I love America with all of my heart. That’s why I am very concerned (and angry) about foreign interference in our elections and our way of life.
Currently, the Russian government led by Vladimir Putin is meddling in our society, having weaponized social media in 2016 to affect the outcome of that year’s presidential election.
I feel bad for the Russian people, who’ve been victimized by their own sham election this week. Election officials there confirmed almost 78 percent of the voters supposedly backed constitutional amendments, one of which will see presidential term limits reset, allowing Putin to run for the job again in 2024 and in 2030 if he so chooses. Independent observers have cried foul, claiming the results are obviously rigged. Opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who urged citizens to boycott the referendum and not take part in legitimizing the outcome, called the results “a fake and huge lie.”
That referendum is seen as a way for Putin to push back against growing discontent with his leadership, using the power of the state to rig an election to assert that he’s still widely supported by the Russian people.
‘All Roads Lead to Putin?’
Many Americans fail to recognize Putin’s footprint on America’s 2016 election. Some refuse to acknowledge it at all because the winner of that race can’t stand having an asterik next to his name or any assertion that his victory was less than legitimate.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Thursday it will keep secret grand jury testimony collected by former special counsel Robert Mueller out of House Democrats’ hands until after the November presidential election.
This action keeps potentially damning grand jury testimony about actions of the current commander in chief sealed and out of view for Americans deciding whether to give him a second term or elect the presumptive Democratic nominee. The High Court’s decision to take the case shows again its longtime deference to the Office of the President. The current occupant of the White House is arguing that Congress also has no right to inspect his bank and financial records to look for possible conflicts of interest.
While special counsel Mueller didn’t find actions that could be charged as criminal conspiracy on the president’s behalf, he found extensive collusion with that conspiracy, by both the president himself and his campaign staff.
The president has a peculiar affection for Russia and the authoritarian leader Putin. It isn’t just that he loves Putin and won’t hear a bad word about Russia. It’s that he has a long history, documented in the Mueller report, of making it clear that he would use his power to assist Putin’s agenda in return.
The president himself is a useful asset for former KGB officer Putin. The Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives presented the question this week of what the Russian leadership might have on this president to blackmail him into doing such things as believing the Russians over America’s own intelligence agencies, alienating our NATO allies, pushing for Russia to be added back to the G7 group of nations, and taking our troops out of Germany, where they’ve been stationed for a half-century as a check on Russian aggression into Europe.
Continue to support this president if you feel that none of this — or the numerous reports of secretive conversations with the Russians — are suspicious. But don’t avert your eyes from taking a deeper, more critical look at the situation.
Russia’s election interference strategy:
If Russia follows the same gameplan as 2016, we can assume at least some of the following activities from the KGB playbook are again happening:
- Determine which candidate in the U.S. presidential election is most likely to win who will pledge to ease economic sanctions imposed by the former U.S. President that are impeding the Russian economy. Secretly designate this person as the preferred candidate and arrange for covert coordination with his or her campaign that can be plausibly denied as earnest efforts to improve Russia-U.S. relations. Establish back-channel channels of funneling information and low-key meetings to coordinate Russia’s meddling in the presidential election on behalf of that person.
- Send spies on a reconnaissance tour of the United States, including electoral “battleground states”, to gather intelligence on American politics.
- Have those spies establish American identities for individuals and groups within specific social media communities, creating hundreds of email, PayPal and bank accounts and fraudulent driver’s licenses for fictitious Americans — and sometimes real Americans whose Social Security numbers have been stolen.
- Use a Kremlin-linked troll farm, the Internet Research Agency (IRA), to strategically wage a social media campaign that favors a preferred candidate, provoking and amplifying political and social discord in the United States through hacking, internet-trolling and financing for extremist political groups.
- Recruit and collude with third-party independent presidential candidate(s) who can gain enough popular momentum early on with U.S. voters whose platform mirrors some aspects of the campaign of the non-preferred candidate during his or her Primary Election campaign. Once the non-preferred candidate’s campaign is attacked by a propaganda and misinformation campaign, use the third-party candidate(s) to dilute the General Election vote and hurt the non-preferred candidate’s chances of getting a majority in the American election system, which favors binary choices between two candidates nominated by the Democratic and Republican parties.
- Finance operations with indirectly provided illegal cash donations from Russian oligarchs, laundering this money through a U.S. national advocacy group that isn’t required to disclose their donors in order to help the preferred candidate win the presidency through contributions to the campaign from its political action committee.
- Invest $100,000+ in thousands of Facebook social media advertisements to directly reach millions of Americans and create hundreds of fraudulent accounts to generate shareable content.
- Fabricate news articles and disinformation to spread from Russian government-controlled outlets, RT America and Sputnik to be popularized on pro-Russian accounts on Twitter and other social media. Use these Kremlin-directed messaging channels as part of the larger efforts to undermine faith in the U.S. government and fuel political protest.
