Consortium News’ Record on Russia-gate—How CN Covered the ‘Scandal’: No. 6—‘How the Department of Homeland Security Created a Deceptive Tale of Russia Hacking US Voter Sites’

The narrative about Russian cyberattacks on American election infrastructure is a self-interested abuse of power by DHS based on distortion of evidence, wrote Gareth Porter on Aug. 28, 2018.

By Gareth Porter
Special to Consortium News

The narrative of Russian intelligence attacking state and local election boards and threatening the integrity of U.S. elections has achieved near-universal acceptance by media and political elites.  And now it has been accepted by the Trump administration’s intelligence chief, Dan Coats, as well. 

But the real story behind that narrative, recounted here for the first time, reveals that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) created and nurtured an account that was grossly and deliberately deceptive. 

DHS compiled an intelligence report suggesting hackers linked to the Russian government could have targeted voter-related websites in many states and then leaked a sensational story of Russian attacks on those sites without the qualifications that would have revealed a different story. When state election officials began asking questions, they discovered that the DHS claims were false and, in at least one case, laughable.

The National Security Agency and special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigating team have also claimed evidence that Russian military intelligence was behind election infrastructure hacking, but on closer examination, those claims turn out to be speculative and misleading as well. Mueller’s indictment of 12 GRU military intelligence officers does not cite any violations of U.S. election laws though it claims Russia interfered with the 2016 election.

A Sensational Story 

On Sept. 29, 2016, a few weeks after the hacking of election-related websites in Illinois and Arizona, ABC News carried a sensational headline: “Russian Hackers Targeted Nearly Half of States’ Voter Registration Systems, Successfully Infiltrated 4.” The story itself reported that “more than 20 state election systems” had been hacked, and four states had been “breached” by hackers suspected of working for the Russian government. The story cited only sources “knowledgeable” about the matter, indicating that those who were pushing the story were eager to hide the institutional origins of the information.

(Erik Hersman/CC BY 2.0)

Behind that sensational story was a federal agency seeking to establish its leadership within the national security state apparatus on cybersecurity, despite its limited resources for such responsibility. In late summer and fall 2016, the Department of Homeland Security was maneuvering politically to designate state and local voter registration databases and voting systems as “critical infrastructure.” Such a designation would make voter-related networks and websites under the protection a “priority sub-sector” in the DHS “National Infrastructure Protection Plan, which already included 16 such sub-sectors. 

DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson and other senior DHS officials consulted with many state election officials in the hope of getting their approval for such a designation. Meanwhile, the DHS was finishing an intelligence report that would both highlight the Russian threat to U.S. election infrastructure and the role DHS could play in protecting it, thus creating political impetus to the designation. But several secretaries of state—the officials in charge of the election infrastructure in their state—strongly opposed the designation that Johnson wanted.   

On Jan. 6, 2017—the same day three intelligence agencies released a joint “assessment” on Russian interference in the election—Johnson announced the designation anyway.

Media stories continued to reflect the official assumption that cyber attacks on state election websites were Russian-sponsored. Stunningly, The Wall Street Journal reported in December 2016 that DHS was itself behind hacking attempts of Georgia’s election database.

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The facts surrounding the two actual breaches of state websites in Illinois and Arizona, as well as the broader context of cyberattacks on state websites, didn’t support that premise at all.

In July, Illinois discovered an intrusion into its voter registration website and the theft of personal information on as many as 200,000 registered voters. (The 2018 Mueller indictments of GRU officers would unaccountably put the figure at 500,000.) Significantly, however, the hackers only had copied the information and had left it unchanged in the database. 

That was a crucial clue to the motive behind the hack. DHS Assistant Secretary for Cyber Security and Communications Andy Ozment told a Congressional committee in late September 2016 that the fact hackers hadn’t tampered with the voter data indicated that the aim of the theft was not to influence the electoral process. Instead, it was “possibly for the purpose of selling personal information.” Ozment was contradicting the line that already was being taken on the Illinois and Arizona hacks by the National Protection and Programs Directorate and other senior DHS officials. 

