extreme bollocks tedium

Russia link to NHS documents ‘nonsense’ says Corbyn
Frances Perraudin, Groon, Dec 7 2019

Jeremy Corbyn has been asked about Reddit’s announcement that documents used by Labour as evidence that the NHS would be on the table in a post-Brexit Pindo trade deal were posted by an account linked to a disinformation campaign directed by Moscow. He was asked to respond to the suggestion that Labour had either directly or indirectly benefited from a Russian trolling operation. He replied:

This is such nonsense. This is such an advanced state of rather belated conspiracy theories by the prime minister. When we released the documents, at no stage did the prime minister or anybody deny that those documents were real, deny the arguments that we put forward. And if there has been no discussion with Pindostan about access to our health markets, if all of that is wrong, how come after a week they still haven’t said that? The issues are that those documents show exactly what the British government is doing in discussions with Donald Trump’s administration in Pindostan and also why the prime minister has refused to release the report on Russian interference in British politics, which he’s been sitting on for a very long time.

He refused to say from where the Labour party had obtained the documents, stating merely:

We obtained those documents. We believed those documents to be correct, and nobody until yesterday denied the correctness of those documents. The issue is: there should be no interference in British politics by anybody else. The prime minister has answers to give, which he refuses to do, about Russian donations to the Tory party or the report that he is sitting on about Russian interference in British politics. Of course there should be no interference in our British political system by Donald Trump or the Russians.

Corbyn says that the Conservatives are now saying those documents aren’t real. The Conservative line is actually that the documents don’t show what Labour says they do, not that they are not real. Corbyn says:

A week later they claim that somebody else wrote these documents. Well, it seems a very strange turn of events that, first of all, you get a refusal to publish the documents, so you get the redacted version, which did confirm that all the meetings had taken place. Then you get the American version which shows they did take place. Then you get the version which was given to me, which I produced for the public interest, which suddenly, this morning, is apparently an invention by somebody else. I tell you what it’s in their imagination. They are up to their dirty tricks with our NHS, our services, our lives and our market in the future. No Labour government will ever sell our National Health Service. It is simply not for sale.

Just to be clear, the suggestion is that the documents were first posted on Reddit by an account which was part of a campaign directed by Moscow. Here’s Reddit’s statement from last night:

We were recently made aware of a post on Reddit that included leaked documents from the UK. We investigated this account and the accounts connected to it and today we believe this was part of a campaign that has been reported as originating from Russia.

Boris Johnson has been asked about the issue of a potential Russian link to the NHS documents while on a campaign event in Cheshire. He said:

Well, I do think we need to get to the bottom of that. As far as I am aware we haven’t yet established the truth about that, but what I certainly think is that document, whatever it was intended to prove, did not prove what Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party hoped it would prove. And I’m afraid it was just another distraction.

Johnson has been asked again about the parliamentary committee report on potential Russian interference in the EU referendum and the 2017 general election, which he has refused to publish. He said:

Well, I can repeat what I’ve already said about this, many times, which is that, I know of no evidence of any successful interference by Russia in any democratic event in this country and on the report, we (are) obviously just complying with the normal timetable for releasing such things and I saw no reason to release it earlier just because there was an election going on.

Culture secretary: Russian involvement in leaked NHS papers extremely serious
Frances Perraudin, Groon, Dec 7 2019

The outgoing culture secretary, Nicky Morgan, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that it was “extremely serious” that leaked documents used by Labour to claim that Pindostan wanted NHS to be included in future trade deals could be linked to a Russian disinformation campaign. She said:

I understand from what was being put on that website, those who seem to know about these things say that it seems to have all the hallmarks of some form of interference. And if that is the case, that obviously is extremely serious. And actually as culture secretary, obviously one of the things that we are looking for and monitoring is any interference in our elections.

She was later asked by Sky News why, if they were so concerned about Russian interference, had No 10 blocked the publication of a report examining the country’s infiltration in British politics. She said it had been a matter of timing and the speed with which parliament had been dissolved. She said:

There hasn’t been a parliament to publish that report to. All I can say is the government, obviously, is taking steps. We are very aware of the potential for overseas interference and watching very carefully through lots of different channels as to what potentially might be going on.

Russia involved in leak of papers saying NHS is for sale, says Reddit
Kevin Rawlinson, Aamna Mohdin, Groon, Dec 7 2019

An anonymous online poster who disseminated documents later brandished by Jeremy Corbyn as evidence the Conservatives would put the NHS “on the table” in Pindo trade talks was part of a campaign directed by Moscow, the site hosting the papers has said. On Friday evening, Reddit confirmed it has banned 61 accounts; including that of a user called Gregoriator, who it believes was part of a Russian information operation known as Secondary Infektion. The anonymous user posted copies of the leaked official documents on the site in late October. Corbyn presented the same documents at a news conference last week, saying they “leave Boris Johnson’s denials in absolute tatters” and touting them as “evidence that, under Boris Johnson, the NHS is on the table and will be up for sale.” Reddit insisted the post garnered minimal interest at the time and Labour has declined to reveal where it obtained the documents. The government has said it believes they are genuine. However, questions will now be asked about whether Russia had a hand in introducing the papers into the UK’s public discourse and, if so, what its motivations were for doing so. The news also highlighted the vulnerability of the UK’s democratic processes to Moscow’s influence and will put pressure on Johnson over his refusal to release the parliamentary report into Russian meddling before the general election. It led Dominic Grieve, the former chair of the parliamentary committee that put together the report, to renew his criticism of Johnson on Friday evening. He said it was “unfortunate” the document had been shelved for what he believed were “wholly dishonest” reasons and called for its publication. Johnson has previously claimed there was insufficient time before the election but Grieve has pointed out the report had been signed off by the intelligence services and such documents are routinely published within significantly shorter timeframes. Andy McDonald, the shadow transport secretary, renewed calls for the government to allow a report detailing Russian interference in UK elections to be published. He said:

If we want to get to the bottom of the extent to which the Russian state interferes in elections, can we please publish the intelligence and security committee report? Let’s get that out there. That should have been published ages ago.

On Monday, the social media research firm Graphika said that, while it could not definitively prove the Gregoriator account was controlled by Moscow, its methods closely resembled “techniques used by Secondary Infektion in the past, a known Russian operation.” It identified similarities, including grammatical errors in the early distribution of the documents via Reddit, three German-language websites and an anonymous Twitter account. Secondary Infektion is the name given to a Russian operation exposed by Facebook earlier this year, operating across six languages and dozens of platforms. Subsequent analysis by the Atlantic Council, a US thinktank, demonstrated it was behind a string of largely failed attempts to disseminate fake news, including a blatantly false story that British remainers were planning to assassinate Johnson. Announcing its move on Friday, Reddit said:

We were recently made aware of a post on Reddit that included leaked documents from the UK. We investigated this account and the accounts connected to it and today we believe this was part of a campaign that has been reported as originating from Russia.

The site said it had found a “pattern of coordination” similar to that seen among social media accounts linked to Secondary Infektion, leading it to “use these accounts to identify additional suspect accounts that were part of the campaign on Reddit.” A Labour spox said:

These documents reveal the plot against our NHS. And of course neither the UK nor the US government have denied their authenticity. Our releasing them to journalists was clearly in the public interest.

The Conservatives have not responded to a request for comment.

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