quote:The Media Stopped Reporting The Russia Collusion Story Because They Helped Create It
The press has played an active role in the Trump-Russia collusion story since its inception. It helped birth it.
Half the country wants to know why the press won’t cover the growing scandal now implicating the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Justice, and threatening to reach the State Department, Central Intelligence Agency, and perhaps even the Obama White House.
After all, the release last week of a less-redacted version of Sens. Charles Grassley and Lindsey Graham’s January 4 letter showed that the FBI secured a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant to search the communications of a Trump campaign adviser based on a piece of opposition research paid for by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee. The Fourth Amendment rights of an American citizen were violated to allow one political party to spy on another.
If the press did its job and reported the facts, the argument goes, then it wouldn’t just be Republicans and Trump supporters demanding accountability and justice. Americans across the political spectrum would understand the nature and extent of the abuses and crimes touching not just on one political party and its presidential candidate but the rights of every American.
That’s all true, but irrelevant. The reasons the press won’t cover the story are suggested in the Graham-Grassley letter itself.
Steele Was a Media Informant
The letter details how Christopher Steele, the former British spy who allegedly authored the documents claiming ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, told the FBI he wasn’t talking to the press about his investigation. In a British court, however, Steele acknowledged briefing several media organizations on the material in his dossier.
According to the British court documents, Steele briefed the New York Times, Washington Post, Yahoo! News, The New Yorker, and CNN. In October, he talked to Mother Jones reporter David Corn by Skype. It was Corn’s October 31 article anonymously sourced to Steele that alerted the FBI their informant was speaking to the press. Grassley and Graham referred Steele to the Department of Justice for a criminal investigation because he lied to the FBI.
The list of media outfits and journalists made aware of Steele’s investigations is extensive. Reuters reported that it, too, was briefed on the dossier, and while it refrained from reporting on it before the election, its national security reporter Mark Hosenball became an advocate of the dossier’s findings after November 2016.
BBC’s Paul Wood wrote in January 2017 that he was briefed on the dossier a week before the election. Newsweek’s Kurt Eichenwald likely saw Steele’s work around the same time, because he published an article days before the election based on a “Western intelligence” source (i.e., Steele) who cited names and data points that could only come from the DNC- and Clinton-funded opposition research.
A line from the Grassley-Graham letter points to an even larger circle of media outfits that appear to have been in contact with either Steele or Fusion GPS, the Washington DC firm that contracted him for the opposition research the Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee commissioned. “During the summer of 2016,” the Grassley-Graham letter reads, “reports of some of the dossier allegations began circulating among reporters and people involved in Russian issues.”
Planting the Carter Page Story
Indeed, it looks like Steele and Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson may have persuaded a number of major foreign policy and national security writers in Washington and New York that Trump and his team were in league with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Those journalists include New Yorker editor David Remnick, Atlantic editor Jeffrey Goldberg, former New Republic editor Franklin Foer, and Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum.
A Foer story published in Slate on July 4, 2016 appears to be central. Titled “Putin’s Puppet,” Foer’s piece argues the Trump campaign was overly Russia-friendly. Foer discusses Trump’s team, including campaign convention manager Paul Manafort, who worked with former Ukrainian president Victor Yanukovich, a Putin ally; and Carter Page, who, Foer wrote, “advised the state-controlled natural gas giant Gazprom and helped it attract Western investors.”
That’s how Page described himself in a March 2016 Bloomberg interview. But as Julia Ioffe reported in a September 23, 2016 Politico article, Page was a mid-level executive at Merrill Lynch in Moscow who played no role in any of the big deals he boasted about. As Ioffe shows, almost no one in Moscow remembered Page. Until Trump read his name off a piece of paper handed to him during a March interview with the Washington Post, almost no one in the Washington foreign policy world had heard of Page either.
So what got Foer interested in Page? Were Steele and Simpson already briefing reporters on their opposition research into the Trump campaign? (Another Foer story for Slate, an October 31, 2016 article about the Trump organization’s computer servers “pinging” a Russian bank, was reportedly “pushed” to him by Fusion GPS.) Page and Manafort are the protagonists of the Steele dossier, the former one of the latter’s intermediaries with Russian officials and associates of Putin. Page’s July 7 speech in Moscow attracted wide U.S. media coverage, but Foer’s article published several days earlier.
