Russian and Chinese Information Warfare: John Lenczowski

February 26th, 2019 – Art History Auditorium, University of Dallas

This talk on Russian and Chinese Information Warfare against the United States

draws from John Lenczowski’s expertise on Soviet affairs and the non-military arts of statecraft to discuss the modern-day challenges presented to us by the world’s other superpowers.

In this talk, he addresses Russian interference in our political system and the Chinese Communist Party’s propaganda, covert influence operations, and influence over American academia, think tanks, businesses, elections, Congressional representatives, and even Hollywood.

John Lenczowski is founder and president of The Institute of World Politics. From 1981 to 1983, Dr. Lenczowski served in the State Department in the Bureau of European Affairs and as Special Advisor and from 1983 to 1987, he was Director of European and Soviet Affairs at the National Security Council. In that capacity. He has been associated with several academic and research institutions in the Washington area, including Georgetown University, the University of Maryland, and the American Enterprise

Institute. Dr. Lenczowski attended the Thacher School, earned his B.A. at the University of California, Berkeley, and received his M.A. and Ph.D. from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced

International Studies.

Information Warfare: Defining and analysing/History as a means to win the information battle

Information Warfare Defining and Analysing – CyCon 2019

The 11th International Conference on Cyber Conflict (CyCon 2019) organized by NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence (CCDCOE) in Tallinn revolved around the theme of Silent Battle. The defence community is nearing a stage where it can precisely define information warfare but is yet to reach a consensus on how best to analyse it. 

The panel entitled ´Information Warfare: defining and analyzing´ will assess some of the emerging methodologies that researchers have been using to identify and analyse digital information operations, with a special focus on the applicability of Social Network Analysis (SNA) in the cyber arena. Speakers and Topics: – Social Network Analysis and the Disinformation Kill Chain by Renee DiResta, Mozilla Fellow, Media Misinformation and Trust – Challenges and Opportunities to Counter Information Operations Through Social Network Analysis and Theory by Alicia Marie Bargar, Research Engineer, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory – Hostile Information Environment Analysis by MAJ Geoff Nicholls, Officer, The British Army Moderator: Donara Barojan, DFR Lab / NATO StratCom COE The NATO CCDCOE is a NATO-accredited cyber defence hub focusing on research, training and exercises. 

The international military organisation based in Estonia is a community of currently 25 nations providing a 360-degree look at cyber defence, with expertise in the areas of technology, strategy, operations and law. **Note that some CyCon 2019 presentations were submitted and created in a personal capacity and are not necessarily affiliated with, nor representative of, the views of the speakers’ respective organisations**

Understanding History as means to win Information Warfare Battle: Aleksandras Matonis at TEDxVilnius

Aleksandras Matonis is diplomat, journalist and editor at Lithuanian National Radio and Television. 

Aleksandras believes that country’s history – the way it is perceived by different nations – is a strong tool for creating national identity. Aleksandras is creator of recently released educational movie about the Battle of Grunwald – movie based on Swedish professor Sven Ekdahl theory which he wrote after studying secret historic archives for the past few decades.

 He claims that the facts we are used to hear about this battle are not the ones that are scientifically proved. In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.* (*Subject to certain rules and regulations)

Soviet Active Measures (1984) Still relevant today

Reviews Various Measures, Including Disinformation, Bribery, Forgery, and Overall Dirty Tricks Employed Abroad by The Soviet Union to Further Its aims. Includes Interviews with Newsweek’s Former Chief Correspondent Arnaud De Borchgrave, State Department Official Dennis Kux, French Journalist/author Jean Francois Revel, Former Soviet Kgb Officer Stanislav Levchenko, and Former Czechoslovak Intelligence Officer Ladislav Bittman (the latter two are defectors who had direct personal experience of Active Measures). Documents Communist actions and intentions. National Archives and Records Administration – Arc Identifier 54826 / Local Identifier 306.9798 – Soviet Active Measures – U.S. Information Agency. (1982 – 10/01/1999).

Narrative Strategies – the weaponization of information

Thank you for the encouraging messages I continue to receive regarding the content of this website.  I would like to take this opportunity to answer a regular question regarding my academic activities with Narrative Strategies.

 I am still a member of the Washington DC based think tank and consultancy Narrative Strategies and continue to work with subject matter experts from various disciplines researching and identifying new developments in the field of information warfare which is being  conducted by state and non-state players.  

This is my personal blog and has no connection with Narrative Strategies but further information regarding the  ongoing research in this field of non-kinetic warfare including the weaponization of information can be found by visiting the link below.

