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  • Beyond the Hype of Lab-Grown Diamonds
    https://earther.gizmodo.com/beyond-the-hype-of-lab-grown-diamonds-1834890351

    Billions of years ago when the world was still young, treasure began forming deep underground. As the edges of Earth’s tectonic plates plunged down into the upper mantle, bits of carbon, some likely hailing from long-dead life forms were melted and compressed into rigid lattices. Over millions of years, those lattices grew into the most durable, dazzling gems the planet had ever cooked up. And every so often, for reasons scientists still don’t fully understand, an eruption would send a stash of these stones rocketing to the surface inside a bubbly magma known as kimberlite.

    There, the diamonds would remain, nestled in the kimberlite volcanoes that delivered them from their fiery home, until humans evolved, learned of their existence, and began to dig them up.

    The epic origin of Earth’s diamonds has helped fuel a powerful marketing mythology around them: that they are objects of otherworldly strength and beauty; fitting symbols of eternal love. But while “diamonds are forever” may be the catchiest advertising slogan ever to bear some geologic truth, the supply of these stones in the Earth’s crust, in places we can readily reach them, is far from everlasting. And the scars we’ve inflicted on the land and ourselves in order to mine diamonds has cast a shadow that still lingers over the industry.

    Some diamond seekers, however, say we don’t need to scour the Earth any longer, because science now offers an alternative: diamonds grown in labs. These gems aren’t simulants or synthetic substitutes; they are optically, chemically, and physically identical to their Earth-mined counterparts. They’re also cheaper, and in theory, limitless. The arrival of lab-grown diamonds has rocked the jewelry world to its core and prompted fierce pushback from diamond miners. Claims abound on both sides.

    Growers often say that their diamonds are sustainable and ethical; miners and their industry allies counter that only gems plucked from the Earth can be considered “real” or “precious.” Some of these assertions are subjective, others are supported only by sparse, self-reported, or industry-backed data. But that’s not stopping everyone from making them.

    This is a fight over image, and when it comes to diamonds, image is everything.
    A variety of cut, polished Ada Diamonds created in a lab, including smaller melee stones and large center stones. 22.94 carats total. (2.60 ct. pear, 2.01 ct. asscher, 2.23 ct. cushion, 3.01 ct. radiant, 1.74 ct. princess, 2.11 ct. emerald, 3.11 ct. heart, 3.00 ct. oval, 3.13 ct. round.)
    Image: Sam Cannon (Earther)
    Same, but different

    The dream of lab-grown diamond dates back over a century. In 1911, science fiction author H.G. Wells described what would essentially become one of the key methods for making diamond—recreating the conditions inside Earth’s mantle on its surface—in his short story The Diamond Maker. As the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) notes, there were a handful of dubious attempts to create diamonds in labs in the late 19th and early 20th century, but the first commercial diamond production wouldn’t emerge until the mid-1950s, when scientists with General Electric worked out a method for creating small, brown stones. Others, including De Beers, soon developed their own methods for synthesizing the gems, and use of the lab-created diamond in industrial applications, from cutting tools to high power electronics, took off.

    According to the GIA’s James Shigley, the first experimental production of gem-quality diamond occurred in 1970. Yet by the early 2000s, gem-quality stones were still small, and often tinted yellow with impurities. It was only in the last five or so years that methods for growing diamonds advanced to the point that producers began churning out large, colorless stones consistently. That’s when the jewelry sector began to take a real interest.

    Today, that sector is taking off. The International Grown Diamond Association (IGDA), a trade group formed in 2016 by a dozen lab diamond growers and sellers, now has about 50 members, according to IGDA secretary general Dick Garard. When the IGDA first formed, lab-grown diamonds were estimated to represent about 1 percent of a $14 billion rough diamond market. This year, industry analyst Paul Zimnisky estimates they account for 2-3 percent of the market.

    He expects that share will only continue to grow as factories in China that already produce millions of carats a year for industrial purposes start to see an opportunity in jewelry.
    “I have a real problem with people claiming one is ethical and another is not.”

    “This year some [factories] will come up from 100,000 gem-quality diamonds to one to two million,” Zimnisky said. “They already have the infrastructure and equipment in place” and are in the process of upgrading it. (About 150 million carats of diamonds were mined last year, according to a global analysis of the industry conducted by Bain & Company.)

    Production ramp-up aside, 2018 saw some other major developments across the industry. In the summer, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reversed decades of guidance when it expanded the definition of a diamond to include those created in labs and dropped ‘synthetic’ as a recommended descriptor for lab-grown stones. The decision came on the heels of the world’s top diamond producer, De Beers, announcing the launch of its own lab-grown diamond line, Lightbox, after having once vowed never to sell man-made stones as jewelry.

    “I would say shock,” Lightbox Chief Marketing Officer Sally Morrison told Earther when asked how the jewelry world responded to the company’s launch.

    While the majority of lab-grown diamonds on the market today are what’s known as melee (less than 0.18 carats), the tech for producing the biggest, most dazzling diamonds continues to improve. In 2016, lab-grown diamond company MiaDonna announced its partners had grown a 6.28 carat gem-quality diamond, claimed to be the largest created in the U.S. to that point. In 2017, a lab in Augsburg University, Germany that grows diamonds for industrial and scientific research applications produced what is thought to be the largest lab-grown diamond ever—a 155 carat behemoth that stretches nearly 4 inches across. Not gem quality, perhaps, but still impressive.

    “If you compare it with the Queen’s diamond, hers is four times heavier, it’s clearer” physicist Matthias Schreck, who leads the group that grew that beast of a jewel, told me. “But in area, our diamond is bigger. We were very proud of this.”

    Diamonds can be created in one of two ways: Similar to how they form inside the Earth, or similar to how scientists speculate they might form in outer space.

    The older, Earth-inspired method is known as “high temperature high pressure” (HPHT), and that’s exactly what it sounds like. A carbon source, like graphite, is placed in a giant, mechanical press where, in the presence of a catalyst, it’s subjected to temperatures of around 1,600 degrees Celsius and pressures of 5-6 Gigapascals in order to form diamond. (If you’re curious what that sort of pressure feels like, the GIA describes it as similar to the force exerted if you tried to balance a commercial jet on your fingertip.)

    The newer method, called chemical vapor deposition (CVD), is more akin to how diamonds might form in interstellar gas clouds (for which we have indirect, spectroscopic evidence, according to Shigley). A hydrocarbon gas, like methane, is pumped into a low-pressure reactor vessel alongside hydrogen. While maintaining near-vacuum conditions, the gases are heated very hot—typically 3,000 to 4,000 degrees Celsius, according to Lightbox CEO Steve Coe—causing carbon atoms to break free of their molecular bonds. Under the right conditions, those liberated bits of carbon will settle out onto a substrate—typically a flat, square plate of a synthetic diamond produced with the HPHT method—forming layer upon layer of diamond.

    “It’s like snow falling on a table on your back porch,” Jason Payne, the founder and CEO of lab-grown diamond jewelry company Ada Diamonds, told me.

    Scientists have been forging gem-quality diamonds with HPHT for longer, but today, CVD has become the method of choice for those selling larger bridal stones. That’s in part because it’s easier to control impurities and make diamonds with very high clarity, according to Coe. Still, each method has its advantages—Payne said that HPHT is faster and the diamonds typically have better color (which is to say, less of it)—and some companies, like Ada, purchase stones grown in both ways.

    However they’re made, lab-grown diamonds have the same exceptional hardness, stiffness, and thermal conductivity as their Earth-mined counterparts. Cut, they can dazzle with the same brilliance and fire—a technical term to describe how well the diamond scatters light like a prism. The GIA even grades them according to the same 4Cs—cut, clarity, color, and carat—that gemologists use to assess diamonds formed in the Earth, although it uses a slightly different terminology to report the color and clarity grades for lab-grown stones.

    They’re so similar, in fact, that lab-grown diamond entering the larger diamond supply without any disclosures has become a major concern across the jewelry industry, particularly when it comes to melee stones from Asia. It’s something major retailers are now investing thousands of dollars in sophisticated detection equipment to suss out by searching for minute differences in, say, their crystal shape or for impurities like nitrogen (much less common in lab-grown diamond, according to Shigley).

    Those differences may be a lifeline for retailers hoping to weed out lab-grown diamonds, but for companies focused on them, they can become another selling point. The lack of nitrogen in diamonds produced with the CVD method, for instance, gives them an exceptional chemical purity that allows them to be classified as type IIa; a rare and coveted breed that accounts for just 2 percent of those found in nature. Meanwhile, the ability to control everything about the growth process allows companies like Lightbox to adjust the formula and produce incredibly rare blue and pink diamonds as part of their standard product line. (In fact, these colored gemstones have made up over half of the company’s sales since launch, according to Coe.)

    And while lab-grown diamonds boast the same sparkle as their Earthly counterparts, they do so at a significant discount. Zimnisky said that today, your typical one carat, medium quality diamond grown in a lab will sell for about $3,600, compared with $6,100 for its Earth-mined counterpart—a discount of about 40 percent. Two years ago, that discount was only 18 percent. And while the price drop has “slightly tapered off” as Zimnisky put it, he expects it will fall further thanks in part to the aforementioned ramp up in Chinese production, as well as technological improvements. (The market is also shifting in response to Lightbox, which De Beers is using to position lab-grown diamonds as mass produced items for fashion jewelry, and which is selling its stones, ungraded, at the controversial low price of $800 per carat—a discount of nearly 90 percent.)

    Zimnisky said that if the price falls too fast, it could devalue lab-grown diamonds in the eyes of consumers. But for now, at least, paying less seems to be a selling point. A 2018 consumer research survey by MVI Marketing found that most of those polled would choose a larger lab-grown diamond over a smaller mined diamond of the same price.

    “The thing [consumers] seem most compelled by is the ability to trade up in size and quality at the same price,” Garard of IGDA said.

    Still, for buyers and sellers alike, price is only part of the story. Many in the lab-grown diamond world market their product as an ethical or eco-friendly alternative to mined diamonds.

    But those sales pitches aren’t without controversy.
    A variety of lab-grown diamond products arrayed on a desk at Ada Diamonds showroom in Manhattan. The stone in the upper left gets its blue color from boron. Diamonds tinted yellow (top center) usually get their color from small amounts of nitrogen.
    Photo: Sam Cannon (Earther)
    Dazzling promises

    As Anna-Mieke Anderson tells it, she didn’t enter the diamond world to become a corporate tycoon. She did it to try and fix a mistake.

    In 1999, Anderson purchased herself a diamond. Some years later, in 2005, her father asked her where it came from. Nonplussed, she told him it came from the jewelry store. But that wasn’t what he was asking: He wanted to know where it really came from.

    “I actually had no idea,” Anderson told Earther. “That led me to do a mountain of research.”

    That research eventually led Anderson to conclude that she had likely bought a diamond mined under horrific conditions. She couldn’t be sure, because the certificate of purchase included no place of origin. But around the time of her purchase, civil wars funded by diamond mining were raging across Angola, Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Liberia, fueling “widespread devastation” as Global Witness put it in 2006. At the height of the diamond wars in the late ‘90s, the watchdog group estimates that as many as 15 percent of diamonds entering the market were conflict diamonds. Even those that weren’t actively fueling a war were often being mined in dirty, hazardous conditions; sometimes by children.

    “I couldn’t believe I’d bought into this,” Anderson said.

    To try and set things right, Anderson began sponsoring a boy living in a Liberian community impacted by the blood diamond trade. The experience was so eye-opening, she says, that she eventually felt compelled to sponsor more children. Selling conflict-free jewelry seemed like a fitting way to raise money to do so, but after a great deal more research, Anderson decided she couldn’t in good faith consider any diamond pulled from the Earth to be truly conflict-free in either the humanitarian or environmental sense. While diamond miners were, by the early 2000s, getting their gems certified “conflict free” according to the UN-backed Kimberley Process, the certification scheme’s definition of a conflict diamond—one sold by rebel groups to finance armed conflicts against governments—felt far too narrow.

    “That [conflict definition] eliminates anything to do with the environment, or eliminates a child mining it, or someone who was a slave, or beaten, or raped,” Anderson said.

    And so she started looking into science, and in 2007, launching MiaDonna as one of the world’s first lab-grown diamond jewelry companies. The business has been activism-oriented from the get-go, with at least five percent of its annual earnings—and more than 20 percent for the last three years—going into The Greener Diamond, Anderson’s charity foundation which has funded a wide range of projects, from training former child soldiers in Sierra Leone to grow food to sponsoring kids orphaned by the West African Ebola outbreak.

    MiaDonna isn’t the only company that positions itself as an ethical alternative to the traditional diamond industry. Brilliant Earth, which sells what it says are carefully-sourced mined and lab-created diamonds, also donates a small portion of its profits to supporting mining communities. Other lab-grown diamond companies market themselves as “ethical,” “conflict-free,” or “world positive.” Payne of Ada Diamonds sees, in lab-grown diamonds, not just shiny baubles, but a potential to improve medicine, clean up pollution, and advance society in countless other ways—and he thinks the growing interest in lab-grown diamond jewelry will help propel us toward that future.

    Others, however, say black-and-white characterizations when it comes to social impact of mined diamonds versus lab-grown stones are unfair. “I have a real problem with people claiming one is ethical and another is not,” Estelle Levin-Nally, founder and CEO of Levin Sources, which advocates for better governance in the mining sector, told Earther. “I think it’s always about your politics. And ethics are subjective.”

    Saleem Ali, an environmental researcher at the University of Delaware who serves on the board of the Diamonds and Development Initiative, agrees. He says the mining industry has, on the whole, worked hard to turn itself around since the height of the diamond wars and that governance is “much better today” than it used to be. Human rights watchdog Global Witness also says that “significant progress” has been made to curb the conflict diamond trade, although as Alice Harle, Senior Campaigner with Global Witness told Earther via email, diamonds do still fuel conflict, particularly in the Central African Republic and Zimbabwe.

    Most industry observers seems to agree that the Kimberley Process is outdated and inadequate, and that more work is needed to stamp out other abuses, including child labor and forced labor, in the artisanal and small-scale diamond mining sector. Today, large-scale mining operations don’t tend to see these kinds of problems, according to Julianne Kippenberg, associate director for children’s rights at Human Rights Watch, but she notes that there may be other community impacts surrounding land rights and forced resettlement.

    The flip side, Ali and Levin-Nally say, is that well-regulated mining operations can be an important source of economic development and livelihood. Ali cites Botswana and Russia as prime examples of places where large-scale mining operations have become “major contributors to the economy.” Dmitry Amelkin, head of strategic projects and analytics for Russian diamond mining giant Alrosa, echoed that sentiment in an email to Earther, noting that diamonds transformed Botswana “from one of the poorest [countries] in the world to a middle-income country” with revenues from mining representing almost a third of its GDP.

