US formally accuses Russia of cyber-insurgency | Sunday Observer

US formally accuses Russia of cyber-insurgency

After a whole year of claims and denials and manoeuvres by politicians, including its own President, the United States of America last week formally accused Russia of a conspiracy to subvert the American election system and trying to tilt the 2016 presidential election in favour of Donald Trump. Even as the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) last Friday filed charges against 13 Russian individuals and three Russian agencies, the White House was distracted by news reports of yet another sex scandal involving their President.

So the saga of a decadent, failing, imperial world power continues, with the latest shooting massacre in Florida almost a side show, as this ideologically divided nation argued over the atrocity’s importance!

After a 19-year-old high school student fired at his old school killing 17 students and adults last Thursday, the world watched President Trump, as well as senators and Congress representatives, especially those of the Republican Party, dodge the issue of gun control for the umpteenth time, calling instead for better psychiatric treatment for mentally deranged people who may be prone to violence.

Trump went further : he advised the victims of the massacre yet alive and those school children witnesses of this horror to seek comfort from elders and faith leaders. In his initial public response, the US President did not say a word about the continuing huge problem of freely available modern weapons for public use, including use by 19-year-old high school student Nikolas Cruz in the latest massacre.

This blatant political side-stepping by national leaders prompted famed writer Salmon Rushdie to observe sarcastically, at a popular political comedy TV show, that politicians who advocated the rights of unborn foetuses as against abortion were less concerned about the massacre of school children. Indeed, the frequency of such attacks on school children as opposed to universities makes this writer wonder whether America is becoming a nation of violent paedophilics. The persistent focus by mass killers on murdering children in schools does not seem to worry much of adult America – at least to us watching from the outside.

As the American news agencies themselves have long acknowledged, the right of ordinary citizens to purchase and use guns is a jealously guarded fundamental right. This casual acquiescence of the free use of deadly firepower can only be the death knell for more American children.

Every year, the US suffers one or two child massacres perpetrated mainly in schools and, regularly the murder weapon is a sophisticated automatic assault rifle. Analysts note that several recent school massacre incidents involved the use of the AR-15 assault rifle, which was used by student Cruz in the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Not only is a 19 year old boy able to walk into a store and freely buy the gun and stacks of automatic fire magazines and walk out again, but he can then stroll over to his old school and methodically open fire at pointblank range to mow down fellow students and teachers with little detection or resistance. The FBI now acknowledges that they had earlier received a phone tip-off about misbehaviour by this boy but had failed to follow it up.

Worse, the boy-killer was found to have used an easily available gadget that enables one to quickly convert a semi-automatic weapon to a fully automatic one capable of firing hundreds of bullets a minute.

The whole of America seems to be convulsed with grief over this tragedy, but, once again, calls for strict gun safety laws by gun control activists are ignored by politicians arguing for the ‘right’ to possess a weapon for one’s safety. It is as if America is yet in the ‘Wild West’ with cowboys and ‘Indians’ riding around firing at each other.

Meanwhile, the suspect Cruz has been found to have had links with a Florida-based White supremacist group. After arrest by police, he has reportedly confessed to the massacre.

While American society momentarily agonises over the gun control issue, the US government, notwithstanding efforts by their Commander-in-Chief to belittle the matter, is systematically taking up the whole, real, issue of cybersubversion by America’s principal geo-political rival, Russia.

As early as January 2017, every single American security agency was reporting to its political masters that there was clear evidence of systematic Russian infiltration of internet sites and, operating of robotic websites to sabotage America’s electronic voting system. Alarmingly, for a whole year, Trump has soft-pedalled this issue, his latest move being to ignore the recent new package of sanctions passed by Congress as punishment against Russians identified as cyber insurgents operating in the US.

For months on end, Donald Trump has constantly slandered his own FBI and Justice Department officials conducting the counter-espionage probe into the Russian cyber-subversion and harassed key officials to the degree that some of them have actually retired from service. The head of the FBI was summarily fired last year on flimsy grounds – leading many to suspect that the President has something to hide from the FBI investigators.

Subsequently, a Special Counsel with wide powers was appointed by the Justice Department and this official, Robert Mueller, a former head of the FBI himself, has painstakingly conducted the Russia probe to date, identifying and probing several former Trump presidential campaign officials for suspected collusion with the Russians in this electoral subversion.

The FBI has now filed a case against 13 Russians and three Russian agencies in the American court system for ‘conspiring’ to subvert America’s electoral system since 2014 and, specifically for attempting to sabotage and manipulate the internet systems in a sophisticated space-age form of cyber-insurgency to tilt the 2016 election process in favour of a Trump victory.

The historic FBI indictment before a federal grand jury names 13 Russians and three Russian agencies including Russia’s main Internet research agency, as operating as proxies for Russia’s spy services to systematically manipulate American electoral politics to ensure political results in Moscow’s favour.

The indictment is a historic world first in identifying a covert sabotage operation using the internet and cyber technology on a scale never before experienced.

The named Russian agents are described as secretly entering the US, some under aliases, to create cover websites and, using cyberwarfare technology operated from Moscow, to create web robots to artificially mould political opinion. Robot ‘lobbies’ and ‘campaigns’ were used to swing voter opinion in critical districts to undermine Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid, by default, enabling Trump to win. Thus, robot internet sites campaigned on behalf of Clinton rivals like Bernie Sanders and Green Party candidates in order to split the pro-Clinton vote base. Nearly a million Americans reportedly responded to these websites.

The indictment further accuses Russian agents of cultivating ‘unwitting’ American political activist groups to push their advocacy to favour or undermine candidate’s campaigns and to create waves of inter-ethnic suspicions in an increasingly volatile political atmosphere in the 2016 election process.

This first move by the FBI against the Russian subversion focusses on the Russian side at present. American analysts anticipate that the next phase of the FBI probe would focus on how much Trump’s own campaign collaborated with the Russians either unwittingly or actively.