The Slate article, then, looks like the predicate for allegations against Page made in the dossier after his July Russia trip. For instance, according to Steele’s investigations, Page was offered a 19 percent stake in Rosneft, one of the world’s energy giants, in exchange for help repealing sanctions related to Russia’s 2014 incursion into Ukraine.
Building an Echo Chamber of Opposition Research
Many have noted the absurdity that the FISA warrant on Page was chiefly based, according to a House intelligence committee memo, on the dossier and Michael Isikoff’s September 23, 2016 news story also based on the dossier. But much of the Russiagate campaign was conducted in this circular manner. Steele and Simpson built an echo chamber with their opposition research, parts of the law enforcement and intelligence communities, and the press all reinforcing one another. Plant an item in the open air and watch it grow—like Page’s role in the Trump campaign.
Why else was Foer or anyone so interested in Page? Why was Page’s Moscow speech so closely watched and widely covered? According to the Washington Post, Page “chided” American policymakers for an “often-hypocritical focus on democratization, inequality, corruption and regime change” in its dealings with Russia, China, and Central Asia.
As peculiar as it may have sounded for a graduate of the Naval Academy to cast a skeptical eye on American exceptionalism, Page’s speech could hardly have struck the policy establishment as shocking, or even novel. They’d been hearing versions of it for the last eight years from the president of the United States.
In President Obama’s first speech before the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), on September 23, 2009, he insisted that no country, least of all America, has the right to tell other countries how to organize their political lives. “Democracy cannot be imposed on any nation from the outside,” said Obama. “Each society must search for its own path, and no path is perfect. Each country will pursue a path rooted in the culture of its people and in its past traditions.”
Obama sounded even more wary of American leadership on his way out of office eight years later. In his 2016 UNGA speech, the 2009 Nobel laureate said: “I do not think that America can — or should — impose our system of government on other countries.” Obama was addressing not just foreign nations but perhaps more pointedly his domestic political rivals.
In 2008 Obama campaigned against the Iraq War and the Republican policymakers who toppled Saddam Hussein to remake Iraq as a democracy. All during his presidency, Obama rebuffed critics who petitioned the administration to send arms or troops to advance U.S. interests and values abroad, most notably in Ukraine and Syria.
In 2016, it was Trump who ran against the Republican foreign policy establishment—which is why hundreds of GOP policymakers and foreign policy intellectuals signed two letters distancing themselves from the party’s candidate. The thin Republican bench of foreign policy experts available to Trump is a big reason why he named the virtually unknown Page to his team. So why was it any surprise that Page sounded like the Republican candidate, who sounded like the Democratic president?
Why Didn’t the Left Like Obama’s Ideas from a Republican?
On the Right, many national security and foreign policy writers like me heard and were worried by the clear echoes of Obama’s policies in the Trump campaign’s proposals. Did those writing from the left side of the political spectrum not see the continuities?
Writing in the Washington Post July 21, 2016, Applebaum explained how a “Trump presidency could destabilize Europe.” The issue, she explained, was Trump’s positive attitude toward Putin. “The extent of the Trump-Russia business connection has already been laid out, by Franklin Foer at Slate,” wrote Applebaum. She named Page and his “long-standing connections to Russian companies.”
Even more suggestive to Applebaum is that just a few days before her article was published, “Trump’s campaign team helped alter the Republican party platform to remove support for Ukraine” from the Republican National Committee’s platform. Maybe, she hinted, that was because of Trump aide Manafort’s ties to Yanukovich.
Did those talking points come from Steele’s opposition research? Manafort’s relationship with Yanukovich had been widely reported in the U.S. press long before he signed on with the Trump campaign. In fact, in 2007 Glenn Simpson was one of the first to write about their shady dealings while he was still working at the Wall Street Journal. The corrupt nature of the Manafort-Yanukovich relationship is an important part of the dossier. So is the claim that in exchange for Russia releasing the DNC emails, “the TRUMP team had agreed to sideline Russian intervention in Ukraine as a campaign issue.”
The reality, however, is that the Trump campaign team never removed support for Ukraine from the party platform. In a March 18, 2017 Washington Examiner article, Byron York interviewed the convention delegate who pushed for tougher language on Russia, and got it.