    In May, a report commissioned by the Diamond Producers Association (DPA), a trade organization representing the world’s largest diamond mining companies, estimated that worldwide, its members generate nearly $4 billion in direct revenue for employees and contractors, along with another $6.8 billion in benefits via “local procurement of goods and services.” DPA CEO Jean-Marc Lieberherr said this was a story diamond miners need to do a better job telling.

    “The industry has undergone such changes since the Blood Diamond movie,” he said, referring to the blockbuster 2006 film starring Leonardo DiCaprio that drew global attention to the problem of conflict diamonds. “And yet people’s’ perceptions haven’t evolved. I think the main reason is we have not had a voice, we haven’t communicated.”

    But conflict and human rights abuses aren’t the only issues that have plagued the diamond industry. There’s also the lasting environmental impact of the mining itself. In the case of large-scale commercial mines, this typically entails using heavy machinery and explosives to bore deep into those kimberlite tubes in search of precious stones.

    Some, like Maya Koplyova, a geologist at the University of British Columbia who studies diamonds and the rocks they’re found in, see this as far better than many other forms of mining. “The environmental footprint is the fThere’s also the question of just how representative the report’s energy consumption estimates for lab-grown diamonds are. While he wouldn’t offer a specific number, Coe said that De Beers’ Group diamond manufacturer Element Six—arguably the most advanced laboratory-grown diamond company in the world—has “substantially lower” per carat energy requirements than the headline figures found inside the new report. When asked why this was not included, Rick Lord, ESG analyst at Trucost, the S&P global group that conducted the analysis, said it chose to focus on energy estimates in the public record, but that after private consultation with Element Six it did not believe their data would “materially alter” the emissions estimates in the study.

    Finally, it’s important to consider the source of the carbon emissions. While the new report states that about 40 percent of the emissions associated with mining a diamond come from fossil fuel-powered vehicles and equipment, emissions associated with growing a diamond come mainly from electric power. Today, about 68 percent of lab-grown diamonds hail from China, Singapore, and India combined according to Zimnisky, where the power is drawn from largely fossil fuel-powered grids. But there is, at least, an opportunity to switch to renewables and drive that carbon footprint way down.
    “The reality is both mining and manufacturing consume energy and probably the best thing we could do is focus on reducing energy consumption.”

    And some companies do seem to be trying to do that. Anderson of MiaDonna says the company only sources its diamonds from facilities in the U.S., and that it’s increasingly trying to work with producers that use renewable energy. Lab-grown diamond company Diamond Foundry grows its stones inside plasma reactors running “as hot as the outer layer of the sun,” per its website, and while it wouldn’t offer any specific numbers, that presumably uses more energy than your typical operation running at lower temperatures. However, company spokesperson Ye-Hui Goldenson said its Washington State ‘megacarat factory’ was cited near a well-maintained hydropower source so that the diamonds could be produced with renewable energy. The company offsets other fossil fuel-driven parts of its operation by purchasing carbon credits.

    Lightbox’s diamonds currently come from Element Six’s UK-based facilities. The company is, however, building a $94-million facility near Portland, Oregon, that’s expected to come online by 2020. Coe said he estimates about 45 percent of its power will come from renewable sources.

    “The reality is both mining and manufacturing consume energy and probably the best thing we could do is focus on reducing energy consumption,” Coe said. “That’s something we’re focused on in Lightbox.”

    In spite of that, Lightbox is somewhat notable among lab-grown diamond jewelry brands in that, in the words of Morrison, it is “not claiming this to be an eco-friendly product.”

    “While it is true that we don’t dig holes in the ground, the energy consumption is not insignificant,” Morrison told Earther. “And I think we felt very uncomfortable promoting on that.”
    Various diamonds created in a lab, as seen at the Ada Diamonds showroom in Manhattan.
    Photo: Sam Cannon (Earther)
    The real real

    The fight over how lab-grown diamonds can and should market themselves is still heating up.

    On March 26, the FTC sent letters to eight lab-grown and diamond simulant companies warning them against making unsubstantiated assertions about the environmental benefits of their products—its first real enforcement action after updating its jewelry guides last year. The letters, first obtained by JCK news director Rob Bates under a Freedom of Information Act request, also warned companies that their advertising could falsely imply the products are mined diamonds, illustrating that, even though the agency now says a lab-grown diamond is a diamond, the specific origin remains critically important. A letter to Diamond Foundry, for instance, notes that the company has at times advertised its stones as “above-ground real” without the qualification of “laboratory-made.” It’s easy to see how a consumer might miss the implication.

    But in a sense, that’s what all of this is: A fight over what’s real.
    “It’s a nuanced reality that we’re in. They are a type of diamond.”

    Another letter, sent to FTC attorney Reenah Kim by the nonprofit trade organization Jewelers Vigilance Committee on April 2, makes it clear that many in the industry still believe that’s a term that should be reserved exclusively for gems formed inside the Earth. The letter, obtained by Earther under FOIA, urges the agency to continue restricting the use of the terms “real,” “genuine,” “natural,” “precious,” and “semi-precious” to Earth-mined diamonds and gemstones. Even the use of such terms in conjunction with “laboratory grown,” the letter argues, “will create even more confusion in an already confused and evolving marketplace.”

    JVC President Tiffany Stevens told Earther that the letter was a response to a footnote in an explanatory document about the FTC’s recent jewelry guide changes, which suggested the agency was considering removing a clause about real, precious, natural and genuine only being acceptable modifiers for gems mined from the Earth.

    “We felt that given the current commercial environment, that we didn’t think it was a good time to take that next step,” Stevens told Earther. As Stevens put it, the changes the FTC recently made, including expanding the definition of diamond and tweaking the descriptors companies can use to label laboratory-grown diamonds as such, have already been “wildly misinterpreted” by some lab-grown diamond sellers that are no longer making the “necessary disclosures.”

    Asked whether the JVC thinks lab-grown diamonds are, in fact, real diamonds, Stevens demurred.

    “It’s a nuanced reality that we’re in,” she said. “They are a type of diamond.”

    Change is afoot in the diamond world. Mined diamond production may have already peaked, according to the 2018 Bain & Company report. Lab diamonds are here to stay, although where they’re going isn’t entirely clear. Zimnisky expects that in a few years—as Lightbox’s new facility comes online and mass production of lab diamonds continues to ramp up overseas—the price industry-wide will fall to about 80 percent less than a mined diamond. At that point, he wonders whether lab-grown diamonds will start to lose their sparkle.

    Payne isn’t too worried about a price slide, which he says is happening across the diamond industry and which he expects will be “linear, not exponential” on the lab-grown side. He points out that lab-grown diamond market is still limited by supply, and that the largest lab-grown gems remain quite rare. Payne and Zimnisky both see the lab-grown diamond market bifurcating into cheaper, mass-produced gems and premium-quality stones sold by those that can maintain a strong brand. A sense that they’re selling something authentic and, well, real.

    “So much has to do with consumer psychology,” Zimnisky said.

    Some will only ever see diamonds as authentic if they formed inside the Earth. They’re drawn, as Kathryn Money, vice president of strategy and merchandising at Brilliant Earth put it, to “the history and romanticism” of diamonds; to a feeling that’s sparked by holding a piece of our ancient world. To an essence more than a function.

    Others, like Anderson, see lab-grown diamonds as the natural (to use a loaded word) evolution of diamond. “We’re actually running out of [mined] diamonds,” she said. “There is an end in sight.” Payne agreed, describing what he sees as a “looming death spiral” for diamond mining.

    Mined diamonds will never go away. We’ve been digging them up since antiquity, and they never seem to lose their sparkle. But most major mines are being exhausted. And with technology making it easier to grow diamonds just as they are getting more difficult to extract from the Earth, the lab-grown diamond industry’s grandstanding about its future doesn’t feel entirely unreasonable.

    There’s a reason why, as Payne said, “the mining industry as a whole is still quite scared of this product.” ootprint of digging the hole in the ground and crushing [the rock],” Koplyova said, noting that there’s no need to add strong acids or heavy metals like arsenic (used in gold mining) to liberate the gems.

    Still, those holes can be enormous. The Mir Mine, a now-abandoned open pit mine in Eastern Siberia, is so large—reportedly stretching 3,900 feet across and 1,700 feet deep—that the Russian government has declared it a no-fly zone owing to the pit’s ability to create dangerous air currents. It’s visible from space.

    While companies will often rehabilitate other land to offset the impact of mines, kimberlite mining itself typically leaves “a permanent dent in the earth’s surface,” as a 2014 report by market research company Frost & Sullivan put it.

    “It’s a huge impact as far as I’m concerned,” said Kevin Krajick, senior editor for science news at Columbia University’s Earth Institute who wrote a book on the discovery of diamonds in far northern Canada. Krajick noted that in remote mines, like those of the far north, it’s not just the physical hole to consider, but all the development required to reach a previously-untouched area, including roads and airstrips, roaring jets and diesel-powered trucks.

    Diamonds grown in factories clearly have a smaller physical footprint. According to the Frost & Sullivan report, they also use less water and create less waste. It’s for these reasons that Ali thinks diamond mining “will never be able to compete” with lab-grown diamonds from an environmental perspective.

    “The mining industry should not even by trying to do that,” he said.

    Of course, this is capitalism, so try to compete is exactly what the DPA is now doing. That same recent report that touted the mining industry’s economic benefits also asserts that mined diamonds have a carbon footprint three times lower than that of lab-grown diamonds, on average. The numbers behind that conclusion, however, don’t tell the full story.

    Growing diamonds does take considerable energy. The exact amount can vary greatly, however, depending on the specific nature of the growth process. These are details manufacturers are typically loathe to disclose, but Payne of Ada Diamonds says he estimates the most efficient players in the game today use about 250 kilowatt hour (kWh) of electricity per cut, polished carat of diamond; roughly what a U.S. household consumes in 9 days. Other estimates run higher. Citing unnamed sources, industry publication JCK Online reported that a modern HPHT run can use up to 700 kWh per carat, while CVD production can clock in north of 1,000 kWh per carat.

    Pulling these and several other public-record estimates, along with information on where in the world today’s lab diamonds are being grown and the energy mix powering the producer nations’ electric grids, the DPA-commissioned study estimated that your typical lab-grown diamond results in some 511 kg of carbon emissions per cut, polished carat. Using information provided by mining companies on fuel and electricity consumption, along with other greenhouse gas sources on the mine site, it found that the average mined carat was responsible for just 160 kg of carbon emissions.

    One limitation here is that the carbon footprint estimate for mining focused only on diamond production, not the years of work entailed in developing a mine. As Ali noted, developing a mine can take a lot of energy, particularly for those sited in remote locales where equipment needs to be hauled long distances by trucks or aircraft.

    There’s also the question of just how representative the report’s energy consumption estimates for lab-grown diamonds are. While he wouldn’t offer a specific number, Coe said that De Beers’ Group diamond manufacturer Element Six—arguably the most advanced laboratory-grown diamond company in the world—has “substantially lower” per carat energy requirements than the headline figures found inside the new report. When asked why this was not included, Rick Lord, ESG analyst at Trucost, the S&P global group that conducted the analysis, said it chose to focus on energy estimates in the public record, but that after private consultation with Element Six it did not believe their data would “materially alter” the emissions estimates in the study.

    Finally, it’s important to consider the source of the carbon emissions. While the new report states that about 40 percent of the emissions associated with mining a diamond come from fossil fuel-powered vehicles and equipment, emissions associated with growing a diamond come mainly from electric power. Today, about 68 percent of lab-grown diamonds hail from China, Singapore, and India combined according to Zimnisky, where the power is drawn from largely fossil fuel-powered grids. But there is, at least, an opportunity to switch to renewables and drive that carbon footprint way down.
    “The reality is both mining and manufacturing consume energy and probably the best thing we could do is focus on reducing energy consumption.”

    And some companies do seem to be trying to do that. Anderson of MiaDonna says the company only sources its diamonds from facilities in the U.S., and that it’s increasingly trying to work with producers that use renewable energy. Lab-grown diamond company Diamond Foundry grows its stones inside plasma reactors running “as hot as the outer layer of the sun,” per its website, and while it wouldn’t offer any specific numbers, that presumably uses more energy than your typical operation running at lower temperatures. However, company spokesperson Ye-Hui Goldenson said its Washington State ‘megacarat factory’ was cited near a well-maintained hydropower source so that the diamonds could be produced with renewable energy. The company offsets other fossil fuel-driven parts of its operation by purchasing carbon credits.

    Lightbox’s diamonds currently come from Element Six’s UK-based facilities. The company is, however, building a $94-million facility near Portland, Oregon, that’s expected to come online by 2020. Coe said he estimates about 45 percent of its power will come from renewable sources.

    “The reality is both mining and manufacturing consume energy and probably the best thing we could do is focus on reducing energy consumption,” Coe said. “That’s something we’re focused on in Lightbox.”

    In spite of that, Lightbox is somewhat notable among lab-grown diamond jewelry brands in that, in the words of Morrison, it is “not claiming this to be an eco-friendly product.”

    “While it is true that we don’t dig holes in the ground, the energy consumption is not insignificant,” Morrison told Earther. “And I think we felt very uncomfortable promoting on that.”
    Various diamonds created in a lab, as seen at the Ada Diamonds showroom in Manhattan.
    Photo: Sam Cannon (Earther)
    The real real

    The fight over how lab-grown diamonds can and should market themselves is still heating up.

    On March 26, the FTC sent letters to eight lab-grown and diamond simulant companies warning them against making unsubstantiated assertions about the environmental benefits of their products—its first real enforcement action after updating its jewelry guides last year. The letters, first obtained by JCK news director Rob Bates under a Freedom of Information Act request, also warned companies that their advertising could falsely imply the products are mined diamonds, illustrating that, even though the agency now says a lab-grown diamond is a diamond, the specific origin remains critically important. A letter to Diamond Foundry, for instance, notes that the company has at times advertised its stones as “above-ground real” without the qualification of “laboratory-made.” It’s easy to see how a consumer might miss the implication.

    But in a sense, that’s what all of this is: A fight over what’s real.
    “It’s a nuanced reality that we’re in. They are a type of diamond.”

    Another letter, sent to FTC attorney Reenah Kim by the nonprofit trade organization Jewelers Vigilance Committee on April 2, makes it clear that many in the industry still believe that’s a term that should be reserved exclusively for gems formed inside the Earth. The letter, obtained by Earther under FOIA, urges the agency to continue restricting the use of the terms “real,” “genuine,” “natural,” “precious,” and “semi-precious” to Earth-mined diamonds and gemstones. Even the use of such terms in conjunction with “laboratory grown,” the letter argues, “will create even more confusion in an already confused and evolving marketplace.”

