Posts Tagged ‘U.S. intelligence’

China Signaling it May Finally ‘Militarize’ the South China Sea Officially — China has Already Built Up Seven Land Formations With or Able To House Chinese Military Installations

January 29, 2018

China may be getting ready to overtly “militarize” its island bases in the South China Sea. After years of counter-accusing the United States of militarizing the region while maintaining that its man-made islands were “necessary defense facilities,” Chinese officials are using a recent transit by a U.S. warship to lay the groundwork for deploying real force projection capabilities to its outposts.

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs claimed that a U.S. Navy destroyer violated its sovereignty over the Scarborough Shoal by sailing within 12 nautical miles of the disputed feature in the South China Sea on January 17th. In an unusual step, China was the first to reveal that the transit occurred and may be using it to signal future military deployments to the bases it has built on reclaimed islands in the Spratly Islands.

Lu Kang, a spokesman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the U.S. ship’s passage gravely threatened the safety of Chinese vessels and personnel in the area, but did not elaborate how. He went on to say that China would take “necessary measures” to safeguard its sovereignty.

The Scarborough Shoal is claimed by both China and the Philippines. Starting in 2012, China effectively occupied the shoal, using maritime law enforcement and paramilitary Maritime Militia vessels to evict Filipino fishermen. In early 2016 the United States apparently believed that China might attempt to begin land reclamation at Scarborough Shoal as a prelude to constructing military facilities similar to what it has done in the Spratly Islands, prompting the head of the U.S. Navy to voice rare public concern over China’s impending moves. Analysts from the Center for Strategic and International Studies speculated that China’s intended reclamation efforts were only stymied following intense behind-the-scenes diplomacy and deterrent signaling.

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A Chinese bomber over Scarborough Shoal last year.

Since there are no structures on Scarborough Shoal to support the deployment of military equipment, unless China again tries to build an artificial island on the shoal those “necessary measures” probably just mean a heavier Chinese maritime presence in the area. But other Chinese commentary points to the possibility that China may use the Hopper’s transit as pretext for militarization elsewhere in the South China Sea.

Militarization is a sensitive topic in the strategic waters of the South China Sea. To quell concern about its robust island-construction campaign, China’s President Xi Jinping said that China “did not intend” to militarize the Spratly Islands in 2015 remarks at the White House. Those reclaimed islands are now home to extensive communications and sensor facilities, long runways, and hardened hangars and ammunition storage bunkers. Chinese officials have long explained away this construction as “necessary defense facilities” but not militarization.

As early as 2016, U.S. intelligence assessed that China’s Spratlys bases could, or could shortly, host forces like fighters, bombers, and long range anti-ship or land-attack missiles that were capable of projecting power far beyond any defensive requirements. But to date, China has only deployed short-range missiles and point-defense weapons that cannot project control over the seas or skies around the islands, allowing Chinese officials to sustain a thinly plausible claim to be staying within President Xi’s promise that China would not militarize them. But Chinese officials now appear to be laying the narrative foundation to claim that the strategic situation in the South China Sea will force China to deploy the more robust military capabilities those Spratlys bases can accommodate.

Chinese officials have floated the premise that the United States was forcing it to deploy increasing military capabilities to the region for defensive purposes before. In 2016, a Ministry of National Defense spokesman invoked this explanation when he responded to a U.S. think tank report revealing new defensive weapons on China’s Spratlys bases by saying that “If somebody is flexing their muscles on your doorstep, can’t you at least get a slingshot?”

China’s recent statements signal that deployments could be more imminent.

Following the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ comments, the official People’s Daily newspaper published an editorial saying that the U.S. presence in the South China Sea would “hit a brick wall.” It went on to warn that the United States activities would force China to “strengthen and speed up” its buildup of capabilities in the South China Sea to ensure peace and stability in the region. An editorial in the Global Times tabloid claimed even more explicitly that China had exercised restraint in its responses to the United States’ military presence in the South China Sea and that eventually China would “militarize the islands.”

