Posts Tagged ‘WikiLeaks’

Bannon and Lewandowski Are Asked to Testify to House Russia Investigators

December 22, 2017

Bloomberg

By Billy House

 Updated on 
  • House Intelligence panel’s Russia probe sent invites this week
  • Committee sent voluntary invitation for closed-door interviews
Steve Bannon

Photographer: Nicole Craine/Bloomberg

President Donald Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon and his former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski have been asked to testify to House lawmakers investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Both men were sent letters this week by the House Intelligence Committee asking them to testify in early January, according to an official familiar with the panel’s schedule.

The committee hasn’t yet received a response from either Bannon or Lewandowski. The invitation, which didn’t come in the form of a subpoena compelling them to testify, was for a “voluntary interview” in the committee’s offices, which means it would be held behind closed doors, the official said.

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Corey Lewandowski

The letter doesn’t lay out specific reasons the committee wants to interview them, or the questions the panel wants to pose, but it makes clear that the interviews are part of the Russia investigation.

Bannon, who worked as Trump’s top strategist during the campaign and for several months in the White House, hasn’t been publicly accused of any wrongdoing.

Bannon was a key member of Trump’s team when the president fired national security adviser Michael Flynn and FBI director James Comey.

Your Guide to Understanding the Trump-Russia Saga: QuickTake Q&A

During the campaign, Bannon was also a liaison to its data-analytics firm, Cambridge Analytica.

Alexander Nix, the chief executive officer of Cambridge Analytica, met with the House Intelligence probe earlier this month. Nix faced questions about whether he sought material from WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange that was stolen from computers of the Democratic National Committee and John Podesta, who managed Democrat Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

Lewandowski’s Role

Lewandowski was fired as campaign manager on June 20, 2016, and replaced by Paul Manafort, who has been indicted for money laundering charges by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Before Lewandowski left, he was among among several senior Trump campaign officials who received communications from foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos about his outreach to the Russian government, according to published news accounts.

The Washington Post reported last month that court filings show Papadopoulos wrote to Lewandowski several times to let him know that the Russians were interested in forging a relationship with the campaign.

The Post said that included one message in May 2016, in which Papadopoulos forwarded to Lewandowski an offer of “cooperation” from a Russian with links to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“Is this something we want to move forward with?” he asked. There was no indication of how Lewandowski responded, wrote the Post. Lewandowski has said publicly he doesn’t recall whether he received emails from Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty in early October to lying to federal agents about his outreach to Russia.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-12-22/bannon-lewandowski-said-to-be-asked-to-testify-to-house-probe

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U.S. says did everything possible to help Italy cyber investigation

December 16, 2017

Reuters

ROME (Reuters) – The United States has denied suggestions it undermined an investigation into a massive data breach at the Italian cybersecurity firm Hacking Team, saying it did everything it could to help in the case.

A Milan magistrate last week recommended shelving an investigation into six people who were suspected of orchestrating the 2015 data theft.

Image result for Hacking Team, italy, photos

A senior judicial source criticized U.S. officials for not handing over a computer belonging to a key suspect, saying it might have contained information vital to the probe.

But in a comment emailed to Reuters, the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington denied the United States was to blame for the case floundering.

“The United States assisted Italy to the greatest extent possible and the relevant Italian authorities know that,” a U.S. Department of Justice spokesperson wrote.

Magistrates opened their investigation in July 2015 after hackers downloaded 400 gigabytes of data from the firm, which makes software that allows law enforcement and intelligence agencies to tap into the phones and computers of suspects.

Much of the data later showed up on the WikiLeaks website.

The company said at the time it believed former employees had stolen vital code that gave them access to its systems. It also speculated that a foreign government might have been behind the hacking.

The Italian probe led magistrates to a suspect living in Nashville, Tennessee. U.S. authorities raided his house and took the man in for questioning, however a senior judicial source in Milan, with direct knowledge of the case, said his computer was never sent to Italy for technical assessment.

“We could not carry out the checks on the computer to see if it contained the evidence that we were looking for because the United States did not give it to us. We did not receive an explanation for this decision,” the source said.

Reporting by Manuela D’Alessandro and Crispian Balmer; Editing by Mark Potter

Mueller Probe Gets Employees’ Emails From Trump Campaign Data Operation

December 15, 2017

Special counsel asked Cambridge Analytica to hand over employees’ emails, in sign of investigators’ interest in campaign data operation

Cambridge Analytica Chief Executive Alexander Nix, seen in this September photo, interviewed via videoconference with the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Cambridge Analytica Chief Executive Alexander Nix, seen in this September photo, interviewed via videoconference with the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday, according to a person familiar with the matter. PHOTO: ALEX HOFFORD/EPA/SHUTTERSTOCK

Special Counsel Robert Mueller has requested that Cambridge Analytica, a data firm that worked for President Donald Trump’s campaign, turn over documents as part of its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election, according to people familiar with the matter.

