Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Today's Links

1--Are America's Wars Just and Moral? Pat Buchanan 


“One knowledgeable official estimates that the CIA-backed fighters may have killed or wounded 100,000 Syrian soldiers and their allies,” writes columnist David Ignatius.


Given that Syria’s prewar population was not 10 percent of ours, this is the equivalent of a million dead and wounded Americans. What justifies America’s participation in this slaughter?
Columnist Eric Margolis summarizes the successes of the six-year civil war to overthrow President Bashar Assad.
“The result of the western-engendered carnage in Syria was horrendous: at least 475,000 dead, 5 million Syrian refugees driven into exile in neighboring states (Turkey alone hosts three million), and another 6 million internally displaced. … 11 million Syrians … driven from their homes into wretched living conditions and near famine.

“Two of Syria’s greatest and oldest cities, Damascus and Aleppo, have been pounded into ruins. Jihadist massacres and Russian and American air strikes have ravaged once beautiful, relatively prosperous Syria. Its ancient Christian peoples are fleeing for their lives before US and Saudi takfiri religious fanatics.”

Realizing the futility of U.S. policy, President Trump is cutting aid to the rebels. And the War Party is beside itself. Says The Wall Street Journal:
“The only way to reach an acceptable diplomatic solution is if Iran and Russia feel they are paying too high a price for their Syria sojourn. This means more support for Mr. Assad’s enemies, not cutting them off without notice. And it means building up a Middle East coalition willing to fight Islamic State and resist Iran. The U.S. should also consider enforcing ‘safe zones’ in Syria for anti-Assad forces.”

Yet, fighting ISIS and al-Qaida in Syria, while bleeding the Assad-Iran-Russia-Hezbollah victors, is a formula for endless war and unending terrors visited upon the Syrian people.
What injury did the Assad regime, in power for half a century and having never attacked us, inflict to justify what we have helped to do to that country.

2-- European Union ‘Stands Ready to Act’ Over US Sanctions on Russia


(More sanctions could split the transatlantic alliance)

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker says he believes the EU stands “ready to act within days” if US sanctions are adopted without taking Europe’s concerns into account. This is particularly important if major German energy companies get targeted, as they are wholly dependent on Russia for natural gas


3--Say Goodbye to Regime Change in Syria, scott ritter


(US arms and trains al Qaida while US media sleeps)


President Donald Trump has ordered that the CIA begin to phase out its covert train-and-equip program in support of so-called “moderate” rebels fighting against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. ....


The train and equip mission of the CIA in Syria can be traced back to the spring of 2011, when a revolution broke out in Libya against the dictatorial rule of Muammar Gadhafi. Backed by NATO airpower, anti-regime fighters were able to establish control over large areas inside Libya. The CIA began a program to train and equip these fighters, supplying weapons to Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, who in turn shipped these weapons to Libya, where they were turned over to Libyan rebels...


In August 2011, in the aftermath of the capture of the Libyan capital of Tripoli by rebel forces, Qatar began diverting arms originally intended for Libya to Turkey, where they were turned over to rebel forces that had, since June of 2011, been fighting against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. These rebels were grouped together under the umbrella of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), an ostensibly secular resistance group that  was in reality controlled by the Syrian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist organization that had been crushed by Bashar al-Assad’s father back in the early 1980’, and was operating in exile in Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan. While the CIA was not directly involved in this activity, CIA personnel in Libya and Turkey monitored these shipments to make sure no sensitive weaponry, such as hand-help surface-to-air missiles, made their way into Syria. This effort, which involved billions of dollars of arms, including those provided by the United States for the express purpose of aiding Libyan rebels, continued through 2012 and into 2013...



From 2013 through 2015, Timber Sycamore oversaw the purchase of billions of dollars of modern weaponry from Balkan suppliers, primarily in Croatia, and their shipment to ports in Turkey and Jordan, where the CIA, working with Turkish and Jordanian intelligence agencies, trained and equipped thousands of rebel fighters from more than 50 groups inside Syria that had been vetted by the CIA.


4-- Why did Washington hate Hugo Chavez?



EG: I suppose Washington hated Chavez for many reasons. Of course the oil is a primary source of Washington’s aggressive attitude towards Chavez. Venezuela has the largest oil reserves on the planet and before Hugo Chavez was elected, governments were subservient to US interests. In fact, Venezuela was on the verge of privatizing its oil industry, along with everything else in the country, right when Chavez was elected. So the fact that a head of state sitting on the world’s largest oil reserves – which the US needs to maintain its excessive consumer model in the long term – would not be subordinate to US agenda was maddening for Washington.

Chavez not only reclaimed and transformed the oil industry to redistribute the wealth and ensure foreign corporations abided by the laws (paying taxes and royalties, for example), but he also nationalized other strategic resources in the country that the US had its hands in, such as gold, electricity and telecommunications. Clearly Chavez was a major thorn in Washington’s economic interests in the region. Once Chavez spearheaded the creation of Latin American integration and cooperation, that converged into organizations such as the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our Americas (ALBA), the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), as well as PetroCaribe, Telesur (the region’s first television network) and many more initiatives, Washington quickly began to lose influence in the region. This also led to more hostility towards Chavez, since he was the major leader and driving force behind Latin American independence and sovereignty in the XXI century.

Washington, and the Venezuelan elite, also couldn’t stand Chavez’s mannerisms and direct way of telling things like they are. He was afraid of nothing and no one and never stood down, he always remained firm and said what he believed, even if it wasn’t the diplomatically correct thing to say. And Washington hated him for bringing back the evil concept of socialism to today’s world. They tried to hard to rid the planet of anything remotely like communism in the XX century, so Chavez’s “Socialism of the XXI Century” was a slap in the face for old school Washington, which still holds the reigns in the US.



5--The media and the Democrats are lying; Russia did NOT hack the election. Here's the proof


Independent cyber-investigators have now completed the kind of forensic work that the intelligence assessment did not do. Oddly, the “hand-picked” intelligence analysts contented themselves with “assessing” this and “assessing” that. In contrast, the investigators dug deep and came up with verifiable evidence from metadata found in the record of the alleged Russian hack.
They found that the purported “hack” of the DNC by Guccifer 2.0 was not a hack, by Russia or anyone else. Rather it originated with a copy (onto an external storage device – a thumb drive, for example) by an insider. The data was leaked after being doctored with a cut-and-paste job to implicate Russia. We do not know who or what the murky Guccifer 2.0 is. You may wish to ask the FBI

It has long been clear to us that the reason the U.S. government lacks conclusive evidence of a transfer of a “Russian hack” to WikiLeaks is because there was no such transfer. Based mostly on the cumulatively unique technical experience of our ex-NSA colleagues, we have been saying for almost a year that the DNC data reached WikiLeaks via a copy/leak by a DNC insider (but almost certainly not the same person who copied DNC data on July 5, 2016).

Forensic studies of “Russian hacking” into Democratic National Committee computers last year reveal that on July 5, 2016, data was leaked (not hacked) by a person with physical access to DNC computers, and then doctored to incriminate Russia

After examining metadata from the “Guccifer 2.0” July 5, 2016 intrusion into the DNC server, independent cyber investigators have concluded that an insider copied DNC data onto an external storage device, and that “telltale signs” implicating Russia were then inserted.
Key among the findings of the independent forensic investigations is the conclusion that the DNC data was copied onto a storage device at a speed that far exceeds an Internet capability for a remote hack. Of equal importance, the forensics show that the copying and doctoring were performed on the East coast of the U.S. Thus far, mainstream media have ignored the findings of these independent studies [see here and here]....

