The Lajes Vector: Congressman Nunes Gets Stiffed

As was the case with Congressman Nunes’ memo and his decision to prematurely end the superficial House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) investigation into the Russian active measures and cyberwarfare campaign against the US, Congressman Nunes didn’t seem to accomplish much as a result of the DOJ briefings he demanded yesterday. From the AP:

It was unclear how much information was given to lawmakers. According to a U.S. official familiar with the meeting, the briefers did not reveal the name of an informant. They brought documents but did not share them, and made several remarks about the importance of protecting intelligence sources and methods. The person declined to be identified because the briefing was classified.

Nunes attended both briefings Thursday. According to the U.S. official and another person briefed on the Capitol Hill meeting, Nunes did not speak at all during the briefing. The second person also declined to be named because the meeting was classified.

According to the AP’s reporting, the DOJ and FBI did not provide the covered human source’s identity despite it having been speculated about in right wing online media sources since March and circulating in the news media for the past ten days or so. This is significant. This was Deputy AG Rosenstein and FBI Director Wray reinforcing that they will not disclose methods and sources to Congress or the White House via their pets in Congress, which is as it should be as sources and methods are outside of need to know for congressional oversight. I’m sure this won’t stop right wing news and social media from promoting the absolutely bizarre conspiracy that the highest echelons of the DOJ and the FBI, as well as the career personnel in the national security division conspired with both the Obama administration and the Clinton campaign and Vladimir Putin to frame the current President as a Russian dupe in order to prevent him from being elected. While keeping it all secret!

That’s always been the most insane portion of all of this. That there was a far ranging conspiracy to prevent the President’s election that included President Obama, the appointed and career leadership at the DOJ, FBI, DNI, CIA, and NSA, as well as career personnel in the DOJ and FBI’s national security directorate. That it was all coordinated with Secretary Clinton’s campaign. And that they were all conspiring with Vladimir Putin. All to prevent the President from being elected by tainting his campaign with the false narrative of being not just favored by Vladimir Putin, but actively seeking to work with and/or working with Vladimir Putin. And that the parties to the conspiracy were so successful in their secret plotting against the President and his campaign that they lied to reporters from The New York Times and other news media all the way through the election in order to keep the conspiracy a secret. And, as a result, the conspiracy actually failed and the President’s campaign was successful and he was elected because no one knew about it. Which, of course, makes no sense and is belied by every reported fact over the past two years about the President’s campaign and the people working on it.

What really needs to happen now is that the DOJ and the FBI need to ascertain who leaked the covered human sources identity to Chuck Ross at Tucker Carlson’s The Daily Caller. Leaks of covered human sources are direct threats to the national security of the United States. They place the covered human source at risk. They place anyone who is contact with the covered human source at risk even if these people are not subjects or targets of any intelligence or criminal investigation. When these types of leaks happen the families, friends, professional colleagues, neighbors, and even casual personal and professional acquaintances of the covered human source are placed at risk. And they make it much, much harder for the US to both recruit new covered human sources in the future and for the US’s allies and partners to share information from their own covered human sources.

Reporting on covered human sources – and I want to be very clear here – is protected under the 1st Amendment. Even though that reporting is also a direct threat to the national security of the United States. Ross is rightfully off limits because of the 1st Amendment, but whoever provided that information to him needs to be identified and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Stay clandestine!

Open thread.

* Just a quick note, before anyone asks in the comments, Congressman Nunes’ family came to the US from Lajes in the Azores. And ever since he got himself onto the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence he’s been trying to relocate significant amounts of US intelligence capability to Lajes, which makes no logistical or financial sense, but would enrich his relatives and their friends. I wrote about this here. And it’s why I use Lajes in the titles of my Nunes’ posts, like the title for a weird Ludlum like novel.



A Follow Up Regarding DNI Clapper’s Statements That The Russians Actually Influenced The Outcome Of The 2016 US Election

I just wanted to quickly follow up on AL’s earlier post regarding DNI Clapper’s remarks that:

“Of course the Russian efforts affected the outcome. Surprising even themselves, they swung the election to a Trump win. To conclude otherwise stretches logic, common sense, and credulity to the breaking point. Less than eighty thousand votes in three key states swung the election. I have no doubt that more votes than that were influenced by this massive effort by the Russians.”

