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Grandioso

Active Measures, Disinfo, Propaganda

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Saw this thread wasn't up and running.

Check out the latest episode of Sam Harris' podcast "Waking Up." He talks to a former white supremacist and it's amazing. Listen to the whole thing if you can. 29:30 to 35:00 is a fascinating discussion of the alt right and dog whistles. Relevant to this thread though is the discussion from 39:00 to 45:00. It is fascinating. He talks about personally uncovering manipulation, fake news, and fake identities online tied to Russia back in 2016.

https://samharris.org/podcasts/121-white-power/

 

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8 hours ago, Grandioso said:

Saw this thread wasn't up and running.

Check out the latest episode of Sam Harris' podcast "Waking Up." He talks to a former white supremacist and it's amazing. Listen to the whole thing if you can. 29:30 to 35:00 is a fascinating discussion of the alt right and dog whistles. Relevant to this thread though is the discussion from 39:00 to 45:00. It is fascinating. He talks about personally uncovering manipulation, fake news, and fake identities online tied to Russia back in 2016.

https://samharris.org/podcasts/121-white-power/

 

The whole thing is good.

Minutes 27-57 are the most valuable and a must listen as it relates to Russia.  

I swear this guy was in my head, probably because he’s seen many of the same things and came to the same conclusions as to how best approach the polarization problem.

Conclusions such as you have to pull from the middle instead of push away from the left.  Also you have to do more listening than talking if you want to make real positive change.  

One thing they didn’t really dig into, which I wish they would, is why Putin seems to have a preference for white nationalism ideology.

Another completely different topic I’d love to dig into is how Russia and others have heavily deployed active measures in the Muslim world via social media over the past eight years. I know there’s been some studies and literature on this but I don’t think it’s been widely acknowledged or appreciated.

 

 

Edited by Hugo Stiglitz

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1 hour ago, Hugo Stiglitz said:

white nationalism ideology.

It would be apparent to everyone if they analyze it through the prism of Putin's overarching dream goals and ambitions. Then, you ask: how does this action further that agenda? The media and our own government does a terrible job of tying Russia's actions here to its broader strategies. People talk about "meddling" and just kind of stop there. "Sowing discord" is not the endgame. Zoom out and look at shit the way an imperialist autocrat does: broadly, historically, and geopolitically.

With respect to white nationalism, I think this is the desired causal chain a la Yoda "Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate..."

White nationalist movements support right wing nationalism. The right wing nationalism agenda is against so-called "globalism," hostile to immigrants and outsiders, and just generally supports policies that steer a country toward isolation. Isolationism means states pulling out of multi-lateral treaties and alliances. When those start to break down, for Russia, it means no more sanctions no more NATO military threat. Any threat of punishment for behaving badly is gone. It's every man for himself and the weaklings are totally exposed to predators. The international order has devolved into prison rules and along comes Russia...

nY5Gczc.gif

 

So...

Bigots support policies and ideologies of economic, military, and national isolationism. When powerful countries isolate, they pull out of the alliances and international relationships (e.g., NATO and the EU) that keep Putin's imperialist ambitions and aggression in check. If those structures dissolve, Russia can pick off any country over which it has economic or military superiority. 

 

Other thoughts:

Putin's general goals aren't much different from any other country: Strengthened economic power, military power, and political power (including both sphere of influence via friendly regimes and literal territorial influence like with the Crimea).

Then you can see how Putin's specific objectives, i.e., the stuff Hillary was talking about when she referred to "Putin's Wish List," advance those goals. NATO is a massive cockblock on political and military influence and expansion. The EU fucks with their economy by pulling trading partners to the west (economic influence) and sanctioning Russia for misdeeds. It throws up giant market barriers.

Only way to break those up is from within. The state actors themselves have to either opt out or weaken the organization. And only the big ones with their own relative economic, political, and military influence can do this. Brexit involved the second most powerful country in the EU pulling out. Our election involved the most powerful country in NATO electing a guy who wanted to stop paying for it. It's no wonder Russia put so much effort in inserting its troll army into those debates. 

