• Report reveals scale of Russian interference in European democracy

    Evidence of the Kremlin-backed Internet Research Agency’s long-term interest in European politics and elections has been revealed in two new studies. while Russian involvement in the 2016 U.S. presidential election has been well documented, far less has been known about the Internet Research Agency’s European operations, until now.

  • Hysteria over Jade Helm exercise in Texas was fueled by Russians, former CIA director says

    Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision in 2015 to ask the Texas State Guard to monitor a federal military exercise prompted significant criticism. A former CIA director said Wednesday that the move emboldened Russians to next target elections.

  • U.S. official: Executive order not needed to ban Huawei in U.S. 5G networks

    “We have grave concerns about the Chinese vendors because they can be compelled by the National Intelligence Law in China as well as other laws in China to take actions that would not be in the interests of the citizens of other countries around the world. Those networks could be disrupted or their data could be taken and be used for purposes that would not be consistent with fundamental human rights in those countries,” says Robert Strayer, deputy assistant secretary of state for cyber and international communications and information policy.

  • Suspected Russian spy whale may have been a therapy whale

    The docile beluga whale which appeared in Norwegian waters may have previously served as a child therapy animal in Russia. There had been speculation in the media and in military circles that the harness-wearing whale was a Russian navy spy.

  • “A lot of people are saying”: Conspiracies without theories

    Russell Muirhead and Nancy L. Rosenblum are professors of government at, respectively, Dartmouth and Harvard. A few years ago, they found themselves, in their words, “startled into thought.” Yes, they knew, crazy ideas were a fixture of American life. But not this crazy. “The subject required more detailed and thoughtful interpretation,” the two write at the beginning of A Lot of People Are Saying: The New Conspiracism and the Assault on Democracy. Elizabeth Kolbert writes in the New Yorker that among the differences between “classic” conspiracy theories and the new conspiracism is their constituencies. Historically, Muirhead and Rosenblum maintain, it’s been out-of-power groups that have been drawn to tales of secret plots. Today, it’s those in power who insist the game is rigged, and no one more insistently than the so-called leader of the free world.

  • Facebook removes more pages, accounts linked to “inauthentic” Russian operators

    Facebook said it has removed more pages and accounts that are believed to have originated in Russia and were involved in “coordinated inauthentic behavior.”

  • Agents of deceit: Russian disinformation institutions and actors

    There is a burgeoning Western literature on Russian policy and practice in disinformation, but very little of it has detailed and reliable material about the government agencies and affiliated actors that promote it. A new, detailed report investigates the institutions and actors involved in Russian disinformation.

  • The Russia investigation will continue

    Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe is over, but the FBI is almost certain to continue its counterintelligence investigation into Russian espionage efforts related to the 2016 election. The FBI will continue to search for Americans working on behalf of the Kremlin. John Sipher writes in The Atlantic that the inability to establish that the Trump campaign conspired in a “tacit or express” agreement with the Russian government is not surprising. Most espionage investigations come up empty unless and until they get a lucky break. That does not mean there was no espionage activity in relation to the 2016 election. Every previous Russian political-warfare campaign was built on human spies. Russian “active measures”—propaganda, information warfare, cyberattacks, disinformation, use of forgeries, spreading conspiracies and rumors, funding extremist groups and deception operations—rely on human actors to support and inform their success. Counterintelligence professionals must doubt that Russia could have pulled off its election-interference effort without the support of spies burrowed into U.S. society or institutions.

  • Russia’s unrelenting attacks on the U.S. justice system

    Russia’s broad campaign against liberal democracies shows no signs of abating. Information operations targeted against democratic institutions provide an incredibly high return on investment for the Kremlin. The U.S. justice system is under attack as part of a long-term Russian effort to undermine the appeal of democracy and weaken the West. Using multi-platform disinformation operations, Kremlin-backed operatives work to exacerbate existent divisions within populations and increase overall mistrust of and paranoia about democratic institutions.

  • Russia’s long game: Paralyze Europe’s ability to act in its own self-interest

    With the European parliamentary elections approaching in less than a month’s time, Russia’s persistent disinformation campaign to subvert and undermine Europe’s democratic institutions is a source of growing worry. Russia is playing a long game in Europe: its objective is not merely to influence the outcome of any particular election, but rather to broadly subvert the efficacy of Europe’s democratic institutions, fuel widespread social fragmentation and mistrust, and ultimately paralyze Europe’s ability to act in its own self-interest and to defend our values.

  • Influence operations in the digital age

    Influence operations in the digital age are not merely propaganda with new tools. They represent an evolved form of manipulation that presents actors with endless possibilities — both benign and malignant. While the origins of this new form are semi-accidental, it has nonetheless opened up opportunities for the manipulation and exploitation of human beings that were previously inaccessible. Zac Rogers, Emily Bienvenue, and Maryanne Kelton write in War on the Rocks that digital influence operations, now conducted across the whole of society, indicate that we are only at the beginning of a new era of population-centric competition. With regard to propaganda, the fundamental distinction between the old and the new lies in the difference between participatory and passive forms of information consumption.

  • Studying Russian disinformation campaigns

    An interdisciplinary research team from communications, anthropology, and political science will study Russian disinformation campaigns in three former Soviet republics as part of a $1.6 million Minerva research grant awarded through the U.S. Department of Defense.

  • Deterring Russian intimidation and aggression: Unconventional approaches

    Amid concerns that Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are vulnerable to Russian intimidation and hybrid warfare, experts conclude that unconventional defense plans could help deter and counteract Russian aggression.

  • Russia targeted Sanders supporters, pushing them to vote for Trump

    As part of Russia’s broad 2016 effort to ensure Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential election, Russian hackers targeted supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), following his primary loss in 2016, trying to push them to vote for Donald Trump instead of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Daren Linvill, the Clemson University researcher who conducted the research of the Russian campaign, said the Russians saw Sanders as “just a tool.” “He is a wedge to drive into the Democratic Party,” resulting in lower turnout for Clinton, he said.

  • Weapons of mass distraction

    A sobering new report from the U.S. Department of State’s Global Engagement Center details the reach, scope, and effectiveness of Russia’s disinformation campaigns to undermine and weaken Western societies. “The messages conveyed through disinformation range from biased half-truths to conspiracy theories to outright lies. The intent is to manipulate popular opinion to sway policy or inhibit action by creating division and blurring the truth among the target population,” write the authors of the report.