• The Russia connectionWeak response to Russian meddling emboldened Moscow, official says

    Russia was emboldened by the lack of a decisive response by President Barack Obama’s administration during the 2016 presidential election and will seek to interfere in future elections, a former top U.S. official said. Victoria Nuland, whose portfolio at the State Department made her a leading Russia official under Obama, made the comments 20 June during a hearing at the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is conducting a sweeping investigation of Russian actions in the United States.

  • SpooksIsrael arrests former energy minister on charges of spying for Iran

    Israel’s former energy minister has been arrested and accused of spying for Iran. The former minister served three years in jail for trying to smuggle extasy pills into Israel, and then tried his hands in various business ventures in West Africa, where he was recruited by Iran’s intelligence.

  • The Russia connectionFrom Nord Stream to Novichok: Kremlin propaganda on Google’s front page

    On 24 May, an international team of investigators announced that a Russian anti-aircraft missile was directly responsible for the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 (MH17). Initial analysis of social media reactions to these announcements indicated that Kremlin outlets were struggling to effectively counter the new evidence implicating Moscow in the downing of MG17. However, over the next week, conspiracy theories and disinformation narratives from Russian propaganda outlets found a foothold on an impactful and unlikely medium: Google’s front page.

  • The Russia connectionWas there a connection between Russian Facebook propaganda and a foiled terrorist attack in Kansas City?

    On 18 April, a jury convicted three Kansas men of conspiring to use “weapons of mass destruction” against an apartment complex where many of the residents were Somali refugees. They were arrested before they were able to carry out their bomb plot in 2016. All three were known to be very active on Facebook, where they called themselves “Crusaders.” Experts wonder whether the divisive and polarizing ads which Russian disinformation specialists ran on Facebook during 2016 motivated the three to plan the attack.

  • The Russia connectionRussia’s “malign activity” aims to “degrade our democratic values and weaken our alliances”: Dan Coats

    Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, on 8 June 2018, spoke at the Atlantic Council’s Tocqueville Conversation. He emphasized the magnitude of the threats posed by Russia’s broad, sustained, and sophisticated campaign to undermine Western democracies, discredit open societies and liberal norms, weaken the rule of law, and destroy the rule-based international order. Coats noted that it should not be a surprise that Vladimir Putin has launched this attack on Western values ad norms. “President Putin openly acknowledges that his experience in the KGB has established his approach to politics. Perhaps that is why he thrives in an environment of cynicism, lies, and misdirection.”

  • Truth decayThe partisan brain: Why people are attracted to fake news and what to do about it

    By Andrea Pereira and . Jay J. Van Bavel

    Orwell’s famous novel, 1984, describes a totalitarian state in which the government demands that citizens abandon their own perceptions, memories, and beliefs in favor of party propaganda. In this dystopian nightmare, people are forced against their will to adopt the beliefs of the ruling party. However, modern research in political science, psychology, and neuroscience suggests that people are often quite willing to adopt the (mis)beliefs of political parties and spread misinformation when it aligns with their political affiliations.

  • China syndromeLawmakers introduce amendment on Huawei and ZTE

    A bipartisan group of senators on Thursday introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act to respond to the national-security threat posed by Chinese telecom companies like Huawei and ZTE. “Huawei and ZTE have extensive ties with the Chinese Communist Party, as well as a track record of doing business with rogue regimes like North Korea and Iran. So it’s only prudent that no one in the federal government use their equipment or services and that they receive no taxpayer dollars. Given their repeated violations of U.S. law, we cannot trust them to respect U.S. national security, and so it’s vital we hold them accountable and pass this amendment,” said Cotton.

  • China syndromeWarner questions Google, Twitter about Chinese partnerships

    U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Virginia), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, on Thursday sent letters to Twitter and Google parent company Alphabet, requesting information about any data sharing agreements between the companies and Chinese vendors. “Since at least October 2012, when the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence released its widely-publicized report, the relationship between the Chinese Communist Party and equipment makers like Huawei and ZTE has been an area of national security concern,” Warner wrote the two companies.

