“A compulsion to betray and deceive”…
“From Moscow, his former pal Philby tormented him. In his witty, malicious 1968 memoir, My Silent War, Philby depicted Angleton as a hapless dupe.
“The key to Philby, if there is a single one,” wrote McCargar who worked with both men, “is less likely to be found in the faults of the Establishment, than it is in a compulsion to betray and deceive, which underlay all his relationships.””
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|Did the CIA’s chief James Angleton fall for British traitor Kim Philby?|
As a double agent, Philby not only betrayed his home country, but the Americans who placed so much trust in their more experienced British counterparts. That is why I have written a biography of Angleton – not only to capture Kim Philby through American eyes, but to understand the impact his audacious treachery had on the CIA in its formative years.
These were times fraught with sexual tension in intelligence agencies on both sides of the Atlantic.
Philby touched on homoerotic currents as electric and buried as the phone lines those spies routinely wiretapped. His betrayal of Angleton was ideological and emotional. Its impact was political and psychological.
Philby and Angleton’s friendship blossomed in the spring of 1950, amid a moral panic in Washington. In a series of sensational speeches, Republican senator Joe McCarthy had woven together the threats of communism and homosexuality into twin fervours that historians have dubbed the “Red Scare” and the “Lavender Scare”.
Senator Joseph McCarthy with the avalanche of mail that greeted his crusade against communism in the US government and public life, December 1952.
Photo: Camera Press
The two spies were cosmopolitan men who disliked McCarthy’s demagogic style. Angleton was married and a father of three. Philby was on the second of his four marriages, had four children, several mistresses, and many conquests. His housemate in Washington (and fellow spy) was Guy Burgess, a Cambridge classmate who had previously worked for the BBC and the Home Office. Openly gay, he did not conceal his amused contempt for American morality.
Philby’s affection for Burgess bordered on the physical. Wilfred Mann, a scientist who worked in the British embassy, dropped by Philby’s house unannounced one morning in early 1951 and found Philby and Burgess lounging together in bed, sipping champagne and dressed only in bathrobes.
Kim Philby is surrounded by media at his mother’s home in West Kensington after his name surfaced in the MacLean-Burgess inquiry, November 1955.
Photo: Fairfax Archive
Angleton was half-amused, half-appalled by Burgess’ exuberant style. When Angleton invited both men to his house, his daughter remembered how they frolicked. “They’d start chasing each other through the house in this little choo-choo train,” Siri Hari Angleton once remarked. “These men in their Eton ties, screaming and laughing!”
Thanks to McCarthy’s insinuations, homosexuals were presumed to be a security risk because of the potential for blackmail. For these spies, same-sex liaisons were seen as an aberration; an indicator of psychological weakness (but not sufficient for disqualification from the intelligence community).
Kim Philby (left) and George Blake talk over a bottle of wine, July 1979.
Photo: Fairfax Archive
In May 1951, the friendship of Philby and Angleton was tested by terrible news. While on home leave, Burgess had disappeared, along with Donald Maclean, an Embassy official who GCHQ and National Security Agency code-crackers had identified as a probable Soviet spy. The two men soon turned up in Moscow.
Had someone tipped off Burgess and Maclean that the net was closing?
Jefferson Morley’s The Ghost.
Many suspected Philby, who insisted, with sheepish aplomb, that he had been fooled like everyone else. Angleton sided with his friend.
Perhaps, some colleagues later wondered, he had been blinded by affection. In a memo, he wrote: “Philby had consistently ‘sold’ [Burgess] as a most gifted individual … In this respect, he has served as subject’s apologist on several occasions when subject’s behaviour has been a source of extreme embarrassment in the Philby household.”
James Angleton, former CIA counter-intelligence chief, brushes past newsmen during the Rockfeller commission into alleged domestic spying by the agency, February 1975.
Bill Harvey, a senior CIA Soviet expert, scoffed. “Where’s the rest of the story?” he scrawled on Angleton’s memo, confiding in one colleague he thought there had been a homosexual relationship between the two friends.
After Maclean and Burgess defected, it became apparent the Soviets had agents deep in Western intelligence. Still, Angleton remained blind to any involvement on the part of Philby, insisting to James McCargar, a CIA colleague: “I still feel Philby some day will head the British service.”
Philby never escaped the shadow of suspicion but Angleton sided with MI6 officials who rejected the charge that he was a spy. By the time Philby moved to Beirut in 1956 to work as a journalist, Angleton had become chief of counter-intelligence at the CIA, with a staff of 200.
Knowing there were lingering suspicions, he arranged for Lebanese police to watch his old friend. They reported that Philby had been spotted sneaking off to rendezvous with the wife of a friend and Angleton was satisfied. Kim was a rogue, not a Red.
So when Philby finally defected to Moscow in January 1963, Angleton was shattered. For 19 years, his mentor and dear companion had played him for a fool, while stealing atomic secrets, US plans for the Korean War and countless secrets that had been read by Stalin.
The realisation came as a “terrible shock”. Angleton knew he had confided in Philby “far beyond any routine relationship between the colleagues of two friendly countries”, said Nicholas Elliott, Philby’s best friend in MI6. “The knowledge that he, the top expert in the world on Soviet espionage, had been totally deceived had a cataclysmic effect.”
The powerful and now paranoid Angleton redoubled his search for a KGB mole in the upper ranks of the CIA, certain that another Philby was lurking. He investigated 40 agency employees, and effectively killed the careers of about a third of them. Yet he never found a plausible suspect.
From Moscow, his former pal Philby tormented him. In his witty, malicious 1968 memoir, My Silent War, Philby depicted Angleton as a hapless dupe.
