President Trump Lied About Wire Taps: He Needs To Quickly And Publicly Apologize To Mr. Obama

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

Washington (CNN) House Speaker Paul Ryan said Thursday that “no such wiretap existed,” citing intelligence reports to House leaders after President Donald Trump accused then-President Barack Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower last year.

“The intelligence committees, in their continuing, widening, ongoing investigations of all things Russia, got to the bottom — at least so far with respect to our intelligence community — that no such wiretap existed,” Ryan said in response to a question from CNN at a news conference.
Ryan’s comment comes as Trump and the White House have retreated from the President’s stunning accusation in a tweet two weeks ago.
“When I say wiretapping, those words were in quotes. That really covers — because wiretapping is pretty old-fashioned stuff — but that really covers surveillance and many other things. And nobody ever talks about the fact that it was in quotes, but that’s a very important thing,” Trump told Fox News Wednesday.
The four lawmakers leading the House and Senate intelligence committees looking into Russia’s interference in the US elections have all said they have not seen any evidence to back up Trump’s claims. The House Intelligence Committee has requested any evidence of a wiretap from the Justice Department by Monday.

The Perfect Weapon: How Russian Cyberpower Invaded the U.S.

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

WASHINGTON — When Special Agent Adrian Hawkins of the Federal Bureau of Investigation called the Democratic National Committee in September 2015 to pass along some troubling news about its computer network, he was transferred, naturally, to the help desk.

His message was brief, if alarming. At least one computer system belonging to the D.N.C. had been compromised by hackers federal investigators had named “the Dukes,” a cyberespionage team linked to the Russian government.

The F.B.I. knew it well: The bureau had spent the last few years trying to kick the Dukes out of the unclassified email systems of the White House, the State Department and even the Joint Chiefs of Staff, one of the government’s best-protected networks.

Yared Tamene, the tech-support contractor at the D.N.C. who fielded the call, was no expert in cyberattacks. His first moves were to check Google for “the Dukes” and conduct a cursory search of the D.N.C. computer system logs to look for hints of such a cyberintrusion. By his own account, he did not look too hard even after Special Agent Hawkins called back repeatedly over the next several weeks — in part because he wasn’t certain the caller was a real F.B.I. agent and not an impostor.

Continue reading the main story

“I had no way of differentiating the call I just received from a prank call,” Mr. Tamene wrote in an internal memo, obtained by The New York Times, that detailed his contact with the F.B.I.

It was the cryptic first sign of a cyberespionage and information-warfare campaign devised to disrupt the 2016 presidential election, the first such attempt by a foreign power in American history. What started as an information-gathering operation, intelligence officials believe, ultimately morphed into an effort to harm one candidate, Hillary Clinton, and tip the election to her opponent, Donald J. Trump.

Like another famous American election scandal, it started with a break-in at the D.N.C. The first time, 44 years ago at the committee’s old offices in the Watergate complex, the burglars planted listening devices and jimmied a filing cabinet. This time, the burglary was conducted from afar, directed by the Kremlin, with spear-phishing emails and zeros and ones.

What is phishing?

Phishing uses an innocent-looking email to entice unwary recipients to click on a deceptive link, giving hackers access to their information or a network. In “spear-phishing,” the email is tailored to fool a specific person.

An examination by The Times of the Russian operation — based on interviews with dozens of players targeted in the attack, intelligence officials who investigated it and Obama administration officials who deliberated over the best response — reveals a series of missed signals, slow responses and a continuing underestimation of the seriousness of the cyberattack.

The D.N.C.’s fumbling encounter with the F.B.I. meant the best chance to halt the Russian intrusion was lost. The failure to grasp the scope of the attacks undercut efforts to minimize their impact. And the White House’s reluctance to respond forcefully meant the Russians have not paid a heavy price for their actions, a decision that could prove critical in deterring future cyberattacks.

The low-key approach of the F.B.I. meant that Russian hackers could roam freely through the committee’s network for nearly seven months before top D.N.C. officials were alerted to the attack and hired cyberexperts to protect their systems. In the meantime, the hackers moved on to targets outside the D.N.C., including Mrs. Clinton’s campaign chairman, John D. Podesta, whose private email account was hacked months later.

Even Mr. Podesta, a savvy Washington insider who had written a 2014 report on cyberprivacy for President Obama, did not truly understand the gravity of the hacking.

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Charles Delavan, a Clinton campaign aide, incorrectly legitimized a phishing email sent to the personal account of John D. Podesta, the campaign chairman.

By last summer, Democrats watched in helpless fury as their private emails and confidential documents appeared online day after day — procured by Russian intelligence agents, posted on WikiLeaks and other websites, then eagerly reported on by the American media, including The Times. Mr. Trump gleefully cited many of the purloined emails on the campaign trail.

The fallout included the resignations of Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, the chairwoman of the D.N.C., and most of her top party aides. Leading Democrats were sidelined at the height of the campaign, silenced by revelations of embarrassing emails or consumed by the scramble to deal with the hacking. Though little-noticed by the public, confidential documents taken by the Russian hackers from the D.N.C.’s sister organization, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, turned up in congressional races in a dozen states, tainting some of them with accusations of scandal.

In recent days, a skeptical president-elect, the nation’s intelligence agencies and the two major parties have become embroiled in an extraordinary public dispute over what evidence exists that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia moved beyond mere espionage to deliberately try to subvert American democracy and pick the winner of the presidential election.

