Charlottesville & Russian influence, & ops, in the US

Russia’s Media Messengers

Russia uses a ratio of 4:1 in “soft power”, which involves paying articulate opportunists to speak secretly on Russia’s behalf, to sway people against things such as the essential tenants of democracy and/or against restrictions on Russia such as NATO.

Various speakers on RT are chosen because they often have these viewpoints.  Where they are actually paid by Russia, or were just influenced by thinkers or propaganda that originated in Russia is difficult to prove.  What you can easily tell though, is why they were chosen.

David Icke has essential summed up his message once by saying that the Mainstream Media is a false, scripted, show designed to distract us from what is really happening in government.  This is an extreme version of the belief that Russia would prefer its targeted viewers believe because it discredits the press.  The press is essential to a healthy democracy and preventing abuse of power from authoritarian figures such as Putin.

Conspiracy thinking is preferred because it ultimately gets the people to live in a mindset along the lines of ‘you can’t really know what’s going on,’ and susceptible to online propaganda.  They become conditioned to gauge news not by the credibility of the source, but of the level of exposing an interesting conspiracy that the news source is presenting to them.   These national enquirer type of headlines are employing are often persuasive clickbait and allow exploit partisan bias.  They demonize political ‘enemies’ and even seek to hard intelligence agencies such as the FBI and CIA.

A Must Read from Molly McKew

This is a Must Read from Molly McKew

http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/06/11/forget-comey-the-real-story-is-russias-war-on-america-215245

Key Points:

“The starkest aspect of Comey’s prepared statement was the president’s lack of curiosity about the long-running, deep-reaching, well-executed and terrifyingly effective Russian attack on American democracy. This was raised more than once in the hearing — that after Trump was briefed in January on the intelligence community’s report, which emphasized ongoing activity directed by the Kremlin against the United States, he has not subsequently evinced any interest in what can be done to protect us from another Russian assault. The president is interested in his own innocence, or the potential guilt of others around him — but not at all in the culpability of a foreign adversary, or what it meant. This is utterly astonishing.

Since the January intelligence report, the public’s understanding of the threat has not expanded. OK, Russia meddled in the election — but so what? Increasingly, responsibility for this is borne by the White House, which in seeking to minimize the political damage of “Trump/Russia” is failing to craft a response to the greatest threat the United States and its allies have ever faced.

Even if the president and his team were correct, and the Comey testimony definitively cleared the president of potential obstruction of justice or collusion charges — even if that were true, that does not also exonerate Russia. Nonetheless, this is a line the president seems to want drawn.

So here are the real issues — about Russia; about the brutal facts we have yet to face; and about some hard questions we need to ask ourselves, and our political leaders, and our president.

No matter what is true or not, we have moved toward the fractured, inward-looking, weakened America that President Putin wants to see.

An honest assessment of where we are reads like the setting of a dystopian spy novel. Paid advertising is defaming private American citizens viewed as opponents of the president, while political ads praise our glorious leader. The policy process is paralyzed while both party caucuses, once well-oiled legislative and messaging machines, have factionalized into guerrilla-like cells. The same can be said of many government agencies, whose halls remain quiet, awaiting political appointees who may never arrive. Policies are floated and tweeted and drafted and retracted. There are uneasy relationships between the White House and the intelligence community, and between the White House and Congress, and between the White House and other parts of the White House — which is bleeding over into how the intelligence community interacts with the Congress, as well.

This factionalization mirrors a deep and deepening public divide, which has been greatly accelerated by a war on truth. The Russian narrative is increasingly being echoed by far right media, and finding its way into mainstream conservative media. Episodes of violent unrest, and the potential for wider chaos, don’t seem far off.

Meanwhile, no one seems to be watching what Russia is still doing to us. No one is systematically speaking about the tactics of Russian hybrid warfare, and that these go beyond “fake news” and “hacking” into far-reaching intelligence operations and initiatives to destabilize Western countries, economies and societies.

..

Our relationships with our truest allies are frayed and fraying — and not just in headlines, but in trust and intelligence sharing and functionality, even as critical ambassadorships and administration jobs gape open. Those who remain, especially from the Pentagon and military commands — Defense Secretary James Mattis and the EUCOM and SOCOM commanders, notably — have been patrolling Europe with trips and reassurances, good work that was undone when the president removed mention of Article 5 from his speech at NATO headquarters. Though he committed to the principle of collective defense on Friday during a news conference with the president of Romania, that one act of petulance is devastating to years of NATO’s strategic planning.

Even behind closed doors, Trump reportedly did not once mention Russia to the NATO heads of state — not to discuss Russian attacks against our allies, and not to discuss Russia’s menacing of NATO skies, seas and borders. Instead, he browbeat our allies. Maybe it’s news to the White House — but it was Russia’s aggression, not Trump’s hectoring, that inspired the alliance to boost national military spending. Days later, the sting still on the slap, Trump lashed out at the mayor of London following a terror attack. These words and images, next to those of the president yukking it up in the Oval Office with the Russian foreign minister, add a dangerous element of fragility to the greatest military alliance in history.

