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 []

    How I’m Getting Facebook to Pay Nearly $20M to Protect the Internet from Facebook

    In February, I got an email with the subject line: Re: LEGAL NOTICE OF SETTLEMENT OF CLASS ACTION. I assumed it was spam. But nope, it’s legit. Facebook users filed a lawsuit against FB charging that the “sponsored stories/ads” were a violation of privacy. Judge Seeborg agreed. The settlement is for $20 million! (That’s a lot of “likes.”)

    Okay. Victory won. But–and it’s a big one–users who file a claim can only receive a maximum of $10 from Facebook. And, $10 (or less, depending on the number of claimants, and after court costs and service payments) really isn’t worth the hassle.

    Until you read the fine print, which states, and I quote: “If the number of claims made renders it economically infeasible to pay any money to Authorized Claimants, the entire Net Settlement Fund will be distributed to the not-for-profit organizations identified below.”

    Those non-profits include: Center for Democracy and Technology, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood, Consumers Federation of America, Consumer Privacy Rights Fund, ConnectSafely.org, WiredSafety.org, and others. Wow!

    Here are 7 steps for how I’m getting Facebook to pay nearly $20 million to protect the Internet from Facebook. And you can too. It takes less than 5 minutes.

    1. Search your inbox for the subject line: Re: LEGAL NOTICE OF SETTLEMENT OF CLASS ACTION (or by sender: legalnotice ).

    2. Scroll down to the bottom of the message and find your nine digit “Class Member Number. Write it down or copy it for later use.

    3. You’ll also need your Facebook user name. It’s the last portion of your FB url. My FB url is http://www.facebook.com/rose.berger.90 so my user name is: rose.berger.90. Write it down or copy it for later use.

    4. Next, fill out your claim form by 11:59 p.m. Pacific on May 2, 2013. Click here: https://secure.gcginc.com/fbk/claim/default.aspx

    5. Enter your name, address, contact email (phone number is optional; contact info is for the purposes of the case only). On the next page enter the email address associated with your FB account, your user name (from number 3 above) and your claim number (from number 2 above).

    6. Almost done. The next page asks how you want to be paid–electronically by ACH or by paper check. Scroll down to the bottom and make your choice. (I marked paper check — to make the process as unlikely to happen as possible.)

    7. On the last page, scroll down and check the box that says you’ve read and understand what you are doing (so read it and understand what you are doing). Hitting next will serve as your electronic signature.

    Voila! A window will pop up at the end with your claim number, control number, and the date and time you submitted it. I just copied this and sent it to myself in an email.

    To get $20 million donated to the Internet’s good guys, we need lots and lots of people to fill out their claim forms. Basically, we need everybody who has a claim form to fill it out. Taking 5 minutes to do this will help keep our kids safe on the internet and keep our digital world safe, democratic, and fun! Are you ready? Go to it gladiators of goodness!

    (Seriously, how often do you get to donate $20,000,000?)

    Rose Marie Berger, author of Who Killed Donte Manning, lives in a really old house in Washington, D.C.

    Learn more
    Facebook could pay users in class-action Sponsored Stories settlement

    Facebook Inc (FB) Sent ‘Legal Notice’ To Users Over Sponsored Stories

    Francisco X. Alarcón: “Prayer”

    I heard Francisco Alarcón at the Associated Writing Programs conference in D.C. in February. He’s working on a great Facebook project called Poets Respond to SB 1070 (that’s Arizona’s terrible new immigration law). For me, his poetry is like drinking living water.

    Prayer
    by Francisco X. Alarcón

    I want a god
    as my accomplice
    who spends nights
    in houses
    of ill repute
    and gets up late
    on Saturdays

    a god
    who whistles
    through the streets
    and trembles
    before the lips
    of his lover

    a god
    who waits in line
    at the entrance
    of movie houses
    and likes to drink
    café au lait

    a god
    who spits
    blood from
    tuberculosis and
    doesn’t even have
    enough for bus fare

    a god
    knocked
    unconscious
    by the billy club
    of a policeman
    at a demonstration

    a god
    who pisses
    out of fear
    before the flaring
    electrodes
    of torture

    a god
    who hurts
    to the last
    bone and
    bites the air
    in pain

    a jobless god
    a striking god
    a hungry god
    a fugitive god
    an exiled god
    an enraged god

    a god
    who longs
    from jail
    for a change
    in the order
    of things

    I want a
    more godlike
    god

    “Prayer,” translated by Francisco Aragón, is from From the Other Side of Night/Del otro lado de la noche. (University of Arizona Press, 2002)

    Why Does a Yemeni Woman Have Pictures of Gandhi, King, and Mandela?

    Tawakkol Karman in Saana, Yemen.

    “Tawakkol Karman sat in front of her laptop, her Facebook page open, planning the next youth demonstration. Nearby were framed photos of her idols: the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. These days, though, Karman is most inspired by her peers. ‘Look at Egypt,’ she said with pride. ‘We will win.'”

    When I read this in Sudarsan Raghavan‘s Washington Post article yesterday on Yemen’s women activists, I was reminded that America’s very best export is the civil rights movement.

    There is an intellectual and spiritual lineage from the 20th century that is being played out on the streets of Cairo, Sanaa, Riyad, and elsewhere today.

    In the 1850s, Russian aristocrat Leo Tolstoy became disgusted with violence after doing tours of duty in Chechnya and after seeing a public execution in Paris. His conversion toward nonviolence and Christianity led him to write The Kingdom of God Is Within You (published in 1894).

