With Latest Syria Threats, Trump Continues to Be More Confro

Those old enough to remember when President Clinton's penis was a big news item will also remember the "Peace Dividend," that the world was going to be able to cash now that that nasty cold war was over. But guess what? Those spies didn't want to come in from the Cold, so while the planet is heating up, the political environment is dropping to sub-zero temperatures. It's deja vu all over again.

With Latest Syria Threats, Trump Continues to Be More Confro

Postby admin » Wed Apr 11, 2018 7:57 pm

With Latest Syria Threats, Trump Continues to Be More Confrontational Toward Russia Than Obama Was
by Glenn Greenwald & Zaid Jilani
April 11 2018, 7:14 a.m.

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THE CIVIL WAR in Syria began in 2011 and escalated for five years during the Obama presidency, yet Barack Obama — despite demands from leaders of both parties and think tanks across the spectrum — never once bombed Syrian government targets. Although the CIA under Obama spent $1 billion per year to covertly train and fund Bashar al-Assad’s enemies, it was never close to enough to topple him: just enough to keep the war going.

But Obama never bombed Assad or his military assets: a decision which, to this day, is scorned across official Washington. Hillary Clinton blasted Obama’s refusal to do more to stop Assad, and in 2017, she actively encouraged Donald Trump to bomb Assad and take out his air force.

To this day, Obama regards his refusal to bomb Assad as one of his best moments; about this, Obama told The Atlantic in 2016: “I’m very proud of this moment.” He made the decision because he “was tired of watching Washington unthinkingly drift toward war in Muslim countries” and because he was wary of military confrontation with a regime that is “sponsored by two large states”: Russia and Iran.

Indeed, not only did Obama refuse to risk military confrontation with Russia in Syria, he sought in 2016 — after Russia annexed Ukraine — to form a military partnership with Vladimir Putin to bomb agreed-to targets in Syria:

Obama proposes new military partnership with Russia in Syria
by Josh Rogin
Washington Post
June 30, 2016


In contrast to Obama’s efforts to avoid confrontation with Russia, his successor has been far more belligerent — not only in Syria, but elsewhere. In April of last year, Trump ordered the bombing of a Syrian military airfield near Homs; though it was quite limited, it was intended to send a message to Assad and Putin — and it was more than Obama was willing to do.

Over the past several days, Trump has made very clear that he intends to order another bombing campaign against Assad. After an alleged chemical attack by Assad, Trump declared on Twitter that “President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad,” and warned that there would be a “Big price” to pay for this. All of the signals over the past 48 hours — including the cancellation of long-planned trips by Trump and his top national security officials — have made clear that Trump is planning another bombing assault against Assad.

This morning, Trump explicitly promised that missiles were on the way. For good measure, he mocked Russian promises to intercept those missiles and boasted that they would be unable to stop his bombing campaign:

Donald J. Trump
@realDonaldTrump
Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and “smart!” You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!
3:57 AM - Apr 11, 2018


The exact danger Obama sought to avoid — military confrontation with Russia in Syria — is now upon us, being directly threatened by Trump. And Democrats — who spent years first scorning Obama for not becoming more militarily involved in Syria and then pushing Trump to be more hostile to Moscow — are, just as Clinton last year did, defending Trump’s military aggression.

This morning on CNN, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright — who spent 2012 mocking Mitt Romney as an archaic Cold Warrior for warning that Putin posed a grave threat to the U.S. — praised Trump’s tweets: “I agree with President Trump and his description of Putin,” she said, adding: “At least the President has recognized that Putin is not a friend.” She then demanded that a “strategy of some kind” is needed for this new bombing campaign, worrying that one has not yet been formulated:

New Day
@NewDay
Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright commends President Trump for recognizing that "Putin is not a friend," but says the US needs a strategy for Syria: "As far as I can tell, there is no strategy"
4:30 AM - Apr 11, 2018


IT IS A common refrain among Trump’s Democratic critics that he is Putin’s “puppet.” Because the Russian government preferred him in the 2016 presidential election and has compromising information to hold over his head, so the prevailing narrative goes, Trump is predisposed toward, perhaps even captive to, Moscow’s point of view — and thus, enacts policies demanded by the Kremlin to benefit the Russians at the expense of the U.S.

Image

Yet far beyond Trump’s hostile posture toward Russia’s client state led by Assad, the reality is the exact opposite: The Trump administration has been more belligerent, and more confrontational, toward Moscow than the Obama administration was.

Two weeks ago, Trump responded to the alleged Russian-directed poisoning attack in the United Kingdom by personally signing off on expelling 60 Russian diplomats and shuttering the Russian consulate in Seattle — just another example negating the claim that the U.S. under Trump is serving the dictates of the Russian government. Indeed, Trump’s decision on the Russian diplomats was the largest such expulsion in U.S. history: higher than the number Obama expelled after being told that the Russians had interfered in the U.S. election. (In 1986, when Ronald Reagan expelled 55 Russian diplomats, it was previously the largest number of Russian diplomats ever expelled at one time from the United States.)

After Trump ordered what the Washington Post correctly described as “the largest expulsion of Russian spies and diplomats in U.S. history,” the paper acknowledged an uncomfortable, narrative-busting truth:

Despite Trump’s reliably warm rhetoric toward Moscow and his steadfast reluctance to criticize Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Trump administration has at times taken aggressive action against Russia at the recommendation of the president’s top aides.


Indeed, the Post then quoted John Herbst, “a Russia scholar at the Atlantic Council,” as saying that the Trump administration has been more willing to confront Putin than the Obama administration was. “If you just look at policy, this administration has taken steps the Obama administration was not willing to.” Though Herbst somehow speculated that Trump’s “heart doesn’t seem to be in it,” he emphasized that Trump’s overall approach to Moscow has been far more in line with a hawkish view toward Russia than Obama’s was.

This assessment has ample support — beyond the bombing of Assad and the record expulsion of Russian diplomats:

Arming Ukraine: For years, the Obama administration refused to send lethal arms to Ukraine despite bipartisan demand that he do so. Proponents of arming Ukraine argued that doing so would be a way to push back against Russia after the annexation of Crimea. Opponents, including Obama, believed that sending lethal arms would lead to an escalation of the conflict and needlessly antagonize Russia. As The Atlantic put it after its widely touted interview with Obama: “Obama’s theory here is simple: Ukraine is a core Russian interest but not an American one.”

By stark contrast, the Trump administration last December approved a lethal arms transfers, including anti-tank weapons. The Russian government was not pleased. “Washington is trying to present itself as a mediator,” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said. “It is not a mediator at all, it is an accomplice in fomenting a war.”

Defying Obama, Many in Congress Press to Arm Ukraine
by Jennifer Steinhauer and David M. Herszenhorn
The New York Times
June 11, 2015


Trump's Worthy Choice to Provide Ukraine Weapons
by Editorial Board
The Washington Post
December 30, 2017


Appointing an Anti-Russia Hawk as U.N. Ambassador: The Trump administration’s U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley has made opposition to Russian foreign policy a cornerstone of her tenure at Turtle Bay. In mid-March, she urged aggressive action after the Salisbury attack, even warning that the Russians may soon pull off similar operations within the United States.

“If we don’t take immediate concrete measures to address this now, Salisbury will not be the last place we see chemical weapons used,” she said at the U.N. “They could be used here in New York, or in cities of any country that sits on this council. This is a defining moment.”

Nominating an Anti-Russia Hawk as the Ambassador to Germany: The Trump administration tapped former Bush administration staffer Richard Grenell to be the U.S. ambassador to Germany, a country whose geopolitical importance makes it a counterweight to Russia. Grenell is a hawkish critic of Russia, who castigated the Obama administration for “swearing off military action [against Russia] in public.”

Nominating an Anti-Russia Hawk as CIA Director and Secretary of State: During the Obama years, one of the loudest anti-Russian voices in Congress was GOP Rep. Mike Pompeo, repeatedly warning — at a time when Obama was accommodating Putin and seeking to cooperate with him — that Putin was a grave danger to the U.S. Once Trump appointed Pompeo as CIA director and now secretary of state, Pompeo continued to speak in belligerent and hawkish tones about Russia, warning that it poses a serious threat to U.S. interests.

Antagonizing Russia’s Iranian Allies: The Trump administration has been harshly critical of engagement with Iran, which is a close ally of Russia. Last August, Trump signed into law new sanctions toward Iran that were opposed by Vermont Independent Bernie Sanders because he believed these new sanctions could upset the Iran nuclear deal. It is also rumored that the administration may pull out of the Iran deal altogether in May. By contrast, Obama worked directly with Putin to forge a peace agreement with the Iranians.

Barack Obama Praises Putin for Help Clinching Iran Deal
by Roland Oliphant
The Telegraph
July 15, 2915 10:29AM BST


Appointing a National Security Adviser Who Is Hostile to Russia: Although Russia critics have seized on a curious 2013 John Bolton video, in which he promoted looser gun laws in the country as evidence of Bolton-Russia ties, the former George W. Bush U.N. ambassador has in the recent past evinced quite hawkish views toward Russia policy. Bolton doesn’t mince words about what he thinks about Russian cyberoperations in 2016. Writing that “attempting to undermine America’s constitution is far more than just a quotidian covert operation. It is in fact a casus belli, a true act of war, and one Washington will never tolerate.” He also frequently advocates for bombing Iran, Russia’s ally.

Sanctioning Russian Oligarchs Close to Putin: In a move this week that NBC News called “a black Monday for Russian oligarchs,” Trump announced “sweeping sanctions against members of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle,” causing the ruble to tumble. Specifically, “the Treasury Department, in connection with the State Department, targeted seven Russian oligarchs and 12 companies they own or control. It also issued sanctions on 17 senior government officials, along with a state-owned weapons trading company and its subsidiary, a Russian bank.”

It’s certainly true that Trump — like Obama before him — has repeatedly expressed a desire to work with Putin and Russia on perceived common interests. Just today, after threatening Putin, Trump lamented that “our relationship with Russia is worse now than it has ever been, and that includes the Cold War.” He added, echoing what was once standard orthodoxy among American liberals for decades during the Cold War: “There is no reason for this. Russia needs us to help with their economy, something that would be very easy to do, and we need all nations to work together. Stop the arms race?

It’s also true that Trump has made his fair share of positive remarks about Putin and, until recently, had refrained from criticizing him. But that’s part of a larger pattern in which Trump has spoken only positively about the Philippines’s Rodrigo Duterte, Egypt’s Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Saudi despots, and Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu. Trump — like most American presidents — has an affinity for authoritarian rulers in general who are allied with the U.S.: a long-standing tactic that is by no means unique to Russia or to Trump.

But whatever else is true, Trump — notwithstanding the prevailing Democratic Party and media narrative over the last 18 months — has been far more willing to confront Russia and defy Putin than Obama ever was. While that may make think tank militarists, the defense industry, and warmongers in both parties giddy, it is extremely dangerous for the world.

What makes this all the more dangerous is that Democrats, both because of ideology and political maneuvering, have painted themselves into a corner where they cannot possibly provide any meaningful, credible opposition to Trump’s increasingly dangerous path regarding Syria and Russia.
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Re: With Latest Syria Threats, Trump Continues to Be More Co

Postby admin » Wed Apr 11, 2018 8:08 pm

VIDEO: GLENN GREENWALD AND JAMES RISEN DEBATE THE TRUMP/RUSSIA INVESTIGATION
The Intercept
February 21 2018, 6:39 p.m.

