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The Twisted Genius
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Annem, That article is originally from Al Rai. I would not be surprised if it was published to deliberately put Hassan's life in danger. It's setting Hassan up as a direct threat to the rule of Assad. If this idea takes off, Hassan will probably die in a tragic helicopter crash. He has taken promotions reluctantly. I don't think he has any desire to challenge Assad for the presidency.
wisedupearly Ceo, I doubt Erdogan has any intention of allowing the Kurds to ever again rule in Afrin. He has repeated said that region does not belong to them. He plans to recolonize that area with non-Kurds. Assad and the SAR in full control of the northern border is a far different situation than any kind of semiautonomous Rojava. As usual, the Kurds will have little say in the final disposition of this region.
Eric Newhill, Reference your comment at #4 I know you're being sarcastic, but you bring up a good point about the 2A question. In my opinion, the 2A's idea of an armed citizenry as a defense against tyranny would be better served if we were all allowed to carry a fanny pack full of mini frags. Toss a few of those around and you won't give away your location. Keep the mutha fukkas guessing. Our nation would be more secure if we each had a cache out back with a small supply of C4, det cord and blasting caps to supplement our small arms ammo. I could understand restrictions against such caches in apartment complexes, but what about the rest of us? Clearly there's no advocacy group for "destructive devices" in this country. Such a group could teach neighborhood classes on constructing and employing improvised explosives and ensure that we remain free to exercise our full 2A rights.
"DAMASCUS, SYRIA (06:05 PM) – Turkey is not planning to remain in Syria’s Afrin district indefinitely, according to Bekir Bozdağ, Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey. Bozdağ made the remarks during a press conference on Monday, as reported by Turkish newspaper... Continue reading
Posted 2 days ago at Sic Semper Tyrannis
Ishmael Zechariah, Reference your comment at #28 There is a wide variation in the jihadist ranks from the the original anti-Assad rebels to the hard core ISIS/DAESH. We aided, equipped and directed various groups at one end of the spectrum. We continue to do so at Tanf and east of the Euphrates, as does the TSK to the north. Membership and allegiances among the jihadist has always been fluid, but only to a point as shown by the constant inter-jihadist fighting. All this grayness leads to confused situations and interpretations. We were clearly not concerned when IS was assisting in toppling Assad, but we were never allies. That was shortsighted and foolish, but so are many things we and others do in the region. Our goal is still to destroy ISIS/DAESH.
ex-PFC Chuck, Reference your comment at #27 We have pulled our A-10s out of Incirlik to Baghram, Afghanistan to support our war there. The Germans pulled out of Incirlik last year. We still have tankers based at Incirlik. Family housing has been reduced. I'm surprised any dependents are still there. I think our days there are numbered.
William Fitzgerald, Reference your comment at #22 No, what we and Tel Aviv do not want to see is a fully reconstituted Syria under Assad's rule. That is is what we are trying to prevent with our presence in eastern Syria and around Tanf. I take Votel at his word that he expects Syria under Assad to survive as a state, albeit diminished in land mass and resources. Tel Aviv, on the other hand, appears to ultimately want a total collapse of the Assad regime leaving a fractured land under the control of various jihadist warlords. However, they may be willing to settle for a diminished SAR for now.
I think Votel expressed a sobering account of what CENTCOM can take on in the region. Our forces in eastern Syria are minimal and are dependent on the YPG/SDF for manpower. The Turkish invasion of Afrin is stressing our relationship with the Kurds. If they make moves towards Kobane or elsewhere against the Kurds, we will be presented with a tough choice. I do believe Russia and even Damascus is forcing that choice upon us with the eager help of Turkey. And Votel sees that coming. The last thing he needs is the added challenge of the collapse of the Iran Agreement. He's still saddled with trying to prevent a final consolidation of Syria in support of Israeli objectives while defeating what remains of ISIS. That's more than enough to handle.
John Minnerath, Reference your photo at #3 I always liked these shots. Are the colors manipulated after filming or are special filters used during the filming? I thought I read a NASA story about these photos not being naturally colored.
Fatima Manoubia, "what is MBTI and INTP?" MBTI is short for the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. It is a short multiple choice questionnaire used to identify personality type. It is based on Carl Jung's psychological theories of how one experiences one's environment. INTP is one personality type indicated by the Myers-Briggs test. It stands for Introversion (I), Intuition (N), Thinking (T), Perception (P). There are various description of what these personality types means that you should read for yourself.