Many of Mrs. Clinton’s closest aides believe that the Russian assault had a profound impact on the election, while conceding that other factors — Mrs. Clinton’s weaknesses as a candidate; her private email server; the public statements of the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, about her handling of classified information — were also important.

While there’s no way to be certain of the ultimate impact of the hack, this much is clear: A low-cost, high-impact weapon that Russia had test-fired in elections from Ukraine to Europe was trained on the United States, with devastating effectiveness. For Russia, with an enfeebled economy and a nuclear arsenal it cannot use short of all-out war, cyberpower proved the perfect weapon: cheap, hard to see coming, hard to trace.

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Following the Links From Russian Hackers to the U.S. Election

The Central Intelligence Agency concluded that the Russian government deployed computer hackers to help elect Donald J. Trump.

OPEN GRAPHIC

“There shouldn’t be any doubt in anybody’s mind,” Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency and commander of United States Cyber Command, said at a postelection conference. “This was not something that was done casually, this was not something that was done by chance, this was not a target that was selected purely arbitrarily,” he said. “This was a conscious effort by a nation-state to attempt to achieve a specific effect.”

For the people whose emails were stolen, this new form of political sabotage has left a trail of shock and professional damage. Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress and a key Clinton supporter, recalls walking into the busy Clinton transition offices, humiliated to see her face on television screens as pundits discussed a leaked email in which she had called Mrs. Clinton’s instincts “suboptimal.”

“It was just a sucker punch to the gut every day,” Ms. Tanden said. “It was the worst professional experience of my life.”

The United States, too, has carried out cyberattacks, and in decades past the C.I.A. tried to subvert foreign elections. But the Russian attack is increasingly understood across the political spectrum as an ominous historic landmark — with one notable exception: Mr. Trump has rejected the findings of the intelligence agencies he will soon oversee as “ridiculous,” insisting that the hacker may be American, or Chinese, but that “they have no idea.”

Mr. Trump cited the reported disagreements between the agencies about whether Mr. Putin intended to help elect him. On Tuesday, a Russian government spokesman echoed Mr. Trump’s scorn.

“This tale of ‘hacks’ resembles a banal brawl between American security officials over spheres of influence,” Maria Zakharova, the spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, wrote on Facebook.

Democratic House Candidates Were Also Targets of Russian Hacking

Over the weekend, four prominent senators — two Republicans and two Democrats — joined forces to pledge an investigation while pointedly ignoring Mr. Trump’s skeptical claims.

“Democrats and Republicans must work together, and across the jurisdictional lines of the Congress, to examine these recent incidents thoroughly and devise comprehensive solutions to deter and defend against further cyberattacks,” said Senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Chuck Schumer and Jack Reed.

“This cannot become a partisan issue,” they said. “The stakes are too high for our country.”

A Target for Break-Ins

Sitting in the basement of the Democratic National Committee headquarters, below a wall-size 2012 portrait of a smiling Barack Obama, is a 1960s-era filing cabinet missing the handle on the bottom drawer. Only a framed newspaper story hanging on the wall hints at the importance of this aged piece of office furniture.

“GOP Security Aide Among 5 Arrested in Bugging Affair,” reads the headline from the front page of The Washington Post on June 19, 1972, with the bylines of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.

Andrew Brown, 37, the technology director at the D.N.C., was born after that famous break-in. But as he began to plan for this year’s election cycle, he was well aware that the D.N.C. could become a break-in target again.

There were aspirations to ensure that the D.N.C. was well protected against cyberintruders — and then there was the reality, Mr. Brown and his bosses at the organization acknowledged: The D.N.C. was a nonprofit group, dependent on donations, with a fraction of the security budget that a corporation its size would have.

“There was never enough money to do everything we needed to do,” Mr. Brown said.

The D.N.C. had a standard email spam-filtering service, intended to block phishing attacks and malware created to resemble legitimate email. But when Russian hackers started in on the D.N.C., the committee did not have the most advanced systems in place to track suspicious traffic, internal D.N.C. memos show.

Mr. Tamene, who reports to Mr. Brown and fielded the call from the F.B.I. agent, was not a full-time D.N.C. employee; he works for a Chicago-based contracting firm called The MIS Department. He was left to figure out, largely on his own, how to respond — and even whether the man who had called in to the D.N.C. switchboard was really an F.B.I. agent.

“The F.B.I. thinks the D.N.C. has at least one compromised computer on its network and the F.B.I. wanted to know if the D.N.C. is aware, and if so, what the D.N.C. is doing about it,” Mr. Tamene wrote in an internal memo about his contacts with the F.B.I. He added that “the Special Agent told me to look for a specific type of malware dubbed ‘Dukes’ by the U.S. intelligence community and in cybersecurity circles.”

Part of the problem was that Special Agent Hawkins did not show up in person at the D.N.C. Nor could he email anyone there, as that risked alerting the hackers that the F.B.I. knew they were in the system.

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An internal memo by Yared Tamene, a tech-support contractor at the D.N.C., expressed uncertainty about the identity of Special Agent Adrian Hawkins of the F.B.I., who called to inform him of the breach.

Mr. Tamene’s initial scan of the D.N.C. system — using his less-than-optimal tools and incomplete targeting information from the F.B.I. — found nothing. So when Special Agent Hawkins called repeatedly in October, leaving voice mail messages for Mr. Tamene, urging him to call back, “I did not return his calls, as I had nothing to report,” Mr. Tamene explained in his memo.

