College Football’s Cyber Warfare

After special prosecutor Robert Mueller announced indictments for a number of Russians last week, the Washington Post published an interview with an employee from a Russian troll farm near St. Petersburg. The employee talked openly about creating multiple online personalities and using them to influence opinions, organize efforts and create division using narratives and stories they had cooked up.

This was some real 21st century spy warfare, the kind of stuff you would see in the Showtime series “Homeland.”

But would you believe this type of social media/internet cyber warfare has been going in college football for a long time?

It has.

The internet disinformation wars began years ago in college football. As far back as the late 1990s coaches and operatives in football programs would create online message board personalities to post “rumors” on opposing team’s message boards. Often the rumors involved an opposing coach being on the hot seat, or players being unhappy or wanting to transfer. These posts usually sparked a string of responses.

These threads were created to sow doubts about rival schools in recruiting and often the coaches who started the disinformation would direct recruits to check them out. The recruit would see the rumor and the negative fan feedback.

Those were the early days and they seem quaint now.

As social media exploded so did the size and sophistication of college football social media operations, including cyber warfare.

Because the NCAA now allows coaches and teams to retweet things recruits post they can easily signal to their fan base who they are recruiting. For years the NCAA did not allow teams to publicize who they were recruiting to prevent rogue boosters from having contact with recruits.

Those days are over. Coaches essentially confirm who their school is recruiting and fans can engage directly with recruits on social media. It creates a lot more opportunity for disinformation.

But the real cyber warfare takes place with internet operations in college football programs. Like the Russian troll farms, they create online personalities to troll other teams, to contact and help recruit players and to try to control and react to any negative news stories.

One of the methods used in the Russian troll farms was to stage mock debates between people in comments sections, or in social media. A couple of trolls would debate a straw man in the comments section and inevitably they would convert the straw man to endorse the view they wanted.

Some programs have the same type of operation. On message boards or social media you’ll see online personalities that always defend their school and engage every time there is something they want to refute.

But the disinformation plots don’t just work on recruits. They are used to fight against negative fans when a team might be struggling. They are used to create apparent “virtual momentum” and the appearance of a groundswell of support when a school is deciding to possibly fire a coach, or hiring one. They are used to swamp the comment sections of certain writers who may be critical of the program.

Athletic directors and administrators fall for it because they are concerned about popular opinion. While head coaches may maintain plausible deniability, the operations are all part of helping them keep their jobs.

It is possible that the superagents in college coaching who have many big-name clients may have similar operations. As openings come and go, those agents could deploy their trolls to whip up popular opinion to get their guy hired and thereby reap the rewards of major new contracts.

As more details about the Russian operation emerge, keep in mind that the cutthroat world of international cyber warfare and politics may be reflective of what may be going on at your favorite school’s athletic program.

These operations have shot up as the NCAA’s regulatory retreat from social media has left an online world of Wild-West lawlessness.

Building the positive propaganda and combatting every negative rumor and utterance has become a full-time 24/7 operation. So too are the even murkier operations that create disinformation through rumor and innuendo to damage other schools or help your school with recruits, fans and administrations. An army of interns in football buildings around the country are always on the case.

And you thought that this was a Russian creation? Guess again.

It is a bold new world out there. Prophecies of disinformation operations using high-level technology that Orwell wrote about in his book “1984” have been exposed in politics. Little did many of you suspect that those Orwellian tactics have already been part of college football programs’ operations for years.


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Mueller indictment shows the evolution of Kremlin political warfare

Far deeper than an online disinformation campaign, the IRA’s work included extensive research on American politics and society and real rallies on U.S. soil. Its operatives impersonated Americans to dupe an unspecified number of U.S. citizens and Trump campaign staff.

The indictment provides the clearest blow-by-blow assessment of how Moscow has adapted its influence operations for the 21st century. The basic tactics are straight from the Soviet “active measures” playbook: a continuous spread of disinformation during the Cold War to discredit American political leaders (including Martin Luther King, Jr.), fuel ethnic tensions and undermine trust in U.S. intelligence agencies.

In 1976, the KGB launched a smear campaign against the anti-Soviet Democratic candidate Sen. Henry “Scoop” Jackson, armed with forged FBI intelligence. In the post-Soviet era, Putin’s advisers have boasted about how they pit different groups against each other inside of Russia. Sound familiar?

What’s next: The coming revolution in AI and machine learning will transform malicious actors’ capabilities to influence democracies. This won’t happen by the fall of 2018, but 2020 will likely usher in even more dangerous forms of political warfare.

Alina Polyakova is the David M. Rubenstein Fellow for Foreign Policy at the Brookings Institution.


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Memetic Warfare: Spreading Weaponized Ideas for Influence and Control

Russia’s Internet Research Agency’s was recently highlighted in charges from special counsel Robert Mueller for its operations to “to interfere with elections and political processes.”

According to a new book, however, the Russian operations are just a small part of a much larger picture. Special interest groups, governments, and big businesses are trying to alter the way we perceive information, in order to influence the culture and underlying values of our societies.

The book, “Information Warfare: The meme is the embryo of the narrative illusion,” by James Scott, founder of the Center for Cyber-Influence Operations Studies, explains the strategies of “memetic warfare,” and reveals the groups using this system to advance their agendas.

(Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology)

A meme is an idea that can can “evolve” over time, and eventually influence culture. Memes are often associated with funny pictures overlaid with text. Yet the concept goes much deeper, and can be anything from music, to movies, to words and their perceived meanings.

Memetic warfare is a weaponized use of memes to intentionally introduce ideas into society, packaged in a way that allows them to spread, with a goal to alter the culture and perceptions of a targeted population.

A goal of memetic warfare isn’t to alter reality, but instead to alter the perceived reality.

According to the book, “the most profound weapon a nation or special interest group can possess is ‘control’ over information. This contributes to control over the narrative, and the meme is the embryo of the narrative.”

Other entities play a role in helping shape the ideas, and control people’s exposure to ideas that don’t fit the objective.

“Corporate nation state propagandists, such as Google, Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook, perpetuate the syntactical amalgamation of censored ideas, narrative illusions, and perception steering initiatives that cripples and imprisons the mind,” it states.

It adds, “Censorship is about what you don’t see, rather than what you do see. Digital gatekeepers provide users with only the content that they want them to view.”

Manufactured Thought

The nature of warfare has changed. As the book notes, war has moved beyond merely killing an enemy or capturing and holding territory. The war of messages has taken over, and “The emerging hybrid war depends on the allegiance of civilian populations and control over narrative.”

