Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!
Thank you for supporting CAFI. And thank you to the many men and women who serve and protect our country every day.
Thank you for supporting CAFI. And thank you to the many men and women who serve and protect our country every day.
With the avalanche of Russia-related news this week—the Flynn sentencing hearing, the release of two Senate-commissioned reports on Russian social media meddling, the President’s surprise pull-out of U.S. troops from Syria, the undoing of sanctions on oligarch Oleg Deripaska’s companies, and more—it’s easy to get caught up in the latest developments and lose sight of what the Kremlin and its allies are achieving here.
Like the best Le Carré or Charles McCarry novels, recent news has been so full of interwoven characters and events that it’s nearly impossible to keep it all straight on first read. But revisit it we should, because far from some invented hardboiled espionage thriller, these plot twists are real and we are living in the story.
Russia is engaged in an extensive, multi-faceted, prolonged attack on U.S. institutions and civil society, including our electoral system, our energy infrastructure, our public discourse, and other facets of our economy.
Not only are Vladimir Putin and his government working to undermine American interests, they are going after our allies too: from the U.K. and France to Ukraine, the rest of Eastern Europe, the Baltic states and beyond.
From a 30,000 foot view—which can be deadly over Russian air space—the current Russian campaign is part of their zero-sum view of the world that has existed since at least the start of the Cold War. The West must be diminished so that Russia can rise again. By attacking the pillars of the West, steadily, secretly when possible, Russia can sow chaos and geopolitical turmoil, and use that instability to widen its sphere of influence.
Democracy, personal liberty, a free press, and the rule of law are all anathema to Putin and his oligarch cronies. Those niceties get in the way of the kleptocracy that Putin has taken great care to create and protect over the past two decades. But to feed their corrupt machine, they need economic wins. And per their zero-sum mentality, this means delivering economic losses to their adversaries.
So while 2016 election “meddling” remains a centerpiece of cable news, the Mueller investigation and several Congressional inquiries, we encourage everyone to follow the money and dig deeper into Russia’s ongoing interference in the U.S. economy.
Every day, vital American industries from telecom to energy to agriculture face threats and direct sabotage from Russia and other foreign adversaries—costing American businesses potentially billions of dollars, and robbing American workers of their jobs and financial security.
Alongside its election interference in the U.S. this decade, Russia has:
These attacks on our economic security are similar in nature to ones Russia has carried out against Ukraine and other allies. The playbook is effective and it’s being repeated here, threatening not just our exercise of commerce but our national security as well.
Congress and the Administration must address not just electoral meddling, as it has been, but the totality of Russian interference and the damage it is causing to the U.S. economy.
Today, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce released a report that addressed the lost economic benefits and job opportunities from recent anti-energy efforts in the U.S., such as New York State’s ban on hydraulic fracturing. The study found over $90 Billion in lost economic activity, 730,000 job opportunities missed, and another $20 Billion in unrealized tax revenue due to delays or cancellations of energy pipelines, power plants and terminals.
NOW CONSIDER THIS: A portion of this sizable economic damage can be attributed to Russian active measures. It’s not just homespun activism, litigation and legislative battles blocking these domestic projects. There is foreign interference too.
Russia has a clear motive to stifle U.S. domestic energy development wherever and however it can; its own economy is overwhelmingly dependent on exporting oil and gas. Russia also has a track record of butting into other countries’ matters around things such as fracking. And it has the wherewithal to finance and carry out influence operations abroad, as we saw most recently in the Mueller indictments of the IRA.
We don’t know yet how much to blame directly or indirectly on the Kremlin —more research is needed, along with more cooperation from social media companies to share evidence of Russian activities—but it could ultimately add up to a substantial percentage of the figures cited by the Chamber.
What’s more: this new study only looked at 15 specific projects and the New York fracking ban. There are numerous other major projects, including the Dakota Access Pipeline and Sabal Trail Pipeline to name just two, that weren’t even included in the Chamber study but saw undeniable Russian interference per a 2018 Congressional report (pdf). So the dollar figure could be higher still.
Do not naively dismiss Russia’s social media meddling as minimal in impact. For starters, as the pair of recent Senate Intelligence Committee reports demonstrated, we are still learning the full extent of the Kremlin’s online operations in 2016. They were “much more comprehensive, calculating and widespread than previously revealed.” And likely there are still more stones unturned.
