erik lundegaard

Friday March 31, 2017

Yesterday, Clinton Watts Dropped a Bomb No One Is Hearing

Amid the New York Times reveal that two White House officials helped Devin Nunes, Republican chair of the House Intelligence Committee, view secret documents, which he then refused to share with fellow committee members, and the fact that former national security adviser Michael Flynn wants immunity to testify before the Senate committee now investigating Trump-Russia entanglements because Nunes has screwed up the House's investigation so badly , the testimony of Clinton Watts of the Foreign Policy Research Institute before that same Senate intelligence panel didn't get the attention it deserved. 

But it's like a bomb. It's a wake-up call. It should be. Here's part of what he said. 

Why did Putin think he could get away with it now?

I think this answer is very simple and it's what no one is really saying in this room: Which is, part of the reason [Russian-style] active measures have worked in this U.S. election is because the Commander-in-Chief [Trump] has used Russian active measures, at times, against his opponents. ... On 11 October, President Trump stood on a stage and cited what appeared to be a fake news story from Sputnik News that disappeared from the internet. He denies the intel from the United States about Russia. He claimed that the election could be rigged—that was the No. 1 theme pushed by RT, Sputnik News, white outlets, all the way up until the election. He's made claims of voter fraud, that Pres. Obama is not a citizen, that, you know, Congressman Cruz is not a citizen.

So part of the reason active measures works—and it does today in terms of Trump Tower being “wiretapped”—is because they parrot the same lines. So Putin is correct: He can say he's not influencing anything because he's just putting out a stance. But until we get a firm basis of fact and fiction in our own country, get [garbled] about the facts, whether it be do I support the intelligence community or a story I read on my Twitter feed, we're going to have a big problem. I can tell you right now, today, that gray outlets, that are Soviet-pushing accounts, tweet at President Trump during high volumes when they know he's online, and they push conspiracy theories.

Again: Why now? They look more prepared: probing, evaluating states, trying to get into voter records, trying to be more active in the process. 

If you wanted to run this during the Cold War, you would've had to put agents inside the United States. They would've been stalked by counter-intelligence professionals, the would've been run down. You couldn't have gained an audience on a communist newspaper, for example. Today, you can create the content, gain the audience, build the bots, pick out the election and even the voters that are valued the most in swing states and actually insert the right content in the deliberate period. They pre-planned it, they were based a year and a half out, they're doing it today on the European elections. And here's the other thing that needs to come up: They tried all messages. We've been very focused on our presidential election, and the Republicans tend to come up, but the Democrats, they were there, too. They were there with Bernie Sanders supporters, trying to influence them in different directions. So they play all sides—much like I learned in infantry school about how they use artillery. They fire artillery everywhere and once they get a break in the wall, that's where they swarm in and they focus. ...

So I think the important point moving forward is we have to educate our public and even our institutions. And the mainstream media is right to be taking some on the chin right now. They've fallen for a lot of these fake news stories. They've amplfied it and not gone back and done good fact-checking. The media needs to improve, our U.S. government institutions need to improve, and we've got help Americans understand what the facts are. Because if we don't, we are lost. We'll be come two separate, maybe three separate, worlds in the United States, just because of this little bitty pinprick that was put in by a foreign country. 

How should the committe do its work and parse the various layers of Russian society?

Follow the trail of dead Russians. ... There have been more dead Russians in the past three months that are tied to this investigation, who have assets in banks all over world. They are dropping dead even in Western countries.

How is the Trump administration helping? It's not. 

I'm going to walk out of here today, I'm going to be cyberattacked, I'm going to be discredited by trolls. My biggest fear isn't being on Putin's hit list or psychological warfare targeting me — I've been doing that for two years. My biggest concern right now is I don't know what the American stance is on Russia, on who is going to take care of me. After years in the Army and the FBI, working in the intel community — today, I'm going to walk out of here and ain't nobody going to be covering my back. I'm going to be on my own, and so that's very disconcerting.

Posted at 06:36 AM on Friday March 31, 2017 in category Politics  
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Twitter: @ErikLundegaard