In November, Special Agent Hawkins called with more ominous news. A D.N.C. computer was “calling home, where home meant Russia,” Mr. Tamene’s memo says, referring to software sending information to Moscow. “SA Hawkins added that the F.B.I. thinks that this calling home behavior could be the result of a state-sponsored attack.”

Mr. Brown knew that Mr. Tamene, who declined to comment, was fielding calls from the F.B.I. But he was tied up on a different problem: evidence suggesting that the campaign of Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Mrs. Clinton’s main Democratic opponent, had improperly gained access to her campaign data.

Ms. Wasserman Schultz, then the D.N.C.’s chairwoman, and Amy Dacey, then its chief executive, said in interviews that neither of them was notified about the early reports that the committee’s system had likely been compromised.

Shawn Henry, who once led the F.B.I.’s cyber division and is now president of CrowdStrike Services, the cybersecurity firm retained by the D.N.C. in April, said he was baffled that the F.B.I. did not call a more senior official at the D.N.C. or send an agent in person to the party headquarters to try to force a more vigorous response.

“We are not talking about an office that is in the middle of the woods of Montana,” Mr. Henry said. “We are talking about an office that is half a mile from the F.B.I. office that is getting the notification.”

“This is not a mom-and-pop delicatessen or a local library. This is a critical piece of the U.S. infrastructure because it relates to our electoral process, our elected officials, our legislative process, our executive process,” he added. “To me it is a high-level, serious issue, and if after a couple of months you don’t see any results, somebody ought to raise that to a higher level.”

The F.B.I. declined to comment on the agency’s handling of the hack. “The F.B.I. takes very seriously any compromise of public and private sector systems,” it said in a statement, adding that agents “will continue to share information” to help targets “safeguard their systems against the actions of persistent cybercriminals.”

By March, Mr. Tamene and his team had met at least twice in person with the F.B.I. and concluded that Agent Hawkins was really a federal employee. But then the situation took a dire turn.

A second team of Russian-affiliated hackers began to target the D.N.C. and other players in the political world, particularly Democrats. Billy Rinehart, a former D.N.C. regional field director who was then working for Mrs. Clinton’s campaign, got an odd email warning from Google.

“Someone just used your password to try to sign into your Google account,” the March 22 email said, adding that the sign-in attempt had occurred in Ukraine. “Google stopped this sign-in attempt. You should change your password immediately.”

Mr. Rinehart was in Hawaii at the time. He remembers checking his email at 4 a.m. for messages from East Coast associates. Without thinking much about the notification, he clicked on the “change password” button and half asleep, as best he can remember, he typed in a new password.

My Views On How ‘To Fix’ Israel’s ‘Broken’ Political System

 

For those of you who do not know me, I am a 60-year-old white American man who is a fundamentalist Christian who is also a huge fan of the Nation of Israel. I am a person who is not an anti-Muslim or anti-Persian. Even though I do believe that the Jewish people are missing the reality that Yeshua (Jesus The Christ) and Yahweh (Jehovah The Father) I have no doubts about Israel and the Hebrew bloodline being very special to God The Father and The Son. The Christian faith is born out of the Jewish faith and the Arab people are descendants of the Father of Israel, Abraham through his son Ishmael. Whether it is a Nation, a people, or a singular person, it is a great sin to fight against the Nation of Israel. It is an old saying and a truthful one that I have heard several times throughout the years that the Palestinian people would have peace any time they decide they actually want it by simply laying down their arms and quit fighting against Israel. It is also a true saying that if Israel was to lay down their arms, there would be no Israel. The majority of Israel’s politics is based around the security issues of its people and of the State from attacks by people who believe that Allah is God. Think about it, who else is attacking Israel?

 

This article tonight is one I thought of as I was reading the Times of Israel News Paper online. The names and the math figures are ones that I gleaned off of those articles so hopefully they were correct. As I said earlier, the single biggest issue in Israeli politics seems to always be about security issues. Within any government there is always many other issues that the leadership is responsible to make sure are addressed and taken care of for their people. There is always the issues of jobs, housing, power grids, transportation, garbage pickup and disposal and the list goes on and on. If the Leaders of a Nation or of a group of people are channeling their time into one issue like lets say President Putin is doing with Russia’s military, the people of your own Country suffers. For any Nation, any People to flourish the Leaders need to address the issues that affect the daily lives of their population. Just look at the situation in the Gaza Strip with Hamas as their ‘Governors’! The people of the Strip could have their own Country and be living in peace but Hamas will not allow it. They spend the majority of their income on military issues in their ‘struggle’ with Israel yet it is a ‘struggle’ that they themselves create.

 

In Israel’s Parliament, the Knesset, you have some members who would build a very high wall to block off all of the Palestinian people in the West Bank and I am sure that there are some who would take all of this land they were given in the Land for Peace deal of  2005 if they were allowed to by Israeli law. The only way for that to happen is if these ‘hard lines’ can gain political control of Israel’s Government and elections are the only way to do this. There are other issues that would have to get involved in their Democracy like Israel’s Court system as well as considerations of U.N. sanctions and the such. In the Knesset Isaac Herzog who is the leader of the ‘Zionist Union Party’ (which is the second largest party as far as members of the Knesset) spoke yesterday of his opposition to Israel’s current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu perceived plan to partition off the West Bank or at least big sections of it as being a mistake because of the issue that in doing so would bring in millions of Arab voters thus giving them more control of Israel’s political system. You need to remember that there are Arab Islamic believing members of the Knesset, if Israel partitions off the West Bank, there will become many more Islamic believing members of the Knesset.