Not only that, after-the-fact analyses of public debates can underestimate the effect that a well-placed, well-timed message can have on people “in the moment.” We must at least consider that the onslaught of troll and bot messages could have helped sway or cement someone’s opinion on a pipeline project or fracking referendum or, for that matter, other contentious issues like the safety of vaccines.
And, the scale of the Russian social posts, while once pooh-poohed in some corners, has indeed been shown to be large: IRA posts on Facebook and Instagram were shared by 30+ million people, according to the new reports by New Knowledge and the Oxford University Computational Propaganda Research Project
Lost jobs, lost business income, lost tax revenue… these are real economic consequences that have lasting impact. To say nothing of the family and societal turmoil that comes from economic insecurity.
From Kremlin-linked social media posts and television coverage that stirred up negative public sentiment to influence campaigns geared at policymakers to secret funneling of money to protest groups, Russia has been pursuing its own anti-Western agenda with aplomb.
It’s time that Congress and the Administration get serious about exposing the full scale of Russian interference… and stopping it.
The Citizens Against Foreign Interference have taken our fight to Change.org to demand action from Congress on the issues we’ve been posting about for months here and on Facebook. Read on below for what we’re asking…
Click here to sign the petition now.
Every day, vital American industries from telecom to energy to agriculture face threats and direct sabotage from Russia and other foreign adversaries—costing American businesses potentially BILLIONS of dollars, and robbing American workers of their jobs and financial security.
While Russia’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. elections and the Mueller investigation tend to dominate the news, there’s MUCH more to the story. So, as Congress and the special counsel carry out their probes of Russian influence on the Trump campaign and presidency, we ask that they go further.
Beyond election interference, Russia and China have:
As you can see, it is a lengthy and serious set of topics that jeopardizes not only our economic security but also our national security.
These things are all happening beneath our eyes right now, often simultaneously, but neither Congress nor the Administration has investigated the totality of this interference and how it is damaging the U.S. economy.
For the sake of our economy and national security, we call on the relevant committee leadership in the new Congress to fully investigate and expose any such foreign influence operations or threats—to root out the sponsors, the perpetrators, and the funding networks that funnel money for these operations.
Click here to sign the petition now. And please, spread the word.
A new report on Russian disinformation, prepared for the Senate Intelligence Committee, provides the most sweeping analysis yet of Russia’s disinformation campaign around the 2016 election—and says the operation used every major social media platform to help elect President Trump and to support him while in office.
The report also identifies warning signs social networks missed in 2016, including purchases made in rubles and from Internet addresses in St. Petersburg.
The research—by Oxford University’s Computational Propaganda Project and Graphika, a network analysis firm—offers new details on how Russians working at the Internet Research Agency, which U.S. officials have charged with criminal offenses for meddling in the 2016 campaign, sliced Americans into key interest groups for the purpose of targeting messages.
The authors, while reliant on data provided by technology companies, highlighted their “belated and uncoordinated response” to the disinformation campaign and, once it was discovered, for not sharing more with investigators.
With so much as stake for our national security, our economy, and the future of democracy, do you agree that the federal government, its largest institutions and our tech companies need to be doing a lot more to counter Russian disinformation? Sign the PETITION to call for a full investigation
At the root of the crackdown on Saudi dissent that ultimately cost the life of journalist Jamal Khashoggi is a fierce battle for control of information and public narrative about the kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its enemies.
This sometimes-lethal battle for information supremacy is to a large degree playing out inside the United States, via U.S. media coverage, notes Washington Post columnist David Ignatius. And it involves cyber technologies being developed by Israel and the U.A.E. among others, that while useful in combating violent extremism, also were deployed aggressively against Saudi citizens.
“For the Saudis, as for Russian hackers in their assault on the 2016 U.S. presidential election, the information space became a zone of warfare. The weapons of defense and offense became interchangeable. As one European intelligence official told me ruefully: ‘The tools you need to combat terrorism are the same ones you need to suppress dissent.’ The Saudis pushed hard on this double throttle.”
Added Ignatius, “What most observers, including me, didn’t understand was how quickly those tools could be adapted to combat dissident Saudi voices such as Khashoggi’s.”
Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, described the dangers of this two-sided cyber sword: “Every new surveillance tool has a potential for abuse. That’s why in this country, we have a robust system of law and even a special court to oversee how they are used. In places with fewer legal protections for individuals and no real oversight from other parts of government, these tools are easily abused, and that should concern us all.”
We now know that Saudi Arabia—in addition to Russia and China— cultivated human assets in the U.S. to support their information campaigns.
