The Daily Beast reports: President Trump may be continuing his public pursuit for Vladimir Putin’s affections. But behind the scenes, the United States is quietly preparing to wage an information war against Russia.
The 2016 presidential campaign alerted the public to the concept of information as a weapon — and to its incredible effectiveness when used just right. From WikiLeaks to RT to Sputnik, the Russian government tried to sow discord among Americans, according to a recent U.S. intelligence report. To some extent it succeeded, by facilitating public skepticism of American institutions and the press—and undermining Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
“Russia is trying to create civic chaos, questions about what is reliable, and mistrust about institutions,” said Karl Altau, director of the Joint Baltic American National Committee, which advocates against Russian misinformation. “It’s a national threat. This is something responsible citizens need to be aware of.”
Russian intervention in the U.S. democratic process caught many American policymakers dozing at the wheel, observers say. But the dramatic nature of the intelligence community’s findings, both before and after Trump’s election, has woken them up.
“This was not paid much attention to until the Hillary Clinton [presidential campaign was upended by hacked and leaked emails] last summer,” said Donald Jensen, a senior fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis, a leading think-tank on Russian information warfare. “If you went around town last spring and asked senators and lawmakers if this is a problem, they would have said ‘no’… People are playing catch-up.”
Without fanfare, the catch-up is slowly beginning. The United States government is spending tens of millions of dollars to counter propaganda from Vladimir Putin and other state actors, a move slipped into the thousands of pages of the annual defense policy bill passed by Congress. [Continue reading…]