Skip to main content

tv   Discussion on Disinformation Political Warfare During COVID-19  CSPAN  June 9, 2020 1:08pm-2:03pm EDT

1:08 pm
afgh afghani and have a good week and tell them mr. secretary general, thank you again for these really important comments to make an constitution stronger that needs to be stronger in these times. >> tonight on american history tv at 8:00 eastern, on july 23rd, 1967, detroit erupted in fyfe days of rioting and violence sparked by a police raid on an illegal bar. wxyz tv, an abc affiliate in the city, was there to record the events. this half hour documentary is courtesy of the archives of michigan. watch american history tv tonight and over the weekend on cspan 3. intelligence experts discuss ued disinformation con campaigns and political warfare during the coronavirus pandemic. they explored various tools and the best way to fight against these campaigns.
1:09 pm
the center for strategic and international studies hosted this event. >> hi, everyone, and welcome to this discussion on disinformation and political warfare in the age of covid-19. i have two outstanding experts. thomas, the author of an outstanding book i would strongly encourage you to buy it. active measures, the secret history of disinformation and political warfare. and then heather connolly, she's the senior vice president for europe, you a eurasian and the at csis. director of the europe program and author of two outstanding studies on aspects of what we're going to talk b about today. kremlin playbook and kremlin play pa playbook, two.
1:10 pm
please, if you have, questions, go on to the link for this and you can ask questions. we'll talk as a group for about 20 to 25 minutes. there's a component on the link where you can ask questions, so please do that. i'm seth jones. the harold brown chair and director of the transnational threats project. so let's get into first the current situation with information disinformation. and then we're going to get into a little history. particularly playing off of thomas' recent book, active measures, then we'll look at the future. so start with the present, move to the then get into the future. thomas, why tony we stadon't we start with you. as you look at russian chinese and u.s. activity today, how would you characterize what's
1:11 pm
going on around covid? >> yeah, that's a tough first question because what we've seen certainly is politicians and top officials from china and frankly also from the united states sometim sometimes, trying to spin the covid-19 story, trying call into question or come up with alternative theorys of the origin of the virus and but i hesitate to call that disinformation or active measure to use the old term of that because we're not looking it appears early days, we don't know yet, we're not looking at a a systemic professional output of bureaucracies here. if you like spontaneous spinning and sometimes lying in order to salvage reputations and predict personal careers.
1:12 pm
so there's a difference between intelligence bureaucracy, running up covid operations, active measures, disinformation campaigns like what we've seen in 2016 and the spontaneous lying we see today. >> so thomas, just briefly. how would you just to be clear of this, how would you define active measures and disinformation, for example, and how would you distinguish it from just political leaders lying? >> yeah, so in my book, i tackle that question up front and what i'm looking at in the book extensively is active measures as the output of active measures is a term that the soviet intelligence agencies came up with in the 1960s. they discovered that talking about disinformation is in some ways not helpful because it focuses the mind too much on the distinction between false and correct between fact and
1:13 pm
forgely, between forgery and truth. but active measures are active when they tap into existing fears, into existing frictions and privileges and then amplify something that is already existing. so you have usually some element of forgery. oftentimes, limited to the identity of the source of information of the speaker itself so a front organization would you know, amplify the kgb or cia message but in some cases, in fact in some of the most important cases, there's no forgery of the content so some active measures aren't wrongful or misinformation so to speak. they're just spun information in a destructive way. and finally, these are usually targeted towards and end. when you see the memos, there's an objective. just like for any military
1:14 pm
operation that they want to achieve with the operation. >> heather, you've been watching very closely what's going on in europe and how some of the lies that have been spun coming out of both capitals are being viewed in europe. so can you talk about russia, chinese and even u.s. actions and how europeans are viewing them? >> yes, thanks so much, seth. great to be with you. i think the good news here is that really, europe, european union, has been increasingly vigilant about malign influence, and the creation and european external action service of a strategic communications office has been alert an attuned to disinformation operations so they're identifying the problem.