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JAMES RISEN AND GLENN GREENWALD have both won Pulitzer Prizes. They both have found themselves in the crosshairs of the U.S. government for their journalism. And they both write for The Intercept. But Jim and Glenn have taken very different approaches to covering the Trump/Russia story. In this one-hour special video edition of Intercepted, they go head-to-head in a debate. Glenn is one of the most high-profile critics of the official story bolstered by the U.S. intelligence community, the Democrats, and many media outlets, including some of this country’s most powerful papers and news channels. Jim battled both the Bush and Obama administrations — under threat of imprisonment — for refusing to name his sources in some of the most sensitive national security reporting of the modern era. Jim recently broke a key story on a secret NSA channel to Russia and his first column for The Intercept, about the Trump/Russia investigation, posed the question: Is Donald Trump a traitor?
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Re: With Latest Syria Threats, Trump Continues to Be More Co

Postby admin » Wed Apr 11, 2018 8:24 pm

Americans have forgotten what 'treason' actually means — and how it can be abused: We are willfully turning a blind eye to the sordid history of treason that led to its unique treatment in the U.S. Constitution.
by Steve Vladeck
NBC News
Feb.16.2018 10:10 AM ET

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In a nationwide survey released on Wednesday, Public Policy Polling asked Americans “What do you think is more treasonous: coordinating with Russia to win a presidential election, or not standing and applauding for Donald Trump?” Whatever one’s political beliefs or disposition toward the current president, the correct answer should have been “neither.” (Instead, 69% said it was the former.)

Among other things, the mere existence of this question underscores the need for a long overdue moratorium on the blithe characterization of things as “treason”— and for all of us to be far more careful when using that term to describe conduct that we believe is some combination of reprehensible, criminal and perhaps even impeachable.

Treasonous acts may be criminal, but criminal acts are almost never treason. As Article III, Section 3 of the Constitution specifies, “Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort.” The Founders went out of their way to define treason narrowly because they knew how it had been repeatedly abused in the past.

The Founders went out of their way to define treason narrowly because they knew how it had been repeatedly abused in the past.


For much of the pre-revolutionary period in England, the accusation was a means of suppressing political dissent and punishing political opponents for crimes as trivial as contemplating a king’s future death (what was known as “compassing”), or speaking ill of the king (“lèse majesté”). King Henry VIII even had two of his six wives executed for alleged adultery on the ground that such infidelity was, of itself, “treason.” The English abuse of treason was anathema to a nascent republic dedicated to the rule of law and the right of peaceful dissent.

Thus, to ensure that treason could not likewise be co-opted for political or personal purposes, the Constitution’s drafters not only defined it precisely (it’s the only offense specifically defined in that document), but also specified that “No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.” (Article III also limits the punishment that can be inflicted, even with a conviction.)

As a federal appeals court explained in 1986: “[t]he reason for the restrictive definition is apparent from the historical backdrop of the treason clause. The framers of the Constitution were reluctant to facilitate such prosecutions because they were well aware of abuses, and they themselves were traitors in the eyes of England.” As a result, treason is, in some respects, the most specific crime in our legal system — and certainly among the hardest to prove. It’s also the only crime that can be used as the basis for expatriating a natural-born American citizen.

Because of this history, a lot of things that might seem or feel like treason to casual observers do not, in fact, come close. In this context “enemies,” for example, must be countries against which Congress has formally declared war or otherwise authorized the use of force. (So contemporary Russia is out, whatever role it may have played in the 2016 election.) Even during the height of the Cold War, when Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were tried, convicted and executed for conveying nuclear secrets to the Soviet Union, the charge against them was espionage, not treason.

And “levying war” against the United States requires active and direct participation in an armed conflict, not just “un-American” speech or insufficient patriotism. Notably, and contra claims leveled against Edward Snowden or Hillary Clinton, it also do not mean the mishandling of classified information.

By those metrics, it should be obvious why it is not treason to either refuse to applaud the president or to collude with Russia to influence the outcome of a presidential election. To be sure, the latter, if proven, is light-years worse than the former. But treason is not defined by the gravity of the offense; it’s a crime indicating the clear support our enemies during wartime, period.

Treason is not defined by the gravity of the offense; it’s a crime indicating the clear support [of] our enemies during wartime, period.


To be sure, there’s no law against the colloquial misuse of a legal term — nor should there ever be. But the more we use the t-word to refer to conduct that doesn’t remotely resemble the constitutional definition, the more we are — willfully — turning a blind eye to the sordid history of treason that led to its unique treatment in the U.S. Constitution.

And as the Spanish philosopher George Santayana reminds us, those who fail to study history are doomed to repeat it. Perhaps that’s why 20% of the respondents to the Public Policy Polling survey also answered that they do believe that failing to stand for — and applaud — the president is treason. That’s not a treasonous viewpoint, but it certainly is an un-American one.

Steve Vladeck (@steve_vladeck) is a professor of law at the University of Texas School of Law whose teaching and research focus on federal jurisdiction, constitutional law, and national security law. Steve is co-editor-in-chief of the Just Security blog (@just_security) and co-host of the National Security Law Podcast (@nslpodcast).
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Re: With Latest Syria Threats, Trump Continues to Be More Co

Postby admin » Wed Apr 11, 2018 8:44 pm

Russia, Trump & Flawed Intelligence
by Masha Gessen
The New York Review of Books
January 9, 2017, 10:17 pm

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After months of anticipation, speculation, and hand-wringing by politicians and journalists, American intelligence agencies have finally released a declassified version of a report on the part they believe Russia played in the US presidential election. On Friday, when the report appeared, the major newspapers came out with virtually identical headlines highlighting the agencies’ finding that Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered an “influence campaign” to help Donald Trump win the presidency—a finding the agencies say they hold “with high confidence.”

A close reading of the report shows that it barely supports such a conclusion. Indeed, it barely supports any conclusion. There is not much to read: the declassified version is twenty-five pages, of which two are blank, four are decorative, one contains an explanation of terms, one a table of contents, and seven are a previously published unclassified report by the CIA’s Open Source division. There is even less to process: the report adds hardly anything to what we already knew. The strongest allegations—including about the nature of the DNC hacking—had already been spelled out in much greater detail in earlier media reports.

But the real problems come with the findings themselves. The report leads with three “key judgments”:

1. “We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election”;

2. “Moscow’s influence campaign followed a Russian messaging strategy that blends covert intelligence operations—such as cyber activity—with overt efforts by Russian Government agencies, state-funded media, third-party intermediaries, and paid social media users or ‘trolls’”;

3. “We assess Moscow will apply lessons learned from its Putin-ordered campaign aimed at the US presidential election to future influence efforts worldwide, including against US allies and their election processes.”

It is the first of these judgments that made headlines, so let us look at the evidence the document provides for this assertion. This evidence takes up just over a page and contains nine points. The first four make the argument that Putin wanted Hillary Clinton to lose. I will paraphrase for the sake of brevity and clarity:

1. Putin and the Russian government aimed to help Trump by making public statements discrediting Hillary Clinton;

2. the Kremlin’s goal is to undermine “the US-led liberal democratic order”;

3. Putin claimed that the Panama Papers leak and the Olympic doping scandal were “US-directed efforts to defame Russia,” and this suggests that he would use defamatory tactics against the United States;

4. Putin personally dislikes Hillary Clinton and blames her for inspiring popular unrest in Russia in 2011-2012.

None of this is new or particularly illuminating—at least for anyone who has been following Russian media in any language; some of it seems irrelevant. (Though the report notes that the NSA has only “moderate confidence” in point number one, unlike the CIA and FBI, which have “high confidence” in it.) The next set of points aim to buttress the assertion that Putin “developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump over Secretary Clinton.” The following is an exact quote:

Beginning in June, Putin’s public comments about the US presidential race avoided directly praising President-elect Trump, probably because Kremlin officials thought that any praise from Putin personally would backfire in the United States. Nonetheless, Putin publicly indicated a preference for President-elect Trump’s stated policy to work with Russia, and pro-Kremlin figures spoke highly about what they saw as his Russia-friendly positions on Syria and Ukraine.


The wording makes it sound as though before June 2016 Putin had been constantly praising Trump in his public statements. In fact, though, Putin had spoken of Trump exactly once—when asked a question about him as he was leaving the hall following his annual press conference in December 2015. At that time, he said,

Well, he is a colorful person. Talented, without a doubt. But it’s none of our business, it’s up to the voters in the United States. But he is the absolute leader of the presidential race. He says he wants to shift to a different mode or relations, a deeper level of relations with Russia. How could we not welcome that? Of course we welcome it. As for the domestic politics of it, the turns of phrase he uses to increase his popularity, I’ll repeat, it’s not our business to evaluate his work.


Nothing in this statement is remarkable. At the time, Trump, who was polling well in the Republican primary race, was the only aspiring presidential candidate to have indicated a willingness to dial back US-Russian hostilities. The topic was clearly judged not important enough to be included in the main body of Putin’s more-than-four-hour press conference but deserving of a boilerplate “we hear you” message sent as Putin literally headed out the door.

The Russian word for “colorful”—yarkiy—can be translated as “bright,” as in a “bright color.” That must be how Trump came to think that Putin had called him “brilliant,” an assertion that the US media (and, it appears, US intelligence agencies) failed to fact-check. In June 2016, at the St. Petersburg Economic Forum, American journalist Fareed Zakaria, moderating a panel, asked Putin, “The American Republican presumptive nominee, Donald Trump—you called him ‘brilliant,’ ‘outstanding,’ ‘talented.’ These comments were reported around the world. I was wondering what in him led you to that judgment, and do you still hold that judgment?” Of the epithets listed by Zakaria, Putin had used only the word “talented,” and he had not specified what sort of talent he had seen in Trump. Putin reprimanded Zakaria for exaggerating. “Look at what I said,” he said. “I made an off-hand remark about Trump being a colorful person. Are you saying he is not colorful? He is colorful. I did not characterize him in any other way. But what I did note, and what I certainly welcome, and I see nothing wrong with this—Mr. Trump has stated that he is ready for the renewal of a full-fledged relationship between Russia and the United States. What is wrong with that? We all welcome it. Don’t you?” Zakaria looked mortified: he had been caught asking an ill-informed question. Putin, on the other hand, was telling the truth for once. As for the American intelligence agencies marshaling this exchange as evidence of a change of tone and more—evidence of Russian meddling in the election—that is plainly misleading.

The next two points purporting to prove that Putin had a preference for Trump are, incredibly, even weaker arguments:

6. Putin thought that he and Trump would be able to create an international anti-ISIS coalition;

7. Putin likes to work with political leaders “whose business interests made them more disposed to deal with Russia, such as former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.”

Number 6 is puzzling. Nominally, Russia and the United States have already been cooperating in the fight against ISIS. The reference is probably to Putin’s offer, made in September 2015 in a speech to the UN General Assembly, to form an international anti-terrorist coalition that, Putin seemed to suggest, would stop the criticism and sanctions imposed in response to Russia’s war against Ukraine. Obama snubbed the offer then. Then again, this is my conjecture: the report contains no elucidation of this ascertainment of Putin’s motives. As for Number 7, not only is it conjecture on the part of the report’s authors, it is also anachronistic: Schroeder was a career politician before becoming a businessman with interests in Russia, as his term in political office was drawing to a close.

The final two arguments in this section of the report focus on the fact that Russian officials and propagandists stopped criticizing the US election process after election day and Russian trolls dropped a planned #DemocracyRIP campaign, which they had planned in anticipation of Hillary Clinton’s victory. (Notably, according to the intelligence agencies, whatever influence the Russians were trying to exert, they themselves seem to have assumed that Clinton would win regardless—and this is in fact supported by outside evidence.) The logic of these arguments is as sound as saying, “You were so happy to see it rain yesterday that you must have caused the rain yourself.”

That is the entirety of the evidence the report offers to support its estimation of Putin’s motives for allegedly working to elect Trump: conjecture based on other politicians in other periods, on other continents—and also on misreported or mistranslated public statements.

