I don’t know why we didn’t pick playing with live electrical wires and call that “intelligence” instead of the stuff we do. I think I’ll stick with calling what the U.S. government does “counter-intelligence.” So, here’s the latest from the counter-intelligence community.
Section 501 of the Counter Intelligence Act creates a “Committee to Counter Active Measures by the Russian Federation to Exert Covert Influence Over Peoples and Governments.”
This is followed by Section 502 which limits Russian and only Russian diplomats in the United States to traveling no more than 25 miles from their offices.
I suspect there may have been a Section 503 in an earlier draft that required CNN to show a photo of Vladimir Putin without his shirt and make fun of him at least once every 4 hours. If so, that section would have been stripped out as unnecessary.
The establishment wants more and more hostility with Russia. Trump wants to ever so slightly tweak the establishment and focus more hostility on China. That shift is obviously not one toward enlightenment. But when there is a chance for better relations between the U.S. and Russian governments, Congress should not be allowed to inject its counter-intelligence.
Of course countering active measures by the Russian Federation to exert covert influence over peoples and governments sounds like a good thing. But it’s not a good thing if those active measures do not exist. This is like putting weapons in space to “counter” others doing it, when nobody else is. It’s offense under the banner of defense. And offense will be taken.
It’s also not a good thing if the active measures (real or imagined) are not countered in the wisest manner. One way to counter assassinations, for example, would be to expose them, prosecute them as crimes, and seek reconciliation. Another would be to empower a special committee to engage in “counter-assassinations.”
Contrary to good liberal faith, there is zero public evidence that Russia has been engaging in these activities listed in the Counter Intelligence Act:
(A) Establishment or funding of a front group.
(B) Covert broadcasting.
(C) Media manipulation.
(D) Disinformation and forgeries.
(E) Funding agents of influence.
(F) Incitement and offensive counterintelligence.
(H) Terrorist acts.
Are there Russian front groups in the United States? Name one. Prove it. Is there covert broadcasting underway? Is that where you broadcast to nobody? Presumably it is where you create television and radio content purporting not to be Russian but actually serving the Russian government. Where is that? May we see a 30 second clip of it, please? Has the media been manipulated? [Apart from this failed effort?] By disinformation and forgeries? Expose one, for godsake, this is an emergency! Don’t let those forgeries go on deceiving us a moment longer! “Funding agents of influence” sounds more like overt broadcasting. Russia does do that using Russian television and radio networks (something the United States would never ever engage in!) — but how will this committee counter those? “Incitement” to what? “Offensive counterintelligence”? Offensive to whom? “Assassinations”? Of whom? Has someone been assassinated? “Terrorist acts”? Wouldn’t we, almost by definition, have heard of these?
Now I realize that most people don’t give a rat’s ass about stirring up hostility with the other major nuclear nation. So, here’s another problem with this bill that people may want to object to, as they should. This committee is empowered to do anything the president tells it to, and it sends occasional reports to Congress, not the public. Most, if not all, of the people it counter-intelligently counters will not have anything to do with the Russian government.
The Washington Post has already published a ludicrous but dangerous list of supposed Russian front group media outlets. If this committee does the same, and especially if it does so in secret, what recourse will the falsely accused have? This committee, selected by presidential appointees, will not be publicly accountable.
If the New-McCarthyite Anti-Russia Committee secretly labels you a Russian agent and accuses you of media manipulation, will it then manipulate the media to destroy your reputation? If it accuses you of “disinformation and forgeries” will it “counter” that with disinformation about you and forgeries incriminating you? Will it confiscate your funding as being that of an “agent of influence”? What will it do if it accuses you of assassinations? And will all the Russian agents of influence turn out to be Democrats during Republican presidencies, and vice versa?
Presumably the CIA hasn’t challenged Congress to a duel over this new committee horning in on its territory because it’s not technically supposed to spread its counter-intelligence domestically. Same with USAID and the rest. And the FBI is not supposed to be at war with foreign nations. But the lines between the military policing of the globe and the police militarization at home are ever blurring. And that’s part of what’s wrong with this bill. All’s fair in war, meaning there is no requirement of fairness. Don’t expect any. Resist instead.