Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Will We Ever Know Which Counties In Wisconsin, Pennsylvania And Michigan Putin Hacked?

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What's the bottom line on Russian interference in the election on behalf of Putin's puppet candidate? Was it just propaganda aimed at an easily manipulated U.S. media coupled with fake news aimed at low-IQ voters? Or is there evidence that the Russians actually tampered with easily hackable voting machines in Outagamie Kenosha and Portage counties in Wisconsin, Macomb and Muskegon counties in Michigan and Luzerne and Erie counties in Pennsylvania. Trump's tiny margins in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania handed him the electoral college despite a tremendous loss among voters-- 65,759,248 (48.2%) for Hillary to just 62,915,886 (46.1%) to Trump-- a 2,844,362 popular vote victory for Clinton. These were the margins for Trump in the states where Russia may have been tampering:
Wisconsin- 22,177
Michigan- 10,704
Pennsylvania- 44,292
Outagamie had a lot of voting machine problems but in the end Trump was credited with 51,579 votes (54.2%) to Clinton's 38,117 (40.1%). What makes that worth looking at is that in 2012, Obama and Romney were neck and neck, 47,294 (50%) for Romney and 45,565 (48%) for Obama-- a operation of just 1,729, not this year's 13,462 vote margin. Hillary did win Portage County-- narrowly-- but she lost over 3,500 voters who cast their ballots for Obama. That sounds like a stretch for a county dominated by voters from Democratic Steven's Point-- even if Rostov Veliky in Russia in the sister city. Meanwhile, Trump won Kenosha 36,025 (47.5%) to 35,770 (47.2%), a startling swing from 2012 when Obama won the county 44,838 (56%) to 34,942 (43%). So Trump picked up 1,083 votes over Romney's performance while Hillary lost 9,068 Obama voters.

Macomb County, Michigan gave Obama a 207,992 vote (52%) win over Romney's 191,896 (48%). This year Trump won the county 224,589 (53.6%) to 176,238 (42.1%). Hillary had 31,754 fewer votes than Obama and Trump had 32,693 more votes than Romney. Looks implausible. Hillary did win Muskegon County 36,640 (47.5%) to Trump's 35,962 (46.6%) but Obama's victory over Romney there was 44,436 (58%) to 30,882 (41%). In other words, Hillary lost 7,796 Obama voters while Trump out-performed Romney by 5,080 votes.

Erie County voters went for Obama 65,136 (58%) over Romney's 46,102 (41%). This year that flipped to a 57,168 (48.8%) to 54,820 (46.8%) narrow win for Trump, with Trump picking up over 11,000 more votes than Romney, while Hillary lost over 10,000 Obama voters. Across the state in blue Luzerne County, Obama had beaten Romney 63,974 (52%) to 57,969 (47%). This year Trump somehow managed to walk away with 77,508 votes (58.4%) to Hillary's 51,454 (38.8%), a mammoth swing towards Trump, who won over than 31,000 more votes than Romney and Hillary lost more than 12,500 Obama voters.

Now let me quickly segue to a press statement Ted Lieu (D-CA) just sent out: "Like so many Americans-- Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike-- I am profoundly disturbed that America’s intelligence professionals have concluded that Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election. In the face of the dire seriousness of Russia’s actions, Congress has one choice and one choice only: to act. As a veteran who served on active duty and as an immigrant, the sanctity of our democracy is deeply personal to me. My family and I came to this country for the chance to live the American Dream. I chose to serve my nation in uniform to give back to America. Our nation’s free, open and safe elections are the guarantor of the American Dream and they must be protected at all times. As a result, I hope Speaker Ryan joins with Democrats and Republicans in Congress to call for a full investigation into Russia’s hacking of the 2016 election. Congress must investigate Russia’s actions, not for the sake of a political party, or a President-elect, but for the sake of each and every American proud to live in a nation forged in liberty’s name-- a nation whose democracy has been a shining beacon the world over."