Was there active collusion between the Trump campaign — or the candidate himself — and Russian proxies or agents? Clapper does not go that far because he doesn’t have proof. But what he calls Trump’s “aggressive indifference” to the intelligence community’s detailed presentation of Russian activities is, in his view, damning enough. “Allegations of collusion and the results of the election were secondary to the profound threat Russia posed — and poses — to our system,” Clapper writes, and he does a fair job explaining why.

The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) has just released a working paper entitledSocial Media, Sentiment and Public Opinions: Evidence from #Brexit and #USElection. Here’s a link to a pdf of the report, which I’ll also attach to the bottom of the post. I want to excerpt this bit from the introduction to the paper (emphasis mine):

We find that information about the Brexit and the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election is disseminated and absorbed among Twitter users within 50-70 minutes. This suggests that information rigidity could be very low for critically important issues with wide coverage or that news cycles in social media are short-lived. We also observe the differential impact of tweeting activities by user type. For example, “remain” supporters in the Brexit Referendum respond stronger and faster to messages created by other “remain” supporters when compared with the reaction to messages from “leave” supporters. Furthermore, human tweeting activity could be influenced by bots. The degree of influence depends on whether a bot provides information consistent with the priors of a human. For instance, a bot supporting the “leave” campaign has a stronger impact on a “leave” supporter than a “remain” supporter. Similarly, Trump supporters are more likely to react to messages spread by pro-Trump bots. Further examination shows that the sentiment of tweets plays an important role in how information is spread: a message with positive (negative) sentiment generates another message with the same sentiment. These results provide evidence consistent with the “echo chambers” effect in social media; that is, people tend to select themselves into groups of like-minded people so that their beliefs are reinforced while information from outsiders might be ignored. Therefore, social media platforms like Twitter could enhance ideological segmentation and make information more fragmented rather than more uniform across people. Finally, we provide a quantitative assessment of how bots’ traffic contributed to the actual vote outcomes. Our results suggest that, given narrow margins of victories in each vote, bots’ effect was likely marginal but possibly large enough to affect the outcomes.

And this section from Section E of the findings on p. 20 of the report (emphasis mine):

But again, even this small difference could have played an important role in the outcome of these close-call elections. Specifically, our analysis in Section 2.5 suggests that a percentage point increase in the share of pro-Trump tweets in total tweets is associated with a 0.59 percentage point increase in the share of actual pro-Trump votes. Therefore, the observed difference between actual and counterfactual pro-Trump tweet shares suggests that 3.23 percentage points of the actual vote could be rationalized with the influence of bots.

This is one econometric analysis of the effects of the Russian active measures and cyberwarfare campaign against the US in the 2016 election and the UK during the Brexit referendum. It is an important piece of unclassified, open sourced supporting analysis to DNI Clapper’s conclusions. But the research shows that there is a strong correlation between the Russian active measures and cyberwarfare campaign and shifts in voting in the US and the UK. This research is not conclusive. It does not and cannot put an end to the suspicions or concerns, but it is important as part of the larger explanation of what happened in the 2016 presidential election and the 2016 Brexit referendum.

Open thread!

Brexit_Election



Ever Wonder Why We Keep Seeing Reports Of Foreign Signal Intelligence Equipment In DC? Unsecured Presidential Personal Phone Edition

Washington DC has a fake cell phone tower problem. It is an open secret that Foreign Intelligence Services are using a variety of means to capture signals intelligence (SIGINT) in DC. From Wired:

LAST WEEK, THE Department of Homeland Security confirmed for the first time that it is aware of unauthorized cell-site simulators, the surveillance tools often called stingrays or IMSI Catchers, in various parts of Washington DC.

While it’s not surprising that foreign intelligence groups or criminal actors would be cell-snooping in the nation’s capital, the DHS statement is the first US government acknowledgement that sensitive political communications, not to mention those of anyone in DC, are at risk of interception by devices that are currently unaccounted for. In spite of this step, though, observers find it unlikely that any group will move to defuse the threat in the foreseeable future.