“The key to Philby, if there is a single one,” wrote McCargar who worked with both men, “is less likely to be found in the faults of the Establishment, than it is in a compulsion to betray and deceive, which underlay all his relationships.”
Ultimately, Angleton knew that better than anyone. Near the end of his life, his CIA colleagues threw him a farewell luncheon where he was asked if he wanted to say anything that he had previously never disclosed about the Philby case.
“There are some matters I shall have to take to the grave with me,” he replied, heartbroken to the end, “and Kim is one of them.”
The Ghost: The Secret Life of CIA Spymaster James Jesus Angleton by Jefferson Morley is published by Scribe.
|The ‘illegals’ of ‘Directorate S’: Russia’s undercover ‘sleeper’ agent program is ongoing|
LONDON — There are probably more Russian “sleeper” agents in the UK and US today than there were during the Cold War, according to Victor Madeira, a senior fellow at The Institute for Statecraft who testified to Parliament about Russian covert interference in Britain.
In written evidence to the House of Commons Defence Committee, Madeira — a Russia expert — described the resources Russia commands in its efforts to subdue British, European and American influence.
Most of his evidence focused on the fact that Russia’s intelligence services vastly outnumber their counterparts in the UK. But he also included this tidbit about Russia’s “Main Intelligence Directorate,” the GRU, and its “illegals” operation, which places spies in Britain and the US where they live seemingly ordinary lives, until called upon by Moscow:
“GRU has long deployed ‘illegals’. These hand-picked, deep-cover intelligence officers live abroad under assumed ‘legends’: carefully constructed false foreign identities and life stories (over decades in some cases), allowing ‘illegals’ to blend in.”
“… Nowadays, UK CI and CE [counterintelligence and counterespionage] resources are much diminished, while former Warsaw Pact nationals can easily travel across NATO. This is a particular problem if an intelligence officer/asset uses ‘natural cover’ (i.e. their own identity, sometimes called ‘non-official cover’ or NOC). A banker or travel agent may be just that – or they may also be intelligence officers or assets (the latter willing or coerced). Having few(er) or no traceable links to a hostile intelligence service, NOCs are far more difficult to detect, monitor and counter. This is why they are so valued.”
“‘Illegals’ are the most prized of intelligence officers,” Madeira, the author of “Britannia and the Bear,” a history of espionage between the two nations, concluded.
“Despite the ‘end’ of the Cold War in 1989-1991, Russia’s decades-long ‘illegals’ programmes didn’t miss a beat. These programmes remain as strategic, long-term, resource-intensive in nature and prized as ever, with a single purpose: placing hand-picked Russian intelligence assets across foreign societies and governments, regardless of the current state of East-West relations,” he told Business Insider recently.
Anna Chapman, the spy who worked at Barclays
The most famous of the “illegals” is probably Anna Chapman, who was arrested and deported from the US with nine other sleeper agents in 2010.
When Chapman (real name Anna Vasilevna Kushchenko) was arrested, the media treated the event like a joke. Chapman did not appear to be engaged in any serious spying.
She gained UK citizenship through a marriage to a British citizen she met at a rave. She lived in London for at least five years, between 2001 and 2006, and worked at NetJets and Barclays, before moving to America. Perhaps, people said, the Chapman ring was a set of Soviet agents that the Russians forgot about after the wall came down? The story was later used as the premise for a TV show, “The Americans,” starring Keri Russell. It tells the story of two KGB officers posing as a married couple who live in the suburbs of Washington, D.C.
Today, little is known about the true scale of Russia’s “illegals” programme, beyond the fact that the Chapman arrests proved it was alive and well in 2010. What we do know comes from the Cold War, when Western counter-intelligence took the Russian threat more seriously.
In the mid-1980s, researchers estimated that the KGB’s First Chief Directorate unit operated 200 “illegal” agents, and the GRU, separately, another 150.
The numbers of ‘illegals’ undercover in the West “are much higher nowadays.”
“Personally, I am certain those figures are much higher nowadays,” Madeira told Business Insider.
The reason: Russian state security agencies tend to think in terms of decades or generations, not years. The end of the Cold War made it easier for Russians to travel to Western countries, and the KGB’s successor agencies will have regarded this as a long-term opportunity.
Spies no longer need to make a tortuous journey from Moscow through Asia or the Middle East, changing passports multiple times, before arriving in Europe. At the same time, the UK’s commitment to counter-intelligence dwindled, as we entered the decade-long period of peace in the 1990s that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union.
That made it easier for illegals to operate. Now they can get on the plane to Heathrow and disappear by lunchtime.
FBI mugshots of Anna Chapman and nine others in the “illegals” ring of 2010. FBI
The “Directorate S” training process can take years
The Chapman spy ring was run by Russia’s SVR, or Foreign Intelligence Service (Russia has a multitude of often competing intelligence services). The SVR is a former unit of the KGB. Within the SVR is the mysterious “Directorate S,” which recruits, trains, and supervises “illegals.”
The process can take decades, and some “illegals” are sent over as married couples while their grown children stay behind in Russia as semi-free “hostages,” to guarantee they will not defect. An account of the process was published in 1984 by Viktor Suvorov, a GRU agent who defected to the UK in 1978. It begins when the illegal trainee is housed in a secret Moscow dacha outfitted entirely as if it were a home in the West:
“… he wears the clothes and shoes, and eats the food, even smokes cigarettes and uses razor blades procured from overseas. In each room a tape recorder is installed which runs twenty-four hours a day while he is occupying the dacha. These tape recorders continuously broadcast news from the radio programmes of his target country. From the first day of his training he is supplied with the majority of papers and magazines. He sees many films and descriptions on video tapes of television broadcasts.
