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New York Times undermines its own case Russia was behind Clinton leaks

New York Times article shows exceptionally sloppy cyber-security by the DNC and Podesta and fails to make convincing case of Russia being behind the Clinton leaks.

Alexander Mercouris

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The New York Times has published a lengthy article setting out what it says is the “evidence” that Russia was behind the leaks of the DNC and Podesta leaks by Wikileaks.

The article reveals nothing that is really knew, but a number of points did immediately strike me:

(1) The article goes to some lengths to claim that the way the Russians go about carrying out cyber-attacks is far more stealthy than say the Chinese.  Thus we read comments like this

“The Russians had not gone away, of course. “They were just a lot more stealthy,” said Kevin Mandia, a former Air Force intelligence officer who spent most of his days fighting off Russian cyberattacks before founding Mandiant, a cybersecurity firm that is now a division of FireEye — and the company the Clinton campaign brought in to secure its own systems.”

and this

“The Russians grew stealthier and stealthier, tricking government computers into sending out data while disguising the electronic “command and control” messages that set off alarms for anyone looking for malicious actions. The State Department was so crippled that it repeatedly closed its systems to throw out the intruders. At one point, officials traveling to Vienna with Secretary of State John Kerry for the Iran nuclear negotiations had to set up commercial Gmail accounts just to communicate with one another and with reporters traveling with them.”

We also learn that the Russians attempted to conceal their responsibility for the leaks by creating the persona of a supposed Romanian hacker called “Guccifer 2.0” who supposedly claimed responsibility for the hacks and warned he would publish the information he got from them.

It is very difficult to understand why in that case these so very “stealthy” and presumably well-resourced Russians failed to make sure that “Guccifer 2.0” was able to speak fluent Romanian.  I say this because it is clear that whoever has created the persona of “Guccifer 2.0” obviously does not speak Romanian.  See for example this paragraph

“That gave Mr. Franceschi-Bicchierai an idea. Using Google Translate, he sent the purported hacker some questions in Romanian. The answers came back in Romanian. But when he was offline, Mr. Franceschi-Bicchierai checked with a couple of native speakers, who told him Guccifer 2.0 had apparently been using Google Translate as well — and was clearly not the Romanian he claimed to be.”

Presumably Russian intelligence agencies are not short of fluent Romanian speakers they can call on in situations like this?

It becomes even more bizarre when one reads the following

“Cyberresearchers found other clues pointing to Russia. Microsoft Word documents posted by Guccifer 2.0 had been edited by someone calling himself, in Russian, Felix Edmundovich — an obvious nom de guerre honouring the founder of the Soviet secret police, Felix Edmundovich Dzerzhinsky. Bad links in the texts were marked by warnings in Russian, generated by what was clearly a Russian-language version of Word.”

That does not sound at all “stealthy”.  On the contrary it suggests that whoever is behind “Guccifer 2.0” was going out of his way to try to implicate Russia’s intelligence agencies in “Guccifer 2.0’s” activities. 

That in turn suggests that “Guccifer 2.0” has nothing to do with Russia’s intelligence agencies, and that whoever has created his persona is either trying to cover his tracks by misdirecting investigators towards the Russians, or is engaging in an anti-Russian provocation.

What this means is that if “Guccifer 2.0” is the persona of the person responsible for the leaks, then he almost certainly has nothing to do with Russia’s intelligence agencies, and he may not even be Russian.

As it happens, the fact “Guccifer 2.0” pretends to be Romanian but is apparently unable to speak Romanian points to whoever he is being a private individual rather than an intelligence agency.

(2) A great deal in The New York Times article turns on the fact that the DNC and Podesta hacks were carried out by two groups of hackers identified respectively as Cozy Bear and Fancy Bear. 

