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The latest ODNI “hacking” report insults our intelligence

The ODNI reports offers zero evidence of Russian hacking, and instead focuses attention on Russian news outlets, accusing them of presenting an alternative view on world events.

Allen Baldanza

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One January 6th, 2017, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a report that claimed with “high confidence” that Russia hacked the U.S. elections. The problem? Not only was absolutely no evidence given, but the vast majority of the report was spent attacking Russian news network RT for influencing the U.S. election.

The report labels a legitimate news outlet as a propaganda piece, for merely being funded by the Russian government and being critical of U.S. policies and Secretary Clinton, while favoring Donald Trump.

Of course, these actions came from the highest levels of the Russian government. Clearly from Putin himself. But don’t take my word for it. Let’s look at their exact claims:

“We assess with high confidence that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election, the consistent goals of which were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency.”

“We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump. When it appeared to Moscow that Secretary Clinton was likely to win the election, the Russian influence campaign then focused on undermining her expected presidency.”

Those are pretty bold claims. Their evidence of Russian motives?

“Putin most likely wanted to discredit Secretary Clinton because he has publicly blamed her since 2011 for inciting mass protests against his regime in late 2011 and early 2012, and because he holds a grudge for comments he almost certainly saw as disparaging him.”

Pretty sure this claim was straight out of the mouth of Hillary Clinton, and I’m certain that the intelligence community could do better than this. Why not look at the obvious legitimate motives for wanting Trump? Is it honestly shocking that Russia would prefer a candidate that wants to work with them, as Trump has stated he would? And is it a crime to be against a candidate that bragged about being “tough on Putin” and establishing a no-fly zone in Syria? If Clinton did establish the latter, it would have effectively meant war with Russia and potentially thousands of lives lost on both sides.

Is it wrong for Russia to have its own, legitimate interests? But having a preference for a candidate doesn’t mean that they actually hacked the election. The report even states that:

“Russian intelligence obtained and maintained access to elements of multiple US state or local electoral boards. DHS assesses that the types of systems Russian actors targeted or compromised were not involved in vote tallying.”

…So, in other words, they didn’t hack the voting machines. So what did the Russians do wrong? To start, the report claims:

“We assess with high confidence that Russian military intelligence (General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate or GRU) used the Guccifer 2.0 persona and DCLeaks.com to release US victim data obtained in cyber operations publicly and in exclusives to media outlets and relayed material to WikiLeaks.”

Let’s just go along with what the report claims: That the Russian government hacked the DNC to discredit American democracy. Does that not take away the fact that the DNC and Hillary Clinton were amongst the most corrupt individuals in American history?

The Russian government didn’t discredit American democracy. That was the work of Hillary Clinton and the DNC. But this “evidence” of Russian wrongdoing is but a small section of the report. The real target that took up over half the report was Russian news outlet RT.

And perhaps that’s the most worrying thing about this whole report. It’s not the actions of RT that worries me, but the statements and false claims made in the report. To quote from the report itself:

“Russia’s state-run propaganda machine comprised of its domestic media apparatus, outlets targeting global audiences such as RT and Sputnik, and a network of quasi-government trolls contributed to the influence campaign by serving as a platform for Kremlin messaging to Russian and international audiences. State-owned Russian media made increasingly favorable comments about President-elect Trump as the 2016 US general and primary election campaigns progressed while consistently offering negative coverage of Secretary Clinton.”

It continues,

“Starting in March 2016, Russian Government linked actors began openly supporting President-elect Trump’s candidacy in media aimed at English-speaking audiences. RT and Sputnik another government-funded outlet producing pro-Kremlin radio and online content in a variety of languages for international audiences consistently cast President-elect Trump as the target of unfair coverage from traditional US media outlets that they claimed were subservient to a corrupt political establishment.”

First, how does RT being state-run make it a “propaganda machine”? What does that make PBS and the BBC? Both are funded by the American and British governments, and yet they have never been accused of being either American or British propaganda.

But the worrying part is the mere fact that having an alternative opinion all of a sudden makes RT propaganda. First, there was certainly biased media coverage in favor of Clinton from mainstream media. Need I quote from the DNC leaks themselves that CNN host Donna Brazile gave Hillary Clinton some of the presidential debate questions? I think I speak for any American with a bit of common sense that those debates were heavily biased in favor of Clinton.

