America, having been deceived, unilaterally disarmed on information – ideology front (which is one and the same), and now she reaps the grim harvest of this negligence and misreading of this historical circumstance.
The War of Ideas is a clash of opposing ideals, ideologies, or concepts through which nations or groups use strategic influence to promote their interests abroad. The “battle space” of this conflict is the target population’s “hearts and minds“, while the “weapons” can include, inter alia, think tanks, TV programs, newspaper articles, the internet, blogs, official government policy papers, traditional as well as public diplomacy, or radio broadcasts.
U.S. News & World Report–Oct 12, 2017
The Hill–Oct 12, 2017
Common Dreams–Oct 12, 2017
Sputnik International–Oct 12, 2017
Highly Cited–Politico–Oct 12, 2017
New York Daily News–Oct 9, 2017
New York Post–Oct 9, 2017
Bloomberg–Oct 9, 2017
Newsweek–Oct 10, 2017
Highly Cited–Washington Post–Oct 9, 2017
Highly Cited–Axios–Oct 12, 2017
Featured–The Atlantic–Oct 12, 2017
CNBC–Oct 4, 2017
In-Depth–Daily Beast–Oct 4, 2017
In-Depth–Sacramento Bee–Oct 5, 2017
The War of Ideas is a clash of opposing ideals, ideologies, or concepts through which nations or groups use strategic influence to promote their interests abroad. The “battle space” of this conflict is the target population’s “hearts and minds“, while the “weapons” can include, inter alia, think tanks, TV programs, newspaper articles, the internet, blogs, official government policy papers, traditional as well as public diplomacy, or radio broadcasts.
But shrinking budgets, questions about the agency’s mission and a lack of oversight by the part-time Broadcasting Board of Governors limited Mr. Ensor’s ability to overhaul the agency, according to interviews with current and former officials and to numerous government audits. In addition, much of the agency’s programming is duplicated by other government broadcasters, like Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, wasting money that the Voice of America could use.
As a result, critics say, the agency has been slow to cover major breaking news and even slower to respond to propaganda from other countries, particularly Russia. On Wednesday, the House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing on Russian propaganda and the American government’s difficulty in responding effectively.
Some public policy experts and Voice of America officials say the overarching problem is that Congress and the White House have not clearly defined the role of the agency in America’s public diplomacy.
“U.S. international broadcasting is not taken into account at any level of the government when strategy dealing with the national interest and foreign policy is being put together,” said S. Enders Wimbush, a former member of the Broadcasting Board of Governors.
“They give lip service to international broadcasting, but it’s an afterthought.”
A report Mr. Wimbush helped write, based on interviews with more than 30 public diplomacy experts, said government international broadcasting should be “rebuilt from the ground up” so that it is fully aligned with foreign policy objectives. The report was financed by the Smith Richardson Foundation, a Connecticut-based group that provides grants to conservative causes but also to centrist and liberal organizations like the Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute.
Founded in 1942 as a part of the Office of War Information, the Voice of America started with a goal of countering Nazi and Japanese propaganda. It was widely credited with helping to end the Cold War by providing unfiltered news to dissidents and countering communist propaganda in the Soviet Union and Soviet-backed countries.
But the agency has been in decline since that time, pulled between providing credible news and supporting American policy. In 2013, Hillary Rodham Clinton, then the secretary of state, said that the Broadcasting Board of Governors was “practically defunct in terms of its capacity to be able to tell a message around the world.”
And in the Facebook and Twitter era, some have even asked if the Voice of America, whose budget is about $200 million a year, is still relevant.
Mr. Ensor pointed to a string of successes during his time at the agency. It has expanded its reach through social media and mobile and has created new television programming in Russian, Ukrainian, Persian, Mandarin, Burmese and Creole, among other languages. According to survey data prepared for the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the Voice of America’s international radio, television and online audience has reached 172 million people a week, an increase of 49 million during his tenure.
“The V.O.A. is keeping itself renewed and refreshed to face the challenges of today’s fast-changing media environment,” said Mr. Ensor, who added that his resignation was not related to uncertainties on the board.
Obama administration officials said the Voice of America and its sister agencies were vital to the nation’s diplomatic efforts.
“Given the challenges we have on a number of different fronts, from ISIS to Boko Haram, broadcasters like the V.O.A. are an important piece of what we are trying to do across the government,” said Richard A. Stengel, the under secretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, who represents Secretary of State John Kerry on the board of governors. “We need to have as much as we can out there trying to blunt the messages of these groups.”
Despite the criticism and resignations, board officials said they were forging ahead with plans to move the Voice of America more aggressively into digital media and to step up its efforts to counter propaganda.
“There is a narrative out there that this agency is broken,” said Robert Bole, the director of global strategy for the board of governors. “I can assure you that it is not.”
Still, many lawmakers remain unconvinced. The House Budget Committee recommended reducing funding to the board and its networks until “significant reforms” were made.
And House lawmakers plan to reintroduce legislation that would revise the Voice of America’s charter to state explicitly that the agency has a role in supporting American “public diplomacy” and countering propaganda from other countries. The bill, which is opposed by journalists within the agency, passed the House last year, but the Senate did not take it up.
“Let’s fix the agency and create opportunities with the existing budget to get more resources to the field,” said Representative Ed Royce, Republican of California and chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which has legislative oversight of the Voice of America.
“We don’t need to keep throwing more money at a bloated, ineffective bureaucracy.”
WASHINGTON — Two U.S. government-funded news outlets are launching a global Russian-language TV network aimed at providing an alternative to slick, Kremlin-controlled media that critics say spread propaganda and misinformation.
Current Time, run by Prague-based Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty with help from Washington-based Voice of America, is targeting Russian speakers across the globe with round-the-clock programming intended to offer the type of fact-based news that its leaders say is sorely missing in the Russian market. The network formally launched this week after quietly starting operations last year.
“In a complicated world, it can be difficult to tell what’s real. But Current Time tells it like it is,” a narrator says in a flashy promotional video for the network. “Current Time serves as a reality check, with no ‘fake news’ or spin.”
The network, beamed into Europe via cable, satellite and online, reflects an American attempt to diminish the dominance of what the U.S. government has long warned is a growing Russian propaganda machine, epitomized by state-run outlets like Sputnik and RT, formerly known as Russia Today. The U.S. and others have raised concerns that such outlets distort Russians’ perceptions about their government while drowning out the limited sources of independent news available to Russian audiences.
The U.S. intelligence report on Russian hacking called RT part of “a Kremlin-directed campaign to undermine faith in the U.S. Government and fuel political protest.”
Speaking to CBS News’ Elizabeth Palmer last month, RT Editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan dismissed the intelligence report and doubled down on her criticism of America.
“In your own words: ‘The U.S. lacks democracy and has no right to teach the world.’ What was that all about?” Palmer asked her.
“The U.S. has made a lot of mistakes all over the world. Look at Iraq,” Simonyan said. “The country that makes such mistakes do not have the moral right to teach the world.”
Alexey Kovalev used to work for Russia’s state news service, but is now with the independent paper the Moscow Times. He told Palmer the Kremlin’s goal is clear:
“To bring down the West to same level as Russia, and to show that your institutions are as sham as ours and your press isn’t free,” Kovalev said. “Your politicians are all liars and crooks like ours are.”
If the propaganda works, said Palmer, Russians, especially young Russians, will lose their faith in democracy and stop agitating for political change, and young Americans will lose faith in their country and its institutions media, too.
The Russian Embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment on the launch of Current Time.
Current Time’s executives say that despite the network origins within a wing of the U.S. government, offering balanced, accurate information is a far different mission than what Kremlin-run news outlets seek to do.
“This is not designed as propaganda or counter-propaganda,” said Tom Kent, president of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. “We do not intend to be involved in reacting to an agenda set by anyone, in Russia or elsewhere.”
Still, the undertaking unavoidably plays into the roiling debate in the U.S. about President Donald Trump’s flirtations with a more conciliatory approach to Russia. Trump has emphasized the advantages of a more cooperative U.S.-Russia relationship while leaving open the possibility the U.S. could roll back penalties imposed on Russia for its actions in Ukraine.
Current Time, on the other hand, broadcasts a weekly show called “Crimea Realities” and another called “Donbass Realities.” The Obama administration’s sanctions were enacted after Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine, and the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine remains at the heart of the conflict between Kiev and Russia-backed rebels.
Those two shows join an eclectic mix of documentaries, human interest programming and traditional news shows that fill the network’s 24-hour schedule. There’s also a fact-check show, “See Both Sides,” that occasionally challenges Kremlin-fueled messaging more directly.
Roughly six hours per day are live news broadcasts, including an hour-long show broadcast from Washington and another from Prague. The network’s leaders said showing news events such as the U.S. inauguration live, rather than on tape delay, had proven a particularly effective way to assure audiences that what they are watching is truthful and undistorted.
The two outlets behind Current Time, RFE/RL and VOA, are U.S.-funded broadcasters whose mission is to support free speech and democracy around the world. They broadcast in dozens of languages but have their roots in Cold War efforts by the U.S. to present alternative viewpoints to audiences in the Soviet Union and its satellite states.