The connection of either of these two groups of hackers to Russia’s intelligence agencies appears to be inferred from their previous activity rather than based on actual knowledge.  However the important point is that whoever they are they were clearly not working together

“To their astonishment, Mr. Alperovitch said, CrowdStrike experts found signs that the two Russian hacking groups had not coordinated their attacks. Fancy Bear, apparently not knowing that Cozy Bear had been rummaging in D.N.C. files for months, took many of the same documents.”

Given the sensitivity of any covert operation to swing the US Presidential election to Donald Trump, it is a certainty that if someone like Putin or Nikolay Patrushev (the secretary of Russia’s Security Council who is believed to coordinate the work of Russia’s intelligence agencies) had ordered it they would have ensured that it was coordinated and kept under tight control.

The fact this was not the case, and that Cozy Bear and Fancy Bear were apparently acting independently of each other and at times even at cross purposes, is an extremely strong reason for doubting such an order was ever given.

If Cozy Bear and Fancy Bear really are run by Russian intelligence agencies, then the fact they were not coordinating with each other suggests they were each engaging in ordinary spying activities and not in anything more sinister.

(3) Lastly, what the New York Times article shows is how exceptionally sloppy cyber security on the part of the DNC and Podesta was, and how extraordinarily complacent they were about the possibility of being hacked. 

Whilst that makes it possible they were hacked by Russia’s intelligence agencies, it also leaves open the possibility they were hacked by all sorts of other people, including people within the US.   Any one of these people might have been the person or persons behind the persona of “Guccifer 2.0”, or might have been the source of the leaks that were provided to Wikileaks.

In summary, I don’t think this article in The New York Times adds very much.  If anything it shows how thin the case the Hillary Clinton campaign and the CIA are making that Russia was behind the leaks in order to swing the election to Donald Trump actually is.

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US Christians move to protect Christians in the Middle East

It is very good to stand up for Christians in places where they are persecuted in the world. We ought to start with the US and Europe.

Seraphim Hanisch

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ISIS represents the single most prominent national or pseudo national entity that makes the persecution of Christians a central part of its activity. The would-be Islamic Caliphate is widely understood to be on its last legs, having been destroyed or driven out of most of the Syrian territory and Iraq, which it had gained in surprisingly swift conquests during the administration of US President Barack Obama. However, ISIS is not the only persecutor of followers of Jesus Christ. In fact, Christianity is by far the most widely persecuted religion on earth, with the last 100 years seeing more martyrdoms than in the entire history of Christianity before.

In this video, released by Fox Entertainment, Dede Laugesen discusses the activity of Christians in the US moving to help those abroad. The video is well worth watching, but with additional considerations.

Persecution of Christians has many forces, and although this piece largely concerns itself with causing the physical death of Christian believers, it also makes a point of “exclusion from civil society, loss of property, and many other things.”

This may or may not be code for the other type of persecution that has taken place against Christians, that being in what we might call “First World” countries, like the United States itself, England and others in Europe.

During President Obama’s terms, for example, Christians were actively persecuted through the Affordable Care Act’s provisions of (at first) trying to get one dollar of  everyone’s health insurance policy premiums to go towards providing abortifacients or contraceptives to anyone who needed them. This was a violation of American First Amendment rights (Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…) and the Roman Catholic Conference of Bishops in the US spoke out against it strongly. The answer from the Administration was basically a shell game – insurance companies were thus mandated to provide such services for no charge at all.

Of course, the insurance companies are not about to lose money, so the original idea of a dollar per premium payment essentially survived; it was just slightly more hidden.

In 2015 and 2016, American Christians began to notice in very widespread fashion that they and those believing in a traditional understanding of family life and marriage, were now considered “hateful, bigoted, homophobic” and other pejorative labels. Some were driven out of business, like the cake backers in Oregon and Colorado. Homosexuality, a lifestyle that has been condemned by all Abrahamic faith traditions since recorded history began, was made legal by Supreme Court fiat in the United States. Now parents have to deal with the reality of lesbian or gay hero characters being portrayed by the likes of Marvel and DC productions on TV at home, and some public schools are insistent upon teaching children about “my two dads” or “my two moms” and so forth.

