Report: FBI Conducted Domestic Influence Operation Targeting Social and Corporate Media to Discredit Hunter Biden Laptop Story

While the FBI was supposed to be investigating foreign influence operations ahead of the 2020 election, it was engaging in a political influence operation of its own right here at home. Throughout all of 2020, the FBI repeatedly “primed” former Twitter’s Trust and Safety chief Yoel Roth to dismiss accurate reports of Hunter Biden’s scandalous laptop, and to refer to it as a Russian “hack and leak” operation, according to internal Twitter documents.

Although the FBI almost certainly knew the laptop—which had been in its possession since December of 2019—was legitimate, it conducted a multi-faceted influence operation targeting multiple social media platforms and major corporate media outlets to discredit accurate reports on a major scandal that threatened to torpedo Joe Biden’s presidential campaign.

Independent journalist Michael Shellenberger on Monday released the seventh edition of the “Twitter Files” onto the social media platform, revealing how the FBI and the U.S. intelligence community worked to “discredit factual information about Hunter Biden’s foreign business dealings” in the media.

Twitter CEO Elon Musk has given Shellenberger and two other independent reporters broad access to the internal communications between Twitter executives and government  officials on the condition that they post the material on Twitter before they publish it anywhere else.

The sixth installment of the Twitter Files revealed how the FBI’s relentless attempts to exercise influence over Twitter’s content, its users, and its data, made even Yoel Roth—the far-left former head of Trust and Safety—uncomfortable.

The evidence uncovered in seventh edition points to “an organized effort by representatives of the intelligence community (IC), aimed at senior executives at news and social media companies, to discredit leaked information about Hunter Biden before and after it was published,” Shellenberger wrote. “The story begins December 2019 when a Delaware computer store owner named John Paul (J.P.) Mac Isaac contacts the FBI about a laptop that Hunter Biden had left with him.”

The FBI issued a subpoena for Hunter Biden’s laptop and took possession of it on Dec 9, 2019. For the next year, the Bureau did nothing meaningful to address multiple alleged illegalities found in the laptop—but it did take action.

“At 9:22 pm ET (6:22 PT), FBI Special Agent Elvis Chan sends 10 documents to Twitter’s then-Head of Site Integrity, Yoel Roth, through Teleporter, a one-way communications channel from the FBI to Twitter,” Shellenberger wrote.

The next day, October 14, 2020, The New York Post runs its explosive story revealing the business dealings of President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter. Every single fact in it was accurate.
And yet, within hours, Twitter and other social media companies censor the NY Post article, preventing it from spreading and, more importantly, undermining its credibility in the minds of many Americans.

They did the same to Facebook, according to CEO Mark Zuckerberg. “The FBI basically came to us [and] was like, ‘Hey… you should be on high alert. We thought that there was a lot of Russian propaganda in 2016 election. There’s about to be some kind of dump similar to that.'”

While the FBI’s warnings of a Russian hack-and-leak operation relating to Hunter Biden’s laptop was based on outdated intel, the laptop in its possession was chuck full of incriminating  information about Hunter, and his father, the then-Democrat candidate for president.

“Hunter Biden earned *tens of millions* of dollars in contracts with foreign businesses, including ones linked to China’s government, for which Hunter offered no real work,” Shellenberger wrote, linking to a video of investigative journalist Peter Schweizer summing up the alleged Biden family corruption and illegalities.

The Twitter files show that the FBI had no reason to be focusing on a Russian “hack and leak” operation.

“Through our investigations, we did not see any similar competing intrusions to what had happened in 2016,” admitted FBI agent Elvis Chan in Nov.
Indeed, Twitter executives *repeatedly* reported very little Russian activity.

E.g., on Sept 24, 2020, Twitter told FBI it had removed 345 “largely inactive” accounts “linked to previous coordinated Russian hacking attempts.” They “had little reach & low follower accounts.”

Nonetheless, FBI agent Elvis Chan arranged for temporary Top Secret security clearances for Twitter executives so that the FBI could share information about “threats” to the upcoming elections.

On August 11, 2020, the FBI’s Chan shares information with Twitter’s Roth relating to the Russian hacking organization, APT28, through the FBI’s secure, one-way communications channel, Teleporter.

Recently, Yoel Roth told @karaswisher that he had been primed to think about the Russian hacking group APT28 before news of the Hunter Biden laptop came out.

When it did, Roth said, “It set off every single one of my finely tuned APT28 hack-and-leap campaign alarm bells.”

