Donald J. Trump isn’t the only one who doesn’t take the U.S. Intel communities accusations of Russian culpability in hacking Democrats prior to the 2016 Election seriously. RT is one of two Russia sponsored media outlets named by the CIA as being used to help disseminate propaganda, and the other outlet mentioned in the report Sputnik-News published a piece that shows she thinks it’s all pretty much a ha ha funny jokey joke arguing that the report is flawed because it fails to name specific sources and that it’s information is “dated” or “false.”
In 2001, I was 21 and was covering Crimean elections. Back in those days, pro-Russian sentiment there was as high as always. My two-week stint over, it didn’t go anywhere. Consider this.
We have Sputnik branches working across the former Soviet Union. They are run by my deputy and onetime boyfriend Andrei Blagodyrenko. I offered him the job after we broke up. It was on his guard that Sputnik's popularity there went through the roof in fresh proof of the well-known fact that Russian propaganda is made in bed. Consider this.
[First Deputy Chief of Staff of the Russian Presidential Administration] Alexei Gromov is really my contact in the Kremlin. We often see each other, sometimes at a bar. I prefer German beer, he goes for Russian vodka. Consider this.
Once he gave me a basket of mushrooms. Then a State Department staffer dropped by to enjoy a plateful of fried mushrooms, which I made him believe was a traditional Russian delicacy. Consider this. A year ago we showed that after they retired, Obama and Kerry would be watching RT at home and crying.
Yeah, I’m not thinking they're highly serious here.
First of all, the specific sources — some of whom appear to be spies and assets within the Kremlin itself — would not be named because their identities are classified. Revealing those details to the general public, and hence to the Kremlin, would be he height of dumb, idiotic, how-quickly-can-I-get-the-people-that-trust-me-killed moves.
In a more detailed attempt to debunk the intel report Sputnik claims that the RT programs that it discusses were already off the air before the 2016 election began.
In Annex A of the report, intelligence agencies claim that “Kremlin's TV Seeks To Influence Politics, Fuel Discontent in US.” Buried at the bottom of that page is a note stating, “This annex was originally published on 11 December 2012 by the Open Source Center, now the Open Source Enterprise.”
The report notes that two RT shows, Breaking the Set and Truthseeker, focused on criticism of US. The problem is, both of these shows were off air before the 2016 election season began.
The report goes on to detail programming in 2012 about voting booth irregularities, which, again, would have been during Obama’s campaign. Despite being an old report, the topic became largely relevant once again during the Democratic primaries when voters found themselves purged from voting rolls, and hundreds of thousands of ballots went uncounted.
The report does mention these shows, but contrary to Sputnik’s implication that is far from all they bring up. They even mention Simonyan by name, repeatedly.
RT has also focused on criticism of the US economic system, US currency policy, alleged Wall Street greed, and the US national debt. Some of RT's hosts have compared the United States to Imperial Rome and have predicted that government corruption and "corporate greed" will lead to US financial collapse (RT, 31 October, 4 November).RT is a leading media voice opposing Western intervention in the Syrian conflict and blaming the West for waging "information wars" against the Syrian Government (RT, 10 October-9 November
The head of RT's Arabic-language service, Aydar Aganin, was rotated from the diplomatic service to manage RT's Arabic-language expansion, suggesting a close relationship between RT and Russia's foreign policy apparatus. RT's London Bureau is managed by Darya Pushkova, the daughter of Aleksey Pushkov, the current chair of the Duma Russian Foreign Affairs Committee and a former Gorbachev speechwriter (DXB, 26 March 2009; MK.ru, 13 March 2006).
The Kremlin spends $190 million a year on the distribution and dissemination of RT programming, focusing on hotels and satellite, terrestrial, and cable broadcasting. The Kremlin is rapidly expanding RT's availability around the world and giving it a reach comparable to channels such as Al Jazeera English. According to Simonyan, the United Kingdom and the United States are RT's most successful markets. RT does not, however, publish audience information.
- Simonyan has characterized RT's coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement as "information warfare" that is aimed at promoting popular dissatisfaction with the US Government. RT created a Facebook app to connect Occupy Wall Street protesters via social media. In addition, RT featured its own hosts in Occupy rallies ("Minaev Live," 10 April; RT, 2, 12 June).
The point was clearly that RT going back for many years, including during the time of Obama’s re-election in 2012, has been part of an ongoing pro-Kremlin campaign against American policy interests and relentlessly criticizing America society, authority and values. If it makes America look bad, they’re all about it. It’s not like any of this ended when those particular programs went off the air as RT and Sputnik News — in coordination — attempts to assert.