As Tucker Carlson noted in his own video presentation about two weeks ago, the attack against traditional family values for the sake of economic gain has caused unbelievable destruction in American society. The legalization of cannabis has accelerated this.

With all this is probably the most powerful attack yet devised against Christian believers. That attack says something like this:

Christianity? Sure, it’s okay if you want to be Christian. We do not mind. But keep your faith in Church. Be nice to the rest of us who do not believe like you do. Your faith is yours to keep but it offends us. Jesus said to love everyone, but when you talk about your beliefs (that we disagree with) you are being a bad Christian because you are being hateful to people who are different than you.

Many Christians have silently buckled to this argument. And why?

It is in our nature as Christians to strive for compassion and kindness to others. In America, a large part of our church upbringing talked about being nice to others whether they deserved it or not.

But being “nice” is not the same as being honest. There are still a lot of great parents that know that being too nice to their children will kill them. Being honest, strong, disciplined… these are also measures of what Christian love is.

Christian love is rooted in reality. The reality of God, of who we are, our ability to do either good or evil to ourselves and those around us, and far more than being nice to others, facing the Lord at the last moment in life or at the Last Judgement. To survive and make it through that session means that we have to make decisions that may not look nice. They may look harsh, unkind, or hateful. But every sane adult probably remembers times his or her parents put their foot down and did not let them do something. At the time it seemed wrong. But later it proved lifesaving.

We are under an attack as severe as ISIS’ attacks on Christians in those other parts of the world. If the seculars of our culture can render our faith as irrelevant, then they have won, and we all suffer.

 

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The Pences: defenders of Christian values in the White House

Article about Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen views Christian life as weird, showing nature of Christian persecution in the US.

Seraphim Hanisch

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A companion article noted that Christian believers in the US are seeking to help stand for those Christians in far off lands who are being martyred and persecuted for their faith at the hands of ISIS and other cruel religious and secular forces. But we also noted that this problem is extremely fierce in the Western “Christian” world, but the attacks try to bring Christian life to irrelevance and “shame it out of existence.”

An example of this in action came from Yahoo.com, carrying a news piece from AFP. Here is that piece; we have added emphases to focus on our point:

On page 11 of an application to work at a private Christian school in Virginia, teachers are bluntly asked to pledge to “maintain a lifestyle based on biblical standards of moral conduct.” It goes on to say banned conduct includes, but is not limited, to: “heterosexual activity outside of marriage (e.g. premarital sex, cohabitation, extramarital sex), homosexual or lesbian sexual activity, polygamy, transgender identity” or “any other violation of the unique roles of male and female.”

Students at the Immanuel Christian School — who range in age from five to 14 — are also banned from engaging in “homosexual or bi-sexual activity,” according to an agreement parents must sign before enrollment. Vice President Mike Pence’s wife Karen is once again teaching art at the school in Washington’s suburbs — sparking anger from gay rights advocates who say it sends the wrong message from the inner circles of US power. “We’ll let the critics roll off our backs,” Pence said in an interview with Catholic television network EWTN. But he added: “The criticism of Christian education in America should stop.”

Of course, the Pence family’s brand of religious conservatism is exactly why Donald Trump chose him as a running mate in July 2016.

– Pro-prayer, anti-abortion –

At that time, Pence was the governor of Indiana and a former congressman with a low national profile. He had a few crowning achievements to boast of — a state anti-abortion law and a “religious freedom law” that said individuals and companies wishing not to serve gay and lesbian customers could cite a “substantial burden” on their religious beliefs as a reason.

An amendment was eventually passed to provide protections for LGBT citizens.

The anti-abortion law added limits to access, banning those motivated by the fetus’s race, gender or disability. But it was eventually blocked in the courts. Nevertheless, the two initiatives had burnished Pence’s reputation as a champion of the religious right. Since taking office as vice president, the 59-year-old Pence — who seems to make it his business not to make waves — regularly appears alongside the 45th president of the United States.

