As Soon as Trump Entered the White House, Russia Started Arresting People in Connection to the U.S. Election

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As Soon as Trump Entered the White House, Russia Started Arresting People in Connection to the U.S. Election

Sergei Mikhailov is a senior member of the FSB (the successor to the KGB), working in the cyberintelligence branch of the agency (the Center for Information Security), and according to the New York Times, the man whom “American officials say oversaw last year’s election hacking has been arrested in Moscow on charges of treason.”

Translation: American spies say the person that Putin just arrested is a guy who told them about the alleged Russian hacking campaign. Surely it’s just a coincidence right? Putin is a despot who is always arresting (or worse) those who oppose him.

Wrong.

According to Rambler News Service, one of the largest news networks in Russia, it has been confirmed that another Russian spy connected to the U.S. election was arrested.

Hmmmm…

Look, I know a lot of those on the left think this Russia thing is an excuse that the DNC is using to distract from the fact that their gross incompetence is most to blame for our current electoral circumstances. The Donna Brazile’s of the world suck, and it’s shameful that they would try to wriggle themselves out from underneath the consequences of their actions, but it’s possible for these Dems to be cowards AND for the Russia story to be mostly true. It’s a good instinct to not unilaterally trust what “sources” and “officials” from intelligence agencies say, but at the end of the day, the majority of these agencies are filled with patriots who truly do feel that their calling is to protect their countrymen, and they’re all raising the alarm bell that something is up.

There is not a broad consensus across the entire intelligence community as to the intent of the meddling, despite what many establishment Dems profess, but there is a consensus that something happened. The torrent of fake news that invaded Facebook was not simply random chance, and the entities connected to the hack of the DNC have been connected to Russia through sources other than the government. I wrote a column after the ODNI released a report on Russian interference that was filled with stuff we largely already knew thanks to other sources, like how Crowdstrike immediately identified two hacker collectives connected to Russian intelligence, Fancy Bear and Cozy Bear.

We’ve had lots of experience with both of these actors attempting to target our customers in the past and know them well. In fact, our team considers them some of the best adversaries out of all the numerous nation-state, criminal and hacktivist/terrorist groups we encounter on a daily basis. Their tradecraft is superb, operational security second to none and the extensive usage of ‘living-off-the-land’ techniques enables them to easily bypass many security solutions they encounter. In particular, we identified advanced methods consistent with nation-state level capabilities including deliberate targeting and ‘access management’ tradecraft—both groups were constantly going back into the environment to change out their implants, modify persistent methods, move to new Command & Control channels and perform other tasks to try to stay ahead of being detected.

So now that the candidate whom the intelligence community has been investigating long before this became a big issue is sitting in the Oval Office, Russia starts arresting FSB security officers? Look, this could all be one big coincidence. From Edward Snowden saying he wanted to go to Ecuador or Iceland but actually traveled to Hong Kong then Moscow via Wikileaks, to the litany of examples in Trump’s campaign, from one of his chief advisers actively communicating with Wikileaks:

But we're getting to the point where there are so many coincidences that it invalidates the use of the term. Wikileaks was an organization committed to exposing fraud and abuse in governments, but at one point it became one only committed to exposing fraud and abuse in Western governments. I will copy and paste the following section from my Snowden column over and over and over again either until the obvious stops being obvious, people finally listen, or I die (action in Vegas is heavy on the last one):

Towards the end of [2010], Wikileaks threatened that they would release documents on powerful individuals in Russia, and according to their spokesperson, Kristinn Hrafnsson “Russian readers will learn a lot about their country.” An official from the FSB responded “It's essential to remember that given the will and the relevant orders, [WikiLeaks] can be made inaccessible forever.”

The documents never came out. Two years later, Julian Assange had his own show on Russia Today, the Kremlin's West-facing propaganda outlet. Wikileaks even sent a delegation to meet Bashar al-Assad, a President only two major countries support (Russia and Iran). While stuck in in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, Assange stated in a press release that he requested Russian security.

11 Things We Know about This Saga

1. Vladimir Putin supports extremist political parties throughout Europe.

2. Trump spouts traditional Kremlin talking points like “Obama is the founder of ISIS” and “The people of Crimea, from what I've heard, would rather be with Russia than where they were.”

3. Donald Trump Jr. said in 2008, “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”

4. Donald Trump went bankrupt running a rigged business multiple times in the 90's, yet clearly had some way to keep his credit afloat and his new businesses running (Trump Steaks, Trump University, etc…).

5. Donald Trump's National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn, basically confirmed to Yahoo's Michael Isikoff that he takes/took payments from the Kremlin.

6. Michael Flynn is/was under federal investigation for his communications with Russian ambassadors, and the day most in question is the day that Barack Obama announced a new round of sanctions on Russia.