 

The Chairman of the Likud Party, which is the Party of the Prime Minister, Mr. David Bitan said that he would like it if Israel’s Arab population were not allowed to vote. This brought many critical comments toward him because he said this but his response, in my opinion, was appropriate. Think about this for a moment before you judge him. He said that any political party would like it if their competition were not allowed to vote. Don’t you think that Hillary Clinton would have liked it if no Republicans had been allowed to vote last month in the U.S. elections? Was what Mr. Bitan said actually racist? I don’t know, I don’t know this man’s heart, do you? If you do, you may have a more informed opinion.

 

Before I make a book out of this article via giving too much time to the ‘set up’ material I am now going to address the political operation of the Knesset and the election of their Prime Minister’s position. Yesterday the Leader of the Yair Lapid Party Mr. Yesh Atid was calling for early Elections in an attempt to over through the current Government led by the Prime Minister’s Likud Party. Mr. Atid was using a recent poll showing that He and his Party were even with the Prime Minister’s Party in the poll. The next National election is scheduled for November 5th of 2019. In the Knesset for a Bill to pass it must get a majority of the votes which is a minimum of 61. Israel’s Governments require a Ruling Coalition to have at least 61 Seats. This gives very small political parties a large amount of power if they are part of the Ruling Party Coalition. As an example, the ruling Likud Party  currently has 67 Seats through their Coalition. In this coalition you have the Jewish Home Party with 8 Seats and the Kulana Party with 10 Seats. Under the current political setup if either one of these Parties decided to leave the Coalition, the Government of Prime Minister Netanyahu would fall and a new election would have to quickly be set up, the November 5th of 2019 date would mean nothing.

 

Here is my suggestion that I wish Israel would consider because the people of any Nation need to know that their Government is secure so that the people themselves can make long-term decisions in their own lives. Here in the U.S. we the people know that our next Presidential election will be in November of 2020, it is set every 4 years, no matter what. I believe that for the Nation of Israel the people would be better served if the next elections aren’t held until the scheduled date in 2019. From that election forward I believe a better system would be that they keep the 61 votes for the purpose of passing any Bill’s yet drop the 61 Seat requirement for the Ruling Party. Hold your election in November of 2019 and if no Party gets above the 50% level (61 Seats) then have another election about 3 days later where only the top 2 vote getter are on the ballot. This election must be by the people, not the Politicians doing backroom deals. Then the Party who gets the most votes of the 2, wins. But, before the elections each Party must put forth who their Leader is so that the people decide whom they want to be their next Prime Minister. Even if the Ruling Party only has lets say 30 Seats like what Likud has now this leading vote getter will be the Ruling Party. Instead of the Prime Minister having to have 61 Seats they would only have to work with all the Members of the Knesset to get the other votes to help pass the Bill. I believe that this system would give the Government of Israel and the People of Israel more stability. Any economy, any people, need stability to be able to live in physiological peace and any Country that has ‘snap elections’ reeks of weakness which is never a good thing for the people the Government is supposed to be representing.

Iran: Will The Supreme Ruler Ali Khamenei Allow President Hassan Rouhani Win Re-Election?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE ‘NATIONAL INTEREST’ REUTERS AND THE BBC)

Can Hassan Rouhani Win Re-Election?

Rouhani’s approach to foreign affairs, his basic faith in the power of diplomacy to resolve bitter conflicts, has been discredited.

November 29, 2016

Before the U.S. elections, when Trump’s chances at ascending to the Oval Office seemed, to most liberal voters at least, a distant possibility, Iranian hardliners lined up with many of the world’s other autocrats to cheer him on. This wasn’t just a display of schadenfreude. In Iran, few hardliners, and certainly not the country’s supreme leader, have ever said a nice thing about any U.S. politician. At the heart of their enthusiasm for Trump is the knowledge that however he changes U.S. policy toward Iran as president, it’ll significantly complicate Hassan Rouhani’s hopes of winning a re-election in May.

Rouhani has led a charge to fill the country’s elective institutions with a diverse coalition of moderates that generally share his centrist values on privatization and diplomatic engagement. In elections last February, he helped oust prominent hardliners from their long-held seats in the parliament and Assembly of Experts, a clerical oversight body. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, moreover, has a personal stake in the May elections, given his interest in isolating Hashemi Rafsanjani, a longtime rival who has orchestrated Rouhani’s rise, from the locus of executive power. As one former reformist official told Reuters in July, “Hardliners want a president who is closer to their camp and gets his directions from Khamenei’s allies.”

Amid this maneuvering, Trump’s electoral victory has all but sealed the legacy, if not the fate, of Rouhani’s landmark policy: the nuclear deal. Trump has promised to either renegotiate or alternately dismantle it – not that the distinction matters much. Rouhani said the day after Trump’s win that there would be “no possibility” of changing the deal. Short of a credible U.S. threat of war, it’s difficult to imagine why Rouhani would accept less favorable terms. At a minimum, Trump would have to make the trying case for why world powers should renege on their prior commitments and reimpose an international sanctions regime.

Suffice it to say, Trump may not know how to negotiate a “better” deal without losing the necessary international buy-in. The furthest his campaign staff has gone toward explaining how to wring a more exacting agreement is a garbled statement of the obvious: “He will take the agreement, review it, send it to Congress, demand from the Iranians to restore few issues or change few issues, and there will be a discussion,” Walid Phares, a top foreign policy adviser to Trump, told the BBC.

