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09 January 2017

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Vic

Americans by far and large do not choose to review the arguments behind mathematical proofs, nor do many review the results of physics experiments to see if they refute or validate various theories, nor do they ponder the different arguments between schools of philosophical thought. Most other realms of logic and argumentation are also not of public interest.

There is however one area where that is the case; law and criminal investigation. Citizens get to sit on juries and daily they are bombarded by cable TV with police procedurals and news and drama over criminal cases argued in court.

This sets the expectations for the John Q public when it comes to using intelligence in the court of public opinion. These expectations are unrealistic and can seldom be met.

First, intelligence can seldom "prove" something beyond a reasonable doubt. At best, intelligence conclusions are based on weight or preponderance of evidence, at worse it is a subjective best guess from multiple possible explanations.

Intelligence evidence is almost always very incomplete and a portion of it will be incorrect or out right deception. If you want to cherry pick evidence, you can often manipulate it to say anything you want. It may be biased by the collector. If a collection agency was tasked to "look for X" it is very likely that they will report evidence of "X" (you need to also ask for evidence of "not X").

Second, remember that the evidence can never be made public for fear of compromising sources and methods. Would anyone watch a CSI TV show that cut to the end with "who did it" without telling you how they know that? The American public is accustomed to seeing the evidence from TV shows and they expect it in this case.

This should have been anticipated early on by the administration. Their PR management of this issue has been horrible

Vic

hans

There's something comic opera about this whole kerfuffle. I've seen little discussion, only some speculation, about what security measures were actually employed by the DNC.

I installed networks and servers for law offices years ago, was computer editor for a small legal magazine for a few years, and, now retired, set up the occasional systems for old friends. So I know a little something about this.

I see no mentions of firewalls, or firewall logs - a basic tool that allows you to at least know who's been accessing your system. No mention of encryption, not of hard drives or of email traffic. If not even this level of security was applied, then anyone along the routes your traffic flowed could read it straightaway. Without encryption you're transmitting in the open, and it's not rocket surgery to get at it. Were there firewalls on your routers? Antivirus and antimalware apps running and logging events? Was your operating system running inside a virtual machine? No mentions.

The IC outfits say they traced traffic through various IP addresses. But those IP addresses all seem to deadend at Tor nodes, which means it could be anyone.

Revealing these details won't expose sources or methods.

Nothing disclosed so far to support the contentions of Clapper & Co. makes the grade. I could be wrong. I'm probably out of date on some of this, but I'm not on the basics.

Eliot

“Judgments are not intended to imply that we have proof that shows something to be a fact.”

Another "dodgy dossier."

- Eliot

Stumpy

A cursory review of youtube videos on the topic of hacking, such as DEFCON presentations, shows an established industry devoted to finding and squashing vulnerabilities. The exploits themselves are frequently illustrated, with caveats, with enough detail that a malicious actor could do damage even if caught or killed. (See https://youtu.be/oHf1vD5_b5I) The state of the art is not reflected in anything put out by the US government or DNC cybersec contractors. In fact, the goal seems to be limited to developing a narrative in the press regardless of how illogical or unsubstantiated.

If one wants to call a routine theft of email an act of war, maybe they should reset their perspective. If you have time and bandwidth, a nice story set to film of the Poles fending off the Soviets in 1920, https://youtu.be/J4I61EkSdgg -- in which SIGINT plays a major part:

"Since the Polish code-breakers did not want the Russians to find out that their codes had been broken, the remaining Soviet radio station was neutralized by having the radio station in Warsaw recite the Book of Genesis in Polish and Latin on the frequency used by the 4th Army." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Warsaw_(1920)

It would be nice if someone with a big enough voice were to compare and contrast the alleged effects of Russian interference against the effect of large sums contributed from foreign actors such as Saudi Arabia as well as certain industrial groups to the party of the jackass.

Stumpy

Agree in full. Hopefully the IC has been professional enough to keep the true human sources concealed, if any exist. Too many Anna Chapmans in the mix waiting to take advantage of sloppy security.

David Habakkuk

All,

Discussions by two very different people on the claims about Russian hacking are I think relevant.

A report on the ultimate ‘fake news’ site, RT, opens:

‘The sloppiness of the alleged DNC hack by itself proves it was not organized by a nation state, and the “utter nonsense” presented as proof of Moscow’s involvement is rather evidence of intelligence agencies being “ignorant and naïve,” John McAfee told RT.’