“In the end, the platform, already fairly strong on the Russia-Ukraine issue,” wrote York, “was strengthened, not weakened.” Maybe Applebaum just picked it up from her own paper’s mis-reporting.
For Applebaum, it was hard to understand why Trump would express skepticism about the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, except to appease Putin. She referred to a recent interview in which Trump “cast doubt on the fundamental basis of transatlantic stability, NATO’s Article 5 guarantee: If Russia invades, he said, he’d have to think first before defending U.S. allies.”
The Echoes Pick Up
In an article published the very same day in the Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg made many of the very same observations. Titled “It’s Official: Hillary Clinton is Running Against Vladimir Putin,” the article opens: “The Republican nominee for president, Donald J. Trump, has chosen this week to unmask himself as a de facto agent of Russian President Vladimir Putin.” What was the evidence? Well, for one, Page’s business interests.
Trump’s expressed admiration for Putin and other “equivocating, mercenary statements,” wrote Goldberg, are “unprecedented in the history of Republican foreign policymaking.” However, insofar as Trump’s fundamental aim was to find some common ground with Putin, it’s a goal that, for better or worse, has been a 25-year U.S. policy constant, across party lines. Starting with George W.H. Bush, every American commander-in-chief since the end of the Cold War sought to “reset” relations with Russia.
But Trump, according to Goldberg, was different. “Trump’s understanding of America’s role in the world aligns with Russia’s geostrategic interests.” Here Goldberg rang the same bells as Applebaum—the Trump campaign “watered down” the RNC’s platform on Ukraine; the GOP nominee “questioned whether the U.S., under his leadership, would keep its [NATO] commitments,” including Article 5. Thus, Goldberg concluded: “Donald Trump, should he be elected president, would bring an end to the postwar international order.”
That last bit sounds very bad. Coincidentally, it’s similar to a claim made in the very first paragraph of the Steele dossier — the “Russian regime,” claims one of Steele’s unnamed sources, has been cultivating Trump to “encourage splits and divisions in the western alliance.”
The West won the Cold War because the United States kept it unified. David Remnick saw it up close. Assigned to the Washington Post’s Moscow bureau in 1988, Remnick witnessed the end of the Soviet Union, which he documented in his award-winning book, “Lenin’s Tomb.” So it’s hardly surprising that in his August 3, 2016 New Yorker article, “Trump and Putin: A Love Story,” Remnick sounded alarms concerning the Republican presidential candidate’s manifest affection for the Russian president.
Citing the “original reporting” of Foer’s seminal Slate article, the New Yorker editor contended “that one reason for Trump’s attitude has to do with his business ambitions.” As Remnick elaborated, “one of Trump’s foreign-policy advisers, has longstanding ties to Gazprom, a pillar of Russia’s energy industry.” Who could that be? Right—Carter Page. With Applebaum and Goldberg, Remnick was worried about Trump’s lack of support for Ukraine and the fact that Trump “has declared NATO ‘obsolete’ and has suggested that he might do away with Article 5.”
Where Did All These Echoes Come From?
This brings us to the fundamental question: Is it possible that these top national security and foreign policy journalists were focused on something else during Obama’s two terms in office, something that had nothing to do with foreign policy or national security? It seems we must even entertain the possibility they slept for eight years because nearly everything that frightened them about the prospects of a Trump presidency had already transpired under Obama.
The Trump team wanted to stop short of having the RNC platform promise lethal support to Ukraine—which was in keeping with official U.S. policy. Obama didn’t want to arm the Ukrainians. He ignored numerous congressional efforts to get him to change his mind. “There has been a strong bipartisan well of support for quite some time for providing lethal support,” said California Rep. Adam Schiff. But Obama refused.
As for the western alliance or international order or however you want to put it, it was under the Obama administration that Russia set up shop on NATO’s southern border. With the Syrian conflict, Moscow re-established its foothold in the Middle East after 40 years of American policy designed to keep it from meddling in U.S. spheres of influence. Under Obama, Russia’s enhanced regional position threatened three U.S. allies: Israel, Jordan, and NATO member Turkey.