The next two and a half pages of the report deal with the mechanics of Russia’s ostensible intervention in the election. It confirms, briefly, earlier reports that the intelligence agencies believe that the hacks of the Democratic National Committee were carried out by an individual connected to the General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU). It also notes, without elaboration, that “Russian intelligence accessed elements of multiple state or local electoral boards,” though, according to the Department of Homeland Security, not the type of systems that are involved in vote tallying. And then the report goes from vague to strange: it lists the elements of Russia’s “state-run propaganda machine” that ostensibly exemplify the Kremlin’s campaign for Trump and denigration of Clinton. These include RT, the Russian English-language propaganda channel (as well as Sputnik, a state-funded online news site); a Russian television personality; and a fringe Russian politician named Vladimir Zhirinovsky. According to the report:

Pro-Kremlin proxy Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leader of the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, proclaimed just before the election that if President-elect Trump won, Russia would “drink champagne” in anticipation of being able to advance its positions on Syria and Ukraine.


In the Russian political sphere, Zhirinovsky is far from the mainstream. A man who has advocated mobilizing the Russian military to shoot all migratory birds in order to prevent an epidemic of bird flu, he is a far-right comic sidekick to the Kremlin’s straight man. Dictators like to keep his kind around as reminders of the chaos and extremism that could threaten the world in their absence. In Hungary, for example, the extremist Jobbik party allows Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to look moderate in comparison. The particular statement about drinking champagne was made during a televised talk show in which several Russian personalities get together to beat up rhetorically on a former insurance executive named Michael Bohm, who has fashioned a career of playing an American pundit on Russian TV. Here is the exchange that preceded Zhirinovsky’s promise to drink champagne:

They threaten to cut Russia off from international financial systems. They can do that! But then we won’t give America a single dollar back. That’s hundreds of billions of dollars! Hundreds of billions! If they cut us off, they cut off the repayment of all our debts. Hundreds of billions! They are not dumb, so they’ll never do it. Never. As for the arms race, sometimes we are ahead and sometimes they are. We’ve got parity. But there is another danger to America. They have a hundred nuclear power stations. And we can reach all of them. And the destruction of a single nuclear power station kills every living thing on a territory of five hundred thousand square kilometers. That’s fifty million square kilometers. But all of America is just ten million square kilometers. So a single explosion will destroy America five times over. Same thing with us. But our stations are on the fringes. Theirs are in densely populated areas. So blowing up their nuclear reactors will kill more people in America. Plus, we have lots of empty space. So they have weighed it: Russia’s survival rates will be higher than America’s. More of them will die in case of nuclear war.

Host: Remember you also told us about magnetic weapons that will make us stick to our beds and incapable of getting up?

Zhirinovsky: Yes, there is that, too.

[A brief exchange about the arms race between two other participants]

Zhirinovsky: I hope that Aleppo is free of guerrilla fighters before November 8!

Sergei Stankevich [a largely forgotten Yeltsin-era politician]: But then we have to think about what happens November 9, if we’ve already liberated Aleppo.

Zhirinovsky: We are going to be drinking champagne to celebrate a Trump victory! [to Bohm] And to the defeat of your friend Hillary Clinton!


Remarkably, the report manages not only to offer a few words thrown out during this absurd exchange as evidence of a larger Russian strategy, but also to distort those words in the process: contrary to the report’s assertion, Zhironovsky made no mention of being able to advance Russia’s positions in Syria and Ukraine following a Trump victory. Of course, he could have—indeed, he could have said anything, given the tenor of the conversation. Whatever he said, it’s difficult to imagine how it could be connected to Russia’s ostensible influence on the American election.

Other evidence in this part of the report includes the statement, “Russian media hailed President-elect Trump’s victory as a vindication of Putin’s advocacy of global populist movements—the theme of Putin’s annual conference for Western academics in October 2016.” This statement is false. The theme of Putin’s annual conference, known as the Valdai Club, was “The Future Begins Today: Outlines of the World of Tomorrow.” The program reads like the program of the annual World Affairs Council conference in San Francisco—which last year, coincidentally, was called “Day One: The World That Awaits.” This is not to say that Putin has not supported populist movements around the world—he demonstrably has. But once again the particular evidence offered by the report on this point is both weak and false.

Finally, the bulk of the rest of the report is devoted to RT, the television network formerly known as Russia Today.

RT’s coverage of Secretary Clinton throughout the US presidential campaign was consistently negative and focused on her leaked e-mails and accused her of corruption, poor physical and mental health, and ties to Islamic extremism. Some Russian officials echoed Russian lines for the influence campaign that Secretary Clinton’s election could lead to a war between the United States and Russia.


In other words, RT acted much like homegrown American media outlets such as Fox News and Breitbart. A seven-page annex to the report details RT activities, including hosting third-party candidate debates, broadcasting a documentary about the Occupy Wall Street movement and “anti-fracking programming, highlighting environmental issues and the impacts on public health”—perfectly appropriate journalistic activities, even if they do appear on what is certainly a propaganda outlet funded by an aggressive dictatorship. An entire page is devoted to RT’s social media footprint: the network appears to score more YouTube views than CNN (though far fewer Facebook likes). Even this part of the report is slightly misleading: RT’s tactics for inflating its viewership numbers in order to secure continued Kremlin funding has been the subject of some convincing scholarship. That is the entirety of the case the intelligence agencies have presented: Putin wanted Trump to win and used WikiLeaks and RT to ensure that outcome.

Despite its brevity, the report makes many repetitive statements remarkable for their misplaced modifiers, mangled assertions, and missing words. This is not just bad English: this is muddled thinking and vague or entirely absent argument. Take, for example, this phrase: “Moscow most likely chose WikiLeaks because of its self-proclaimed reputation for authenticity.” I think, though I cannot be sure, that the authors of the report are speculating that Moscow gave the products of its hacking operation to WikiLeaks because WikiLeaks is known as a reliable source. The next line, however, makes this speculation unnecessary: “Disclosures through WikiLeaks did not contain any evident forgeries.”

Or consider this: “Putin most likely wanted to discredit Secretary Clinton because he has publicly blamed her since 2011 for inciting mass protests against his regime in late 2011 and early 2012, and because he holds a grudge for comments he almost certainly saw as disparaging him.” Did Putin’s desire to discredit Clinton stem from his own public statements, or are the intelligence agencies basing their appraisal of Putin’s motives on his public statements? Logic suggests the latter, but grammar indicates the former. The fog is not coincidental: if the report’s vague assertions were clarified and its circular logic straightened out, nothing would be left.

It is conceivable that the classified version of the report, which includes additional “supporting information” and sourcing, adds up to a stronger case. But considering the arc of the argument contained in the report, and the principal findings (which are apparently “identical” to those in the classified version), this would be a charitable reading. An appropriate headline for a news story on this report might be something like, “Intel Report on Russia Reveals Few New Facts,” or, say, “Intelligence Agencies Claim Russian Propaganda TV Influenced Election.” Instead, however, the major newspapers and commentators spoke in unison, broadcasting the report’s assertion of Putin’s intent without examining the arguments.

The New York Times called it “a strong statement from three intelligence agencies,” and followed its uncritical coverage with a story mocking Trump supporters for asking, “What’s the big deal?”

“How is it possible, if these intelligence reports are true, to count the 2016 Presidential election as unsullied?” asked New Yorker editor David Remnick in a piece published Friday. But since when has “unsullied” been a criterion on which a democratic process is judged? Standard measures include transparency, fairness, openness, accessibility to all voters and to different candidates. Anything that compromises these standards, whether because of domestic or external causes, may throw a result into doubt. But Remnick’s rhetorical question seems to reach for an entirely different standard: that of a process that is demonstrably free of any outside influence. Last month Paul Krugman at The New York Times railed, similarly, that the election was “tainted.” Democracy is messy, as autocrats the world over will never tire of pointing out. They are the ones who usually traffic in ideas of order and purity—as well as in conspiracy theories based on sweeping arguments and scant, haphazard evidence.

The election of Donald Trump is anomalous, both because of the campaign he ran and the peculiar vote mathematics that brought him victory. His use of fake news, his serial lying, his conning his way into free air time, his instrumentalization of partisanship and naked aggression certainly violated the norms of American democracy. But the intelligence report does nothing to clarify the abnormalities of Trump’s campaign and election. Instead, it risks perpetuating the fallacy that Trump is some sort of a foreign agent rather than a home-grown demagogue, while doing further damage to our faith in the electoral system. It also suggests that the US intelligence agencies’ Russia expertise is weak and throws into question their ability to process and present information—all this, two weeks before a man with no government experience but with a short Twitter fuse takes the oath of office.
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Re: With Latest Syria Threats, Trump Continues to Be More Co

Postby admin » Wed Apr 11, 2018 11:04 pm

A Consensus Emerges: Russia Committed an “Act of War” on Par With Pearl Harbor and 9/11. Should the U.S. Response Be Similar?
by Glenn Greenwald
February 19 2018, 8:27 a.m.

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IN THE WAKE of last week’s indictments alleging that 13 Russian nationals and entities created fake social media accounts and sponsored political events to sow political discord in the U.S., something of a consensus has arisen in the political and media class (with some notable exceptions) that these actions not only constitute an “act of war” against the U.S., but one so grave that it is tantamount to Pearl Harbor and 9/11. Indeed, that Russia’s alleged “meddling” is comparable to the two most devastating attacks in U.S. history has, overnight, become a virtual cliché.

The claim that Russian meddling in the election is “an act of war” comparable to these events isn’t brand new. Senators from both parties, such as Republican John McCain and Democrat Jeanne Shaheen, have long described Russian meddling in 2016 as an “act of war.” Hillary Clinton, while promoting her book last October, described Russia’s alleged hacking of the DNC and John Podesta’s email inbox as a “cyber 9/11.” And last February, the always war-hungry Tom Friedman of the New York Times said on “Morning Joe” that Russian hacking “was a 9/11-scale event. They attacked the core of our democracy. That was a Pearl Harbor-scale event.”

But the last few days have ushered in an explosion of this rhetoric from politicians and journalists alike. On Friday night’s Chris Hayes show on MSNBC, two separate guests — Democratic Rep. Jerry Nadler and longtime Clinton aide Philippe Reines — posited Pearl Harbor as the “equivalent” of Russian meddling, provoking a shocked reaction from Hayes:



The Washington Post’s Karen Tumulty, complaining about President Donald Trump’s inaction, asked readers to “imagine how history would have judged Franklin D. Roosevelt in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, if he had taken to the radio airwaves to declare that Tokyo was ‘laughing their asses off.’ Or if George W. Bush had stood in the rubble of the World Trade Center with a bullhorn and launched a name-calling tirade against the Democrats.”

David “Axis of Evil” Frum went back a century earlier to write that Trump’s inaction amounts to “a dereliction of duty as grave as any since President Buchanan looked the other way as Southern state governments pillaged federal arsenals on the eve of the Civil War.” Podesta — who served as Bill Clinton’s chief of staff, as well as Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign chair — called Trump a “draft dodger” for failing to engage what he called this “war” with Russia.

Let’s leave aside what a stinging indictment this claim is of the Obama presidency. It not only means that Barack Obama allowed an attack of the magnitude of Pearl Harbor and 9/11 to happen on his watch, but worse, did very little — basically nothing — in response, allegedly due to fears that any retaliation would be criticized by Republicans as partisan. But for those who really believe this rhetoric, can fears of political attacks really justify inaction by the commander-in-chief — whose primary duty, we’re so often told, is to protect the nation — in the face of a Pearl Harbor or a 9/11? To posit this equivalence is to condemn Obama in the harshest possible terms, to accuse him of utter malfeasance in protecting the nation.

But the more important question is the one these chest-beating politicians and pundits notably refrain from addressing. If Russian election meddling is on par with the Pearl Harbor and 9/11 attacks, then should the U.S. response be on par with its response to those attacks? Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor prompted U.S. involvement in a world war and, ultimately, dropping two nuclear bombs on Japan; 9/11 initiated wars in multiple countries that still, 17 years later, have no end in sight, along with a systematic and still-worsening erosion of basic civil liberties.