1:15 pm
i think in some ways, it demonstrates particularly for europe on chinese, the introduction of chinese information, which has been a real challenge politically to europe and of course the controversy in april where an initial draft of a report that was highlighting particularly chinese disinformation was eventually watered down a bit because of criticism from the chinese government and inn again and again, the eu is encountering the political navigation if you will of highlighting this information and educating this information. but i would say europe is much more attuned to it. u.k., others, germany we even had in some ways, the historical backward looking attempts of russian disinformation that go back to 2015 in germany if the lead up to the 2017 parliament elections of how russia is hacking into whether the it's
1:16 pm
angela merkel's e-mails or the democratic union party's e-mails or the german parliament's. we saw that in 2017 with the french presidential election. so they're much more attuned and alert and i think this is fantastic. i think the u.s. is in the same place. we're much more attuned and alert, but as thomas was saying, the challenge, the disinformation is being used is exploit iing the weaknesses tha our governments and our leaders in our societies are presenting. that's what they're amplifying. there are different objectives for russian and chinese disinformation for sure, but they are able to exploit those weaknesses. so i would give the report card for europe progress. they're highlighting the issue. i think they're recognizing it. trying to do what they can. but the politics of this get very, very difficult and the chinese in particular right now are making this very difficult for europe. >> so what are some examples, heather, that you're seeing right now?
1:17 pm
what are examples of this surrounding covid you're seeing in europe? whether it's on the origins of covid or other aspects? what are you see iing the predominant types of misinformation, disinformation lies or other kinds of activity. >> hur sure, let me talk about russian use then i can move to the chinese disinformation. again, we're seeing the similar patterns in the u.s. so i think you can almost take this as transatlantic disinformation. again, the use of fear and confusion so and it plays on both. it also creates, this is a lot of greatest hits of some classic russian disinformation going back into the 1980s, operation denver suggesting through a very successful disinformation
1:18 pm
campaign that the hiv aids virus was caused by a u.s. weapons, biological laboratory, that it was the cia that did this. you are seeing that coming through. the origins and perhaps not coming from wuhan, but from u.s. biological agents. in fact, there's a center in georgia, the lugar center, which is to help discover these types of vaccines, russian disinformation said that's where the virus came from. the republic of georgia. using the antivaccine groups. so using groups that have a predereliction to concern, amplifying those, entering their chat rooms and things like that to create their confusion and so we're seeing the it's a u.s. origin. the fanning of far right to
1:19 pm
create that confusion. don't bhooef what you're hearing from the authorities, we know what's true. that's the russian disinformation bucket. the chinese disinformation budget is shigtly different. this is really focused on trying to prevent criticism. the origins of the virus come frg wuhan certainly. and you're now seeing a much more aggressive chinese posture. particularly diplomatically. if the government speaks any criticism to the virus, there's very focused effort. of course the shipment of humanitarian pli supplies. with medical supplies, you can't criticize. that's caused concerns. the russians have also used humanitarian supplies. both in the u.s. u.s. purchased medical supplies. the u.s. just sent to u.s. medical supplies but the
1:20 pm
delivery of a russian field hospital to italy had some speculation concern that some of the employees of that field hospital may have been intelligence specialists. so there's lots of distrust on both sides even when there's a humanitarian gesture that should be positive, it has a double edged sword. >> thomas, let me turn to you about the mediums that countries are using today. obviously most people are going to be aware of information or disinformation put out on social immediamedia, but there are als of other options including hacking into computer systems and leaking information. how do you see, what are the primary tools you'll see as being used along these lines? >> yeah, that's a, an interesting question. i wondered if i can quickly back back to heather's response and
1:21 pm
add a twist that i think is, we can see in the archives coming out. is that okay, seth? >> so -- operation denver, which was the kgb code name for the operation infection sometimes is the term that is used. the operation that the spreading the myth that aids is an american bio weapon developed in maryland which evolved out of another operation in southeast asia. the goal here was to distract from the soviet use, soviet union's use of chemical and biological weapons and their renewed development at the time. and the operation is fascinating on a number of levels. one is they picked up the rumor, the con spespiracy theory that
1:22 pm
is an american creation. government creation. they didn't come up with it themselves. they picked it up from american conspiracy theorists in the lgbtq of course at the time called gay community. where it was make iing the roun already. the second one is imagine you're the kgb officer writing that memo to your partners in germany, east germany, bulgaria, asking them to help you spread the myth. one is you're just telling them to do it and they will not understand what is disinformation and what is correct information because it's a blend of both. so what you see internally is essentially a form of
1:23 pm
self-disinformation that large bureaucracies when they engage over these would lose the ability to clearly see what is false information and what is correct information and even worse than this, because they are amplifying something that is already existing, they will often fall for a temptation to exaggerate their effect because it's impossible to say where does the original conspiracy theory again and end. so the effect itself is self-disinformation and self-exaggeration of their own effects. now that creates a pernicious effect because that leads bureaucracies to believe what they're doing here is r very, very impactful, although it may not be. i would just provoke you and our viewers here by observing that we run the risk here in the united states in the way we discuss what happened in 2016 to basically right the after action
1:24 pm
reviews that overstate the effect of what happened for the intelligence agencies involved. >> you mean just to be clear here, you mean overstate the effectiveness of russian operations. >> totally. >> yeah. >> his ttoricallhistorically, t was that the interpreter traitors exaggerated interly for bure erratic reasons but usually, the victims, that is the case for many operations that played out in west germany, for example. usually, the victim didn't really play along in exaggerating the effects, but in 2016, i think we see this rather extraordinary situation that the mueller investigation and the entire conversation about russian interference, the top news item for a r very long time. for years. more than years.
