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09 December 2016

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eakens

If the Soviet Union could be broken in Afghanistan, then surely Putin is sitting at the Kremlin right now reading all this and licking his chops.

Harry

Found some more of that "fake news"

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-38260388

Amazing really. So 10k "civilians" left for west aleppo but the UN thinks it strange that a couple of hundred young men of military age may have been detained. And they suggest in the residual pocket left there are 100k civilians?

Even by this strange accounting there will be a missing 140k civilians cos there were 250k there before the latest offensive.

Maybe Assad killed them all?

BraveNewWorld

Yes that is what should happen. What will happen is a bunch of Congressional vindictiveness and retribution for the mere act of being Russian. If the Russians didn't do this then they must have done some thing else. PT Barnum would be proud of what is about to happen.

The Twisted Genius

Get on with it indeed. I did just this kind of thing for close to a decade. It does take years to get to the truth in this area where the mirrors and misdirection of the intelligence world intersect with the mirrors and misdirection of the underground hacker scene. Add to this some extreme technical wizardry and the culture of Russia (or China) and the result is something more byzantine than Churchills' riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. But the truth can be discovered. How the IC can lay out their case without possibly blowing some deep delicate operations and/or relationships is anybody's guess.

From the open source evidence I've seen, I am pretty well convinced there is a Russian hand in this. What I'm not convinced of is this being a Kremlin directed operation. If anything it was closer to a "Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest?" type of general desire. A vague desire, never voiced specifically, has gone far in mobilizing the Russian patriotic hackers in the past.

For the bigger question of whether this amounts to interfering with our electoral process, I don't see it. Even if Vladimir Vladimirovich did this with his own KGB trained fingers on the keyboard, I don't think this constitutes interference with our electoral process. Espionage? Sure. So what. Disseminating the fruits of that espionage to shape opinion? Sure. That's information operations or more specifically, white propaganda. There's no reason a foreign country has to stay neutral to political developments in our country. Lord knows we go far beyond just voicing our opinion about others' politics. This wasn't false news, just the truth that some would rather not have exposed to the light of day. I would like to see more of that in the future.

Cold War Zoomie

"If anything it was closer to a "Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest?" type of general desire. A vague desire, never voiced specifically, has gone far in mobilizing the Russian patriotic hackers in the past."

My understanding is that the Russians are very, very good while the Chinese rely on brute force numbers. The running joke at work when a PC slows down is to exclaim that the Russian rootkit is busy deleting the Chinese rootkit!

Plausible deniability is golden.

The Twisted Genius

Cold War Zoomie,

At one time, Chinese hackers shut down a particular installation's systems by overloading it with the amount of information it was downloading from the systems. They just didn't give a damn about who saw them doing it... a digital home invasion. They've acquired a little more finesse since then.

different clue

I wonder how Pres Trump's desire for re-normalized relations with Russia will conflict with Congress's desire for turning any "investigation" into a field of Cold War 2.0 propaganda dreams.

If the Republican Representatives and Senators appear reluctant to advance the Democratic Party --Borg Elite narrative of Putin-hacked-the-election and "Putin's puppet Trump" ; then the DemParty and the Borg Elite and their MSM will try their hardest to extort Republican officeholder compliance with their new DemBorg McCarthyist project. Will Trump even be smart enough to see it and understand it as it is happening? Will the R Party be smart enough to go back to its pre Cold-War roots and begin speaking again of "Democrat wars"?

Jack

TTG, Sir

After Iraq WMD claims and lying on mass surveillance I am highly skeptical of government claims not backed with solid evidence. Since I have no insight on computer security I will acknowledge that your conclusion of Russian hacking makes me seriously consider that possibility. In any case if the Russians have a hand in it or not I am all for hackers and Wikileaks exposing the sleaze of our political and business elites. I hope more such exposure takes place across the partisan divide as well as at the highest levels of our financial & bureaucratic elites.

I would recommend this note from emptywheel a Democrat on this topic and the role of the current CIA in carrying water for the Saudis.

https://www.emptywheel.net/2016/12/09/unpacking-new-cia-leak-dont-ignore-aluminum-tube-footnote/

F-35

So now Obama is starting to investigate - even though his surrogates already leveled the accusations against the Russians? This country is becoming a laughingstock of the world.
I wouldn't trust this investigation if you paid me, because the results are already preordained.

JohnH

IMO this will end like Obama's vaunted cyber counter attack--all smoke and no fire.

The proof? Democrats repeatedly accuse Russia of tampering with the US election but are very, very lukewarm about recounting any votes, the only place where direct evidence of concrete tampering could be found. Apparently they know that the voting process was not impacted.

Sure, there were psyops...done by Republicans, Israel firsters and probably many others, maybe even Russia.

The goal here is to demonize Russia and save neocons' influence, something that Trump is not buying so far.