Edited by Grandioso

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https://www.newstatesman.com/world/2018/03/forget-facebook-russian-agents-have-been-pretending-be-furries-tumblr

Forget Facebook, Russian agents have been pretending to be furries on Tumblr

 
Cambridge Analytica. Mark Zuckerberg. Steve Bannon. Russians pushing propaganda on Facebook and Twitter. Yeah, you’ve heard it all before, but did you know that Russian agents were posing as furries on Tumblr to destabilise the crucial ‘Riverdale stans’, K-Pop obsessive, secretly-looking-at—‘arty’-porn in the office demographic? Because they were. And Tumblr just admitted it. 

 

This morning, my colleague Niky received an email from Tumblr listing blogs that he followed on the social network which have, upon further inspection, been linked to Russian-state-linked actors. Yep, that’s right — it’s official, the propaganda machine got its tentacles deep into a site where tentacle porn is, well, depressingly common. 

 

 

The image of Boris and Natasha hunched over a laptop generating pro-Trump furry porn is too delicious. But at a certain level this is just as worrying as any of the other concealed influence exerted by foreign agents on our societies. Tumblr is a place where a huge number of young people spend a lot of their time. There are 392 million blog accounts on the service and many users live in their dashboards — the constant river of posts from blogs they follow. 

 

Let’s take a look at the blogs that Tumblr suggests were under Russian control, one of which was unwittingly followed by my D&D-loving, anime-obsessed friend:  

bellaxiao previously known as: blogmadworldlove

 

bellygangstaboo

 

blackness-by-your-side previously known as: black-galaxy-magic, fullyfurrymiracle, u4guy, ufo-pilot-and-his-sexy-spouse

 

cartnsncreal previously known as: feelmydragonballs

 

destinyrush previously known as: delightfullyghostlysong

 

funkycodex previously known as: craftykryptonitedelusion

 

gogomrbrown previously known as: go-mrbrown, infectedv0ice, todd-la-death

 

honestlyyoungpersona

 

hustleinatrap previously known as: thenaturecanpost, tumblercube

 

info-mix previously known as: americanstatistics, crazypolitician, girlsagainst, illegalmom, just-stat, rochelbarr

 

lagonegirl

 

massmedear previously known as: massblog021

 

mooseblogtimes

 

morningwoodz previously known as: 5cubes, bangbangempire, empireofweird, gifemprireohh, innerpicsempire, picsempire

 

nevaehtyler previously known as: laserenita

 

postingwhileblack previously known as: ghettablasta, heygeraldmartinjohanssen, honestinjun, nativewolveshere

 

rebellloudwiththecrowd previously known as: massivelystrangetyrant

 

sumchckn previously known as: blondeinpolitics, blvckcommunity, classylgbthomie, hwuudoin, politixblondie

 

swagintherain previously known as: blacklivesmatterusa, carzwithgirlz

 

the-real-eye-to-see

 

thetrippytrip previously known as: matrixpath, themostpost

 

thingstolovefor previously known as: the-inner-mirror

 

this-truly-brutal-world previously known as: awesomewhitepearl, free-mind-and-soul

 

voteforwest2020 previously known as: mrbadasscat

Notice in that list how many accounts are related in some way to black politics, LGBT issues, American “statistics”, with some even explicitly attempting to appear connected to Black Lives Matter. 

 

It’s fun to laugh at the idea of the Russians trying to mimic the syntax and obsessions of Tumblr teens but it’s clear they saw the site as another conduit for disruption and division. To have legitimate campaigns such as Black Lives Matter and LGBT rights efforts undermined is a huge issue. 

 

At this point, it feels like an over-repeated mantra but this incident only emphasises one of the core tenets of living online: check your sources and be sceptical. It’s all too easy to believe an account that wears the trappings of a sub-culture or campaign you identify with. And intelligence agencies know that, even if it means they have to pretend to be someone who believes they are actually the human embodiment of a wolf. 

 

I’m down with furries. I just don’t like Russians pretending to know what yiffing means. And no, don’t Google it.

