Buzz kill: Tech giants struggle to find ‘Russian meddling’ in written answers to US Senate

The Senate (Select) Intelligence Committee holds a hearing on “Social Media Influence in the 2016 US Elections.” November 1, 2017.

Twitter, Facebook and Google had a hard time providing evidence of “Russian meddling” on social media, transcripts from the US Senate show. However, they did shockingly reveal that RT America had purchased ads aimed at Americans.

On Friday, the US Senate Intelligence Committee released answers provided by Twitter, Facebook and Google in response to questions concerning Russia’s alleged meddlesome use of social media in the devious pursuit of uprooting American democracy.

The Senate’s questions included breathless demands that the tech giants explain why Edward Snowden and Julian Assange are “allowed” to use their services, as well as more mundane requests, such as asking Google if it can confirm crackpot rumors spread by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. However, it turns out the questions were considerably more sensational and accusatory than the tech giants’ responses, which in some cases even raised doubts about the narratives being promoted by the US government and media outlets.

Why does Twitter allow people like Snowden & Assange to have accounts? – curious senator

Tom Cotton, the Republican senator from Arkansas, had by far the most colorful questions for the three tech giants. During his thorough interrogation of Twitter, he asked whether the company’s terms of service prohibit “collaboration with Russian intelligence services to influence an election.” (Twitter reassured the good senator that exerting “artificial influence on an election [is] likely to violate any number of Twitter’s rules and policies.”)

But Cotton’s best moment came when he demanded “justification for allowing entities and individuals such as WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, and Edward Snowden to maintain Twitter accounts.”

Twitter very delicately informed Cotton that “we do not bar controversial figures from our platform or prohibit accounts from posting controversial content … So long as those accounts remain in compliance with our policies, we do not take action against their Tweets or suspend them from the platform.” Undeterred, Cotton asked these same questions to Facebook – and received very similar answers.

RT America bought ads that… ‘focused on’ Americans

In one of the more underwhelming revelations disclosed by the tech giants in the newly-released documents, Twitter reported that “of all of RT’s ad campaigns, 11 were targeted exclusively at English-language speakers, and several others—including all of @RT_America’s seven campaigns—used geographic targeting to focus on US users.”

Twitter also revealed that it had identified nine accounts as being “potentially linked to Russia that promoted election-related, English-language content.” Of these nine nefarious accounts “potentially linked” to Russia, “the most significant use of advertising was by @RT_com and @RT_America. Those two accounts collectively ran 44 different ad campaigns, accounting for nearly all of the relevant advertising we reviewed,” according to Twitter. Once again, Twitter forgot to mention that it pitched a proposal for RT to spend huge sums on advertising for the US presidential election – an offer which RT declined.

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However, there is little doubt that before RT was banned from buying Twitter ads, RT America “targeted”Americans.

Facebook can’t trace ‘Russian disinformation campaign’

Senator Mark Warner of Virginia asked Facebook if it could confirm that it was “alerted” by Ukrainian activists and politicians about Russian trolls peddliMOSKALng disinformation on its platform. Unfortunately, Facebook’s response rained on Warner’s anti-Russia parade.

The social media giant explained that most of the “disinformation” reported by Ukrainians was nothing more than Russians calling Ukrainians “khokhol” (a common derogatory term). Facebook also said it received reports of Ukrainians calling Russians “moskal” (another mundane ethnic slur). In some cases, the slurs were deemed hate speech and removed, in accordance with the site’s Community Standards. Facebook was apparently unable to recall any other “Russian misinformation” reported by Ukrainian authorities.

Google questions ‘Ukrainian artillery hack’

In one of many Russia-gate Hail Marys lobbed by Tom Cotton, the Intelligence Committee pressed Google to comment on reports that Russia used malware implanted on Android devices to track Ukrainian artillery units, suggesting that “Russia is not only using your platforms to influence elections, but to gain an advantage on the front lines of a battlefield.”

The question backfired spectacularly, with Google responding“We are aware of this report and we, although [sic] with others in the industry, have questioned its accuracy.”

The company cited, as one example, that the alleged malware at issue was never distributed through Google’s Play Store.

Scroll on, Russia’s not targeting your FB

Senator Kamala Harris was interested to learn about the types of targeting criteria – “such as demographic, behavioral, lookalike, or email matching” – allegedly used by Russia for its “information operations.” Again, Google’s response did not exactly launch a thousand ships.

