By Dan Peak
The Commoner Call (1/15/18)
Dear Fellow Readers,
Either the Russians have decided to leave us alone or Trump’s personality frailties keep him from confronting Vladimir Putin or safeguarding the US from further intrusions. What do you think?
We have this story from The Hill: Russia-Linked Hackers Targeting US Senate.
Using the same approach employed to hack French President Emmanuel Macron’s campaign in May 2017, Russian hackers are targeting the U.S. Senate:
“Russian hackers from the group known as “Fancy Bear” are targeting the U.S. Senate with a new espionage campaign, according to cybersecurity firm Trend Micro.
“The Tokyo-based cybersecurity group tells The Hill that it has discovered a chain of suspicious-looking websites set up to look like the U.S. Senate’s internal email system, and learned that the sites were being operated as part of an email-harvesting operation.”
You might remember when attorney general Jeffrey Beauregard Sessions III was asked to explain what steps he was having the Department of Justice take to make sure there was no future interference in U.S. elections. When pushed during his November 2017 appearance before the House Judiciary Committee he had no answers. Not the first time, he had been asked the same questions during other committee hearings, but the same answers – nothing. No plan. Jeff Sessions Admits He Has No Idea What DOJ Is Doing To Prevent Election Hacking.
This from November 2017:
Maybe since we know the Russians are trying to hack the U.S. Senate emails that means we’re on top of the risk? Just because Sessions seems clueless….
Should we be worried?
Well, let’s see: How Power Grid Hacks Work, And When You Should Be Worried.
“In 2017, it can sometimes seem like power grids are practically crawling with digital intruders. Over just the past four months, news has emerged that Russian hackers , that the same group may have had , that another group of Kremlin hackers —and now, this week, that North Korean hackers . Reading those headlines, you’d be forgiven for thinking that hacker-induced blackouts were a near-weekly occurrence, not a .”
This same is reported in more detail here: The Other Scary Foreign Hacking Threat Trump Is Ignoring.
Russia didn’t just meddle in the U.S. election: it’s trying to hack our critical infrastructure – and Trump may be keeping Americans in the dark.
“On June 13, 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions to the Senate Intelligence committee about Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. After fielding hours of questions about his knowledge of the plot, Sessions was greeted by an abrupt change in topic from Senator John McCain. “Quietly, the Kremlin has been trying to map the United States telecommunications infrastructure,” McCain announced, and described a series of alarming moves, including Russian spies monitoring the fiber optic network in Kansas and Russia’s creation of “a cyber weapon that can disrupt the United States power grids and telecommunications infrastructure.”
“When McCain asked if Sessions had a strategy to counter Russia’s attacks, Sessions admitted they did not.”
Even when taking any step to acknowledge risk, Trump refuses to include election interference as part of the risk we face:
“Though Trump signed an executive order vowing stronger cybersecurity in May, the administration did nothing substantial until December, when it noting the threats to infrastructure and vaguely vowing that hackers from a number of countries–including China, North Korea, Iran, and Russia–will be defeated. Notably, in the document, elections were no longer counted as part of “critical infrastructure,” despite President Obama as such shortly before he left office–another indicator that the Trump administration’s unwillingness to take on Russian hacks is marred by self-protection and partisanship.”
The Trump administration has done nothing to address the risk to our elections – we have a president who is psychologically incapable of admitting interference in our election because he’s afraid it makes him look less legitimate. On a daily basis Trump makes himself and the U.S. look less legitimate, calling countries in Africa “shitholes” makes us less legitimate.
Russian ‘Hybrid War’
While our infrastructure and elections lay vulnerable, Mother Jones reports the Trumpsters are moving on something: The US Military Is Set to Meet With the Russian General Who Called For Cyberattacks Against the West.
We’re going to legitimize the Russian General responsible for hacking the U.S. It’s not just our inability to honestly define and confront what happened, we’re going to meet-and-greet the guy that did it to us.
“As the Mueller investigation continues to examine links between Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia, the Pentagon and the State Department are preparing for a slew of high-level meetings over the next two months with Russian government officials, on Sunday.