This has been a long-standing tactic during the war on terror of neoconservatives: They love to accuse everyone of being insufficiently “tough” or “aggressive” with whatever country they crave heightened tensions, but they never specify what greater “toughness” is needed, because to do so would expose their extremism. Indeed, for years, GOP hawks such as John McCain, Marco Rubio, and Jeb Bush often accused Obama — who repeatedly tried to accommodate and even partner with Russian President Vladimir Putin — of being insufficiently “tough” on the Russians, of being too “weak” to “stand up” to the Russian leader, without specifying what they wanted him to do beyond arming Ukrainians. Regarding Obama’s alleged weakness toward Putin, McCain said in 2014 that “history will judge this administration incredibly harshly.”

The only specific proposal one hears now when it comes to responding to Russian meddling is a call for “sanctions.” But if one really believes that Russia’s actions amount to Pearl Harbor or 9/11, then sanctions seem like a very lame — indeed, a woefully inadequate — response. To borrow their rhetoric, imagine if Roosevelt had confined his response to Pearl Harbor to sanctions on Japanese leaders, or if Bush had announced sanctions on Al Qaeda as his sole response to 9/11. If you really believe this rhetoric, then you must support retaliation beyond mere sanctions.

Indeed, Obama imposed sanctions on Russia for years, but critics like McCain insisted that it had no hope of changing Putin’s behavior, let alone imposing any real punishment. “The only thing that will dissuade Vladimir Putin from what he is doing is when coffins come back to the families in Russia,” McCain said of Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

At least McCain, for all his faults, is following his rhetoric through to its logical conclusions. If you really believe that Putin attacked the U.S. on a level even close to what was done at Pearl Harbor or on 9/11, then of course you’d be arguing for retaliation far greater than sanctions; you’d be arguing for military action such as arming Russia’s enemies if not beyond that, as McCain has done. You’d also be furious with Obama for allowing it to happen on his watch and then doing so little in response, as McCain is:

McCain Rips Obama's Response to Russian Hacking
by TWS Staff
The Weekly Standard
December 18, 2016


All of this underscores the serious dangers many have pointed to for more than a year about why all this unhinged rhetoric is so alarming. If you really believe that Russia — with some phishing links sent to Podesta and some fake Facebook ads and Twitter bots — committed an “act of war” of any kind, let alone one on par with Pearl Harbor and 9/11, then it’s inevitable that extreme retaliatory measures will be considered and likely triggered. How does one justify a mere imposition of sanctions in the face of an attack similar to Pearl Harbor or 9/11? Doesn’t it stand to reason that something much more belligerent, enduring, and destructive would be necessary?

At the very least, no politician or pundit should be able to get away with issuing rhetoric of this type without being required to specify what they think ought to be done. Here, for instance, is “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd, doing his best 2002 impression of Bill Kristol, decreeing in a predictably viral tweet that all patriotic Americans are duty-bound to focus on the question of what we should do to “punish Russia”:

Chuck Todd
@chucktodd
If you work in American politics or in the Gov’t on any level and your first reaction to today’s Mueller indictment is NOT ”how are we going to prevent this from happening again and how are we going to punish Russia,” then you need to rethink your priorities as a citizen.
2:54 PM - Feb 16, 2018


Note, though, that Todd himself neglects to specify what “punishment” he advocates. This is reckless rhetoric of the most irresponsible kind: demanding that everyone agree that “punishment” toward Russia is warranted (upon pain of being found guilty of bad citizenship), while failing to specify what punishment would be just, warranted, and rational. To do that is to deliberately beat the drums of war, cultivate an atmosphere of belligerence and aggression, without any limits or notions of proportionality.

That’s exactly what is being done by those who keep declaring the U.S. to be “at war” with Russia, and especially those who invoke the worst attacks in U.S. history when doing so, all while refusing to state what they think should be done in response. It’s simultaneous reckless and cowardly.
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Re: With Latest Syria Threats, Trump Continues to Be More Co

Postby admin » Wed Apr 11, 2018 11:13 pm

Harvard’s Laurence Tribe Has Become a Deranged Russia Conspiracist: Today Was His Most Humiliating Debacle
by Glenn Greenwald
February 12 2018, 9:43 a.m.

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HARVARD LAW PROFESSOR Laurence Tribe did not wait even 24 hours to exploit yesterday’s tragic crash of a Russian regional jet shortly after it took off from Moscow, killing all 71 people aboard. On Twitter this morning, Tribe (pictured above in 2010 with former Vice President Joe Biden) strongly insinuated that the Russian government may have purposely sabotaged the plane, murdering all of those on board, in order to silence one of the passengers, Sergei Millian, who has been linked to a couple of figures involved in the Trump-Russia investigation.

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What’s wrong with Tribe’s claims? Everything. To begin with, Millian was not on that plane. The official list of victims includes nobody with that name; as the Daily Beast’s Marlow Stern pointed out, the claim that Millian was on the plane was a simple hoax from the internet sewer, 4chan. Tribe apparently saw someone making this claim somewhere on the internet and then, without bothering to check if it was actually true, told his 289,000 followers that it was true, and then constructed a rabid, deranged conspiracy theory around it.

After dozens, if not hundreds, of people told him that what he said was false, Tribe — after more than 2,000 people retweeted it — posted a mealy-mouthed follow-up noting that he can’t “vouch” for the accuracy of the “plenty of reporting” he saw claiming this was true: “reporting” that he still has not identified.

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Even if Millian had been on the plane, casually suggesting that Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump, or some combination of other villains purposely murdered everyone on the plane in order to silence one witness is deranged to the point of being a clinical pathology. That sort of baseless conspiracy-mongering ought to disqualify anyone from serious company for a long time.

But it almost certainly will have no effect on Tribe’s standing. As BuzzFeed’s Joseph Bernstein documented almost a year ago, Tribe has become one of the internet’s most unhinged cranks, churning out wild conspiracy theories and, in the process, becoming a social media star and MSNBC favorite. Among his lowlights was his promoting of a story from the well-known liberal “fake news” site Palmer Report claiming that Trump paid $10 million to former GOP Rep. Jason Chaffetz.

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Tribe was also one of the people most responsible for building the platform of Louise Mensch who — among other things — has claimed that Putin murdered Andrew Breitbart and engineered the Ferguson protests.

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I’ll confess some personal disappointment with all of this, given that — as a law student and then a young lawyer wanting to practice constitutional law — Tribe was someone I had regarded with a great deal of admiration. He was a genuine scholar of constitutional law. But like so many people in the public arena, the combination of Trump’s 2016 victory and the fearmongering specter of Putin as an omnipotent mastermind seems to have broken his brain, or at least the part of it responsible for rational reasoning.

The more deranged he gets, the more Tribe — needless to say — becomes not just a social media star (his Twitter follower count, like most Russia-Trump conspiracists, has exploded over the last year), but has also become an MSNBC favorite, as they exploit his credentials and pedigree to depict his madness as some sort of insightful, investigative dot-connecting.


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That’s because, as I documented this morning, false claims about Russia are now a routine part of the U.S. media diet. There has long been a fringe on the far right that believes the Clintons are responsible for murdering dozens of people in order to silence them. Sometimes, people who thought that way were in the mainstream, as evidenced by the leading role played by the Wall Street Journal editorial page in pushing the theory that Hillary Clinton had former White House attorney Vince Foster murdered.

But those people have been largely scorned and relegated to obscurity. The new conspiracy theorists — the ones who casually suggest that when a plane crashes, it is really a secret attempt by Putin and Trump to silence one of the passengers (who wasn’t even a passenger) — are found not on far right websites, but on MSNBC and at Harvard Law School, with constantly growing social media followings and increasingly viral tweets. The people who like to rail most about the dangers of “fake news” and conspiracy theorizing seem awfully uninterested in condemning them because their derangement is for the right cause.
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Re: With Latest Syria Threats, Trump Continues to Be More Co

Postby admin » Wed Apr 11, 2018 11:24 pm

Yet Another Major Russia Story Falls Apart. Is Skepticism Permissible Yet?
by Glenn Greenwald
September 28 2017, 8:48 a.m.

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LAST FRIDAY, most major media outlets touted a major story about Russian attempts to hack into U.S. voting systems, based exclusively on claims made by the Department of Homeland Security. “Russians attempted to hack elections systems in 21 states in the run-up to last year’s presidential election, officials said Friday,” began the USA Today story, similar to how most other outlets presented this extraordinary claim.

Russians tried to hack election systems of 21 states in 2016, officials say
by Patrick Marley and Jason Stein
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Published 5:00 p.m. ET Sept. 22, 2017 | Updated 9:10 p.m. ET Sept. 22, 2017


This official story was explosive for obvious reasons, and predictably triggered instant decrees – that of course went viral – declaring that the legitimacy of the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential election is now in doubt.

Amy Siskind@Amy_Siskind
Why aren't we talking about the 21 states that were finally informed Friday by DHS they were hacked by Russia? Our election wasn't legit!
8:01 AM - 26 Sep 2017


Virginia’s Democratic Congressman Don Beyer, referring to the 21 targeted states, announced that this shows “Russia tried to hack their election”:

Rep. Don Beyer
@RepDonBeyer
The same day @realDonaldTrump refers to "Russia Hoax," Homeland Security Dept. tells 21 states that Russia tried to hack their elections. https://twitter.com/ericgeller/status/9 ... 7717501952
2:32 PM - Sep 22, 2017


MSNBC’s Paul Revere for all matters relating to the Kremlin take-over, Rachel Maddow, was indignant that this wasn’t told to us earlier and that we still aren’t getting all the details. “What we have now figured out,” Maddow gravely intoned as she showed the multi-colored maps she made, is that “Homeland Security knew at least by June that 21 states had been targeted by Russian hackers during the election. . .targeting their election infrastructure.”

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Maddow Blog
@MaddowBlog
DHS didn't bother to tell the 21 states Russia tried to hack during the election until this afternoon.
6:31 PM - Sep 22, 2017


They were one small step away from demanding that the election results be nullified, indulging the sentiment expressed by #Resistance icon Carl Reiner the other day: “Is there anything more exciting that [sic] the possibility of Trump’s election being invalidated & Hillary rightfully installed as our President?”

So what was wrong with this story? Just one small thing: it was false. The story began to fall apart yesterday when Associated Press reported that Wisconsin – one of the states included in the original report that, for obvious reasons, caused the most excitement – did not, in fact, have its election systems targeted by Russian hackers:


@APCentralRegion @APCentralRegion
Feds now say Russians did NOT hack Wisconsin’s voter registration system. http://apne.ws/SsVkLv9
"Either they were right on Friday and this is a cover up, or they were wrong on Friday and we deserve an apology."
-- Mark Thomsen, Wisconsin Elections Commission
12:40 PM - 26 Sep 2017


Homeland Security now says Wisconsin elections not targeted
by Scott Bauer
Sep. 27, 2017

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The U.S. Department of Homeland Security reversed course Tuesday and told Wisconsin officials that the Russian government did not scan the state’s voter registration system, then later reiterated that it still believed it was one of 21 targeted states.

Homeland Security first told state elections officials on Friday that Wisconsin was one of 21 states targeted by the Russians, raising concerns about the safety and security of the state’s election systems even though no data had been compromised. But on Tuesday, Homeland Security gave apparently conflicting information about whether the state’s election system was a target and if it was, how it was threatened.

In an email to the state’s deputy elections administrator that was provided to reporters at the Wisconsin Elections Commission meeting on Tuesday, Homeland Security said an agency that doesn’t deal with elections was the target of scans by Russian IP addresses.