1:25 pm
since the election has been a top news item on and off. we run the risk of exaggerating and doing their work for them ultimately. i want to come back in a second to operation denver. let me go to heather. thomas raised the issue of 2016 elections. wanted to give you the chance to provide your perspective on that including russian intention and thomas' issue of overstating the cig b cannes of it. >> thanks, seth. so i think for me, it's really important to take just a quick step back. this is russian operations. it is military doctrine. called new generation warfare. there's nothing new about the active measures, but it is warfare and these are ongoing
1:26 pm
campaigns. we tend to overfocus on the election period because of course an election is an opportunity to sew seeds of d distrust and be very disruptive. but these are ongoing campaigns, seeds that have planted years before. sometimes different tools are used. and in a situation, they don't need to be used so it's a strategy of influence to break the internal coherence of the democratic system. so it's to break faith and trust between the governed and the government in those situations. why is that important? particularly for russian disinformation, that's what makes the united states in some k ways, it's democracy. when you break faith with that, you're no longer exceptional. you're the moral equivalent of russia and without that distinction and with a deeply divided government and people,
1:27 pm
you're a country and a government that can much more accommodative to russian ves interest so there's a real purpose to this. an election is an important moment for that, but these are ongoing efforts to divide society. so i agree with thomas. sometimes, we, i've always felt that if we handled this with confidence, with our allies and partners, we can overcome this because it's simply the weaknesses that we are offering is what the russians are amplifying. if we heel our grieve vances, we'll have more. we have to heal the divisions within our society and that we then can turn with a projection of a positive agenda and confidence. what the russians fear the most is our democracy working in russia and so again, to return
1:28 pm
back to that positive spirit. so we can't give them too much credit. we have to focus on healing divisions and the problem is and i think this is for me, more in the u.s. context and there's obviously quite a bit of division within europe as well. is that as thomas said. it's hard to detect where we stop and where the russians begin. we are delegitimizing our own election today. you don't need to have a foreign actor help you anymore because you're already delegitimizing your own democracy. your lead eers and in your institutions when you cripple the judicial system and law enforcement or you delegitimize the new party, you've done so much damage that the russians can certainly amplify that and they are. they're using far right
1:29 pm
extremism groups to do that today but we're working quite well in that path so it's very hard in some ways for me to overjudge the russians where i believe a lot of the healing and work has to be done is within our own society within european societies to heal some of these long standing divisions. >> thanks, heather. if i can come back briefly to denver. in part because some have argue aed that there are interesting parallels. also huge differences, with what we've seen coming out of tehran, beijing, moscow and even washington about the origins of covid-19. some have argued that it was manufactured in u.s. laboratories. the u.s. has done the same with china that it was potentially manufactured in chinese laboratories. so from your perspective, how is this similar or different from
1:30 pm
similar, from other campaigns we've seen historically? >> yeah, i mean a pandemic aids was a pandemic in the early, mid '80s. is of course the best raw material that you can wish for for disinformation active measures. why? because people are genuinely care scared. there's a lot of uncertainty and political division. we open up how to react to the pandemic. that's all you need to run an operation and to exploit it. but here in this case, i would just want to let little pit bit time pass. when i wrote my book, it goes throughout the entire cold war up to 2016. as we transition from into the
1:31 pm
into the 1990s and when the archives close, i have almost no documentation after 1990. other than digital forensics. you can see the fog rise. how it becomes much harder to really come to high confidence conclusions about objectives, about success, et cetera. so i think it's important to just be clear today that what we see of course as officials make statements, we don't have visibility into why they do it. into their own russian own and we don't have visibility into the semi operations that are happening at the same time. >> thanks. thomas, i think it would be helpful for folks listening to get a broader perspective of how u this has been done historically. can you talk about some cold war
1:32 pm
cases? in your book, you walked through a number of them. swastikas in germany. racial engineering. the world peace counsel. and then what are the simil similarities and differences today? >> yeah, so let's talk about the 1959, 1960 anti-semitic campaign that kgb put on in west germany and in fact around the world. it started at the newly reopened great synagogue in colome that had just been reopened by addanar in september '59 then christmas, swais kais swastikas the entrance of the synagogue. of course a fire storm broke out in terms of the media coverage. within a short amount of time, we saw around 900 anti-semitic