Mr. Mueller asked the firm in the fall to turn over the emails of any Cambridge Analytica employees who worked on the Trump campaign, in a sign that the special counsel is probing the Trump campaign’s data operation.

The special counsel’s request, which the firm complied with, wasn’t previously known. The emails had earlier been turned over to the House Intelligence Committee, the people said, adding that both requests were voluntary.

On Thursday, Cambridge Analytica Chief Executive Alexander Nix interviewed via videoconference with the House Intelligence Committee, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Mr. Mueller’s request for employee emails was made before media outlets reported in October that Mr. Nix had contacted WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange during the 2016 campaign, according to a person familiar with the matter. The Sweden-based WikiLeaks last year published a trove of Hillary Clinton -related emails that U.S. intelligence agencies later determined had been stolen by Russian intelligence and given to the website.

The special counsel declined to comment. A spokesman for Cambridge Analytica didn’t immediately return a request to comment.

The House committee earlier this fall referred questions about its document request to the data firm. Cambridge Analytica at the time confirmed the House request and said the firm wasn’t under investigation for its activities in the 2016 campaign.

Mr. Mueller’s team and congressional investigators are probing whether Trump associates colluded in a Russian effort to interfere in the 2016 U.S. election. Mr. Trump has denied collusion by him or his campaign, and Moscow has denied meddling in the election. The U.S. intelligence community in January concluded that Russia had sought to influence the election.

Mr. Nix, in a Lisbon speech in November, said he had asked the office that handles his speaking engagements to contact Mr. Assange in “early June 2016,” after reading a newspaper report that WikiLeaks planned to publish the Clinton-related emails. He asked if Mr. Assange “might share that information with us.” Mr. Assange has said he declined the request. Mr. Nix’s outreach to WikiLeaks came at the same time as his firm started working for Mr. Trump’s campaign, The Wall Street Journal has reported.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D., Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told the Journal earlier this year that ties between Cambridge Analytica and WikiLeaks were of “deep interest” to the committee. The House panel also asked Cambridge Analytica to preserve its data on Trump voters and supporters, but it hasn’t asked that the firm turn the data over, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Two months after Mr. Nix directed his speaker’s bureau to contact Mr. Assange, top Trump donor Rebekah Mercer asked him whether Cambridge Analytica could help better organize the emails WikiLeaks was releasing, the Journal has reported. Ms. Mercer and her father, hedge-fund billionaire Robert Mercer, are part owners of Cambridge Analytica.

Ms. Mercer and Mr. Nix haven’t commented on the matter.

During the campaign, Cambridge Analytica provided data, polling and research services to the campaign. Steve Bannon had introduced Mr. Nix to the campaign in mid-May. Mr. Bannon became the campaign’s chief executive officer in August 2016 and later joined the White House as a top strategist. He left the administration in August of this year.

Write to Rebecca Ballhaus at Rebecca.Ballhaus@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/mueller-sought-emails-of-trump-campaign-data-firm-1513296899

CNN Botches Major ‘Bombshell’ Alleging Contacts Between Don Jr. And WikiLeaks

December 9, 2017

By Chuck Ross

CNN misreported key details of an offer made to Donald Trump Jr. last year of a batch of stolen Wikileaks documents.

The story, which CNN published on Friday and covered extensively on TV, was touted as the first evidence that the Trump campaign was given a heads-up about documents stolen from Democrats.

But the story appears to have been riddled with errors, while also lacking key context.

Perhaps the most jarring error in the CNN report is the date on which Trump Jr. was sent the email. The network reported that a person named Mike Erickson emailed Trump Jr. and others on the Trump campaign on Sept. 4, 2016, with a link to Wikileaks documents as well as a decryption key to access them.

The email also offered access to emails that had been stolen from former Sec. of State Colin Powell, according to CNN.

But a copy of the email provided to The Daily Caller shows that Erickson sent the email on Sept. 14.

That date is significant because WikiLeaks had released a batch of stolen documents on Sept. 13. The group touted its release of the DNC documents, which were published by Guccifer 2.0.

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The email shows that Erickson messaged Trump Jr. stating that “Wikileaks has uploaded another (huge 678 mb) archive of files from the DNC.”

“It is too big for me to send you by e-mail attachments, but you can download it yourselves,” he added, providing a link to the same website cited by Wikileaks the day before.

He also included a link to a decryption key that could be used to access the documents.

Michael Erickson email to Donald Trump Jr., Sept. 14, 2016.

The Washington Post first reported on the true date and wording of the Erickson email.