The book poses a question. It cites French philosopher René Descartes, stating, “I think, therefore I am,” and poses the question, “but who does one become when the thought is hijacked?”

It raises the issue that as political organizations, social networking companies, legacy news outlets, and other powerful groups work together to manufacture ideas intended to alter the perceptions of a country, how can people recognize what are their own thoughts, and which thoughts have been planted?

In today’s world, “Information Warfare” states, websites like Facebook are nearly as relevant as the United Nations, information-leaking website WikiLeaks has intelligence analysts similar to the CIA, and “Google’s dragnet surveillance censorship algorithm has become the new gatekeeper of critical information that could lead society into a new renaissance.”

A shift in power has taken place, moving to an “an all-out battle for the psychological core of the global population.”

“Digitized influence operations have become the new norm for controlling the electoral process, public opinion, and narrative,” the book states. “The cyber war has moved beyond the battlefield into an all-encompassing struggle in economics, politics, and culture, along with old-school physical confrontation.”

Among its examples, “Information Warfare” notes that some violent protests are being used by special interest groups to advance key narratives. For instance, the communist extremist group Antifa, known for its black-clad, masked followers, label nearly all conservatives as “fascists” and often escalate conflicts into violence.

“In reality, the overwhelming majority of protestors and counter-protestors are non-violent; however, they and, in most cases, the points of their causes do not merit media attention because relatively minuscule radical factions can easily steal the spotlight,” the book states.

In some cases, the true intention of the “revolutionaries” isn’t just to protest, but instead to “derail an event or detract from a cause by altering public perception and polarizing issues based on partisan politics.”

Due to the fact that Antifa members wear masks, anyone can infiltrate the group to escalate conflicts, which can then be used by legacy news outlets and political groups to frame new narratives.

This is a common phenomenon, the book states, noting “false flag operations and operations sponsored by special interest groups are both effective and prevalent in this space.”

Perception Warfare

The term “meme” was coined by militant atheist Richard Dawkins, who compared the spread of ideas and their effects on society to a “virus.”

The concept far outdates Dawkins, however, and ties to broader systems of propaganda and psychological warfare—a method of warfare designed to alter the way a target interprets information.

Propagandists, such as those under communist dictatorships, will try to control a society’s exposure to ideas through censorship, while also feeding select ideas through state media and other channels—similar to the methods used by today’s information gatekeepers.

Among the methods used to frame ideas are misinformation and disinformation. While misinformation is the mere statement of falsehoods, disinformation is much more complex.

A disinformation campaign can take the form of false-flag operations, such as manufactured events or protests, or fake scientific studies and research papers. The disinformation can then be pushed by news outlets or through other channels to help shape a narrative. The rule is that disinformation needs a grain of truth, which the propagandist can point to in order to derail critics during debate.

Another use of disinformation is to cite otherwise true information, but to manufacture a false conclusion, using the propagandist concept of “one plus one equals three.” This can include citing a series of half truths, then claiming the evidence adds up to something it does not. Debunking this method requires a dissenter to debunk each piece of evidence, which can rarely be done quickly enough for public debate.

These tools are still in heavy use. As the book notes, psychological warfare is part of the Chinese Communist Party military’s “three warfares” system, which also includes “legal warfare” to manipulate courts, and “media warfare” to control news and social media coverage.

Disinformation is still actively being used by Russia’s Internet Research Agency, which the book says includes “a collection of government-employed online trolls directed to spread propaganda, incite divisions in foreign communities, and otherwise sow chaos and destabilize democratic platforms.”

“Propagandists from Russia, China, and other nations typically pander memes to both sides or multiple factions of sensitive conflicts in an attempt to breed discord, capitalize from chaos, derail productive discussion, distract impending investigations, dwindle valuable resources, or polarize susceptible populations,” “Information Warfare” states.

The overall picture is that numerous groups, both public and private, are using memetic warfare to attack the perceptions of individual people. Some are interested in advancing their political agendas, others are working to destabilize the United States.

The book states, “nations must decide how to best defend their people against foreign influence operations while launching their own campaigns against emerging adversaries in the hyper-dynamic, ill-defined battlefield for control of the meme, control of the narrative, and control of perceived reality.”


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Russian meddling prays on a gullible public

By Hank Waters

In an excellent report published in this newspaper last Sunday, Rudi Keller explained what he learned from several researchers about recent Russian meddling in U.S. affairs using social media. Keller’s primary source was Lt. Col. Jarred Prier, who for years has studied Russian cyber warfare and recently wrote a peer-reviewed report including student protests at the University of Missouri as an example.

Prier says Russian disinformation campaigns seek to sow discord among allies of the U.S. and internally as well. Particularly galling to Prier, a 2003 MU grad, was the successful Russian effort to stoke unfounded fears of a violent white backlash surrounding 2015 student protests and subsequent resignation of then-UM President Tim Wolfe.

Prier found Russian cyber trolls used Twitter to spread untrue accounts of campus violence, including Ku Klux Klan marches and a phony picture of a battered black youth. Incessant repetition on social media caused many to believe the false reports.

The recent indictment by Special Counsel Robert Mueller charges Russia used its campaign in the 2016 presidential campaign to benefit Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Bernie Sanders in order to discredit Democrat Hillary Clinton, thought by the Russians to be their main target.

Larger conclusions by Prier and other expert witnesses interviewed by Keller are interesting. Prier says “They want to force the American public to go over into a corner and argue amongst themselves.”

MU Professor of political science Cooper Drury says the Russian long-term goal is not the victory of any political party but a weaker U.S. If disruption is your goal, says Drury, “then the greater polarization you can get inside a democracy the more successful you will be.”

MU professor of communications Mitchell McKinney says social media helps mask the source of otherwise questionable propaganda, and volume creates believability. Then, he says, most success comes when these rumors are reported by trusted news organization.

“These Russian trolls were driving clicks,” says Prier. “Clicks are what keeps the business moving.”

If political polarization in the U.S. is a primary goal we might think the Russian campaign has been spectacularly successful, but MU professor Drury points out that traditional media once considered neutral is more likely today to take sides. He cites television networks Fox News and MSNBC which attract opposed and mutually disdainful audiences.

Prier’s report sounds pessimistic, but MU journalism professor Mike Kearney argues the internet makes it easier for each of us to share and find information “by ourselves.” Prier says it’s up to providers of information, including Twitter, to be more careful.

Obviously, the first line of defense should be the retail consumer of news, but as we see in the new age of easy disinformation, we have not yet fully learned that skill. A gullible public has existed since the first human society appeared. Today the same human frailty persists, frighteningly fueled by the internet and its latest, most insidious tool, Twitter.

