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REVIEW: ‘The Plot to Hack America,’ the untold war on American soil

We are used to the images of war: bombs and bullets and blood. But Nance knows what many Americans are unwilling to recognize: We are at war and this war is being fought on our land.

The Plot To Hack America
By Malcolm Nance
Skyhorse Publishing
New York, NY 10018

Spencer Ackerman of the UK Guardian sets the stage for “The Plot To Hack America” by Malcolm Nance: “The 2016 presidential election was already surreal – a former reality TV host fueled by white backlash had completed a hostile takeover of the Republican Party — before the bears emerged.”

The “bears,” intel-speak for the Russians and their hackers, harkens back to the glory days of the Cold War when J. Edgar Hoover, Joe McCarthy and enthusiastic Republicans searched beneath the beds of progressives for evidence they might be Reds.

This is irony times a hundred for those of you watching Republicans like Jim Jordan, Trey Gowdy and Devin Nunes doing Trump and Putin’s dirty work by impugning the FBI and the Department of Justice and hoping to find sensitive sources to out to FOX News.

Ackerman acknowledges a fundamental political truth few admit: “[the] leaks showed the Democrats’ political apparatus to be petty, vindictive and determined to anoint Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee despite grassroots enthusiasm for challenger Bernie Sanders.”

I have read several of the recent Russia/2016 books but Nance, a self-described “old spy and codebreaker,” better than anyone else goes beneath the surface waters of the politics to analyze the Russian assault from the perspective of intelligence officers. Some “come from the Human Intelligence world, where they learn to read, manipulate, and distrust everyone in order to ‘social engineer’ intelligence from people who do not want to give them anything. Others are forged in the signals intelligence world, where all data is just a massive electronic puzzle to be constantly analyzed, turned over, and fused together into an exploitable product, or into a final code to be decrypted or broken. Some, like myself, come from both worlds, and are at turns analytical and skeptical of seemingly obvious information. This hybrid mindview doesn’t approach the world as streams of linear data; it attempts to analyze information like a constantly flowing game of three-dimensional chess.”

“The Plot to Hack America” was written during the campaign. Its insight into what was happening is chilling and instructive. So much sooner than the political analysts or the voters, Nance saw the Russians effectively working to destabilize our political process.

Malcolm Nance

At Naval Intelligence, Nance “spent decades watching the Russian client states of Libya, Syria, Iraq, as well as their ties to European terrorist groups Red Army Faction, Action Direct, the Irish Republican Army, and the Combatant Communist Cells. No matter what my target was, the KGB cast a shadow across every spectrum of my operations.”

The Russian connections to Carter Page, George Papadopoulos, Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort and Rick Gates rang familiar bells for Nance. The Russian operation to compromise the 2016 election was multifaceted, and included a complex and sophisticated digital operation coordinated by “the FSB and its sister the GRU – Russia’s national and military intelligence bureaus … [and] a conglomeration of cyber spying groups codenamed CYBER BEARS.”

All a part of Russia’s Kompromat: “political warfare by using cyber assets to personally attack and neutralize political opponents … Russia has attacked Estonia, the Ukraine, and Western nations using just these cyber warfare methods. At some point Russia apparently decided to apply these tactics against the United States and so American democracy itself was hacked.”

As for Donald Trump, Nance tells us: “Whether he knew it or not Trump was the perfect candidate for a political asset. Former KGB officer Yuri Bezmenov said the KGB targeted ‘Ego-centric people who lack moral principles – who are either too greedy or who suffer from exaggerated self-importance. These are the people the KGB wants and finds easiest to recruit.’”

“The Plot to Hack America” is a detailed breakdown of pretty much everything the Russians were doing behind the scenes to interfere with and influence our election on behalf of Donald Trump. Unlike Nixon’s Watergate burglary of the Democratic headquarters, the 2016 Russian hack of the Democratic National Committee “was the exact same operation. However, this time … the burglars would not be caught wearing latex gloves and planting microphones. They would copy the information in a matter of seconds, their digital fingerprints would emerge long after the break-in, and discovery would occur well after the damage had been done to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign …

“The hackers took all manner of electronic information, particularly emails related to the internal conversations of the individual staff members, deliberations of the senior leadership, and internal correspondence. Additionally, Excel spreadsheets with donor information, contact lists… However, the true treasure from this intrusion was a single file folder of the opposition research on the likely Republican opponent in the U.S. Presidential elections, Donald J. Trump … On June 15, the website Gawker published the entirety of … opposition files on Trump.”