1:33 pm
incidents within the space of just a few weeks in germany and around like in france and the u.k., but also in the united states in 15 different cities including in new york and manhattan. and on long island. but the media coverage of the case was intense. germany was seen as regressing into the dark times that many people thought would be behind germany and anti-semitism holocaust and the operation and we have very good evidence for this today, is was an active measure. was a provocation on the part of kgb to exploit the simmering trauma that germany was trying to get out of. and you know when i talk about this operation today, there will be an, you know i am german myself, there will be germans who say wait a minute, you're saying that germany needed russian help or kgb help to commit anti-semitic acts in the
1:34 pm
1950s? are you kid iding? of course that's exactly the point of active measures. they take something that is existing and then amplify it. so this campaign is the perfect example. kgb. very quickly, was and obviously there's a degree of speculation when i say this, but i'm confidence, kgb wasn't in a position anymore to distinguish the fake anti-semitic acts from the real ones that it provoked. we know this because even in east berlin, there were anti-semitic incidents that essentially creeped across the wall, which was completely against their own interests. but it's a, this is why active measure rs called active measures. they are active and they will actively shape reality. so that's one of the most extraordinary examples. also to highlight one point that i think gets lost and that is around the time of that
1:35 pm
operation in the early '60s to late '60s, throughout the '60s, we see a deescalation in the west. we see cra pulling out of political warfare. that's why they called it internally. political warfare. game. so fewer forgeries. no more aggressive front organizations in berlin for example. which was a thing in the '50s and we see an escalation in the soviet block. the opposite trend. so that is a really important observation. we have no moral coolsy here. to put it bluntly, you can't be, you can't excel at democracy and disinformation at the same time. >> good point. heather, which leads me to a broad question. for you.
1:36 pm
as we look towards the future, this comes out of one of the questions one of our viewers has asked. do we see evidence of close u.s. e.u. cooperation to fight disinformation and there's a, there's clearly, there's an underlying issue there, which is there also is substantial disagreement between many eur e european countries in the u.s., but there's a broader issue when we look at hungary for example. so how do you see u.s. e.u. collaboration both positive developments, but also huge challenges? >> so, it's where the u.s. and e.u. should be cooperating the most closely and in many ways, for russian disinformation, europe has been a laboratory for decades. and i think in some ways, what caught us by surprise in 2016,
1:37 pm
we didn't have the audacity to think the russians would be so awe dawgs to bring those to the u.s. really political leaders insuring that there is a strong sense of transparency and trust. trust of institutions an leaders, but transparency into what government is doing. as thomas said, most of this s disinformation is pulling into those threads that already exist. so there should be a huge area of collaboration. i think there are good government to government linkages at the highest level. there's not the highest level that we should be thinking about. the future and this is what in the example of hungary is quite perfect. and that is where ongoing disinformation campaigns or i
1:38 pm
would say influence activities, which pull governments or leaders towards their benefactors, so in hungry, close relationship between prime minister orvan and putin and xi as well. a lous in some ways, those governments to then work against when the european union means unanimity of 27 of its members to have a statement that may be critical of beijing or that may take additional efforts to perhaps block russian activities if the member state or two have already been compromised, they are now going to allow that policy to move forward, which breaks again the internal coherence of the european union. when you have one or two members who have made the decision to go against it. so it makes it difficult to go against it.
1:39 pm
when you see others follow, you see others moving in similar directions and the precedent is set and that's my other fear that hungary in some ways was just an early adopter of potentially trends that other e.u. members smaller ones in particular, may gravitate towards so it's an enormous, an enormous challenge. >> thomas, one of the questions from one of the viewers gets back to question i asked early. we didn't end up getting to it but let me re-ask it. what are the tools that governments use and the mediums they use. you pointed out in the past, not just social media, but can also include offensive cyber operations, hacking then leaking that information. so how do you see options available to states? >> the tool set, the active measure tool set it is very large box with a lot of different tools in it.
