A Quick Post about Russian Interference

I just listened to an interview today with General Michael V. Hayden on the Waking Up podcast with Sam Harris, who is the former director of the CIA and NSA.  It was short and very educational.  Sam Harris’ last question was about General Hayden’s view on the Russian Hacking scandal.  This is what he had to say and I thought it was worth transcribing.

“The Russians did it. It’s a high confidence judge of the American intelligence community.  They did it to affect the election.  They stole the data, and they washed the data through our friend Julian Assange and some other platforms, and then they put out an army of trolls to touch the data so that Google’s algorithms thought these were trending things so that they would come very much into our consciousness, so it’s incredible technically.  It’s called a covert influence campaign.  It’s the most successful covert influence campaign in the history of covert influence campaigns.

Now I do point out, as somebody who used to run the CIA, I can’t claim that my agency has never been involved in something like this in its history.  Covert influence campaigns do not create fractures in a society, they exploit fractures in a society and make them worse.  So I think the first teaching point after I walk away saying the Russians did this….is shame on us for giving them the opportunity…by being so fractured in our political discourse.”

10 thoughts on “A Quick Post about Russian Interference

    1. I guess it’s not clear to me how much that played a role compared to Russian influence which there is quite a lot of evidence for since it matches patterns they’ve used in other countries. When you look at sort of the most damning things that came out against Hillary these all started as propaganda stories in Russia. The Cambridge Analytic data was used to collect information about issues important to people so that Trump could address it….it’s still exploitative because Trump is a populist, but to me that’s different than what the Russians did which was clearly to spread fake news. I mean they are both bad, in the hands of people without scruples, I would say the Russian hacking was worse. Had Hillary had her hands on such a tool as Cambridge Analytica she would have used it too! The Dems are already trying to get their hands on such a tool for the next election.

      Liked by 1 person

          1. You’ve read The Guardian article, right Swarn? It’s far more illuminating than that piece, I think you’ll agree. It seems to me that the same tactics — bot warfare — were being used by the ‘legit’ Trump camp (Breitbart, funded by Mercer of Cambridge Analytica, and CA themselves, funded by the Reps, et al), as well as by the Russians, the ‘illegit’ side of his camp. Personally, I don’t think Russia is responsible for the final result; I think that’s down to the DNC sticking by corporate Hillary, and her being distrusted and disliked from the outset, the former with good reason. She was the wrong candidate. I mean, how bad to you have to be to lose against Trump? Well, the Dems showed us.

            Liked by 3 people

            1. Well I don’t think i argued or would argue that this was the sole cause of why Hillary lost. As the General said these things tend to intensify existing problems/fractures, not create ones. Certainly we can say that nothing the Republicans did or the Russians did would have had a similar impact on voters if Bernie was the candidate over Hillary. When you start with a crappier candidate, such a candidate is easier to tear down. I am not sure which Guardian piece you are referring to as there have been many on this issue. My goal in posting this is less about whether this was the sole cause, but rather that this evidence of Russian interference is both solid and plentiful, and does question the legitimacy of the election. More importantly anything that can tie Trump or any of his “team” to this hacking should be grounds for impeachment. The fact that a large amount of his supporters once again don’t care, where this would be the biggest thing in the whole world if it happened in favor of a democratic candidate is a hard pill to swallow.

              And the wikileaks stuff did have an influence, and the same crew is trying to bury Macron in France in favor of LePen. There is a clear bias here by Russia. It’s a serious problem, and whether it is the sole cause are not seems to me beside’s the point. The general’s comment “shame on us” is perhaps a propos, but it’s not shame on many of us who recognized that this was big from the start. And while Clinton wasn’t a strong candidate, the difference came down to like 100,000 votes in a few swing states, it’s far from implausible that had Russians not interfered that Clinton would have one. Perhaps not by a large margin, which any decent candidate should have been able to do.

              In the end we are looking at a collusion of many things as to why Clinton lost, and the DNC’s bias towards Clinton certainly isn’t forgotten, at least not by many, but I think it’s important to reinforce that it is the consensus of the intelligence community that Russians interfered with the election. There are still many people here in this country, perhaps not in Europe, who seem to question this fact.

              Liked by 2 people

  1. If I can play devil’s advocate…so what? Russian’s hacked and published some emails, and then Americans elected Donald Trump because they either thought those emails were important or they had no effect.

    In your view, who is allowed to influence an election? If instead of hacking, Putin had publicly endorsed Trump, would that be okay? When Michael Moore came to Toronto in 2004 and told Canadians not to vote for Stephen Harper, was that okay? What about when John Oliver said the same thing on his show in 2014? You, as a non-citizen, endorsed Bernie Sanders previously. Here we have different levels of people who themselves are not able to vote attempting to influence an election. Where do you draw the line, and how do you say the line wasn’t drawn arbitrarily.

    I don’t think this was the point of your post, but it raises an interesting question.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well there is a difference in pledging support, as opposed to presenting misinformation and propaganda. So if a country has a right to self-determine, then for another country to purposely launch a propaganda campaign against one candidate in hopes of altering the outcome of an election is I think quite a perversion of the process. Many leaders of other nations might voice their support or hopes for the outcome of an election of another country, but seldom do they actively and enmasse bias information to citizens of that country in order to get them to vote a certain way. Furthermore, that information was repackaged in away which obscured the source of the information. If you came along and said…”hey I’m a Russian here is some some false news and hacked e-mails, now please vote for Trump.” I think that would be fine and is much more akin to the examples you site. Because those non-citizens are not pretending the information is coming from another source that you would have more confidence in.

      It’s all different when it’s sanctioned by a government as opposed to coming from a concerned individual. Russia’s attempts to sway elections in other countries is a well recognized pattern and is most certainly an aim of some part of the government to subvert election in democratic nations.


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