“Dezinformatsiya,” or disinformation, is a Soviet, and now Russian, strategic military operation. One might say it is the embodiment of Napoleon’s axiom “the moral is to the physical as three to one.” Dezinformatsiya targets the will of the people and the will of an opposing government calculating that by defeating the will it will never be necessary to actually defeat the opposing army on the battlefield. The purpose of disinformation is not to cause any particular effect, per se, but to limit the courses of action available to your opponent by distracting them or masking your true intentions.
Let’s look at a couple of examples.
In the early 1980s as the AIDS epidemic hit Africa (remember when AIDS was mostly limited to “intravenous drug users as well as Haitians and homosexual men“?) the story ran wild that AIDS was the result of a bio-warfare experiment run amok. That rumor was started and stoked by the KGB and was so successful that you still find people who believe it. The CIA case study shows how this is done right. I really encourage you to read it.
As the United States prepared to deploy Pershing missiles in Germany in the late 1980s, there was a sudden panic over “nuclear winter.” Russian defector, Sergei Tretyakov, detailed in his debriefing how the entire story was created out of whole cloth and seeded into the West.
When the AIDS rumors started the Soviet Union was aggressively expanding in sub-Saharan Africa with the use of Cuban soldiers as proxies. The AIDS story made accepting aid from the United States more difficult for shaky regimes there. The Soviets knew everyone realized that the nuclear disarmament bunch were a Soviet front, so by concocting the story of a nuclear armageddon without the necessity of a total thermonuclear war they were able to open a second front against the deployment of battlefield nuclear weapons.
Another interesting story that I’ve always maintained was a dezinformatsiya operation was a lawsuit by the now-defunct Christic Institute to link the Iran-Contra Affair to a multiyear drug running operation by the CIA that involved several prominent Americans. This story survived and grew legs as the crack epidemic was laid at the door of the CIA.
Yesterday, the New York Times covered the increasingly active Russian disinformation campaign in the West:
With a vigorous national debate underway on whether Sweden should enter a military partnership with NATO, officials in Stockholm suddenly encountered an unsettling problem: a flood of distorted and outright false information on social media, confusing public perceptions of the issue.
The claims were alarming: If Sweden, a non-NATO member, signed the deal, the alliance would stockpile secret nuclear weapons on Swedish soil; NATO could attack Russia from Sweden without government approval; NATO soldiers, immune from prosecution, could rape Swedish women without fear of criminal charges.
They were all false, but the disinformation had begun spilling into the traditional news media, and as the defense minister, Peter Hultqvist, traveled the country to promote the pact in speeches and town hall meetings, he was repeatedly grilled about the bogus stories.
“People were not used to it, and they got scared, asking what can be believed, what should be believed?” said Marinette Nyh Radebo, Mr. Hultqvist’s spokeswoman.
Although the topics may vary, the goal is the same, Mr. Lindberg and others suggested. “What the Russians are doing is building narratives; they are not building facts,” he said. “The underlying narrative is, ‘Don’t trust anyone.’”
The article is one of the few that I put in the must-read category. I encourage you to read the whole thing.
So where is this going?
This year has been the first time we’ve seen, or so it seems, evidence of widespread tampering with US domestic politics by a foreign power without an invitation to do so by some US political figure. (The exception is necessary because Ted Kennedy asked for Soviet help in defeating Ronald Reagan in 1984.) For instance, the DNC had their email accounts hacked and exposed, documents appeared indicating that alleged Russian mob fixer and Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort had taken millions of dollars from Russian sources, newspaper reporters have been hacked by the Russians, and over the past few days it has been revealed that at least two states, Arizona and Illinois, have had their voter systems hacked. Was the catfishing expedition that ensnared the willing and aptly named Anthony Weiner aimed at him? Or was the actual target Hillary’s whatever, Huma Abedin?
