Hypocrisy Over Alleged Russian ‘Hacking’

As Official Washington rages over alleged Russian hacking of Democratic emails, a forgotten back story is how the U.S. government pioneered the tactics of cyber-war and attacked unsuspecting countries, recalls Michael Brenner.

By Michael Brenner

The psychodrama over the alleged but unsubstantiated Russian hacking of Democratic emails to influence the U.S. presidential election has yet to reach its climax. Already, though, it has earned nomination as the most surreal and passionate work of fiction of the Twenty-first Century.

In all the excitement, it is easy to lose perspective. Perhaps the biggest piece of the untold story is the United States government’s pioneering role in electronic surveillance and hacking. We seem to have forgotten that the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency eavesdropped on heads of state in Germany, Brazil, Argentina, Iraq, Venezuela – and, at last count, several score other capitals. Also, the United Nations Secretary General, the President of the European Union Commission, the European Central Bank and God knows whom else.

President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush (with First Lady Michelle Obama and former First Lady Laura Bush) walk to a White House event on May 31, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

This was not coincidental. It was part of a calculated strategy approved by two successive Presidents to monitor all electronic communications around the globe. Author James Bamford and other knowledgeable experts have provided us with a detailed history of the program.

Yet, the U.S. — as presented to us by the mainstream media and most commentators reflecting Official Washington –is portrayed as the innocent among the main protagonists. The plot line represents America as the victim of unprovoked cyber aggression by the Russians and, in other circumstances, the Chinese – these attacks coming out of the blue, an aggressive blow in an assumed contest for global dominance between the powers.

Is any of this true? Frankly, we haven’t even seen the proof. But let’s assume that there is an element of truth to it (leaving apart the nonsense about a Kremlin plot to manipulate and then destroy American democracy).

On the Offensive

Let us recall that it was the United States that launched the first cyber attacks – some years ago by the NSA. This history is detailed in the Snowden documents whose authenticity never has been questioned. We succeeded in trespassing on the computer networks of several Chinese government agencies and individuals. We boasted about our success in intra-governmental communications. Those occurred at a time when related documents now in the public realm revealed the NSA’s ambition to tap into every electronic communications network in the world and laid out a program for achieving that goal.

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden speaking in Moscow on Oct. 9, 2013. (From a video posted by WikiLeaks)

Simultaneously, the United States was launching offensive assaults on Iran. The targets there included not just their nuclear research facilities but also critical centers for the oil and gas industry. These are acts of war. Yet there was never a mandate from any international body for doing so, nor a casus belli. We did it in collaboration with the Israelis because we made the unilateral judgment that aggression was in our national interest. Now we are outraged that others are doing what we have done. This is rank hypocrisy. It also is not very bright. For the initial actions made the casual assumptions that the U.S. would always have an advantage; therefore, the setting of norms and rules was unnecessary and undesirable. The same logic operated in regard to drones and targeted assassinations.

Conditions now have changed and the now U.S. is vulnerable to attack. The option of negotiating international rules of the road and perhaps formal regulations is slipping away. We will have to live with the chaotic mess that we have created.

Whatever thinking the NSA did on the subject (and perhaps other agencies) bears an uncanny resemblance to Air Force General Curtis LeMay’s attitude toward nuclear strategy: An emphasis on offense because it played to our advantage; defense only in the form of “massive retaliation” which – for Lemay – was the strategic cover for massive first strike; and a conviction that this was an unavoidable zero-sum game played for the highest stakes. In other words, cowboy strategy. And it is cowboy strategic thinking that has ruled in the NSA.

Cyber Army

The most revealing article on this appeared in WIRED in July 2014 by James Bamford. Army General Keith Alexander, who was NSA director from 2005 to 2014, revealed the full scope of his ambition. Here are some of the article’s more noteworthy quotes: “For years, U.S. General Keith Alexander has been amassing a secret cyber army. Now it’s ready to attack. … Alexander’s forces are formidable – thousands of NSA spies, plus 14,000 cyber troops. … Endgame hunts for hidden security weaknesses that are ripe for exploitation.”

Gen. Keith Alexander, former director of the National Security Agency.

Plans included a “launch on warning” doctrine calling for a massive cyber-retaliation against anyone who launched a strategic attack on sensitive U.S. computers. Its code name was “MonsterMind.” But preparations for the Great Cyber War evidently left no time to keep track of smaller attacks (such as the alleged hacking of Democratic emails) or else its radar was badly defective.

