Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Is Participating In A Plot To Undermine Democracy A Crime?


Today was the dual hearing on the unconstitutional nature of Joe Arpaio's pardon and on his own request to vacate his conviction. That's a little context for an understanding of what role Michael Dreeben is meant to play on Robert Mueller's team looking into Putin-Gate. Greg Farrell did the reporting for Bloomberg on how Mueller can tackle the expected preemptive pardons Trump is expected to start handing out to family members and regimistas. "Judging by his tweets," wrote Farrell, Señor Trumpanzee "could try to pardon people in his circle even before prosecutors charge anyone with a crime. Mueller’s all-star team of prosecutors, with expertise in money laundering and foreign bribery, has an answer to that. He’s Michael Dreeben, a bookish career government lawyer with more than 100 Supreme Court appearances under his belt."
Acting as Mueller’s top legal counsel, Dreeben has been researching past pardons and determining what, if any, limits exist, according to a person familiar with the matter. Dreeben’s broader brief is to make sure the special counsel’s prosecutorial moves are legally airtight. That could include anything from strategizing on novel interpretations of criminal law to making sure the recent search warrant on ex-campaign adviser Paul Manafort’s home would stand up to an appeal.

"He’s seen every criminal case of any consequence in the last 20 years," said Kathryn Ruemmler of Latham & Watkins LLP, who served as White House counsel under President Barack Obama. "If you wanted to do a no-knock warrant, he’d be a great guy to consult with to determine if you were exposing yourself.”

Dreeben, 62, built that expertise over three decades as an appeals lawyer at the Justice Department. As a deputy solicitor general, he’s pored over prosecutors’ moves in more than a thousand federal criminal prosecutions and defended many of them from challenges all they way to the nation’s highest court.

Dreeben has begun working on legal issues as a counselor to Mueller but is also retaining some of his solicitor general work for the sake of continuity, according to Peter Carr, a spokesman for the special counsel’s office. Carr declined to elaborate on Dreeben’s work with Mueller or make Dreeben available for comment.

Pre-emptive pardons are a distinct possibility now that current and former Trump advisers are under Mueller’s scrutiny. Trump himself has tweeted that everyone agrees the U.S. president has “complete power to pardon." Some of those kinds of executive moves have been well studied, including Gerald Ford’s swift pardon of Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton’s exoneration of fugitive financier Marc Rich. But the legal territory is largely uncharted over pardons of a president’s own campaign workers, family members or even himself-- and how prosecutors’ work would then be affected.

Meanwhile, Facebook said it estimates 10 million people saw ads it has discovered on its platform paid for by Russian entities, but warned that it may not have uncovered all malicious activity that attempted to interfere in the American political process,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

"The revelation from Facebook quantifies for the first time the spread of the known Russian activity since the social network said last month it had identified 470 ‘inauthentic’ Russian-backed accounts responsible for $100,000 in advertising spending. Facebook presented congressional investigators with data on 3,000 ads bought by the Russian actors before and after the U.S. presidential election.”

Maddow's show offers a wealth of information on Putin-Gate but I keep getting the feeling that she's some kind of Hearst-era yellow journalist hoping to keep turning out spectacular ratings-- she's #1-- by beating the drums of war against Russia. She seems to get overly carried away from time to time. So I was happy to see the Washington Post cover the Facebook episode this week as a business story, without all the frothing. Like this: "Russian operatives set up an array of misleading Web sites and social media pages to identify American voters susceptible to propaganda, then used a powerful Facebook tool to repeatedly send them messages designed to influence their political behavior, say people familiar with the investigation into foreign meddling in the U.S. election." The Facebook tool is called "Custom Audiences" and it can be used to efficiently send specific ads and messages to voters who visited sites the Russians set up to attract specific audiences, like, for example, racism, Islamaphobia and xenophobia. "People caught up in this web of tracking and disinformation would have had no indication that they had been singled out or that the ads came from Russians."
In addition to Custom Audiences, Russian operatives used other Facebook tools to target groups by demographics, geography, gender and interests, according to the people familiar with the investigation. The Custom Audiences tool differs because it allows advertisers to feed into Facebook’s systems a specific list of users they want to target.

