Tag: Russian hacking

Election Cyber Security Going Forward

George S LedyardSheila Kennedy has blogged about our election security situation in her article Smoke and Fire and Vote Suppression
As usual she is thoughtful and articulate and brings up some points that we really need to be considering and under the Trump administration, for reason that are really not justifiable, we are not.
Donald Trump’s obsession with trying to prove that he really didn’t lose the popular vote, that the three million more votes for Hillary Clinton were fraudulent, has caused him to set up a Federal probe to investigate this so-called “fraud” for which there is ZERO evidence.
At the same time, Trump is adamant in his attempts to minimize the Russian interference in the 2016 election, for which there is massive evidence. Furthermore, given what we know of the Russian penetration of state voting systems, it would seem to be crucial that we take a look at the electronic voting machines, the security of the voter data bases, and so on because that’s where the really significant vulnerabilities lie.
But Trump’s Dept of Homeland Security has nixed that effort. So, the bottom line here is that the Trump administration wishes to spend many millions of dollars investigating a problem that doesn’t exist but will not do anything about a problem that is potentially REALLY serious. Many see this as a stealth effort to set up Federal level voter suppression measures and 40 states so far have refused to cooperate wit the probe’s request for records.
Putin - Russian hacking- 2016 electionThe Russians have managed to interfere with our 2016 election. We know that much. The extent to which their cyber penetration, their vast social media propaganda effort and other tactics, tipped the scales in 2016 has not been quantified and may not ever be. Their intelligence operation against Hilary Clinton and for Donald Trump was so complex that we may find it impossible to separate out what effect the Russian interference and from other elements that would have happened anyway.
But one thing is certain. The Russians have incurred almost no negative consequences for their cyber attack on our system. I suspect that the 2016 election interference op will go down in history as one of the most successful covert ops in intelligence history. Espionage professionals will be studying this operation in spook school for many years.
election security, cvyber attacks, election hackingGiven its success and the negligible price that Russia has paid, it’s virtually certain that they will continue this effort going forward. The Russians look at our democratic system as our big vulnerability. With a public that is polarized to the point at which elections at the national level are won by a mere percentage point or two we are uniquely vulnerable to fake news, disinformation campaigns designed to sway just enough votes to change the outcome. Tipping the scales is quite possible when elections are this close.
We desperately need to address the security of this process at the state level and this will require Federal coordination and financial support. Because it isn’t just he Russians we have to worry about. Other nations have cyber units that regularly hack our business and government systems. And now that they’ve seen how successful the Russian covert op was, we can expect other players to try the same thing.

The Russian Scandal Is Not Just a Distraction

George S LedyardCatherine Rampell in the Washington Post (link below) writes that the Russian Scandal distract us from the REALLY important issues with Donald Trump’s Presidency.
 
“Focusing on the terrible things Team Trump did during the campaign and transition conveniently distracts you from all the terrible things Team Trump is doing during the presidency.”
I happen to think she’s dead wrong. Not because so many of the Trump actions aren’t really important. Not because they, in the long run, won’t effect each of us more than the Russian scandal.
It’s because no matter how disastrous his climate change denial is, the dismantlement of the EPA, the GOP Health Care atrocity, the dismantling of the Federal regulatory capacity, etc, NONE of these things is illegal.
The GOP has the Presidency and both Houses of Congress. If they can agree among themselves, the Democrats are helpless to do anything but watch them destroy everything we’ve built since the New Deal.
Our first chance of even slowing things down, under normal circumstances, would be 2018 and possibly taking back the Senate.
But we have the Russian Hacking and / Election Interference scandal. The sheer scope and scale of this scandal is possibly historic. The great scandals like the Teapot Dome Scandal, Watergate, Iran Contra, all may end up dwarfed by this one.
While yes, we as voters may find that we are being “distracted” by the daily revelations, more importantly it is the President, the administration, and the GOP Congress who are getting distracted to the point of being ineffective. The GOP Congress has passed almost no landmark legislation since the election. Almost all of Trump’s destructive actions have been done via executive order.
Frankly, the more time and attention that the President and the administration officials have to put on legal defense, testifying in the various investigations, defending themselves in the media, simply doing damage control, the less time they have to pushing through their disastrous agenda.
The strength of the GOP position in Congress only makes a difference if they are unified. As the Trump associated scandals deepens, they will lose their central focus, the one who provides a unifying leadership for their efforts. GOP representatives will find themselves needing to distance themselves from the sinking Trump ship and GOP party discipline in Congress will almost assuredly suffer.
Finally, criminal charges against administration officials with the consequent specter of impeachment for President Trump provide our best chance of stopping the Trump agenda even before the mid-terms, and certainly before 2020. Impeachment proceedings would almost certainly bring other Congressional business to a full halt. And, this scandal could well be the motivating factor in producing a record turnout at the mid-terms.
No matter how destructive and disastrous the various Trump initiatives are, none, with the possible exception of the health care issue, are likely to fire the base, get people involved politically, and turn out the vote the way the Russian collusion issue may. The extent to which we can hammer the administration over the scandal and let the GOP Congress know that we hold them responsible for being “enablers” of this dysfunction, is directly related to our ability to slow down or prevent destructive legislative initiatives from being pushed through.