In an interview with me last year, Ken Menzel, the legal adviser to the Illinois secretary of state, confirmed what Ozment had testified. “Hackers have been trying constantly to get into it since 2006,” Menzel said, adding that they had been probing every other official Illinois database with such personal data for vulnerabilities as well.  “Every governmental database—driver’s licenses, health care, you name it—has people trying to get into it,” said Menzel.

In the other successful cyberattack on an electoral website, hackers had acquired the username and password for the voter database Arizona used during the summer, as Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan learned from the FBI. But the reason that it had become known, according to Reagan in an interview with Mother Jones, was that the login and password had shown up for sale on the dark web—the network of websites used by cyber criminals to sell stolen data and other illicit wares.  

Furthermore, the FBI had told her that the effort to penetrate the database was the work of a “known hacker” whom the FBI had monitored “frequently” in the past. Thus, there were reasons to believe that both Illinois and Arizona hacking incidents were linked to criminal hackers seeking information they could sell for profit.

Meanwhile, the FBI was unable to come up with any theory about what Russia might have intended to do with voter registration data such as what was taken in the Illinois hack.  When FBI Counterintelligence official Bill Priestap was asked in a June 2017 hearing how Moscow might use such data, his answer revealed that he had no clue: “They took the data to understand what it consisted of,” said the struggling Priestap, “so they can affect better understanding and plan accordingly in regards to possibly impacting future elections by knowing what is there and studying it.”  

The inability to think of any plausible way for the Russian government to use such data explains why DHS and the intelligence community adopted the argument, as senior DHS officials Samuel Liles and Jeanette Manfra put it, that the hacks “could be intended or used to undermine public confidence in electoral processes and potentially the outcome.” But such a strategy could not have had any effect without a decision by DHS and the U.S. intelligence community to assert publicly that the intrusions and other scanning and probing were Russian operations, despite the absence of hard evidence. So DHS and other agencies were consciously sowing public doubts about U.S. elections that they were attributing to Russia.

DHS Reveals Its Self-Serving Methodology

In June 2017, Liles and Manfra testified to the Senate Intelligence Committee that an October 2016 DHS intelligence report had listed election systems in 21 states that were “potentially targeted by Russian government cyber actors.”  They revealed that the sensational story leaked to the press in late September 2016 had been based on a draft of the DHS report. And more importantly, their use of the phrase “potentially targeted” showed that they were arguing only that the cyber incidents it listed were possible indications of a Russian attack on election infrastructure.  

Furthermore, Liles and Manfra said the DHS report had “catalogued suspicious activity we observed on state government networks across the country,” which had been “largely based on suspected malicious tactics and infrastructure.” They were referring to a list of eight IP addresses an August 2016 FBI “flash alert” had obtained from the Illinois and Arizona intrusions, which DHS and FBI had not been able to  attribute to the Russian government.

Manfra: No doubt it was the Russians. (C-SPAN)

The DHS officials recalled that the DHS began to “receive reports of cyber-enabled scanning and probing of election-related infrastructure in some states, some of which appeared to originate from servers operated by a Russian company.” Six of the eight IP addresses in the FBI alert were indeed traced to King Servers, owned by a young Russian living in Siberia. But as DHS cyber specialists knew well, the country of ownership of the server doesn’t prove anything about who was responsible for hacking: As cybersecurity expert Jeffrey Carr pointed out, the Russian hackers who coordinated the Russian attack on Georgian government websites in 2008 used a Texas-based company as the hosting provider.  

The cybersecurity firm ThreatConnect noted in 2016 that one of the other two IP addresses had hosted a Russian criminal market for five months in 2015. But that was not a serious indicator, either. Private IP addresses are reassigned frequently by server companies, so there is not a necessary connection between users of the same IP address at different times.