Both RFE/RL and VOA have long had Russian-language programming targeting viewers in specific countries, but Current Time marks a new attempt to market broadly to Russian speakers wherever they live.
In much of Europe – including former Soviet states with large Russian-speaking populations – Current Time has negotiated contracts with local cable providers that allow viewers to tune in from their home TVs. In Russia, distribution is more difficult, forcing perspective viewers to watch via satellite, web-TV apps or a live-feed on the network’s website.
Special counsel Robert Mueller and multiple congressional committees are looking into allegations that there was collusion between Russian operatives and Trump associates during the presidential campaign and transition.
On May 17, 2017, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to lead an investigation into Russian interference and related matters that could result in criminal prosecutions.
March 29, 2016 – Paul Manafort, a veteran GOP consultant, joins the Trump campaign as a strategist to help prepare for the Republican National Convention.
June 3, 2016 –
Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr.
a music publicist whose clients include Azerbaijani-Russian singer Emin Agalarov. Goldstone tells Trump Jr. that a Russian lawyer, working on behalf of the Kremlin, wants to pass along incriminating information about Clinton. He explains that Russia and its government want to support Trump by providing opposition research on Clinton. Trump Jr. indicates he is interested in seeing the information and suggests arranging a call.
June 7-8, 2016 – Goldstone sends Trump Jr. another email about setting up an in-person meeting with a “Russian government attorney” who will be flying from Moscow to New York on June 9, to talk to representatives from the Trump campaign at Trump Tower in New York. Trump loops in campaign manager, Paul Manafort and campaign adviser, Jared Kushner.
June 12, 2016 –
During an interview on British television,
says that the website has obtained and will publish a batch of Clinton emails.
August 14, 2016 –The New York Times publishes a report
that $12.7 million in illegal cash payments to Manafort were listed in a secret ledger linked to former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who resigned amid street protests. Manafort had worked as an adviser to Yanukovych and his associates dating back at least a decade.
October 6, 2016 – DCLeaks, a self-described collective of “hacktivists” seeking to expose the influence of special interests on elected officials, publishes a batch of documents stolen from Clinton ally Capricia Marshall. DCLeaks is later identified as a front for Russian military intelligence.
December 1, 2016 –Kushner and Flynn meet with Kislyak at Trump Tower.
Kushner later describes the encounter as a quick introduction, pushing back on a Washington Post report that the three talked about establishing backchannel communication with the Russians.
January 6, 2017 –
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence releases a
on Russian meddling.
hackers did not breach voting machines or computers that tallied election results but Russians meddled in other ways. Putin ordered a multifaceted influence campaign that included spreading pro-Trump propaganda online and hacking the DNC and Podesta. Bracing for a possible Clinton win, Russian bloggers were prepared to promote a hashtag #DemocracyRIP on election night. Paid social media users, aka “trolls,” shared stories about Clinton controversies to create a cloud of scandal around her campaign.
June 8, 2017-
Comey testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee, describing his interactions with Trump dating back to a security briefing with Trump on January 6, 2017.
he says Trump asked him to affirm his loyalty during a private dinner. Comey also describes a private conversation with Trump during which the president told him “I hope you can let this go,” referring to the FBI’s investigation into Flynn.
The meeting first came to light when Kushner filed a revised version of his security clearance application in June 2017. He omitted the meeting on previous versions of the form. When news of the meeting first breaks, Trump Jr. issues a statement explaining that the primary topic of discussion was resuming an adoption program for Russian children. Trump Jr. also says that he did not know the name of the individual he was slated to meet. Further New York Times reporting reveals, however, a chain of emails in which Trump Jr. is promised damaging information about Clinton from Russian government sources, a revelation that contradicts his initial statement. Minutes before the New York Times publishes its story about the misleading statement,
The tweets are coupled with a statement in which Trump Jr. says the meeting was short and uneventful, as Veselnitskaya failed to deliver opposition research as promised.
The surveillance started during an FBI investigation into Manafort’s work in Ukraine and was discontinued for lack of evidence at some point in 2016. After the FBI began looking into election interference, investigators resumed collecting Manafort’s communications and continued through the early days of the Trump administration. Both rounds of surveillance receive approval from the secret court that oversees FISA warrants. After taking office, the president spoke to Manafort repeatedly until lawyers for both men told them to stop, according to CNN.
September 20, 2017 – The New York Times reports
that Mueller’s team is seeking White House documents divided into 13 categories covering such areas of interest as Comey’s firing, an Oval Office meeting between Trump and Russian officials, and the crafting of Trump Jr.’s initial statement pertaining to the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting.
LONDON — Paul Manafort, a former campaign manager for President Donald Trump, has much stronger financial ties to a Russian oligarch than have been previously reported.
An NBC News investigation reveals that $26 million changed hands in the form of a loan between a company linked to Manafort and the oligarch, Oleg Deripaska, a billionaire with close ties to the Kremlin.
The loan brings the total of their known business dealings to around $60 million over the past decade, according to financial documents filed in Cyprus and the Cayman Islands.
Manafort was forced to resign from the Trump campaign in August 2016, following allegations of improper financial dealings, charges he has strenuously denied. He is now a central figure in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Investigators have said they are looking into Manafort’s financial ties to prominent figures in Russia.
According to company documents obtained by NBC News in Cyprus, funds were sent from a company owned by Deripaska to entities linked to Manafort, registered in Cyprus.
Manafort’s spokesman, Jason Maloni, declined to give specific answers about the loans, but released a statement to NBC News saying, in part, “Mr. Manafort is not indebted to former clients today, nor was he at the time he began working for the Trump campaign.”
He later revised the statement, removing that sentence entirely. It now reads: “Recent news reports indicate Mr. Manafort was under surveillance before he joined the campaign and after he left the campaign. He has called for the U.S. Government to release any intercepts involving him and non-Americans in hopes of finally putting an end to these wild conspiracy theories. Mr. Manafort did not collude with the Russian government.”
Manafort and Maloni have received subpoenas from Mueller to supply documents and testimony in the case.
Deripaska was described in a 2006 U.S. diplomatic cable as “among the 2-3 oligarchs Putin turns to on a regular basis.”
NBC News reported in June that the business relationship between Deripaska and Manafort began in 2007. According to The Wall Street Journal, they worked together to further Russian interests in Georgia.
Manafort then went on to spend nearly a decade working as a consultant for a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine.
The NBC News investigation shows that $26 million was transferred from Oguster Management Ltd. — which is wholly owned by Deripaska, according to a disclosure filed at the Hong Kong Stock Exchange — to Yiakora Ventures Ltd. Yiakora, according to Cyprus financial documents, is a “related party” to Manafort’s many interests on the island, a financial term meaning that Manafort’s interests have significant influence over Yiakora.
The investigation also confirms a smaller loan of just $7 million from Oguster to another Manafort-linked company, LOAV Advisers Ltd., a figure first reported by The New York Times. Company documents reviewed by NBC News reveal the entire amount was unsecured, not backed by any collateral.
The $7 million loan to LOAV had no specified repayment date, while the $26 million loan to Yiakora was repayable on demand. It’s not known if either sum has ever been repaid.
Lawyers specializing in money laundering said the loans appeared unusual and merited further investigation.
“Money launderers frequently will disguise payments as loans,” said Stefan Cassella, a former federal prosecutor. “You can call it a loan, you can call it Mary Jane. If there’s no intent to repay it, then it’s not really a loan. It’s just a payment.”
The documents go on to reveal loans of more than $27 million from the two Cyprus entities to a third company connected to Manafort, a limited-liability corporation registered in Delaware.
This company, Jesand LLC, bears a strong resemblance to the names of Manafort’s daughters, Jessica and Andrea.
Jesand was used to buy a $2.5 million condo in New York in 2007, according to a New York City public document. In August 2017, according to another document, Jesand then obtained a loan of more than $1 million dollars against that property.
Using LLCs to purchase real estate is not necessarily illegal but is considered by money-laundering experts to be a potential red flag.
The $33 million uncovered by NBC News wasn’t the only set of transactions between the two men to pass through Cyprus. According to a related court case, Deripaska invested another $26 million in a private equity fund earmarked for a Ukrainian telecommunications company.
The legal filing states Deripaska transferred the money through yet another Cypriot company, and claims that Manafort wanted the investments structured as loans “so as to avoid the unnecessary occasioning of Cyprus taxation.”
Highly placed government sources in Cyprus said that the island’s police — following an official request by U.S. authorities this past summer — are still gathering evidence in this case and have yet to hand it over to American investigators.
In the midst of the frenzy of trying to determine how Russia influenced the US elections through buying ads on Facebook, The San Diego Union Tribune reminds us that basically everyone—including the US government—can buy ads on the platform to push their agenda.
Carl Prine, an investigative reporter at the paper, writes that in two campaigns between 2011 and 2016, US agencies spent nearly $60,000 on ads intended for Russian-language speakers, according to government spending records. The bulk of that amount was promotion for Voice of America (VOA), the country’s government-run news outlet whose primary audience is overseas. The rest went toward publicizing the American consulate in the city of Yekaterinburg—both very different efforts than the Russian ads that were reportedly designed to stoke tensions in election swing states.