Nance offers a fascinating look at the twisted path some of this purloined material took from the digital darkness into the light of day: “One of the most surprising events after the announcement of the DNC hack occurred a few weeks later in conservative media. During Fox News’ May 9, 2016 show, The Megan File, contributor Andrew Napolitano made an amazing statement to host Megan Kelly about the hacks. Napolitano claimed to have confidential information about what was going on at the highest levels of decision-making at the Kremlin, SVR (Russia’s foreign intelligence service), and Putin’s inner circle, saying ‘there’s a debate going on in the Kremlin between the Foreign Ministry and the Intelligence Services about whether they should release the twenty thousand of Mrs. Clinton’s emails that they have hacked into and received and stored. All of this is happening at once.’ Taken in the context of what we now know, it begs the question, how did Napolitano come upon this incredibly specific information?”

At top of the Russian pyramid sits Vladimir Putin. Putin spent years honing the various skills of spycraft. “From 1985–1990 Putin was assigned to … the KGB offices in Dresden … There he ran East German academics and businessmen across the Iron Curtain and helped them spy or recruit sympathetic West Germans for the KGB. Most interestingly, he used agents with the East German computer company Robotron as cover stories for agents to steal computer technology secrets from the West with the help of the East German secret police, the Stasi. Putin’s pattern of theft using advanced information systems would come up again and again in his future …”

As the Soviet Empire began to crumble, Putin left the KGB in August 1991 for politics. As deputy mayor “it was Putin’s job to liquidate Soviet assets and real estate in St. Petersburg and control the buying of foodstuffs and assets for a population that was just feeling freedom for the first time in seventy years. His position brought in billions of dollars to the mayor and his friends … Needless to say this job required the toughness and guile of a former spy, but it also showed him how to work the new class of oligarchs that would make money hand over fist.”

MOSCOW, RUSSIA: Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, chats with the first President of Russia, Boris Yeltsin, left, during a State reception in the Kremlin in 2001. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Putin kept himself close to President Boris Yeltsin and it paid off: “In 1998 he became Director of the FSB, the Office of State Security, now centralizing all power both foreign and domestic. In August 1999 Boris Yeltsin appointed Putin to the office of Prime Minister and the Duma approved his appointment shortly thereafter.”

The consequences were critical and immediate: “Once he was appointed Prime Minister he would find a reason to quickly launch a second brutal war in Chechnya that would eventually kill over fifty thousand people … When Putin hit the stumps and came out as a pit bull on a Russian nationalist platform against terrorism, he rose in popularity. When Yeltsin resigned the Presidency, Putin became President in accordance with the Russian constitution.”

I wasn’t fully aware of the FSB’s penchant for U.S. real estate. According to Nance: “From the end of the Soviet Union to the rise of the oligarchs, Russian state money has been buying property and making real estate deals all over the United States. It was a flush market for Russians and a good place to hide illicit cash. Real estate was the perfect investment instrument for the FSB to also introduce its officers into the United States.”

Nance tells us the Miss Universe Pageant of 2013, facilitated by Russian oligarch Agalarov whose new facility was the perfect venue, was not the first trip Donald Trump took in search of prime real estate and expanding his brand to Russia: “Long before the pageant, in 1987 Soviet Ambassador Yuri Dubinin convinced Trump to visit Moscow and St. Petersburg to develop a Trump Tower for Russia. Trump went on an exploratory trip but the business and construction conditions were not optimal for him to take advantage of the Soviets or make a profit. He returned home without any projects in hand …”

“I have always been interested in building in Russia,” Trump told the New York Post after returning from Miss Universe in 2013. Proud that “almost all of the oligarchs were in the room.” … “The Russian market is attracted to me,” Trump said. Upon returning to the United States, Trump gave his experience in Russia glowing reviews. “I just got back from Russia—learned lots & lots,” Trump tweeted upon his return to the U.S. “Moscow is a very interesting and amazing place! U.S. MUST BE VERY SMART AND VERY STRATEGIC.”