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The Cold War never stopped, save for a brief window in the 90's. I posted and recommend this about 4 different times on Shaggy and I'll post it here. It aired almost 3 years ago and everything in it is relevant and still ongoing currently.

4:55-7:00 discussion of "containment," Ukraine, and interview clips with Lavrov. 

12:20-15:30  Sanctions for Crimea and economic impact on Russia and discussion with Dmitry Peskov (Deputy Chief of Staff)

20:00-24:30 Interviews with Diamond Joe Biden (dude is so fucking smart) and Barry Obamz

24:30-27:00 Discussion of propaganda and interview with Margarita Simonyan (editor in chief of RT)

33:30-34:30 Interview with Victoria Nuland, US Assistant Secretary of State

40:00-41:30 More clips of interviews with Peskov and Obama

 

 

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A British company at the heart of the Facebook Inc. data-privacy scandal agreed to give a political action committee founded by John Bolton, U.S. President Donald Trump’s newly appointed national security adviser, data harvested from millions of Facebook users, documents released by Parliament show.

 
 

The papers were provided by whistle-blower Christopher Wylie, a former employee of both Cambridge Analytica and its affiliate company SCL Elections, part of London-based SCL Group. The U.K. Committee on Digital, Culture, Media and Sports released the documents Thursday, which include more than 120 pages of business contracts, emails and legal opinions.

Revealed are indications that Aggregate IQ, a Canadian company that worked closely with both Cambridge Analytica and SCL, had access to data from Aleksandr Kogan, an academic who had set up an app designed to build psychological profiles of people, based in part from Facebook data. The social-media giant has said that Kogan violated its terms of service by using this information for commercial purposes, but Kogan has said he is being "scapegoated" by the companies involved.
 

Cambridge Analytica said in a statementreleased Thursday that it didn’t use Facebook data from Kogan’s company in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. "We provided polling, data analytics and digital marketing to the campaign," the statement said. The company said it didn’t use personality profiles of the sort Kogan specialized in. And it said the data it did have was used to "identify ’persuadable’ voters, how likely they were to vote, the issues they cared about, and who was most likely to donate."

 
 

In a statement Tuesday, following Wylie’s testimony before the parliamentary committee, Cambridge Analytica said it had never provided Aggregate IQ with any data from Kogan’s company, Global Science Research.

Emails released by Parliament show that SCL Group, Cambridge Analytica’s U.K. affiliate, discussed with Aggregate IQ how it could provide Kogan’s data, and models for how to target voters in several U.S. states based on it, to Bolton’s PAC.

In one email chain that included Alexander Nix, the suspended chief executive officer of Cambridge Analytica, and Jeff Silvester, the co-founder of Aggregate IQ, the two discussed using Kogan’s data to help create "personality cluster information for the target voter segments" in New Hampshire, Arkansas and North Carolina.

The executives also discussed getting Kogan data from another survey firm so that he could combine it with the data he had from Facebook. "This would need to be modeled for target voters by end of next week so it can be used to help micro targeting effort to be pushed out in the following week," an unnamed individual at SCL wrote in the message, which contained numerous redacted passages.

News that Bolton’s political group, The John Bolton Super PAC, was a beneficiary of Cambridge Analytica’s psychometric profiles was first reported by The New York Times last Friday.

The documents released by Parliament also show that SCL Group contracted Aggregate IQ in November 2013, agreeing to pay the company up to $200,000 for services that included "Facebook and social media data harvesting." Another document shows that in 2014, SCL paid Aggregate IQ $500,000 to create a platform it could use to target U.S. voters.

The documents also include a confidential legal memorandum, stated to be prepared for Rebekah Mercer, daughter of Trump supporter Robert Mercer, which warns Cambridge Analytica that it could run afoul of U.S. laws barring foreign nationals from participating in U.S. elections. The memo advises Mercer, former Trump political adviser Stephen Bannon, and Nix that Nix ought to recuse himself from supervising any of Cambridge Analytica’s U.S. election activity and that foreign nationals without green cards should not be involved in "polling and marketing" or providing strategic advice to U.S. campaigns.