Regardless of what tack he takes in his first 100 days, Trump’s rhetoric makes it clear that he doesn’t intend on sweetening the deal for Iran. This has major implications for Rouhani’s popularity. Since the deal’s implementation in January, he has been fighting the perception that it’s failing. Rouhani justified his concessions by promising two outcomes: first, they would alleviate the threat of war against the world’s greatest military power, and second, they would inject foreign capital into the Iranian economy and reconnect it to the global marketplace.

Hardliners have already questioned this bargain, asking why Rouhani negotiated away the country’s hard-fought nuclear program for disparately little economic relief. “The public is asking: what has the nuclear deal accomplished for people’s livelihood and for the dignity of Islamic Iran?” an editorial in the country’s hardliner Kayhan newspaper asked last July, and that was when Rouhani still had a U.S. counterpart who wanted the deal to succeed as much he did. According to a poll released that same month, three-quarters of Iranians, out of a sample of 1 thousand, said they haven’t seen any economic improvement since the deal was signed.

That poll suggests the extent to which the deal hasn’t panned out for Iran. It was supposed to act as a springboard for foreign investment in Iran, a country endowed with natural resources, a robust consumer base and an unrivaled manufacturing capacity. But the gold rush never came, in large part because banks refrained from resuming commercial ties with Iran. The nuclear deal may have lifted restrictions on international trade with Iran, but it left intact a dizzying array of U.S. sanctions, which have in turn left an insurmountable compliance risk for big banks.

Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say

November 24 at 8:27 PM
The flood of “fake news” this election season got support from a sophisticated Russian propaganda campaign that created and spread misleading articles online with the goal of punishing Democrat Hillary Clinton, helping Republican Donald Trump and undermining faith in American democracy, say independent researchers who tracked the operation.Russia’s increasingly sophisticated propaganda machinery — including thousands of botnets, teams of paid human “trolls,” and networks of websites and social-media accounts — echoed and amplified right-wing sites across the Internet as they portrayed Clinton as a criminal hiding potentially fatal health problems and preparing to hand control of the nation to a shadowy cabal of global financiers. The effort also sought to heighten the appearance of international tensions and promote fear of looming hostilities with nuclear-armed Russia.

Two teams of independent researchers found that the Russians exploited American-made technology platforms to attack U.S. democracy at a particularly vulnerable moment, as an insurgent candidate harnessed a wide range of grievances to claim the White House. The sophistication of the Russian tactics may complicate efforts by Facebook and Google to crack down on “fake news,” as they have vowed to do after widespread complaints about the problem.

There is no way to know whether the Russian campaign proved decisive in electing Trump, but researchers portray it as part of a broadly effective strategy of sowing distrust in U.S. democracy and its leaders. The tactics included penetrating the computers of election officials in several states and releasing troves of hacked emails that embarrassed Clinton in the final months of her campaign.

“They want to essentially erode faith in the U.S. government or U.S. government interests,” said Clint Watts, a fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute who along with two other researchers has tracked Russian propaganda since 2014. “This was their standard mode during the Cold War. The problem is that this was hard to do before social media.”

During a Facebook live discussion, reporter Caitlin Dewey explained how fake news sites use Facebook as a vehicle to function and make money. (The Washington Post)

Watts’s report on this work, with colleagues Andrew Weisburd and J.M. Berger, appeared on the national security online magazine War on the Rocks this month under the headline “Trolling for Trump: How Russia Is Trying to Destroy Our Democracy.” Another group, called PropOrNot, a nonpartisan collection of researchers with foreign policy, military and technology backgrounds, planned to release its own findings Friday showing the startling reach and effectiveness of Russian propaganda campaigns.

The researchers used Internet analytics tools to trace the origins of particular tweets and mapped the connections among social-media accounts that consistently delivered synchronized messages. Identifying website codes sometimes revealed common ownership. In other cases, exact phrases or sentences were echoed by sites and social-media accounts in rapid succession, signaling membership in connected networks controlled by a single entity.

PropOrNot’s monitoring report, which was provided to The Washington Post in advance of its public release, identifies more than 200 websites as routine peddlers of Russian propaganda during the election season, with combined audiences of at least 15 million Americans. On Facebook, PropOrNot estimates that stories planted or promoted by the disinformation campaign were viewed more than 213 million times.

Some players in this online echo chamber were knowingly part of the propaganda campaign, the researchers concluded, while others were “useful idiots” — a term born of the Cold War to describe people or institutions that unknowingly assisted Soviet Union propaganda efforts.

Consider these points before sharing a news article on Facebook. It could be fake. (Monica Akhtar/The Washington Post)

The Russian campaign during this election season, researchers from both groups say, worked by harnessing the online world’s fascination with “buzzy” content that is surprising and emotionally potent, and tracks with popular conspiracy theories about how secret forces dictate world events.

Some of these stories originated with RT and Sputnik, state-funded Russian information services that mimic the style and tone of independent news organizations yet sometimes include false and misleading stories in their reports, the researchers say. On other occasions, RT, Sputnik and other Russian sites used social-media accounts to amplify misleading stories already circulating online, causing news algorithms to identify them as “trending” topics that sometimes prompted coverage from mainstream American news organizations.

