In response to the establishment media’s contrived ‘fake news’ crisis designed to marginalise independent and alternative media sources of news and analysis, 21WIRE is running its own #FakeNewsWeek awareness campaign, where each day our editorial team at 21st Century Wire will feature media critiques and analysis of mainstream corporate media coverage of current events – exposing the government and the mainstream media as the real purveyors of ‘fake news’ throughout modern history…
21st Century Wire
Did Russian intelligence sway the outcome of the 2016 United States presidential race? Ask the CIA and mainstream Western media organs, and they’ll have you believe that yes, it was none other than Moscow’s shadowy operatives who managed to infiltrate Donald Trump into the newly gold-bedecked Oval Office. Blame the Russians, our betters declare, rather than a year of skewed coverage and loaded polls. While the theory has become popular among opposition to the new administration, it is based on exactly zero evidence – which means we should designate it under the establishment’s own rubric as “fake news.”
To bolster the charge, the US Intelligence Community (of Iraq WMD fame) has released a public report intimating that Vladimir Putin “hacked the election.” Through cyberwarfare, agents of influence and information campaigns, we are told, the Kremlin pulled off the unthinkable and effectively ran a regime-change operation in America. Warmongering neoconservatives and virtue-signaling liberals alike commenced their reenactment of Red Dawn. Piling on, CNN and Buzzfeed unveiled a sloppy, error-ridden and highly dubious dossier detailing Trump’s alleged Russian ties and sexual blackmail material (kompromat). None of these claims have been backed by a shred of credible proof presented to the public, so why should they be taken as an article of faith?
The more historically literate among purveyors of the Trump-Russia fantasy will point to the Soviet KGB’s use of “active measures” and disinformation as instruments of influence. Indeed, Soviet intelligence could boast a distinguished record of such programs all the way back to 1923, when the Bolsheviks formed a joint committee, the Disinformation Bureau, that developed and executed deception campaigns to aid specific policy goals. Contrary to the wild stories of defectors like Anatoly Golitsyn, these operations did not comprise some grand strategy to trick the West into embracing the joys of Marxism-Leninism. Rather, they were focused on concrete objectives, such as inflating data on Soviet defense capabilities, concealing military advantages, or obtaining economic concessions in international trade deals. A declassified document from the Disinformation Bureau outlines its main tasks:
• “A record of intelligence, flowing both to the GPU [successor service to the Cheka] and the Intelligence Directorate [Red Army] and other institutions, on the degree to which foreign intelligence services are informed about Russia;
• An accounting and characterization of intelligence that interests the opponent;
• Detecting the degree to which the opponent is informed about us;
• Composition and technical production of an entire series of false intelligence and documents giving the opponent an incorrect conception about the internal situation in Russia, on the organization and state of the Red Army, on the political work of leading Party and Soviet organs, on the work of the NKID [People’s Commissariat of Foreign Affairs], etc.;
• Carry out supplying the opponent with the aforementioned materials and documents through corresponding organs of the GPU and Intelligence Directorate;
• Development of a series of articles and notes for the periodical press; prepare the ground for the release of various fictitious materials into circulation and present them in each individual case for review by one of the secretaries of the Central Committee.”[i]
During the Cold War, Service A within the KGB’s First Chief Directorate (Foreign Intelligence) was dedicated to the arcane arts of deception, propaganda and influence campaigns[ii], all of which today would be classified under the term information warfare. Its wily progenitor, Major General Ivan Agayants, was a legend in the KGB for his erudition and sophisticated planning.[iii] Service A operated in five basic spheres: political; economic; scientific-technical; military; and counterintelligence. And in contrast to other units, its leadership had a comprehensive view of the secret war:
“Service A was the only element of the KGB (outside of the Information Analysis Directorate) to be routinely given copies of reports coming in from secret sources throughout the world. In fact, Agayants and Kondrashev – on a strictly personal basis – were given (by hand) information gleaned from the most sensitive of these sources: deciphered foreign communications, moles inside Western governments, and microphones in Western installations (although in a format concealing the identity and often even the general nature of the source).”[iv]
Disinformation programs in the political realm were directed at furthering Moscow’s foreign policy objectives – whether increasing friction amongst NATO allies, undermining the dominant US strategic role in Western Europe or discrediting anti-Soviet politicians. Documents and other evidence, real, altered or forged, could be fed to friendly journalists who would publish the damaging exposés. Agayants’ successor, Lieutenant General Sergei Kondrashev, knew well that the truth was often the KGB’s most potent weapon:
“An “active measure” – for example, the public release of documents of facts embarrassing a hostile Western government or statesman – may or may not involve “disinformation” – distortion, concealment, invention, or forgery. In practice, Kondrashev found that actions based on truth had greater impact. The distinction became clear when an officer would propose such a measure and Kondrashev would ask, “How much disinfo (deza) is in it?””[v]
Economic active measures were deployed to the benefit of the Soviet state – such as playing the gold markets through the officially sanctioned release of false data. Bogus scientific information on industrial and defense technologies, meanwhile, was fed through double agents to the CIA so that US defense concerns would waste vast sums on non-viable projects. Another cell coordinated with the USSR General Staff in strategic concealment – maskirovka. And in the arena of counterintelligence, KGB Service A was able to deceive its adversaries in order to protect high-priority assets and moles who had burrowed their way deep into Western spy services.[vi]
In one form or another, Service A is likely still a component of the KGB First Chief Directorate’s contemporary successor, the SVR. Yet the continuing presence of a deception capability, now augmented by cyberwarfare, simply does not translate to the claim that Russia “hacked the election.” The closest pundits and government officials have to come to any kind of logical scheme of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential elections has been the assertion that Wikileaks, activist Julian Assange’s one-stop shop for hard evidence of government malfeasance, is a Kremlin front. This charge, however, has been shown to have no origin in reality. Former UK Ambassador Craig Murray, who has admitted to acting as a courier for Wikileaks, stated that the source for the explosive revelations from Democratic Party servers was an American whistleblower. Rather than functioning as the link in some Russian conspiracy, in all probability Wikileaks has been acting as a clearinghouse for compromising files supplied by dissident factions within the US Deep State.
