In March 2019, Mr. Alay traveled to Moscow, just weeks after leaders of the Catalan independence movement went on trial. Three months later, Mr. Alay went again.

In Russia, according to the intelligence report, Mr. Alay and Mr. Dmitrenko met with several active foreign intelligence officers, as well as Oleg V. Syromolotov, the former chief of counterintelligence for the Federal Security Service, Russia’s domestic intelligence agency, who now oversees counterterrorism as a deputy minister at the Russian foreign ministry.

Mr. Alay denied meeting Mr. Syromolotov and the officers but acknowledged meeting Yevgeny Primakov, the grandson of a famous K.G.B. spymaster, in order to secure an interview with Mr. Puigdemont on an international affairs program he hosted on Kremlin television. Last year, Mr. Primakov was appointed by Mr. Putin to run a Russian cultural agency that, according to European security officials, often serves as a front for intelligence operations.

“Good news from Moscow,” Mr. Alay later texted to Mr. Puigdemont, informing him of Mr. Primakov’s appointment. In another exchange, Mr. Dmitrenko told Mr. Alay that Mr. Primakov’s elevation “puts him in a very good position to activate things between us.”

Mr. Alay also confirmed meeting Andrei Bezrukov, a decorated former officer with Russia’s foreign intelligence service. For more than a decade, Mr. Bezrukov and his wife, Yelena Vavilova, were deep cover operatives living in the United States using the code names Donald Heathfield and Tracey Foley.

It was their story of espionage, arrest and eventual return to Russia in a spy swap that served as a basis for the television series “The Americans.” Mr. Alay appears to have become close with the couple. Working with Mr. Dmitrenko, he spent about three months in the fall of 2020 on a Catalan translation of Ms. Vavilova’s autobiographical novel “The Woman Who Can Keep Secrets,” according to his encrypted correspondence.

Mr. Alay, who is also a college professor and author, said he was invited by Mr. Bezrukov, who now teaches at a Moscow university, to deliver two lectures.

Mr. Alay was accompanied on each of his trips by Mr. Dmitrenko, 33, a Russian businessman who is married to a Catalan woman. Mr. Dmitrenko did not respond to requests for comment. But Spanish authorities have monitored him and in 2019 rejected a citizenship application from him because of his Russian contacts, according to a Spanish Ministry of Justice decision reviewed by The Times.

The decision said Mr. Dmitrenko “receives missions” from Russian intelligence and also “does different jobs” for leaders of Russian organized crime.

A few months after Mr. Alay’s trips to Moscow, Catalonia erupted in protests.

A group calling itself Tsunami Democratic occupied the offices of one of Spain’s largest banks, closed a main highway between France and Spain for two days and orchestrated the takeover of the Barcelona airport, forcing the cancellation of more than a hundred flights.

The group’s origins have remained unclear, but one of the confidential police files stated that Mr. Alay attended a meeting in Geneva, where he and other independence activists finalized plans for Tsunami Democratic’s unveiling.

Three days after Tsunami Democratic occupied the Barcelona airport, two Russians flew from Moscow to Barcelona, the Catalan capital, according to flight records obtained by The Times.

One was Sergei Sumin, whom the intelligence report describes as a colonel in Russia’s Federal Protective Service, which oversees security for Mr. Putin and is not known for activities abroad.

The other was Artyom Lukoyanov, the adopted son of a top adviser to Mr. Putin, one who was deeply involved in Russia’s efforts to support separatists in eastern Ukraine.

According to the intelligence report, Mr. Alay and Mr. Dmitrenko met the two men in Barcelona for a strategy session to discuss the independence movement, though the report offered no other details.

Mr. Alay denied any connection to Tsunami Democratic. He confirmed that he had met with Mr. Sumin and Mr. Lukoyanov at the request of Mr. Dmitrenko, but only to “greet them politely.”

Even as the protests faded, Mr. Puigdemont’s associates remained busy. His lawyer, Mr. Boye, flew to Moscow in February 2020 to meet Vasily Khristoforov, whom Western law enforcement agencies describe as a senior Russian organized crime figure. The goal, according to the report, was to enlist Mr. Khristoforov to help set up a secret funding channel for the independence movement.