    JVC President Tiffany Stevens told Earther that the letter was a response to a footnote in an explanatory document about the FTC’s recent jewelry guide changes, which suggested the agency was considering removing a clause about real, precious, natural and genuine only being acceptable modifiers for gems mined from the Earth.

    “We felt that given the current commercial environment, that we didn’t think it was a good time to take that next step,” Stevens told Earther. As Stevens put it, the changes the FTC recently made, including expanding the definition of diamond and tweaking the descriptors companies can use to label laboratory-grown diamonds as such, have already been “wildly misinterpreted” by some lab-grown diamond sellers that are no longer making the “necessary disclosures.”

    Asked whether the JVC thinks lab-grown diamonds are, in fact, real diamonds, Stevens demurred.

    “It’s a nuanced reality that we’re in,” she said. “They are a type of diamond.”

    Change is afoot in the diamond world. Mined diamond production may have already peaked, according to the 2018 Bain & Company report. Lab diamonds are here to stay, although where they’re going isn’t entirely clear. Zimnisky expects that in a few years—as Lightbox’s new facility comes online and mass production of lab diamonds continues to ramp up overseas—the price industry-wide will fall to about 80 percent less than a mined diamond. At that point, he wonders whether lab-grown diamonds will start to lose their sparkle.

    Payne isn’t too worried about a price slide, which he says is happening across the diamond industry and which he expects will be “linear, not exponential” on the lab-grown side. He points out that lab-grown diamond market is still limited by supply, and that the largest lab-grown gems remain quite rare. Payne and Zimnisky both see the lab-grown diamond market bifurcating into cheaper, mass-produced gems and premium-quality stones sold by those that can maintain a strong brand. A sense that they’re selling something authentic and, well, real.

    “So much has to do with consumer psychology,” Zimnisky said.

    Some will only ever see diamonds as authentic if they formed inside the Earth. They’re drawn, as Kathryn Money, vice president of strategy and merchandising at Brilliant Earth put it, to “the history and romanticism” of diamonds; to a feeling that’s sparked by holding a piece of our ancient world. To an essence more than a function.

    Others, like Anderson, see lab-grown diamonds as the natural (to use a loaded word) evolution of diamond. “We’re actually running out of [mined] diamonds,” she said. “There is an end in sight.” Payne agreed, describing what he sees as a “looming death spiral” for diamond mining.

    Mined diamonds will never go away. We’ve been digging them up since antiquity, and they never seem to lose their sparkle. But most major mines are being exhausted. And with technology making it easier to grow diamonds just as they are getting more difficult to extract from the Earth, the lab-grown diamond industry’s grandstanding about its future doesn’t feel entirely unreasonable.

    There’s a reason why, as Payne said, “the mining industry as a whole is still quite scared of this product.”

    #dimants #Afrique #technologie #capitalisme

  • Russia Squeezing Embattled Venezuela for Tax-Free Gas Expansion - Bloomberg
    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-06-20/russia-squeezing-embattled-venezuela-for-tax-free-gas-expansion


    Photographer: Wil Riera/Bloomberg

    • Venezuela offers Rosneft path to amplify natural gas dominance
    • Expropriation clause gives Moscow-based company a hedge

    Russia’s state-controlled oil giant, Rosneft PJSC, is extracting concessions from crisis-ridden Venezuela to enter the offshore natural gas market on the cheap, a potential headache for the U.S. and Europe.

    An accord signed by both Russia and Venezuela earlier this month will give Rosneft tax breaks to produce and export gas from the Patao and Mejillones fields off Venezuela’s east coast. The document, which also includes a “fair market price” in the event of an expropriation, makes changes to a bilateral agreement reached in 2009, according to a filing by the Russian government.

    The deal underscores how Russia is both propping up and gaining from the Nicolas Maduro regime at a time when the U.S. is sanctioning Maduro and China has cut its support. Venezuelan gas could eventually offer Russia new entry points into both Asia and Europe.

    China is backing away in terms of its financial exposure,” Andrew Stanley, an associate fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said in a telephone interview. “Whereas the Russians, over the past few years, they’ve gone in the opposite direction, they’ve kind of doubled down and seen this as an opportunistic plan.

    Since 2014, Rosneft has loaned about $6.5 billion to Venezuela in exchange for oil, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Petroleos de Venezuela SA, or PDVSA, has been repaying the loans by delivering barrels to Rosneft, and had an outstanding debt of about $1.8 billion in the first quarter, according to a company presentation.

    As a result of the changes signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Rosneft and its suppliers will be exempt from value added and import taxes to develop the two gas fields, which are near to where Exxon Mobil Corp. is rushing to extract oil in neighboring Guyana. The agreement was filed online by the Russian legal information website, which publishes orders by the president and applied international treaties.

    • lien propre :

      https://www.zdnet.com/article/russian-military-moves-closer-to-replacing-windows-with-astra-linux

      [...]

      RusBITech initially developed the OS for use in the Russian private market, but the company also expanded into the local government sector, where it became very popular with military contractors.

      A few years back, the OS received certifications to handle Russian government information labeled as “secret” and “top secret” —two data secrecy levels situated underneath “special importance” according to Russian law.

      Since then, Astra Linux has slowly made its way into government agencies and is currently in use at the Russian National Center for Defence Control, among various other government and military agencies.
      Already used by the Russian military

      In January 2018, the Russian Ministry of Defence announced plans to transfer military systems from the Windows OS to Astra Linux, citing fears that Microsoft’s closed-source approach might hide Windows backdoors that can be abused by US intelligence to spy on Russian government operations.

      Since then, RusBITech has been going through the Russian government’s certification process to get a “special importance” classification for Astra Linux — which it did, on April 17, according to two local media reports.

      In addition to the FSTEC certification, Astra Linux also received certificates of conformity from the FSB, Russia’s top intelligence agency, and the Ministry of Defense, opening the door for full adoption by Russia’s top military and intelligence agencies.

      The certification was granted for Astra Linux Special Edition version 1.6, also known as the Smolensk release, per local reports. This is a commercial (paid) release.

      The news comes after earlier this week it was reported that the Chinese military was taking similar steps to replace the Windows OS on military systems amid fears of US hacking. The Chinese military didn’t go for a Linux distro but instead alluded to plans of developing a custom OS instead.

      [finis]

      #Russie #sécurité #militaire #défense #Debian #Linux #Windows

      #Chine #États-unis

  • Russian government sites leak passport and personal data for 2.25 million users
    https://www.zdnet.com/article/russian-government-sites-leak-passport-and-personal-data-for-2-25-million-use

    Multiple Russian government sites have leaked the personal and passport information of over 2.25 million citizens, government employees, and high-ranking politicians. Ivan Begtin, co-founder of Informational Culture, a Russian NGO, has discovered and documented the leaks. In a three-part blog post series, Begtin said he investigated government online certification centers, 50 government portals, and an e-bidding platform used by government agencies. He said he found 23 sites leaking (...)

    #Roskomnadzor #BigData #données #hacking

  • Ex-U.S. marine held in Russia for spying was misled, says lawyer | Reuters
    https://www.reuters.com/article/us-russia-usa-espionage-whelan-idUSKCN1PG0Y4


    Former U.S. marine Paul Whelan, who was detained by Russia’s FSB security service on suspicion of spying, looks out of a defendants’ cage before a court hearing in Moscow, Russia January 22, 2019.
    REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

    The lawyer for a former U.S. marine accused of spying by Russia said on Tuesday that his client had been misled before his arrest and believed that a thumb drive handed to him in a hotel room had contained holiday snaps rather than secret information.

    Russia’s Federal Security Serviced detained Paul Whelan, who holds U.S., British, Canadian and Irish passports, in a Moscow hotel room on Dec. 28.

    Whelan appeared in a Moscow court on Tuesday, where a judge rejected a release on bail. If found guilty of espionage, he could be jailed for up to 20 years.

    Whelan, who denies the charges, was detained after receiving a thumb drive containing a list of all the employees of a secret Russian state agency, the Russian online news portal Rosbalt.ru reported this month.

    Rosbalt cited an unnamed Russian intelligence source as saying that Whelan had been spying for 10 years, using the internet to identify targets from whom he could obtain information, and that the list he was caught with had long been of interest to U.S. spies.

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov appeared to support that version of events, later telling reporters Whelan had been “caught red-handed” carrying out “specific illegal actions” in his hotel room.

    But Vladimir Zherebenkov, Whelan’s lawyer, said on Tuesday that his client had accepted the information unknowingly.

    Paul was actually meant to receive information from an individual that was not classified,” Zherebenkov told reporters.

    These were cultural things, a trip to a cathedral, Paul’s holiday ... photographs. But as it turned out, it (the thumb drive) contained classified information.”

    The lawyer said Whelan had not been able to see what was on the thumb drive because he had been detained before he had a chance to do so.

    • McFaul: Whelan’s Arrest Is ‘Very Strange’ – Foreign Policy
      (article du 8/01/2019)
      https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/01/08/mcfaul-whelans-arrest-is-very-strange

      The former U.S. ambassador to Russia says the former Marine’s detention doesn’t fit the pattern of previous ones.
      […]
      _FP_spoke to former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, who has himself been harshly criticized by the Russian government, about his experience in dealing with such arrests and why he has many unanswered questions about Paul Whelan’s detention. What follows is an edited version of that conversation.
      […]
      FP: What for you is still to be answered? What are the big questions?
      MM: Well the biggest one is what espionage was he doing. The story in the Russian press is quite convoluted, that he was asking for the names of some low-level officials on a USB drive. But you know that sounds all very strange to me. And again, the Russians are very good at counterintelligence—probably one of the best countries in the world at running that. They have extremely effective and pervasive monitoring systems in that country. If they caught him red-handed in this act, why haven’t we seen those photos? Why haven’t we seen tapes? That’s strange to me. And, by the way, they oftentimes make up this stuff. So it’s also even strange to me that they haven’t given us the made-up stuff as they’ve done with other people that they’ve detained. I want to learn more. This does not strike me as somebody familiar with intelligence operations in Russia. Mr. Whelan doesn’t strike me as a typical spy given his background. This doesn’t fit what I typically think of an intelligence operation inside Russia, which is a very risky place to do any kinds of operations. It doesn’t fit the normal standard operating procedure for me.
      […]
      FP: Is it unusual that we haven’t heard from the president or the White House on this?
      MM: No, I don’t know if it’s unusual or not. It’s striking to me how little the president’s talked about it. Not just talking about it but, do something about it. He has put forward a hypothesis about diplomacy that if he develops and nurtures these personal relationships with people like Putin, that will lead to concrete results that are good for the American people. He’s made that argument for years now. Well, here it is, here’s an American arrested.

      FP: Trump has made it a point in the past of getting Americans held abroad released, he’s been quite proud of that.
      MM: Exactly. Interacting with dictators and doing that as he did with the North Korean government. So, why not here? Maybe it’s happening behind the scenes, I don’t know, but I do think it’s odd.

  • Why Signal and not Threema ? : signal
    https://www.reddit.com/r/signal/comments/852qor/why_signal_and_not_threema

    Signal is open source, Threema is not, so that disqualifies Threema as a secure app in my opinion. You could as well continue using WhatsApp since it’s also end to end encrypted but closed source. Wire is another great alternative, and it’s German.

    Hacker erklären, welche Messenger-App am sichersten ist - Motherboard
    https://motherboard.vice.com/de/article/7xea4z/hacker-erklaren-welche-messenger-app-am-sichersten-ist


    C’est en allemand, mais c’est valable sans égard de la langue que vous utilisez pour votre communication.
    – La communication sécurisée en ligne doit obligatoirement passer par une app et un prootocole open source.
    – Il vous faut un système qui exclue ou rend très difficile la collection de métatdonnées par des tiers.
    – Votre système de communication « voice » et « chat » doit fonctionner avec des clients smartphome et desktop si vous voulez entretenir un fil de commmunication indépendamment du type d’appareil à votre disposition.

    Passons sur les exigences plus poussées, je ne vois que Signal qui satisfait tous ces besoins. Après on peut toujours utiliser plusieurs « messenger apps » afin de rester au courant des « updates » de tout le monde - à l’exception des apps de Facebook (Whatsapp), Wechat et Google parce que leur utilistion constitue une menace de votre vie privée simplement par l’installation sur votre portable.

    Roland Schilling (33) und Frieder Steinmetz (28) haben vor sechs Jahren begonnen, an der TU Hamburg unter anderem zu dieser Frage zu forschen. In einer Zeit, als noch niemand den Namen Edward Snowden auch nur gehört hatte, brüteten Schilling und Steinmetz bereits über die Vor- und Nachteile verschiedener Verschlüsselungsprotokolle und Messenger-Apps. So haben sie beispielsweise im vergangenen Jahr geschafft, die Verschlüsselung von Threema per Reverse Engineering nachzuvollziehen.

    Ihre Forschung ist mittlerweile zu einer Art Aktivismus und Hobby geworden, sagen die beiden: Sie wollen Menschen außerhalb von Fachkreisen vermitteln, wie elementar die Privatsphäre in einer Demokratie ist. Im Interview erklären sie, auf was man bei der Wahl des Messengers achten soll, welche App in punkto Sicherheit nicht unbedingt hält, was sie verspricht und warum Kreditinstitute sich über datenhungrige Messenger freuen.
    ...
    Roland Schilling: Bei mir ist es anders. Ich bringe die Leute einfach dazu, die Apps zu benutzen, die ich auch nutze. Das sind ausschließlich Threema, Signal und Wire. Wenn Leute mit mir reden wollen, dann klappt das eigentlich immer auf einer von den Dreien.
    ...
    Frieder: ... Signal und WhatsApp etwa setzen auf die gleiche technische Grundlage, das Signal-Protokoll, unterscheiden sich aber in Nuancen. Threema hat ein eigenes, nicht ganz schlechtes Protokoll, das aber beispielsweise keine ‘Perfect Forward Secrecy’ garantiert. Die Technik verhindert, dass jemand mir in der Zukunft meinen geheimen Schlüssel vom Handy klaut und damit meine gesamte verschlüsselte Kommunikation entschlüsseln kann, die ich über das Handy geführt habe. Signal und WhatsApp haben das.
    ...
    Roland: Ein gutes Messenger-Protokoll ist Open Source und ermöglicht damit Forschern und der Öffentlichkeit, eventuell bestehende Schwachstellen zu entdecken und das Protokoll zu verbessern. Leider gibt es auf dem Messenger-Markt auch viele Angebote, die ihre vorgebliche „Verschlüsselung“ diesem Prozess entziehen und geheim halten, oder das Protokoll zwar veröffentlichen, aber auf Kritik nicht eingehen.