The name of the lawyers who prepared the memo are redacted in the version released by Parliament. Wylie has told reporters and testified before Parliament that many of those Cambridge Analytica employed to help on U.S. campaigns were foreign citizens.

A 2012 memo from the U.K. Ministry of Defense released by the committee revealed that the British military’s psychological warfare unit paid SCL to train its staff on how to assess the effectiveness of "psychological operations" and that SCL had helped "support 15 (UK) PsyOps," including operations in Libya and Afghanistan.

that’s marvelous 

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I was browsing around the internets this morning and fell down a rabbit hole.  I found the following at the bottom and thought Hugo would get a kick out of it:

Quote

The CIA takeover of the Democratic Party

13 March 2018

In a three-part series published last week, the World Socialist Web Site documented an unprecedented influx of intelligence and military operatives into the Democratic Party. More than 50 such military-intelligence candidates are seeking the Democratic nomination in the 102 districts identified by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee as its targets for 2018. ...

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2018/03/13/pers-m13.html

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5 minutes ago, bernorange said:

I was browsing around the internets this morning and fell down a rabbit hole.  I found the following at the bottom and thought Hugo would get a kick out of it:

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2018/03/13/pers-m13.html

Damn, it’s almost like the Russians infiltrated and subverted the Republican Party.

Edited by Hugo Stiglitz

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LONDON - Hacked emails appear to expose the full extent of Russia's plans to sow chaos and dissent abroad by paying for rent-a-mob rallies, hackers, and propaganda merchants.

A tranche of emails sent by Kremlin-linked figures were leaked to the Times newspaper on Monday. They outline a dirty-tricks campaign in Ukraine, which Russia invaded in 2014 on the orders of President Vladimir Putin.

The emails allegedly outline how much Russia was prepared to pay for various services in a huge disinformation campaign in Ukraine. One set of correspondence from October 2014 appears to have been sent by an unnamed Russian politician to Inal Ardzinba, a Kremlin figure close to Putin.

It contained proposals to fund a cybercampaign that outlined various cost proposals, including:

•$100 to $300 to hack email accounts.

• $130,500: A plan to "troll" opponents of Russia, "demotivate enemies" on social media, and collect personal data of opponents in Kharviv.

Other prices discussed in the leaked emails include:

• A $120,460 proposal to discuss in June 2015 to arrange for 30 ex-communist figures elected to local government.

• A $19,200 proposal to buy a month of rallies in Ukraine's second-largest city Kharviv, including 100 participants, 3 organisers, and 2 lawyers. Organisers would orchestrate anti-Ukraine, pro-Russia rallies featuring crowds of martial-arts-trained protestors, and lawyers would buy off the police. It is unclear whether the plan happened.

Experts warned that Russia could use the same weapons in the UK and elsewhere in Europe, especially in the wake of the Sergei Skripal nerve agent attack in Salisbury, England.

"There is overwhelming evidence that the tools and techniques of Russian covert conflict are being used in and against the UK, the US and the EU," Tory MP Bob Seely, an expert on Russian warfare who analysed the emails, told the Times. "In the wake of the Skripal poisoning it's more important than ever that we understand these methods."

He said they represent a "shopping list of subversion."

The emails come from the third tranche of the "Surkov leaks," named after Vladislav Surkov, Putin's close personal adviser, who is alleged to have sent emails found in the two previous tranches.

The latest hack appears to contain emails from various Russian politicians, including accounts linked to Inal Ardzinba, Surkov's first deputy, that were sent to a Ukrainian Communist party leader.

Russia has claimed the Surkov leaks are themselves disinformation, although the authors of the correspondence in the first two leaks have confirmed their authenticity.

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But DSA & other posters told me on the old board that the Maidan protesters were the bad guys operating as American and fascist puppets!   

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1 minute ago, Hugo Stiglitz said:

 

Short translation:

"Now that we've been busted and it's hitting our stock prices, we're gonna do some stuff that we shoulda done long ago, based on information that anyone with a lick of sense already knew."

Fuck FB.