Yes, I will say “insidious.” The benefit of sharing innocuous messages is sadly overcome by the pernicious opportunities gained by newly empowered trolls who so easily get in our heads anonymously. Will we learn to be skeptical enough?


The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.

—Winston Churchill


India emerging as successful group of electronic warfare

professionals: AOC

Bengaluru,Feb 14 The International President of U.S. based Association of Old Crows (AOC), Lisa K Fruge, today said India was emerging as one of the most successful and active groups of electronic warfare professionals in the world due to advancement of technology in defence systems.

She was delivering the keynote address at the inaugural of the three-day fifth International Conference on Electronic Warfare-2018 here.

More than 400 delegates across the country, besides defence officers and technocrats from various organisations engaged in the design, development and production of armaments for the country are attending the conference.

Fruge said this mutually vibrant set-up of technologists envisages faster connectivity for communication,collaborating, membership driving and mentoring among the professionals to help their country grow.

A press release by AOC’s Indian chapter quoted her as saying “As no single platform can be used by the different branches of armed forces of a country, it is the need of the hour to innovate in this field because the future warfare would be only a electronic warfare, the technology of which is growing very fast.”

She called for the right involvement of young professionals in the field to infuse fresh blood, leading to new applications.

Bharat Electronics Limited Chairman and Managing Director M V Gouthama said that the EW system, which started as a force multiplier, has become the most essential feature in modern warfare of all the nations in the world.

This dynamic field has tremendous scope of innovation and continuous research process in tune with galloping technology, he added.

The Association of Old Crows is an organisation for individuals who have common interests in Electronic Warfare (EW), Electromagnetic Spectrum Management Operations (EMSO), Cyber Electromagnetic Activities (CEMA), Information Operations (IO) and other information related capabilities.


Michael Jablonski: The Future and Frustrations of the Internet and Global Journalism

Michael Jablonski. (Photo: Rebecca Breyer).

Georgia State University’s Transcultural Conflict and Violence Initiative (TCV) has brought 14 faculty members together to examine the causes of violence around the world, to explore means of predicting violent occurrences and to develop effective remedies for preventing their occurrence. Their fields of expertise are wide ranging from anthropology and computer science to psychology and religion.

The initiative also provides 12 Presidential Fellowships for doctoral students working in related areas. Among them has been Michael Jablonski, who in 2016 received the Outstanding Academic Achievement by a Graduate Student Award from the Department of Communication. Mr. Jabblonski, who holds degrees in economics and in law from Emory University, is a former editor-in-chief of The Atlanta Lawyer. He is a co-author with Dr. Shawn Powers of The Real Cyber War The Political Economy of Internet Freedom.

Mr. Jablonski analyzed today’s media scene for a Great Decisions program hosted by theGeorgia Council for International Visitors on Jan. 25 at the Dunwoody Methodist Church. His presentation, which provided insights into the current status of conventional journalism, the proliferation of “fake news,” the foreign policy implications of misinformation and the potential for cyberwarfare.

His presentationwas attended on behalf of Global Atlanta by Obinna Morton, owner of Turns of Phrase LLC, who recommended a follow-up email interview to which Mr. Jablonski graciously agreed. The interview follows:

Global Atlanta: The internet was to bring the world closer together, but it appears to have lead to increased polarization and divided people and issues into silos. Do you agree and do you think that this development is permanent?

Michael Jablonski: Let me point out that the internet did not do anything. It is a tool. Division and polarization came about because of the way that users of the tool behaved. The belief that the internet would bring people together or introduce worldwide peace is the relic of a model postulating that simple, efficient, and cheap communication would only have positive consequences. Every tool ever developed could be used positively or negatively – and assigning a quality has often been different for different societies. The good/evil vector is not inherent to the tool but is a result of ways that people use the tool. Is this a permanent state of affairs? I am not really very good at predicting how people will act. I suspect that the situation is not permanent, however.

Global Atlanta: If you agree, how do you think that this happened and do you think it will be responsible for causing considerable harm to our society.

Mr. Jablonski: Every new communication technology has been accompanied by predictions of societal doom. The development of the movable type printing press in the 15th Century, for example, allowed people to produce quantities of written material that could bedispersed instead of reserved for an elite class. The former dominant communication technology – script – did not lend itself to mass communication. The use of vernacular instead of Latin in written materials allowed people to read for themselves instead of having written word interpreted to them from a pulpit. Widespread use of the technology caused society to end one form (which we call the Middle Ages) and develop another (the Renaissance). If you were someone who copied script for a living, or dictated to common folk then your society was considerably harmed by people employing the printing press. But for people suddenly interested in learning, and individualism, and creativity, and science the resulting society was considerably enhanced.

The same evolution is occurring now. If your livelihood is tied to the printing press, or manual labor, or local production of finished goods (or many other activities) then people using the internet menace society. Societies do not often fail as much as they evolve. Inevitably we will experiment with new forms of organization, conduct, and consciousness.

Global Atlanta: You mentioned that most people don’t have time to follow all the news to which they are exposed day-by-day. For this reason, I think it is your view, that we are fortunate to be living in a republic rather than a democracy where every issue would have to be decided by majority rule. Is our understanding of your view correct?

Mr. Jablonski: Most people do not have interest in intensely following news in addition to not having time. I salute them. If everyone followed the news to the extent that you or I do, we might have better government but nothing would get done. We need news junkies. We also need people running businesses or creating art or a thousand other activities. News junkies (now called “policy wonks”) tend to have extreme cognitive bias magnifying the importance of their beliefs, activities, and values. The essence of the American republic is a recognition that every citizen plays an essential role but the role changes from person to person. Citizens in a democracy wouldhave to educate themselves on every decision that comes up for a vote. The first session of the 115th Congress (2017) saw the Senate take 325 roll call votes and the House 710. Only complete dedication by law-makers propped up by a large contingent of staff makes it possible to handle the volume of work. (And these numbers do not include procedural, committee, or non-roll call votes.) The genius of our form of government is that it enables people interested in governing to run for public office while insulating people interested in other enterprises from the burden of having to govern. A republic composed of representatives elected democratically enables the country to divide responsibilities in ways that maximize contributions from everyone.

Global Atlanta: Nevertheless, do you have reservations about the role of the “billionaire class” in the U.S. and the amount of power it exerts and the control that it has now and will have in the future over media outlets?