In the last eight years, the US government, including the State Department and aid agency USAID, bought more Facebook ads in Russia than in only four other countries: Indonesia, Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan.
VOA, launched during World War II as a response to Nazi propaganda, has struggled over its identityas a news outlet in recent years. When the Trump administration took the reins, staffers voiced concern over becoming a mouthpiece for the president’s agenda.
Earlier this year, VOA, along with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty launched Current News, a 24/7 news network in Russian, as America’s answer to the widely-consumed Russian government-run network RT and online platform Sputnik. Comparatively, the American efforts have a much smaller reach. VOA, long criticized for being ineffectual at countering Russian propaganda, can’t place its content in Russian news outlets, so it operates on a “digital first strategy,” according to its website. Current News is not carried by Russian cable providers, and is only available by satellite, The Economist reported when the channel first launched.
It’s unclear how well Facebook ads can drive traffic to VOA’s content. Facebook is dominated in Russia by its domestic copy-cat VKontakte, which according to some counts has twice the number of users, and is controlled by Russia’s richest man and Kremlin ally. What’s more, the Russian media regulator threatened recently it would shut down Facebook if it didn’t start storing Russian user data on domestic servers.
News18–8 hours ago
Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard–4 hours ago
Highly Cited–Business Insider–19 hours ago
New York Daily News–Oct 9, 2017
Newsweek–Oct 10, 2017
New York Post–Oct 9, 2017
Highly Cited–Washington Post–Oct 9, 2017
In-Depth–TechCrunch–Oct 9, 2017
Highly Cited–Axios–Oct 12, 2017
Featured–The Atlantic–Oct 12, 2017
Foreign Policy (blog)–4 hours ago
The Independent–Oct 12, 2017
In-Depth–Daily Beast–Oct 4, 2017
Blog–Baltimore Sun (blog)–Oct 6, 2017
In-Depth–Sacramento Bee–Oct 5, 2017
In-Depth–HuffPost–Oct 4, 2017
Opinion–The San Diego Union-Tribune–Oct 4, 2017
Blog–<a href=”http://Tampabay.com” rel=”nofollow”>Tampabay.com</a> (blog)–Oct 4, 2017
Refinery29–16 hours ago
Highly Cited–CNNMoney–22 hours ago
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In September 2016, North Korean intelligence services stole a huge batch of classified US and South Korean military plans — including a plan to assassinate North Korea’s dictator Kim Jong Un and other top government officials.
Yet this was not the stuff of an old-school John Le Carré spy novel, with shady figures in trenchcoats exchanging documents at a dark rendezvous spot in the woods. North Korea’s data theft was done entirely through computer systems.
According to a South Korean politician, last fall North Korean hackers gained access to South Korea’s Defense Integrated Data Center and stole 235 gigabytes of classified military plans. Two plans in particular stand out: One was a plan for how to respond to an attack on South Korea by North Korean commandos. The other was the plan for what’s called a “decapitation strike,” or an operation that would specifically target Kim and other key government officials loyal to the regime. But the full depth of what was stolen is still unknown.
The fact that we’re only just now learning of the extent of the burglary, more than a year after it happened, is a testament to North Korea’s immense cyber capabilities.
But wait a second — how did an impoverished country like North Korea end up with such impressive hacking abilities? And are they really that impressive? Or is our information just really easy to steal?
It turns out that while we’ve been (understandably) focused on North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, the country has been quietly developing another powerful tool — a selection of malware and malicious code, a veritable cyberweapon cache.
How did North Korea pull it off?
North Korea is one of seven nations generally regarded as “cyberpowers” — countries with the ability to mess around in the information systems of other countries. (Besides North Korea, the major cyberpowers are the United States, Russia, China, the United Kingdom, Iran, and France.)
In 2014, North Korean hackers conducted a major operation against Sony in the United States in retaliation for the Sony Pictures film The Interview, a Seth Rogen and James Franco comedy depicting a fictional assassination of Kim Jong Un — a cyberattack that some political commentators labeled an act of war.
This latest hack of the military documents worked through human error. As the Wall Street Journal reports, the North Korean hackers first gained access to a South Korean company that makes the antivirus software used by the South Korean military. That compromised antivirus software provided a path for North Korean hackers into South Korean military computers.
Normally, the military database they hacked, working on a secured intranet, would be safe from compromise — but a contractor working at the data center left a cable in place that connected the military intranet to the internet, allowing the North Korean hackers to access the database of sensitive documents.
That connection remained in place for more than a year, and wasn’t detected until September 2016. North Korean state media has denied involvement in the attack, claiming instead that South Korea made up the whole thing.
How did a country like North Korea develop such impressive cyber capabilities?
Computer scientists are the key to creating and maintaining new cyberweapons, but there’s also a great deal of reverse-engineering that goes on. For instance, in 2012, Iran used cyber tools to wipe and render useless 35,000 computers at Saudi Aramco, one of the world’s biggest oil companies. The tools Iran used in the Saudi Aramco attack were largely modifications of tools that had attacked Iran, now redesigned for different targets.
“[For] everybody, once your code gets out on the internet, it’s possible that someone else can intercept copy and modify for their own use,” says Bob Gourley, co-founder of the security consultancy firm Cognitio and veteran of the intelligence community.
“North Koreans might be borrowing code they saw in a Russian attack,” Gourley says, but that “doesn’t mean Russians and North Koreans are collaborating. [It] just means they saw that code and modified it or they may be modifying code of some hacker or some criminal groups.”
“Everyone starts to build upon other people’s exploits,” he adds.
But North Korea has the smallest economy of all the cyberpowers, with a GDP estimated at somewhere between that of Vermont and Wyoming. How, then, can it so effectively fund the kinds of computer scientists needed to maintain such a potent cyber capability?
Part of the answer has to do with the nature of the North Korean economy itself. The North has what’s known as a “command economy,” which means that the central government basically controls every single aspect of the economy, including the production and distribution of goods and services.
As a result, the regime is able to direct as many resources as it wants to military programs within the country, like its nuclear project and its cyber program, even in the face of strict foreign sanctions.
The other reason is that North Korea’s cyber division actually makes a lot of money on its own, thanks to the country’s willingness to have its military programmers engage in straight-up crime.
“There are remarkable similarities between North Korea and an organized crime group,” says William Carter, deputy director of the Technology Policy program at the Center for Strategic and International Security, a Washington think tank.
For instance, Carter says, North Korea’s cyber division “used a pretty sophisticated scheme to send false payment orders through the Swiss [banking] network and got hundreds of millions of dollars transferred out of the banks of Bangladesh, the Philippines, Vietnam, Ecuador, and others and into accounts controlled by North Korean government.”
When your hackers are bringing in that kind of cash, paying their salaries becomes a whole lot easier.
Why would North Korea launch cyberattacks?
While North Korean attacks and intrusions make headlines, it’s safe to assume that all countries with the capability to do so are actively watching and tracking and spying on the cyber capabilities of other countries. So it’s not the use of cyber itself that sets North Korea apart from other nations.
“The challenge is that North Korea’s objectives are a lot about being able to lash out,” says Michael Sulmeyer, director of the Cyber Security Project at Harvard’s Belfer Center, “and they’re also limited in other ways they could insert themselves, cut off from so much of the global economy.”
With an army focused on the South, a navy that is limited in reach, and an air force oriented towards defense, North Korea’s main ways to threaten countries beyond its immediate borders are with missiles or with cyber intrusions.
Having a robust hacking capability means that Pyongyang can attack those who make both fictional depictions of Kim Jong Un’s assassination and actual military plans for such an event. Kim inherited not just his father’s nuclear program but his grandfather’s intense paranoia, and the whole orientation of the regime is built around ensuring his survival.
Kelsey Atherton is a defense technology journalist based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He can be found on Twitter at @athertonkd.
Donald Trump is a self-help apostle. He always has tried to create his own reality by saying what he wants to be true. Where many see failure, Trump sees only success, and expresses it out loud, again and again.
“We have the votes” to pass a new health care bill, he said last month even though he and Republicans didn’t then and still don’t.
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“We get an A-plus,” he said last week of his and his administration’s response to the devastating recent hurricanes as others doled out withering reviews.
“I’ve had just about the most legislation passed of any president, in a nine-month period, that’s ever served,” he said this week in an interview with Forbes, contradicting objective metrics and repeating his frequent and dubious assertion of unprecedented success throughout the first year of his first term as president.
The reality is that Trump is in a rut. His legislative agenda is floundering. His approval ratings are historically low. He’s raging privately while engaging in noisy, internecine squabbles. He’s increasingly isolated. And yet his fact-flouting declarations of positivity continue unabated. For Trump, though, these statements are not issues of right or wrong or true or false. They are something much more elemental. They are a direct result of the closest thing the stubborn, ideologically malleable celebrity businessman turned most powerful person on the planet has ever had to a devout religious faith. This is not his mother’s flinty Scottish Presbyterianism but Norman Vincent Peale’s “power of positive thinking,” the utterly American belief in self above all else and the conviction that thoughts can be causative, that basic assertion can lead to actual achievement.