OK, but that still doesn't answer the core question about the nature of what people keep referring to as "hacking." Did Russia actually tamper with the voting machines themselves? Monday, Paul Krugman's column, The Tainted Election, offered no definitive proof, just that it has been "obvious for months" and that the CIA, not exactly an institution anyone should ever take at face value on anything, "has now determined that hackers working for the Russian government worked to tilt the 2016 election to Donald Trump... It was not, as far as we can tell, stolen in the sense that votes were counted wrong, and the result won’t be overturned. But the result was nonetheless illegitimate in important ways; the victor was rejected by the public, and won the Electoral College only thanks to foreign intervention and grotesquely inappropriate, partisan behavior on the part of domestic law enforcement."
Did the combination of Russian and F.B.I. intervention swing the election? Yes. Mrs. Clinton lost three states-- Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania-- by less than a percentage point, and Florida by only slightly more. If she had won any three of those states, she would be president-elect. Is there any reasonable doubt that Putin/Comey made the difference?
Robert Reich was writing, at the same time, about a dark cloud of illegitimacy hanging over the Trump presidency, pointing out, first and foremost that "the CIA has concluded that Russia intervened in the election in order to help Trump become president. The secret CIA assessment found that Russian operatives covertly interfered in the election campaign in an attempt to ensure the Republican candidate’s victory." He wants Trump to release his tax returns before the Electoral College votes next week. That's not going to happen. And he wants the CIA to share its secret intelligence on Russian hacking. And that's not going to happen either.





Clint Watts, a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia and the Homeland Security Policy Institute at the George Washington University, and Andrew Weisburd, formerly executive officer of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, pubished a provocatively titled post at Politico, How Russ Wins An Election. "You don't need security clearance," they assert, "to understand how Vladimir Putin does it. Just open your eyes... As analysts who have spent years studying Russia’s influence campaigns, we’re confident the spooks have it mostly right: The Kremlin ran a sophisticated, multilayered operation that aimed to sow chaos in the U.S. political system, if not to elect Trump outright." But they insist it was not by hacking voting machines or manipulating the results.
The Kremlin’s canny operatives didn’t change votes; they won them, influencing voters to choose Russia’s preferred outcome by pushing stolen information at just the right time-- through slanted, or outright false stories on social media. As we detail in our recent report, based on 30 months of closely watching Russia’s online influence operations and monitoring some 7,000 accounts, the Kremlin’s troll army swarmed the web to spread disinformation and undermine trust in the electoral system.

And America was just the latest target. These “active measures” are techniques Moscow has honed for decades, continually adapting its formula to changing technology and new circumstances. All of it is in service of Putin’s grand strategy of breaking up the European Union and NATO from the inside out-- without even firing a shot.

Having shattered many Americans’ faith in their democracy, Russia now feels emboldened. And with major elections coming up in France, Germany and the Netherlands, you can bet that Putin’s work is not done. Here’s how he does it:

1. Pick close contests: In both the British referendum and U.S. presidential votes, Russia happened upon an almost perfectly divided electorate. It took a nudge of just a few percentage points in each case to achieve victory.

The final Brexit tally came in at 51.9 percent “Leave” and 48.1 percent “Remain”-- so Russia needed only to turn or rally roughly 157,000 votes across the United Kingdom to deliver a major blow to the EU.

The U.S. election may consist of a far larger number of votes, but the system, we now know, can be gamed even more easily. Russian social media influence efforts needed to pump up Trump and tear down Clinton in just four key states. Trump won Wisconsin and Michigan by less than 1 percent and Florida and Pennsylvania by less than 1.5 percent. Could Russia’s hacks of Democrats and the resulting media storm cost the Clinton campaign seven to eight thousand swing votes or repress an equivalent turnout in Wisconsin? Many will immediately point out it’s impossible to prove Russia ‘caused’ a Trump victory, and they are correct. But what if we find Russian influence correlated with preferable voting outcomes in Brexit, the U.S. and across up to more than a half dozen elections across Europe?

2. Know your audience: In 2008 and 2012, Barack Obama’s strategists conducted a surgical influence effort, mapping key votes down to the neighborhood level. Russian operatives have borrowed from this playbook and targeted audiences vulnerable to their influence across the West-- largely supporters of the “alt-right” and others angered by the perceived effects of globalization, immigration, terrorism and economic hardship. In the U.S., Russia’s blending of semi-overt and covert social media accounts use common hashtags and phrases to create what appear to be conservative Trump supporters or alt-right cheerleaders. These social media personas, whose bios are littered with words like “country,” “Christian,” “America” and “military,” then push pro-Trump hashtags loaded with skewed and fake news at American audiences, helping generate organic Trump support and distrust of the U.S. government. These accounts tweet hashtags and keywords in unison at specified time intervals and carry odd follower relationships fitting inorganic, mathematical patterns. In one example from July, two Russian propaganda outlets pushed a fake news story claiming that Incirlik Air Base in Turkey-- a facility used by NATO-- was overrun by terrorists, using the hashtags #trumppence16 and #benghazi to attract a pro-Trump audience.