    Secure WhatsApp Alternatives – Messenger Comparison
    https://www.boxcryptor.com/en/blog/post/encryption-comparison-secure-messaging-apps

    Threema and Telegram under Control of Russia’s Government ?
    https://medium.com/@vadiman/threema-and-telegram-under-control-of-russias-government-f81f8e28714b

    WhatsApp Exploited by NSA and US Secret Services?
    Go to the profile of Vadim An
    Vadim An
    Mar 7, 2018
    This is the end of era centralized communication!

    The 2017/2018 years are hot and saturated with cybersecurity challenges. Almost every week, a major media source reported hacking incidents or backdoor exploits in popular communication and messaging services. Some of which granted government agents unauthorized access to private and confidential information from within the communications industry.

    According to mass-media reports, one of the most popular Swiss secure messaging apps Threema moved under the control of the Russian government and has been listed in the official registry with a view to controlling user communications.

    This can be seen on regulatory public website https://97-fz.rkn.gov.ru/organizer-dissemination/viewregistry/#searchform

    This knockout news was commented by Crypviser — innovative German developer of the most secure instant communication platform based on Blockchain technologies, of the point of view, what does it mean for millions of Threema users?

    To answer this question, let’s understand the requirements for getting listed in this registry as an “information-dissemination organizers” according to a new Russian federal law, beginning from 01 June 2018.

    The law requires that all companies listed in internet regulator’s registry must store all users’ metadata (“information about the arrival, transmission, delivery, and processing of voice data, written text, images, sounds, or other kinds of action”), along with content of correspondence, voice call records and make it accessible to the Russian authorities. Websites can avoid the hassle of setting aside this information by granting Russian officials unfettered, constant access to their entire data stream.

    This is very bad news for Threema users. Threema officials have reported that they are not aware of any requirements to store, collect, or provide information. Maybe not yet though since there is still some time until 01 June 2018 when the new law kicks in and Threema will be obligated to provide direct access to sensitive user’s data.

    It’s possible that Threema is fully aware of this despite claiming otherwise. They may realize that the most popular messenger in Russia, Telegram, has been under pressure since refusing to officially cooperate with Russian secret services. If Russia takes steps to block Telegram as a result, then Threema would become the next best alternative service. That is assuming they’re willing to violating the security and privacy rights of its users by giving in to the new law’s requirements.

    Based on the reports of Financial Time magazine, the Telegram founder agreed to register their app with Russian censors by the end of June 2017. This, however; is not a big loss for Telegram community because of the lack of security in Telegram to date. During the last 2 years, its security protocol has been criticized many times and many security issues were found by researchers. Although there is no direct evidence showing that Telegram has already cooperated with the Russian government or other governments, these exploitable bugs and poor security models make Telegram users vulnerable victims to hackers and secret services of different countries.

    The same security benchmark issues have been explored in the biggest communication app WhatsApp. The security model of WhatsApp has been recognized as vulnerable by the most reputed cryptographic experts and researchers worldwide. According to the Guardian, a serious “backdoor” was found in encryption. More specifically, the key exchange algorithm.

    A common security practice in encrypted messaging services involves the generation and store of a private encryption key offline on the user’s device. And only the public key gets broadcasted to other users through the company’s server. In the case of WhatsApp, we have to trust the company that it will not alter public key exchange mechanism between the sender and receiver to perform man-in-the-middle attack for snooping of users encrypted private communication.

    Tobias Boelter, security researcher from the University of California, has reported that WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption, based on Signal protocol, has been implemented in a way that if WhatsApp or any hacker intercepts your chats, by exploiting trust-based key exchange mechanism, you will never come to know if any change in encryption key has occurred in the background.

    The Guardian reports, “WhatsApp has implemented a backdoor into the Signal protocol, giving itself the ability to force the generation of new encryption keys for offline users and to make the sender re-encrypt messages with new keys and send them again for any messages that have not been marked as delivered. The recipient is not made aware of this change in encryption.”

    But on the other hand, the developer of Signal messaging app Open Whisper Systems says, ”There is no WhatsApp backdoor”, “it is how cryptography works,” and the MITM attack “is endemic to public key cryptography, not just WhatsApp.”

    It’s worth noting that none of the security experts or the company itself have denied the fact that, if required by the government, WhatsApp can intercept your chats. They do say; however, WhatsApp is designed to be simple, and users should not lose access to messages sent to them when their encryption key is changed. With this statement, agrees on a cybersecurity expert and CTO of Crypviser, Vadim Andryan.

    “The Man-in-the-Middle attack threat is the biggest and historical challenge of asymmetric cryptography, which is the base of end-to-end encryption model. It’s hard to say, is this “backdoor” admitted intentionally or its became on front due lack of reliable public — key authentication model. But it definitely one of the huge disadvantages of current cryptographic models used for secure instant communication networks, and one of the main advantage of Crypviser platform.”

    Crypviser has introduced a new era of cryptography based on Blockchain technologies. It utilizes Blockchain to eliminate all threats of Man-in-the-Middle attack and solves the historical public key encryption issue by using decentralized encryption keys, exchanges, and authorization algorithms. The authentication model of Crypviser provides public key distribution and authorization in peer-to-peer or automated mode through Blockchain.

    After commercial launch of Crypviser unified app, ”messenger” for secure social communication will be available on the market in free and premium plans. The free plan in peer-to-peer authentication mode requires user interaction to check security codes for every new chat and call. The full-featured premium plan offers Blockchain based automated encryption model and powerful professional security features on all levels.

    You can see the comperisation table of Crypviser with centralized alternatives in the below table

    #internet #communication #sécurité #vie_privée

  • Reality Winner, who pleaded guilty to leaking secret U.S. report, gets 63-month sentence

    https://www.cbsnews.com/news/reality-winner-sentenced-pleaded-guilty-to-leaking-secret-u-s-report-today-2018-08-23/?ftag=CNM-00-10aab7e&linkId=55922192

    A former government contractor who pleaded guilty to mailing a classified U.S. report to a news organization was sentenced to more than five years Thursday as part of a deal with prosecutors, who called it the longest sentence ever imposed for a federal crime involving leaks to the media. 

    Reality Winner, 26, pleaded guilty in June to a single count of transmitting national security information. The former Air Force translator worked as a contractor at a National Security Agency’s office in Augusta, Georgia, when she printed a classified report and left the building with it tucked into her pantyhose. Winner told the FBI she mailed the document to an online news outlet.

    In court Thursday, Winner apologized and acknowledged that what she did was wrong.

    Authorities never identified the news organization. But the Justice Department announced Winner’s June 2017 arrest the same day The Intercept reported on a secret NSA document. It detailed Russian government efforts to penetrate a Florida-based supplier of voting software and the accounts of election officials ahead of the 2016 presidential election. The NSA report was dated May 5, the same as the document Winner had leaked.

    U.S. intelligence agencies later confirmed Russian meddling.

    #Reality_Winner

  • Russian bots were used to sow divisions on vaccines, researchers say - STAT
    https://www.statnews.com/2018/08/23/vaccines-russian-bots

    An analysis of Twitter accounts previously identified as having been operated by Russian bots and trolls found they dove into the vaccine debate as early as January 2015, the researchers reported. They did not take one side or the other, but seemed to tweet pro-vaccine and anti-vaccine messages in roughly equal measure.

    (…) “The more the vaccine ‘debate’… is amplified it gains an undeserved sense of legitimacy and gives vaccine-hesitant individuals a pretense to forgo vaccination for themselves and their children,” said Adalja, who was harshly critical of the use of vaccinations in efforts to turn people against each other, calling it “overtly nihilistic.”

    #nihilisme #santé #vaccins #twitter #bots (russes évidemment)

    • Le résumé de l’étude (texte complet derrière #paywall)

      Weaponized Health Communication: Twitter Bots and Russian Trolls Amplify the Vaccine Debate | AJPH | Ahead of Print
      https://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/10.2105/AJPH.2018.304567

      Abstract

      Objectives. To understand how Twitter bots and trolls (“bots”) promote online health content.

      Methods. We compared bots’ to average users’ rates of vaccine-relevant messages, which we collected online from July 2014 through September 2017. We estimated the likelihood that users were bots, comparing proportions of polarized and antivaccine tweets across user types. We conducted a content analysis of a Twitter hashtag associated with Russian troll activity.

      Results. Compared with average users, Russian trolls (χ2(1) = 102.0; P < .001), sophisticated bots (χ2(1) = 28.6; P < .001), and “content polluters” (χ2(1) = 7.0; P < .001) tweeted about vaccination at higher rates. Whereas content polluters posted more antivaccine content (χ2(1) = 11.18; P < .001), Russian trolls amplified both sides. Unidentifiable accounts were more polarized (χ2(1) = 12.1; P < .001) and antivaccine (χ2(1) = 35.9; P < .001). Analysis of the Russian troll hashtag showed that its messages were more political and divisive.

      Conclusions. Whereas bots that spread malware and unsolicited content disseminated antivaccine messages, Russian trolls promoted discord. Accounts masquerading as legitimate users create false equivalency, eroding public consensus on vaccination.

      Public Health Implications. Directly confronting vaccine skeptics enables bots to legitimize the vaccine debate. More research is needed to determine how best to combat bot-driven content.

      a Twitter hashtag associated with Russian troll activity
      mais encore ?

    • aucun #DOI ne résiste à sci-hub :)

      This analysis is supplemented by a qualitative study of #VaccinateUS — a Twitter hashtag designed to promote discord using vaccination as a political wedge issue. #VaccinateUS tweets were uniquely identified with Russian troll accounts linked to the Internet Research Agency—a company backed by the Russian government specializing in online influence operations. 20

      [20]. Popken B. Twitter deleted Russian troll tweets. So we published more than 200,000 of them. Available at:
      https://www.nbcnews.com/tech/social-media/nowavailable-more-200-000-deleted-russian-troll-tweetsn844731.

  • Photo Tampering throughout History

    http://tampering.izitru.com/index.html

    Though photo manipulation has become more common in the age of digital cameras and image editing software, it actually dates back almost as far as the invention of photography. The pages that follow contain an overview of some of the more notable instances of photo manipulation in history. For recent years, an exhaustive inventory of every photo manipulation would be nearly impossible, so we focus here on the instances that have been most controversial or notorious, or ones that raise the most interesting ethical questions.

    Promoting the narrative that anti-government activists were actually puppets being manipulated by the U.S. government to undermine the Russian government, the Russian national television network REN-TV published a photo showing that U.S. ambassador to Russia John Tefft had attended a Moscow rally of these activists. The U.S. Embassy responded that Tefft had actually spent that day relaxing at home, and then mocked REN-TV’s coverage by releasing a series of composites showing Tefft at a variety of other historical events. After the original source photo was revealed to be from an interview Tefft gave in February at the site where Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov had been murdered, REN-TV conceded that the version they had published was a fake that they had found on Twitter.

    Ultra-orthodox Jewish newspaper Actuali published on its front page a group photo of the new Israeli coalition government ministers, but it modified the photo to remove three women. Two of the women had been standing side-by-side, so the paper filled the noticeable gap by moving in a minister from another region of the photo which had been cropped. Another ultra-Orthodox news source, the website B’Haderai Haredim, also felt the need to hide the women when publishing the photo, but it took the less extreme measure of pixelating their faces.

    After the Azerbaijan Ministry of Defense published a photo depicting its soldiers participating in a Victory Day parade in Moscow, online observers quickly pointed out that the image had been modified to hide the fact that Armenian soldiers were positioned immediately behind them in the parade, which was organized alphabetically. In an original version of the photo, the Armenian flag is clearly visible in the background, but this flag has disappeared in the “official” Azerbaijan version. The two countries have long had an adversarial relationship due to a territorial dispute.

    While it may not be the most outrageous example of an ultra-Orthodox Jewish publication removing a prominent woman from a photo, the website Kikar HaShabbat’s approach to removing Kim Kardashian deserves some recognition for its amusingly pragmatic simplicity. Before publishing a photo showing Kardashian and rapper Kanye West having lunch with Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat, the website hid Kardashian by clumsily compositing a dining receipt over that portion of the photo. When asked about the modification, editor Nissim Ben Haim said it was necessary because Kardashian is a “pornographic symbol” who is inconsistent with the values of their site.

    #photographie #manipulation #Photoshop

  • Reality Winner Has Been in Jail for a Year. Her Prosecution Is Unfair and Unprecedented.

    https://theintercept.com/2018/06/03/reality-winner-nsa-paul-manafort

    THIS IS A tale of two defendants and two systems of justice.

    Christmas was coming, and Paul Manafort wanted to spend the holiday with his extended family in the Hamptons, where he owns a four-acre estate that has 10 bedrooms, a pool, a tennis court, a basketball court, a putting green, and a guest cottage. But Manafort was under house arrest in northern Virginia. Suspected of colluding with the Russian government, the former campaign manager for Donald Trump had been indicted on a dozen charges involving conspiracy, money laundering, bank fraud, and lying to federal investigators.


    Paul Manafort’s Hamptons estate, left, and the jail in Lincolnton, right.

    A lobbyist who became mysteriously wealthy over the years, Manafort avoided jail by posting $10 million in bond, though he was confined to his luxury condo in Alexandria, Virginia. That’s why, in mid-December, his lawyers asked the judge to make an exception. Manafort’s $2.7 million Virginia home could not provide “adequate accommodations” for his holiday guests, some of whom would have difficulty traveling because of health problems, the lawyers stated. A day later, the judge agreed to the request. Manafort could have his Christmas getaway in the Hamptons.

    Hundreds of miles away, another defendant in an eerily related case was not so blessed. Reality Winner, an Air Force veteran and former contractor for the National Security Agency, was sitting in a small-town jail in Lincolnton, Georgia. Arrested a year ago today, on June 3, 2017, Winner was accused of leaking an NSA document that showed how Russians tried to hack American voting systems in 2016.

    The bail system plays to the advantage of wealthy defendants like Paul Manafort and Harvey Weinstein (who paid his $1 million bond with a cashier’s check), because they can provide the government with fantastic sums; freedom is quite literally for sale, as in a story Anton Chekhov might have written about czarist Russia. The poor and the unlucky are stuck behind bars, punished before their guilt is determined. Defendants who are unable to pay bail have sometimes been held for years without a trial.

    IMAGINE THAT YOU are facing trial but are forbidden from searching for evidence to prove you are innocent. It is a scenario from a totalitarian “Alice in Wonderland” – you may do anything you want to defend yourself except the one thing that might actually help.