The instructors, for the most part former illegals, read the same papers and listen to the same radio programmes and spend their time asking their pupil the most difficult questions imaginable with regard to what has been read. It is quite obvious that after a number of years of such training, the future illegal knows by heart the composition of every football team, the hours of work of every restaurant and nightclub, the weather forecasts and everything that is going on in the realm of gossip as well as current affairs, in a country where he has never been in his life.”
They become ordinary citizens, leading mundane lives
The curious aspect of the illegals programme is that once activated, these agents do not turn into Le Carre characters. They don’t immediately infiltrate the military or MI6 or the CIA and transmit secret information back to Moscow. Rather, they become ordinary citizens, leading mundane lives.
The obvious question is, why do the Russians bother? The answer is that the mere ability to place foreign agents inside another country is an end in itself. Only then do they set about actually trying to conduct espionage.
“Historically, it’s been exceedingly rare for ‘illegal’ Russian intelligence officers themselves to penetrate foreign governments generally. As good as ‘illegal’ legends can be for daily life, it’d be impossible for ‘first-generation’ ‘illegals’ to pass proper security vetting (I would hope!)” Madeira says.
“The role of the ‘illegal’ intelligence officer is to remain undetected by foreign counter-intelligence and counter-espionage services, while recruiting assets/agents/sources that either already have access to valuable information or are assessed to have the potential to do so,” he told Business Insider.
“These assets/agents/sources are the ones working inside foreign governments, corporations, NGOs, media, academia, etc.”
“… On his arrival at his objective, the illegal sets about basic legalisation. He has been provided with good papers by the best forgers of the GRU on genuine blank passports. At the same time he is extremely vulnerable if he is not registered with the police or the tax departments. Any check may give him away and for this reason he endeavours to change jobs and places of work often to get his name onto as many company lists as he can and to acquire character references signed by real people. The ideal solution is for him to obtain new documentation from the police department under some pretext or another. Often he will marry another agent (who may already be his wife); she will then be given a genuine passport, and he will ‘lose’ his false one to have it replaced with a real one on the production of his wife’s genuine document. The acquisition of a driving licence, credit cards, membership documents of clubs and associations are a vital element in ‘legalising’ the status of an illegal.”
“One of their favourite means is to go through Western cemeteries, find a deceased child that passed away very young, then they will take that identity”
Viktor Suvorov Wikimedia 2,0, CC
They will often steal the identity of a dead baby, Madeira says. “One of their favourite means is to go through Western cemeteries, find a deceased child that passed away very young, then they will take that identity, and if the checks work out they will create a false ‘legend’ and that person will gradually develop a life history, a foreign passport, they will speak foreign languages with no trace of an accent.”
In addition to NetJets and Barclays, Chapman also ran a real estate agent office in New York.
The aim is to start at the outer circles of influence and develop a network that reaches upward to the top. Illegals have been “travel agents, think tanks, students,” Madeira says.
“But what they all had in common was they were gradually trying to find their way, through work and networking, to the centres of power, the policymakers, the special advisers, people who have privileged insight to decision-making, or people who have a way of influencing. A wealthy individual who happens to be a party donor … they may have gone to school with a senator, they may have gone to school with an MP.”
Sometimes, they identify experts for assassination
The scariest part is what they are capable of if Russia wants to activate them in an emergency. Some illegals will be used to identify targets for assassinations. When conflict broke out on the Ukraine-Russia border, Madeira says, one of the first things that happened was senior Ukrainian security experts began to die. The most recent attempted killing was in October.
“They identify experts for assassination … confusion is half the battle.” Their targets were “senior military and counter-intelligence officers,” Madeira says. “Those people were very carefully targeted for assassination.”
Assassinations work because “at the very least it’s disruptive and demoralising … at best it’s years of knowledge and contacts – that’s all gone,” Madeira says.
“The media underestimated considerably just how much of a continuous element this represents from a Russian point of view.”
|Russia Probe Is Far From Over As Mueller Seizes Thousands Of Hot Documents From Manafort|
A new court filing by special counsel Robert Mueller against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his business associate suggest that the Russia probe is a ways from ending.
The filing on Friday ahead of a court appearance scheduled for Manafort and his associate Richard Gates on Monday reveals that Mueller’s investigators have gathered more than 400,000 financial and corporate records and email communications involving the defendants.
“Given the volume of discovery in this case, the government also produced to defendants certain documents that it identified as ‘hot,’” states the filing, which specifies that about 2,000 documents fall in that category.
Investigators digging into possible collusion between President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russians have obtained 15 search or seizure warrants and copies of 36 electronic devices including phones, laptops and thumb drives, according to the filing.
Records the government discovered on November 17 include more than 116,000 pages of financial documents and a hard drive with about 89,000 items. On November 22, the government found two hard drives with about 120,000 items. On December 1, the government seized another hard drive with about 80,000 items. The fourth and final discovery took place on December 8 and produced copies of 27 electronic devices from Manafort’s residence.
A separate court filing unsealed on Friday contained emails between Manafort and Gates from August and September 2016 on their strategy to counter any political attacks.
Manafort and Gates were indicted on charges including conspiracy and money laundering on October 30. Both have pleaded not guilty.
The biggest development in Mueller’s probe so far surfaced on December 1, when Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about conversations with a Russian ambassador last December. Flynn is the first senior White House official to cooperate with Mueller.
Mueller and his team began investigating links between Trump campaign members and Russians since May and have unearthed more information as Trump repeatedly denies involvement.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort arrives for a hearing at U.S. District Court in Washington, U.S., November 2, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein Reuters
“There has been absolutely no collusion,” the president said last Saturday after Flynn pleaded guilty.