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Looks like we've had official confirmation of Russians posing as US posters on message boards. Reddit has now announced 194 accounts from the Russian Internet Research Agency troll farm. 

Caroline O. does a really nice piece looking at what they posted. 

https://arcdigital.media/russian-propaganda-on-reddit-7945dc04eb7b

1*WC-bVE6MB7kkHnQZxGsfsA.png

For the most part, the content posted to Reddit by the IRA accounts mirrors what we’ve seen on other platforms. While some of the content focused specifically on politics and the 2016 presidential race, much of it did not. Some of the political content was pro-Trump, some was pro-Bernie Sanders, some was anti-Ted Cruz, but the vast majority was anti-Hillary Clinton. Looking through the posts by the top 15 accounts, no pro-Hillary Clinton content was included.

All of the most popular IRA accounts posted divisive content, usually about race, guns, immigration, policing, or general anti-American sentiment. Several accounts posted Russian propaganda and misinformation about the conflict in Syria. Conspiracy theories, especially about the so-called “deep state,” were also very common, as were posts about censorship, government surveillance, and police brutality. WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, and Edward Snowden were frequently mentioned.....

(Skipping some parts)

The top posts by each of the top 15 accounts are pictured below. As you can see, the content ranges from conspiracy theories about the U.S. government to fear-mongering about immigrants, articles about policy brutality, and anti-Hillary Clinton/anti-Ted Cruz memes. Several of the top posts were cute animal pictures — a pattern that suggests the users knew how to capitalize on Reddit’s point system (i.e., karma) by posting generic content that attracts a lot of upvotes.

 
 

1*hev4baQkrpcP00WaFGkLvQ.jpeg

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I'm only posting a couple of snippets from a very long and interesting article. It's worth a read. 

Quote

This also reveals a problem that often gets lost in the discussion of Russian activity on social media: Russia’s influence campaign is not a platform-based problem, and cannot be adequately addressed with platform-specific solutions. Cross-posting on different platforms can amplify Russian propaganda and keep it in circulation even after the content has been removed from the initial platform — a phenomenon Hoffman referred to in a previous post as “indirect propaganda”:

For example, the Twitter account @TEN_GOP is now known to be a Russian agent. @TEN_GOP’s Tweets were amplified by thousands of Reddit users, and sadly, from everything we can tell, these users are mostly American, and appear to be unwittingly promoting Russian propaganda. I believe the biggest risk we face as Americans is our own ability to discern reality from nonsense, and this is a burden we all bear.

According to the latest estimates, Russian propaganda reached 126 million Facebook users, including 10 million users who were reached via paid ads. Twitter, which deleted more than 200,000 tweets linked to the IRA, has notified 1.4 million users that they may have engaged with Russian accounts. However, these figures don’t include users who were indirectly exposed to Russian propaganda via cross-posting on platforms like Reddit, Tumblr, Instagram, and Pinterest.

According to Columbia University researcher Jonathan Albright, Instagram may have actually reached far more users than previously estimated, in part because of the number of users — with 700 million monthly users, Instagram is larger than Twitter and Snapchat combined — but also because the visual-based platform is conducive to virality. Including Instagram in the calculation, an estimated 146 million Facebook users were reached by Russian propaganda.

And still, that figure doesn’t include people who were exposed to Russian propaganda through cross-posting on smaller websites and forums, or through content originating from Russian-backed websites that hide their ties to the Russian government.

The use of strategies such as cross-posting, along with features designed to maximize reach and resonance — like visual imagery and memes— and to appeal to specific voter groups (like Bernie Sanders’ supporters), suggests that Russian operatives strategically used Reddit to boost exposure to Russian propaganda, and to maintain established audiences when accounts on other platforms were banned. While many of the accounts identified by Reddit only used the platform sparingly, the small group of accounts that used it frequently and effectively managed to reach a relatively large audience on a regular basis. The popularity of the content posted by these accounts suggests that, when it was seen, it was often accepted as genuine and appraised in a positive manner.

