Russiagate part 3 of 4 “experts”

Carl Sagan advised against putting too much stock in authorities for good reason. Another primary source of information in the Russian meddling scandal is the testimony, in March, to a Senate committee by the expert Clint Watts. Prior to the testimony that vaulted him onto the airwaves of CNN, the BBC, PBS, etc., and online with the New York Times and many others, Watts was a fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, a veritable hotbed of war mongering lunatics. He made his bones there with an editorial for Foreign Affairs in which he recommended the US back an Al Qaeda off shoot in Syria to pay back the Russians. Right below the headline, Watts and his co-authors celebrated Ahrar al-Sham as “an Al Qaeda linked group worth befriending.” When the comments section lit up with condemnation, Watts knew that the criticism must come from foreigners, patriotic as his suggestion was. Thus began the quest that has made him the go to expert on Russian bots pushing propaganda online. According to Max Blumenthal, “Watts introduced Congress to concepts of Russian meddling that were novel at the time, but which have become part of Beltway newspeak. His testimony turned out to be a signal moment in Russiagate, helping transition the narrative of the scandal from Russia-Trump collusion to the wider issue of online influence.” In the same article Blumenthal claims Watts has no known expertise on Russia; doesn’t speak or read Russian, has never been there and has contributed nothing in the way of academic work. From Blumenthal’s article:

“Addressing the Senate panel, Watts said that those who took to social media to mock and criticize his Foreign Affairs article were, in fact, Russian bots. He provided no evidence to support the claim, and a look at his single tweet promoting the article shows that he was criticized only once (by @Navsteva, a Twitter user known for defending the Syrian government against regime change proponents, not an automated bot). Nevertheless, Watts painted the incident as proof that Russia had revived a Cold War information warfare strategy of “Active Measures,” which was supposedly aimed at “crumbl[ing] democracies from the inside out [by] creating political divisions.” Next, Watts introduced his signature theme, claiming that Russia manipulated civil rights protests to exploit divisions in American society. Declaring that “pro-Russian” outlets were spreading “chaos in Black Lives Matter protests” by deploying active measures, Watts did not bother to say what those measures were. In fact, the only piece of proof he offered (in a Daily Beast transcript of his testimony) was a single link to an RT article that factually documented a squabble between Black Lives Matter protesters and white supremacists — an incident that had been widely covered by other outlets, from the Houston Chronicle to the Washington Post. Watts did not explain how this one report by RT sowed any chaos, or whether it had any effect at all on actual events.”

Watts’ expert conclusion is quite chilling to those of us who hold dissident views. “America’s war with itself has already begun. We all must act now on the social media battlefield to quell information rebellions that can quickly lead to violent confrontations and easily transform us into the Divided States of America.” “Stopping the false information artillery barrage landing on social media users comes only when those outlets distributing bogus stories are silenced: silence the guns and the barrage will end.”

In July, Watts and a few partners (Andrew Weisburd being particularly creepy) found an incredibly well connected group of supporters and formed The Alliance for Securing Democracy, housed at the prestigious German Marshall Fund and seemingly well funded. These connections and his established expert credentials got him interviewed at more congressional hearings recently where he introduced the Hamilton 68 Dashboard project at The Alliance for Securing Democracy. From its website “The Hamilton 68 dashboard is the collective research and development of Clint Watts, J.M. Berger, Andrew Weisburd and Jonathon Morgan. The dashboard displays the content and themes being promoted by Russian influencers online, including attributed sources such as RT (Russia Today) and Sputnik, as well as Twitter accounts that are involved in promoting Russian influence and disinformation goals.” For example, between November 18 and November 30, of the top URLs shared by Kremlin-oriented accounts on Twitter, 40% of the top URLs featured attacks on Democrats while sexual misconduct remained a top topic: 18% of the examined URLs focused on allegations against prominent figures, and several URLs praised Hungarian leader Viktor Orban’s anti-globalist stance, and/or accused the U.S. State Department of “meddling” in Hungary’s democracy. Of course, the registration of RT as a foreign agent was also a notable topic. Even after having read quite a bit of the dashboard I’m not sure what readers are supposed to make of its information. Since sexual misconduct allegations against prominent figures are being promoted by “Russian influencers” online, should we just disregard them altogether ? Except for Russian disinformation goals, is there any reason to attack the undemocratic, dollar drenched Democrats ? It would seem like another case of “we report, you decide,” if not for what, exactly, is being reported. “The initial dashboard tracks 600 accounts that were 1) identified as participating in specific disinformation campaigns synchronized with Russia Today and Sputnik News, 2) meaningfully linked to users who self-identified as promoting pro-Russian viewpoints, and 3) bots that provide support to members of the first two categories.” but we’re never told what the accounts are called or how to view them. From the website’s FAQ page: “Why don’t you name these accounts? Can you tell me if a specific account is a Russian bot? We prefer to focus on the behavior of the overall network rather than get dragged into hundreds of individual debates over which troll fits which role.”