F-35

I think people should read this "Thank you Russia" open letter.

http://www.lastminutesurvival.com/2016/10/12/thank-you-russia-my-open-letter-to-president-putin/

ISL

Dear Colonel,

One might also hope that if there was interference in our elections on the part of other foreign entities in a cyber security manner (as opposed to donations to politicians by US subsidiaries of foreign companies), they also would be reported. I wonder about a certain country in the middle east neighboring Syria and Lebanon. Still, best not to hold ones breath awaiting such a report.

Dubhaltach

In reply to The Twisted Genius 09 December 2016 at 04:35 PM

"What I'm not convinced of is this being a Kremlin directed operation. If anything it was closer to a "Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest?" type of general desire."

I think you've just struck the nail on the head.

Dubhaltach

In reply to Cold War Zoomie 09 December 2016 at 06:26 PM

That joke is made on this side of the Atlantic too. One of colleagues made it just the other day and everyone in the room burst out in rueful laughter.

Cee

All,

With all due respect to those who know more, my instincts say they are lying to undermine their next targets.

I'm watching Malcolm Nance and Clinton partisans on MSNBC now who haven't convinced me of a thing.

I do wonder if any who escaped from Syria will be used on Russia.

https://www.sott.net/article/329957-US-Special-Forces-officer-How-the-CIA-armed-and-trained-jihadists-for-war-in-Syria

https://theintercept.com/2016/12/10/anonymous-leaks-to-the-washpost-about-the-cias-russia-beliefs-are-no-substitute-for-evidence/

https://theintercept.com/2016/12/09/a-clinton-fan-manufactured-fake-news-that-msnbc-personalities-spread-to-discredit-wikileaks-docs/

Cold War Zoomie

"They just didn't give a damn about who saw them doing it..." Yes, they were very sloppy in the early days and maybe have cleaned up their act. But it takes a long time for the consequences of being sloppy to fade as they get more clever.

A.I.Schmelzer

As I understand the Russian hacker scene:

1: DNC and RNC and Podesta hacks are imho Russian cybercrimnals wishing to get some patriotic brownie points with the FSB.
Just some numbers: there were iirc about 5 exploits used in the DNC hack, price for such an exploit is around 5K, about 25K if you want that exploit to be exclusive. This is well within the means of some Russian pharma spammers or whatever.
Having enough brownie points with the authorities is really useful for a Russian hacker. It does things such as being milked rather than jailed if discovered, if the authorities go tough (because some government friendly to Russia complained, the Euros basically got their complaint privileges revoked post Maidan), they will hit whoever has the least number of brownie points, and a sufficiently risk-affine/drunk hacker may even try to use his patriotic brownie points to sic the authorities on his competitors.

Note that Russian cyber criminals (there is a bit of a "dont crap in your living room" ethic) can actually be quite patriotic.

So, after the USA officially blamed Russia, they basically made things worse.
First, the Russian perception may have actually been that the US genuinely believed that these hacks were the Russian services. In this case, the US needed a short and sharp reminder of precisely what the Russians are actually capable off (no, it does not take a combination of the FSB and the GRU to take down a pretty weak target such as the DNC, or spear phising podesta or whatever), given the frankly fairly low sophistication of the DNC hack, some US planners may get the idea that they could decisively win a cyber war with Russia. The Russians, imho, dont want a cyber war.

Second, the problem with cyber deterrence is that, as soon as you show you adversary your guns, your adversary can very well prepare for it.
What did Russia, quite apperantly, do to cyber deter the USA? Well, apparently they pulled a joined humint/sigint (things that involve humint on US soil are actually a thing that is quite clearly beyond a Russian cyber criminal thing) thing on the NSA (weak link was some data-hoarding contractor), stole their cyber tools, left some pretty insulting messages and then proceeded threatening to sell these tools on the black market.
Effectively, they have threatened the US with their own cyber tools, which is particularly effective because these tools were, as it appears, mostly used on targets not in Russia/China (my guess is Germany because we are a really really juicy cyber target for a number of reason).
The cyberterm for that is "pwned".

For the added lulz, SVR (you know, the Russian spy agency that would actually be tasked with hacking the DNC, and who I guess did the equation group hack, I think they may have been pissed by everyone blaming FSB and GRU for this) apparently did so under a "ShadoW brokeR" alias.

What I do not know is if the Borgs realize how much they got pwned.

David Habakkuk

A.I. Schmelzer,

I think your picture of the relations between ‘official’ and ‘unofficial’ Russian activities in relation to hacking makes excellent sense.

One reservation I have had, however, is that the notion that the GRU or anyone working for them would leave the initials of Dzerzhinski, of all people, behind on a hacking expedition seemed to me wildly improbable.

This seemed to me would be done either by someone who was ignorant enough to think that contemporary Russian military people are likely to venerate the founder of the Cheka – or thought the fact that many in the West are that out-of-touch could be exploited.