“$4,700 of ads attributable to suspected state-sponsored Russian actors were not narrowly targeted to specific groups of users: for example, we found no evidence of targeting by geography (e.g. certain states) or by users’ inferred political preferences (e.g. right or left-leaning),” Google responded. The company added that it was “unaware of any inauthentic accounts linked to Russian information operations flagged by our users.”

Editor’s note: A subheading has been changed to more accurately reflect Tom Cotton’s question for Twitter.

GOP demand #ReleaseTheMemo on ‘shocking’ FISA abuses

Republican lawmakers demand the public release of a classified memo detailing Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act abuses under the Obama administration. The move comes as lawmakers reauthorized government surveillance powers.

The House Intelligence Committee passed the motion introduced by Rep. Peter King (R-New York) Thursday. The measure was voted on along party lines, with all Democrats voting against the motion to make the classified report available to all House members.

“I viewed the classified report from House Intel relating to the FBI, FISA abuses, the infamous Russian dossier, and so-called ‘Russian collusion.’ What I saw is absolutely shocking. This report needs to be released –– now. Americans deserve the truth. #ReleaseTheMemo,” Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina said Thursday night about the 4-page memo, reported New York Daily News.

Congressman Meadows was joined by other lawmakers who saw the memo, and who are pressing for its public release. The hashtag #ReleaseTheMemo has gone viral on social media.

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Intercept journalist Glen Greenwald weighed in to tell conservatives they were falling for a fraud.

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Florida Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz believed people could lose their jobs after the memo is released.

“I believe the consequence of its release will be major changes in people currently working at the FBI and the Department of Justice,” said Gaetz, as quoted by Fox News.

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Weighing in was lone Democrat Representative Adam Schiff (California), the ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, called the report “a profoundly misleading set of talking points drafted by Republican staff attacking the FBI and its handling of the investigation.”

“Rife with factual inaccuracies and referencing highly classified materials that most Republican Intelligence Committee members were forced to acknowledge they had never read, this is meant only to give Republican House members a distorted view of the FBI,” Schiff said, according to The Hill.“This may help carry White House water, but it is a deep disservice to our law enforcement professionals.”

House Oversight Committee member, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) told Fox News it should be released because it doesn’t reveal sources or methods and that it shows “how this whole collision thing was going on during the campaign.”

Florida Republican Rep. Ron Desantis called the memo “deeply troubling” in interviews on Fox News.

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The House vote came the same day the Senate voted 65-34 to reauthorize a FISA provision that allows US spy agencies to conduct surveillance on foreign targets abroad for six years. The bill, already passed by the House, is now heading to the White House where President Donald Trump has said he will sign it into law.

An irony not lost on whistleblower and former NSA intelligence analyst, Edward Snowden

“If this memo had been known prior to the vote, FISA reauth would have failed. These abuses must be made public, and @realDonaldTrump should send the bill back with a veto,” Snowden said in a tweet Friday.

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Kremlin plot? Russia critics ridiculed for claiming Moscow is behind Chelsea Manning’s Senate run

Anti-Russia conspiracy theorists have developed another outlandish claim, stating that Moscow is behind Chelsea Manning’s Senate bid, since she’s taking on an incumbent who is against so-called “Russian aggression.”

US whistleblower Chelsea Manning confirmed her bid for a Senate seat for the state of Maryland on Sunday, releasing a campaign video alongside a tweet which simply stated: “Yup, we’re running for Senate.”

Manning says she’s running because “we need someone willing to fight… we need to stop expecting that our systems will somehow fix themselves.” But that reason seems too straightforward for those who apparently believe that everything related to US politics is somehow tied to Russia.

Taking to Twitter on Saturday, foreign policy and strategy consultant Molly McKew called Manning’s decision to run “a little too convenient,” noting that she is running against Senator Ben Cardin, who is “one of [the] most active senators on foreign policy and [a] leader in making policy/legislation to respond to Russian aggression.”

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In a separate tweet, she referenced Manning’s whistleblowing and the apparent motive behind it. “The agent of a foreign power coerced this individual, leveraging their emotional distress, into breaking their oath to the country and disclosing classified secrets.” 