1:40 pm
making files is one of the most effective tools because as soon as you have information that is somebody's trying to hide, could be correspondence or top secret information, that has high value. so what we often see historically and we see that even clear out in ukraine in 2014, that many instances of leaks that contain forgeries. not just forgeries about where the leak comes from, but actual content fornl geries. that's something we should expect in the future. don't think leaks are clean and pure material that can just reported, used for news coverage, they are likely to contain some form of forgery, which means you can't just fact
1:41 pm
check one thing then conclude the rest is correct. you have to fact check every detail the journalists would write about based on leaked information. another tool in the active measures tool set beyond leaking and forging is of course front organizations. we see that, we see sometimes front organizations existing for a very long time more than a decade, evolving and sometimes out in the sort of semiopen. sometimes there are rumors going around. that was the case for some american front organizations in berlin, that it could be linked to cia, but that doesn't stop the front organization. >> thomas, would you include the world peace counsel? >> yeah, it's one of the better known ones.
1:42 pm
but i have several that i discuss in the bach wiook with evidence. there's one particularly impressive one run by cia in the 1950s known as office cramer. lc kisook. we can talk about it with a will the of detail and how we can tell the story of how cia controlled it and evolved it and lost control ultimately. this culture the internet released in the early 2000s. with the fox mask, was really a dream come true for active measures for disinformation operators because you could suddenly hide false or accurate leaked information behind the virtual facade of an anonymous activist group.
1:43 pm
this is almost a mix of a front organization and a new form of you know, internet culture. so we see that weird conversion of internet culture and active measures. >> good, so i'm rolling through some of the viewer questions now. this one, heather, i'm going to direct to you, which is how significant is disinformation during this covid-19 in terms of political gains, including the re-election of officials? obviously this is a, this is relevant in the u.s. as much as it is in other countries. >> well i would say quite frankly, not disinformation, but performance. government performance is probably the biggest game changer quite frankly in terms of political gains.
1:44 pm
the disinformation, i think for me, this comes back to sort of trust and credibility. and you see a wide range of political responses to how they're tealing with again, trust, transparency, credibility. whether science is involved in this. some political figures have use ed science to shape their views and statements and the information they're sharing. others have not. some have hidden behind it. others have gotten out in front. i think quite frankly, the disinformation certainly is an element of it. i would say geo politically, i would put it into scapegoating era. what we're seeing is some political leaders because they've been challenged by their response, it is now time to scapegoat and this gets into the ecosystem quite frankly of the
1:45 pm
extremist conspiracy layden voices so in attacks, you're seeing the personalities, bill gates, george soros, there are some anti-semitic tropes coming through that. it's blaming the other for a lack of response. that to me is a growing sense of disinformation that i think citizens will have to weigh when it comes time to hold the election. i would just say seth one other comment to thomas' note, what i think in the future what we're going to see is this is going to become, particularly in the russian case, much more russian and more r organic to the kovoi. this is where the tactics of russian disinformation in 2016, we could see the russians. they were paying in rubles. now we're seeing where specific campaigns, the infiltration of private chat rooms and things like that, they're now becoming much more organic to the voice of their own societies, which i think is certainly enhances the
1:46 pm
effort because they know those, those, the issues that will exacerbate existing societal tensions so this is going to get harder to come back as we go, particular ly in the u.s. and others where u.s. and speech protection is so important. the lines are so blurred from that, which is amplified by russia and juiced up by russia on both sides, but which is organically either an american organization or a european organization that leads in these theorys. >> just a follow up for you. the and this comes from one of the question that is somebody asked. can you just talk briefly to the degree that we understand it, what organizations in russia like the gru for example, are involved? and what are the tactics that they're using and how do we educate people in the u.s. along those lines? so this is coming from one of our viewers.
1:47 pm
>> oh, tough multilayered questions. again, i think you're seeing this is where in in some ways, the mueller report and investigations from 2016, we have a sense of knowing particularly the cyber units within the gru that are responsible for some of the hack i ing, forgery of documents, the internet research agency and other amplifiers of messages, so wink we know where they're coming from. but it comes back to the education of the citizen. and having greater literacy efforts, particularly when it comes to detecting when you sense information and you're getting something from a friend and you're not sure it's right, how do you fact check it? that needs to be happening in the grade school level. children need to be taught this. adults need to be kept abreast.