Trump and his father were Peale acolytes—the minister married Trump at the first of his three weddings—and Peale’s overarching philosophy has been a lodestar for Trump over the course of his decades of triumphs as well as the crises and chaos. “Stamp indelibly on your mind a mental picture of yourself as succeeding,” Peale urged his millions of followers. “Hold this picture tenaciously. Never permit it to fade.” It was a mindset perfectly tailored for an ambitious builder determined to change the skyline of one of the globe’s great cities. Trump, who used this self-confidence to blow right past a series of seemingly fatal gaffes and controversies to win an election last fall that polls said he couldn’t and wouldn’t, in this respect has been a prize Peale pupil—arguably the most successful Peale disciple ever.
“I don’t even think it’s an argument,” his biographer Gwenda Blair told me recently. “It’s a fact.” The power of positive thinking? “He weaponized it.”
But now, in the political realm, where the space between spin and truth is parsed constantly—and with consequences—it is Trump’s very success that has opened him up to questions that simply didn’t matter as much when he was a television star, or opening golf courses, or licensing his last name to steaks, bottled water or far-flung condominium projects. Is Trump’s relentlessly optimistic insistence of his own version of reality an asset, a sign of admirable grit for a politician desperate to score some legislative victories? Or is it a sort of self-delusion that risks embarrassment, or worse, in the highest-stakes geopolitical arena?
Science, it turns out, has something to say about this.
Self-help is a multibillion-dollar business. Airport shelves groan under the weight of how-to and pick-me-up books churned out by writers who all are essentially Peale progeny. The industry is prevalent in American culture to the point that it has spawned its own sub-group of critics who dismiss it as silly at best and dangerous at worst. “If you are simple enough to buy a self-help book, you may be congenitally programmed to fail,” Tom Tiede wrote in 2001 in his own book, Self-Help Nation: The Long Overdue, Entirely Justified, Delightfully Hostile Guide to the Snake-Oil Peddlers Who Are Sapping Our Nation’s Soul. “Positive thinking” has garnered such social currency that it also has become a subject of academic inquiry. And though it certainly was not conceived with this in mind, the science of self-help—of happiness and well-being, of specific phenomena called “unrealistic optimism” and “positive illusions”—is now in some respects the study of the way Trump thinks and what it could mean for the country and beyond.
How can Trump say the things that he does?
Read the research.
In 1988, in a seminal paper within the subject area, psychologists from UCLA and Southern Methodist University wrote that “considerable research evidence suggests that overly positive self-evaluations, exaggerated perceptions of control or mastery, and unrealistic optimism are characteristic of normal human thought.” They added that “positive illusions may be especially useful when an individual receives negative feedback or is otherwise threatened.” They warned, though, of inherent risks and limitations: “For example, a falsely positive sense of accomplishment may lead people to pursue careers and interests for which they are ill-suited.”
Two years ago, English researchers published an update. People with “unrealistic optimism,” they wrote, “believe that they are more virtuous, more talented and more compassionate than others, and less prone to error.” They “believe that they can control events that are not under their control.” They “believe that they are less likely to experience future negative outcomes.” They “have overly flattering conceptions of themselves that are also resistant to negative feedback.” Sometimes, they said, all of that can help people like this perform well. “In conditions of uncertainty and risk,” the researchers explained, “some instances of optimism lead people to make better decisions by helping avoid more costly mistakes and contribute to survival and flourishing.” Even so, it’s true only to a point. “Excessive optimism,” they concluded, “can become problematic and lead to poor strategic planning, disillusionment and disappointment, and risky behaviors.”
Where precisely the benefits of “unrealistic optimism” and “positive illusions” end and the drawbacks and dangers begin is nearly impossible to identify, researchers told me. There are just too many variables. A person’s web of characteristics. That person’s wider environment. The complexity of a situation. There’s almost no way to know for sure when a line is crossed between helpful self-assurance and disastrous self-delusion.
“If there is, I don’t know it,” said retired professor Neil Weinstein, who wrote a paper in 1982 when he was at Rutgers University titled “Egocentrism as a Source of Unrealistic Optimism.”
“The world isn’t that predictable,” he said.
Donald Trump, after all, is the president.
He was born into a house that Norman Vincent Peale helped build.
Peale’s cheery, simple tips allowed Trump’s father to alleviate his anxieties and mitigate the effects of his innately awkward, dour disposition. Emboldened Fred Trump banked hundreds of millions of dollars building single-family houses and then immense apartment buildings in New York’s outer boroughs. Peale appealed to the elder Trump, too, because both men embraced conservative, right-wing, us-versus-them politics—an important but often forgotten portion of Peale’s M.O.
A generation down, Peale appealed to Donald Trump because Trump idolized his father, and because what Fred Trump drilled into his most eager, most ambitious, most like-minded son—be a killer; be a king; be a winner, not a loser—is what made that son so receptive to the teachings of Peale. Born in 1946, Donald Trump’s childhood was spent in a house with white columns and nine bathrooms and a live-in maid and chauffeur in Jamaica Estates, Queens. Sometimes, when it rained or snowed, he did his paper route from the back of his father’s limousine.
Peale, known as “God’s salesman,” reached the peak of his influence in the heart of Trump’s childhood, preaching in the 1950s to millions of people on Sundays at Marble Collegiate Church on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan as well as through a syndicated newspaper column, radio and television shows, his Guideposts magazine and a spate of books that were self-help trailblazers—first and foremost, of course, The Power of Positive Thinking, his defining work and wild bestseller that came out in 1952. It offered chapters such as “Believe in Yourself,” “Expect the Best and Get It” and “I Don’t Believe in Defeat.” “Whenever a negative thought concerning your personal powers comes to mind, deliberately voice a positive thought,” he wrote. “Actually,” Peale once said, “it is an affront to God when you have a low opinion of yourself.”
Peale was far from universally popular. One psychiatrist dubbed The Power of Positive Thinking“saccharine terrorism.” And during the 1952 presidential campaign, the Democratic nominee made his feelings plain. “Speaking as a Christian,” the brainy Adlai Stevenson said at a Baptist convention in Texas, “I would like to say that I find the Apostle Paul appealing and the Apostle Peale appalling.” But Peale permanently altered the way many Americans worship. His was a precursor to the prosperity gospel espoused today by, say, the toothy Joel Osteen. “By repeatedly equating business acumen with piety, uncertainty with religious doubt, and personal and cultural failure with godlessness, Peale and his admirers helped to redefine religious Americans as socially superior winners,” Northwestern University English professor Christopher Lane wrote in his 2016 book, Surge of Piety: Norman Vincent Peale and the Remaking of American Religious Life.
What Peale peddled was “a certain positive, feel-good religiosity that demands nothing of you and rewards you with worldly riches and success,” said Princeton University historian Kevin Kruse, the author of One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America. “It’s a self-help gospel … the name-it-and-claim-it gospel.”
And for Donald Trump, the attraction to Peale did not diminish with time. Even as more traditional theologians derided Peale as more huckster than holy man and intellectuals mocked him as a lightweight, Trump in his 30s remained a staunch Peale adherent.
Peale, then nearly 80 years old, officiated Trump’s wedding in 1977. In 1983, shortly after the opening of Trump Tower, Trump credited Peale for instilling in him a can-do ethos. “The mind can overcome any obstacle,” he told the New York Times. “I never think of the negative.” The feeling was mutual. In the Times, Peale called Trump “kindly and courteous” and commented on “a profound streak of honesty and humility” he thought Trump possessed. Trump at the time was newly ascendant, and the influence of Peale coursed through his aspirations and interactions. “If you’re going to be thinking anyway,” he wrote in 1987 in The Art of the Deal, “you might as well think big.”
That year, Jack O’Donnell saw it firsthand. He started work for Trump as a marketing executive at one of his casinos in Atlantic City.
“This is the best place in the world to work, and I’m the best guy in the world to work for,” Trump toldO’Donnell in their first meeting, according to O’Donnell’s 1991 book, Trumped! The onslaught of Peale-preached superlatives kept coming. “I’m America’s most successful businessman,” Trump said. “I’m a winner. I’ve always been a winner.”
O’Donnell, though, soon was worried about the pitfalls of such optimism. By 1988, a manic, temperamental Trump was overwhelmed, in O’Donnell’s estimation, by the world that he had created for himself. He had piled up accomplishments, acquisitions and debts. It was too much. “He was at the point where image superseded reality,” O’Donnell would write in his book. “In the same way that he believed a man could retain his hair by willing not to go bald, he thought he could redress the operational shortcoming of a multimillion-dollar company and make it successful by stating and restating that it was.”
It caught up with him.
The early 1990s were a low point in Trump’s life. As his casinos careened toward corporate bankruptcy and he suffocated under billions of dollars of debt—not to mention the hyper-public break-up of his marriage to the mother of his first three children—Trump’s credibility and viability as a businessman were in jeopardy. Drawing on Peale, Trump was unswayed, leaning extra-heavy on the principal tenet of the power of positive thinking—think it, say it, and say it and say it and say it, in an all-out effort to make it so. “It’s all going to work out,” he said to a reporter from the Wall Street Journal. Trump, all but dead? “Hotter than ever,” he told New York magazine.