Claims that U.S. freedom of navigation represents a threat to its islands is more plausibly pretext for militarization. The United States excels at over-the-horizon strike, using long range missiles to hit targets from beyond ranges that they would be subject to easy counterattack. If the United States was going to attack China’s built-up facilities in the South China Sea, there is little reason that its warships or bombers would close within visual range of the islands to do so.

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USS Hopper

It is doubtful, then, that the Hopper’s transit had any effect on China’s plans. China has been building up its islands’ capabilities for some time, with deployments perhaps restrained only by a desire to mitigate backlash from the United States and other countries in the region. It’s also possible that the United States’ 2016 assessments were optimistic about the islands’ readiness to accommodate sustained deployments.

The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative recently released a report revealing China completed over 70 acres of new construction and facility improvement on its bases in the South China Sea, last year. That construction provides some context to recent reports from Chinese official media about the special facilities and preparationsrequired to support a deployment of fighter jets to the Paracel islands last year. Details on the special accommodations the Chinese military had to make for the tropical conditions in the South China Sea like sealed, thermostabilized airplane hangars, suggests that its bases in the Spratlys are only now reaching a level of completion that can confidently support advanced combat forces, and all China needs now is an excuse to justify the deployments.

China built artificial islands in Kagitingan (Fiery Cross), Panganiban (Mischief), Zamora (Subi), Burgos (Gaven), Kennan (Hughes), Mabini (Johnson) and Calderon (Cuarteron) Reefs




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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law.



Kremlin: U.S. report accusing Russia of election meddling harms relations — U.S. claims Russian “relentless assault” on democratic institutions worldwide

January 11, 2018


MOSCOW (Reuters) – The Kremlin on Thursday described a report published by Democratic U.S. lawmakers accusing Russia of election meddling as damaging for bilateral relations, as well as for the United States itself.

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Democratic U.S. lawmakers accused Russia on Wednesday of a “relentless assault” on democratic institutions worldwide, and called on President Donald Trump to treat election interference as a national crisis.

Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee released a report detailing what they described as nearly two decades of Russian efforts to tilt politics across Europe, criticizing Trump for doing too little to address the issue.

The report was commissioned by Senator Ben Cardin, the committee’s top Democrat, who said on Wednesday that President Vladimir Putin would “push as far as he’s allowed to push, if we don’t push back.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who has repeatedly denied accusations by U.S. intelligence officials and others that Moscow interferes in any foreign elections, told a conference call with reporters Russia rejected any accusations of meddling and was dismayed to see such allegations still being made.

“With regards to this (anti-Russian) campaign, all we can do is express our regret and repeat that these accusations remain unfounded,” said Peskov.

Reporting by Maria Tsvetkova; Writing by Polina Ivanova; Editing by Andrew Osborn

Iran Protests Caught Trump Administration by Surprise

January 4, 2018

U.S. government is now trying to exert influence there and protect demonstrators from further bloodshed

WASHINGTON—The Trump administration was caught off guard by the unfolding protests in Iran and is now wrestling with how to deter Tehran from carrying out a broader crackdown on dissent, senior U.S. officials said Wednesday.

With antigovernment protests spreading across Iran, the U.S. is relying on presidential tweets, public condemnation and international pressure aimed at ​swaying—but not toppling, officials say—Iran’s leaders.

President Donald Trump tweeted on Wednesday that he has “such respect for the people of Iran as they try to take back their corrupt government. You will see great support from the United States at the appropriate time!”

The domestic protests have created an unpredictable new challenge for the Trump administration, which has focused most of its attention on deterring Iran from destabilizing its rivals in the Middle East. Now, administration officials say, they are trying to figure out how they can capitalize on the internal protests to change Iran’s behavior at home and abroad.

“A week ago I would not have thought that we would be sitting here thinking that internal unrest would be the main thing about Iran policy that we’re talking about,” said one senior administration official. “This is new, so we’re still sort of thinking through the information.”

At least 21 demonstrators have been killed and hundreds more arrested in a week of protests that unexpectedly spread across Iran. On Wednesday, Iran’s leaders sought to respond by ordering state workers and students to take to the streets to support the government.