The DHS methodology of selecting reports of cyber incidents involving election-related websites as “potentially targeted” by Russian government-sponsored hackers was based on no objective evidence whatever. The resulting list appears to have included any one of the eight addresses as well as any attack or “scan” on a public website that could be linked in any way to elections. 

This methodology conveniently ignored the fact that criminal hackers were constantly trying to get access to every database in those same state, country and municipal systems. Not only for Illinois and Arizona officials, but state electoral officials.

We got Russia-gate right. Help us to keep on going. 

In fact, 14 of the 21 states on the list experienced nothing more than the routine scanning that occurs every day, according to the Senate Intelligence Committee. Only six involved what was referred to as a “malicious access attempt,” meaning an effort to penetrate the site. One of them was in Ohio, where the attempt to find a weakness lasted less than a second and was considered by DHS’s internet security contractor a “non-event” at the time.

State Officials Force DHS to Tell the Truth

For a year, DHS did not inform the 21 states on its list that their election boards or other election-related sites had been attacked in a presumed Russian-sponsored operation. The excuse DHS officials cited was that it could not reveal such sensitive intelligence to state officials without security clearances. But the reluctance to reveal the details about each case was certainly related to the reasonable expectation that states would publicly challenge their claims, creating a potential serious embarrassment.  

On Sept. 22, 2017, DHS notified 21 states about the cyber incidents that had been included in the October 2016 report. The public announcement of the notifications said DHS had notified each chief election officer of “any potential targeting we were aware of in their state leading up to the 2016 election.” The phrase “potential targeting” again telegraphed the broad and vague criterion DHS had adopted, but it was ignored in media stories.

But the notifications, which took the form of phone calls lasting only a few minutes, provided a minimum of information and failed to convey the significant qualification that DHS was only suggesting targeting as a possibility. “It was a couple of guys from DHS reading from a script,” recalled one state election official who asked not to be identified. “They said [our state] was targeted by Russian government cyber actors.”

A number of state election officials recognized that this information conflicted with what they knew. And if they complained, they got a more accurate picture from DHS. After Wisconsin Secretary of State Michael Haas demanded further clarification, he got an email response from a DHS official  with a different account. “[B]ased on our external analysis,” the official wrote, “the WI [Wisconsin] IP address affected belongs to the WI Department of Workforce Development, not the Elections Commission.”

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla said DHS initially had notified his office “that Russian cyber actors ‘scanned’ California’s Internet-facing systems in 2016, including Secretary of State websites.” But under further questioning, DHS admitted to Padilla that what the hackers had targeted was the California Department of Technology’s network.

Texas Secretary of State Rolando Pablos and Oklahoma Election Board spokesman Byron Dean also denied that any state website with voter- or election-related information had been targeted, and Pablos demanded that DHS “correct its erroneous notification.”  

Despite these embarrassing admissions, a statement issued by DHS spokesman Scott McConnell on Sept. 28, 2017 said the DHS “stood by” its assessment that 21 states “were the target of Russian government cyber actors seeking vulnerabilities and access to U.S. election infrastructure.” The statement retreated from the previous admission that the notifications involved “potential targeting,” but it also revealed for the first time that DHS had defined “targeting” very broadly indeed. 

It said the category included “some cases” involving “direct scanning of targeted systems” but also cases in which “malicious actors scanned for vulnerabilities in networks that may be connected to those systems or have similar characteristics in order to gain information about how to later penetrate their target.” 

It is true that hackers may scan one website in the hope of learning something that could be useful for penetrating another website, as cybersecurity expert Prof. Herbert S. Lin of Stanford University explained to me in an interview. But including any incident in which that motive was theoretical meant that any state website could be included on the DHS list, without any evidence it was related to a political motive.

Arizona’s further exchanges with DHS revealed just how far DHS had gone in exploiting that escape clause in order to add more states to its “targeted” list. Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan tweeted that DHS had informed her that “the Russian government targeted our voter registration systems in 2016.” After meeting with DHS officials in early October 2017, however, Reagan wrote in a blog post that DHS “could not confirm that any attempted Russian government hack occurred whatsoever to any election-related system in Arizona, much less the statewide voter registration database.” 

