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12 November 2017

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jpb


I want to express gratitude for an extraordinary thread and link to a documentary film financed by the Russian oligarch, Boris Berezovsky. The film is a a glimpse into the anarchic world of the nineties in Russia. It seeks to document, from an oligarch's perspective, "The Rise of Putin and The Fall Of The Russian Oligarchs". https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q2Cl8lSv9Is

I think the dangerous disinformation campaign surrounding Vladimir Putin and the resulting American hysteria has been and continues to be fueled by the disposed Russian oligarchs, especially including the contemptible William Browder who was banned from Russia after his Hermitage Capital looting operation was bankrupted. The man had the audacity to claim as his brand The Hermitage, one of the worlds greatest museums located in St Petersburg, Russia. The Hermitage is the home of Rembrandt's The Prodigal Son, which I was privileged to see in 1991.

The oligarchs, mostly Jewish with their access to Western money, were able to buy Russian State assets worth billions for a few million. Vladimir Putin is compared to these opportunists, yet when I watch his speech's and interviews, it is obvious he is not motivated by simple greed and lust for power as are the oligarchs portrayed in the documentary.

Vladimir Putin seems a decent and competent man who emerged on the stage of history to restore and preserve the sovereignty and traditions of the Russian culture. He used his legal and intelligence connections and training to command respect and effort from competent human beings. In the worst of times life brings to the fore competence and integrity to answer the deep subconscious longings of humanity for more than deception and fraud.

I fear our country enters the same cycle of corruption which engulfed the Soviet Union. I appreciate the effort of those here, who attempt to stem the tide of ignorance, greed and fear which threatens our country. Anyway, I hope the linked documentary is useful in your efforts.

jpb

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zs0LKyA9Y_Q

Watch Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump's interaction in Vietnam about 3:30. Could it be history has blessed America with a competent president?

Fred

Babak,

"Personally, I think that very many would not take that offer;"

For proof just look at those who leave thier homes to come to "first world" countries rather than build that type of civilization back home. It's certainly easier to buy a ticket with a cell phone app than to build a civilization.

The Twisted Genius

Eric Newhill,

“One minute you're saying that there was no influence on the election and the next you're stating that the Russians hacked the DNC sever and provided captured damaging (to Clinton) to Wikileaks, which, in turn, helped gain Trump a Nov victory.”

Here’s where I stand on this. The Russians hacked the DNC sever, as well as the Podesta email account, and provided captured damaging info (to Clinton) to Wikileaks. I also believe they also ran a social media-based influence op. If this is proven to the public’s satisfaction, I don’t see how that could be used to bring about an impeachment, 25th Amendment removal or resignation. What Russia did is not Trump’s fault. And, most importantly, I could be wrong. I doubt it, but I could be.

I’m not at all convinced if any of this actually helped Trump win. Maybe it did. Maybe it didn’t. I don’t think that question will every be definitively answered. The reasons you voted for Trump are valid and I believe the basis for Trump’s victory against a horribly flawed opponent who promised only more of the same old shit. Even if the Russian effort did help Trump, that isn’t his fault and not a basis for removal… even without context. It would be a basis for screaming, crying and caterwauling, but not removal.

The only thing that would truly endanger the continuation of the Trump Presidency would be a finding of a Trump team conspiracy to violate election laws with the Russians and/or obstruction of justice. That’s where the Mueller investigation is focused. I think by next Summer that question will be answered one way or the other. If Mueller finds something like this, all the context in the world won’t help the Trump Presidency.

As for your idea of context, I’m all for shining a light on the influence ops of George Soros, KSA and Israel. I think the likes of Rebekah and Robert Mercer should also be investigated. Of course Mueller may shine his light on those two at some point. I was glad the ugliness of the Clinton machine was exposed during the campaign even though I disapprove of the way the info was obtained. The same goes for the NSA collecting on American citizens. Like I said, sunlight is good.

rjj

mission accomplished???

per

Something I have been wondered about. It is claimed by the US Intelligence Community that the GRU was behind the DC Leaks. The DC Leaks revealed e-mail correspondence of luminaries such as John McCain and Lindsey Graham, and exposed personal phone numbers of about 200 Democrat legislators. Now, why would GRU, the military intelligence, do such a thing? What military benefit could this have? Was the purpose to inflame bipartisan anti-Russian sentiment in Congress? How could this benefit Russia? Would the DIA hack into Duma computers and reveal to the world personal data of Russian legislators? Is this normal operation of military intelligence?