Here are a few Sputnik News headlines from the day the intel report was released.
The final one there basically accuses McCain and Graham of only being anti-Russia because of the backing of “military clans” who would profit from a War or further Military escalation.
McCain and Graham are representatives of "military clans" making good money on bills endorsed by the senators, according to Sergei Sudakov, a professor at the Academy of Military Sciences.
The expert suggested that after Donald Trump inauguration as US president the US military lobby may change its leaders. McCain and Graham are now trying to secure leverage on the next US presidential administration.
He doesn’t name these “clans”, he doesn’t detail how this relationship works, he just gets called an expert by Sputnik and there you go — “military clans” now exist. This is besides the point that it’s Trump who has declared he’s “strengthen” our military and begin a new nuclear “arms race.”
If you go to the day before the election you’ll see reports from Sputnik News such as this one.
#Podesta33: Clinton Aide Refuses to Reveal Terror Information via Personal Email
As you can see by the numbering, Sputnik did 33 separate articles — one for each Wikileaks dump — specifically on what those dumps revealed within Mr. Podesta’s communications. As many have noted these Wikileaks dumps were mentioned 164 times by Trump on the campaign trail, so it’s not like he was unaware.
This particular traunch of dumps is also most peculiar in both it’s admissions and it’s assertions. First we have the windup...
The latest leak of another 3,200 emails on Monday, November 7 — a day before the US presidential election — brings the grand total of published hacked emails to a staggering 55,694.
To the Republican camp, it's the gift that keeps giving and ties neatly into Donald Trump's anti-Clinton rhetoric of "Crooked Hillary."
Certainly, for the Democratic candidate, these latest emails do little to exonerate her in the face of accusations that she is corrupt.
So just the fact that Wikileaks has released lots of emails themselves, over 50,000, is taken in and of itself of proof of “corruption.” How exactly, and in what way is she allegedly shown to be “corrupt” here?
Several emails touch on what has continued to be Clinton's Achilles heel during her campaign — her decision to use a private server while she was Secretary Of State. In 2014, an exchange between Hillary Clinton herself and John Podesta, implies that the Democratic presidential nominee understood that her private email server was not secure for the exchange of sensitive information.
It was back in August 2014, when Mrs. Clinton was a private citizen, and Podesta, an adviser to President Obama. The two were discussing Daesh (also known as ISIL) and US strategy in the middle east. Mrs. Clinton asked Mr. Podesta if he knew who was responsible for an airstrike in Tripoli, Libya on August 18th 2014, in which an Islamist-controlled arms depot was blown up.
Ok, let make this clear. This email exchange is from 2014. Hillary Clinton stopped being Secretary of State in 2012, so she has no official government position at this point in time and neither does Podesta. She asked him if he knew who bombed an ISIL arms depot and his stunning answer was….
“Yes and interesting but not for this channel."
Her chilling and highly revealing response was.
That’s it. That’s all.
Contrary to the breathless fulminations of Sputnik, the fact that Clinton’s email was only for unclassified communication is not a revelation. That was the point of it. Podesta’s emails were also unclassified. In fact, every person with an email account on State.gov is — you guessed it — also unclassified.
Classified communications are not conducted over the open internet. Classified communications are done using a secure encrypted intranet between hardened and protected sites using a SCIF.
Simply stated, a SCIF is a U.S. Government accredited facility where Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI) can be stored, discussed or electronically processed. Primarily Government and government-related contractors that require high security have the need for SCIFs. The areas of concern and special attention typically include physical security and hardening, acoustics controls, visual controls, access control, electronic and TEMPEST security.
The minimum requirements for SCIFs are defined in Intelligence Community Directive (ICD) 705/ IC Technical Specification. The directive describes many specialized construction requirements with the intention to ensure that high security features are built into the facility beyond those achieved by typical commercial construction. For example, all perimeter surfaces (walls, ceilings and floor) are to be constructed so that they will reveal evidence of unauthorized entry or tampering. Depending on each project’s individual performance requirements, additional materials may be required for construction, such as radiant barrier foil, physical perimeter hardening by use of expanded metal with heavier gauge metal studs, as well as additional protective acoustical features to prevent eavesdropping and collection of audio intelligence emanating from the SCIF.
Hillary Clinton’s email server was not a SCIF. She actually testified that she had a SCIF in her home, so there’s no doubt she was aware of what it was and that it was in no way connected to the internet. If she wanted to communicate with someone like Podesta on gmail, or with her staff at the State, she would need her own unclassified email account.