Eric Newhill, Glad to see you bringing up remote viewing and such. You made some very good points about psychic phenomena, UFOs and human nature. When I first delved into remote viewing, I approached it with some apprehension. SWMBO shared the same apprehensions. Even though I studied the phenomenon for quite some time before I tried it myself, it was a jump into the unknown. BTW, I proved to myself that it works. Perhaps these UFOs are some wild blend of technological and psychic magic. At least, it would be magic to us. When I was still in grammar school, I read William Seabrook's "Jungle Ways." It was his account of his travels through French West Africa in 1930. He wrote of how he tried to make sense of the cannibals, shamans and seemingly topsy turvy social mores he came across. He came to the realization that the universe is full of things that can't be explained or understood. Wild things. Mysterious things. Even scary things. That concept excited me. I pity the SJ types who do not dare contemplate that something might exist outside their neatly preconceived world views. Their timidity is to so limiting. They prefer to mark their charts with warnings of "Here be dragons" rather than venture forth and look for those dragons. I've taken the Meyers-Briggs test several times. I test out as borderline INFP-INFJ.
Eric Newhill, What you describe is not middle class. If a family is bringing in $150K or more a year, it is well within the top 5% in the US. You and I live among the rich. With a wife and two sons, I only broke over $100K in my last few years of working. I considered myself comfortably middle class, even upper middle class.
Anna, I meant to say FaceBook ads were NOT the bulk of the content.
Anna, Reference your comment at #138 You and the Face Book lawyers are trying to minimize the Russian effort. Paid ads are the bulk of the content. Fake FaceBook pages, twitter accounts, web sites and contributed articles, all posting prolifically are what made up the bulk of the persuasion campaign. Here's a sampling.
LeaNder, Reference your comment at #128 RFE/RL is Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Jack, you took the time to formulate some well expressed observations and questions in your comment at #118. I’ll offer you answers in the same vein. It’s best to start with my words from December 2016. “As many of you know, I am convinced that all this was the result of a well planned and executed information operation undertaken by the Russian government. I’ve spent a decade working in and around this type of thing and can recognize an elegant information operation when I see one. And elegant it was. No drone assassinations. No extrajudicial kidnappings and imprisonments. No arming of terrorists. Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, you magnificent bastard, I salute you.” “What I don’t know is the true objective of this operation. Was it to defeat Clinton and elect Trump? Was it to destroy confidence and increase doubt in our political system and/or media? Perhaps it was it something else altogether. One’s answers to these questions seems totally dependent on one’s political inclinations. Since there are so many other factors that brought about our present situation, I doubt we’ll ever know the true motives behind this information operation. Nor will we know its true effectiveness or ineffectiveness. But one thing I can assure all of you, it's happening, baby.” Since I penned those words, some of those unknowns have been filled in. I am generally in agreement with the January 2017 ICA concerning the objectives of the Russian operation. Judging by the collection of media coming from the Internet Research Agency (IRA) and other Russian sources assembled by @UsHadrons and other researchers, I feel the primary Russian goal was to exacerbate the divisions that already exist in our society and undermine our faith in the electoral process and public institutions, no matter who won the election. They did not want to see a Clinton administration with anything resembling a popular mandate. I also think they were happy to see a weakened and divided America under a Trump administration. I do not think the Russians see Trump as their man. This Russian IO was comprised of several well integrated sub-operations. Russian hackers obtained data from the DNC, the DCCC and Podesta’s Gmail account. There was nothing especially alarming in that. Russian and Chinese hackers have been looting our government, contractor and private institution information systems for two decades. The connection between those hackers and their governments is well established in the IC. I helped establish that fact by penetrating those connections. In this case, the contents of those hacks were publicly exposed to specifically damage Clinton’s campaign and to exacerbate societal divisions. This tactic isn’t new, either. They’ve done the same thing to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The main operation in this Russian IO campaign was the use of digital media in a broad perception management or influence effort… this includes the “shit posting of dank memes” ostensibly produced by native US partisan groups. The planting of fake articles and organizing of actual protests were also part of this operation. This was aided by AI assisted analysis of big data and micro-targeting… techniques borrowed from the best of the advertising world. It took full advantage of the power and algorithmic quirks of platforms like FaceBook, twitter and Snapchat. None of that was illegal as far as I know. It may have violated the terms of service of those platforms, but perhaps not. All this was done on the cheap. It was far cheaper than the ham handed, five billion dollar over ten year effort to change the Ukrainian government that Nuland publicly touted. And unlike our Ukrainian meddling, the Russian meddling was bloodless. Did this broad influence operation affect the outcome of the election? I don’t know. As I said last year, I don’t think this can be measured or isolated from all other factors that affected the vote. Clinton’s campaign and message was uninspiring to say the least. Brad Parscale made the same smart use of modern media platforms, AI assisted message construction and micro-targeting as the Russians. Both operations were aimed at voter suppression as well as getting out the vote. But I see no proof that these digital operations were coordinated. I am curious to see what comes of Mueller’s investigation of the Alfa Bank - Trump Tower - Spectrum