“I would have been looking for the nearest building to jump off of, and he just remained upbeat all of the time,” Steve Bollenbach, the lender-mandated financial-fixer who helped Trump avoid personal bankruptcy and lasting business humiliation, once told biographer Tim O’Brien. “I never suspected that he lost a moment’s sleep.”
Trump tapped into Peale, he would say. “I refused to give in to the negative circumstances,” he said in a 2009 interview with Psychology Today that is littered with the particular language of Peale. “I never lost faith in myself. … Being tenacious is part of my personality. … Defeat is not in my vocabulary.” He mentioned Peale and his most famous book. He was, Trump said, “a firm believer in the power of being positive.”
“Someone asked me if I thought I was a genius,” he wrote in 2009 in Think Like a Champion. “I decided to say yes. Why not? Try it out. Tell yourself that you are a genius.” He practiced this tactic even as the scorecard of his business dealings recorded something other than genius. After three more corporate bankruptcies for his casinos, as well as a variety of other business failures, from Trump Mortgage to Trump University to name-branded condo projects stalled and killed by the Great Recession, Trump kept proclaiming success. “I’ve done an incredible job,” he said in 2013.
It was time to run for president.
“Norman Vincent Peale, the great Norman Vincent Peale, was my pastor,” Trump told the audience at the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa, in July of 2015, barely more than a month into his run. “The power of positive thinking,” he said. He said this in between having consultant and pollster Frank Luntz ask him the same question twice: “Have you ever asked God for forgiveness?” His answer: “I’m not sure I have.” For Trump, thanks to Peale, that’s not primarily what religion was for.
“Affirm it, visualize it, believe it, and it will actualize itself,” Peale had written—and last year around this time, in the roiling wake of the tape of Trump bragging about his ability to grope women with impunity, with pundits saying he would lose and lose badly, and with more and more women accusing him of sexual harassment and members of his own party and even the man who would become his chief of staff suggesting he should drop out, Trump did not do what almost anybody else would have done. Everybody else? There’s literally not another politician in history who was facing what he was facing and didn’t not only stop running the race in question but recede from public life altogether. But that’s not what Trump did. Trump did what he’s always done. He doubled down on Peale 101.
Polls said he was not going to win.
“We’re going to win,” he told Sean Hannity three weeks before the election.
“We’re going to win the great state of Michigan,” he said at a boisterous rally at 1 in the morning in Grand Rapids on Election Day, “and we are going to win back the White House.”
Trump does not often share the spotlight, but it seems likely, based on his decades of testimonials, that he might give Peale at least some credit for the astonishing, highly improbable arc of his life. Trump’s current job is in some ways a confirmation of Peale’s core principles. He visualized. It actualized.
From a scientific perspective, though, Trump is an incomplete experiment. For decades, researchers have attempted to quantify the range of outcomes of positive thinking, looking for objective ways to correlate internal belief and external reality.
“There are really strong benefits in terms of undertaking activities that are difficult and for which the true odds would be daunting if you paid attention to them,” Jonathon Brown told me. He was the SMU psychologist who was one-half of the research team behind the 1988 paper on “illusion” and “well-being.” He’s now at the University of Washington. He gave examples of starting a business or getting married. Other researchers I talked to brought up health outcomes. In situations of, for instance, dire cancer diagnoses, the prospect of survivability can get a boost from optimism that’s statistically unjustified.
“Positive thinking can motivate an individual,” Wellesley College psychology professor Julie Norem said. Also: “Other people at least initially often respond positively to it. If I present myself to you as somebody who’s upbeat and really confident … chances are pretty good that initially you’re going to believe me. You’re going to say, ‘Wow, that person’s really got it together. That person’s really going to go someplace.’ And that’s a huge advantage in life.”
Then there’s the but.
“For most people,” said Norem, who specializes in optimism, pessimism and personality psychology, “there’s a point at which, if that’s all they bring to the table, it breaks down.”
The question is where that point is for Trump. He is so clearly not most people. In the words of Mitch Horowitz: “He is a kind of Frankenstein monster of the philosophy” of positive thought.
“Trump,” said Horowitz, a self-help expert and the author of One Simple Idea: How the Lessons of Positive Thinking Can Transform Your Life, “seems to be an example of at least the short-term, destructive gains that you can attain through self-help, through self-assertion, and people’s willingness to believe what they think that they see.”
Short-term. Trump’s version of his own reality, some insist, ultimately will crash against something more real. “In the end, I think reality is like gravity. It exerts its own force,” said Peter Wehner, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a consistent conservative critic of Trump. “The power of positive thinking can only carry you so far.”
He offered an example. “I could use the power of positive thinking and convince myself that I’m going to be the starting center for the Golden State Warriors,” Wehner said, “but it’s not going to happen.”
To carry this metaphor a small step forward, though, Trump is actually currently the starting center for the Golden State Warriors. (He’s definitely not Stephen Curry.) Wehner granted that. “And his supporters,” he said, “probably think he’s scoring 25 points and a game and averaging 11 rebounds.”
This, though, is just it: Nobody, ever, has had more success convincing himself, and others, that he is a success even when he is not—and thus turning that stated sentiment into actual, tangible, considerable accomplishment. And if he could do that, it seems fair to ask whether gravity or accepted laws of politics apply to him at all. What, exactly, is “unrealistic” about Trump’s optimism? “It’s gotten him this far,” said Blair, the biographer. “He has a lot of reason to believe that something like the power of gravity doesn’t apply to him.”
The science here hits a ceiling. Researchers do their work in controlled settings to obtain empirical results. America under Trump, meanwhile, is far from a controlled setting. And if it’s difficult to determine the location of that line between self-assurance and self-delusion in the former, it’s impossible in the latter. Scientifically speaking, the Trump presidency is uncharted territory.
“The degree of positive thinking that we talk about in the paper bears no resemblance to what President Trump is exhibiting on a daily basis, which would be an extreme form of what we talked about,” said Brown from the University of Washington. “What we were really looking at was sort of … should you know what you are really like? Is a person best served by knowing what they are really like? And I think the answer to that is no. You’re better served believing you are a little bit better than you are—but not wildly …”
Brown citied the opening salvo of the Trump administration: the fight over the size of the turnout at the inauguration. He somehow saw a crowd that was larger than it factually was, and said so. That, Brown said, isn’t self-confidence or self-assertion. “That’s bizarre. That isn’t within the normal range of human behavior,” he said. “No psychologist would say that’s adaptive.”
“There is a lot to like in the idea of power of positive thinking,” Ed Diener, one of the country’s leading researchers of happiness, told me, “but of course it must be grounded in a degree of realism.”
And where’s that dividing line?
The dividing line, Diener said, “is when the delusions become dysfunctional.”
And where is that?
“Where the distortions become strong enough that they make one act irrationally, impulsively,” he said.
“The biggest problem with the Norman Vincent Peale version of positive thinking,” said Wellesley’s Norem, “is that you can’t know when you’ve crossed the line—because if you’re accepting that as a philosophy, you’re already defining out of the picture any negative thoughts. And one of the ways in which Trump is so extreme is the extent to which he does that for himself. So he’s at the center of this positive world, and anything negative that impinges on it is evil, bad and forbidden.”
He won’t see the line if and when it arrives.
As for the rest of us?
“I mean, if we’re all blown up, in a nuclear war,” Norem said, “then that’s going to be a pretty clear line.”
Michael Kruse is a senior staff writer for Politico.
Trump Weathering Turbulent Times at Home and Abroad
Voice of America
“With 38 percent of the electorate, 80-plus percent of the Republican Party strongly behind him, it is unlikely that we are going to see a lot of Republicans break from him and really challenge him in meaningful ways,” George Washington University …and more »
Condoleezza Rice’s latest book, Democracy: Stories from the Long Road to Freedom, explains the thrill of seeing democracies take shape and the hard work that goes into creating and sustaining them. The former secretary of state elaborates in a conversation with Catalyst Editor William McKenzie on both points, while commenting on the health of democracy at home and abroad.
You write that “there is no more thrilling moment than when people finally seize their rights and their liberty. That moment is necessary, right, and inevitable. It is also terrifying and disruptive and chaotic. And what follows is hard — really, really hard.” What makes the birth of a democracy so thrilling as well as so necessary and inevitable?
The excitement and thrill comes from seeing those moments in the streets when people are trying to express that they, too, want to say what they think and worship as they please and be free from the arbitrary power of the state. Most importantly, the thrill comes from seeing they are determined that those who are going to govern them have to ask for their consent. That’s what is thrilling: the confirmation of these universal values.
What makes the birthing of a democracy so terrifying, and why is the aftermath so hard?
It’s terrifying because you unleash all of these passions that have been pent up for such a long time, and sometimes it can go bad. We saw after the French Revolution that it was so violent, chaotic and out of control that it produces a counter-reaction.
That moment is terrifying because the institutions aren’t there yet to channel those passions. If you read the American Declaration of Independence, you think, “Who were these people?”
It starts with high-minded rhetoric, but pretty quickly deteriorates into name calling of King George and what we will do if he doesn’t give our rights.
When human beings are freed, it isn’t the moment when they are at their most rational necessarily about what lies ahead. The freeing of those passions is terrifying.