[Also see THE INTERCEPT of Oct. 10, 2014, “Core Secrets: NSA Saboteurs in China and Germany” by Peter Maass and Laura Poitras.]

Michael Brenner is a professor of international affairs at the University of Pittsburgh. mbren@pitt.edu

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19 comments for “Hypocrisy Over Alleged Russian ‘Hacking’

  1. Bill Bodden
    December 30, 2016 at 8:35 pm

    This essay and the preceding article on Consortium News – Details Still Lacking on Russian ‘Hack’ – provide excellent commentary refuting the rampant, evidence-free accusations about Russian hacking to rig the election in favor of Donald Trump. We would do well to bring these exposes to the attention of our senators and representatives in Congress. They may fail to dissuade these politicians from their positions based on the propaganda emanating from the Obama administration, warmongers in Congress, the mainstream corporate media, and their campaign donors, but such messages from constituents will let them know they are being watched and not fooling all the people all the time.

    Several decades ago the great journalist, I F. “Izzy” Stone, gave us his dictum, “All governments lie.” In this new century all government and most politicians lie more than ever.

  2. Hector Robles
    December 30, 2016 at 10:29 pm

    Good article. What if all this had nothing to do with the election and all about pissing in the pool by the Obama administration to put Trump in a no win situation with Russia.

    • backwardsevolution
      December 31, 2016 at 12:10 am

      Hector – yes. Paul Craig Roberts adds:

      “One obvious answer is that the neoconized Obama regime is desperate to ruin US-Russian relations past the point that Trump can repair them. […]

      Possibly we should consider that more is going on than meets the eye. Perhaps the propaganda about the Russian cyber threat to democracy is being used to prepare American and/or European populations for an incident. The CIA has morphed into a “deep state” that uses disinformation and propaganda to align decisions of Congress, the executive branch, and foreign governments with secret behind-the-scenes agendas. Many books, such as Stephen Kinzer’s The Brothers and Douglas Valentine’s CIA As Organized Crime have described some of these secret agendas.

      In order to deter Trump from restoring normal relations with Russia, an incident would have to be severe and irreversible. Rather than accept defeat for their agenda of US world hegemony, the neoconservatives are prepared to take high risks. The willingness to take risks is demonstrated by the public effort of the CIA Director to discredit the president-elect.”

      http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2016/12/30/what-is-the-obama-regime-up-to-paul-craig-roberts/

      Are they setting the stage for an incident? Hope nobody has to fly in the next three weeks.

    • Sam F
      December 31, 2016 at 10:03 am

      This is intended to conceal the facts revealed by the emails.

      The Democratic Party is controlled by foreign powers, Israel and Saudi Arabia.

  3. F. G. Sanford
    December 31, 2016 at 7:57 am

    It’s an established historical fact that the CIA and FBI thwarted the Warren Commission investigation. The CIA also obstructed the House Select Committee on Assassinations. George Johannides’ efforts are now notorious. The Church Committee Investigations were also corrupted by efforts at “damage control” by the intelligence community. Cointelpro is another established fact. The Contra-cocaine scandal and CIA drug-running are well documented. The NSA spies on everybody, and James Clapper lied about it to Congress. The CIA tortures people, and spied on Congress during its investigation. Has everybody forgotten Jose “Big Boy Pants” Rodriguez? He’s the guy who destroyed evidence to prevent Congress from seeing it. That’s another Obstruction of Justice example that went unprosecuted. I wasn’t going to read Jim DiEugenio’s “Reclaiming Parkland”, but I bought a copy to support the cause. My curiosity got the best of me. It’s a jaw-dropping rendition of institutional corruption, mendacity and rogue activity among the intelligence agencies. They are corrupt, autonomous and answerable to no one.

    There were accusations from Democrats that Jim Comey’s re-opening of the investigation into the Clinton email scandal was a politically motivated attempt to derail her campaign. Right wing outfits like JudicialWatch and Fox News were accused of hyping FBI efforts to expose Clinton campaign corruption.

