The Still-Secret Cultivation of Alex Jones by Guccifer 2.0

One of the more interesting redactions in the SSCI Russia Report hides details of how dcleaks and Guccifer 2.0 reached out to Alex Jones. Citing to five pages of a report the title of which is also redacted, the four paragraphs appear between the discussions of Guccifer 2.0’s outreach to then-InfoWars affiliate Roger Stone and Guccifer 2.0 and dcleaks’ communication with each other.

Thomas Rid provides a bit of background in his book, Active Measures (which is good in some parts, offers details of the 2016 attack that aren’t readily public, but does really uneven and in a few places incorrect interpretation of what that evidence means).

The GRU’s active measures in 2016 were never meant to be stealthy, only to be effective. In early October, the Russian intelligence officers learned from an official press release of their American counterparts that their two U.S. front accounts had been exposed—which meant, in effect, that they knew the accounts were now under surveillance. Nevertheless, they still continued to use these very accounts to reach out privately to journalists, and to escalate their disinformation game.

On October 18, for example, as the election campaign was white hot and during the daily onslaught of Podesta leaks, both GRU fronts attempted to reach out to Alex Jones, a then-prominent conspiracy theorist who ran a far-right media organization called Infowars. The fronts contacted two reporters at Infowars, offered exclusive material, and asked to be put in touch with the boss directly. One of the reporters was Mikael Thalen, who then covered computer security. First it was DCleaks that contacted Thalen. Then, the following day, Guccifer 2.0 contacted him in a similar fashion. Thalen, however, saw through the ruse and was determined not to “become a pawn” of the Russian disinformation operation; after all, he worked at Infowars. So Thalen waited until his boss was live on a show and distracted, then proceeded to impersonate Jones vis-à-vis the Russian intelligence fronts.23

“Hey, Alex here. What can I do for you?” the faux Alex Jones privately messaged to the faux Guccifer 2.0 on Twitter, later on October 18.

“hi,” the Guccifer 2.0 account responded, “how r u?”

“Good. Just in between breaks on the show,” said the Jones account. “did u see my last twit about taxes?”

Thalen, pretending to be Jones, said he didn’t, and kept responses short. The officers manning the Guccifer 2.0 account, meanwhile, displayed how bad they were at media outreach work, and consequently how much value Julian Assange added to their campaign. “do u remember story about manafort?” they asked Jones in butchered English, referring to Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s former campaign manager. But Thalen no longer responded. “dems prepared to attack him earlier. I found out it from the docs. is it interesting for u?”24

Rid describes just one of two outreaches to Jones (through his IC sources, he may know of the report the SSCI relies on). And while Thalen claims to have rebuffed this one, as SSCI notes, he did publish a less pertinent story using stolen documents.

This one, however, uses as entrée some stolen documents from May 2016 showing that the Democrats were doing basic campaign research on Trump’s financials. It then purports to offer “Alex Jones” information on early Democratic attacks on Paul Manafort’s substantial Ukrainian graft, possibly part of the larger GRU effort to claim that Ukraine had planned an election year attack on Trump.

Rid, as he does throughout his analysis of the GRU personas, treats this as a failed attempt to sow disinformation, without considering the performative aspects of DMs sent by entities that know law enforcement can see those DMs.

Still, none of that explains why this passage was redacted, even while — with the unredacted reference to Thalen — making it clear that the redaction pertains to InfoWars and therefore is (as it is in the report) Roger Stone-adjacent. It may be SSCI considered ties between Guccifer 2.0 and another of Trump’s right wing propagandists too sensitive to release, as they did with other information damaging to Trump. It may be that the IC still considers this outreach to Jones sensitive.

9 replies
  1. Eureka says:

    Yeah I don’t find the prosocial+/-savvy explanation to be compelling (for why Thalen refused the Guccifer 2.0 offer). Or even that it was so much an offer (refused) vs a (storyline) tip-off, through a different channel, to Stone.

    Also missing how this (“after all, he worked at Infowars”) logically follows:

    Thalen, however, saw through the ruse and was determined not to “become a pawn” of the Russian disinformation operation; after all, he worked at Infowars.

    Credulous, snark, or bearing any validity? I don’t get it.

    Tangentially related: Why is it that Corsi had to take a wingnut-lateral over to their shop to get paid? WND just not fulfilling, payments not accessible through there, or too close to a hotseat / (another) actual channel to Assange (cf. tvor_22’s recent speculative comments re Ratner angle). Just keeping Corsi close and contained? (For now, so much of this stuff reads like the major players scrambling to cover their tracks, even if the new affiliations might seem more incriminating with more info come to light). (And again, my deepest sympathies that you read Corsi’s book, took another one for Team Democracy there, whew.)

  2. Ken Muldrew says:

    The word “savvy” in Eureka’s comment reminded me to ask for some help for those of us who move in less sophisticated speaking circles. Do the cognescenti pronounce Guccifer 1.0 as an Italian “goochifer” and Guccifer 2.0 as “goosifer”? I worry that I should look a proper flat if I was to feign some familiarity with the topic while revealing my ignorance through mispronunciation.

  3. bacchys says:

    Few journalists understand Information Operations. In their defense, few people in Information Operations in our Armed Forces really understand it, either, let alone those in command positions. Rid might well be an expert on technology and national security, but he’s clearly not an expert in IO.

    The purpose of IO is to get adversary and neutral decision-makers to make decisions which further one’s goals. I see far too many people, journalists and policy-makers, babble that Putin wants to “sow discord” in the U.S. That’s not his objective. Sowing discord isn’t a goal. It’s a tactic. Putin wants American decision-makers making decisions which benefit Russia and his objectives for Russia. He wants to expand Russia’s sphere of influence and he wants American decision-makers shrinking America’s influence as part of that. That’s why Trump is his boy: Trump wants to upend the current world order of Pax Americana and shrink America from the indispensable nation into just another grasping, mercantilist Power.

    • bmaz says:

      What a load of puffed up pablum. Yeah, no one but “you” could have ever surmised that shallow garbage. But you kind of have a history of that by my review of your comment history. Thanks so much for the edification!

      • soothsayer says:

        Ha, nice word use: pablum păb′ləm►
        n. Trite, insipid, or simplistic writing, speech, or conceptualization.
        n. A form of cereal for infants.
        n. A diet that does not require chewing.

        I can’t speak for the way it was stated overall, but as a basic premise, per the experts in the US Military and NATO, IO is in fact a ‘method’ of which would fall under tactics:, all of which as stated, is to achieve the strategic goal of upending the post-Cold War order.

        To wit, Fiona Hill has also stated that their goal is to cause chaos, so has the FBI, and other individuals and agencies. So any journalists, are in fact stating what has been stated by any of these individuals and organizations. Personally, I think it is an oversimplification, but premised on effectiveness, so as to get the populace to stop doing the basic thing Russia is causing us to do more of to our own detriment. In essence, KISS for the masses. But do we ever listen? Not really, we shall fight over nonsense, till the death of us. Why? Because we can.

        • soothsayer says:

          Oh, I was in fact complementing you on your word use, as I have not heard Pablum used in quite some time. Twas good. I have to sometimes remind myself, that tone and inflection are the first things lost in conversation on the inter webs, and I need to be more clear, especially when adding a twist of Canadian sarcasm, which I have come to accept does in itself not do well in American conversation. At least the Brits have their accents to aid their dry humor, us Canadians sometimes just get blank faces of confusion, or yes even derision for being lost in translation. Which is why we had to create such ridiculousness as Bob and Doug McKenzie, with base characterizations of ourselves.

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