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Monday, January 2, 2017

Is Russia messing with yo mama?

Donald Trump has dismissed the contention that the Russians are behind the hacking of the DNC and other incidents.  The latest denial comes as the code for a Russian piece of hacking malware turned up on a computer in the offices of a Vermont power grid outfit.  The Department of Homeland Security had sent out information on the code so that essential services organizations could be on the lookout for it.  When it was found on a laptop computer belonging to a Vermont utility, it was reported to U.S. officials who undertook to investigate how it got there.  The computer was not "connected" to the power grid, officials said, but they did not indicate if there was a possibility that a user of the computer might log on to the grid.  

The initial report in the Washington Post indicated that the grid might be under attack and the story had to be revised many times to get the exact significance of the code.  But that part of the story got swept up in the prattling triggered by Trump casting doubt on the intelligence reports on Russian hacking.  He dismisses the idea by saying the intelligence agencies who claim Russian hacking were the same ones that said Iraq was building weapons of mass destruction,  which led us into war with Iraq.  He contends that hacking is difficult to trace and that there is no evidence that points to Russia.  Many people,  including anti-Trumpians, have repeated his denials and talk of an anti-Russian hysteria as behind the accusations that the Russian government is sponsoring hacking.

But little of the chatter about recent events acknowledges the facts of a raging propaganda war that targets the Obama administration.  And that war includes the GOP in its obsession to obstruct and demolish anything Obama does.  Facts are obscured by all the talk of what defines "fake news."  And the main fact is the propaganda war.  Israel is part of that war and has chosen sides against Obama.  House speaker John Boehner and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell invited Netanyahu to speak to a joint session of Congress without letting Obama know.  The objective was to subvert the nuclear negotiations with Iran.  The latest salvo in the war against Obama came when he decided not to veto but to abstain on a resolution criticizing Israel's building of settlements on Palestinian land.  Although all members of the U.N. Security Council voted for the statement, and the U.S. abstained,  it opened up the opportunity for Obama opponents, both international and in the U.S., to accuse Obama of betrayal, although the anti-Obama coalition has never missed opportunities to conspire against him.  The propaganda war is a fact.

And it extends to the accusations of Russian hacking.  Putin joined his ally Trump by implying that the accusations are posed as excuses for Hillary Clinton losing the election.  Again, the media is caught up in the exchange of propaganda and tends to ignore what has been factually determined.

The fact is that Russia has reverted to Soviet style behavior under Putin as it attempts to regain some of the power it lost when the Soviet Union was dismantled.  It has taken to showing open discourtesies to State Department officials and harassing the U.S. diplomatic corps in Moscow.  But the U.S. is not the only country to experience Russia's new belligerence.  

“The behavior is so close to Soviet behavior it is ridiculous,” said Martin Kragh, head of the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs in Stockholm. “It is like they picked up an old handbook and just dusted it off.”
Russia's animus toward the U.S. and other countries is a response to sanctions imposed from its take over of Crimea and its intrusions into Ukraine.   The U.S. under Obama has taken leadership in the sanctions against Russia and in organizing the western coalition that signed the Iran nuclear agreement, of which Russia is a party.  Both Russia and Israel, however, are interested in humiliating the Obama administration and forging an alliance with Trump.  And both have interests in pursuing their goals that ignore U.S. security interests.  Israel wants the U.S to approve its appropriation of Palestinian property and to take a military stance against Iran.  Russia does not want the U.S. to exercise its interests in maintaining peace in the Baltic.  Trump has signaled that he will accede to both countries,  although he has not made an overt commitment to do so.

As for the U.S. intelligence accusations of Russian-sponsored hacking into the DNC,  the 17 intelligence agencies who have made the assessment are caught in a trap.  To produce the evidence, they would have to reveal classified strategies they have developed for tracing and identifying computer hackers.  And as for the agencies being the same people who said Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction,  they aren't.  After 9/11 and the Iraq War,  the intelligence agencies underwent extensive reformation to insure that such mistakes were not made again.  Nancy Pelosi pointed out that the agencies did not make the determination that the WMDs existed, but the Bush administration chose to focus on only the evidence that supported their desire to go to war.  The National Intelligence Evaluation upon which they based their decision was loaded with dissenting information that called into question the existence of WMDs.  And the U.N nuclear weapons inspector, Hans Blix,  expressed his doubt emphatically and frequently.  And the question is would the 17 intelligence agencies risk such a mistake again?   There is much to consider in dismissing their assessment as erroneous.

Then comes the matter of attacking power grids.  Four years ago when he was Secretary of Defense,  Leon Panetta warned of this threat:
"The reality is that there is the cyber capability to basically bring down our power grid to create ... to paralyze our financial system in this country to virtually paralyze our country. And I think we have to be prepared not only to defend against that kind of attack but if necessary we are going to have to be prepared to be able to be aggressive when it comes to cyber efforts as well. We've got to develop the technology, the capability, we've got to be able to defend this country."
Russia has undertaken military exercises in the Baltic to test the defenses of former Soviet nations that have joined NATO.
 '...the Baltic nations say they are already under attack from Russia by non-conventional means, such as cyber warfare and Russian propaganda, mainly on TV channels watched by the sizeable Russian-speaking minority in Latvia and Estonia."
 And it has used power-grid hacking in its operations against Ukraine: 
"A distribution station that supplies one-fifth of the power to Ukraine’s capital, Kiev, suddenly shut down without warning early Dec. 18, Reuters reported.The hackers used a simple method to infiltrate the power grid: sending emails with infected attachments to employees. That allowed them to steal their logins and cut the circuit breakers at about 60 substations."
The hackers struck again a few days later when, "As many as 80,000 residents in western Ukraine lost power for six hours on December 23."

The Washington  Post and even some Trump advisers are concerned about Trump's romance with Russia and his dismissal of threats to American security and sovereignty.  But he and many of his GOP supporters have other work to do.  They have until Jan. 20 to finish  subverting the presidency of Barack Obama.  They have their priorities.  

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States