The president and White House officials believe that Mueller’s recent focus on people closest to Trump signals his probe has reached its final stage, The Washington Post reported.
But Randall Eliason, a former federal prosecutor and law professor at George Washington University, told the Post that he doesn’t think there is any reason to believe the investigation is almost over.
“Based not just on what we’ve seen but also what we know about white-collar investigations generally, this seems to me like it is just getting started,” Eliason said.
|The Weekend “Planet Earth Report” –Google’s CIA Origins, Hubble’s ‘Time-Machine’ Successor, Destructive Bitcoin … – The Daily Galaxy (blog)|
|Iraq Prime Minister Declares Victory Over ISIS|
The prime minister’s announcement heralded a significant turnaround for the nation’s armed forces and political leadership from the summer of 2014, when the military, hollowed out by years of corruption and inept political decisions, crumbled under the juggernaut of the Islamic State’s once-formidable fighting force.
By June that year, the terrorist group had seized control of Iraq’s Sunni-dominated north and west, putting more than four million Iraqis under its control. At first, some of those Iraqis were willing supporters of the insurgent force, in large part because of the years of sectarian violence and abuse they had experienced from Iraq’s Shiite-majority politicians.
But the puritanical punishments and cruelties ISIS inflicted soon made the group a feared and unwelcome overlord.
Now, Iraqis around the capital and many parts of the liberated regions say they have a newfound pride in their security forces, as well as in their government. Mr. Abadi is routinely cited by supporters and rivals alike as Iraq’s most popular and trusted politician.
Still, security analysts and military commanders warned that the end of large-scale military maneuvers did not mean the end of the Islamic State threat.
Hours before Mr. Abadi’s speech, a bomb suspected of being planted by insurgents exploded in the center of Tikrit, the hometown of former President Saddam Hussein and an area of anti-government activity for many years, before the creation of the Islamic State’s so-called caliphate.
Among the urgent challenges officials now face to ensure security and stability are reconstruction plans for cities like Mosul, which was destroyed by the fighting, as well as reconciliation programs for the country’s Sunni and Shiite communities, said Hussein Allawi, a professor of national security at Al Nahrain University in Baghdad.
Some three million Iraqis remain displaced by the war, and municipal services have yet to be restored in many liberated areas.
“The battles against Daesh are over, but the war is not,” Mr. Allawi said.
Hakim al-Zamili, who leads Parliament’s security and defense committee, estimates that about 20,000 hard-core supporters of the Islamic State remain in the country, hidden among the large groups of displaced people or in remote areas of the western deserts.
Iraqi intelligence and other officials over recent weeks have documented the rise of a possibly new violent Islamist movement in the country, which has suffered attacks from various factions of jihadist movements over the past 15 years.
Mr. Zamili and other military officials cautioned that Iraq must devote significant intelligence resources to find and track down these extremists, and that continued military assistance from the American-led coalition was vital to this continuing mission. More than 5,000 American troops are currently based in Iraq, in addition to military trainers from Britain, Italy, Australia and other countries.
“Iraq still needs the intelligence cooperation with the international coalition and neighboring countries because there are many places for ISIS to hide,” said Wathiq al-Hashimi, the chairman of the Iraqi Group for Strategic Studies, an independent think tank in Baghdad. “ISIS commanders are now in different countries in the world.”
|Trump, Mattis turn military loose on ISIS, leaving terror caliphate in tatters – Fox News|
|Donald Trump boasts that he has ‘defeated’ the Islamic State – Independent.ie|
|us and isis – Google Search|
Newsweek–Dec 8, 2017
Updated | The U.S. military allowed thousands of Islamic State militant group (ISIS) fighters to flee from their de facto capital of Raqqa, Syria, in a secret deal that boosted the U.S. fight against the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, according to a former Pentagon-backed commander, who has since …
CNN–Dec 5, 2017
“While the nature of US support to partner forces will adjust as the coalition shifts from from major urban combat operations to stabilization tasks, US support will not end until the enduring defeat of ISISand will be determined by conditions on the ground,” Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon said in a written …
Newsweek–Dec 6, 2017
The Department of Justice is ramping up efforts to take back ancient jewels the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) is allegedly using to fund its terrorist operations. After filing a civil complaint in December 2016 seeking the forfeiture of four of the artifacts, the federal law enforcement department announced on …
PBS NewsHour–20 hours ago
In a 2016 offensive to take Mosul back from ISIS, the U.S. and Iran fought on the same side without ever publicly acknowledging it. The militant group defeated, both countries still have a stake in Iraq and tensions have been rising. Special correspondent Reza Sayah has the final installment of our series …
|russians and isis – Google Search|
Newsweek–Dec 7, 2017
Russia has offered to assist the U.S. in the final stages of the fight against the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) in Iraq after Moscow declared total victory against the jihadis in neighboring Syria. Russia has long questioned the effectiveness and intentions of U.S. forces in the Middle East, especially in the …
CNN–17 hours ago
“The greatest concern is that we could shoot down a Russian aircraft because its actions are seen as a threat to our air or ground forces,” said Lt. Col. Damien Pickart, the spokesman for US Air Forces Central Command. “As coalition leaders have repeatedly said, we’re here to fight ISIS — not the Russians …
New York Times–Dec 8, 2017
Russia and the United States back separate offensives against the Islamic State, also called ISIS, in eastern Syria, both of which are advancing in oil-rich Deir al-Zour Province bordering Iraq. The assaults are converging on Islamic State holdouts from opposite sides of the Euphrates, which bisects the …
ABC News–Dec 1, 2017
Retired Lt. Gen Michael Flynn has promised “full cooperation” in the special counsel’s Russiainvestigation and, according to a confidant, is prepared to testify that Donald Trump directed him to make contact with the Russians, initially as a way to work together to fight ISIS in Syria.