- Employ thousands of Russian propagandists/trolls to create the impression of far greater support for the preferred candidate and foment “dissent or conspiracies against the U.S. government and its institutions”. Use hoax websites and hyperpartisan blogs to generate “clickbait” content sensational enough to produce shares, reactions and comments on Facebook.
- Target social and political divisions in the U.S., especially any normally dependable voting block crucial to the election of the non-preferred candidate, and strategically spread misleading information aiming to reduce that demographic’s voter turnout.
- Recruit typically unknowing assets within that demographic to stage events and spread content from Russian influencers, spreading provocative videos and sharing misleading information about how to vote and whom to vote for.
- Use misleading memes on social media to arouse voters of the preferred candidate’s party to react with outrage by exploiting their typical social attitudes, suggesting that groups they fear and/or feel superior to are receiving undeserved and special treatment from the non-preferred candidate’s party, thus making them feel persecuted and deepening the ideological divide. Simultaneously exploit their typical attitudes to distract from any negative perceptions of the preferred candidate, denigrate critics of Russia and propagate falsehoods about the health of the non-preferred candidate.
- Organize election rallies in the U.S. promoting the preferred candidate’s campaign while opposing his opponent’s campaign. Pose as Americans, hiding Russian backgrounds, while asking preferred candidate campaign members for campaign buttons, flyers, and posters for the rallies.
- Use Russian military intelligence agency GRU under code names Cozy Bear and Fancy Bear to send deceptive “spearphishing” emails targeting hundreds of individuals affiliated with the party and the campaign of the non-preferred candidate. Once one of them is compromised by clicking on a link, upload and use malware to explore their computer networks. Once these are copied, delete computer logs and files to obscure evidence. Sort through the tens of thousands of harvested emails and attachments in search of embarrassing information and/or the campaign’s data analytics and voter-turnout models.
- Use Bitcoin to pay for a hacker website as cover for activities and wreak havoc during the election season by strategically release any damaging information from stolen emails and documents in stages to WikiLeaks for public dissemination during the three months before the election. Release the most damaging information to distract the public from media events that are either beneficial to the non-preferred campaign or harmful to the preferred candidate’s directly to reporters and bloggers around the U.S. who are covering some of the most competitive House or Senate races.
- Mine information from the non-preferred campaign’s stolen data analytics and voter-turnout models to target messaging to “key constituencies” that candidate needs to mobilize, then bombard these voters with negative information about that candidate on social media.
- Amplify attacks on the non-preferred candidate and support for the preferred candidate, via geographically targeted social media messaging to sway the opinions of “swing state” votes prior to the election.
- Attack the state election infrastructure and exploit weaknesses in the vast back-end apparatus — voter-registration operations, state and local election databases, electronic poll books and other equipment of state election systems. If possible, alter or delete voter registration data to create chaos in lieu of the ability to manipulate individual votes or vote tallies.
- Hack the websites of companies that provide states with the back-end systems that have increasingly replaced the thick binders of paper used to verify voters’ identities and registration status.
- Exploit these intrusions to undermine the confidence of Americans in the system’s capability to guarantee free and fair elections.
- If these activities are discovered before the election, compel Congressmen allied with the preferred candidate’s party to dismiss any evidence presented by Congressmen allied with the non-preferred candidate’s party and threaten to publicize the matter as internal partisan election interference if the matter is made public prior to the election happening.
- If the non-preferred candidate wins the Presidency, immediately have the preferred candidate allege voter fraud and provoke as much outrage among the U.S. population for as long as possible, ideally disillusioning voters and undermining U.S. voters′ faith in their electoral system.
- Have Russian-hired attorneys press for dismissal of any conspiracy claims in U.S. civil court and deny any specific intelligence report supporting an assessment that Putin and the Russian Government demonstrated a preference for one candidate and that Putin “approved and directed” the interference. Contend that it is a “hoax” perpetrated to explain the non-preferred candidate’s loss. Repeat this so often that some begin to believe it could be true.
- With the preferred candidate installed in the U.S. presidency, conceal and destroy evidence in the event of any investigation. Collude with the newly installed U.S. President to remove sanctions against Russia for its actions.
- Have the president surround himself with “yes” men who are blindly loyal to him and willing to disregard the Constitution or rule of law.
- Have the president fire anyone who disagrees or challenges him;
- Have the president demonize federal agencies as deep-state groups challenging his legitimacy and claim they are constantly working to destroy him;
- Have the president create anger, hatred, and division, using disinformation and demonizing marginalized people such as immigrants, ethnic groups, or refugees;
- Have the president work to continually stir the pot to keep people angry to distract them from other things.
- Have the president stack the courts to eliminate an independent judiciary.
- Have the president demonize anyone who differs from his point of view by calling them unsavory names such as criminal or traitors; etc.
Open Your Eyes, America
Realize what is being done to us, the manipulation at work to divide us and attempt to destroy us. Sadly, the Russians appear to be wildly successful in their efforts.