The site that Erickson linked to leads to a page where a file with the same file name referenced in the Wikileaks tweet could be downloaded.

Screen grab of the website linked to by Michael Erickson.

Powell’s emails were also published online on Sept. 13. DC Leaks, a group that has been affiliated with the Russian government, published the documents online. The group granted access to the documents to several news organizations, including The Daily Caller. (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: Colin Powell’s Emails Hacked, Published Online)

How CNN got its report so wrong is unclear.

The article states that its information was based on a read-out of the Trump Jr. email provided by multiple sources, none of who are identified. Trump Jr.’s lawyer, Alan Futerfas, speculated on Friday that the source was on the Democratic side of the House Intelligence Committee, which interviewed Trump Jr. earlier this week.

The spokesman for the committee Democrats did not respond to a request for comment.

Erickson also appears not to be a super-secret Kremlin agent. The Post identified him as the president of an aviation management company.

Attempts made by The Daily Caller to contact him were unsuccessful.

Futerfas, the lawyer for Trump Jr., said that the real estate executive received “tons of unsolicited emails” during the campaign.

“The email was never read or responded to — and the House Intelligence Committee knows this,” he said in a statement.

“This email arrived after published media reports disclosed 12 hours earlier that hacked documents had been posted. The suggestion that this information was not public is false.”

Futerfas blasted the House Intelligence Committee over what he says is its leak of the story.

“It is profoundly disappointing that members of the House Intelligence Committee would deliberately leak a document, with the misleading suggestion that the information was not public, when they know that there is not a scintilla of evidence that Mr. Trump Jr. read or responded to the email,” he said.

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http://dailycaller.com/2017/12/08/cnn-botches-major-bombshell-alleging-contacts-between-don-jr-and-wikileaks/

Trump Jr. messaged with WikiLeaks during 2016 campaign

November 14, 2017

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s oldest son on Monday released a series of private Twitter exchanges between himself and WikiLeaks during and after the 2016 election, including pleas from the website to publicize its leaks.

Donald Trump Jr.’s release of the messages on Twitter came hours after The Atlantic first reported them. In the exchanges — some of them around the time that the website was releasing the stolen emails from Democrat Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman — WikiLeaks praises his father’s positive comments about WikiLeaks and asks Trump Jr. to release his father’s tax returns to the site.

The revelations are sure to increase calls in Congress to have Trump Jr. testify publicly as part of several committee probes into Russian interference in the 2016 election. And they add a new element to the investigations that have been probing for months whether Trump’s campaign colluded in any way with the Russian government.

In an intelligence assessment released last January, the NSA, CIA and FBI concluded that Russian military intelligence provided hacked information from the DNC and “senior Democratic officials” to WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks has denied that Russia was the source of emails it released, including those from Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta.

The private messages released by Trump Jr. show him responding to the WikiLeaks account three times, at one point agreeing to “ask around” about a political action committee WikiLeaks had mentioned. He also asked the site about a rumor about an upcoming leak. The messages began in September 2016 and ran through July.

Trump Jr. downplayed the exchanges as he released them.

“Here is the entire chain of messages with @wikileaks (with my whopping 3 responses) which one of the congressional committees has chosen to selectively leak,” he tweeted. “How ironic!”

Trump Jr.’s lawyers had released the exchanges to three congressional committees that have been investigating Russian intervention in the 2016 election and whether there were any links to Trump’s campaign.

In a statement, Trump Jr.’s lawyer said thousands of documents had been turned over to the committees.

“Putting aside the question as to why or by whom such documents, provided to Congress under promises of confidentiality, have been selectively leaked, we can say with confidence that we have no concerns about these documents and any questions raised about them have been easily answered in the appropriate forum,” said Alan Futerfas.

Futerfas didn’t say which forum he was referring to, but Trump Jr. was interviewed behind closed doors by Senate Judiciary Committee staff in September. A person familiar with that meeting said the private Twitter messages were discussed. The person declined to be identified because the transcript of that interview hasn’t been made public.

In one message dated Oct. 3, 2016, the WikiLeaks Twitter account sent Trump Jr. an article that included critical comments Clinton had made about WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange and said “it’d be great if you guys could comment on/push this story.”

Trump Jr. replied: “Already did that earlier today. It’s amazing what she can get away with.”

Two minutes later, Trump Jr. sent another message: “What’s behind this Wednesday leak I keep reading about?”

Longtime Trump associate Roger Stone had tweeted the day before that on Wednesday, “Hillary Clinton is done,” referencing WikiLeaks.

The WikiLeaks Twitter account never responded, but days later WikiLeaks started rolling out Podesta’s stolen emails. After the emails were released, WikiLeaks sent Trump Jr. a searchable link of the emails. Trump Jr. tweeted that link two days later, on Oct. 14, 2016, The Atlantic noted.

