“Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a deliberate campaign, carefully constructed, to undermine our elections”, Virginia Democratic Sen. Mark Warner said at the opening of the hearing at the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on Thursday.
The Senate Committee launched its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election, hearing from several expert witnesses.
Former FBI special agent Clint Watts, now with the George Washington University’s Center for Cyber & Homeland Security, told the committee that the investigation should move forward without delays because the Russians may now be trying to cover their tracks. “Follow the trail of dead Russians,” Watts said. “There’s been more dead Russians in the past three months that are tied to this investigation who have assets in banks all over the world”.
Watts told the lawmakers that one reason why the intervention by hackers from the FSB and the GRU, the two Russian intelligence agencies, worked, was the willingness by Donald Trump and his senior advisers to use Russian disinformation, which was disseminated by the nearly 1,200 websites (“trolls”) created by the FSB and the GRU to disseminate fake news to harm the Hillary Clinton campaign and help Trump win the election. “I can tell you right now, accounts tweet at President Trump during high volumes when they know he’s online and they push conspiracy theories,” Watts, the former FBI agent, told CBS News.
Trump and his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, perhaps unwittingly, embraced and promoted narratives, including false ones, which were helpful to Russian interests. CBS News reports that among the examples Watts pointed to were a fake story about a terrorist attack on the Turkish airbase at Incirlik, which is used by U.S. and NATO forces, and baselessly doubting the U.S. citizenships of Ted Cruz.
“On 11 October, President Trump stood on stage and cited what appears to be a fake news story from [the Russian government propaganda outlet] Sputnik News that disappeared from the internet. He denies the intel from the United States about Russia. He claimed that the election could be rigged – that was the number one theme pushed by RT, Sputnik News,” Watts testified.
FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: RUSSIAN MEDDLING, AN ACT OF WAR
Former Vice President Dick Cheney said Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S.presidential election could be considered “an act of war.” Cheney said there was “no question” that Vladimir Putin had attempted to influence the election outcome. “There’s no question there was a very serious effort made by Putin and his government, his organization, to interfere in major ways with our basic fundamental democratic processes,” Cheney said during a speech at a business conference in New Delhi, India.
“In some quarters, that would be considered an act of war. I think it’s a kind of conduct and activity we will see going forward. We know he’s attempted it previously in other states in the Baltics.
“I would not underestimate the weight that we, as Americans, assign to the Russian attempts to interfere with our internal political processes,” he added.
KREMLIN HAS BEEN IMPLEMENTING ACTIVE MEASURES SINCE COLD WAR
Kremlin utilized aktivnyye meropriyatiya during the US Presidential Campaign in 2016 openly implementing a number of techniques and strategies implemented during Cold War.
The United States seriously got involved in counteracting against the Soviet measures during Cold War only after Governor Ronald Reagan was elected as President launching Office to Counter Soviet Disinformation at the U.S. Information Agency.
Kremlin regularly implemented active measures but Comrade Mikhail Gorbachev confusing West with “his idea” of Perestroika and Glastnost exploited these techniques enormously.
After the end of Cold War a KGB defector, Soviet intelligence archivist Vasily Mitrokhin fully explained the scope and essence of the Soviet active measures revealing the definitions taught and implemented by KGB. “Agent-operational measures directed at the exerting influence on foreign policy and the internal political situation of the other countries [hostile towards Soviets – ed.] weakening the political, military, economic and ideological positions of capitalism, undermining its aggressive plans, in order to create conditions favorable to the successful implementation of the Soviet Union’s foreign policy, and ensuring peace and social progress”, Mr. Mitrokhin said.