Nance adds new information: “When Trump met with the Agalarovs in November 2013, Alex Sapir and Rotem Rosen were also in attendance. The Russian developers helped construct the Trump Soho hotel and condominium project in Manhattan. Sapir’s father was alleged to have had close ties to ex-KGB officers … Sapir told New York’s Real Estate Weekly that Russian visitors to the Trump Soho ‘have been telling us they wish there was something modern and hip like it in Moscow … A lot of people from the oil and gas businesses have come to us asking to be partners in building a product like Trump Soho there.’

Vladimir Putin and DOnald Trump

Nance offers a portrait of a willing subject. Trump told Fox News in May 2016, “I know Russia well,” Trump said. “I had a major event in Russia two or three years ago, which was a big, big incredible event.” Trump declined to say whether he had met Putin, but added: “I got to meet a lot of people. And you know what? They want to be friendly with the United States. Wouldn’t it be nice if we actually got along with somebody?”

Wouldn’t it be nice? Positively. Absolutely. Except, as Nance reminds us: “The man Trump so enamored, whom Trump was so desperate to meet and impress was not just the ruler of Russia. He was a man steeped in the most dangerous of experiences—he was a master of espionage and an expert at manipulation and exploitation. He could do to Donald Trump what he did to the oligarchy of Russia; make him or break him with a single sentence of approval or insult. Trump, knowing he was culling favor with a powerful man—he had nuclear weapons and beautiful women—responded with obsequiousness that must have pleased such a spy king. Putin must have recognized this showman as a target who could be developed into a political asset friendly to Russia.”

I am reminded how quickly reality takes a major seat backwards to fantasy when Trump desires something. The Kim Jong Un who tortured Otto Warmbier to death because he tried to take a North Korean poster back with him to the States becomes a trusted partner, a strong ruler envied by our president because Kim’s state-owned TV flatters him with constancy, whose people sit at attention for him lest they die. Admired because, as President Trump said: “when you take over a country, tough country, with tough people, and you take it over from your father, I don’t care who you are, what you are, how much of an advantage you have … If you can do that at 27 years old, I mean that’s one in 10,000 that could do that. So he’s a very smart guy, he’s a great negotiator. But I think we understand each other.”

But recent reports by NBC, the Washington Post and a Wall Street Journal editorial note that, despite President Trump’s pronouncements on Twitter that Americans can now sleep easy because “there is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea,” in fact, “New satellite photos show that Kim Jong Un is continuing to develop his nuclear weapons program, and U.S. intelligence sources say they believe North Korea has increased its production of nuclear fuel at multiple sites. This wasn’t supposed to happen after the Donald Trump-Kim summit last month in Singapore.”

One man’s ceaseless narcissism, ego and unwillingness to study history makes him another man’s perfect target. Nance writes: “If Putin were to consult the spy-handling experts at the FSB … he would not be hard pressed to find a more suitable candidate that shared his values and could ‘Make America Great Again.’”

Nance shares Kremlin spy craft: “A defector from the KGB, Yuri Bezmenov, gave a series of lectures on KGB recruitment strategies … Bezmenov said: ‘My KGB instructors specifically made a point. Never border with leftists. Forget about these political prostitutes. Aim higher. Try to get into wide circulation, established conservative media. The rich. Filthy rich movie makers. Intellectuals. So-called academic circles. Cynical egocentric people who can look into your eyes with an angelic expression and tell you a lie … Flatter the vain, cash to the indebted gambler, adventure for the thrill junkie, sex for the hideous; it is the officer’s job to size up the potential subject and make him or her eager to work for the officer …”

