The Chan Problem

 

The recently released “Twitter files” contain numerous references to a senior FBI official named Elvis Chan.  Chan has a very substantive tech background—twelve years in the semiconductor industry and he even holds two patents. He a leading figure in the FBI’s defense against foreign cyber attacks.  It would make perfect sense for him to be in contact with managers at Twitter, Google, Microsoft, and Facebook when actual foreign threats are detected or expected.

But the evidence in the “Twitter files” and the depositions taken by the Missouri AG points to Chan among those (a) aggressively promoting the utterly false notion that the Hunter Biden laptop was a Russian disinformation ploy and (b) urging the suppression of the New York Post story about the laptop’s contents. [Disclaimer:  The timing, context, and nature of Chan’s emails about a “disinformation” attack strongly suggest that his intent was to persuade (lean on) Twitter to censor the story–the Twitter people certainly took it that way.  However, I have not yet seen an email where Chan himself expressly called for the suppression of the laptop story.]

The ”Chan Problem” is how seamlessly and easily the apparatus for prudent and necessary cyber-defense can morph into raw government censorship and message control.  Let’s stipulate that Russian, Iranian, North Korean, Chinese and other bad guys constantly probe our data and media infrastructure and therefore we need guys like Elvis Chan to defend against that.  But in 2020, the dozens of federal employees tasked to defend us against foreign interference and election distortion fostered a deception on a level that foreign bad guys could only envy.

The full weight of federal intelligence and law enforcement turned into the very thing that they were supposed to protect us against and nobody on the inside seemed to notice or care. 

None of these people are Soviet agents or obvious sociopaths yet they abused and knowingly distorted American political discourse.  Memos, emails, and meeting verbiage all consonant with a legitimate mission to defeat foreign bad guys can also easily provide rhetorical cover for a campaign to tag domestic American political opposition (or merely inconvenient facts and opinion)  as an extension of some foreign enemy’s cyber attack.

If it were one bad apple, it would be a different problem.  But the evidence indicates that there was no cognitive tension, no recognition that a line has been crossed, no doubts expressed (except by folks at Twitter!!) nor any hint of dissension, and still, no whistleblower has come forward.

A terrible legacy of the War on Terror is that we have created an institutional monster, an unaccountable force that can now instantly enforce whatever viewpoint or institutional self-interest accrues within its increasingly filtered ranks.  Like a college campus, the FBI appears to be squeezing out potential dissident voices to achieve a comfortable monolithic culture and group identity. Even in its heyday, the Stasi probably had more internal diversity of opinion.  We need to ask whether the Stasi motto of “Schild und Schwert der Partei” (The Shield and Sword of the Party) is more applicable to the current FBI than “Fidelity, Bravery, Integrity.”

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  1. WiesbadenJake Coolidge
    WiesbadenJake
    @WiesbadenJake

    This was the danger of the Patriot Act and the creation of the Dept. of Homeland Security with such broad, sweeping powers and little, if any, accountability and oversight. I am sure Mr. Chan, and other functionaries, whether govt. employees or tech company employees, had unimpeachable motives–the republic must be protected at all costs from the greatest danger America has ever faced–Donald Trump. Just look at the behavior of the FISA court, overseen by the chief justice of the Supreme Court. With all of the abuses of that court system, we have seen no serious sanction or reform of the FISA court system. We chose safety over liberty when a trusted president (at least by the majority of conservatives, Bush) was in office and gave assurances–we may have chosen badly. I do not have much confidence that this genie goes back in the bottle.

    • #1
  2. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    Old Bathos:

    The ”Chan Problem” is how seamlessly and easily the apparatus for prudent and necessary cyber-defense can morph into raw government censorship and message control.  Let’s stipulate that Russian, Iranian, North Korean, Chinese and other bad guys constantly probe our data and media infrastructure and therefore we need guys like Elvis Chan to defend against that.  But in 2020, the dozens of federal employees tasked to defend us against foreign interference and election distortion fostered a deception on a level that foreign bad guys could only envy.

    The full weight of federal intelligence and law enforcement turned into the very thing that they were supposed to protect us against and nobody on the inside seemed to notice or care. 

    All the more reason to view the decades of destruction levied through our public education system by the federal government through influencing all the institutions affecting the education process.  When I went through the public education system in the 1950’s I, and all my fellow students, learned many things about the founding, our history, and what it meant to be American. I don’t see this in our later generations particularly after about 1990. So the propagandizing success is to be expected. All the preparatory work has been done. There is something deeper and more sinister to be revealed.

