Neither the actor, nor the motive, nor the damage done is known for certain in this latest scare story, write Ray McGovern and Joe Lauria.
By Ray McGovern and Joe Lauria
Special to Consortium News
The hyperbolic, evidence-free media reports on the “fresh outbreak” of the Russian-hacking disease seems an obvious attempt by intelligence to handcuff President-elect Joe Biden into a strong anti-Russian posture as he prepares to enter the White House.
Biden might well need to be inoculated against the Russophobe fever.
There are obvious Biden intentions worrying the intelligence agencies, such as renewing the Iran nuclear deal and restarting talks on strategic arms limitation with Russia. Both carry the inherent “risk” of thawing the new Cold War.
Instead, New Cold Warriors are bent on preventing any such rapprochement with strong support from the intelligence community’s mouthpiece media. U.S. hardliners are clearly still on the rise.
Interestingly, this latest hack story came out a day before the Electoral College formally elected Biden, and after the intelligence community, despite numerous previous warnings, said nothing about Russia interfering in the election. One wonders whether that would have been the assessment had Trump won.
Instead Russia decided to hack the U.S. government.
Except there is (typically) no hard evidence pinning it on Moscow.
The official story is Russia hacked into U.S. “government networks, including in the Treasury and Commerce Departments,” as David Sanger of The New York Times reported.
But plenty of things are uncertain. First, Sanger wrote last Sunday that “hackers have had free rein for much of the year, though it is not clear how many email and other systems they chose to enter.”
The motive of the hack is uncertain, as well as what damage may have been done.
“The motive for the attack on the agency and the Treasury Department remains elusive, two people familiar with the matter said,” Sanger reported. “One government official said it was too soon to tell how damaging the attacks were and how much material was lost.”
On Friday, five days after the story first broke, in an article misleadingly headlined, “Suspected Russian hack is much worse than first feared,” NBC News admitted:
“At this stage, it’s not clear what the hackers have done beyond accessing top-secret government networks and monitoring data.”
Who conducted the hack is also not certain.
NBC reported that the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency “has not said who it thinks is the ‘advanced persistent threat actor’ behind the ‘significant and ongoing’ campaign, but many experts are pointing to Russia.”
At first Sanger was certain in his piece that Russia was behind the attack. He refers to FireEye, “a computer security firm that first raised the alarm about the Russian campaign after its own systems were pierced.”
But later in the same piece, Sanger loses his certainty: “If the Russia connection is confirmed,” he writes.
In the absence of firm evidence that damage has been done, this may well be an intrusion into other governments’ networks routinely carried out by intelligence agencies around the world, including, if not chiefly, by the United States.
It is what spies do.
So neither the actor, nor the motive, nor the damage done is known for certain.
Yet across the vast networks of powerful U.S. media the story has been portrayed as a major crisis brought on by a sinister Russian attack putting the security of the American people at risk.
In a second piece on Wednesday, Sanger added to the alarm by saying the hack “ranks among the greatest intelligence failures of modern times.” And on Friday Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claimed Russia was “pretty clearly” behind the cyber attacks. But he cautioned: “… we’re still unpacking precisely what it is, and I’m sure some of it will remain classified.” In other words, trust us.
Ed Loomis, a former NSA technical director, believes the suspect list should extend beyond Russia to include China, Iran, and North Korea. Loomis also says the commercial cyber-security firms that have been studying the latest “attacks” have not been able to pinpoint the source.
In a New York Times op-ed, former Trump domestic security adviser Thomas Bossert on Wednesday called on Trump to “use whatever leverage he can muster to protect the United States and severely punish the Russians.” And he said Biden “must begin his planning to take charge of this crisis.”
[On Friday, Biden talked tough. He promised there would be “costs” and said: “A good defense isn’t enough; we need to disrupt and deter our adversaries from undertaking significant cyberattacks in the first place. I will not stand idly by in the face of cyber-assaults on our nation.”]