Reddit took the unusual but very positive step of preserving the content posted by the IRA-backed accounts, which allows the public to see what it looks like and (hopefully) learn from it. As other online platforms inevitably discover evidence of Russian activity, they should take a cue from Reddit and do the same.

 

Edited by Pods

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I was thinking yesterday how ignorant I am of Russia's domestic affairs beyond general stuff, e.g., economy, oil, the ruble, the oligarchy/mafia, human rights record. I read Nothing is True and Everything is Possible last year and I'm a little ways into The Invention of Russia. That probably makes me 10x more informed than the average American. And still, I could not name more than a handful of Putin opponents. I could not tell you the big issues in Russia today for native Russians. 

On the flip side, I'm amazed by Russia's grasp on domestic affairs here in the US. They HAVE to have native born American help understanding what issues to seize on. I don't think some spies and trolls would understand some of the debates and electoral circumstances we have here. At the very least, all of the Americans that have appeared on RT are/were basically consultants to the regime in addition to propaganda assets. So I'm wondering who we have in Russia other than spies. Spies would take care of gathering intelligence, but surely we support people or institutions that disseminate our "message." The US is going to aid in some way dissidents and critics of the regime, at least covertly. I'd wonder what the scale of that is. Russia is so far ahead of us in this game it is bewildering. Our sanctions strategy obviously has put a huge strain on the Russian regime but how are we trying to win the hearts and minds of Russians? Are we even trying?

TLDR: What is the US version of active measures in Russia? If anyone has good materials on this, please share! 

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1 hour ago, Grandioso said:

TLDR: What is the US version of active measures in Russia? If anyone has good materials on this, please share!

Russia is mostly a closed society where almost all media is State controlled so American Active Measures are very limited.  

Russia has their own version of Facebook call VK which is State regulated.

more info here:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/VKontakte

Quote

In January 2016, China banned VKontakte, accusing that it was manipulating web content and cooperating with the Kremlin. According to Russia's media watchdog, the network estimates around 300,000 users based in China.[71] As of February 14, 2018, China authorities unblocked VKontakte and it was fully accessible in the country.[72]

 

The most liberal newspaper that isn’t state controlled is the Moscow Times which is owned by the Dutch.  

more info here:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Moscow_Times

IIRC Russia also has access to the pro-Democracy radio station Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty 

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radio_Free_Europe/Radio_Liberty

 

Other than covert CIA and European operations, that’s about it from my novice knowledge.

 

Edited by Hugo Stiglitz

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The Russians LOVE messing with Texas!

D2F18F8E-FDF9-4929-9F9A-BE0A0D8E891B_zps

https://www.texastribune.org/2018/05/03/hysteria-over-jade-helm-exercise-texas-was-fueled-russians-former-cia-/

A former director of the CIA and NSA said Wednesday that hysteria in Texas over a 2015 U.S. military training exercise called Jade Helm was fueled by Russians wanting to dominate “the information space,” and that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's decision to send the Texas State Guard to monitor the operation gave them proof of the power of such misinformation campaigns. 

Michael Hayden, speaking on MSNBC’s Morning Joe podcast, chalked up peoples’ fear over Jade Helm 15 to “Russian bots and the American alt-right media [that] convinced many Texans [Jade Helm] was an Obama plan to round up political dissidents.”

Abbott ordered the State Guard to monitor the federal exercise soon after news broke of the operation. Hayden said that move gave Russians the go-ahead to continue — and possibly expand — their efforts to spread fear.

“At that point, I’m figuring the Russians are saying, ‘We can go big time,’” Hayden said of Abbott's response. “At that point, I think they made the decision, ‘We’re going to play in the electoral process.’” 

Jade Helm 15 was a planned military training exercise that became a fascination of conspiracy theorists before it even began. The exercise, which spanned several states, began in Texas in Bastrop County in 2015 and was described by federal officials as routine. But some conspiracy theorists speculated that the exercise was a covert effort to institute martial law. Hayden was not CIA director at this time.

Weeks before the exercise began, Abbott wrote a letter to the State Guard asking them to keep an eye on the operation so “Texans know their safety, constitutional rights, private property rights and civil liberties will not be infringed.” In the letter, Abbott added that he had "the utmost respect for the deep patriotism of the brave men and women who put their lives on the line to fight for and defend our freedom."