Health server connections. Those connections were the subject of an approved FISA collection operation. There have been some interesting speculation on what that traffic meant. However, it’s just unproven speculation at this time. So, was it effective? Practitioners of these influence techniques since the days of Vance Packard’s “Hidden Persuaders” swear it works. Advertisers and political campaigners spend millions on the believe that it works. Based on this, but without any measurements or means to obtain those measurements, I do think this aspect of the Russian IO campaign was effective, even if it did not change the outcome of the election. I also want to add that there is zero evidence of any vote tampering. Without that, the integrity of our electoral system was maintained. The election was valid. Trump is President of the US. Any claim to the contrary is just silly… unless you want to claim that Charlton Heston is still your president. Did Trump or anyone in the Trump campaign know what the Russians were doing or did anyone knowingly participate in a “conspiracy against the United States” with the Russians? I never considered that question a year ago. Hell, a year ago Trump swore neither he or anyone in his campaign had any meetings or dealings with Russians. In the light of those denials, the Buzzfeed publication of the Steele dossier looked like pure bullshit. Too bad those blanket denials didn’t age well. Trump and his cronies are their own worst enemies with those early denials as they were easily proved wrong. Yes they dealt with Russians. So what. Granted some of those dealings may be sketchy. Some of them may even be illegal, but that’s not very likely to be conspiracy against the United States. I have little doubt Russian Intelligence targeted some of these dudes, just like they targeted Carter Page. It’s not a crime to be targeted by a foreign intelligence service. The Steele dossier was a series of raw intelligence reports from second and third hand sources. If Steele didn’t have an established track record of reporting reliably in the past, I doubt the FBI would have taken any of it seriously. The public, on the other hand, lapped it up without question, especially the pee pee tape. That particular report strikes me as a piece of folklore gossip among the hotel staff. However, given the recent information about the Playboy bunny and the porn star, who knows. As far as I can tell, Fusion GPS never paid Steele’s sources since Steele didn’t pay his sources either. Also, Fusion GPS was not too enthusiastic about Steele’s passing his reports directly to the FBI. The Fusion GPS role in the relationship between Steele and the FBI is minimal at best. Steele has maintained one of his sources was a member of Trump’s campaign staff. I would think that source was identified to the FBI and was critical to the asset validation process. You are quite right in noting that interfering in foreign elections is widely practiced. According to Wikipedia, the US and USSR/Russia interfered in 117 foreign elections from 1946 to 2000. The US was responsible for interfering more than twice as often as the USSR/Russia. We are clearly not standing on any moral high ground. But that doesn’t mean we should ignore the most recent Russian targeting of our election. We should be given a full explanation of what was done and ensure steps are taken to prevent a reoccurrence in future election. Federal Election Commission (FEC) rules have to catch up with advances in media. A lot of those “dank memes” would lose their effectiveness if they were marked “content created by the Internet Research Agency of Saint Petersburg, Russia.” I am hoping that a full investigation of this Russian IO campaign will breath life into a fuller investigation of interference in our political process by other countries and entities like Israel and AIPAC. FARA and charges of conspiracy against the US could be powerful weapons against such interference if the DOJ can be empowered into actually using those tools. It’s a long shot, but if we can’t see this investigation through, the chances of addressing all other outside influences on our system are nil.
Publius Tacitus, Eric Holder is not the IC. He's just one among many politicians who have waived the bloody shirt over this. Those within the IC going back for fifteen years or so know this is not the boldest thing the Russians have done in the digital realm. The 2016 IO effort, however, was extraordinary in its brilliant and elegant exploitation of modern social media, AI and human behavior. It follows from past Soviet and Russian efforts in information confrontation, but this was impressive in its ingenuity. We'll just have to disagree about current estimative language. I've provided input and review of DIA analytical products going to the White House only about a dozen times within the last ten years. Those products used the "we assess" and "our judgement is" while citing specific multiple HUMINT and SIGINT sources. It's just the way they write now.
Publius Tacitus, Reference your comment at #94 Conceding? When did I ever claim Russian meddling was an act of war? Granted there are far too many in DC who do consider this an act of war, including McCain. However Clapper, Hayden and, as far as I can tell, Brennan never claimed it to be an act of war. It's not the IC calling for war, it's the politicians. The IC has been seeing this kind of thing happening in the digital world for twenty years and recognized Russia's 2016 IO campaign as just the latest advancement in that struggle. I don't doubt your experience in analytical writing. However, that writing style has changed since your time. That 2017 ICA includes an explanation of how that language changed over the last ten years.
Jack reference your comment at #100 Where do you get the notion that I ever believed the Russian IO was effective? Not only did I never claim that, but I specifically said that determining the effectiveness of that campaign would be well-nigh impossible. You're making things up to justify your preferred narrative of Russia being the land of unicorns and glitter and Trump is the blue faery. The truth will probably be found to be somewhere between the wildest conspiracy theories of both sides. And the Russians definitely had a better handle on the use of social media in an election campaign, as did Brad Parscale's digital effort. The DNC's effort was woefully outclassed and outdated. That was their own fault. They even turned down FaceBook's offer of assistance.