George LedyardIf you like what we are doing here, please know that we would be extremely grateful for any support you might provide. We have three levels of on-going support which we have purposely kept extremely affordable. Thanks for helping us keep this effort going.


On-going Support Options



Trump Thinks It’s All OK Now

George S LedyardYou will notice, that from the very start of the Russian hacking intrusion, the number one concern of the President has been on trying to tell us all that he wasn’t involved and he wasn’t being investigated.

Trump is acting like his exoneration, which of course hasn’t actually happened yet, no matter how the GOP wishes to spin it, will make everything all right.

The fact that half of his associates, including family members, are still being investigated or the fact that, even if none of his people did collude with the Russians, it is still a fact the Russians, a foreign power, interfered with the electoral process of the United States seems to be of little interest to him.

Trump’s only concern, as usual is Trump. The Russian hacking investigation casts a pall on the legitimacy of his win. Trump as shown all along a disproportionate investment in misrepresenting his win. He claimed that Clinton didn’t really win the popular vote. He claimed his win in the electoral college was a by a record margin whereas it was one of the closest wins ever.

TrumpI believe that Trump is such a colossal narcissist that he’s willing to let he Russians get completely away with their massive and unprecedented cyber attack on this country rather than have it taint his win, the win of which he is most proud, the win where he showed Clinton and Obama up. He simply doesn’t want to hear about Russian hacking.

In many ways, what is even more troubling however, is the number of GOP representatives and party leaders who would rather let the Russians slide than allow Trump to be damaged or give the Dems ANYTHING to use against them. Their unwillingness to protect this country from the intrusions of a hostile power borders on treason. For a bunch of people who wrap themselves in the flag at ever turn, this is greatest show of hypocrisy I think I have seen in my lifetime.

Ronald Reagan, the man they all seem to idolize, spent his life fighting the Russians. He felt his greatest achievement was in defeating the evil empire. Now Putin, like Sauron, has risen from the ashes, and Morder is once again a threat. If there is indeed a heaven, can you imagine Reagan looking down and seeing his Party, the one he devoted his life to, looking the other way when the country was attacked by the Russians.

Ronald-ReaganReagan would be in a full sail rage over this. I think he would find what the GOP has become, totally incomprehensible.