3. Start early and be persistent: As early as August 2015, Russian English-language outlets and their social media allies were promoting Trump-- at a time when the idea that he could actually win seemed a distant fantasy. And they kept going throughout the Republican primary, surging at key times. Put differently, Russia didn’t just intervene in the general election against Hillary Clinton-- it helped him defeat his anti-Moscow GOP rivals, too...

4. Try everything. Stick with what works: Today’s Russian propagandists borrow from the playbook of their Soviet forefathers. RT and Sputnik News push political, financial, social and calamitous messages stoking fear and conspiracy into the information environment of any democratic audience suspicious or outwardly hostile to Russia. Since the summer of 2015, we’ve observed Russian messaging pushed to groups across the spectrum, the left and the right politically. Anarchists, anti-capitalists, white supremacists and anti-government militias have all received Russian English-language directed propaganda through the targeted application of bots and person-to-person engagement from what appear to be fellow Americans with strong Russian leanings...

5. Hack and release: Russia’s synchronization of hacking and influence operations provides a one-two punch for manipulating democratic audiences. In the old days, Soviet Kompromat, or compromising materials, were used by KGB agents to encourage Western officials and public figures to speak and act in ways more amenable to Soviet objectives, via threats to expose criminality, corruption or sexual misbehavior. Today, Russia’s hacking teams, two of which security researchers have dubbed Cozy Bear and Fancy Bear, conduct wide-ranging kompromat hacking into thousands of current and former Western government officials, media personalities and national security experts. Russia then strategically releases true, manipulated true, and false information to data dumpsites such as WikiLeaks. These “information nukes” fuel Russian overt propaganda and supply dozens of fringe conspiratorial news sites. Russia’s cyber kompromat playbook appears to have a new target. Germany, the key remaining player in the EU, has already noted Russian hacks against its parliament in 2015, along with a sharp uptick in propaganda ahead of the country’s upcoming elections.

6. Use brute force to overwhelm adversaries: Soviet military doctrine employed the principle of mass to counter Western forces—employing three to four times the artillery of their enemies. Once the Soviets found a break in enemy lines, they’d exploit the breach, occupy a position in the rear area of the enemy and then fight from a defensive position. Today’s Russian social media influence operations employ a similar approach. After using hacked information to craft manipulated truths, Russia propagates and amplifies stories using automated bots. Series of accounts programmed to appear as members of the target audience comment, retweet and share breaking conspiracies at a dizzying pace, turning keyword hashtags into Twitter trends. When successful, this artificial volume entices mainstream media outlets to engage on the trending issue, further amplifying the Kremlin’s narrative. Even if the false or manipulated truth pushed by Russian bots is later proven false, the firehose of fake or manipulated news often drowns out the mainstream media’s efforts to correct the record. The net result is an information world in which Western electorates cannot distinguish fact from fiction, eroding the integrity of democratic institutions and the voters’ trust.

7. Win even when you lose. Russia would prefer that its chosen candidates be victorious, but losing is almost as good: Putin and company are happy just to foment chaos, confusion and doubt. It doesn’t even take much. The mere allegation that voter rolls in Illinois and Arizona had been hacked raised concerns of a rigged outcome, lending credibility to wild claims like those the Green Party’s Jill Stein leveled in Wisconsin. Even the Electoral College, historically a rubber stamp, is becoming another partisan battlefield. And now, with many Americans embittered by the nastiest election in memory and squabbling over the very question of Russian meddling, Putin can sit back and admire his handiwork. Because either way, he’s already won.




UPDATE: Of Course The Voting Machines Are Hackable

We're never going to know the truth about any of this. State operators aren't about Truth. But anyone who ever thought voting machines aren't hackable should probably go bucket sucking their thumb in the corner. This morning Russ Baker quoted John R. Brakey, an Arizona-based election integrity activist currently seeking a hand count in a number of Wisconsin counties that used optical scanners to recount paper ballots, states his knowledge that: "many of these counties are vulnerable to insider or sophisticated hacking because election results are transmitted through a cellular modem that is connected to the Internet." Forget that bullshit about not being connected to the Internet.

