Russia: Active Measures Continue to Target and Threaten America
Russia: Active Measures Continue to Target and Threaten America
August 1, 2018
A few weeks ago, I wrote that Russia was, is, and will continue to be a threat to the United States, and very little of said threat has anything to do with Donald Trump, the Democrats’ continued pearl-clutching obsession with what they claim was collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians to deprive Queen Pantsuit of her White House throne, or influencing the results of a specific election.
Welcome to a little game I like to call, “I Bloody Well Told You So!”
A few weeks ago, Twitter discovered a bunch of “sleeper accounts” most likely operated by Russia’s Internet Research Agency. These accounts had been in existence for years, gathering a following as hometown news outlets, sometimes using the names of real media outlets that had been defunct for years.
Russian internet trolls accused of spreading disinformation and sowing discord during the 2016 U.S. presidential race simultaneously operated dozens of Twitter accounts that posed as legitimate news sources geared toward American audiences in cities throughout the country, a report said Thursday.
A review of Twitter accounts linked to the Internet Research Agency, the St. Petersburg-based “troll farm” implicated in Russia’s alleged attack on the 2016 election, found 48 accounts with handles like @MilwaukeeVoice and @Seattle_Post that shared actual, localized news items, “serving as sleeper accounts building trust and readership for some future, unforeseen effort,” NPR reported.
For fans of the show “The Americans,” this sounds all too familiar; Russian sleeper agents infiltrated American society and lived among us for years using fake identities of people who had died years earlier, working to subvert US policy, turn Americans into Russian assets, and gain an advantage over the US.
These sleeper accounts live among us in the cyber realm. They are part of our social media experience. They publish real hometown news stories to gain our trust, and when time comes, they’re activated.
Media reports from yesterday and today show that Facebook found similar activity on its site.
Social media site Facebook said on Tuesday that it removed 32 pages from its platforms that violated the company’s policies against “coordinated inauthentic behavior.”
Some accounts had connections to the Internet Research Agency (IRA) – the Russian-based group that interfered with the 2016 presidential election.
“Some of the activity from these accounts and activity was consistent with what we’ve seen [from] the IRA,” Nathaniel Gleicher, head of cybersecurity policy at Facebook, said Tuesday on a call with reporters, adding that some were even connected with known IRA accounts.
These most likely Russian accounts are once again seeking to divide America. CNBC reports that the accounts “focused on divisive social issues, like abolishing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and an attempt to organize a “Unite the Right” resistance rally in Washington, D.C.”
Note that these accounts are now focusing on the left. They are not working to help the GOP win, and they’re certainly not targeting Trump. What they’re doing is much more subversive and corrosive.
Again, I bloody well told you so.
In 1981, the State Department wrote a “Special Report” on Soviet “active measures.”
These were not to be confused with open, accepted foreign diplomacy in which all nations engage extensively, the report warned.
Public diplomacy includes providing press releases and other information to journalists, open public broadcasting, and a wide variety of official, academic, and cultural exchange programs. By contrast, Soviet “active measures” are frequently undertaken secretly, sometimes violate the laws of other nations, and often involve threats, blackmail, bribes, and exploitation of individuals and groups.
These approaches include a variety of activities in which Russia engages today: document forgery, proliferation of what Trump likes to call “fake news,” rumors and insinuation, and the use of front organizations. The “Lisa” case in Germany was a particularly odious Russian effort to spread disinformation and foment unrest and dissatisfaction with Germany’s immigration policies and exacerbate the already severe fractures caused by the refugee crisis in Europe, as more and more refugees flooded Germany’s borders.
The media storm surrounding a fake story about a Russian-German girl, who had reportedly been raped by Arab migrants, was a wake up call for German political elites earlier this year. For the first time, they clearly saw the links between Russian domestic and foreign media campaigns against Germany and Russian politics at the highest level. The German government promptly advised the Federal Intelligence Service (BND) in coordination with the Foreign Office to check Russian sources of manipulation of German public opinion.
Sound familiar? I bloody well told you so.
Russia’s goal is to fundamentally change the way Americans view their government and view media reports, as well as alter the way we analyze information and interact with our government officials.
What should be surprising and disturbing to every American is the extent to which Russia went to deliberately undermine Americans’ confidence in our entire system of government. This wasn’t just about impacting the results of a single election.
So while the Democrats clutch their pearls and try to advance the narrative that poor Hillary was the better candidate, the more popular candidate, and the more qualified candidate, and that she only lost because the evil Russians interceded on Trump’s behalf – all with Trump’s knowledge and collusion (something they haven’t been able to prove)…
And the Republicans sarcastically ridicule the left for its sudden, profound concern about Russian meddling in our elections and for blaming Russia for all their ills from underwear skidmarks to herpes, while themselves downplaying the Russian threat, because their candidate won all on his own, dammit…
What both sides are missing is that we are being targeted. The way we view our government and the way we interact with one another is being manipulated by Russia’s continued exploitation of our open society, of our freedom of expression, and frankly, our increasing complacency and apathy.
Our confirmation bias is so hungry, and we are so desperate to prove that our candidates and our beliefs are superior to the other side’s, that we fail to do basic fact checking. We fail to search for corroboration. We fail to read primary sources. We share whatever confirms our biases, and we look no deeper than the latest meme on Facebook.
Instead of researching, we consume whatever is fed to us – in the easiest form possible.
My old writing partner used to call it “McNews” – because it was fast and easy to consume. Today you get a 7-second soundbite inside a 30-second news story with no effort to dig deeper to confirm the facts, and even that sad excuse for reporting is now too onerous for our ravenous confirmation biases.
Enter: the meme and the tweet, telling you what you “need” in just a few words and characters; easily understood and consumed, and even more easily manipulated and forged, but hey, it proves just how terrible the other side is, right?
These memes and tweets proliferate like wildfire, feeding our confirmation bias and our desire to be right about our political views. But they also change the way we read news and the way we process information.
And that’s what the Russians are really after.
This is not about Trump. This is not about Hillary.
This is not about Republicans. This is not about Democrats.
The Russians don’t care which side wins the elections and which side loses, because that’s not what their meddling is about. Their activities are meant to exploit existing fractures and weaken the fabric of our society.
And make no mistake. We are vulnerable.
After Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea, and economic sanctions were imposed on Russia by both the US and our allies, talk of another Cold War surfaced in the news.
The complacent West was ill-prepared for a return to Cold War politics, and we had to relearn everything we seem to have forgotten after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Soviet Union, and we are still learning.
Meanwhile, the Russians’ military doctrine dating back to 2010 already specified the use of active measures to alter the fabric of the enemy’s society. “Russia’s modern information warfare seeks to plant seeds of doubt and distrust; to confuse, distract, polarize and demoralize.”
How many of you lost friends after the 2016 elections? How many of you fought with family members? How many were let go from their jobs because of political views or targeted by online mobs or doxxed?
It’s happening, people.
While we desperately post memes and sarcastic tweets to show that Trump won the 2016 Elections on his own without Russia’s help, and while the Democrats desperately screech about collusion and Russian meddling to show that Trump’s presidency is illegitimate, we are missing a much more significant threat – one that threatens to weaken our society and our nation as a whole.
And I bloody well told you so.
Marta Hernandez is an immigrant, writer, editor, science fiction fan (especially military sci-fi), and a lover of freedom, her children, her husband and her pets. She loves to shoot, and range time is sacred, as is her hiking obsession, especially if we’re talking the European Alps. She is an avid caffeine and TWD addict, and wants to own otters, sloths, wallabies, koalas, and wombats when she grows up.
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