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Fake News: The Russian Hacker Story

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Published on Peak Surfer on January 29, 2017

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Discuss this article at the Newz & Multimedia Table inside the Diner

"If you can't maintain the dominant paradigm, at least you can subvert the emergent ones."

 

 

 

Jazz musician and iconoclast Harry Shearer observes that Donald Trump’s ability to openly lie and then deny he did and then move on to telling the same lie again is “profoundly transactional.

This trait is not new in US presidents, merely less concealed in our era by the RealPolitik that kept it more discrete before. We could go back and find examples from the very first presidency, but let’s just retrace to Franklin Roosevelt who, besides concealing his infidelities, of necessity had to dissemble about wartime secrets, as did Truman and Eisenhower when the wars grew cold. Nixon was profoundly secretive, arrogating to his office a false claim of constitutional authority, that, while it cost him his job, was kept around for his successors to use, more liberally with each administration.

To dissemble lubricates a slippery slope. Nixon was impeached for lying about the Watergate cover-up. Clinton was impeached for dallying with an intern. Mountains of lies invite being tunneled into and mined, and mining tools are getting better all the time. Is it any wonder then, that ‘secret’ lying by Reagan, Clinton, Obama, The New York Times, CNN, MSNBC and others begat the baldface lying of Drudge, Fox, Trump and the new generation of fake news on steroids?

In the days before Christmas it easily escaped attention — certainly that of the mainstream echo chamber — that the US Lame Duck in Chief signed into law the LDNDAA (Lame Duck's National Defense Authorization Act) which legalized government propaganda — fake news — when deployed for national security against the citizenry of the US. The law gave the government sweeping powers to feed its minions — CNN, ABC, MSNBC — and covertly take down any competing news outlets that might dare to put out an alternative narrative or question the veracity of the fakes. RT Commentator Max Keiser called it a bailout for the bankrupt mainstream press.

If you can't maintain the dominant paradigm, at least you can subvert the emergent ones.

 

 

 

When our souls are mollified, a bee can sting.

 

— Cicero (Disp Tusc. II, 22)

 

 

[T]he Democrat / Prog coastal elite, hardcore Hillary, PC-and-unicorn crowd are moving through their post-election Kubler-Ross Transect-of-Grief from denial to anger….

 

 

Lately the Democratic Party in the US has adopted its own form of birtherism, which is using the “Russians hacked my homework” excuse for losing the last election. The evidence is flimsy, but that does not stop the handwaving, pompous haranguing, or other forms of smoke and mirrors. Lets look at the evidence.

 

 

According to the Obama spook estate, Russian hackers sent out volleys of phishing emails hoping someone would click. If you have email, you’ve seen this. They tell you that you won something, you qualify for a free trip, there is a bank error in your favor, or you have to upgrade some common piece of software like Java or Flash. Maybe, as in the case of a Russian hacker group that successfully phished Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Party for 6 months in 2016, they’ll use un.org as their trojan domain. If you follow the link, they get your credit card info or your password. Maybe the password you are prompted for is the same one you use for gmail. That’s what happened to John Podesta.

He got a suspicious mail, sent it to an aide to look at, the aide thought it was legit and some lucky hackers in Moscow downloaded 60,000 messages from Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager’s gmail account. So what do you do with 60000 messages if there is no money in it? Give it to Wikileaks.

 

 

At least one targeted individual activated links to malware hosted on operational infrastructure of opened attachments containing malware. APT29 delivered malware to the political party's systems, established persistence, escalated privileges, enumerated active directory accounts, and exfiltrated email from several accounts through encrypted connections back through operational infrastructure.

 

 

 

That was the normal part. Now comes the nasty part. Unnamed “security experts” in the employ of the Democratic National Committee but now cited by the White House and cyberwar apparatchiks within the beltway “believe two Kremlin-connected groups were behind the hack.” Take that apart: Two hyphen connected groups. For Kremlin, substitute Vladimir Putin, because surely nothing in the Kremlin happens unless he directs it (?). So boom: frontpage stories that Putin stole the US election and gave it to Donald Trump, and media cheerleaders go with that because, boy does that boost ad revenues. Soon to be a major motion picture. Saturday Night Live is having a field day.