“The meetings include a gathering later in January featuring US Army General and NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) Curtis Scaparroti and General Valery Gerasimov, the chief of the general staff of Russia’s armed forces and the country’s top military official. It has been five years since the last similar meeting, which took place before the United States restricted military communications with Russia following its 2013 invasion of Ukraine.”
You could read this and imagine this is a good thing, a sign of cooperation – you would not be alone with that view. But if we seriously intend this to be cooperation, how do we deal with this?
“Gerasimov’s reputation as a prominent backer of deploying strategies like hacking and disinformation. He’s best known in the West as the author of a widely noted 2013 text outlining Russia’s modern-day approach to what’s become known as “hybrid war,” which discusses nonmilitary measures and cyberattacks of the style employed during the 2016 US presidential election.”
So we’ll pow-wow with General Gerasimov, the Russian redefining modern warfare:
““The very ‘rules of war’ have changed,” wrote Gerasimov. “The role of nonmilitary means of achieving political and strategic goals has grown, and, in many cases, they have exceeded the power of force of weapons in their effectiveness. The focus of applied methods of conflict has altered in the direction of the broad use of political, economic, informational, humanitarian, and other nonmilitary measures.””
It’s not just that Gerasimov is the author of the new plan for warfare. It’s that Russia has used this plan a number of times, has used it against us, and indications are they are researching how to use hybrid warfare against us in ever more effective ways. What could possibly go wrong? Russia, Our New Anti-Terror ‘Ally’, Is Spying Inside The US Like It’s 1959.
It’s not just our elections. The Russians have their plan for hybrid war and they have been refining the plan in Ukraine, Syria, Germany, and other countries. Latvia is a good example to study.
We might be tempted to say this couldn’t happen in the U.S., even after Russian interference in the 2016 election:
“Whatever you think of all the blather about the current U.S. administration and Russia — and for out there, — Russia is not America’s friend.
“The latest evidence is that Russian “diplomats” with immunity from criminal prosecution are fanning out across America to look for infrastructural vulnerabilities — crucial stuff like fiber optics and telecom lines — even as authorities in Moscow harass, obstruct, and occasionally beat American diplomats and spies within an inch of their lives.”
But certainly the Trump administration is doing something all this, right?
“How has the Trump administration responded to Russia’s continued fuckery on our home soil and against our diplomats abroad? By and — a decision that, strangely, made its way into the news just a week after the Russian embassy in the U.S. tweeted out that tough message you see above (ed. A Russian tweet threatening counter-measures should the U.S. not return seized Russian diplomatic property).”
So yes. Russians continue to hack the U.S. government. Russians are refining and testing out how to conduct hybrid war against the U.S. Our Department of Justice seems to not notice or even care. Trump assures us he has done all he can, so what are we to do?
“He said he didn’t meddle,” Trump said [of Putin], answering questions in the press cabin on Air Force One. “I asked him again. You can only ask so many times. . . . He said he absolutely did not meddle in our election. He did not do what they are saying he did.”
Meanwhile, with the nation at risk, the GOP leadership has now spent the last few days weighing in on Trump’s “shitholes” declaration. Demonstrating his personal brand of bold ‘leadership’ House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said Trump’s wording was “very unfortunate”. Senators Tom Cotton (R-AK) and David Perdue (R-GA) at first didn’t remember hearing Trump use the word “shitholes” but with more time to consider they’ve decided that Senator Durbin (D-IL) is the real problem, not Trump:
“I’m telling you he did not use that word, George, and I’m telling you it’s a gross misrepresentation,” Perdue told moderator George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week.”
But Trump once again saves the day – he makes it clear, he did say “shitholes”. He creates turmoil, minions rush to defend him and then — as always — he kicks the legs out from under his defenders: Conservative Writer: Trump Called Friends To Brag About ‘S—hole Countries’ Remark.
“”It’s weird that people in the room don’t remember Trump using that word when Trump himself was calling friends to brag about it afterwards,” Erick Erickson, who has in the past been critical of Trump, said in a tweet.