You write about institutions like political parties, the courts, parliaments, and the press being so key to stabilizing a democracy. Could you elaborate upon that?
If those passions just remain unleashed without something to channel them, you’re going to get a backlash and the revolution is going to fade. The task is to quickly channel those passions so that people begin to believe they can exercise their rights through these abstractions that we call institutions, such as the Constitution and the rule of law.
People then begin to trust the Constitution or the courts to carry out their desires and rights. If their rights are violated, they no longer rely on their clan, their family, their religious group, or violence in the streets. That’s the moment when democratic institutions start to take hold. People test the process and it works.
I read about an Afghan woman who was raped by a cleric, and she took her case to court. Imagine that in Afghanistan. And she won. He got 20 years in prison. The human rights advocates were saying, oh, only 20 years in prison. But I’m thinking, she took him to court and she won. Afghan women will now say, OK, maybe the courts work; I don’t have to go to my male family members and ask them to engage in an honor killing.
What is your assessment of Russia’s failed, or at least aborted, attempts at glasnost and perestroika? Are those concepts now merely ones that scholars will study in the future?
Russia had four revolutions, and only the third failed. The first one, the [Mikhail] Gorbachev revolution, was kind of a reform of the communist system. At least, that’s how we thought about it. But toward the end, it was starting to create some institutions that might have been the backbone for a democratic transition. But it was too much and was overrun.
The second revolution was when [Boris] Yeltsin comes to power and the democratic institutions get set up. They don’t last because they get set up amidst so much chaos in the economy and the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The third revolution is when Yeltsin starts to rule out of decree, creates an extremely strong presidency, and the other institutions are sort of shoved to the side. A strong presidency in the hands of Gorbachev was one thing, a strong presidency in the hands of Vladimir Putin is quite another. Step by step, Putin subsequently destroys all of the independent institutions.
So, the Russian story is a longer story than just what happened with Gorbachev or what happened with Yeltsin. It’s important to say that because some of the seeds are possibly still there. In the clearly fraudulent election of 2016, for example, Putin didn’t win Moscow. In local elections, his party lost 11 or 12 seats.
Also, people are different in Russia today than they were in the Soviet Union. They travel more widely and they study abroad. The situation looks pretty bleak right now, but it doesn’t make sense to give up on the Russians. You have to isolate Putinism without isolating Russia.
China is growing a modern economy without true democratic institutions such as a free press and competing parties. What are we to make of this case study?
When you have the low cost of labor, the heavy export policy, their kind of government investment in the economy, all of that accords with a top-down political system. But being top-down doesn’t work so well when you start wanting a more innovative economy and free-market forces.
China is now neither fish nor fowl. Reforms keep getting rolled back because they’re afraid of the political implications of those reforms. I’ll give you one example: A couple of years ago, China had 186,000 riots, as reported by the Chinese. Most of them were because a peasant’s land was expropriated by a party leader and a developer.
What you need is a court that person can go to rather than rioting with his friends. But when you start to get independent courts, you start to get an independent judiciary. Before long, you’ve got one of the institutions that liberalizes a political system.
The jury is still out on where China will end up on this spectrum.
You write about two upheavals occurring simultaneously in the Mideast. What are those and how could they affect democracy taking hold there?
The whole state is under challenge. The map at the beginning of 2000 basically looked like it did when the Ottoman Empire collapsed and states like Iraq, Syria, and even many of the Gulf States were sort of drawn on the back of an envelope.
Those borders are now beginning to shift. Nobody knows whether there’s ever again going to be a single Syria. And the Kurds are pressing for independence from Iraq. The borders and the state system are under a lot of pressure.
There are two ways this could go. One is you continue to have revolutions like they did in Syria, or in Iraq, where we helped to set off a revolution. Or you could have reform.
You’re going to have a clash of cultures, so perhaps reform is still possible for the Middle East. No one is suggesting these places have to look like Jeffersonian democracy. I am suggesting they have to come to terms with basic rights, such as people want to say what they think. The form it takes will look different from place to place.
Democracy is only as good as its ability to deliver, as the saying goes. What does our own democracy need to deliver both for us as citizens and for our own democracy’s strengthening?
First, the good news. The institutions the Founders set up have weathered many storms well. Checks on executive power are still weathering the storm well. For example, courts are responding, and I don’t just mean to President Trump. They responded when they felt like there was an overreach from President Bush on the war on terror. And they responded to President Obama.
Federalism is continuing to work in the United States. States are getting far more done than the federal government could ever get done because states are closer to the people. That was always the design of federalism.
We are starting to have some challenges with the underlying societal strength that comes with the pursuit of happiness. People want to make their lives better and to make the lives of their children better. The failing K-12 education system for the poorest of our kids is right at the heart of that. The mismatch between job skills and available jobs are another big piece of this.
Unless we can find a way that people again believe that it doesn’t matter where you came from, that it matters where you’re going, then we’ll have a lot of unrest. The United States is unique in that we are not bound together by ethnicity, blood, nationality or religion. We are bound together by this aspiration that you can come from humble circumstances and you can do great things.
That’s mostly been true in America for a long time, and it’s been truer for group after group after group. If you were black, it wasn’t so true in segregated Birmingham in 1960. But, if you look at where we’ve come, it’s become truer. We’re going to lose that aspiration if large portions of the population are not able to access it.
This Q&A was conducted and condensed by William McKenzie, editor of The Catalyst. The full interview appears in the fall edition of The Catalyst: A Journal of Ideas from the Bush Institute. Email:email@example.com
Condoleezza Rice served as secretary of state and national security adviser under President George W. Bush. She now teaches at Stanford University and is a Hoover Institution senior fellow.
Tennessee U.S. Sen. Bob Corker’s view that the Trump White House is effectively an “adult day care” is no laughing matter to a UNC-Chapel Hill psychiatrist who’s put together a Saturday forum focusing on the president’s mental state.
Edwin Fisher will speak at the 1 p.m. event in Chapel Hill along with two colleagues from Asheville, psychiatrist Steven Buser and psychologist Richard Smoot. All three are part of a group of mental-health professionals who believe President Donald Trump is dangerously unstable.
Coming at the issue from different perspectives, they’ve converged on the view that the president’s “judgment and his motives are putting us all at risk of catastrophic events,” Fisher said, alluding to a possible nuclear war with North Korea.
The situation, he added, should inspire Congress to place new limits on Trump’s war-making powers or Vice President Mike Pence and the Cabinet to consider invoking the 25th Amendment’s fitness-for-office provisions to begin the process to remove him.
Saturday’s forum will take place at the Chapel Hill Public Library, an off-campus forum chosen because UNC-CH’s football team has a home game against the University of Virginia later in the afternoon.
The timing’s not the best for an event in Chapel Hill, but Fisher said it was out of his hands because the Baltimore-based group he’s part of asked him to schedule it to coincide with similar events across the country the same day.
Fisher contributed a chapter to a controversial new book, “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump,” that argues the president is so “mentally compromised” that his presence in high office is a hazard.
The controversy comes because the American Psychiatric Association has twice this year urged practitioners to avoid offering public opinions about the mental health of someone they haven’t personally examined.
Its invocation of the so-called “Goldwater Rule” – named for Barry Goldwater, the late Arizona U.S. senator who ran unsuccessfully for president in 1964 – has drawn return fire from leaders of the “Duty to Warn” group Fisher’s involved with.
One, Yale University psychiatrist Bandy Lee, argued in the book that the association had issued a “radical expansion” of the doctrine “barely two months into the very presidency that has made it controversial.”
Lee and Harvard-affiliated psychiatrist Judith Lewis Herman also argued that the group’s move shows even a prestigious professional organization “is not immune to … politically pressured acquiescence.”
Fisher, a professor in UNC-CH’s Gillings School of Global Public Health since 2005, said the book essentially argues there are signs Trump suffers both from narcissism and sociopathy. He said the the combination’s a volatile one in high-stakes situations, particularly if supporters and aides begin to abandon the president.
Legally, “if the president decides to launch a nuclear war, there’s nobody who can stop him,” Fisher said, adding that he believes what the group is doing is “educating the public about what those behavior patterns can mean.”
Fisher stressed that in speaking up on the issue, he’s speaking for himself, not for UNC-CH.
Fitness for office
Trump’s fundamental fitness for office, regardless of his views on the political issues of the day, has been questioned since he first sought the presidency, and not just by Democrats.
Locally, Duke political science professor Peter Feaver, in the mid-2000s a national security aide to former President George W. Bush, signed a statement last year that labeled Trump “a distinct threat to civil liberty the United States.”
Feaver at the time said that danger came from the possibility of putting “the power of the presidency in the hands of someone so focused on attacking his critics.”
Corker, a Republican, former mayor of Chattanooga and chairman of the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, told the New York Times on Oct. 8 that Trump’s threats to other countries may “put the nation on the path to World War III.”
He saw the major check on that as being aides “around him who are able to talk him down when he gets spun up, you know, calm him down and continue to work with him before a decision gets made.”
With the rising prominence of groups such as the alt-right throughout US President Donald Trump‘s campaign and election, differentiating between the various currents that comprise the American far right has become challenging.
Media outlets and political commentators have struggled to define the parameters, often inaccurately labelling high-profile far-right figures as part of the alt-right.
