Information operations · Information Warfare · Russia

VIPS, The Nation, All Russian Propaganda


I present to you a case of Russian propaganda, influence, and perhaps active measures at work, pointed directly at our President and members of Congress.

I am referring, of course, to an article that Patrick Lawrence published in The Nation, A New Report Raises Big Questions About Last Year’s DNC Hack. The article, published on August 9th, 2017, was so bad, that I…  Ah, heck, somebody asked for a review, so here it is.

I present it in two parts. The first gives the background of the players: the publication The Nation, the author, and the group VIPS. The second part analyzes the technical aspects presented in the VIPS report and then echoed in The Nation.

If you read the actual article in The Nation, the first 1,000 words or so are pure fluff, garbage, or filler. A pure waste of electrons.

———————————————————-

Background

Whenever I read the words “proof positive” that something happened, I look forward to a systematic presentation of the facts and the background of the case.

As an experienced reader and analyst of propaganda, misinformation, disinformation, active measures, and most of the assorted tools associated with information warfare, a few things struck me immediately. There was no “proof poz” and because of the nature of those involved with this article, I knew I was going to be sorely disappointed.

The publisher, “The Nation”. The Nation is aligned with the goals of Russian Information Warfare, in that many of the articles are divisive to the United States, tend to question and undermine the US democratic process, question the leadership, actions, and policies of the United States, and promote Russian national interests. The Editor & Publisher is Katrina vanden Heuvel, wife of Stephen F. Cohen, PhD. Dr. Cohen is deserving of the titles bestowed upon him, that of a Putin and Russian government apologist. By my count, Stephen F. Cohen has published 277 articles, all pro-Russian, in The Nation.

  1.  Kirchick, James (June 17, 2014). “Meet the Anti-Semites, Truthers, and Alaska Pol at D.C.’s Pro-Putin Soiree”. The Daily Beast. Retrieved November 2, 2015.
  2. Chait, Jonathan (March 14, 2014). “The Pathetic Lives of Putin’s American Dupes”New York. Retrieved November 2, 2015.
  3. Chotiner, Isaac (March 2, 2014). “Meet Vladimir Putin’s American Apologist”New Republic. Retrieved November 2, 2015.

The Author, Patrick Lawrence.  Until approximately one year ago, “Lawrence wrote as “Patrick L. Smith” until shortening his name some years ago”, according to the  Patrick Lawrence Biography.  This struck me as most interesting, but he did not post links to his past. I found a number of articles in Salon, mostly sensational. Then I discovered a small treasure trove of articles published in Russia Insider, a shameless Russian propaganda rag, although not sponsored by Russia. Russia Insider has no shame, no morals or ethics, and from everything I’ve  read, no standards. I got this from years of suffering with their junk which they try to pass off as news.  Another strong Russian propaganda connection, check. No wonder he shortened his name.

Looking at both The Nation and Patrick Lawrence, an expert shared with me:

I can’t decide whether The Nation is a witting or unwitting accomplice, though Cohen and Lawrence do appear to know exactly what they’re doing.

The authors of the memorandum on which Lawrence’s story is based, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS). VIPS is a collection of senior intelligence, law enforcement, and other professionals, ostensibly lead by Bill Binney, a retired and very controversial NSA official. Bill Binney may be a seasoned and stalwart American, but he appears on Infowars and Infowars YouTube channel often, which is an absolute disreputable mark. More on Infowars later.

InfoWars links.

He also appears on RT, an overt Russian propaganda outlet.

Bill also appears in Sputnik, another Russian propaganda channel.

VIPS, the group, has released 50 memorandums addressed to the President of the United States.  The memorandum from August 2013 damned this group.  The letter cited “facts” from Global Research.ca and Infowars.com.  Global Research, as you recall, I exposed here: Russian Propaganda Expose: GlobalResearch, as an unabashedly overt Russian propaganda site. Infowars is listed as a conspiracy site here Russian News, Russian Proxy News Sites And Conspiracy Theory Sites and is pinpointed here: Alex Jones And Infowars.com Linked To RussiaInfowars Dot Com Deserves Journalistic Censure And Sanctions, and Alexandr Dugin Appears On InfoWars.   VIPS archives their memorandi on Consortium News, which is also listed as a Russian propaganda proxy site here.  More strong linkage to Russia and Russian propaganda.

Looking at the purpose of the memorandum, it is intended to divert attention away from probable Russian hacking and towards an insider threat. The motivation appears clear.

Technical Analysis. 

The technical conclusions of this report are predicated on two paragraphs, copied here.