Babak Makkinejad

For a country of immigrants, that is an invalid objection.

For EU states, on the other hand, what you state is certainly true - that imbues their attitude towards foreigners who are now residing in their countries.

On the other hand, every summer, when the schools ends, hordes of German tourists flood Italy.

I wonder what would happen if Italians left the Earth altogether; removing from this planet the most civilized country that currently exists?

What would all those North Europeans with their spic & span social formations, their work ethic, and their clean governments do?

Would they contract Disney to run the territory of Italy as a huge theme park - staffed with Italian look-alike people - so that North Europeans have some place to go in summer? [Very good fake]

David Habakkuk

blue peacock,

Thanks,

As to where it may lead, I shudder to think. It has absolutely staggered me to see the way that Western élites have resorted to what are, in effect, a kind of soft neo-Stalinist method of handling dissent.

It simply becomes impossible to respond at all effectively to problems, if you have silly scapegoating like that involved in the preposterous claim that the materials provided to the DNC were provided by hacks orchestrated by the GRU – and those who dissent from the ‘narrative’ on one issue are another are treated as disseminating ‘fake news’, if not indeed Russian propaganda.

The late Soviet Union was not – like that of Stalin’s day – a society dependent on massive and frequently extraordinarily random and capricious violence. It was largely run on what has aptly been called ‘bullshit’ – ‘Ishmail Zechariah’ provided some more relevant links in a recent comment.

And it did not end well.

As to why people in the United States and Britain have decided to, as it were, ‘go Brezhnevite’, I have theories, but I still find myself racking my brains to explain the sheer scale of the disintegration of the political intelligence of élites in Britain in my lifetime.

Nothing is commonsensical, nothing down-to-earth, and actual expertise born of experience and/or serious empirical study is not valued.

The Twisted Genius

per,

This was a new experience for the DNC and FBI. They were surprised when the info stolen from the servers was made public in the manner it was. They assumed the DNC and related hacks were another series of cyber thefts. However, and in hindsight, it was just a logical process of cyber-intelligence collection supporting an ongoing information operation. Think of it as a nation-state sponsored doxing.

Within the USG, the lines between the fields of intelligence collection and information operations is blurry, especially when the cyber prefix is attached to the words. In the DIA, we did collection and analysis as well as the unique functions of the Defense Attache System. We did not do information operations, but we supported those information operations conducted by other DOD entities. The CIA does conduct information operations through their Special Activities Division. Functions within the GRU are most certainly organized differently. At one time the GRU was responsible for Spetsnaz units. Perhaps the GRU is now responsible for conducting information-based warfare.

David Habakkuk

SmoothieX12,

I was amused to discover, quite late in life, that a sometime alumnus of the Cambridge college of which I was an irreverent and undistinguished member was Sir Thomas Fairfax. As Lord General he commanded the New Model Army when Charles I was decisively defeated at Naseby in June 1645. Subsequently, he parted ways with his sometime Lieutenant-General, Oliver Cromwell, and was instrumental in making possible the Restoration.

My sympathies, in relation to both the English and American Civil Wars, have always been with those who sought to prevent polarisation happening, chose sides when it became clear that there was no longer any possibility of compromise, and after the conflict had been fought out to the finish tried to find reconciliation and heal the wounds.

It has long seemed to me absolutely clear that this has been Putin’s approach, both in relation to the legacy of the conflicts involved in the Russian Civil War and the creation of the Soviet state, and also to the new divisions precipitated by the way it ended.

Of course, those who – like the original Bolsheviks, or the French Jacobins on whom in part they modelled themselves – dreamed of ideal worlds might want a situation where everyone in any way involved in the Soviet system repented and ‘wore sackcloth and ashes.’ But, leaving aside questions about how the history of the past century is to be evaluated, that was never going to be practical politics.

