Thursday, January 05, 2017

Russian hacking., the US and regime change

Owen Jones provides some useful, brief real-world history of American regime-change operations in Americans can spot election meddling because they’ve been doing it for years Guardian 01/05/2017:

... while Americans feel justifiably angry at alleged interference with their political process, they have also been handed a mirror, and the reflection should disturb them.

For the US is a world leader in the field of intervening in the internal affairs of other countries. The alleged interference is far more extensive than hacking into emails belonging to unfavoured political parties. According to research by political scientist Dov Levin, the US and the USSR/Russia together intervened no less than 117 times in foreign elections between 1946 and 2000, or “one out of every nine competitive, national-level executive elections”.

Indeed, one cannot understand US-Russian relations today without acknowledging America’s role in the internal affairs of its defeated cold war foe. As Stephen Cohen puts it, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the approach of US advisers “was nothing less than missionary – a virtual crusade to transform post-communist Russia into some facsimile of the American democratic and capitalist system”.
And this is a particular dilemma for members of the public trying realistically to understand the situation when the allegations involve intelligence detection of computer hacks for which the information has not been made public so that independent analysts can sufficiently examine them.

Marcy Wheeler at Emptywheel keeps on trying, though. In Russia Hacked the DNC, But What, Specifically, Did GRU Do? 01/04/2016, her analysis provides a good example of why this doesn't easily boil down to a simple slogan:

One thing a lot of people don’t realize about the Russian hack attribution is there’s some slippage in the argument.

There are two groups in question: APT 29, which has been publicly associated with FSB, and APT 28, which has been publicly associated with GRU. As I laid out here, those two groups must be kept separate, because the story is that these two groups did different things: FSB hung around DNC’s servers for months and stole a lot of information, but never leaked it. That’s the kind of stuff intelligence services do all the time, including our own. Our government has no reason to make a case against that — which is unwanted but nevertheless normal espionage — because they do it too, such as when, in 2012, they stole communications between then Mexican presidential candidate Enrique Peña Nieto and his closest allies.

GRU, by contrast, was believed to have been in DNC’s servers briefly — and John Podesta’s Gmail account even more briefly — but to have, in that time, stolen the documents that ultimately made their way to Wikileaks. That’s the action that was deemed newly beyond the pale (even if the US has probably had documents leaked to Wikileaks itself).

In a sense, then, only the APT 28 attribution matters, because that’s the entity that is believed to have been involved in hacking and leaking; that’s the entity believed to have done things that might have affected the outcome of the election.

But people have long either intentionally or unknowingly conflated the two, claiming that “Russia” hacked the DNC. If FSB hacked the DNC, the claim is true, but that doesn’t prove that Russia is behind the tampering in the election, because unless you prove that GRU is APT 28, then the stuff you’re bugged about hasn’t been properly attributed.

I’ve come to distrust the claims of anyone who has paid close attention to this that doesn’t assiduously maintain the distinction between the APT 29 and APT 28 hacks.
She concluydes this particular post, "None of this is definitive. None of it changes my inclination that Russia probably is behind the APT 28 hack of the DNC (and, even more convincingly, behind the hack of John Podesta). But these are some details that deserve more attention amid the claims that all the case against GRU (as distinct from Russia) is rock solid."

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