Domestic Politics “Trumps” Foreign Policy Positions

George S Ledyard“There’s no such thing as foreign policy, there is only domestic policy” – Justin Raimondo of AntiWar.com in an interview on NPR today.
In this case he was talking about Donald Trump’s recent bombing of Syria, ostensibly in response to Assad’s sarin gas attack on civilians. His take on it, and I think it makes sense, is that Trump is basically bombing Syria, in order to try to show the American people that he isn’t in bad with the Russians.
Cruise missiles SyriaInterestingly, the total flip flop from the Reagan era when the GOP was full of anti-Russian cold warriors and the Democrats, as the opposition party were obligated to oppose Reagan’s global anti Communist efforts, we now have a Republican administration which is clearly positively disposed towards Russia and an almost hysterically anti-Russian Democratic Party.Anti RussianThis creates the most amazing political conjunction. Many of the far left Progressives who supported Bernie Sanders in the 2016 campaign, seem far more focused on the perceived evils of the Democratic Party establishment, the so-called Neo-Liberals, than they are  with what the people on the ultra right are doing. So, we find these Progressives putting forth the same pro-Russia, anti-Democratic messages that the far right talk show hosts are putting out.
WikiLeaksThey question whether the Russians really did hack the DNC, they deny that the Russians intervened in the election to benefit Donald Trump, they are depicting the Syrian gas attack as a false flag operation designed to generate support for anti-Assad  forces and pressure the Russians to perhaps distance themselves from their ally.
Isn’t it rather insane that a group of people who share absolutely no agenda items in their vision of America with the GOP or the Tea Party radicals end up allied on foreign policy issues with Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin?
And the Democrats themselves, have so committed to the anti-Russian narrative that, when their arch enemy, the Great Satan, Donald Trump chooses to bomb Syria in order to convince people he isn’t in the pocket of the Russians, they end up praising his actions and actually assisting him in his attempts to appear more “Presidential”. It is actually the far right nationalists, who thought Trump was going to be an isolationist that are upset about the bombing and his flip flop on the US as a global policeman.
My point here is that the Syrian issue ends up highlighting just how irrational most folk’s foreign policy positions are. They have little or nothing to do with the realities of the political and military situation on the ground in Syria. Folks take their positions based on the interplay of political considerations here on the domestic scene.
Trump PutinTrump clearly has a serious Russian influence problem. So, he goes against his publicly stated stance as an isolationist, and bombs Syria in order to show he’s not in the pocket of the Russians. The Democrats who have suddenly become hyper anti-Russian (just since the election amazingly) have been using the Russian influence scandal to bludgeon Trump. So, when Trump actually does something that runs counter to Russia’s stated interests, the Dems end up helping to legitimize and normalize this man whom they strongly oppose. This of course totally validates Trump’s attempts at deflection.
Hillary Clinton Progressive OppositionThe far left Progressive fanatics are trying to create a movement to set up a third party. Their narrative is that the Democratic Party is compromised beyond repair. They want to split off Democratic Party support in order to grow support for their new party. This means that their major focus isn’t on resisting Trump or the Alt Right, it’s on opposing any and all Democratic efforts to appear to recover from the Hillary Clinton / DNC electoral loss. So, if the Democratic establishment is taking an anti-Russian stance in response to Trump’s clear pro-Russia agenda, the Progressives end up pursuing the same agenda as the Trump forces.
Can everyone see just how little this has anything at all due to historical, cultural, and political reality in Syria? While I am sure that in the intelligence and military communities there are educated people striving for fact based decision making. But if one is listening to the leaders of ANY of the different political factions, Tea Party, Republican, Democratic, Progressive, it doesn’t matter, you see their positions change with the wind, based on domestic political concerns and with little regard to educated and consistent foreign policy agendas.

