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October 6, 2018 10:38 a.m.

This is notable. I mentioned Thursday that the Trump White House is now trying to hold up China as the ‘real’ meddler in US elections, attempting to delegitimize the investigation into members of the Trump entourage conspiring with Russia. As I wrote then, we should be able to recognize this manipulation without needing to make any excuses for China’s documented and assumed behavior. Like all great powers, China has active and robust espionage and cyber-espionage operations. But Politico talked to various leaders in the private sector cyber-security industry and they say they’re not seeing any of what the Trump White House is claiming. So the White House line on this seems to be even more bogus than I’d imagined.

There’s one other point to note that can be an assist in not getting bamboozled by these claims. All countries practice espionage: stealing each others’ secrets, listening to each others’ phone calls, breaking into each others’ computer networks. What marked a big change was when Russia began using this material in an offensive capacity. An early hint of this came during the Ukraine crisis in 2014 when Russia listened in on the phone calls of a State Department official (totally standard) and then leaked a recording of the call on the web (not standard). This turned out to be a precursor of the 2016 campaign. This is the difference between intelligence collection and something more like information warfare and a disruption campaign. There’s a major difference.

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