The speed and coordination of these efforts allowed Russian-backed phony news to outcompete traditional news organizations for audience. Some of the first and most alarming tweets after Clinton fell ill at a Sept. 11 memorial event in New York, for example, came from Russian botnets and trolls, researchers found. (She was treated for pneumonia and returned to the campaign trail a few days later.)

This followed a spate of other misleading stories in August about Clinton’s supposedly troubled health. The Daily Beast debunked a particularly widely read piece in an article that reached 1,700 Facebook accounts and was read online more than 30,000 times. But the PropOrNot researchers found that the version supported by Russian propaganda reached 90,000 Facebook accounts and was read more than 8 million times. The researchers said the true Daily Beast story was like “shouting into a hurricane” of false stories supported by the Russians.

This propaganda machinery also helped push the phony story that an anti-Trump protester was paid thousands of dollars to participate in demonstrations, an allegation initially made by a self-described satirist and later repeated publicly by the Trump campaign. Researchers from both groups traced a variety of other false stories — fake reports of a coup launched at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey and stories about how the United States was going to conduct a military attack and blame it on Russia — to Russian propaganda efforts.

The final weeks of the campaign featured a heavy dose of stories about supposed election irregularities, allegations of vote-rigging and the potential for Election Day violence should Clinton win, researchers said.

“The way that this propaganda apparatus supported Trump was equivalent to some massive amount of a media buy,” said the executive director of PropOrNot, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid being targeted by Russia’s legions of skilled hackers. “It was like Russia was running a super PAC for Trump’s campaign. . . . It worked.”

He and other researchers expressed concern that the U.S. government has few tools for detecting or combating foreign propaganda. They expressed hope that their research detailing the power of Russian propaganda would spur official action.

A former U.S. ambassador to Russia, Michael A. McFaul, said he was struck by the overt support that Sputnik expressed for Trump during the campaign, even using the #CrookedHillary hashtag pushed by the candidate.

McFaul said Russian propaganda typically is aimed at weakening opponents and critics. Trump’s victory, though reportedly celebrated by Putin and his allies in Moscow, may have been an unexpected benefit of an operation that already had fueled division in the United States. “They don’t try to win the argument,” said McFaul, now director of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University. “It’s to make everything seem relative. It’s kind of an appeal to cynicism.”

The Kremlin has repeatedly denied interfering in the U.S. election or hacking the accounts of election officials. “This is some sort of nonsense,” Dmitry Peskov, press secretary for Putin, said last month when U.S. officials accused Russia of penetrating the computers of the Democratic National Committee and other political organizations.

RT disputed the findings of the researchers in an e-mail on Friday, saying it played no role in producing or amplifying any fake news stories related to the U.S. election. “It is the height of irony that an article about “fake news” is built on false, unsubstantiated claims. RT adamantly rejects any and all claims and insuations that the network has originated even a single “fake story” related to the US election,” wrote Anna Belkina, head of communications.

The findings about the mechanics of Russian propaganda operations largely track previous research by the Rand Corp. and George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs.

“They use our technologies and values against us to sow doubt,” said Robert Orttung, a GWU professor who studies Russia. “It’s starting to undermine our democratic system.”

The Rand report — which dubbed Russian propaganda efforts a “firehose of falsehood” because of their speed, power and relentlessness — traced the country’s current generation of online propaganda work to the 2008 incursion into neighboring Georgia, when Russia sought to blunt international criticism of its aggression by pushing alternative explanations online.

The same tactics, researchers said, helped Russia shape international opinions about its 2014 annexation of Crimea and its military intervention in Syria, which started last year. Russian propaganda operations also worked to promote the “Brexit” departure of Britain from the European Union.

Another crucial moment, several researchers say, came in 2011 when the party of Russian President Vladimir Putin was accused of rigging elections, sparking protests that Putin blamed the Obama administration — and then-Secretary of State Clinton — for instigating.

Putin, a former KGB officer, announced his desire to “break the Anglo-Saxon monopoly on the global information streams” during a 2013 visit to the broadcast center for RT, formerly known as Russia Today.

“For them, it’s actually a real war, an ideological war, this clash between two systems,” said Sufian Zhemukhov, a former Russian journalist conducting research at GWU. “In their minds, they’re just trying to do what the West does to Russia.”

RT broadcasts news reports worldwide in several languages, but the most effective way it reaches U.S. audiences is online.

Its English-language flagship YouTube channel, launched in 2007, has 1.85 million subscribers and has had a total of 1.8 billion views, making it more widely viewed than CNN’s YouTube channel, according to a George Washington University report this month.

Though widely seen as a propaganda organ, the Russian site has gained credibility with some American conservatives. Trump sat for an interview with RT in September. His nominee for national security adviser, retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, traveled to Russia last year for a gala sponsored by the network. He later compared it to CNN.

The content from Russian sites has offered ready fodder for U.S.-based websites pushing far-right conservative messages. A former contractor for one, the Next News Network, said he was instructed by the site’s founder, Gary S. Franchi Jr., to weave together reports from traditional sources such as the Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times with ones from RT, Sputnik and others that provided articles that often spread explosively online.

“The readers are more likely to share the fake stories, and they’re more profitable,” said Dyan Bermeo, who said he helped assemble scripts and book guests for Next News Network before leaving because of a pay dispute and concerns that “fake news” was crowding out real news.