“Based on our external analysis, the WI IP address affected belongs to the WI Department of Workforce Development, not the Elections Commission,” said the email from Juan Figueroa, with Homeland Security’s Office of Infrastructure Protection.


The spokesman for Homeland Security then tried to walk back that reversal, insisting that there was still evidence that some computer networks had been targeted, but could not say that they had anything to do with elections or voting. And, as AP noted: “Wisconsin’s chief elections administrator, Michael Haas, had repeatedly said that Homeland Security assured the state it had not been targeted.”

Then the story collapsed completely last night. The Secretary of State for another one of the named states, California, issued a scathing statement repudiating the claimed report:

Information Provided by DHS Regarding Russian Scanning was Incorrect
September 27, 2017
Contact: Jesse Melgar or Sam Mahood (916) 653-6575

SACRAMENTO – California Secretary of State Alex Padilla issued the following statement.

“Last Friday, my office was notified by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that Russian cyber actors 'scanned' California’s Internet-facing systems in 2016, including Secretary of State websites. Following our request for further information, it became clear that DHS’ conclusions were wrong.”


Sometimes stories end up debunked. There’s nothing particularly shocking about that. If this were an isolated incident, one could chalk it up to basic human error that has no broader meaning.

But this is no isolated incident. Quite the contrary: this has happened over and over and over again. Inflammatory claims about Russia get mindlessly hyped by media outlets, almost always based on nothing more than evidence-free claims from government officials, only to collapse under the slightest scrutiny, because they are entirely lacking in evidence.

The examples of such debacles when it comes to claims about Russia are too numerous to comprehensively chronicle. I wrote about this phenomenon many times and listed many of the examples, the last time in June when 3 CNN journalists “resigned” over a completely false story linking Trump adviser Anthony Scaramucci to investigations into a Russian investment fund which the network was forced to retract:

Editor's Note
CNN Politics
Updated 10:44 PM ET, Fri June 23, 2017

On June 22, 2017, CNN.com published a story connecting Anthony Scaramucci with investigations into the Russian Direct Investment Fund.

That story did not meet CNN's editorial standards and has been retracted. Links to the story have been disabled. CNN apologizes to Mr. Scaramucci.


Remember that time the Washington Post claimed that Russia had hacked the U.S. electricity grid, causing politicians to denounce Putin for trying to deny heat to Americans in winter, only to have to issue multiple retractions because none of that ever happened? Or the time that the Post had to publish a massive editor’s note after its reporters made claims about Russian infiltration of the internet and spreading of “Fake News” based on an anonymous group’s McCarthyite blacklist that counted sites like the Drudge Report and various left-wing outlets as Kremlin agents?

Or that time when Slate claimed that Trump had created a secret server with a Russian bank, all based on evidence that every other media outlet which looked at it were too embarrassed to get near? Or the time the Guardian was forced to retract its report by Ben Jacobs – which went viral – that casually asserted that WikiLeaks has a long relationship with the Kremlin? Or the time that Fortune retracted suggestions that RT had hacked into and taken over C-SPAN’s network? And then there’s the huge market that was created – led by leading Democrats – that blindly ingested every conspiratorial, unhinged claim about Russia churned out by an army of crazed conspiracists such as Louise Mensch and Claude “TrueFactsStated” Taylor?

And now we have the Russia-hacked-the-voting-systems-of-21-states to add to this trash heap. Each time the stories go viral; each time they further shape the narrative; each time those who spread them say little to nothing when it is debunked.

NONE OF THIS means that every Russia claim is false, nor does it disprove the accusation that Putin ordered the hacking of the DNC and John Podesta’s email inboxes (a claim for which, just by the way, still no evidence has been presented by the U.S. government). Perhaps there were some states that were targeted, even though the key claims of this story, that attracted the most attention, have now been repudiated.

But what it does demonstrate is that an incredibly reckless, anything-goes climate prevails when it comes to claims about Russia. Media outlets will publish literally any official assertion as Truth without the slightest regard for evidentiary standards.

Seeing Putin lurking behind and masterminding every western problem is now religious dogma – it explains otherwise-confounding developments, provides certainty to a complex world, and alleviates numerous factions of responsibility – so media outlets and their journalists are lavishly rewarded any time they publish accusatory stories about Russia (especially ones involving the U.S. election), even if they end up being debunked.

A highly touted story yesterday from the New York Times – claiming that Russians used Twitter more widely known than before to manipulate U.S. politics – demonstrates this recklessness. The story is based on the claims of a new group formed just two months ago by a union of neocons and Democratic national security officials, led by long-time liars and propagandists such as Bill Kristol, former acting CIA chief Mike Morell, and Bush Homeland Security Secretary Mike Chertoff. I reported on the founding of this group, calling itself the Alliance for Securing Democracy, when it was unveiled (this is not to be confused with the latest new Russia group unveiled last week by Rob Reiner and David Frum and featuring a different former national security state official (former DNI James Clapper) – calling itself InvestigateRussia.org – featuring a video declaring that the U.S. is now “at war with Russia”).

The Kristol/Morell/Chertoff group on which the Times based its article has a very simple tactic: they secretly decide which Twitter accounts are “Russia bots,” meaning accounts that disseminate an “anti-American message” and are controlled by the Kremlin. They refuse to tell anyone which Twitter accounts they decided are Kremlin-loyal, nor will they identify their methodology for creating their lists or determining what constitutes “anti-Americanism.”

They do it all in secret, and you’re just supposed to trust them: Bill Kristol, Mike Chertoff and their national security state friends. And the New York Times is apparently fine with this demand, as evidenced by its uncritical acceptance yesterday of the claims of this group – a group formed by the nation’s least trustworthy sources.

But no matter. It’s a claim about nefarious Russian control. So it’s instantly vested with credibility and authority, published by leading news outlets, and then blindly accepted as fact in most elite circles. From now on, it will simply be Fact – based on the New York Times article – that the Kremlin aggressively and effectively weaponized Twitter to manipulate public opinion and sow divisions during the election, even though the evidence for this new story is the secret, unverifiable assertions of a group filled with the most craven neocons and national security state liars.

That’s how the Russia narrative is constantly “reported,” and it’s the reason so many of the biggest stories have embarrassingly collapsed. It’s because the Russia story of 2017 – not unlike the Iraq discourse of 2002 – is now driven by religious-like faith rather than rational faculties.


No questioning of official claims is allowed. The evidentiary threshold which an assertion must overcome before being accepted is so low as to be non-existent. And the penalty for desiring to see evidence for official claims, or questioning the validity and persuasiveness of the evidence that is proffered, are accusations that impugn one’s patriotism and loyalty (simply wanting to see evidence for official claims about Russia is proof, in many quarters, that one is a Kremlin agent or at least adores Putin – just as wanting to see evidence in 2002, or questioning the evidence presented for claims about Saddam, was viewed as proof that one harbored sympathy for the Iraqi dictator).

Regardless of your views on Russia, Trump and the rest, nobody can possibly regard this climate as healthy. Just look at how many major, incredibly inflammatory stories, from major media outlets, have collapsed. Is it not clear that there is something very wrong with how we are discussing and reporting on relations between these two nuclear-armed powers?
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Re: With Latest Syria Threats, Trump Continues to Be More Co

Postby admin » Wed Apr 11, 2018 11:36 pm

Dutch Official Admits Lying About Meeting With Putin: Is Fake News Used by Russia or About Russia?
by Glenn Greenwald
February 12, 2018, 6:43 a.m.

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EVERY EMPIRE NEEDS a scary external threat, led by a singular menacing villain, to justify its massive military expenditures, consolidation of authoritarian powers, and endless wars. For the five decades after the end of World War II, Moscow played this role perfectly. But the fall of Soviet Union meant, at least for a while, that the Kremlin could no longer sustain sufficient fear levels. After some brief, largely unsuccessful auditions for possible replacements — Asian actors like China and a splurging Japan were considered — the post-9/11 era elevated a cast of Muslim understudies to the starring role: Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, ISIS and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and “jihadism” generally kept fear alive.

The lack of any 9/11-type catastrophic attack on U.S. (or any Western) soil for the past 17 years, along with the killing of a pitifully aged, ailing bin Laden and the erosion of ISIS, has severely compromised their ongoing viability as major bad guys. So now — just as a film studio revitalizes a once-successful super-villain franchise for a new generation of moviegoers — we’re back to the Russians occupying center stage.

That Barack Obama spent eight years (including up through his final year-end news conference) mocking the notion that Russia posed a serious threat to the U.S. given their size and capabilities, and that he even tried repeatedly to accommodate and partner with Russian President Vladimir Putin, is of no concern: In the internet age, “2016” is regarded as ancient history, drowned out by an endless array of new threats pinned by a united media on the Russkie Plague. Moreover, human nature craves a belief in an existential foreign threat because it confers a sense of purpose and cause, strengthens tribal unity and identity, permits scapegoating, shifts blame for maladies from internal to external causes, and (like religion) offers a simplifying theory for understanding a complex world.

One of the prime accusations sustaining this script is that the Kremlin is drowning the West in “fake news” and other forms of propaganda. One can debate its impact and magnitude, but disinformation campaigns are something the U.S., Russia, and countless other nations have done to one another for centuries, and there is convincing evidence that Russia does this sort of thing now. But evidence of one threat does not mean that all claimed threats are real, nor does it mean that that tactic is exclusively wielded by one side.

Over the past year, there have been numerous claims made by Western intelligence agencies, mindlessly accepted as true in the Western press, that have turned out to be baseless, if not deliberate scams. Just today, it was revealed that Dutch Foreign Minister Halbe Zijlstra lied when he claimed he was at a meeting with Putin, in which the Russian president “said he considered Belarus, Ukraine and the Baltic states as part of a ‘Greater Russia.'”

Dutch Foreign Minister Admits Lying about Meeting With Putin
by The Associated Press
February 12, 2018

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — In a potentially damaging admission on the eve of his first visit to Russia as a member of the Dutch government, Foreign Minister Halbe Zijlstra on Monday acknowledged lying about attending a meeting with President Vladimir Putin in 2006.

Zijlstra issued a statement confirming the admission he made in an interview published in Monday’s edition of respected Dutch daily De Volkskrant.

Zijlstra has in the past said he was present as an employee of energy giant Shell at Putin’s country retreat when the Russian president said he considered Belarus, Ukraine and the Baltic states as part of a “Greater Russia.”

In a written statement, Zijlstra said that he was not present at the meeting in 2006 but heard the story from somebody who was there. He said he considered Putin’s statements so geopolitically important that he spoke about them publicly and took credit for hearing the comments as a way of protecting his source.


“Fake news” is certainly something to worry about when it emanates from foreign adversaries, but it is at least as concerning and threatening, if not more so, when emanating from one’s own governments and media. And there are countless, highly significant examples beyond today’s of such propaganda that emanates from within.





Russian Twitter accounts push #releasethememo conservative meme, researchers say
by Tom LoBianco and Matt O'Brien
Associated Press
Published 7:09 p.m. ET Jan. 22, 2018




Germany says expecting Russian effort to influence election
by Andrea Shalal
Reuters
July 4, 2017 / 4:50 AM


German Election Mystery: Why No Russian Meddling?
by Michael Schwirtz
New York Times
September 21, 2017




The Latest: France says no trace of Russian hacking Macron.
by U.S. News & World Report
June 1, 2017, at 10:38 a.m.


And this is all independent of all those cases when the U.S. media was forced to retract, or issue humiliating editor’s notes, about stories regarding the “Russian threat” that turned out to be false. Even in those cases in which some evidence can be found suggesting that some “Russians” were engaged online in support for a particular cause, the size and impact of it is usually so minute as to be laughable. In response to months of demands and threats to Twitter from the U.K. government to investigate how its service was used by Russians to support the Brexit referendum, Twitter — to satisfy mounting complaints — finally came up with this:

Twitter's UK policy chief Nick Pickles told the House of Commons select committee at a hearing taking place today in Washington DC that 49 accounts linked to Russia's Internet Research Agency tweeted a collective 942 times during the Brexit campaign. They were retweeted 461 times and liked 637 times. "Forty-nine such accounts were active during the referendum campaign, which represents less than 0.005% of the total number of accounts that tweeted about the referendum," he said.