1:48 pm
we need public service announcements that help people be able to discern disinformation. know it, recognize it. be able to combat it. these are the types of efforts an educationed population, thoughing the tactics and tools but it gets back to exploit iin the weaknesses. a polarized society just gives as much opportunity to amplify and accentuate those divisions. making it more alert of foreign actors trying to xexacerbate those divisions will go a a long way, but just a more bipartisan, more community unified effort i think would be extremely helpful and listening to people that you, you respect. not necessarily at the top levels of government but your church leaders. >> like the two of you for example. >> community leaders. people you trust. listening to them. >> no reason. but can i jump in real quick here as well?
1:49 pm
>> yeah. >> you know, we, i'm going to provoke a few u.s. here. i think a lot of americans here today think that the russian election interference of 2016 resulted in donald trump becoming president. essentially that the russians install ed donald trump through their sophisticated or helped installing donald trump through their sophisticated election interference. that is the evidence that we have does not back up that conclusion. in fact, it's an unknowable fact to what extent the russian election interference had an impact on donald trump winning the election but we have a lot o people in the u.s., especially on the democrat side, have an emotional issue with the president. probably many republicans have as well. and the default too quickly into dismissing views that sound to them like extreme disinformation
1:50 pm
and think iing it's sort of probably foreign influence. certainly back in 2016. and actually '17. that was the huge tendency. and of course, that is a risk in and of course that is a risk in itself. i would go as far as saying our perception of russian interference is creating more of a problem than the russian interference itself. why? because if you -- if a democracy starts blaming domestic problems on foreign interference, then it is beginning to do a weakening, or, you know, with countries like russia and turkey are doing, blaming domestic ills on foreign interference and weakens democracy, so, we should resist that temptation. >> one question that's a follow-up for you is, how did both the soviet union and the
1:51 pm
u.s. respond. you talked about action that's they took during the cold war, including the aids campaign from the kgb, some cia efforts. how did they respond to disinformation campaigns coming from the other side? and what are lessons that you take for today? >> yeah. that's a difficult question, because the response changes over time. and it's also different in the u.s. versus the soviet union over time. but in the '60s, i think that the soviet response was escalation. i think we can see a dynamic of u.s. political warfare revoking more soviet disinformation in matters of operation. but that's only that i make that last one in a short amount of time in the '60s. and what you see later is in the '80s, early '80s, the u.s. government, cia especially and the state department and to a degree the fbi as well started
1:52 pm
pushing, publishing information through congress through the congressional record and hearings that exposed ongoing soviet active measures in great detail. some of this material was extraordinary in such that it was carried out. that, i think, made a difference. it made a lot of journalists -- journalists expected it to ed checked in. early '80s. they expected to be checked. so i think exposure of operations but in a cautious sober factor as a time-tested response. >> now, what's the challenge, are you confidence that you're seeing that in u.s., for example? >> i am, actually quite confident. yeah. no, i see some positive trends and a few problematic trends. the positive trends, of course,
1:53 pm
a lot of people are expecting this information today. i think it's still possible to leak information and have it covered in a big ticket way. but it's a little harder than it used to be. 2016, you know, what we saw in 2016, and i was watching it in realtime was very bad. we had so many mistakes. and still were relatively successful in the leaking -- on the leaking side. that is different today, you know, obviously, wikileaks is no lock an o longer an outlet which they can easily exploit, nas as in 2016. but the operational security is getting better. look at from the standpoint of gru or rcr, they are up against towering expectations and against social media companies that are much better prepared against public and a press corps in the united states that is
1:54 pm
much better prepared. so, in a way, the u.s. is, in spite of its extraordinary polarization, probably a harder target than it was in 2016. >> thanks. interesting, as we move into presidential election season. so, you get the last question, heather. and the big -- the big part of the question from one of the viewers is, how can democracy stick to democratic values of free and open flow of ideas, while at the same time, dealing with disinformation from authoritarian countries? and as an anecdote, we're going to pick up another question -- that's sort of the big question on democracies and democratic values. but the anecdote, china has reforced covid-19 by positive reinforcement of sending medical
1:55 pm
supplies. how could they say subversive influence with positive enforcements? the question is what the democrats should and should not be doing? >> that's a great question. in some ways it's going back to basics. it's going to back to the essentials of transparencies of democratic governments and institutions. and rebuilding trust between citizens. and that has been waning, both of those have been waning for a great deal of time. we now have to have the urgency of rebuilding those because foreign actors state and nonstate, are now using them. trust me, it's much cheaper to disassembly a democracy than fight a conventional conflict. and this is a cheaper variation of that. so we have to go back to those basics and as thomas jefferson said. you need an informed citizenry.