Yet the move prompted significant criticism. Democrats questioned whether Abbott really trusted the military. Even some Republicans — including former Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst — spoke out in support of the exercise. Former state Rep. Todd Smith accused Abbott of "pandering to idiots." 

“I think it’s okay to question your government — I do it on a pretty regular basis," former Gov. Rick Perry, who is now U.S. Energy Secretary, told reporters at the time. "The military's something else."

A spokesperson for Abbott did not immediately return The Texas Tribune’s request for comment Thursday, but Democrats are already seizing on Hayden's remarks to further criticize the governor for calling the State Guard to monitor the operation.

“It doesn’t take an intelligence expert to see that Trump Republican Greg Abbott calling the Texas National Guard on the U.S. Military was downright idiocy,” Manny Garcia, the deputy executive director of the Texas Democratic Party, said in a news release, misidentifying the Texas State Guard.“Abbott still owes the men and women of our armed forces, and every single Texan, an apology.”

Hayden was CIA director from 2006 to 2009. His allegation isn't the first one connecting Russian misinformation campaigns and Texas. Last year, federal lawmakers revealed a trove of information from ads purchased on Facebook, including ones showing that two Russian Facebook pages managed to organize dueling rallies in front of a Houston mosque in 2016.

Edited by Hugo Stiglitz

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PARIS (AP) — Army wife Angela Ricketts was soaking in a bubble bath in her Colorado home, leafing through a memoir, when a message appeared on her iPhone:

"Dear Angela!" it said. "Bloody Valentine's Day!"

"We know everything about you, your husband and your children," the Facebook message continued, claiming that the hackers operating under the flag of Islamic State militants had penetrated her computer and her phone. "We're much closer than you can even imagine."

Ricketts was one of five military wives who received death threats from the self-styled CyberCaliphate on the morning of Feb. 10, 2015. The warnings led to days of anguished media coverage of Islamic State militants' online reach.

Except it wasn't IS.

The Associated Press has found evidence that the women were targeted not by jihadists but by the same Russian hacking group that intervened in the American election and exposed the emails of Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign chairman, John Podesta.

The false flag is a case study in the difficulty of assigning blame in a world where hackers routinely borrow one another's identities to throw investigators off track. The operation also parallels the online disinformation campaign by Russian trolls in the months leading up to the U.S. election in 2016.

Links between CyberCaliphate and the Russian hackers — typically nicknamed Fancy Bear or APT28 — have been documented previously. On both sides of the Atlantic, the consensus is that the two groups are closely related.

But that consensus never filtered through to the women involved, many of whom were convinced they had been targeted by Islamic State sympathizers right up until the AP contacted them.

"Never in a million years did I think that it was the Russians," said Ricketts, an author and advocate for veterans and military families. She called the revelation "mind blowing."

"It feels so hilarious and insidious at the same time."

'COMPLETELY NEW GROUND'

As Ricketts scrambled out of the tub to show the threat to her husband, nearly identical messages reached Lori Volkman, a deputy prosecutor based in Oregon who had won fame as a blogger after her husband deployed to the Middle East; Ashley Broadway-Mack, based in the Washington, D.C., area and head of an association for gay and lesbian military family members; and Amy Bushatz, an Alaska-based journalist who covers spouse and family issues for Military.com.

Liz Snell, the wife of a U.S. Marine, was at her husband's retirement ceremony in California when her phone rang. The Twitter account of her charity, Military Spouses of Strength, had been hacked. It was broadcasting public threats not only to herself and the other spouses, but also to their families and then-first lady Michelle Obama.

Snell flew home to Michigan from the ceremony, took her children and checked into a Comfort Inn for two nights.

"Any time somebody threatens your family, Mama Bear comes out," she said.

The women determined they had all received the same threats. They were also all quoted in a CNN piece about the hacking of a military Twitter feed by CyberCaliphate only a few weeks earlier. In it, they had struck a defiant tone. After they received the threats, they suspected that CyberCaliphate singled them out for retaliation.