In meetings, he often takes a back seat, his lips sealed and his head nodding in approval. When he speaks in public, he never misses a chance to voice his admiration for the man who brought him back to Washington.

On the face of it, they could not be more different — Trump is brash, twice divorced, vocal about his sexual conquests and doesn’t seem to have a tight grasp on biblical passages. Pence meanwhile said last year: “I do try and start every day reading the Bible. My wife and I try to have a prayer together before I leave the house every morning.” On Thursday, the vice president was set to host a roundtable for pro-abortion rights activists on the eve of the March for Life, a major annual anti-abortion rally in Washington. Pence was the first vice president to speak at the march in 2017.

“We will not rest, until we restore a culture of life in America for ourselves and our posterity,” Pence told the crowd.

– The fight continues –

Mike and Karen Pence met at church — an evangelical Protestant congregation. One in four Americans associates with the movement. Today, they are often seen holding hands when they are together in public. Pence often begins his tweets by saying, “Karen and I are praying for…”

They are reportedly inseparable — a fact that sometimes sparks mockery. In 2002, Mike Pence, then a lawmaker, infamously told The Hill that he never ate alone with a woman other than Karen, and that he would not accept an invitation to an event where alcohol was being served if she were not there. “If there’s alcohol being served and people are being loose, I want to have the best-looking brunette in the room standing next to me,” Pence told the Washington paper.

While he has often joked about his traditional views of coupledom, he has never denied them. Karen Pence, 62, shares her husband’s conservative beliefs. In 1991, she wrote to The Indianapolis Star newspaper to complain about an article that, she claimed, encouraged children to think they were gay or lesbian, according to a copy of the letter released by The Washington Post. Since that time, gay marriage has become the law of the land — legal across the country. But there is no explicit federal ban on discriminating against someone for their sexual orientation, which allows employers like the Immanual Christian School to maintain its rules against “sexual immorality.”

For the Pences, as for other evangelicals, the battle continues.

The thing that is stunning about this news piece is that it casts what are traditionally Christian values and a traditionally good Christian family in a negative light. For AFP and Yahoo, the Pences are an anomaly, a throwback that needs to be thrown back. The contemporary reader is more likely to mock the “backwardness” of Family Pence rather than see their lifestyles as honorable.

This is the nature of the attack against Christianity in our country.

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Vladimir Putin calls new Ukrainian church ‘dangerous politicking’

President Putin said creation of the “Orthodox Church in Ukraine” is against Church canon and that the West drove Constantinople to do it.

Seraphim Hanisch

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In an interview with the Serbian newspapers Politika and Vecernje Novosti ahead of his visit to Serbia, Russian President Vladimir Putin noted the creation of the “Orthodox Church of Ukraine”, a schismatic agglomeration headed by Ukrainian ultra-nationalists was “dangerous politicking.” He further noted that:

The establishment of the new religious entity in Ukraine is nothing but an attempt “to legalize the schismatic communities that exist in Ukraine under the jurisdiction of Istanbul, which is a major violation of Orthodox canons.”

“Yet, hardly anyone in the U.S. or in the Ukrainian leadership worries about this,” Putin said.

“Once again, this has nothing to do with spiritual life; we are dealing here with dangerous and irresponsible politicking,” he said.

President Putin had more things to say in the interview, and we present what he said in full here (emphasis ours), as reported on the Kremlin.ru website:

Question: The Serbian Orthodox Church has taken the side of the Russian Orthodox Church in the context of the ecclesiastical crisis in Ukraine. At the same time, a number of countries are exerting pressure on Patriarch Bartholomew and seek to ensure recognition of Ukrainian ”schismatics“ by Local Orthodox Churches. How do you think the situation will evolve?