The two groups were Moscow hackers known to Microsoft as APT (“advanced persistent threat”) 28, a.k.a. Fancy Bear, and APT 29 or Cozy Bear.

“We were shocked to find our names there,” Aleksey Gubarev [who alongside his IT company, has been listed in an FBI report as the cyberlink connecting Trump and Russian hackers, told RT-TV,  saying he had “never met” anyone listed in the report. “Nobody from the intelligence agency contacted me about this story… to verify this information,” he said. Neither did any journalists reach out to him.

The published report is “fake news,” Gubarev said. "I still do not understand why our names [are] there and we do not understand a reason of this report in general." It may not matter.

We are reminded of the Italian Memo. In a story for Vanity Fair in 2006,  Craig Unger recalled:

 

Though it may be unprepossessing, the Niger Embassy is the site of one of the great mysteries of our times. On January 2, 2001, an embassy official returned there after New Year’s Day and discovered that the offices had been robbed. Little of value was missing—a wristwatch, perfume, worthless documents, embassy stationery, and some official stamps bearing the seal of the Republic of Niger. Nevertheless, the consequences of the robbery were so great that the Watergate break-in pales by comparison.

In his January 2003 State of the Union address, George W. Bush let this shoe fall: “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.” What came next is too horrible to recount, and it continues today, with each U238-mangled baby born in Fallujah. [Footnote: The new US Secretary of Defense is General James "Mad Dog" Mattis, who ordered his marine tank corps to put a depleted uranium shell in every house in the city. More than 300,000 DU rounds are estimated to have been fired. The uranium dust in the air turned sunsets green. Birth defects are now much higher than those recorded among survivors of the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.]

The British government, of course, had learned nothing of the sort, although Tony Blair jumped on the Cheney bandwagon, calling it the “Dossier of Doom.” Within months, polls showed 90 percent of USAnians believed Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. National-Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice told CNN, “There will always be some uncertainty about how quickly [Saddam] can acquire nuclear weapons. But we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.” Unger reported:

 

 

On the same day the “mushroom cloud” slogan made its debut, The New York Times printed a front-page story by Michael Gordon and Judith Miller citing administration officials who said that Saddam had “embarked on a worldwide hunt for materials to make an atomic bomb.” Specifically, the article [planted by White House Aide Scooter Libby] contended that Iraq “has sought to buy thousands of specially designed aluminum tubes, which American officials believe were intended as components of centrifuges to enrich uranium.”

It was a clever hoax. Well, actually, not all that clever. Just repeated often, and loudly, from the bully pulpit. “That was their favorite bureaucratic technique —ruthless relentlessness,” Colonel Larry Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell told Vanity Fair. The CIA had a mole inside Saddam’s war cabinet who told them there was no WMD program. The White House told the CIA that it no longer mattered and by the way they were the designated fall guy for the ensuing “intelligence failure.”

Disinformation of this kind was not new and the Italian bit players in the Niger ruse had entered the American political arena twice before. The first was during Reagan’s election campaign when embarrassing “facts” about Billy Carter, the President’s bubba brother, taking slush money from Libyan president Mohamar Khadafi to meet with Yassir Arafat. Never mind that Billy denied it, the news came out the last week in October, just before the election, and by then it was too late to track down the source: an Italian covert agency run by militant anti-Communists that had infiltrated the highest levels of Italy’s judiciary, parliament, military, and press, and was tied to assassinations, kidnappings, and arms deals around the world.

In 1981, the same covert network orchestrated a disinformation campaign saying Mehmet Ali Agca, the right-wing nut who shot Pope John Paul II, had been taking orders from the Soviet KGB and Bulgaria’s secret service. As Unger put it:

 

 

 

In light of the ascendancy of the Solidarity Movement in Poland, the Pope’s homeland, the Bulgarian Connection played a role in the demise of Communism in 1989.

