Fierce competition surrounds the races for the Office of the President of the United States, as should be expected; however, campaigns over time have, more or less, narrowed negative campaigning to a short list of the opponent’s errors and flaws.
Through the years, the American public disapproved of hitting below the belt, even when morals and reason might otherwise demand it, because Americans, for the most part, have preferred to take the high road.
The Mueller Report details the crimes committed by thirteen Russian individuals and three Russian entities. Particularly Russian President Vladimir Putin’s friend Yevgeniy Viktorovich Prigozhin who reportedly funds the IRA and its operations, as well as the “specialists” engaged
in their ongoing Project Lakhta.
The primary mission of Project Lakhta is to influence foreign elections for their desired outcomes, of which they heavily acted in the 2016 US elections, were reportedly influencing the 2018 mid-term elections, and reportedly already preparing to sling more mud for our 2020 elections.
Indeed, for the U.S. 2016 elections, the IRA’s “active measures” established 470 Facebook accounts, 3,814 Twitter accounts, and later added 170 instagram accounts from which IRA employees, and their bot networks, managed and grew large audiences. They also paid for advertising on social media platforms to spread their smear campaign.
Two IRA employees—Anna Bogacheva and Aleksandra Krylova—were able to obtain visas, under false pretenses, and entered the U.S. on June 4, 2014 for intelligence gathering.
But the main components were military-based. Russian Military Unit 26165 implanted “X-Agent” and “X-Tunnel” malware with Mimikatz, a credential-harvesting tool on the DCCC and DNC networks. They installed rar.exe on DCCC’s document server so they could make the steal.
The Russian Military Unit 74455 separately hacked the DCCC and DNC, as well as email accounts of individuals affiliated with the Clinton Campaign, and was reportedly responsible for releasing the stolen anti-Clinton documents.
These releases were under the deception that only lone wolves were involved. The fictitious personas of DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 both used Julian Assange and WikiLeaks to publish and spread the stolen emails and 33 tranches of over 50,000 stolen documents.
The DNC, DCCC, and other entities did not have sufficient security in place at that time, as they did not understand there was any threat. Similarly, the social media platforms also made their exploitation too easy. Indeed, the IRA, in reported cooperation with the Russian military, took advantage of these admitted conveniences.
It is of note that no one has testified that the emails and documents were 100% unedited, untampered with from the moment of the steal to the time of release, a time frame in which the IRA and other entities possibly would have had access and opportunity to manipulate and fabricate content to further influence the 2016 U.S. elections to their desired outcome.
Indeed, during the Mueller investigation, security expert Erik Prince testified about how he had a cybersecurity specialist examine the anti-Clinton releases, and how that expert, in fact, discovered them to be inauthentic.
The use of theft, lies, and deception took enough people by surprise, but a significant number of people have learned from Russia’s interference and influence campaigns.
Throughout the history of U.S. elections, dirt on the opposition required extreme vetting, and this expectation by voters has not changed. Unaltered authenticity of information is now more on voters minds than ever.
The convenience factor has diminished. A significant portion of the public is now wiser, social media space has shifted, and Julian Assange is in custody.
Will the “lone wolf “cover stories work again? Who will cooperate in releasing any further stolen tranches? Will Putin’s political mudslingers trigger voter backlash? Any miscalculation of dirty campaign mudslinging by the Russians can backfire, expose them, or both.