Ruh Roh!!!!!!

From Politico (emphasis mine):

President Donald Trump uses a White House cellphone that isn’t equipped with sophisticated security features designed to shield his communications, according to two senior administration officials – a departure from the practice of his predecessors that potentially exposes him to hacking or surveillance.

The president, who relies on cellphones to reach his friends and millions of Twitter followers, has rebuffed staff efforts to strengthen security around his phone use, according to the administration officials.

The president uses at least two iPhones, according to one of the officials. The phones – one capable only of making calls, the other equipped only with the Twitter app and pre-loaded with a handful of news sites – are issued by White House Information Technology and the White House Communications Agency, an office staffed by military personnel that oversees White House telecommunications.

While aides have urged the president to swap out the Twitter phone on a monthly basis, Trump has resisted their entreaties, telling them it was “too inconvenient,” the same administration official said.

The president has gone as long as five months without having the phone checked by security experts. It is unclear how often Trump’s call-capable phones, which are essentially used as burner phones, are swapped out.

Trump’s call-capable cell phone has a camera and microphone, unlike the White House-issued cell phones used by Obama. Keeping those components creates a risk that hackers could use them to access the phone and monitor the president’s movements. The GPS location tracker, however – which can be used to track the president’s whereabouts – is disabled on Trump’s devices.

“It’s baffling that Trump isn’t taking baseline cybersecurity measures at a time when he is trying to negotiate his way out of a trade war with China, a country that is known for using cyber tactics to gain the upper hand in business negotiations,” said Samm Sacks, a China and technology expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Former government officials from both Republican and Democratic administrations expressed astonishment that any White House would issue the president a cell phone that posed a security threat.

I’m sure there’s no operations security issues involved here at all. It isn’t like the President is up at odd hours with a bunch of media personalities who give him advice and wind him up about what decisions to make after he tells them what’s going on. Err, um… Never mind.

Stay spreadable!

Open thread.



Further Russiagate / General GOP Ratfvckery Open Thread: Cambridge Analytica, Once Again

Think this news kinda got overlooked in the torrent yesterday. I know that CA’s much-vaunted “secret sauce” turned out to be “leave a few bank doors unlocked, tell our Russian clients about it, and pretend we don’t know how the vault, the registers, and the spare change out of the cashiers’ desks got looted”, but this still seems significant. Especially since the NYTimes is careful to point out that the company’s “principal owner” is Robert Mercer:

Appearing before the Senate Judiciary committee [yesterday] as part of the ongoing investigation of Cambridge Analytica and various forms of meddling in the 2016 elections, former employee and whistleblower Christopher Wylie said that the company and its then-VP Steve Bannon were pursuing voter suppression tactics aimed at black Americans.

Although Wylie insisted that he himself did not take part in these programs, he testified to their existence.

“One of the things that provoked me to leave was discussions about ‘voter disengagement’ and the idea of targeting African Americans,” he said. “I didn’t participate on any voter suppression programs, so I can’t comment on the specifics of those programs.”…

“I can comment on their existence, and I can comment more generally on my understanding of what they were doing,” he explained under questioning from Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA).

“If it suited the client’s objective, the firm [SCL, Cambridge Analytica’s parent company] was eager to capitalize on discontent and to stoke ethnic tensions,” read Wylie’s written testimony.

“Steve Bannon believes that politics is downstream from culture. They were seeking out companies to build an arsenal of weapons to fight a culture war,” he explained at another point in the session. He suggested questions on the nature of those weapons, and the specifics of any potential race-based voter suppression tactics, to be directed to Bannon…

“How specifically, then, did they target African American voters,” Sen. Harris had asked, “understanding as you do that the African American population is not a monolith? How did they then decipher and determine who was African American so they would target them in their intent to suppress the vote?”

“Racial characteristics can be modeled and I’m not sure about the studies that my colleague here was referencing but we were able to get an AUC score, which is a way of measuring accuracy for race that was .89 I believe,” Wylie answered.

AUC, he then explained, stands for “Area under the receiving operations characteristic. It’s a way of measuring precision, which [the .89 figure] means it’s very high.”