Also, for what it is worth, the former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, has repeated Assange’s claim that the WikiLeaks material came from insider leaks, not hacks – and also claimed to have met the person who leaked them.

Moreover, remarkably, his claims featured in a ‘Guardian’ report – although the link from the home page was then taken down, and replaced with one to a report headlined ‘FBI covered up Russian influence on Trump’s election win, Harry Reid claims.’

I think that Murray is an honest man, although in intrigues as complex – and potentially dangerous – as these that in in itself would not necessarily a guarantee that he is telling the truth. But I think his account is certainly well worth reading – as also is his subsequent piece claiming that ‘Facebook’ are preventing him disseminating it in the normal manner for the site.

If correct, as I would be virtually certain it is, this indicates that the attempt to use ‘social media’ to enforce an ‘establishment’ censorship of material it has claimed – patently disingenuously – to be ‘fake news’ is biting.

(See https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2016/12/cias-absence-conviction/ ; https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2016/12/facebook-suppresses-truth/ .)

Dubhaltach

In reply to David Habakkuk 11 December 2016 at 11:08 AM

"One reservation I have had, however, is that the notion that the GRU or anyone working for them would leave the initials of Dzerzhinski, of all people, behind on a hacking expedition seemed to me wildly improbable."

Well on this one I have to take the direct opposite stance. I spend a lot of time in Russia, I have a lot of Russian friends. And leaving "Iron Feliks' " initials all over it would be in my opinion like the chocolate layer on Ptichye Moloko. Irresistible and an essential part of the dish.

I'll bet they and their handlers had a damned good giggle about it and are enjoying the extra kudos gained.

Freudenschade

TTG,

I'm convinced this was a multi channel operation that included massive disinformation and multiple state and non state parties. I think we're too close to the election to have a reasonable review. Right now all of this is seen as Trump bashing by his partisans.

David Habakkuk

Dubhaltach,

As I am not a Russianist, do not speak the language, have never lived there, and only visited the country once, I would defer to your judgement about what a lot of Russians would find entertaining.

However, the suggestion to which I was referring was that the contemporary GRU or anyone working closely with them would have used Dzherzinsky’s initials.

The GRU is a directorate of the General Staff, so the ultimate ‘handler’ in relation to any operation of this importance is General Valery Gerasimov, appointed as its Chief by Putin in November 2012.

His views, as expressed in a February 2013 article, and also a presentation at a May 2014 conference attended and discussed by Anthony H. Cordesman, are discussed in an article Charles K. Bartles of the – invaluable – Foreign Military Studies Office, which appeared in the January-February issue of ‘Military Review’.

An excerpt:

‘His article and Russia’s 2014 Military Doctrine make apparent that he perceives the primary threats to Russian sovereignty as stemming from U.S.-funded social and political movements such as color revolutions, the Arab Spring, and the Maidan movement. He also sees threats in the U.S. development of hypersonic weapons and the anti-ballistic missile and Prompt Global Strike programs, which he believes could degrade Russian strategic deterrence capabilities and disturb the current strategic balance.’

(See http://usacac.army.mil/CAC2/MilitaryReview/Archives/English/MilitaryReview_20160228_art009.pdf .)

According to Bartles, ‘Russia is experimenting with some rather unconventional means to counter hostile indirect and asymmetric methods.’

It would not strike me as remotely implausible, at all, that leaking hacked material would be one such means. However, it seems to me wildly unlikely that, if this were done, it would be in a manner that left obvious traces. What 'patriotic' Russian hackers, or people just enjoying themselves, might do is another matter.

I should have focused on this aspect, more than on attitudes of Russian military figures to the Cheka. However, I did partly have in mind a discussion in a paper on ‘Operation Barbarossa’ published earlier this year by a leading civilian Russian strategic thinker, Andrei Kokoshin, of the devastating impact of the 1937 purge on the Russian military and specifically military intelligence.

In this, Kokoshin quotes the assessment of Gerasimov’s great predecessor Alexander Vasilevsky that ‘the war of 1941 might have not happened at all’, had the repressions not happened.

(See http://belfercenter.hks.harvard.edu/files/Blitzkrieg%20Final.pdf .)

Also in the paper, Kokoshin refers to the way in which the lessons taught by the great Russian Clausewitzian Alexander Svechin - among the casualties of the purges - about the importance of strategic defensive in the initial period of any future war were ignored, with catastrophic consequences.

But there different matters may come together. Both Gerasimov’s views, and also the conduct of the war in Syria, seem to me classical cases of the kind of ‘Clausewitzian’ approach taught by Svechin. There is the insistence on the integration of military and non-military aspects of strategy, and on the importance of both defensive and offensive.

It will certainly be clear to people in Moscow that there is a battle going on for public opinion in the West. It is not however one I expect to see them handling crudely.

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