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10 Comments:

At 7:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Our "democracy" depends not upon the sanctity of voting. It depends on the whims of the plut-archy who determine policy and who is to implement that policy.

For the plut-archy to be able to "adjust" results to their ends, the system must NOT be secure and reliable.

Putin simply took advantage of that, as the parties themselves have done so many times since LBJ delivered Texas for JFK by having so many dead people rise up to vote for him.

Each election since has been corrupted in some way or another in some place or another. And that includes the DNC primaries -- to make sure the neolib bank and CMIC $hill won the nom over the best D candidate since FDR.

Apparently americans don't much care since the OBVIOUS stolen elections since 2000 resulted in no protests at all.

And, of course, the federal courts are there to insure that nobody fixes the very corruptible voting system.

And, again, nobody gives a flying fuck about it.

Interesting how 120M+ still participate in this obvious charade every 4 years (fewer every 2 between). If voters don't give a flying fuck, why don't we just let the corporate boards of the Fortune 500 (yes, including foreign concerns) plus everyone worth 10 figures select our government for us? Wouldn't that just be easier?

 
At 9:21 AM, Blogger ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Or is it all just bullshit?

None of this was necessary. We could have had President Bernie Sanders.
~

 
At 10:07 AM, Blogger Gadfly said...

So, given this:
>> In both the British referendum and U.S. presidential votes, Russia happened upon an almost perfectly divided electorate. It took a nudge of just a few percentage points in each case to achieve victory. <<

You believe that Putin hacked Brexit? Given that Mi6 et al have never made such a claim, at least for public consumption ...

 
At 10:13 AM, Blogger Gadfly said...

The reality of any hacking has been thoroughly investigated by Greg Palast's doppelgänger, Greg AtLast: http://socraticgadfly.blogspot.com/2016/12/recount2016-never-fear-greg-palast-is.html

 
At 10:14 AM, Blogger Robert Miller said...

Assange said the DNC wikileaks was a leak from the inside of the DNC, not a Russian hack. Considering how hell-bent the Clinton Team was to jack up the war with Russia, you could understand Russian motivation to cut her off at the knees, but you could also see the neocon element in the Deep State, which would include the CIA, trying to get another bite at the apple by somehow having Trump fail the CIA "background check". This may actually just be the CIA's way of negotiating with the Trump camp.

I find it amazing that this story has been circulating, the Russians did it, and yet all we get are unnamed sources and upset Dems sputtering. And the really amazing thing is that anyone would actually take the CIA at its word. I mean, when have they lied to us before?

 
At 12:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gaius has a good platform on Naked Capitalism, one of the blogs being targeted by propornot. He doesn't need this one.

 
At 1:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thiis Democratic paranoia and witch hunt over the Russians are coming! makes the end of the Democratic Party just pathetic. Going out in the worst possible way. No responsibility, no apologies, and leaving multiple global disasters in their wake. But, hey, with all the money they made and stole for themselves, at least they won't have to face the consequences they've left for all the rest of us to deal with.

 
At 1:46 PM, Blogger DownWithTyranny said...

A little notice: if you want to spread propaganda-- Russian or otherwise-- on this site, you can't do it anonymously. Use your name.

 
At 1:54 PM, Anonymous Tomlyn Cole said...

Gladly. Judge for yourself who has more paranoid conspiracy on their site Sputnik or Rachel http://tunein.com/radio/Sputnik-English-s44252/

It is the only 24 hour news station that features liberal and progressive views. I stand by that. It is damn fun to listen to as well.

 
At 11:37 PM, Blogger John said...

The Dems haven't done so well after committing the party to dependency on corporate money/bosses. Maybe next time, IF there IS a next time, they'll hire Putin as a campaign adviser.

This Russia hack hysteria stinks of the very fascist mentality we are supposed to be opposing. If HRC and the DNC had spent 10% as much energy before the election to craft a plausible campaign (instead of "he bad, me not he") this would all be moot.

Any genuine investigation (highly unlikely) would reveal ONLY domestic actors in voting machine hacking. Since this would have been, in the majority, GOP actors, it is another essentially folly, of the prevalent Dem, post election, magical thinking, to expect any investigation.

The problem is that, our having to suffer Herr Hair to avoid the warmongering of HRC, is now compounded by the risk of the GOP catching the war fever ... to avoid having to uncover yet MORE of its election fraud activities.

John Puma


 

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