Cyber Command

Russian Operatives will influence the 2018 midterm elections

Opinion by Lefty G

In the high speed Trump-era news cycle it often seems that some important events and developments do not receive the attention they deserve.
Case in point:  the news coming out of the Senate Intelligence Committee recently.
Just yesterday morning, the NSA's chief of US Cyber Command told the Committee that Russia remains a threat to the 2018 midterm elections.  This is consistent with what other national security officials have been telling lawmakers this month.
At any other time this would surely be greeted with outrage and consternation from Americans of all political stripes.  However, in the current upside-down and hyper-partisan political environment of the United States this type of news receives little attention.
Earlier this month Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told the Senate Intelligence Committee that Russia views it's efforts to influence the 2016 election and sow discord in the United States as a success.
"There should be no doubt that Russia perceived that its past efforts are successful and views the 2018 US midterm elections as a potential target for Russian midterm operations," he asserted.
Coats went to say that the NSA expects Russia to "continue using propaganda, social media, false-flag personas, sympathetic spokesmen and other means to influence...and exacerbate social and political fissures in the United States."
The committee also heard similar remarks from FBI Director Christopher Wray and CIA Director Mike Pompeo.  All of these intelligence chiefs were asked if they would restate their support for the 2017 report that came to the conclusion that Russian operatives had taken what spies call "active measures" against the U.S. during the 2016 election - all of them did.
In short, the entire intelligence apparatus of the United States believes that Russian operatives used a variety of measures to influence and sow discord among American voters in the leadup to the 2016 election.  Not only that, but they agree that the Russians view this operation as a success and will look to repeat this success with the 2018 midterm elections.
The only question that remains is whether the government and social media platforms will take measures to prevent this from happening.
Mark Zuckerberg vowed that Facebook would eliminate fake news but in a recent blog post Facebook's head of civic engagement conceded that the war against fake news would never end.  He also added that it is not the companies job to filter out misinformation.
Meanwhile the Trump administration shows no signs of taking the Russian threat seriously.  Trump's frequent Twitter tirades on the subject of Russia clearly show that he views any mention of Russia's ongoing fake news and social media campaign against the United States as an attempt to rob him of the appropriate credit for his election victory.
It seems Trump would rather allow Russia to continue feeding propaganda and misinformation to the American people than lose face.
The NSA's Cyber Command chief Adm. Rogers also told the Senate Committee on Tuesday that he has not been granted approval from President Trump to disrupt Russian cyber operatives at their source.
If the administration does not take measures to dissuade further efforts from Russia then these operations will surely continue.  As Rogers puts it, "they have not paid a price that is sufficient to change their behaviour."
Russian trolls and hackers pose a clear threat to democracy in America.  The time to act was yesterday.
It is going to take a bi-partisan public outcry for President Trump to stop denying the problem but with the massive rifts in American society such an outcry seems unlikely to happen.
Somewhere Vladimir Putin is smiling.

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