Publius Tacitus, Surely you don't buy into that "worse than Pearl Harbor act of war" crap. Shit posting and hacking is not and never will be an act of war. The Russian IO, in it's entirety was no more an international aggression than RFE/RL. I would describe it as RFE/RL meets Madison Avenue and Silicon Valley. It was brilliantly planned and executed. The word I first used was elegant when I first wrote about reflexive control over a year ago. At that time I even saluted VV Putin in all his magnificent bastardness. I sincerely doubt many in the IC saw this Russian meddling as a reason to start rolling tanks or lobbing nukes either. Certainly Obama didn't think this was worthy of a war. Needing a response, yes, but worthy of starting a war, no. And now concerning the unemotional use of "we assess" in the 2017 ICA rather than the breathless declarations made in the 2002 NIE used to justify the Bush/Cheney war on Iraq, there was no need for that emphatic, no going back language used to justify the Iraq War. That assessment was heavily politicized and became more definitive in its declarations as it made its way up the IC and White House ladder. It was also heavily redacted to remove the qualifiers and caveats expressed by the original writers of that NIE. It's purpose was to start a war. That declassified NIE wasn't released until 2014. Perhaps in ten years or so, we'll see the full declassified version of the now classified 2017 ICA.
Dave, As far as I know, no one has reliably claimed that election systems, as in vote tallies, were ever breached. No votes were changed after they were cast. The integrity of our election system and the 2016 election itself was maintained. Having said that, there is plenty of evidence of Russian meddling as an influence op. I suggest you and others take a gander at the research of someone going by the handle of @UsHadrons and several others. They are compiling a collection of FaceBook, twitter and other media postings that emanated from the IRA and other Russian sources. The breadth of these postings is quite wide and supports the assessment that enhancing the divides that already existed in US society was a primary Russian goal. I pointed this stuff out to Eric Newhill a while back in one of our conversations. He jokingly noted that he may have assisted in spreading a few of these memes. I bet a lot of people will recognize some of the stuff in this collection. That's nothing. Recently we all learned that Michael Moore did a lot more than unwittingly repost a Russian meme. He took part in a NYC protest march organized and pushed by Russians. This stuff is open source proof of Russian meddling.
Publius Tacitus, I notice other Intelligence Community Assessments also use the term "we assess" liberally. For example, the 2018 Worldwide Threat Assessment and the 2012 ICA on Global Water Security use the "we assess" phrase throughout the documents. I hazard to guess that is why they call these things assessments. The 2017 ICA on Russian Interference released to the public clearly states: "This report is a declassified version of a highly classified assessment. This document’s conclusions are identical to the highly classified assessment, but this document does not include the full supporting information, including specific intelligence on key elements of the influence campaign. Given the redactions, we made minor edits purely for readability and flow." I would hazard another guess that those minor edits for readability and flow are the reason that specific intelligence reports and sources, which were left out of the unclassified ICA, are not cited in that ICA.
The select group of several dozen analysts from CIA, NSA and FBI who produced the January 2017 ICA are very likely the same group of analysts assembled by Brenner in August 2016 to form a task force examining "L'Affaire Russe" at the same time Brennan brought that closely held report to Obama of Putin's specific instructions on an operation to damage Clinton and help Trump. I've seen these interagency task forces set up several times to address particular info ops or cyberattack issues. Access to the work of these task forces was usually heavily restricted. I don't know if this kind of thing has become more prevalent throughout the IC. I am also puzzled by the absence of DIA in the mix. When I was still working, there were a few DIA analysts who were acknowledged throughout the IC as subject matter experts and analytical leaders in this field. On the operational side, there was never great enthusiasm for things cyber or info ops. There were only a few lonely voices in the darkness. Meanwhile, CIA, FBI and NSA embraced the field wholeheartedly. Perhaps those DIA analytical experts retired or moved on to CYBERCOM, NSA or CIA's Information Operations Center.
pl and all, I can vouch for the improvement made by the creation of the DNI, especially for DIA. Prior to its creation, the coordination process for intelligence operations was merely a euphemism for begging for permission. The DNI changed all that. The process became a true coordination process, much to the chagrin of the CIA. In addition to the DNI, the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence (USDI) became more involved in the process adding more weight to the DIA position. Additionally, protocols were established for DOD/DIA to conduct purely military operations with a deconfliction process rather than a coordination process. That may sound like a small thing, but it was a profound development.
Razumov, Judaism denies the Holy Trinity and Jesus as the son of God. Those are central tenets of Christianity. Granted Christianity arose from among the Jewish people, but the religions are quite different from each other.