Cyber-hackers widely believed to be tied to the Kremlin have broken into the email of the Democratic National Committee and others. The Post’s Ellen Nakashima reported that Russian hackers have also been targeting state voter-registration systems. And, in an apparent effort to boost Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy, they leaked what they believe to be the most damaging documents at strategic points in the campaign. We learned something else: The Russians aren’t just hackers. Apparently, before leaking their stolen information, they are in some cases doctoring the documents, making edits that add false information and then passing the documents off as the originals.
Foreign Policy’s Elias Groll reported recently that the hackers erred: They posted both the original versions of at least three documents and their edited versions. Sort of like the Rosetta Stone. These documents, stolen from George Soros’s Open Society Foundations, were altered by the hackers to create the false impression that Russian anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny was funded by Soros. A pro-Russian hacking group, CyberBerkut, had inserted Navalny’s name, bogus dollar amounts and fabricated wording.
This raises an intriguing possibility: Were Vladimir Putin’s operatives planning to dump edited DNC documents on the eve of the presidential election?
Neil MacFarquhar wrote in the New York Times about Russian attempts to undermine a Swedish military partnership with NATO. The campaign is spreading false information that there’s a secret nuclear weapons stockpile in Sweden and alleging that NATO soldiers could rape Swedish women with impunity. This Russian use of “weaponized information” helped cause confusion in Ukraine in 2014, when conspiracy theories spread by the Russians about the downing of a Malaysian Airlines jet helped Russians justify their invasion of Crimea.
Anne Applebaum had a long article recently on Russia's history of disinformation. This is neither modern nor cool. Disinformation has become a political art form. Mendacity is opposed to our basic instinct to see the world as it is. And when mendacity is the logical expression of a form of government....well, that is serious stuff. And cynicism is an inadequate response..