So, a good ‘Fairfax man’, like me – and like, for instance, Paul Robinson, who is a kind of British ‘liberal conservative – will tend to think that Putin was, really, rather good news for us all.

(As for ‘neo-Bolsheviks’ like David Brooks, they are ‘the enemy within’, and we have reluctantly realised that compromise is in this case impossible, that everyone has to choose sides, and this war has to be fought to the finish. It may be that at some point quarter will be appropriate, but if that is so, it is a long way down the road.)

What possessed people in London and Washington to get involved in a kind of ‘bare knuckles fight’ between Putin and his ‘siloviki’ associates on the one side, and the oligarchs who did not accept the bargain he offered on the other, has long had me scratching my head.

Even being Machiavellian and leaving aside moral considerations: Why pick what from reasonably early on should have been clear was going to be the losing side – when even if it turned out that Berezovsky and Khodorkovsky could come out on top, all this could have led to was a violent confrontation some way down the road?

And why do people think that the oligarchs who did accept his terms can be inveigled into trying to topple Putin? Can they not see that people like Mikhail Fridman, Petr Aven, and German Khan are doing very nicely thank you, and can possibly see an alternative scenario in which they might end up dangling at the end of a rope?

Part of the answer however came clear to me when, as it were, the ‘wizard behind the curtain’ was revealed, and it turned out to be a superannuated Cambridge University Students’ Union politician from, interestingly, Girton College.

(In the days when there were men’s colleges and women’s, and only one in ten of the students were women, it used to be a place populated by beautiful girls, ugly ‘bluestockings’, and a lot in between. I vividly remember the two-mile walk up the hill, on a cold winter’s night – a cold wind blows from the East, as everything is flat, between Cambridge and the Urals. In Steele’s day, after co-education became the norm, it became a place where men and women went, if they weren’t good enough to find a place somewhere closer in.)

Believe me, I have a more diverse experience and knowledge of people like Steele than most. And I can think of no more devastating indictment of MI6 than the fact that in 1986 – at precisely the time when it should have been becoming clear that Marxism-Leninism was, as it were, ‘an idea whose time had gone’, and one needed people who could think – someone like him could have been recruited to the organisation.

Ironically, my prejudice that MI6 only recruited people devoid of any kind of wider culture and imagination turned out to be wrong, because Alastair Crooke clearly has both in abundance. But he was marginalised. Maybe we need a ‘Smiley moment’, when he is brought back to restructure the whole organisation, and send the Sir Percy Alleline figures out to pasture – perhaps with Philip Giraldi as a consultant.

How anyone in the United States takes someone like Steele seriously I have difficulty in understanding. But then, ‘TTG’ thinks that Alperovitch is a reliable source, and the DNC and the FBI are truth-tellers.

‘If I am dreaming, let me not be woken’, as the old operetta song has it.

Fred

Babak,

My family has been on this continent close to 400 years. "On the other hand, every summer, when the schools ends, hordes of German tourists flood Italy."

Tourist eventually go home. Kind of like some "immigrants" in that "country of immigrants". They are, to use the phrase coined by Steve Sailer, "Extended Stay Americans".

turcopolier

TTG

I am completely opposed to mixing collection and analysis with information operations other than providing the propagandists with an understanding of reality. If you mix the two the work product of the intelligence people will be completely unreliable just as the opinion of CIA DO is unreliable with regard to any covert action in which they are involved. pl

shepherd

TTG, you seem to be fighting a lonely battle. All of the major social and digital advertising platforms have provided a lot of evidence of Russian attempts to influence US public debate, much of it in sworn testimony before Congress. People like me find the evidence compelling—not least because we know the players, and it was only admitted under threat of subpoena.

I don’t find the Russians guilty at all in this. Far from it. I’m envious of all the fun they’re having. My beef is with the media platforms that have so long denied such things were going on and have been so late to take basic steps to make this harder. I drew up a report on similar stuff for one of my clients last year. It was complete with examples of how someone was creating double memes with the same image in the same day, each targeting different sides of the American divide. Only a professional organization could pull that off.