Forensicator’s first decisive findings, made public in the paper dated July 9, concerned the volume of the supposedly hacked material and what is called the transfer rate—the time a remote hack would require. The metadata established several facts in this regard with granular precision: On the evening of July 5, 2016, 1,976 megabytes of data were downloaded from the DNC’s server. The operation took 87 seconds. This yields a transfer rate of 22.7 megabytes per second.

These statistics are matters of record and essential to disproving the hack theory. No Internet service provider, such as a hacker would have had to use in mid-2016, was capable of downloading data at this speed. Compounding this contradiction, Guccifer claimed to have run his hack from Romania, which, for numerous reasons technically called delivery overheads, would slow down the speed of a hack even further from maximum achievable speeds.

This was two years prior to the supposedly unachievable standard as of 2016.  Expert sources shared with me that this was common.

I received this input from a cybersecurity expert.

Two additional explanations for the metadata that timestamps the download time at 6:45pm. It could (a) be modified to show that time in the logs, or (b) once the the attackers gained access, they could set the program in motion at any time to begin the download at 6:45pm ET. This is just good tradecraft… they would want to create the irregular traffic (the download) at a time when they suspect less human attention will be paid to the network and would give them ample time before being detected to correct any issues if anything went wrong.

I left a message with the Chairman of the DNC, asking about the actual speed of their link, but my call has not been returned.

Another technical problem is with this statement.
“A speed of 22.7 megabytes [per second] is simply unobtainable, especially if we are talking about a transoceanic data transfer”

The receiving storage device was not identified, nor do we know where it was located. The receiving equipment could have been across the street, across town, or anywhere.  Then the data could have been downloaded and transferred across the ocean at their leisure.

The next paragraph contains a blurb which is stated as a fact but defies belief.

Time stamps in the metadata provide further evidence of what happened on July 5. The stamps recording the download indicate that it occurred in the Eastern Daylight Time Zone at approximately 6:45 pm. This confirms that the person entering the DNC system was working somewhere on the East Coast of the United States. In theory the operation could have been conducted from Bangor or Miami or anywhere in between—but not Russia, Romania, or anywhere else outside the EDT zone.

This is not evidence, this is all happenstance.  I routinely work 18 hour days and more, depending on the endeavor. I routinely work through the night, as do many of my peers. This is not confirmation, 6:45 pm only lies outside ordinary 9 to 5 work hours.

Nowhere in the VIPS document does it give a link for the Crowdstrike report, which it is attempting to denigrate. Bears in the Midst: Intrusion into the Democratic National Committee.  Here the tools installed by Russian hackers are clearly identified and their use and utility clearly labeled. The VIPS report, however, is so obtuse as to claim “copied not hacked”.

During my research I discovered this little gem.

Also.

Bottom line.  The article by Patrick Lawrence is absolute crap, designed to undermine the case against Russian hacking. This article appears to be yet another case of Russia or their proxies attempting to influence the US, this time through useful idiots.

Advertisements

4 thoughts on “VIPS, The Nation, All Russian Propaganda

  1. The direct counterargument from Counterstrike is not very compelling -later modifications to the “Date Modified” timestamp would generally have made the Date Modified *later*, not earlier, and so not explaining the appearance of a too-short copy time. But the general argument that timestamps are forensically weak is still valid. This points to a better direct counterargument – the clocks on the source and target computers have to be synchronized for a difference in timestamps to be meaningful. But of course computers are often pulling times using NTP (Network Time Protocol) from different time sources.
    Or, a computer may not use NTP at all, in which case its system clock could vary *wildly* from other computers
    The point is that, since we don’t really know what path the data took – except that the *indirect* evidence seems to implicate Russians – we can’t make the case on file timestamps alone. Agreed that the piece is outlandishly poorly vetted for a storied publication like The Nation.

  2. Methinks that Skip Folden, IBM’s national IT program manager for 25 years, would disagree with the above. It appears to me, a fair reader, that Joel Harding is even more guilty of propaganda than the accusation he has landed on The Nation writers. Harding’s Russiaphobe prejuduice seems clear and true.

    1. Methinks you provide no proof, no argument, no discussion, and no substance.

      I also believe you neglected to read the article and/or you only have an agenda. Skip might be one helluva great guy but I still am waiting for one tangible piece of evidence, proof, or anything of substance. Just because that group says it’s so, doesn’t make it so.

      I’ve provided more than enough data and evidence. Show us some forensic analysis. The devil’s in the details and so far it’s been “little map, big hand”. Otherwise, they’re all poseurs.

Comments are closed.