While asserting throughout his piece that, without question, Russia now “controls” U.S. government computer networks, Bossert’s confidence suddenly evaporates by slipping in at one point, “If it is Russia.”
The analysis the corporate press has relied on came from the private cyber-security firm FireEye. This question should be raised: Why has a private contractor at extra taxpayer expense carried out this cyber analysis rather than the already publicly-funded National Security Agency?
Similarly, why did the private firm CrowdStrike, rather than the FBI, analyze the Democratic National Committee servers in 2016?
Could it be to give government agencies plausible deniability if these analyses, as in the case of CrowdStrike, and very likely in this latest case of Russian “hacking,” turn out to be wrong? This is a question someone on the intelligence committees should be asking.
Sanger is as active in blaming the Kremlin for hacking, as he and his erstwhile NYT colleague, neocon hero Judith Miller were in insisting on the presence of (non-existent) weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, helping to facilitate a major invasion with mass loss of life.
The Military-Industrial-Congressional-Intelligence-MEDIA-Academia-Think-Tank complex (MICIMATT, for short) needs credible “enemies” to justify unprecedentedly huge expenditures for arms — the more so at a time when it is clearer than ever, that that the money would be far better spent at home. (MEDIA is in all caps because it is the sine-qua-non, the cornerstone to making the MICIMATT enterprise work.)
In this latest media flurry, Sanger and the other intel leakers’ favorites are including as “flat fact” what “everybody knows”: namely, that Russia hacked the infamous Hillary Clinton-damaging emails from the Democratic National Committee in 2016.
“…the same group of [Russian] hackers went on to invade the systems of the Democratic National Committee and top officials in Hillary Clinton’s campaign, touching off investigations and fears that permeated both the 2016 and 2020 contests. Another, more disruptive Russian intelligence agency, the G.R.U., is believed to be responsible for then making public the hacked emails at the D.N.C.”
That accusation was devised as a magnificent distraction after the Clinton campaign learned that WikiLeaks was about to publish emails that showed how Clinton and the DNC had stacked the deck against Bernie Sanders. It was an emergency solution, but it had uncommon success.
There was no denying the authenticity of those DNC emails published by WikiLeaks. So the Democrats mounted an artful campaign, very strongly supported by Establishment media, to divert attention from the content of the emails. How to do that? Blame Russian “hacking.” And for good measure, persuade then Senator John McCain to call it an “act of war.”
One experienced observer, Consortium News columnist Patrick Lawrence, saw through the Democratic blame-Russia offensive from the start.
Artful as the blame-Russia maneuver was, many voters apparently saw through this clever and widely successful diversion, learned enough about the emails’ contents, and decided not to vote for Hillary Clinton.
4 Years & 7 Days Ago
On Dec. 12, 2016, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) used sensitive intelligence revealed by Edward Snowden, the expertise of former NSA technical directors, and basic principles of physics to show that accusations that Russia hacked those embarrassing DNC emails were fraudulent.
A year later, on Dec. 5, 2017, Shawn Henry, the head of CrowdStrike, the cyber firm hired by the DNC to do the forensics, testified under oath that there was no technical evidence that the emails had been “exfiltrated”; that is, hacked from the DNC.
His testimony was kept hidden by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff until Schiff was forced to release it on May 7, 2020. That testimony is still being kept under wraps by Establishment media.
What VIPS wrote four years ago is worth re-reading — particularly for those who still believe in science and have trusted the experienced intelligence professionals of VIPS with the group’s unblemished, no-axes-to-grind record.
Most of the Memorandum’s embedded links are to TOP SECRET charts that Snowden made available — icing on the cake — and, as far as VIPS’s former NSA technical directors were concerned, precisely what was to be demonstrated QED.
Many Democrats unfortunately still believe–or profess to believe–the hacking and the Trump campaign-Russia conspiracy story, the former debunked by Henry’s testimony and the latter by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Both were legally obligated to tell the truth, while the intelligence agencies were not.
Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He was a Russian specialist and presidential briefer during his 27 years as a CIA analyst. In retirement he co-created Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).
Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former UN correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, and numerous other newspapers. He was an investigative reporter for the Sunday Times of London and began his professional career as a stringer for The New York Times. He can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @unjoe .
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I listened as the mouth piece talked about how very good the Rouskies were at this hacking thing.
Takes me back to the days of Bill Hamilton when the U.S. government stole his PROMIS software during the INSLAW Octopus scandal something Bill Barr was said to be involved in BTW.
Seems the idea of secret back doors in software that allowed the users to be monitored was very popular. So popular in fact that our government reps from DOJ and NSA quickly allowed the Israelis to have it. ????????????? I mean our government still trusts Lyin’ BeeBEE. ?????????????
If you know nothing of this story wiki it and then start you research on the history of what all happened and when.
The first two places to look for these hackers are inside the U.S. and Israeli governments. Maybe this is why the intelligence community is loath to give us any real proof, you know that computer forensics stuff.
The U.S. governments love affair with Israel is killing our democracy.
As for Putti, he is still be winning even when his shill Trump lost.
Ray, Joe great stuff and an expose’ on what happens when lies go unchallenged and become accepted as truth.
Thanks CN you must make Robert very proud.
Maybe we could launch a fund-raising campaign to purchase some anti-malware software for the government’s (obviously unsecured) computers. If possible, we could raise enough money to hire a teacher to instruct them on basic computer security. (Thrifty suggestion: Hire some local high school teens). Apparently, some kids in Russia made a hobby of hacking into the Pentagon, itself (I know this, because I just made it up), so on Monday, we need to launch this story on MSNBC, the official media of the New Democrat Party.
You might want to remind people that Putin had made an offer to Obama in 2009 to negotiate a treaty to ban cyberwar, which the US rejected. See hXXps://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/28/world/28cyber.html, U.S. and Russia Differ on a Treaty for Cyberspace
Thanks for this important article! Alice Slater
Was there any “hack” at all?
Hacking attempts are routine, daily, and nearly always business-related. Few succeed, but when they do, it can be quite lucrative (until they’re tracked down and arrested). Beyond that, the US has maintained its lead in efforts to hack into security computers of foreign countries. Of course, governments throughout history have used whatever tools they had, to track other governments, usually for their own security against aggressor states.
Nice to make your acquaintance Jamesovich.
Myself I am a Russian Ukranian Mennonite Canadian Spy. Dah.
When I first heard of this Russian hacking and the story about Trump cavorting w Russians, I intuitively knew it was wrong and made up. It sounded too simplistic. What I can’t fathom is how the public swallowed it. I didn’t and a few friends didn’t, but most folks did.
Maybe it was the Russians, sending a message to Uncle Joe and the Dems, quite brilliant actually. It says, ‘we own you’ ‘we know everything about you’ and ‘we can destroy you should you want a war’ The Dems and Washington generally have been living in their own child like bubble for way too long, they need waking up and showing how far behind they are, military, technically and of course something we’ve all known a long time, morally. No damage was done during the hack (oh they could have been lots of damage) nothing was taken, or maybe not much. It was a warning and a wake up call, that’s all it needed to be. Now we proceed to the negotiating table for START and maybe the Russians know a whole lot more than the US wishes it did. Putins press conference was quite interesting last week, normally he is quite shy about upsetting his ‘western partners’ this year he pulled no punches. When asked if it was true that Russian could destroy America in 30 minutes he replied ‘No, actually quicker’ and when goaded by the idiot BBC reporter about the farcical MI6 Navalny escapade, he said ‘If the security services wanted Navalny dead he already would be’. Times are a changing. Things are warming up a little and the US are on the ropes in all spheres.
No. I think most Americans today would be “outraged” to know how little interest Russia has in today’s US. They had turned to the East years ago. The “dirty little secret” is that as the Western (US/UK) empire has been sinking for some years, most of the world has turned its attention Eastward (China, now Russia), as the light guiding the international community into the future.
