The Russians Did It
Availability of the indictments prompted by the Mueller investigations provide a more careful and less emotional analysis of Russian government interference in the United States 2106 presidential election. Now it can be told!
To the casual observer, THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA indictments of Russian intelligence agents (GRU) reinforced the argument that the Soviet government interfered in the U.S. 2016 presidential election. Regard these indictments in proper perspective and we find that election interference, which is subject to interpretation, is only listed as an objective, with charges being for unlawful cyber operations, identity theft, and conspiracy to launder money.
The first charges that produced explosive headlines - U.S. intelligence agencies found the Russian government interfered in the U.S. election - were only assertions and not indictments, beliefs from those who live by finding others engaged in malevolent activities and use any information floating in the ether to prove their convictions.
The Washington Post at https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2017/05/08/full-transcript-sally-yates-and-james-clapper-testify-on-russian-election-interference/?utm_term=.0bbcf3f686ed revealed that former Director of National Intelligence chief James Clapper, in his testimony to a Senate Judiciary subcommittee on May 8. 2018, exposed one face of the hysteria. Although headlines and Hillary Clinton featured "Seventeen intelligence agencies say Russia was behind hacking," Clapper testified that the Russia-hacking claim came from a "special intelligence community assessment" (or ICA) produced by selected analysts from the CIA, NSA and FBI, "a coordinated product from three agencies - CIA, NSA, and the FBI - not all 17 components of the intelligence community." Assertions are not proof, and fair-minded persons who exist with the principles of liberty and justice demand legal proof and detailed evidence.
In the second charge, a Grand Jury for the District of Columbia indicted eleven Russian citizens working for the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a private Russian agency, whose
Defendants knowingly and intentionally conspired with each other (and with persons known and unknown to the Grand Jury) to defraud the United States by impairing, obstructing, and defeating the lawful functions of the government through fraud and deceit for the purpose of interfering with the U.S. political and electoral processes, including the presidential election of 2016.
Defendant ORGANIZATION had a strategic goal to sow discord in the U.S. political system, including the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Defendants posted derogatory information about a number of candidates, and by early to mid-2016, Defendants' operations included supporting the presidential campaign of then-candidate Donald J. Trump ("Trump Campaign") and disparaging Hillary Clinton.
Russian officials are not cited in the indictment. Although it is possible the Russian government surreptitiously funded or assisted the Internet Research Agency, no link has been established. Effort to provide a link is done in the usual manner; Yevgeny Viktorovich Prigozhin, nicknamed "Putin's chef" (by whom?) because he caters state dinners with foreign dignitaries (as do others) and provides meals for Russian schools and the military (as do others) is cited in the indictment. By inference, where any Russian committing a crime is considered a close associate of President Putin, and any Russian who is victim of a crime is considered a known enemy of President Putin, the link is carefully placed in the public's psyche.
No argument that the Internet Research Agency (IRA) violated U.S. election laws and deserves the indictments. However, their entire operation is a farce and does not deserve the magnitude of attention it has received. Internet Research Agency accomplished nothing and had no way of accomplishing anything.
Take its hundreds of false twitter accounts, several fake rallies, and Facebook ads. According to http://nymag.com/selectall/2017/10/did-russias-facebook-ads-actually-swing-the-election.html, about 3,000 ads were purchased at a cost of around $100,000. Compare this to a Facebook audience in the United States of 214 million users, and more than 1.8 billion monthly active users, millions of electioneering twitter accounts, hundreds of mass demonstrations in the United States, spending for the 2016 elections (presidential and congressional) estimated at $6.5 billion by campaign finance watchdog OpenSecrets.org, and Facebook general counsel Colin Stretch statement, during his Senate Intelligence Committee's hearing, that Clinton and Trump together spent $81 million on pre-election day Facebook ads. It is obvious that IRA's efforts could not compete for eyeballs of the American electorate.
According to USA Today at http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2018/05/more-than-half-of-russian-facebook-ads-focused-on-race.html concluded that the most significant charge against IRA was "More than half of the Facebook ads created by the Kremlin-backed Internet Research Agency to influence Americans during and after the last presidential election made references to race." In a nation of centuries of unresolved racial tensions, we are being told that IRA's major purpose was to increase racial tension.
IRA is a sub-minor player in the world of NGOS and privately funded organizations that attempt to "defeat the lawful functions of the government," and "sow discord in the political systems." From https://business.financialpost.com/opinion/lawrence-solomon-the-worldwide-crackdown-on-ngos
Canada, China, India, Israel, Russia and in other countries around the world, governments are cracking down on foreign-funded NGOs operating in their countries. These crackdowns are inevitable and understandable, and in all cases come down to one factor: Governments, whether democratic or dictatorial, don't like foreign forces interfering in their domestic politics.