Mr. Jablonski: We talk about protecting American democracy. Preservation of the republic is equally important. The rise of an American oligarchy capable of bending power structures, including media, to its service disrupts essential features crucial to the functioning of a democratic republic. We rarely hear about checks-and-balances anymore. The executive, legislative, and judicial government branches – as well as a committed and free media – have been Balkanized into competitive actors rather than as inherent parts of a system. Although we have witnessed in the last year important episodes of the judiciary checking the executive, or the legislative balancing competing policy interests, the response by the checked and balanced has been prattle attacking other branches as being disruptive, disloyal, or disordered. Attack language does not foster cooperation. The oligarchy collects media outlets for two reasons. One is to make money. Feeding readers’ demand for sensational stories increases revenues. Second, media is an important player in our democratic republic, so owning a media outlet is a source of power. The internet holds the possibility of acting as competition to entrenched media.

Global Atlanta: Please let us know your feelings about all the hubbub about “fake news,” misinformation, and false narratives that are disseminated over the internet.

Mr. Jablonski: Your unbiased reporting might be my fake news. The basic problem addressed by communication theory is that information you pass along to a receiver distorts because of infrastructure errors, bias of both the sender and receiver, cultural differences, and lack of common language. Fake news, misinformation, and false narratives have always been out there. They are not a function of the internet but of how we use the internet. Lunar landing deniers existed well before networked computers became commonplace. The problem is different now because purveyors of false news have access to an inexpensive tool for mass communication that resemble honest reporting. Remember that the email purportedly from your bank asking you to verify your account number, user ID, and password is a form of misinformation that hundreds of thousand people interpreted as truthful. The antidote to that scam is to be a smarter user of online banking. Similarly, the antidote to fake news and misinformation is to be a smarter consumer. Readers who get news from the internet will learn to look for sources of stories, reference to evidence rather than conclusions, and other markers of false narratives. We will need to start teaching these skills in schools. False news is an immediate problem because we let it be a problem.

Global Atlanta: Weknow that you and your Georgia State colleague Shawn Powers wrote a book about cyber crimes and cyber warfare that focused a good deal on the extent of different cultural views across the globe and the implications for managing a global resource such as the internet. Are the polemics surrounding Russian interference in elections in Europe and the U.S. a real threat to democracy or do you feel that they are being overplayed for political gain?

Mr. Jablonski: We argued in The Real Cyber War that major international players – states, NGOs, and businesses – control of access to information is a bigger (and harder to detect) problem than network intrusions and cyberattacks. Hacking into a network to steal identities is much easier to understand than the utilization of digital networks to further military and geopolitical goals. Selecting and emphasizing portions of information on a topic constitutes framing. Frames are utilized by consumers to organize information in useful ways.Major players manipulate information to make users more accepting of arguments that result in benefits to the manipulator. It is done by making some information secret, organizing databases in ways where some information is easier to access than others, denying access to the internet, and many other ways. Allowing an ISP to favor the delivery of some information over others is another information modeling tactic. In a way, The Real Cyber War warned about interference such as that perpetrated by the Russians in 2016. They executed a program of disseminating false information through social media websites, knowing that the misleading material would be copied, magnified, and further disseminated by innocent users. The purpose of the attack, in my opinion, was not to disrupt the election but to inculcate disgust with the election process so they would choose not vote, which in turn would deprive the winner of legitimacy. Even worse, they acquired data from state election offices, state and national political parties, and candidates. We don’t know why they hacked the data, but it demonstrates a capacity to completely undermine an election. Yes, it is a real problem.

Global Atlanta: In your career you have seen the rise of CNN and Al-jazeera. Are these just harbingers of more to come and if so what will be the implications for the future?

Mr. Jablonski: I believe that we will see the formation of more worldwide media outlets that disseminate news and propaganda. (Good luck sorting it out.)The Russian government set up Russia Today (now RT) in 2005 as an English language 24/7 international news purveyor. It created the Arabic language Rusiya al-Yaum (2007), Spanish language RT Actualidad (2009), RT America (2010) and the RT Documentary Channel in 2007. France set up France 24 as an international news channel providing stories in Arabic, French, Spanish, and English. Six nations in Latin America established and funded Telesur, a television channel available internationally via satellite. Almost 30 other international television networks now exist. I believe that we will see the development of more international news networks because it forms a way of getting information directly to the citizens of another country. Most people are not aware of the number of these outlets because of comfort using a few channels that they recognize and because cable operators do not make most of the stations available. (Another example of molding the information you can access.)

Global Atlanta: Have you seen the film The Post? If so, how did you like it and do you feel comfortable with the way in which the Pentagon Papers were published. Do you see this moment in U.S. journalism as a precursor for the activities of Edward Snowden and Julian Assange?

Mr. Jablonski: I was in college during the two notable information crises of the last century – The Pentagon Papers and Watergate. The Post played a major role in both. I felt that the movie captured the sense of conflict at the time about when theft of information can be justified. I liked it a lot. Snowden and Assange cannot be compared to Daniel Ellsberg, the RAND employee who liberated the Pentagon Papers. Although all three of them were charged under the Espionage Act of 1917, Snowden fled to Russia before he could be apprehended and Assange retreated to the Ecuadoran embassy in London. Both are still being sought for trial in the U.S. Ellsberg, by contrast, voluntarily surrendered to the U.S. Attorney a few days before the Supreme Court decision that is central to the movie. He went to trial in 1973. During the trial improper acts by the government were uncovered: the office of Ellsberg’s psychiatrist was burgled with permission from the White House and without a warrant; Ellsberg’s phone had been tapped, again without a warrant; the government failed to provide the defense with transcripts. When the government claimed that it had lost all records related to Ellsberg wiretaps the trial judge dismissed all charges because of prosecutorial misconduct and attempting to obtain evidence through illegal means. Going to trial for potential espionage is significantly different than evading trial by absconding to another country. The Supreme Court decided that the First Amended protected the Post and the New York Times from prosecution for publishing classified material leaked to them. The Court did not absolve Ellsberg from any charges.

Global Atlanta: During your talk at the Great Decisions forum, you mentioned that you feel the various media including traditional and social media will converge. Very few people have tried to put their arms around where all this is going. Could you describe the great convergence that you foresee and whether you feel it will be a good thing or not? Do you think that this convergence will have an impact on U.S. foreign policy?

