aside President’s Denial Of Russian Interfering With US Elections Is Hindering Solutions Being Implemented

I am so frustrated to keep learning about how Russia has been continuing to meddle into US internet systems and into our current politics, but because the republican President Donald Trump refuses to accept the fact that Russia did interfere bigly in our 2016 US presidential elections despite overwhelming evidence proving otherwise, that his sycophant republican lawmakers are choosing to ignore and to NOT address this issue with solutions.  They are guilty of not protecting our country from a foreign attack. What happened to their oath to protect this country’s national security interests?

Here is the rest of the story…

On December 25, 2017,  Adam Entous, Ellen Nakashima and Greg Jaffe of the Washington Post penned the following report, Kremlin trolls burned across the Internet as Washington debated options.”

Excerpts:

“The first email arrived in the inbox of CounterPunch, a left-leaning American news and opinion website, at 3:26 a.m. — the middle of the day in Moscow.”

Russia alleged that the U.S. was behind protests in Moscow in December 2011.
Russia alleged that the U.S. was behind protests in Moscow in December 2011

“Hello, my name is Alice Donovan and I’m a beginner freelance journalist,” read the Feb. 26, 2016 message.

“The FBI was tracking Donovan as part of a months-long counterintelligence operation code-named “NorthernNight.” Internal bureau reports described her as a pseudonymous foot soldier in an army of Kremlin-led trolls seeking to undermine America’s democratic institutions.”

Her first articles as a freelancer for CounterPunch and at least 10 other online publications weren’t especially political. As the 2016 presidential election heated up, Donovan’s message shifted. Increasingly, she seemed to be doing the Kremlin’s bidding by stoking discontent toward Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton and touting WikiLeaks, which U.S. officials say was a tool of Russia’s broad influence operation to affect the presidential race.

“There’s no denying the emails that Julian Assange has picked up from inside the Democratic Party are real,” she wrote in August 2016 for a website called We Are Change. “The emails have exposed Hillary Clinton in a major way — and almost no one is reporting on it.”

Editorial cartoon on Russia's election influence

“The events surrounding the FBI’s NorthernNight investigation follow a pattern that repeated for years as the Russian threat was building: U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies saw some warning signs of Russian meddling in Europe and later in the United States but never fully grasped the breadth of the Kremlin’s ambitions. Top U.S. policymakers didn’t appreciate the dangers, then scrambled to draw up options to fight back. In the end, big plans died of internal disagreement, a fear of making matters worse or a misguided belief in the resilience of American society and its democratic institutions.”

“One previously unreported order — a sweeping presidential finding to combat global cyberthreats — prompted U.S. spy agencies to plan a half-dozen specific operations to counter the Russian threat. But one year after those instructions were given, the Trump White House remains divided over whether to act, intelligence officials said.”

Editorial cartoon on Russia and Facebook

“This account of the United States’ piecemeal response to the Russian disinformation threat is based on interviews with dozens of current and former senior U.S. officials at the White House, the Pentagon, the State Department, and U.S. and European intelligence services, as well as NATO representatives and top European diplomats.”

Editorial cartoon on Donald Trump and Russian hacking

“Senior U.S. officials didn’t think Russia would dare shift its focus to the United States. “I thought our ground was not as fertile,” said Antony J. Blinken, President Barack Obama’s deputy secretary of state. “We believed that the truth shall set you free, that the truth would prevail. That proved a bit naive.”

“The Washington Post)With the 2018 elections fast approaching, the debate over how to deal with Russia continues. Many in the Trump White House, including the president, play down the effects of Russian interference and complain that the U.S. intelligence report on the 2016 election has been weaponized by Democrats seeking to undermine Trump.”

(Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
 “If it changed one electoral vote, you tell me,” said a senior Trump administration official, who, like others, requested anonymity to speak frankly. “The Russians didn’t tell Hillary Clinton not to campaign in Wisconsin. Tell me how many votes the Russians changed in Macomb County [in Michigan]. The Democrats are using the report to delegitimize the presidency.”

“Other senior officials in the White House, the intelligence community and the Pentagon have little doubt that the Russians remain focused on meddling in U.S. politics.”

“We should have every expectation that what we witnessed last year is not a one-shot deal,” said Douglas E. Lute, the former U.S. ambassador to NATO. “The Russians are onto something. They found a weakness, and they will be back in 2018 and 2020 with a more sophisticated and targeted approach.”