Nance notes this is not all that different from the U.S. playbook: “The U.S. government uses a system called MICE. It is an acronym used by the CIA which stands for Money, Ideology, Coercion (or Compromise), and Ego or Excitement …”

Nance is convinced Trump was/is an easy mark: “At almost every turn, his ‘bromance’ with Putin would potentially stand on a foundation of his desire for their riches, and to be universally recognized as a man of substance and stature. It would cost Russia nothing to entertain his desires while furthering their own … Putin would want Trump to feel as if he is truly qualified to be President, over the opposition of his American detractors who ridicule Trump as not being remotely qualified … Putin’s strategically-placed endorsement of December 2015 is a classic example of a ‘hands-off but actually hands-on’ supporting statement to make the asset feel special. On Trump, Putin said: ‘[Trump] wants to move to another level of relations, a closer, deeper level of relations with Russia … How can we not welcome this? Of course, we welcome this … He is a bright and talented person without any doubt. He is the absolute leader of the presidential race …”

Nance moves from broad strokes to details: “One of Trump’s most troubling intelligence connections was to the Bayrock Group. Trump first aligned with them to build a hotel in Moscow in 2005. When that didn’t happen, he partnered with them to build the Trump SoHo. Bayrock was chaired by Tevfik Arif, originally a Soviet Union commerce apparatchik from Kazakhstan, who worked to introduce Trump to Russian investors. Trump saw it as a chance to open Trump Hotels and Towers in Moscow, Kiev, Warsaw, and Istanbul.

“Felix Satter also worked for Bayrock.” [While Nance spells his name “Satter” many others prefer “Sater”] “He has been implicated in ties with Russian Mafia. Satter is also known for ‘using mob-like tactics to achieve his goals,’ and was convicted of a stock fraud scheme. Satter made arrangements with Trump to develop projects in Russia and the U.S. He bragged in 2008 testimony, ‘I can build a Trump Tower, because of my relationship with Trump.’

The president who once claimed George Papadopoulos was a coffee boy and that Paul Manafort was hardly involved in the 2016 campaign seems not to have known Felix Sater, even though Sater was using business cards claiming he was a “Senior Advisor to Donald Trump.”

Left to right: Paula Manafort, Roger Stone and Lee Atwater in 1985. Photo: Harry Naltchayan/Washington Post/Getty

Manafort looms large in Nance’s story: “Once Trump took on the Presidential campaign he also managed to acquire the most controversial of all the Putin-associated characters: Paul Manafort … Manafort was known as the leader of the ‘Torturer’s lobby’ while working for the law firm of Black, Manafort Stone & Kelly. They represented some of the worst dictators in the world including Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire, the Filipino President Ferdinand Marcos, and the brutal Angolan warlord Jonas Savimbi. Manafort has also been an advisor to the Trump kingdom since the mid-1980s …

“In 2005, Manafort was working for mining tycoon Rinat Akhemetov along with Manafort partner Rick Gates, Konstantin Kilimnik, and the ‘International Republican Institute’ of Moscow. Manafort represented Dmytro Firtash, a gas ‘tycoon’ who is wanted by the U.S. Manafort was also named as a defendant in a civil racketeering case with Firtash … According to U.S. Ambassador William Taylor, in cables released by Wikileaks, Firtash admitted having ties to Seymon Mogilevich, an organized crime boss in Russia.”

Notably “on August 17, 2016, the London Times released a bombshell report from Ukrainian prosecutors that Manafort had been paid by pro-Russian parties in the Ukraine to organize anti-NATO protests in Crimea, leading to the withdrawal of forces for a planned NATO exercise.”

We’ve learned since “The Plot to Hack America” from an exclusive AP report of July 2, 2018, that Manafort and Kilimnik might have been acting to advance Russia’s interests much earlier than imagined: “internal memos and other business records obtained by the AP … include a rare 2006 photograph of Kilimnik, a Ukrainian native, in an office setting with Manafort and other key players in Manafort’s consulting firm at the time … More than a decade before Russia was accused of surreptitiously trying to tilt the presidential election toward Trump, Manafort and Kilimnik pondered the risks to Russia if the country did not hone its efforts to influence global politics, the records show.