Watergate and Its Relevance to the Trump Administration Scandals

George S LedyardFor those that are impatient to be rid of Donald Trump, it is good to remember that Watergate, the worst scandal in US history, took 26 months to unfold.
The Nixon people had a war with the journalistic establishment every bit as vicious as what we are seeing with Donald Trump and company.
Initially, the GOP attempted to shield the President but as more and more information came out, they hung him out to dry and began to distance themselves.
The importance of having an independent investigation in bringing Nixon to justice can’t be overestimated nor should the integrity of various members of his administration who refused to go along with his attempts to shut the investigation down.
Our current scandal isn’t just one of political evil doing… it’s about foreign influence over our electoral process, possible collusion with a foreign power by current members of our administration,and even potential penetration of the administration by Russian FSB agents.
I was in college when the Watergate scandal broke. I was quite the aficionado of all the details. I knew the names of all the Watergate burglars, the names of all the “Plumbers” inside the white house. Everyone in the country watched the Senate hearings presided over Sam Ervin. Every day more details emerged of just how much illegal activity has been occurring. It was stunning.
The biggest thing I came away with was the extent to which people will go when they are “true believers” in a cause. Nixon and comp[any really believed that everything they did was necessary and justified in order to protect the nation from Socialism at home, Communism abroad, and dissent from liberals, minorities, women, etc who didn’t understand the realities of world power politics.
These people had a “mission” and they believed that it was their job to save the rest of us, often from ourselves. The law was inconvenient and could justifiably be circumvented for the greater good, as determined by… themselves.
The similarities with today are too many to ignore. We have a sociopathic leader for whom truth is what currently suits him, surrounded by zealots. Some are religious zealots some are captains of capitalism once again saving us from creeping socialism. Some are single issue zealots on issues like abortion, others are big picture Global strategists in the East West culture wars fighting for the lest vestiges of white Eurocentric American culture. But the one thing that Trump’s people all have in common is that they are all “true believers”  in much the same mold as the old Nixon minions.
They all are on a “mission”, they all see themselves as important figures in turning back the forces of progressivism, of undoing just about every advance we have made since the New Deal in terms of the government role in protecting civil rights, providing the social safety net, and managing those areas we have deemed “public goods” such as clean air, drinkable water, workplace safety, safe food, and so on. Some are fighting what they see as the result of globalization which is diversity itself. They are “crusaders” for America first”. which really means white America first.
I bring this out as a way of understanding that for “true believers” there is seldom any behavior that is out of bounds in advancing the agenda. Couple that with the very real possibility that one or more of the administration figures may have been compromised by the Russian FSB and are compelled to do their bidding and one can see just how threatening the current situation is to our democracy. This is a crisis of the first order, potentially worse than the Watergate scandal.
Robert Redford has written a wonderful piece on Watergate and its relevance to what is happening now. Take a look, it’s a great piece of work.
45 Years After Watergate, The Truth is Again in Danger
Trump as Nixon and Watergate - Russian Hacking

Trump Goes on the Offense – Here Comes the Witch Hunt

George S LedyardBy now. anyone who pays even the least attention to politics, knows about the issues with potentially inappropriate ties to Russia on the part of Donald Trump and associates. The number of campaign workers, even family members, who had meetings with the Russian Ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak, also known to be Russia’s top spymaster in the US, during and after the campaign seems to grow almost daily.

Sergey Kislyak with Vladimir Putin
Sergey Kislyak at the center

The timing of many of these meetings seems suspicious as various events took place around the same times, such as the change in the language of the GOP platform regarding the Ukraine (a softening of the position vis a vis Russia) and the release of the hacked emails which are seen by members of the intelligence community as almost certainly coming out of a state sponsored Russian hacker effort.

Russian influence scandal, Sessions, Flynn, Kisyiyak

Mike Flynn met with the Russians and said he didn’t and has resigned. Now Jeff Sessions is in the spotlight for precisely the same thing. Trump’s son in law Jared Kushner is also known to have met with Kislyak, a fact kept quiet until just recently,  and the question remains about all of these meetings, what was being discussed? Why were members of a camping team having multiple contacts with the Russian Ambassador?
Suffice it to say that this whole affair has occasioned something of a crisis within the new Trump administration. Try as he might, Trump has failed to shake this widening scandal and comparisons with Watergate and Richard Nixon abound.
So, what is Donald Trump’s response to these perceived attacks on his new regime? What it has always been throughout his career, go on full counter attack. In a series of tweets is has accused Barrack Obama of having Trump Tower wire tapped during the campaign. Today, he is calling for an all out Congressional investigation into these supposed wire taps, while calling them a form of McCarthyism.
Well, the GOP has closed ranks behind their leader and so far, steadfastly refused to initiate investigations into the Russian hacker activity and whether it improperly influenced the election. Now, the President wishes to turn the tables and loose his GOP controlled Congress on the former Obama administration.
This is clearly, transparently, a standard Trump response to any attack he can’t make go away or from which he can’t distract attention with outrageous behavior, and that is attack. Trump learned this tactic as a young man from his friend and mentor, Roy Cohn, the vicious lawyer behind Joe McCarty and a New York mob lawyer and ruthless litigator.

