The report detailed how Russia was suspected of using counterfeits and raised stories to wreak havoc on the West during the Cold War through operations of influence rather than military force. And these tactics did not stop with the fall of the Berlin Wall. In fact, the social media and online anonymity it provides has only made it easier and potentially more effective for governments and bad actors to get involved in a similar gamebook of dirty tricks – ranging from spreading fake or pirated documents online to the point of creating fake reporters to promote them.
Jack Barsky, a former KGB spy who lived in hiding in the United States in the 1980s, explained how he did in his day in an interview with CNN Business last year.
The KGB would be very careful to provide a convincing falsification of a U.S. government document, often with the goal of implicating the U.S. in something blatant and designed to appear to confirm an existing conspiracy theory. This falsification would then be given to a sympathetic, undesirable journalist, sometimes from a place of darkness located in a far corner of the world. It would be printed as news, and if the Soviets were lucky, they could eventually be picked up by more established outlets.
Oleg Kalugin, another KGB agent who lived in the United States under cover, explained in his book “Spymaster” how the KGB paid Americans to paint swastikas in synagogues in New York and Washington. This tactic had the potential to ignite tensions in the United States and give the Soviet-controlled press a negative story to tell the Russians back home to their capitalist enemy.
Over the following decades, our lives have moved largely online, as have Russia’s attempts to misinform and meddle in U.S. affairs.
In the groundbreaking work of the Atlantic Council and online research company Graphika, investigators showed how a suspicious Russian group has been distributing falsified documents online in recent years. These efforts included a fake letter claiming to be a U.S. senator and another letter intended to appear to come from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
The Russian group itself is believed to have been behind a fake tweet from Senator Marco Rubio claiming that an alleged British spy agency planned to derail the campaigns of Republican candidates in the midterm elections. RT, a Russian state-controlled news venue, was picked up and falsely denounced as real. There is no evidence of coordination between RT and the Russian group that promoted the fake tweet, but RT did not issue any corrections.
The Internet has not only facilitated the creation of counterfeits in Russia, but also helps them to distribute documents, forged or stolen.
This month, the British government said it was “almost certain” that the Russians intended to interfere in the 2019 elections by leaking documents related to a UK-US trade deal on Reddit. The British Opposition Labor Party, unaware of its origins, contained the documents as a basis for allegations that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson wanted to sell parts of the British National Health Service to northern health care providers. Americans.
Special Council investigation Robert Mueller, and assessments of the American smart community, established Russia’s hand in hacking and leaking emails related to the former Secretary of State’s presidential campaign Hillary Clinton in 2016. In 2016, U.S. news organizations, including CNN, reported the details of many of the hacked emails. Critics argued that by doing so, communication points helped hackers achieve their goal; media outlets argued that the materials were in the public interest.
The Russian government denied his involvement in the hacks.
If real journalists do not take the bait, the Internet allows the creation of fake journalists. In 2016, the GRU (Russian military intelligence) used a fake person named “Alice Donovan,” Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation was found. It is believed that the same person has published articles on a popular independent American website.
And, while Kalugin’s KGB comrades had to recruit Americans to draw swastikas in synagogues, the Internet allows for a more sustained and heavier way of waving pots. In 2016, Russians posed as realistic American activists online, even recruiting Americans who don’t want to help organize protests and stunts in U.S. cities around the presidential election and issues of division as race. In a known case, Russian groups helped organize two opposing demonstrations to take place simultaneously in the same Texas location. Images resulting from events like these were used to spread even more covert online Russian campaigns.
Brush, spin, rinse, repeat. This playbook is not particularly difficult to emulate, and other groups are trying.
In fact, the 1983 CNN report included details about how the audio of an alleged call between then-President Ronald Reagan and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was, according to the U.S. government, the work of the Soviets. The report showed how Reagan’s audio had been cut from other places and spliced to make the forged tape sound.
But the following year, the British newspaper The Observer reported that Crass, a British punk rock band, had claimed responsibility for the tape.
In the black world of deception, misinformation about misinformation is not unusual.
At the height of this summer’s national protests over racial inequality in the United States, a Twitter account claiming to be Antifa, far-left activists, called for violence on the streets of America. President Donald Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. kept the account to support Antifa which is dangerous.
Later it appeared the account was not run by Antifa, but white supremacists apparently sought to sow chaos, as the Russians had long done.
These efforts essentially follow a long history of misinformation that goes back much further than many people may realize, according to Thomas Rid, a professor of strategic studies at Johns Hopkins University.
Rid, who detailed the history of misinformation in his book “Active Measures,” told CNN that institutions have spent centuries on disinformation campaigns and that many of the deceptive tactics used by the KGB and now used online they preceded the Soviet Union.
He warned that there is currently a culture of mistrust in the main institutions: main conditions for spreading misinformation. Along with technological developments that facilitate the creation and dissemination of forged documents and fake news, it is almost, he said, a “perfect storm”.