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Panel: Kremlin Now Reaping Benefits From Years of Investment in Information Warfare

Kremlin

The Russian strategic decision to value information dominance over cyber warfare is reaping major dividends in sowing distrust among the Western democracies, a former director of the CIA and NSA said on Monday.

In the 1990s, “Russia went to door number two” in choosing information dominance, partially because many in the Kremlin then were familiar with its uses, tactics, techniques and procedures before the collapse of the Soviet Union, Retired Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden said

Moscow gravitated toward social media’s tendency to connect individuals to likeminded members and communities that “drives you into your self-created ghetto.” Russians say the potential of the technology useful to sow confusion and discord in otherwise functioning societies, he said during a discussion at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.

When so many receive their news through social media, the public is being fed a diet of their own preferences, building upon senses of loyalty, tribalism and grievance, Hayden said.

These messages often on both sides of a trending issue “pop up in American media” and Russians “ride them to the extreme.”

As a result of this campaign across a variety of platforms, “a lot of people [in the United States] don’t believe we are the good guys,” having been fed a steady diet of “uncurated news” from questionable sites that are repeatedly attacking the intelligence community, law enforcement, science and journalism. “These are all fact-based institutions,” Hayden said.

As with the Soviet Union’s disinformation campaigns, the Kremlin today, even if exposed, is only trying to maintain “plausible deniability” as President Vladimir Putin has claimed in discussions with President Donald Trump over meddling in the 2016 American election, he said.

Joining Hayden in the discussion was author Seth Jones, who noted that under Ronald Reagan, the administration assessed what the Soviets were doing and developed a strategy to counter their propaganda, outright lies and disinformation with facts.

The Reagan administration discovered the Soviets then and Russia today said the United States and the West “poorly understood” and only “infrequently countered” the systematic campaign “to discredit and weaken them” before they acted, Jones said.

The Russians don’t have to create the issue but through social media “they can multiple the issue” and “drive the discussion” by playing pro and con in the postings, Heather Conley of CSIS said.

In developing an effective counter-strategy to the Kremlin, Jones said the Reagan administration also provided groups tools they needed to spread the word in Eastern bloc countries about life in the West.

Noting that the Kremlin, now as it was the 1980s, is vulnerable to outside influences, leaking into their supposedly closed societies and throwing into question what it says is happening domestically or in the West.

To help domestically, the trio called upon President Trump to make a personal push to address the problems found with social media during the 2016 election and seek ways to better educate the public on real news vs. fact news, so it can be better informed as citizens in a democracy.

Conley suggested a bipartisan commission, similar to the one created following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks would have been a preferred way to proceed. Lacking that, “we need new structures” that are bipartisan and transparent “to rebuild trust at the community level” in American institutions.

  • Chesapeakeguy

    They sure got all the ‘scoop’ on Hillary Clinton and the DNC, didn’t they now?

    • DaSaint

      Sure did. And exploited it quite well. They LOVE Hillary. Isn’t that great! Nothing like a foreign adversary scooping info on a fellow American for their own purposes.

      Maybe someone should get the scoop on Putin and return the favor? Or maybe turn out the power in Moscow or St. Petersburg?

      • Chesapeakeguy

        I’m all for it. But I’m also for my fellow Gringos being SMART enough to know that foreign entities have an interest in hacking information, and that if they cannot protect their own, how can I have any confidence they will protect the rest of us? I EXPECT basic, ESTABLISHED security protocols to be FOLLOWED. Other did, and do. Why not THAT particular political party?

        • DaSaint

          I hear you. But do you really, really, truly feel that they only had/have emails/information from/about people from that particular party? And no other?

          That’s not how Soviet/Russian intelligence works. They data mine and store for when/if they need it.

          And these days, ‘established security protocols’ seem to be pretty easy to breach, wouldn’t you say? Sony, NUWC, others. Surely they were more secure than someone’s own pc, no?

          I get 10 emails a day from ‘UPS’ or ‘FedEx’, or ‘DHL’ telling me that the Treasury Department or the IRS has sent me some documents, and I need to track the packages or download. Of course, I delete, but those that are not as cyber threat savvy, fall for that ALL THE TIME.

          • Chesapeakeguy

            But seeing how domestic politics is involved here, it is worth noting that the Russians DID attempt to hack the RNC’s servers and were prevented from doing so because they actually protected their servers. I think a child with any amount of computer savvy could have hacked Ms. Clinton’s servers, and because of that hack, access was gained to others accounts, including the DNC’s. ANYBODY could have done that, not just the Russians or foreign entities. I remember the name ‘Guccifer’, who was an infamous hacker who bragged for months that he had accessed Clinton’s servers and others, and his claims were universally dismissed. But when the news broke that her emails were going to be released on Wikileaks, his name disappeared, and it all became ‘the Russians’.