    In 1908, Tolstoy wrote A Letter to the Hindoo laying out a plan for a massive nonviolent civil resistance campaign to free India from British imperialism. The letter fell into the hands of Mohandas Gandhi who was working as a lawyer in South Africa at the time and in the beginnings of becoming an activist. This prompted an exchange of letter between the two that was foundational for Gandhi’s nonviolent strategy. Gandhi listed Tolstoy’s seminal work The Kingdom of God is Within You as one of the top three influences on his life. He called Tolstoy “the greatest apostle of non-violence that the present age has produced.”

    Less than 10 years after Gandhi was assassinated, a young American conscientious objector named James Lawson went as a Methodist missionary to Nagpur, India, where he studied satyagraha, the principles of nonviolence resistance that Mohandas Gandhi and his followers had developed.

    In 1955, Lawson returned to the United States and was introduced to Martin Luther King Jr., who had also studied Gandhi’s principles of nonviolent resistance. King told Lawson to come South, telling him “Come now. We don’t have anyone like you down there.” Lawson began implementing large-scale strategic nonviolent civil resistance training that was deeply rooted in Christian faith and spiritual principles. The Civil Rights Movement in the United States became one the most massive civil resistance movements in U.S. history.

    When Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968, South African freedom leader Nelson Mandela was entering his fourth year of his life-sentence for “sabotage.” It took awhile for the news of King’s murder to reach Mandela in prison. Over the course of his 27 years in prison, Mandela studied deeply the work of Gandhi and King. Mandela was uncertain that the tactics of either would work in the South African context.

    But the church leaders leading South African freedom movement outside of prison – particularly Archbishop Desmond Tutu – were highly motivated by both Gandhi and King. South Africa’s freedom struggle became known for taking the power of song to the streets. It became an image iconic of the freedom movement to hear South African children singing “We Shall Overcome” – an anthem of the American civil rights movement – and dancing the Toyi-toyi.

    Thirty-one years after being imprisoned, Mandela was elected president of a free South Africa. Coretta Scott King was in the audience for Mandela’s acceptance speech as the new president.  He looked at her and said: “This is one of the most important moments in the history of our country. I stand here before you filled with deep pride and joy–pride in the ordinary humble people of this country. You have shown such a calm patient determination to reclaim this country as your own, and now with joy we can loudly proclaim from the rooftops–Free at last! Free at last!” Mandela quoted the famous lines from Martin Luther King’s I Have A Dream speech.

    Somewhere in Yemen today, Tawakkol Karman is sitting in front of her laptop. She’s received death threats. She fears for the life of her three children. And she is determined to shatter perceptions of women in Yemen’s conservative society (and around the world), while emboldening a new generation of Yemenis to demand an end to President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s 30-year grip on his country.

    Inspired by civil resistance in Tunisia and Egypt, Karman said upon her release from detention, “We will continue this struggle and the Jasmine Revolution until the removal of this corrupt system that looted the wealth of the Yemenis” Karman spoke these words to hundreds of protesters who were demanding the release of other detainees.

    Standing shoulder to shoulder with her are Martin Luther King Jr, Mohandas K. Gandhi, and Nelson Mandela. They’ve all been where she is now. They are cheering her on. And so are we.

    For more information:
    Tolstoy and Gandhi: Light as Darkness Approached by Rene Wadlow

    An excerpt of the exchange of letters between Tolstoy and Gandhi

    Water-Gun Rights at Healthcare Reform Rally

    I'm Ready to Water the Tree of Liberty with Healthcare Reform Now.
    "I'm Ready to Water the Tree of Liberty with Healthcare Reform Now."

    I decided to take a comic approach to the pro-healthcare rally held today on Capitol Hill. Since my brothers across the nation (as exemplified by Mr. New Hampshire above) were sporting their hardware at the healthcare reform town hall meetings, I thought I’d do the same.

    At Target I found a “Rocket Blaster” for $4.99. It comes with one foam blaster and 4 foam rockets. I cut a hole in the top and filled it with water and daisies. I strapped the whole thing on my thigh with black duct tape as my hoster and took my stand for liberty at the healthcare rally today outside the Democratic National Committee building. President Obama was giving a speech there at 3 p.m. this afternoon. My little sign read: “I’m ready to water the Tree of Liberty with Healthcare Reform Now!” (You can see more photos here.)

    There were about 500 pro-healthcare reform supporters out on the street. I didn’t see any anti-healthcare people.

    My “revealed” weapon did draw the attention of the U.S. Capitol police. The officer called over his sergeant to identify my gun. I volunteered to them that it was a foam water gun and invited them to check it. They said they’d have someone come over and examine it. (See photos here.)

    A few minutes later a Secret Service agent came to check it out. He asked me to take it out of the holster.

    He said, “It’s just a water gun with daisies in it, ma’am?”

    I answered, “Yes, sir.”

    He replied, “Well, I’d rather see one of those than the other kind. ”

    “I know you would,” I said. “So would I.”

    He smiled and waved me on.

    I also had a video interview with Voice of America. My talking points were as follows:

    I’m taking a comic approach to a very serious issue. This country needs health-care reform now. It must have 1) a public option, 2) it must provide accessible and affordable insurance for everyone who is uninsured or under-insured, and 3) it should contain clear ‘conscience clauses’ around the issues that are morally sensitive. We need health-care reform now.

    For a good article on the use of language in the health-care debate, see the article posted by George Lakoff today: The Policy-Speak Disaster.