    That’s a rough approximation of the situation Winner’s lawyers have faced due to a strange twist in her case. She is accused of potentially causing “exceptionally grave damage” to national security by leaking a classified document that, the government claims, contains “national defense information.”

    Winner’s lawyers have stated in public filings that they needed to search on the internet to determine whether information in the document was known to a large number of government officials or was in the public domain. This was crucial to their effort to prove that the document did not merit NDI status. But because the document is classified, and because researching its contents on the internet could disclose search queries to hackers who theoretically could compromise the lawyers’ computers or access their routers, they were prohibited from Googling key phrases, according to court filings. In essence, Winner’s lawyers were forbidden from finding out if the document was as sensitive as the government claimed.

  • Disinformation Wars – Foreign Policy
    http://foreignpolicy.com/2018/05/25/disinformation-wars


    An activist protests in front of the European Union headquarters in Brussels, on May 22.
    John Thys/AFP/Getty Images

    Russian disinformation has become a problem for European governments. In the last two years, Kremlin-backed campaigns have spread false stories alleging that French President Emmanuel Macron was backed by the “gay lobby,” fabricated a story of a Russian-German girl raped by Arab migrants, and spread a litany of conspiracy theories about the Catalan independence referendum, among other efforts.

    Europe is finally taking action. In January, Germany’s Network Enforcement Act came into effect. Designed to limit hate speech and #fake_news online, the law prompted both France and Spain to consider counterdisinformation legislation of their own. More important, in April the European Union unveiled a new strategy for tackling online disinformation. The EU plan focuses on several sensible responses: promoting media literacy, funding a third-party fact-checking service, and pushing Facebook and others to highlight news from credible media outlets, among others. Although the plan itself stops short of regulation, EU officials have not been shy about hinting that regulation may be forthcoming. Indeed, when Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg appeared at an EU hearing this week, lawmakers reminded him of their regulatory power after he appeared to dodge their questions on fake news and extremist content.

    The recent European actions are important first steps. Ultimately, none of the laws or strategies that have been unveiled so far will be enough. The problem is that technology advances far more quickly than government policies.The problem is that technology advances far more quickly than government policies. The EU’s measures are still designed to target the disinformation of yesterday rather than that of tomorrow.
    […]
    For example, stories from RT and Sputnik — the Russian government’s propaganda outlets — appeared on the first page of Google searches after the March nerve agent attack in the United Kingdom and the April chemical weapons attack in Syria. Similarly, YouTube (which is owned by Google) has an algorithm that prioritizes the amount of time users spend watching content as the key metric for determining which content appears first in search results. This algorithmic preference results in false, extremist, and unreliable information appearing at the top, which in turn means that this content is viewed more often and is perceived as more reliable by users. Revenue for the SEO manipulation industry is estimated to be in the billions of dollars.

    #deep_fake

    Le mot de la #Brookings_Institution sur les (gros) investissements à faire pour lutter contre la #désinformation.

    Celle des Russes, en tous cas.

  • MOL to Develop Northern Sea Route Shipping with Russia – gCaptain
    http://gcaptain.com/mol-to-develop-northern-sea-route-shipping-with-russia

    Japanese shipping company Mitsui O.S.K. Lines has reached an agreement with the Russian government to help develop maritime shipping along the Northern Sea Route and the Russian Far East as melting ice in the Arctic makes commercial shipping in the region a more viable option for transporting cargoes from between Europe and Asia.

    MOL signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Monday with the Far East Investment and Export Agency under the Russian Federation for the Development of the Far East to cooperate with each other on the development.

    MOL has been working with Russia on the chartering of vessels for Russia’s Yamala LNG Project, the world first large-scale energy project that exports LNG cargoes through the Northern Sea Route. MOL’s first of three icebreaking LNG carriers for the project, named Vladimir Rusanov, is slated to enter service at the end of March. MOL has also been working on feasibility study with PAO Novatek, the largest independent gas producer in Russia and the main shareholder of the Yamal LNG project, which is aimed at establishing an LNG transshipment terminal and marketing complex in the Kamchatka area.

  • Pensée magique américaine : quand les Russes interfèrent avec des élections, c’est mal. Quand les Ricains trafiquent des élections, c’est bien. (C’est comme les civils tués par des bombardements aériens massifs : quand c’est les Russes qui tuent civils, c’est mal ; quand c’est le shithole country qui tue des civils, c’est bien - sans doute parce que dans ce cas, les civils ainsi zigouillés/libérés de la dictature auraient pu ensuite voter dans des élections libres tripatouillées par les magouilles américaines).

    Russia Isn’t the Only One Meddling in Elections. We Do It, Too.
    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/17/sunday-review/russia-isnt-the-only-one-meddling-in-elections-we-do-it-too.html

    It is easy to understand why Mr. Putin sees such American cash as a threat to his rule, which tolerates no real opposition. But American veterans of democracy promotion find abhorrent Mr. Putin’s insinuations that their work is equivalent to what the Russian government is accused of doing in the United States today.

    “It’s not just apples and oranges,” said Kenneth Wollack, president of the National Democratic Institute. “It’s comparing someone who delivers lifesaving medicine to someone who brings deadly poison.”

  • Facebook : des sites mensongers peu lus mais au succès considérable — Le blog du #Decodex
    http://www.lemonde.fr/le-blog-du-decodex/article/2018/02/12/les-sites-mensongers-sont-peu-lus-mais-ont-un-succes-considerable-sur-facebo

    Les médias traditionnels attirent plus de lecteurs, mais l’écart est beaucoup moins net sur Facebook, selon une étude britannique qui exploite notamment les données du Décodex.
    […]
    L’étude de l’institut Reuters s’intéresse à la circulation des fausses informations en France et en Italie. Pour tenter d’en mesurer la portée, ils se sont servis de listes de sites jugés peu fiables, dont ils ont comparé l’audience avec celle des médias traditionnels. « Le débat sur les fausses informations se concentre souvent sur ce qui se passe au Royaume-Uni. Nous avons cherché à comprendre ce qui se passait ailleurs en Europe », nous explique Richard Fletcher, coauteur de l’étude.

    Les chercheurs ont utilisé des listes préexistantes de sites connus pour diffuser de fausses informations. Pour le volet français de leurs travaux, ils se sont appuyés sur l’annuaire des sources d’informations du Décodex.

    Les chercheurs ont retenu 38 sources parmi les quelque 450 qui y sont classées en « rouge » parce qu’elles ont publié un nombre significatif de fausses informations et/ou d’articles trompeurs : celles qui correspondent à des sites Internet dont l’audience était quantifiable dans les données issues des analyses de la société Comscore (ces mesures sont réalisées en étudiant le comportement d’un panel d’internautes croisé avec d’autres données). Certains sites n’ont pu être analysés, de même que les pages Facebook ou comptes Twitter et YouTube isolés.

    Les autres catégories du Décodex (sites parodiques en « bleu », sites « orange » dont la fiabilité ou la démarche est douteuse) n’ont pas été étudiées.

    • Fact sheet (résumé) de l’étude mentionnée

      Measuring the reach of “fake news” and online disinformation in Europe | Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism
      https://reutersinstitute.politics.ox.ac.uk/our-research/measuring-reach-fake-news-and-online-disinformation-

      In this factsheet by Richard Fletcher, Alessio Cornia, Lucas Graves and Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, we provide top-level usage statistics for the most popular sites that independent fact-checkers and other observers have identified as publishers of false news and online disinformation. We focus on two European countries: France and Italy. We examine France and Italy as two particularly important cases, as both are widely seen as facing serious issues with for-profit and ideologically/politically motivated online disinformation.

      We find that:
      • None of the false news websites we considered had an average monthly reach of over 3.5% in 2017, with most reaching less than 1% of the online population in both France and Italy. By comparison, the most popular news websites in France (Le Figaro) and Italy (La Repubblica) had an average monthly reach of 22.3% and 50.9%, respectively; 
      • The total time spent with false news websites each month is lower than the time spent with news websites. The most popular false news websites in France were viewed for around 10 million minutes per month, and for 7.5 million minutes in Italy. People spent an average of 178 million minutes per month with Le Monde, and 443 million minutes with La Repubblica—more than the combined time spent with all 20 false news sites in each sample;
      • Despite clear differences in terms of website access, the level of Facebook interaction (defined as the total number of comments, shares, and reactions) generated by a small number of false news outlets matched or exceeded that produced by the most popular news brands. In France, one false news outlet generated an average of over 11 million interactions per month—five times greater than more established news brands. However, in most cases, in both France and Italy, false news outlets do not generate as many interactions as established news brands.

      We have shown that many of the most prominent identified false news websites in these countries are far less popular than major established news sites. However, the difference between false news sites and news sites in terms of interactions on Facebook is less clear-cut. We believe that online disinformation is an important issue that the public, publishers, platform companies, policymakers, and other stakeholders should pay serious attention to. But overall, our analysis of the available evidence suggests that false news has more limited reach than is sometimes assumed.

    • Note : l’étude est financée par Google, ce que ne mentionne nulle part le blog du Decodex

      The research was supported by Google UK as part of the #Digital_News_Initiative (CTR00220), as well as the Digital News Report (CTR00150)

      (extrait du pdf de l’étude, 10 pages dont 2 de tableaux en annexe
      https://reutersinstitute.politics.ox.ac.uk/sites/default/files/2018-02/Measuring%20the%20reach%20of%20fake%20news%20and%20o )

    • version Le Monde

      Les sites russes Russia Today et Sputnik, également mentionnés par les chercheurs parce qu’ils sont régulièrement évoqués dans le débat sur les fausses informations, touchent eux aussi une frange restreinte de la population (respectivement 1,5 % et 1,4 %).

      version Institut Reuters

      For comparative purposes, we also included two prominent Russian news sites which have featured in European policy discussions around disinformation, namely Russia Today (RT) and Sputnik. These Russian state-backed organisations are clearly different from sites that engage in for-profit fabrication of false news, but both independent fact-checkers and the EU’s European External Action Service East Stratcom Task Force have identified multiple instances where these sites have published disinformation.

      avec en note la référence à 2 sites :

      https://euvsdisinfo.eu site tenu par la East StratCom Task Force, montée en 2015 et financée par le Conseil de l’Europe (décisions du 19 et 20 mars 2015)

      Q&A about the #East_StratCom_Task_Force - European External Action Service
      https://eeas.europa.eu/headquarters/headquarters-homepage_en/2116/+Questions%20and%20Answers%20about%20the%20East%20StratCom%20Task%20Forc

      How is the team composed?
      The team is made up of fourteen full-time staff, recruited from the EU institutions or seconded by EU Member States. Team members have a variety of professional communications backgrounds and speak several languages, including Russian.

      • nettement plus comique (!) https://www.stopfake.org
      dont le sous-titre affiche bravement

      La lutte contre les informations falsifiées sur les événements en Ukraine

      À propos de nous
      https://www.stopfake.org/fr/a-propos-de-nous

      Le site de vérification des faits StopFake.org a été lancé le 2 mars 2014 dans le but de vérifier les faits avancés par la propagande du Kremlin. Les initiateurs du projet sont des enseignants, d’anciens diplômés ainsi que des étudiants de l’Académie Mohyla (une école de journalisme en Ukraine. ndlr) et du programme « Futur digital du journalisme », destiné aux journalistes et rédacteurs.

    • Three things you should know about RT and Sputnik | EU vs DISINFORMATION
      https://euvsdisinfo.eu/three-things-you-should-know-about-rt-and-sputnik

      1. They are not independent
      • Sputnik was created by a Presidential decree with the aim to “report on the state policy of Russia abroad”;
      • RT is fully financed by the Russian government and is included in an official list of core organizations of strategic importance for Russia.

      2. They do not want to be impartial
      • “The period of impartial journalism is over. Objectivity is a myth”, the CEO and editor-in-chief Dmitry Kiselyov told Sputnik’s editorial staff after a reorganisation of the media house to which Sputnik belongs;
      • The management of both RT and Sputnik receive weekly instructions from the Kremlin. These instructions include guidelines on political narratives, what should be covered and whom the outlets should not talk about.

      3. They produce fake news to promote political objectives
      • The independent media watchdog in the UK, Ofcom, has on 15 occasions expressed criticism of RT for, among other problems, “materially misleading” output;
      • RT has for example been instrumental in creating the smoke screen of disinformation, with which the Russian authorities seek to cover up the facts about the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 over Eastern Ukraine with this article as just one of many examples.

    • Pour être complet (?) il faut aussi rappeler que Decodex est financé par Facebook (je ne crois pas qu’il y ait de montants qui circulent).

      Le Monde reçoit des financements publics mais aussi de Google (FINP - AIPG).

      En résumé, une étude financée par Google sur des données collectées par Le Monde sur financement de Facebook.

      Pour terminer, que donne une recherche Google sur les termes Decodex Facebook ?


      Sur les 4 premiers articles résultants, 2 lemonde.fr (dont, « À la une », celui à l’origine de ce billet) et 2 facebook.com.

      Bon, c’est un peu normal, mais où se trouve la limite ? Sur cette recherche, Il n’y a sans doute pas vraiment besoin d’éventuels coups de pouce algorithmiques au profit des clients et des partenaires pour arriver à ce résultat. Encore que… pour être « à la une »…

  • Jackson Lears · What We Don’t Talk about When We Talk about Russian Hacking : #Russiagate · LRB 4 January 2018
    https://www.lrb.co.uk/v40/n01/jackson-lears/what-we-dont-talk-about-when-we-talk-about-russian-hacking
    La pensée unique aux États Unis de plus en plus sectaire et pesante

    Jackson Lears

    American politics have rarely presented a more disheartening spectacle. The repellent and dangerous antics of Donald Trump are troubling enough, but so is the Democratic Party leadership’s failure to take in the significance of the 2016 election campaign. Bernie Sanders’s challenge to Hillary Clinton, combined with Trump’s triumph, revealed the breadth of popular anger at politics as usual – the blend of neoliberal domestic policy and interventionist foreign policy that constitutes consensus in Washington. Neoliberals celebrate market utility as the sole criterion of worth; interventionists exalt military adventure abroad as a means of fighting evil in order to secure global progress. Both agendas have proved calamitous for most Americans. Many registered their disaffection in 2016. Sanders is a social democrat and Trump a demagogic mountebank, but their campaigns underscored a widespread repudiation of the Washington consensus. For about a week after the election, pundits discussed the possibility of a more capacious Democratic strategy. It appeared that the party might learn something from Clinton’s defeat. Then everything changed.