    • #2
  3. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat
    @drbastiat

    Old Bathos: The full weight of federal intelligence and law enforcement turned into the very thing that they were supposed to protect us against and nobody on the inside seemed to notice or care. 

    That’s a very charitable view of their purpose, in my opinion.

    They were tyrants from the beginning.

    • #3
  4. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):

    Old Bathos: The full weight of federal intelligence and law enforcement turned into the very thing that they were supposed to protect us against and nobody on the inside seemed to notice or care.

    That’s a very charitable view of their purpose, in my opinion.

    They were tyrants from the beginning.

    Harsh.  Some of those people did actually combat Iranian and Russian hackers.  My suspicion is that their pride of expertise creates a superiority complex (like much of white-collar America) and a presumed entitlement to prevent lesser types from having a voice or a share of electoral power.  CIA disorder (Contagious Insider Arrogance).

    • #4
  5. cdor Member
    cdor
    @cdor

    Well put, Old Bathos. I used to go along with the concept that it was the “7th floor” that contained the rot at the FBI. But even in the beginning of the Russia hoax and the spying by the FBI on the candidate, then President-elect, and all the way to POTUS Donald Trump I started to question the concept that the “rank and file” were good guys and only the leadership was corrupt. After all, doesn’t the leadership mostly start out as rank and file? At what point do they become so power-thirsty that they forgo their oaths of office and become more illicit than the “criminals” they are supposed to be catching? Nobody working in the high echelons is swatting people in the middle of the night. Those are all rank and file, and I am not seeing dozens of those men and women resigning from the FBI because they have been ordered to perform duties that later turn out to be political and illegal.

    • #5
  6. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Margot Cleveland in the Federalist   made clear that the FBI was covering their backsides by the way they worded their “requests”:

    ‘Twitter folks,’ the typical email began, followed by, ‘Please see below list of Twitter accounts which we believe are violating your terms of service by disseminating false information about the time, place, or manner of the upcoming elections.’ In general, the FBI then ended the emails by indicating the FBI had provided the information ‘for any action or inaction deem[ed] appropriate within Twitter policy.’

    Such language indicates the FBI wanted to be seen as seeking cooperation, not coercion. Thus, under controlling precedent, the government alerting Twitter to what the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, or others believed constituted ‘misinformation’ did not turn Twitter into a state actor.

    • #6
  7. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    The censorship issue includes Google and Wikipedia as well. I don’t have a photographic memory, but when something interests me, I often remember what and where I’ve read it. It’s part of my work, and it saves me enormous amounts of time hunting for things so it’s a memory function that is always on.

    The pandemic began to get coverage in the Wall Street Journal in late November 2019. I know that’s when the coverage started because it was near Thanksgiving that year, and I was talking about it so much when my kids were here for that holiday that they were making fun of me. :) My daughter was living in Manhattan, and I tried to dissuade her from returning. “Stay here until January. Go back after the holidays.” She laughed. :)

    In December 2019, I started looking into the 1918 pandemic. I was thinking that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was overreacting–just because they could–in imposing the lockdowns, and I was thinking, hoping, “That could never happen here!” Unfortunately, world leaders influence each other. We like to think they keep their own counsel, but that never happens. We human beings are social animals, and we seek human contact among people we consider to be like us, and so the world leaders socialize with each other, and that’s how badness spreads around the globe. You’ll just have to trust me on this. It’s how the world works, every time.

    At any rate, much to my surprise, our own CDC began flirting with the idea, and the idea gained traction with the eruption of the pandemic hot spot in Lombardy, Italy. (By the way, to Trump’s everlasting credit, I think he correctly zeroed in on the global problem: the World Health Organization, which was disseminating throughout the world the CCP’s deadly, iron-fisted, and useless response to the pandemic. I found it very interesting that both Trump and I saw the geopolitical situation the same way and that he withdrew U.S. financial support from the WHO when he did.)

    I became obsessed with learning more about the CDC’s role and experience in handling the 1918 pandemic. What worked and what didn’t? I came across a study cited on Wikipedia and linked to the CDC’s own report. That study has disappeared from both Wikipedia and the CDC–or if it is still reported, its findings have been so edited they are unrecognizable from what I originally read.