What the DHS said in that meeting, as Reagan’s spokesman Matt Roberts recounted to me, is even more shocking. “When we pressed DHS on what exactly was actually targeted, they said it was the Phoenix public library’s computers system,” Roberts recalled.

National Security Agency headquarters in Fort Meade, Md. (Wikimedia)

In April 2018, a CBS News “60 Minutes” segment reported that the October 2016 DHS intelligence report had included the Russian government hacking of a “county database in Arizona.” Responding to that CBS report, an unidentified “senior Trump administration official” who was well-briefed on the DHS report told Reuters that “media reports” on the issue had sometimes “conflated criminal hacking with Russian government activity,” and that the cyberattack on the target in Arizona “was not perpetrated by the Russian government.”  

NSA Finds a GRU Election Plot

NSA intelligence analysts claimed in a May 2017 analysis to have documented an effort by Russian military intelligence (GRU) to hack into U.S. electoral institutions. In an intelligence analysis obtained by The Intercept and reported in June 2017, NSA analysts wrote that the GRU had sent a spear-phishing email—one with an attachment designed to look exactly like one from a trusted institution but that contains malware design to get control of the computer—to a vendor of voting machine technology in Florida. The hackers then designed a fake web page that looked like that of the vendor. They sent it to a list of 122 email addresses NSA believed to be local government organizations that probably were “involved in the management of voter registration systems.” The objective of the new spear-phishing campaign, the NSA suggested, was to get control of their computers through malware to carry out the exfiltration of voter-related data.

But the authors of The Intercept story failed to notice crucial details in the NSA report that should have tipped them off that the attribution of the spear-phishing campaign to the GRU was based merely on the analysts’ own judgment—and that their judgment was faulty. 

The Intercept article included a color-coded chart from the original NSA report that provides crucial information missing from the text of the NSA analysis itself as well as The Intercept’s account. The chart clearly distinguishes between the elements of the NSA’s account of the alleged Russian scheme that were based on “Confirmed Information” (shown in green) and those that were based on “Analyst Judgment” (shown in yellow). The connection between the “operator” of the spear-phishing campaign the report describes and an unidentified entity confirmed to be under the authority of the GRU is shown as a yellow line, meaning that it is based on “Analyst Judgment” and labeled “probably.”

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A major criterion for any attribution of a hacking incident is whether there are strong similarities to previous hacks identified with a specific actor. But the chart concedes that “several characteristics” of the campaign depicted in the report distinguish it from “another major GRU spear-phishing program,” the identity of which has been redacted from the report. 

The NSA chart refers to evidence that the same operator also had launched spear-phishing campaigns on other web-based mail applications, including the Russian company “Mail.ru.”  Those targets suggest that the actors were more likely Russian criminal hackers rather than Russian military intelligence.

Even more damaging to its case, the NSA reports that the same operator who had sent the spear-phishing emails also had sent a test email to the “American Samoa Election Office.” Criminal hackers could have been interested in personal information from the database associated with that office. But the idea that Russian military intelligence was planning to hack the voter rolls in American Samoa, an unincorporated U.S. territory with 56,000 inhabitants who can’t even vote in U.S. presidential elections, is plainly risible.

The Mueller Indictment’s Sleight of Hand

The Mueller indictment of GRU officers released on July 13 appeared at first reading to offer new evidence of Russian government responsibility for the hacking of Illinois and other state voter-related websites. A close analysis of the relevant paragraphs, however, confirms the lack of any real intelligence supporting that claim. 

Mueller accused two GRU officers of working with unidentified “co-conspirators” on those hacks. But the only alleged evidence linking the GRU to the operators in the hacking incidents is the claim that a GRU official named Anatoly Kovalev and “co-conspirators” deleted search history related to the preparation for the hack after the FBI issued its alert on the hacking identifying the IP address associated with it in August 2016. 