|isis – Google Search|
New York Times–4 hours ago
BAGHDAD — Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi of Iraq declared victory over the Islamic State on Saturday, announcing the end of more than three years of battles to regain control over nearly one-third of the country that had been under the terrorist group’s dominion. Mr. Abadi’s carefully calibrated statement …
Iraq says war against ISIS is over
New York Post–6 hours ago
Iraq says war against ISIS is over: ‘Your land’ is liberated
<a href=”http://NBCNews.com” rel=”nofollow”>NBCNews.com</a>–27 minutes ago
Iraq is ‘fully liberated’ from ISIS, its military says
In-Depth–CNN–6 hours ago
Iraq proclaims ‘end of war against ISIS‘
International–Rudaw–9 hours ago
Iraqi Prime Minister announces ‘the end of the war’ against Islamic …
In-Depth–Daily Mail–7 hours ago
|‘He was thrown to the wolves’: Former FBI agents defend Mueller team investigator at the center of controversy – Business Insider|
|Russia probably has more undercover ‘sleeper’ agents in the West now than during the Cold War – Business Insider|
|Aphorism – Wikipedia|
|Top 100 Most Twitter Followers|
95. ashton kutcher
Bio: I build things, stories, companies, collaborations of thoughts, dreams, & believe in a future where we all have a right to pursue happiness. That’s me, you, US.
Location: Los Angeles, California
|Rampant social media misuse puts future of popular platforms at risk – Technology & Science|
It wasn’t supposed to end up like this.
Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram were designed to help us keep up with friends and share photos, to unite diverse people with distinct ideas, and democratize the way we discover new information. Instead, they’ve fostered the rampant spread of propaganda and untruths, enabled cyber bullying, and amplified social divisions.
While these ubiquitous platforms have fundamentally changed the way billions of people around the globe connect and communicate, it’s arguable that this change hasn’t necessarily been for the better. And as the repercussions resonate with users the world around, it could signal the beginning of the end for the social media giants.
A decade ago, the expectations of what social media could do were utopian and idealistic. According to Buzzfeed News Media Editor Craig Silverman, the hopes were that they would usher a new age of more human communication and bring about transformational change in every aspect of society. “Social media was supposed to be the layer on top of the internet that truly enabled people to connect globally, to democratize news and information, and to also unleash new ways of doing business.”
Twitter brought people together from across traditional barriers in the early days, says Elena Yunusov. (Matt Rourke/Associated Press)
And at first it worked “miraculously well,” says Elena Yunusov, the founder of digital marketing firm Communicable.
In the early days of Twitter, she explains, the platform brought people together from across traditional barriers. Users had long conversations with people they might never have had the opportunity to engage with otherwise, discovering discussions through hashtags designed to make a given topic searchable and inclusive.
“Facebook was interesting too,” says Yunusov. While Twitter was great for getting to know new interesting people, Facebook was “really was about keeping in touch with friends and family. Social networks thrived on creating connections and communities, and while it’s hard to imagine now, they didn’t push notifications, didn’t serve ads every other second, didn’t spam users.”
But now, she says, “we see more research come out on the adverse effects on people’s mental health, memory, attention spans, and ultimately, productivity and human connection and basic ability to communicate with each other.”
‘Stark misuse of social media platforms’
And that psychological toll is just the tip of the iceberg. As Nick Bilton wrote in Vanity Fair, we’re now seeing mounting evidence social media platforms are “tearing society apart, being used as terrorist recruitment tools, facilitating bullying, driving up anxiety, and undermining our elections.”
From election meddling to fake news to racist algorithms, the harm done by these seemingly innocuous social tools is profound and far reaching.
“We have seen stark misuse of social media platforms for the spreading of deliberate and targeted disinformation,” says Katina Michael, a professor in the faculty of engineering and information sciences at the University of Wollongong and Editor in Chief of IEEE Technology and Society Magazine. “We have also witnessed consumer exploitation and calculated economic manipulation based on an individual’s documented traits and characteristics on social media.”
From election meddling to fake news to racist algorithms, the harm done by these seemingly innocuous social tools is profound, and far reaching. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
According to Michael, the algorithms being used to profile you based on what you post, comment on and share online are then used to sway your sentiment “and have purportedly been responsible for the Brexit vote, led to President Trump’s election victory, led to an increase in the polarization of people’s beliefs to extremes, and contributed to instability and citizen anxieties about the now and future.”
For example, last year, the firm Cambridge Analytica, hired by the Trump campaign, used people’s Facebook data to build psychological profiles of them. Using data scraped from the social network, such as age, location, occupation and hobbies, as well as religion, income and voting history, the company claims to have been able to match specific voters with targeted campaign messages. That’s all thanks to how those people used Facebook.
So how did things go so far astray from their idealistic origins?
Scale plays a big part in how things veered off course. The bigger these companies grow, the harder it is to manage the vast number of people that use their sites, and the even larger amount of content that people create and share. As a result, software has become the arbiter of what is right and wrong as automated systems make decisions about what is and isn’t allowed on the platforms.
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Without human oversight or intervention, these platforms have been manipulated and abused by the people and organizations on them, says Silverman, who adds that “platforms like Facebook operate at a scale that is unheard of in human history, and so we are only now beginning to see the good and bad of what that means.”
But while that unprecedented growth has been the cause of many of these platforms’ negative consequences, some claim the dark side of social media can be traced to its very origins.
Anatoliy Gruzd, an associate professor at Ryerson University and director of research for the university’s Social Media Lab concurs, saying that “the roots of the current issues with social media can be traced back to the mid-90s, to when the first pop-up ads appeared on the internet. By choosing advertising as the vehicle to fund the growth of the web, we set the stage for the current issues.”