A Twitter spokesperson told us, "As we noted in our previous letters to the Committee, our investigation has been ongoing and has not been limited to the information requested by the Committee or the Electoral Commission." They confirmed the information above and said, "These tweets cumulatively were retweeted 461 times and were liked 637 times. On average this represents fewer than 10 likes per account and fewer than 13 retweets per account during the campaign, with most accounts receiving two or fewer likes and retweets. These are very low levels of engagement."


For the six decades of the miserable Cold War, those Americans who tried to argue that the Russian threat was being exaggerated for nefarious ends and who advocated for better relations between Washington and Moscow were branded as “traitors,” Kremlin apologists, or at best, “useful idiots.” The revitalization of Russia as prime villain has also given new life to those old right-wing tactics, though this time wielded by the same people who were once its targets:

Image

But the reason this matters so much — this coordinated devotion to once again depicting Russia as a grave threat — is because of the serious, enduring policy implications. New Democratic Party star Joseph Kennedy III is following in the footsteps of his Cold Warrior ancestors by proposing massive new military, propaganda, and cybersecurity programs to combat the Russian threat. Senators such as Democrat Jeanne Shaheen and Republican John McCain routinely refer to “acts of war” when discussing U.S.-Russia relations. British generals and tabloids are hyping the Russian threat beyond all measure of reason in their quest to obtain new weapons systems and increased military spending at the expense of austerity-battered British subjects.

'NO CHOICE' British Army chief Sir Nick Carter warns war with Vladimir Putin’s Russia ‘could happen sooner than we expect’: Russian forces are 'on Europe's doorstep' and represent a 'clear and present danger', Carter says
by John Shammas
The Sun
23rd January 2018, 12:14 amUpdated: 23rd January 2018, 8:24 pm

THE head of the British Army has said that Russia could wage war on the West "sooner than we expect".

General Sir Nick Carter highlighted in a speech at the Royal United Services Institute how the Kremlin, in building an increasingly aggressive and expeditionary force, already boasts capabilities the UK would struggle to match.


UK Army Chief Calls for Extra Funding Amid Russian Threat
by James Masters
CNN
Updated 6:15 AM ET, Mon January 22, 2018


If there’s any lesson that should unite everyone in the West, it’s that the greatest skepticism is required when it comes to government and media claims about the nature of foreign threats. If we’re going to rejuvenate a Cold War, or submit to greater military spending and government powers in the name of stopping alleged Russian aggression, we should at least ensure that the information on which those campaigns succeed are grounded in fact. Even a casual review of the propaganda spewing forth from Western power centers over the last year leaves little doubt that the exact opposite is happening.
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Re: With Latest Syria Threats, Trump Continues to Be More Co

Postby admin » Wed Apr 11, 2018 11:56 pm

CNN Journalists Resign: Latest Example of Media Recklessness on the Russia Threat
by Glenn Greenwald
June 27 2017, 6:03 a.m.

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THREE PROMINENT CNN journalists resigned Monday night after the network was forced to retract and apologize for a story linking Trump ally Anthony Scaramucci to a Russian investment fund under congressional investigation. That article — like so much Russia reporting from the U.S. media — was based on a single anonymous source, and now, the network cannot vouch for the accuracy of its central claims.

In announcing the resignation of the three journalists — Thomas Frank, who wrote the story (not the same Thomas Frank who wrote “What’s the Matter with Kansas?”); Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Eric Lichtblau, recently hired away from the New York Times; and Lex Haris, head of a new investigative unit — CNN said that “standard editorial processes were not followed when the article was published.” The resignations follow CNN’s Friday night retraction of the story, in which it apologized to Scaramucci:

CNN Politics
Editor's Note
Updated 10:44 PM ET, Fri June 23, 2017

On June 22, 2017, CNN.com published a story connecting Anthony Scaramucci with investigations into the Russian Direct Investment Fund.

That story did not meet CNN's editorial standards and has been retracted. Links to the story have been disabled. CNN apologizes to Mr. Scaramucci.


Several factors compound CNN’s embarrassment here. To begin with, CNN’s story was first debunked by an article in Sputnik News, which explained that the investment fund documented several “factual inaccuracies” in the report (including that the fund is not even part of the Russian bank, Vnesheconombank, that is under investigation), and by Breitbart, which cited numerous other factual inaccuracies.

And this episode follows an embarrassing correction CNN was forced to issue earlier this month when several of its highest-profile on-air personalities asserted — based on anonymous sources — that James Comey, in his congressional testimony, was going to deny Trump’s claim that the FBI director assured him he was not the target of any investigation.

When Comey confirmed Trump’s story, CNN was forced to correct its story. “An earlier version of this story said that Comey would dispute Trump’s interpretation of their conversations. But based on his prepared remarks, Comey outlines three conversations with the president in which he told Trump he was not personally under investigation,” said the network.

BUT CNN IS hardly alone when it comes to embarrassing retractions regarding Russia. Over and over, major U.S. media outlets have published claims about the Russia Threat that turned out to be completely false — always in the direction of exaggerating the threat and/or inventing incriminating links between Moscow and the Trump circle. In virtually all cases, those stories involved evidence-free assertions from anonymous sources that these media outlets uncritically treated as fact, only for it to be revealed that they were entirely false.

Several of the most humiliating of these episodes have come from the Washington Post. On December 30, the paper published a blockbuster, frightening scoop that immediately and predictably went viral and generated massive traffic. Russian hackers, the paper claimed based on anonymous sources, had hacked into the “U.S. electricity grid” through a Vermont utility.

Russian operation hacked a Vermont utility, showing risk to U.S. electrical grid security, officials say
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that Russian hackers had penetrated the U.S. electric grid. Authorities say there is no indication of that so far. The computer at Burlington Electric that was hacked was not attached to the grid.
by Juliet Eilperin and Adam Entous
December 31, 2016


Washington Post
@washingtonpost
Breaking: Russian hackers penetrated U.S. electricity grid through a utility in Vermont http://wapo.st/2hDm05H
5:58 PM - Dec 30, 2016
Russian operation hacked a Vermont utility, showing risk to U.S. electrical grid security, offici...
A code associated with the Russian hacking operation dubbed Grizzly Steppe was detected.
washingtonpost.com


That, in turn, led MSNBC journalists, and various Democratic officials, to instantly sound the alarm that Putin was trying to deny Americans heat during the winter:

Kyle Griffin@kylegriffin1
VT Gov. Peter Shumlin on Russian hacking attempt: 'One of the world's leading thugs, Putin, has been attempting to hack our electric grid.'
9:35 AM - 31 Dec 2016


Literally every facet of that story turned out to be false. First, the utility company — which the Post had not bothered to contact — issued a denial, pointing out that malware was found on one laptop that was not connected either to the Vermont grid or the broader U.S. electricity grid. That forced the Post to change the story to hype the still-alarmist claim that this malware “showed the risk” posed by Russia to the U.S. electric grid, along with a correction at the top repudiating the story’s central claim:

National Security

Russian operation hacked a Vermont utility, showing risk to U.S. electrical grid security, officials say

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that Russian hackers had penetrated the U.S. electric grid. Authorities say there is no indication of that so far. The computer at Burlington Electric that was hacked was not attached to the grid.

By Juliet Eilperin and Adam Entous December 31, 2016

A code associated with the Russian hacking operation dubbed Grizzly Steppe by the Obama administration has been detected within the system of a Vermont utility, according to U.S. officials.

While the Russians did not actively use the code to disrupt operations, according to officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a security matter, the discovery underscores the vulnerabilities of the nation’s electrical grid. And it raises fears in the U.S. government that Russian government hackers are actively trying to penetrate the grid to carry out potential attacks.


But then it turned out that even this limited malware was not connected to Russian hackers at all and, indeed, may not have been malicious code of any kind. Those revelations forced the Post to publish a new article days later entirely repudiating the original story.



Embarrassments of this sort are literally too numerous to count when it comes to hyped, viral U.S. media stories over the last year about the Russia Threat. Less than a month before its electric grid farce, the Post published a blockbuster story — largely based on a blacklist issued by a brand new, entirely anonymous group — featuring the shocking assertion that stories planted or promoted by Russia’s “disinformation campaign” were viewed more than 213 million times.

That story fell apart almost immediately.
The McCarthyite blacklist of Russia disinformation outlets on which it relied contained numerous mainstream sites. The article was widely denounced. And the Post, two weeks later, appended a lengthy editor’s note at the top:

Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say
by Craig Timberg
November 24, 2016

Editor’s Note: The Washington Post on Nov. 24 published a story on the work of four sets of researchers who have examined what they say are Russian propaganda efforts to undermine American democracy and interests. One of them was PropOrNot, a group that insists on public anonymity, which issued a report identifying more than 200 websites that, in its view, wittingly or unwittingly published or echoed Russian propaganda. A number of those sites have objected to being included on PropOrNot’s list, and some of the sites, as well as others not on the list, have publicly challenged the group’s methodology and conclusions. The Post, which did not name any of the sites, does not itself vouch for the validity of PropOrNot’s findings regarding any individual media outlet, nor did the article purport to do so. Since publication of The Post’s story, PropOrNot has removed some sites from its list.

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.


Weeks earlier, Slate published another article that went viral on Trump and Russia, claiming that a secret server had been discovered that the Trump Organization used to communicate with a Russian bank. After that story was hyped by Hillary Clinton herself, multiple news outlets (including The Intercept) debunked it, noting that the story had been shopped around for months but found no takers. Ultimately, the Washington Post made clear how reckless the claims were:

That secret Trump-Russia email server link is likely neither secret nor a Trump-Russia link
by Philip Bump
November 1, 2016

Of all the things that were going to get Donald Trump into trouble over the course of this election, I would have put "automated computer server activity" pretty low on the list. But here we are.

On Monday night, Slate published a lengthy story written by Franklin Foer exploring an odd connection between Trump's businesses and a bank in Russia. Researchers looking to track Russian attempts at hacking American political interests noticed that a server at the bank had been connecting to a server linked to Trump — sporadically, in a pattern that they felt was indicative of interpersonal communication. With attention in the presidential race focused on how Trump's political and economic interests might overlap with those of the Russian state, this was a tantalizing wisp of smoke.


A few weeks later, C-SPAN made big news when it announced that its network had been “interrupted by RT programming”:

C-SPAN
Created by Cable.

This afternoon the online feed for C-SPAN was briefly interrupted by RT programming. We are currently investigating and troubleshooting this occurrence. As RT is one of the networks we regularly monitor, we are operating under the assumption that it was an internal routing issue. If that changes we will certainly let you know.

CSPAN
@cspan
2:09 PM - Jan 12, 2017


That led numerous media outlets, such as Fortune, to claim that this occurred due to Russian hacking – yet that, too, turned out to be totally baseless, and Fortune was forced to renounce the claim:

Correction: This story originally ran under the headline "C-SPAN Confirms It Was Briefly Hacked by Russian News Site." C-SPAN confirmed that an interruption took place but has not yet identified the cause of the interruption.


In the same time period — December 2016 — The Guardian published a story by reporter Ben Jacobs claiming that WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, had “long had a close relationship with the Putin regime.” That claim, along with several others in the story, was fabricated, and The Guardian was forced to append a retraction to the story:

This article was amended on 29 December 2016 to remove a sentence in which it was asserted that Assange “has long had a close relationship with the Putin regime”. A sentence was also amended which paraphrased the interview, suggesting Assange said “there was no need for Wikileaks to undertake a whistleblowing role in Russia because of the open and competitive debate he claimed exists there”. It has been amended to more directly describe the question Assange was responding to when he spoke of Russia’s “many vibrant publications”.