Second, what is wrong with a media outlet having a favorable view of Donald Trump? Is Russian media any less entitled to the freedom of speech that our constitution guarantees? Does that make American news outlets such as The Washington Times Russian propaganda as well? There is absolutely no coherent logic in making that claim.

It’s especially concerning that the report took issue with RT in the following statement:

“RT America TV, a Kremlin-financed channel operated from within the United States, has substantially expanded its repertoire of programming that highlights criticism of alleged US shortcomings in democracy and civil liberties.”

You mean just like the Founding Fathers of the United States asked the American people to do, in order to better our nation? Should we not expose and address legitimate issues concerning our nation and our civil liberties? If Thomas Jefferson saw this report taking issue with such programming, he would be rolling over in his grave.

But the so-called evidence that the report gives is either false or a non-issue. In fact, it’s worrying to me that the report takes issue with RT’s reporting and take on current problems our nation faces. To start:

“RT introduced two new shows — “Breaking the Set” on 4 September and “Truthseeker” on 2 November — both overwhelmingly focused on criticism of US and Western governments as well as the promotion of radical discontent.”

Does it mean the shows that were ended over two years ago? It would have been impossible for those shows to have had any commentary on the 2016 presidential election. Let’s look at their next claim.

“From August to November 2012, RT ran numerous reports on alleged US election fraud and voting machine vulnerabilities, contending that US election results cannot be trusted and do not reflect the popular will.”

You mean just like Fox and The Federalist reported on? Evidence this is Russian propaganda please? Next one:

“In an effort to highlight the alleged “lack of democracy” in the United States, RT broadcast, hosted, and advertised third-party candidate debates and ran reporting supportive of the political agenda of these candidates. The RT hosts asserted that the US two-party system does not represent the views of at least one-third of the population and is a “sham.””

And how is any of this wrong or threatening American democracy? To the contrary, doesn’t it enhance it? Is it not true that millions of Americans are and were disenfranchised with both Republicans and Democrats? And how is supporting a third party candidates point of view or advertising their debates undermining or “hacking” our election? Is this not legitimate reporting? Next one:

“RT’s reports often characterize the United States as a “surveillance state” and allege widespread infringements of civil liberties, police brutality, and drone use (RT, 24, 28 October, 1-10 November).”

Have any of these reports been disproven? Rand Paul, a U.S. senator, has actively fought against American intelligence agencies conducting surveillance without a warrant. Furthermore, RT has given balanced views on police, showing countless examples of exemplary police officers and the bad. Just look here and here as well. It seems the ODNI report is a bit biased by not showing the whole story. Next one:

“RT has also focused on criticism of the US economic system, US currency policy, alleged Wall Street greed, and the US national debt. Some of RT’s hosts have compared the United States to Imperial Rome and have predicted that government corruption and “corporate greed” will lead to US financial collapse (RT, 31 October, 4 November).”

Are these not legitimate issues to report on? What’s the problem here? There is a problem with Wall Street greed, our debt stands at over $20 trillion, and is there any problem with making logical comparisons to previous historical nations? Should we not study history and learn from our mistakes? Let’s not forget, the Russians themselves often called themselves the Third Rome. I wouldn’t take that as an insult. Next one:

“RT runs anti-fracking programming, highlighting environmental issues and the impacts on public health. This is likely reflective of the Russian Government’s concern about the impact of fracking and US natural gas production on the global energy market and the potential challenges to Gazprom’s profitability (5 October).”

Except there has been serious environmental and health issues involved with fracking. Reporting on this issue should be taken as an opportunity to improve the situation, not complain that reporting on legitimate issues is “Russian propaganda.” I think this report is proving more and more that the Russians are right. Next one:

“RT is a leading media voice opposing Western intervention in the Syrian conflict and blaming the West for waging “information wars” against the Syrian Government (RT, 10 October-9 November).”

Except RT did an excellent job with investigative reporting regarding Western media claims on the Syrian conflict, exposing them for not providing sufficient evidence. RT was right to make these claims. Secondly, is it wrong to question our support for “rebels” in Syria, who are often times fighting for Al-Qaeda and ISIS? Should we not hold our government accountable to make good decisions, and not waste American lives and taxpayer money?