Iran’s mission to the United Nations complained in a letter Wednesday to the Security Council and General Assembly that the U.S. had “incited” protests and it urged all nations to condemn such “dangerous statements.”

“The president and vice president of the United States, in their numerous absurd tweets, incited Iranians to engage in disruptive acts,” the statement said, adding that the U.S. had displayed hostility toward Iranians, including “by banning ordinary Iranian citizens from entering the United States.”

No one knows how long the antigovernment protests will last. But U.S. officials see the protests as fundamentally different from the 2009 Green Revolution, which was spearheaded largely by middle class Iranians pressing for removal of then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad after a tainted election.

The latest protests have largely been driven by economic discontent among the country’s poorest citizens who haven’t seen the benefits of the nuclear deal that allowed billions of dollars to flow into Iran, U.S. officials said. Much of the money, U.S. officials said, has gone to Iran’s military and intelligence services instead of to projects meant to improve life for average Iranians. This time around, the officials said, police and soldiers may be more reticent to conduct a widespread crackdown on demonstrators.

“Protests about rice prices… are both tougher to smash, a far worse optic for the regime to smash and, frankly, causes that maybe resonate more among the people who would be called upon to drop the hammer,” said a second senior U.S. official.

A third U.S. official said the administration was aware of the simmering economic grievances in Iran but that it was difficult to predict the eruption of protests.

“While there were many indications of discontent, that was also true the week before and the month and the year before the protests,” the official said.

The U.S. officials said they have no intentions of trying to push for regime change in Iran.

“We’re just interested in getting the Iranian regime to change its behavior,” said the first U.S. official.

But the U.S. is pressing its allies around the world to speak up in support of the Iranian protests and preparing to impose economic sanctions on groups and individuals that play a brutal role in suppressing dissent in Iran. The U.S. is pushing for an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council and the U.N.’s Human Rights Council.

“Iran cares about its image,” the second U.S. official said. “It cares what people think about it internationally. That norm, in this case is: don’t kill peaceful protesters.”

The biggest immediate question for the Trump administration is how it will handle looming deadlines that require the president to waive economic sanctions on Iran that were lifted as part of former President Barack Obama’s signature nuclear deal with Tehran.

To keep the deal in place, the president will have to waive the sanctions in mid-January. Mr. Trump already has taken steps to pull his support from the deal, and has pressed European allies to join him in trying to renegotiate the agreement. Iran and EU leaders have said they won’t renegotiate the deal.

European leaders have been reluctant to walk away from a deal that they say is working to contain Iran’s nuclear ambitions. But the protests in Iran, combined with the government crackdown, could give the Trump administration more ammunition in its criticism of the deal.

U.S. officials said the domestic protests would be a factor in the president’s decision, but that they were still developing options for Mr. Trump to consider.

The Trump administration has made deterring Iran a priority. Iran is deeply involved in conflicts stretching from Lebanon to Yemen. The U.S. is working closely with Saudi Arabia, Israel and European allies on ways to dilute Iran’s influence across the Middle East. The domestic protests have given some administration officials new hope that their emerging strategy could bear fruit this year.

“We’re optimistic about the prospects for trying to bring about a change in the Iranian regime’s behavior,” the first U.S. official said. “We think 2018 is going to be a good year for trying to bring about a different situation in the Middle East as far is Iran is concerned.”

—Farnaz Fassihi at the United Nations and Nancy A. Youssef in Washington contributed to this article.

Write to Dion Nissenbaum at


Russia not withdrawing forces from Syria, Pentagon says

December 12, 2017


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Russian President Vladimir Putin, 2nd left, and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, left, chat with Russian military pilots at the Hemeimeem air base in Syria, on Monday, Dec. 11, 2017. Declaring a victory in Syria, Putin on Monday visited a Russian military air base in the country and announced a partial pullout of Russian forces from the Mideast nation. (Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States said on Tuesday it has not observed any meaningful withdrawal of Russian combat forces from Syria, despite Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement on Monday of a significant pullout.

