Some things are unknowable. Some things I just don’t know yet. Today I’m writing about something I don’t yet know enough about, but the news is getting on my nerves, so I just want to respond and be done with it.
This cartoon is a good start:
|cartoon by Ted Rall|
A friend reposted someone’s Facebook post, trying to inform all of us, because he read the entire 29-page report concerning the indictment of 12 Russians, which is a worthy goal. James Dunlap made his post public and shareable, but I do not know him or how reliable he is. That said, here’s part of his intro:
There is no way you can read the actual indictment and not conclude that 1) there WAS a RUSSIAN conspiracy, 2) that the scope of that conspiracy was GARGANTUAN, 3) that it was organized BY THE RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT [i.e., there's no way Putin didn't know about this], 4) That people connected to the Trump campaign [and, shockingly, other U.S. Gov't officials] WERE INVOLVED, and 5) this is just the beginning.
He goes through most of the Articles 1-79, skipping a few and combining some together. Much of the summary is probably accurate. And not surprising. The detail might be interesting and surprising to someone who wasn’t alive during the Cold War (I don’t know whether Dunlap was), but I’ve spent my life assuming Russia spies. And when the leader of their country formerly led the KGB, their spy organization, I think it’s a safe assumption that they still spy. And maybe they particularly spy on the United States.
|cover image from here|
I read a book back in 2014 called Disinformation: Former Spy Chief Reveals Secret Strategies for Undermining Freedom, Attacking Religion, and Promoting Terrorism, by Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa, with Ronald J. Rychlak. Paceda was, at the time (maybe still) the highest-ranking defector ever from a hostile intelligence service. He claims that intelligence collection is secondary—or maybe tertiary—on the list of purposes for then-Soviet Bloc intelligence services. More accurately, they were about “framing,” which means,
rewriting history and manipulating records, documents, etc., to bring that about. To what end this dezinformatsiya? Oh, little matters like using press leaks to destroy the reputation of a national or religious leader, engendering the spread of anti-Semitism, building up resentment against the United States or Israel in the Arab world.
As Yuri Andropov put it, “[Dezinformatsiya is] like cocaine. If you sniff once or twice, it may not change your life. If you use it every day though, it will make you and addict—a different man.” In other words, if you’re believing the disinformation, and relying on news sources that fall for it, your perceptions of our country and our reality will change you.
The book is full of examples, worth reading. One little sample. Do you remember, back in the Clinton presidency years, he referred to memories of black churches being burned?
No church burning had occurred in Arkansas during Clinton’s childhood, in spite of his “vivid and painful” memories, and the National Council of Churches was accused of fabricating “a great church-fire hoax.”[i]
His memory was false. He didn’t remember; he fell for stories planted by Soviet disinformation, and pictured them in his mind, so that he believed he’d seen them. The Soviets had planted that storyline, to create the idea that there was rampant racism in America. It worked. A few years afterward a survey of Canadian teenagers showed over 40 percent believed the United States was “evil,”[ii] and 57 of Greeks believed the US was no more democratic than Iraq.[iii]
Why do the Russians do it? According to Pacepa, it has to do with a contrast in ideologies:
The Communists had something between no ideology and a dysfunctional one. We have one that almost all Americans would sign on to: democracy, the rule of law, and America as, in Lincoln’s words, the “last, best hope of earth.” For most of us we also have our religion, generally Christianity or Judaism. This brought out for the Soviet Bloc, and brings out for our current enemies, a carefully targeted attack, or framing…
I highlighted this quote in the book:
The truth is, the Western media are quite easily manipulated, for they often craft their stories from press releases and tend, on the whole, to be indiscriminate about the nature and reliability of their sources.
So, when you hear something denigrating the United States, the first reaction ought to be questioning: What’s the original source? What is their evidence? Are their conclusions merited? How does the news source feel about the story and its conclusions? Is there a possibility that the story is false?
If Russia is connected in any direct or peripheral way (and maybe even if you can’t find that connection), chances are it’s disinformation. If you believe it, and it changes you to be less loyal to the freest nation in the history of the world, you’re letting the enemies of freedom win.
So, back to the Mueller report. The Russians are involved; is there anything surprising? Only that people in America are so surprised by it.
And there’s a particular part, among all the actual documents leaked to and disseminated by Wikileaks, concerning the Hillary campaign and the DNC colluding to defraud Bernie voters (all caps are his):
Article 44: The GRU, posing as "Guccifer 2.0" wrote to a person who was in regular contact with SENIOR MEMBERS OF THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN. (The indictment includes direct quotes of their online conversation, and this is CLEARLY referring to Roger Stone).
We learn in Article 1, by the way, that GRU means multiple intelligence units set up by the Russian government, two of which were specifically tasked with using hacking skills to acquire and release stolen documents via hacking. Anyway, about those all caps. The total connection—because, if there were more, Dunlap, as well as the report, would have said so—was that some disinformation spy wrote (emails?), not to SENIOR MEMBERS OF THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN, but to some unnamed person who knew those guys.