            Per your mention of Sony, that was proven to be an inside job, and not as a result of North Korean efforts. But that aside, it is common sense for one and all to do everything they can to protect themselves and their information from such efforts. No ordinary citizen can protect against the resources many governments can bring forth to commit hacks, including our own. ALL governments appear to be trying to gain as much info as they can via any means necessary. It is the times we live in.

          • DaSaint

            So true.

            I don’t think we’ve fully accepted that cyber warfare can be as impactful if not more so, than traditional kinetic warfare. If one can disable or spoof command systems or control systems, or power grids or infrastructure controls, that’s just as good as destroying them.

          • Chesapeakeguy

            Indeed. A ‘soft kill’ can be as good as a hard one.

  • Marauder 2048

    “the intelligence community, law enforcement, science and journalism. “These are all fact-based institutions,” Hayden said.

    Since when?

    • publius_maximus_III

      They were all fact-based institutions, until somebody (any names come to mind?) politicized and weaponized them one at a time. CIA, FBI, EPA, CNN — all suspicious letters in the American psyche these days.

      • FourWarVet

        Contestant A: I’ll take “Vladimir Putin for $500 Alex.”

        Alex: “That is correct, with the help of fact resistant Americans, Vladimir Putin has helped destroy the trust of Americans in government agencies that serve to protect them every day.”

        • proudrino

          Putin destroyed trust in American government. Sorry, you lose.

          Acceptable answers:

          Hillary Clinton
          Loretta Lynch
          Eric Holder
          Lois Lerner
          Robert Meuller
          James Comey
          James Clapper
          James Brenner
          Lisa Jackson (aka Richard Windsor)
          John Kerry
          and
          Barack Hussein Obama

          We don’t need to concern ourselves with foreign enemies with domestic enemies such as these who have corrupted American institutions from within for partisan reasons.

          • Danger_Dan

            Just a sec, let me adjust my tin foil hat…. I’m afraid you rank among the fact resistant soft minded Americans that Putin preys upon. Ironic considering the content of Mr. Grady’s article–don’t you think?

    • NavySubNuke

      “You furnish the pictures. I’ll furnish the war.” — William Randolph Hearst (1863-1951)

  • proudrino

    “Conley suggested a bipartisan commission, similar to the one created following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks would have been a preferred way to proceed. Lacking that, “we need new structures” that are bipartisan and transparent “to rebuild trust at the community level” in American institutions.”

    The 9/11 Commision was not bipartisan. It was designed to give top cover to the failures of the Clinton administration. Jamie Gorelick, for example, not only was a commission member but the architect of the walls that prevented the US intelligence agencies from sharing information. She should have been called to account for her actions instead of cleaning up the Clinton mess.

    That being said, I don’t know how you rebuild trust in American institutions after the Obama administration. The IRS was weaponized. The FBI spied on policial opponents with impunity. The DOJ refuses to acknowledge Congressional oversight. The State Department funds terrorist activities in Iran in the name of legacy building….. American institutions are rotting with no clear way to turn around the situation so long as the guilty are still in charge of the system.

    • muzzleloader

      Well said. The effort to restore these institutions must be carried out. It will be a Herculean task, clean out the rot, and replace the leadership with competent and honorable people.

    • TomD

      “That being said, I don’t know how you rebuild trust in American institutions after the Obama administration.”

      You rebuild trust by developing a consensus that your list is in fact the problem. You have identified WHY there is “no clear way to turn around the situation” and WHY “the guilty are still in charge of the system”.

  • proudrino

    I’m more in favor of a cyber SOF.

  • MDK187

    “in sowing distrust among the Western democracies” – aside from those apostles of Western democracies that are actively “sowing distrust among the Western democracies” for Putin’s benefit, while pretending the anti-Putin pantomime 24/7. Like Merkel, or Macron, or Hitlary, or that dipschit Soros.

  • E1 Kabong

    Ironic, the Russian bots show up to comment….

  • TomD

    “Russians say [sic – perhaps the word should be ‘saw’?] the potential of the technology useful to sow confusion and discord in otherwise functioning societies, [Hayden] said…”

    C’mon, all functioning societies have confusion and discord, within bounds it should be considered normal. What the Russian actions should provoke is a discussion as to what those bounds are and the cultural (not governmental!) ways to protect them.

  • TomD

    ” Russian and Ukraine are historically inseparable…”
    at the cost of millions of Ukrainian lives…

    “…and very close ties to Ukraine are seen as a vital national interest in Russia.”
    True.

    Ya know, a case could be made that Crimea was illegally transferred to Ukraine, and should be give a free vote (i.e. no Russian boots on the ground) on returning. They probably would vote to return. Virtually none of the other areas where Russia has meddled has such a claim.

  • E1 Kabong

    LMAO!

    Stalin WAS the leader of the USSR.

    He committed genocide on the Ukrainians.

    Russia INVADED a sovereign country.

    What’s next?

    Alaska?