Based on what we know about how Russian FSB hackers work, in most of the cases where we know Russians hacked our systems it is because the Russians wanted us to know they were behind the operation. As FBI Director James Comey said in his infamous statement that refused to hold Hillary Clinton accountable, top tier government-affiliated hackers don’t leave signs that they’ve been in your system. The Russians don’t mind that we know it was them because they a) know that under Obama there will be no repercussions for the hacking and b) announcing they did it builds Russian prestige. It tells the world they can come and go at will in our systems and we can’t stop them.
Donald Trump has already made a huge contribution to the Russian effort by claiming the election is rigged and will be stolen from him if he loses. Whatever Trump’s ties to the FSB, direct or indirect via agents of influence, I think Trump was prepping the groundwork for his excuse when election day rolls around. Regardless of his intent, his message is exactly the message the Kremlin is trying to push in the US and Western Europe: your government is corrupt, your elections are rigged, don’t trust anyone or anything.
One would think that the Democrats would hit this Alex Jones style of rumor mongering head on and ridicule it. But you would not have counted on Harry Reid.
No one has ever accused Harry Reid of being smart. Harry Reid, in fact, represents a lot of what is really, really wrong with American politics today. He is a man that has no concern for anything beyond personal aggrandizement via increased personal influence or a fatter bank account. He is a man who is totally without honor and integrity. He will literally say or do anything, be it declaring that Rush Limbaugh was denigrating members of the Armed Forces, accusing Mitt Romney of not having filed income tax returns, carrying out his ugly little vendetta against the Koch brothers, or making up a hilarious story about a broken exercise band to cover up his
mauling by a gay hooker involvement in drunken punch-up “accident”, if he perceives it will further a very narrow range of partisan goals… like making people notice Harry Reid and give him money. Hence his latest silly antic:
In a letter to the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey Jr., Mr. Reid wrote that the threat of Russian interference “is more extensive than is widely known and may include the intent to falsify official election results.” Recent classified briefings from senior intelligence officials, Mr. Reid said in an interview, have left him fearful that President Vladimir V. Putin’s “goal is tampering with this election.”
The whole letter is here. This is a taste of it:
I have recently become concerned that the threat of the Russian government tampering in our presidential election is more extensive than widely known and may include the intent to falsify official election results. The evidence of a direct connection between the Russian government and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign continues to mount and has led Michael Morrell, the former Acting Central Intelligence Director, to call Trump an “unwitting agent” of Russia and the Kremlin. The prospect of a hostile government actively seeking to undermine our free and fair elections represents one of the gravest threats to our democracy since the Cold War and it is critical for the Federal Bureau of Investigation to use every resource available to investigate this matter thoroughly and in a timely fashion. The American people deserve to have a full understanding of the facts from a completed investigation before they vote this November..
Reid thinks he is being clever or doing a bit of trolling and is complementing a story line already launched by the Clinton campaign. In reality what he’s doing is exactly what he’s accusing Donald Trump of doing. He’s acting in accordance with the wishes of the Russian intelligence services. He’s contributing to the perception that this election is controlled by outside forces and, should Trump win, you can bet Harry Reid and the Clinton crime syndicate will be on every news outlet in the known world to declare that Trump did, in fact, steal the election with the connivance of Vladimir Putin. If Trump loses, Breitbart and Gateway Pundit will be looking for ways to prove the election was stolen by the Clintons. No matter the electoral outcome, a not insignificant number of Americans will go away thinking that voting is just a farce and “they,” you know, the Illuminati or the Bilderbergers or the Trilaterals, connived to defeat the loser.
As I’ve said before, in our present case I think the Russians are perfectly happy with either candidate as both are hopelessly compromised by the FSB. At the same time, I believe that whichever of these losers gimps across the finish line in November, they will have done so by actual, mostly alive, Americans voting for them. The real goal of the FSB is prevent any effective action by any American president. In other words the objective is not to elect either Trump or Clinton but to assure that both Trump and Clinton are so politically damaged and the electorate so mistrusting of both that effective executive action by them is impossible. This paralysis then works to the advantage of the Kremlin by giving it a free hand to do what it wishes.
Unfortunately, both our political parties have decided that playing Putin’s game works for them and are going along with it.