It leaves us to wonder — who does President Trump imagine will come to our aid after the next attack on our soil? Who does he imagine will stand next to our troops and ease the burden at the front lines in the many wars he is fighting?

An isolationist America that is softer on Russia and more in favor of authoritarian traits in leaders fits right into the narratives that the Kremlin nurtures and spends billions to promote. And if views changed so dramatically on these aspects of Russian narratives — why is it we believe their efforts didn’t change any votes?

In many ways, the trust-based, state-based U.S. voting system is surprisingly resilient to basic hacking or meddling. Every state, sometimes every county, runs its own elections with its own rules with its own machines (or not) serviced by their own vendors. Certainly, there are easy ways to hack this infrastructure — technicians servicing software, unsecured machines, etc. — but the decentralized system makes it a complicated affair. It’s uncertain and it’s messy and it would leave a trail of money and evidence that can be found and exposed.

Far simpler, it turns out, is just hacking people — getting them to change their views over time without realizing that they are doing so on the basis of deliberately coercive and false information that is targeted at them because they exhibit certain traits and habits that “data scientists” have profiled. And no one can prove anyone did anything.

And yes, this is indeed terrifying. So yes, it would be great if everyone would move on from denying the existence of the “hacked votes” no one is looking for to looking instead at the far more important issue: that Russian information warfare has come of age thanks to social media. Perhaps then, the tens of thousands of “programmers” working for Russia’s three largest data companies will make a lot more sense.

3. It will happen again; it is still happening now.

One final point, on the tactical weaponization of discrete pieces of information. Ours was not the only case where hacking introduced info or disinfo that came to dominate specific parts of the information space (particularly when massively amplified by botnets that know how to game the algorithms).

So this is where we are, six months after first taking stock of what Russia did to America. We are paralyzed and divided, watching a salacious sideshow of an investigation while Russian initiatives are underway in countless places, completely unchecked. The American president, eager to be rid of this “cloud,” has equated dismissing Russia’s global imperialist insurgency with loyalty to him.

As I wrote for Politico in January, Russia is clear about what its objectives are. When I said then that Russia was at war with the United States, this was an edgy, controversial view. Now, it is regularly repeated by senators and TV commentators. But our societal understanding of the war we face has not expanded fast enough.

Cz4qbMOXUAAsLSI

Even looking only at the advance of Russian military assets — men, materiel, supporting infrastructure — the picture is grim. And yet the most concise encapsulation of the Russian concept of hybrid warfare — the above chart depicting the “Gerasimov doctrine,” developed by the Russian chief of the general staff — shows that information warfare is the constant through all phases, and that the ideal ratio of nonmilitary to military activities is 4:1. The more important war is, by far, the shadow war. And yet we still refuse to accept what’s happening.

I don’t know why we just choose not to believe what Russia says, when they have repeatedly outlined what their strategic goals are and then moved to achieve them by force and guile. But it’s a bridge of disbelief we need to be willing to cross.

The war is in the shadows. And, right now, Russia is winning. There is only one question that we should be asking: What are we going to do to protect the American people from Russian acts of war — and why doesn’t the president want to talk about it?

Louise Mensch

Some of the left on twitter is being steered away from trusting the MSM by one of Rupert Murdoch’s employees.  She is an far right blogger who used to write for a Murdoch owned UK version of Brietbart and there are articles about how she mysteriously have 10s of 1000s of ‘bot’ followers against her will in 2011.  Before she took on role assignment she deleted 1000s of her far right tweets.  In 2006 under her maiden name she was apparently paid by Russia to write novels romanticizing the ‘glory’ of Soviet Russia.  This already shows she is potentially an opportunist.  Right wing opportunists are frequently targeted by Russia.

Believe it or not, Russia does invest in literature with pro-Russia bents and even art galleries and require them to have Russian sympathies.  This is known as ‘soft power.’  My theory is that she attaches herself to anti-Trump figures who have sources inside the intelligence community but mixes in far-fetched outcomes and conspiracies with their scoops in her own reporting.  She is somewhat exposed here. She is married to the tour manager of Metallica who’s front man frequents Moscow for hunting is also Right Wing.

She may just be British and therefore make leaps and assumptions about democracy, courts, due process etc., that cause her to be in error.  And she may just over hype events as having more significance than they do.  And I don’t disagree that much of the GOP may be paid for by Koch and Russian money and investigated by Evan McMullin.  But the psychological effect on many is that they do not feel urgency to express dissent because they feel like Trump will be arrested any moment.  Widespread dissent through demonstrations and activism’s is Putin and Trump’s biggest fears.  Putin’s Continue reading “Louise Mensch”

Russia is Still Hacking Us

First, a little background. Vladimir Putin took power in Russia in 1999, and yet he is still in power today, by developing an ongoing sophisticated operation against their democracy, with the help of think tanks and cutting edge psychological warfare. In Russia all institutions serve the government’s ends, in a autocracy there is a singularity of purpose at that level.  The west has severely underestimated their abilities.  Not content with unchallenged power over Russia, Putin has targeted Crimea, Ukraine, Georgia and Estonia and others at times.  The success thus far in targeting America is remarkable, but it is indicative of the amount of time and resources and technology they have put into it, as well as the lack of integrity of some Americans.  Politico: “Rarely has the goal been to install overtly pro-Russian governments. Far more often, the goal is simply to replace Western-style democratic regimes with illiberal, populist, or nationalist ones.”  (An illiberal democracy, also called a partial democracy, low intensity democracy, empty democracy, or hybrid regime, is a governing system in which, although elections take place, citizens are cut off from knowledge about the activities of those who exercise real power because of the lack of civil liberties.)