Yevgeny Viktorovich Prigozhin, NRA's backer, is only one of many wealthy persons who use their money and influence to castigate their foreign foes. Compared to the others, such as George Soros, he is a bottom crawler in a sea of interfering sharks.
From Forbes at https://www.forbes.com/sites/richardminiter/2011/09/09/should-george-soros-be-allowed-to-buy-u-s-foreign-policy/#6b581be16238 (maybe a little exaggerated)
Through strategic donations, Soros helped bring down the communist government in Poland, toppled Serbia's bloodstained strongman Slobodan Milosevic, and fueled the "Rose Revolution" in Georgia. Soros has also funded opposition parties in Azerbaijan, Belarus, Croatia, Georgia, and Macedonia, helping them into either power or prominence. All of these countries were once Russian allies.
The anti-Brexit group backed by George Soros is set to publish its "manifesto" for keeping Britain in the EU on June 8 - exactly one year on from the last general election.
The last indictments - THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA indictments of Russian intelligence agents (GRU) - do not specifically include charges of election interference. Measured against other interferences in leadership of foreign nations, this caper is a mosquito tickle compared to a bubonic plague. Conspiracy theorists and Russian bashers have seized ordinary intelligence activities, given them a life of their own, and, like a blob, enlarged them to excessive proportions. What does a simple analysis show??
(1) The special investigation, conducted by Robert Mueller, determined that intelligence agencies gather intelligence.
(2) Nowhere is it definitely proven that the original intent of the hacking was to interfere in the 2016 U.S. election, modified the 2016 U.S. election, or succeeded in sowing discord in the U.S. political system
(3) From other historical interferences in foreign elections, including Russian elections, and general interferences in leadership of nations, this is a minor miniscule microscopic operation.
(4) The charges in the indictment are computer information theft (not theft of secret files) and the recommended penalties are negligible. These are only indictments. Any trial will be a waste of time and money.
The Special Investigation, Conducted by Robert Mueller.
What do intelligence agencies do? They gather intelligence - 24 hours each day and by any means. Cyber warfare, using computer hacking, has become a favored means for all intelligence agencies to gather information and confuse the adversary with misinformation. At campaign election time, when computers buzz with finger tapping of wide-eyed volunteers, eager idealists, and networking individuals, completely untrained in preventing cyber-attacks, the campaigners become big fish for the "phishers." What better time for intelligence agents to sharpen their crafted skills? Kudos to Robert Mueller for conducting an exhaustive and penetrating investigation that proved investigating agencies can actually gather intelligence - tremendous accomplishment. Note that to acquire all the information about Russian hacking, U.S. intelligence departments must have engaged in some hacking of Russian government computers.
Thousands of worldwide computer hackers must wonder at the attention given to these few Russian hackers who, from published reports, did not cause financial or mental damages. Compare their efforts to the thousands of hacking efforts that strip bank accounts, cause bankruptcies, provoke nervous breakdowns, transfer identities, and generate mass confusion. If an investigating body can compile a detailed report leading to indictments of the Russian hackers, why cannot similar police efforts indict the more damaging computer hackers that daily invade our privacy?
Interference in the 2016 Election
Mentioned as one count in the indictment, the word 'interference' has a vague meaning, and has been changed several times by commentators to the word 'meddled' and, more appropriately 'involved.' For two reasons, intent to interfere lacks credibility.
(1) The hackers had no pre-conceptions of the information they would acquire and how they would use it.
(2) Pundits certified the election was predictable; Hillary Clinton would win and any interference was, therefore, a waste of time and money.
The consensus is that, even if there was any interference, it played no part in the election results. Therefore, what do we have - a deliberate attempt by intelligence agents to gather information, with no preconceived plan and no election effect - an offense with no major result that deserves strong rebuke.
Because the offense had no major result, conspiracy theorists and Russian "bashers" awarded the intelligence agents an exalted position of attempting to "undermine American democracy and its moral compass, and "sow seeds of discord and disunity." Is American democracy so fragile that circulation of Democratic Committee documents, Facebook ads, and anti-American characterizations from sparsely viewed media are able to change the appearance of the political and democratic system? Can these efforts compete with the damage done to the American psyche by the excessive and unpopular foreign wars, constant economic calamities, political quarrels in a polarized political system, and internal conflicts provoked by immigration, women's rights, and racism? Can the Russian efforts compare to the corrosion to American democracy provided by Fox News and the president of the United States, Donald Trump?
Those who show little faith in American democracy and proffer the charges are the more corrupt participants in the election activities. By indicating its fragility, they undermine the belief in the American system. By airing these charges, they steer the public to little known media and advertise the media to which they object.
