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Russian Interference in America's Democracy: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

Posted on the 31 October 2020 by Rvbadalam @Nimasema

Russian Interference in America's Democracy: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

Robert Mueller testifying before Congress on Russian Interference in the 2016 election



The Mueller Investigation came about despite efforts by Trump to stop or impede it. The Mueller Report was released in redacted form on April 18, 2019. However, the results of the investigation were muted by a "summary" of the results presented by Attorney General William Barr, who, during a televised press conference claimed that the investigation revealed no collusion and no obstruction of justice. This was misleading with regard to collusion, and false with regard to obstruction.

The American Constitution Society (ACS) made a line-by-line comparison of Barr's summary and Mueller's findings. They concluded:

"A comparison of the report and Barr’s statements shows that Barr downplayed Mueller’s findings about Russian contacts with Trump campaign associates as well as the damning evidence of the president’s obstruction of justice that Mueller assembled."

In his report to Congress, then-special counsel Robert Mueller detailed how members of the Trump Campaign lied under questioning. Also, campaign insiders like Roger Stone, used encrypted communications to hide their actions. Further, Mueller described Trump as being guilty of the factual elements of obstruction of justice, but left it up to Congress what to do with them. The Democratic-led House Committee on the Judiciary under Jerry Nadler punted.

Trump took full advantage of Barr's cover and proclaimed himself "exonerated," and the story lost steam in the media. Interestingly, Trump was himself directly guilty of obstruction by refusing to multiple requests spanning over a year to appear in person for questioning by the Mueller team, agreeing only to answer written questions. Mueller judged Trump's written answers "inadequate." They were included in an appendix to the report. Anyone objectively interested in Trump's perfidy regarding the investigation owes it to them self to read this appendix.


Russian Interference in America's Democracy: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

In mid-August of 2020, the Republican-led Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) released its own years-long report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. The 966-word report in five volumes makes it abundantly clear that Russia's interference in the 2016 election was real, was aggressive, and was effective -- this was no "hoax."

The SSCI report pointed to Trump campaign coordination with Russian interference activities, including the GRU hack of the DNC servers. The SSCI report states that Roger Stone served as the go-between for the Trump campaign, including Trump himself, and WikiLeaks. It has a long section on Paul Manafort, one-time Trump campaign chairman, now serving a 6+ year prison sentence. The SSCI report states that Manafort's presence on the campaign posed “a grave counterintelligence threat,” and questions whether Manafort was actually involved in the Russian interference campaign itself. The report makes it clear that there was direct coordination between WikiLeaks and the Trump Campaign. In that the hacked material WikiLeaks fed to the Trump Campaign were provided by the Russian Military Intelligence Service, the GRU, WikiLeaks essentially served as what's known in intelligence parlance, as a GRU cutout.

It's important to understand the fundamental difference between the SSCI's investigation and that of the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller. The Special Counsel conducted a criminal investigation. This is why Mueller was careful to draw a distinction between "collusion," and "conspiracy." The Special Council evaluated potential criminal conduct by the Trump Campaign according to conspiracy law (18 U.S.C § 371), because “collusion” per se is not found in U.S. Code nor in federal criminal law. The burden of proof for conspiracy used by the Special Council was that the Trump Campaign and the Russian Government had an agreement, tacit or express, on the Russian’s election interference, and more, that the parties were taking actions informed by or responsive to the other’s actions or interests.
The Mueller investigation identified innumerable links between the Trump Campaign and Russians possibly tied to the Russian Government (e.g., “cutouts”). People interviewed by the Special Council sometimes provided information that was false or incomplete, while others deleted relevant communications, used encrypted communications, or auto-delete features. Ultimately, the Special Counsel concluded that there was insufficient evidence in the legal sense to establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired with the Russian Government in its election interference activities.

The Senate Select Committee was not strictly bound by legal statutes. It conducted a counterintelligence investigation. Counterintelligence investigations address intelligence questions pertaining to national security threats, not merely statutorily prohibited crimes. That is why the SSCI investigation revealed a breathtaking depth and breadth of cooperation between Trump, his campaign, and the Russians that has never before been seen in the annals of presidential politics. Unfortunately, many areas of the report that could provide grater granularity are redacted, because of the classified nature of the material.

Despite countless redactions, reviewers at LAWFARE (Todd Carney, Samantha Fry, Quinta Jurecic, Jacob Schulz, Tia Sewell, Margaret Taylor, Benjamin Wittes) were able to prize from the 966 pages the following key findings with regard to "collusion:"