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If McKew’s remarks seem hard to comprehend, that’s perfectly understandable. If you need them to be interpreted, it all boils down to the same old line: Russia did it. That’s right. Russia is responsible for Manning’s whistleblowing, and Russia is somehow behind her decision to run for office.

Her statements were called out by Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who helped make Edward Snowden’s whistleblowing a reality. “One of the media’s favorite Russia-obsessed ‘experts’ didn’t even wait an hour before depicting Chelsea Manning’s Senate candidacy as a dastardly Kremlin plot,” he tweeted. He went on to call out the “demonstrable, obvious falsehoods about Manning’s motives & WikiLeaks’ role” which McKew wrote about in her second tweet.

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But McKew isn’t alone in her bold statements. A person by the name of Josh Manning, whose Twitter account says he is a civil rights investigator and something to do with “Army intel,” seems to believe the same.

“Senator Cardin authored and released a 200-page masterpiece on Russian influence in western elections. Suddenly he has a primary from Kremlin stooge Assange’s Wikileaks primary source Chelsea Manning. The Kremlin plays the extreme left to swing elections. Remember that,” he wrote.

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Greenwald also chimed in on Josh Manning’s tweet. “Oh my God: This is how deranged official Washington is. The president of the largest Dem Party think-tank (funded in part by dictators) genuinely believes Chelsea Manning’s candidacy is a Kremlin plot. Conspiracy theorists thrive more in mainstream DC than on internet fringes.”

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So there you have it. Chelsea Manning is running for US Senate, and it’s all Russia’s fault. Stay tuned for other US political developments and more claims on how the Kremlin is allegedly responsible for them.

Dobbs, Fitton – Corruption Permeates FBI, DOJ – No Case Solved Since Fast and Furious

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By Rick Wells

Lou Dobbs points out that Fusion GPS, the opposition research and creative writing company that Democrats hired to do compile dirt on President Trump and which created the discredited Trump Russia dossier is fighting back against Congressional subpoenas.

Dobbs describes the lawyers representing the Fusion scumbags sarcastically as “noble” in their arguments that, “The House Intelligence Committee is acting in bad faith,” and threatening to “plead the Fifth Amendment and refuse to testify.”

Dobbs also references thirty documents related to the Bill ClintonLoretta Lynch tarmac meeting that the FBI had previously claimed didn’t exist but that a similar suit for information from the DOJ revealed, through their correspondence with the FBI, actually did exist.

He asks if perhaps Judicial Watch was being lied to when the FBI told them the documents didn’t exist earlier this year, and discusses that point and others with Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. Fitton says he doesn’t think the changing story at the FBI was an oversight or an honest mistake, saying, “I think we caught them, we caught them red-handed, and now they’ve had to fess up to the documents.”

Dobbs says, “This sort of tell you what the problem is. The American people have a government that is corrupt. The American people have a government, and it’s not necessarily because someone takes money, although I’m sure there’s lots of that, but is so politicized it’s politically corrupt and ideologically corrupt.”

Dobbs asks when will the documents be forthcoming and “will there be words actually still on the pages when you get them?” Fitton replies, “Well, that’s the big question. The government says they need up until November 30th to turn the documents over to us.”

An outraged Lou Dobbs jumps in, “Thirty pages, they can’t read thirty pages in less than a month and a half.” Fitton takes a turn at the sarcasm saying that the new FBI Director, the good old boy who has been a Mueller – Comey crony for decades, Christopher Wray, “might want to ask questions about what went on here.”

He says, “The idea they didn’t know they had documents just strains credulity. And this is why Wray and Jeff Sessions, to the degree he’s not recused, because he may be recused from this, I don’t know, Rod Rosenstein, whoever the responsible official is needs to take a look at this.”

“This is a fundamental question, “says Fitton, “of whether we can trust our nation’s law enforcement agency, the FBI and the Justice Department, not to break the law and not to be dishonest.  We’re in the middle of a court case here and they tell us they don’t have documents.”

He says, “You know, what are we supposed to do, go to the court every time saying the FBI is lying? We’ve got to rely on the FBI and the Justice Department to tell us the truth from time to time.”

Dobbs asks why the “people should have any other belief about the FBI now than that’s where investigations go to die?” He says, “I can’t think of a major scandal that has been resolved by the investigation of the FBI, can you Tom?”