Why the FBI neglected to perform any independent forensics on the original “Guccifer 2.0” material remains a mystery – as does the lack of any sign that the “hand-picked analysts” from the FBI, CIA, and NSA, who wrote the “Intelligence Community Assessment” dated January 6, 2017, gave any attention to forensics...

(2) a separate leak on July 5, 2016, to pre-emptively taint anything WikiLeaks might later publish by “showing” it came from a “Russian hack.”)

after WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange announced on June 12, 2016, “We have emails related to Hillary Clinton which are pending publication,” her campaign had more than a month before the convention to insert its own “forensic facts” and prime the media pump to put the blame on “Russian meddling.” Mrs. Clinton’s PR chief Jennifer Palmieri has explained how she used golf carts to make the rounds at the convention. She wrote that her “mission was to get the press to focus on something even we found difficult to process: the prospect that Russia had not only hacked and stolen emails from the DNC, but that it had done so to help Donald Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton.”

The Key Event
July 5, 2016: In the early evening, Eastern Daylight Time, someone working in the EDT time zone with a computer directly connected to the DNC server or DNC Local Area Network, copied 1,976 MegaBytes of data in 87 seconds onto an external storage device. That speed is many times faster than what is physically possible with a hack.

It thus appears that the purported “hack” of the DNC by Guccifer 2.0 (the self-proclaimed WikiLeaks source) was not a hack by Russia or anyone else, but was rather a copy of DNC data onto an external storage device. Moreover, the forensics performed on the metadata reveal there was a subsequent synthetic insertion – a cut-and-paste job using a Russian template, with the clear aim of attributing the data to a “Russian hack.” This was all performed in the East Coast time zone....

(The CIA has ability to make it look like cyber attacks are launched by a third party) the CIA reportedly used Marble during 2016. In her Washington Post report, Nakashima left that out, but did include another significant point made by WikiLeaks; namely, that the obfuscation tool could be used to conduct a “forensic attribution double game” or false-flag operation because it included test samples in Chinese, Russian, Korean, Arabic and Farsi....

Putin pointed out that today’s technology enables hacking to be “masked and camouflaged to an extent that no one can understand the origin” [of the hack] … And, vice versa, it is possible to set up any entity or any individual that everyone will think that they are the exact source of that attack.”
“Hackers may be anywhere,” he said. “There may be hackers, by the way, in the United States who very craftily and professionally passed the buck to Russia. Can’t you imagine such a scenario? … I can.”


6--Gabbard: Media misses point of CIA program Trump ended video


7--The use of children in the propaganda war


President Assad replied: “You cannot build your political position or stand, let’s say, according to a video promoted by the terrorists or their supporters. It’s a game now, a game of propaganda, it’s a game of media....Our mission as a government is to deal with the reality. You have terrorists in Syria, they are supported by foreign powers and foreign countries, and we have to defend our country.”


8--Will Washington get the boot?


"Here's the conundrum: We are operating in the sovereign country of Syria. The Russians, their stalwarts, their backstoppers have already uninvited the Turks from Syria. We're a bad day away from the Russians saying, 'Why are you still in Syria, US?'" Thomas said.
"If the Russians play that card, we could want to stay and have no ability to do it," he finally stated.


9--IMF global outlook downgrades US growth prospects


10--Washington's economic war on Russia continues--


there has been public criticism by the European Union of at least one provision in the sanctions bill, which bars companies from doing deals with Russian partners where the Russian company owns more than a one-third interest in the venture. This could potentially threaten the Nord Stream II pipeline between Russia and Germany, financed by several Western companies but owned by Russia’s Gazprom....

The congressional deal came the same weekend as the Aspen Institute conference on US national security at which former CIA Director John Brennan and former Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper denounced Trump for his supposed softness towards Russia and President Vladimir Putin.

Appearing at the same conference, Trump’s own appointees, CIA Director Mike Pompeo and DNI Dan Coats, said they agreed with the series of findings issued by the intelligence agencies that Russia had intervened in the US elections by hacking into Democratic Party servers and spreading anti-Clinton material on the Internet, in order to help Trump win the election.
Top White House aides are under increasing pressure from the congressional and Justice Department investigations into claims—so far unsupported by evidence—that there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election

11--Iran rejects US bases, but welcomes Russia--al Maliki: "Yes to Moscow, No to Washington


Iraqi Vice President Nouri al-Maliki has called for “substantial” Russian military and political presence in the terror-ravaged country, saying this would bring “balance” to the entire region.
“It’s well known that Russia has historically strong relations with Iraq, therefore we would like Russia to have a substantial presence in our country, both politically and militarily,” said the senior Iraqi official during a Monday meeting with speaker of Russia’s upper house of parliament, Valentina Matviyenko, in Moscow, RT reported.
“This way, a balance would be established that would benefit the region, its peoples and its countries” added Maliki, saying his country believes “in Russia’s role in solving most of the key international issues as well as improving stability and balance in our region and worldwide.”...

“The Iraqi society is against foreign military bases on the country’s territory,” al-Maliki noted, adding that he has already warned the Americans against “coming back to Iraq and setting up bases here.”


12--SDF And Syrian Military Make Secret Deal, Divide Spheres Of Influence In Deir Ezzor, Raqqah Provinces


13--The Democrats Are a Lost Cause


So what exactly is in Chuck’s stillborn (Republican president, Republican House, Republican Senate) Better Deal?
“Rules to stop prescription drug price gouging… allow regulators to break up big companies if they’re hurting consumers… giving employers, particularly small businesses, a large tax credit to train workers for unfilled jobs.”
These are good ideas.
But they’re so small.

14--Garbage democrats promise nothing


The bulk of Schumer’s op-ed focuses on small policy changes that would help working people, while also promising more dinky policy proposals to come — but then concludes that the Democrats lack the power to actually enact any of this. So let me understand: Trump threatens our economy, government, democracy, planet and global peace, and Democrats respond with small-bore policy talks focused on what they cannot achieve? No wonder people stay home from the polls.

15--Brennan's jihad 


If there was any doubt that the Deep State US intelligence agencies were working to overthrow President Trump, then look no further than former Obama CIA Director John Brennan’s statements at the Aspen Security Forum, moderated by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

John Brennan called for a soft coup against President Trump, should special counsel Mueller be fired.
Brennan urged US government officials to refuse to follow the president’s orders, if Mueller is dismissed, as those orders would be “inconsistent” with the duties of the executive branch.
“I think it’s the obligation of some executive branch officials to refuse to carry that out. I would just hope that this is not going to be a partisan issue. That Republicans, Democrats are going to see that the future of this government is at stake and something needs to be done for the good of the future.”

16--) It is now clear that some of the information that has been fed to the media by our old friends the “anonymous sources”during the Russiagate scandal is either grossly inaccurate or simply false, and Kushner’s statement provides two examples of this.
The “anonymous sources” have either invented two telephone conversations Kushner is supposed to have had with the Russians during the election campaign or else Reuters, which reported this story, has invented both it and them.
It is now also clear that the notorious meeting between Kislyak, Kushner and Flynn which took place in December has been totally misrepresented.

