The report details how Russia was suspected of using forgeries and planting history to destroy the west during the Cold War through influence operations rather than military force. And these tactics did not stop with the fall of the Berlin Wall. In fact, the social media and online anonymity cloak it offers alone has made it easier and potentially more effective for governments and bad actors to get involved in a similar book of dirty trick games – starting with the distribution of falsified or hacked documents on the Internet, to the creation of fake reporters until their promotion.
Jack Barsky, a former KGB spy living undercover in the US in the 1980s, explained how it was done back in his day in an interview with CNN Business last year.
The KGB will take great care to ensure a convincing falsification of a US government document, often with the aim of involving the US in something out of the ordinary and designed to confirm an existing conspiracy theory. This falsification would be given to a charming and unwanted reporter, sometimes from a vague exit to a wide corner of the world. It will be printed as news, and if the Soviets were lucky, they could eventually be picked up from the most established stores.
Oleg Kalugin, another KGB agent living in US secrecy, recounted in his book “Spymaster” how the KGB paid Americans to paint swastikas in synagogues in New York and Washington. This tactic had the potential to ignite tensions in the US and give the Soviet-controlled press a negative story to tell the Russians at home about their capitalist enemies.
In the decades since, our lives have moved largely online – and so have Russia’s disinformation and meddling efforts in US affairs.
In the initial work of the Atlantic Council and the online investigation firm Graphika, researchers showed how a suspected Russian group has distributed forged documents online over the years. These attempts included a fake letter claiming to be from a U.S. senator and another letter created to appear to come from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
The same Russian group is believed to have been behind a fake tweet from Senate Marco Rubio claiming that an alleged British spy agency was planning to disrupt the Republican candidates’ campaigns in the 2018 midterm elections. The fake tweet was caught and was falsely reported as true by RT, a Russian state-controlled news outlet. There is no evidence of coordination between RT and the Russian group that promoted the fake tweet, but RT did not issue a correction.
The Internet has not only made it easier for Russia to create forgeries, but also aids in their ability to distribute documents, forged or stolen.
This month, the British government said it was “almost certain” Russians sought to interfere in its 2019 election by leaking documents related to a UK-US trade deal on Reddit. The documents were held by Britain’s opposition Labor Party – aware of their origins – as the basis for allegations that UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson wanted to sell parts of the British National Health Service to US healthcare providers.
Russia’s hand in hacking and leaking emails related to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign was well established by the investigation and assessments of Special Council Robert Robert Mueller by the American intelligence community. In 2016, US news organizations, including CNN, reported details of many of the hacked emails. Critics argued that in doing so, news newspapers were helping hackers achieve their goal; the newspapers argued that the materials were in the public interest.
The Russian government denied its involvement in the hack.
If real reporters do not take this bait, the internet allows the creation of fake reporters. In 2016, the GRU – Russian military intelligence – used a fake person named “Alice Donovan”, found the investigation of Special Adviser Robert Mueller. The same person is believed to have posted articles on an independent American independent site.
And while Kalugin’s KGB comrades had to recruit Americans to lure swastikas to the synagogue, the internet allows for a more consistent and widespread form of pot promotion. In 2016, Russians posed as true American activists online, even recruiting unwanted Americans to help run protests and stunts in American cities over presidential elections and divisive issues like race. In one well-known case, Russian groups helped organize two opposing demonstrations that would take place simultaneously in the same place in Texas. Images resulting from events like these were used to further spread covert Russian campaigns.
Brush, floss, rinse, repeat. This game book is not one that is particularly difficult to imitate – and other groups are trying.
Indeed, the 1983 CNN report includes details about how the audio of an alleged call between then-President Ronald Reagan and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was, according to the US government, the work of the Soviets. The report showed how Reagan’s audio was cut from somewhere else and torn to make the counterfeit tape sound compelling.
But the following year, the British newspaper The Observer reported that Crass, a British punk rock band, had taken responsibility for the tape.
In the dark world of deception, misinformation about misinformation is not uncommon.
At the height of this summer nationwide protests over racial inequality in the US, a Twitter account claiming to be Antifa, a left-wing activist, called for violence on the streets of America. The account was held by President Donald Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., to support claims that Antifa is dangerous.
It later emerged that the account was not run at all by Antifa, but rather by white supremacists who apparently sought to sow chaos, as the Russians have long done.
These efforts essentially follow a long history of misinformation dating back far beyond what many people can realize, according to Thomas Reed, a professor of strategic studies at Johns Hopkins University.
Reid, who detailed the history of disinformation in his book Active Measures, told CNN that institutions have been engaged in disinformation campaigns for centuries and that many of the deceptive tactics used by the KGB and now used online precede the Union. Soviet.
He warned that there is currently a culture of mistrust in key institutions – the main conditions for the spread of misinformation. Coupled with technological developments that facilitate the creation and dissemination of forged documents and fake news, it is almost, he said, a “perfect storm”.