When Nixon stepped down in 1974, two individuals ascended to positions of almost unlimited power in the Ford White House. Donald Rumsfeld was the sixth White House chief of staff. Dick Cheney was the seventh. Cheney was House Minority Whip during the Reagan years, Chairman of the Republican Policy Committee and later  the Ranking Member of the Select Committee to investigate the Iran-Contra Affair. He became Secretary of Defense under George H.W. Bush and Vice President under Number 43.

Did Cheney and Rumsfeld pull the Italian strings in Billygate and the Bulgarian Connection? No one is telling. What we know is that stationary stolen from the Niger embassy was used for a forgery and ultimately combined with other papers that were already in Italian secret service archives. A codebook and a dossier with a mixture of fake and genuine documents were delivered to Blair. Among the fakes, embassy stationery was used to forge a two-page memo purportedly sent to the president of Niger concerning the sale of 500 tons of pure uranium per year to Iraq.

 

 

 

The forged documents were full of errors. A letter dated October 10, 2000, was signed by Minister of Foreign Affairs Allele Elhadj Habibou — even though he had been out of office for more than a decade. Its September 28 postmark indicated that somehow the letter had been received nearly two weeks before it was sent. In another letter, President Tandja Mamadou’s signature appeared to be phony. The accord signed by him referred to the Niger constitution of May 12, 1965, when a new constitution had been enacted in 1999. One of the letters was dated July 30, 1999, but referred to agreements that were not made until a year later. Finally, the agreement called for the 500 tons of uranium to be transferred from one ship to another in international waters—a spectacularly difficult feat.
 

* * *

 

Over the next two years, the Niger documents and reports based on them made at least three journeys to the C.I.A. They also found their way to the U.S. Embassy in Rome, to the White House, to British intelligence, to French intelligence, and to Elisabetta Burba, a journalist at Panorama, the Milan-based newsmagazine. Each of these recipients in turn shared the documents or their contents with others, in effect creating an echo chamber that gave the illusion that several independent sources had corroborated an Iraq-Niger uranium deal.


A story by Seymour Hersh for The New Yorker suggested that retired and embittered C.I.A. operatives had intentionally put together a lousy forgery in hopes of embarrassing Cheney’s hawkish followers. If that was true it backfired. Never underestimate the gullibility of the press.

First Case in point: the fake National Guard documents that cost Dan Rather and Mary Mapes their jobs at CBS News.

Second Case in point: Russian hackers stole my election.

Another point we observe as we follow this thread was how language is used to frame subject. The “mushroom-cloud” and “smoking gun” visuals were so visceral they were repeated by Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld and became standard NeoCon talking points in the run-up to the Second Gulf War.

 

 

When RT says that President Obama leaves behind a “vast, unaccountable permanent warfare state,” or that levels of economic inequality in the West are “obscene,” or that Trump “terrifies European leaders,” it’s worth asking if it might be Russian disinformation. But it’s also worth asking if it might be true. Distrust but verify.

 

***

With the power to persecute and prosecute journalists, the American government is a dangerous media critic. Judging by the report on RT, it’s also a lousy one.

— Stephen Bates, Lawfare


The Russian hacking story gets reframed to appeal to different echo chambers. For the left wing it assuages the cognitive dissonance that comes when you try to wrap your mind around President… Donald… Trump. Never mind that what is said to have bent the election at the 11th hour was the content of the Podesta emails, not their source. For the right, it’s a chance to blame Obama for the “Cyber Gap” and the anticipation of another wondrous pot of gold at the end of a forthcoming defense authorization rainbow. Of course, neither side questions the veracity of electronic voting machines.

Next week we will look at how the same genetic program that allows us to swallow a yarn like the Russian hacker tale keeps us from doing the right thing about climate change. Later, we will learn how to turn that gene off. In the meantime, the best antidote to fake news is to take yours from as broad a spectrum of opinions as you can find and make your own judgment.

Nobel Hypocrisy Wins Again

Off the keyboard of Steve Lendman

Published on Steve Lendman’s Blog on October 12, 2012

 

Discuss this article at the Epicurean Delights Smorgasbord inside the Diner

 
Call it a rite of fall. Nobel hypocrisy shows up annually. It came again this year. The only surprise was which disreputable honoree would win.
 
