Are the Russians Really Using Cyber Tricks to Undermine US Democracy?

From Who What Why:

On Sept. 5, The Washington Post published a front page story asserting that the Russian government is seeking to undermine American democracy at a crucial time, using unspecified “cybertools” to spread disinformation and chaos that could alter the outcome of the Nov. 8 presidential election.

“US intelligence and law enforcement agencies are investigating what they see as a broad covert Russian operation in the United States to sow public distrust in the upcoming presidential election and in US political institutions,” the Postreported.

The paper’s source for this information? Anonymous “intelligence and congressional officials.” Not until the fifth paragraph of the story, which ran under the alarming headline, “US investigating potential covert Russian plan to disrupt November elections,” did the newspaper acknowledge that its stable of off-the-record sources had no “definitive proof” whatsoever of any Russian plot.

Then, having issued the obligatory, if somewhat buried, disclaimer, the story went on to highlight the supposed threat posed by Russian hackers working for the Kremlin to the very foundation of American democracy.

“The Kremlin’s intent may not be to sway the election in one direction or another, officials said, but to cause chaos and provide propaganda fodder to attack US democracy-building policies around the world, particularly in the countries of the former Soviet Union,” the article explained.

“US intelligence officials described the covert influence campaign here as ‘ambitious’ and said it is also designed to counter US leadership and influence in international affairs.”

Although the Post apparently based its reporting on interviews with a combination of both intelligence and congressional sources, the story itself makes clear that whatever security clearance-carrying officials the Post spoke to on Capitol Hill were simply being leaked the same information the Post obtained via its own back-channel communication link with Langley.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid embracing President Obama. Photo …

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