Senior Editor, Outlaw Patriot News
Today, the Obama administration, in a last ditch effort to further erode relations with Russia on their way out, announced a new round of sanctions on Russia and companies that are purportedly supplying Russia with support for cyber activities, the closure of two Russian facilities, and the expulsion from the country of 35 Russian diplomats that are claimed to be involved in activities that are not consistent with duties of diplomats. This comes as the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation released their Joint Assessment Report linking suspicious activities to what they believe to be Russian hacking cells supported by the Federal Security Service (FSB) and the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU; note that it is mistranslated by Wikipedia and many in the media as the Main Intelligence Agency). In fact, the sanctions imposed by the administration target these two Russian intelligence agencies specifically for their involvement in supporting the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton, and for their continued harassment of US diplomatic personnel stationed in Moscow.
I can speak on a very personal level to the kind of harassment that US diplomatic personnel are subject to when in Moscow, as I was subject to this same kind of harassment and it goes far beyond mere surveillance. There is the typical trailing of personnel by agents assigned to them, who follow them wherever they go and monitor who is going into or out of their residences, and also with whom the personnel are meeting each and every day. They note routines, regular purchases, and any habits. However, they also routinely breach the residences, snooping about through everything for little tidbits of information that they can piece together for a more complete profile. When I would be working out of the embassy in Moscow, the apartment I would stay in would be entered almost daily – they would eat my food, drink whatever was in the refrigerator, leave dirty dishes in the sink (I mean, c’mon, at least clean up after yourself!), and one time they even took my laptop, router, and mouse, and ziptied all of the cords up to let me know that they had tried to get into it. Perhaps the fact that there was no password, but a fingerprint-scan that allowed entry that upset them. I heard stories from those that were permanently stationed there of agents going into their homes while they were there, after they had gone to bed – they would hear them downstairs, talking, obviously not trying to be sneaky. And who could they call? The police? Yeah, right. And according to Russian law, every citizen must cooperate with investigations by the state security services, or risk prosecution. So you never knew who might be watching, listening, monitoring. And this also aided in their breaches into residences, as they could just get spare keys from apartment managers.
However, this is all part of the game…it’s the price for working in Moscow as American diplomatic personnel. It was and should be expected. I have no doubt that Russian diplomats face similar treatment here, though the intrusions may be more along the lines of tapped phones, malware, and so on. These is because whether they know it, or accept it, or not, the vast majority of diplomatic personnel, despite their title or what their paycheck says, actually work for their nation’s security and intelligence services. Again, it is something everyone on each side generally knows, but refuses to declare outright because it would make the “art of diplomacy” seem not so gentlemanly, anymore.
And if the Russians were using targeted emails and malware to collect intelligence information from high-ranking political party members, then that is something worth raising a stink about. However, this doesn’t in any way excuse the behavior of those political party members nor the content of those emails that were leaked. If we are going to impose sanctions on Russia for their activities, shouldn’t we also at the very least open investigations into the activities of these individuals? Shouldn’t we demand that these individuals be purged from the organizations that supposedly represent us? Shouldn’t we demand to know how individuals with access to such high-value information weren’t given proper training on cyber security? How did an organization with so many high-profile individuals, with contacts all the way to the presidency, not have more complex cyber security practices than what they did? Could this have come as a result of the unsecured and illegal email server in the Clinton family basement, containing national security information classified all the way to Top Secret and together with information from special access programs? And if so, shouldn’t prosecution of those negligent in securing their information, of those who have corrupted and perverted an entire political party, be brought to justice? Aren’t these activities an open invitation for such practice by a foreign power, and therefore, are a national security threat, which should eliminate these individuals from holding now or at any time in the future, any kind of position which might further endanger our national security?
These questions are the ones the media should be asking about the sanctions imposed this afternoon. Without these questions, there is no objectivity, and there is no journalistic integrity.