The conclusions of investigators fit those of several independent researchers, who say that the Russian disinformation campaign exploited the core advertising and tracking technologies that Silicon Valley has honed over a decade to serve corporate America-- and that are widely available, with few if any restrictions, to political actors in the United States and abroad.

“These are the same methods and sophisticated tools that the pharmaceutical companies were using, that big oil companies were using,” said Philip N. Howard of Oxford University’s Computational Propaganda Project. “This was regular ad technology that regular advertisers use.”

The revelation about the use of Facebook’s Custom Audiences tool, which has not been previously reported, adds to an emerging picture of a Russian effort to shape the U.S. election and sow division using tools built by American technology companies.

And it makes clear that Russians used Facebook to direct their influence campaigns to voters whom they had already tracked and to find new ones wherever they browsed the Internet-- even if they used multiple devices such as a smartphone for work or a tablet at home.

Targeted people might also have directed that same disinformation-- whether intentionally or not-- to people linked to them on social networks, such as their friends on Facebook.

“This means that any American who knowingly or unknowingly clicked on a Russian news site may have been targeted through Facebook’s advertising systems to become an agent of influence-- a potentially sympathetic American who could spread Russian propaganda with other Americans,” said Clinton Watts, a fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. “Every successful click gives them more data that they can use to retarget. It feeds on itself and it speeds up the influence dramatically.”

Jonathan Albright, research director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University, who has studied the links among fake news, Russian propaganda sites and their relationship to Facebook and other social media platforms, said that hundreds of Russian sites were loaded up with ad tracking software, known as cookies, that would allow them to follow any visitor across the Web and onto Facebook.

The Custom Audiences tool enabled Russian advertisers to feed information from those cookies, which are long strings of numbers that advertisers collect, into Facebook’s systems, which could match them with the accounts of particular Facebook users.

The Facebook users were then shown ads featuring divisive topics that the Russians wanted to promote in their Facebook news feeds, which displayed the ads alongside messages from friends and family members.

This kind of weaponization of social media technology is especially effective against the 2-digit IQ population who have trouble with abstract thought and who make up the bulk of the Trump America First base. Those 300 ads that Facebook turned over to Congress-- likely a very small portion of what the Russians were up to-- were seen, according to Facebook, by around 10 million Facebook users. Trump lost the popular vote 65,853,516 to 62,984,825 and he unexpectedly won the key very targeted states of Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan by extremely narrow margins-- Wisconsin by 22,748 votes (0.76%), Pennsylvania by 44,292 votes (0.72%) and Michigan by 10,704 votes (0.23%), representing 46 electoral votes. Had the Russians not worked with Trump to steal those 3 states, Hillary would have won the presidency with 273 electoral votes to his 258. CNN reported this afternoon that 4 sources with direct knowledge of the situation agree that the Kremlin targeted Michigan and Wisconsin with their ad campaign.
Some of the Russian ads appeared highly sophisticated in their targeting of key demographic groups in areas of the states that turned out to be pivotal, two of the sources said. The ads employed a series of divisive messages aimed at breaking through the clutter of campaign ads online, including promoting anti-Muslim messages, sources said.

...As part of their investigations, both special counsel Robert Mueller and congressional committees are seeking to determine whether the Russians received any help from Trump associates in where to target the ads.
Between the Russians in the general election and Wasserman Schultz and her DNC team in the primaries, there were far too many ways for bad actors to use election fraud to undermine the system. Something's got to be done to protect democracy from these anti-social predators.

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At 5:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

something's got to be done?

When an electorate is this stupid and evil and when all political parties are this corrupt and evil... how could any sort of democracy be ANY good?

And if something is to be done, WHO THE FUCK WOULD DO IT? The corrupt and evil political parties? The sub sentient and Nazified voters? A benevolent despot?
DWT, who promotes one of the corrupt (and becoming more evil every day) parties?!?!?


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