Putin has and does still fear the people revolting against him.  We know now Russia invests millions into Americans betray their country for Russian interests.  They also often hack them and use means of blackmail to control them in a reward/threat system.  But these Americans don’t mostly become spies, many take on various roles as media messengers and promote Russia’s desired messages.  The messages on the surface may not even have anything to do with Russia.  They can be (often extreme) left or right political positions, or expressing favor to candidates that favor Russian interests, third party candidates, or influencing people against NATO or for an “alliance” with Russia (not a thing) and so on.  I expose an example here.

First we must understand our current context.  We have so much proof of Putin seeming to control Trump.  One of the most damning things is that Paul Ryan has, on a leaked recording, warned against leaking the information that Trump is paid by Putin.  Recently the Russian Embassy threatened Trump to lift sanctions and within days the administration was discussing how it might be done.

We don’t know how many investors from the Koch Brothers to various international banks to Russian mafia state figures Trump has.  He seems to be serving many masters.  But Putin seems to have the most control over his actions.  Sure Putin wants to end Russian Sanctions and End NATO, but for Putin to stay in power, he cannot have the USA demonstrating to his Russia how great democracy and free press are.  To paraphrase Politico’s Molly McKew: He needs to show them what he has been saying all along, you don’t want to have what they have in the US, look at their chaos, would you want to live in that? Look at the division.  The result is that Russia does’t have robust debate, and doesn’t have democracy.  Already we have abandoned our role as leader of the free world, enforcer of human rights and beacon of government transparency.  I believe Putin has to be continually evaluating ways Trump can be a means to the end of liberal democracy.

From Molly McKew’s latest:An isolationist America that is softer on Russia and more in favor of authoritarian traits in leaders fits right into the narratives that the Kremlin nurtures and spends billions to promote.”

Consider that Trump is often behaving like a dictator, an autocrat, not unlike Putin.  However he is continually frustrated by checks on his power and his supporters are getting frustrated with democracy as well.  This is by design. Russia has been using Psychological Operations or Psy-Ops to condition them to desire Trump as a cult-like figure who should not be restrained and who can do no wrong.  Psychologists have studied whether there is a part of the brain that can be manipulated to want such a figure, I imagine we are behind Russia in this field, not that we need develop it.  They have been using active measures on Facebook through “Facebook Pages” which pump targeted info into users’ feeds,  These have titles such as such as “I Support Donald Trump,” and “Watch This News.”  Each page like this has 100s of thousands of followers, some go into the millions, Facebook has now refused to moderate them after a brief campaign where they said they were investigating it.  These Pages continually pump news articles into user’s news feeds, and often the articles have no byline credited author and the webpage for the articles have odd titles like patriotnews.com or the thepoliticalinsider.com etc.

You may remember Rachel Maddow exposing this ‘Bernie Sanders’ Facebook Page as being run in Russia, still now well into the presidency.  There are many more of these types of pages that target all kinds of demographics and preferences, yet are built with Russian objectives.    Other ones which may be run by Trump affiliates are still using basic propaganda techniques mixed with cutting edge Russian Psy-ops.

While many of these are actually run out of Macedonia, but don’t think Russia isn’t behind this.  From GeekTime “For many in the US Intelligence Community,.. (the responsible party is the Kremlin). The Russian government has conducted similar disinformation campaigns against Western countries with real political consequences.  While the motive reported so far for sites in Macedonia has been generating click-based revenue, it is also true that many trolls generate revenue not by tricking bots, but by getting paid by an actual agency to flood the internet with fake news and run many fake sock-puppet accounts. They do this both for Russia’s own domestic propaganda efforts, and for foreign targets like the US and UK.

As Sweden debated a new military alliance with NATO last year, the country was suddenly flooded with misinformation that NATO would start stockpiling all its nuclear weapons there, or that Sweden would not be able to prevent NATO from using the country as a staging ground to launch a war with Russia  There were even reports that NATO troops would be immune from prosecution were they to commit crimes against Swedish citizens. Experts and Swedish government officials have pointed the finger at Moscow for poisoning the well of public discourse on the issue.”

The Election

If there has ever been a clarion call for vigilance and action against a threat to the very foundation of our democratic political system, this episode is it,” former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testified before Congress on May 8.  He was speaking of Russian attacks and influence through information warfare and the episode he was speaking of was the events of the 2016 election.  You may have noticed our country’s politics have been radically changed.  Russia’s strategy is said to be to amplify voices on the far-right and far-left to Continue reading “Russia is Still Hacking Us”