Here’s Article 44 in total:
The Conspirators, posing as Guccifer 2.0, also communicated with U.S. persons about the release of stolen documents. On or about August 15, 2016, the Conspirators, posing as Guccifer 2.0, wrote to a person who was in regular contact with senior members of the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump, “thank u for writing back… do u find anyt[h]ing interesting in the docs i posted?” On or about August 17, 2016, the Conspirators added, “please tell me if i can help u anyhow... it would be a great pleasure to me.” On or about September 9, 2016, the Conspirators, again posing as Guccifer 2.0, referred to a stolen DCCC document posted online and asked the person, “what do u think of the info on the turnout model for the democrats entire presidential campaign.” The person responded, “[p]retty standard.”
Maybe a timing reminder is useful here, from a quick Wikipedia search. I’ve highlighted the dates:
The 2016 Democratic National Committee email leak is a collection of Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails stolen by suspected Russian intelligence agency hackers and subsequently published (leaked) by DCLeaks in June and July 2016 and by WikiLeaks on July 22, 2016, during the 2016 Democratic National Convention. This collection included 19,252 emails and 8,034 attachments from the DNC, the governing body of the United States' Democratic Party. The leak includes emails from seven key DNC staff members, and date from January 2015 to May 2016. The leaked contents, which suggested the party's leadership had worked to sabotage Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign, prompted the resignation of DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz before the Democratic National Convention. After the convention, DNC CEO Amy Dacey, CFO Brad Marshall, and Communications Director Luis Miranda also resigned in the wake of the controversy.
So, a month or two after the information became public, this Russian spy contacted someone outside Trump’s campaign but familiar with campaign team members, and asked whether the documents were interesting. And then, a month later, the spy asked about turnout data, which, in the only response we see was “pretty standard.”
And that’s the only tangent that connects in any distant way with the campaign, let alone Donald Trump himself.
But the media buzz about the story makes it sound like Trump, during the campaign, colluded with Russia and committed treason—for possibly knowing people who might have been aware of information that got stolen and had already been released by Wikileaks—that no one denies is actual information concerning Clinton campaign and DNC corruption.
So, spelling this out, slowly, the Russians interfered in the election by revealing things that are true about corruption of Hillary and the DNC. And therefore Trump shouldn’t be president. Hmm.
I expect we’ll also learn that there were Russian attempts—but none successful—at hacking software related to voting machines. I’ve been following voting machine security pretty carefully here in Texas—where True the Vote started. So I’m not much worried here, as long as people follow the law. There are many protections against such attempts. I don’t know about other states. But the fact remains that, with all the investigations, there is no evidence that a single vote was changed by Russians, let alone the outcome of any election. The same cannot be said for Democrats, or obviously Hillary during the Democratic primary.
Let me attempt a Trump translation. I don’t mean to support him when he’s unsupportable. But the other day, in his response to this report, during his summit with Putin, he acted as if he didn’t believe the intelligence sources. As usual, I think he could have said things clearer and better. But I believe he’s not responding to the actual report and what it says—which he probably hadn’t yet read in detail. He had already, multiple times, supported and stated his belief in the investigation’s findings. What he was responding to was the media frenzy that equates “Russia attempted to meddle with our elections,” which is an “of course” statement not worthy of frenzy, to “Russia colluded with Trump and overturned our election, and therefore Trump’s presidency is illegitimate.”
|Meme posted by Conservatives Today|
I don’t know what outcome Russia wanted, among multiple outcomes: help Hillary win, but seem illegitimate; help Trump win, but seem illegitimate; create doubt in the American electoral system; create cynicism about America in general. Maybe try everything and enjoy whatever chaos or negativity fell out. Mission accomplished—without needing to fraudulently change a single vote.
What I’m wondering is, why can someone like Dunlap read that whole report and see—enough to use all caps—a Trump connection that is beyond tenuous. Does he totally miss the actual corruption of the Hillary campaign and the DNC? Is he unaware of the many pro-Russian connections of the Obama administration and the Clintons? Is he assuming that leaking their actual documents is disinformation but reporters in a frenzy about Trump is not? Why?
Let’s assume our enemies act like enemies, have acted that way in the past, and are likely to continue to act like enemies. Certainly include North Korea on that list. They’re also into hacking; South Korea—just the general business on the street—has more internet security than many large US corporations, because they face North Korean hacking attacks so regularly.
Of course we should keep doing all we can to stop these spies and hackers. But we’re vulnerable. Not just to the hacking, but to the disinformation planted by our enemies, which is gleefully pushed as truth by our "easily manipulated" media. The more rabid your hatred of any person or party, the more susceptible you are to disinformation.
Truth is hard to find these days, but the search is still worth it.
[i] Scott Swett, “Fanning Imaginary Flames: A Look Back at the Great Church Fire Propaganda Campaign,” American Thinker, June 11, 2011.
[ii] Arthur Weinreb, “Poll: Over 40% of Canadian teens thin America is ‘evil’,” Canada Free Press, June 30, 2004.
[iii] “Grecian Formula for Anti-Americanism,” Wall Street Journal, February 7, 2003 (Internet edition).