Maddow Takes on Russia’s Maskirovka

Rachel Maddow took on Russia’s military-intelligence tactics (maskirovka) on Friday (Sept. 8), providing a helpful timeline of the Russia-Trump investigation. I used her timeline plus the Moyers and Company timeline and tracked down primary sources to help me think through the progression of these investigations into US political corruption and collusion with a foreign power.

As of this week, we finally have confirmation that Facebook was used as the tool (willingly or unwillingly) to run a psy-ops campaign on targeted U.S. voters to influence the election.

Some key questions are: Were there American confederates involved in collusion and who violated the Federal Elections Campaign Act by using foreign money to influence a US political election?

It’s hard to care about this stuff that is confusing and appears to be primarily the one0percenters playing one-percenter games, but government corruption on this scale mostly hurts the “little guy,” those who are most vulnerable and who only have the tools of democracy to use as leverage in the playground of the gods. It’s an imperfect system, but it is one of the best tools for nonviolent transfer of power that we’ve got.

For the longterm health of our nation, it’s important that our judicial and legislative branches be strong enough to resist this kind of inside-outside political takeover.–Rose Berger

So here’s my timeline:

  • September 2015 –

FBI began investigating cyber breaches targeting US political organizations, including the Democratic National Committee.

  • April 2016 –

The Democratic National Committee’s IT department notices suspicious computer activity, contacts the FBI and hires a private security firm, CrowdStrike, to investigate.

  • May 2016 –

“In May 2016, a Russian military intelligence officer bragged to a colleague that his organization, known as the GRU, was getting ready to pay Clinton back for what President Vladimir Putin believed was an influence operation she had run against him five years earlier as Secretary of State. The GRU, he said, was going to cause chaos in the upcoming U.S. election. … The intelligence officials have found that Moscow’s agents bought ads on Facebook to target specific populations with propaganda. … Facebook official stays the company has no evidence of that occurring.“—Massimo Calabrese (Time), see more.

  • June 2017 –

Key Trump campaign officials meet with Russian intelligence liaison on Clinton opposition research.

Trump, Jr., Manafort, and Kushner Met With Lawyer Tied to Kremlin to get opposition research on Hillary Clinton—Associated Press (see more).

Testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee, the Department of Homeland Security’s acting director of the Office of Intelligence and Analysis Cyber Division says that individuals connected to the Russian government tried to hack election-related computer systems in 21 states.

And New York Times reports that one person at that meeting was Rinat Akhmetshin, with Russian intelligence background, “a gregarious, fast-talking man with a sharp sense of humor, was a skilled practitioner in the muscular Russian version of what in American politics is known as opposition research. From his base in Washington, Mr. Akhmetshin has been hired by an ever-changing roster of clients, often Russians, to burnish their image and blacken those of their rivals. Some clients were close to the Kremlin. Others were its bitter foes.”

  • July 2016 –

Comey closes Clinton investigation and Democratic Party servers are hacked and emails released (DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 release documents stolen from Democratic Party)

FBI Director James Comey holds a press conference announcing that the bureau has closed its yearlong investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state.

“We assess with high confidence that the GRU used the Guccifer 2.0 persona, DCLeaks.com, and WikiLeaks to release US victim data obtained in cyber operations publicly and in exclusives to media outlet.”… We assess with high confidence that the GRU relayed material it acquired from the DNC and senior Democratic officials to WikiLeaks.”—National Intelligence Agency report

“Investigators at the House and Senate Intelligence committees and the Justice Department are examining whether the Trump campaign’s digital operation overseen by Jared Kushner helped guide Russia’s sophisticated voter targeting and fake news attacks on Hillary Clinton in 2016. Congressional and Justice Department investigators are focusing on whether Trump’s campaign pointed Russian cyber operatives to certain voting jurisdictions in key states – areas where Trump’s digital team and Republican operatives were spotting unexpected weakness in voter support for Hillary Clinton, according to several people familiar with the parallel inquiries. … Mike Carpenter, who in January left a senior Pentagon post where he worked on Russia matters, also has suspicions about collaboration between the campaign and Russia’s cyber operatives. There appears to have been significant cooperation between Russia’s online propaganda machine and individuals in the United States who were knowledgeable about where to target the disinformation,” he said, without naming any American suspects.” —Peter Stone and Greg Gordon (McClatchy)

“When reached for comment, Facebook said that it has found no evidence of Russian entities buying ads during the election”—Tom LoBianco (CNN)

The FBI opens an investigation into possible collusion between members of the Trump campaign and Russian operatives.