In an interview, Mr. Boye acknowledged meeting in Moscow with Mr. Khristoforov, who is wanted in several countries including Spain on suspicion of financial crimes, but said they only discussed matters relating to Mr. Khristoforov’s legal cases.

By late 2020, Mr. Alay’s texts reveal an eagerness to keep his Russian contacts happy. In exchanges with Mr. Puigdemont and Mr. Boye, he said they should avoid any public statements that might anger Moscow, especially about the democracy protests that Russia was helping to disperse violently in Belarus.

Mr. Puigdemont did not always heed the advice, appearing in Brussels with the Belarusian opposition and tweeting his support for the protesters, prompting Mr. Boye to text Mr. Alay that “we will have to tell the Russians that this was just to mislead.”

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Intelligence Chiefs Warn of Russian Troops Near Ukraine and Other Threats

WASHINGTON — The Russian military buildup at the Ukraine border and in Crimea could provide enough forces for a limited military incursion, the C.I.A. director, William J. Burns, told senators on Wednesday as he and other senior officials outlined a range of threats facing the United States.

Russia could simply be sending a signal to the United States or trying to intimidate the Ukrainian government, but it had the abilities in place to do more, Mr. Burns told the Senate Intelligence Committee.

“That buildup has reached the point that it could provide the basis for a limited military incursion, as well,” Mr. Burns said. “It is something not only the United States but our allies have to take very seriously.”

Mr. Burns testified alongside Avril D. Haines, the director of national intelligence, and other officials about an array of threats from global powers like Russia and China as well as challenges that have been less of a focus of intelligence agencies in the past, including domestic extremism and climate change.

annual threat assessment report, released Tuesday ahead of the hearing, the intelligence community said that China’s push for global power posed a threat to the United States through its aggression in its region, its expansion of its surveillance abilities and its attempts to dominate technological advances.

Russia has also pushed for a sphere of influence that includes countries that were part of the Soviet Union, like Ukraine, the report said.

Both China and Russia, however, wanted to avoid direct confrontation with the United States, the report said.

Mr. Burns said the Russian actions have prompted internal briefings as well as consultations with allies. President Biden’s call on Tuesday to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia was intended to “register very clearly the seriousness of our concern,” Mr. Burns said.

The United States has been tracking the Russian troops for some time, at least since late March. American officials have said privately that the Russians have done little to hide their troop buildup, unlike in 2014 when they first attacked Ukraine. That has convinced some, but not all, officials briefed on the intelligence that the Russian activities may be mostly for show.

penetrated nine federal agencies, and another by China that compromised Microsoft Exchange servers. The Biden administration is expected to respond to the Russian hacking soon, most likely with sanctions and other measures.

Ms. Haines said Russia used hackings to sow discord and threaten the United States and its allies. “Russia is becoming increasingly adept at leveraging its technological prowess to develop asymmetric options in both the military and cyberspheres in order to give itself the ability to push back and force the United States to accommodate its interests,” she said.

Lawmakers also raised the issue of a series of mysterious episodes that have injured diplomats and C.I.A. officers overseas. Some former officials believe Russia is behind the episodes, which they have called attacks.

Mr. Burns said he was working with his colleagues to ensure better medical care for C.I.A. officers. He also said he was working to “get to the bottom of the question of what caused these incidents and who might have been responsible.”

Questions on China dominated the earlier Senate confirmation hearings for Ms. Haines and Mr. Burns, and lawmakers again pressed on Wednesday for assessments on China and its efforts to steal American technology. Ms. Haines outlined how China uses technological might, economic influence and other levers of power to intimidate its neighbors.

“China is employing a comprehensive approach to demonstrate its growing strength and compel regional neighbors to acquiesce to Beijing’s preferences,” she told senators.

another recent intelligence report, on global trends, highlighted how the coronavirus pandemic and climate change, along with technological change, were testing “the resilience and adaptability” of society. The “looming disequilibrium,” she said, compels intelligence agencies to broaden their definition of national security.

