The company at the centre of the Facebook data breach boasted of using honey traps, fake news campaigns and operations with ex-spies to swing election campaigns around the world, a new investigation reveals. Executives from Cambridge Analytica spoke to undercover reporters from Channel 4 News about the dark arts used by the company to help clients, which included entrapping rival candidates in fake bribery stings and hiring prostitutes to seduce them. In one exchange, the company chief executive, Alexander Nix, is recorded telling reporters: “It sounds a dreadful thing to say, but these are things that don’t necessarily need to be true as long as they’re believed.” The Channel 4 News investigation, broadcast on Monday, comes two days after the Observer reported Cambridge Analytica had unauthorised access to tens of millions of Facebook profiles in one of the social media company’s biggest data breaches.
Canada: Russia online ‘troll farm’ that meddled in U.S. election also targeted Trudeau, Canadian pipelines | The Globe and Mail
The same Russian online troll farm that meddled in the American presidential election has also taken swipes at Canadian targets, including oil infrastructure and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Evidence is embedded in data made publicly available through investigations in the United States, where congressional probes have been examining Russian information campaigns following the 2016 presidential election. One report from a Republican-led committee in the House of Representatives released this month said the St. Petersburg troll factory, members of which now face criminal charges in the U.S., posted online about energy roughly half as often as it did about American presidential politics.
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis accused Iran on Thursday of “mucking around” in Iraq’s May parliamentary election, in which Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is seeking another term after a successful, U.S.-backed war against Islamic State militants. The ballot will decide Iraq’s leader for the next four years, when Baghdad will be faced with rebuilding cities and towns seized from Islamic State, preventing the militants’ return and addressing the sectarian and economic divisions that fueled the conflict. Among Abadi’s challengers are former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and Hadi al-Amiri, a former transportation minister – both of whom are among Iran’s closest allies in neighboring Iraq.
The top Democrat on the House Intelligence panel said he plans to continue work on the Russia probe despite Republican moves to shut it down, saying 30 witnesses still need to be interviewed. “Our work is far from done,” Representative Adam Schiff told reporters Tuesday, a day after Republicans said they were ending the inquiry after finding no evidence of collusion between President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russian operatives who meddled in the 2016 presidential campaign. Schiff said that Democrats will write their own conclusions and plan to release transcripts of the panel’s interviews at that time.
National: Despite Mueller’s Push, House Republicans Declare No Evidence of Collusion | The New York Times
Even as the special counsel expands his inquiry and pursues criminal charges against at least four Trump associates, House Intelligence Committee Republicans said on Monday that their investigation had found no evidence of collusion between Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia to sway the 2016 election. Representative K. Michael Conaway, the Texas Republican who is leading the investigation, said committee Republicans agreed with the conclusions of American intelligence agencies that Russia had interfered with the election, but they broke with the agencies on one crucial point: that the Russians had favored Mr. Trump’s candidacy. “The bottom line: The Russians did commit active measures against our election in ’16, and we think they will do that in the future,” Mr. Conaway said. But, he added, “We disagree with the narrative that they were trying to help Trump.”
Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama said on March 9 that the leader of the main opposition Democratic Party (DP) Lulzim Basha must face prosecutors after a scandal erupted over alleged Russian lobbying for Albania’s Democrats in the US. Rama’s comment came after US publication Mother Jones reported on March 6 that Albania’s Democratic Party indirectly received secret funds from Russian sources in the US during last year’s parliamentary election. It also said that Russian-related companies were secretly active in the US to meddle in the election. “The truth about this issue will be definitely unveiled,” Rama said in a Facebook post on March 9.
National: State Department Was Granted $120 Million to Fight Russian Meddling. It Has Spent $0. | The New York Times
As Russia’s virtual war against the United States continues unabated with the midterm elections approaching, the State Department has yet to spend any of the $120 million it has been allocated since late 2016 to counter foreign efforts to meddle in elections or sow distrust in democracy. As a result, not one of the 23 analysts working in the department’s Global Engagement Center — which has been tasked with countering Moscow’s disinformation campaign — speaks Russian, and a department hiring freeze has hindered efforts to recruit the computer experts needed to track the Russian efforts. The delay is just one symptom of the largely passive response to the Russian interference by President Trump, who has made little if any public effort to rally the nation to confront Moscow and defend democratic institutions. More broadly, the funding lag reflects a deep lack of confidence by Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson in his department’s ability to execute its historically wide-ranging mission and spend its money wisely.
Democrats — and some Republicans — are pushing to boost funding for FBI counterterrorism teams and grants to states to protect against Russian meddling in elections. Lawmakers want more than $700 million for election security added to a sweeping $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill that Congress must pass by March 23 to keep the government open. The House could take up the spending bill as early as next week. “We cannot leave states to their own devices in defending against the sophisticated cyber tactics of foreign governments,” House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., and 14 other House Democrats wrote in a letter this week to leaders of the House Appropriations Committee. “An attack on the electoral infrastructure in one state is an attack on all of democracy in America.”
Editorials: Trump finally says he’ll protect elections. We’ll believe it when we see it. | The Washington Post
For a man who has regularly cast doubt on the fact that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election, President Trump made comments at a Tuesday news conference that were surprisingly on point. “We won’t allow that to happen,” Mr. Trump said about the prospect of further foreign interference, promising to “counteract whatever they do.” He said the government was conducting “a very, very deep study, and we’re coming out with, I think, some very strong suggestions on the ’18 election.” This is closer to what the commander in chief should be saying in the wake of a hostile foreign influence campaign. Yet it falls short of wholehearted acceptance of the intelligence community’s continuing alarm about Russian capabilities and intentions. And the president’s words are meaningless unless backed by actions, which, by many accounts, are still lacking.
Albania’s Democratic Party, the main opposition group, has rejected allegations by U.S. publication Mother Jones that the party received secret funds from Russian sources during last year’s parliamentary election. Mother Jones alleged in an article published Tuesday that Russian-linked companies used a U.S. lobbyist to secretly meddle in Albania’s 2017 election. According to the article Nick Muzin, a former campaign aide for U.S. President Donald Trump, was paid by “a sketchy Scottish firm called Biniatta Trade, which was formed by two Belize-based shell companies … for work in the United States to help the Democratic Party of Albania.” “It appears that Russian-related entities secretly meddled in the United States in order to meddle in an election in Albania,” the Mother Jones story said.