A matter of days after Putin admitted in an interview with Mir TV that U.S.-Russia relations were deteriorating by the hour, the DIA came out and reiterated its already debunked accusation of a couple of weeks ago that Russia is testing low-yield nuclear weapons.
Additionally, this past Saturday, the NYT reported that the U.S. government has recently escalated cyber intrusions into the Russian power grid:
WASHINGTON — The United States is stepping up digital incursions into Russia’s electric power grid in a warning to President Vladimir V. Putin and a demonstration of how the Trump administration is using new authorities to deploy cybertools more aggressively, current and former government officials said.
In interviews over the past three months, the officials described the previously unreported deployment of American computer code inside Russia’s grid and other targets as a classified companion to more publicly discussed action directed at Moscow’s disinformation and hacking units around the 2018 midterm elections.
According to the article, the Pentagon’s U.S. Cyber Command had been granted significant new leeway by both the president and Congress in 2018, supposedly in preparation for possible election interference from Russia in the mid-term elections.
….The administration declined to describe specific actions it was taking under the new authorities, which were granted separately by the White House and Congress last year to United States Cyber Command, the arm of the Pentagon that runs the military’s offensive and defensive operations in the online world….
….But now the American strategy has shifted more toward offense, officials say, with the placement of potentially crippling malware inside the Russian system at a depth and with an aggressiveness that had never been tried before. It is intended partly as a warning, and partly to be poised to conduct cyberstrikes if a major conflict broke out between Washington and Moscow….
….Mr. Trump issued new authorities to Cyber Command last summer, in a still-classified document known as National Security Presidential Memoranda 13, giving General Nakasone far more leeway to conduct offensive online operations without receiving presidential approval….
But the action inside the Russian electric grid appears to have been conducted under little-noticed new legal authorities, slipped into the military authorization bill passed by Congress last summer. The measure approved the routine conduct of “clandestine military activity” in cyberspace, to “deter, safeguard or defend against attacks or malicious cyberactivities against the United States.”
Under the law, those actions can now be authorized by the defense secretary without special presidential approval.
It’s interesting that under the (now mostly debunked, unsubstantiated, or grossly exaggerated) hysterical election-interference-by-Russia claims since 2016, some powerful organs of the national security state have gotten even more power to potentially cause all sorts of mischief that could get us into a serious confrontation with the world’s other nuclear superpower. What has been the consequence of these increased powers that the national security state wants to flex?
“It has gotten far, far more aggressive over the past year,” one senior intelligence official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity but declining to discuss any specific classified programs. “We are doing things at a scale that we never contemplated a few years ago.”
The critical question — impossible to know without access to the classified details of the operation — is how deep into the Russian grid the United States has bored. Only then will it be clear whether it would be possible to plunge Russia into darkness or cripple its military — a question that may not be answerable until the code is activated.
Furthermore, members of the national security state have acknowledged that they have been reticent in providing details to President Trump of these activities since they fear that he’ll decide to somehow block, modify or mitigate them.
Pentagon and intelligence officials described broad hesitation to go into detail with Mr. Trump about operations against Russia for concern over his reaction — and the possibility that he might countermand it or discuss it with foreign officials, as he did in 2017 when he mentioned a sensitive operation in Syria to the Russian foreign minister.
According to the constitution, however, the president would have the right to use his judgment to do this on behalf of national security goals like leveraging potential diplomatic negotiations. Am I wrong to conclude that the military and intelligence agencies are supposed to ultimately be subservient to the commander in chief and not the other way around? Even if you don’t happen to like a particular commander in chief?
The NYT article continued,
Because the new law defines the actions in cyberspace as akin to traditional military activity on the ground, in the air or at sea, no such briefing would be necessary, they added.
Is this wise? Where is the debate on this within the media or among presidential candidates about the possible dangers of such escalations between the world’s two nuclear superpowers? Where is the demand for diplomacy? Is Putin standing in the way? According to reports on the Helsinki meeting, Putin proposed an agreement where both countries would promise not to interfere with each other’s domestic elections or infrastructure. Trump – whom we were constantly told is Putin’s bitch – ultimately demurred.
Who benefits from this continual consolidation of powers among the un-elected and unaccountable organs of the national security state, which will no doubt remain in place after Trump leaves and a president more acceptable to the liberal meritocracy camp occupies the White House? How do average Americans possibly benefit from the national security state’s continual game of chicken with Russia?