The rest of the messages are one-sided, with WikiLeaks sending Trump Jr. messages through July 2017. They include praise for his father for mentioning them on the campaign trail, a plea to release Trump’s taxes to the site and advice on Election Day that Trump should not concede if he lost. One message suggested Trump encourage Australia to appoint Assange as U.S. ambassador.

In July, the Twitter account messaged Trump Jr. to ask him to give the site emails surrounding a meeting he and other Trump associates held with Russians during the campaign. Trump Jr. then released them himself.

Vice President Mike Pence responded quickly to the revelations, issuing a statement through his press secretary that he knew nothing about the situation.

“The vice president was never aware of anyone associated with the campaign being in contact with WikiLeaks,” said spokeswoman Alyssa Farah. “He first learned of this news from a published report earlier tonight.”

Assange tweeted after The Atlantic report that he couldn’t confirm the messages but then defended them after Trump Jr. released them.

“WikiLeaks appears to beguile some people into transparency by convincing them that it is in their interest,” Assange tweeted.

Democrats swiftly reacted to the report, saying Trump Jr. should provide more information. California Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, says it “demonstrates once again a willingness by the highest levels of the Trump campaign to accept foreign assistance.”

Schiff also pointed to Cambridge Analytica, a data firm that worked for Trump’s campaign and reached out to WikiLeaks before the election about obtaining emails related to Clinton, according to the company’s CEO.

Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said that panel should subpoena the documents and force Trump Jr. to publicly testify.

“There seems to be no reasonable explanation for these messages,” Blumenthal said.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley had said he would call Trump Jr. to publicly testify after the private interview in September. But negotiations over witnesses broke down last month amid disagreements with Democrats on the panel.

The House and Senate intelligence committees are also expecting to interview Trump Jr., but those interviews are expected to be behind closed doors.

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Associated Press writers Zeke Miller, Eric Tucker, Chad Day and Tom LoBianco contributed to this report.

Trump says Clinton team funding for Russia info ‘a disgrace’

October 26, 2017

By Eric Tucker
The Associated Press

Donald Trump

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump and fellow Republicans latched onto revelations tying Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign to a dossier of allegations about his ties to Russia. The president said Wednesday it was a “disgrace” that Democrats had helped pay for research that produced the document.

“It’s just really — it’s a very sad commentary on politics in this country,” Trump said in addressing reporters one day after news reports revealed that the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee, for several months last year, helped fund research that ultimately ended up in the dossier.

The document, compiled by a former British spy and alleging a compromised relationship between Trump and the Kremlin, has emerged this year as a political flashpoint. Law enforcement officials have worked to corroborate its claims. James Comey, FBI director at the time, advised Trump about the existence of the allegations, and the ex-spy who helped assemble the document, Christopher Steele, has been questioned as part of an ongoing probe into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump camp.

President Donald Trump has described as “sad,” reporting that says Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and the DNC helped pay for political research over his ties to Russia. Trump also insists there is “great unity,” within the GOP. (Oct. 25)

Trump has derided the document as “phony stuff” and “fake news” and portrayed himself Wednesday as an aggrieved party, posting on Twitter a quote he said was from Fox News that referred to him as “the victim.” The new disclosure about the dossier’s origins is likely to fuel complaints by Trump and his supporters that the document is merely a collection of salacious and uncorroborated claims.

“Well, I think it’s very sad what they’ve done with this fake dossier,” Trump said Wednesday, adding without elaboration that “they paid a tremendous amount of money.” He contended that Democrats had initially denied any connection to the document, but now, “they admitted it, and they’re embarrassed by it.”

AP Photo/Mikhail Metzel

Hillary Clinton and Vladimir Putin pictured together in 2012  AP Photo/Mikhail Metzel

Separately Wednesday, the editor of Wikileaks confirmed that his group was approached by Cambridge Analytica, a data firm working for Trump’s campaign during the 2016 election.

Julian Assange told The Associated Press that Wikileaks received a “request for information” from Cambridge Analytica. That request, which Assange would not specify, came prior to last November and was rejected. Assange’s comments came after The Daily Beast reported that Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix reached out to Assange during the presidential campaign about the possible release of 33,000 of Hillary Clinton’s missing emails. Those emails have never been publicly released.

A spokesman for Cambridge Analytica did not respond to a request for comment. Robert Mercer, a billionaire Trump supporter, is a backer of Cambridge Analytica. Former White House strategist Steve Bannon served as a vice president at the company before joining the administration.

