NEWSWATCH: House Intelligence Committee Report on Russia Investigation; Excerpt: Introduction and Overview

Kremlin and St. Basil's at Night

The U.S. House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence has issued a redacted version of a March 22, 2018, report on its investigation of Russia’s activities surrounding the 2016 U.S. election.  PDF versions are available at intelligence.house.gov/UploadedFiles/HPSCI_-_Declassified_Committee_Report_Redacted_FINAL_Redacted.pdf and docs.house.gov/meetings/IG/IG00/20180322/108023/HRPT-115-1.pdf.

U.S. Capitol file photoThe Committee found no collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, yet was critical of both major presidential campaigns:

“While the Committee found no evidence that the Trump campaign colluded, coordinated, or conspired with the Russian government, the investigation did find poor judgment and ill-considered actions by the Trump and Clinton campaigns. …”



An excerpt follows:

House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence
Report on Russian Active Measures
March 22, 2018

* * *

Introduction and Overview

(U) Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election was nothing novel for the Kremlin. The Kremlin aspires to sow chaos and discord and advance its agenda in targeted nations, particularly in Europe and former Soviet republics such as the Baltics and Ukraine. To do this, Russia effectively combines decades of experience in propaganda and psychological warfare techniques with its vast media apparatus, a strata of well-educated and proficient technicians, and a robust intelligence and security corps.

(U} In the United States, Russian cyberattacks related to the 2016 elections starkly highlighted technical vulnerabilities in U.S. digital infrastructure and bureaucratic shortcomings that were exploited by the Kremlin. Russia’s active measures campaign achieved its primary goal of inciting division and discord among Americans. For more than a year, U.S. politics have been consumed by bitter recriminations, charges, and counter-charges about the attacks. The reliability of the democratic vote-the bedrock of the U.S. republic-was widely and repeatedly questioned.

(U) At the time of the 2016 U.S. presidential election cycle, the Committee was already concerned with Russian malfeasance and aggression in levels that had not been seen since the Cold War. In fact, the IAA for fiscal years 2016 and 2017 included multiple provisions to improve the United States’ ability to counter Russian aggression. However, the Kremlin’s malicious activities during the 2016 U.S. presidential election triggered the Committee to announce a specific inquiry into Russia’s campaign (see Appendix B). The bipartisan parameters focused the investigation and this report-this Committee examined:

(1) Russian cyber activity and other active measures that were directed against the United States and its allies;

(2) whether the Russian active measures include links between Russia and individuals associated with presidential campaigns;

(3) the U.S. government response to these Russian active measures and what we need to do to protect ourselves and our allies in the future; and

(4) what possible leaks of classified information took place related to the Intelligence Community’s assessment of these matters.1 The Committee interviewed 73 witnesses, conducted 9 hearings and briefings, reviewed approximately 307,900 documents, and issued 20 subpoenas. This allowed the Committee to find answers crucial for identifying and addressing institutional weaknesses to assist the United States with identifying and
responding to inevitable hostile acts in the future.



(U) While the 2016 U.S. presidential election helped focus American attention on Russian cyber and information operations, the Russian government has conducted active measure campaigns in Europe for years. Believing it is engaged in an information war with the West, Russia’s influence activities employ an array of tactics-usually tailored to the target country’s population and environment-in an effort to accomplish the Kremlin’s goals. These goals generally include influencing an opponent’s leadership and population, advancing a narrative, or inducing a behavior change. The factors that make these campaigns successful also make them hard to counter. However, governments, non-governmental organizations, and media organizations in Europe have begun taking actions to address and mitigate the threat that Russian influence campaigns pose.

(U) The Russian active measures campaign against the United States was multifaceted. It leveraged cyberattacks, covert platforms, social media, third-party intermediaries, and state-run media. Hacked material was disseminated through this myriad network of actors with the objective of undermining the effectiveness of the future administration. This dissemination worked in conjunction with derisive messages posted on social media to undermine confidence in the election and sow fear and division in American society.

(U) The U.S. government’s subsequent response to the Russian active measures campaign during the 2016 election was slow [REDACTED] As that picture evolved, the FBl’s notification to victims and oversight committees was inconsistent in timeliness and quality, which contributed to the victims’ failure to both recognize the threat and defend their systems. State and local governments were slow to grasp the seriousness of the threat and when notified of breaches continued to resist any action that implied federal direction or control. Some states opted not to cooperate with important defensive measures offered by the DHS. While no tabulation systems, or systems that count votes, were impacted, the overall security posture of the U.S. federal, state, and local governments was demonstrated to be inadequate and vulnerable.

