Info War on Russian Hacking

Russian espionage and hacking of U.S. organizations, businesses, government, or military operations has been going on for decades, and has been widely reported for years. So has espionage and hacking by the Chinese, North Koreans, Iranians, Cubans, and other nations, friend or foe, partner or adversary. Furthermore, it is not news that foreign governments, including our friends and allies, to include; Britain, Saudi Arabia and Israel– also fund organizations, social media sites, publications, and push out propaganda to influence U.S. public opinion – even in election years. Anyone surprised that the Russians do it must have been living on another planet for the last 70-years, certainly since the post-WWII timeframe. This is old news, but unlike the headlines we’ve witnessed in the weeks following November’s U.S. Presidential Election, which are continuing through today, it is real news, not fake news.

Before I make my bigger point, let me first take the opportunity to make mention of the world of intelligence collection and foreign influence, aka “espionage.”

The act of securing information of a political, military, or economic nature that a competing nation holds secret. It can involve the analysis of diplomatic reports, publications, statistics, and broadcasts, as well as spying; clandestine or covert activity carried out by an individual or individuals working under secret identity to gather classified, critical or sensitive information or data. Or it may be conducting counter- intelligence operations or intelligence activities to affect and influence political, military, business, or economic events or situations in another country on behalf of another entity or nation, with the intent and or purpose of placing one’s own nation, government, or corporation at some strategic political, political, diplomatic, economic, or financial advantage.

Further, U.S. government sponsorship and funding of interventions in foreign elections has been official government policy for at least 50-years since the Cold War began in the late 1940’s-early 1950s, and it has had bipartisan Congressional support and approval for such activities.

Hacking into computers to steal sensitive data, email messages, and other valuable and critical information is simply the use of new technologies to pursue traditional foreign policy goals and is the latest form of espionage and spying. It is not new that the Russians do it, and President Obama has been briefed and has known this reality for eight-years since the day he walked into the Oval Office. He also knows his own government has been doing it on a massive scale, prior to and throughout his presidency. All nations spy.

So, the question is? What is so different or so shocking if Russia was somehow involved in the theft and subsequent publication of the highly embarrassing Democrat National Committee (DNC) emails about Hillary Clinton’s Presidential campaign and strategy? Why are the DNC’s and the Hillary Clinton campaign emails regarded as too important or valuable to be interfered with … and made public? Both entities should have been suspect of the opportunity for potential hacking by foreign governments or entities, and they certainly should have been more security conscious, particularly former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She having been a principle member of the National Security Council, should have known better … and does. Don’t doubt me.

Likewise, the brazen and unabashed dishonesty and hypocrisy of the Obama administration over its allegations of “Russian hacking of the 2016 election,” and the [administration’s] encompassing manufactured ruckus is made even more absurd by the immature and sophomoric media bait and switch. While Russian hacking of both industrial secrets and government agency data is widespread, as is hacking by Chinese, North Koreans, Iranians, and others, there is no evidence of hacking into election machines or any attempted compromise of 2016 the U.S. election ballot or tabulation process. In fact, it’s not even possible.

Simply put, there is yet to be any evidence of “Russian hacking” of the 2016 election. And yet, the White House, political pundits, and the mainstream media establishment is intent on planting that idea in the mind’s of Americans and into the American political conversation as if it were a proven fact. Trying to influence American public opinion is not the same as manipulating the election results and the attempt to confuse and confound the two is an insult to the American citizens and the world.

The whole fabric of this fake news story is a fiction intended to mislead the public and cast a shadow of illegitimacy over the electoral victory of Donald Trump. Yet, when we look beyond the screaming headlines and examine the facts of the matter, we find there is no evidence the Russians have done anything that the U.S. and other governments aren’t doing in a dozen places around the globe. But somehow, we are supposed to believe they have engaged in impermissible interference in our politics and political process.

The Russian hacking story proliferating throughout the daily news cycle and across the Internet, originated and was grounded in an all-out strategic influence campaign derived out of the West Wing of the White House, and carefully postured and positioned by the politically directed and driven “politicized U.S. national intelligence community’s recent intelligence report” on Russian cyber-hacking.

For the pro-Left media and political pundits supportive of the Obama administration and their opinion-based on “fake ‘news”, it is more than obvious. As a former career U.S. intelligence officer who has served across the military, the national intelligence community, and on the White House National Security Council staff under both Democrat and Republican administrations, it was relatively apparent to see what was and is afoot here. Experience, knowledge and understanding of the intelligence process, along with having read the recently released intelligence community report — it was quite easy to come to realize what was driving Obama administration motivation and rationale, and its devised end-state.

The proposition and symptoms at play are that this is essentially fake news, conjecture, and groundless innuendo, propped up by and an unfounded intelligence assessment, served up as the center-piece of a White House driven misinformation campaign. The 13-page, 398-word intelligence community “Joint Analysis Report” or JAR as it is called, offers generic and vague generalities, certainly a list of alternative cryptic cyber black sites, and perhaps a “theoretical connecting of the dots,” but with virtually no evidence. Again, pretty much — baseless, vague, imprecise, rough, inexact and ambiguous at best.