Editorial cartoon on Ronald Reagan and Russian hacking

Digital blitz

“The United States and the Soviet Union engaged in an all-out information battle during the Cold War. But the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, and the Bill Clinton administration and Congress in 1999 shuttered America’s preeminent global information agency.”

“When President Vladimir Putin came to power, Russia began searching for ways to make up for its diminished military. Officials seized on influence campaigns and cyberwarfare as equalizers. Both were cheap, easy to deploy and hard for an open and networked society such as the United States to defend against.”

Editorial cartoon on Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump

“Early warning signs of the growing Russian disinformation threat included the 2005 launch of RT, the Kremlin-funded TV network, and the 2007 cyberattacks that overwhelmed Estonia’s banks, government ministries and newspapers. A year later, the Kremlin launched a digital blitz that temporarily shut down Georgia’s broadcasters and defaced the website of its president.”

Closer to home for Americans, Russian government trolls in 2012 went after a U.S. ambassador for the first time on social media, inundating his Twitter account with threats.”

“But for U.S. officials, the real wake-up call came in early 2014 when the Russians annexed Crimea and backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. An intercepted Russian military intelligence report dated February 2014 documented how Moscow created fake personas to spread disinformation on social media to buttress its broader military campaign.”

Kremlin launched propaganda outfit RT in 2005 (Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

“The classified Russian intelligence report, obtained by The Washington Post, offered examples of the messages the fake personas spread. “Brigades of westerners are now on their way to rob and kill us,” wrote one operative posing as a Russian-speaking Ukrainian. “Morals have been replaced by thirst for blood and hatred toward anything Russian.”

“Officials in the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence branch, drafted the document as part of an effort to convince Kremlin higher-ups of the campaign’s effectiveness. Officials boasted of creating a fake Facebook account they used to send death threats to 14 politicians in southeastern Ukraine.”

“Five days into the campaign, the GRU said, its fake accounts were garnering 200,000 views a day.” 

Editorial cartoon on Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin and Russian hacking

“The Ukraine operation offered the Americans their first glimpse of the power of Russia’s post-Cold War playbook.”

“In March 2014, Obama paid a visit to NATO headquarters, where he listened as unnerved allies warned him of the growing Russia threat. Aides wanted to give the president options to push back.”

“In the White House Situation Room a few weeks later, they pitched him on creating several global channels — in Russian, Mandarin and other languages — that would compete with RT. The proposed American versions would mix entertainment with news programing and pro-Western propaganda.”

President Barack Obama speaks in Brussels (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)

“In the Situation Room that day was Richard Stengel, the undersecretary for public diplomacy at the State Department, who, like Obama, disliked the idea. “There were all these guys in government who had never created one minute of TV content talking about creating a whole network,” said Stengel, the former top editor at Time magazine. “I remember early on telling a friend of mine in TV that people don’t like government content. And he said, ‘No, they don’t like bad content, and government content sucks.’ ”

“So Stengel began to look for alternatives to counter the threat. Across Eastern Europe and Ukraine, Russian-language channels mixing entertainment, news and propaganda were spreading the Kremlin’s message. Stengel wanted to help pro-Western stations on Russia’s periphery steal back audiences from the Russian stations by giving them popular American television shows and movies.”

Image result for photos of Rick Stengel

“Shortly after Obama nixed the idea of American-funded networks, Stengel traveled to Los Angeles in the hope that a patriotic appeal to Hollywood executives might persuade them to give him some blockbusters free.”

“Stengel’s best bet was Michael M. Lynton, then the chairman of Sony Pictures, who had grown up in the Netherlands and immediately understood what Stengel was trying to do. He recalled how in the 1970s one Dutch political party sponsored episodes of “M.A.S.H.” to portray America as sympathetic to the antiwar movement. A rival party bought the rights to “All in the Family” to send the message that U.S. cities were filled with bigots like Archie Bunker.”

“But Sony’s agreements with broadcasters in the region prevented Lynton from giving away programming.”

Editorial cartoons on Donald Trump and Russian hackers

“Back in Washington, Stengel got Voice of America to launch a round-the-clock Russian-language news broadcast and found a few million dollars to translate PBS documentaries on the Founding Fathers and the American Civil War into Russian for broadcast in eastern Ukraine. He had wanted programming such as “Game of Thrones” but would instead have to settle for the likes of Ken Burns.”

“We brought a tiny, little Swiss Army knife to a gunfight.”

A counter-disinformation team

“The task of countering what the Russians were doing fell to a few underfunded bureaucrats at the State Department who journeyed to the CIA, the NSA, the Pentagon and the FBI searching for help and finding little.”