I look forward to your piece on influence ops and AI-assisted (machine learning) campaigns. I think that this is a very important yet extremely poorly understood topic, and urge you to make it available as soon as possible.

Babak Makkinejad

I do not think so, Steve Sailer is wrong, the immigrants are not "Extended Stay Americans" but "Pre-Americans".

US problems - social, political, economical, are not caused by non-European immigrants - they are caused by men and women who are akin to lost children - devoid of a sense of Judgement.

Eric Newhill

Shepard,
What is wrong with Russians, or anyone else, using social media to present their views and to influence the views of others? Why should that be stopped? How is it even a crime?

Perhaps it's ironic - and perhaps not and merely explanatory - that the purveyors of social media tend to be believers in One World. The internet was supposed to bring us all together, right?

So now we have people and influences from all over the world communicating and influencing each other electronically. I thought diversity is our greatest strength. What? It isn't? One World and diversity are wonderful only as long as everyone agrees with and acts like American liberals and helps further their cause?

Are you shocked that bad actors and sociopaths misuse the platforms for self-profit or for the glee of sowing confusion? So sad, another utopian dream succumbs to human nature. Who would have guessed that such a thing could happen?

Linda

"A little knowledge is a dangerous thing; more dangerous than no knowledge" Wow, that is quite a statement and certainly would not represent a democracy. I was a member of the intelligence community for 28 years and I know that a lot of classified information should be kept classified and how coordination works. But a blanket statement like this boggles the mind.

Linda

Presenting them as their views is fine, presenting them as the views of certain Americans is not

Linda

I personally am fed up with the discussions of Hillay' transgressions and Russiam meddling. My concern is that I fear Trump is damaging national security.

turcopolier

Linda

How is he damaging national security? pl

shepherd

Is it a crime? No, it is not a crime. I've never taken the Internet to be a utopia. I get paid a lot of money to explain to large corporations how to use its tools to influence people. So I'm the last person you should address such a list of rhetorical questions.

The problem is that you're framing this in terms of right and wrong. It's really about what's the goal of the influence campaign and whether you agree with that goal.

So what is an influence campaign? Let's start with what it's not. PT is trying to argue with everyone here. He is presenting what he considers logical truth, and he tries to beat people over the head with it. Such an approach is incapable of persuading anyone of anything. If you aren’t already inclined to believe in the goodness of Russia—and you might ask yourself why you have suddenly started concerning yourself so much with this particular country—he will not convince you.

An influence campaign is different. It starts with a set of goals—say, dividing Americans—and then creates metrics, known in the civilian world as KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). These measure your progress towards your goals. Then you create activations (ads, memes, Twitter users, Facebook pages, fake news sites, and so on) and measure their success or failure against your KPIs. You continue to do things that work and abandon things that don’t in a perfectly dispassionate way. And in the modern world, you can do this in a highly automated, AI process that automatically optimizes your efforts for you in real time.

So, in my estimation and that of TTG and most people experienced in this kind of thing, the Russian goal is not to elect Trump, but to stir up divisions, particularly at the fringes of society: BLM, Antifa, the alt-right, Texas separatism, and so on. The idea is to try to mainstream the more radical elements of society and set them against one another. But to do so, it has a problem: there is a big talent gap at the fringes. People at the fringes, with a few exceptions, are just yellers.

The influencer's approach is to supply the fringes with the talent and facts it otherwise lacks. It creates alluring fictions or embellishes events that incite people to anger, fear, and other such emotions. It tries to create communities of likeminded people and provide them with evidence that their beliefs are true, and that the rest of the world is filled with sheep.

For example, the organic BLM movement is pretty much hopeless at promoting itself. So why not step in and do the job for them? If they are incapable of collecting every possible instance of police brutality, do it yourself, post it to a fake Facebook group, and make up stuff besides. Paint the dead as saints, and the killers as racists. Climb into the comments section of your own Facebook page and start saying it’s time to start killing cops. And be sure to have a contingency PR plan in place in case someone takes you up on it. Don’t worry, everyone sympathetic to that movement will take it all completely at face value.