‘Major changes are on the way’
Facebook co-founder Sean Parker even admitted recently that the platform was designed to exploit a vulnerability in human psychology, and “consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible.”
Roger McNamee, another Facebook investor, recently said: “Facebook has the largest margins of any company of similar size in the American economy. They’re functioning like a drug company without doing clinical trials.”
While Gruzd says that more still needs to be done, he notes that “major changes are on the way.”
“In the wake of the on-going election manipulation scandal, Facebook has already come out in support of some limited changes to the current political advertising laws,” says Gruzd. “Twitter, in the wake of all their abuse, trolling and ISIS propaganda problems, has slowly come around to making major changes to their platform.”
Facebook co-founder Sean Parker admitted recently that the platform was designed to exploit a vulnerability in human psychology, and ‘consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible.’ (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
According to a comment filed with the Federal Election Commission, Facebook has said that it supports measures to promote transparency in online campaign advertising, including requiring political advertisers to disclose who is paying for the advertisements.
Twitter also announced that they will “clearly label” political ads, and regularly updates its terms of service to try to mitigate the platform’s rampant abuse and harassment. In their updated rules, Twitter claims that “everyone should have the power to create and share ideas and information instantly, without barriers,” a statement that echoes the early ideals of social media, despite how it has veered off course in recent years.
Facebook has said that it supports measures to promote transparency in online campaign advertising, including requiring political advertisers to disclose who is paying for the advertisements. (Noah Berger/Associated Press)
So is this the beginning of the end for the likes of Facebook and Twitter? Certainly, there’s more chatter these days about social media burnout and “digital detox” than there is buzz about people clamouring to join.
Faced with ugly truths ranging from election manipulation to the spread of misinformation, Grudz says these companies “will have to shoulder much of the responsibility to ensure that their platforms are safe for users and advertisers,” which is a far cry from the hopeful origins of the social media platforms.
So while the current crop of social media platforms may not be going the way of Myspace just yet, this could be a moment of reckoning, as they are forced to acknowledge that the tools they have grown into are not the idealistic ones they were first intended to be.
|Trump Campaign’s Data Vendor, Cambridge Analytica, Says It Is Moving Away From U.S. Politics|
Cambridge Analytica’s chief executive officer Alexander Nix. (PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA/AFP/Getty Images)
As investigators continue to probe the 2016 presidential election, one of Donald Trump’s primary partners—data company Cambridge Analytica—says it has shifted its focus away from U.S. politics. The company, which entered the U.S. political market in 2014, mining and analyzing data to target voters, says it is expanding its work in international elections, while boosting its business with American corporations.
“The company will grow significantly this year, even in the absence of chasing any U.S. political business,” says CEO Alexander Nix, who claims it always planned to move away from U.S. politics. As for the current questions surrounding the 2016 election, he has this to say: “There is an investigation into Russian interference in the election. That’s not to imply that Cambridge Analytica is under investigation. We will help with all of these investigations as much as we can. We have no involvement with Russians. We don’t have any Russian clients. I don’t think we have any Russian employees. We certainly haven’t spoken or engaged with any Russians in terms of U.S. political elections, and nor would we.”
Cambridge Analytica was hired by the Trump’s campaign digital director Brad Parscale in June 2016, after an initial suggestion by Jared Kushner. The company helped the campaign collect data, target voters, and mostly place ads, according to a Trump campaign official. Cambridge got paid $5.9 million in 2016 by the Trump campaign, according to public filings. It got about another $1.8 million from a different campaign vendor. An offshoot of the British data company SCL Group, Cambridge began working in U.S. politics in 2014 and was funded by Republican mega donors Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah. A company spokesman declines to comment on whether Cambridge’s involvement in U.S. politics was ever encouraged by the Mercer family.
For his part, Nix says the decision to pull back from U.S. politics was in anticipation of the lull in activity in the field in an off-election year. “There’s going to be literally dozens and dozens of political firms [in the 2018 midterm elections], and we thought, that’s a lot of mouths to feed and very little food on the table,” says Nix. In 2017, there have been no filings on the Federal Election Commission’s website that showed Cambridge Analytica working as a vendor. Forbes reached out to 16 campaigns and super PACs that have worked with the data company since 2014 or received donations from the Mercer family in 2017. None said they are currently working with Cambridge.
But there are new opportunities overseas. Nix says the company has worked on four political campaigns in Europe and one in South America in 2017. He also says it is currently working on an election in the Middle East after having wrapped up the Kenyan general election in August. “We’ve also supported a general election campaign for [a centrist party] with branding, marketing, and communications,” says a spokesperson for the company, declining to name the client. “And we’ve been doing some research on parties and branding ahead of some important elections next year.”
There may also be additional opportunities with U.S. companies, which Cambridge began targeting in the summer of 2016, while it was still working on the Trump campaign. Most of its political staff has left since the election, but Nix claims Cambridge has since increased its headcount by 60 people to 107 full-time employees globally, a quarter of which are now solely working in its commercial division. A company spokesman declines to name clients but says the firm has a diversified list, including a womenswear brand carried by major retailers like Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, and Saks Fifth Avenue, and a retail bank. It also did work in the past for the Financial Times.
Nix says that company revenues are up 50% this year, but he declines to provide any additional financial information or documents to verify his figures. “We still think that the political division will only contribute maybe 25% to revenue for the group, with another 25% coming from the government and defense sector, and the bulk of 50% or so coming from the brand and commercial sector,” Nix tells Forbes.