Perhaps the most significant Russia falsehood came from CrowdStrike, the firm hired by the DNC to investigate the hack of its email servers. Again in the same time period — December 2016 — the firm issued a new report accusing Russian hackers of nefarious activities involving the Ukrainian army, which numerous outlets, including (of course) the Washington Post, uncritically hyped.

“A cybersecurity firm has uncovered strong proof of the tie between the group that hacked the Democratic National Committee and Russia’s military intelligence arm — the primary agency behind the Kremlin’s interference in the 2016 election,” the Post claimed. “The firm CrowdStrike linked malware used in the DNC intrusion to malware used to hack and track an Android phone app used by the Ukrainian army in its battle against pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine from late 2014 through 2016.”

Yet that story also fell apart.
In March, the firm “revised and retracted statements it used to buttress claims of Russian hacking during last year’s American presidential election campaign” after several experts questioned its claims, and “CrowdStrike walked back key parts of its Ukraine report.”

WHAT IS MOST notable about these episodes is that they all go in the same direction: hyping and exaggerating the threat posed by the Kremlin. All media outlets will make mistakes; that is to be expected. But when all of the “mistakes” are devoted to the same rhetorical theme, and when they all end up advancing the same narrative goal, it seems clear that they are not the byproduct of mere garden-variety journalistic mistakes.

There are great benefits to be reaped by publishing alarmist claims about the Russian Threat and Trump’s connection to it. Stories that depict the Kremlin and Putin as villains and grave menaces are the ones that go most viral, produce the most traffic, generate the most professional benefits such as TV offers, along with online praise and commercial profit for those who disseminate them. That’s why blatantly inane anti-Trump conspiracists and Russia conspiracies now command such a large audience: because there is a voracious appetite among anti-Trump internet and cable news viewers for stories, no matter how false, that they want to believe are true (and, conversely, expressing any skepticism about such stories results in widespread accusations that one is a Kremlin sympathizer or outright agent).



One can, if one wishes, view the convergence of those ample benefits and this long line of reckless stories on Russia as a coincidence, but that seems awfully generous, if not willfully gullible. There are substantial professional and commercial rewards for those who do this and — at least until the resignation of these CNN journalists last night — very few consequences even when they are caught.

A related, and perhaps more significant, dynamic is that journalistic standards are often dispensed with when it comes to exaggerating the threat posed by countries deemed to be the official enemy du jour. That is a journalistic principle that has repeatedly asserted itself, with Iraq being the most memorable but by no means only example.

In sum, anything is fair game when it comes to circulating accusations about official U.S. adversaries, no matter how baseless, and Russia currently occupies that role. (More generally: The less standing and power one has in official Washington, the more acceptable it is in U.S. media circles to publish false claims about them, as this recent, shockingly falsehood-ridden New York Times article about RT host Lee Camp illustrates; it, too, now contains multiple corrections.)

And then there is the fact that the vast majority of reporting about Russia, as well as Trump’s alleged ties to the Kremlin, has been based exclusively on evidence-free assertions of anonymous officials, many, if not most, of whom have concealed agendas. That means that they are free to issue completely false claims without the slightest concern of repercussions.


That there is now a fundamental problem with reporting on Russia appears to be a fact accepted even by CNN executives. In the wake of this latest debacle, a CNN editor issued a memo, leaked to BuzzFeed, imposing new editorial safeguards on “any content involving Russia.” That is a rather remarkable indictment on media behavior when it comes to Moscow.

The importance of this journalistic malfeasance when it comes to Russia, a nuclear-armed power, cannot be overstated. This is the story that has dominated U.S. politics for more than a year. Ratcheting up tensions between these two historically hostile powers is incredibly inflammatory and dangerous. All kinds of claims, no matter how little evidence there is to support them, have flooded U.S. political discourse and have been treated as proven fact.

And that’s all independent of how journalistic recklessness fuels, and gives credence to, the Trump administration’s campaign to discredit journalism generally. The president wasted no time exploiting this latest failure to attack the media:

Donald J. Trump
@realDonaldTrump
Wow, CNN had to retract big story on "Russia," with 3 employees forced to resign. What about all the other phony stories they do? FAKE NEWS!
3:33 AM - Jun 27, 2017


Given the stakes, reporting on these matters should be done with the greatest care. As this long line of embarrassments, retractions, and falsehoods demonstrates, the exact opposite mentality has driven media behavior over the last year.

Correction: June 27, 2017, 1:03 p.m.
An earlier version of the article incorrectly stated that Slate is owned by the Washington Post company. It’s owned by Graham Holdings, which owned the Washington Post until Jeff Bezos bought it in 2013. Graham Holdings held onto Slate during the sale.

Clarification: June 28, 2017, 9:03 a.m.
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Re: With Latest Syria Threats, Trump Continues to Be More Co

Postby admin » Thu Apr 12, 2018 12:12 am

The U.S. Media Suffered Its Most Humiliating Debacle in Ages and Now Refuses All Transparency Over What Happened
by Glenn Greenwald
December 9 2017, 8:17 a.m

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FRIDAY WAS ONE of the most embarrassing days for the U.S. media in quite a long time. The humiliation orgy was kicked off by CNN, with MSNBC and CBS close behind, and countless pundits, commentators, and operatives joining the party throughout the day. By the end of the day, it was clear that several of the nation’s largest and most influential news outlets had spread an explosive but completely false news story to millions of people, while refusing to provide any explanation of how it happened.

The spectacle began Friday morning at 11 a.m. EST, when the Most Trusted Name in News™ spent 12 straight minutes on air flamboyantly hyping an exclusive bombshell report that seemed to prove that WikiLeaks, last September, had secretly offered the Trump campaign, even Donald Trump himself, special access to the Democratic National Committee emails before they were published on the internet. As CNN sees the world, this would prove collusion between the Trump family and WikiLeaks and, more importantly, between Trump and Russia, since the U.S. intelligence community regards WikiLeaks as an “arm of Russian intelligence,” and therefore, so does the U.S. media.

This entire revelation was based on an email that CNN strongly implied it had exclusively obtained and had in its possession. The email was sent by someone named “Michael J. Erickson” — someone nobody had heard of previously and whom CNN could not identify — to Donald Trump Jr., offering a decryption key and access to DNC emails that WikiLeaks had “uploaded.” The email was a smoking gun, in CNN’s extremely excited mind, because it was dated September 4 — 10 days before WikiLeaks began promoting access to those emails online — and thus proved that the Trump family was being offered special, unique access to the DNC archive: likely by WikiLeaks and the Kremlin.

It’s impossible to convey with words what a spectacularly devastating scoop CNN believed it had, so it’s necessary to watch it for yourself to see the tone of excitement, breathlessness, and gravity the network conveyed as they clearly believed they were delivering a near-fatal blow on the Trump-Russia collusion story:



There was just one small problem with this story: It was fundamentally false, in the most embarrassing way possible. Hours after CNN broadcast its story — and then hyped it over and over and over — the Washington Post reported that CNN got the key fact of the story wrong.

The email was not dated September 4, as CNN claimed, but rather September 14 — which means it was sent after WikiLeaks had already published access to the DNC emails online. Thus, rather than offering some sort of special access to Trump, “Michael J. Erickson” was simply some random person from the public encouraging the Trump family to look at the publicly available DNC emails that WikiLeaks — as everyone by then already knew — had publicly promoted. In other words, the email was the exact opposite of what CNN presented it as being.

Image

How did CNN end up aggressively hyping such a spectacularly false story? They refuse to say. Many hours after their story got exposed as false, the journalist who originally presented it, congressional reporter Manu Raju, finally posted a tweet noting the correction. CNN’s P.R. department then claimed that “multiple sources” had provided CNN with the false date. And Raju went on CNN, in muted tones, to note the correction, explicitly claiming that “two sources” had each given him the false date on the email, while also making clear that CNN did not ever even see the email, but only had sources describe its purported contents:



All of this prompts the glaring, obvious, and critical question — one that CNN refuses to address: How did “multiple sources” all misread the date on this document, in exactly the same way and toward the same end, and then feed this false information to CNN?

It is, of course, completely plausible that one source might innocently misread a date on a document. But how is it remotely plausible that multiple sources could all innocently and in good faith misread the date in exactly the same way, all to cause the dissemination of a blockbuster revelation about Trump-Russia-WikiLeaks collusion? This is the critical question that CNN simply refuses to answer. In other words, CNN refuses to provide the most minimal transparency to enable the public to understand what happened here.

WHY DOES THIS matter so much? For so many significant reasons:

To begin with, it’s hard to overstate how fast, far, and wide this false story traveled. Democratic Party pundits, operatives, and journalists with huge social media platforms predictably jumped on the story immediately, announcing that it proved collusion between Trump and Russia (through WikiLeaks). One tweet from Democratic Rep. Ted Lieu, claiming that this proved evidence of criminal collusion, was retweeted thousands and thousands of times in just a few hours (Lieu quietly deleted the tweet after I noted its falsity, and long after it went very viral, without ever telling his followers that the CNN story, and therefore his accusation, had been debunked).

Glenn Greenwald
@ggreenwald
This tweet is from a member of Congress today. It was RT'd more than 7,000 times (and counting), and liked more than 15,000 times. It's based on a completely false claim, from a debunked CNN story. This happens over and over. This seems damaging. And still no retraction. https://twitter.com/tedlieu/status/939129798793793536
1:23 PM - Dec 8, 2017


Brookings Institution’s Benjamin Wittes, whose star has risen as he has promoted himself as a friend of former FBI Director Jim Comey, not only promoted the CNN story in the morning, but did so with the word “boom” — which he uses to signal that a major blow has been delivered to Trump on the Russia story — along with a GIF of a cannon being detonated:

Benjamin Wittes
@benjaminwittes
boom http://www.cnn.com/2017/12/08/politics/ ... index.html
6:12 AM - Dec 8, 2017


Incredibly, to this very moment — almost 24 hours after CNN’s story was debunked — Wittes has never noted to his more than 200,000 followers that the story he so excitedly promoted turned out to be utterly false, even though he returned to Twitter long after the story was debunked to tweet about other matters. He just left his false and inflammatory claims uncorrected.

Talking Points Memo’s Josh Marshall believed the story was so significant that he used an image of an atomic bomb detonating at the top of his article discussing its implications, an article he tweeted to his roughly 250,000 followers. Only at night was an editor’s note finally added noting that the whole thing was false.


This Sounds Very Big To Me
by Josh Marshall
Published December 8, 2017 9:59 AM
TPM

Image

[ed.note: As noted in my editor’s note on the post above, CNN subsequently corrected this story. The correction – dating the email to September 14th, rather than September 4th dramatically changed what the email meant. See the editor’s note above for more detail. But the upshot is that this seems to have been simply an email from a supporter flagging public Wikileaks documents rather than an approach from a secret source. I’m leaving the post below in place. But read it with this in mind.]


It’s hard to quantify exactly how many people were deceived — filled with false news and propaganda — by the CNN story. But thanks to Democratic-loyal journalists and operatives who decree every Trump-Russia claim to be true without seeing any evidence, it’s certainly safe to say that many hundreds of thousands of people, almost certainly millions, were exposed to these false claims.

Surely anyone who has any minimal concerns about journalistic accuracy — which would presumably include all the people who have spent the last year lamenting Fake News, propaganda, Twitter bots, and the like — would demand an accounting as to how a major U.S. media outlet ended up filling so many people’s brains with totally false news. That alone should prompt demands from CNN for an explanation about what happened here. No Russian Facebook ad or Twitter bot could possibly have anywhere near the impact as this CNN story had when it comes to deceiving people with blatantly inaccurate information.