(U) The Committee’s investigation also reviewed the opening, in summer 2016, of a FBI enterprise counterintelligence investigation into [REDACTED] Trump campaign associates:
[REDACTED] Carter Page [REDACTED] Because of “the sensitivity of the matter,” the FBI did not notify congressional leadership about this investigation during the FBl’s regular counterintelligence briefings.

Three of [REDACTED] original subjects of the FBI investigation have been charged with crimes and the Committee’s review of these cases covers the period prior to the appointment of Special Counsel in May 2017.

(U) While the Committee found no evidence that the Trump campaign colluded, coordinated, or conspired with the Russian government, the investigation did find poor judgment and ill-considered actions by the Trump and Clinton campaigns. For example, the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between members of the Trump campaign and a Russian lawyer who falsely purported to have damaging information on the Clinton campaign demonstrated poor judgement. The Committee also found the Trump campaign’s periodic praise for and communications with Wikileaks – a hostile foreign organization-to be highly objectionable and inconsistent with U.S. national security interests. The Committee also found that the Clinton campaign and the DNC, using a series of cutouts and intermediaries to obscure their roles, paid for opposition research on Trump obtained from Russian sources, including a litany of claims by high-ranking current and former Russian government officials. Some of this opposition research was used to produce sixteen memos, which comprise what has become known as the Steele dossier.

(U) The effectiveness and relatively low cost of information operations, such as the dissemination of propaganda, make it an attractive tool for foreign adversaries. Unless the cost-benefit equation of such operations changes significantly, the Putin regime and other hostile governments will continue to pursue these attacks against the United States and its allies. Based on the investigation, the Committee recommends several solutions to help safeguard U.S. and allies’ political processes from nefarious actors, such as the Russians. …





 

SCW RUSSIAWIRE: House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence: Russia Investigation

U.S. Capitol file photo

House Permanent Select Committee on #Intelligence
#Russia Investigation

Overview

Following a more than yearlong, bipartisan investigation into Russia active measures targeting the 2016 U.S. #election, the House Intelligence Committee has completed a draft report of 150+ pages, with 600+ citations. The draft report addresses, in detail, each of the questions within the agreed parameters of the investigation, as announced in March 2017. It analyzes: 

  • Russian active measures directed against the 2016 U.S. election and against our European allies;
  • The U.S. government response to that attack; 
  • Links between Russians and the Trump and Clinton campaigns; and 
  • Purported leaks of classified information. Initial Findings


The draft report contains 40+ initial findings that describe: 

  • A pattern of Russian attacks on America’s European allies; 
  • Russian cyberattacks on U.S. political institutions in 2015-2016 and their use of social media to sow discord; 
  • A lackluster pre-election response to Russian active measures; 
  • Concurrence with the Intelligence Community Assessment’s judgments, except with respect to Putin’s supposed preference for candidate Trump; 
  • We have found no evidence of collusion, coordination, or conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russians; 
  • How anti-Trump research made its way from Russian sources to the Clinton campaign; and 
  • Problematic contacts between senior Intelligence Community officials and the media.


Proposed Recommendations

The draft report includes 25+ proposed recommendations for Congress and the executive branch to improve: 

  • Election security, including protecting vote tallies;
  • Support to European allies; 
  • The U.S. government response to cyber-attacks; 
  • Campaign finance transparency; and 
  • Counterintelligence practices related to political campaigns and unauthorized disclosures.


Conclusion

The draft report will be provided to the Committee minority on March 13 for review and comment. After adoption it will be submitted for a declassification review, and a declassified version will be made public. The report’s completion will signify the closure of one chapter in the Committee’s robust oversight of the threat posed by Moscow—which began well before the investigation and will continue thereafter.

Additional follow-on efforts arising from the investigation include oversight of the unmasking of Americans’ names in intelligence reports, FISA abuse, and other matters.







NEWSWATCH: “Social Media in Security Clearance Investigations” – Secrecy News/FAS

Montage of Instagram, Twitter and Facebook Logos, adapted from image at NPS.gov

Whoops, better scrub your facebook posts and twitter rants. Secrecy News reports that Congress is focusing on asking the executive branch to delve into social media activity when vetting persons needing a security clearance.

