Late yesterday evening I addressed the quickly developing disinformation campaign being called release the memo after the hashtag of the same name. I specifically wrote:
Apparently Congressman Nunes, or folks working for/with him on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, have produced a four page memo alleging significant abuse of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act by the Obama Administration, specifically the Department of Justice and the FBI, against Republicans. The memo is supposedly classified. This has led to the creation of a release the memo hashtag (click at your own risk of sanity). This would seem to explain Sean Hannity’s opening tease on Fox News tonight.
It is hard to get decent info at this point, but if I’m following all this correctly the memo being referred to is the result of Congressman Nunes’ monomania regarding lawful unmasking by the Obama Administration in 2015 and 2016 and the attempt to create a controversy and scandal over FISA violations as reported by the chronically wrong and easily duped John Solomon at The Hill, as well as his equally odious, one sided, and misleading reporting on the text messages between two FBI officials during the campaign.
Twenty-four hours later we have more clarity on exactly how the alleged memo was created and the purpose to which it is being put. Hamilton68, funded by the German Marshall Fund to track Russian active measures on social media, has been tracking the release the memo hashtag.
Natasha Bertrand at Business Insider has further details.
Russia-linked Twitter bots have jumped on the bandwagon.
#ReleaseTheMemo is the top-trending hashtag among Twitter accounts linked to Russian influence operations, according to Hamilton 68, a website launched last year that says it tracks Russian propaganda in near-real time.
The frequency with which the accounts have been promoting the hashtag has spiked by 233,000% over the past 48 hours, according to the site. The accounts’ references to the “memo,” meanwhile, have increased by 68,000%.
The most-shared domain among the accounts has been WikiLeaks, and the most-shared URL has been a link to WikiLeaks’ “submit” page.
WikiLeaks said on Thursday that it would reward anyone with access to the “FISA abuse memo” who chooses to submit it to the site. The Russia-linked accounts have evidently been sharing the “submit” page to push the memo’s release.
Bret Schafer, a communications coordinator at the German Marshall Fund’s Alliance for Securing Democracy who tracks the Hamilton 68 accounts, said he “certainly can’t remember” the last time the researchers had seen a topic “promoted to this level” by the Russia-linked bots and trolls.
“On a normal day, our top hashtag is typically used around 400 times in a 48-hour period by the network we track,” he said in an email on Friday.
“As of right now, #ReleaseTheMemo has been used over 3,000 times (and five other related hashtags are in the top 10),” he said. “In total, they’ve easily shared more than 4,500 hashtags on the topic in the past two days, and our top URL is Assange’s offer to pay for a copy of the memo. That certainly seems to be a sign of a coordinated effort by the bots and trolls.”
Congressman Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Select Permanent Committee on Intelligence – and the only member of that committee to actually successfully prosecute an espionage case – had this to say:
a profoundly misleading set of talking points drafted by Republican staff attacking the FBI and its handling of the investigation. Rife with factual inaccuracies and referencing highly classified materials that most of Republican Intelligence Committee members were forced to acknowledge they had never read, this is meant only to give Republican House members a distorted view of the FBI. This may help carry White House water, but it is a deep disservice to our law enforcement professionals.”
Where does this leave our beleaguered hero Congressman Nunes, the chairman of the House Select Permanent Committee on Intelligence? According to GOP strategist Rick Wilson he’s right in the thick of things.
"Pssssst. The Memo is just the Strozk texts, again. This time repackaged by a nunes staffer."
Do with this what you will. I'm making no judgement yet.
— Rick Wilson (@TheRickWilson) January 19, 2018
Anon sends again:
"This is theater. Nunes staff briefed Fox (Hannity) ahead of time."
— Rick Wilson (@TheRickWilson) January 19, 2018
Also, OpSec people, OpSec!!!!!
And whoever anon is, he at least uses Protonmail. Props.
— Rick Wilson (@TheRickWilson) January 19, 2018
Wilson’s anonymous source has now been verified by subsequent reporting.