Again, thank you for your positive comments

Regards

Alan

Psychological Manipulation via Social Media and the concept of self-identity (first published 2016)

Editorial: Although first published in 2016 I feel the following is still relevant irrespective of whether we are examining state or non-state players using information within the cognitive domain to influence and change behaviour among a target audience.

Although I started researching this subject 11-years ago and the research continues, after recently reading an excellent paper on ‘The Psychology Behind Social Media Interactions’, By Dr Liraz Margalt, who is now one of my LI connections, I decided to write this brief introduction to manipulation based on my own observations of the ‘virtual world’. Many of these observations support several theories put forward by various academics studying both the ‘real’ and ‘virtual world’.

During her examination of the question, ‘why is digital communications often easier than face to face communications’; after reading her views on the social interaction theory of mind and emotional involvement, I found the following of particular interest as it fits my own research observations. “When interacting with other people”, she writes, “we automatically make inferences about them without being consciously aware of it…”.  Liraz, further explains that during face-to-face interactions we subconsciously rely heavily on non-verbal communications such as facial expressions etc. This, as she says, suggests that interaction with human partners require more emotional involvement and thus more cognitive effort than interacting via a computer.

Due to this lack of ‘synchronous’ interaction (subconscious exchanges of non-verbal communications, speech structure; the use of oblique remarks etc.)  I agree with her assertion- it is easier to hide our emotions online.  Based my own observations, I have also come to the conclusion it is also easier to psychologically manipulate or be manipulated in the ‘virtual’ world due to the lack of these behavioral cues we subconsciously detect and process during face-to-face interactions. 

Contagion and Uncritical Thinkers

Fiske (2013) and others have shown that emotional states can be transferred to others by what they describe as emotional contagion which lead others to experience the same emotions without their awareness.  This ‘contagion’ may lead to the mind creating a view of the world by acquiring insights and an amalgam of rational and irrational beliefs (see Paul and Elder). This is similar to the contagion theory of crowds. One of several interpretations of this theory includes- the effect of a crowd is to assimilate individuals within it, producing and overriding psychological unity and changing an individuals’ usual psychological responses in the process (Statt. D, A Dictionary of Human Behavior, Harper Reference)

This process may contain a degree of self-deception which has been deliberately imparted, identified or exploited by an extremist groomer/recruiter who has used the lack of cognitive cues within the virtual world to his/her advantage.     

Although there are multiple drivers leading to violent extremism (VE) which are usually mutually reinforcing, one concept of particular interest is people who are described as ‘uncritical thinkers’, which Elder describes as ‘intellectually unskilled thinkers’. Some academics have also used the term ‘unreflective thinkers’.  People who fit this category, according to Elder- their minds are products of social and personal forces they neither understand and can’t control.  Taking Elder’s argument forward, by observing social media networks we see these ‘uncritical thinkers’ being manipulated by those who tend to skilfully use the rhetoric of persuasion. The rhetoric of persuasion used by extremist groomers and recruiters include oversimplification, sweeping generalizations and the use of stereotypes to enforce prejudices and false quandaries in an attempt to promote a culture of blame and the need for retribution. Over time, the groomer will identify those more likely to accept, without question, the narratives associated with VE and with it the ideology.  This ‘induction’ is the prerequisite for believing in a shared identity which embraces violent ‘jihad’. (see focal actors – https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/basic-analysis-social-media-examining-use-drivers-alan-malcher-ma?trk=pulse_spock-articles)

Identity and Selective self-presentation

Identity is a construct that incorporates the way we think about ourselves and our role/position within the larger social environment. As cyberspace and VE ideology is a global phenomenon, both can have a powerful effect on ones view of the world and ‘perceived’ grievances. 

Although online identities may be difficult to ascertained due to identity cues being masked or purposely misrepresented, by careful observations and comparisons, online activities and their visible traces may be analysed. If we take LinkedIn as an example, many members who have confronted Russian trolls have identified the use of Selective Self-Presentation to reveal a number of false profiles held by one person. The term ‘selective’  is used to describe a false profile which has been selected for a given purpose. For instance, in the case of Russian propagandists some may claim to be involved in international affairs in the hope of encouraging greater credibility to their comments and other internet activities. Likewise, it is not uncommon for those with a terrorist agenda to claim they are professionally involved in ‘positive’ occupations such as human rights, humanitarian aid etc.

 Asynchronous

In the ‘real world’ human interaction and communications are of a synchronous nature- non-verbal communications, eye contact, speech tones etc., and this is a two- way process giving further meaning and substance to the conversation.