Mr. Jablonski: The death of newspapers (and all other hegemonic media) has been predicted as a consequence of extensive internet use to learn about news. Abandonment of newspapers by readers decreased revenues because advertisers were not reaching as many people as they had reached previously. Deprived of revenue, newspapers would go out of business. Many print publications have in fact disappeared in the last ten years. A few papers sought relief by publishing in part or in whole on websites. Some newspapers have been able to slow their decline with an electronic media strategy. The point, however, is that media have begun to assimilate online ways to diffuse information. It is now common for a print publication to exploit social media. Reporters post stories on blogs before they appear in print. Broadcast and print media offer text- and email-based alerts providing everything from sports scores to financial news. Traditional media increasingly employs new media for content. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are trolled for content that can be put on media websites, as well as printed or broadcast. “Citizen journalists” are encouraged to submit pictures or video. TV stations and other news organizations offer secure “tip lines” for story suggestions. On the other hand, newspapers, magazines, and broadcast media affect social media. A large percentage of stories used in blogs either repeat stories from mass media or are inspired by mass media. Some web sites try to emulate the look and feel of traditional media.Print media often publishes URLs to let readers go to a site for more information. Online editions of newspapers use hyperlinks to let readers jump to documents used as sources. Readers no longer have to trust a reporter’s interpretation since they easily can read linked documents. So it is obvious that the two forms of communication are converging. The trend will continue, especially as newspapers start to put expanded content online.

Global Atlanta: The spread of social media and the trials of the newspaper publishing industry are occasionally criticized for the “dumbing down” of the American public. Do you feel that this criticism is correct?

Mr. Jablonski: Yes, I think that much of what is circulated fails to challenge readers. The idea is to find a level of complexity that will attract the most readers. One reason that traditional media is struggling to attract customers is the belief by readers that they are being talked down to. Mass media, among other things, communicates and enforces social norms. Readers are shown (not told) what behavior is acceptable. When there is a violation by a celebrity or other public person, papers excoriate the offender. Media is in a unique position to show that we live in a society that can improve. Making that case requires some long form journalism as well as a clear vision of appropriate behavior. “Dumbing down” to reach a mythical common reader undermines progress.

Global Atlanta: Can the news consuming public in the U.S. (and yes across the world at large) be educated to become better truth checkers as consumers of news, just the way that when they go to the grocery store they are more aware of the contents of the products that they buy?

Mr. Jablonski: Absolutely. Why hasn’t the public been educated? In large part it is because we are dealing with relatively new technology that people adapt quickly to tasks. The evolving nature of technology use makes it difficult to establish practices allowing news consumers to be fact checkers. I believe that people are learning, however. It is very easy for an online news reader to check assertions made in a story by reference to another site found with a Google search. The difficult part will be teaching people to be active consumers. Knowing the right question to ask is fundamental. We currently do not teach students (and consumers in general) to say, “Can that possibly be.” When we start asking such questions then we will get more nuanced reporting.

Global Atlanta: Would you recommend new graduates of Georgia State to choose journalism for a career?

Mr. Jablonski: It is a tough question if, like me, your concept of a career journalist is rigid. My mother was a reporter, then a feature writer, then a columnist. She had an editor. She also had a deadline, which is why I learned that she had an editor. I am finding that students have a much larger definition.Journalism is one of the largest majors at Georgia State. I ask students why they want to be trained for employment in a dying industry. They believe that providing information on a mass scale will become increasingly important, only it will not be by newspapers or broadcast media. The convergence of new technology with the old is very apparent to them. Problems caused by misinformation, false narratives, and fake news are understood by them. As a result, they seek training in the ethics of reporting, good writing, and civic responsibility. I (and most of my students) believe that posting information on a blog imposes an ethical responsibility to be fair, acknowledge biases, write creatively, and aspire to a high degree of factual accuracy. That is what journalism teaches.

Global Atlanta: Thank you.

To learn more about Georgia State’s Transcultural and Violence Initiative, click here. For Mr. Jablonski’s professional bio, click here. For Global Atlanta interviews with Shawn Powers, Mr. Jablonski’s co-author for The Real Cyber War, click here and here.

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Vladimir Putin makes use of cyber weapons to maintain Individuals at one another’s throats

By – – Tuesday, February 6, 2018


Just so there’s no confusion: This column is not about Americans conspiring or colluding or coordinating with Russians. That’s a separate controversy about which I don’t have a lot to say at this moment.

What this column is about: Dezinformatsiya, the Russian word that gave birth, in the 1980s, to the English neologism “disinformation.” Understand that disinformation is not a synonym for misinformation. The later implies information that happens to be wrong. The former implies an attempt to deceive public opinion for strategic purposes.

For decades, thousands of Soviet propagandists and espionage agents disseminated tons of dezinformatsiya around the world. Today, using social media, sophisticated tech platforms and cyber weapons, the Russian government, headed by , is running a dezinformatsiya offensive beyond Joseph Stalin’s wildest dreams.

Jamie Fly and Laura Rosenberger have been studying this operation. Senior fellows at The German Marshall Fund of the United States, they are seasoned national security professionals. Both have worked, among other assignments, at the National Security Council, Mr. Fly in the George W. Bush administration, Ms. Rosenberger under President Obama.

They’ve been tracking “Kremlin-oriented social media accounts,” “troll farms,” “fake personas” and “fake organizations.” President , they’ve concluded, is attempting to undermine faith in America’s democratic institutions, assist extremists on both the left and right, divide and polarize Americans (even more than they already are), and poison the policy debates that citizens of a mature republic should be able to conduct in a civil manner.

Elections are just one target of opportunity. Russia’s networks, Mr. Fly and Ms. Rosenberger write in the Journal of Democracy, have been using social media to heighten tension in a range of controversies. One example: Reasonable people may differ over whether Confederate statues, in Charlottesville and elsewhere, should remain or be removed. The mission of Russian disinformation operations: Make this a fight between neo-Nazis on one side and Antifa thugs on the other.

Another example: has a strong interest in keeping his European neighbors dependent on his oil and gas, and pushing the price of those commodities as high as possible. So ’s networks have been running a covert disinformation campaign against hydraulic fracturing, the technology that has made it possible to access abundant natural gas deposits cheaply. The Kremlin didn’t create the controversy over fracking, it has simply promoted “some of the most divisive, conspiracy-minded stories around” that debate.

America is not Moscow’s only target. The Fly/Rosenberger research “has found examples of Russian interference” in 27 countries since 2004: planting false information in reputable newspapers, boosting radical political parties, hacking moderate political parties and leaking juicy tidbits to friendly and/or credulous journalists. More insidious than spreading fake news is sprinkling lies into a goulash of facts to produce a distorted narrative that becomes impossible to successfully rebut.

Why is doing this? If that’s the question you’re asking, you haven’t been paying attention to the man. His mission is to restore the power Russia lost when the Soviet Union collapsed. And, in his calculus, strengthening Russia and weakening the West amount to the same thing.

is an authoritarian and like other authoritarians — Chinese, Iranian, Turkish, North Korean, etc. — he regards democratic and republican forms of government as weak, decadent and, over time, bound to fail or, better yet, be defeated.

