As Your Intrepid Reporter has said previously, the release by hacking of documentary evidence (itself true) to the effect that the Democratic Party nominee for President is indeed a card-carrying proponent of Wall Street dominance does not constitute “hacking the election”.
Supposedly progressive voices in this maelstrom of fake news don’t get that. So, for example, from the purportedly progressive journal Mother Jones on 31 December:
So what did we learn this year? That America is more susceptible to authoritarian populism than we thought? Not really. Trump’s victory was a fluke, driven by Russian hacking, James Comey, and some bad polls in a few states.
“Trump’s victory was . . . driven by Russian hacking. . .” is what we are supposed to conclude about the election. Sigh. To say that is to deny agency to voters: they are supposed to vote the way the newspapers and television commentators tell them to, and if they fail to do so, then the release of true facts has “hacked the election”.
This is not to say, mind you, that the accumulating evidence is still, as some would have it, unpersuasive.
What this means is ANYONE could have downloaded this software and used it from anywhere in the world. Merely identifying the tool used does not identify the person who used it. What this also suggests is whoever was responsible for this cyber activity was using very old, and unsophisticated methods not common of state sponsored intelligence agencies.
We are not going to get, Perry Mason-style, someone standing up in the courtroom and shouting, “I did it! I did it, and I’m not ashamed to admit it.” Rather, we have to look at overall context and draw reasonable inferences. In this case the software package could have been used by other than the Russians, but perhaps the manner and choice of targets of its use tells us who initiated the hacking. The choice of targets aligns with Russian foreign-policy antagonists, and the manner of use is awfully sophisticated. I quote yesterday’s post on a well-respected anti-war website.
According to both private cybersecurity firms and US intelligence agencies, there is no doubt that Russian group “Fancy Bear” (also known as Sofacy, APT 28, Sednit, Tsar Team or other names) hacked the Democratic party. Is Fancy Bear an agent of the Russian military intelligence service? I believe it is. Fancy Bear is well known by the cybersecurity experts and has been studied in the past at length. Since 2007, targets of Fancy Bear’s hacking have been Georgia and the Caucasus, Eastern European governments and militaries, Ukraine, US, Germany, UK, NATO, OSCE, Soros, etc. Lately it hacked the World Anti-Doping Agency in response to the WADA’s recommendation to ban all Russian athletes from the Olympic games in Brazil. While China hacking conducts intellectual property theft, cybersecurity firm FireEye found that Fancy Bear ‘has been targeting privileged information related to governments, militaries and security organizations that would likely benefit the Russian government.’ Another cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike states that Fancy Bear’s profile “closely mirrors the strategic interests of the Russian government.”
During the years Fancy Bear’ hacking activity has grown in size, sophistication and scope. FireEye reports that Fancy Bear has continuously evolved its malware “using flexible and lasting platforms indicative of plans for long-term use and sophisticated coding practices;” it also uses obfuscation techniques to hide or disguise the code’s true purpose and to prevent it from being detected. CrowdStrike has shown that Fancy Bear has the ability to run multiple and extensive intrusion operations concurrently; while it was hacking US political organizations was at the same time involved targeting European military organizations. CrowdStrike on Fancy Bear and another Russian hacking group “Cozy Bear”: “Their tradecraft is superb, operational security second to none and the extensive usage of ‘living-off-the-land’ techniques enables them to easily bypass many security solutions they encounter. In particular, we identified advanced methods consistent with nation-state level capabilities including deliberate targeting and ‘access management’ tradecraft — both groups were constantly going back into the environment to change out their implants, modify persistent methods, move to new Command & Control channels and perform other tasks to try to stay ahead of being detected.” This is not lone wolf or kiddie stuff. This level of activity requires a complex structure that only the Russian government can provide. The New York Times reports that Russian officials recruit programmers “placing prominent ads on social media sites, offering jobs to college students and professional coders.” Fancy Bear developers use the Russian language and operate during business hours consistent with the time zone of Russia’s major cities.
Here is what Trump can do, not that he will, with the issue. Once you realize that the person across the table distrusts you, there is a value to your denying what others suspect of him. Trump ought to continue to doubt, in public, that the Russian intelligence services had anything to do with the release of information from the Democratic Party computers, and tell Putin to enforce the existing cease-fire in the Ukraine.
Impartial sources report that the Russian separatists in the Ukraine are the ones predominantly violating several cease-fire agreements, including the commitment to allow inspections from representatives of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe [oh, and by the way, when there was a question of who was to inspect the cease-fire, OSCE was Putin’s suggestion]. The speaker is Alexander Hug, the deputy chief monitor of the Special Monitoring Mission [SMM] of the OSCE.
It should be noted that access for the SMM is granted by its mandate of 57 participating states, and is further reconfirmed in the Minsk Agreements. And that means that Russia, Ukraine as well as Alexander Zakharchenko [the leader of the Donetsk People’s Republic — Editor’s note] and Igor Plotnitsky [the head of the Luhansk People’s Republic — Editor’s note] have also signed up to this very important attribute of the mission. The freedom of movement for the SMM is unconditional. Any restriction of any kind is a violation of the SMM mandate and of the Minsk Agreements.
Having said that, it is true that we still encounter numerous restrictions in our movement. Overall and looking back in the year — while both sides restrict SMM’s freedom of movement — the majority of those do occur in the areas not controlled by the government.
The last sentence is diplomat-speak for “most of the time the separatists are not allowing inspection.” Deputy Chief Monitor Hug (I am tempted, but shall refrain from the temptation, to call him “Huggie Bear”) is not talking about very far in the past of the last year:
During the week of Dec. 12-18, the number of ceasefire violations recorded by the SMM increased by 75 percent compared to the previous week. We have seen there in the past the use of heavy weapons on both sides and again now. The use of heavy weapons proscribed by the Minsk agreements has tripled. The monitors recorded at least 985 mortar, tank, artillery and multiple rocket launch systems fire explosions compared to 244 the week before. The vast majority of them (843 explosions) occurred south and southeast of the government-controlled Svitlodarsk.
Again, the diplomat indicated but did not specifically say, “in area controlled by the separatists.” The reader has to fill in the politely discreet language himself.
This is what Trump should publicize. The separatists in Ukraine, who — let’s admit it — are under the control of the Russian government, are breaking their sworn word. Putin is possibly involved in the release of true information which enabled a more democratic election int he United States, which has upset the Deep State in the United States. All Trump has to do is to continue to refuse to accept the announced conclusions of American intelligence, and instead demand publicly that the real “Putin’s puppets” of Donetsk and Luhansk live up to their treaty obligations of open inspection.
It is low-hanging diplomatic fruit for the United States. It’s the right thing to do, and it will promote peace and security for all involved.
Not that anyone cares what I think.