It seems that there was no discussion of setting up a ‘back channel’ between the Trump administration and the Kremlin was discussed during this meeting as our old friends the “anonymous officials” reported.  Rather there was a discussion – which went nowhere – about how the Russian military would convey a message to General Flynn about the situation in Syria.


16--Jared Kushner’s statement DEMOLISHES Russiagate



It is in fact clear that the main topic of the discussion between Kislyak, Kushner and Flynn – and I suspect of the equally notorious telephone conversations between Kislyak and Flynn which eventually caused Flynn’s resignation – was Syria.This makes total sense.  In October 2016 the US and Russian militaries faced off against each other in Syria, with the Russians deploying advanced anti aircraft missiles to Syria to deter any US attempt to intervene in the ongoing battle in eastern Aleppo.  The leaders of both the US and the Russian militaries have spoken repeatedly of the extreme tension during that time, when the world’s two most powerful militaries came closer to armed conflict with each other than they have done at any time since the Cuban Missile Crisis at the height of the Cold War...

In summary, Jared Kushner has provided what any reasonable person would accept as a thorough and comprehensive account of his dealings with the Russians both during the election and after it.
Not only does it show that he personally never colluded with the Russians at any point during the election about anything, but given his central role in the Trump campaign any reasonable person reading his statement would conclude that no one in the Trump campaign did either.   In Kushner’s own words
I did not collude, nor know of anyone else in the campaign who colluded, with any foreign government. I had no improper contacts. I have not relied on Russian funds to finance my business activities in the private sector

... we have the two documents which between them have generated the entirety of the Russiagate scandal.  These are the report from CrowdStrike claiming it was Russian intelligence which hacked the computers of John Podesta and the DNC, and the Trump Dossier, which was compiled though apparently not authored by Christopher Steele and Orbis.
Neither of these documents originates with any official agency of the US government or indeed of any other government.  Both are the products of private enterprise paid for by persons having or apparently having some connection to the Hillary Clinton campaign.
Both have however been treated as authoritative by believers in the Russiagate scandal, which it turns out includes many people within the US intelligence community, even though there are serious doubts about the methodology of the first, whilst the second is not merely uncorroborated but looks in large part invented.
Over and above these two inherently unreliable documents there is a mountain of uncorroborated leaks and innuendo, some of which as Kushner’s statement shows are simply wrong.

It says volumes about the collapse of intellectual integrity in the United States that most of the political class – including the entire Democratic Party and much of the intelligence community – still continues to believe the fantasies of these two documents, and will continue to do so, even after they have been provided with this clear and straightforward statement of fact by Jared Kushner, which shows the illogic and absurdity of what they say.


17--The 12 baseless claims that form Russiagate


(1) The Russians hacked the DNC’s and John Podesta’s computers and stole the emails they found there

No agency of the US government has examined these computers.  The only examination of the computers which has taken place, and the only investigation of the hacking allegation which has been carried out, has been the work of a private company – CrowdStrike – whose opinions the relevant US government agencies have simply accepted as true.
I have never come across such a situation before, where a police agency bases its conclusions not on its own investigations but entirely on the opinions of a private detective agency.

ultimately we only have the word of Hillary Clinton, the DNC, John Podesta and their paid contractor CrowdStrike that a hack took place at all.  Since the DNC and John Podesta refused to allow the FBI to examine their computers, the FBI cannot itself verify that there was in fact such a hack

Monday, July 24, 2017

Today's links

"No society can legitimately call itself civilized if a sick person is denied medical aid because of lack of means."  Nye Bevan, UK's National Health Service



No statutory basis for special counsel???

The terms 'special prosecutor', 'independent counsel', and 'special counsel' have the same fundamental meaning, and their use (at least at the federal level in the U.S.) is generally differentiated by the time period to which they are being applied. The term 'special prosecutor' was used throughout the Watergate era, but was replaced by the less confrontational 'independent counsel' in the 1983 reauthorization of the Ethics in Government Act.[5] Those appointed under that act after 1983 are generally referred to as 'independent counsels'. Since the independent counsel law expired in 1999, the term 'special counsel' has been used. This is the term used in the current U.S. government regulations concerning the appointment of special counsels...

Inspired in part by Watergate, in 1978 Congress passed the Ethics in Government Act, which among other things established formal rules for the appointment of a special prosecutor. The special prosecutor provisions in the bill were temporary, but were reauthorized by Congress in 1983 and 1987, expiring five years later in 1992, then were reinstated for another five years in 1994 before expiring again in 1999. The appointment of special prosecutors under the Ethics in Government Act varied in important ways from appointments made before and since. Most notably, although the decision to appoint a special prosecutor was still made by the attorney general, the actual selection of the special prosecutor was made by a three-judge panel

Special prosecutors have also been appointed under special one-time regulations issued by the attorney general. This was the case, for example, for the Watergate special prosecutors.

Passed partly in response to the events of Watergate, the Ethics in Government Act of 1978 created a statutory basis for the appointment of special prosecutors, and specifically restricted the authority of the president or attorney general, for example, to fire the independent counsel once appointed. The independent counsel provisions of the law were in effect during the periods 1978–1992 and 1994–1999.
With the expiration of the independent counsel authority in 1999, the Department of Justice under Attorney General Janet Reno promulgated regulations for the future appointment of special counsels. As of 2017, these regulations remain in effect as 28 CFR section 600.[6] While the regulations place limits on the authority of the attorney general, for example to fire the special counsel once appointed, they are internal Department of Justice regulations without an underlying statutory basis. It is thus unclear whether the limits these regulations place on the attorney general would prove binding in practice.

The attorney general sets the subject jurisdiction of the special counsel:
The jurisdiction of a Special Counsel shall be established by the Attorney General. The Special Counsel will be provided with a specific factual statement of the matter to be investigated. The jurisdiction of a Special Counsel shall also include the authority to investigate and prosecute federal crimes committed in the course of, and with intent to interfere with, the Special Counsel's investigation, such as perjury, obstruction of justice, destruction of evidence, and intimidation of witnesses; and to conduct appeals arising out of the matter being investigated and/or prosecuted.

Three special prosecutors have been fired before they had completed their investigations

Constitutionality[edit]

The appointment of a special prosecutor raises inherent separation of powers questions under the U.S. Constitution. Since the special prosecutor is a member of the executive branch, it has been argued that the special prosecutor is ultimately answerable to the president, and can therefore be fired by them. Richard Nixon, for example, argued that he could not be compelled by a subpoena issued by his own subordinate.
The constitutionality of the independent counsel law was affirmed by an 7–1 decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Morrison v. Olson.





1--Obama gives green light to propaganda--HR5736 Smith-Mundt Modernization Act & The Cointelpro Program


(the origins of domestic brainwashing for political objectives that run counter to an informed public and a free press)

"...to authorize domestic dissemination of information and material about the United States intended primarily for foreign audiences."