Two people familiar with the newly disclosed dossier matter, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss confidential client matters, told AP the funding arrangement was brokered in the spring of 2016 by a law firm representing the Clinton campaign and the DNC and that it lasted until right before Election Day. The final memo included in the dossier, a version of which was published online by Buzzfeed in January, is dated December 2016, or after the arrangement had ended.

In March of that year, the person said, the law firm of Perkins Coie was approached by Fusion GPS, a political research firm that had already begun research work on Trump on behalf of an unidentified client during the GOP primary. Fusion GPS expressed interest in continuing to create opposition research on Trump, and Perkins Coie engaged it in April 2016 “to perform a variety of research services during the 2016 election cycle,” according to a letter from the law firm’s general counsel that was obtained by AP.

The identity of the original client has not been revealed, and one of the people who spoke to AP said the law firm did not know who it was. Trump, however, hinted Wednesday that he might know the identity and that it could eventually become public.

“I have one name in mind,” the president said.

 Image result for Robert Mueller, photos
A Sept. 4, 2013 file photo showing incoming FBI Director James Comey, right, talking with retiring FBI Director Robert Mueller at the Justice Department in Washington,D.C.

It’s unclear what Fusion GPS had dug up by the time the law firm hired it, or how much money was involved in the transaction. The Perkins Coie attorney who helped create the arrangement, Marc Elias, did not immediately return an email seeking comment, and representatives of Fusion GPS declined to comment. The Washington Post first reported the funding deal.

The Clinton campaign paid more than $5.6 million to Perkins Coie, recording the expenditures as simply “legal services,” according to Federal Election Commission records. The DNC also paid the law firm more than $2.9 million, nearly all of which was reported as “legal and compliance consulting.” The DNC did report paying the firm $66,500 for research consulting.

The new disclosure placed fresh attention on the world of opposition research and the techniques that political campaigns employ. Trump Jr.’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., received public scrutiny when it was revealed in July that he had met one year earlier with Russians at Trump Tower after being told he would be receiving damaging information on Clinton. In that case, publicly released emails show that Trump Jr. had been told the information was part of a Russian government effort to aid his father.

That June 2016 meeting is being investigated by Robert Mueller, the Justice Department’s special counsel leading an investigation into whether Trump campaign aides coordinated with Russia to influence the outcome of the election.

In a statement Tuesday night, a DNC spokeswoman said the chairman, Tom Perez, was not part of the decision-making and was unaware that Perkins Coie was working with Fusion GPS.

“But let’s be clear, there is a serious federal investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, and the American public deserves to know what happened,” the statement said.

Former Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon said on Twitter that he regretted not knowing about Steele’s hiring before the election, and that had he known, “I would have volunteered to go to Europe and try to help him.”

“I have no idea what Fusion or Steele were paid, but if even a shred of that dossier ends up helping Mueller, it will prove money well spent,” he wrote in another tweet.

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Associated Press writers Chad Day, Ken Thomas and Jill Colvin contributed to this report.

Russian Trolling of US Social Media May Have Been Much Greater Than We Thought

October 24, 2017

The latest revelations from inside Russia heighten concern over Moscow’s Internet “troll farm.”

 https://www.thenation.com/article/russian-trolling-of-us-social-media-may-have-been-much-greater-than-we-thought/
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Russia State News Outlet RT Thrives on YouTube, Facebook

October 24, 2017

U.S. intelligence labels RT a top Kremlin propaganda tool; social media’s open approach to content enabling unreliable and highly partisan content to reach large audiences

Google, Facebook Inc. FB -2.12% and Twitter Inc. TWTR -2.80% have spent months trying to ferret out covert Russian influence on their sites.

Meanwhile, RT, the Russian state news organization that federal intelligence officials call “the Kremlin’s principal international propaganda outlet,” uses Google’s YouTube, Facebook and Twitter as the main distributors of its content.

RT’s main English-language YouTube channel has amassed 2.1 billion views and 2.2 million subscribers, roughly the same figures as CNN’s primary YouTube channel. Fox News’s main channel has 600 million views. RT has drawn an additional 3.3 billion views across roughly 20 other channels, making it among YouTube’s most-watched news networks. YouTube, by running ads before RT’s videos, also gives the Russian-government outlet ad revenue.

Twitter named RT in a report last month on alleged Russian interference in the U.S. election, and the company noted that RT spent $274,100 to promote tweets to U.S. users. The Twitter dossier, submitted to a congressional committee investigation into Russian influence in the election, cited a federal intelligence report released earlier this year that claimed RT was a primary tool in Russia’s alleged efforts to swing the U.S. election toward President Donald Trump —a charge RT has denied. Yet RT maintains a thriving presence on Twitter with 10 million followers.