In other words, black voters could be identified based on their social media presence and other factors, despite the fact that the black community is, obviously, far from homogeneous…

 

After the hearing, Wylie said he was happy both Republican and Democratic lawmakers had attended.

“Although Cambridge Analytica may have supported particular candidates in US elections, I am not here to point fingers. The firm’s political leanings are far less relevant than the broader vulnerabilities this scandal has exposed,” his written testimony read.

Among lawmakers on the Senate Judiciary Committee questioning Wylie were Republican Sens. Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Ted Cruz of Texas. Both have operated campaigns that were Cambridge Analytica clients.

Controversy around Cambridge Analytica’s alleged misuse of Facebook data raised a host of new questions about the social media giant’s role in the public discourse and elections, and helped prompt renewed scrutiny in Washington, where last month Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before committees in both houses of Congress.

On Tuesday, The New York Times reported that Cambridge Analytica was under investigation by the Department of Justice and the FBI.



Russiagate Sidebar Open Thread: Oh Please… Please

Have said it before, will no doubt say it again: There are few arrests that would make me happier than that of Roger Stone, foundational Repub ratfvcker going back to Nixon’s maladministration. And for the unsubtle scripting of Murphy the Trickster God, few incidents that would make a better story arc…

Stone appeared before the U.S. House of Representatives Intelligence Committee last September and denied allegations of collusion between the president’s associates and Russia during the election. “I am aware of no evidence whatsoever of collusion by the Russian state or anyone in the Trump campaign,” Stone told reporters at the time.

According to sources familiar with the ongoing investigation, Mueller also has been probing whether anyone associated with the Trump campaign may have helped Assange or the Russians time or target the release of hacked emails and other social media promoting Trump or critical of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton…

Sullivan told Reuters that he heads Cyphoon.com, a social media firm, and “worked on the Trump campaign serving as Chief Strategist directly to Roger J. Stone Jr.”

“Welcome To The Age of Weaponized Social Media,” said a strategy document Sullivan prepared for Stone and seen by Reuters. He described a “system” he devised for creating Twitter “swarms” as “an army of sophisticated, hyper-targeted direct tweet automation systems driven by outcomes-based strategies derived from REAL-TIME actionable insights.”

For example, at 6:43 a.m. local time on Election Day in 2016, Trump tweeted, “TODAY WE MAKE AMERICAN GREAT AGAIN”. Trump’s message soon was retweeted more than 343,000 times, and in an interview last year, Sullivan told Reuters that the swarm helped overcome a surge in pro-Clinton social media postings and boost voter turnout for Trump…

And, yes, Stone has always denied being anything more than “an old friend of Donald’s”…

Politico helpfully adds:

Mueller’s office, which declined to comment about the grand jury subpoenas to Sullivan, has signaled interest in Stone through its questioning of several of his longtime associates. Two former Trump campaign aides, Michael Caputo and Sam Nunberg, have said they were asked about Stone during their interviews with the special counsel’s team. The president’s personal lawyers also included Stone among a long list of potential topics that Trump should prepare to be asked about if he sits with Mueller’s team for an interview, according to a New York Times report last month.

In an email to POLITICO, Stone called Sullivan “a great salesman who worked for me for a couple of months as a social media consultant. As far as I know all of his social media activities work was perfectly legal.” He added that Sullivan had access to his Twitter feed while working for his super PAC…

Stone, one of the youngest members of President Richard Nixon’s infamous 1972 reelection bid, formed his super PAC in fall 2015 just a few months after he left Trump’s presidential campaign. (Trump at the time said he fired his longtime political adviser, though Stone insisted he quit.) The group faced immediate controversy when Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s campaign manager at the time, told The Hill newspaper that he’d sent a cease-and-desist letter and slammed the super PAC’s work as a “big-league scam.”

But Stone persisted, spending nearly all of the $587,000 the super PAC raised during the 2016 election cycle, according to FEC campaign data compiled by OpenSecrets.org…

Some people say that Roger has managed to stay out of jail all these years due to a preternatural talent for being the first in every criminal conspiracy to turn state’s evidence. Be a certain poetic justice if he ends up in a cell because his most recent totally-not-a-fellow-conspirator Assange sells Stone done the river, deliberately or not.