Last month, AP reported that Russian intelligence organizations have been pursuing newshounds around the world in the equal manner they commonly target politicians and authorities employees from adverse states.
Much of this activity, consistent with the document, become geared toward dissident reporters and bloggers who are perceived as threats to the Russian regime.
But Aki Peritz, a former CIA analyst and modern adjunct professor at American University, believes that certain overseas secret agent corporations are very likely focused on one particular private institution: Fox News.
The reason is simple enough: The president of the United States watches Fox News — loads — and consequently, the channel has a significant influence on what he thinks, tweets, and does. As of final November, Trump had tweeted approximately the Fox News display Fox & Friends 88 instances, consistent with the Washington Post’s Philip Bump.
I reached out to Peritz and asked him to put out his case. A gently edited transcript of our conversation follows.
If you have been a Russian secret agent, why might you goal Fox News?
I wouldn’t merely say a Russian undercover agent, I’d say a spy from any hostile intelligence provider. We all recognize that the Russians are an opposed intelligence career, however, they’re now not the handiest recreation in town. It’s not like the Chinese are not worried about focused on media personalities. It’s now not just like the Iranians or other international locations aren’t also targeting journalists. It’s crucial that we don’t make this basically approximately Russia.
That said, if I have been an adverse intelligence career, I would need to target the media source that the president, senior participants of Congress and all their aides, many people inside the Defense Department, human beings within the State Department, and the intelligence network watch. Fox, anything you watched of its content material, has real power. They have some of these networks into the government, but added into the personal industry and previous authorities officers, who in flip affect the government.
So to position it clearly, an intelligence carrier is searching out a manner into strength, and Fox News is actually that. It’s additionally very, very difficult to penetrate the USA government, but it’s quite clean to penetrate a media enterprise.
So it’s now not about the content material of Fox News programming so much as they have an impact on they’ve on powerful humans?
It goes beyond effect. Obviously, that’s a first-rate issue of this, but we know the president, in particular, interacts with Fox News and with Fox News personalities like Sean Hannity on Twitter, and a lot of his ideas appears to be plucked right out of Fox’s talking points.
We recognize that he talks to Sean Hannity. I’m sure that he talks to different humans. There’s a normal interface, a talk that goes on between the president of America, possibly his senior-degree officers, and this one precise enterprise.
On the only hand, wouldn’t it’s notable if you had been an adversarial intelligence career and you can affect a person like Sean Hannity? I do not accept as true with that Sean Hannity is a Russian asset, but that’s now not the point. If you’re an undercover agent, perhaps you try to paintings his producers or the individual that does his make-up — you look for anyway inside that international.
Can you walk me thru the technique or process? A secret agent employer makes a decision Fox News has captured the president’s attention, so they start to screen it closely. Then what?
First, let’s start with the less difficult component: amassing records on the president. We manifestly have his Twitter feed, which is a goldmine for intelligence. How many different international leaders are there wherein we actually recognize what they’re thinking about each day, without a filter out? How many other leaders simply say what they experience once they experience it, nearly every day? Twitter is an invaluable perception into the mind of this guy, and each foreign intelligence company is aware of it. Imagine if we knew this a lot approximately Vladimir Putin or Xi Jinping. It could be a large intelligence gold mine.
So lower back to Fox News. A secret agent business enterprise will be aware, as I’m positive everybody has at this factor, that the president watches Fox News loads: especially packages like Fox & Friends and Sean Hannity’s application. This approach the president’s senior personnel and senior participants of Congress and the intelligence and diplomatic community also are watching, by and large, because they’re all waiting for the president to make his choices.
An intelligence service wants to collect records before it’s well known, earlier than it reaches choice-makers and the public. If you’ve co-opted a manufacturing assistant on this sort of TV indicates, they are able to tell you what’s coming, what message they’re going to pump out. They can ship you an electronic mail or they are able to assist you to realize what Fox News is going to be talking about and while. So they already understand the script, and that’s one manner to gather statistics.
And what could you do if you wanted to begin influencing this process?
Well, you attempt to nail down the person writing the scripts for Fox & Friends and also you try and flow key narratives around. You begin setting thoughts on the device, thoughts which, finally, will reach the president of America. This isn’t as hard as you might anticipate. These are TV people; they’re not government human beings. They don’t expect to be co-opted by way of an opposed intelligence service, so these things show up very fast and without humans really knowing it. They’re prone to blackmail.
If you’re an undercover agent trying to compromise or advantage leverage over a journalist, be it at Fox or anywhere else, how would those technique paintings?
The CIA has a standard way of doing it, that’s spot, check, expand, after which recruit. You can say, “I need to target this organization. I know all of the production assistants on Fox & Friends. Here are all their names.” Then you do a little bit of research on them, and you then stumble upon them at a party, or you go out for a drink, or you ask them out on a date, or you’ve got your youngsters play with their youngsters at soccer.
You facilitate a few form of contact, and then you definitely see whether they’re interested or they have any vulnerabilities. Maybe this man or woman has money troubles. Maybe they have a gambling trouble. Maybe they’re cheating on their spouse. Then you use your understanding to leverage access, and also you’re in. That’s a very crude manner of setting it, however, that’s basically how it’s accomplished.