1:56 pm
citizens need to be informed and they need to take personal responsibility for their own security. their information security, their cyber security. this is how we protect democracy. how we protect our national security. everyone has a part to play in not sharing this information to make sure they have trusted, information to make informed decisions whether their elected leaders or their laws. that back-to-basic moments it could not be more apparent but it seems historically we're getting back to that simplicity. on china, in some ways, the provision of humanitarian assistance during a crisis of this magnitude should be warmly accepted. china was certainly sending this, particularly to the european countries that were the most devastated, spain, italy, france, elsewhere. they had two issues. the supplies themselves were faulty. some of the tests and the mass
1:57 pm
were not up to standards and they were not able to be used. and when governments were criticizing the quality of that medical assistance, this is when chinese diplomacy became incredibly aggressive. any criticism of the communist party and the leadership and their gifts was really dealt with and created its own backlash. so in some ways what we would call soft diplomacy of sending humanitarian aid has back fired. it has created obviously a very strong concern and heightened awareness that even a position of humanitarian supplies came with some strings attached. and you could not criticize the chinese government. so, it's not been well received, necessarily. but for those that were in need. and some of the equipment was important at that moment. so stay tuned, this is going to be a much more dynamic era with
1:58 pm
chinese diplomacy both in europe, of course. but the fact that the u.s. isn't working more closely with its allies in trying to create that is unfortunately creating opportunities for chinese disinformation to be more successful than it should be. >> thanks, heather. thomas, do you want to weigh in just briefly? >> yes, please. thank you. the temptation here for the united states intelligence community at some point i think will be to give in and try to take the gloves off. now, what it means to take the gloves up here. occasionally, when i speak with people in the national security establishment, in different countries, they think active measures should be countered with active measures. fight fire with fire. but i think that would be very problematic. right now, the incentive for the intelligence community in the
1:59 pm
u.s. is the right one. the incentive is understand, in a sober fact-driven analysis, understand what happened and how this virus, how this pandemic started. how china is using its leverage in europe to put other governments under pressure, et cetera. you know, thorough, fact-driven reporting and assessment of analysis. of course, the incentive structure in the white house appears to be slightly different. not so focused on sober, fact-based assessments. the risk here is at some point over time and we're seeing signs that this is happening, the i.c., the intelligence community, will become more put under pressure to take the gloves off in a sense. that would be a highly problematic trend line because in a very ideological environment like in, you know, communist intelligence services in the 1960s, when you train the
2:00 pm
muscle that is producing forgeries, disinformation up to scale, over time, you will lose credibility internally among your allies. and the coalesce, able to respond in a democratic way. so let's be careful here. and finally, just briefly for what everybody can do, are you following people on twitter and other social media outlets that occasionally, you know, say things that you completely disagree with. because if you isolate yourself in a self-reinforcing bubble of opinions, you tend to only confirm your own view kwhs you g when you go on line. so find people to disagree with. >> right. those are good instructions for everybody listening in their daily habits of what they watch
2:01 pm
on television. what they read in the papers. who they follow on twitter. make sure we're being collectively as a society as objective as possible. thank you very much to thomas rid, professor of strategic studies at johns hopkins university. with a fantastic book out "active measures:the secret history of disinformation and political warfare." and heather conley, senior vice president for europe eurasia, and the author of the directed program at csis and many other great publications. thank you both for your participation. in a real serious look and an objective one at disinformation political warfare and other comparable terms. thanks, everyone. and see you. tonight on american history tv starting at 8:00 eastern, on july 23rd, 1967, detroit erupted
2:02 pm
in five days of rioting and violence sparked by a police raid on an illegal bar. and fueled by long simmering racial tensions. wxyztv was there. it's courtesy of the archives of michigan. watch american history tv tonight and over the weekend on espn c-span3. next, south carolina congressman james clyburn discusses the death of george floyd and president trump's response to the recent protests. this event with mr. clyburn who serves as the white house majority w.h.i.p. was hosted by "the washington post" and held by video conference. welcome to this special "washington post" live. i'm jonathan capehart, opinion writer for


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on