A surprise of sorts indeed. War criminals often become Peace Prize winners. This year a political/economic union won. Perhaps honoring Wall Street and neoliberal/war mongering organizations awaits. Or maybe Republicans and Democrats for causing so much harm globally.
 
Expect anything from Nobel Committee members. They represent wealth, power, privilege, imperial lawlessness, and war, not peace. Perhaps they believe war is peace. They’ll have to explain why scoundrels regularly win their highest award.
 
Their announcement said in part:
 
“The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2012 is to be awarded to the European Union (EU). The union and its forerunners have for over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe.”
 
“In the inter-war years, the Norwegian Nobel Committee made several awards to persons who were seeking reconciliation between Germany and France.”
 
“Since 1945, that reconciliation has become a reality. The dreadful suffering in World War II demonstrated the need for a new Europe. Over a seventy-year period, Germany and France had fought three wars.” 
 
“Today war between Germany and France is unthinkable. This shows how, through well-aimed efforts and by building up mutual confidence, historical enemies can become close partners.”
 
“The Norwegian Nobel Committee wishes to focus on what it sees as the EU’s most important result: the successful struggle for peace and reconciliation and for democracy and human rights.” 
 
“The stabilizing part played by the EU has helped to transform most of Europe from a continent of war to a continent of peace.”
 
Apparently Nobel Committee members never heard of NATO. Its member states infest the continent. The North Atlantic Alliance functions as an imperial tool.
 
It was always for offense, not defense. Post-WW II, Western states had no enemies. East/West war never threatened. Hitler ravaged Soviet Russia. It didn’t regain normalcy until long after Stalin.
 
NATO was formed as an alliance for war, not peace. Cold War hyperbole incited fear. An arms race followed. So did permanent wars with or without NATO. From Truman to Obama they raged. They still do. NATO’s dirty hands operate in multiple theaters.
 
It’s a killing machine. America runs it. Leading EU member states include Germany, France, Britain, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, and Belgium. In total, 21 EU nations are NATO members.
 
They’re allied for war, not peace. They’re a dagger pointed at humanity’s heart. NATO has global ambitions. It includes ravaging countries everywhere. 
 
Maybe Nobel Committee members don’t pay attention to what’s ongoing. Perhaps turning a blind eye colors their thinking.
 
Their tradition is long and inglorious. Consider past war criminal winners. Henry Kissinger may qualify as the worst of the lot. His resume includes:
 
  • three to four million Southeast Asian Vietnam War deaths; 
 
  • the bloody overthrow of Chile’s Salvador Allende; Augusto Pinochet’s reign of terror; 
 
  • support for some of the worst global despots; 
 
  • Indonesia’s Surharto was one; Kissinger backed his bloody West Papua takeover; he also encouraged his East Timor genocide;
 
  • support for Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge, its rise to power and reign of terror; 
 
  • backing of Pakistan’s overthrow of Bangladesh’s democratically elected government; a half million deaths followed;  
 
  • his 1974 National Security Study Memorandum 200 (NSSM 200) advocated genocide; he called it forced world population control; he wanted worthless eaters removed; he recommended eliminating 500 million people by 2000 and millions more annually; and
 
  • numerous other global crimes against humanity were committed during his tenure as Nixon and Ford’s National Security Advisor and Secretary of State. He served as administration Svengali.
 
In 2001, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the world body won. It was “for their work for a better organized and more peaceful world.”
 
Throughout his tenure, Annan violated the UN Charter’s mandate. It’s to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war….”
 
Instead, he supported imperial lawlessness. He spurned peace. He never condemned or tried to end devastating Iraq sanctions. They killed around 1.5 innocent men, women and children. He stood by, watched, and did nothing.
 
He never denounced America’s lawless 2003 war. He was silent while Washington-led NATO ravaged Afghanistan. He supported the worst of Israeli crimes. 
 
He said nothing about America’s failed attempts to oust Hugo Chavez or success removing Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Like NATO, he’s an imperial tool. He resurfaced in Syria. 
 
