime' detailing the prosecution of Green Beret officers in 1969.

‘Playing to the Edge,’ by Michael V. Hayden

06 Mar 2016  |  www.nytimes.com
The article discusses the role of Congress in the C.I.A.'s interrogation program, highlighting that despite public outcry and media exposure of abuses, Congress did not significantly alter the program. General Michael Hayden, former C.I.A. director, admits to scaling back some interrogation methods and seeks to justify his actions by briefing Congress and the public. The article also covers Hayden's confrontations with the press, particularly journalists who reported on intelligence issues, and his criticism of their work. Hayden's views on various political figures, including President Barack Obama and foreign officials, are also mentioned, revealing his candid opinions and the complex relationships between intelligence agencies and political leadership.

Theft of a Boxer’s Championship Belts Devastates His Upstate Hometown

14 Nov 2015  |  www.nytimes.com
The small village of Canastota, New York, was devastated by the theft of six championship belts from the International Boxing Hall of Fame, four of which belonged to local boxing legend Carmen Basilio. The theft, which occurred on November 5th, did not include other memorabilia such as Rocky Marciano's gloves, Mike Tyson's mouth guard, or Floyd Patterson's shorts. The community, which holds Basilio in high regard, was deeply affected by the loss.

Draft Dodgers

14 Nov 2012  |  Foreign Policy
The article discusses the use of a Gmail trick by former CIA director David Petraeus and his biographer Paula Broadwell to hide their correspondence, a method commonly used by CIA operatives. This technique, which involves sharing a Gmail account to post private notes, is considered safer and cheaper than using sophisticated spy gear. The article also touches on the use of steganography and the reluctance of CIA headquarters to supply specialized software to field operatives. The investigation into Petraeus's affair was triggered by harassing emails sent by Broadwell to a perceived rival, leading to FBI involvement.

Up Close and Angry

12 Jun 2012  |  Foreign Policy
Sabrina De Sousa, a former CIA agent, faces legal and personal turmoil due to her involvement in the extraordinary rendition of an Egyptian terrorist suspect, Abu Omar, from Italy. De Sousa criticizes senior figures in the Bush administration for escaping accountability while she remains under virtual house arrest in the U.S. The article details her legal battles, the impact on her personal life, and the broader implications of CIA operations and U.S. government actions. Despite her efforts to seek justice and accountability, De Sousa's case remains unresolved, highlighting the complexities and controversies surrounding extraordinary rendition and diplomatic immunity.

CIA Man Retracts Claim on Waterboarding

26 Jan 2010  |  Foreign Policy
John Kiriakou, a former CIA operative, has retracted his previous claims that waterboarding quickly elicited valuable information from al Qaeda member Abu Zubaydah. Kiriakou now admits his statements were based on hearsay and not firsthand knowledge. His initial claims had been widely used to justify the effectiveness of waterboarding, despite later revelations that Zubaydah was subjected to the technique 83 times. Kiriakou's retraction highlights the CIA's use of deception and raises questions about the reliability of information obtained through torture. The article also notes the media's role in disseminating Kiriakou's initial claims without sufficient scrutiny.

Rendered Guilty

04 Nov 2009  |  Foreign Policy
A Milan court convicted 23 CIA operatives and one Air Force colonel for their roles in the 2003 kidnapping and rendition of Muslim cleric Abu Omar, who was allegedly tortured in Egypt. The case raises significant questions about diplomatic immunity and the jurisdiction of foreign courts over U.S. officials. Despite the convictions, the U.S. government is unlikely to extradite the officials, though they face arrest if they enter the EU. The ruling underscores the precarious position of CIA operatives without full diplomatic immunity and highlights the complex interplay between intelligence operations and international law.

Can You Tell a Sunni From a Shiite? - The New York Times

17 Oct 2006  |  www.nytimes.com
The article discusses the importance of understanding the difference between Sunni and Shiite Muslims in the context of counterterrorism efforts. The author has been asking Washington counterterrorism officials if they can distinguish between the two, arguing that this basic knowledge is crucial in a war setting. The article draws a parallel with British officials' understanding of the Catholic-Protestant divide in Northern Ireland. The Sunni-Shiite rivalry, which has a history of 1,400 years, is currently influencing the conflict in Iraq and could lead to the country's division, with potential backing from regional powers like Iran and Saudi Arabia. The article also touches on the broader implications of a destabilized Iraq, including the threat of Al Qaeda and Iran's influence in the region.

Spies in the Skies: Both a Savior and a Disaster

02 Apr 2003  |  www.nytimes.com
Philip Taubman's book 'Secret Empire' delves into the history of America's space espionage during the Cold War, focusing on the efforts led by President Eisenhower and a team of scientists and engineers to develop surveillance technology such as the U-2 spy plane and the Corona reconnaissance satellite. The book provides a detailed account of the technical and bureaucratic challenges faced in gathering intelligence on Soviet forces post-World War II. While the narrative includes engaging personal stories of the individuals involved, it also serves as a comprehensive reference work on Cold War espionage.

The Empire Strikes Back

11 Nov 2001  |  www.nytimes.com
The article reviews two books, 'Hit to Kill' by Bradley Graham and 'The Unfinished Twentieth Century' by Jonathan Schell, which explore the complexities of missile defense and nuclear strategy in the post-9/11 era. Despite the apparent obsolescence of missile defense systems against low-tech terrorism, President Bush argues for their continued development to counter potential threats from weapons of mass destruction. The books provide a comprehensive understanding of the current nuclear landscape and the challenges of modern warfare.

Lie Detectors Lie (Tell the C.I.A.)

19 Feb 1995  |  www.nytimes.com
In 1983, an Army intelligence officer who failed two lie detector tests sought advice from David Lykken, a psychology professor and polygraph expert, and subsequently passed his next test. Aldrich Ames, a Russian mole, also passed CIA polygraph tests despite being under suspicion. The CIA and Pentagon continue to use the Control Question Test, which has been criticized for its inaccuracy, including by experts like Dr. Lykken and psychologists John J. Furedy and Drew C. Richardson, the latter being forced by the FBI to remove his byline from a critical article. The government's persistence in using these tests is attributed to the significant investment in the industry.
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