“We’re not a political agency, we’ve never been a political agency. We’re a tech company, and we want our technologies to help companies to grow and develop,” the CEO says less than 14 months after working on a winning presidential campaign in the U.S.. “We’re absolutely convinced that the truth will set us free, and that in due course, everyone will realize that we’ve really done nothing except support a candidate who for some is quite polarizing.”
|CEO of Trump Campaign Data Firm Will Testify to House Panel in Russia Probe – Bloomberg|
Cambridge Analytica’s CEO Alexander Nix.
Photographer: PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA/AFP
The chief executive officer of a data firm that worked for President Donald Trump’s campaign is set to testify in private before the House Intelligence Committee as part of its probe into Russian election interference on Dec. 14, according to a person familiar with the panel’s schedule.
Lawmakers likely will ask Alexander Nix, CEO of the data and analysis firm Cambridge Analytica, whether he sought material from WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange that was stolen from computers of the Democratic National Committee and John Podesta, who managed Democrat Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
Nix said at a November technology conference in Lisbon that in “early June 2016,” he contacted WikiLeaks after Assange publicly claimed he had Clinton emails and planned to publish them. Assange previously told the Associated Press that WikiLeaks had rejected a “request for information” from Cambridge Analytica.
The House Intelligence panel didn’t say what it plans to ask Nix. But an October letter to his company from Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, provides a possible road map. She asked for a description of any communication with Russian government officials, or their representatives, to identify potential voters for “targeted advertising, marketing or social media contact” in support of the Trump campaign.
|Congress Must Charge DOJ, FBI With Contempt – Google Search|
|Congress Must Charge DOJ, FBI With Contempt – Google Search|
Newsmax–18 hours ago
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes denounced the Justice Department and FBI for “stonewalling” his investigation into election abuses, demanding they meet his requests for evidence by close of business Monday; and if denied he will submit a Contempt of Congress resolution against …
6 Questions That Mueller Should Answer About The Anti-Trump …
The Daily Caller–Dec 5, 2017
A special counsel needs to investigate the FBI and Justice …
Opinion–Washington Post–Dec 4, 2017
FBI will hand over anti-Trump texts its top Hillary and Russia …
In-Depth–Daily Mail–Dec 6, 2017
Gregg Jarrett: How an FBI official with a political agenda corrupted …
Opinion–Fox News–Dec 5, 2017
Why Prosecuting Flynn Under the Logan Act Would Backfire
In-Depth–Newsweek–1 hour ago
USA TODAY–Dec 4, 2017
WASHINGTON — House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes has directed his staff to prepare a contempt of Congress resolution against FBI … His transfer came after the Department of Justice’sinspector general discovered communications involving him and another FBI official, Lisa Page, who …
DOJ And FBI Threatened With Contempt Of Congress For ‘Hiding …
The Daily Caller–Dec 3, 2017
House Intel Chair to Hold FBI, DOJ Officials in Contempt
Newsmax–Dec 6, 2017
House Intelligence chair to cite FBI, DOJ for contempt over ‘hiding …
World Tribune–Dec 3, 2017
House Republicans Prepare Contempt Action Against FBI, DOJ
Highly Cited–Bloomberg–Dec 3, 2017
House Republicans prepare contempt action against FBI …
In-Depth–Salt Lake Tribune–Dec 3, 2017
|CEO of Trump Campaign Data Firm Will Testify to House Panel in Russia Probe – Bloomberg|
|neo-fascism – Google Search|
Quartz–Dec 1, 2017
“Scrap nostalgias, acquire moderates who are no longer scared of neofascism.” With time, AN’s sanitized version of fascism earned a place in the democratic debate. A reliable ally of Silvio Berlusconi’s rightwing party Forza Italia, AN joined all of the governmental coalitions that had Berlusconi as prime …
iNews–Dec 4, 2017
The media is normalising neo-fascism for clicks. Nigel Farage appeared on The Andrew Marr Show to defend Trump’s tweets featuring anti-Muslim videos. (Image: BBC). Yasmin Alibhai-Brown 4 days Monday December 4th 2017. What stunning gladiatorial spectacle can we next expect on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show?
Washington Post–Nov 13, 2017
Nowadays, neo-fascism and open racism are no longer the province of national parties. In part as a consequence of the borderless Europe they claim to hate, these are now international movements. Large contingents of Hungarian, Slovak and Italian neo-fascist groups came to Warsaw to join the march; …
60000 Join Far-Right March on Poland’s Independence Day
<a href=”http://NBCNews.com” rel=”nofollow”>NBCNews.com</a>–Nov 12, 2017
|europe far right – Google Search|
<a href=”http://Aljazeera.com” rel=”nofollow”>Aljazeera.com</a>–2 hours ago
So, are Europe’s liberal values under assault, at risk from the far right, or is that an exaggeration? Are some on the left guilty of crying wolf? “There is absolutely no threat to liberal democracy in Europe,” says David Goodhart, author of The Road to Somewhere: The Populist Revolt and the Future of Politics.
Bloomberg–Dec 5, 2017
From Liechtenstein and Bulgaria to Norway and the Czech Republic, it was a good year for far–rightparties in Europe. 1 While none of the strong election results were sufficient for a full takeover, it was enough to allow most of them to become a full-fledged part of government. 2 So are they leaping at this …
EURACTIV–Dec 6, 2017
Europe’s far-right are lying to their own populations: study after study across a range of countries has shown that the far-right’s claims about the impacts of immigration are false. Studies of the effect of increased immigration in Europe in the 1990s found that it increased the efficiency and flexibility of labour markets, allowing …
Washington Post–Nov 13, 2017
BERLIN — Few countries suffered as much under the Nazis as Poland did during World War II. And yet, more than 70 years later, it has become a center on the continent for the far right — and liberal critics say the government isn’t doing anything about it. In fact, they say, the Polish far right feels …
‘White Europe‘: 60000 nationalists march on Poland’s independence …
Highly Cited–The Guardian–Nov 11, 2017
|How Russia Cheats – The New York Times|
The Kremlin dismissed the details of both schemes as “absurd,” but on Tuesday Russia was barred from the 2018 Winter Games for its state-backed cheating. Some individual Russian athletes may compete independently in neutral uniforms, but the Russian flag will not appear when the Games begin in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
The details of the sports scandal — deconstructed by Russian whistle-blowers who have provided rare insider insights — offer perhaps the purest case study of Russia’s drive to dominate, its brazen methods and, in part, its motivation to influence the American presidency.