2--CIA Not Only Armed Terrorists in Syria they paid their salaries, Julian Assange


3--Yes, There Is a Government Troll Training Program


4--Quantitative Easing: the Most Opaque Transfer of Wealth in History


(wages stagnate while asset prices skyrocket)

“Central banks have flooded the global economy with cheap money since the financial crisis, yet global growth is still in the doldrums, particularly in Europe and Japan, which have both seen colossal stimulus packages thrown at the problem.” Even Forbes admits that QE has “largely failed in reviving economic growth”...

QE has had a similar effect on the global South: enriching the holders of assets at the expense of the ‘asset-poor’. Just as the influx of new money created bubbles in the housing and stock markets, it also created commodity price bubbles as speculators rushed to buy up stocks of, for example, oil and food..


It has been estimated that around 40% of the money generated by the Fed’s first QE credit expansion (‘QE1’) went abroad – mostly to the so-called ‘emerging markets’ of the global South – and around one third from QE2. However, this is not necessarily the great boon it seems. Much of the money went, as we have seen, into buying up commodity stocks (making basic items such as food unaffordable for the poor) rather than investing in new production, and much also went into buying up stocks of currency, again causing an export-damaging appreciation


5--What Americans really care about: Healthcare, jobs, terrorism, immigration, global warming....Russia (6%)  Top Political Issue Is Health Care, Not Russia: Poll


6--Tucker: Trump White House has lost control of its fate



7--US throwing in the towel? 


At the Aspen Security Forum on Friday, Special Operations Command chief Army General, Raymond Thomas was asked whether American forces will remain in Syria, after Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) is defeated, possibly, to support the Kurdish forces in the north of the country.
Thomas acknowledged that American forces are fighting in a sovereign Syria, where they will likely “have no ability to stay” if that presence is questioned “in terms of international law,” Thomas said, replying to the Washington Post journalist’s question....

Lavrov cited Turkish media reports of “ten US bases already having been set up in Syria” and pointed to the “hundreds of military bases of the United States all over the world.”

8--Blumenthal  says Dems are a "corporate sellout establishment that can’t agree on a big economic message

Blumenthal laid out the progressive case against “Russia hysteria.” His first point was that, by obsessing about the Russia scandal, Democrats are forfeiting the chance to outline a genuinely progressive alternative to Trump. For the “corporate sellout establishment that can’t agree on a big economic message, that doesn’t favor single payer [health care],” Blumenthal argued, “this is just convenient because this gives them a way of opposing Trump without having to do anything remotely progressive

9--Former US intelligence chiefs urge Congress, executive to defy Trump

By Patrick Martin
24 July 2017

In remarks that have no parallel since the emergence of the US national-security state after World War II, the two former leaders of the intelligence apparatus told a forum in Aspen, Colorado Friday that President Trump’s loyalty to the United States was in question. They suggested that executive branch officials should refuse to carry out his orders


The comments by former CIA Director John Brennan and former Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper came at an annual forum sponsored by the Aspen Institute that brings together the national security establishment. Present at the event were high-level representatives of the Trump administration, Congress and the media.


Brennan and Clapper were the featured speakers at a session moderated by Wolf Blitzer of CNN, a long-time conduit for the military-intelligence apparatus. The title of the session, “Under Assault,” was meant to convey the position of the United States in relation to supposed Russian government hacking of the 2016 US presidential election, and the alleged collaboration of the Trump campaign with Russia in efforts to defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton, the consensus favorite of the national-security elite.


Neither Brennan nor Clapper offered any proof of Russian intervention or Trump campaign collaboration. Instead, they relied on previous declarations by four US security agencies—the CIA, NSA, FBI and DNI—and the media campaign that has been fueled by incessant leaks from within these agencies to paint a picture of the Trump White House as a virtual outpost of Moscow....


Brennan went on to declare that if Trump attempted to fire Mueller as special counsel, Congress should “stand up and say enough is enough and stop making apologies and excuses for things that are happening that really flout, I think, our system of laws and government.” His ruling class audience gave him a round of applause.

Blitzer then asked what Congress could do about the firing of Mueller, since it is well within the powers of the president, and Brennan gave an astonishing response: “First of all, I think it’s the obligation of some executive branch officials to refuse to carry out some of these orders that again are inconsistent with what this country is about.”...


Trump heads the most reactionary administration in US history, committed to a program of persecuting immigrants, destroying critical social programs such as Medicaid and pouring trillions into tax cuts for the wealthy and an accelerated military buildup. His opponents—in the national-security establishment, the Democratic Party and the corporate media—are seeking to oust Trump, or at least cripple his administration, through methods of intrigue and provocation that resemble a palace coup.


Brennan and Clapper embody the right-wing, antidemocratic character of the opposition to Trump within the US political establishment. In his three decades with the CIA and his tenure on the White House staff, where he was antiterrorism coordinator and organizer of drone-missile assassinations for President Obama, Brennan was responsible for countless crimes carried out in the name of US “national security.”...


Among those in the audience at Aspen were several leading Republican congressmen, including Mac Thornberry, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, and Michael McCaul, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee. Several top Trump administration officials also addressed sessions of the weekend meeting, including CIA Director Mike Pompeo and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats.

None of these officials addressed the open call by Brennan to defy orders from Trump, or the statements by both Brennan and Clapper that Trump might be loyal to Moscow rather than Washington...


the Post was not engaged in investigative journalism, but rather in transcribing leaks from high-level intelligence sources opposed to the policies of the Trump administration. The newspaper cited “current and former US officials” who were familiar with the intelligence intercepts of communications between senior Russian officials in the United States and their superiors in Moscow.


10---US ends ban on 'domestic propaganda'


11--The media blackout of Seymour Hersh’s exposé on US missile strike against Syria


12--IRAQ: Vice President says Iraq’s survival was ensured by Russia’s role in Syria


13--Jill Stein sent out a tweet slamming the DNC saying, ‘Unlike the Dems, I didn’t sabotage Bernie Sanders in the primaries, then try to cover my tracks with ludicrous Russia conspiracy theories.” OUCH! Hey Jill Stein is on point with this tweet, but every broken clock is right twice a day




14--Brennan, Rice, Power -- Lock Them Up!


15--  There is no information suggesting that Veselnitskaya is herself an intelligence agent or an employee of the Russian government. But the new information adds to the intrigue surrounding the June 2016 encounter, in which Donald Trump Jr. met with what he was told was a "Russian government attorney" who could offer damaging information about Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.


NOTES---

  1. 10--Joshua Landis‏Verified account @joshua_landis Jul 23Most" arms being supplied to Syrian rebels were going to radicals - Washington knew this by mid-2012. Took 5 more years to shut down flow.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Today's Links

Russiagate--New frontiers of state propaganda--USG takes a more activist role in disseminating fake news that promotes geopolitical interests


QUOTE FROM BUZZFEED: The new law would give sweeping powers to the government to push television, radio, newspaper, and social media onto the U.S. public. “It removes the protection for Americans,” says a Pentagon official who is concerned about the law. “It removes oversight from the people who want to put out this information. There are no checks and balances. No one knows if the information is accurate, partially accurate, or entirely false.”