From the body of the report:

‘To make it simple for the American audience, McAfee metaphorically explained the situation:

‘“Seriously, if Russia declared war on us because we hacked Russia and the head of the CIA and the intelligence committee came to the Congress and they ask him ‘What happened?’ – ‘Oh, well you know we didn’t have time to remove English language, we didn’t have time to move the date stamp, the guy could not use a Chinese keyboard, so we gave him our regular keyboard. And also there was my wife’s birthday so I could not remove the IP address.’”’

‘“Please, that person would be scheduled for a suicide,” McAfee concluded.’

Another relevant discussion comes from one of the best British writers on Russian history and politics, Paul Robinson – now, to my regret, teaching at Ottawa.

An old Etonian who went to Oxford – he was, I think, a contemporary of our laughing-stock of a Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, at both places – Robinson, on leaving university, did not go, like John, David Cameron, George Osborne, etc etc, into a London media-political ‘bubble’, but joined the Army.

Unsurprisingly, he ended up in intelligence. And when he decided to go back into academic life, he chose to write a thesis on the apparently most utterly irrelevant subject: the history of the White Army in exile.

And then, a few years later, a former KGB officer, whose grandfather cooked for Lenin and Stalin, is negotiating with the daughter of General Denikin to bring his remains home to Russia.

All the people who did ‘relevant’ subjects haven’t a clue what is happening. But Paul Robinson understands quite precisely what is at stake, when Putin brings back to Russia the remains of Denikin, and Ivan Il’in – the ‘sword’ and the ‘pen’ of the Whites.

An extract from an article of his published by the ‘Spectator’ in October 2005 – I do not know whether Johnson was still editor:

‘When Denikin’s daughter, Marina Grey, refused to give permission to exhume her father, the President won her over by granting her Russian citizenship. When the Russian army refused to provide a military honour guard for Il’in because he had never served in the military, Putin overruled the generals. The honouring of the Whites, and the implied repudiation of the Reds, came from the top.’

(See http://www.spectator.co.uk/2005/10/the-return-of-white-russia/ .)

But Robinson is also a trained intelligence analyst, and his attempt to separate Clapper’s report into ‘fact’ and ‘comment’, and look at both in the context of some kind of realistic understanding of the complexities of contemporary Russian politics, is I think both illuminating and entertaining.

(See https://irrussianality.wordpress.com/2017/01/07/fact-and-comment/ .)

Valissa

One thing I don't quite understand yet is how this anti-Russia game supports "American Exceptionalism." This is supposed to be a key part of US foreign policy, and yet this whole 'Russia hacked the elections' meme is terrible for US credibility abroad.

Here is an article by retired India diplomat M.K. Bhadrakumar. While MKB has often been critical of US foreign policies he has (like many Indians) maintained a obvious soft spot for our country. Relatively speaking, he is pretty scathing here.

So what if Russia tried to influence the US election? http://www.atimes.com/russia-tried-influence-us-election/
It only underscored that what is unfolding is quintessentially an unprecedented partisan war in American politics. What comes to mind is Edward Gibbon’s classic work on the fall of the Roman Empire where he describes the Roman era’s declension as a place where “bizarreness masqueraded as creativity.”

The title of the US intelligence report has been carefully worded – Assessing Russian Activities And Intentions in Recent US Elections. The title may convey the impression that Russia interfered in the November elections and successfully stage-managed Trump’s victory. Far from it.
On the contrary, however, the report does not even weigh in on that issue. If anything, buried deep within the report is a curt admission that Russia was “not involved in vote tallying.”

… Aren’t there instances where the US tried to bring about desired outcomes in democratic elections in foreign countries? Hasn’t the US overthrown foreign governments that didn’t serve American interests? Doesn’t the US government fund media organs to propagate views abroad? Doesn’t the US intelligence bribe journalists, think tankers and academics in America and abroad to plant ideas and create opinions?

At the end of the day, therefore, to a foreign observer, all this looks most curious. America’s political class is fighting among themselves with tooth and claw over an issue that is commonplace in the contemporary world, and in that process, their country, the ‘lone superpower’, becomes the laughing stock of the world community.
----------------

Yes, the US is now "the laughing stock of the world community"! Are the establishment Dems and neocons so afraid of Trump upsetting their established order (and forcing some relatively minor changes to their money and power games) that they don't care how stupid and impotent the US is looking to most of the rest of the world*?