Brace yourself for a shock: every great power spies. Russian intelligence remains unmatched in classical espionage (rivalled only by the Israelis and British) and fields an impressive cyberwarfare arm. Active intelligence collection in no way presupposes massive covert action, though, especially when not an iota of actual proof has been offered – spurious allegations by “unnamed sources” and the anti-Hillary editorial slant of Moscow outlets RT and Sputnik don’t qualify.
If anyone is known for hacking elections, it’s Lubyanka’s archenemy in Langley. Since its postwar inception in 1947, the CIA has covertly intervened in other nations’ elections and engineered coups with regularity in the service of multinational corporate interests. Rent-a-mobs and swarming technologies; bribery; assassinations; Color Revolutions; “freedom fighters;” financing wars and political campaigns through drug trafficking; and endless propaganda – all are sure favorites from the set list of the Company’s World Democracy Tour. From Iran, Guatemala, and Congo to Libya, Syria, and Ukraine, the CIA has blazed a path of subversion and destruction without parallel in the historical record. As the Congressional record made clear in 1975, the Agency admitted to running hundreds of well-paid assets occupying key editorial positions in American print, television and radio to shape public opinion under a program fittingly codenamed “Operation Mockingbird.” How’s that for fake news?
In attempting to undermine Trump, the CIA has now openly intervened in American politics, with none of the subtlety of Kennedy’s execution in Dealey Plaza. The nation is descending into McCarthyism 2.0. CIA auxiliaries in the media are denouncing those who question official wisdom – or dare advocate peaceful and productive relations between Russia and the United States – as ‘Putin’s agents,’ including even the US president.
While this contrived scandal will eventually flame out, the real-life Great Game continues unabated. In late January, Russia’s FSB (Federal Security Service) arrested three cyber security experts, including two from their own ranks. FSB officers Sergei Mikhailov and Dmitry Dokuchaev, along with Kaspersky Labs employee Ruslan Stoyanov, are reportedly being held under suspicion of having worked for Washington. Might this be the conclusive smoking gun that proves Russia ‘hacked’ the US election? Considering historical context and the fact that nothing presented so far by the US Intelligence Community would corroborate its claims, the possibility is low. Rather, whatever sources and methods the CIA presented in whirlwind briefings to a slew of US policymakers – who are determined to advance the “Russian meddling” trope – were likely ferreted out by the SVR and promptly delivered to Lubyanka. The CIA’s globalist brass may have thus blown their agent network in Moscow – thanks to a deception campaign they themselves unleashed.
We can only wonder what scenario of carnavalesque intrigue our masters will concoct next as the establishment narrative kaleidoscopes into absurdity.
[i] Sluzhba vneshnei razvedki. Istoriia rossiiskoi vneshnei razvedki: Ocherki: Tom II: 1917-1933 gody. Moscow: Mezhdunarodnyie Otnosheniia, 2014.
[ii] Founded in 1959, the KGB First Chief Directorate’s disinformation unit was originally designated Department D (for disinformation). In 1966 it was upgraded to Service A. Komitet gosudarstvennoi bezopasnosti. “Otdel D – Sluzhba A.” http://shieldandsword.mozohin.ru/kgb5491/structure/1GU/A.htm
[iii] Sluzhba vneshnei razvedki. Istoriia rossiiskoi vneshnei razvedki: Ocherki: Tom V: 1945-1965 gody. Moscow: Mezhdunarodnyie Otnosheniia, 2014.
[iv] Bagley, Tennent. Spymaster: Startling Cold War Revelations of a Soviet KGB Chief. New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2013.
Author Mark Hackard is an independent foreign policy analyst, and founder and editor of Soul of the East. He earned a BA in Russian Language from Georgetown University and an MA in Russian, Eastern European and Eurasian Studies from Stanford University. He studies the intersection of political culture, religion and strategic issues, which he approaches from a traditionalist-conservative position. Some of his major influences are Joseph de Maistre, Juan Donoso Cortes, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Rene Guenon and Fr. Seraphim Rose.
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