    [comment continues in comment 8]

    • #7
  8. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    [continued from comment 7]

    The study was done within a five-year period of the 1918 pandemic. It reported on four cities, of which one was Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but I don’t remember the other three. Each city had tried a different containment strategy for the pandemic. The city with the most stringent lockdowns fared the worst in terms of the final death count. This study would have ended the United States’ notion of trying lockdowns as a way to control the spread of the covid virus. In the report, it said this study was why the CDC never recommended lockdowns to contain disease. Quarantine sick people, not everyone else. That was their official position. There were also studies about masks and social distancing. The CDC’s own findings were that the only factor that seemed to make a difference in the outcomes geographically was the amount and quality of nursing care people received when they were sick.

    Dr. Fauci himself cited this study in the American Experience documentary about the 1918 flu in which he was interviewed extensively. The documentary preceded the covid pandemic, and so it was not political. He talked a lot about the measures the CDC had taken in 1918. What jumped out at me when I watched it was that all of the things the CDC was doing in response to the covid pandemic were exactly the same as what had been tried and found ineffective in 1918. A man without any new ideas on how to contain upper-respiratory disease (he was in the middle of the worst global flu pandemic in history when he participated in the making of this documentary), all he did in 2019 through 2021 was tell the world to do things he knew would not work, by his own admission. He had no new suggestions.

    My point is that the government is very much controlling the issuance and flow of information both in the print media and the Internet. I greatly admire Elon Musk’s efforts to publicize Twitter’s relationship with the government. I don’t think his actions will sever those ties, but I hope they make readers more aware that seeing words in respectable type lit up on their computer monitor does not mean they are reading the unbiased, fact-driven truth. It can be hard to break that spell, but Elon Musk is trying to do that. Question everything.

    One reason I like printed books better than the Internet is that printed books are harder to change. Once you’ve seen it, you can retrace your steps and find it again. Not so on the Internet. And definitely not so on government agency websites.

    • #8
  9. genferei Member
    genferei
    @genferei

    Who would have guessed that the FBI, established as a sort of Presidential praetorian guard, would end up wanting to choose the Emperor themselves?

    • #9
  10. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    MarciN (View Comment):
    One reason I like printed books better than the Internet is that printed books are harder to change. Once you’ve seen it, you can retrace your steps and find it again. Not so on the Internet. And definitely not so on government agency websites.

    I had found some pre-COVID material on the lack of efficacy of lockdowns and masks and thought I had bookmarked it but that content was gone or different when I went back.  There are a lot of Winston Smiths out there busily serving the Ministry of Truth. 

    • #10
  11. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    Old Bathos (View Comment):

    MarciN (View Comment):
    One reason I like printed books better than the Internet is that printed books are harder to change. Once you’ve seen it, you can retrace your steps and find it again. Not so on the Internet. And definitely not so on government agency websites.

    I had found some pre-COVID material on the lack of efficacy of lockdowns and masks and thought I had bookmarked it but that content was gone or different when I went back. There are a lot of Winston Smiths out there busily serving the Ministry of Truth.

    That’s what happened to me too. Very creepy. 

    • #11
  12. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    MarciN (View Comment):

    Old Bathos (View Comment):

    MarciN (View Comment):
    One reason I like printed books better than the Internet is that printed books are harder to change. Once you’ve seen it, you can retrace your steps and find it again. Not so on the Internet. And definitely not so on government agency websites.

    I had found some pre-COVID material on the lack of efficacy of lockdowns and masks and thought I had bookmarked it but that content was gone or different when I went back. There are a lot of Winston Smiths out there busily serving the Ministry of Truth.

    That’s what happened to me too. Very creepy.

    This technique of erasing any reports of past events will enable them to deny all the wrong positions advocated by deleting any such references..

    • #12
  13. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson
    • #13
  14. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    Wow. Comment thirteen must have been really seditious for them to zap it so quickly.

    • #14
  15. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    Old Bathos (View Comment):

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    Wow. Comment thirteen must have been really seditious for them to zap it so quickly.

    No, I zapped it because it was a duplicate. I should have indicated that. Sorry.

    • #15
  16. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    MarciN (View Comment):

    Old Bathos (View Comment):

    MarciN (View Comment):
    One reason I like printed books better than the Internet is that printed books are harder to change. Once you’ve seen it, you can retrace your steps and find it again. Not so on the Internet. And definitely not so on government agency websites.

    I had found some pre-COVID material on the lack of efficacy of lockdowns and masks and thought I had bookmarked it but that content was gone or different when I went back. There are a lot of Winston Smiths out there busily serving the Ministry of Truth.