“The West is just a little more skillful at playing the modern game, where perception by the world public opinion and the spin is more important than what is actually going on,” Kilimnik wrote to Manafort in a December 2004 memo analyzing Russia’s bungled efforts to manipulate political events in former Soviet states. “Russia is ultimately going to lose if they do not learn how to play this game.” (Emphasis added.)

There’s Michael Caputo who “lived in Russia in the post Soviet 1990s. Caputo worked for Gazprom Media, and has done work under contract to improve Vladimir Putin’s image. He took on the role of Trump’s adviser for the New York primary in 2016.”

And, of course, there’s Gen. Michael Flynn. Nance concludes: “The revelations of the Kremlin Crew’s proximity to Putin and Moscow are stunning in their depth. They reveal how easily some Americans will accept money to work against their own national interest whether in business, government, or propaganda … Such riches would surely be issued with invisible strings, allowing the FSB to gain access to the highest level players in a new American administration.

“These pro-Russian players apparently were so close to Trump that they … would also be able to advance Russia’s objectives, desires, and activities—fully in-line with their own personal fortunes—above America’s interests, with the full force of the Oval Office.”

So how would Putin do this? Nance explains: “He would need to create an operational organization that would manage the U.S. elections … Hybrid war is an ever-shifting mélange of media propaganda, cyberwarfare, and touches of military adventurism that could help elect Trump and lead to the break-up of the European Union and NATO. Putin’s vision would be to use the sycophant Trump as President to subordinate America to the role of junior partner to a rising Russia.” (Emphasis added.)

With Kompromat, “blackmail can be applied, embarrassment can stifle activism, and words or images can defame those in power and limit their ability to respond to threats or even warfare … This can include both real and fabricated information, but it is always applied judiciously and maliciously … the FSB would be tasked to plan a cyberspace-based strategic political warfare operation to influence the U.S. elections though the theft of emails and materials from the Democratic party and make selective releases through a third party surrogate, called a cutout, that does not know or care that the source is the FSB.”

Nance notes: “A political and cyber mission of this magnitude would require every component of the Russian cyber and intelligence arsenal … Trump would need to first feel at home with Russia. The runway for this approach would require the first word of the MICE recruitment strategy be dangled before his eyes, and to which he was particularly susceptible: Money. The FSB could easily arrange for a billionaire wanting to earn money in Russia to meet the Kremlin’s own multi-billionaires …”

Nance tells us because there was “no greater threat” to Putin’s political agenda than Hillary Clinton, “the objectives of LUCKY-7 would be to focus all efforts of the Russian cyberwarfare information operations directorates to damage her election by stealing as much internal information as possible and smacking her with a full scale Kompromat operation.”

Nance offers examples of how the U.S.-Russia relationship would improve with Trump. Regarding the Russian seizure of Crimea: “Trump was having none of it. As far as he was concerned, if the policy affected Russia, and was implemented by President Obama—or any President since 1947 for that matter—then he wanted to be rid of it. Trump gave the New York Times a wide-ranging interview in which he remarked that he saw a major change for the seventy-year old NATO alliance. He said that if Russia attacked any NATO nation, he would first consult and determine if they had ‘fulfilled their obligations to us’ before coming to their aid. Trump set forth a policy of extortion never before heard or seen in American politics: ‘… if we are not going to be reasonably reimbursed for the tremendous cost of protecting these massive nations with tremendous wealth . . .Then yes, I would be absolutely prepared to tell those countries, “Congratulations, you will be defending yourself …”

Nance outlines the phases of the Lucky-7 campaign and quickly suggests, “The right man was running for President, he was managed by a close ally, and his foreign policy/intelligence chief was literally on the Kremlin Payroll of Russia Today.”