    But suddenly, suddenly, suddenly…liberals, progressives and Democrats are taking CIA, FBI and NSA allegations of “Russian hacking” as the Gospel Truth. They’ve suddenly jumped party lines to embrace their traditional ideological opponents. Even with no evidence, they suddenly trust the Bush era cronies who lied us into one war after another, continually provided falsified…or as Ray McGovern referred to it…”faith-based intelligence”, and hobbled every attempt to provide the truth to the American public. Suddenly, for the sore loser Democrats, the “just take our word for it” answer is good enough. When will the American public realize that, under the facade of the two-party duopoly, both parties are simply tools of the “deep state” permanent war corporate and financial oligarchy? Hillary Clinton ran as a Republican. The Democrats lost. Suddenly, they sound just like Barry Goldwater supporters. The mask is off, the scam is revealed and they’re not even ashamed of themselves. Suddenly. But not really. Except for Roe v. Wade, there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between them.

    • Bob Van Noy
      December 31, 2016 at 10:52 am

      I always like to thank the writers, the commentary, the editors and Robert Parry specifically for this refreshing site.

      When I first found Consortiumnews not only did I usually agree with Mr. Parry but I would find a single comment by F. G. Sanford that would enhance Robert Parry’s take on the current issue.
      This article by Michael Brenner is, for me, typical in that I have come to trust Mr. Brenner for his intellect, honesty and insight. F.G.’s Response draws us back to the reason for our current agony and, of course, that is that a country cannot self-recover from a Coup d’état.
      Our times are difficult, dangerous and complex but with great association we can move to a better time and place. As always…Thanks.

    • rosemerry
      January 1, 2017 at 2:49 pm

      Thanks for an excellent and helpful comment. It is hard to believe these “leaders” and “journalists” are serious adults and not silly kids. Glenn Greenwald’s book “No Place to Hide” is overflowing with evidence of the illegal, immoral, sometimes counterproductive methods of the “good guys” to spy on foreign friends and enemies as well as American Citizens, zealously collecting unlimited information to use however they desired.

      Reference to anyone else is superfluous!!

    • Gregory Kruse
      January 2, 2017 at 12:12 pm

      The “American public” capable of realizing that, is but a small fraction of the American public.

  4. Realist
    December 31, 2016 at 8:59 am

    Obama, all the king’s horses and all the king’s men, and especially all of his “17” intelligence agencies will never divulge a shred of evidence, even if it exists, to prove that the Russians hacked anyone. Why? Because our own intelligence agencies constantly hack the Russkies, you, me and even the guy behind that apple tree… and our own illicit data would be the nature of the “evidence,” once again impugning us as rank hypocrites. Expect nothing more than continued chest beating, trash talk, and thuggery called “sanctions” by Obummer. That should be enough for any loyal American, and when told it often enough you will come to believe it to be the gospel truth… unless, perhaps, you persist in reading “fake news” in the alternative media like this blog. Doesn’t matter that Putin takes the more rational response and decides not to play one-ups-man-ship in the sanctions game. As a loyal American you will be told and believe that it just shows his guilt. In fact, I think what Putin did there was to catch the Washington spooks both spying and lying. His people internally circulated digital messages indicating that Russia was going to react to the American sanctions by applying specific sanctions of their own, including closing the Anglo-American school in Moscow. The American hackers at Langley intercepted this and roundly disseminated the dastardly deed amongst the media, well before Putin ever got around to publicly giving any response to Obama’s latest provocations. The American spooks were caught with their own hands in the cookie jar and hoisted on their own petard, causing Donald Trump to marvel at Putin’s resourcefulness. As Paul Harvey used to note, there’s always a “rest of the story” when it comes to news reported in the American media.

    We know with certainty that the American mainstream media, in following strict orders from their corporate masters, will have no truck with Trump anytime soon. Trump, in refusing the daily briefings from the establishment handlers who are intended to spoon feed him and ensure correct thinking by our maximum leader, is following his own muse. This makes me wonder if, unlike any recent professional politician to hold the presidency, he might be receptive to the ideas floated in the “alternative media,” like this blog. I do hope that some of the authors with renowned credentials in journalism, diplomacy, intelligence or academia that appear on these pages make some effort to reach and influence him, maybe through his cabinet members. You never know.

    • col from oz
      December 31, 2016 at 5:16 pm

      Yes that would be good if Mr Parry’s suggestion of truth telling on issues like MH17 and Syrian gas attacks. It would undercut all the mainstream media.

  5. Brian
    December 31, 2016 at 10:15 am

    If more folks truly understood this topic more, It is the U.S. Government bureaucrats everybody should worry about!