Editorial cartoon on Donald Trump and Russia

“U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies in the aftermath of 9/11 prioritized counter-terrorism. They worried about the legal peril of snooping on social media and inadvertently interfering with Americans’ communications. The State Department created a small team to tweet messages about Ukraine, but they were vastly outnumbered by the Russian trolls.”

“Frustrated U.S. officials concluded that the best information on Russia’s social media campaign in Ukraine wasn’t coming from U.S. intelligence agencies, but from independent researchers. In April 2015, Lawrence Alexander, a 29-year-old self-taught programmer who lived with his parents in Brighton, Britain, received an unexpected Twitter message from a State Department official who reported to Stengel.”

“Can you show what [the Russians] are swarming on in real time?” the official, Macon Phillips, asked. “Your work gave me an idea.”

Editorial cartoon on Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump

“A few months later, Phillips requested an in-person meeting. Phillips took the train to Brighton, where Alexander walked him through his research, which was spurred by his alarm over Putin’s intervention in Ukraine and his crackdown on gays and journalists.”

“Phillips’s ideas sprang from his work on Obama’s first presidential campaign, which used social media analytics to target supporters. One proposal now was to identify “online influencers” who were active on social media spreading Kremlin messages. Phillips wanted to use analytics to target them with U.S. counterarguments.”

“State Department lawyers, citing the Privacy Act, demanded guarantees that data on Americans using social media wouldn’t inadvertently be collected as part of the effort.”

Editorial cartoon on Vladimir Putin and 2016 presidential election and Russian hackers

“The pre-Internet law restricts the collection of data related to the ways Americans exercise their First Amendment rights. The lawyers concluded that it applied to tweets, leaving some State Department officials baffled.”

“When you tweet, it’s public,” said Moira Whelan, a former deputy assistant secretary for digital strategy. “We weren’t interested in Americans.”

“The lawyers’ objections couldn’t be overcome. ”

Zapping servers

“While Stengel and Phillips were struggling to make do with limited resources, the CIA, at the direction of Obama’s top national security advisers, was secretly drafting proposals for covert action.”

“Russia hawks in the administration wanted far-reaching options that, they argued, would convince Putin that the price he would pay for continued meddling in the politics of neighboring democracies would be “certain and great,” said a former official involved in the debate.”

Editorial cartoon on Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump and Soviet Union and Russia

“One of the covert options that officials discussed called for U.S. spy agencies to create fake websites and personas on social media to fight back against the Kremlin’s trolls in Europe. Proponents wanted to spread anti-Kremlin messages, drawing on U.S. intelligence about Russian military activities and government corruption. But others doubted the effectiveness of using the CIA to conduct influence operations against an adversary that operated with far fewer constraints. Or they objected to the idea of U.S. spies even doing counter-propaganda.”

“James R. Clapper Jr., the top spy in the Obama administration, said in an interview that he didn’t think the United States “should emulate the Russians.”

“Another potential line of attack involved using cyberweapons to take down Russian-controlled websites and zap servers used to control fake Russian personas — measures some officials thought would have little long-term effect or would prompt Russian retaliation.”

“The covert proposals, which were circulated in 2015 by David S. Cohen, then the CIA’s deputy director, divided the administration and intelligence agencies and never reached the national security cabinet or the president for consideration. Cohen declined to comment.”

Putin and Obama  (Andrew Harnik/AP)

“After top White House officials received intelligence in the summer of 2016 about Putin’s efforts to help Trump, the deadlocked debate over covert options to counter the Kremlin was revived. Obama was loath to take any action that might prompt the Russians to disrupt voting. So he warned Putin to back off and then watched to see what the Russians would do.”

“After the election, Obama’s advisers moved to finalize a package of retaliatory measures.”

 “The Obama administration had gone through an agonizing learning curve. The Russians, beginning in 2014, had hacked the State Department and the White House before targeting the Democratic National Committee and other political institutions. By the time U.S. officials came to grips with the threat, it was too late to act. Now they wanted to make sure NATO allies didn’t repeat their mistakes.”
Editorial cartoon on Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump and DNC emails

“Jens Stoltenberg, the NATO secretary general, gaveled the closed-door session to order, and the Americans ran through their 30-minute presentation. The Europeans had for years been journeying to Washington to warn senior U.S. officials about Russian meddling in their elections. The Americans had listened politely but didn’t seem particularly alarmed by the threat, reflecting a widely held belief inside the U.S. government that its democratic institutions and society weren’t nearly as vulnerable as those in Europe.”