Yes, and it seems, if anything, a large-scale effort to collect information, not to damage anything.
Collecting information about others is what America’s NSA, CIA, FBI, and other massive agencies do around the clock. Ditto, Britain’s GCHQ and MI6.
The word “attack” only puts an unduly harsh name to the matter. I think it fair to say it is in keeping with America’s now-always aggressive tone towards Russia, China, Iran, and others.
And still, we have no information at all about who is responsible with Trump claiming China and Pompeo claiming Russia, while neither of them has any information to support what he is saying.
Israel is just as likely as any other candidate to be responsible for this.
The US intelligence community recognizes Israel in private as extremely aggressive at collecting information.
Its name of course does not come up in our sanitized press, and if it proves true that it is responsible, we’ll never see it reported.
Meanwhile, just as in the case of Skripal or Navalny, great fun can be had with Russia.
Why would anyone believe one word that comes out of Biden’s mouth?
If any of Washington’s designated enemies are NOT attempting to constantly monitor the byzantine genuine operative policies of America’s Deep State they are being totally remiss. If all they had to go on were the strident public policies expressed and enacted by our leaders they would surely feel existentially threatened and compelled to launch defensive military actions just to preserve the continuity of their civilisations. Washington’s endless effluvia of formal pronouncements, accusations, economic sanctions and provocative troop deployments fairly beg for the occasional miscalculation of a bellicose parry or counterpunch. Our chosen enemies need to know our real intentions and capabilities to PRECLUDE such eventualities. Moreover, the geeks in our cadre of spooks have been at the same game for the same reasons rather longer than theirs. It’s probably safe to say we invented the game.
By way of example, Joe Biden constantly talks of making Russia “pay a price” for some list of imaginary offenses against American “interests,” of which Special Prosecutor Mueller could not conjure up one example after nearly three years of investigation. If anyone “hacked the vote” last month, it was sure not the Russians who made Sleepy Joe the most popular president with the highest vote total ever elected. Talk about the implausible transformed into the new reality. Take another example, Mike Morell, probably the incoming head of the CIA, has on multiple occasions spoke of the need to “make Russians bleed” for attempting to limit the death and chaos inflicted upon Syria by American foreign policy and its cultivated mercenaries going by a different nom de guerre each week. JC did tell us that strange changes will happen in the vineyard, apparently even al Qaeda can reconcile with Uncle Sam. In the absence of detailed reliable information regarding the veracity of such narratives, President Putin (or Xi, or Rouhani) might feel constrained to be less tolerant, more aggressive and quicker to react against what can only be described as mostly baseless and far too numerous hostile American provocations. The bully struts around with a chip the size of a redwood on his shoulder. No one antagonizes him, they mostly try to give the crazy fellow a wide berth while keeping a vigilant eye on him. What’s truly unfortunate is that Stephan F. Cohen is no longer on this Earth to keep the American public apprised of such truths, not that this world’s most informed man on these subjects got any recent media exposure in the present climate of unhinged Russophrenia.
We know that governments and intelligence agencies tell us lies all the time. Lies that have justified the instigation of wars and lies that have precipitated wars by default. All of this is well documented in the written word and yet we continue to be fooled by the self same lies. Shame on us, but when the Doomsday Clock strikes midnight, it will be too late, there will be no one left to document the lies, there will be no more lies, instead there will be, just silence.
Wasn’t Fireeye the company that faced extremes of ridicule from the global IT community for trying to engage Hillary Clinton as their keynote speaker at a Cyber Defense Summit in 2019?
While I appreciate your article and agree with your conclusions, you are a voice crying in the wilderness or at least in a small bubble of like-minded people.