Vladimir Putin: I would like to remind your readers, who are greatly concerned about the information regarding the split in the Orthodox community but are probably not fully aware of the situation in Ukraine, what it is all about.

On December 15, 2018, the Ukrainian leaders, actively supported by the USA and the Constantinople Patriarchate, held a so-called “unifying synod”. This synod declared the creation of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, with Patriarch Bartholomew signing the tomos (decree) granting it autocephaly on January 6, 2019. Thus, it was attempted to legalize the schismatic communities that exist in Ukraine under the jurisdiction of Istanbul, which is a major violation of Orthodox canons.

Yet, hardly anyone in the US or in the Ukrainian leadership worries about this, as the new church entity is an entirely political, secular project. Its main aim is to divide the peoples of Russia and Ukraine, sowing seeds of ethnic as well as religious discord. No wonder Kiev has already declared ”obtaining complete independence from Moscow.”

Once again, this has nothing to do with spiritual life; we are dealing here with dangerous and irresponsible politicking. Likewise, we do not speak about the independence of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. It is de-facto fully controlled by Istanbul. Whereas Ukraine’s largest canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which has never requested autocephaly from Patriarch Bartholomew, is absolutely independent in its actions. Its connection with the Russian Orthodox Church is purely canonical – but even this causes undisguised irritation of the current Kiev regime.

Because of this, clergymen and laymen of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church are being persecuted and deprived of churches and monasteries, and attempts are made to deny the Church its legitimate name, which raises tensions and only leads to further discord in Ukrainian society.

Evidently, Ukraine’s leaders have to understand that any attempts to force the faithful into a different church are fraught with grave consequences. Yet, they are eager to put interconfessional concord in the country at stake in order to conduct the election campaign of the current Ukrainian President based on a search for enemies, and to retain power by all means.

All of this does not go unnoticed by Orthodox Christians.

Naturally, Russia does not intend to interfere in ecclesiastical processes, especially those happening on the territory of a neighboring sovereign state. However, we are aware of the danger posed by such experiments and blatant interference of the state in religious affairs.

The situation continues to degrade in Ukraine, and though the Orthodox faithful of the Autonomous but Moscow-based Ukrainian Orthodox Church are the hardest hit, worry over Ukrainian lawlessless-made-law has the Jewish community in that country nervous as well. This is perhaps to be expected as the Azov Brigade, a neo-Nazi aligned group that is hypernationalist, is a good representation of the character of the “hate Russia at all costs” Ukrainian nationalists. A parallel piece in Interfax made note of this in a piece dated January 17th 2019:

[A] bill passed by the Verkhovna Rada introducing a procedure by which parishes can join the new Ukrainian church makes it easier to seize places of worship, and supporters of autocephaly have already started doing this across the country, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church said.

“They need this law to seize our churches. You can’t just come with a crowbar to someone else’s barn, but now the law allows you to do so. They aren’t creating something of their own, but are trying to steal what’s ours,” Ukrainian Orthodox Church spokesperson Vasyl Anisimov told Interfax on Thursday.

The religious entity set up in December with Constantinople’s involvement and called the Orthodox Church of Ukraine “in fact doesn’t yet exist in nature. It’s fake. It doesn’t have any parishes of its own or government registration,” he said.

However, “the supporters of autocephaly don’t have plans to create anything of their own at all, so they have chosen the path of takeover, and the authorities are helping them in that,” Anisimov said.

“Hence, the legislation passed by the Verkhovna Rada today is in fact absolute lawlessness,” he said.

“If you pass legislation affecting an industry, you should talk to industrialists, and if it’s legislation on the agricultural sector, talk to farmers. And here legislation on a church is passed, and moreover, this legislation is aimed against this church, it is protesting, and Jews are protesting, too, because this legislation may affect them as well – but nobody is listening, and they change the law for the sake of an absolutely absurd and unconstitutional gimmick. But, of course, it’s the people who will ultimately suffer,” Anisimov said.

 

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