“Members of Congress are urging the executive branch to update and expand the security clearance process by examining the social media presence of individuals … considered for a security clearance for access to classified information. ‘I put more effort into understanding who my interns are’ than the security clearance process does, said Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Sen. Richard Burr at a hearing …. ‘You go to the areas that you learn the most about them — social media is right at the top of the list.’ ‘I can’t envision anyone coming into the office that you haven’t thoroughly checked out everything that they’ve said online,’ …

Tuesday, the House of Representatives passed a bill to promote the use of social media in security clearance investigations. …”


Click here for “Social Media in Security Clearance Investigations” – Secrecy News/FAS





NEWSLINK Daily Wire: “15-Year-Old Sexting Victim Of Anthony Weiner Blasts FBI In Open Letter”

FBI Building file photo

A 15-year-old girl reportedly received graphic photos and explicit sexting messages from disgraced politician Anthony Weiner, Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin’s estranged husband, earlier this year. The investigation into the matter subsequently led to the reopening of the criminal email investigation into Hillary, as announced Friday. On Wednesday, Buzzfeed News published an open letter penned by the 15-year-old sexting victim, in which the young girl blasts FBI Director James Comey for not waiting until after the election to reopen the Hillary case.

NEWSWATCH: “Russian Propaganda Is Pervasive, and America Is Behind the Power Curve in Countering It” – RAND

Kremlin, St. Basil's, Red Square at Night

RAND reports on Russian propaganda efforts utilizing the newest technologies, including RT and a host of others.  One key tactic is to repeat false and manipulative messages across multiple tracks:

… Russian propagandists are … at work across a wide front, aiming a firehose of falsehoods at ill-informed audiences, foreign and domestic. … this disinformation — intentionally false — leverages psychological vulnerabilities to sway audiences. U.S. leaders should raise public consciousness about its nature and dangers. … The explosion of new media is a boon for propagandists. RT, formerly Russia Today, spends over $300 million per year purveying a toxic mixture of entertainment, real news and disinformation across cable, satellite and online media. Dozens of Kremlin-backed proxy news sites blast propaganda while hiding or downplaying their affiliation. Russian trolls and hackers manipulate thousands of fake accounts on Twitter, Facebook and other social media. This volume and multiplicity of media and modes has an effect; research in psychology shows that multiple sources are more persuasive than a single source.



Russian propaganda also employs the tactics of first impressions and repetition, including the malign Ukrainian political transformation and concoct revisionist history seeking to mute awareness of Russian government culpability in international athletic doping:

Russia’s approach to propaganda emphasizes creating first impressions, which tend to be resilient, and then reinforcing them through repetition. In this way Kremlin propagandists have persuaded some of the less informed that Ukraine’s post-Maidan government is fascist. Contrary to credible findings of pervasive state-sponsored Russian doping at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Moscow’s early and repeated denials have confused some audiences.



Much of Russian propaganda is wholly false, yet can build a false “credibility” based upon repeated manipulation of an audience with limited information access, such as the Russian people.  The U.S. government has not responded robustly enough to Russian propaganda efforts.

While some Russian propaganda stories build around a kernel of truth, others are wholly manufactured and spun. … People are often poor judges of the credibility of both information and its sources, psychology research has found, and over time familiar messages or those previously identified as false can become more persuasive. … some audiences are not turned off by inconsistent or implausible expectations. … Polls last year found that about half of Russians believed they received ‘objective information’ from television, their main source of news. … America is behind the power curve in countering Russian disinformation.  … Russian disinformation is a global threat, much of it targeted against democracies. … The Kremlin’s obsession with propaganda and disinformation persists ….

Click here for RAND: “Russian Propaganda Is Pervasive, and America Is Behind the Power Curve in Countering It”





NEWSWATCH: “Russian Hackers Reportedly Target The New York Times” – Fortune

Binary Code with Stylized Eye

In the latest disturbing account of Russian hacking, the #FBI is reportedly investigating a series of #cyber-attacks targeted at journalists from the New York Times and other U.S. media outlets. … [that] could allow hackers to obtain confidential communications between reporters and …sources in the government. It could also potentially allow Russia to release information, which would embarrass key political leaders as well as obtain insight into U.S. diplomatic or military strategies. … Russia is also the mostly likely suspect behind last week’s ‘Shadow Brokers’ incident … [exposing] a top-secret set of cyber-weapons developed by the #NSA.

Click here for Fortune: “Russian Hackers Reportedly Target The New York Times”