In 2012, Moscow’s Syrian client brought down a Turkish air force reconnaissance plane. According to a 2013 Wall Street Journal article, “Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan raised alarms in the U.S. by suggesting that Turkey might invoke NATO’s Article V.” However, according to the Journal, “neither the U.S. nor NATO was interested in rushing to Article V… NATO was so wary of getting pulled into Syria that top alliance officials balked at even contingency planning for an intervention force to protect Syrian civilians. ‘For better or worse, [Syrian president Bashar al- Assad] feels he can count on NATO not to intervene right now,’ a senior Western official said.”
Whatever one thinks of Obama’s foreign policy, it is hardly arguable that he—wisely, cautiously, in the most educated and creative ways, or unwisely, stupidly, cravenly, the choice of adjectives is yours—ceded American interests and those of key allies in Europe and the Middle East in an effort to avoid conflict with Russia.
When Russia occupied Crimea and the eastern portion of Ukraine, there was little pushback from the White House. The Obama administration blinked even when Putin’s escalation of forces in Syria sent millions more refugees fleeing abroad, including Europe.
Was Anyone Paying Attention When This Happened?
Surely it couldn’t have escaped Applebaum’s notice that Obama’s posture toward Russia made Europe vulnerable. She’s a specialist in Europe and Russia—she’s written books on both. Her husband is the former foreign minister of Poland. So how, after eight years of Obama’s appeasement of a Russia that threatened to withhold natural gas supplies from the continent, did the Trump team pose a unique threat to European stability?
What about Goldberg? Is it possible that he’d never bothered to research the foreign policy priorities of a president he interviewed five times between 2008 and 2016? In the last interview, from March 2016, Obama told him he was “very proud” of the moment in 2013 when he declined to attack Assad for deploying chemical weapons. As Obama put it, that’s when he broke with the “Washington playbook.” He chose diplomacy instead. He made a deal with Russia over Assad’s conventional arsenal—which Syria continued to use against civilians throughout Obama’s term.
Again, regardless of how you feel about Obama’s decisions, the fact is that he struck an agreement with Moscow that ensured the continued reign of its Syrian ally, who gassed little children. Yet only four months later, Goldberg worried that a Trump presidency would “liberate dictators, first and foremost his ally Vladimir Putin, to advance their own interests.”
Remnick wrote a 2010 biography of Obama, but did he, too, pay no attention to the policies of the man he interviewed frequently over nearly a decade? How is this possible? Did some of America’s top journalists really sleepwalk through Obama’s two terms in office, only to wake in 2016 and find Donald Trump and his campaign becoming dangerously cozy with a historical American adversary?
All’s Fair in War and Politics
Of course not. They enlisted their bylines in a political campaign on behalf of the Democratic candidate for president and rehearsed the talking points Steele later documented. But weren’t the authors of these articles, big-name journalists, embarrassed to be seen reading from a single script and publishing the same article with similar titles within the space of two weeks? Weren’t they worried it would look like they were taking opposition research, from the same source?
No, not really. In a sense, these stories weren’t actually meant to be read. They existed for the purpose of validating the ensuing social media messaging. The stories were written around the headlines, which were written for Twitter: “Putin’s Puppet”; “It’s Official: Hillary Clinton is Running Against Vladimir Putin”; “Trump and Putin: A Love Story”; “The Kremlin’s Candidate.” The stories were vessels built only to launch thousands of 140-character salvos to then sink into the memory hole.
Since everyone took Clinton’s victory for granted, journalists assumed extravagant claims alleging an American presidential candidate’s illicit ties to an adversarial power would fade just as the fireworks punctuating Hillary’s acceptance speech would vanish in the cool November evening. And the sooner the stories were forgotten the better, since they frankly sounded kooky, conspiratorial, as if the heirs to the Algonquin round table sported tin-foil hats while tossing back martinis and trading saucy limericks.
Yes, the Trump-Russia collusion media campaign really was delusional and deranged; it really was a conspiracy theory. So after the unexpected happened, after Trump won the election, the Russiagate campaign morphed into something more urgent, something twisted and delirious.
Quick, Pin Our Garbage Story on Someone
When CNN broke the story—co-written by Evan Perez, a former colleague and friend of Fusion GPS principals—that the Obama administration’s intelligence chiefs had briefed Trump on the existence of the dossier, it not only cleared the way for BuzzFeed to publish the document, it also signaled the press that the intelligence community was on side. This completed the echo chamber, binding one American institution chartered to steal and keep secrets to another embodying our right to free speech. We know which ethic prevailed.