An amendment tagged on the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 would allow for the United States government to create and distribute pro-American propaganda within the country’s own borders....Such material may be made available within the United States and disseminated, when appropriate, pursuant to sections 502 and 1005 of the United States Information and Educational Exchange Act of 1948 (22 U.S.C. 1462 and 1437), except that nothing in this section may be construed to authorize the Department of State or the Broadcasting Board of Governors to disseminate within the United States any program material prepared for dissemination abroad on or before the effective date of section 1078 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013

Operation Mockingbird, the CIA’s long term effort to control the news, has shifted into overdrive.

Our enemies are using foreign propaganda and disinformation against us and our allies, and so far the U.S. government has been asleep at the wheel,” Portman said. “But today, the United States has taken a critical step towards confronting the extensive, and destabilizing, foreign propaganda and disinformation operations being waged against us by our enemies overseas. With this bill now law, we are finally signaling that enough is enough; the United States will no longer sit on the sidelines. We are going to confront this threat head-on. I am confident that, with the help of this bipartisan bill, the disinformation and propaganda used against us, our allies, and our interests will fail.”



1--(archive) The NDAA Legalizes The Use Of Propaganda On The US Public


The newest version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) includes an amendment that would legalize the use of propaganda on the American public, reports Michael Hastings of BuzzFeed.

The amendment — proposed by Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) and Adam Smith (D-Wash.) and passed in the House last Friday afternoon — would effectively nullify the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948, which explicitly forbids information and psychological operations aimed at influencing U.S. public opinion.


Lt. Col. Daniel Davis, who released a highly critical report regarding the distortion of truth by senior military officials in Iraq and Afghanistan, dedicated a section of his report to Information Operations (IO) and states that after Desert Storm the military wanted to transform IO "into a core military competency on a par with air, ground, maritime and special operations."


Davis defines IO as "the integrated employment of electronic warfare (EW), computer network operations (CNO), psychological operations (PSYOP), military deception (MILDEC), and operations security (OPSEC), in concert with specified supporting and related capabilities, to influence, disrupt, corrupt or usurp adversarial human and automated decision making while protecting our own."

IO are primarily used to target foreign audiences, but Davis cites numerous senior leaders who want to (in the words of  Colonel Richard B. Leap) "protect a key friendly center of gravity, to wit US national will" by repealing the Smith-Mundt Act to allow the direct deployment of these tactics on the American public.


Davis quotes Brigadier General Ralph O. Baker — the Pentagon officer responsible for the Department of Defense’s Joint Force Development (i.e. Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines) — who defines IO as activities undertaken to "shape the essential narrative of a conflict or situation and thus affect the attitudes and behaviors of the targeted audience" and equates descriptions of combat operations with standard marketing strategies: 


For years, commercial advertisers have based their advertisement strategies on the premise that there is a positive correlation between the number of times a consumer is exposed to product advertisement and that consumer’s inclination to sample the new product. The very same principle applies to how we influence our target audiences when we conduct COIN.


Davis subsequently explains the "cumulative failure of our nation’s major media in every category" as they continually interviewed only those senior U.S. officials who had top-level access, even as the officials given that clearance were required to stick to "talking points" given to them by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.


If the NDAA goes into effect in its current form, the State Department and Pentagon can go beyond manipulating mainstream media outlets and directly disseminate campaigns of misinformation to the U.S. public.


2--Congressmen Seek To Lift Propaganda Ban

Propaganda that was supposed to target foreigners could now be aimed at Americans, reversing a longstanding policy. "Disconcerting and dangerous," says Shank....


“I just don’t want to see something this significant – whatever the pros and cons – go through without anyone noticing,”
“ says one source on the Hill, who is disturbed by the law. According to this source, the law would allow "U.S. propaganda intended to influence foreign audiences to be used on the domestic population."

The new law would give sweeping powers to the government to push television, radio, newspaper, and social media onto the U.S. public. “It removes the protection for Americans,” says a Pentagon official who is concerned about the law. “It removes oversight from the people who want to put out this information. There are no checks and balances. No one knows if the information is accurate, partially accurate, or entirely false.”
According to this official, “senior public affairs” officers within the Department of Defense want to “get rid” of Smith-Mundt and other restrictions because it prevents information activities designed to prop up unpopular policies—like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Critics of the bill point out that there was rigorous debate when Smith Mundt passed, and the fact that this is so “under the radar,” as the Pentagon official puts it, is troubling.
The Pentagon spends some $4 billion a year to sway public opinion already, and it was recently revealed by USA Today the DoD spent $202 million on information operations in Iraq and Afghanistan last year. ...

In December, the Pentagon used software to monitor the Twitter debate over Bradley Manning’s pre-trial hearing; another program being developed by the Pentagon would design software to create “sock puppets” on social media outlets; and, last year, General William Caldwell, deployed an information operations team under his command that had been trained in psychological operations to influence visiting American politicians to Kabul.

A U.S. Army whistleblower, Lieutenant Col. Daniel Davis, noted recently in his scathing 84-page unclassified report on Afghanistan that there remains a strong desire within the defense establishment “to enable Public Affairs officers to influence American public opinion when they deem it necessary to "protect a key friendly center of gravity, to wit US national will," he wrote, quoting a well-regarded general.
The defense bill passed the House Friday afternoon.

3--U.S. Government Repeals Ban - Opens Floodgate to Mass Agitprop Meant for Domestic Consumption

One thing is crystal clear though, the blurring of the lines between truth and agitprop will now become even more opaque for an American audience that, for whatever reason, doesn't really make too much of an effort to stay informed. The potential for government misuse here is substantial. To me, it's just another in a series of concerted, subtle efforts by the U.S. government to control the retail dissemination of information in America.

4--Turley on Hastings--"a new law would give sweeping powers to the State Department and Pentagon to push television, radio, newspaper, and social media onto the U.S. public.” " archive 


The upshot, at times, is the Department of Defense using the same tools on U.S. citizens as on a hostile, foreign, population.


Hastings says that “the new law would give sweeping powers to the State Department and Pentagon to push television, radio, newspaper, and social media onto the U.S. public.” One Pentagon official who is concerned about the amendment told Hastings, “It removes the protection for Americans. It removes oversight from the people who want to put out this information. There are no checks and balances. No one knows if the information is accurate, partially accurate, or entirely false.” The official added that there are “senior public affairs” officers in the Department of Defense who would like to “get rid” of the Smith-Mundt Act “and other restrictions because it prevents information activities designed to prop up unpopular policies—like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”...


Michael Hastings:
The evaporation of Smith-Mundt and other provisions to safeguard U.S. citizens against government propaganda campaigns is part of a larger trend within the diplomatic and military establishment.
In December, the Pentagon used software to monitor the Twitter debate over Bradley Manning’s pre-trial hearing; another program being developed by the Pentagon would design software to create “sock puppets” on social media outlets; and, last year, General William Caldwell, deployed an information operations team under his command that had been trained in psychological operations to influence visiting American politicians to Kabul.

5--CIA Will Now Openly Propagandize Americans

“Among the chief executives who helped the CIA were William Paley of CBS, Henry Luce of Time, Arthur Sulzberger of the New York Times, Barry Bingham Sr. of the Louisville Courier-Journal, and James Copley of the Copley News Service,” write Amy Goodman and David Goodman in Unreality TV, The Mighty Wurlitzer, Hijacking Public Media, a chapter from the book Static: Government Liars, Media Cheerleaders, and the People Who Fight Back. “The leading TV networks, including ABC and NBC, and the wire services-AP, UPI, Reuters, along with Hearst Newspapers, Scripps Howard, Newsweek, the Miami Herald, and the Saturday Evening Post all had dealings with the spy agency. The CIA’s most valuable associations were with the New York Times, CBS, and Time Inc.”