  • The Russia connectionAtlantic Council launches a website to track Russian disinformation

    The Atlantic Council yesterday launched a new webpage – DisinfoPortal.org – an interactive online guide to track the Kremlin’s disinformation campaigns abroad. The portal brings together 23 top organizations and more than 80 experts fighting Russian disinformation in the United States and Europe. “It’s time to stop ‘admiring the problem’ of Russian disinformation and start fighting back, using the tools of democratic societies to counter the autocrat’s playbook,” said Ambassador Daniel Fried of the Atlantic Council.

  • The Russia connectionCold War-era KGB “active measures” and the Kremlin’s contemporary way of war

    Bob Seely, a Conservative MP for the Isle of Wight and a Russia researcher, has just published the first comprehensive definition of the nature of modern Russian warfare. The paper draws a direct comparison between Cold War-era KGB “Active Measures” and the aggression of Putin’s Russia. “From fake news aimed at Europe to the propaganda of RT, and from the occupation of Crimea to the streets of Salisbury, Russia is waging a very modern kind of conflict on the West – as well as on the Russian people themselves,” Seely said.

  • The Russia connectionUkraine claims it found list of 47 Russian assassination targets

    Ukrainian authorities claim they have uncovered a hit-list of forty-seven people — mostly journalists — who are potential Russian assassination targets as a result of their sting operation staging the faked murder of exiled Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko. Ukraine said all forty-seven have been informed they are on the alleged hit-list, and arrangements are being made for their safety. Prosecutor-General Yuriy Lutsenko met with top EU diplomats to explain the staged murder, and Reuters quoted a senior EU country diplomat as saying that the Ukrainian minister had given a convincing explanation to justify the sting operation.

  • Considered opinion: Data & national securityCorporate data collection and U.S. national security: Expanding the conversation in an era of nation state cyber aggression

    By Carrie Cordero

    What has the Russia investigation revealed about risks inherent in mass private data collection? Carrie Cordero writes that one thing we learned from the Russia investigation is that we may be framing the conversation about corporate data collection too narrowly. “Based on what we have learned publicly so far about the Russian election interference, it is worth pausing to reflect on the national security implications of corporate data collection and aggregation as it relates to the collection of individual, private citizens’ data,” she says. “Although the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) and special counsel investigations are not yet complete, we know enough already about Russia’s interference in the 2016 election to understand that data collected from private companies and organizations can be accessed, exposed and potentially misused in a way that is harmful to the country’s institutional stability. At the very least, its misuse sows distrust and confusion. At worst, it shreds the institutional and societal fabric that holds the country together.”

  • CybersecurityWorld Cup 2018: British intelligence briefs players, staff on Russian cyberthreats

    The U.K. Football Association (FA) said it was taking cybersecurity seriously this summer – the Soccer World Cup tournament will be held in Russia from 15 June to 15 July — and will be taking advice from the National Cyber Security Center (NCSC) at the GCHQ (the British equivalent of the U.S. NSA). The England team will be briefed by GCHQ staff before flying out to the World Cup to help them stay safe from Russian hackers.

  • Considered opinion: Truth decayThe era of fake video begins

    By Franklin Foer

    “Deepfake” videos produced by Russian-linked trolls are the latest weapon in the ongoing fake news war. The Kremlin-backed trolls are already experimenting with new video manipulation techniques which use artificial intelligence to create convincing doctored videos. Franklin Foer writes the internet has always contained the seeds of postmodern hell, and that mass manipulation, from clickbait to Russian bots to the addictive trickery that governs Facebook’s News Feed, is the currency of the medium. In this respect, the rise of deepfakes is the culmination of the internet’s history to date—and probably only a low-grade version of what’s to come. Fake-but-realistic video clips are not the end point of the flight from reality that technologists would have us take. The apotheosis of this vision is virtual reality.The ability to manipulate consumers will grow because VR definitionally creates confusion about what is real,” Foer writes. “Several decades ago, after giving the nascent technology a try, the psychedelic pamphleteer Timothy Leary reportedly called it ‘the new LSD’.”

  • Truth decayRegulation or research? Searching for solutions to reduce Truth Decay in the media

    What is social media’s role in the decline of trust in the media? Is government intervention needed to help stop the spread of misinformation on these platforms? These questions were the focus of a recent RAND Corporation event on the connection between the media and Truth Decay.