Now Russiagate was no longer part of a political campaign directed at Trump, it was a disinformation operation pointed at the American public, as the pre-election media offensive resonated more fully with the dossier now in the open. You see, said the press: everything we published about Trump and Putin is really true—there’s a document proving it. What the press corps neglected to add is that they’d been reporting talking points from the same opposition research since before the election, and were now showcasing “evidence” to prove it was all true.
The reason the media will not report on the scandal now unfolding before the country, how the Obama administration and Clinton campaign used the resources of the federal government to spy on the party out of power, is not because the press is partisan. No, it is because the press has played an active role in the Trump-Russia collusion story since its inception. It helped birth it.
To report how the dossier was made and marketed, and how it was used to violate the privacy rights of an American citizen—Page—would require admitting complicity in manufacturing Russiagate. Against conventional Washington wisdom, the cover-up in this case is not worse than the crime: Both weigh equally in a scandal signaling that the institution where American citizens are supposed to discuss and debate the choices about how we live with each other has been turned against a large part of the public to delegitimize their political choices.
This Isn’t the 27-Year-Olds’ Fault
I’ve argued over the last year that the phony collusion narrative is a symptom of the structural problems with the press. The rise of the Internet, then social media, and gross corporate mismanagement damaged traditional media institutions. As newspapers and magazines around the country went bankrupt when ownership couldn’t figure out how to make money off the new digital advertising model, an entire generation of journalistic experience, expertise, and ethics was lost. It was replaced, as one Obama White House official famously explained, by 27-year-olds who “literally know nothing.”
But the first vehicles of the Russiagate campaign were not bloggers or recent J-school grads lacking wisdom or guidance to wave off a piece of patent nonsense. They were journalists at the top of their profession—editors-in-chief, columnists, specialists in precisely the subjects that the dossier alleges to treat: foreign policy and national security. They didn’t get fooled. They volunteered their reputations to perpetrate a hoax on the American public.
That’s why, after a year of thousands of furious allegations, all of which concerning Trump are unsubstantiated, the press will not report the real scandal, in which it plays a leading role. When the reckoning comes, Russiagate is likely to be seen not as a symptom of the collapse of the American press, but as one of the causes for it.
quote:How The Media Enable Rep. Adam Schiff’s Russian Bot Conspiracy Theories
For more than a year, Adam Schiff has been hopping to all the TV stations claiming, without benefit of specifics, the existence of a vast conspiracy between President Trump and Russia.
Last week, Laurence Tribe suggested, without evidence, that a plane crash in Russia was related to fallout from the Russian dossier operation orchestrated and funded by the Hillary Clinton campaign. Tribe is a Harvard Law professor, a passionate critic of President Donald Trump, and a known Russia conspiracy theorist. So it should have been surprising that the same day he was tweeting out plane crash conspiracy theories, he also argued in a “facially absurd” op-ed in The New York Times that Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., should be charged with obstruction of justice — no, really — for performing congressional oversight of the FBI.
Then again, it was only last March that The New York Times published another Russia conspiracy theorist named Louise Mensch talking about Russian hacking. Yes, the same Louise Mensch who believes that the “Marshal of the Supreme Court” told Trump about his impeachment and that Steve Bannon faces the death penalty for espionage.
(Forget it, she’s rolling.)
When it comes to the Russia-Trump collusion theory, a bit more journalistic rigor is in order. One of the most enthusiastic promulgators of a Russia-Trump collusion theory is Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the ranking member on Nunes’ House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. For more than a year, Schiff has been hopping around all the TV stations claiming, without benefit of specifics, the existence of a vast conspiracy between Trump and Russia.
Leaks from his committee that advance this theory frequently get published, even if they fail to hold up under scrutiny. But even his public actions shouldn’t be accepted so uncritically.
Experts Refute The Russia Charge
On January 23, public interest in the memo from the majority of the intelligence committee had been high, as evidenced by the demand to #ReleaseTheMemo hashtag on Twitter and Facebook. When the hashtag went viral, Schiff had a theory that it wasn’t the American public that was interested in abuse of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Nope, it was Russians! Secret Russian bots were trying to make it look like Americans were interested in FISA abuse against a Trump campaign affiliate.