This media penetration by the CIA is not merely a baseless conspiracy theory as some might argue, but is backed up by CIA office memos released under FOIA revealing the placement of “important assets” inside every major news organization in the country. “It was not until 1982 that the Agency openly admitted that reporters on the CIA payroll have acted as case officers to agents in the field,” writes Alex Constantine.

“Most consumers of the corporate media were – and are – unaware of the effect that the salting of public opinion has on their own beliefs,” Constantine continues. “A network anchorman in time of national crisis is an instrument of psychological warfare in the MOCKINGBIRD media. He is a creature from the national security sector’s chamber of horrors. For this reason consumers of the corporate press have reason to examine their basic beliefs about government and life in the parallel universe of these United States.”...

In fact, this “larger trend” has been in effect since the imposition of the National Security Act in 1947 and the establishment of the National Security Council, the principal forum used by the financial elite and their intelligence apparatus to dictate policy to the president of the United States and the State Department

6--The Washington Post published a “fake news” story on how the Russians used American websites to push anti-Hillary Clinton propaganda in the 2016 election....

The Washington Post reported on Thursday there are now scientific studies that show how the Russians influenced the 2016 election.

The flood of “fake news” this election season got support from a sophisticated Russian propaganda campaign that created and spread misleading articles online with the goal of punishing Democrat Hillary Clinton, helping Republican Donald Trump and undermining faith in American democracy, say independent researchers who tracked the operation.

Russia’s increasingly sophisticated propaganda machinery — including thousands of botnets, teams of paid human “trolls,” and networks of Web sites and social-media accounts — echoed and amplified right-wing sites across the Internet as they portrayed Clinton as a criminal hiding potentially fatal health problems and preparing to hand control of the nation to a shadowy cabal of global financiers. The effort also sought to heighten the appearance of international tensions and promote fear of looming hostilities with nuclear-armed Russia.

Two teams of independent researchers found that the Russians exploited American-made technology platforms to attack U.S. democracy at a particularly vulnerable moment, as an insurgent candidate harnessed a wide range of grievances to claim the White House. The sophistication of the Russian tactics may complicate efforts by Facebook and Google to crack down on “fake news,” as they have vowed to do after widespread complaints about the problem.
The Washington Post then cites the Propaganda or Not website as their source for the list of Russian propaganda sites.
The list includes several popular conservative websites:
The Drudge Report
Zerohedge
Infowars
Wikileaks
PrisonPlanet
American Lookout
(Gateway Pundit’s sister site)
The entire list is here and includes several conservative websites along with several satirical fake news websites.

7--Obama Quietly Signs The "Countering Disinformation And Propaganda Act" Into Law

Recall that as we reported in early June, "a bill to implement the U.S.’ very own de facto Ministry of Truth had been quietly introduced in Congress. As with any legislation attempting to dodge the public spotlight the Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act of 2016 marks a further curtailment of press freedom and another avenue to stultify avenues of accurate information. Introduced by Congressmen Adam Kinzinger and Ted Lieu, H.R. 5181 seeks a “whole-government approach without the bureaucratic restrictions” to counter “foreign disinformation and manipulation,” which they believe threaten the world’s “security and stability...

“Surprisingly,” Portman continued, “there is currently no single U.S. governmental agency or department charged with the national level development, integration and synchronization of whole-of-government strategies to counter foreign propaganda and disinformation.” 

Long before the "fake news" meme became a daily topic of extensive conversation on such discredited mainstream portals as CNN and WaPo, H.R. 5181 would task the Secretary of State with coordinating the Secretary of Defense, the Director of National Intelligence, and the Broadcasting Board of Governors to “establish a Center for Information Analysis and Response,” which will pinpoint sources of disinformation, analyze data, and — in true dystopic manner — ‘develop and disseminate’ “fact-based narratives” to counter effrontery propaganda.

In short, long before "fake news" became a major media topic, the US government was already planning its legally-backed crackdown on anything it would eventually label "fake news..

“Our enemies are using foreign propaganda and disinformation against us and our allies, and so far the U.S. government has been asleep at the wheel,” Portman said. “But today, the United States has taken a critical step towards confronting the extensive, and destabilizing, foreign propaganda and disinformation operations being waged against us by our enemies overseas. With this bill now law, we are finally signaling that enough is enough; the United States will no longer sit on the sidelines. We are going to confront this threat head-on. I am confident that, with the help of this bipartisan bill, the disinformation and propaganda used against us, our allies, and our interests will fail.”

the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which authorizes $611 billion for the military in 2017.
In a statement, Obama said that:
Today, I have signed into law S. 2943


Friday, July 21, 2017

Today's links

1--350 diplomatic flights carry weapons for terrorists  


2--Massacre of Mosul Revealed


True civilian death toll feared at 40,000  


3--Witch Hunt??


RT:  President Trump said that he and his team are subject to a political witch-hunt? Do you agree with that, or is it going too far?

MB: When Trump was elected I would have never thought I’d find myself in a position of agreeing with something like that. But it does appear to be the case, and there are many legitimate reasons to oppose Trump for his unconstitutional Muslim ban; for his wholesale sell out to Goldman Sachs in the big banks for his gutting of the environmental protection agency. But the Democrats don’t want to take him on in a progressive way. What they have done, they have relied on intelligence services, allies of former CIA Director John Brennan, to sabotage Trump’s attempt at detente with Russia through anonymous leaks. Everyday you’ll see in the Washington Post a story framed to paint Trump as some kind of Russian puppet for doing things that might be rational – like defunding jihadist rebels in Syria. Today the headline in the Washington Post is that it is a major concession Trump is making to Russia.

4--Syria Gas Attack and Russian Election Hacking…Debunking Fake News With Scott Ritter

5--Trump Closes Covert CIA Program To Arm Militants In Syria

6--Mass Media Has Duped Democrats Into Believing Russia Hacked Voting Machines

7--DNC Shatters The Illusion Of American Democracy In Order To Keep People’s 27 Bucks

8--Trump Ends Syrian Regime Change Campaign

Progress is slow, inconsistent, and subject to sudden setbacks – but it’s happening all the same. And that is good news indeed.

When the history of this era is written, the motivations of US policymakers under both President Obama and President George W. Bush will be called into question: why did they destroy the Middle East? Was it simply an error of judgment, or was something more sinister involved? Did they deliberately upend these societies, actively aiding Islamist barbarians, much as the late Roman emperors invited the Teutonic barbarians into the empire as mercenaries – who eventually turned on them and sacked Rome?

The rebel forces, both those “vetted” by the CIA and freelancers like al-Nusra, al-Qaeda, and ISIS, all have a program in common: the establishment of an Islamic state in the whole of Syria, which will be ruled according to the medieval strictures of Sharia law. Christians, Alawites, Kurds, and other minorities will be either subjugated, or driven out: genocide is a likely outcome of a rebel victory. Under these circumstances, any support to these elements is criminal – so why did we undertake this project to begin with?