“There have been no meaningful reductions in combat troops following Russia’s previous announcements planned departures from Syria,” said Marine Major Adrian Rankine-Galloway, a Pentagon spokesman.


North Korea says war is inevitable as allies continue war game

December 7, 2017

The Associated Press

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea says a nuclear war on the Korean Peninsula has become a matter of when, not if, as it continued to lash out at a massive joint military exercise between the United States and South Korea involving hundreds of advanced warplanes.

In comments attributed to an unnamed Foreign Ministry spokesman, North Korea also claimed high-ranked U.S. officials, including CIA Director Mike Pompeo, have further confirmed American intent for war with a series of “bellicose remarks.”

Pompeo said Saturday that U.S. intelligence agencies believe North Korean leader Kim Jong Un doesn’t have a good idea about how tenuous his situation is domestically and internationally. The North’s spokesman said Pompeo provoked the country by “impudently criticizing our supreme leadership which is the heart of our people.”

“We do not wish for a war but shall not hide from it, and should the U.S. miscalculate our patience and light the fuse for a nuclear war, we will surely make the U.S. dearly pay the consequences with our mighty nuclear force which we have consistently strengthened,” the spokesman said.

The comments were carried by the official Korean Central News Agency late Wednesday, hours after the United States flew a B-1B supersonic bomber over South Korea as part of a massive combined aerial exercise involving hundreds of warplanes. North Korean propaganda is often filled with extreme claims and threats, and the spokesman’s comments were consistent with the tone of previous statements condemning Washington and Seoul.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the Guam-based bomber simulated land strikes at a military field near South Korea’s eastern coast during a drill with U.S. and South Korean fighter jets.

“Through the drill, the South Korean and U.S. air forces displayed the allies’ strong intent and ability to punish North Korea when threatened by nuclear weapons and missiles,” the South Korean military said in a statement.

B-1Bs flyovers have become an increasingly familiar show of force to North Korea, which after three intercontinental ballistic missile tests has clearly moved closer toward building a nuclear arsenal that could viably target the U.S. mainland.

The five-day drills that began Monday involve more than 200 aircraft, including six U.S. F-22 and 18 F-35 stealth fighters.

North Korea hates such displays of American military might at close range and typically uses strong language to condemn them as invasion rehearsals. It has been particularly sensitive about B-1B bombers, describing them as “nuclear strategic” although the planes were switched to conventional weaponry in the mid-1990s.


FBI didn’t tell US targets as Russian hackers hunted emails

November 26, 2017

American Intelligence Horror Story

November 13, 2017

Are U.S. spies losing their technological edge?

The National Security Agency campus in Fort Meade, Maryland in 2013.
The National Security Agency campus in Fort Meade, Maryland in 2013. PHOTO: PATRICK SEMANSKY/ASSOCIATED PRESS

NSA, sometimes said to stand for Never Say Anything, does not want to talk about this. But it’s a momentous crisis for the largest US intelligence agency. 

The N.S.A.’s headquarters at Fort Meade in Maryland. Cybertools the agency developed have been picked up by hackers from North Korea to Russia and shot back at the United States and its allies.

Security Breach and Spilled Secrets Have Shaken the N.S.A. to Its Core

A serial leak of the agency’s cyberweapons has damaged morale, slowed intelligence operations and resulted in hacking attacks on businesses and civilians worldwide.

For years technologists have been warning about the possibility of a sort of digital Pearl Harbor in which a hostile foreign power launches a devastating cyber-attack on the United States. Is it already happening?

A disturbing report in the New York Timesdescribes the damage that has been done—and is still being done—by a mysterious group called the Shawdow Brokers, which managed to steal the hacking tools the U.S. National Security Agency has used to spy on other countries. The Times describes an “earthquake that has shaken the N.S.A. to its core” and adds:

Current and former agency officials say the Shadow Brokers disclosures, which began in August 2016, have been catastrophic for the N.S.A., calling into question its ability to protect potent cyberweapons and its very value to national security. The agency regarded as the world’s leader in breaking into adversaries’ computer networks failed to protect its own.