Al Jazeera has broken down some of the factions of the American far right, explaining their similarities and differences.
The alt-right is a loosely knit coalition of far-right groups that includes populists, white supremacists, white nationalists, neo-Confederates and neo-Nazis. Many alt-rightists promote various forms of white supremacy, white nationalism, anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial.
The term “alt-right” was first coined by US white supremacist Richard Spencer in 2008 to provide an alternative to the neoconservative politics that dominated the Republican Party establishment in recent decades.
Shortly after Trump’s November 2016 victory in the presidential elections, the movement became a household name in the US when Spencer led an audience in chants as they performed Nazi-like salutes. Spencer roared: “Hail Trump! Hail our people! Hail victory!”
The movement promotes what it calls “white identitarianism”, a worldview that advocates European racial and cultural hegemony. Alt-rightists often cite racial science as vindication for their views.
Researchers and experts note that sexism is as integral to the alt-right as racism, pointing out that there are few females among the cadres of the movement. One exception is Brittany Pettibone, a contributor at <a href=”http://AltRight.com” rel=”nofollow”>AltRight.com</a> and Red Ice, a Sweden-based white nationalist video and podcast platform.
Among the groups involved in the movement are: Spencer’s think tank, the National Policy Institute; the National Socialist Movement; the neo-Confederate League of the South; Identity Evropa, the white supremacist group and, among others, the neo-Nazi organisation Vanguard America.
Online organising made the alt-right’s success possible.
The key websites are: AltRight.com; the Occidental Dissent blog; the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer website; Radix Journal; the Counter-Currents website and the Right Stuff blog, among others.
The alt-right has many connections to groups in Europe, many of which predate the movement.
Some prominent figures within the alt-right are: Daily Stormer’s Andrew Anglin; the Right Stuff’s Mike Peinovich; Identity Evropa’s Nathan Damigo; former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke; Traditional Worker Party’s Matthew Heimbach and Swedish businessman Daniel Friberg.
The alt-light is a term used to describe a comparably moderate group of far-right figures, organisations and websites.
Unlike the alt-right’s call for a white ethnostate, the alt-light promotes a hardline version of American nationalism and often eschews the openly racist and white supremacist politics advocated by the alt-right. Much of the alt-light’s positions are predicated on support for President Trump.
The most prominent website on the alt-light is Breitbart News, a far-right blog headed by Steve Bannon, who briefly served as Trump’s top strategist. Another increasingly important alt-light publication is Rebel Media, a Canada-based website founded by right-wing media figure Ezra Levant.
Some of the most important personalities within the alt-light include: provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos; media personality Gavin McInnes; journalist and activist Lauren Southern; social media figure Mike Cernovich; media personality Alex Jones and conspiracy theorist Jack Prosobiec.
Yiannopoulous used to be the technology editor at Breitbart News, but he was fired after public uproar over comments he made defending pedophilia. Recently, he has hosted anti-Muslim rallies and “free speech” events. He often verbally attacks immigrants, trans people and feminists.
McInnes co-founded Vice Media and later left the company in 2008. Most recently, he hosted a Rebel Media online programme. He also founded the Proud Boys, a far-right group that describes itself as “Western chauvinist” and opposes feminism. The Proud Boys often brag about seeking out physical confrontations with anti-fascists, known as Antifa.
There are also several conspiracy theory websites that fall within the sphere of the alt-light. The most well-known is InfoWars, hosted by Alex Jones. In 2015, Trump, who was a presidential candidate at the time, appeared on InfoWars and was interviewed by Jones.
Many alt-light groups argue against the alt-right, while others have participated in the same rallies and events as alt-rightists.
Most militia organisations describe themselves as “patriot” groups. The largest and most active of the militia groups are the Oath Keepers and the Three Percenters. Member of these groups often attend rallies armed with assault rifles and wearing bullet proof vests.
While it is difficult to know the exact number of people involved in these organisations, the Oath Keepers claims to have tens of thousands of members nationwide.
Historically, the militias were considered anti-government. They claimed that they were defending the US Constitution from politicians who were seeking to impose unconstitutional and authoritarian rule on the country. However, most of them have been vocal supporters of the Trump administration.
Militia organisations often show up to protests held by groups they view as political opponents – Black Lives Matter and anti-fascists, among others – where they claim to be maintaining order by carrying weapons.
Common among groups such as the Oath Keepers are former and current law enforcement officers and military members.
Although these groups claim to reject racism and white supremacy, they have been present at many rallies and events alongside alt-rightists. On April 15, militia members came to Berkeley, California, where they rallied with alt-right groups and participated in street brawls against Antifa and other counter-protesters.
Conflicts between alt-right and alt-light
The alt-right and the alt-light have always shared several political positions and had common opponents. Both camps oppose the Democratic Party, Black Lives Matter, Antifa, undocumented immigrants and their advocates, and others.
Some alt-light leaders used to be open supporters of the alt-right, and others have migrated from the alt-light to the more hardline alt-right.
Recent months have seen increasing tensions between the alt-right and the alt-light, and their divisions have grown more defined.
In Houston, Texas, these divisions spilled over into a physical confrontation.
On June 10, Oath Keepers demanded that William Fears, a 30-year-old construction worker and alt-right activist, leave the rally. Angered by the Fears’ racist posters and refusal to leave, one Oath Keeper member put Fears in a chokehold. The incident was filmed and widely publicised online.
Later that month, on June 25, the divide played out again when the two groups held competing “free speech” rallies on the same day in Washington, DC.
During this event, the alt-right’s Richard Spencer openly criticised his more moderate counterparts. “They’re liars, they’re con artists, they’re freaks,” he told reporters of the alt-light. “The alt-right will be better when we just cut away these people who are going to weigh us down.”
Charlottesville as pivotal moment
During the event, 20-year-old James Alex Fields rammed his car into a counter-protest, killing 32-year-old anti-racist Heather Heyer.
The alt-light joined the chorus of public condemnation as Fields was charged with second-degree murder.
However, critics have noted that Jason Kessler, a former journalist who had recently joined the alt-light Proud Boys group, organised the rally.
The Proud Boys condemned the rally.
Several other alt-light figures denounced the events in Charlottesville, while alt-rightists celebrated them.
Speaking to Vice News, alt-right member Chris Cantwell said that Heyer’s killing was justified. The day after the rally, the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer described Heyer as a “fat, childless 32-year-old slut”.
On the other hand, Gavin McInnes, then at Rebel Media, denounced James Alex Fields, who was charged with Heyer’s murder, as a “domestic terrorist”.
In response to the Charlottesville violence, alt-light Twitter personality Mike Cernovich decried the alt-right.
“That’s all the alt-right stands for, is white nationalism,” he told The Atlantic at the time. “They are now indistinguishable. Worse than that, they are now associated with domestic terrorism.”
Twitter has deleted tweets and other user data of potentially irreplaceable value to investigators probing Russia’s suspected manipulation of the social media platform during the 2016 election, according to current and former government cybersecurity officials.
Federal investigators now believe Twitter was one of Russia’s most potent weapons in its efforts to promote Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton, the officials say, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
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By creating and deploying armies of automated bots, fake users, catchy hashtags and bogus ad campaigns, unidentified operatives launched recurring waves of pro-Trump and anti-Clinton story lines via Twitter that were either false or greatly exaggerated, the officials said. Many U.S. investigators believe that their best hope for identifying who was behind these operations, how they collaborated with each other and their suspected links to the Kremlin lies buried within the mountains of data accumulated in recent years by Twitter.
By analyzing Twitter data over time, investigators could establish what one U.S. government cybersecurity consultant described as “pattern of life behavior,” determining when Russian influence operations began, and how they “were trying to nudge the narrative in a certain direction.”
“So if you have access to all this, you can basically see when botnets appeared and disappeared, and how they shaped narrative around certain events,” said the analyst, who could not speak for attribution given company policy.
But a substantial amount of valuable information held by Twitter is lost for good, according to the cybersecurity analysts and other current and former U.S. officials.
One reason is Twitter’s aggressively pro-consumer privacy policies, which generally dictate that once any user revises or deletes their tweets, paid promotions or entire accounts, the company itself must do so as well. Twitter policy requires similar actions by private companies that pay for access to its real-time global data stream and repository of saved data for use in marketing and other commercial analysis.
The other reason is that Russian cyber tradecraft dictates that operatives immediately erase all of their digital breadcrumbs, according to former FBI Executive Assistant Director Robert Anderson and others familiar with Russian influence operations.
Thomas Rid, a Strategic Studies professor at Johns Hopkins University, blamed Twitter for making it easy for Russia and other bad actors to hijack its platform by failing to crack down on suspicious activity, and by then allowing them to cover their tracks simply by hitting the delete key.
“Should bot operators and people who spread hate and abuse have the right to remove content from the public domain? Twitter says yes, and I think it’s a scandal,” said Rid, an expert witness on Russian disinformation campaigns for the Senate intelligence committee’s Russia investigation. “It removes forensic evidence from the public domain, and makes the work of investigators more difficult and maybe impossible.”