9--Pentagon study declares American empire is ‘collapsing’

Report demands massive expansion of military-industrial complex to maintain global ‘access to resources’


U.S. global pre-eminence is very much bound up with its capacity to project American capitalism globally.
As geopolitical rivals agitate against U.S. economic reach, and as new movements emerge hoping to undermine American “unimpeded access” to global resources and markets, what’s clear is that DoD officials see anything which competes with or undermines American capitalism as a clear and present danger.

But nothing put forward in this document will actually contribute to slowing the decline of U.S. power.
On the contrary, the Pentagon study’s recommendations call for an intensification of the very imperial policies that futurist Professor Johan Galtung, who accurately forecasted the demise of the USSR, predicts will accelerate the “collapse of the U.S. empire” by around 2020.
As we move deeper into the “post-primacy” era, the more meaningful question for people, governments, civil society and industry is this: as the empire falls, lashing out in its death throes, what comes after?


10--IRAQ: Vice President says Iraq’s survival was ensured by Russia’s role in Syria


The Iraqi Vice President stated,
“I have said this before and I will repeat it again – if it were not for the Russian stance, the region would be fully destroyed, its map would be new and unusual … Without Russia’s approach to the Syrian issue which differs from the one of the United States, the Syrian regime would have fallen, terrorists would have intensified their actions thanks to this, the regional map would change and in the end it would lead to the fall of Baghdad”.

Al-Maliki who is about to visit Moscow further stated,
“My visit to Russia is coming up … During the visit I shall meet with senior officials including Putin, the foreign minister (Sergey Lavrov) and the head of the Federation Council (Valentina Matvienko).
I shall also discuss supplies of Russian arms to the Iraqi armed forces, we would like the Iraqi army to have Russian weapons as it uses it during training and is familiar with it”. 


11--Does Trump Have a Case Against Mueller?

The White House is seeking to discredit Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his investigative team. Could it work?

12-- In the hospital, diagnosed with brain cancer, John McCain blasts Trump for halting weapons to Al Qaeda and ISIS


13--Trump team seeks to control, block Mueller’s Russia investigation


14--CNN Readies Russophobic Show To Scare Suburbia

15--Why Middle America Doesn't Care About The Trump Jr. Narrative: Reuters Explains

16-- Kunstler Fears "Violent Revolt" As "Soft Coup" Against Trump Looms

17--Trump attacks his own Justice Department in Times interview


Mueller’s investigation now encompasses the June 9, 2016 meeting at Trump Tower, when Trump Jr., Kushner and Manafort met with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and four other people: publicist Rob Goldstone, who brokered the meeting; Rinat Ahkmetshin, a millionaire Russian-American lobbyist and associate of Veselnitskaya’s; translator Anatoli Samochornov, a former State Department employee; and Ike Kaveladze, a Russian-American representative of Russian real estate billionaire Aras Agalarov, who set up the meeting through Goldstone. Kaveladze’s attorney said Tuesday that he had been telephoned over the weekend by Mueller’s office asking whether his client was willing to be interviewed. Kaveladze has agreed to do so.

Whatever the motivation of the interview, Trump’s comments about former FBI Director James Comey give a glimpse of the frenzied infighting within official Washington, driven by conflicts over foreign policy, and by concerns, particularly in the national security establishment, that Trump prioritizes his personal business interests over the longer-term interests of American imperialism.

Trump told the Times that he had suspicions of Comey since their meeting two weeks before the inauguration, when he pulled Trump aside after a national security briefing at Trump Tower. Acting as the designated representative of all the intelligence agencies, Comey told him of a dossier assembled by a former British spy that contained unsubstantiated and sensationally sleazy allegations about Trump’s conduct during a visit to Moscow. “In my opinion, he shared it so that I would think he had it out there,” Trump said. Asked if Comey was using it as “leverage,” i.e., to blackmail him, Trump responded, “Yeah, I think so. In retrospect.”

18-- More Signs Emerge That Russiagate Is Dying

19--All the president’s men line up against special prosecutor

20-- There is no information suggesting that Veselnitskaya is herself an intelligence agent or an employee of the Russian government. But the new information adds to the intrigue surrounding the June 2016 encounter, in which Donald Trump Jr. met with what he was told was a "Russian government attorney" who could offer damaging information about Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Today's Links

1-New poll shows Hillary Clinton is even less popular than Trump


2--Finally, a Poll Trump Will Like: Clinton Is Even More Unpopular


Asked who he would rather have a beer with if neither one of them was president, Cowart said he’d rather stay home. “I wouldn’t go, even if I was thirsty,” he said.


For a president with historically low poll numbers, Donald Trump can at least find solace in this: Hillary Clinton is doing worse.

Trump’s 2016 Democratic rival is viewed favorably by just 39 percent of Americans in the latest Bloomberg National Poll, two points lower than the president. It’s the second-lowest score for Clinton since the poll started tracking her in September 2009.


The former secretary of state has always been a polarizing figure, but this survey shows she’s even lost popularity among those who voted for her in November.

More than a fifth of Clinton voters say they have an unfavorable view of her. By comparison, just 8 percent of likely Clinton voters felt that way in the final Bloomberg poll before the election, and just 6 percent of Trump’s voters now say they view him unfavorably.


3--Trump-Russia investigators probe Jared Kushner-run digital operation


4--War by Other Means-- Russian Active Measures and the Weaponization of Information


Facebook claims that it has developed “new analytical techniques” specifically “to uncover and disrupt” such abuse on its platform, which in the case of France, recently enabled Facebook to take action against 30,000 fake accounts.116 Facebook has also started to implement a third-party fact-checking tool to combat fake news that warns users when content is disputed.117 Additionally, Facebook has taken steps to change the algorithm for its trending section, which will now try to promote topics that are not only popular but also have multiple related articles to try to prevent viral false stories from being listed.118 Meanwhile, Google has announced the expansion of its use of fact-checking tags, whereby news search results are tagged with such phrases as “mostly true” or “false” if stories have been checked. Google has paired up with more than 100 news and fact-checking organizations whose conclusions appear in search results if they have met certain criteria.119 Both Facebook and Google have also taken actions against fake news sites directly, with Google banning websites that spread misinformation from using its online advertising service and Facebook clarifying its ad placement policies to include not displaying ads for sites that include fake news.120 Google reported that as a result of this change, it had banned 200 publishers from its advertising network.121...

The United States needs to support and expand efforts to provide an independent alternative to Russian disinformation. Doing so requires significant expansion in funding efforts for U.S.-sponsored outlets such as Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Voice of America, which are funded by the United States but governed by the Broadcasting Board of Governors; therefore, the U.S. government has no operational or editorial input. Like the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and National Public Radio (NPR) here in the United States, these outlets serve as a source of independent news and as the surrogate free press where the press is stifled, producing content in more than 25 languages. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Voice of America also launched “Current Time” earlier this year, a fact-based Russian language 24-hour news channel designed to provide a fact-based alternative for Russian speakers.112 These efforts, however, remain woefully underfunded and fall short of what is needed to challenge Russian-backed media, which has become entrenched in many countries.