A reported breach of the NSA has been described as “catastrophic” and even worse than Edward Snowden’s massive data leak. CBS News Senior National Security Contributor @MichaelJMorelljoins @CBSThisMorning to discuss

Among the most disturbing aspects of the case is the fact that, long after the theft of critical data was detected, our government still doesn’t know how it happened. The Times writes:

Fifteen months into a wide-ranging investigation by the agency’s counterintelligence arm, known as Q Group, and the F.B.I., officials still do not know whether the N.S.A. is the victim of a brilliantly executed hack, with Russia as the most likely perpetrator, an insider’s leak, or both. Three employees have been arrested since 2015 for taking classified files, but there is fear that one or more leakers may still be in place. And there is broad agreement that the damage from the Shadow Brokers already far exceeds the harm to American intelligence done by Edward J. Snowden, the former N.S.A. contractor who fled with four laptops of classified material in 2013.

Mr. Snowden’s cascade of disclosures to journalists and his defiant public stance drew far more media coverage than this new breach. But Mr. Snowden released code words, while the Shadow Brokers have released the actual code; if he shared what might be described as battle plans, they have loosed the weapons themselves. Created at huge expense to American taxpayers, those cyberweapons have now been picked up by hackers from North Korea to Russia and shot back at the United States and its allies.

15 mos intensive investigation & FBI still can’t solve catastrophic NSA hack … but surprised people question certainty of conclusions on DNC hack where it never examined server. 

The N.S.A.’s headquarters at Fort Meade in Maryland. Cybertools the agency developed have been picked up by hackers from North Korea to Russia and shot back at the United States and its allies.

Security Breach and Spilled Secrets Have Shaken the N.S.A. to Its Core

A serial leak of the agency’s cyberweapons has damaged morale, slowed intelligence operations and resulted in hacking attacks on businesses and civilians worldwide.

This NSA disaster occurred on President Obama’s watch and the Times report suggests that Mr. Obama ignored advice from top officials in his national security team to address the management failure because he prioritized the effort to search for potential 2016 Trump campaign links to Russia:

One N.S.A. official who almost saw his career ended by the Shadow Brokers is at the very top of the organization: Adm. Michael S. Rogers, director of the N.S.A. and commander of its sister military organization, United States Cyber Command. President Barack Obama’s director of national intelligence, James R. Clapper Jr., and defense secretary, Ashton B. Carter, recommended removing Admiral Rogers from his post to create accountability for the breaches.

But Mr. Obama did not act on the advice, in part because Admiral Rogers’s agency was at the center of the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

As for President Trump, the question is why he has not initiated a house-cleaning at the top of the NSA.

For all Americans, the question is whether the technological edge that the United States has enjoyed in defense and intelligence for essentially all of our lifetimes is now in jeopardy.


Bottom Stories of the Day

Why would Kim Jong-un insult me by calling me “old,” when I would NEVER call him “short and fat?” Oh well, I try so hard to be his friend – and maybe someday that will happen!

Does This Tweet Make Me Look Apophatic?
“Trump mocks North Korea’s Kim, says he would never call him ‘short and fat’,” Fox News, Nov. 12

Annals of Single-Payer Health Care
“Canadian Patients And Doctors Are Sharing ‘Excruciating’ Wait Times On Twitter,” Huff Post, Nov. 3

So Much for the War on Drugs
“GOP Tax Plan Could Deal Blow to Seniors Paying for Long-Term Care,” ElderLawAnswers,” Nov. 10

Hypothesis and Proof

  • “Without Humans, Artificial Intelligence Is Still Pretty Stupid,” The Wall Street Journal, Nov. 12
  • “How to Survive a Robot Apocalypse: Just Close the Door,” The Wall Street Journal, Nov. 10


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(Carol Muller helps compile Best of the Web. Thanks to Irene DeBlasio, Myles Pollin, Jordan Bruneau, Rod Pennington and Paul Wood.)