In a world of intelligence activities, a minor miniscule microscopic operation.
Compare the activities specified in the indictments
COUNT ONE (Cyber security)
..engaged in cyber operations that involved the staged releases of documents stolen through computer intrusions,
COUNTS TWO THROUGH NINE (Aggravated Identity Theft)
did knowingly transfer, possess, and use, without lawful authority, a means of identification of another person during and in relation to a felony violation,
COUNT TEN (Conspiracy to Launder Money)
the Defendants conspired to launder the equivalent of more than $95,000 through a web of transactions structured to capitalize on the perceived anonymity of cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin,
to the more major U.S. attempts to interfere in and influence the composition of governments throughout the world.
Rather harmless activities when compared to using bundles of cash for bribes, physically threatening opposition, arm-twisting to obtain support, promising rewards to the obedient, assassinating opposition, and even taking military action if a leader does not support your hegemony, all of which have been used by U.S. administrations to shape foreign governments. Russia's actions in the U.S. election are not any different from every day activities of many nations -- boost your friendly politicos and hack every website you can.
According to Shane Dixon Kavanaugh, in an article Election Interference? The U.S. Has Done It in 45 Countries Worldwide, Dec 30, 2016 at:
Don Levin, a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Politics and Strategy at Carnegie-Mellon University, found that the U.S. attempted to influence the elections of foreign countries as many as 81 times between 1946 and 2000. All told, the U.S. allegedly targeted the elections of 45 nations across the globe during this period, Levin's research shows. In the case of some countries, such as Italy and Japan, the U.S. attempted to intervene in four or more separate elections.
If the U.S. demands extradition of the 11 Russian intelligence agents, then do other nations have the right to demand the extradition of the several hundred U.S. agents involved in the interference in their elections? Will the moral and democratic United States comply with these requests?
These are only indictments. Any trial will be a waste of time and money.
"If convicted, "the defendants shall forfeit to the United States any property, real or personal, which constitutes or is derived from proceeds obtained directly or indirectly as a result of such violation, and any personal property that was used or intended to be used to commit or to facilitate the commission of such offense." Because the defendants made zero dollars from the violations and spent only $95,000, will a trial be worth the effort?
Those who favor an interminably hostile and aggressive approach, leading to war, toward Russia have seized an opportunity to enhance their designs and convince the American public of its worth. The election time activities can be viewed from several perspectives, and the preferred perspective cautions that increasing hostility between hostile nations is not a recommendation for peace and reconciliation.
From this perspective, a Russian nationalist with deep dislike for America and Hillary Clinton subsidized Internet Research Agency to exert some influence in American thinking of the 2016 presidential candidates and in their political and social systems. The Russian government may have favored the activities, but no evidence has indicated any direct support. The interference was nil and only gave an emotional kick to its sponsor, Yevgeny Viktorovich Prigozhin.
Russian intelligence did what it does daily - probed the cyber world, located some vulnerabilities, and extracted the data lode. Rather than presenting the American public with adulterated news, the GRU dumped all it had into contrived websites and WikiLeaks and let the American public digest the findings. The leaked contents had some noteworthy revelations: (1) The Democratic National Committee Chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, tried to undermine Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign, (2) DNC fund raising staff discussed and compiled a list of people (mainly donors) who might be appointed to federal boards and commission, and (3) Former aide to President Bill Clinton, Sidney Blumenthal, claimed France was concerned that Libya's large gold reserves might pose a threat to the value of the Central African Franc and displace French influence in Africa. Also, French President Sarkozy was interested in gaining more access to Libyan oil.
Were the real purposes of the charges that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 U.S. election attempts
(1) To turn the spotlight away from the nefarious dealings by the DNC?
(2) To turn the spotlight away from the careless attention to cyber threats by Democratic personalities?
(3) To make the public believe Hillary Clinton's loss was due to illegal Russian activities?
(4) To find reasons for greater sanctions against Russia?
Russian involvement in the 2016 U.S. presidential election deserved investigation, revelation, and indictments but not the hysterical attention it received. Being told that intelligence services gather intelligence, nations engage in information warfare, and authoritarian nations, which are subject to daily criticism, are trying to influence the populations in countries that are always attacking them, is neither unique nor should be used for political purposes. One contradiction - the Russian socially directed activities have not been shown to create any additional divisions. However, extensive discussion of the alleged Russian interference has greatly added to the existing political and social divides. Authorities can harshly criticize Russia for many nefarious actions, but wanton criticism that intends to inflame and incite hatred diminishes the effects of Russia's more egregious actions and complicates the approaches to abate them.
War is a cowardly escape from the problems of peace.
august 5, 2018
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