Schiff put out a press release pressuring private companies to investigate whether Russians using their platform were behind the spread of the #ReleaseTheMemo hashtag. The letter demanded that Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg perform an “in-depth forensic examination” on the “ongoing attack by the Russian government through Kremlin-linked social media actors directly acting to intervene and influence our democratic process.”
The Daily Beast quickly put out a story with an anonymous Twitter source denying that Russian bots were behind the spread of the hashtag. The story said the theory was bunk, according to “an early in-house analysis” that concluded the hashtag was mostly pushed by eager Americans:
But that was just an anonymous source at Twitter. Twitter itself publicly responded on January 26 with a letter saying an investigation “has not identified any significant activity connected to Russia with respect to Tweets posting original content to this hashtag.” The letter went on to note that #ReleaseTheMemo “was also used by several prominent, verified U.S. accounts on the evening of Thursday, January 18. Typically, hashtag use by high-profile accounts, including those with high numbers of followers, plays a role in driving conversations around a hashtag on Twitter.”
Facebook responded with a letter that said this was a Twitter hashtag, not a Facebook one, and added that the company would continue to update Congress on any Russian interference. Schiff went back and asked for more information and pressured social media companies for more action.
Facebook slapped it down again, saying, “To date, our internal Information Security team has not become aware of information or activity of a sort that would prompt further review.” Facebook explained that it monitors and assesses thousands of detailed account attributes such as location information and connections to others on the platform, and it hadn’t detected any significant Kremlin activity.
Media Coverage of the Russian Bot Story
When Schiff advanced his theory that it was Russian bots — not Americans — who cared about FISA abuse, he received typical friendly media coverage. But when Twitter and Facebook refuted the claim, media outlets either downplayed it or pretended it didn’t matter.
Politico is one outlet that heavily pushed the idea of Russian bots being behind the #ReleaseTheMemo hashtag, despite the denials of officials at Facebook and Twitter. In January, PoliticoPro ran a story that acknowledged Twitter had found no evidence of any significant Russian bot activity before this odd section that pretended denial had never happened: “Schiff and Feinstein said the companies must deactivate the bot accounts if they violate user policies. They want Twitter and Facebook to notify users who may have seen posts from the bots and to describe how they’ll prevent similar foreign influence campaigns in the future.”
Even after more denials from Facebook and Twitter were issued, Politico continued to go all-in on Schiff’s idea that Russian bots were behind the #ReleaseTheMemo hashtag, repeating his accusations. This article mentions The Daily Beast’s anonymous Twitter source, saying Russian bots weren’t behind the hashtag, omitting the on-the-record Twitter letters saying the same thing. This article mentions the Twitter denial, but it’s placed in the middle of the story with absolutely no consequence, as if it’s irrelevant.
Natasha Bertrand, a reporter who facilitates messages from Fusion GPS, the group that authored the infamous Russia dossier on behalf of the Clinton campaign, wrote a piece headlined “Russia-linked Twitter accounts are working overtime to help Devin Nunes and WikiLeaks.”
Her story and many others uncritically accept and promote a secretive group’s unverified claim of a Russian conspiracy. The Alliance for Securing Democracy runs an operation called Hamilton 68 that it claims tracks Russian bots, though it’s impossible to assess the claim because of the group’s methodology. The advisory council for the alliance includes NeverTrump stalwarts such as Bill Kristol and David Kramer, the man Sen. John McCain sent to London to pick up the discredited Russian dossier from Christopher Steele.
Hamilton 68’s claim — later refuted by Twitter and Facebook — formed the entire basis of Schiff’s theory that it was Russian bots, not real Americans, who wanted to learn about FISA abuse by the FBI. Asked to respond to Hamilton 68’s claim, Twitter responded, “Because the Hamilton Dashboard’s account list is not available to the public, we are unable to offer any specific context on the accounts it includes.” They added, “We have offered to review the list of accounts contained in the Dashboard and this offer remains open.”
In other words, Hamilton 68 won’t let anyone review their dashboard to determine in any way if they’re tracking actual Russian propaganda bots, or just conservative Americans who, for instance, care about FISA abuse. Yet Hamilton 68’s claims are repeated uncritically by a media that asks no questions about the methodology.