In just the past 90 days — a period that has included the closing weeks of the campaign, Election Day and its aftermath — the YouTube audience of Next News Network has jumped from a few hundred thousand views a day to a few million, according to analytics firm Tubular Labs. In October alone, videos from Next News Network were viewed more than 56 million times.

Franchi said in an e-mail statement that Next News Network seeks “a global perspective” while providing commentary aimed at U.S. audiences, especially with regard to Russian military activity. “Understanding the threat of global war is the first step to preventing it,” he said, “and we feel our coverage assisted in preventing a possible World War 3 scenario.”

Correction: A previously published version of this story incorrectly stated that Russian information service RT had used the “#CrookedHillary” hastag pushed by then-Republican candidate Donald Trump. In fact, while another Russian information service Sputnik did use this hashtag, RT did not.

Frauds And Racist Hillary Supporters Riot Against President Elect Trump

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME NEWS)

Protesters target Trump buildings in massive street rallies

Story highlights

  • At least 13 arrested in Los Angeles for blocking highway traffic in protest of Trump
  • Anti-Trump protests have occurred in more than 25 cities

(CNN) The morning after Election Day smacked Democrats with a combination of shock and sadness.

Donald Trump would be the next US President. For thousands, disappointment turned to protest as Hillary Clinton supporters channeled their disbelief into a single defiant message.
“Not my President,” they chanted. “Not today.”
In response to Trump’s victory, a shocking win fueled by the rural roar of a dismayed white America, tens of thousands in at least 25 US cities — including New York and Nashville, Chicago and Cleveland, San Francisco and Seattle — shouted anti-Trump slogans, started fires, and held candlelight vigils to mourn the result.

Donald Trump's victory met with mixed reaction

Donald Trump’s victory met with mixed reaction 02:33
Many of those demonstrations continued early Thursday morning and led to dozens of arrests.
“People are furious, not just at the results of the election, but the rhetoric of Donald Trump,” Ahmed Kanna, an organizer for Social Alternative Berkeley, told CNN’s Don Lemon.

Demonstrations outside Trump’s properties

In New York, authorities estimated that as many as 5,000 people protested the real estate mogul’s victory outside Trump Tower. They included pop star Lady Gaga, a staunch Clinton supporter.

Lady Gaga protests against President-elect Donald Trump outside Trump Tower in New York.

Their concerns ranged from policies, such as his proposed plan to build a wall along the US-Mexican border, to the polarizing tenor of his campaign that stoked xenophobic fears.
“I came out here to let go of a lot of fear that was sparked as soon as I saw the results,” protester Nick Powers said. He said he feared Trump will support stronger stop-and-frisk policies that would put many people in prison. He also was worried that Trump’s victory would embolden sexist views.
Fifteen Trump Tower protesters were arrested Wednesday night for disorderly conduct, an NYPD spokesman said.
Protester: I wonder how much sexism was at play 02:16
In Chicago, activists marched down Lake Shore Drive — an eight-lane expressway along Lake Michigan — toward the Windy City’s Trump Tower with signs such as one that said, “I still can’t believe I have to protest for civil rights.”
CNN’s Ryan Young, who saw a few thousand people there, said many chanted vulgarities toward the President-elect.
“As a nation we thought we had come so far, but it seems like we’re taking many steps back,” one woman said. “We want to come together to change that.”
Emotional Clinton supporter: Hillary, sue the US 01:36
Meanwhile, protesters in Washington chanted “No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA,” as they marched downtown to the Trump International Hotel. Elsewhere in the nation’s capital, an illuminated sign proclaimed that the US is “better than bigotry.”
Their cries turned profane after a solemn gathering of thousands who attended a candlelight vigil outside the White House to mourn the election loss.
“Everything that has been built up has been destroyed,” protester Brian Barto told CNN affiliate WJLA-TV. “America has failed (minorities).”
Headed into Thursday, more than a thousand protesters in Los Angeles, including young Latino protesters, rallied outside City Hall, according to CNN’s Paul Vercammen.
They chanted “I will not live in fear,” “Fight back, stand up” and “¡Si se puede!” (Spanish for “It can be done”).
Protesters also set on fire a piñata depicting the head of President-elect.
Several protesters said they feared that family or friends might be deported once Trump takes office. Brooklyn White, an 18-year-old protester who voted for Clinton, held a sign that said, “hate won’t win.”
“We can’t let it stop us,” she said. “If he’s the president then fine, but if Donald Trump is going to be it, then he has to listen.”
Early on Thursday morning, the protesters marched onto the 101 Freeway and blocked traffic. Authorities arrested at least 13 protesters, a Los Angeles Police Department spokesman said.

Donald Trump effigy burned by protesters.

Donald Trump effigy burned by protesters. 01:56
In Oakland, California, police said as many as 7,000 demonstrators took to the streets Wednesday night. By then, trash fires burned on a highway. Johnna Watson, public information officer with Oakland’s police department, said three officers were injured.
Thirty people were taken into custody and at least 11 citations were issued for vandalism, assaulting officers, unlawful assembly, failure to disperse and possession of a firearm. Police said some protesters threw Molotov cocktails, rocks, and fireworks at police officers.
A few miles away at Berkeley High School, about 1,500 students walked out of classes Wednesday morning. It was one of numerous high school walkouts that occurred nationwide following the election.