The women refused to be intimidated.

"Fear is exactly what — at the time — we perceived ISIS wanted from military families," said Volkman, using another term for the Islamic State group.

Volkman was quoted in half a dozen media outlets; Bushatz wrote an article describing what happened; Ricketts, interviewed as part of a Fox News segment devoted to the menace of radical Islam, told TV host Greta Van Susteren that the nature of the threat was changing.

"Military families are prepared to deal with violence that's directed toward our soldiers," she said. "But having it directed toward us is just complete new ground."

'WE MIGHT BE SURPRISED'

A few weeks after the spouses were threatened, on April 9, 2015, the signal of French broadcaster TV5 Monde went dead.

The station's network of routers and switches had been knocked out and its internal messaging system disabled. Pasted across the station's website and Facebook page was the keffiyeh-clad logo of CyberCaliphate.

The cyberattack shocked France, coming on the heels of jihadist massacres at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket that left 17 dead. French leaders decried what they saw as another blow to the country's media. Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said evidence suggested the broadcaster was the victim of an act of terror.

But Guillaume Poupard, the chief of France's cybersecurity agency, pointedly declined to endorse the minister's comments when quizzed about them the day after the hack.

"We should be very prudent about the origin of the attack," he told French radio. "We might be surprised."

Government experts poring over the station's stricken servers eventually vindicated Poupard's caution, finding evidence they said pointed not to the Middle East but to Moscow.

Speaking to the AP last year, Poupard said the attack "resembles a lot what we call collectively APT28."

Russian officials in Washington and in Moscow did not respond to questions seeking comment. The Kremlin has repeatedly denied masterminding hacks against Western targets.

'THE MEDIA PLAYED RIGHT INTO IT'

Proof that the military wives were targeted by Russian hackers is laid out in a digital hit listprovided to the AP by the cybersecurity company Secureworks last year. The AP has previously used the list of 4,700 Gmail addresses to outline the group's espionage campaign against journalists , defense contractors and U.S. officials . More recent AP research has found that Fancy Bear, which Secureworks dubs "Iron Twilight," was actively trying to break into the military wives' mailboxes around the time that CyberCaliphate struck.

Lee Foster, a manager with cybersecurity company FireEye, said the repeated overlap between Russian hackers and CyberCaliphate made it all but certain that the groups were linked.

"Just think of your basic probabilities," he said.

CyberCaliphate faded from view after the TV5 Monde hack, but the over-the-top threats issued by the gang of make-believe militants found an echo in the anti-Muslim sentiment whipped up by the St. Petersburg troll farm — an organization whose operations were laid bare by a U.S. special prosecutor's indictment earlier this year.

The trolls — Russian employees paid to seed American social media with disinformation — often hyped the threat of Islamic State militants to the United States. A few months before CyberCaliphate first won attention by hijacking various media organizations' Twitter accounts, for example, the trolls were spreading false rumors about an Islamic State attack in Louisiana and a counterfeit video appearing to show an American soldier firing into a Quran .

The AP has found no link between CyberCaliphate and the St. Petersburg trolls, but their aims appeared to be the same: keep tension at a boil and radical Islam in the headlines.

By that measure, CyberCaliphate's targeting of media outlets like TV5 Monde and the military spouses succeeded handily.

Ricketts, the author, said that by planting threats with some of the most vocal members of the military community, CyberCaliphate guaranteed maximum press coverage.

"Not only did we play right into their hands by freaking out, but the media played right into it," she said. "We reacted in a way that was probably exactly what they were hoping for."

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8 hours ago, Pods said:

 

Those all targeted the racial divide. It must be like shooting fish in a barrel.

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Check out the contents framed in the red box from the Cambridge Analytica whistleblower's written Senate testimony imbedded below :

Total fucking coordination between Bannon/Flynn linked Cambridge Analytica and Russian FSB and intelligence in the election.  And Flynn is spilling it to Mueller to avoid dying in prison or worse

 

 

 

 

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mpu


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