Sun Feb 18th, 2018 at 07:12:04 AM EST
Special Counsel Robert Mueller announced the indictment by grand jury of Internet Research Agency (IRA), incorporated in Russia, its subsidiaries and thirteen named employees of the firms. Full text of the indictment is here or there.
The list of charges are:
1. Conspiracy to defraud the United States
"by impairing, obstructing, and defeating the lawful functions of the Federal Election Commission (FEC), the US Department of Justice (DOJ), and the US Department of State (State) in administering federal requirements for disclosure of foreign involvement in certain domestic activities."
2. Conspiracy to commit Wire Fraud and Bank Fraud
3-8. Aggravated identity Theft
It's here for cross-reference to observations last year that memorialized civic disorientation and disbelief following the DNC "hack" incident and Mr Trump's election. These were a wave of moral panic to proscribe "offensive" opinions, "fake news", "hate speech", and "Russian" propaganda and interrogation by US senators of "social media" publishers' business practices LQD: Censorship and A Trip to the Woodshed, respectively. Accordingly, the indictment of the Internet Research Agency ("IRA"), incorporated in Russia, relates broadcast speech (internet publication) soliciting political activity (thought or performance) of any "real" US person to illegal "foreign involvement in certain domestic activities."
A sophisticated but no less atavistic redoubt of red-baiting tactics
Count 1 is an array of criminal activities designed to "defraud" the US. Each US agency is the key relating IRA activities to its table of possible criminal charges relating to disclosure. Thus, the Special Counsel advances IRA's purported illegal "political activity" in the USA ("electioneering") under FARA, across FEC purview.
The indictment's token for an instance of IRA non-disclosure is "persona". Never mind that aliases, pseudonyms, brands, and atavars are recognizable "terms of art", that anonymity for public internet exchange is customary and protected by common law. "False persona" and "US persona" and "online persona": Repetition of the token dramatizes IRA "use of stolen US identities", as if possessed by a patent intent to conceal the foreign origin of the firm's work product (speech). This spiritual offense is more odious to um persons or ah entities who Mr Mueller represents than the sorcery marshaled to contract or stimulate political activity from "real" US ahm persons present in the USA. This offense evidently obstructs, impairs, and defeats US federal regulation of commerce everywhere and ultimately administration of electoral requirements within the USA.
That's not all: "others known and unknown to the Grand Jury, knowingly and intentionally conspired to defraud the United States." (p 5) These persons are named "co-conspirators" in the indictment. Their origins are not disclosed as in "Another co-conspirator who worked for the ORGANIZATION traveled to Atlanta, Georgia from approximately November 26, 2014 through November 30, 2014." The IRA reimbursed the co-conspirator's travel expenses. The indictment is larded with trivial incidents like this, one may suppose, to demonstrate at least productive tax-payer dollars.
From this premise flow the remaining criminal charges against foreign defendants and commentary lifted from Democratic Party senators' testimonies in the Judiciary Committee, Crime and Terrorism Subcommittee hearings.
In general, a federal criminal conspiracy charge requires minimum of two years observation to establish a pattern --the manner and means-- of criminal activity organized by a group of people. In this case, 2014-2016, IRA's manner and means is concealing the foreign origin of speech in order to "defraud" (the crime) the US state, such as it is. Manner and means is the subject of the indictment's gothic litany.
c. The ORGANIZATION sought, in part, to conduct what it called "information warfare against the United States of America" through fictitious US personas on social media platforms and other Internet-based media.
e. By in or around May 2014, the ORGANIZATIONS's strategy included interfering with the 2016 US presidential election, with the stated goal of "spread[ing] distrust towards the candidates and the political system in general."
introduce one fact which cannot be dismissed by flights of "false pretenses" (sic). That is grand larceny and receipt of stolen goods, or "aggravated identity theft", traced to IRA PayPal transactions (p 19). While the indictment does not allege IRA stole data, it claims evidence that IRA used stolen data to open bank accounts which funded the nefarious activities of "online persona
s". That includes payroll disbursements to "real" US persons and mysterious co-conspirators. These facts alone are sufficient to obtain indictment and probably conviction of defendants. Yet investigators followed the transaction trail to instantiate every means and manner of IRA purported illegal electioneering.
Other than that, only two
"real" Russian IRA employees allegedly obtained fraudulent visas from State and entered the USA. They did not "fully disclose" their employment status and lied about the purpose of their journey to USA. In June 2014 they traveled around the US for twenty-two days to gather "intelligence" instead of leisure. According to the indictment, either KRYLOVA or BOGACHEVA and their co-conspirators "posed as US citizens" to meet a real US person, ironically employed by a "Texas-based grassroots organization," with knowledge of "purple states" (CO, VA, FL?!) coalitions, perhaps, of African Americans, United Muslims apostates, African American Muslims, African American Muslim Green Party voters, Green Party likely-BLM activists, mostly-muslim Sanders voters, and Secured Borders Blacktivists.