Security Breach and Spilled Secrets Have Shaken the N.S.A. to Its Core

November 13, 2017

A serial leak of the agency’s cyberweapons has damaged morale, slowed intelligence operations and resulted in hacking attacks on businesses and civilians worldwide.


Juan Williams: The shame of Trump’s enablers

November 6, 2017
Juan Williams: The shame of Trump's enablers
© Greg Nash

Congressional committees on national security once stood as the gold standard for American politics.

This is where our most respected politicians put aside party politics in service to the nation’s best interests.

So, how do you explain the naked politicization of national security now taking place in both the House and Senate?The answer begins with President Trump. It is old news that Trump plays loose with facts.

What is new and chilling is witnessing senior Republican senators and congressmen debase themselves to play along with Trump in the name of party loyalty.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) is the prime example of a politician abandoning an esteemed role on Capitol Hill to become a Trump stooge, gladly sinking in the morass of the president’s “alternative facts.”

In April, Nunes was forced to recuse himself from the investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election after he backed Trump’s bogus claim that President Obama had “wiretapped” him at Trump Tower.

Nunes made a secret visit to the White House without any other members of his committee to review classified information. He later stood in front of the White House to insist to reporters that Obama’s aides had members of the Trump team under illegal surveillance, if not technically wiretapped. Trump then claimed to be vindicated on the basis of that false claim.

Next, Chairman Nunes introduced the phony scandal of Obama administration national security officials improperly “unmasking” Trump campaign aides talking to Russians. It turned out to be another smokescreen to help Trump distract the public from Russia’s effort to divide the country and help Trump win the White House.

After Nunes recused himself, the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation of Russia matters was supposed to be led by Texas Republican Rep. Mike Conaway.

But last month, Nunes claimed the power of the chair to issue subpoenas for the financial records of Fusion GPS, the research firm. Fusion was the group that hired ex-British secret agent Christopher Steele to produce the infamous dossier purportedly showing Trump’s dealings with Russia and Russia’s desire to control Trump.

Nunes suggested that since the Democrats paid Fusion for opposition research on Trump, it is Clinton who is guilty of colluding with the Russians. And he smeared the FBI and its former head, James Comey, by insinuating they hid facts to help Clinton. Nunes told Laura Ingraham, my Fox News colleague, there “is no possible way the FBI did not know who paid for that dossier.”

But there was nothing to hide.

There is a big difference between paying for opposition research and coordinating with a foreign government while it attacks your political opponent. One is legal and one is not.

To Trump’s delight, Nunes’s empty charges echoed loudly on right-wing websites.

The dirt being kicked up by Nunes fits in with the smokescreen created by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.).

Goodlatte and his fellow Republicans on the Judiciary Committee called for the appointment of a second special counsel to investigate…wait for it…Hillary Clinton!

In a July letter, Goodlatte said the special counsel needs to spend time looking at “many actions taken by Obama Administration officials,” and implicitly less time on Russia and Trump.

In the Senate, the story is not much better.

Last week, the Intelligence Committee held important hearings on Russia’s use of social media to manipulate public opinion. U.S. intelligence agencies confirmed earlier this year that the Russian interference was done for the express purpose of helping Trump and hurting Clinton.

In the case of Facebook, some of the anti-Clinton ads were actually paid for with rubles, the Russian currency. Yet, Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, tried to minimize the impact of Russia’s corruption of U.S. social media.

“What you haven’t heard is that almost five times more ads were targeted at the state of Maryland than at Wisconsin,” Burr said in his opening statement. “Maryland, which is targeted by 262 ads, in comparison to Wisconsin’s 55 ads, wasn’t up for grabs; it was a state the Democratic candidate carried by 26 percent,” Burr added.


What does the number of ads in each state have to do with an act of cyberwarfare by Russia to disrupt the American elections?

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), is also using his platform and his committee’s resources to push conspiracy theories about the dossier. Not only does Grassley believe the Democrats’ funding of the dossier is a legitimate line of inquiry but he has suggested the Justice Department is involved in a “cover-up.”

A cover-up of what?