But at least one lawmaker, Senator Richard M. Burr, Republican of North Carolina, also asked a more practical question: How many intelligence officers have received coronavirus vaccines?

Mr. Burns said 80 percent of the C.I.A. work force was fully vaccinated and another 10 percent have had their first shot. He said all C.I.A. officers serving overseas “have the vaccine available to them directly.”

Mr. Wray was unable to give an estimate of how many of his agents had received a shot, saying that the vaccination rates varied in field offices in different states. Ms. Haines said 86 percent of her work force had had at least one shot, with a “fair percentage” being fully vaccinated. General Nakasone also had no estimate but said a vaccination center had been set up at Fort Meade, Md., where the National Security Agency’s headquarters is.

Lawmakers have also been pressing intelligence agencies to help examine the problem of domestic extremism. Senator Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia and the chairman of the intelligence committee, linked the rise of domestic extremism to the same trends promoting disinformation produced by Russia and others. And he said he wanted the intelligence chiefs to outline how they could help provide better warnings of potential violence like the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

“go back to school.” Mr. Trump’s last director of national intelligence, John Ratcliffe, chose not to release a threat assessment or testify before Congress last year.

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John Kerry Heads to China to Talk Climate

President Biden’s climate envoy, John Kerry, was set to arrive in China on Wednesday, the first Biden administration official to visit the country at a moment of high diplomatic tensions.

In its formal announcement of the trip, the State Department said that Mr. Kerry would “discuss raising global climate ambition” ahead of a virtual climate summit that President Biden plans to host for dozens of world leaders later this month. The summit’s goal is to prod countries to do more to reduce carbon emissions and limit planetary warming by 1.5 degrees Celsius, a threshold scientists argue is needed to avert catastrophic changes to life on the planet.

President Biden has invited China’s leader, Xi Jinping, to the summit, but Mr. Xi has not yet accepted the invitation. His participation in an American diplomatic initiative, were it to happen, would be a significant sign of China’s willingness to work with the United States despite rising tensions over sanctions and other measures the new administration has taken in coordination with its allies.

Mr. Kerry’s visit to China underscores the Biden administration’s intent to cooperate with China on shared challenges, including climate, the coronavirus and nuclear proliferation even as the countries are locked in an increasingly fraught political, technological and military competition.

Hong Kong and Xinjiang, and its military operations near Taiwan and in the South China Sea.

In a move likely to anger Beijing, the State Department also announced on Tuesday that a delegation of former American officials, including two former deputy secretaries of state, would visit Taiwan as a “personal signal” of Mr. Biden’s commitment to the island democracy, which Beijing claims as part of its territory. Chinese officials have sharply criticized the administration’s signals of support for Taiwan.

Mr. Biden has made clear that he sees China as a leading strategic threat to America. At a testy diplomatic summit in Anchorage last month, senior Chinese and American officials traded sharply critical assessments of each other’s policies.

The visit by Mr. Kerry comes after the release of a major annual intelligence report on Tuesday that warned China’s effort to expand its growing influence represents one of the largest threats to the United States. China’s strategy, according to the report, is to drive wedges between the United States and its allies. The report also identified climate change as a growing threat to the United States.

Biden officials understand that effectively tackling climate change requires cooperation from China, the world’s top emitter of greenhouse gas. As secretary of state in the Obama administration, Mr. Kerry himself helped to secure China’s agreement to join the 2015 Paris Climate accords.

specific new targets for reducing emissions. He pledged last year to speed up the point when emissions peak in China, which had previously been in 2030, and to reach “carbon neutrality” by 2060 — meaning that the country would emit no more emissions than it takes from the atmosphere by planting forests or engineering.

Environmentalists cheered those goals, but later expressed disappointment that the Chinese government did not detail how to reach them when they unveiled a new five-year economic plan in March.