Much a ado has been made of the fact that she used her own server for that, for one thing she didn’t go out of her way to procure it that server had belonged to Bill Clinton and she has previously used it for her own 2008 Presidential campaign prior to be named Secretary of State. The alternative would have been to also create a State.gov address for her in addition to that previously existing account. For some reason which I’ve never fully understood her IT person said he could only attach one email account at a time to her Blackberry and she didn’t feel like carrying two phones at the same time, one for State.gov and another for her previously existing email account on Bill’s old server, so she simply kept using her old account for the sake of simplicity.
Yes, there were other better options to this arrangement and she didn’t necessary seek to have this setup approved by State administrators, but one point is that even though many hacking attempts was made on her server to this day there is no evidence it was ever successfully hacked — even after Trump asked Russia to do exactly that — but by contrast the email accounts at State.gov actually were hacked.
So in short, by choosing not to create a State.gov account it’s quite likely that Clinton actually avoided being hacked even though there were many attempts. In any case, whether it was on State.gov or clintonemail.com, either of those accounts would have been unclassified and both Podesta and Clinton were aware of that fact.
It’s not strange or surprising that Podesta and Clinton would choose not to use “this channel” to discuss potentially sensitive information — but to the propagandist at RT and Sputnik this was yet another example of the “SCANDAL” of Clinton’s ongoing “Corruption” when in many cases no such corruption actually existed.
In the end, discounting the emails that were “up-classified” by the FOIA desk and IG at State after the fact, the remaining three (3) emails — out of 30,000 — that FBI Director Comey said had paragraphs that were marked (C) for “Confidential” were in fact not classified at all and had originated with Clinton’s staff on their State.gov accounts.
Some classification markings found in email messages on Hillary Clinton's private server were the result of "human error" and the related information was not considered classified at the time it was sent to her, State Department spokesman John Kirby said Wednesday.
When FBI Director James Comey announced Tuesday that investigators were not recommending any charges in the Clinton email matter, he noted that "a very small number of the e-mails containing classified information bore markings indicating the presence of classified information."
"It appears that those...that those markings were a human error. They didn’t need to be there. Because once the secretary had decided to make the call, the process is then to move the call sheet, to change its markings to unclassified and deliver it to the secretary in a form that he or she can use," Kirby said. "And best we can tell on these occasions, the markings — the confidential markings — was simply human error. Because the decision had already been made, they didn’t need to be made on the email."
There was nothing abnormal here other than the (C) marking at the start of the paragraph should have been removed, and they weren’t — not by Clinton, but by her staff downstream — prior to the email being generated on the state.gov servers in the first place.
The process detailed by the Intel Report is that Russia’s intelligence outfits GRU and FSB targeted the DNC and Podesta with hacks, used intermediaries to launder the most unflattering information through Wikileaks, then used RT and Sputnik news to hype false narratives damaging Clinton’s credibility and stoking support for Trump which were then echoed heavily through right-wing media such as Brietbart and Fox News, which ultimately was used by Trump in his tweet stream, in his rallies, and by his surrogates.
Sometimes word for word.
During his speech, Trump held up a piece of paper. "This just came out a little while ago. I have to tell you this," Trump said as he read from the page, which he identified as an email from Clinton confidant Sidney Blumenthal.
"The attack was almost certainly preventable," Trump read. He continued, "Clinton was in charge of the State Department ... if the GOP wants to raise that as a talking point against her, it is legitimate."
Trump said, "In other words he [Blumenthal] is admitting that they could have done something about Benghazi. This just came out, a little while ago."
Except it wasn’t legitimate because Blumenthal didn’t say “The attack was almost certainly preventable” — the person who said that was Kurt Eichenwald of Newsweek. Just like they distorted the Podesta leaks, Sputnik News got this deliberately wrong too.
The misconstrued "email" that Trump was reading had appeared in an article on a Russia-funded website called Sputnik, which has since taken it down.
You can see the original in a screen grab from The Washington Post.
And then Trump repeated it like a well coached parrot. In fact if Trump said he wouldn’t prosecute Clinton over her emails, Breitbart hammered him for it.
Broken Promise: Trump ‘Doesn’t Wish to Pursue’ Clinton Email Charges," reads the lead story headline on Breitbart.com.
"I think when the President-elect, who's also the head of your party, tells you before he's even inaugurated that he doesn't wish to pursue these charges, it sends a very strong message, tone, and content" to other Republicans, former Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said Tuesday on MSNBC's Morning Joe.
There’s also point that there are overlaps between the agenda of Putin and the Alt-Right movement which has been heavily hyped and supported by Brietbart.com.