A careful reading of the relevant paragraphs shows that the claim is spurious. The first sentence in Paragraph 71 says that both Kovalev and his “co-conspirators” researched domains used by U.S. state boards of elections and other entities “for website vulnerabilities.”  The second says Kovalev and “co-conspirators” had searched for “state political party email addresses, including filtered queries for email addresses listed on state Republican Party websites.” 

Mueller: Don’t read the fine print. (The White House/Wikimedia)

Searching for website vulnerabilities would be evidence of intent to hack them, of course, but searching Republican Party websites for email addresses is hardly evidence of any hacking plan. And Paragraph 74 states that Kovalev “deleted his search history”—not the search histories of any “co-conspirator”—thus revealing that there were no joint searches and suggesting that the subject Kovalev had searched was Republican Party emails. So any deletion by Kovalev of his search history after the FBI alert would not be evidence of his involvement in the hacking of the Illinois election board website. 

With this rhetorical misdirection unraveled, it becomes clear that the repetition in every paragraph of the section of the phrase “Kovalev and his co-conspirators” was aimed at giving the reader the impression the accusation is based on hard intelligence about possible collusion that doesn’t exist.

The Need for Critical Scrutiny of DHS Cyberattack Claims

The DHS campaign to establish its role as the protector of U.S. electoral institutions is not the only case in which that agency has used a devious means to sow fear of Russian cyberattacks. In December 2016, DHS and the FBI published a long list of IP addresses as indicators of possible Russian cyberattacks. But most of the addresses on the list had no connection with Russian intelligence, as former U.S. government cyber-warfare officer Rob Lee found on close examination.

When someone at the Burlington, Vt., Electric Company spotted one of those IP addresses on one of its computers, the company reported it to DHS. But instead of quietly investigating the address to verify that it was indeed an indicator of Russian intrusion, DHS immediately informed The Washington Post. The result was a sensational story that Russian hackers had penetrated the U.S. power grid. In fact, the IP address in question was merely Yahoo’s email server, as Rob Lee told me, and the computer had not even been connected to the power grid. The threat to the power grid was a tall tale created by a DHS official, which the Post had to embarrassingly retract.  

Since May 2017, DHS, in partnership with the FBI, has begun an even more ambitious campaign to focus public attention on what it says are Russian “targeting” and “intrusions” into “major, high value assets that operate components of our Nation’s critical infrastructure”, including energy, nuclear, water, aviation and critical manufacturing sectors.  Any evidence of such an intrusion must be taken seriously by the U.S. government and reported by news media. But in light of the DHS record on alleged threats to election infrastructure and the Burlington power grid, and its well-known ambition to assume leadership over cyber protection, the public interest demands that the news media examine DHS claims about Russian cyber threats far more critically than they have up to now.

Gareth Porter is an independent investigative journalist and winner of the 2012 Gellhorn Prize for journalism. His latest book is Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare.

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20 comments for “Consortium News’ Record on Russia-gate—How CN Covered the ‘Scandal’: No. 6—‘How the Department of Homeland Security Created a Deceptive Tale of Russia Hacking US Voter Sites’

  1. Brian James
    April 10, 2019 at 12:44

    Jan 2, 2017 BOOM! CNN Caught Using Video Game Image In Fake Russian Hacking Story

    This time, they used a screenshot from the Fallout 4 Video game to paint the picture of Russian Hacking. To bad that’s not what a real hacking screen looks like. And an image you will only find in the video game! Nice Try Clinton News Network!

    https://youtu.be/xWNt73CgtAk

  2. OlyaPola
    April 10, 2019 at 09:18

    Spectators tend to ponder what is where as practitioners tend to ponder how to tested through implementation.