“For the first time since the days after 9/11, the American officials in Brussels sounded overwhelmed and humbled, said a European ambassador in the room.”

Link to entire article: Kremlin trolls burned across the Internet as Washington debated options

Related: [Doubting the intelligence, Trump pursues Putin and leaves a Russian threat unchecked]

10 comments

    • Dear Suzanne,

      Our country’s democracy is under attack by Russia (past, present and future) and yet little is being done to combat this by our republican president and his republican sycophants in the US Congress.

      Thanks a million times over for all of your support and for this reblog.

      Hugs, Gronda

  1. Dear Mz. Gronda,
    As long as the GOP continues to be owned and controlled by Putin and his henchmen, there will be no reason for them to wish to see this problem cease! If anyone wishes to question my comment, then simply follow the money trail and you will soon see who owns the ranking members in the GOP. Party over country, money over party and personal gain above all else!

    • Dear Crustyolemothman,

      You could very well be right.

      But whatever the republicans reasons are, they have been addressing with commissions and taxpayer monies, a trumped-up issue that doesn’t exist, that of an individual committing voter fraud which has been proven to be an extremely rare event. They do this while they don’t deal or remedy the voting systems from being vulnerable to external manipulations.

      They are failing to protect US citizens from possibly having their votes stolen in the future because of their inaction.

      Simply put, they are not even attempting to do their jobs which is in part, to protect the American peoples.

      Hugs, Gronda

  2. Unfortunately for us, our so called “intelligence” community cannot release actual proof of Russian hacking and interference. This gives Trump the perfect excuse of denying Russian involvement, and his myriad business dealings with Russian banks and criminal oligarchs. I have zero respect for our inept agencies. What good is intelligence gathering when you cannot use the intel to protect one’s country from foreign attacks?

    The FBI/ CIA/ NSA are utterly useless! They certainly played a role in costing Hillary the election.

  3. Dear !EarthUnited,

    It is a fortunate fact that the vast majority of Americans do believe the intelligence reports that confirm that Russia did indeed hack democratic related websites.

    As per a January 2017 Pew Poll report, “An overwhelming share of the public (88%) has heard about allegations that Russia was involved in hacking the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign.”

    “Among those aware of the allegations, 72% say Russia was definitely or probably behind the hacks, compared with just 24% who think it was definitely or probably not involved.”

    It just so happens that the 24% translates into a significant number of republicans. But most Americans are not drinking the same kool-aid.

    It is a major error to lump those in the republican party who believe the president over the IC community with the vast majority of Americans who believe otherwise.

    Most Americans do not blame the IC community for Hillary Clinton’s loss.

    Hugs, Gronda

    • While I agreed with you that Russia did indeed interfere with our elections, and most Americans understand that fact, Trumpers are in denial and will demand actual proof, not just percentage of the public’s belief taken from an informal poll. As of date there has been no smoking gun, and Putin adamantly deny any involvement.

      So it’s “he said, she said” depending on your political affiliation. That’s why I’m so pissed at the Intelligence Community for withholding evidence that can blow this scandal wide open. I know SC Mueller is trying his best to gather all the incriminating evidence against Trump and his Russian state players/ contracted hackers/ Russian banksters/ lawyers/ criminal underground.

      Until then the Republican Party will blindly support their Fuhrer, all the while allowing Trump to continue causing untold damage to our democracy and nation. Yes most Americans do not blame the IC, yet Hillary emphatically accused James Comey as the primary factor for her loss to Trump, according to her new book.

      Let’s hope we don’t have to wait 50+ yrs for the FBI to declassify this case. Several generations have passed since the Kennedy assassination, at this point nobody cares who shot Kennedy (CIA) or that it was an inside job.

      Our 2016 election will forever be known as the point in history where America willingly gave up on it’s democracy and allowed a foreign agent/ Manchurian candidate to preside over the free world.

      • Dear !EarthUnited,

        Those who choose to believe that Russia didn’t meddle with our elections won’t be persuaded with evidence. So to try is a wasted effort.

        There is no way that the IC community will provide evidence because they do not want to risk exposing how we obtained the proof and we are not about share this with an adversary.

        That we did not do more to prevent Russia’s harm to our country is a cross we have to bear. But Americans have been educated to where Russia’s power to succeed with future propaganda campaigns will be diminished.

        We are living in the USA and not Russia. “We the people” still have the power to fight back and prevail.

        Hugs, Gronda

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