Roy Cohn and Donald TrumpThe attacks against the previous President serve multiple purposes for Trump. First, they fit his on-going narrative that Obama administration holdovers are waging a guerrilla war from with the various government agencies via leaks that embarrass the administration. This has been an only partially effective tactic given the fact that Trump would probably not be President if it weren’t for the infamous email leaks which targeted the Clinton campaign.
Also, these accusations now dominate the news cycle, giving the Trump team some time to regroup. They also put the GOP members of Congress in a position where they have to start choosing sides. While it is clear that virtually all of the Republicans members of Congress are perfectly happy to stone wall any possible investigation into the Trump campaign’s involvement in Russian interference in the election, they have been able to sit back on the sidelines so far.
Bannon and Miller, Donald Trump advisers, Russian scandalBut now, Trump’s strategy, no doubt worked out with his closest advisers, is to attempt to turn Congress into a weapon to be used against the enemy. Because Trump has been in full control of the government, having won the election and with a GOP controlled House and Senate, Trump hasn’t had anyone to act as a foil for his inherently aggressive instincts. Obama and Clinton are gone, former Obama administration officials are being purged, and the Democratic Congress is powerless to do much at all. So, the Trump tactic of finding an external enemy to go after has not been helping him.

Trump tweet Obama wire tapNow, completely out of the blue, he is trying to turn his Russian problem into a Congressional witch hunt focused on the previous Obama administration.  Of course, as usual, his diatribe against Obama has no basis in fact. The President of the United States has no power to order such wire taps. It requires a court order to do so. This begs the question, if there were wire taps, what was the probable cause that justified them? This may actually be Trump’s attempt to expose and discredit a classified investigation into his own campaign by the intelligence service and the FBI. Either that or this is another one of his completely fictitious creations which are so hard to refute because there’s no factual information involved at all.

This also serves to force the media into devoting their limited resources to another investigation. Hours spent digging to verify a potentially unverifiable accusation translates into hours not spent looking more deeply into Russian penetration of the Trump administration.
But, this whole thing may backfire on the Trump regime if it serves to make public the reasons a court would grant a surveillance order involving Trump and his associates. The Russian influence / hacking scandal when combined with so many of Trump’s associates having extremely close ties to Russian government and business figures takes one very close to the line past which we start talking about espionage or spying. Trump may not like what comes out now that he’s opened another can of worms.
Joe McCarty, Roy Cohn, Trump Russian scandal, wire taps, ObamaIn any case, Trump is ready to take us back to the McCarthy era. He wants to initiate a Congressional investigation into his perceived enemies. If he can get this started, one can rest assured its scope will expand from wire taps during the campaign to searching for anti-Trump “leakers” within the various government agencies, especially the FBI and the intelligence services. If he can get this started, it will turn into a witch hunt. I believe this is Trump’s excuse to go on the offensive and identify and purge the government of any resistance to his administration.
We have not seen a vicious, attack dog, like this in the white house since Richard Nixon. Trump and his minions are every bit as ruthless about consolidating power as anyone who has ever been in the office. This is not a man who plays “defense”. After a couple weeks of taking hits, he has rallied himself and his minions and the have gone into full attack mode. Expect to see this played out today (Sunday) on all the talk shows.

Trump and Putin, Russian influence scandalWe cannot let this counter offensive succeed. Our representatives must keep on pushing for a special prosecutor to investigate the Russian hacking scandal and possible related improper relationships with Russian officials / spies. We must encourage the media to stay focused on the real story and not let Trump get away with distracting them. And we have to keep our representatives focused on the continuous effort to get Trump to release his tax returns. All of his outrageous behavior is designed to protect him from what could be politically lethal revelations and we should not allow that effort to succeed.