RT’s popularity on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter shows how the open approach of social-media companies can empower unreliable news sources—from government-backed propaganda outlets to conspiracy theorists to extremist groups. While the companies ban harassment, hate speech, the promotion of violence and other unsavory posts, they tend to allow unreliable, misleading and highly partisan content, as well as other content that falls in a gray area, in an effort to avoid accusations of censorship and to protect users’ free speech.

A screenshot from a Russia Today video posted on YouTube shows Russian President Vladamir Putin in Sochi, Russia, on Oct. 20. He has said if the U.S. acts against Russian media, a response will follow against U.S. outlets.
A screenshot from a Russia Today video posted on YouTube shows Russian President Vladamir Putin in Sochi, Russia, on Oct. 20. He has said if the U.S. acts against Russian media, a response will follow against U.S. outlets. PHOTO: RUSSIA TODAY

One former YouTube employee said YouTube managers are struggling with the site’s role in spreading RT’s content.

“There is definitely a lot of hand-wringing, but there’s also a lot of, ‘We have to protect this speech,’ ” the employee said.

YouTube’s policy chief, Juniper Downs, said at a conference this month that restricting content on YouTube has costs, including the infringement of free speech and the exchange of ideas.

“I don’t think we should tweak the way the entire system works in order to solve a very specific problem without thinking through the collateral damage,” she said.

YouTube, part of Alphabet Inc., GOOGL -1.94% said in a statement, “We have a wide variety of news channels available on YouTube that represent an array of viewpoints from across the political spectrum.” The company added that it removes videos that violate its policies.

Facebook and Twitter declined to comment.

RT, which called the intelligence report “a complete fail,” said in an email: “RT’s goal is, and has always been, to inform. The hysteria surrounding such mundane activities as RT’s social-media advertising of its content—something done by practically all news organizations—speaks to the establishment’s fear of losing the monopoly on information, and betrays a concerted effort to push RT out of the US market.”

Michael McFaul, a former U.S. ambassador to Russia who is now a political-science professor at Stanford University, said RT is “an instrument of Kremlin foreign policy and should be thought of that way.”

When Mr. McFaul toured RT’s Moscow newsroom as ambassador a few years ago, RT officials’ “proudest moment was where they are with YouTube,” he said.

Until a few weeks ago, YouTube included RT in its package of premium channels for advertisers, charging brands extra to advertise before RT videos. The company said its algorithm recently removed RT from the program, but it declined to say why.

YouTube says such premium channels are among the top 5% most popular content with young viewers. RT said in an email that the move was politically motivated and called suggestions its viewership is declining “patently absurd.” YouTube still runs ads before some RT videos, with YouTube and RT sharing the ad revenue.

Researchers say sites like YouTube and Facebook have boosted RT by helping years-old clips live on and recommending RT videos to viewers who have shown an interest in news sources outside the mainstream.

As a result, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter are now the battlegrounds for RT’s fight against Western influence. RT joined YouTube in March 2007 and uploads roughly 13 videos a day alone to its main English-language channel, according to Tubular Labs, which tracks YouTube data. Google News also includes RT stories, helping legitimize the site with readers.

The Russian government funds RT, which broadcasts in six languages, to spread its perspective to audiences outside Russia. In 2009, it changed its name from Russia Today and began boosting its presence in the U.S. with a Washington newsroom and cable and satellite carriage deals.

Unlike other government-funded news outlets, such as the U.K.’s BBC or the U.S.’s Radio Free Europe, researchers say RT is more overtly political, with a goal of undermining Western institutions and democracies.

In recent months, RT has faced more scrutiny in the U.S. In September, RT said the Justice Department asked a company affiliated with RT to register as a foreign agent. A bipartisan bill in Congress would broaden the foreign-agent-registration law to include RT. RT said the legislation is part of an attempt to eventually ban it from the U.S.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said last week that if the U.S. takes any steps to restrict Russian media, “a mirrored response will immediately follow” against U.S. news outlets in Russia.

The vast majority of RT’s YouTube videos are political, though some of its most popular are of natural disasters, such as a clip of a meteorite crash in Russia that drew 39 million views. Researchers and former RT employees say the outlet highlights conflict in the West, questions prevailing narratives in Western media and promotes conspiracy theories.

On Nov. 4, four days before the election, RT posted videos on YouTube of an interview with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Two of the videos—titled in part “‘Trump would not be permitted to win’ – Assange” and “‘Clinton & ISIS funded by the same money’ – Assange”—together have more than 3.4 million views.

Several times after the U.S. alleged the Russian-backed Syrian government used chemical weapons in the country’s civil war, RT has run segments questioning whether the regime was behind the attacks—or whether they even happened. RT says on its website, “We are set to show you how any story can be another story altogether.”