  • August-September-October 2016 lead up to Election Day 

In a joint statement, the Department of Homeland Security and the Director of National Intelligence say, “The US Intelligence Community (USIC) is confident that the Russian government directed the recent compromises of emails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations…

“Russia’s state-run propaganda machine—comprised of its domestic media apparatus, outlets targeting global audiences such as RT and Sputnik, and a network of quasi-government trolls—contribute to the influence campaign by serving as a platform for Kremlin messaging.”—National Intelligence Agency report

Prior to the election, Russian hackers had targeted election systems in at least 21 states. Among the victims was VR Systems, an outside vendor that operates voting systems in North Carolina and seven other states.

  • November 2016 –
  • Hillary Clinton loses White House, though wins popular vote

    January 2017 –
    Donald Trump sworn in as 45th president of U.S.

    The CIA, FBI and NSA release their unclassified report, concluding unanimously, “Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election.” The three intelligence agencies agree that “the Russian government aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible.”

  • May 2017 –
  • Trump fires FBI director Comey

  • June 2017 –
  • Special counsel Robert Mueller assumes control over a federal grand jury criminal investigation of Mike Flynn’s ties to Turkey, as well as the criminal investigation involving Paul Manafort.

  • Sept. 6, 2017
  • Facebook Says Russian Accounts Bought $100,000 in Ads During the 2016 Election by Alana Abrasion (Time)

    Facebook says it sold political ads to Russian company during the 2016 election …”A Facebook official said, ’There is evidence that some of the accounts are linked to a troll farm in St. Petersburg, referred to as the Internet Research Agency.’… (Washington Post)

    “Russia used trolls as well as RT as part of its influence efforts to denigrate Secretary Clinton. This effort amplified stories on scandals about Secretary Clinton and the role of WikiLeaks in the election campaign. The likely financier of the so-called Internet Research Agency of professional trolls located in Saint Petersburg is a close Putin ally with ties to Russian intelligence.  A journalist who is a leading expert on the Internet Research Agency claimed that some social media accounts that appear to be tied to Russia’s professional trolls—because they previously were devoted to supporting Russian actions in Ukraine—started to advocate for President-elect Trump as early as December 2015.”——National Intelligence Agency []

    Maya Angelou (1928-2014) Gets Her Traveling Shoes


    Dr. Maya Angelou, the great voice of American letters and human rights, who grew up in the tiny town of Stamps, Arkansas, is dead at age 86. She died at her home in North Carolina where she was teaching at Wake Forest University.

    Maya Angelou’s writing and voice imprinted on me at an early age. My Mom and Grandmother are from Magnolia, Arkansas, 18 miles east of Stamps on Rt. 82. She wrote about her experiences in “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings.”

    In 1982, she traveled with Bill Moyers back to Stamps – the first time she’d returned since leaving as a teenager, for a piece titled “The Black Side of the Tracks” (see video clip above).

    On Jan. 20, 1993, she returned American poetry to its place in democracy when she was asked to be the poet for President Bill Clinton’s inauguration. Her reading of On The Pulse of Morning, written for the occasion, was reminiscent of Robert Frost’s reading of The Gift Outright at Kennedy’s inauguration–but her poem and voice carried the voice of the ancestors and the prophets. It has become a classic of American literature.

    The Bill Show: Moyers & McKibben on the Politics of Keystone

    Photo by Jay Mallin. Used with permission.
    Photo by Jay Mallin. Used with permission.

    My next Keystone resistance court date is on Valentine’s Day!

    The “ERM 54,” as we are called, were arrested last July (photo at left) in the lobby of corporate headquarters of Environmental Resources Management, the company hired by the State Department to conduct the environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Keystone XL pipeline. In addition to providing a very flawed report, the company failed to include key conflict of interest information in its State Department application.

    Below is Bill Moyers interviewing Bill McKibben on the most recent State Department report on the Keystone XL pipeline. It’s a good summary of where the Keystone fight, called “the Woolworth’s lunch counter of the climate change movement,” is now and is headed.

    From Moyers and Company:

    After the State Department issued a long-awaited environmental impact statement on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline last week, environmentalists and those opposed to the 1,179-mile pipeline have intensified their push for the Obama administration to reject the project.