Imagine a website that reports the successes of paranormal researchers which details its methodology but doesn’t tell who the researchers are or how to view their research. Would the New York Times uncritically repeat their claims in an article on the subject ? Would people who promote critical thinking accept it ? It also seems worth mentioning that Twitter has over 70 million accounts in the US so this alarm over 600 accounts seems a bit disproportionate, though the Times didn’t find that worth mentioning.

You’ll have to excuse me for delving so deeply into this, but the list of staff and advisors to The Alliance for Securing Democracy makes me cringe when I think about Mrs. Clinton’s experience with the bureaucracy of the US government. I think it’s fair to say this is what it looks like when bureaucrats come to her aid. Consider the links, within just this small group, to the Pentagon, NSC, State, the mainstream media, and finance, and multiply that by the thousands that would be under her command. The staff of Alliance for Securing Democracy is: LAURA ROSENBERGER ,director, foreign policy advisor for Hillary for America, experience at State Department and the White House’s National Security Council, and JAMIE FLY, senior fellow, counselor for Foreign and National Security Affairs to Senator Marco Rubio, National Security Council (2008–09), Office of the Secretary of Defense (2005–08) and the aforementioned team from the Hamilton 68 project, who are listed as fellows. I thought I could just tell you to Google “Andrew Weisburd creepy” but apparently Google’s algorithms have now ranked him as alright, while “de-ranking” his detractors. He became famous for a site called Internet Haganah which files complaints (trolls, you might say) internet service providers that host sites Weisburd feels are terrorist. Formed after the U.S. terrorism attacks in 2001, Internet Haganah tracks about 50 terrorism-related Web sites and is obviously good experience for tracking Russian influencers on Twitter. Though articles describe Weisburd as working alone, he claims to have members who are U.S. and Israeli counter-terrorism and Internet experts. An article in the Chicago Tribune from 2003 details how Internet Haganah identified a website linked to Islamic Jihad, listed as a terrorist organization by the State Department, and tried to pressure the service provider to cancel its service. “But in the case of the Islamic Jihad site, qudsway.com, company spokesman John Lee said law enforcement officials have not contacted his company about the site.” As for law enforcement, “The site is not illegal in any way [nor does it condone] illegal activity,” said FBI spokesman Frank Bochte in Chicago.” “We cannot be the Orwellian thought police. If it is mere words and nothing beyond that, there’s nothing we can do.” Weisburd claims many other victories in his fight against Islamic terrorism and is now an expert on it.

The advisors to Alliance for Securing Democracy include: MIKE CHERTOFF U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security from 2005 to 2009, co-founder of the Chertoff Group, a risk-management and security consulting company TOOMAS ILVES president of the Republic of Estonia in 2006 and in 2011, co-chairs the World Economic Forum’s working group The Global Futures Council on Blockchain Technology BILL KRISTOL chief of staff to Secretary of Education William Bennett, chief of staff to Vice President Dan Quayle, on the board of the Project for the New American Century, editor at large of the influential political journal, The Weekly Standard MICHAEL MORELL acting director of the Central Intelligence Agency in 2011 and again from 2012 to 2013 MIKE MCFAUL special assistant to the president and senior director for Russian and Eurasian Affairs at the National Security Council 2009 to 2012, U.S. ambassador to the Russian Federation from 2012 to 2014, analyst for NBC News, contributing columnist to The Washington Post MIKE ROGERS former member of Congress, FBI special agent, chaired the House Intelligence Committee overseeing the 17 intelligence agencies’ $70 billion budget, CNN national security commentator, chief security adviser to AT&T, advises Next Century Corporation and Trident Capital KORI SCHAKE White House for the National Security Council, Department of Defense for the Office of the Secretary and Joint Chiefs of Staff, State Department for the Policy Planning Staff, senior policy advisor on the McCain–Palin campaign, contributing editor covering national security and international affairs at The Atlantic, columnist for Foreign Policy magazine JAKE SULLIVAN national security advisor to Vice President Joe Biden, director of Policy Planning at the U.S. Department of State. NICOLE WONG chief technology officer in the Obama administration, Google’s vice president and deputy general counsel, Twitter’s legal director for products, Democratic National Committee Cybersecurity advisory board, Refactor Capital, and the Albright Stonebridge Group (Madeleine Albright, former Sec of State)

Hardly a disinterested group and, at worst, lending credence to the claim of commentators on the radical end of the internet that the people who make the news in government and business report on it in the media, or manipulate how its reported, and benefit from the consequences of the reporting, especially through government contracts and insider information. A look at the number connected to the Democrats and “the intelligence community” also bolsters Seymour Hersh’s claim that “this whole fucking thing is a Brennan operation.”

I don’t think it’s possible to emphasize too strongly that these people have direct communication with the most powerful people in the U.S. government, which means coverage by the most influential media.

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