CMC (computer-mediated communications) is of an asynchronous nature and thus void of any meaningful communications and identity cues. This time delay allows sufficient time to carefully compose messages tailored to meet the needs and also appeal to the subject/s being manipulated by the focal actor (extremist groomer/recruiter).  For example, in an earlier thread a young person may have mentioned concerns regarding their home life, problems at schools or concerns regarding their employment situation. Although the focal actor may have no personal experience of these problems the natural time delay in responding provides opportunities to use the Internet to read-up on these concerns. They are now in a position to offer ‘disguised’ advice and support. Showing empathy and creating rapport are among the methods used during the induction phase.   

The above represents just some of the methods used to encourage belief in a common or collective identity which is the foundation of VE ideology. 

Reference and further reading:

The Psychology behind social media interpretation, Liraz margalt, Psychology Today, 29 August 2014.

 A Psychological Perspective on virtual communities: Supporting terrorism and extremist’s ideology, Lorraine Bowman-Grievet, Security Informatics, 2013, (2:9)

Primer of Deception, Joseph W. Caddel, Strategic Studies Institute, December 2004

Lying Words: Predicting deception from linguistic styles, Matthew Newman, James W. Penneboke, University of Texas and University of Washington, 2003.

Induced negative subliminal reactions to radical media: Countering recruiting methods in a congested media environment, Small Wars Journal, 7 August 2016.

 Manipulation through mental distortion and emotional exploitation, Susan T. Fiske, Academy of Sciences, Princetown University, 23 October 2013.

Fallacies: The art of mental trickery and manipulation, Richard Paul and Linda Elder, Foundation of Critical Thinking 2004 (Understanding self-deception)

Future Identities: Changing Identities in the UK- the next ten-years, Social Media and identity, Nicole Ellison, Michigan State University 3 January 2013. 
For current research and recent publications go to https://www.narrative-strategies.com/

Iraq- Another Sphere of Iranian Influence? (first published 2015)

Although there continues to be accounts of Iraqi security forces making increasing military gains against the Islamic State Group, many of the successful campaigns have been fought by a number of Shiite militias loyal to Tehran, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and their Special Forces branch called the Quds Forces (alternatively spelt Qhods or Qods). It is also known that all forces, both Shiite and Sunni, are commanded and advised by Iranian officers and they report to Major General Qasem Soliemani of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and Commander of Quds Forces.

Quds Forces

This is the Special Forces section of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard whose members are known for their military skills and commitment to the Islamic Revolution. This elite force is responsible for all extraterritorial operations and reports directly to the Supreme Commander of Iran, Ali Khamenei.

Although this is a covert force, well-placed commentators say Quds Forces consist of combatants, military trainers, those responsible for overseeing foreign assets, politics, sabotage and intelligence gathering. In 2004 Quds Forces Headquarters was moved to the Iranian- Iraq border to monitor events inside Iraq and it soon became clear that political instability, tribal friction and a breakdown in Iraq’s internal security capabilities made the country vulnerable to Iran’s superior military forces, subversion and political intimidation.

The steady advance of the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant into Northern Iraq provided Tehran with the excuse to ‘assist’ Iraq in expelling these extremist insurgents. Initially, a small number of military advisors from Quds Forces provided military training and small arms to various Shiite Militia groups know to be friendly towards Iran, Iranian airstrikes on extremist positions soon followed which coincided with more Iranian forces and members of Hezbolloh training and advising an increasing number of militias.

As the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (later called Islamic State) made further advances across Iraq, communities throughout the country became aware of the mounting atrocities and recognised that government forces were unable to stop their advance. Due to this increasing threat from extremist insurgents, many of the tribal combatants came to the obvious conclusion they could not rely on the Iraqi Security Forces for their country’s defence and saw Iran as their only option. This allowed Iran to seize the opportunity to increase their military and political presence in Iraq. Consequently, Tehran can argue that not only was military intervention essential in order to secure their borders, this intervention was as a direct result of ‘popular’ demand from the Iraqi people!

Although Iranian involvement in Iraq is not reported by the state owned media, some Iraqi officials have been more forthcoming when speaking to the western media. On 23 March 2014, Iraq’s vice president Iyad Allawi told various journalists, including Sky News, “Iran’s role, doing what they are doing, and sending officers to fight and lead is not acceptable”. He also declared that Baghdad is becoming the capital of the Persian Empire.

Allawi also said “The strong Iranian presence in Iraq is not new, but just how visible it has become is quite staggering…”

Iraqi officials and members of Sunni communities continue to complain and express concerns about pictures of Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei being plastered on walls throughout the country.

“The posters of Khamenei sends shivers up my spine and there will be a high price to pay for Iranian involvement … The failure of this country means the failure of the whole region…” Allawi told western reporters.

The stability of the entire region now hangs in the balance as Iran increases its influence by filling Iraq’s political vacuum, and proving the countries’ security needs. There is a real danger that the whole or parts of Iraq will become another proxy state, an informal extension of the Persian Empire.