    A story that had circulated during the campaign without much effect resurfaced: it involved the charge that Russian operatives had hacked into the servers of the Democratic National Committee, revealing embarrassing emails that damaged Clinton’s chances. With stunning speed, a new centrist-liberal orthodoxy came into being, enveloping the major media and the bipartisan Washington establishment. This secular religion has attracted hordes of converts in the first year of the Trump presidency. In its capacity to exclude dissent, it is like no other formation of mass opinion in my adult life, though it recalls a few dim childhood memories of anti-communist hysteria during the early 1950s.

    The centrepiece of the faith, based on the hacking charge, is the belief that Vladimir Putin orchestrated an attack on American democracy by ordering his minions to interfere in the election on behalf of Trump. The story became gospel with breathtaking suddenness and completeness. Doubters are perceived as heretics and as apologists for Trump and Putin, the evil twins and co-conspirators behind this attack on American democracy. Responsibility for the absence of debate lies in large part with the major media outlets. Their uncritical embrace and endless repetition of the Russian hack story have made it seem a fait accompli in the public mind. It is hard to estimate popular belief in this new orthodoxy, but it does not seem to be merely a creed of Washington insiders. If you question the received narrative in casual conversations, you run the risk of provoking blank stares or overt hostility – even from old friends. This has all been baffling and troubling to me; there have been moments when pop-culture fantasies (body snatchers, Kool-Aid) have come to mind.

    Like any orthodoxy worth its salt, the religion of the Russian hack depends not on evidence but on ex cathedra pronouncements on the part of authoritative institutions and their overlords. Its scriptural foundation is a confused and largely fact-free ‘assessment’ produced last January by a small number of ‘hand-picked’ analysts – as James Clapper, the director of National Intelligence, described them – from the CIA, the FBI and the NSA. The claims of the last were made with only ‘moderate’ confidence. The label Intelligence Community Assessment creates a misleading impression of unanimity, given that only three of the 16 US intelligence agencies contributed to the report. And indeed the assessment itself contained this crucial admission: ‘Judgments are not intended to imply that we have proof that shows something to be a fact. Assessments are based on collected information, which is often incomplete or fragmentary, as well as logic, argumentation and precedents.’ Yet the assessment has passed into the media imagination as if it were unassailable fact, allowing journalists to assume what has yet to be proved. In doing so they serve as mouthpieces for the intelligence agencies, or at least for those ‘hand-picked’ analysts.

    It is not the first time the intelligence agencies have played this role. When I hear the Intelligence Community Assessment cited as a reliable source, I always recall the part played by the New York Times in legitimating CIA reports of the threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s putative weapons of mass destruction, not to mention the long history of disinformation (a.k.a. ‘fake news’) as a tactic for advancing one administration or another’s political agenda. Once again, the established press is legitimating pronouncements made by the Church Fathers of the national security state. Clapper is among the most vigorous of these. He perjured himself before Congress in 2013, when he denied that the NSA had ‘wittingly’ spied on Americans – a lie for which he has never been held to account. In May 2017, he told NBC’s Chuck Todd that the Russians were highly likely to have colluded with Trump’s campaign because they are ‘almost genetically driven to co-opt, penetrate, gain favour, whatever, which is a typical Russian technique’. The current orthodoxy exempts the Church Fathers from standards imposed on ordinary people, and condemns Russians – above all Putin – as uniquely, ‘almost genetically’ diabolical.

    It’s hard for me to understand how the Democratic Party, which once felt scepticism towards the intelligence agencies, can now embrace the CIA and the FBI as sources of incontrovertible truth. One possible explanation is that Trump’s election has created a permanent emergency in the liberal imagination, based on the belief that the threat he poses is unique and unprecedented. It’s true that Trump’s menace is viscerally real. But the menace posed by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney was equally real. The damage done by Bush and Cheney – who ravaged the Middle East, legitimated torture and expanded unconstitutional executive power – was truly unprecedented, and probably permanent. Trump does pose an unprecedented threat to undocumented immigrants and Muslim travellers, whose protection is urgent and necessary. But on most issues he is a standard issue Republican. He is perfectly at home with Paul Ryan’s austerity agenda, which involves enormous transfers of wealth to the most privileged Americans. He is as committed as any other Republican to repealing Obama’s Affordable Care Act. During the campaign he posed as an apostate on free trade and an opponent of overseas military intervention, but now that he is in office his free trade views are shifting unpredictably and his foreign policy team is composed of generals with impeccable interventionist credentials.

    Trump is committed to continuing his predecessors’ lavish funding of the already bloated Defence Department, and his Fortress America is a blustering, undisciplined version of Madeleine Albright’s ‘indispensable nation’. Both Trump and Albright assume that the United States should be able to do as it pleases in the international arena: Trump because it’s the greatest country in the world, Albright because it’s an exceptional force for global good. Nor is there anything unprecedented about Trump’s desire for détente with Russia, which until at least 2012 was the official position of the Democratic Party. What is unprecedented about Trump is his offensive style: contemptuous, bullying, inarticulate, and yet perfectly pitched to appeal to the anger and anxiety of his target audience. His excess has licensed overt racism and proud misogyny among some of his supporters. This is cause for denunciation, but I am less persuaded that it justifies the anti-Russian mania.

    Besides Trump’s supposed uniqueness, there are two other assumptions behind the furore in Washington: the first is that the Russian hack unquestionably occurred, and the second is that the Russians are our implacable enemies. The second provides the emotional charge for the first. Both seem to me problematic. With respect to the first, the hacking charges are unproved and may well remain so. Edward Snowden and others familiar with the NSA say that if long-distance hacking had taken place the agency would have monitored it and could detail its existence without compromising their secret sources and methods. In September, Snowden told Der Spiegel that the NSA ‘probably knows quite well who the invaders were’. And yet ‘it has not presented any evidence, although I suspect it exists. The question is: why not? … I suspect it discovered other attackers in the systems, maybe there were six or seven groups at work.’ He also said in July 2016 that ‘even if the attackers try to obfuscate origin, ‪#XKEYSCORE makes following exfiltrated data easy. I did this personally against Chinese ops.’ The NSA’s capacity to follow hacking to its source is a matter of public record. When the agency investigated pervasive and successful Chinese hacking into US military and defence industry installations, it was able to trace the hacks to the building where they originated, a People’s Liberation Army facility in Shanghai. That information was published in the New York Times, but, this time, the NSA’s failure to provide evidence has gone curiously unremarked. When The Intercept published a story about the NSA’s alleged discovery that Russian military intelligence had attempted to hack into US state and local election systems, the agency’s undocumented assertions about the Russian origins of the hack were allowed to stand as unchallenged fact and quickly became treated as such in the mainstream media.

    Meanwhile, there has been a blizzard of ancillary accusations, including much broader and vaguer charges of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. It remains possible that Robert Mueller, a former FBI director who has been appointed to investigate these allegations, may turn up some compelling evidence of contacts between Trump’s people and various Russians. It would be surprising if an experienced prosecutor empowered to cast a dragnet came up empty-handed, and the arrests have already begun. But what is striking about them is that the charges have nothing to do with Russian interference in the election. There has been much talk about the possibility that the accused may provide damaging evidence against Trump in exchange for lighter sentences, but this is merely speculation. Paul Manafort, at one point Trump’s campaign manager, has pleaded not guilty to charges of failing to register his public relations firm as a foreign agent for the Ukrainian government and concealing his millions of dollars in fees. But all this occurred before the 2016 campaign. George Papadopolous, a foreign policy adviser, has pleaded guilty to the charge of lying to the FBI about his bungling efforts to arrange a meeting between Trump’s people and the Russian government – an opportunity the Trump campaign declined. Mueller’s most recent arrestee, Michael Flynn, the unhinged Islamophobe who was briefly Trump’s national security adviser, has pleaded guilty to charges of lying to the FBI about meeting the Russian ambassador in December – weeks after the election. This is the sort of backchannel diplomacy that routinely occurs during the interim between one administration and the next. It is not a sign of collusion.

    So far, after months of ‘bombshells’ that turn out to be duds, there is still no actual evidence for the claim that the Kremlin ordered interference in the American election. Meanwhile serious doubts have surfaced about the technical basis for the hacking claims. Independent observers have argued it is more likely that the emails were leaked from inside, not hacked from outside. On this front, the most persuasive case was made by a group called Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, former employees of the US intelligence agencies who distinguished themselves in 2003 by debunking Colin Powell’s claim that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, hours after Powell had presented his pseudo-evidence at the UN. (There are members of VIPS who dissent from the VIPS report’s conclusions, but their arguments are in turn contested by the authors of the report.) The VIPS findings received no attention in major media outlets, except Fox News – which from the centre-left perspective is worse than no attention at all. Mainstream media have dismissed the VIPS report as a conspiracy theory (apparently the Russian hacking story does not count as one). The crucial issue here and elsewhere is the exclusion from public discussion of any critical perspectives on the orthodox narrative, even the perspectives of people with professional credentials and a solid track record.

    Both the DNC hacking story and the one involving the emails of John Podesta, a Clinton campaign operative, involve a shadowy bunch of putatively Russian hackers called Fancy Bear – also known among the technically inclined as APT28. The name Fancy Bear was introduced by Dimitri Alperovitch, the chief technology officer of Crowdstrike, a cybersecurity firm hired by the DNC to investigate the theft of their emails. Alperovitch is also a fellow at the Atlantic Council, an anti-Russian Washington think tank. In its report Crowdstrike puts forward close to zero evidence for its claim that those responsible were Russian, let alone for its assertion that they were affiliated with Russian military intelligence. And yet, from this point on, the assumption that this was a Russian cyber operation was unquestioned. When the FBI arrived on the scene, the Bureau either did not request or was refused access to the DNC servers; instead it depended entirely on the Crowdstrike analysis. Crowdstrike, meanwhile, was being forced to retract another claim, that the Russians had successfully hacked the guidance systems of the Ukrainian artillery. The Ukrainian military and the British International Institute for Strategic Studies both contradicted this claim, and Crowdstrike backed down. But its DNC analysis was allowed to stand and even become the basis for the January Intelligence Community Assessment.

    The chatter surrounding the hack would never have acquired such urgency were it not for the accompanying assumption: Russia is a uniquely dangerous adversary, with which we should avoid all contact. Without that belief, Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s meetings with Russians in September 2016 would become routine discussions between a senator and foreign officials. Flynn’s post-election conversations with the Russian ambassador would appear unremarkable. Trump’s cronies’ attempts to do business in Russia would become merely sleazy. Donald Trump Jr’s meeting at Trump Tower with the Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya would be transformed from a melodrama of shady intrigue to a comedy of errors – with the candidate’s son expecting to receive information to use against Clinton but discovering Veselnitskaya only wanted to talk about repealing sanctions and restarting the flow of Russian orphans to the United States. And Putin himself would become just another autocrat, with whom democracies could engage without endorsing.

    Sceptical voices, such as those of the VIPS, have been drowned out by a din of disinformation. Flagrantly false stories, like the Washington Post report that the Russians had hacked into the Vermont electrical grid, are published, then retracted 24 hours later. Sometimes – like the stories about Russian interference in the French and German elections – they are not retracted even after they have been discredited. These stories have been thoroughly debunked by French and German intelligence services but continue to hover, poisoning the atmosphere, confusing debate. The claim that the Russians hacked local and state voting systems in the US was refuted by California and Wisconsin election officials, but their comments generated a mere whisper compared with the uproar created by the original story. The rush to publish without sufficient attention to accuracy has become the new normal in journalism. Retraction or correction is almost beside the point: the false accusation has done its work.

    The consequence is a spreading confusion that envelops everything. Epistemological nihilism looms, but some people and institutions have more power than others to define what constitutes an agreed-on reality. To say this is to risk dismissal as the ultimate wing-nut in the lexicon of contemporary Washington: the conspiracy theorist. Still, the fact remains: sometimes powerful people arrange to promote ideas that benefit their common interests. Whether we call this hegemony, conspiracy or merely special privilege hardly matters. What does matter is the power to create what Gramsci called the ‘common sense’ of an entire society. Even if much of that society is indifferent to or suspicious of the official common sense, it still becomes embedded among the tacit assumptions that set the boundaries of ‘responsible opinion’. So the Democratic establishment (along with a few Republicans) and the major media outlets have made ‘Russian meddling’ the common sense of the current moment. What kind of cultural work does this common sense do? What are the consequences of the spectacle the media call (with characteristic originality) ‘Russiagate’?

    The most immediate consequence is that, by finding foreign demons who can be blamed for Trump’s ascendancy, the Democratic leadership have shifted the blame for their defeat away from their own policies without questioning any of their core assumptions. Amid the general recoil from Trump, they can even style themselves dissenters – ‘#the resistance’ was the label Clintonites appropriated within a few days of the election. Mainstream Democrats have begun to use the word ‘progressive’ to apply to a platform that amounts to little more than preserving Obamacare, gesturing towards greater income equality and protecting minorities. This agenda is timid. It has nothing to say about challenging the influence of concentrated capital on policy, reducing the inflated defence budget or withdrawing from overextended foreign commitments; yet without those initiatives, even the mildest egalitarian policies face insuperable obstacles. More genuine insurgencies are in the making, which confront corporate power and connect domestic with foreign policy, but they face an uphill battle against the entrenched money and power of the Democratic leadership – the likes of Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, the Clintons and the DNC. Russiagate offers Democratic elites a way to promote party unity against Trump-Putin, while the DNC purges Sanders’s supporters.

    For the DNC, the great value of the Russian hack story is that it focuses attention away from what was actually in their emails. The documents revealed a deeply corrupt organisation, whose pose of impartiality was a sham. Even the reliably pro-Clinton Washington Post has admitted that ‘many of the most damaging emails suggest the committee was actively trying to undermine Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign.’ Further evidence of collusion between the Clinton machine and the DNC surfaced recently in a memoir by Donna Brazile, who became interim chair of the DNC after Debbie Wasserman Schultz resigned in the wake of the email revelations. Brazile describes discovering an agreement dated 26 August 2015, which specified (she writes)

    that in exchange for raising money and investing in the DNC, Hillary would control the party’s finances, strategy, and all the money raised. Her campaign had the right of refusal of who would be the party communications director, and it would make final decisions on all the other staff. The DNC also was required to consult with the campaign about all other staffing, budgeting, data, analytics and mailings.

    Before the primaries had even begun, the supposedly neutral DNC – which had been close to insolvency – had been bought by the Clinton campaign.