As part of this investment, the State Department should also revamp its approach to public
diplomacy. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 (NDAA), expanded the mandate of the Global Engagement Center (GEC) beyond countering the Islamic State messaging to countering disinformation from state actors. The NDAA also authorized a significant increase in the GEC budget from $5 million to up to $80 million.113 Secretary of State Rex Tillerson should implement the changes authorized in the NDAA and prioritize the expansion of the GEC, including expanding its collaboration with NATO and the European Union. Additionally, the State Department’s Bureau of Public Affairs Rapid Response Unit, which monitors foreign news and reports trends, should feed its efforts into the GEC.114

I, the U.S. intelligence community report on Russian interference highlighted the Internet Research Agency in its unclassified report and concluded that “Russia used trolls … as part of its influence efforts to denigrate Secretary Clinton.”63 Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), ranking member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, noted that, “there were upwards of a 1,000 paid internet trolls, working out of a facility in Russia … they can generate news down to specific areas … in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania.” This enabled them to push anti-Clinton messages.64 Additionally, Time reported that U.S. intelligence officials found that “Moscow’s agents bought ads on Facebook to target specific populations with propaganda.” According to a senior intelligence official interviewed for the article, “‘They buy the ads, where it says sponsored by—they do that just as much as anybody else does.’”65...

According to the American publishing company McClatchy, the FBI, as part of its investigation into Russian interference in the election, is examining whether far-right websites such as Breitbart and Infowars knowingly coordinated with Russian cyber operators. McClatchy reported that “operatives for Russia appear to have strategically timed the computer commands, known as ‘bots,’ to blitz social media with links to the pro-Trump stories … Investigators examining the bot attacks are exploring whether the far-right news operations took any actions to assist Russia’s operatives.”71.....

The Russian hacking and subsequent release of emails from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta represented, according to the IC, an “unprecedented” intervention in the U.S. election process.38 The private cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike identified Russian hacking units Fancy Bear and Cozy Bear as the culprits behind the DNC and Podesta hacks, which was later corroborated by U.S. intelligence.39 Similarly, in the French elections, a massive document dump of stolen files from the campaign of Emmanuel Macron, the eventual winner, was released in the final few days of the election. It is not uncommon for foreign intelligence agencies to penetrate political campaigns in an effort to gain insight into future policy approaches. However, Russia was not seeking intelligence; it was seeking to influence the U.S. and French elections and the democratic process in both countries...

To build up these forces, the Kremlin has set up front organizations such as the Internet Research Agency, or the Agency, based in St. Petersburg. Funded by a Russian oligarch with ties to the Kremlin, the Agency was estimated to employ around 400 people with a budget of about $400,000 per month, with a typical employee working a 12-hour shift for approximately $700 per month.47 In 2014, BuzzFeed reported on leaked documents regarding the Agency, finding, “On an average working day, the Russians are to post on news articles 50 times. Each blogger is to maintain six Facebook accounts publishing at least three posts a day and discussing the news in groups at least twice a day. By the end of the first month, they are expected to have won 500 subscribers and get at least five posts on each item a day. On Twitter, the bloggers are expected to manage 10 accounts with up to 2,000 followers and tweet 50 times a day.”48

These groups, known as troll farms, operate like a campaign operation. They have certain messages or themes that they are pushing or advancing for that day or a week. This action can be as basic as defending the Kremlin or pushing pro-Russian content, but it can also involve advancing conspiracy theories that cast doubt on Western governments or pushing attacks on globalism. During the 2016 campaign, a major focus was spreading messages that attacked Hillary Clinton or that cast doubt on the credibility of U.S. institutions or on the election itself—in this case, claiming the election is “rigged.”49 The American intelligence community even noted that, “Pro-Kremlin bloggers had prepared a Twitter campaign, #DemocracyRIP, on election night in anticipation of Secretary Clinton’s victory, judging from their social media activity...

Debunk misinformation. The United States could also emulate the European Union’s efforts to counter Russian disinformation by publicly identifying and highlighting fake information. In 2015, the European Union established a disinformation task force dubbed East StratCom to address Russian disinformation campaigns. The task force scours the internet for fake news and disinformation, highlighting disinformation efforts on its Twitter account and sending it out in biweekly newsletters called the Disinformation Review.103 For instance, following the April terrorist attack in Stockholm, the Disinformation Review highlighted how pro-Kremlin outlets spread conspiracy theories and manipulated photos after the tragedy, noting that this fit a familiar pattern.104 As of November 2016, the newsletter had 20,000 readers each week,105 with a major audience for the material being journalists who can use it as a resource to avoid being duped.

  • Troll the trolls. Just as the United States monitors social media for counterterrorism purposes, it could develop its ability to detect state-sponsored operators. The United States could alert American users who interact with these operatives, or their controlled bots, that the accounts they are interacting with are either suspected agents of a foreign government or are bots controlled by suspected agents. A U.S. government account, operated by US-CERT, could effectively troll the trolls by pointing them out and shining a spotlight on their efforts. This sort of interaction would be similar to Google’s warning to Gmail users that a state-sponsored entity is seeking to hack someone’s email.106 Establishing this capacity would require additional resources and manpower but could likely rely on the same type of automation used by Kremlin-controlled bots.
  • Name and shame. The United States should more aggressively name and shame countries that violate norms of cyberspace. The Obama administration’s more aggressive approach to China in the cyber domain, for instance, prompted China to come to the table.107 While it is unlikely that naming and shaming would have a significant impact on Russia, it would help highlight its behavior for the public and would make Russian information operations a major bilateral irritant, forcing it on to the bilateral agenda. It would also prompt the rest of the international community to take notice and can serve to isolate...
  • In testimony to the Senate in January, James Clapper, then-director of national intelligence, said that America needs a “USIA [U.S. Information Agency] on steroids,” as we need “to fight this information war a lot more aggressively.”108

    5--The President’s Base vs. the Republican Party-- Trump voters care more about having a leader who understands them than about quick policy wins


    Recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News polling gives the president a 40% job-approval rating among all voters, while 55% disapprove. In counties Mr. Trump won last year, however, voters still back him by 50% to 46%. Similar results come from a Washington Post/ABC News survey released Sunday, which found that the president’s approval rating had slid to 36% from 42% in April, while his disapproval rating had climbed five points to 58%. Yet among Republican voters over the same period, Mr. Trump’s favorability has barely budged and remains above 80%.

    Moreover, these polling results reflect voter sentiment since news broke that Donald Trump Jr. met during the campaign with a Russian lawyer who claimed to have dirt on Hillary Clinton —the latest development in the Kremlin “collusion” narrative that has saturated cable news for months. According to the Post/ABC poll, 41% of all voters believe that the Trump campaign helped Russia try to influence the election, but that belief is shared by fewer than 1 in 10 Republican voters. The average Trump supporter’s concern about Russia roughly matches his concern about the president’s unreleased tax returns or witching-hour tweets....

    “I think there’s a lot of evidence to support the idea that Trump’s main appeal was validating the fears and concerns of a certain segment of Americans who felt they were being ignored by elites in the media, elites in politics, elite Republicans,” said Ms. Ekins. “My reading of the data is that he’s not on a timer or a clock. And it’s not clear to me that his supporters are waiting for him to achieve X, Y and Z policy goals. That’s an example of the press imposing their expectations on voters.”




    https://medium.com/@caityjohnstone/more-signs-that-russiagate-is-dying-27918d682c5