PHASE 1: Make Contact, Befriend, and Encourage the Asset
PHASE 2: Make Asset Feel Indebted to Russia
PHASE 3: Conduct Covert Cyber-Intelligence Preparation of the Battle Space
PHASE 4: Prepare the Political Battle Space
PHASE 5: Develop and Sustain Supporting Political/Propaganda
PHASE 6: Fund and Manipulate a Cut-Out Asset to Disperse Kompromat information.
PHASE 7: Execute Kompromat Operations

So Nance tells us: “Phases 1 through 4 had already been put in place. Phase 5 would be the easiest. By using Russia Today TV to blast Hillary Clinton on an international scale and tacitly express support for Trump, Putin has been able to get Donald to tout his connections to Russia as a positive for America. To his followers, Trump has successfully spun the line that ‘Putin respects me and would work with me, he won’t work with Hilary,’ and they love it.”

What was next? Nance writes: “The FSB CYBER BEARS strategy was to steal critical political intelligence data from all wings of the U.S. Democratic Party, the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the Hillary Clinton Campaign, and donors and supporters … Winning battles in Cyberspace are a matter of influencing the global perception thought output of “opinions” and “voices” to “trend” a perception that the producer wishes. Whether it’s the number of hits on the latest trending kitty playing with yarn video or the location of a Pokémon GO character, if an organization with a large enough computing system and secret operatives so wishes they can steal, smear, influence and quite possibly select a U.S. President with little pushback from the media. This is apparently the terminal mission objective of Operation Lucky-7: Direct the CYBER BEARS to collect enough damaging information on Hillary Rodham Clinton and the Democratic Party to damage them in the mind of the American public.”

Remember Donald Trump’s deflection, “It could have been Russia or maybe China … or someone sitting on their bed weighing 400 pounds.” Nance explains: “Russian intelligence … needed its own “legend” – espionage terminology for a false backstory to protect the identities of the case officers. The Cyberspies decided to create their own legend and to honor a hacker that was already well known: Guccifer.”

Nance takes us into technical territory with his detailed description of Putin’s bevy of Cyber Bears: Fancy Bear, Cozy Bear, Venomous Bear, Criminal Bear and Militia Bears and their hacking efforts called Advanced Persistent Threats. Those of you knowledgeable, fascinated by the black hat/white hat world of cyber intrusion, of spearfishing and malware and eraser programs will appreciate a paragraph like this: “Like the nation-state actors, the Carbanak method of stealing financial data exploits malware with a backdoor that replicates itself as “svhost.exe” before it connects to a command-and-control server to download more files and begin probing for more vulnerabilities. The APT can then download additional tools to take control over the infected computer, including keylogging, as well as capturing data from screen captures, microphones, and video cameras. Carbanak has even documented their operations in video form to evaluate the process and train others. The data that this group seeks to exfiltrate may go beyond financial information alone, but the primary goal has been to steal funds via fraudulent transactions.”

Over my head but the rest of you might be fascinated by this more accessible history: “In the height of the cold war, Russia learned to make the leap from manual intercept of printed media to the computer age well before the internet existed. Between 1978–1984 the KGB carried out an audacious electronic intelligence operation that preceded the CYBER BEARS antics. A select group of special technicians had intercepted a shipment of American IBM Selectric II and Selectric III electrical typewriters en route to the American embassy in Moscow and the US Consulate in St Petersburg. The KGB inserted devices called the Selectric Bug into sixteen of the typewriters. The special electrical device was embedded in a hollow aluminum bar that would capture the impact of the rotating print ball as it struck the paper. As a typist struck the keys, the bug would transmit each keystroke to a nearby listening post via a short-distance radio signal. The NSA countered this by deploying a special team to Moscow and inspected all of the Embassy’s computers, encoding machines and typewriters. Code named GUNMAN, the NSA team eventually found the bugs and replaced the typewriters with secure ones in secret. Still, the KGB’s early awareness of the advance in print technology led them to implement one of the very first keystroke detection systems before computers became commonplace. With this corporate knowledge in hand, the KGB was well ahead of the curve in intercept technology, an aptitude they would soon come to command in the computer age.”

