Since my blog features travel, outdoor adventures and Burning Man, I usually don’t discuss politics here, other than an occasional comment. This doesn’t mean that I’m not concerned about what is happening in the nation and world. In fact, I am deeply concerned. And occasionally this concern slips over into my blog. Today is one of those occasions. I have been reading the Mueller Report.
I highly recommend that people who are interested in the future of America (and other democracies throughout the world) do likewise. Going to the source provides a different perspective that is well worth the effort. The report is on-line, easy to download, and free (download a copy here). Regardless of how people feel about the relationship between the Presidential campaign and Russia, there is no doubt that the Russians made an all-out effort to impact the American election and sow discord in the nation by utilizing social media in 2016— all the while posing as someone else.
We’ve heard a lot about Russia using Facebook and Twitter, but it also used YouTube, Tumblr, and Instagram. But what about WordPress? That’s where Lucifer and Guccifer come in. Lucifer, as you know, is the devil. You might think of Guccifer as his evil twin brother in disguise. Guccifer 2 was the WordPress site created by the GRU, the main military foreign-intelligence service of the Russian Federation, to release the data that it had stolen/hacked from the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign.
Here is a section of the Mueller Report that addresses Guccifer 2 found on pages 42-45:
“On June 14, 2016, the DNC and its cyber-response team announced the breach of the DNC network and suspected theft of DNC documents. In the statements, the cyber-response team alleged that Russian state-sponsored actors (which they referred to as “Fancy Bear”) were responsible for the breach. (145) Apparently in response to that announcement, on June 15, 2016, GRU officers using the persona Guccifer 2.0 created a WordPress blog. In the hours leading up to the launch of that WordPress blog, GRU officers logged into a Moscow-based server used and managed by Unit 74455 and searched for a number of specific words and phrases in English, including “some hundred sheets,” “illuminati,” and “worldwide known.” Approximately two hours after the last of those searches, Guccifer 2.0 published its first post, attributing the DNC server hack to a lone Romanian hacker and using several of the unique English words and phrases that the GRU officers had searched for that day. (146)”
(If you want to keep a secret, you shouldn’t leave behind such an obvious trail)
“That same day, June 15, 2016, the GRU also used the Guccifer 2.0 WordPress blog to begin releasing to the public documents stolen from the DNC and DCCC computer networks. The Guccifer 2.0 persona ultimately released thousands of documents stolen from the DNC and DCCC in a series of blog posts between June 15, 2016 and October 18, 2016. (147) Released documents included opposition research performed by the DNC including a memorandum analyzing potential criticisms of candidate Trump, internal policy documents (such as recommendations on how to address politically sensitive issues), analyses of specific congressional races, and fundraising documents. Releases were organized around thematic issues, such as specific states (e.g., Florida and Pennsylvania) that were perceived as competitive in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.”
“Beginning in late June 2016, the GRU also used the Guccifer 2.0 persona to release documents directly to reporters and other interested individuals. Specifically, on June 27, 2016, Guccifer 2.0 sent an email to the news outlet The Smoking Gun offering to provide “exclusive access to some leaked emails linked [to] Hillary Clinton’s staff.” (148) The GRU later sent the reporter a password and link to a locked portion of the dcleaks.com website that contained an archive of emails stolen by Unit 26165 from a Clinton Campaign volunteer in March 2016. (149) That the Guccifer 2.0 persona provided reporters access to a restricted portion of the DC Leaks websites tends to indicate that both personas were operated by the same or a closely-related group of people.”
“The GRU continued its release efforts through Guccifer 2.0 into August 2016. For example, on August 15, 2016, the Guccifer 2.0 persona sent a candidate for the U.S. Congress documents related to the candidate’s opponent. On August 22, 2016, the Guccifer 2.0 persona transferred approximately 2.5 gigabytes of Florida-related data stolen from the DCCC to a U.S.blogger covering Florida politics. On August 22, 2016, the Guccifer 2.0 persona sent a U.S.reporter documents stolen from the DCCC pertaining to the Black Lives Matter movement.”
“Around the same time, WikiLeaks initiated communications with the GRU persona Guccifer 2.0 shortly after it was used to release documents stolen from the DNC. On June 22, 2016, seven days after Guccifer 2.0 ‘s first releases of stolen DNC documents, WikiLeaks used Twitter’s direct message function to contact the Guccifer 2.0 Twitter account and suggest that Guccifer 2.0 ” send any new material stolen from the DNC here for us to review and it will have a much higher impact than what you are doing.” (160)
“On July 6, 2016, WikiLeaks again contacted Guccifer 2.0 through Twitter’s private messaging function, writing, “if you have anything hillary related we want it in the next two days preferable because the DNC is approaching and she will solidify bernie supporters behind her after.” The Guccifer 2.0 persona responded, “ok… i see.” WikiLeaks also explained, “we think trump has only a 25% chance of winning against hillary … so conflict between bernie and hillary is interesting.” (161)
I don’t have a clue if other WordPress sites were created to generate conflict in the US. WordPress has been conspicuously silent on the whole issue.
Now, your feeling might be, “Oh this is just politics as usual.” And if the election turned out the way you wanted, you might even feel that the interference was a good thing. Except it isn’t. Consider this. What if a Russian sub slipped along the Maine Coast and a group of armed soldiers disembarked for some nefarious purpose, say knocking out the power grid for the Northeast. It would be an act of war. And it would be an act of war regardless of whether you were on the right, left, or center of the political spectrum. Millions of Americans have given their lives to protect us against such a scenario. If an American of left, right or center persuasion aided the Russians in their efforts, it would be considered treason. Plain and simple.
Next, think of this. Vladimir Putin and the GRU are not America’s friends. Their total objective is to weaken the United States and other Western Democracies— to replace freely elected governments with something closer to Russia’s government where tyranny, secret police, rigged elections and controlled press dominate. And to create governments willing to look the other way as Russia re-conquers the territory it lost at the end of the Cold War, using whatever force is required.
And finally, this. The nature of warfare has changed. Yes, ships and planes, and bombs, and missiles, and guns and soldiers are still part of it. But cyber warfare has become a major new player. And it is much more insidious. In 2016, the Russians invaded America. Their efforts went far beyond trying to discredit Hillary Clinton and the Democrats. For one, they tried to hack our voting system. Picture going to the polls, voting, and having your vote changed, or lost. To the degree such an effort is successful, it goes to the very heart of our democratic system. It creates distrust in the system. It destroys the system.
Even worse, Russia tried to sow hatred and discord between groups of Americans, between ethnic groups, between religious groups, and between political groups. That such tensions already existed in America is obvious. It is also obvious that the strength of our nation, and all democracies, lies in the ability of various groups to work together for the better of the whole, to take advantage of the strengths the various groups bring to the table, and to compromise when necessary. The future of America (and the world) is based on bringing people together, not tearing them apart.