As last week’s indictment of two Trump campaign officials and a guilty plea from a third showed, the Special Counsel investigating Russian meddling is steadily building a case.

Meanwhile, Trump has reduced members of Congress to partisan hacks throwing around distractions to deflect the public’s attention, and discredit the FBI and the Special Counsel.

The president’s strategy is evident in his Tweets. After news broke of last week’s indictments, he wrote: “Sorry, but this is years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign. But why aren’t Crooked Hillary & the Dems the focus?????”

The president no longer has to rely solely on tweets and fake news to distract the public. Sadly, leading Republicans in Congress have been reduced to Trump enablers.

They are giving him cover in the name of party politics — the country be damned.

Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.


Russian Twitter Support for Trump Began Right After He Started Campaign

November 6, 2017

In three months after Mr. Trump announced his candidacy, tweets from Russian accounts offered far more praise for the businessman than criticism

Based on the information that’s now coming out of congressional committees, Russian goals to interfere in the 2016 election were very broad. WSJ’s Gerald F. Seib explains just how sophisticated the Russian efforts were using social media. Photo: AP

Kremlin-backed support for Donald Trump’s candidacy over social media began much earlier than previously known, a new analysis of Twitter data shows.

Russian Twitter accounts posing as Americans began lavishing praise on Mr. Trump and attacking his rivals within weeks after he announced his bid for the presidency in June 2015, according to the analysis by The Wall Street Journal.

A U.S. intelligence assessment released early this year concluded the Kremlin developed a “clear preference” for Mr. Trump over his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton, but cited December 2015 as the earliest suspected time that Russian social-media accounts advocated for Mr. Trump.

The earlier starting point of pro-Trump tweets highlights the breadth of the Russian effort to manipulate social media during the 2016 election. Kremlin-paid actors sowed division among Americans with fake pages and accounts, inflammatory postings and thousands of paid ads aimed at both liberal and conservative audiences, according to testimony before Congress last week.

The Journal analyzed 159,000 deleted tweets from accounts that Twitter identified to congressional investigators as operated by the Kremlin-backed Internet Research Agency.

Twitter said it has suspended all 2,752 of the accounts, which removes their tweets from its platform. Congress released the names of the accounts on Nov. 1, during hearings on Russian interference in the 2016 elections.

Based on the information that’s now coming out of congressional committees, Russian goals to interfere in the 2016 election were very broad. WSJ’s Gerald F. Seib explains just how sophisticated the Russian efforts were using social media. Photo: AP

In the three months after Mr. Trump announced his presidential candidacy on June 16, 2015, tweets from Russian accounts reviewed by the Journal offered far more praise for the real-estate businessman than criticism—by nearly a 10-to-1 margin. At the same time, the accounts generally were hostile to Mrs. Clinton and the early GOP front-runner, Jeb Bush, by equal or greater margins.

The Journal pieced together the deleted tweets from data it has collected as well as that provided to the Journal by several researchers. The records contain at least one tweet from more than 2,000 of the accounts.

A Twitter Inc. spokeswoman declined to comment. In Senate testimony last week, a Twitter attorney said the company takes seriously “that the power of our service was misused by a foreign actor for the purpose of influencing the U.S. presidential election,” and said Twitter is beefing up its efforts to combat such activities.

Mr. Trump, a regular user of Twitter himself, has called claims that the Russians manipulated the 2016 election via social media “a hoax.”

“BOOM! DOWN GOES @jebbush,” wrote @DorothieBell, three weeks after Mr. Trump entered the race. The account, claiming to be run by an American “Conservative wife, mother” who wanted to “take this once great country back!!!,” linked to a Breitbart News article about Mr. Trump attacking Mr. Bush for being soft on immigration.

In August, @TamaFlan, claiming to be an American named Tamar Flanagan, tweeted: “#TrumpBecause It’s time for @BarackObama and @HillaryClinton to go quietly into the night #MakeAmericaGreatAgain.”

Other accounts criticized Mr. Bush for being a “RINO” (Republican in name only). One offered a succinct put-down: “@JebBush ewww.”

