Two stories about Russian hacking the media won’t tell you about

You have no doubt heard that, not content with interfering in the US presidential election, the Russians have also tried to undermine democracy in Europe. In particular, Moscow has been accused of trying to interfere in the upcoming German election, but also of being responsible for the hacking of Macron’s campaign during the French presidential election. Reports that it had done so have been ubiquitous in the media this past year. What you probably didn’t hear, however, is that both claims have been largely undermined. In the case of Germany, Ray McGovern wrote a very good piece about the results of the investigation conducted by German intelligence agencies, which have been completely ignored in the US media:

After a multi-month, politically charged investigation, German intelligence agencies could find no good evidence of Moscow-directed cyber-attacks or a disinformation campaign aimed at subverting the democratic process in Germany. Undaunted, Chancellor Angela Merkel has commissioned a new investigation.

 

Last year, Berlin’s two main intelligence agencies, the BND and BfV (counterparts of the CIA and FBI) launched a joint investigation to substantiate allegations that Russia was meddling in German political affairs and attempting to shape the outcome of Germany’s elections next September.

 

Like the vast majority of Americans malnourished on “mainstream media,” most Germans have been led to believe that, by hacking and “propaganda,” the Kremlin interfered in the recent U.S. election and helped Donald Trump become president.

 

German intelligence agencies rarely bite the hand that feeds them and realize that the most bountiful part of the trough is at the CIA station in Berlin with ultimate guidance coming from CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. But this time, in an unusual departure from past practice, analysts at the BND and BfV decided to act like responsible adults.

 

Whereas former CIA Director John Brennan prevailed on his analysts to resort to anemic, evidence-light reasoning “assessing” that Russia tried to tip the U.S. election to Donald Trump, Berlin’s intelligence agencies found the evidence lacking and have now completed their investigation.

 

 

So, what do powerful officials do when the bureaucracy comes up with “incorrect” conclusions? They send the analysts and investigators back to work until they come up with “correct” answers. This turned out to be no exception. Absent evidence of hacking directed by the Kremlin, the Germans now have opted for an approach by which information can be fudged more easily.

According to the Sueddeutsche, “Chancellor Merkel’s office has now ordered a new inquiry. Notably, a ‘psychological operations group’ jointly run by the BND and BfV will specifically look at Russian news agencies’ coverage in Germany.” We can expect that any articles that don’t portray Vladimir Putin in a devil’s costume will be judged “Russian propaganda.”

This was reported in the German press last February, but the notion that Russia is trying to interfere in Germany’s upcoming election is still reported as established fact by journalists and pundits in the US, the same people who claim to be the enemies of alternative facts.

Similarly, the claim that Russia was responsible for hacking Macron’s campaign during the recent French presidential election was also widely reported, but this interview of Guillaume Poupard, the head of the French cybersecurity agency, with Associated Press was totally ignored by the media:

Contrary to [Admiral Michael Rogers, the head of the NSA], who said the U.S. warned France of “Russian activity” before Macron’s win, Poupard didn’t point the finger at Russia. He told the AP that ANSSI’s investigation found no trace behind the Macron hack of the notorious hacking group APT28 — identified by the U.S. government as a Russian intelligence outfit and blamed for hacks of the U.S. election campaign, anti-doping agencies and other targets. The group also is known by other names, including “Fancy Bear.”

 

Poupard described the Macron campaign hack as “not very technological” and said: “The attack was so generic and simple that it could have been practically anyone.”

 

Without ruling out the possibility that a state might have been involved, he said the attack’s simplicity “means that we can imagine that it was a person who did this alone. They could be in any country.”

 

“It really could be anyone. It could even be an isolated individual,” he said.

 

Poupard contrasted the “Macron Leaks” hack with another far more sophisticated attack that took French broadcaster TV5 Monde off the air in 2015. There, “very specific tools were used to destroy the equipment” in the attack that “resembles a lot what we call collectively APT28,” he said.

 

“To say ‘Macron Leaks’ was APT28, I’m absolutely incapable today of doing that,” he said. “I have absolutely no element to say whether it is true or false.”

 

Rogers, the NSA director, said in his Senate Armed Services hearing that U.S. authorities gave their French counterparts “a heads-up” before the Macron documents leaked that: “‘We are watching the Russians. We are seeing them penetrate some of your infrastructure. Here is what we have seen. What can we do to try to assist?’”

 

Poupard said Rogers’ comments left him perplexed and that the French had long been on alert about potential threats to their presidential election.

 

“Why did Admiral Rogers say that, like that, at that time? It really surprised me. It really surprised my European allies. And to be totally frank, when I spoke about it to my NSA counterparts and asked why did he say that, they didn’t really know how to reply either,” he said. “Perhaps he went further than what he really wanted to say.”

If you ask me, those are some very good questions, but for some reason the US media doesn’t seem very interested in them. But don’t get me wrong, I’m sure it’s a coincidence that journalists didn’t report this information, it’s not as if they were biased against Russia or anything. Not at all, the US media is a model of independence, competence and integrity, it would never engage in dishonest reporting.