There is a part of the brain which is based on evidence-free, faith-based beliefs, and while religious impulses can be good (sometimes debatable), there is also a strong fear and hatred of the Other, and Russia has been elevated by Hillary, the DNC, the Intelligence Agencies, and the Establishment as the only acceptable Bogeyman. It is socially unacceptable to attack Blacks, Jews, Muslims, Mexicans, or Chinese (remember “Hug a Chinaman!” at the critical juncture where Covid-19 could have been stopped by shutting borders in mid-January as Asian countries did?), but the RUSSIANS!! are an acceptable target of vitriol (even though the Clintons and any of our other politicians will quickly take $500,000 from Putin as the Clintons did when Hillary was Secretary of State in 2010). Calling someone a Russian asset, as our CIA has done repeatedly, can destroy people’s careers, and minimally untrack their criticisms.
Software generally has intentional backdoors (Ghislaine Maxwell’s father made a career of selling such software so Israel could monitor their customers). We don’t get much software from Russia! China is economically and politically a bigger threat, though like Israel probably monitoring rather than interfering through their software (which is probably the rule for all Intelligence Agencies). However 12 year olds can probably get into these same program backdoors, hacking is a hobby for many.
The use of non-government companies to do to questionable work is akin to big corporations bringing in consultants; scapegoats when things go wrong!
It’s very difficult to believe a lot of what passes for news in America. For example, I always thought that if the hacking of Hillary ever happened, it was because when she was SOS, she refused to go into a secure room to make important calls. Instead , she stood in the hallway, but didn’t want to go into the secure room. Add to that, the use of a personal computer at her home, keeping all kinds of her government information on it , which was also being sent to her associate’s husband’s computer.
I also wondered why the Russians were blamed for poisoning spies in the UK—- spies traded a decade before—especially since exchanged spies lived near where the UK’s poison center was. This was supposed to be an attempt to poison 2 Russians, and this latest Russia news story seems just as silly. I am sure that any decent spy from any nation who decided to poison a person—than it would be done.
I am wondering why America seems to be living back in the 1950s when that McCarthy person was making havoc with creating so many
untruths in major media— it’s sad that myself, and many others no longer believe a lot of the major media news — and that is a sad state for a in a said- to- be democratic republic
Re: “A Pandemic of ‘Russian Hacking’”
Isn’t this, just perhaps, precisely the fake news construct, planted in the minds of Americans, by Trump, to which he may now turn, as his last-ditch pretext, to protect the National Security interests of the State; by attempting to declare Martial Law, at the last moment, just prior to January 20th 2021?
Thank you so much for this article! Of course I was instantly suspicious of this latest hysteria and didn’t much pay attention but in the last few days, Trump supporters are now believing it and that’s the last thing this phony new cold war needs so I’m texting this to every Trump voter I know. Bravo!
Good article! Especially the mentioning of the VERY ‘convenient’ timing of the latest ‘Red Scare’, vis-a-vis the upcoming transition to a new POTUS who has made vague references to modest moves towards cooling down the Cold War II (which I have little-faith will happen anyway, given the Biden cabinet picks). Also the excellent point about these reports apparently coming from private organizations as opposed to the massive US intelligence agencies (ie; the 17 agencies in the USG doing intelligence work, with the CIA & NSA being two of the largest) — WTF are we funding them with multi-billion dollar budgets for… so that they can quote some private start-up intel-groups?? As alluded to in the article, no-doubt part of the reason is because of the black-eye the intel agencies got (at least outside of The Beltway) in the 2003 Iraq WMDs debacle, which caused a lot of us (at least on the left-end of the political spectrum, who were already highly skeptical of US ‘intelligence’) to virtually completely disregard them as credible sources for anything other than a right-wing indicator.
All the major powers spy on each other, and some of the minor ones too, and sometimes it’s on putative allies (ie; recall the controversy a number of years ago when Israel was caught spying/bugging US transmissions…I don’t recall any bluster about THAT being ‘an act of war!’). And I not-too-long-ago read how there are constant, daily attempts by numerous entities (most suspected to be private scammers) attempt to hack computers & networks of ALL users (government, business, NGO’s, private parties)— it’s ongoing ‘background noise’. And while we should all be strengthening our computer defenses against these intrusions, let’s be very skeptical when someone pulls ‘something’ (reputedly) out of that background noise and hysterically proclaims it to be so MAJOR EVENT.