Second, the “multiple sources” who fed CNN this false information did not confine themselves to that network. They were apparently very busy eagerly spreading the false information to as many media outlets as they could find. In the middle of the day, CBS News claimed that it had independently “confirmed” CNN’s story about the email and published its own breathless article discussing the grave implications of this discovered collusion.

Most embarrassing of all was what MSNBC did. You just have to watch this report from its “intelligence and national security correspondent” Ken Dilanian to believe it. Like CBS, Dilanian also claimed that he had independently “confirmed” the false CNN report from “two sources with direct knowledge of this.” Dilanian, whose career in the U.S. media continues to flourish the more he is exposed as someone who faithfully parrots what the CIA tells him to say (since that is one of the most coveted and valued attributes in U.S. journalism), spent three minutes mixing evidence-free CIA claims as fact with totally false assertions about what his multiple “sources with direct knowledge” told him about all this. Please watch this — again, not just the content but the tenor and tone of how they “report” — as it is Baghdad Bob-level embarrassing:



Think about what this means. It means that at least two — and possibly more — sources, which these media outlets all assessed as credible in terms of having access to sensitive information, all fed the same false information to multiple news outlets at the same time. For multiple reasons, the probability is very high that these sources were Democratic members of the House Intelligence Committee (or their high-level staff members), which is the committee that obtained access to Trump Jr.’s emails, although it’s certainly possible that it’s someone else. We won’t know until these news outlets deign to report this crucial information to the public: Which “multiple sources” acted jointly to disseminate incredibly inflammatory, false information to the nation’s largest news outlets?

L.A. Times Disowns Reporter Outed as a CIA Collaborator
Ex-Tribune Reporter Said to Have 'Collaborative" Relationship With CIA
by Jonathan Valania
09/05/2014 10:53 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Recently released emails indicate that prominent national security reporter Ken Dilanian — formerly with the Los Angeles Times, currently with the Associated Press (and from 1997-2007 the Philadelphia Inquirer) — shared stories prior to publication with CIA press office seeking their approval, according to a story up on The Intercept. Now, it is not uncommon for national security reporters to vet facts with government functionaries, but the emails indicate Dilanian went much further than that, not only sharing stories prior to publication (a big no-no in almost every newsroom) but he also entered into discussions about how the CIA could bend public opinion of drone strikes their way.


Just last week, the Washington Post decided — to great applause (including mine) — to expose a source to whom they had promised anonymity and off-the-record protections because they discovered that she was purposely feeding them false information as part of a scheme by Project Veritas to discredit the Post. It’s a well-established principle of journalism — one that is rarely followed when it comes to powerful people in D.C. — that journalists should expose, rather than protect and conceal, sources who purposely feed them false information to be disseminated to the public.

After Phillips was seen entering the Project Veritas office, The Post made the unusual decision to report her previous off-the-record comments.

“We always honor ‘off-the-record’ agreements when they’re entered into in good faith,” said Martin Baron, The Post’s executive editor. “But this so-called off-the-record conversation was the essence of a scheme to deceive and embarrass us. The intent by Project Veritas clearly was to publicize the conversation if we fell for the trap. Because of our customary journalistic rigor, we weren’t fooled, and we can’t honor an ‘off-the-record’ agreement that was solicited in maliciously bad faith.”


Glenn Greenwald
@ggreenwald
The Post made the right call to report off-the-record comments given they were offered with fraudulent intent. This should be done far more often to actually powerful-in-DC people who spread lies while hiding behind anonymity https://www.washingtonpost.com/investig ... e35306506c
2:49 PM - Nov 27, 2017


Is that what happened here? Did these “multiple sources” who fed not just CNN, but also MSNBC and CBS completely false information do so deliberately and in bad faith? Until these news outlets provide an accounting of what happened — what one might call “minimal journalistic transparency” — it’s impossible to say for certain. But right now, it’s very difficult to imagine a scenario in which multiple sources all fed the wrong date to multiple media outlets innocently and in good faith.

If this were, in fact, a deliberate attempt to cause a false and highly inflammatory story to be reported, then these media outlets have an obligation to expose who the culprits are — just as the Washington Post did last week to the woman making false claims about Roy Moore (it was much easier in that case because the source they exposed was a nobody in D.C., rather than someone on whom they rely for a steady stream of stories, the way CNN and MSNBC rely on Democratic members of the Intelligence Committee). By contrast, if this were just an innocent mistake, then these media outlets should explain how such an implausible sequence of events could possibly have happened.

Thus far, these media corporations are doing the opposite of what journalists ought to do: Rather than informing the public about what happened and providing minimal transparency and accountability for themselves and the high-level officials who caused this to happen, they are hiding behind meaningless, obfuscating statements crafted by P.R. executives and lawyers.

How can journalists and news outlets so flamboyantly act offended when they’re attacked as being “Fake News” when this is the conduct behind which they hide when they get caught disseminating incredibly consequential false stories?

THE MORE SERIOUS you think the Trump-Russia story is, the more dangerous you think it is when Trump attacks the U.S. media as “Fake News,” the more you should be disturbed by what happened here, the more transparency and accountability you should be demanding. If you’re someone who thinks Trump’s attacks on the media are dangerous, then you should be first in line objecting when they act recklessly and demand transparency and accountability from them. It is debacles like this — and the subsequent corporate efforts to obfuscate — that have made the U.S. media so disliked and that fuel and empower Trump’s attacks on them.

Third, this type of recklessness and falsity is now a clear and highly disturbing trend — one could say a constant — when it comes to reporting on Trump, Russia, and WikiLeaks. I have spent a good part of the last year documenting the extraordinarily numerous, consequential, and reckless stories that have been published — and then corrected, rescinded, and retracted — by major media outlets when it comes to this story.

All media outlets, of course, will make mistakes. The Intercept certainly has made our share, as have all outlets. And it’s particularly natural, inevitable, for mistakes to be made on a highly complicated, opaque story like the question of the relationship between Trump and the Russians, and questions relating to how WikiLeaks obtained the DNC and Podesta emails. That is all to be expected.

But what one should expect with journalistic “mistakes” is that they sometimes go in one direction and other times go in the other direction. That’s exactly what has not happened here. Virtually every false story published goes only in one direction: to be as inflammatory and damaging as possible on the Trump-Russia story and about Russia particularly. At some point, once “mistakes” all start going in the same direction, toward advancing the same agenda, they cease looking like mistakes.

No matter your views on those political controversies, no matter how much you hate Trump or regard Russia as a grave villain and threat to our cherished democracy and freedoms, it has to be acknowledged that when the U.S. media is spewing constant false news about all of this, that, too, is a grave threat to our democracy and cherished freedom.

So numerous are the false stories about Russia and Trump over the last year that I literally cannot list them all. Just consider the ones from the last week alone, as enumerated by the New York Times yesterday in its news report on CNN’s embarrassment:

It was also yet another prominent reporting error at a time when news organizations are confronting a skeptical public, and a president who delights in attacking the media as “fake news.”

Last Saturday, ABC News suspended a star reporter, Brian Ross, after an inaccurate report that Donald Trump had instructed Michael T. Flynn, the former national security adviser, to contact Russian officials during the presidential race.

The report fueled theories about coordination between the Trump campaign and a foreign power, and stocks dropped after the news. In fact, Mr. Trump’s instruction to Mr. Flynn came after he was president-elect.

Several news outlets, including Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal, also inaccurately reported this week that Deutsche Bank had received a subpoena from the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, for President Trump’s financial records.

The president and his circle have not been shy about pointing out the errors.


That’s just the last week alone. Let’s just remind ourselves of how many times major media outlets have made humiliating, breathtaking errors on the Trump-Russia story, always in the same direction, toward the same political goals. Here is just a sample of incredibly inflammatory claims that traveled all over the internet before having to be corrected, walked back, or retracted — often long after the initial false claims spread, and where the corrections receive only a tiny fraction of the attention with which the initial false stories are lavished:

• Russia hacked into the U.S. electric grid to deprive Americans of heat during winter (Wash Post)
• An anonymous group (PropOrNot) documented how major U.S. political sites are Kremlin agents (Wash Post)
• WikiLeaks has a long, documented relationship with Putin (Guardian)
• A secret server between Trump and a Russian bank has been discovered (Slate)
• RT hacked C-SPAN and caused disruption in its broadcast (Fortune)
• Russians hacked into a Ukrainian artillery app (Crowdstrike)
• Russians attempted to hack elections systems in 21 states (multiple news outlets, echoing Homeland Security)
• Links have been found between Trump ally Anthony Scaramucci and a Russian investment fund under investigation (CNN)

That really is just a small sample. So continually awful and misleading has this reporting been that even Vladimir Putin’s most devoted critics — such as Russian expatriate Masha Gessen, oppositional Russian journalists, and anti-Kremlin liberal activists in Moscow — are constantly warning that the U.S. media’s unhinged, ignorant, paranoid reporting on Russia is harming their cause in all sorts of ways, in the process destroying the credibility of the U.S. media in the eyes of Putin’s opposition (who — unlike Americans who have been fed a steady news and entertainment propaganda diet for decades about Russia — actually understand the realities of that country).

Breaking: Russian Hackers Penetrated U.S. Electricity Grid Through a Utility in Vermont
by Juliet Eilperin and Adam Entous
Washington Post
December 31, 2016


Kyle Griffin@kylegriffin1
VT Gov. Peter Shumlin on Russian hacking attempt: 'One of the world's leading thugs, Putin, has been attempting to hack our electric grid.'
9:35 AM - 31 Dec 2016


Russian government hackers do not appear to have targeted Vermont utility, say people close to investigation
by Ellen Nakashima and Juliet Eilperin
January 2, 2017

As federal officials investigate suspicious Internet activity found last week on a Vermont utility computer, they are finding evidence that the incident is not linked to any Russian government effort to target or hack the utility, according to experts and officials close to the investigation.

An employee at Burlington Electric Department was checking his Yahoo email account Friday and triggered an alert indicating that his computer had connected to a suspicious IP address associated by authorities with the Russian hacking operation that infiltrated the Democratic Party. Officials told the company that traffic with this particular address is found elsewhere in the country and is not unique to Burlington Electric, suggesting the company wasn’t being targeted by the Russians. Indeed, officials say it is possible that the traffic is benign, since this particular IP address is not always connected to malicious activity.


U.S. media outlets are very good at demanding respect. They love to imply, if not outright state, that being patriotic and a good American means that one must reject efforts to discredit them and their reporting because that’s how one defends press freedom.

But journalists also have the responsibility not just to demand respect and credibility but to earn it. That means that there shouldn’t be such a long list of abject humiliations, in which completely false stories are published to plaudits, traffic, and other rewards, only to fall apart upon minimal scrutiny. It certainly means that all of these “errors” shouldn’t be pointing in the same direction, pushing the same political outcome or journalistic conclusion.

But what it means most of all is that when media outlets are responsible for such grave and consequential errors as the spectacle we witnessed yesterday, they have to take responsibility for it by offering transparency and accountability. In this case, that can’t mean hiding behind P.R. and lawyer silence and waiting for this to just all blow away.

At minimum, these networks — CNN, MSNBC, and CBS — have to either identify who purposely fed them this blatantly false information or explain how it’s possible that “multiple sources” all got the same information wrong in innocence and good faith. Until they do that, their cries and protests the next time they’re attacked as “Fake News” should fall on deaf ears, since the real author of those attacks — the reason those attacks resonate — is themselves and their own conduct.

Update: Dec. 9, 2017
Hours after this article was published on Saturday — a full day and a half after his original tweets promoting the false CNN story with a “boom” and a cannon — Benjamin Wittes finally got around to noting that the CNN story he hyped has “serious problems”; needless to say, that acknowledgment received a fraction of retweets from his followers as his original tweets hyping the story attracted.
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