Self-described white nationalist Matthew Heimbach, who said he identifies as a member of the alt-right, has praised Putin's Russia as "the axis for nationalists."
“I really believe that Russia is the leader of the free world right now," Heimbach told Business Insider in a recent interview. "Putin is supporting nationalists around the world and building an anti-globalist alliance, while promoting traditional values and self-determination."
Heimbach described the US' current foreign policy as aggressive and imperialistic, and he criticized NATO's military buildup in eastern Europe as an example of how the US is trying to promote a "global conflict" with Russia.
And there are additional links between Russia propaganda and Alt-Nazis such as Richard Spencer, who was heavily promoted by Trump advisor Steve Bannon former CEO of Breitbart.
Spencer's ties to Russia, which he has called the “sole white power in the world," go deeper. He was married until October to Russian writer and self-proclaimed "Kremlin troll leader" Nina Kouprianova, whose writing under the pen name Nina Byzantina regularly aligns with Kremlin talking points.
For example: Byzantina recently described reports that thousands of civilians in rebel-held east Aleppo, Syria, are under siege by the Russia-backed Syrian government as "fake news."
Paid Kremlin backed cyber trolls who help push RT and Sputnik generated propaganda around the net via social media are the last link in Putin’s long chain of influence peddling.
ST. PETERSBURG, RUSSIA—Deep inside a four-storey marble building in St. Petersburg, hundreds of workers tap away at computers on the frontlines of an information war, say those who have been inside.
Known as “Kremlin trolls,” the men and women work 12-hour shifts around the clock, flooding the Internet with propaganda aimed at stamping President Vladimir Putin’s world vision on Russia, and the world.
The Kremlin has always dabbled in propaganda, but in the past year its troll campaign has gone into overdrive, adding hundreds of online operatives to help counter Western pressure over its role in the pro-Russian insurgency in eastern Ukraine.
It’s not about what or who was hacked, it’s about how that information was later distorted and twisted to push memes favorable to Putin and the Kremlin. And why. Nearly all these roads lead back to Crimea and the U.S. backed sanctions which have crushed the Russian economy.
Since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March, 2014, the U.S. and EU have also leveled sanctions against Russia several times, tightening restrictions on major Russian state banks and corporations, including blacklisting dozens of Russian officials and firms, including energy firms. Three major state oil firms have been targeted: Rosneft , Transneft and Gazprom Neft, the oil unit of gas giant Gazprom.
Russian banks and Gazprom’s ability to secure long term funding in U.S. dollars were also blocked. The U.S. and EU also banned exports of services and technology to Russian state oil firms engaged in Arctic and deep-water and unconventional oil and gas exploration and production.
Sanctions have hit Russian energy companies hard, especially its longer term projects. In late April, independent Russian energy companies Lukoil and Novatek , told attendees at the annual IHS CERAWeek energy conference in Houston that they were feeling the sting of the sanctions. “We feel the impact of sanctions, but we need some time for Russia and the industry to adjust,” said Lukoil CEO and founder Vagit Alekperov.
Some of these companies have worked directly with former Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson, Trump’s pick for Secretary of State on deals worth $500 Billion, so it’s not like Russia didn’t have a motive for the hacks and propaganda. They did and they do.
With links to Bannon, Tillerson and for that matter Michael Flynn who is a paid lobbyist for Turkey and also friendly to Putin continue to show the reasons for Russia support of Trump. That quite possibly couldn’t have made a more Kremlin friendly cabinet themselves.
With a long drip, drip, drip of leaks and distorted allegations by the time the election was held Trump was considered more trustworthy than Clinton by eight points.
The Republican presidential nominee leads his Democratic rival on honesty and trustworthiness by eight points in a Washington Post-ABC News poll, which found 46% of likely voters saying Trump is more honest and deserving of trust.
That’s considered a wide lead for Trump since the two White House hopefuls were tied on the same question the last time a Post-ABC poll asked voters in September. The poll comes after the FBI reopened an investigation into Clinton’s private email server, having found more emails on the private computer of senior aide Huma Abedin.
Trump position now is that none of this made an impact, none of this — the repeated drum beat over Clinton’s emails, the DNC emails, Podesta’s emails, the redundant Abedin emails — actually changed the mind of a single voter.
Of course it’s impossible to argue that any one thing was decisive, there were many elements that ultimately led to Trump’s surprise victory. The intel report doesn’t begin to make the argument that Russia’s intentional influence made the difference in the end, it only points out that they very methodically tried to push the needle in a particular direction — and it’s entirely specious and illogical to presume their efforts, not just with the hacks and leaks but with the strategic distortion off those leaks, made no difference at all.
Obviously, they did.
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