The FBI will lead the fight against “foreign influence”

At the meeting in new York, the International conference on cyber security reveals some details

At the end of last year, the Director of the Federal Bureau of investigation (FBI) Christopher Rey announced the creation of a working group “to counter foreign influence.”

Speaking at the meeting in new York, the International conference on cyber security, the head of the unit of Jeffrey Tricoli told that the FBI intends to inform American citizens and private companies about the attempts of Russia and other States to influence the midterm elections of 2018 through misinformation and manipulation in social networks.

According to the head of a special group, among the new challenges – the confrontation with hybrid threats from Russia. To this end, the FBI intends to combine ideas from three different fields – cyber security, counterintelligence and criminal expertise. “It used to be we could clearly identify the threats and put them on the shelves: cyber threat intelligence activities, organized crime, noted Tricoli. Now we are faced with the combined threats. The enemy uses against us is what we used to be proud of: freedom of speech and the First amendment to the Constitution.”

Tricoli recognized the difficulty facing the working group task.

“The enemy is trying not only to distort the truth, but to make impossible the search for truth – said Tricoli, speaking at the conference. When he undermines the credibility of democratic institutions, it complicates the very notion of truth. At the same time the enemy makes it very tricky: it tries to find already existing contradictions in society and even more sharpen their. The enemy is trying to push most of the population in the center of the political spectrum, on the extreme political positions, and then pit them against each other. And it is very difficult to realize because each of us has their views and is situated in some point of this political spectrum. Each of us is inclined to search the Internet for materials that confirm our point of view”.

According to Tricoli, “what one may seem to be fake news, the other is a manifestation of freedom of speech”.

“We are not here to be thought police, he said. – What’s really important is to understand what is hidden behind the scenes. We in government have a responsibility to bring clarity to this area. In our opinion, is the best way”.

According to Tricoli, the purpose of his special forces – shed light on the attempts of interference in the elections and who is behind the information box stuffing and attempts to manipulate social networks at the same time, leaving the Americans the right to decide what to do with fake news and other poor quality content.

Mr. Tricoli rejected a request for an interview with the Russian service of “Voice of America” “at this stage”, he advised with all questions to address in a press-service of the FBI.

It is not clear how actively the special forces will try to prevent “interference” in the midterm election of 2018. However, judging by the speeches at the conference on cybersecurity, few people in American law enforcement is doubtful that Russia will try to “intervene”.

“During the cold war, both sides – the Soviet Union and the United States – influenced elections in third countries, or was there a coup, admitted at the conference, former Director of the National service of covert CIA operations (National Clandestine Service in the CIA) Michael Sulik. But we never attacked the foundations of our government and the polity. Now Russia first crossed this red line, if you want.”

Interview with a former CIA station chief in Moscow

Mr Sulik has coordinated the secret operations of U.S. intelligence, including in Russia, Eastern Europe and the former republics of the Soviet Union. In 1991, according to biographical data provided by the organizers of the conference on cyber security, “became the first CIA officer arrived in the USSR for establishing connections with the intelligence services of the newly independent former Soviet republics.” From 1994 to 1996, he was a resident of the CIA in the American Embassy in Moscow, working under the guise of “Advisor on regional issues.”

In an exclusive interview with the Russian service “voice of America” Sulik explained Russia’s actions in recent years:

“Vladimir Putin decided that the United States intervened in Russian elections in 2012. We, of course… worked There NGOs that promote democracy. He saw their work threatened. But it’s not the US government and Hillary Clinton, allegedly tried to undermine the Russian state. He (Putin — M. G.) responded with attempts to undermine the foundations of our system of public administration. He’s trying to cast doubt on the effectiveness of our democracy, raises the question: is it possible in principle we have fair elections, or are they dishonest?”

Speaking at a conference in new York, former CIA Director, John Brennan, urged to resist to attempts of Russian intervention in the American elections. According to Brennan, he was the first who raised this question in conversation with the representative of the Russian Federation.

“4 August 2016 I spoke to Alexander Bortnikov, head of FSB of Russia, – said Brennan. – I then told him: if you do try to intervene in our elections, we will retaliate because the American people will be outraged, as in the case of interference by any foreign governments, especially Russia. I figured correctly assessed the situation, saying that all Americans will be outraged. However, some believe that this intervention should not worry. Unfortunately.”

Commenting on the statement by Brennan, Michael Sulik expressed confidence that the majority of Americans still resent the interference of Russia, and suggested that Moscow’s actions caused a reaction opposite to that which was expected, Putin.

“Yes, he managed to sprinkle salt on already existing wounds of our society, said former CIA officer. – But now the attention of not only the US but the 27 European countries is focused on Russian intervention. Now all these countries are more vigilant. As a result, Europe in General took a more assertive stance towards Russia. Putin himself as a result became a pariah. Yes, the US society is divided. However, the only issue in Congress, which was a bipartisan consensus is condemnation of Putin and the tightening of sanctions. At that time, he was hoping to get the opposite result.”

“Yes, his intervention brought him some short-term benefits, summed up Sulik. I don’t want to say that he influenced the elections, but he managed to strengthen the already existing schism in our society. But in the long term, I think that intervention by Russia will have negative consequences.”

According to Sulik, Russia and China are interested in destabilizing the countries with which they have a different vision of the world. “Russia believes that if the United States is a deep social divide, we will pose a lesser threat to them, he explained. – So they throw the information, for example, around the movement “black Lives matter.” On the one hand, they throw information in support of this motion, on the other hand, they throw a warning that it is dangerous. Ideology, including the Communist, they are no longer important. They just want to aggravate the situation, without any ideological”.

At the same time, Michael Sulik admits that assess the effectiveness of the fake posts on Facebook or other social networks is not possible.

“Measuring impact is almost impossible, he said. – You can try to ask the voters had influenced their decision to vote for trump or Clinton the news, but it will be very difficult. Maybe someone will remember a particular news which influenced their choice, and it will be thrown Russia news — but it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack.”

Michael Sulik considers it necessary to develop a strategy for responding to cyber threats, but recognizes that while the intelligence community there is no consensus on this issue.

“Some say that if we threaten the mirror, it lowers us to their level, he said. – There is also a danger of escalation of the conflict to the level of cyber-pearl Harbor. On the other hand, if does not respond, it will give green light to other countries who also want to intervene. Therefore, we need somehow to convey to them that this is unacceptable.”

Michael Sulik says if the stuffing information will lead to the events that resulted in deaths, the United States will have to give a hard answer. He admits that while nothing like this has happened, but does not exclude this possibility.

“What they (the Russian — M. G.) do, it strikes me, he said. For example, the movement for the independence of Texas. I had not heard until then, until he learned that the Russians support him!”

At the same time, Michael Sulik admits that a more serious problem for the United States, not interference from Russia, the effectiveness of which cannot be assessed, and the deep polarization of American society. “They use our existing problems for their own purposes, but ultimately, we must resolve our own contradictions, he said. – Yes, they can increase tensions in society, but this tension already exists.”