One of the last claims that the report makes is simply dumbfounding:

RT aggressively advertises its social media accounts and has a significant and fast-growing social media footprint. In line with its efforts to present itself as anti-mainstream and to provide viewers alternative news content, RT is making its social media operations a top priority, both to avoid broadcast TV regulations and to expand its overall audience.”

You mean like every single other news outlet, company, non-profit, and organization on the planet? Is using social media and wanting to expand your audience a crime? Does that mean that music artists spending advertising dollars on social media presence are secretly Russian spies? Give me a break.

Absolutely nothing in the ODNI report gives any evidence that the Russians did anything illegal or wrong, let alone hacking a presidential election.

But let’s just pretend that the ODNI report is making legitimate claims that the Russians are guilty of wrongdoing. Let’s just pretend that the DNC hack was Vladimir Putin’s fault, and that Russian media bias was designed to favor Trump and discredit Clinton. How does any of this make a difference?

Ultimately, it was the American people that saw Hillary Clinton and the DNC for what they truly are: corrupted, lying criminals. And it was the American people that saw wrongdoing in American policy under the Obama administration, to include our support of Syrian rebels. And finally, it was the American people that went to the voting machines and decided for themselves who they wanted as President of the United States: Donald J. Trump.

Why? Because propaganda or not, it was the American people that were tired of our corrupt government and Hillary Clinton ruining our country. And we decided to take a stand, with or without the support of the Russians.

If there was any hack of the American election, it wasn’t the fault of the Russians. Hillary Clinton and the DNC managed to fail the American people themselves.

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‘I will take over as Brexit Party leader’: Nigel Farage back on the frontline

Nigel Farage says that if the UK takes part in European elections, he will lead his new Brexit Party.

RT

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Via RT


Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage has announced that he will lead his new Brexit Party into the European elections if UK MPs decide to delay Brexit beyond May 22.

Farage, who has ostensibly appointed himself leader, told various media, including the BBC and Sky News on Friday morning: “I will take over as leader of the Brexit Party and lead it into the European Elections.”

It comes after the Brexit Party’s leader, Catherine Blaiklock, quit over a series of alleged Islamophobic statements and retweets of far-right figures on social media.

It is not yet thought that Farage has officially been elected as leader, as the party does not, as yet, have a formal infrastructure to conduct such a vote.

The right-wing MEP vowed to put out a whole host of Brexit Party candidates if the UK participates in the upcoming EU elections in May, adding: “If we fight those elections, we will fight them on trust.”

On Thursday night, the EU agreed to PM May’s request for a delaying to Brexit beyond the March 29 deadline. Brussels announced two new exit dates depending on what happens next week in the UK parliament.

The UK will have to leave the bloc on April 12 unless British MPs agree to May’s Brexit deal. If the withdrawal agreement is passed by next week, EU leaders have agreed to grant an extension until May 22.

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Baltics cannot rely on Germany any more

The matter is NATO today is not as strong as it is supposed to be. And it is not only because of leadership blunders.

The Duran

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Submitted by Adomas Abromaitis…

On March 29 Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia will celebrate 15 years of becoming NATO member states. The way to the alliance membership was not simple for newly born independent countries. They have reached great success in fulfilling many of NATO demands: they have considerably increased their defence expenditures, renewed armaments and increased the number of military personnel.

In turn, they get used to rely on more powerful member states, their advice, help and even decision making. All these 15 years they felt more or less safe because of proclaimed European NATO allies’ capabilities.

Unfortunately, now it is high time to doubt. The matter is NATO today is not as strong as it supposed to be. And it is not only because of leadership’s blunders. Every member state does a bit. As for the Baltic states, they are particularly vulnerable, because they fully depend on other NATO member states in their defence. Thus, Germany, Canada and Britain are leading nations of the NATO battle group stationed in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia respectively.

But the state of national armed forces in Germany, for example, raises doubts and makes it impossible not only defend the Baltics against Russia, but Germany itself.

It turned out, that Germany itself remains dissatisfied with its combat readiness and minister of defence’s ability to perform her duties. Things are so bad, that the military’s annual readiness report would be kept classified for the first time for “security reasons.”

