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Thursday, February 15, 2018


What lies behind the DNI warning that "the Russians are coming in 2018"?

Earlier this week, the heads of the FBI, CIA, and NSA testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee, along with DNI head Dan Coats. They were testifying about the latest DNI report about "threats to the United States" but here's the interesting thing. The report is 28 pages long, and covers a wide variety of threats (or perceived or alleged threats). But virtually all the news coverage of that event focussed on just three paragraphs out of those 28 pages, the paragraphs which dealt with predictions (no evidence, mind you!) of Russian interference in the upcoming 2018 elections. Below is a selection of coverage from Google News and also the front page (above the fold!) from the San José Mercury News, showing the prominence this aspect of the story received. And of course this is just the print coverage; the same was echoed in broadcast coverage. Every broadcast I watched (several channels) featured this and only this aspect of the hearing; BBC World News featured a minutes-long interview with Leon Panetta on the subject.

Now part of this emphasis was due to the fact that questioning, particularly by Democrats, focused on that, but it's also because of the media's own predilections. Among other things, they wouldn't want you reading or viewing or listening to RT or Sputnik or TeleSUR and realizing there are other points of view, other information you aren't getting from reading the Times or Post or watching CNN.

So what was said? Coats claimed that the “U.S. is under attack by cyber [sic] to penetrate nearly every major action that takes place in U.S.” Quite a statement. How does he define that "penetration"? He's not talking about hacking. No, rather “Propaganda, social media, false flag personas, sympathetic spokesmen”. In other words, he's talking about free speech. Including mine.

This is the perfect time to recall the previous DNI report, the infamous one from last January which started the public allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 election. That report contained 2 pages of "background", 2 pages of "summary", 5 pages of the actual report (consisting entirely of evidence-free claims like "We assess with high confidence that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election", and then 7 pages of an Annex (written in 2012!) describing the supposedly nefarious functioning of Russian-funded broadcaster RT. That is to say, of the "meat" of the report, a whopping 58% of the report was actually devoted to describing the actions of RT (and their actions four years before the 2016 election at that)!

And what kind of accusations were hurled at RT in that Annex? They "aired shows that overwhelmingly focused on criticism of US and Western governments." They "broadcast, hosted, and advertised third-party candidate debates" and dared to suggest that "the US two-party system does not represent the views of at least one-third of the population." They "aired a documentary about Occupy Wall Street." They "allege widespread infringements of civil liberties, police brutality". They ran "anti-fracking programming, highlighting environmental issues and the impacts on public health". They were "a leading media voice opposing [illegal] Western intervention in the Syrian conflict."

Are you sensing a pattern? This is what Dan Coats is talking about when he talks about Russian "propaganda." These are the kind of discussions the U.S. government would dearly love to suppress from the media, and if they can stigmatize (or even outlaw) foreign outlets like RT and Sputnik (and, no doubt, TeleSUR as well), and brand anyone voicing similar ideas (guilty as charged) as "sympathetic spokesmen", they will have achieved their aim. They're not concerned with the 2018 election, that's just a cover story. Their real concern is our free speech, and the crimp it puts on their actions.

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