Yesterday’s front page at The New York Times is a great example of how much the media are willing to publicize claims they have in no way independently verified:
As journalist Glenn Greenwald of Edward Snowden fame noted:
Russian bot hysteria is taking over many in the media. This week both Newsweek and RawStory were duped by a false story alleging that Russian bots forced Al Franken from office over his sexual harassment of women.
Thankfully, some other voices are making their way in this hysterical climate. Adrian Chen wrote the definitive piece on Russian troll farms back in 2015 for the New York Times Sunday Magazine. It is well worth a read for anyone wanting a factual look at how Russian troll armies work and how to guard against them. His piece centers on the very same Internet Research Agency whose members were indicted by Robert Mueller on Friday. He knocked down the Russian bot hysteria on MSNBC:
Masha Gessen is a vehement and long-standing Putin critic. She has written a book warning about Putin and many articles comparing Putin and Trump. Even she, in a new article for The New Yorker, mocks the hysteria over the troll farms and says of the Russian bot operation that it was “not at all sophisticated, and about as bold as, say, keying a neighbor’s car under the cover of night.”
Russian disinformation campaigns have been a real thing going back decades, but the implication that bots are a particularly significant force in turning political debate poisonous is ridiculous. It’s juvenile enough for Schiff to peddle his conspiracy theories. Journalists should show a bit more restraint before uncritically broadcasting them further.
quote:Did China Hack The CIA In Massive Intelligence Breach From 2010 To 2012?
Both the CIA and the FBI declined to comment on reports saying the Chinese government killed or imprisoned 18 to 20 CIA sources from 2010 to 2012 and dismantled the agency's spying operations in the country. It is described as one of the worst intelligence breach in decades, current and former American officials told the New York Times.
Investigators were uncertain whether the breach was a result of a double agent within the CIA who had betrayed the U.S. or whether the Chinese had hacked the communications system used by the agency to be in contact with foreign sources. The Times reported Saturday citing former American officials from the final weeks of 2010 till the end of 2012, the Chinese killed up to 20 CIA sources.
Officials also said the number of U.S. assets lost to China were comparable to the loss of assets in the Soviet Union and Russia because of the two infamous spies Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen.
Ames had joined CIA in 1962 in a low-level position. Over the years, he worked on several interesting cases but financial constraints started building up due to troubles in his personal life. In 1985, Ames went to the Soviet Embassy in Washington D.C. and offered secrets to the KGB — Komitet gosudarstvennoy bezopasnosti, the committee for the security of the Soviet Union — and started receiving money from them. In 1994, Aimes was arrested for spying for Russia and sentenced to life imprisonment without parole, according to the website of CIA.
Hanssen is considered the "most damaging spy" in FBI history for disclosing confidential information about the U.S. to the Soviet Union and Russia. On Feb. 18, 2001, he was arrested and charged with committing espionage on behalf of the intelligence services of the former Soviet Union and its successors, and was also sentenced to prison without the possibility of parole, according to the website of FBI.
China has reportedly attempted to disrupt American spying efforts several times in the past. In 2015, the U.S. pulled out spies from China as a result of a cyber attack that compromised the personal data of 21.5 million government workers, CNN had reported citing a U.S. official.
On that occasion, the U.S. suspected Chinese hackers were responsible for the breach at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, which exposed the fingerprints of 5.6 million government employees. The hack reportedly had a huge impact on U.S. national security, in part because the hacked data included information from U.S. government forms used for security clearances.
In April, ahead of President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping's summit, a hacking group that pursues Chinese government interests broke into the website of the National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC). They left a malicious link on web pages where members of NFTC register for upsoming meetings, Reuters reported citing researchers at Fidelis Cybersecurity and a person familiar with the trade group.
The FBI and the NFTC had declined to comment. A spokesperson for the Chinese foreign ministry did not respond to a request for comment.
quote:Sessions: DOJ inspector general to probe FISA abuse allegations
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Tuesday the inspector general of the Department of Justice will probe allegations of government surveillance abuse, in light of the memos released on Capitol Hill about FBI and DOJ efforts to obtain FISA warrants to surveil a Trump campaign adviser.
