In last Thursday’s podcast, Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks hosted Denise Simon, an intelligence analyst, talking about the way hostile foreign powers can use AI to generate false information. Denise Simon describes that and other techniques as a “new art form” and this time she explains how Russia uses it against the United States.
A partial transcript follows. This portion begins at about 09.33. Show notes and links follow.
Robert J. Marks: We’ve been talking primarily about disrupting media with fake news. What other sort of things are the Russians doing?
Denise Simon: They will create fake companies in the United States. They will hide money and people in the United States. In fact, they just found three houses in Atlanta that are part of money laundering.
Real estate is one of the largest most successful ways to have front companies and do money laundering and other pretty nasty things like weapons trafficking and so forth. They do it through fake people and fake things in real estate. Now interestingly enough, Miami is a very big location, as is New York and London. So yeah, it’s a whole other realm of responsibilities and accountabilities that our State Department has to stay on top of as the Defense Intelligence agency does.
Robert J. Marks: You mentioned the Mueller Report, in which a special prosecutor was tasked with looking into whether or not Donald Trump was encouraging the Russians to tamper with US elections… As an analyst, putting the Mueller report and everything aside, do you think Donald Trump was involved in that?
Denise Simon: No, I don’t. It was a perfect opportunity for the Kremlin to cause chaos in the United States. That is one of the more successful things that Russia does. You can lure a person into thinking that there’s a new relationship that could be beneficial for Trump businesses or Trump politicians or the Trump administration and they could necessarily think they might be doing a good thing. It’s beyond dispute that Trump and his corporation were interested in developing real estate interests in Russia. And so the Kremlin would decide, “Okay, let’s cause some real chaos here and we’ll spin off on that and we’ll inject that into politics in the United States.”
Successfully so, because we went through a three-year investigation in which Robert Mueller… found a lot of people but there was really nothing of substance there.
Robert J. Marks: Those that are going to be influenced by this Russia campaign of misinformation look to be, in my opinion, the mushy middle, those that really don’t have a solid basis and can actually easily be swayed by this information. I think people that are sitting on a firmer foundation might not be swayed. What’s your opinion on this? Do you think that this misinformation campaign is going to have an effect on America?
Denise Simon: Well, it does. We went through three years of chaos with this investigation, but it’s been going on going all the way back to when Secretary Robert Gates was Chief of Staff and when he was head of the CIA. He wrote a couple of books on it and they’re really quite fascinating. At the time, in one of his books, he actually said that during, I think it was the Reagan administration, when we had the illegal immigrants coming across the border, Reagan was forced to, I think, didn’t he give them amnesty? Secretary Gates blamed that on the Russians because the Russians’ influence is very real. The footprint is very real in Latin America. It was causing chaos.
Robert J. Marks: The late Russian foreign minister, Evgeny Primakov (1929–2015, pictured) offered a doctrine that complements the doctrine of Russian army general Valery Gerasimov. Both doctrines were meant to improve the military stance of Russia on the world stage, the military and the political stance, especially Russia’s political stance with the United States. Our guest today says that Gerasimov and Primakov doctrines have merged and we in the United States need to understand this Russian mischief. Could you quickly review the Gerasimov Doctrine concerning cyber events aimed at the world?
Denise Simon: The Gerasimov Doctrine was an outline, a pretty extensive outline, on redefining the military and non-military tactics of Russia. What he was essentially saying is that we have to be ready with weaponry of all sorts, including soft weaponry, which would be all things cyber, to address new horizons, because we’re getting away from the conventional hard hardware if you will.
We just don’t do tanks anymore and put thousands of boots on the ground. We do other things. That includes drones, which are done remotely, but drones are not just armed with munitions. They’re also armed with surveillance capabilities and the information that they collect goes back to certain centers where Russian experts would analyze and then grade that information. We do the same thing.
What Gerasimov was arguing is we can’t just hope that we can create smart bombs and then have them deliver because one, they’re expensive; two, they have to keep factories going, and then they have to be delivered. We have to be prepared in other ways. Russia knew that they were behind, so they developed some advances that they were able to collaborate with China on. Of course, China is getting it from us because they steal everything from us.
Then you have Yevgeny Primakov. He was a politician. He was also, I think, a foreign minister at one point. He was probably more closely tied to all things Kremlin because the Russian leadership has a certain agenda. They want to expand their footprint, which means they want to be a little bit more of a force in Eastern Europe. They have certain ambitions in Latin America and now in the Middle East obviously, and in Africa. The prudent thing to do would be to marry those two doctrines and apply all things that are one, cheaper, and two, cyber-based, for their objectives.
Now, what all their objectives are, we out here don’t know, but we would probably get very fascinating answers when it came to the State Department, the National Security Agency, or the Pentagon.
Robert J. Marks: In fact, this is a word I learned from you also, maskirovka. What is maskirovka?
Denise Simon: I’ve mentioned many times what is known as active measures. In the Russian world, it’s maskirovka, which is to obfuscate or deceive—both on and off the battlefield.
Here’s the earlier installment: Not conspiracy theory: How online trolls can control your news. The way the internet works makes that possible. Internet troll houses, posting fake news, can operate from any location. So when in doubt, doubt.
And the later one: Today’s Russian diplomacy: Deepfakes and radioactive poisons Because deepfakes are getting harder to spot, American news platforms waste time and energy trying to root them out. Analyst Denise Simon says Russia is putting a great deal of emphasis on catching up with the United States in AI but resorts to old-fashioned poisoning now and then.
Note: The photo of Valery Gerasimov (b. 1955) is an official photo released in 2017 by mil.ru
- 00:33 | Introducing Denise Simon, Senior Research / Intelligence Analyst for Foreign and Domestic Policy
- 01:22 | AI as part of military drills
- 03:12 | Psychological aspects of war
- 04:17 | The Gerasimov doctrine
- 07:42 | The Internet Research Agency
- 09:23 | Other psychological war tactics
- 10:49 | The Mueller report and election interference
- 12:53 | The effect of misinformation
- 14:17 | The Gerasimov Doctrine
- 16:43 | The Primakov Doctrine
- 17:50 | Maskirovka and deepfakes
- 19:08 | Russian artificial intelligence
- 21:39 | Russian video and audio deepfakes
- 23:33 | Eliot Higgins’ investigations
- 25:43 | Use of robotics and AI by Russia
- 27:08 | Responding to these technological threats
- Denise Simon’s blog, Founder’s Code
- The Denise Simon Experience
- “AI in War Means Deepfakes as Well as Killerbots” by Denise Simon at Mind Matters News
- “Do Bots Spreading False News Really Threaten Democracy?” by Denyse O’Leary at Mind Matters News
- Valery Gerasimov
- Yevgeny Primakov
- Eliot Higgins