Friday, March 31, 2017

Trump and Russia's Active Measures Campaign

Perhaps the most riveting and compelling testimony yesterday in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee was the testimony delivered by former FBI special counterintelligence agent Clint Watts. Watts detailed how Russian "active measures" propaganda works against democratic systems of government by sowing doubt and confusion about institutions in those democracies: the free press, an independent judiciary, and free and fair elections. As Watts pointed out, active measures (fake news, etc.) are most effective when echoed by influential people in the target country, in this case by neo-fascist Putin puppet Donald "Rump" Trump. Watts cut right to the chase in his testimony yesterday:
"The answer is very simple and it’s what nobody is really saying in this room. Which is, part of the reason [Russian] 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." (emphasis added)
Rump's reliance on fake news and conspiracy theories disseminated by Russian propaganda outlets and "bots" is a continuing phenomenon, as Watts noted. His attacks on U.S. media reporting as "fake news" and the U.S. intelligence community only encourages Russian active measures propaganda to continue, because they've hooked their highest level "customer" imaginable: an unfit, delusional and corrupt unPresident.

Watts has no illusions about how his testimony will be received by Rump and his allies here and in Russia: trolling, hacking, defamation and rumor mongering will follow him. Here's his view:
“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." (emphasis added)
That a patriotic public servant like Clint Watts should have those doubts says everything about a Chief Executive who thinks nothing of parroting the Kremlin line, while defaming the intelligence community and our democratic institutions.

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