Further, the report makes the case for potential third party involvement, but really makes no sense, and instead provides for much speculation, leaving one (i.e.; the media and the public) to believe there are an array of hacking entities acting in-concert with the Russian GRU (Glavnoje Razvedyvatel’noje Upravlenije), Russians main foreign intelligence agency, and cyber espionage groups such as “Fancy Bear” and “Sandworm or BlackEnergy”. Further, the overall attempt of the Obama administration’s campaign is to through the use of distorting the truth about a series of events (the hacking of the DNC headquarters, Hillary Clintons private server, and  Clinton’s Campaign manager John Podesta’s private computer, and the November 2016 Election), and by adding to the mix — disinformation, conjecture, supposition, and speculation; would lead people (the general public) to believe that the Russians, along with various criminal cyber groups corroborated and worked together on behalf of and directed by Vladimir Putin to affect, influence, and throw the U.S. Election to Donald Trump.

Again, this whole twist, spin, notion, and the underlying implication and false explanation is that the Russians actually hacked the November Election and we’re trying to influence Trump’s win is pure propaganda and conjecture, purposely designed and orchestrated to falsely influence public opinion, which unfortunately it has. The reality is the effort; the Intelligence Community JAR, and all of the corresponding press releases and media interviews on behalf of the Obama administration, Democrat pundits, and the mainstream media is in reality a last-ditch propaganda “fake news” campaign to smear and delegitimize Trump. This is more than obvious.

At another level, there are serious consequences for politicizing national intelligence for use by a single political party for deliberate and intentional purposes to affect non-national security situations and processes. And likewise, there are equally serious consequences for politicizing the opinions print media and social media writes and electronic audio-visual media; TV, cable and radio air to convince their audience that their reporting, opinions and editorials are legit. No matter how slanted, biased, skewed or phony they are.

That said, the liberal mainstream media is, largely to blame for popularizing the notion that Russia’s alleged hack of the Democrats and leak of hot-button emails constitutes an “election hack” or “election hacking.”

So, is the media full of shit? Is it spreading “fake news,” or is it correct to say that Russia allegedly “hacked the U.S. election”? The Obama administration, the Clinton Campaign, the liberal media, the Democrats and the political would want you to believe that. And more important, that is the whole intent and purpose behind this whole derived effort. How? For many, the phrase “election hack” suggests tampering with voting machines to change ballots. Why would anyone think that? Well, for one, the mainstream media told them that’s what it meant. Following that, along with President Obama and others who then said the hacking of the U.S. election was done by Russia. To validate the zero evidence claim, the White House retaliated against Moscow calling Russia’s involvement as “Significant Malicious Cyber-Enabled Activities” and sanctioned four Russian individuals and five Russian entities for what it said was election interference, and also ordered 35 Russian diplomats to leave the country and two Russian compounds are being closed.

Looking back on the Obama administration’s two common foreign policy practices or idioms come to mind; “don’t let a good crisis go to waste” and “… the tail wagging the dog.” Both came together in the Obama administration’s effort to facilitate and influence the outcome of the election, to mislead the public over the legitimate results, to smear and delegitimize Donald Trump and his character, and lastly, to cast a shadow on the illegitimacy over his electoral victory and his future Presidency.

Jim Waurishuk is a retired USAF Colonel, serving nearly 30-years as a career senior intelligence and political-military affairs officer and special mission intelligence officer with expertise in strategic intelligence, international strategic studies and policy, and asymmetric warfare. He served combat and combat-support tours in Grenada, Panama, Iraq, and Afghanistan, as well as on numerous special operations and special mission intelligence contingencies in Central America, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa. He served as a special mission intelligence officer assigned to multiple Joint Special Operations units, and with the CIA’s Asymmetric Warfare Task Force, as well as in international and foreign advisory positions. He served as Deputy Director for Intelligence for U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM) during the peak years of the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Global War on Terrorism. He is a former White House National Security Council staffer and a former Distinguished Senior Fellow with the Atlantic Council, Washington, D.C. He served as a senior advisor to the Commander U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) and is Vice President of the Special Ops-OPSEC -- which provides strategic and operational security analysis and assessments to governmental and private entities, as well as media organizations on national security issues, policy, and processes. He currently provides advisory and consulting services on national security, international strategic policy, and strategy assessments for the U.S. and foreign private sector and governments entities, media groups and outlets, and to political groups, forums, and political candidates. He is an author and writer providing regular commentary and opinion to national and local TV, radio networks, and for both print and online publications, as well as speaking engagements to business, political, civic and private groups on national security matters – focusing on international strategic policy and engagement, and strategic intelligence, and subject matter expertise on special mission intelligence and operations, counter-terrorism, and asymmetric warfare and conflict.