    Subsumed within how to are facilitators including but not restricted to what temporarily constitutes plausible beliefs, the perception of which are obfuscated through limited framing.

    https://www.globalresearch.ca/ideology-anyone/5673925

    Mr. Kozy asserts that:

    “Conventional wisdom, however, seems to hold that normal people reject propositions that evidence shows are untrue, so those who accept known falsehoods are thought to be brainwashed, ignorant, and even stupid.”

    “ Yet no one seems to notice how much that is false or unknown to be true plays in people’s lives. In contrast to the conventional wisdom, people do not easily relinquish their beliefs.”

    Despite the assertions of Mr. Kozy, although omniscience can never exist in lateral processes, some practitioners do notice some of how much that is false or unknown to be true plays in people’s lives, since these are amongst the facilitators of “propaganda” and transcendence of social relationships requiring to be propagandised.

    Some practitioners do notice that “propaganda” is an ongoing process requiring increased dosage and/or alternative therapies, given that those who accept known falsehoods are not/will not be permanently brainwashed, ignorant, or even stupid.

    In parallel some practitioners who do notice that “propaganda” is an ongoing process requiring increased dosage and/or alternative therapies, given that those who accept known falsehoods are not/will not be permanently brainwashed, ignorant, or even stupid through previous practice, tend to deny this through resort to belief to attain certainty/comfort as in the title of the link below seeking to deny time:

    https://www.globalresearch.ca/the-stupidity-of-belief-the-inner-politics-and-nature-of-mankind-have-not-changed-in-7000-years/5518243

    which is a function of frames outlined in https://www.globalresearch.ca/ideology-anyone/5673925

    However not all practitioners resort to belief to attain certainty/comfort but recognise doubt as a tool to avoid/minimise “Even scientific and technological activities are founded on faith in an ideology. Scientists believe that the scientific method will yield knowledge that is beneficial to mankind.” apparently unlike Mr. Pence, Mr. Pompeo and Mr. Kozy if their assertions are to be believed.

    Although not particularly innovative given that some practitioners sought/seek to obfuscate opportunities of transcendence of social relationships through resort to limited framing, the petri-dish which is/was “Russiagate” had and continues to have utility which could be enhanced by lessening resort to limited framing including but not restricted to:

    https://consortiumnews.com/2019/04/09/ray-mcgovern-unaccountable-media-faced-with-dilemma-in-next-phase-of-deep-state-gate/

  3. KiwiAntz
    April 10, 2019 at 01:50

    Give the American people “Bread & Circus’s” to give them the impression that their votes really matter in a Presidential Election, when they don’t matter a damn? Make them think they live in a Democracy when the reality is the US is a Elitist Oligarchy or Kleptocracy? Vote Blue or Red, Elephant or Donkey, Republican or Democrat, it doesn’t really matter ? And if the Party you voted for doesn’t win just blame Russia, Russia, Russia & Putin for the Election loss? And don’t worry that the clapped out US voting machines & their archaic pin punch voter cards are used, you can still blame Russian hackers for hacking America’s outdated, third world, voter machines, despite the fact that the voter machines aren’t even connected to the Internet (explain that lunatic excuse of hacking voter machines, not even connected to the Web for me)? Even Venezuela has more advanced & modern voter machines available that printed out voter receipt & enabled online recording of those vote tallies! Blame Russia for everything America, that way you never have to take any responsibility or accountability or blame for the disastrous mismanagement of the Country by your Nations corrupt, immoral Leaders & braindead President? Blame others for the mess your Countries in, it’s everyone’s else’s fault!

  4. Zhu
    April 10, 2019 at 01:10

    Aiyah! Sometimes, I think the US is the farcical version the Byzantine Empire – all the arrogance and pomposity, none of the artvor spirituality.

  5. Eric32
    April 9, 2019 at 22:50

    Hoola hoops, bottled water, leg warmers, pet rocks, critical national security interventions thousands of miles from US borders, clever covert ops bringing chaos, death and destruction to people who never did the US any harm, ever more bizarre perverse “entertainment”….