  1. The Trump campaign and Donald Trump himself were certainly aware in real time of Russian efforts to intervene in the 2016 presidential election. The campaign had a heads-up that Russia had stolen Democratic emails. And Russian operatives sought and received a meeting with senior Trump campaign officials promising “dirt” on Trump’s opponent. As the campaign wore on, and the Russian efforts were increasingly made public, Trump personally and publicly encouraged them.
  2. The Trump campaign was run for a time by a man with an ongoing business relationship with a Russian intelligence operative, to whom he gave proprietary internal polling data. 
  3. The Trump campaign did not discourage Russian activity on its behalf. In fact, it sought repeatedly to coordinate its messaging around WikiLeaks releases of information. The campaign, and Trump personally, sought to contact WikiLeaks to receive information in advance about releases and may well have succeeded.
  4. The campaign sought to obtain disparaging information about Hillary Clinton from actors who either were Russian operatives or it believed were Russian operatives. It did so through a number of means—some of these efforts were direct. Some were indirect. 
  5. The Russian government and affiliated actors clearly regarded the Trump campaign as a prime target for influence and recruitment. Russia targeted a diverse array of people associated with Trump for contact and engagement through an astonishing variety of avenues. Some of these attempts were rebuffed. Many of them were successful. The result was a sustained degree of engagement between the campaign, and later the transition, and Russian officials and cutouts.
  6. Trump’s personal and business history in Russia provided a significant opportunity for kompromat. Such material was very likely collected. There is less evidence that it was ever deployed, though Trump’s mere awareness of his vulnerability gives rise to substantial counterintelligence concerns.
  7. Trump’s active pursuit of business deals in Russia while running for president and denying any such deals created significant counterintelligence risk.
  8. Trump’s campaign, and later transition, were filled with a remarkable number of people who had secret interactions with Russian actors, about which they lied either in real time or in retrospect.
  9. All of this activity, particularly cumulatively, amounts to a grave set of counterintelligence concerns, in which any number of Trump campaign figures—including the candidate himself—exposed themselves to potential coercive pressure from an adversary foreign actor. 
  10. Trump to this day will not criticize Russian President Vladimir Putin or acknowledge unambiguously Russian intervention in the 2016 election.  

The main body of the SSCI report concludes,

"(U) It is our conclusion, based on the facts detailed in the Committee's Report, that the Russian intelligence services' assault on the integrity of the 2016 U.S. electoral process and Trump and his associates' participation in and enabling of this Russian activity, represents one of the single most grave counterintelligence threats to American national security in the modem era."


Artificial Intelligence (AI) has already altered what we buy, what we view, and what we do. AI is integral to the social media platforms to which we've become addicted -- AI establishes the formula for creating that addiction. AI helps print media decide what to include in its hard copy versus digital edition, and what its price points should be, as well as how to leverage its content on social media. As we enter the post-Information Age, AI will be used in conjunction with"Big Data" to disseminate disinformation to a targeted audience of confounded users.

Facebook, Inc. includes in its arsenal: Facebook Messenger, Facebook Watch, and  Facebook Portal, as well as Instagram, WhatsApp, Oculus VR, Giphy, Mapillary, and 9.9% of Jio Platforms. Facebook, Messenger, WahtsApp, and Instagram are ranked 1 through 4 of the world's most downloaded apps.

Now Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is moving to make Facebook, Inc's portfolio of social media apps interoperable. According to Zuckerberg's "A Privacy-Focused Vision for Social Networking," The Facebook, Inc. portofolio will, "give people a choice so they can reach their friends across these networks from whichever app they prefer." This means one could be post their grandkid's picture in Facebook and text it to their mistress using an encrypted message in WhatsApp. And despite Zuckerberg's waxing poetic about privacy, secure data storage, and other user benefits, it also means easier collection, codification, and classification of big data -- the better to sell you with.

Russian Interference in America's Democracy: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

China's 19-year-old Go player Ke Jie prepares to make a move during the second match against Google's artificial intelligence programme AlphaGo in Wuzhen, eastern China's Zhejiang province, on May 25, 2017. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

Zuckerberg wrote his manifesto in March 2019, and while he's been bringing it to fruition, researchers in artificial intelligence have been advancing the state of the art such that a machine, AlphaGo, has mastered the ancient and long considered impossibly complex game of Go. Now the researchers at DeepMind have mastered one of the most challenging real-time strategy games of all time, StarCraft II.

Google acquired DeepMind in 2014 for a reported $500 million. In 2016, DeepMind announced that Google had found a use for its AI technology in its enormous data centers. The only thing left for DeepMind to master is the means to defeat hackers determined to hold the computer systems and data of financial institutions, insurance companies, and even hospitals hostage using ransomware, or sovereign adversaries using competing AI programs determined to bring down nation states -- like ours.

In China, AlphaGo was a "Sputnik moment" which helped convince the Chinese government to prioritize and dramatically increase funding for artificial intelligence. The United States has been the leader in AI, but Donald Trump's trade war with China, and xenophobic rhetoric has made the U.S. a less attractive destination for talented AI researchers, while at the same time helping China retain its AI talent.

According to Onalytica, among the "top influencers" in AI by brand, Google leads with a 25% share, followed by IBM, Microsoft, Amazon, and wait for it -- Facebook. Zuckerberg is building his business by learning everything possible about the users of Facebook, Inc., and packaging their data for the benefit of advertisers, of course, but how about for the benefit of the U.S. Census, political candidates, political parties, states, or even nation states? It's all out their for the highest bidder, and Zuckerberg has shown he has deep pockets.

AI has the potential to make America's problem of defending against interference in its democratic institutions that much more difficult. It also has the promise in aiding in that defense. The question is, what will win out, patriotism or capitalism?

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