    This week, Bill Moyers talks with Bill McKibben, an activist who has dedicated his life to saving the planet from environmental collapse, about his hopes that Americans will collectively pressure Obama to stand up to big oil.

    “Most people understand that we’re in a serious fix,” McKibben tells Moyers, “There’s nothing you can do as individuals that will really slow down this juggernaut … You can say the same thing about the challenges faced by people in the civil rights or the abolition movement, or the gay rights movement or the women’s movement. In each case, a movement arose; if we can build a movement, then we have a chance.”

    Watch the interview.

    Bill McKibben to Obama: Say No to Big Oil from BillMoyers.com on Vimeo.

    Video: Bill Moyers on Victory in Stopping Keystone XL Pipeline

    Thanks Bill Moyers and Bill Maher!

    [Note: Bill Maher describes the Keystone XL pipeline as bringing “natural gas” from Canada to the United States. This is wrong. It was intended to bring a non-traditional heavy crude extracted from the tar sands in Alberta — a process that releases 3 times more greenhouse gases into the environment than even traditional crude oil.]

    Jim Douglass: Dorothy Day’s Take on Kennedy’s Character (Part 3)

    The most important book for any American to read is JFK and the Unspeakable: Who Killed Him and Why it Matters by James D. Douglass.

    Douglass’ investigation into the secret papers finally released during the Clinton era begin to uncover a deadly “family pattern” of behavior in the highest levels of political power. Now, Douglass has written an important article for Tikkun magazine that looks at how the pattern is being repeated again between President Obama, Gen. Petraeus, and Afghanistan.

    Below is Part 3: Dorothy Day’s Take on Kennedy’s Character

    I am a Catholic Worker. I am deeply skeptical of the power of kings and presidents — all of them. But what I also learned from Dorothy Day, mother of the Catholic Worker movement, was a belief in the goodness of every human being. Dorothy had that belief in John Kennedy. She told me pointedly, after JFK’s death, to study his life.

    I didn’t know that she and Kennedy had met. Young Jack Kennedy and his older brother Joe, who would die in World War II, visited the Mott Street Catholic Worker in Manhattan one day in the summer of 1940. Catholic Worker Stanley Vishnewski recalled the incident in an interview with Bill Moyers:

    I remember distinctly how bewildered [John Kennedy] was by the sight of the poverty and the misery of the place. And then Dorothy came in. She talked to him. Then Dorothy says, “Come and have supper with us.” And Kennedy looked at her, a little startled, and says, “No, come out and have dinner with us instead.” So Dorothy, and Joe and John Kennedy … we went out to a little restaurant around the corner. We had a wonderful conversation.

    They talked long into the night “of war and peace and of man and the state,” as Dorothy wrote in her book, Loaves and Fishes.

    Even when Dorothy Day was marching and speaking out decades later against JFK’s Cold War policies, something about him struck the chord of her belief in human goodness. So she said after he was killed: “Pay attention. Learn more about his life.” It took me over thirty years to follow her recommendation. Yes, we can learn more from his life … and his death.–James Douglass, from JFK, Obama, and the Unspeakable

    Bill Moyers Quotes Sojo’s “Between the Lines”

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    I’m super excited that journalist extraordinaire Bill Moyers mentioned Sojourners magazine Friday night on his show Bill Moyers Journal. And not only did he mention the magazine but he specifically drew on the “Between the Lines” section, which I edit. Very gratifying. Thanks to Sojo assistant editor Jeannie Choi for writing up the “Stats” column that caught Moyers’ eye. Here a snippet of the transcript:

    BILL MOYERS: We are empowered to think beyond ourselves, to imagine the more perfect union for which this compact was forged. But as Obama himself reminded us Tuesday, stubborn facts crouch just offstage, waiting to pounce. We return to a minefield of tripwires ready to ensnare our hopes and dreams. By chance, Tuesday evening I came upon some of those stubborn facts, in this issue of “Sojourners” magazine.

    For the first time in history, more than one in every 100 adults in America is in jail or prison that’s 2.3 million people. One reason? The leader of one organization working with prisoners’ families told “Sojourners” that “The education system, particularly for inner-city youth where the bulk of our prisoners come from, is abysmal.”

    You can watch the video clip here (the Sojourners part is between sections 1:09-1:40).