    And nothing is more disturbing than what our savior from the deep state has appointed to the top roles of US govt. – Mr. Bolton,,, that thing running the CIA.

    The thing to fear, is that might we get what’s coming to us.

    • Zhu
      April 10, 2019 at 01:12

      I believe the CIA is still run by Haspell the torturer.

      • Eric32
        April 10, 2019 at 09:20

        Really?

  6. Sam F
    April 9, 2019 at 21:08

    This was an excellent article very clearly setting forth the details of false allegations.

    During this period I was trying to get DHS investigations (HSI) to investigate real international racketeering (copyright piracy on a large scale causing major losses to writers including myself). They never even bothered to reply, although I offered them the voluminous evidence to get them started, a sealed fully-researched legal case in CA already filed, which needed the international search warrants and traces that they specialize in. They never even replied with an email.

    I also tried to get IRS investigations to trace the cashflows to accounts of the very definite shell corporations involved, and they gave only a vague form letter claiming that they only investigate tax code violations, which obviously were directly involved in interstate and international piracy.

    I also tried to get FBI to investigate, and they never even replied with an email. DOJ replied with a form letter with the ridiculous excuse that they only investigate crimes, which obviously was the entire subject of the investigations.

    The truth is that all of these agencies are utterly corrupt and probably utterly incompetent.

    But the federal judiciary is even worse. In the same case, when the very complete 18-month investigation results and thoroughly-researched legal case was filed under seal (they remain secret until government investigation is complete) in CA, the judge refused to seal the case or request that the federal agencies investigate the cashflows etc. He then illegally opened the hundreds of pages of sealed evidence and published every page on the court website, immediately available to the 30-plus criminal defendants, to make sure that they could never be prosecuted.

    When a motion was submitted to re-seal the documents, it was denied with no reason, and when a motion was made to recuse or replace the judge with someone who knows the basics of racketeering law, it was denied by his superiors on no grounds at all.

    The truth probably is that the copyright racketeering operations are being operated by the US government itself, to suppress dissident works that the oligarchy fears might become well known. They have no trouble abusing their public offices to the maximum extent possible in case after case after case.

    • Zhu
      April 10, 2019 at 01:18

      Well, the CIA has done a lot of drug crime. Maybe DHS, NSA, are into cybrrcrime.

  7. Bob Van Noy
    April 9, 2019 at 20:32

    “Behold Human beings living in a sort of underground den, which
    has a mouth open towards the lights and reaching all across the den;
    they have been here from your childhood, and have their legs and
    necks chained so that they cannot move, and can only see before them;
    for the chains are arranged in such a manner as to prevent them from
    turning their heads. At a distance above and beyond them the
    light of a fire is blazing, and between the fire and he prisoners there
    is a raised way; and you will see , if you look a low wall built along
    the way, like the screen which marionette players have before them,
    over which they show the puppets.
    I see, he said.
    And do you see, I said, men passing along the wall carrying ves-
    sels, which appear over the wall; also figures of men and animals,
    made of wood and stone with various materials and some of the pris-
    oners, as you would expect are talking, and some are silent?
    This is a strange image, he said, and they are strange prisoners.
    Like ourselves, I replied; and they see only their own shadows, or
    the shadows of one another, which the fire throws on the opposite wall
    of the cave.
    True, he said: how could they see anything but shadows if they
    were never allowed to move their heads?
    And of the objects which are being carried in like manner they
    would see only the shadows?
    Yes, he said.
    And if we’re able to talk with one another, would they not sup-
    pose that they were naming what was actually before them?”

    The Republic Of Plato, Book Seven. (Jewett Translation).

    • Skip Scott
      April 10, 2019 at 08:20

      Great analysis Bob. I remember reading Plato’s analogy of the cave in high school. A more recent metaphor from Frank Zappa is
      “Politics is the entertainment division of the military industrial complex”.

