The Russian Report – The Russian Fiction

Today, an unclassified version of “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections” was made available.  I hope that the unclassified version will be available soon, as supposedly much of the concrete information was removed to protect sources.  I have a feeling that whatever information was with-held was just as flimsy as that which was released.

After all, circumstantial evidence is not evidence, and at any rate not sufficient cause to create a diplomatic row such as the present administration has done.

In case you don’t have time or willingness to read through twenty five pages of Government fluff, here are some highlights, and some commentary.

“We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election. Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump. We have high confidence in these judgments.”

“We also assess Putin and the Russian Government aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him. All three agencies agree with this judgment. CIA and FBI have high confidence in this judgment; NSA has moderate confidence.”

Is it wrong for a foreign government to prefer a certain candidate over another?  In another place I would be willing to explore that question in depth, as it does deserve an answer.  But here, I can only say that our own government is guilty of doing this, even going so far as to finance certain candidates in foreign countries.  We can do it, but other countries can’t?

I can see why Vladimir Putin would want to oppose a candidate who has taken a very brash and aggressive tone towards another nuclear power.  Nobody wants friction, and Trump did promise a more cooperative relationship.  But as to discrediting Clinton?  Everything about her was entirely factual – if we want to place blame, we can only place it on Clinton.

Moscow’s influence campaign followed a Russian messaging strategy that blends covert intelligence operations—such as cyber activity—with overt efforts by Russian Government agencies, state-funded media, third-party intermediaries, and paid social media users or “trolls.” Russia, like its Soviet predecessor, has a history of conducting covert influence campaigns focused on US presidential elections that have used intelligence officers and agents and press placements to disparage candidates perceived as hostile to the Kremlin.

(emphasis added, because i’m speechless at the “troll” issue.)

Russian intelligence obtained and maintained access to elements of multiple US state or local electoral boards. DHS assesses that the types of systems Russian actors targeted or compromised were not involved in vote tallying.

Finally, this myth can be laid to rest.  Russia could not have manipulated the vote tallies.

In early September, Putin said publicly it was important the DNC data was exposed to WikiLeaks, calling the search for the source of the leaks a distraction and denying Russian “state-level” involvement.

He isn’t wrong, it is important.  Given that the report gives no evidence or grounds for the assertion that Russia conducted the hacks and sent the information obtained to Wikileaks (“reasoning” offered is circumstantial only; RT is sympathetic to Assange and RT’s editor in Chief visited Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy in 2013, long before Trump’s candidacy became a thought) we cannot believe this assertion.

Russia’s state-run propaganda machine—comprised of its domestic media apparatus, outlets targeting global audiences such as RT and Sputnik, and a network of quasi-government trolls—contributed to the influence campaign by serving as a platform for Kremlin messaging to Russian and international audiences. State-owned Russian media made increasingly favorable comments about President elect Trump as the 2016 US general and primary election campaigns progressed while consistently offering negative coverage of Secretary Clinton.

(Emphasis added) Okay?  Isn’t it something that we’re suddenly concerned about media bias when, throughout this whole affair, the American media was overwhelmingly biased in favor of Clinton?  I have a hard time objecting to the Russian media’s bias towards Trump when our own media was so obviously in the bag for Clinton.

It’s worth it to note that at this point in the report, the focus turns from flimsy hacking allegations to details on the Russian media activity, which actually constitutes the majority of the unclassified report.

RT’s coverage of Secretary Clinton throughout the US presidential campaign was consistently negative and focused on her leaked e-mails and accused her of corruption, poor physical and mental health, and ties to Islamic extremism. Some Russian officials echoed Russian lines for the influence campaign that Secretary Clinton’s election could lead to a war between the United States and Russia.

So, you mean, the truth?

A journalist who is a leading expert on the Internet Research Agency claimed that some social media accounts that appear to be tied to Russia’s professional trolls—because they previously were devoted to supporting Russian actions in Ukraine—started to advocate for President-elect Trump as early as December 2015.

What remains to be proven, is the impact these “trolls” had on the actual outcome of the election.  It certainly isn’t featured in the report.

In an effort to highlight the alleged “lack of democracy” in the United States, RT broadcast, hosted, and advertised third party candidate debates and ran reporting supportive of the political agenda of these candidates. The RT hosts asserted that the US two-party system does not represent the views of at least one-third of the population and is a “sham.”

What, so the prospect of third party candidates is “undemocratic” now?  On that count, the RT hosts are completely correct.  The two party system is a sham, and indeed, a third of our population goes effectively unrepresented.

RT’s reports often characterize the United States as a “surveillance state” and allege widespread infringements of civil liberties, police brutality, and drone use (RT, 24, 28 October, 1-10 November).

RT has also focused on criticism of the US economic system, US currency policy, alleged Wall Street greed, and the US national debt. Some of RT’s hosts have compared the United States to Imperial Rome and have predicted that government corruption and “corporate greed” will lead to US financial collapse (RT, 31 October, 4 November).

Well… How are these assertions incorrect?

According to Simonyan, the TV audience worldwide is losing trust in traditional TV broadcasts and stations, while the popularity of “alternative channels” like RT or Al Jazeera grows. RT markets itself as an “alternative channel” that is available via the Internet everywhere in the world, and it encourages interaction and social networking (Kommersant, 29 September).

Small wonder that the TV audience worldwide is loosing trust in traditional TV, due to it’s obvious, left wing bias.  Not that RT’s right wing bias is noble, but it’s understandable that a certain part of the news audience would want an alternative more in line with their views.  This report implies, of course, that the bias of our own media sources are okay, so long as they are sympathetic to Clinton and the ruling class.

That’s about it.  The full report, if that’s how you like to spend your long winter evenings, is available here:  https://www.dni.gov/files/documents/ICA_2017_01.pdf

 

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