The numerous Russian Twitter attacks on Mrs. Clinton during this three-month period included a tweet comparing her treatment of the press to Adolf Hitler’s, adding: “Heil Hillary.” Another account tweeted links to an editorial—published months earlier—criticizing Mrs. Clinton’s “Culture of Corruption.”

Many political messages were sent out word-for word by multiple Russian-backed accounts, often within minutes of each other, suggesting a coordinated campaign.

Of the Russian-backed accounts that tweeted about Mr. Trump in the summer of 2015, at least 40 served up positive sentiment; just one account captured by the Journal data expressed strong negative opinions.

The exception was @Jenn_Abrams, an account that pretended to be run by an opinionated American blogger that eventually attracted 71,000 followers and many media mentions. “I’d rather join #ISIS than have Donald Trump as my president,” that account tweeted on the day Mr. Trump announced his candidacy.

It isn’t clear whether the Russian accounts truly backed Mr. Trump from the start, or viewed support for the upstart candidate as an opportunity to disrupt U.S. politics.

As the November 2016 election approached, the Kremlin preference for Mr. Trump became even more pronounced. Pro-Trump tweets—either favoring him or attacking his opponent—outnumbered those for Mrs. Clinton by a 30-to-1 ratio in the two weeks before the election, the Journal analysis found. There were about 236 pro-Trump or anti-Clinton tweets captured in the Journal data during those two weeks compared with seven that were pro-Clinton or anti-Trump.

Much of the Russian social-media disinformation campaign has been linked to the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency, a shadowy, so-called troll farm that spread Russian propaganda across the Internet.

Twitter has said the 2,752 Internet Research Agency-operated accounts sent out 131,000 messages on its platform in a 2 1/2-month period around the November election. Messages from a much broader network of automated bot accounts were viewed about 288 million times in that period.

Nearly all of that activity has vanished, because Twitter removes all tweets from suspended or deleted accounts and requires its vendors to do the same. That makes it difficult to analyze past behavior; the tweets captured by the Journal represent only a slice of the messages sent out by the troll farm-operated accounts.

The Kremlin social-media operation didn’t always favor one U.S. political party, and spanned the ideological spectrum.

A Facebook account called Blacktivist claimed to push the Black Lives Matter movement, while an account called Heart of Texas agitated for that state’s secession.

The Russian-backed Twitter accounts were so successful at imitating Americans that they were frequently followed and retweeted by prominent people, including Trump campaign insiders, and quoted in mainstream media publications.

One such account, @Pamela_Moore13, which claimed to be operated by a Texan who was “Conservative. Pro God. Anti Racism,” amassed an impressive 70,000 followers—including retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn and Fox News commentator Sean Hannity —before being suspended by Twitter in the purge of Russian accounts.

An attorney for Mr. Flynn and spokeswoman for Fox didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Before the election, at least 104 of the Russian-controlled accounts, including many of those with tens of thousands of followers, posted hashtags supporting Mr. Trump, including variations of the campaign catchphrase Make America Great Again. More than 90 accounts posted negative messages about Mrs. Clinton’s health, emails and alleged corruption. The accounts posted a handful of pro-Clinton hashtags.

For the GOP debate on Dec. 15, 2015 in Las Vegas, dozens of the accounts live-tweeted using the hashtag #VegasGOPDebate. Many showed a clear preference for Mr. Trump.

“Trump is a real leader, I believe debates will help to see it,” six of the accounts wrote.

“Only Trump can deal with #ISIS,” wrote @MarissaImStrong to its 413 followers.

One, @Cheese_Monay, disagreed, tweeting: “We need real debates not this clown show on #Fox.”

On Election Day, the accounts warned of rigged voting machines and called for an indictment of Mrs. Clinton.

As voting wound down that day, @JacquelinIsBest tweeted to its 2,100 followers: “I can’t believe I was able to experience our potential president speak at his very last rally. #HillaryForPrison2016 #TrumpForPresident.”

Write to Mark Maremont at and Rob Barry at