In a declassified intelligence report released early this year, United States officials said Russia’s attacks on the election had been, for Mr. Putin, partial payback for the doping scandal, which he repeatedly called an American-led effort to defame Russia. Last month, as new medals were stripped from Russian Olympians, Mr. Putin said the disqualifications were the United States’ attempt to undermine his re-election.
In fact, sports regulators and investigators who conducted the multiple investigations into Russia’s doping are headquartered in Canada, and the Olympic leadership in charge of disqualifying athletes is based in Switzerland. It was the former president of that staunchly neutral country, Samuel Schmid, who conducted the latest investigation for the Olympic committee, resulting in Tuesday’s sanctions.
In scrutinizing Russia, sports and antidoping officials have said they acted on objective forensic and scientific evidence of Russia’s fraud: documents, data, lab analyses and glass bottles of urine with telltale signs of tampering. Just as allies of the special counsel Robert Mueller have done this year in the context of the election inquiry, the officials have defended their impartiality and interest in plain facts.
Three key whistle-blowers helped provide those facts: Grigory Rodchenkov, Russia’s former longtime chief antidoping chemist, as well as Yuliya and Vitaly Stepanov, a former Russian runner and a former employee of the nation’s antidoping agency. All now live in the United States, in undisclosed locations from which they have spoken openly about years of coordinated cheating. The Justice Department, too, has taken interest in their evidence.
Dr. Rodchenkov, whose personal diaries cataloged each day of cheating in Sochi, came to the United States only after Vitaly Mutko — Russia’s deputy prime minister and former sports minister — asked him to resign in light of growing global suspicions about the extent of the nation’s cheating, which the chemist had helped mastermind.
“Today we also have a meeting, how to come from defensive to offensive,” Dr. Rodchenkov wrote to me in an email on Nov. 10, 2015, having initially denied wrongdoing in our early exchanges. At that meeting, Mr. Mutko effectively dismissed him and set off a dramatic chain of events: “Freedom!” he wrote in another email that night.
Dr. Rodchenkov’s tell-all account, reported in The Times in May 2016 and detailed in the documentary “Icarus,” culminated in Russia’s Olympic ban this week. It was instrumental in motivating some Russian officials to temper their rigid denials and acknowledge that an “institutional conspiracy” had existed, though they maintained it had not been state sponsored.
Still, before this week’s final sanctions were announced, global athletes, antidoping advocates and some sponsors had expressed concern about a growing crisis in international sports, pointing to the long delay by both regulators and Olympic officials in responding to evidence of widespread cheating that went even beyond Sochi.
As those critics wondered when or if sports officials would penalize Russia for its systematic transgressions by rescinding Olympic medals and condemning the state-supported schemes, they questioned not just fundamental frailties in drug-testing controls but also the independence of antidoping authorities.
One year later, similar basic questions about separation of power have taken on renewed relevance in American politics as a result of Russia’s breaches. Those questions have followed Mr. Trump’s repeated attacks on the independence of the Justice Department, in defiance of the post-Watergate norms intended to insulate law enforcement from partisan and personal agendas.
In the same way that Mr. Trump has avoided acknowledging evidence of Russia’s interference in the election, Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, took more than a year to accept the extensive evidence of Russia’s interference in the Sochi Olympic lab operations.
Other sports officials, such as the president of skiing’s governing body, initially told me that the evidence on Russia was conspiratorial or “too Hollywood,” just as some Republican lawmakers have doubted the legitimacy of Mr. Mueller’s mandate.
In drawing out his decision-making until this week, Mr. Bach called for due process and stressed the importance of giving Russia a fair chance to defend itself.
One defense came just after the early penalties for Russian athletes at the 2016 Olympics: a set of cyberattacks. A group known as Fancy Bear — which American intelligence officials tied to Russia’s main military intelligence unit, the G.R.U. — published the hacked private medical records of top American athletes, as well as the private emails of antidoping officials who had lobbied for a ban on Russia.
The hackers — the same group that stole emails from the Democratic National Committee’s servers and released them ahead of the 2016 election — called the athlete records proof of illegal drug use by stars such as Simone Biles and Serena Williams. All athletes had received necessary clearances to use the substances in question, and none of the information constituted a violation.
In a fiery interview in Moscow last year, Mr. Mutko, the former sports minister and current deputy prime minister, echoed Mr. Putin, arguing that Russia had been disadvantaged globally. In sports as in all things, he said, the decks were stacked against the nation.
This week, he was barred from attending any future Olympics, though he remains at the helm of Russia’s 2018 soccer World Cup.
“Somebody has to take the responsibility,” he said in July 2016, three months before Mr. Putin promoted him. “There must be a master at home.”
Correction: December 8, 2017An earlier version of the photo caption with this article misstated the location of Sochi. It is in Russia, not Japan.
|Harassment in Congress, a Tally|
Also: What data is the F.B.I. hiding?
|Congress Must Charge Stonewalling DOJ, FBI With Contempt – Newsmax|