    Aug 8, 2016 DARPA’s Cyber Grand Challenge: Final Event Program

    DARPA’s Cyber Grand Challenge Final Event took place August 4, 2016, at the Paris Las Vegas Hotel and Conference Center. Seven computers developed by teams of hackers played the world’s first-ever all-machine game of Capture the Flag.

    https://youtu.be/n0kn4mDXY6I

  6. Brian
    December 31, 2016 at 10:17 am

    January 10, 2014 *500* Years of History Shows that Mass Spying Is Always Aimed at Crushing Dissent, *It’s Never to Protect Us From Bad Guys*

    No matter which government conducts mass surveillance, they also do it to crush dissent, and then give a false rationale for why they’re doing it.

    http://www.globalresearch.ca/500-years-of-history-shows-that-mass-spying-is-always-aimed-at-crushing-dissent/5364462

  7. Joe Tedesky
    December 31, 2016 at 11:34 am

    Except for the fifty percent of the Hillary supporters, who believe that Russia was the sole cause of Hillary’s defeat, who is really on board believing Obama with his charging Russia with computer hacking? I’m sure that there are those in the rest of the world who are amused to no end, that finally the supreme election instigator is getting a taste of their own medicine. Then Putin instead of lashing back plays the opposite hand, and invites American Diplomates and their families to a Russian New Years Eve celebration. Even a corrupted press has an impossible time of it making the Russian leader look bad with Putin’s high road hospitality. Still the American establishment hammers down on this Russian voter interference story like a drunk carpenter slamming away at a bend nail.

    My fear is what kind of false flag event will need to happen, to make the crowd believe Russia is attacking America? I won’t speculate, although my creative side can only wonder, but seriously should we all be expecting some awful happening will happen, and then all hell will break loose? Remember the CIA is on the anti-Putin side, and that cannot be good just in itself. So what is to come of this?

    This time if some terrible incident does occur Americans and the rest of the world should attack the established agencies such as the seventeen security agencies, and go after them for their lying ways. No more excepting the MSM bs that will be sure to follow any god awful event of some kind designed to rally us to war with Russia. Forget the rock concerts, and the bumper stickers, this time we should make it the last time these creeps screw up the world. I would say we could all be brought together on social media, but Zuckerberg I’m sure has been given his marching orders on that not happening. Any push back by the public will need honest leaders to rise to the occasion, and a lot of gut feeling to know how to bite back.

    Hey everyone no matter what, I seriously want to wish you all here a Happy New Year!

  8. Kalen
    December 31, 2016 at 3:28 pm

    The baseless accusation of Russia hack and that Russia by such act affected US elections outcome is preposterous, insane, devoid of any shred of merit. And that is what author should have emphasized and not that it is a fair game to hack those who are biggest purveyor of violence and hacking in the world.

    Simply because hacking is not the point of Dems and WH propaganda, the allegedly stolen elections are .

    Presented in a insidious way in MSM the issue gets people confused thinking that disclosing of any private information, or relevant information about a candidate is a crime in itself [as a hack is suggested to have been] confusing, even if true, two separate things: illegality of obtaining of the information and “undue” influence disclosure of such obtained information may cause during electoral campaign regardless if it is truth or not.

    But that’s a sophists’ argument violating basic logical syllogisms.

    People must understand that any information could influence a voter but as long it is true it is legal and acceptable as an element of a campaign, an act of “due” influence performed by all candidates themselves, their campaigns as well as supporting special interests, investigative journalists and independent bloggers who work to reveal true picture of a candidate in relation to their qualifications, skills, experience and moral values that would inform his/her choices in office.

    Podesta emails told the truth about Hillary and her insidious or even illegal manipulation of the primaries and her attitude of entitlement informed by her imperial hubris and likely illegal money manipulation. And hence exerted due influence on electorate in the same way as it would have been if she was the one who disclosed it.

    So the truth disclosed about Trump scandals with Trump University or sexual harassment or bankruptcies and more had the same “due” influence on electorate as his own disclosures would have had.

    And for that reason alone [the truth in Podesta emails] there could be no connection between elections’ outcome and alleged Russia hacks even if proven true.

    So now lets address alleged Russian hacks as it was published on this site devoid to any possible connections to the outcome of elections since this the fact.

    If it was a hack which they alleged, revealing the trace-route log, a smoking gun, would not be classified at all open to any disclosures.

    So why they say it is classified and cannot disclose the proof, the smoking gun.

