Russian Active Measures and September 11, 2001: Nostradamus Themed Disinformation?

Russian Active Measures and September 11, 2001: Nostradamus Themed Disinformation?

Michael Bennett Hotchkiss (Independent Researcher, USA)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 17
DOI: 10.4018/IJCWT.2017010103
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The early English-language promoters of Nostradamus (Orson Welles and Erika Cheetham) had strong Leftist-Marxist connections including ties to the Cambridge 5 spy ring. Nostradamus was the top search anomaly of Sept 11, 2001. Interest was driven by a surge in emails and text messages via the internet. This behavior is discussed in relation to known cyber threats from 2001. Similar spikes in Nostradamus searches (Google Trends) emanated from Poland (April 2010), Ukraine (March 2014), and in Hungary (August 2015). Nostradamus mirrors proven Russian disinformation operations, such as those that today implicate 9/11 as being an “inside job” by the US government, or that the CIA killed JFK, or that the CIA engineered the AIDS virus. Noting Nostradamus' use by both the Allies and the Axis powers as a psychological warfare tool in World War 2, the case is made that it was the Russians carrying out an “information attack” on 9/11 that is consistent with Russian cyber warfare and active measures strategy; and that they may have used similar techniques elsewhere since 2001.
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This article explores the evidence for Russian active measures and information warfare operations surrounding September 11, 2001. It will demonstrate that Putin’s Russia utilized tactics and exhibited behaviors which may implicate them as involved in this event from an informational perspective.

The argument is based on an examination of the Nostradamus search term “anomaly” which saw Nostradamus become the top gaining search on Google for the week of the attacks, and the seventh overall search term on the day of the attacks (Google, 2006). It had similar performance across all major search engines, and ended the month as the top gaining search on Google (Google, 2011; Kornblum, 2001; National Research Council, 2003). This surge in searches related to Nostradamus was not mirrored by other attack-related search terms and seems to have been driven by Nostradamus emails and text messages which were forwarded at a massive scale during and after the attacks (Aravilla, 2001; Rose, 2001; Wiggins, 2001).

Google Trends data from 2004 to present is analyzed and notes similar spikes in Nostradamus- related searches which corresponded to geopolitical events, pop culture, and natural disasters (Google, 2016). Several of these events and trends - such as the Polish national tragedy at Smolensk in April 2010 and the invasion of Ukraine in March 2014 - experienced similar surges in country-level Nostradamus-related queries which pushed those countries to the top of global Nostradamus search trend index in those years.

The distribution of the Nostradamus emails through the same computer network-based vectors as several well-studied computer viruses which book-ended 9/11 is considered as well. The computer viruses which surrounded 9/11 had code which upon forensic examination seemed to implicate Chinese actors, and other data showed similar contemporary viruses had struck targets such as the Government of Ukraine and the FBI - while others targeted Federal institutions like The White House (Belcher & Yoran, 2002; CAIDA, 2014; Ducklin, 2011; Erbschloe, 2005).

Next, the proven links between the early promoters of Nostradamus such as Erika Cheetham and Orson Welles and broad pro-Russian, leftist elements are presented. Welles was directly connected to H.P. Smolka (aka the “sixth” member of the Cambridge Five) by way of his participation in the production of Graham Greene’s “The Third Man” (1949) (Beer, 2001; Foges, 2016). Erika Cheetham was the premier English-language translator of Nostradamus (Noble, 1998). Cheetham associated at Oxford with a notably “leftist” clique, that seems to have included the nephew of Graham Greene and several other figures who would later obtain notable roles as public proponents of leftist and Marxist causes (Hagger, 2015).

Additional circumstantial evidence is considered such as “Operation Northern Vigilance” and Russian intelligence leads provided to the Bush and Clinton administrations leading up to 9/11 (Mitchell, 2012; NORAD, 2001; Powell, 2001). The foundations of many of the claims which were the basis for these intelligence exchanges have later been called into question by the scrutiny of the Moscow apartment bombings of 1999 and the Litvinenko poisoning case of 2006 (BBC News, 2006; Felshtinsky & Litvinenko, 2007).

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