  8. Tom Kath
    April 9, 2019 at 19:05

    The German word “Bauchnabeln” (playing with your belly button) describes obsessive preoccupation with the self.
    We here in the rest of the world find US domestic politics contemptible. Even Brexit is of far more interest and relevance.

  9. Joe Tedesky
    April 9, 2019 at 15:47

    Say what you will but although as Gareth Porter describes how DHS worked very hard to pin the hacking on the Russians the narrative of that allegation still buffaloed a lot of Americans into believing it and, then some. I’m not part of the ‘lock her up crowd’ but I’m all for administrating justice to those who conceived of this Russiagate fiasco. Imagine what could have been accomplished over these last two years if we hadn’t dwelled on this insane allegation that Russia flipped our 2016 Presidential Election. On the other hand beings that it’s DC we might be glad that this time was spent on Russiagate as opposed to cutting billionaire taxes and waging more wars…oh but wait a minute they already did that regardless. So once again we citizens who strive for better are stuck in a bad place. Please tell me again to why do we vote?

    • Curious
      April 9, 2019 at 21:22

      Well Joe,
      We vote so we can have the pretense we live in a democracy. Families can argue around the dinner table (or fast food nibbles) about how right they were, and wrong everyone else is. That ‘vote power’ around a mere two party system has created a lot of dissension and distraction. People feel empowered by how much their vote is worth, as strange and empty as that sounds.
      As to what has been accomplished in these wasted two years I would suggest this: Some countries have wised up a bit to the economic wars the US has needlessly provided their populations through sanctions. China and Russia, along with other countries are buying up gold by the ton. If the US has to go back to the gold standard it is in deep doo-doo despite being in first position still in gold reserves. Imagine very large countries paying for all their goods in their own currencies and turning their back on the Bretton Woods scheme of banker control and power. All that money would no longer be traveling through Wall Street. I would say that would be quite an accomplishment.

      • Zhu
        April 10, 2019 at 01:26

        NB: Russia is the no. 2 gold producer in the world. China produces a certain amount, too.

        • curious
          April 10, 2019 at 22:34

          Hi Zhu,
          I read Germany is still in the number 2 position but some countries are gaining fast. BRICS? I’m now not sure about Brazil and it’s internal squabbles , but it is an interesting concept. Even Germany had issues with the US since their reps were not allowed to count their own countries gold in the NY reserve. There is much behind the scenes and we only hear dribbles. I was following the German articles at the time and they were stunned they couldn’t even see their own gold in NY.
          And if the UK didn’t hold back almost @ billion+ in gold reserves from Venezuela, we would be having a different perspective on the crises in that country. The UK, in the old days would be simply robber barons, and yet I don’t see any country leaning on them to return what is rightfully Venezuelas’ gold. Imagine what this country could do if they even had access to their own money!

          • Zhu
            April 11, 2019 at 04:20

            I meant gold coming from gold mines. South Africa is no
            1, Russia no. 2.

    • Zhu
      April 10, 2019 at 01:23

      We vote because it’s an ancient ritual, not because it improves anything.

      • DW Bartoo
        April 10, 2019 at 05:26

        Aye, voting in the US is a rite, an empty ritual, not a meaningful “right”.

        Its purpose is the pretense of “democracy” and, as well , it “legitimizes” the continuing rip-off.

        Now, at this point, some wag usually jumps up and says, “The US is a republic, not a democracy”, as if this exonerates all the destruction and deceit, the fear-mongering, the violence, and the societal disintegrations, at “home” and abroad.

        Such a clever thing the elites have done, from the very beginning, and cunning myths are successfully constructed which hide all of the truth behind false fronts of rectitude and manifest destiny which allow the many to bask in the warm conviction that they have the privilege of living in the greatest nation ever to bless the Earth.

      • DH Fabian
        April 10, 2019 at 11:40

        Except that such talk will be forbidden by this time next year, as we focus on the Democrats’ next “bold progressive” candidate. We’ve been repeating this cycle for years.

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