Shellenberger noted that Twitter’s  former Deputy General Counsel, Jim Baker, still had a top secret clearance from his days as general counsel of the FBI (2014-18).

Baker has moved in and out of government for 30 years, serving stints at CNN, Bridgewater (a $140 billion asset management firm) and Brookings. As general counsel of the FBI, Baker played a central role in making the case internally for an investigation of Donald Trump.

Baker wasn’t the only senior FBI exec. involved in the Trump investigation to go to Twitter.

Dawn Burton, the former dep. chief of staff to FBI head James Comey, who initiated the investigation of Trump, joined Twitter in 2019 as director of strategy.

As of 2020, Shellenberger said, there were so many former FBI employees, known as “Bu alumni,” working at Twitter, they had their own private Slack channel.

While all of this was going on, the FBI was paying Twitter millions of dollars for its staff’s time, according to documents. “I am happy to report we have collected $3,415,323 since October 2019!”  an associate of Jim Baker reported in early 2021.

 

The FBI’s 2020 domestic political influence operation included an Event 201-like “tabletop exercise” that was conducted at the Aspen Institute in September of 2020.  The exercise, which Roth attended, discussed a potential  “Hack-and-Dump” operation related to Hunter Biden.

The Aspen Institute is a US government-funded nonprofit known as “the mountain retreat for the liberal elite,” the New York Post reported.

“The goal was to shape how the media covered it — and how social media carried it,” Shellenberger stated.

Indeed, the corporate media put what it learned into practice just a few weeks later, after The Post posted its bombshell stories about Hunter Biden’s infamous laptop—which were “either ignored or downplayed by most mainstream news outlets and suppressed by both Twitter and Facebook.”

The organizer of the exercise was Vivian Schiller, the former CEO of NPR, former head of news at Twitter; former Gen. manager of NY Times; former Chief Digital Officer of NBC News, according to the Twitter files.

Attendees reportedly included Meta/Facebook’s head of security policy, national security reporters for New York Times, Washington Post, and others.

Chan and Roth set up an encrypted messaging network in Sept. of 2020, so employees from FBI and Twitter could communicate, Shellenberger reported.

They also created a “virtual war room” for “all the [Internet] industry plus FBI and ODNI” [Office of the Director of National Intelligence], according to the Twitter Files.

Then, on Sept 15, 2020 the FBI’s Laura Dehmlow, who heads up the Foreign Influence Task Force, and Elvis Chan, request to give a classified briefing for Jim Baker, without any other Twitter staff, such as Yoel Roth, present.

According to the Twitter documents, on Oct 14, shortly after the NY Post published its Hunter Biden laptop story, Roth said, “it isn’t clearly violative of our Hacked Materials Policy, nor is it clearly in violation of anything else,” but adds, “this feels a lot like a somewhat subtle leak operation.”

In response to Roth, however, Baker repeatedly insisted that the Hunter Biden materials were either faked, hacked, or both, and a violation of Twitter policy. Baker does so over email, and in a Google doc, on October 14 and 15.

Shellenberger argued that it’s inconceivable to think that the former FBI official truly believed that Hunter’s emails were hacked or fake after it had been in the FBI’s possession for almost a year.

“The New York Post had included a picture of the receipt signed by Hunter Biden, and an FBI subpoena showed that the agency had taken possession of the laptop in December 2019,” Shellenberger explained.

Shellenberger pointed out that it likely would have taken the FBI only a few hours to confirm that the laptop had belonged to Hunter Biden, but “by 10 am, Twitter execs had bought into a wild hack-and-dump story.”

“The suggestion from experts—which rings true—is there was a hack that happened separately, and they loaded the hacked materials on the laptop that magically appeared at a repair shop in Delaware,” Roth wrote in a memo on Oct 14, 2020.

On the same day Roth sent the memo, Baker arranged a phone conversation with Matthew J. Perry in the Office of the General Counsel of the FBI, Shellenberger reported.

The FBI’s influence operation persuaded not only Twitter’s executives, but all corporate media outlets that the Hunter Biden laptop had something to do with Russia.

“In the end, the FBI’s influence campaign aimed at executives at news media, Twitter, and other social media companies worked: they censored and discredited the Hunter Biden laptop story,” Shellenberger concluded.

Correction:

This post has been revised to correct a typo. The FBI paid Twitter millions of dollars for its staff’s time, according to documents, not Twitter.

About Debra Heine

Debra Heine is a conservative Catholic mom of six and longtime political pundit. She has written for several conservative news websites over the years, including Breitbart and PJ Media.

Photo: (Original Caption) View of a FBI emblem.

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