“Were Twitter a contractor for the FSB,” the Russian intelligence agency involved in the 2016 campaign to meddle in the U.S. election, Rid said, “they could not have built a more effective disinformation platform.”
Twitter declined to comment on how much relevant data was deleted, whether any of it is potentially retrievable and other questions sent by POLITICO. Instead, spokespeople referred to the fine print of the company’s data retention and privacy policies, which say that, “Once an account has been deactivated, there is a very brief period in which we may be able to access account information, including Tweets.”
“Content deleted by account holders (e.g., Tweets) is generally not available,” the Twitter policy also says.
Several people familiar with Twitter’s ongoing review of Russian activity on its platform said its engineers are trying to ascertain what is available and what is recoverable, in part by trying to find ways of recreating some pockets of particular data that have been permanently deleted.
They also noted that the company has had to walk a tightrope in balancing the interests of privacy activists who are “very concerned about any suggestions that a tech company would hold their data for any period after its deleted,” and law enforcement agencies that want access to potential evidence of wrongdoing. As such, “it’s a little more complicated than giving an X is gone forever by Y date” answer, one Twitter official cautioned.
Cybersecurity analysts, however, said Twitter has aggressively enforced a “permanent deletion” policy across the board, including publicly shaming at least two companies not adhering to it via cease and desist orders.
As a result, “The limitations created by the hostile actors deleting their actions is potentially high impact” for those U.S. investigators on the various Russia investigations, according to a former senior Senate staff official familiar with how Twitter operates. “They may get lucky and Twitter may have some record of it, but in terms of their stated policy, if accounts or tweets were deleted, they’re gone.”
A second person familiar with Twitter policy agreed with that assessment.
Clint Watts, a former FBI agent who closely monitors Russian manipulation of social media, said Twitter was especially vulnerable because, “The truth is they don’t know who is on their platform, or how bad people are doing bad things.”
Compounding that, Watts said, “When the Russians hit on a big story or get a big falsehood going, they collapse their accounts. They are very good at plausible deniability and covering their tracks.”
Twitter has said it is taking a broad look at Russia’s suspected use of its platform, including how many people might have been affected by disinformation, and whether there are any potential connections between Russian accounts and the Trump campaign and the many high-profile “influencers” associated with it.
But company executives have been far less forthcoming than their counterparts at Facebook in disclosing details of what they have found in internal investigations into suspected Russian activity on their platforms.
Twitter’s briefing to the Senate intelligence committee Sept. 28 infuriated its ranking Democrat, Sen. Mark Warner, who said the company failed to grasp the seriousness of the congressional investigation. Warner also accused Twitter of providing “inadequate” details about what misinformation was spread on its platform by Russian sources during the election.
Warner said Twitter only did the bare minimum of investigation, searching its records for information about accounts with Russian ties that had already been disclosed by Facebook after its own probe.
Based on that information, Twitter said, it shut down 201 accounts associated with the Internet Research Agency, a Russia-linked “troll farm” in which multitudes of workers help spin false narratives for social media. It also said the Russian news site RT, which Twitter linked to the Kremlin, spent nearly $275,000 on its platform last year.
The Senate committee, one of at least three investigating Russian meddling and possible collusion by Trump associates, has summoned Twitter to appear at a Nov. 1 public hearing, along with Facebook and Google.
Former House intelligence committee staffer Mieke Eoyang said she was skeptical that Twitter can completely delete its data, and that at least some of it exists somewhere in the network while other pockets of it could be recoverable.
Recently, Google said it found evidence of Russian manipulation on its platforms by using data it downloaded from Twitter. It used that information to link Russian Twitter accounts to other accounts that used Google’s own services to buy ads, according to a Washington Post report. The Post said that activity occurred without the explicit cooperation of Twitter.
Twitter also would not answer questions about the reported Google findings, including whether they suggest some of the relevant Twitter data still exists, even if only recent information.
Anderson, who spent 15 years chasing and arresting Russian spies for the FBI, cautioned that if any Russian accounts exist because they were not deleted by the Russians themselves, it is likely because President Vladimir Putin, a former spymaster, left them on purpose to misdirect U.S. investigators.
“The KGB was by far one of the most ruthless counter-intelligence organizations the United States has encountered, and Putin was an officer in it for a long time,” Anderson said. “And now put him in charge of all of these high-speed intelligence, cyber capabilities and operations, as Russia’s President, and you have a very formidable adversary.”
Stephen Blank is a Senior Fellow for Russia at the American Foreign Policy Council. He came to AFPC from the US Army War College where he spent 24 years as a Professor of National Security Studies at the Strategic Studies Institute of the US Army War College in Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania. Dr Blank’s expertise covers the entire Russian and post-Soviet region. He has also written extensively on defense strategy, arms control, information warfare, energy issues, US foreign and defense policy, and European and Asian security.
To discuss what’s driving Russia’s Korea policy, we need a framework within which we can begin to understand Moscow’s motives regarding North Korea’s nuclearisation and the ensuing international crisis.
First, peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and more broadly in Northeast Asia are vital Russian interests. Russia fought four wars over Korea in the 20th century, including its pilots’ participation in the Korean War, so the issue of peace on the Peninsula is hardly a minor one for Russia. Moreover, any new war might quickly go nuclear and could even involve a clash between Washington and Beijing. Those contingencies – and the proximity of North Korea to Russia – could destroy any hope for Russia to regenerate its Asian provinces or, worse, force it to enter into a war on behalf of China over an issue where it has no control or leverage over the protagonists. That would not be in its best interests – indeed, for any state it would be a nightmare.
Second, Moscow’s other vital interest, and one that flows from the imperative of preserving peace, is that Russia must not be excluded from any political process that takes place regarding Korea. Putin and his team remember all too well that Russia would have been excluded from the Six-Party process if he had not previously forged a working relationship with Kim II-sung and the DPRK. Thus Russia’s activities surrounding North Korea revolve around ensuring that Russia is a full participant in any resolution of North Korea’s nuclear issues. Acquiescing in Russia’s marginalisation over Korea would destroy any hope of realising another vital interest, namely that of becoming acknowledged as a major, independent great power in Northeast and Southeast Asia. To avoid any prospect of marginalisation, solid relations with North Korea are vital; if Moscow did not have such relations it would certainly fall prey to the danger of being dragged into a major crisis or conflagration over which it has no control and no influence, let alone leverage, on key actors.
Third (though this is a minority opinion among experts), this author fully believes that a Sino-Russian alliance where China plays the leading role (especially in East Asia and most particularly regarding North Korea) has taken shape over the last two decades, mainly driven by hostility to US power and values and the identification of these two authoritarian states as antipodes to this power and values. As the present crisis shows, while Russia is angling for increased economic and political influence in Pyongyang, it has clearly associated itself with China’s initiatives for resolving the crisis that centre on freezing the DPRK’s nuclear program in return for stopping US-ROK manoeuvres. It has also joined China’s efforts to provide a lifeline to North Korea through various activities including ferry services, hosting North Korean guest workers who remit money home, and opening up internet services.
These factors explain Moscow’s motives, actions and statements in the present crisis. The desire to preserve peace, to ensure Russia’s full participation in any future political process dealing with North Korea, and to strike at US power and values in Northeast Asia in tandem with China are all driving Moscow’s policies. Readers will note that nonproliferation is not a vital Russian interest and never really has been. Russia judges proliferation threats by the criterion of whether the state in question is hostile to its interests and it does not find North Korea to be such a state though it fully understands the nature of Kim Jong-un’s regime. In Russia’s view, while Kim Jong-un’s behavior merits criticism, the real responsibility for the crisis lies with the US. This was the case under President Obama and, if anything, Donald Trump has willfully aggravated an already tense situation.
Both Moscow and Beijing deplore and oppose North Korea’s nuclearisation, but they see it as a response to unceasing US threats. They want North Korea to denuclearise in order to reduce the threat of war on the Peninsula, to stop giving Japan and South Korea a pretext either for their own defence buildup or potential nuclearisation, and to stop those two states and the US from deploying missile-defence systems in and around South Korea and Japan, which represent a threat to their nuclear weapons and countries. But while North Korea may act in a brazen provocative manner, ultimately it is Washington’s fault because it keeps threatening the DPRK.
Together these four factors – ensuring peace on its frontiers with Korea to obtain time and capital for developing Russian Asia; ensuring that Russia participates completely in any Northeast Asian and Korean peace process as a full partner; anti-Americanism and the alliance with China; and defence against US military threats – constitute the framework that encompasses and shapes Russia’s policy initiatives towards North Korea. The perspective that emerges from this framework has driven the various gambits that Russia, usually in tandem with China, has taken during the current iteration of the Korean crisis and even under Barrack Obama’s earlier administration. Once one has grasped the nature of this framework and its perceptual underpinnings, it becomes much easier to understand Moscow’s actions.
As stated earlier, nonproliferation is not the issue for Russia here. War, peace, and its identity as a great, sovereign, independent and anti-American power in Asia count for more than non-proliferation. Indeed, Russia sees US invocations of non-proliferation as pretexts for threats and intervention against its interests. Given this Russian perception of the crisis, it is clear that the basis for a US-Russia accommodation or coordination on North Korea is quite slender. President Trump’s rhetoric and actions narrow it still further.