Mr. McFaul said tech platforms shouldn’t ban RT, but label its content as Russian propaganda. “We do this for the food we eat, for the movies we watch,” he said.

Google and Facebook have included some disclaimers around debunked stories but they haven’t labeled posts from state media.

Write to Jack Nicas at jack.nicas@wsj.com

Appeared in the October 24, 2017, print edition as ‘Russia Capitalizes on YouTube.’

https://www.wsj.com/articles/russia-state-news-outlet-rt-thrives-on-youtube-facebook-1508808937

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 (Conservatives blocked, Russians free to post…)

‘Macronleaks’: Hackers find flaw in French cyber-fortress — New York Times Blames U.S. Far-Right Activists

May 6, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File / by Michel MOUTOT | Emmanuel Macron’s campaign team says it put in place servers protected by sophisticated software filters, recommended the use of several encrypted messaging and cellphone networks, and required double and triple authentication to access emails

PARIS (AFP) – They knew months ago that top-of-the-range hackers had been targetting them. They believe their security measures, too, had been nothing short of top-rate. But, in the end, French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron’s team got hacked.

And on Friday night, just an hour before the end of official campaigning, thousands of documents including emails and accounts belonging to his En Marche! (On the Move!) movement were dumped online.

“It’s just incredible what’s happening,” said Belgian researcher Nicolas Vanderbiest, a specialist on online rumours, whose map showing how the “Macron Leak” propagated on Twitter has Wikileaks at the centre.

Macron’s campaign team says it put in place servers protected by sophisticated software filters, recommended the use of several encrypted messaging and cellphone networks, and required double and triple authentication to access emails.

It says it stored its information in multiple-partitioned cells, with databases separated like fortresses, accessible by passwords that were complex and regularly changed.

But a squad of shadowy hackers seem to have found the back door.

“In this kind of organisation the real potential faultline is the human element,” the head of computer services for En Marche! recently told AFP, requesting anonymity.

Because security procedures can become long and cumbersome, some people can be tempted to get around them by using personal email services which are little or badly protected.

– ‘en-nnarche.com’ –

On April 25, a report by Japanese cyber-security company Trend Micro, blamed a so-called “phishing” attack targetting the Macron campaign on Russian hacking group Pawn Storm, also known as Fancy Bears, Tsar Team and APT28.

The group, suspected of close links to the Russian security services, is also accused of having targetted the Democratic Party during last year’s US presidential election, in which Republican-backed Donald Trump defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton.

In this kind of attack, which does not require sophisticated resources, hackers can open up security gaps in software, for example during an update or through a so-called mirror site.

This would be something like “en-nnarche.com”, hoping that a user when reading quickly would mistake the “nn” for an “m” and fall into the trap, revealing access codes.

The principle of phishing, a classic arm in the hackers’ arsenal, is to send a large number of fake emails often containing infected attachments, hoping that a distracted recipient will click on one, creating a breach in the targetted system.

The gap is unlikely to show up immediately, and the loophole it generates may be exploited weeks or months later.

The Macron campaign reacted swiftly to Friday night’s data dump, saying it would take all measures necessary to shed light on the “unprecedented” incident.

But it did not seem overly worried by the substance of what had been leaked.

“Throughout the campaign, En Marche! has constantly been the party the most targeted by such attempts, in an intense and repeated fashion,” it said in a lengthy statement.

“The aim of those behind this leak is, all evidence suggests, to hurt the En Marche! party. Clearly, the documents arising from the hacking are all lawful and show the normal functioning of a presidential campaign.”

Senator Bazira Khiari, a national delegate for En Marche!, told AFP Saturday morning: “We were informed last night… We were just told to change our passwords”.

by Michel MOUTOT

Related:

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U.S. Far-Right Activists Promote Hacking Attack Against Macron

After months of trying to move the political needle in favor of Marine Le Pen in the French presidential election, American far-right activists on Saturday threw their weight behind a hacking attack against her rival, Emmanuel Macron, hoping to cast doubt on an election that is pivotal to France and the wider world.

The efforts were the culmination of a monthslong campaign against Mr. Macron after his candidacy began to gain steam this year, with digital activists in the United States and elsewhere regularly sharing tactics, tips and tricks across the English- and French-speaking parts of the internet.

It is unclear whether the leaked documents, which some experts say may be connected to hackers linked to Russia, will affect the outcome of the election on Sunday between Ms. Le Pen, the far-right candidate from the National Front, and Mr. Macron, an independent centrist. But the role of American far-right groups in promoting the breach online highlights their growing resolve to spread extremist messages beyond the United States.

“It’s the anti-globalists trying to go global,” said Ben Nimmo, a senior fellow of the digital forensics research lab at the Atlantic Council, a think tank, who has studied the far right’s recent efforts against Mr. Macron and others in France. “There’s a feeling of trying to export the revolution.”