“Apparently the readiness of the Bundeswehr is so bad that the public should not be allowed to know about it,” said Tobias Lindner, a Greens member who serves on the budget and defense committees.

Inspector General Eberhard Zorn said (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-germany-arms/germany-not-satisfied-with-readiness-of-submarines-some-aircraft-idUSKBN1QS1G7) the average readiness of the country’s nearly 10,000 weapons systems stood at about 70 percent in 2018, which meant Germany was able to fulfill its military obligations despite increasing responsibilities.

No overall comparison figure was available for 2017, but last year’s report revealed readiness rates of under 50 percent for specific weapons such as the aging CH-53 heavy-lift helicopters and the Tornado fighter jets.

Zorn said this year’s report was more comprehensive and included details on five main weapons systems used by the cyber command, and eight arms critical for NATO’s high readiness task force, which Germany heads this year.

“The overall view allows such concrete conclusions about the current readiness of the Bundeswehr that knowledge by unauthorized individuals would harm the security interests of the Federal Republic of Germany,” he wrote.

Critics are sure of incompetence of the Federal Minister of Defence, Ursula von der Leyen. Though she has occupied the upper echelons of German politics for 14 years now — and shows no sign of success. This mother of seven, gynecologist by profession, by some miracle for a long time has been remaining in power, though has no trust even among German military elites. Despite numerous scandals she tries to manage the Armed Forces as a housewife does and, of course, the results are devastating for German military capabilities. The same statement could be easily apply for the Baltic States, which highly dependent on Germany in military sphere.

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Crimea: The Geopolitical Jewel Russia Continues to Polish

As Putin continues to polish his Black Sea jewel, Europe has to decide if it is going to continue playing the U.S’s games over Ukraine or begin the next phase of its independence.

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Authored by Tom Luongo via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


With all that is happening in the world Crimea has taken a bit of a backseat recently. Yes, the US, EU and Canada just added more sanctions on Russia via the odious Magnitsky legislation but this is inconsequential.

There’s been a flurry of good news coming out of Crimea and the Black Sea recently that bears discussion. Let’s start with the most important. President Vladimir Putin was in Crimea earlier this week to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the peninsula’s reunification with Russia. There he also officially inaugurated two major upgrades to Crimea’s power grid.

Located in Simferopol and Sevastopol, two new power plants will produce 940 megawatts and secure Crimea’s energy needs for now and into the future.

Power has been Crimea’s Achilles’ heel since breaking off from Ukraine in 2014. It received almost 90% of its power from the mainland. In November 2015, the trunk lines into Crimea were sabotaged by Ukrainian nationalist radicals, encouraged by President Petro Poroshenko plunging it into darkness as winter took hold.

Does this sound familiar? A place that defies US edicts geopolitically is first hit with a full trade embargo, sanctions and threatened militarily by proxies before having its electricity shut off?

*Cough* Venezuela *Cough*

And there are reports that the US has game-planned a similar fate for Iran as well. For Crimea it was easy because of the single-point-of-failure, the trunks from the mainland. For Venezuela it was as well, with the Guri dam, which affected nearly 70 percent of the country.

So, Putin timing the fifth anniversary of reunification with the announcement of the plants moving to full operational status was yet another smooth bit of international political maneuvering.

A not-so-subtle poke in the eye of the Gang Who Can’t Sanction Straight in D.C. as well as lame duck Poroshenko. Elections are at the end of the month and this celebration by Russia and Crimea will not sit well with many Ukrainians, especially the diaspora here in the US which is virulently anti-Putin in my experience.

Secure and stable power generation is a hallmark of a first world territory. Without that economic growth and stability are impossible. This is why to first help stabilize the situation in Crimea after the blackout Russia brought in 400 MW of power across the Kerch Strait from Krasnodor.

Tying Crimea to the mainland via the Kerch Strait bridge was a masterstroke by Putin. The initial power lines were simply a necessity. For those that complain he isn’t doing enough to counter US and European aggression need only look at the Kerch Strait bridge.

Not only did the Russians not seek international approval given the nearly universal refusal to recognize Crimea as Russian they built the thing in a time frame that defies description.