I agree. There was an interesting article on the Theamericanconservative.com under the title ” The Russian Cyber Pearl Harbor that wasn’t “. Some time ago in Germany the computers of big insurance companies were hacked and huge amounts of personal data of the clients were stolen. Big issue in Germany. Russia was the top suspect. It turned out that the bad guy was a teenage German school boy living peacefully with his parents. He was found very quickly because he didn’t cover up his trails in the web. He didn’t do it for money or political reasons. He did it just for fun and to proof to himself: Yes I can… Now he faces a prison term.
The real story here is not the latest eye roller, here-we-go-again, episode of Russo phobia, but the likelihood that majority of the Washington Consensus, and more likely, the American people will be stupid enough or crazy enough or both, to believe this.
Not only will Americans be”stupid and or crazy enough” to believe this nonsense, but they will also attack anyone who questions their belief as a Putin apologist or conspiracy theorist. I’m deeply appreciative of Ray’s and Joe’s insights but Michael888 is right. Their voices are a “cry in the wilderness” which is “heard only by a small bubble of like minded people.” I admire his perseverance in the face of that harsh reality. Thank you, Ray and Joe.
Always with the same mouthpieces, the same backdated investigations, the unnamed “official” sources. Phooey!
Maybe while the propaganda is being propagated & then catapulted into the public realm, nobody in “official” media remembers to check vault 7 for the inevitable Cyrillic fingerprints until it’s too late? Oops!
And “artful…maneuver”? Yeah, maybe if you mean kindergarten art. Or perhaps it’s a forgery that depends on millions of uncritical viewers’ unquestioning acceptance of a fake rationale for unbinding Biden so he can veer from a direction that he never intended to follow in the first place?
We are thankful that CN continues the tradition of Robert Parry to debunk the New Cold War propaganda. The Russia Hysteria (New Red Scare without “the Reds”) is a pathetic and transparent attempt to manipulate public opinion.
The naked fear-mongering has become the stuff of jokes. I had a good laugh with my friends (over the phone) taking apart an article in the Guardian that claimed that Putin had surrounded himself with KGB agents. The article didn’t mention that the KGB (and the USSR) have not existed in over a quarter century. Foreign policy narratives are great for laughs, ridicule, and satire. Too bad most so-called journalists are too ignorant or intellectually dishonest to come clean.
Russia did not want to end the ABM treaty, the INF treaty etc. etc. but of course it was the US who shredded all the treaties. The US has engaged in massive illegal activity with impunity: fomenting coups, meddling heavily in the affairs of other nations, war crimes etc. The US appears now to be a desperate rogue empire, pathetically clutching at notions of Full Spectrum Dominance. No informed person should believe this latest Russia narrative – it is ridiculous on multiple levels, just as Mr. Lauria and McGovern have outlined.
To underline the utter silliness of the narrative: my handle has become “Jonski Jamesovich” (a common Russian name lol) and I introduce myself as a Russian Agent. I know it’s puerile and silly but that’s the level of discourse we are dealing with. This intelligence-insulting BS has grown tiresome already. My British friends and I “take the piss” (ridicule) the narratives: the comedy material is written for us!
Thank you. This is all true and I agree.
Jonny, I think your Russian name would be Ivan. Jamesovich if your father’s name is James. Your piece is brilliant.
A great characterisation of America for what it has become during my life of 73 years: an outlaw state. What Reagan used to call an “evil empire,” by which he meant the Soviet Union. I’m sure he thought that he and Gorbachev had achieved a lasting peace between Russia and the US. They came within an eyelash of eliminating all nukes. The so-called “realists” in the deep state would not allow that, but did leave several nuclear nonproliferation treaties in place, which our foolish contemporaries have trashed. Would he be shocked if he could be reanimated! The first step to putting things right again would be for Europe to stop enabling Washington’s warmongering in every corner of the world and to disband NATO, the biggest threat to world peace after the US federal government.