Vladimir Putin

Remember how Special Counsel Mueller indicted 13 Russians connected with Putin’s Internet Research Agency? Nance connects some dots: “Several internet hoaxes spread on social media and caused panic in around the country in the fall and winter of 2014. The first came after an explosion at a Louisiana chemical plant in September, then later an Ebola outbreak, and a police shooting of an unarmed black woman in Atlanta in December. None of these events, however, actually happened … During the chemical plant hoax, for example, posts inundated social media, residents received frantic text messages, fake CNN screenshots went viral, and clone news sites appeared. In each instance, reporter Adrian Chen discovered, a Russian group known as The Internet Research Agency concocted the elaborate hoaxes … He wrote that the agency had become known for ‘employing hundreds of Russians to post pro-Kremlin propaganda online under fake identities, including on Twitter, in order to create the illusion of a massive army of supporters.’” (Emphasis added.)

Nance adds: “For Putin’s LUCKY-7 Operation to be successful, the CYBER BEARS teams would need a dissemination platform … This third party is known in intelligence parlance as a cutout … The FSB chose Julian Assange, a British citizen who is a vocal and vehement enemy of Hillary Clinton, and the founder of the online organization WikiLeaks.

“When WikiLeaks held off publication of the DNC emails until just before the Democratic National Convention, WikiLeaks came under renewed criticism for having an agenda, for not being objective, and for straying from its original purpose … but tangible evidence of a real connection … were drawn in much starker relief when his relationship with the Russians grew closer. Powerful Russian financial backing has given RT the legitimacy of many international news agencies. They use it to pay American contrarians to appear on their RT America channel and offer an air of debate, frequently on Kremlin-directed themes. Not surprisingly, Assange hosted his own twelve-episode television show called The World Tomorrow, or simply, The Julian Assange Show. It ran from April to June 2012, airing from the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

“But journalist Jochen Bittner observed in a New York Times op-ed: [I]t’s curious that one of the world’s most secretive governments has gotten a pass from WikiLeaks. Why, in all its time online, has WikiLeaks never revealed any Russian intelligence scandal? Because there is none? Or because Mr. Assange doesn’t want to embarrass Mr. Putin? …

“On July 22, 2016, a few days before the opening of the DNC, WikiLeaks published 19,252 emails alleged to be from the DNC hack. Operation LUCKY-7 was now fully underway … The emails revealed that DNC chairperson Debbie Wasserman-Shultz … had been strongly favoring Hillary Clinton throughout the primary process … There was an email thread started on May 5, 2016, with the title ‘No shit’ in which Brad Marshall, the CFO for the DNC, allegedly suggests to get someone to ask Sanders what his beliefs are in order to portray him as an atheist. It read ‘My Southern Baptist peeps would draw a big difference between a Jew and an atheist.’”

Nance continues: “Julian Assange said that WikiLeaks actually timed the release of the leak to coincide with the start of the convention. ‘That’s when we knew there would be maximum interest by readers, but also, we have a responsibility to’ …The Assange friendly media joined in on the disinformation campaign against Clinton too. News articles abounded such as the Guardian’s headline ‘WikiLeaks Proves Primary Was Rigged: DNC Undermined Democracy.’

“Speaking to the American press conference when asked about the subject of hacking Trump brought up the private Hillary Clinton emails deleted from her server. Trump blurted out, ‘Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing . . . I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.’ Almost immediately a media storm shook the campaign and people wondered aloud if Trump was actually in league with the Kremlin. It made some wonder if the comments made by Fox News’s Andrew Napolitano in May – stating that Russia was engaged in an inter-Kremlin argument about whether to release Clinton’s hacked email – was tied to Trump’s call to release them. Did Team trump have advance knowledge of what the Kremlin was doing?

“This is the first time that a presidential candidate had openly asked a foreign power to meddle in the democratic process to his benefit. More than that, Mr. Trump seemed to be suggesting that Russia should violate United States espionage laws on his behalf. To members of the U.S. intelligence community, the indications that nefarious practitioners were playing in the most dangerous of games was now confirmed. The first question that popped into the minds of many practitioners was, “What does Trump know that we do not?” The implication would naturally cause counterintelligence and cyberwarfare operatives to ask themselves if there is there a link between Trump or his supporters and the Russians in the DNC hacks?