Imagine if this had been an EU project. They would still be debating the initial engineering plans and the political effects on some protected minority.

Not only does it open up the Eastern Black Sea to trade via Crimea but it ends the use of the Sea of Azov as a potential staging ground for naval provocations as last fall’s incident proved. Ukraine is cut off from acting aggressively and cannot count on any help from the US and Europe.

Moreover, Crimea is now permanently Russia’s. And every bit of infrastructure Russia builds there ties the two further together and weakens any bonds Crimea had with Ukraine. The resultant growth and modernization will make its way, economically and culturally back into southern Ukraine and erode the hard border over time.

This is far more important than striking out and metaphorically punching Poroshenko in the mouth, that many of Putin’s detractors wish for.

Presidents change, after all. Patience and attrition is how you beat an aggressive, distant enemy like the US

To remind everyone just how insane the Trump White House has become on matters international, no less than Vice President Mike Pence lobbied Germany to provoke another naval incident at the Kerch Strait.

If there was ever an example of how little Trump’s gang of moldy neocons think of Europe it is this bit of news. In effect, Pence was saying, “We can’t start a war with Russia because it would go nuclear, but you can because Russia can’t live without your trade.”

This coming after the US unilaterally pulled out of the INF treaty and is now flying nuclear bombers to eastern Europe. The message is clear. If the EU doesn’t get with this open-ended belligerent program against Russia and China of John Bolton’s they will be the ones paying the price when chaos breaks out.

On the other side there is Putin; building bridges, pipelines, power plants and roads.

He’s making it clear what the future holds not only for Europe but the Middle East, central Asia and India. We will defend Crimea at all costs, develop it not only into a tourist destination but also a major trade hub as well.

You are more than welcome to join us. But, we don’t need you.

These power plants will raise Crimea’s power output well beyond its current needs, allowing first export of power as well as providing the foundation for future growth.

And as if it weren’t coordinated in any way, the Chinese, on the morning of Putin’s speech, announced that Crimea would be an excellent fit for investment projects attached to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

That’s according to the head of the association of Chinese compatriots on the peninsula, Ge Zhili. “Our organization is bolstering cooperation ties, exchanges and friendly contacts with the Crimean society,” he said at an event dedicated to the fifth anniversary of Crimea’s reunification with Russia, which was held in the Russian Embassy in Beijing on Monday.

It is also ready to contribute to the establishment of “reliable partner ties” and the explanation of legal details of business cooperation with Crimea, Ge Zhili said. “The Chinese society hopes for the development of friendly cooperation with Crimea; we are ready to overcome difficulties for fruitful results.”

Again this is a direct challenge to the US who has Crimea under strict sanctions in the West. China is happy now to move forward with integrating Crimea into its plans. It’s just another example of how Russia and China simply ignore Trump’s fulminations and move on.

I can’t wait until I get to write this article all over again, this time about North Korea, now that Bolton has thrown Russian and Chinese assistance in getting North Korea to the negotiating table back in their face by destroying the Hanoi talks.

This announcement is not to be underestimated given that Chinese Premier Xi Jinping is in Rome this week to open up relations with the new Italian government. Five Star Movement’s Leader Luigi Di Maio said he would welcome becoming a part of BRI, much to the consternation of Trump, German Chancellor Angela Merkel as well as his coalition partner Lega Leader Matteo Salvini.

It’s already well known that Salvini is interested in ending sanctions on Crimea and re-opening trade with Russia. Italy is desperate for new markets and opportunities, currently stifled under the euro itself as well as Germany’s insistence on austerity hollowing out Italy’s economy and its future prospects.

These issues as well as energy security ones are coming to a head this year with Brexit, the European Parliamentary elections in May and the completion of the Nordstream 2 pipeline later this year.

As Putin continues to polish his Black Sea jewel, Europe has to decide if it is going to continue playing the U.S’s games over Ukraine or begin the next phase of its independence. Salvini will lead a Euroskeptic revolt within the European Parliament in May. It may be big enough to finally defy Merkel and end EU sanctions on Russia over Crimea.

At that point the US will also have a choice, burn down the world economy with even more sanctions, tariffs and acts of war or accept the facts on the ground.

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