Undermining democratic institutions increases ’s legitimacy. You say elections in Russia are rigged? His supporters say that elections are not so free and fair in America and Europe either. This perception hobbles movements in support of civil rights and representative government everywhere.

Okay, I think I will say a few words about the raging partisan debate — allegations from Democrats and some #NeverTrump Republicans that meddled in America’s 2016 election with the goal of helping Donald Trump. More likely is what retired CIA chief of station and veteran Russia-watcher Daniel Hoffman concluded: that the “Russian espionage disinformation plot” was meant to target “both parties and America’s political process.”

As evidence, he notes a 2017 report from the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence which concludes that “pro-Russia bloggers even prepared an election-night Twitter campaign, #DemocracyRIP, designed to question the election’s validity after a Clinton victory.”

As V.I. Lenin would say: What is to be done? A bipartisan bill introduced by Sen. Marco Rubio and Sen. Chris Van Hollen would punish Moscow if our intelligence community determines that Russia is interfering in future elections.

Mr. Fly and Ms. Rosenberger argue that a “whole-of-government response, with a strong interagency lead and process that cuts across national security and domestic policy spaces, will be required to address this threat.”

They add: “With the United States and Europe facing a shared threat with similar tactics, a united trans-Atlantic response is critical to pushing back on Moscow’s efforts to weaken democracies and divide democratic nations from one another.”

Finally, the United States should do whatever is necessary to win the race in cyberspace, as much a domain of modern warfare as air, land, sea and space. Our aim should be nothing less than overwhelming superiority, both defensively and offensively.

We also need to get way ahead in the race for artificial intelligence, a weapon of dezinformatsia with enormous potential. declared last year that “whoever becomes the leader in this area will rule the world.”

The United States has no interest in ruling the world. The United States does have a vital interest in preventing authoritarians from ruling the world. Acutely aware of that, will do everything in his power to keep us at each other’s throats.

• Clifford D. May is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a columnist for The Washington Times.



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Navy Information Warfare Effort Set to Expand, Evolve

Cryptologic Technician (Maintenance) Seaman Christopher Payne examines the control card of a ship’s signal exploitation equipment Increment E (SSEE INC-E) system during the SSEE INC-E Maintenance course at Information Warfare Training Command Corry Station on Feb. 1, 2018. US Navy Photo

SAN DIEGO, Calif. -– As it moves into its fourth year, the Navy’s force of information warfare professionals continues to expand and evolve into a greater role supporting tactical warfighters, Vice Adm. Matthew Kohler said on Tuesday.

Kohler, who has commanded Naval Information Forces (NAVIFOR) since its establishment in 2014, highlighted three initiatives in the information warfare community to create Warfare Tactics Instructors, establish a training group to oversee unit-level IW training, and formalize a position of “IW commander afloat.”

Those initiatives follow on last year’s creation of the Naval Information Warfighting Development Center, established in March 2017. The goal of NIWDC “is to produce more talented as well as a more agile and a more ready Navy,” he said at the WEST 2018 event cohosted by the U.S. Naval Institute and AFCEA.

Official portrait of Vice Adm. Matthew J. Kohler, commander of Naval Information Forces. US Navy photo.

The Navy continues to build the center, which Kohler said is only 50-percent manned but has been involved in all major fleet exercise or certification events and remains at the core of information warfare “innovation” both at afloat and operational shore commands.

Kohler said the NIWDC commander, Capt. John Watkins, “has been instrumental in centralizing information warfare advanced training across the community, bringing together efforts to update and develop new information warfare tactics techniques and procedures and getting them out to the fleet and to serve as a catalyst for maturing the information warfare training continuum.” He added that he expects NIWDC will be led by a flag officer by year’s end.

The center has been partnering with other WDCs. In fact, Watkins said, NIWDC will be working with the Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center (SMWDC) and its Surface Warfare Advanced Tactical Training (SWATT) through the in-port phase and two underway at-sea training periods with amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD-2), based in San Diego.

With NIWDC stood up and operating, the next focus for NAVIFOR and NIWDC leadership is establishing an Information Warfare Tactics Instructor program. The first baseline WTI course already is underway, Kohler said.

Lt. Damon Goodrich-Houska (center), a warfare tactics instructor (WTI) of the Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center (SMWDC), instructs the anti-submarine warfare team on tactical maneuvers onboard USS Chafee (DDG 90) during a Surface Warfare Advanced Tactical Training (SWATT) anti-submarine maneuvering exercise in the Southern California operating area. US Navy Photo

“These will be the TOPGUN, patch-wearing experts equivalent,” Kohler said. Information warfare WTIs – pronounced “Witties” – will come from intelligence, cryptologic warfare, information warfare, meteorology and space.

“Our WTIs will be officers; they can also be enlisted, and I envision also they will be civilians,” he said. The “baseline” course, 18-1, kicked off last week with 20 candidates, all officers, “so we are off to the races.”

A second baseline course, 18-2 will start in July, and a third class might follow before the end of the year, Watkins said.

“I’m looking forward to our first enlisted weapons Tactics Instructor. I absolutely see the skills our enlisted sailors bring to qualify as WTIs,” Kohler said, telling USNI later that he’d “like to see” some enlisted personnel in the next class.

NAVIFOR also is moving close to establishing an Information Warfare Training Group, which will be focused on “unit basic- and intermediate-level training for information warfare,” Kohler said. The effort will parallel the Navy’s Afloat Training Group and will realign IW training focus under the new IWTG.

It will be established “in the next few weeks,” Kohler said, with the final decision awaiting signature at the Director of Navy Staff level. Capt. Chris Slattery, currently commander of Navy Information Operations Command Norfolk, already is tapped to be the first commander.

“This IWTG will fill a critical gap for us on very granular but highly needed skills for afloat units as well as our shore commands,” Kohler said.

The Information Warfare training function, which often has been managed by the NIOCs in Norfolk, Va., and San Diego, “just wasn’t aligned properly,” Kohler later told USNI.

“Once we have that structure, I can now work closely with the TYCOMs” and ensure focused IW training for sailors on ships such as destroyers and others.

“We saw gaps, and we need to focus on that basic training,” he added.

NAVIFOR also is on the cusp of establishing the Information Warfare Commander Afloat as a formal composite warfare commander at the tactical level.

The move “will put the IW commander in a better position,” Kohler said, compared with previous ad hoc attempts by carrier strike groups to assign someone as the CWC that, “in some cases, weren’t filled by an IW professional.”

