Last year against the backdrop of President Obama’s sanctions announcement against Russia, we closely reviewed the “Russian Malicious Cyber Activity – Joint Analysis Report”. This December 2016 intelligence report (actual document below) is the report where the media talking points “17 intelligence agencies agreed” and the Russian “hacking of the election” began.
The report was released to coincide with President Obama kicking out Russian diplomats as punishment for the content therein. Everyone talks about this report, yet almost no-one talking about it has actually read it. WE HAVE.
President Obama’s administration released the ‘Joint Analysis Report’ which various politicians and media claimed to outline details of Russia’s involvement hacking into targeted data, computer systems, and political networks during the election.
Except it doesn’t.
Not even a little.
The “Russian Malicious Cyber Activity – Joint Analysis Report” (full pdf below) is pure nonsense. It outlines nothing more than vague and disingenuous typical hacking activity that is no more substantive than any other hacking report on any other foreign actor.
This report might as well be blaming Nigerian fraud phone solicitors for targeting U.S. phone numbers. Just because your grandma didn’t actually win that Nigerian national lottery doesn’t mean the Nigerian government, or representative of the Nigerian government were targeting grandma.
This FBI report is, well, quite simply, pure nonsense, that’s why NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers refused to endorse it.
[…] “And then you hear it’s 17 agencies. Well, it’s three. And one is Brennan and one is whatever. I mean, give me a break. They’re political hacks.”
“So you look at it — I mean, you have Brennan, you have Clapper, and you have Comey. Comey is proven now to be a liar and he’s proven to be a leaker.”
“So you look at that, and you have President Putin very strongly, vehemently says he had nothing to do with that. Now, you’re not going to get into an argument. You’re going to start talking about Syria and the Ukraine.”
But don’t take my word for it, read it yourself.
Here’s the “report“:
What the report does well is using technical terminology to describe common cyber activity. Example: “ATPT29” sounds looming, but really is Olaf, the imaginary round faced chubby guy probably working from his kitchen table; and “ATPT28” is his unemployed socially isolated buddy living in Mom’s basement down the street. But when put into technical terms they sound more alarming…. more colluding or something.
This paragraph is priceless in it’s humorous and disingenuous gobble-speak:
Both groups have historically targeted government organizations, think tanks, universities, and corporations around the world. APT29 has been observed crafting targeted spearphishing campaigns leveraging web links to a malicious dropper; once executed, the code delivers Remote Access Tools (RATs) and evades detection using a range of techniques.
APT28 is known for leveraging domains that closely mimic those of targeted organizations and tricking potential victims into entering legitimate credentials. APT28 actors relied heavily on shortened URLs in their spearphishing email campaigns. Once APT28 and APT29 have access to victims, both groups exfiltrate and analyze information to gain intelligence value.
These groups use this information to craft highly targeted spearphishing campaigns. These actors set up operational infrastructure to obfuscate their source infrastructure, host domains and malware for targeting organizations, establish command and control nodes, and harvest credentials and other valuable information from their targets.
(*note the emphasis I placed in the quote)
All that nonsense is saying is a general explanation for how hacking, any hacking, is generally carried out. This entire FBI report is nothing more than a generalized, albeit techno-worded, explanation for how Nigerians, Indians, or in this case Russians, attempt to gain your email passwords etc., nothing more.
However, what was alarming to consider was how far the various radical political ideologues, and the media, were willing to go to create a straw-man crisis for political benefit. Secondly how terribly diminished the integrity of the executive office of the U.S. presidency actually became amid this level of ridiculous propaganda.
There’s no doubt the intended outcome was to create internal confusion and begin selling a narrative to undermine the incoming President-elect Trump administration. No-one expected him to win; Trump’s victory sent a shockwave through the DC system the professional political class were reacting to.
Trump was a threat, an existential threat to their entire livelihood, and Trump won. Now the outgoing administration was in a state of panic; and the outlier co-dependent agents from that administration were similarly apoplectic with fear.
The outgoing administration needed to create something, some narrative, to block Trump from upending their entire political system. They sold this ridiculous Russian Narrative to a gullible U.S. left-wing electorate, because the Obama administration -writ large- knew media would help them and millions of people who will buy into these fabrications.
Consider the December 2016 example from a Yahoo News article:
[…] The US intelligence community has concluded that a hack-and-release of Democratic Party and Clinton staff emails was designed to put Trump — a political neophyte who has praised Putin — into the Oval Office. (link)
There was, and still is, absolutely no evidence the DNC was “hacked” (WikiLeaks claims the information was an inside job of “leaking”), and even John Podesta admitted himself he was a victim of an ordinary “phishing” password change scam.
Does hacking exist, of course it does. Do hackers exist in every country connected by the internet, of course they do. Do state governments participate in hacking offense and defense, again – yes, of course they do. And yes, the FBI and U.S. intelligence community act purposefully against all participants they can catch.
But what does that reality have to do with allegations that hostile Russian hackers attempted to gain entry into the DNC or John Podesta? Those were, and are, two entirely different issues which the Obama administration conflated simply for political and ideological purposes.
Here is an example of that conflated outcome… this is how the narrative was pitched. Again, consider the Yaho0 media paragraph (above) against the headline which accompanied the content:
It’s been almost a year, and to this date there is no-more evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 election than there was a year ago. Well, other than some ridiculous claims about Russian bots on Twitter (that did nothing), purchased Facebook advertising (to help Clinton), and CNN claiming that Pokemon Go was part of the Russian conspiracy.
This is ridiculous.
There is no evidence, even from the origin of the Joint Analysis Report, that Russia had any involvement or influence whatsoever in the 2016 election.
Yet there is mounting evidence the Clinton campaign were creating a Russian Conspiracy Narrative to try and undermine candidate Trump – but it wouldn’t work because the Trump people kept refusing to participate in the set-up.