“The next day, after Trump’s begging Russia to hack America, the CYBER BEARS complied. On July 28, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announced it was attacked by the CYBER BEARS … Overall, the CYBER BEARS, working in the guise of Guccifer 2.0, publically gave Trump and Clinton detractors illegally-obtained opposition research, without it being connected directly to Trump. As former FBI agent and security specialist Ali Soufan noted on Twitter, ‘The nature of breaches appears to be changing from covert info collection to the overt and weaponized use of that info.’

Nance concludes: “The 2016 cyber attack was … a direct attempt to hijack and derail the traditional processes and norms that held the United States together for more than 240 years … Until 2016 it was unthinkable that Americans could be assembled in mutual endeavor to manipulate the goodwill of the American people in order to further their own personal financial interest at the behest of a hostile government. But it appears to have not only happened, but even managed to completely usurp the stridently anti-Communist Republican party and replace it with a presidential nominee that openly lavishes praise on Russia’s leader, disparages NATO, and promises to dismantle America’s superiority in order to allow Russia to take the role of world’s superpower. The fact that Russia can smile, deny, and at the same time conduct cyber and propaganda operations and still have Donald Trump beg them for cyber espionage assistance to hurt another American is unbelievable … (Emphasis added.)

“On September 8, 2016, Trump gushed with admiration and at the same time insulted America’s President. He was quickly seconded by Vice Presidential nominee Mike Pence who agreed, ‘I think it’s inarguable that Vladimir Putin has been a stronger leader in his country than Barack Obama has been in this country. . .’

Nance makes it absolutely clear how serious the stakes are for us: “By publically choosing a known, dangerous, and proven autocratic adversary who has murdered opponents, killed his own citizens, conducted acts of terrorism and has invaded and seized other nations in violation of global norms, Trump and Pence chose Russia’s values over America’s. It has been said that this election would spell the rise of fascism and end the two century long run of American democratic governance. It may be worse than that. The deliberate subornation of America’s interests over that of a hostile adversary has never before been suggested aloud in polite company in the history of this nation.”

We are used to the images of war: bombs and bullets and blood. But Nance knows what many Americans are unwilling to recognize. We are at war and this war is being fought on our land: “So complete is Russia’s control over its vast and profitable cybercrime and cyber propaganda campaigns that virtually no collateral damage ever lands within the Russians’ own border. This effect is amusingly referred to as the “Russian Cyber Force Field,” everything from making their malware exploit kits geo and language aware to manipulating malicious advertising campaigns, the Russians go to great lengths to keep their hands clean.

The key to unraveling the objectives of LUCKY-7 is to accept that Russia is not an ally but is strategic opponent who views America’s standing as an obstacle to its own greatness. Should the chicanery of the 2016 election go without response, America would become target number one for Kompromat at even the lowest level elections. Future hacking and political releases would directly affect U.S. policy and could disable the processes that keep us safe.(Emphasis added.)

“The Russian use of cyber weapons to perform criminal acts and damage our electoral process was intended to remove faith in America itself … Due to their meddling, activities which were considered routine politics in America are now suspect. Politics itself is under fire, due to the combination of hacking and demagoguery.

“Though we have yet to see an actual disruption that matters in the lives of the average American citizen, one can be sure that it will come at a time where, once recognized, the only alternative to the attack may be a real war.”

These words were written before Trump’s attack on our traditional allies like Canada, his unnecessary and belligerent introduction of tariffs, his increasing attack on NATO partners, and his planned meeting with Putin.

Thanks to Malcolm Nance’s important “The Plot to Hack America,” we have been schooled and we have been warned.


Additional sources:

“Trump says he wants ‘my people’ to sit at attention for him like people do for Kim Jong Un”
Kathryn Watson, CBS News, June 15, 2018

“North Korea working to conceal key aspects of its nuclear program, U.S. officials say”
Ellen Nakashima and Joby Warrick, June 30, 2018, Washington Post

“Russian charged with Trump’s ex-campaign chief is key figure”
Jeff Horwitz, Maria Danilova, July 2, 2018, AP


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