“We believe the Department of Justice must adhere to the high standards in the FISA court,” Sessions said during a news conference Tuesday. “Yes it will be investigated. And I think that's just the appropriate thing the inspector general will take that as one of the matters he'll deal with.”
Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee released a memo in February detailing the DOJ and FBI’s surveillance of Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, saying an infamous, unverified dossier funded by Democrats "formed an essential part" of the application to spy on him. Democrats released a rebuttal memo on Sunday.
The White House responded to the GOP memo by saying it “raises serious concerns about the integrity of decisions made at the highest levels of the Department of Justice and the FBI to use the government’s most intrusive surveillance tools against American citizens.”
In an earlier interview on Fox News’ "Sunday Morning Futures," Sessions told host Maria Bartiromo that there would be an investigation into how the FBI used the dossier to secure a wiretap.
“Let me tell you, every FISA warrant based on facts submitted to that court have to be accurate,” he said. “That will be investigated and looked at, and we are not going to participate at the Department of Justice in providing anything less than the proper disclosure to the court before they issue a FISA warrant.”
The involvement of the inspector general is significant.
Over the last year, Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz has been conducting a review of the FBI and DOJ’s actions related to the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state. A final report on the investigation is expected within several months.
quote:I can guarantee that. And I can guarantee that, not because I give Attorney General Lynch a directive, that is institutionally how we have always operated. I do not talk to the Attorney General about pending investigations. I do not talk to FBI directors about pending investigations. We have a strict line, and always have maintained it, previous precedent.
Brieven van Rosemary M. Collyer aan Bob Goodlatte en Devin Nunes.quote:FISA court responds to Republican leaders' requests for info on Trump aide surveillance
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court sent response letters to Republican leaders who requested certain documents related to investigations into surveillance of a Trump campaign aide, saying the court is analyzing the unusual requests.
Judge Rosemary Collyer, who presides over the national security court, explained in the letters dated Thursday and sent to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes and House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte that the requests the court have received this year are the first of their kind and thus a path forward has yet to be determined.
"Before 2018, the Court had never received a request from Congress for documents related to any specific FISA application. Thus, your requests — and others I have recently received from Congress — present novel and significant questions," Collyer wrote in her letter to Nunes.
Nunes, R-Calif., wants FISC to turn over transcripts from hearings related to the FBI and Justice Department’s application for and renewals of a warrant to conduct surveillance on a Trump campaign adviser, Carter Page. Goodlatte, R-Va., sent a similar request to FISC last month, and also reached out to the heads of the Justice Department and FBI.
A memo compiled by Nunes and Republican staff in the House Intelligence Committee made public earlier this month alleged officials within the DOJ and the FBI used information contained in an unverified and salacious dossier compiled by Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer, in its application to secure the warrant. The memo also claims officials within the law enforcement agencies did not include information that the research for the dossier was funded by the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
However, that point has been brought into question in recent days as Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., a member of House Intelligence, who claimed in a meeting this week that the FISA court judge “was alerted” to the political origins of the "Trump dossier."
Collyer wrote that any such transcripts would be classified and noted that a "typical process of considering an application" would not include a "systematic record of questions we ask or responses the government gives."
Collyer further explained that the court's considerations involve the prerogatives of the legislative branch as well as the executive branch, "including its responsibility for national security and its need to maintain the integrity of any ongoing law enforcement investigations."
Collyer also suggested that the Justice Department and the FBI would likely be in a better position, due to "separation of powers considerations," to respond with much of the same information.
The release of the Republican memo which sparked these requests to FISC was fiercely opposed by Democrats, the FBI, and the DOJ. President Trump allowed the release of the report in unredacted form, but Democrats warned some of its sensitive information might be misleading without proper context or omitted facts.
Democrats have tried to secure the public release of their own rebuttal memo, but last week, President Trump blocked their efforts and sent it back to the House Intelligence Committee for review.
In a letter transmitted to the House Intelligence Committee late Friday, White House counsel Don McGahn explained Trump was “inclined to declassify” the Democrats' memo, but he wouldn't be doing so over national security concerns, following a review by top spy and law enforcement officials, including Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, FBI Director Christopher Wray, and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
McGahn also said Trump directed the Justice Department to give “technical assistance” to the intelligence committee if they decide they want to “revise” the memo to “mitigate the risks identified," and that the White House is ready to review any new draft offered in the future.