Disinformation watchers on Wednesday were quick to point out the deeply problematic nature of the [New York Post] story and urge journalists and news outlets to be careful in how they covered it.
Peter Singer, a strategist at New America and the co-author of LikeWar: The Weaponization of Social Media, a book about disinformation, tweeted: “as I read stories like this, it makes me reflect on what some in media (especially on security beat) have learned from 1) the experience of being an unintentional player in info ops and 2) the perils of #bothsides equivalence.”
Kyle Cheney, a congressional reporter for Politico, tweeted, “The ‘smoking gun’ email in the NY Post story — even if it is authentic, given the massive red flags — doesn’t actually say what the story says it does.”
Again, stipulating that the suspect email is real, there's literally nothing in it that says Joe Biden met with a Burisma adviser.
"The opportunity to meet," may just as easily have meant Hunter promised a meeting in the future that may never have occurred.
— Kyle Cheney (@kyledcheney) October 14, 2020
Marc Ambinder, a security expert in residence with the University of Southern California Annenberg School, pointed out that that chain of events had all the hallmarks of a Russian disinformation operation.
– mysterious circumstances (which gin up conspiratorial thinking)
– deniability (witnesses can’t remember key facts about the chain of custody of the information)
– no metadata (can’t verify emails)
– a gun … with no smoke (would be too obvious)
– a willing media vector
— Marc Ambinder (@marcambinder) October 14, 2020
John Scott-Railton with the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab project highlighted a thread on the subject by cybersecurity researcher Thomas Rid, author of Active Measures: The Secret History of Disinformation And Political Warfare. “Every journalist should read this thread: Critical advice on vetting of questionable stories that involve emails,” said Railton. [Continue reading…]
Some security experts expressed skepticism about the provenance and authenticity of the emails.
The Times reported last January that Burisma had been hacked by the same Russian GRU unit that was one of two groups that hacked the Democratic National Committee in 2016. Last month, United States intelligence analysts contacted several people with knowledge of the Burisma hack for further information after they had picked up chatter that stolen Burisma emails would be leaked in the form of an “October surprise.”
Among their chief concerns, according to people familiar with the discussions, was that the Burisma material would be leaked alongside forged materials in an attempt to hurt Mr. Biden’s candidacy — as Russian hackers did when they dumped real emails alongside forgeries ahead of the 2017 French elections — a slight twist on Russia’s 2016 playbook when they siphoned leaked D.N.C. emails through fake personas on Twitter and WikiLeaks. [Continue reading…]