Friday, February 16, 2018

Russians, Judas goats in the 2016 election

A version of this was published in the Sky Hi News, Feb. 20-21, 2018

“A Judas goat is a trained goat used in general animal herding. The Judas goat is trained to associate with sheep or cattle, leading them to a specific destination. In stockyards, a Judas goat will lead sheep to slaughter, while its own life is spared. Wikipedia”

Russians were the Judas goats, leading willing US believers to the undermining of the American political system and democracy by playing with their political inclinations  on social media. Per 10.6 of the indictment, their stated strategy included interfering
with the 2016 U.S. presidential election, with the stated goal of “spread[ing] distrust towards the candidates and the political system in general.” By the summer of 2016, their focus shifted to supporting Trump's campaign. They did it by boosting divisiveness with many methods, including trying to divide the Democratic vote by boosting the Green candidate  and Bernie Sanders, and promoting fake rallies against Muslims and minorities.

Some voters may be feeling a bit sheepish when they read the text of the Special Counsel indictment of thirteen Russians. The indictment is very specific, citing exact ads, fake organization names. rallies, and twitter handles .How many of these did you fall for, retweet, repost? It is  very unsettling to know that Colorado voters were among three  states (Virginia and Florida the other two)  specially targeted for this Russian conspiracy. Instead of curling up with a spy novel tonight, reading the indictment might be just as entertaining.

Not in the indictment, but Russians creating discord is  even  still happening in the wake of the Parkland, Florida high school massacre, with  bots hyping pro guns, just as they promoted “release the memo” campaign urging release of the Nunes memo, tech people following social media bots report.
The release of the thirteen indictments  should be particularly  unsettling to those who  believed President Trump’s constant refrain that the Russian investigation was just a “hoax”. No, Mr. Trump, the Russian interference beginning in the  summer of the 2016 campaign was
designed to help you win, and your charges Russian interference in 2016 was all a hoax is not true. The hoax on the American people was yours., perpetuated for your own purposes even after intelligence agencies  last summer testified  eight times to Congress Russians did interfere in the 2016 campaign.

In his announcement, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein presented the details of the indictments with such specificity, that even the President acknowledged there was interference   beginning in 2014 , though the 2016 campaign changed direction in the summer to help Trump. Mr Trump trumpeted that it absolved him of collusion. The indictment did not name him, but it did call out  three of his staff  as unwitting accomplices and that the Russians paid Americans to participate, but they did not know they were paid by  Russians. These indictments refer to  specific instances having to do with social media only, but there are others yet to be indicted . Not addressed are the Trump Tower meeting and non-social media issues.. Contrary to right wing media claiming the indictment debunks the Steele Dossier, it does not. It substantiates the Steele's basic claim that Russians were interfering the the election in many ways .Mentioned in the indictment there are unindicted co-conspirators. Stay tuned for that.

The Special Prosecutor’s investigation is not concluded and there are still many facets yet announced and  other shoes to drop. The hacking issue is not the subject of this indictment. In fact, Donald Trump may be in even more at risk. President Trump is  not cleared by this for other actions being investigated, obstruction of justice and financial dealings. What has been missing until now was an underlying crime. In fact, those indictments today provide  the underlying crime  needed to charge those  in the President’  immediate circle or even him   with conspiracy  to commit a crime and/or  with  obstruction of justice.

From the indictment:
31:In order to collect additional intelligence, Defendants and their co-conspirators posed as U.S. persons and contacted U.S. political and social activists. For example, starting in or around June 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators, posing online as U.S. persons, communicated with a real U.S. person affiliated with a Texas-based grassroots organization. During the exchange, Defendants and their co-conspirators learned from the real U.S. person that they should focus their activities on "purple states like Colorado, Virginia & Florida." After that exchange, Defendants and their co-conspirators commonly referred to targeting "purple states" in directing their efforts.
Use of U.S. Social Media Platforms
32. Defendants and their co-conspirators, through fraud and deceit, created hundreds of social media accounts and used them to develop certain fictitious U.S. personas into "leader[ s] of public opinion" in the United States.
33. ORGANIZATION employees, referred to as "specialists," were tasked to create social media accounts that appeared to be operated by U.S. persons. The specialists were divided into day-shift and night-shift hours and instructed to make posts in accordance with the appropriate U.S. time zone. The ORGANIZATION also circulated lists of U.S. holidays so that specialists could develop and post appropriate account activity. Specialists were instructed to write about topics germane to the United States such as U.S. foreign policy and U.S. economic issues. Specialists were directed to create "political intensity through supporting radical groups, users dissatisfied with [the] social and economic situation and oppositional social movements."
34. Defendants and their co-conspirators also created thematic group pages on social media sites, particularly on the social media platforms Facebook and Instagram. ORGANIZATION controlled pages addressed a range of issues, including: immigration (with group names including "Secured Borders"); the Black Lives Matter movement (with group names including "Blacktivist"); religion (with group names including "United Muslims of America" and "Army of Jesus"); and certain geographic regions within the United States (with group names including "South United" and "Heart of Texas"). By 2016, the size of many ORGANIZATION-controlled groups had grown to hundreds of thousands of online followers.

43. 43. By 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators used their fictitious online personas to
interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election. They engaged in operations primarily intended
to communicate derogatory information about Hillary Clinton, to denigrate other candidates such
as Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, and to support Bernie Sanders and then-candidate Donald Trump.
a. On or about February 10, 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators internally
circulated an outline of themes for future content to be posted to
ORGANIZATION-controlled social media accounts. Specialists were instructed to
post content that focused on “politics in the USA” and to “use any opportunity to
criticize Hillary and the rest (except Sanders and Trump—we support them).”

6.6. Defendant ORGANIZATION had a strategic goal to sow discord in the U.S. political system, including the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Defendants posted derogatory information about a number of candidates, and by early to mid-2016, Defendants’ operations included supporting the presidential campaign of then-candidate Donald J. Trump (“Trump Campaign”) and disparaging Hillary Clinton. Defendants made various expenditures to carry out those activities, including buying political advertisements on social media in the names of U.S. persons and entities. Defendants also staged political rallies inside the United States, and while posing as U.S. grassroots entities and U.S. persons, and without revealing their Russian identities and ORGANIZATION affiliation, solicited and compensated real U.S. persons to promote or disparage candidates. Some Defendants, posing as U.S. persons and without revealing their Russian association, communicated with unwitting individuals associated with the Trump Campaign and with other political activists to seek to coordinate political activities.

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