7. Paul Manafort, who made at least $12.7 million working for Ukraine's deposed president/Vladimir Putin puppet, Viktor Yanukovych, was part of the Trump campaign before being fired for that revelation (and was the reason John McCain passed on adding him to the team in 2008), but now he's back.

8. This video exists.

9. Vladimir Putin detests NATO, as it is in conflict with his goal of establishing a 21st century Soviet Union.

10.Donald Trump is the only presidential candidate in NATO's history to run on the idea of dismantling it.

11. Donald Trump altered a long-standing provision in the GOP platform which bound them to providing “lethal defensive weapons” to Ukraine in the event of an invasion, but now it simply promises “appropriate assistance.”

I mean, we're talking about a LOT of coincidences here for Russia not to be involved in something smarmy, and now we're getting new reports that intelligence officials are being rounded up by the Kremlin?

Even Fox & Friends can smell the bullshit. Come on, man.

In December, a manager at a major Russian cyber security firm who makes anti-virus software was arrested. Kaspersky Lab confirmed in a statement that Ruslan Stoyanov was arrested, but said that it “has nothing to do with Kaspersky Lab and its operations.” Per Radio Free Europe’s summary of a Kommersant report:

Prominent Russian cybersecurity company Kaspersky Lab says a manager who headed its investigation unit has been arrested.

In a statement on January 25, Kaspersky spokeswoman Maria Shirokova confirmed a report in the Russian daily Kommersant that Ruslan Stoyanov was arrested in December.

Kommersant cited unidentified sources close to the Federal Security Service (FSB) as saying that Stoyanov’s arrest might have been linked to an investigation into a deputy chief of the FSB’s Center for Information Security, Sergei Mikhailov, who they said was also arrested in December.

The report said both men are charged with treason.

Treason, meaning that Vladimir Putin is giving himself a reason to execute these men. This looks like a mob heist gone wrong, and now the boss is sending in the clean-up crew to silence anyone capable of exposing him. Treason could also mean that these men tried to stop the campaign to meddle in the U.S. election, or that they simply pissed off one of Putin’s cronies, so it’s irresponsible to commit to any theory of what exactly Vladimir Putin is planning. However, something is going on—and the plumes of smoke billowing out of Trump Tower, combined with Putin rounding up intelligence officers points in one larger direction.

It is a known fact that Vladimir Putin has run disinformation campaigns in European elections, and to think he wouldn’t do it to America requires the same level of “it can’t happen here” denial as it does to brush off Trump’s Muslim ban as simply campaign blabber. Sure, the DNC is ascribing too much credit to Russia’s influence, as Hillary spending seven times as much money in Los Angeles as she did in Milwaukee during the final month has more to do with the outcome than anything Russia did. But dismissing the intent of someone’s actions based on the outcome basically leads you to the conclusion that if you shoot and miss at someone, you shouldn’t be charged with a crime. Russia clearly did something in this election, and the only issue that Donald Trump has been consistent on is licking the soles of Vladimir Putin’s boots.

Yes, the intelligence community has got a lot of things wrong, but they also get a ton right, and we rarely hear about those cases until they become declassified or it gets exposed in a leak. Next time you bring up Iraq’s non-existent WMD’s in your defense of why we should not believe the CIA, remember this paragraph from Vanity Fair’s feature on the hunt for Osama bin-Laden:

“Mr. President,” he said, “if we had a human source who had told us directly that bin Laden was living in that compound, I still wouldn’t be above 60 percent.” Morell said he had spent a lot of time on both questions, W.M.D. and Abbottabad. He had seen no fewer than 13 analytical drafts on the former and at least as many on the latter. “And I’m telling you, the case for W.M.D. wasn’t just stronger—it was much stronger.”

The Bush Administration clearly concocted the plan to go to war with Iraq, but Saddam Hussein had been known to be in the market for WMD’s and had used them before, so thinking that he had some on hand wasn’t really a huge stretch from basic logic’s point of view. Intelligence is not journalism, and journalism covering intelligence can never meet the high bar of the rest of the medium. Intelligence is always going to be filled with holes because its job is to expose the deepest held secrets on the planet. Holding the Russia story to the same journalistic standard as other events in the Trump Presidency isn’t realistic, and assuming the bin-Laden saga is 100% confirmed and Obama’s decision was validated is an exercise in the same naiveté.

Russia intervened in our election, and doing nothing in the face of this grave offense creates zero moral hazard when anyone emulates these tactics in the future. If there is any issue Americans should be able to unite on, it’s this one. Our elections are the sacred common ground upon which our empire is built. Why don’t we ask the banking industry how removing any natural impediment to malfeasance is going? There is a lot we need to do in order to push back against what can only be classified as a foreign attack, and the first step is getting a message out from the American people that we are not as easily duped as our president makes it look.

Jacob Weindling is Paste’s business and media editor, as well as a staff writer for politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.

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