He continues, “I’m talking about going back to Fast and Furious, you name it, they never reach a conclusion. Benghazi, they never reach a conclusion, there’s never a report, this is something rancid and wrong at Justice.”

Fitton adds the IRS scandals to the list of unresolved claims and says, “Especially when the Justice Department or the FBI are implicated in the scandals, you’re never going to get the truth or it’s going to be difficult to do so

He cites an example, saying, “Just last week we’re asking for the Comey memos, we sued for the Comey memos that he supposedly wrote. The Justice Department came in and said  we can’t have one of them, any of it, because it would interfere with Mueller’s investigation.”

He adds, “So now this Justice Department is working with Mueller to keep information that Comey leaked to the New York Times away from the American people, unbelievable.

Dobbs gets the last word, noting, “And the Republican Senate leadership and the Republican House leadership haven’t got the guts to say ‘enough’ and end it now.”

One case they solved was Edward Snowden – likely because they feared he had the goods on them.

COMEY LIED TO CONGRESS ABOUT NSA MASS SURVEILLANCE OF U.S. CITIZENS

Citizens include Donald Trump and Alex Jones

| Infowars.com – JUNE 7, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The decision of a federal court to take the case of former contractor Dennis Montgomery advances the story Infowars.com reported in March that the National Security Agency illegally conducted surveillance of potentially millions of citizens for years, with a database that suggests both Donald J. Trump and Alex Jones were under unauthorized government monitoring.

On Tuesday, Circa.com reported the federal district judge who has already ruled that some of the NSA’s data collection on American citizens violates the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment, agreeing to hear the case of Montgomery, a contract officer turned whistleblower who gave to the FBI 47 hard drives of highly classified documents.

Circa.com further reported on Tuesday that FBI agents interviewed Montgomery on video tape for several hours and collected the hard drives.

On May 4, 2017, Circa.com also reported that the Obama administration, in President Obama’s final year in office, “significantly expanded efforts to search NSA intercepts for information about Americans, distributing thousands of intelligence reports across government with the redacted names of U.S. residents during the midst of a divisive 2016 presidential election.”

As Infowars.com reported in March, Montgomery first turned over files from the 47 hard drives in 2013, to Sheriff Arpaio in Maricopa Co., Ariz., who at that time was conducting a cold case posse investigation into the authenticity of the computer birth certificate Barack Obama made public on April 11, 2011.

Michael Zullo, formerly the commander and chief investigator of the Cold Case Posse (CCP), a special investigative group created in 2006 in the office of Joseph M. Arpaio, formerly the sheriff in Maricopa Co., an Arizona State Certified Law Enforcement Agency, headquartered in Phoenix, Ariz., provided the database to Infowars.com.

The electronic surveillance database, provided to Zullo by Montgomery in 2013, was apparently created by the NSA as part of the NSA’s illegal and unconstitutional Project Dragnet electronic surveillance of U.S. citizens, first revealed by news reports published in 2005, as further documented by the revelations of whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013.

Sheriff Arpaio and Chief Investigator Zullo confirmed to Infowars.com that there were in the Montgomery NSA database dozens of entries at various addresses, that included Trump Tower in New York City and Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida.

These records suggest Donald Trump was apparently under NSA electronic surveillance from 2004, during President George W. Bush’s term of office, through 2009, the first year of President Obama’s presidency.

After additional search of the Montgomery files, Zullo also confirmed that Alex Jones had been under NSA surveillance during the same years.

At issue is whether former FBI James Comey lied to Congress when he testified under oath to the House Intelligence Committee on March 20, 2017, that after an exhaustive investigation, he could find no records to indicate the Obama administration had placed Donald Trump under NSA electronic surveillance.

While Montgomery’s credibility has been called into question, Zullo maintained to Infowars.com that the amount of information provided by Montgomery related to Operation Dragnet was extraordinarily voluminous and that Montgomery had shared information with investigators in 2013 that will be the subject of his forthcoming federal district court case.

Trump: Surveillance & unmasking under Obama administration is ‘big story’

Donald Trump says the “unmasking and surveillance” of people under the Obama administration is “the big story,” just one day after subpoenas were issued over the naming of Trump campaign officials in classified reports while Obama was still in office.

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“The big story is the ‘unmasking and surveillance’ of people that took place during the Obama Administration,” US President Trump tweeted on Thursday.