    Another recent revelation of DNC tactics concerns the origins of the inquiry into Trump’s supposed links to Putin. The story began in April 2016, when the DNC hired a Washington research firm called Fusion GPS to unearth any connections between Trump and Russia. The assignment involved the payment of ‘cash for trash’, as the Clinton campaign liked to say. Fusion GPS eventually produced the trash, a lurid account written by the former British MI6 intelligence agent Christopher Steele, based on hearsay purchased from anonymous Russian sources. Amid prostitutes and golden showers, a story emerged: the Russian government had been blackmailing and bribing Donald Trump for years, on the assumption that he would become president some day and serve the Kremlin’s interests. In this fantastic tale, Putin becomes a preternaturally prescient schemer. Like other accusations of collusion, this one has become vaguer over time, adding to the murky atmosphere without ever providing any evidence. The Clinton campaign tried to persuade established media outlets to publicise the Steele dossier, but with uncharacteristic circumspection, they declined to promote what was plainly political trash rather than reliable reporting. Yet the FBI apparently took the Steele dossier seriously enough to include a summary of it in a secret appendix to the Intelligence Community Assessment. Two weeks before the inauguration, James Comey, the director of the FBI, described the dossier to Trump. After Comey’s briefing was leaked to the press, the website Buzzfeed published the dossier in full, producing hilarity and hysteria in the Washington establishment.

    The Steele dossier inhabits a shadowy realm where ideology and intelligence, disinformation and revelation overlap. It is the antechamber to the wider system of epistemological nihilism created by various rival factions in the intelligence community: the ‘tree of smoke’ that, for the novelist Denis Johnson, symbolised CIA operations in Vietnam. I inhaled that smoke myself in 1969-70, when I was a cryptographer with a Top Secret clearance on a US navy ship that carried missiles armed with nuclear warheads – the existence of which the navy denied. I was stripped of my clearance and later honourably discharged when I refused to join the Sealed Authenticator System, which would have authorised the launch of those allegedly non-existent nuclear weapons. The tree of smoke has only grown more complex and elusive since then. Yet the Democratic Party has now embarked on a full-scale rehabilitation of the intelligence community – or at least the part of it that supports the notion of Russian hacking. (We can be sure there is disagreement behind the scenes.) And it is not only the Democratic establishment that is embracing the deep state. Some of the party’s base, believing Trump and Putin to be joined at the hip, has taken to ranting about ‘treason’ like a reconstituted John Birch Society.

    I thought of these ironies when I visited the Tate Modern exhibition Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power, which featured the work of black American artists from the 1960s and 1970s, when intelligence agencies (and agents provocateurs) were spearheading a government crackdown on black militants, draft resisters, deserters and antiwar activists. Amid the paintings, collages and assemblages there was a single Confederate flag, accompanied by grim reminders of the Jim Crow past – a Klansman in full regalia, a black body dangling from a tree. There were also at least half a dozen US flags, juxtaposed in whole or in part with images of contemporary racial oppression that could have occurred anywhere in America: dead black men carted off on stretchers by skeletons in police uniform; a black prisoner tied to a chair, awaiting torture. The point was to contrast the pretensions of ‘the land of the free’ with the practices of the national security state and local police forces. The black artists of that era knew their enemy: black people were not being killed and imprisoned by some nebulous foreign adversary, but by the FBI, the CIA and the police.

    The Democratic Party has now developed a new outlook on the world, a more ambitious partnership between liberal humanitarian interventionists and neoconservative militarists than existed under the cautious Obama. This may be the most disastrous consequence for the Democratic Party of the new anti-Russian orthodoxy: the loss of the opportunity to formulate a more humane and coherent foreign policy. The obsession with Putin has erased any possibility of complexity from the Democratic world picture, creating a void quickly filled by the monochrome fantasies of Hillary Clinton and her exceptionalist allies. For people like Max Boot and Robert Kagan, war is a desirable state of affairs, especially when viewed from the comfort of their keyboards, and the rest of the world – apart from a few bad guys – is filled with populations who want to build societies just like ours: pluralistic, democratic and open for business. This view is difficult to challenge when it cloaks itself in humanitarian sentiment. There is horrific suffering in the world; the US has abundant resources to help relieve it; the moral imperative is clear. There are endless forms of international engagement that do not involve military intervention. But it is the path taken by US policy often enough that one may suspect humanitarian rhetoric is nothing more than window-dressing for a more mundane geopolitics – one that defines the national interest as global and virtually limitless.

    Having come of age during the Vietnam War, a calamitous consequence of that inflated definition of national interest, I have always been attracted to the realist critique of globalism. Realism is a label forever besmirched by association with Henry Kissinger, who used it as a rationale for intervening covertly and overtly in other nations’ affairs. Yet there is a more humane realist tradition, the tradition of George Kennan and William Fulbright, which emphasises the limits of military might, counselling that great power requires great restraint. This tradition challenges the doctrine of regime change under the guise of democracy promotion, which – despite its abysmal failures in Iraq and Libya – retains a baffling legitimacy in official Washington. Russiagate has extended its shelf life.

    We can gauge the corrosive impact of the Democrats’ fixation on Russia by asking what they aren’t talking about when they talk about Russian hacking. For a start, they aren’t talking about interference of other sorts in the election, such as the Republican Party’s many means of disenfranchising minority voters. Nor are they talking about the trillion dollar defence budget that pre-empts the possibility of single-payer healthcare and other urgently needed social programmes; nor about the modernisation of the American nuclear arsenal which Obama began and Trump plans to accelerate, and which raises the risk of the ultimate environmental calamity, nuclear war – a threat made more serious than it has been in decades by America’s combative stance towards Russia. The prospect of impeaching Trump and removing him from office by convicting him of collusion with Russia has created an atmosphere of almost giddy anticipation among leading Democrats, allowing them to forget that the rest of the Republican Party is composed of many politicians far more skilful in Washington’s ways than their president will ever be.

    It is not the Democratic Party that is leading the search for alternatives to the wreckage created by Republican policies: a tax plan that will soak the poor and middle class to benefit the rich; a heedless pursuit of fossil fuels that is already resulting in the contamination of the water supply of the Dakota people; and continued support for police policies of militarisation and mass incarceration. It is local populations that are threatened by oil spills and police beatings, and that is where humane populism survives. A multitude of insurgent groups have begun to use the outrage against Trump as a lever to move the party in egalitarian directions: Justice Democrats, Black Lives Matter, Democratic Socialists of America, as well as a host of local and regional organisations. They recognise that there are far more urgent – and genuine – reasons to oppose Trump than vague allegations of collusion with Russia. They are posing an overdue challenge to the long con of neoliberalism, and the technocratic arrogance that led to Clinton’s defeat in Rust Belt states. Recognising that the current leadership will not bring about significant change, they are seeking funding from outside the DNC. This is the real resistance, as opposed to ‘#theresistance’.

    On certain important issues – such as broadening support for single-payer healthcare, promoting a higher minimum wage or protecting undocumented immigrants from the most flagrant forms of exploitation – these insurgents are winning wide support. Candidates like Paula Jean Swearengin, a coal miner’s daughter from West Virginia who is running in the Democratic primary for nomination to the US Senate, are challenging establishment Democrats who stand cheek by jowl with Republicans in their service to concentrated capital. Swearengin’s opponent is Joe Manchin, whom the Los Angeles Times has compared to Doug Jones, another ‘very conservative’ Democrat who recently won election to the US Senate in Alabama, narrowly defeating a Republican disgraced by accusations of sexual misconduct with 14-year-old girls. I can feel relieved at that result without joining in the collective Democratic ecstasy, which reveals the party’s persistent commitment to politics as usual. Democrat leaders have persuaded themselves (and much of their base) that all the republic needs is a restoration of the status quo ante Trump. They remain oblivious to popular impatience with familiar formulas. Jess King – a Mennonite woman, Bard College MBA and founder of a local non-profit who is running for Congress as a Justice Democrat in Lancaster, Pennsylvania – put it this way: ‘We see a changing political landscape right now that isn’t measured by traditional left to right politics anymore, but bottom to top. In Pennsylvania and many other places around the country we see a grassroots economic populism on the rise, pushing against the political establishment and status quo that have failed so many in our country.’

    Democratic insurgents are also developing a populist critique of the imperial hubris that has sponsored multiple failed crusades, extorted disproportionate sacrifice from the working class and provoked support for Trump, who presented himself (however misleadingly) as an opponent of open-ended interventionism. On foreign policy, the insurgents face an even more entrenched opposition than on domestic policy: a bipartisan consensus aflame with outrage at the threat to democracy supposedly posed by Russian hacking. Still, they may have found a tactical way forward, by focusing on the unequal burden borne by the poor and working class in the promotion and maintenance of American empire.

    This approach animates Autopsy: The Democratic Party in Crisis, a 33-page document whose authors include Norman Solomon, founder of the web-based insurgent lobby RootsAction.org. ‘The Democratic Party’s claims of fighting for “working families” have been undermined by its refusal to directly challenge corporate power, enabling Trump to masquerade as a champion of the people,’ Autopsy announces. But what sets this apart from most progressive critiques is the cogent connection it makes between domestic class politics and foreign policy. For those in the Rust Belt, military service has often seemed the only escape from the shambles created by neoliberal policies; yet the price of escape has been high. As Autopsy notes, ‘the wisdom of continual war’ – what Clinton calls ‘global leadership’ –

    was far clearer to the party’s standard bearer [in 2016] than it was to people in the US communities bearing the brunt of combat deaths, injuries and psychological traumas. After a decade and a half of non-stop warfare, research data from voting patterns suggest that the Clinton campaign’s hawkish stance was a political detriment in working-class communities hard-hit by American casualties from deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Francis Shen of the University of Minnesota and Douglas Kriner of Boston University analysed election results in three key states – Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan – and found that ‘even controlling in a statistical model for many other alternative explanations, we find that there is a significant and meaningful relationship between a community’s rate of military sacrifice and its support for Trump.’ Clinton’s record of uncritical commitment to military intervention allowed Trump to have it both ways, playing to jingoist resentment while posing as an opponent of protracted and pointless war. Kriner and Shen conclude that Democrats may want to ‘re-examine their foreign policy posture if they hope to erase Trump’s electoral gains among constituencies exhausted and alienated by 15 years of war’. If the insurgent movements within the Democratic Party begin to formulate an intelligent foreign policy critique, a re-examination may finally occur. And the world may come into sharper focus as a place where American power, like American virtue, is limited. For this Democrat, that is an outcome devoutly to be wished. It’s a long shot, but there is something happening out there.

    #USA #cuture #politique

  • Etats-Unis : la NSA infiltrée et dévalisée par des pirates anonymes - Amériques - RFI
    http://www.rfi.fr/ameriques/20171113-etats-unis-nsa-infiltree-devalisee-pirates-anonymes

    « Ces fuites ont causé des dommages incroyables », reconnaît Leon Panetta, l’ancien directeur de la CIA dans les colonnes du New York Times. Selon le journal, ce vol a donné lieu à une vague de cybercriminalité sans précédent : les logiciels de demande de rançon qui ont affecté les ordinateurs de millions de personnes, les pannes informatiques du système informatique des hôpitaux du Royaume-Uni et d’Indonésie, et la perturbation de la production d’une usine automobile en France figurent parmi les attaques menées grâce aux armes informatiques volées à l’agence américaine.

  • The Secret Correspondence Between Donald Trump Jr. and WikiLeaks

    https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/11/the-secret-correspondence-between-donald-trump-jr-and-wikileaks/545738

    The transparency organization asked the president’s son for his cooperation—in sharing its work, in contesting the results of the election, and in arranging for Julian Assange to be Australia’s ambassador to the United States.

    Just before the stroke of midnight on September 20, 2016, at the height of last year’s presidential election, the WikiLeaks Twitter account sent a private direct message to Donald Trump Jr., the Republican nominee’s oldest son and campaign surrogate. “A PAC run anti-Trump site putintrump.org is about to launch,” WikiLeaks wrote. “The PAC is a recycled pro-Iraq war PAC. We have guessed the password. It is ‘putintrump.’ See ‘About’ for who is behind it. Any comments?”

    The next morning, about 12 hours later, Trump Jr. responded to WikiLeaks. “Off the record I don’t know who that is, but I’ll ask around,” he wrote on September 21, 2016. “Thanks.”

    The messages, obtained by The Atlantic, were also turned over by Trump Jr.’s lawyers to congressional investigators. They are part of a long—and largely one-sided—correspondence between WikiLeaks and the president’s son that continued until at least July 2017. The messages show WikiLeaks, a radical transparency organization that the American intelligence community believes was chosen by the Russian government to disseminate the information it had hacked, actively soliciting Trump Jr.’s cooperation. WikiLeaks made a series of increasingly bold requests, including asking for Trump’s tax returns, urging the Trump campaign on Election Day to reject the results of the election as rigged, and requesting that the president-elect tell Australia to appoint Julian Assange ambassador to the United States.

  • Lenin Was A Cyclist—Revisiting The Paris Years - Peloton Magazine
    https://pelotonmagazine.com/home-page-slider/lenin-was-a-cyclist-revisting-the-paris-years

    History buffs will recall that the night of October 25-26 marks one of the defining moments in modern history, for it was 100 years ago on this night that Vladimir Lenin and his band of Bolsheviks stormed the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg, effectively toppling the Russian government. It was the dawning of the first successful communist revolution, a movement that would utterly shape and define much of the 20th century. In the coming weeks and months, much will be written about the Russian Revolution’s inspiring, yet calculated leader, whose personal vision for a more egalitarian society disintegrated into the horrors of the Red Terror. Scholars and journalists will re-examine the crucial moments of his life. But few will point to the fact that, among other things, Lenin was an avid cyclist.

    Signalé par mon kiosquier, citoyen britannique, véritable natif de la forêt de Sherwood et donc indéfectible soutien du Nottingham Forest FC. L’auteur de l’article, un de ses compatriotes, est passé le saluer en allant faire son reportage…

  • Les principales chaînes mondiales d’information en continu, par Cécile Marin (@mdiplo, avril 2017)
    https://www.monde-diplomatique.fr/cartes/chaines-info

    FBI, DOJ Eye Russian Media Outlets as ’Foreign Agents’
    http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=19989

    Alyona Minkovski : (…) I used to work for #RT. I hosted a show at RT America. And they all exist under this kind of umbrella structure of Russian government-funded media organizations. Sputnik and RT both have offices in DC. Sputnik now has an FM station that they’ve taken over. RT America, the DC, New York, Miami bureau, they have their own programing that’s different from what RT International does, that airs just in the United States. (…) So I think that something like this raises a lot of questions because there are a lot of good people who are trying to do good journalism at those organizations, and there’s a lot of questionable journalism at those organizations, too. But whether or not you should use a World War II era law that makes these entities register as foreign agents, I think should make us ask a lot questions because then there’s a certain precedent being set because normally that’s not actually enforced from what I understand here in the United States. When Russia actually kicked out a lot of NGOs because they had a same foreign entity law that was passed, human rights organizations widely criticized it.