His so-called peace plan was cover for regime change. He’s complicit in war crimes. He’s a world class scoundrel. His record is testimony to failure, betrayal, and criminality.
 
His sole achievement was spurning peace for war.
 
Three former Israeli prime ministers also got Nobel Peace Prizes. In 1978, Menachem Begin won. In 1994, so did Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres.  
 
All three are war criminals. They and other Israeli leaders reigned terror on Palestinian civilians for decades. Netanyahu continues their deplorable viciousness. He’s Israel’s worst ever leader. He’s a world class thug. Expect Nobel Committee members one day to honor him. It wouldn’t surprise.
 
In 2007, Al Gore won. He put politics over principle. He was pro-business, anti-union, pro-war, anti-peace, and no friend of the earth. 
 
His “Earth in the Balance” book was more theater than advocacy. His so-called “green” credentials were used to further his pro-corporate/anti-populist/imperial agenda.
 
Numerous others like him comprise the Nobel Committee’s hall of shame. Four US presidents stand out. In 1906, Theodore Roosevelt won. He once said he’d “welcome almost any war, for I think this country needs one.”
 
He was honored for sponsoring the Spanish/American war and Philippines genocide. In May 1902, Senator George Hoar denounced him on the Senate floor, saying:
 
“You have sacrificed nearly ten thousand American lives – the flower of our youth. You have devastated provinces. You have slain uncounted thousands of the people you desire to benefit.” 
 
“You have established re-concentration camps. Your generals are coming home from their harvest bringing sheaves with them, in the shape of other thousands of sick and wounded and insane to drag out miserable lives, wrecked in body and mind.” 
 
“You make the American flag in the eyes of a numerous people the emblem of sacrilege in Christian churches, and of the burning of human dwellings, and of the horror of the water torture.”
 
Having done that and more, perhaps he deserved two Nobels. He wanted Pax Americana enforced through the barrel of a gun.
 
In 1919, Woodrow Wilson was honored. He broke his campaign pledge to keep “us out of war.” He wanted involvement in WW I. In April 1917, he established the Committee on Public Information (CPI or Creel Committee).
 
Its mission was enlisting public support for war and undermining opposition sentiment. It worked as planned. It turned pacifist Americans into raging German haters. The rest is history.
 
Wilson’s resume also includes the 1913 Federal Reserve Act. For nearly a century, it let bankers wage financial war on humanity.
 
In 2002, Jimmy Carter won. He got Argentine death squad leaders involved in training Nicaraguan contras. He supported Salvadoran fascists. He helped Khmer Rouge killers. He backed despots like South Korea’s Chun Doo Hwan.
 
He armed Suharto after his East Timor genocide. He began covert operations in Afghanistan. He enlisted mujahedeen fighters against Soviet Russia. He supported neoliberal harshness. In 2002, he won the award he wanted for years.
 
In 2009, Obama became the fourth US presidential recipient. He’s the worst of the lot by far. Nobel Committee members said it was for his “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.”
 
“Obama’s vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons.”
 
He “created a new climate in international politics.”
 
He supports efforts to strengthen “democracy and human rights.”
 
“Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world’s attention and given its people hope for a better future.”
 
He was less than nine months in office. He was learning his trade. His crimes of war, against humanity, and genocide were just beginning. His war cabinet assured it. One observer called it a “kettle of hawks.” 
 
Neocons said McCain couldn’t have chosen better. He’ll continue where Bush left off. He did that and more. He’s still at it. Maybe he’ll become a double honoree. 
 
Nobel Committee members reward warriors. They deplore peace. Their awards show what they value most. It reflects Alfred Nobel’s legacy.
 
He got rich inventing dynamite and manufacturing weapons. He was a 19th century war profiteer. Late in life he reinvented himself. He established awards bearing his name. 
 
One was for peace he deplored. His business depended on war. There was plenty around then. There’s more than ever now. Nobel’s legacy legitimizes wars and leaders who wage them. 
 
Honoring EU nations shouldn’t surprise. They’re waging hot wars and financial ones on humanity. Committee members recognized their achievement. Perhaps they’ll be encouraged to do more. 

Knarf plays the Doomer Blues

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