A front-page article in the New York Times this week certainly generated a lot of reaction. In rather sensational terms, the paper claimed that the Pentagon’s cyber command was stepping up hacking intrusions into Russia’s power infrastructure.
So penetrated were the purported “digital” weapons, it was conjectured that Russia could suffer “black outs” at any moment and see its military instantly paralyzed.
Presidents Trump and Putin were obliged to react to the NYT’s article. Trump rubbished it as fake news, while Putin responded with a certain tone of alarm about possible consequences of a cyberwar breaking out.
Many commentators, including critical ones who normally show skepticism towards the NYT, were inclined to accept the article as an accurate account of US cyber aggression against Russia.
However, it is worth asking the basic question: are the claims reliable?
There are several reasons to be suspicious about the veracity of the NYT’s report, and what the real purpose of publishing it is.
For a start, America’s so-called “newspaper of record” has demonstrated itself to be more often than not an obedient purveyor of misinformation for the US military-intelligence apparatus.
Just two examples are cited here of dutiful functioning from many instances over the decades.
In July 1945, when the Pentagon detonated the first-ever atomic bomb in the desert of New Mexico, it was the NYT that put out dutiful reports claiming that the massive test explosion was not a new, far more destructive weapon. It also claimed that the local population had nothing to fear from health effects, despite thousands of Americans later dying from radiation fallout.
A second notorious example is how the “paper of record” was a chief conduit for propaganda about “weapons of mass destruction” (WMD) which was used to launch the genocidal war on Iraq in 2003. Those claims were later shown to be entirely false. The NYT thus engaged in telling barefaced lies to the public in order to launch a criminal war of aggression.
One of the main NYT’s writers who peddled the WMD propaganda for the destruction of Iraq was David Sanger whose byline appeared on the latest article claiming that the Pentagon was escalating cyberwar on Russia. Arguably, this so-called journalist should be in a prison for complicity in war crimes, not sitting behind a desk receiving a big fat salary.
A closer reading of the article indicates that many of the sensational claims are vague and unsubstantiated. The article is long-winded and jargonistic, raising more questions than answers, which usually means the content is more fabulation than factual. As usual, the sources are anonymous and often referred to as “former officials”.
There were also contradictions in the reporting, the most glaring of which is that the NYT claims the Trump White House signed off on the alleged new aggressive activities, yet President Trump panned the story as fake. Trump’s evident disgust seemed genuine. He called the article “treasonous” and suggested it was a desperate attempt by the “failing” NYT to scoop up readers.
So, let’s think about this. A loyal conduit of Deep State misinformation is purporting to be revealing secret cyberwar activities against Russia. If it were doing that, the Pentagon would not be happy. If the NYT is quoting anonymous secret agencies, the suspicion is that those sources wanted the NYT to publish this article. Why would that be? To alert Russia of implanted malware in its infrastructure only for Russian computer experts to track down the offending bugs and eliminate them? That doesn’t make sense. Why would the Pentagon out itself for the benefit of Russia?
What’s likely going on here is that the NYT is serving – as it usually does – as a conduit for “psychological operations”. The real intention seems to be to unnerve Moscow about an impending cyber strike on the Russian nation.
Another intended effect from the article is to further poison bilateral relations between the US and Russia. Presidents Trump and Putin are expected to hold a meeting next week during the G20 summit in Japan. It seems that the higher authors of the NYT’s report and their stenographers like David Sanger have the intention to pre-empt the forthcoming conversation between the American and Russian leaders.
A further sinister twist is that the NYT claims President Trump has not been informed about the alleged cyberwar against Russia. It suggests that is because Trump is not trusted by intelligence agencies for fear he might leak details to Putin. This is another tawdry attempt by the paper to revive its failed previous claims of undermining the American president as a “Kremlin stooge”.
Moreover, the NYT quotes National Security Adviser John Bolton as appearing to confirm the Pentagon’s alleged cyber aggression against Russia. That is a further slight on the American president. Who is actually running the US government? Trump, Bolton or Deep State operatives?
Finally, it should be noted that the NYT claims are premised on past dubious allegations that Russia interfered in US elections and that it has also been hacking into America’s power grid. By taking its latest story at face value, one is obliged to accept its previous stories of Russian malfeasance as accurate, which they are not.
Russia, of course like all nations, must ensure its infrastructure and defenses are inviolable from foreign hacking of computer systems. There is no doubt US agencies have and are probing Russian systems for potential vulnerabilities. But such a scenario is significantly different from one where a digital sword is supposedly hanging over Russia’s head threatening to deliver a lethal blow at any time.
Frankly, the NYT has become a consummate parody of a newspaper. Its Pulitzer Prizes for “journalistic excellence” are more baubles for good conduct in the service of state propaganda; propaganda that has often led to criminal wars and the deaths of millions of people. It purports to “reveal” secret Pentagon activities, yet elsewhere honorable journalists like Julian Assange are being persecuted for doing just that.
The “paper of record” styles itself as a truth-teller. Its advertising slogan is “the truth is worth it”.
Indeed, the truth is worth it, especially when lies and fabrications could have such horrific consequences for international relations and human lives.