33. ... Specialists were directed to create "political intensity through supporting radical groups, users dissatisfied with [the] social and economic situation and oppositional social movements."
In fact the indictment does not identify any other Russian nationals present in the US in the period under investigation --except for an IP address with VPN service leased from a US-based commercial host ("US infrastructure").
32. Defendants and their co-conspirators, through fraud and deceit, created hundreds of social media accounts and used them to develop certain fictitious US personas into "leader[s] of public opinion" in the United States.
Other than that, allegations of "interfering with the 2016 US presidential election" nowhere turns up IRA donations to any US candidates' PACs, "hack" of DNC operating systems, party affiliation imposture, eligible voter imposture, falsified voter registration, voter intimidation, murder, sexual assault, pederasty, adultery, embezzlement, illiteracy, illegal discrimination, bribery, or disruption of any other political parties' normal "operations". And to judge by the record (pp 20-23) IRA organization of "political rallies" existed only as "political advertisement". IRA and co-conspirators promoted eight events in peak Republican and Democratic national convention season, June - July 2016, using Facebook account services. The indictment fingers NYC(4), DC(1), FL(2), VA(1) and PA(1), but it does not disclose IRA expenses (venue, ad placements, ad production, paid "real" US person attendance, security, equipment, and management). And that's OK. Gratuitous "political activity" that interferes with US democracy is immortal.
Offensive broadcast speech (internet publication) soliciting political activity (thought or performance) of any "real" US persons" is classified by vintage.
57. After the election of Donald Trump in or around November 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators used false US personas to organize and coordinate US political rallies in support of president-elect Trump, while simultaneously using other false US personas to organize and coordinate US political rallies protesting the results of the 2016 US presidential election.
43. By 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators used their fictitious online personas to interfere with the 2016 US presidential election. They engaged in operations primarily intended to communicate derogatory information about Hillary Clinton, to denigrate other candidates such as Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, and to support Bernie Sanders and then-candidate Donald Trump.
48. From at least April 2016 through November 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators, while concealing their Russian identities and ORGANIZATION affiliation through false personas, began to produce, purchase, and post advertisements on US social media and other online sites expressly advocating for the election of then-candidate Trump or expressly opposing Clinton. Defendants and their co-conspirators did not report their expenditures to the Federal Election Commission, or register as foreign agents with the US Department of Justice.
What this 37-page listing of illegal electioneering does not provide are concomitant measures of "political intensity", "distrust towards the candidates", "information warfare" casualties, voter intention, and "political rally" attendance which it produced or even a P&L statement describing IRA's ill-gotten gains from social media "political advertising" trade.
This is a grave omission in DOJ discovery, purporting to expose adversaries of "real" US American democrats, republicans, progressives, apathetic eligible voters, the cynical. The Special Counsel has been directing a free-wheeling dragnet under color of law and has produced one instance of "foreign political activity" to appease the Special Counsel's dubious constituents. Where is the harm? is a lingering question, because the facts presented in this case support neither electoral advantage for Trump nor electoral disadvantage for Who? Indeed Who? received the majority of ballots.
A causal relation between electioneering firms and the election outcome could be tested by a number of methods but evidently has not been performed.
The indictment acknowledges and discards IRA market intelligence.
29. Starting in or around 2014, Defendants and their co-conspirators began to track and study groups on US social media sites dedicated to US politics and social issues. In order to gauge the performance of various groups on social media sites, the ORGANIZATION tracked certain metrics like the group's size, the frequency of content placed by the group, and the level of audience engagement with that content, such as the average number of comments or responses to a post.
The indictment acknowledges and discards IRA "performance" parameters.
37. To measure the impact [ROI] of their online social media operations, Defendants and their conspirators tracked the performance of content they posted over social media. They tracked the size of the online US audiences reached through posts, different types of engagement with the posts (such as likes, comments, and reposts), changes in audience size, and other metrics. Defendants and their co-conspirators received and maintained metrics reports on certain group pages and individualized posts.
DOJ possesses sufficient information to construct a model to compare dependent variables of "political activity".
(1) Statistical description of n US voters' intentions --AND-- statistical analyses of n "real" US electioneers' "performance" (H0 and H0 parameters).
(2) Absent comparisons of (H0 and (HA) statistics, Special Counsel may well find himself a in the winds of public ignominy litigating but for Citizens United v FEC, election of Trump probably would not have occurred.
I'm nearly certain in a year I will revisit these notes.