*except for the EU, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand

ISL

Dear Colonel and SST,

Clearly the administration calculated on the extreme laziness of mainstream reporting where likely none of the reporters will bother to read beyond the headline - simply calling their favorite source for a juicy quote and taking the spin from the whitehouse press office. In a telling case, I noted how during the deepwater horizon spill, the CDC produced a report the bulk of which said the oil posed a breathing health risk. However, a coast guard apparatchik slapped a cover page that said the report showed there was no health risk and the media dutifully reported this.

What Trump gets and the democrats and many republicans do not is that the alternative media actually reads the report content and that most americans do not trust the mainstream media or the politico spin - hence the urgency of tarring the alternative media as fake news even though the cows are out of the barn.

The world is changing.

Babak Makkinejad

I do not think that Putin is repudiating the Reds, I think he is trying to close the chapter on the Russian Revolution, the ensuing Civil War.

He has kept the legacy of the Great Patriotic War, Lenin's Tomb is still in Red Square, and the general outlines of the state created by Lenin and Stalin persists.

30 years ago, when the Socialist won the elections in Greece, that marked the end of the Greek Civil War.

The Civil War has not yet ended in Spain.

walter

This nails it:

https://prezi.com/9fk_dfbyvcgs/does-gru-know-what-covert-means/#

Dorsey Gardner

Does anyone recall that a substantial number of US Congressmen/women have Israeli passports and unfailingly vote for bills or expenditures that benefit Israel and cost the American taxpayer billions, e.g.. $38B, with no payoff for US citizens? Are we allowed to acknowledge that a majority of the MSM -- Main Street Media -- is Jewish-owned and spins the news to make Israel's apartheid and violent policies invisible or excusable? Given that the Nulands and Neocons appear to be back in business stirring up another new war -- this time with a nuclear-armed Russia no less -- how can anyone fault Russia for having a little input -- after all they have the most to lose from the endless warmongering. lies, and propaganda.
Maybe Russians were more likely to bring accuracy to a presidential campaign without real content. If they are responsible for revealing that Carlos Danger had access to classified information, I personally thank them for revealing what our media and government kept secret.

The Twisted Genius

What we see in both IC reports are nothing more than assessment statements without the evidence those assessments are based on. I see no reason they would convince anyone, especially all those who find it inconceivable that Russia could or would do anything like this. Trump himself seems convinced of the basics of the case according to his official statement and what Priebus said yesterday. "I think he accepts the findings," Reince Priebus said on "Fox News Sunday." ''He's not denying that entities in Russia were behind this particular campaign." Too bad the rest of us will never see the evidence in the classified report. I never thought we would.

turcopolier

TTG

I don't doubt that the Russians could or would do that. But what would they have done in this case, reveal the truth? And this is subverting American democracy? pl

The Twisted Genius

David,

John McAfee's reasoning is absurd and he should have the technical knowledge to know that. He claims that since the tools used to conduct the hack were not state of the art, Russia could not be involved. I've worked this field for years. When conducting a penetration, one uses the least advanced tool needed to get the job done. It's similar to not using an elephant gun to kill a fly. This is also one of main reasons the Russians use independent hacking groups with their own tools and methods to do much of their work.

Robinson's article is very good and points out the inadequacies of the released reports thoroughly and convincingly. He also points out this inadequacy does nothing to disprove the premise that Russia conducted a deliberate influence operation against the US.

The Twisted Genius

pl,

That's something that has become lost in the hue and cry to deny this even happened. All the Russians did with the release of emails was to shine a light on the ugly side of the Democratic Party and the Clinton people. It was whistleblowing, not war. I do believe Russia's goal was to create conditions in the US more favorable to Russia's interests. A US not rushing headlong into war with Russia is more favorable for most of the world, including us Americans. It was far classier than anything we've done to influence elections or regime changes. I hope we continue to see more such whistleblowing and leaking targeting the rich and powerful, even by the dastardly hackers, in the future.

Kooshy

Vallisa, IMO in my understanding, outside of US the "American Exceptionalism" is not much promoted or pushed about, by the American goverment or the related media. IMO is mostly used for domestic consumption, for unity building measures inside re US. One wouldn't hear much about it outside of US, and if it was officially promoted by USG, it will be immediately ridiculed and laughed and dismissed, specially in allied Europe. French, and Brits think they are more exceptional than anybody else. Most of the street people in old world civilizations, likes of Indian, chines, Iranian, Greeks would give you a lip service for that considering they get paid for it in advance.

ked

"... one uses the least advanced tool needed to get the job done."

your statement may well be memorialized as "Occam's Hack" or "Occam's IT Management Algorithm".

b

There is no evidence that there was any "Russian hacking" at all. Just assertions by people who have interests in making such claims.