    RT trouble le concert de l’information internationale, par Maxime Audinet
    https://www.monde-diplomatique.fr/2017/04/AUDINET/57379

    Fort de 2 100 employés et disposant de bureaux dans 19 pays, le groupe s’est développé grâce aux moyens importants mis à sa disposition par l’État russe. Selon un sondage de l’institut Ipsos conduit en novembre 2015 dans 38 pays, ses chaînes sont regardées par 70 millions de personnes chaque semaine ; une audience qui se situe derrière celle du service international de la British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), mais devant celle de la Deutsche Welle et de France 24. Avec respectivement 8 et 36 millions de téléspectateurs hebdomadaires, RT est en outre la cinquième chaîne internationale la plus regardée aux États-Unis et en Europe, ses cibles prioritaires. Depuis son lancement, son budget a décuplé, passant de 29 à 290 millions d’euros — près d’un quart des dotations publiques accordées aux médias. RT s’est adaptée rapidement à la promotion des contenus sur Internet, en utilisant massivement les technologies numériques virales (retransmission vidéo en direct, images à 360 degrés). Le groupe a ouvert de multiples comptes sur les réseaux sociaux, ainsi que sur YouTube, où il se présente comme la première source d’information du monde, avec 4,5 millions d’abonnés toutes chaînes confondues.

    #médias #information #télévision

  • When it comes to Facebook, Russia’s $100,000 is worth more than you think
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/when-it-comes-to-facebook-russias-100000-is-worth-more-than-you-think/2017/09/11/b6f8dde6-94c7-11e7-aace-04b862b2b3f3_story.html?tid=sm_tw

    As if we needed more evidence that Facebook influenced the election.

    Last week, the social-media company revealed that during the 2016 presidential campaign it sold more than $100,000 in ads to a Kremlin-linked “troll farm” seeking to influence U.S. voters. An additional $50,000 in ads also appear suspect but were less verifiably linked to the Russian government.

    In the grand — at this point, far too grand — scheme of campaign spending, $150,000 doesn’t sound like much. It’s a minor TV ad buy, perhaps, or a wardrobe makeover for one vice-presidential candidate. But in the context of Facebook, it matters quite a bit. Not just for what it might have done to the election but also for what it says about us.

    MAKE MARK ZUCKERBERG TESTIFY
    https://theintercept.com/2017/09/11/make-mark-zuckerberg-testify

    LAST WEEK, after what must have been a series of extremely grim meetings in Menlo Park, Facebook admitted publicly that part of its revenue includes what appears to be politically-motivated fraud undertaken by a shady Russian company. The social network, perhaps motivated by a Washington Post scoop on the matter, released a statement outlining the issues at hand, but leaving the most important questions unanswered. Only Facebook knows these answers, and we should assume they won’t be eager to volunteer them.

    After last week’s reports, Facebook received a round of emails and calls from reporters asking for clarifications on the many glaring gaps in the social network’s disclosure:

    What was the content of the Russian-backed ads in question?
    How many people saw these ads? How many people clicked them?
    What were the Facebook pages associated with the ads? How many members did they have?
    What specific targeting criteria (race, age, and most importantly, location) did the Russian ads choose?
    Given that Facebook reaches a little under 30% of the entire population of our planet, the answers to these questions matter.

  • Julian Assange, a Man Without a Country | Août 2017

    ...for the ’crime’ of journalism

    http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/08/21/julian-assange-a-man-without-a-country

    [...]

    II

    For some time, Assange has adopted the media habits of the powerful, restricting his appearances to brief, high-profile television interviews, conversations with friendly interlocutors, managed press events, and Twitter. On November 5th, days before the election, in a TV interview with one of his fiercest defenders, he declared, “We can say that the Russian government is not the source” of the election e-mails—a denial that did nothing to quell a growing suspicion, even among close supporters, that he was not being honest. “He says they’re not Russians,” one of them told me. “Well, he can’t know that. It could be his source was a front for the Russians. I think the truth is important, however it’s acquired, but if he knew it was the Russians, and didn’t declare it, that would be a problem for me.”

    The problem was obvious. WikiLeaks, like many journalistic organizations, has long insisted on keeping its sources secret. However, Assange was not merely maintaining silence; he was actively pushing a narrative about his sourcing, in which Russia was not involved. He once told me, “WikiLeaks is providing a reference set to undeniably true information about the world.” But what if, in the interest of source protection, he was advancing a falsehood that was more significant than the reference set itself? Arguably, his election publications only underscored what was known about the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton. His denials, meanwhile, potentially obfuscated an act of information warfare between two nuclear-armed powers.

    That the stakes were so high was a potent indication of the immense power that WikiLeaks has acquired since it was founded, in 2006. Assange projects an image of his organization as small and embattled—as if it had not changed much since the days when he and a few friends were the only people involved. But today, he told me, the WikiLeaks annual budget runs in the millions of dollars, supplied partly by donations that are funnelled through N.G.O.s. In 2016 alone, WikiLeaks raised hundreds of thousands of dollars from donors in the United States. “He has money in tax havens,” one colleague told me. “They have so much money in bitcoin it’s ridiculous—meanwhile, there are all these poor people who are chipping in money who feel like he is not getting enough support to eat.” In Assange’s view, the donations provide a level of editorial independence that few mainstream competitors have.

    Assange has increasingly used the money to offer rewards for information: fifty thousand dollars for footage of a hospital bombed in Afghanistan; a hundred and twenty thousand for documents about international trade negotiations. When Trump implied that he had taped his White House meetings with James Comey, Assange tweeted, “WikiLeaks offers US $100K for the Trump-Comey tapes.” At one stroke, he appeared to endorse Trump’s bogus claim about the tapes and also implied that WikiLeaks was politically agnostic by seeking them. More significantly, he used the occasion to encourage supporters to donate, so that he could purchase the tapes—which, unsurprisingly, proved not to exist.

    The idea that WikiLeaks has problems with accountability sends Assange into angry fits. “Look at all the accountability that is thrown at us!” he told me in the Embassy one evening, nodding at the walls to indicate hidden surveillance devices. “Every second of every day!” He cited the government scrutiny, and relentless journalists, always ready to pounce when he makes a misstep. Raising his voice, he said, “WikiLeaks is probably the most held-to-account organization on earth!”

    [...]

    via https://diasp.eu/posts/5915092

    #Assange #journalisme #Wikileaks #London #surveillance #bitcoin #Russie #Équateur #Suède

  • Exclusive: Russia used Facebook to try to spy on Macron campaign - sources
    http://www.reuters.com/article/us-cyber-france-facebook-spies-exclusive-idUSKBN1AC0EI

    Russian intelligence agents attempted to spy on President Emmanuel Macron’s election campaign earlier this year by creating phony Facebook personas, according to a U.S. congressman and two other people briefed on the effort.

    About two dozen Facebook accounts were created to conduct surveillance on Macron campaign officials and others close to the centrist former financier as he sought to defeat far-right nationalist Marine Le Pen and other opponents in the two-round election, the sources said. Macron won in a landslide in May.

    Facebook said in April it had taken action against fake accounts that were spreading misinformation about the French election. But the effort to infiltrate the social networks of Macron officials has not previously been reported.

    Russia has repeatedly denied interfering in the French election by hacking and leaking emails and documents. U.S. intelligence agencies told Reuters in May that hackers with connections to the Russian government were involved, but they did not have conclusive evidence that the Kremlin ordered the hacking.

    Facebook confirmed to Reuters that it had detected spying accounts in France and deactivated them. It credited a combination of improved automated detection and stepped-up human efforts to find sophisticated attacks.

    Company officials briefed congressional committee members and staff, among others, about their findings. People involved in the conversations also said the number of Facebook accounts suspended in France for promoting propaganda or spam - much of it related to the election - had climbed to 70,000, a big jump from the 30,000 account closures the company disclosed in April.

    Facebook did not dispute the figure.

    The spying campaign included Russian agents posing as friends of friends of Macron associates and trying to glean personal information from them, according to the U.S. congressman and two others briefed on the matter.

    Facebook employees noticed the efforts during the first round of the presidential election and traced them to tools used in the past by Russia’s GRU military intelligence unit, said the people, who spoke on condition they not be named because they were discussing sensitive government and private intelligence.

  • Article de 2016 réalisé par Eliot Higgins montrant comment la Russie utilise et « modifie » des images satellites pour nier des crimes de guerre
    Lie in the Sky – DFRLab – Medium
    https://medium.com/@DFRLab/lie-in-the-sky-224186b6e98c

    Eliot Higgins : https://www.bellingcat.com

    Open source tools, including satellite photography, have become a vital tool in the effort to expose war crimes, human rights abuses and atrocities. It is therefore no wonder that malignant actors have tried to undermine and subvert these tools, using fakes or misleading interpretations to try and blind investigators.

    The Russian government has had a particularly bad record of using inappropriate, misleading and downright falsified imagery since its invasion of Ukraine in 2014. The Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) has played the leading role in these efforts.

    #russie #fakes_news #syrie #crimes_de_guerre

  • [#book] The Red Web: The Struggle Between Russia’s Digital Dictators and the New Online Revolutionaries
    (Andrei Soldatov, Irina Borogan, 2015)

    http://www.publicaffairsbooks.com/book/hardcover/the-red-web/9781610395731

    On the eighth floor of an ordinary-looking building in an otherwise residential district of southwest Moscow, in a room occupied by the Federal Security Service (FSB), is a box the size of a VHS player marked SORM. The Russian government’s front line in the battle for the future of the Internet, SORM is the world’s most intrusive listening device, monitoring e-mails, Internet usage, Skype, and all social networks.

    But for every hacker subcontracted by the FSB to interfere with Russia’s antagonists abroad—such as those who, in a massive denial-of-service attack, overwhelmed the entire Internet in neighboring Estonia—there is a radical or an opportunist who is using the web to chip away at the power of the state at home.

    Drawing from scores of interviews personally conducted with numerous prominent officials in the Ministry of Communications and web-savvy activists challenging the state, Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan peel back the history of advanced surveillance systems in Russia. From research laboratories in Soviet-era labor camps, to the legalization of government monitoring of all telephone and Internet communications in the 1990s, to the present day, their incisive and alarming investigation into the Kremlin’s massive online-surveillance state exposes just how easily a free global exchange can be coerced into becoming a tool of repression and geopolitical warfare. Dissidents, oligarchs, and some of the world’s most dangerous hackers collide in the uniquely Russian virtual world of The Red Web.

    The Red Web: Russia and the Internet

    https://fas.org/blogs/secrecy/2015/10/red-web

    The Internet in Russia is a battleground between activists who would use it as a tool of political and cultural freedom and government officials who see it as a powerful instrument of political control, write investigative journalists Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan in their new book The Red Web. For now, the government appears to be winning the battle.

    Soldatov and Borogan trace the underlying conflict back to official anxiety in the Soviet era about the hazards of freedom of information. In the 1950s, the first Soviet photocopy machine was physically destroyed at the direction of the government “because it threatened to spread information beyond the control of those who ruled.”

    [...]

    In a chapter devoted to the case of Edward Snowden, the authors express disappointment in Snowden’s unwillingness to comment on Russian surveillance or to engage with Russian journalists. “To us, the silence seemed odd and unpleasant.”

    More important, they say that Snowden actually made matters in Russia worse.

    Snowden may not have known or realized it, but his disclosures emboldened those in Russia who wanted more control over the Internet,” they write.

    Because the Snowden disclosures were framed not as a categorical challenge to surveillance, but exclusively as an exposure of U.S. and allied practices, they were exploited by the Russian government to legitimize its own preference for “digital sovereignty.”

    Snowden provided “cover for something the Kremlin wanted all along– to force Facebook, Twitter, and Google’s services, Gmail and YouTube, to be subject to Russian legislation, which meant providing backdoor access to the Russian security services.”

    [...]

    The Red Web provides a salutary reminder for Western readers that the so-called U.S. “surveillance state” has hardly begun to exercise the possibilities of political control implied in that contemptuous term. For all of its massive collection of private data, the National Security Agency — unlike its Russian counterparts — has not yet interfered in domestic elections, censored private websites, disrupted public gatherings, or gained unrestricted access to domestic communications.

    #Snowden #Edward_Snowden
    #surveillance #NSA #FSB

    • https://www.ft.com/content/7efff020-5642-11e5-9846-de406ccb37f2

      The authors also chart the history of #SORM, a system as sinister as its ugly acronym suggests. The Sistema Operativno-Rozysknikh Meropriyatiy, or System of Operative Search Measures, has been giving the FSB, successor to the KGB, a back door to spy on internet communications since 1998. At one point, Soldatov the younger comes eye to eye with a Sorm device. “The heavy metal door was opened, and Andrei quietly stepped inside a small room, packed with equipment on the racks. One of them had a small black box. It was labelled Sorm. It had a few cables and a few lights. Andrei was told that when the small green lamp was illuminated on the box, the FSB guys on the eighth floor have something to do. As he looked down, Andrei saw the small green lamp winking.”

      But Sorm was not born in 1998, the year Mr Putin became head of the FSB: as Soldatov and Borogan establish through interviews with KGB sources and engineers, the ancestors of the black box were in fact Soviet-era phone-tapping systems. To develop them, the KGB enlisted some of its enemies; in a prison lab near Moscow, dissident Lev Kopelev was set to work on speech-recognition techniques.

      [...]

      And yet, in its efforts to gain the upper hand over the internet, Russia’s security apparatus appears clumsy, with activists outsmarting some of the intrusive surveillance. If the book has one shortcoming, it is that it fails to offer a conclusive explanation for this. The authors state that the regime is helpless in the face of a decentralised network. “Information runs free like water or air on a network, not easily captured,” they say.

  • Russia Considers Returning Snowden to U.S. to ’Curry Favor’ With Trump : Official - NBC News

    http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/russia-eyes-sending-snowden-u-s-gift-trump-official-n718921

    Je ne sais pas si c’est vrai, mais ça mérite d’être vérifié.

    U.S. intelligence has collected information that Russia is considering turning over Edward Snowden as a “gift” to President Donald Trump — who has called the NSA leaker a “spy” and a “traitor” who deserves to be executed.

    #snowden #trump
    That’s according to a senior U.S. official who has analyzed a series of highly sensitive intelligence reports detailing Russian deliberations and who says a Snowden handover is one of various ploys to “curry favor” with Trump. A second source in the intelligence community confirms the intelligence about the Russian conversations and notes it has been gathered since the inauguration.