    It is all made up. It is nothing but act of puny vengeful weasel, as Obama showed himself to his black friends like Cornell West who opposed his neoliberal policies;

    He showed his helplessness and futility by imposing meaningless sanctions with no impact whatsoever on alleged Russian activates providing no evidence whatsoever except of conjectures and speculations that are specifically listed in a disclaimer stating that none of that stated in the DHS/FBI document may be true.
    Obama simply went berserk destroying last shred of his legacy and actually obstructs peaceful transition of power which is an act of treason prosecuted under espionage act. In fact this is an argument to speed up transition to a month, since the delay stemming from slow transportation system in vast US territory in most countries transition takes one to three weeks.

    Here is what experts senior retired executives from CIA and NSA said; it was a leak not a hack confirmed by a British ambassador:
    https://consortiumnews.com/2016/12/12/us

    This whole thing is a another fake news propaganda in our new Orwellian age.

    “The propaganda of “fake news” is all about new McCarthyism, new campaign of terror and blank, baseless grave accusations against anyone who dares to question supposedly official, MSM spewed stories, viscous campaign of alienation of journalists from their readership under cloud of criminality, spying and FBI investigation against those who do not peddle official narratives who are not buying utter nonsense and who do not draw absurd conclusions based on lies and innuendos without any shred of evidence.

    The basic goal of provocateurs is that we accept evidence-free McCarthyite slanderous construct of “Enemy of America”. Only because they say so in very emotional way calling for exigent circumstances as to circumvent the rational thought process and hard evidences.

    Once we accept their lies and their arbitrary determination of who are “American Enemies” we give them credibility and accusatory power. The power to accuse anyone of anything since in our own mind anyone behavior or opinions could be consistent with what treachery of our enemy, releasing us from a rigor of rational analysis and necessity of evidence based conclusion that is a foundation of any moral judgment.
    Pushed into hysteria, siege mentality, we become immoral bastards driven by primal fear of imminent enemy, we can’t see or even name in, our midst aiming to harm us, a “clear” and “present” danger to our very survival or well being.

    That’s the real danger of this new McCarthyism, a danger capable of tearing fabric of our society apart and a direct threat to fundamental social order.

    • Kalen
      December 31, 2016 at 3:35 pm

      however, As our soon to be duly departed POTUS used to say: Some folks tried to rig the elections via hacking:

      Here they are:
      https://youtu.be/W6H6xfch-tw

      A hint: DHS did it, there is a smoking gun.

      • Brian
        January 1, 2017 at 3:43 pm

        You are all over it as well and good post. December 12, 2016 Georgia Official Says Homeland Security Tried To Hack Their State’s Voter Database

        While most of the country frets over Russia’s role in the 2016 election, the state of Georgia has come forward saying that they’ve traced an IP from a hack of their voter database right back to the offices of the Department of Homeland Security. Apparently we need to focus on protecting our vote from our own government. The Ring of Fire’s Farron Cousins discusses this.

        https://trofire.com/2016/12/12/georgia-official-says-homeland-security-tried-hack-states-voter-database/

  9. John
    January 1, 2017 at 8:55 pm

    Agenda….Agenda….Agenda…..who is leading this agenda behind the curtain……Notice our beloved Kissinger wants to help Trump sort out the Russia China thing…..Hmmm, Kissinger is from where ??

  10. delia ruhe
    January 3, 2017 at 5:08 pm

    You’d think the “Ministry of Truth” would have enough self-respect to refrain from the humiliation of repeatedly announcing to the world the precise depth of American hypocrisy. Washington must truly be a hermetically sealed bubble.

    The growth of the Internet and the army of tech savvy people at all levels of the profession and all kinds of brilliant amateurs has really done a number on Washington’s ability to cook up effective propaganda and disinformation campaigns. With the NSA’s ability to hear and see everything, why can’t they hear and/or see that a growing number of Americans just aren’t sipping the Kool-Aid anymore? What does officialdom think the recent election was about?

  11. January 4, 2017 at 5:31 pm

    I agree with Kalen, Joe, Bill & Hector. But weall must get used to the Democratic going after everything that walks. I compared it to Vietnam http://wsenmw.blogspot.com/2017/01/the-elephant-grass-of-democratic-party.html When everything was wrong except the US policy or battle plane. Until Democrats do some introspection, they will be blaming cats who read Orwell’s 1984 Next

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