Likewise, the alt-right, by itself, is likely composed mostly of the kind of angry idiots you saw in Charlottesville. Such people do not build movements. So why not create a hot, Texas woman who actually tells great stories? Why not flood sites with bots that repeat beliefs as though they were facts and make what’s really a small fraction of the universe seem much larger?

You can also make up facts. This is important because fringe beliefs typically are fringe because there is little evidence for them. Immigrants, and especially illegal ones, for example, have a bad habit of not committing crimes. But rape and violence from the dark hoards are what will drive your KPIs. So in the absence of such crimes, you have to get creative. One of the most interesting activations I’ve come across was a woman who got kicked down a flight of stairs outside Berlin. The police couldn’t figure out who the perp was, so they released a video asking for the public’s help. Within hours, the video was circulating in two different versions on both alt-right and radical pro-immigration sites. In the first, the headline identified the woman as German and the perpetrator as a Muslim immigrant. In the second, the headline identified the perpetrator as a neo-Nazi and the woman as a Muslim attacked for wearing a hijab. With just a few spare words, those stories were shared millions of times around the world, including here. And they’re completely made up. Such things do not occur by random chance, rather there is an influence operation behind them, designed to rapidly get in front of such stories, and let the truth lag behind.

So it's not about whether this kind of activity is right or wrong. That's not my concern. It's whether you recognize and agree with its goals and whether you wish to see them achieved. And remember that one important goal of any such operation is to recruit what we call "advocates" or ordinary people so passionate about your positioning that they willingly go forth and argue for it.

The Twisted Genius

shepherd,

Very well said. You obviously understand this process and are able to explain it clearly. If you don't mind, I'd like to use some of your comment in my article on this subject. I should get it out before Thanksgiving if I can get ahead of my pre-winter yard and house preparations.

Eric Newhill

shepherd,
You're not telling me anything I didn't already know. I can't speak for PT, but I'm not arguing for the essential goodness of Russia. That's a straw man/ red herring. I am arguing that if Russia engaged in any of what you describe, it is a mere drop in the ocean. What you describe is performed 24/7 by both cable news and the written media. It is also performed by many individuals and groups on social media. Again, I ask, not rhetorically, why all the talk about Russia and not, for example, George Soros?

I can go to a leftist outlet like "Mother Jones" and it appears that they live on an entirely different planet than the folks at a site like "Red State". No Russians needed.

Then there are the colleges and universities that seem to produced severely brainwashed zombies in certain study tracks.

The involvement of Russia is a tempest in a teapot.

I dispute that the goal is merely to divide the populace. There is no value or profit in that. The goals are more long term and sinister.

I further dispute your implied assertion that the people are a bunch of stupid rubes that are easily conned by the kind of BS that you make a living selling and propagating. We know what we see with our own eyes and hear with our own ears. We can think and reason. I ask again - not rhetorically, but directly to you - if the people are as you think they are and your product so effective, then why did Hillary lose? She was after all the biggest slinger of the crap you sell. Why weren't people brainwashed by it? And isn't that, at the end of the day, what's got you so upset? That your product didn't stick.


Eric Newhill

Linda,
I think you just sided with my opinion despite your expressed disgust. You want to classify information and keep it hidden. Fine. I agree. Then who decides what little bits to let out and when? I don't trust the IC. They have proven themselves to be dangerous liars. I am thinking about Clapper and I am thinking about the "evidence" leading to the Iraq, just for starters.

The Twisted Genius

pl,

Not mixing collection and analysis with information operations is a good general rule. I agree with for the reasons you stated. In real life I often had collectors, analysts and DOD IO specialists huddled around the same keyboard doing all three specialties simultaneously and symbiotically.

turcopolier

TTG

In that case the work product of the DoD parts of the IC is largely worthless except as propaganda or something about targeting or water depth, etc. In the "good old days" that did not happen anywhere I held sway. Maybe that is why Clapper was so eager to remove me. A "general rule" is no rule at all. pl

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