The Thinker: Rich Galen

  
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An American Cyber-Column By Rich Galen
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Strategy and Tactics

Rich Galen

Monday June 26, 2017

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  • I think this was one of the many things I learned from Newt Gingrich over the years: The difference between strategy and tactics. A strategy answers the question, "What do we want to do? A tactic answers the question, "How are we going to do it?"

  • For extra credit, "vision" describes why we think doing this is important.

  • I say I think I learned that from Newt because that was the way Newt organized things. He sometimes deviated from the path we thought he had set us on, but that's what made it interesting.

  • All that to examine an extraordinary article published on-line by the Washington Post last Friday (although it was in Sunday's paper, which tells us a lot about where the readership lives).

  • The 10,000-word piece examines in great detail what the administration of Barack Obama knew about Russian hacking, when it knew it, and what it did about it.

  • The answers are: They knew the plot came straight out of Putin's office; August, 2016; and, almost nothing.

  • Stepping into the Way-Back machine (but not even needing to close the door), remember that candidate Donald Trump thought it was possible he might lose the election to Hillary Clinton. The rest of the known universe thought that outcome was somewhat more likely than Trump did.

  • Trump had, since the earliest days of the campaign, called the processed "rigged" which most of us thought was because he wasn't likely to be the GOP nominee, either.

  • The "rigged" language was in many - if not most - of his rally speeches and was generally aimed at claiming the Democratic Party under the control of Obama, was rigging the results to favor Clinton and thus steal the election.

  • That turned out to be the mirror-image of what was really going on.

  • The Russians were attempting to rig, if not the results, then then messaging and flow of the campaign in favor of Trump and thus steal the election.

  • So: Vladimir Putin's vision was to disrupt the U.S. elections in favor of Trump (or, to be more precise, in opposition to Clinton). His strategy was to use cyber-tools to undermine our election. The tactics included (a) hacking the DNC, (b) using Wikileaks to feed the Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta's emails on a weekly basis to, (c) keep the whole issue of Hillary's private email server alive, so as to (d) give credence to Trump's charge of "rigging."

  • President Barack Obama knew all about this around the time of the two national party conventions because he was given the documentation, according to the lede in a Post article by Greg Miller, Ellen Nakashima and Adam Entous:
    "An envelope with extraordinary handling restrictions arrived at the White House. Sent by courier from the CIA, it carried 'eyes only' instructions that its contents be shown to just four people: President Barack Obama and three senior aides."

  • And what did Obama do, after learning about the determined and ongoing efforts of the Russians? Again, from the Post article:
    "In late December, Obama approved a modest package combining measures that had been drawn up to punish Russia for other issues - expulsions of 35 diplomats and the closure of two Russian compounds - with economic sanctions so narrowly targeted that even those who helped design them describe their impact as largely symbolic."

  • As an unnamed senior Obama official put it, "We sort of choked."

  • Teams of Obama-hands spread out over the cable nets over the weekend to claim that, with the benefit of hindsight, maybe Obama should have done more. Like tell the nation what was going on.

  • To be fair, a statement in early October from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security (but, not from the White House) stated, again from the WaPo:
    "The U.S. Intelligence Community is confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from U.S. persons and institutions, including from U.S. political organizations," said a joint statement from the two agencies.

    "… These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the U.S. election process."

  • Trump, for his part, poo-pooed (are you allowed to use the poo-word in relation to a sitting President?) the whole thing saying the hacking might be by the Russians, might be by the Chinese, or "might be by a 400-pound guy sitting on his bed."

  • Putin 1 - U.S. Nil.

  • Vision, Strategy and Tactics will almost always beat inaction.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Links to the two articles - the main one on what Obama knew and the secondary one on what he did (or didn't) do about it.

  • The Mullfoto shows yet another reason why I don't buy lunch from food trucks parked along L Street, NW.

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