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It comes just one day after the House Intelligence Committee issued three subpoenas which seek information about how and why the names of Trump associates were revealed and distributed within classified reports by Obama administration officials during the transition period after the election – a process known as “unmasking.”

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The three subpoenas – issued to the CIA, FBI, and National Security Agency (NSA) – explicitly name three top Obama-era officials: Susan Rice, who served as White House national security advisor, former CIA Director John Brennan, and former UN ambassador Samantha Power.

The subpoenas ask the agencies to provide details of any requests made by the three individuals to “unmask” the names of Trump’s associates, congressional sources told Reuters on Wednesday.

The names of US citizens who are caught up in incidental surveillance are protected by law. Very few exceptions are made to unmask them, even within classified material.

Meanwhile, the “surveillance” referred to in Trump’s tweet likely refers to the president’s claims that Obama wiretapped Trump Tower during the 2016 presidential campaign, and the revelations by NSA contractor-turned-whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013, which revealed the agency’s widespread surveillance techniques.

Four additional subpoenas were issued on Wednesday, relating to alleged Russian meddling in the presidential election. The requests were issued to former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen, and the law firm Michael D. Cohen & Associates PC, according to Representatives Mike Conaway (R-Texas) and Adam Schiff (D-California).

WannaCry XXL? 2nd even bigger global cyber attack already underway

As the world reels from the WannaCry ransomware attack, it’s now emerged that a second, potentially larger attack, is already under way. It seems the widespread proliferation of military-grade cyberweapons has ushered in a new era of digital crime.

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Cyber bandits have again deployed both the EternalBlue and DoublePulsar exploits developed and used by the NSA which were released by the ShadowBrokers hackers back in April.

“Initial statistics suggest that this attack may be larger in scale than WannaCry, affecting hundreds of thousands of PCs and servers worldwide: because this attack shuts down SMB networking to prevent further infections with other malware (including the WannaCry worm) via that same vulnerability, it may have in fact limited the spread of last week’s WannaCry infection,” wrote a security researcher who goes by the alias Kafeine at cybersecurity company Proofpoint.

This latest attack uses the two exploits to install the cryptocurrency miner Adylkuzz over corporate Local Area and wireless networks but, rather curiously, may actually have helped slow the spread of WannaCry.

READ MORE: Ransomware virus plagues 100k computers across 99 countries

However, in an apparent case of “picking your poison,” the Adylkuzz miner dramatically slows PC and server performance as it extracts cryptocurrency but it does not lock users out of their machines and data, as WannaCry did.

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Researchers at Proofpoint estimate that the Adylkuzz attack may have begun as early as April 24 but was subsequently overshadowed in the hysteria that followed the WannaCry ransomware attacks.

The attack is launched from multiple virtual private servers which scour the internet for vulnerabilities to install the Adylkuzz miner.

The malware infection occurs as follows:

The EternalBlue exploit opens the door for infection with DoublePulsar on a target machine. DoublePulsar then downloads and runs Adylkuzz on the computer.

Adylkuzz then stops any preexisting versions of itself on a target machine, while also blocking SMB network communications with other machines to prevent any further malware infections from disrupting its operations. It initially prevents cybersecurity professionals from identifying that there is a problem.

Once the door has been held open and detection risks have been minimized, Adylkuzz then downloads mining instructions, the cryptocurrency miner itself and a variety of cleanup tools to mask its activities.

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While the term cryptocurrency is typically associated with Bitcoin, Adylkuzz actually mines Monero, a similar but more heavily encrypted digital currency. Monero recently saw a significant uptick in usage after it was adopted in the AlphaBay market on the Dark Web.

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As with other cryptocurrencies, Monero expands in market cap through self-proliferation via digital mining. One monero is roughly equivalent to $27 at current exchange rates.

During its research, Proofpoint identified three addresses which had already generated $7,000, $14,000 and $22,000 respectively, before being shut down.

To cover their tracks, whoever is behind the attack regularly changes the online payment address to avoid attracting too much attention.

As in the case of the WannaCry attack, hackers have leveraged the NSA’s weaponized exploits of legacy Microsoft operating systems to infect hundreds of thousands of machines worldwide with malware. Since the Shadow Brokers’ leak of these NSA exploits there have been two high profile attacks with many more expected in the future.