Friday, December 09, 2016

The conjoined fake-news/Russian-propaganda brouhaha continues

I don't pretend to know what's really behind the "fake news"/Russian propaganda story that the Democrats in particular have been pushing. Obviously, since the whole story is based on claims about highly secret operations, there's not a lot of definitive information in the public record on this. To put it mildly.

Spencer Ackerman reports on Obama taking a new step in the process of developing whatever this is, President Obama is acting Election hacking: Obama orders 'full review' of Russia interference Guardian 12/09/2016:

Lisa Monaco, the White House counterterrorism director, announced what she called a “full review” at a breakfast briefing sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor on Friday.

“This is good news. Declassifying and releasing information about the Russian government and the US election, and doing so quickly, must be a priority,” said Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee.

In October, the director of national intelligence and the secretary of homeland security publicly accused the “senior-most” levels of the Russian government of directing those digital breaches. Trump, who has treated Russian president Vladimir Putin with a warmth unequalled by most US politicians, has repeatedly dismissed the accusation as politically motivated.

US intelligence laid the blame for the DNC hack at Russia’s feet but has not provided evidence supporting the accusation, although several private cybersecurity firms reaching the same conclusion have. Earlier this month, all the Democratic members of the Senate intelligence committee publicly intimated the administration knows significantly more about Russian culpability than the October statement revealed, and implored Obama for a public disclosure he has thus far resisted. [my emphasis]

Presidential election winner Hillary Clinton made a high-profile statement about "fake news" yesterday (Lauren Gambino, Hillary Clinton warns fake news can have 'real world consequences' Guardian 12/09/2016):

Hillary Clinton issued a call to action against the “epidemic” of fake news in a rare public appearance since her unexpected loss to Donald Trump.

The Democratic presidential nominee warned that the proliferation of false news stories online can have “real world consequences”, alluding to an incident over the weekend in which a man opened fire at Comet Ping Pong after reading a false news story that purported the DC pizzeria was harboring children as part of a sex ring led by Clinton. No one was injured.

“This is not about politics or partisanship,” Clinton said, during a tribute to departing Senate minority leader Harry Reid. “Lives are at risk. Lives of ordinary people just trying to go about their days to do their jobs, contribute to their communities.”

“It is a danger that must be addressed and addressed quickly.”
She linked that theme to legislation in Congress to get more aggressive in responding to "foreign propaganda."

The Young Turks' Cenk Uygur is highly suspicious of this whole story line (Hillary Wants Government To Decide What "Fake News" Is 12/08/2016):

Truthdig provides an update on their attorney's letter to the Washignton Pot over an aspect of this story, Here’s The Washington Post’s Letter Responding to Truthdig’s Demand for a Retraction 12/08/2016.

Mark Ames writes on the same story about a smear in a Washington Post article on the fake-news/Russian-propaganda theme in The Anonymous Blacklist Promoted by the Washington Post Has Apparent Ties to Ukrainian Fascism and CIA Spying AlterNet 12/07/2016

Featured alongside those anonymously accused of treason by PropOrNot, among a long list of marginal conspiracy sites and major news hubs, is Truthdig. This news and opinion site was co-founded by Zuade Kaufman and the veteran journalist Robert Scheer, who is a professor of USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and former columnist for the LA Times. It would not be the first time Scheer has come under attack from dark forces. In the mid-late 1960s, Scheer made his fame as editor and reporter for Ramparts, the fearless investigative magazine that changed American journalism. One of the biggest bombshell stories that Scheer’s magazine exposed was the CIA’s covert funding of the National Student Association, then America’s largest college student organization, which had chapters on 400 campuses and a major presence internationally.