    That’s what happened to me too. Very creepy.

    This technique of erasing any reports of past events will enable them to deny all the wrong positions advocated by deleting any such references..

    Lesson learned:  Copy and paste all information you want to keep from the Web, with suitable date/time info for further reference.

    • #16
  17. OmegaPaladin Moderator
    OmegaPaladin
    @OmegaPaladin

    That raises a question – how can you have a government capable of defending the country from external threats (while a militia can make a country impossible to control, they cannot stop a military juggernaut from just destroying all infrastructure and civilization) without giving away freedom?  

    I think a big part of our problem is that so many of those in charge do not support the American values of free speech, individualism, etc.

    • #17
  18. Jhan Coolidge
    Jhan
    @JanHanson

    If you travel by air you see the remnants of the Patriot Act. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been patted down by some elmbarrassed TSA agent because the xray saw something that wasn’t there. . Do you think we’ll get our freedoms back? Or get our DIGNITY back? At the very least be able to enjoy traveling without being assaulted and insulted or treated like criminals? 

    How many 911s have been stopped by these infringements on our liberty. It will never stop… unless we demand it stop.

    Our freedoms have been stolen and the thieves are in charge.

    • #18
  19. DJ EJ Member
    DJ EJ
    @DJEJ

    MarciN (View Comment):

    [continued from comment 7]

    The study was done within a five-year period of the 1918 pandemic. It reported on four cities, of which one was Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but I don’t remember the other three. Each city had tried a different containment strategy for the pandemic. The city with the most stringent lockdowns fared the worst in terms of the final death count.

    Washington DC?

    This study would have ended the United States’ notion of trying lockdowns as a way to control the spread of the covid virus. In the report, it said this study was why the CDC never recommended lockdowns to contain disease. Quarantine sick people, not everyone else. That was their official position. There were also studies about masks and social distancing. 

    The study is old enough, so there are printed copies of it out there, either as a separate document or as one article within an issue of an academic journal. I have access to interlibrary loan and academic libraries, and can find it if you can remember enough information to conduct a search (title, authors’ names, date of publication, name of the journal, etc.).

    Dr. Fauci himself cited this study in the American Experience documentary about the 1918 flu in which he was interviewed extensively. The documentary preceded the covid pandemic, and so it was not political. He talked a lot about the measures the CDC had taken in 1918. What jumped out at me when I watched it was that all of the things the CDC was doing in response to the covid pandemic were exactly the same as what had been tried and found ineffective in 1918.

    Clicking play on the PBS American Experience webpage for Influenza 1918 results in the message “We’re sorry, but we can’t find the requested video.” The links to additional interviews and clips do work, and this interview with Dr. Jeffrey Taubenberger was informative. I searched last night and found that you can buy the DVD on Amazon (the purchaser reviews are interesting). The one place I found to watch it online is here. I just finished watching the documentary and Dr. Fauci does not appear at all. Rather, Dr. Alfred Crosby, who wrote the book Epidemic and Peace 1918: America’s Forgotten Pandemic, and Dr. Shirley Fannin, a pediatrician specializing in infectious diseases in Los Angeles, are interviewed in the episode. Perhaps there’s another documentary about the 1918 pandemic that you saw that features Dr. Fauci?

    The documentary is worth watching for their descriptions of the futility of masks (“…it was like trying to keep out dust with chicken wire”) and the violence that erupted when trying to force people to wear them, the expansion of government control, that locking down cities (Washington DC is the example given) had no positive effect on slowing the virus, and the interviews with surviving eyewitnesses.

    “I had a little bird, and its name was Enza. I opened the window and in-flu-Enza.”

    • #19
  20. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    DJ EJ (View Comment):
    Clicking play on the PBS American Experience webpage for Influenza 1918 results in the message “We’re sorry, but we can’t find the requested video.” The links to additional interviews and clips do work, and this interview with Dr. Jeffrey Taubenberger was informative. I searched last night and found that you can buy the DVD on Amazon (the purchaser reviews are interesting). The one place I found to watch it online is here. I just finished watching the documentary and Dr. Fauci does not appear at all. Rather, Dr. Alfred Crosby, who wrote the book Epidemic and Peace 1918: America’s Forgotten Pandemic, and Dr. Shirley Fannin, a pediatrician specializing in infectious diseases in Los Angeles, are interviewed in the episode. Perhaps there’s another documentary about the 1918 pandemic that you saw that features Dr. Fauci?