One thing about that document: Republican staffers wrote it.
Even the most plugged-in news consumer could be forgiven for thinking the classified memo is an executive branch document that exposes wrongdoing within the Justice Department and the FBI. It isn’t.
The document, which alleges abuses of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act during the FBI’s quiet counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign in the final months of the 2016 election, was actually compiled by Republican staffers on the House Intelligence Committee. That committee voted along partisan lines this week to allow any member of Congress to take a peek at the document themselves. Republican members soon flocked to a secure room to read the memo written by their allies — and then ran to tell the press about it.
If the memo does eventually go public, it won’t end well for Republicans, Susan Hennessey, the executive editor of the legal commentary site Lawfare, argued Friday. “After causing completely unnecessary chaos today, this memo will be released in some redacted [form] in a few weeks and prove to be an utter embarrassment to Nunes personally, the [House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence] majority, and frankly to US House of Representatives,” Hennessey predict
What I estimated last night was correct.
Since these (the Simpson transcripts just released by HPSCI) basically shoot everything Congressman Nunes, Congressman Gaetz, Congressman DeSantis, Congressman Jordan, and several other GOP members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Oversight, Justice, or other committees have been saying about the Special Counsel and his investigation and the FBI’s role in the counterintelligence investigation pertaining to the President that was begun in July 2016, they needed to do something to change the narrative. Enter the four page classified memo supposedly alleging that the Obama Administration, the DOJ, the FBI, and other parts of the US Intel Community were all conspiring against Republicans and conservatives in general and the President, his businesses, and his campaign in specific. Leaked to Fox News and teed up for Sean Hannity’s diatribe for an audience of one this evening. Given what happened the last time that Congressman Nunes tried to get creative in screening fire for the President, I fully expect that if this memo is ever declassified it won’t survive first contact with the actual subject matter experts the news media brings in to consult on it. Except, of course, for Fox News, talk radio, the alt-right news media (Breitbart, Gateway Pundit, etc) and social media crowd, Wikileaks, RT, and Sputnik. They’ll all, amazingly, have the exact same talking points. As will the White House, the President on twitter, and the aforementioned GOP members of Congress. This amount of coincidence takes a lot of work!
This is a desperate play to try to change the subject, to try to divert the news media’s attention, and it appears to have been fed to one of the specific Fox News personalities that we know are tailoring their programming directly to and for the President. Anyone want to estimate the over/under that Congressman Nunes actually either gave Hannity the memo he cobbled together or just read it to him, despite the fact that it was classified because it cherry picks material from classified DOJ, FBI, and US Intelligence Community information? Finally, releasing a partisan staff product memo isn’t going to answer any actual questions.
The only way to put the issue to bed would be to declassify and release the FISA warrant application. That is not going to happen. And you’ll notice that Congressman Nunes, nor his exceedingly shrill partners in crime – Congressman Gaetz, Congressman DeSantis, Congressman King (IA), Congressman Meadows, Congressman Jordan, Congressman Zeldin, Sean Hannity, Wikileakes, etc – are actually calling for that to happen. All they want is Congressman Nunes cherry picked material disseminated to create maximum outrage and diversion. Which is, apparently, what Russian state media, Russian intelligence funded trolls, Russian controlled bots, Russia’s fellow travelers on the alt-right, the Fox News personalities who are programming their shows to speak to an audience of one (the President), and these members of Congress all want. This is a strange convergence of interests. And this is why they are all using the exact same talking points, messaging, and language. A lot of work went into creating this coincidence.
Updated at 9:26 PM EST
Here’s an example of the clear eyed, quality thinking that has gone into releasing the memo:
GOP frosh Matt Gaetz, who wants Mueller fired, insisted to me that the FBI texts explicitly showed they were “talking about a plan to strategically leak information to embarrass Trump.”
— Ryan J. Reilly (@ryanjreilly) January 20, 2018
Stay frosty (or warm if you’re where it’s cold)!