At the same time, China has continued to approve new coal plants, one of the leading sources of carbon emissions, prioritizing social stability and economic development of an important industry at home.

Thom Woodroofe, an analyst at the Asia Society Policy Institute who is studying Chinese-American climate cooperation, said at a talk last month that both countries seemed to want to insulate the issue of climate change from their other disputes.

“From China’s perspective, there’s a recognition that they have more to gain than lose from finding a way to cooperate with the United States on climate,” he said.

While President Trump was in the White House, China raised its profile as a leading player in climate change policy. “With Biden’s inauguration, they don’t simply want that position to be swept aside,” he said.

Chris Buckley contributed reporting and Claire Fu contributed research.

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China Poses Biggest Threat to U.S., Intelligence Report Says

This year’s report offers a far more robust discussion of the national security implications of climate change, whose threats, for the most part, are long term, but can also have short-term consequences, the report said.

“This year, we will see increasing potential for surges in migration by Central American populations, which are reeling from the economic fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic and extreme weather, including multiple hurricanes in 2020 and several years of recurring droughts and storms,” the report said.

It adds that the economic and political implications of the coronavirus would reverberate for years, predicting that the economic damage would worsen instability in a few countries, though it does not name them.

Combined with extreme weather caused by climate change, the report says the number of people worldwide experiencing acute hunger will rise to 330 million this year from 135 million. The report says that the pandemic has disrupted other health services, including polio vaccinations and H.I.V. treatments in Africa.

Typically, the director of national intelligence delivers the threat assessment to Congress and releases a written report alongside it. But no declassified assessment was issued last year, as the Trump administration’s intelligence agencies sought to avoid angering the White House.

In 2019, Dan Coats, then the director of national intelligence, delivered an analysis of threats from Iran, North Korea and the Islamic State that was at odds with President Donald J. Trump’s views. The testimony prompted Mr. Trump to lash out on Twitter, admonishing his intelligence chiefs to “go back to school.”

Avril D. Haines, the director of national intelligence; William J. Burns, the C.I.A. director; and other top intelligence officials will testify about the report on Wednesday and Thursday.

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U.S. Intelligence Report Warns of Global Consequences of Social Fragmentation

Income inequality could grow worse, the report said, tying it at times to information inequality.

The “trust gap” between an informed public that has faith in a government solution and a wider public with deep skepticism of institutions is growing, the report said.

The problem is made worse by technology. Algorithms, social media and artificial intelligence have replaced expertise in deciding what information spreads most widely, and that has made the public more vulnerable to misinformation.

Still, positive demographic changes in recent decades, with people moving out of poverty and into the middle class, had creating “rising expectations,” said Maria Langan-Riekhof, the director of the intelligence council’s strategic futures group. But fears of falling income across the globe are growing, a worrisome trend when coupled with changes in how information is shared and social divisions have deepened.

“Those concerns are leading people to look for the security of trusted voices, but also of like-minded groups within their societies,” Ms. Langan-Riekhof said. “Overlay those trends I’m describing, and you kind of see that recipe for greater divisions, increasing fracturing. We think that is likely to continue and probably worsen.”

Over time, the report said, these trends could weaken democratic governments.

“At the same time that populations are increasingly empowered and demanding more, governments are coming under greater pressure from new challenges and more limited resources,” the report said. “This widening gap portends more political volatility, erosion of democracy and expanding roles for alternative providers of governance. Over time, these dynamics might open the door to more significant shifts in how people govern.”

The global trends report has often looked at possible future situations. In the 2017 report, one example contemplated a pandemic plunging the world into economic chaos. It envisioned nationalistic politicians eroding alliances, a drop in oil prices causing calamity and more isolationist trade practices. It also forecast a pandemic (albeit in 2023, not 2020), which restricted travel, caused economic distress and exacerbated existing trends toward isolation.

The report has discussed the risk of a pandemic for nearly two decades, said Gregory F. Treverton, a former chairman of the National Intelligence Council who helped lead the 2017 effort. The 2004 report said some experts believed it was “only a matter of time” before a pandemic, he said.

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