5 thoughts

  1. Great article – I saw one of your comments on another web page. The German Intel/security agencies are like a 50/50 bet. Their initial investigation of Russia downing MH-17 was – ” Russia had nothing to do with it” but then they stopped there. The Dutch report was sooo limited in any proof that they must be working with the US media clowns in thinking that they only had to BS the public – not the professionals in the world. Spacibo

  2. I’m sure the democrats/punditry will be running wild with today’s wapo story “Obama’s Secret Struggle”
    (https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2017/world/national-security/obama-putin-election-hacking/) which will be offered as “definitive proof” of the Putin election hacking conspiracy. I’m sure you’ll have plenty of your own opinions/doubts about the article. However, you might find this analysis by blogger “Lambert Strether” interesting, since it is from one of the few blogs on the left that hasn’t bought into the official Russian narrative:

    “UPDATE More on “Obama’s Secret Struggle.” As the “hermeneutic of suspicion” above would suggest, I’m just going to look at this as a narrative. For all I know, the story is “true,” though that would be a welcome change of form from the torturers in the CIA, the perjurers at the NSA, and the entrapment artists at the FBI who form the bulk of the sources for this story. (And then there is Obama: “The Source of Barack Obama’s Power to Trick Us Comes from Our Willingness to Be Tricked.”)

    So, considering the story only as a narrative, then, and performing a media critique:

    First, consider the lead:

    Early last August, an envelope with extraordinary handling restrictions arrived at the White House. Sent by courier from the CIA, it carried “eyes only” instructions that its contents be shown to just four people: President Barack Obama and three senior aides.

    I believe I called this on May 18:

    So, if Rich’s view of the world is correct, and Russian hysteria/gaslighting/what you will (not using “-Gate”;!) is like a well-made play, then we can expect to see an instance of the “lost or stolen documents” plot device. In fact, we’re seeing it already with Comey’s notes*, but perhaps there are more documents to be discovered — or “discovered,” as the case may be. See Whitaker Chambers v. Alger Hiss, from our previous McCarthyite period….

    The “envelope” is, very precisely, the document in a well-made play that drives a plot turn; a “reveal,” in contemporary terms.

    Second, consider the “drip drip drip” aspect. Today’s story can be viewed as the exposition following the reveal which “connects the dots” for previous events in the play, some mysterious. As we linked to the Tablet on March 23:

    [T]he steady sound of drip-drip-drip is the telltale sign of a political campaign, where items are leaked bit by bit to paralyze the target. Journalists, on the other hand, have to get their story out there as quickly, and as fully, as possible because they’re always worried the competition is going to beat them to it.

    In other words, some may be under the illusion that WaPo is practicing investigative journalism here, but they’re not. They’re practicing access journalism, and the reveals are coming at the pace, in the order, and with the content and the framing that the sources want.

    Third, consider the sourcing:

    This account of the Obama administration’s response to Russia’s interference is based on interviews with more than three dozen current and former U.S. officials in senior positions in government, including at the White House, the State, Defense and Homeland Security departments, and U.S. intelligence services. Most agreed to speak only on the condition of anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the issue.

    In other words, we have what we’ve had from the beginning: Anonymous torturers, perjurers, and entrapment artists telling a story based on evidence that we can’t see. And these torturers, perjurers, and entrapment artists are playing for enormous stakes, and have interests in the outcome — as do the access journalists purveying the story. (Jeff Bezos, for example, has an enormous contract with the “intelligence community” for Amazon Web Services.) Why do we accept their, and WaPo’s, argument from authority?

    Fourth, consider the timing. The “envelope” arrived in August. And here’s how Democrat house organ Talking Points Memo summarizes impact today: “WaPo: CIA Intel Showed Putin Directly Ordered Operation To Get Trump Elected.” Interesting, if true, eh? And it would have been even more interesting before Election Day, surely? So what kind of sense does it make that information that could delegitimize a Presidential election was never made public until after the election? If making sure voters were making an informed choice was the priority, that is. Are we saying that the greatest orator of our time couldn’t frame the issue properly? (I’m not saying that the administration had “connected the dots” completely, but given the risks, doesn’t it make sense to have the reveal when it would have made a difference, rather than later? Remember all the furor about handing Trump the nuclear codes, which Obama (presumably) did, knowing what he knew?)

    Fifth, consider a key omission:

    At that point, the outlines of the Russian assault on the U.S. election were increasingly apparent…. And on July 22, nearly 20,000 emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee were dumped online by WikiLeaks.

    Note that WaPo carefully avoids explicitly saying who stole the DNC emails, although the way the paragraph begins (“outlines of the Russian assault”) implies they did. In other words, the reporters erase the possibility of insider threats, for which there is at least prima facie evidence. (I said “prima facie,” not “proven.”) It’s almost as if the reporters are pushing a particular narrative, isn’t it? And airbrushing inconvenient possibilities away?

    Now, just because WaPo’s story exhibits the formal characteristics of a carefully crafted work of fiction — in this case, serialized in the press — doesn’t mean it is fiction. I’m doing a media critique, here, nothing more. However, if we’re going to depose a President who took the oath of office after getting a majority of the votes in the electoral college — and that has been the goal of the torturers, perjurers, and entrapment artists who are the sources for this story since the “faithless electors” effort after November 8, 2016, we need to see evidence, not claims about evidence. And I think anybody who remembers the Iraq WMD debacle should give consideration to making the same demand.

    NOTE If anybody wants to prevent the election from being hacked, the policy solution is hand-marked paper ballots, hand-counted in public. I can’t think why this isn’t on the agenda.”

    Source: http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2017/06/200pm-water-cooler-6232017.html (buried half-way down the page)

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