More Evidence of a Connection Between Russia and Cambridge Analytica

You might remember that last summer tensions flared in the Middle East about Qatar. Of course, Trump jumped right into that one on Twitter.

Here’s what actually happened:

On April 19, a hacker gained access to the poorly-secured website of the state-run Qatar News Agency (QNA). The intruder had a Russian IP address (though that doesn’t prove the hack originated in Russia). About three days later the hacker discovered a vulnerability in the code of the news agency’s internal network and entered it. Within a few more days, the infiltrator had control over the entire network and had begun to collect email addresses, passwords and messages.

Weeks later, at 11:45 p.m. on May 23, the hacker entered the news agency’s system and uploaded a news story filled with fabricated quotes attributed to Qatar’s emir, Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani. The story cited Tamim purportedly criticizing Trump and praising Iran—the U.S.’s main strategic rival in the region—as an “Islamic power.” It also quoted him speaking warmly of Hamas, which the U.S. has designated a terrorist organization, and its parent organization, the Muslim Brotherhood.

It was all lies, but the story set off a firestorm and was followed up by a social media campaign with an Arab language hashtag that translates to “Cut relations with Qatar.” Several countries in the Middle East closed their borders with Qatar amid rumors of a possible military invasion.

The FBI sent a team to Qatar to investigate.

Intelligence gathered by the U.S. security agencies indicates that Russian hackers were behind the intrusion first reported by the Qatari government two weeks ago, U.S. officials say.

That is all by way of background for this news:

The data firm whose work for Donald Trump’s campaign attracted the interest of Robert Mueller’s investigators recently filed paperwork showing it had helped spread negative information about Qatar, the Gulf nation targeted by the Saudis and the United Arab Emirates in a bitter propaganda battle.

The parent company of Cambridge Analytica filed documents with the U.S. Justice Department’s Foreign Agents Registration Unit disclosing $333,000 in payments by the UAE for a 2017 social media campaign linking the Qataris to terrorism.

Granted, it’s possible that Russia didn’t facilitate the UAE’s decision to contract with Cambridge Analytica. But it’s clear that the company founded by right wing billionaire Robert Mercer is the global go-to firm (see: Brexit) for spreading exactly the kind of fake news Russia promulgated in the U.S. during the 2016 campaign.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60 .