Supporters: Trump an ‘agent of change’

As anti-Trump protesters aired their grievances with the election’s outcome, supporters also came out in some places to express their enthusiasm for the President-elect.
In New York early Wednesday, groups of Trump supporters cheered his triumph outside Trump Tower. Others went to the White House late Tuesday and early Wednesday to show their support.
Nicholas Elliot, a Georgetown University student, said he was elated about Trump’s election as he compared it to the United Kingdom’s Brexit vote to leave the European Union.
“I feel pretty good, a year and a half process has ended and it ended my way,” the Texan told CNN affiliate WJLA.
JD Vance, author of the book “Hillbilly Elegy,” told CNN that Trump supporters in middle America voted for the President-elect because so few people — including the Clinton or her supporters — had paid attention to their plight.
“They see Trump as is an agent of change and agent of protest against folks who they feel have really failed in government,” Vance said.
CNN’s Marc Preston said the “Band-Aid” has been ripped off over the past 24 hours. Now comes the hard part: finding middle ground.
“All that anger that has been contained outside of Washington, D.C. and New York that we don’t see in middle America necessarily although these are urban cities, everyone’s starting to see it,” Preston said. “There is a lot of healing that has got to happen.”

Russia Has Never Denied Israels Rights To Jerusalem, The Temple Mount Or The Western Wall

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE JERUSALEM POST)

Moscow has never denied Israel’s rights to Jerusalem, the Temple Mount or the Western Wall, Russian Prime Minister Dimitry Medvedev said in advance of his visit to the Jewish state later this week.

“These rights are clear and it would be absurd to deny them,” he told Channel 2 anchorwoman Yonit Levy.

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He spoke warmly of Russia’s ties with Israel, despite Moscow’s votes against the Jewish state at the United Nations and its delivery of the S-300 missiles to Iran.


Benjamin Netanyahu Dimitry Medvedev. (Photo credit: RIA NOVOSTI / REUTERS)

Levy quizzed him about those controversial issues as well as his support for Syrian President Basher Assad and charges that his country had intervened in the US elections.

How does Russia explain its support of the UNESCO vote “to disregard the historic connection between the Jewish people and the Temple Mount in Jerusalem,” Levy asked Medvedev.

The issue had been blown out of proportion, he responded speaking in Russian, with a Hebrew translation by Channel 2.

There have been some ten votes by UNESCO Boards and Committees on such Jerusalem resolutions, Medvedev said.

“There is nothing new here,” he said, as he dismissed the significance of UNESCO texts that refer to the Temple Mount solely by its Muslim name of Al Haram Al Sharif.

“Our country has never denied the rights of Israel or the Jewish people to Jerusalem, the Temple Mount or the Western Wall,” Medvedev said.

“Therefore there is no need to politicize this decision,” Medvedev said, adding that such resolutions, were “not directed against Israel.”

Similarly, he said, there was nothing contradictory in Russia’s sale and shipment of the advanced S-300 advanced surface to air missile defense system to Iran.

Israel had opposed such sales because they significantly upgrade Iran’s ability to defend its nuclear sites against any attacks. It is particularly concerned because it does not believe that the Iran deal, put in place in 2015, will limit Tehran’s capacity to develop nuclear weapons.

Medvedev told Channel 2 that prior to the Iran deal, Russia respected the sanctions against Tehran and refrained from delivering the S-300. Now that the deal is in place and the sanctions were lifted, there was no reason not to complete the sale, he said.

Moving over to Syria, he referred to President Bashar Assad as the country’s only legitimate leader and added that Israel’s leadership preferred his rule to the prospect of a divided country under terrorist leadership.

“I know him (Assad) personally. There are those who love him and those who don’t. At present Assad is the only legitimate authority operating in Syria. Any regime change would have to occur legitimately,” Medvedev said.

“I remember that during my meetings with Israeli leaders, they told me they were not completely for Assad, but that there has to be someone in charge of the situation, rather than an uncontrolled break up of the country into enclaves ruled by terrorists,” Medvedev said.

Middle East terrorism, he said, is threatening his country from within.

“There are thousands of Russians fighting on behalf of ISIS and other Islamic Jihadist groups,” Medvedev said. “When they return they are experienced murders and terrorists. After their time fighting in Syria we don’t want them to organize something similar [within Russia],” he said.

Levy asked how the presence of the Russian air force in Syria impacted Israel’s ability to prevent the flow of weapons to Hezbollah.

Medvedev said that it was operating from the assumption that “all sides would not take steps to aggravate the conflict.”

With regard to the United States, he charged that it had not kept its commitments in Syria and that the relationship between Washington and Moscow was at a very low point.

Medvedev chuckled when Levy asked him if Russia had interfered with the US elections.

He quoted Russian President Vladimir Putin, when he stated that “the United States is not a banana republic.”

The US, he said, was a large and strong country and could not be influenced in that way. “It doesn’t matter who will be elected, but what policy they will execute,” he said.

“Its clear [that either candidate] will act in the best national interest of the US,” Medvedev said.

He called Republican candidate Donald Trump brilliant and said he had never met him. Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, he said, was professional and known to him from the times he met with her when she was US Secretary of State from 2009-2012.

Russia expects to have a “normal” and “productive” relationship with whichever of the two candidates wins the White House, Medvedev said.

With regard to the Russian initiative to hold a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority Presdient Mahmoud Abbas, Medvedev said that Moscow was not looking to replace the United States or anyone else when it comes to the peace process.

On the other hand, he said, there are very discouraging signs with regard to that conflict and there have been no advancements to speak of on the Israeli-Palestinian track over the last few years.

“It’s very sad,” he said.

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