While the Saudis do not appear to have deliberately attacked U.S. commercial interests thus far, unlike China, Russia and Iran, their crackdown on free speech, aggressive cyber hacking and surveillance, and murder of a U.S.-based journalist are indeed chilling.
Last Friday, Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark R. Warner called for a national cyber-policy overhaul, warning that cyberattacks and disinformation campaigns are being waged successfully against the U.S.
“The true cost of our cyber vulnerabilities and the cost of those attacks won’t come with a single event, they will be gradual and accumulating,” Sen. Warner said. “Our personal, corporate and government data is being bled from every network every day. Our faith in our institutions and our tolerance for one another is being eroded by misinformation. This is leaving us exposed as individuals, and vulnerable as a country.”
“People keep warning of a ‘digital Pearl Harbor’ or a ‘digital 9/11’ as if there will be a single, extraordinary event that will force us to action on these issues. But I have news for you: we are already living these events. They’re happening every day.”
Added Sen. Warner, “The dangers are only growing as new technologies such as deep fakes, where audio and video manipulation can literally put words into the mouth of an official or a business leader, and these efforts are now being commercialized.”
Do you agree with Sen. Warner that the use of cyber warfare and information operations against us by our adversaries is one of our most urgent national security challenges?
The recent dramatic arrest in Canada of a top executive at the Chinese technology giant Huawei has sent stock markets plummeting and cast doubt on a recent U.S.-China trade truce.
Reports say Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s CFO and the daughter of the company’s founder, Ren Zhengfei, is facing extradition to the U.S. on the suspicion that she violated American sanctions against Iran.
Huawei is a multinational Chinese telecommunications and electronics company that operates in more than 170 countries and serves more than a third of the world’s population.
Earlier this year at a U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, heads of major intelligence bodies—including the FBI, CIA, and NSA—warned that Americans should not purchase Huawei products, citing concerns about their use as spying devices. In October, the New York Times revealed that President Trump has been repeatedly warned by his top aides to stop using his personal iPhone due to its vulnerability to being hacked by Chinese and Russian spies.
How much of a threat is Huawei to our national security? Should the Trump Administration hold Huawei fully accountable even if that means complicating the China trade truce?
What motivates us at CAFI? Why have taken up the fight against foreign interference? This video gives you a quick introduction to the cause and why it’s so important, in under two minutes. Please watch and share.
At a bipartisan event on Tuesday that included Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Ron Johnson (R-WI), the Alliance for Securing Democracy launched its Authoritarian Interference Tracker.
The new tool will help expose the Kremlin’s online interference and help the public to better understand the threat.
Noted Johnson, “Our first line of defense is exposure. We over-classify information way too much. Exposure is the best defense we have. If we don’t respond to Vladimir Putin, he’ll take another step…and then another step.”
Added Shaheen, “The threat here is trying to divide us, trying to pit people against one another…It’s about putting out information that makes people doubt the news and doubt their government.”
The Alliance for Securing Democracy has cataloged Kremlin fingerprints on over 400 incidents of interference in 42 countries. Beyond bots and troll farms, the toolbox includes information operations, cyber-attacks, political subversion, strategic economic coercion, and maligned finance.
Do you agree with the Alliance for Securing Democracy that getting ahead of the threat will require Euro-Atlantic institutions to develop robust multilateral mechanisms to identify vulnerabilities and to coordinate rapid responses and effective deterrents?
Russia may not have compromised the midterms, but that wasn’t from a lack of trying. On Sunday, Defense Secretary James Mattis said that Russian President Vladimir Putin tried again to “muck around in our elections last month, and we are seeing a continuing effort along these lines.”
This was the first time a senior government official has directly accused Putin of meddling in the 2018 midterms.
U.S. intelligence agencies for two years have warned about this happening. A problem, according to Admiral Michael Rogers, who leads the U.S. Cyber Command, is that President Trump has not given specific authorization to go on offense and disrupt the hackers’ operations. Without that, Rogers said “I see no reason why Russia would stop trying to tamper with U.S. elections anytime soon.”
Though the president eventually signed an executive order in September granting such authorization, he continues to be reluctant to acknowledge Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. Congress similarly has not taken significant steps toward fighting back against Kremlin provocateurs.
Do you agree with Admiral Rogers’ assessment that these foreign attacks are inevitable unless our foreign adversaries are forced to pay a sufficient price for their bad behavior?