“”I spoke to one of those friends. The President thought it would play well with the base.””
The U.S. apparently has 6,000 to 8,000 troops in various locations in Africa. Likely this does not include Camp Lemonnier, United States Naval Expeditionary Base in Djibouti, the home to the Combined Joint Task Force of the U.S. – Africa Command. Trump and the GOP create turmoil and risk instead of addressing and eliminating risk. While ignoring Russian intrusions we find ourselves fending off diplomatic demands for apology from the African Union countries, our partners in trade and conducting a war on terrorism.
We don’t make ourselves safer – Trump and his enablers blunder from self-created crisis to ignored-crises to a next self-created crisis.
Our reputation is diminished, people are put at risk – but Trump feeds his base. U.S. politics and diplomacy is now conducted at the level of how two middle-aged white men well into their fourth pitcher of beer would talk to each other in a bar while watching Fox News.
But it is very likely that Trump does need his base. It’s all he has left.
There is at least one part of our government functioning well. Special Counsel Robert Mueller continues to move forward with his investigation of Trump-Russia corruption: Prosecutors Seek May 14 Trial Date For Manafort And Gates.
Just a reminder, Mueller has been Special Counsel since his appointment in May 2017. He had no staff, nothing – but let’s use that date – let’s say he’s been at this for eight months. For comparison, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) took over two years and conducted 33 hearings to find nothing through his ‘Benghazi’ investigation.
But congressional republicans keep whining about what takes so long, why can’t Mueller wrap this up as Trump’s lawyers keep promising?
“On Friday, Mueller’s team said that it had turned over more than 590,000 records to Gates, among them emails, financial and corporate records — including 2,200 designated by prosecutors as “hot” or high-priority — and copies of information on 87 electronic devices such as laptops and phones collected through 19 search warrants. Thirty-five of the devices were seized from Manafort’s house, the filing says. (Rick Gates and Paul Manafort are under indictment by Mueller; Manafort is Trump’s former campaign mangers, Gates is his long-time associate.)
“The number of records in the case has ballooned since prosecutors made a similar disclosure Dec. 8, when they gave both defendants some 400,000 items, including contents of 36 memory devices, and disclosed 15 warrants.”
What has been turned over also now includes foreign bank records. Clearly this is not a simple case to make. And Manafort shows no signs of wrapping up (from the same article):
“The Washington Post reported Wednesday that Ryan K. Dickey was assigned to Mueller’s team in early November from the Justice Department’s computer crime and intellectual-property section, joining 16 other lawyers.”
Mueller is conducting his investigation of Trump-Russia corruption in a way that government should be conducted – responsibly, fairly, professionally. It goes without saying that many are not happy with the effort. But it’s a sad state of our politics when the GOP will do anything they can to slander and impede and block progress. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) pointed the finger directly at Paul Ryan:
“The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday detailed a list of witnesses and documents Democrats say Republicans have kept them from accessing during the panel’s Russia investigation, and he blamed the committee’s chairman and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) for attempting to end the probe before it is complete.
“Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) said committee Republicans had blocked Democrats’ efforts to subpoena Deutsche Bank for financial records related to President Trump’s family on the suspicion that Russians “may have laundered money through Trump properties.” Democrats also were stymied in their effort to subpoena executives at Twitter, Schiff said, to secure the direct messages that members of Trump’s inner circle and its founder, Julian Assange, who Democrats believe acted as Russian intermediaries during the 2016 presidential campaign.”
It all comes down to a simple, ugly Republican formula:
Trump-Russian corruption + GOP complicity = GOP party-over-country.
We deserve better. We have had three days of self-created turmoil because Trump is incapable and refers to global partners as “shitholes”.
We deserve better. Even worse, because of Trump’s “shitholes” comment the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, is put at risk. The status of 800,000 immigrants are once again at risk because of Trump’s constant appetite for self-aggrandizement and turmoil.
We deserve better – and one shining example we have of government being able to do the right thing competently, fairly and professionally – is Mueller’s investigation of Trump-Russia corruption.