    Ugh. I bet you’re right. It must have been a different documentary. I know I watched it on PBS. It started out talking about a few of the original 1918 flu bugs that had somehow been preserved in the corpses buried in the permafrost in Alaska, I believe it was–perhaps Greenland. Dr. Fauci was interviewed extensively for it. 

    I’ll look around and see if I can come up with the right documentary. It should be available still on PBS. 

    Thank you for pointing this out.  

    • #20
  21. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    DJ EJ (View Comment):
    The documentary is worth watching for their descriptions of the futility of masks (“…it was like trying to keep out dust with chicken wire”) and the violence that erupted when trying to force people to wear them, the expansion of government control, that locking down cities (Washington DC is the example given) had no positive effect on slowing the virus, and the interviews with surviving eyewitnesses.

    I think I may have watched this one too. It sounds really familiar. Thank you. 

    • #21
  22. DJ EJ Member
    DJ EJ
    @DJEJ

    MarciN (View Comment):

    Ugh. I bet you’re right. It must have been a different documentary. I know I watched it on PBS. It started out talking about a few of the original 1918 flu bugs that had somehow been preserved in the corpses buried in the permafrost in Alaska, I believe it was–perhaps Greenland. Dr. Fauci was interviewed extensively for it.

    I’ll look around and see if I can come up with the right documentary. It should be available still on PBS.

    Thank you for pointing this out.

    In the interview with Jeffrey Taubenberger I linked to, he talks about the 1918 influenza victims buried in the Alaska permafrost, and an expedition to Norway to look for additional buried and frozen victims:

    “The Norway expedition was initiated by Dr. Kirsty Duncan in Canada, who read Dr. Alfred Crosby’s book on the history of the 1918 flu and thought that it would be extremely useful to find a source of the 1918 virus so that genetic analysis could be made. She looked at sources in which frozen bodies might possibly still be, Alaska being one of them, and finally found out about seven miners who were buried on the island of Spitzbergen which belongs to Norway, which is inside the Arctic Circle, in which these miners died in the fall of 1918 of influenza. There had been prior expeditions to Alaska in the 1950s to exhume frozen bodies of victims of the 1918 flu with the attempt to culture the virus…”

    Just a guess, but perhaps you’re thinking of an episode of the science oriented PBS show NOVA.

    • #22
  23. DJ EJ Member
    DJ EJ
    @DJEJ

    Back on the post topic, I’d summarize the actions of the FBI and the intel community this way:

    The FBI ran a disinformation operation on the American public to characterize the legitimate news story about a laptop they already had in their possession since December of 2019 as Russian disinformation.* They also ran a disinformation and influence operation on Twitter management to prime Yoel Roth and others to immediately view the NY Post story on the laptop as just that – Russian disinformation. The degree to which this tabletop exercise at the Aspen Institute in September 2020 that Vivian Schiller (Where did she get all of this information for the tabletop scenario? What are her connections to the intel community?) ran for social media execs mirrors what actually happened is disturbing. The intel agencies knew exactly what they were doing – influencing and controlling the narrative to elect their preferred candidate. Were all 50 of the former intelligence officials who signed that letter stating the laptop story was Russian disinformation in on the operation, or were they duped by current intel officials with fake evidence to make them think that? Concurrent with these disinformation and influence operations was a monitoring and censorship operation against American citizens using social media, as described in Part VI (Elvis Chan is mentioned extensively in that Twitter files as well) of the Twitter files.

    Elvis Chan seems to be connected to and met with infamous upper-echelon anti-Trump FBI players like Jim Baker, Lisa Page, and Peter Strzok. He also knew that they weren’t receiving any intel that the Russians were involved in a Hunter Biden hack-and-leak operation, and knew (like any well-informed member of the general public knew already back in 2018) that the actual amount of influence the Russians exerted on the 2016 election was minimal and amounted to a few weird Facebook posts. He may have hid it better, but my money is on Chan being another corrupt anti-Trump FBI agent willing to do anything to keep him from being re-elected.

    *They also kept the existence of the laptop hidden as Trump’s first impeachment trial played out, protecting the corrupt Biden crime family’s actions in Ukraine from scrutiny and preventing the laptop’s damning evidence from being used in Trump’s defense. How long has Biden been the FBI’s preferred candidate and president? Do they have political blackmail control over Biden (a la J. Edgar Hoover and what Comey tried to do to Trump)?

    • #23
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