There is evidence that a large Trump de-legitamization campaign is run on the thesis that "Trump loves Putin" and "Putin is bad". Clinton started this mid 2016. Since she lost an attempt is made to pin the loss on Russia. Why blame yourself for your mistakes when you can blame others ...

There are ways to show that there was a hack (if one happened) and that Russia was involved that would not endanger "sources and methods". It is well known (since Snowden) that the NSA records ever data packet that crosses U.S. borders. Any suspicious connection could be found. A description on how the supposed attack on the DNC was carried out, what programs were used in what versions, would also not endanger anything. But the DNC denied the FBI access to the crime scene. Instead we get a "report" from a private company with deep relations to NATO and assorted war mongers.

The language in the various reports is all very vague. No firm claims are made. No actual evidence is presented. This is all as thin as it possibly can be.

Obama and the people behind him do not want Trump to change the confrontational course against Russia. Clapper and Brennan have the job to take care of that as long as they can.

Kooshy

IMO, this hacking business, more than being a forign policy/ foreign interference business/issue, is a domestic issue, for the Borg who feels after recent election (which realistically and evedently and as usual, was interfred by the Borg and its media hands, more than anybody else including puts ) is loosing control of opinion making of voters and electorates. With thier claim, on Russian' hacking our election and interfering in our domestic affairs they are trying to appeal to our national concisions, and hope to regain the control they one had on our collective public opinion. IMO the trust the public once had on this media and the US goverment/ administration will not be restored anytime soon.

Kooshy

"reveal the truth? And this is subverting American democracy?"
It takes a lot of balls, to say it easily perfect.

Jack

Sir

This is exactly what is befuddling me. Is the Russian influence operation the exposure of the truth? I don't believe anyone is arguing that the Russians planted false information that confused the voting public. I don't get it. So what if the Russians or even Martians phished Podesta's emails. The truth of the actual communications between Podesta and John Harwood and others is what got exposed. The voting public should be pleased they actually got the truth.

What the media, the Democrats, McCain and his office wife don't get is that many citizens are pleased that the truth of the actual behavior and thinking of these duplicitous political actors got exposed. They are not concerned who did it.

Jack

Valissa

Not only a laughing stock of the world community but a laughing stock to many Americans too, as can be seen in the response to John Harwood's twitter poll. So, the Russians send out a phishing email and the dumb Podesta hands over his email password and the American voter gets the truth. This is considered so bad that the media and the establishment are foaming at the mouth. Beyond ridiculous! Trump has got inside their psyche that they've lost their marbles.

Hood Canal Gardner

Col/pl:

"But what would they have done in this case, reveal the truth? And this is subverting American democracy?"

Let's have the actual specifics/undeniable hard copy of what 'they' discovered/disclosed...1,2 ,3 - 10. No inferences, just hard non-fake copy.

Hopefully none here are holding their breath for signed paymaster hard copy. Keep all the e-nonsense.

Bottom line (for me anyway): just more MSM/NPR cheap news: no TA DA. Punt.

aleksandar

1 ) Compromising sources and method in such a case " hacking " is a dubious argument.
2) Sorry but intelligence can be proved without any doubt, it is often the case in military intelligence.
3 ) All ISs use methods to quote each intel and sources. There is nothing as " a subjective best guess from multiple possible explanations " as long as these IS services are professionals.

Jack

TTG, Sir

"I hope we continue to see more such whistleblowing and leaking targeting the rich and powerful, even by the dastardly hackers, in the future."

My sentiment exactly. I'm not at all concerned about who is doing the whistle blowing. I hope we get more of it. I'd love it if we can get the conversations between the Chairman of Anbang and Jared Kushner and his Dad, and what if any the quid pro quo were. And the conversations between Steve Mnuchin and Kamala Harris. I consider Snowden a hero for providing the American people the truth and proving that Clapper and Alexander were lying POS who needed to be court-martialled and sent to the hoosegow.

There's a reason that many Americans like me are not falling for the hysteria of the Russian "hacking" because we welcome such truth disclosures and want more of it.

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