The leak, which involved posting campaign documents like emails and accounting records to message boards, occurred late on Friday, hours before a legal prohibition on campaign communications went into effect across France. In response, Mr. Macron’s team said the hackers had included fake information alongside authentic material “to sow doubt.”

“Intervening in the final hour of the official campaign, this operation is clearly a matter of democratic destabilization, as was seen in the United States during the last presidential campaign,” Mr. Macron’s campaign said in a statement late on Friday, minutes before the communications prohibition went into effect.

Yet within hours after the hacked documents were made public, the hashtag #MacronLeaks began trending worldwide, aided by far-right activists in the United States who have been trying to sway the French vote in favor of Ms. Le Pen.

Jack Posobiec, a journalist with the far-right news outlet The Rebel, was the first to use the hashtag with a link to the hacked documents online, which was then shared more widely by WikiLeaks. Mr. Posobiec remains the second-most mentioned individual on Twitter in connection with the hashtag behind WikiLeaks, according to a review of the past 100,000 Twitter posts published since late Friday.

While there is no evidence that the breach against Mr. Macron’s campaign was organized by this loosely connected group of far-right campaigners, the American activists have been gathering on sites like 4chan and Discord, which were previously used to coordinate support for Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign.

One popular tactic, experts say, has been so-called Twitter raids, or efforts to hijack trending hashtags and topics on the social media site and inject far-right and anti-Macron propaganda.

A week before the second round of the French election, for instance, online activists, many from the United States and other English-speaking countries, flooded Twitter with coordinated anti-Macron memes — online satirical photos with often biting captions — carrying hashtags like #elysee2017 that were linked to the campaign. That included portraying him as a 21st-century equivalent of Marie Antoinette, the out-of-touch last queen of France, and other memes made allegations of an extramarital affair.

“They tried to bombard French Twitter with memes favorable to Le Pen,” said Padraic Ryan, a project coordinator at Storyful, an online marketing company that tracks social media activity around news events. “The campaigns are showing an increasing level of sophistication and coordination.”

Read the rest at the source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/06/world/europe/emmanuel-macron-hack-french-election-marine-le-pen.html?action=click&contentCollection=world&region=rank&module=package&version=highlights&contentPlacement=2&pgtype=sectionfront&_r=0

 

Think tank with ties to Putin reportedly had plans to sway election in Trump’s favor

April 20, 2017
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a joint news conference at the Kremlin in Moscow

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a joint news conference at the Kremlin in Moscow  (Reuters)

A Moscow-based think tank controlled by a Russian official appointed by President Vladimir Putin reportedly hatched a plan to increase Donald Trump’s chances to win the presidency.

Reuters, citing three current and four former U.S. officials, reported Wednesday that the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies provided a framework for top Russian officials on how to sway the U.S. election. Five officials told Reuters the institute is the Kremlin’s in-house foreign policy think tank.

The report said the think tank produced two documents. The first was released to the upper reaches of the Russian government, the report said.

The document reportedly said the Kremlin should launch a propaganda campaign on social media and Russian-backed news that stressed the point that the smart choice for president would be a candidate with a softer approach to Moscow.

The classified document called for state-backed news outlets to get the message out, the report said.

The think tank’s opinion on the approach apparently shifted by October, when Hillary Clinton appeared to be gaining distance on Trump. The second document said it would be best to increase its message on voter fraud and to attack Clinton’s reputation.

These documents were acquired by U.S. intelligence officials and were the basis of what led U.S. officials to blame Russia for meddling, the report said. The sources declined to comment on how the documents were obtained. Reuters reported that U.S. intelligence agencies also declined to comment on them. The report was not independently confirmed by Fox News.

The think tank said in a statement to The Tass Russian News Agency that the report is incorrect.

“Unfortunately, the number of slanderous remarks against Russia has been growing recently but those making such remarks wrongly perceive the world,” the center said.

Putin has denied any interference in the U.S. election, and Trump said the Kremlin’s activities did not play a role in the election outcome. There is no evidence thus far that Trump or his associates knew about Russia’s effort during the campaign. The FBI and lawmakers are investigating.

Trump recently said that U.S.-Russia relations “may be at an all-time low,” and that “right now we’re not getting along with Russia at all.”

The comment underscored long-standing difficulties that have plagued the two nations’ attempts at greater understanding since the days of their World War II alliance. The Cold War may be over, but from Eastern Europe to the Middle East, Washington and Moscow don’t see the world the same way.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Edmund DeMarche is a news editor for FoxNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @EDeMarche.

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/04/20/think-tank-with-ties-to-putin-reportedly-had-plans-to-sway-election-in-trumps-favor.html