“Those days are long past,” Kohler added, noting IW professionals now are assigned to CSG staffs and most are “responsible for all of the information warfare employed in the strike group.” The second IW command screening board met last year, he said, providing screened officers to be trained and assigned into those positions.

Vice Admiral Jan Tighe. US Navy Photo

Vice Adm. Jan Tighe, deputy chief of naval operations for information warfare and director of naval intelligence, said in a different panel at the conference that the carrier strike group information warfare commander will be a post-major command captain from various information warfare areas: intelligence, information personnel, cryptology or oceanography.

These CSG IW commanders will “bring together the information warfare part of the fight in the strike group. As additional capabilities come in, that fight will be harder and more complex.”

The CSG IW commanders will go through a 100-day training course to ensure the officers from multiple specialties are cross-trained and ready to help strike group leadership handle the full range of electromagnetic maneuver warfare and cyber warfare operations they may face.



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What your Fitbit can tell Russia

By Cedric Leighton and VJ Viswanathan

Editor’s note: Colonel Cedric Leighton is a CNN military analyst who served 26 years as a US Air Force intelligence officer. His last military assignment was as the National Security Agency’s Deputy Director for Training. VJ Viswanathan is a cybersecurity executive with 20 years of technology & risk management experience. Leighton and Viswanathan are the co-founders of CYFORIX, a national defense and cybersecurity research advisory firm to Fortune 500 companies. The views expressed in this commentary are their own.

(CNN) — Ever wonder who might see the data from your Fitbit? It turns out it could be just about anybody — and that has the Pentagon worried. Twenty-year-old Australian college student Nathan Ruser analyzed a heat map produced by data aggregator Strava, and what he found shows just how vulnerable troops deployed to hostile areas could be.

But that vulnerability has much broader implications for the future of warfare. In fact, Russia and China are already acting on strategies that will leverage heat maps and other aspects of what we’re now calling our “digital dust” in order to enhance their military power.

So how does it all work? Strava aggregates data from any GPS-enabled device, such as Fitbits, Garmins and cellphones so they can “connect the world’s athletes” on their own social media platform. At first glance, the Strava Labs heat map looks like a nighttime satellite image of Earth. Vibrant light emanates from rich areas like Europe, the United States, Japan and South Korea. Darkness envelops unpopulated or poorer areas like much of Africa, the Canadian Arctic, Tibet and North Korea. Closer inspection, however, reveals that people are transmitting data from even some of the darkest corners of the world.

That might not be a big deal if you’re a solitary tourist in the Amazon, but if you’re a soldier conducting sensitive operations while using these GPS-enabled devices, you have just compromised your mission. Just as Nathan Ruser or Strava can track you, so can hostile intelligence services — and they can do so with great precision, down to specific individuals.

Russia has already done this. According to the Wall Street Journal, they’ve targeted the smartphones of a US battalion commander, his staff and his NATO counterparts while they were deployed to Eastern Poland. They’ve also conducted similar operations in Eastern Ukraine against Ukrainian forces. These operations are the tactical manifestations of a much larger effort by Russia to conduct hybrid warfare against the United States and its allies — melding conventional military power with special operations, economic coercion, political influence operations (like inserting “fake news” into social media feeds and finding compromising material, or Kompromat, on leading political figures) and cyber attacks.

Hybrid warfare is being conducted by both China and Russia on a global scale. While the Chinese are a bit more subtle in their approach, the Russians are going gangbusters. Today one must consider them to be the foremost practitioner of true hybrid warfare.

It is challenges such as these that forced the United States to develop a new national defense strategy. Promoted by Defense Secretary James Mattis earlier this month, this strategy marks an important change in our combat posture — it de-emphasizes the war on terror and highlights the return of high stakes competition between nation-states. Yet we return to the “great game,” as Kipling called it, with a twist: This time, the new defense strategy will have to enlist not just the military and the government, but businesses and everyday citizens in the effort to keep our country safe.

The new strategy correctly recognizes that both China and Russia want to challenge US preeminence around the world. In fact, the National Security Strategy (from which National Defense Strategy is derived) calls these nations “revisionist powers.” While not yet strong enough to challenge the United States using a direct battle, both nations are asserting themselves in innovative ways, developing unique forms of hybrid warfare in the process. Adversaries using data from soldiers’ Fitbits or cellphones is just one example of what could happen in a hybrid warfare scenario.

Like their Chinese counterparts, the Russians are not confining their efforts to military and economic alliances, or to the governments that are a party to them. In fact, they are leveraging new technologies, like artificial intelligence and social media platforms to conduct their hybrid warfare campaigns.

From a macro perspective, the National Defense Strategy recognizes that both Russia and China will do everything they can to level the playing field with the United States. For that reason alone, the United States must out-innovate and out-perform its nearest rivals. This won’t be easy. In Russia, with the support of President Vladimir Putin, efforts are underway to harness the power of AI, not only for legitimate scientific research, but also to create new and destabilizing weapons in both the physical battlespace as well as in cyberspace.

In the cyber realm, we are seeing new and dangerous forms of malware that, when unleashed, could make all previous cyber attacks seem like child’s play. One such attack is being dubbed “Muddy Water.” It sends authentic-looking documents, some purporting to come from US intelligence agencies or cybersecurity firms, to targets, and infects their systems when recipients access the fake documents.

America’s rivals are leveraging malware, binding it to Kompromat and deliberately planting fake news stories in an effort to destabilize the United States, its allies and the alliances that bind them together. While the National Defense Strategy recognizes significant changes in the global dynamic, it does not go far enough to call out these new and persistent threats to our way of life.

For this strategy to work, we must work together to help stem data leaks from Fitbits and other devices. We also must develop a deeper understanding of the threats that bind public sector to private sector, intelligence and law enforcement agency to social media platforms and our citizens to each other.

It’s now two minutes to midnight. Let’s hope it’s not too little, too late, for all our sakes.

TM & © 2018 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.


Information Warfare: Gauging Trolls’ Influence on Democracy

CIA Chief Warns Russia Is Seeking to Influence US Midterm ElectionsMathew J. Schwartz (euroinfosec) • January 30, 2018

Information Warfare: Gauging Trolls' Influence on Democracy
Distribution of reported locations for tweets by Russian trolls (red circles) and a random, baseline set of Twitter users (green triangles). (Source: “Disinformation Warfare: Understanding State-Sponsored Trolls on Twitter and their Influence on the Web”)

The United States appears to be headed into yet another perfect information warfare storm of Russian making.

See Also:Ransomware: The Look at Future Trends

On Monday, the Trump administration announced that it will impose no new sanctions on Russia as a result of its 2016 meddling in the U.S. presidential election or 2014 invasion of Crimea.