The CIA was not pleased with Scheer’s magazine’s work, and shortly afterwards launched a top-secret and illegal domestic spying campaign against Scheer and Ramparts, believing that they must be a Russian Communist front. A secret team of CIA operatives—kept secret even from the rest of Langley, the operation was so blatantly illegal—spied on Scheer and his Ramparts colleagues, dug through Ramparts’ funders lives and harassed some of them into ditching the magazine, but in all of that they couldn’t find a single piece of evidence linking Scheer’s magazine to Kremlin agents. This secret illegal CIA investigation into Scheer’s magazine expanded its domestic spying project, code-named MH-CHAOS, that grew into a monster targeting hundreds of thousands of Americans, only to be exposed by Seymour Hersh in late 1974, leading to the creation of the Church Committee hearings and calls by Congress for the abolition of the Central Intelligence Agency.

It’s one of the dark ugly ironies that 50 years later, Scheer has been anonymously accused of working for Russian spies, only this time the accusers have the full cooperation of the Washington Post’s front page.
He also discusses the Ukrainian connection in their title:

Because the PropOrNot blacklist of American journalist “traitors” is anonymous, and the Washington Post front-page article protects their anonymity, we can only speculate on their identity with what little information they’ve given us. And that little bit of information reveals only a Ukrainian ultranationalist thread—the salute, the same obsessively violent paranoia towards Russia, and towards journalists, who in the eyes of Ukrainian nationalists have always been dupes and stooges, if not outright collaborators, of Russian evil.

One of the key media sources who blamed the DNC hacks on Russia, ramping up fears of crypto-Putinist infiltration, is a Ukrainian-American lobbyist working for the DNC. She is Alexandra Chalupa—described as the head of the Democratic National Committee’s opposition research on Russia and on Trump, and founder and president of the Ukrainian lobby group “US United With Ukraine Coalition”, which lobbied hard to pass a 2014 bill increasing loans and military aid to Ukraine, imposing sanctions on Russians, and tightly aligning US and Ukraine geostrategic interests.

In October of this year, Yahoo News named Chalupa one of “16 People Who Shaped the 2016 Election” for her role in pinning the DNC leaks on Russian hackers, and for making the case that the Trump campaign was under Kremlin control. “As a Democratic Party consultant and proud Ukrainian-American, Alexandra Chalupa was outraged last spring when Donald Trump named Paul Manafort as his campaign manager,” the Yahoo profile began. “As she saw it, Manafort was a key figure in advancing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s agenda inside her ancestral homeland — and she was determined to expose it.”

Chalupa worked with veteran reporter Michael Isikoff of Yahoo News to publicize her opposition research on Trump, Russia and Paul Manafort, as well as her many Ukrainian sources. In one leaked DNC email earlier this year, Chalupa boasts to DNC Communications Director Luis Miranda that she brought Isikoff to a US-government sponsored Washington event featuring 68 Ukrainian journalists, where Chalupa was invited “to speak specifically about Paul Manafort.” In turn, Isikoff named her as the key inside source “proving” that the Russians were behind the hacks, and that Trump’s campaign was under the spell of Kremlin spies and sorcerers.
The more I hear about the Russian hacking story, the more I think that whatever the result of this scare turns out to be, it will not be good for progressives or the New Deal wing of the Democratic Party.

Here's a different twist from Greg Sargent What happens if Russia did interfere in our election? Washington Post 12/09/2016:

James Lewis, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a nonpartisan international security think tank, suggests that a finding of Russian interference of some kind might “hem in the next administration,” i.e., the Trump administration. That’s because any evidence that Russia tried to swing the election in some form or other — if such evidence is found — might shine a harsher light on Trump’s foreign policy choices.

Trump has publicly expressed skepticism that Russia was behind the hacks, claiming that “I don’t believe they interfered,” and suggesting that “it could be some guy in his home in New Jersey.” Trump has also suggested that he wants much smoother relations with Russia.

“But if the administration releases some information on Russian interference, saying, ‘here’s how they did it and here’s what their intent was,’ it would make it harder to argue that it was a hacker in New Jersey,” Lewis tells me. “That could help shape our approach towards Russia next year. The hope is, Trump would have to be more careful.”
So, is the purpose of this to make it harder for the Trump Family Business Administration less willing to improve relations with Russia no matter what?

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