But CIA Director Mike Pompeo tells the BBC that he’s seen no “significant decrease” in Russian information warfare activity and predicts it will not decline before November’s House and Senate mid-term elections (see No Shock: Russia Confirms ‘Cyber War’ Efforts).

“I have every expectation that they will continue to try and do that, but I’m confident that America will be able to have a free and fair election [and] that we will push back in a way that is sufficiently robust that the impact they have on our election won’t be great,” Pompeo says.

Russian Disinformation Campaigns

In October 2016, the U.S. Department Of Homeland Security and Office of the Director of National Intelligence blamed the Russian government for attempting to interfere in U.S. elections by hacking and leaking documents, saying such activities were authored by “Russia’s senior-most officials.” (See US Government Accuses Russia of Election Hacking)

The precise manner of that interference continues to come into focus, as Twitter, Google and Facebook release details of social media accounts tied to Russia’s disinformation and propaganda efforts (see Senate Grills Tech Giants Over Russian Fake News).

Troll Farms

What effect might Russian information warfare efforts have on U.S. voters?

In late 2017, Congress launched an investigation into Russian interference and released Twitter accounts flagged as being used by Russian trolls.

A group of researchers have since analyzed what they say are “27,000 tweets posted by 1,000 Twitter users identified [by Congress] as having ties with Russia’s Internet Research Agency and thus likely state-sponsored trolls.” The researchers – from Cyprus University of Technology, University College London and University of Alabama at Birmingham – looked at the Twitter users’ impact not just on that social network, but also on the Reddit and 4chan forums, according to their new report, “Disinformation Warfare: Understanding State-Sponsored Trolls on Twitter and Their Influence on the Web.”

Troll Hashtags

Top 20 hashtags in tweets from Russian trolls compared to a baseline, random set of Twitter users. (Source: “Disinformation Warfare: Understanding State-Sponsored Trolls on Twitter and Their Influence on the Web”)

Their chief finding: The quantifiable impact of the “trolls’ influence” on other Twitter, Reddit and 4chan users over a 21-month period “was not substantial with respect to the other platforms, with the significant exception of news published by the Russian state-sponsored news outlet RT,” which was previously known as Russia Today.

The researchers found that tweets that include links to RT had four times as much impact as other trolling efforts (see Russian Interference: Anatomy of a Propaganda Campaign).

Terms extracted from Latent Dirichlet Allocation analysis of tweets’ semantics, comparing Russian trolls with a baseline of random Twitter users. (Source: “Disinformation Warfare: Understanding State-Sponsored Trolls on Twitter and Their Influence on the Web”)

Return on Investment

So why would the Russian government sanction disinformation campaigns via Twitter if they had negligible impact?

The researchers say the apparently limited influence could relate to their only studying 1,000 troll accounts – a very small sample. But another likely explanation is simply that trolls’ goals are more indirect.

“Another, more plausible explanation is that the troll accounts are just not terribly efficient at spreading news, and instead are more concerned with causing havoc by pushing ideas, engaging other users or even taking both sides of controversial online discussions,” the researchers write.

Bolstering that theory: Twitter recently reported that it’s discovered at least 50,000 automated troll accounts, which may be much better at sending people to specific URLs, the researchers say, adding that they hope to see more sophisticated measurement techniques get developed.

Influence is Tricky

Alan Woodward, a professor of computer science at the University of Surrey, says that demonstrating the scale of trolling – as this paper does – is tough to translate into how people’s opinions may have been swayed.

“It is notoriously difficult to measure – and hence prove – influence,” he says. “We all like to think we are more intelligent than that.”

Counterpoint: Billions of dollars get spent every year by businesses who want to influence which laundry detergent, fast-food restaurant or vacuum cleaner they prefer.

Psychological Warfare

The very fact that the Kremlin sponsors troll farms suggests they do serve a purpose. “The Russians would not persist if they didn’t think it had some benefit them, even if that is to cause sow confusion,” Woodward says. “It’s also interesting that ‘western’ countries are setting up psychological warfare units that specialize in online social media.”

The United Kingdom, for example launched its 77th Brigade – motto: “Influence and Outreach” – in 2015. The same year, the EU launched a rapid-response European External Action Service designed to counter disinformation campaigns.

Woodward likens the influence of foreign powers to the days of newspaper barons, when “owners of newspapers could sway opinions through editorial control.” But whereas newspapers had an owner and mastheads, social media can make it much tougher to identify who’s behind messaging that can operate at a heretofore unseen scale.

Arguably, today’s stakes are also much higher than ever. “At the very least, I think that foreign powers can cause a loss of trust and sow doubt about the effectiveness, relevance and so on of a country’s government, and that has to build a picture in the minds of swing voters,” Woodward says. “At worst it could bring the whole concept of democracy into disrepute.”

Trump Administration Criticizes Sanctions for Russia

Given the threat posed by Russian information warfare, many observers continue to ask: What will the United States do to attempt to deter future Russian meddling in U.S. elections?

On Monday, the Trump administration announced that it will not sanction Russia, as required by a new U.S. law meant to punish Russia for its interference in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election.

“Today, we have informed Congress that this legislation and its implementation are deterring Russian defense sales,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement released on Monday. “Since the enactment of the … legislation, we estimate that foreign governments have abandoned planned or announced purchases of several billion dollars in Russian defense acquisitions.”

The “Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act,” or CAATSA, cleared Congress last August and was signed into law by President Trump, even though he described it as “deeply flawed.”

The passage of the law also prompted criticism from Russia, with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev saying it signaled a “full-scale trade war” against Russia.

The law requires the Trump administration, as of Monday, to impose at least five out of 12 sanctions specified in section 235 of CAATSA on anyone determined to engage “in a significant transaction” with anyone who’s part of Russia’s defense or intelligence sectors.

While the White House initially rebuffed the law’s requirements, later on Monday, the administration acceded somewhat to the law’s demands by issuing a list of 114 Russian politicians and 96 oligarchs – some close to Putin – in what’s informally known as the “Putin list.”

Some of the individuals on that list are already subject to U.S. sanctions. But it’s not clear if more individuals on the list might be sanctioned, or if the list’s purpose is simply to “name and shame” them.

The U.S. Treasury, for example, notes that the list “is not a sanctions list, and the inclusion of individuals or entities … does not and in no way should be interpreted to impose sanctions on those individuals or entities.”

But if the Trump administration does not attempt to exact a political or financial price for Russia’s continuing attempt to meddle in U.S. political affairs, it’s unclear whether the Kremlin will have any incentive to cease its U.S.-focused information warfare campaigns.