Urges National Security Staff to Check for Possible Cyber-Fraud before Publicly Responding to Anti-Armenian Attacks
WASHINGTON—The Armenian National Committee of America has called upon President Obama’s National Security Staff to first investigate and publicly assure the integrity of the White House’s “We the People” petition system against foreign manipulation, before answering Baku-initiated petitions attacking Armenia and Artsakh.
In a letter to Special Assistant to the President Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian asked the National Security Staff to “to perform due diligence in investigating the prospect of foreign fraud in relation to a public, Baku-based effort to manipulate the White House’s ‘We the People’ petitions, a vital avenue for civic discourse with our President.” Hamparian stressed that, “In the interest of safeguarding the integrity of American civic dialogue and the public standing of this important initiative, this matter should be publicly resolved by the White House in a serious and satisfactory manner prior to any petition response.” Copies of this letter have been shared with Congressional offices.
The ANCA made specific reference to a February 1, 2013, Russian language interview with Azerbaijan Foreign Ministry Spokesman Elman Abdullayev stating “Any Azerbaijani can connect this petition because, regardless of nationality, social origin, people have the right to raise his voice in order to finally triumphed justice. . .This step is a positive tendency of the Azerbaijan Republic and the Azerbaijani people.” The complete interview is posted at: http://www.1news.az/interview/20130201050206185.html
Last week the ANCA formally asked the White House for information about the types of safeguards that the Administration had put in place to protect its popular “We the People” on-line petition system against foreign attempts at fraudulent manipulation of American civil society discourse. The White House has yet to issue a response. In a letter to White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett, the ANCA referenced the Armenian American community’s concern regarding “a number of petitions addressing Armenian topics, including one that echoes, nearly word for word, the message of Azerbaijani dictator Ilham Aliyev’s well-funded, unfounded and hateful campaign to misrepresent Azerbaijan’s well-documented history of aggression against Armenia and the independent Republic of Nagorno Karabakh.” Hamparian went on to ask for greater clarity regarding rules related to international participation, and an explanation about any safeguards that have been put in place against “against fraud and to protect this important arena for dialogue with our government from being abused by foreign entities.”
Several petitions echoing Azerbaijani government attacks on Karabakh rapidly collected tens of thousands of on-line signatures in recent days. The text of one in particular, titled “pay close attention on The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. 20% of Azerbaijan territory was occupied by Armenian military,” has a direct link to the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, a project headed by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s multi-billionaire wife, Mehriban Aliyeva. Unlike other “We the People” petitions, where the city and state of a majority of signers is typically posted, the anti-Armenian petitions, by and large, do not have any geographic identification.
News of Azerbaijani government manipulation of online metrics and social media statistics to boost the image of authoritarian dictator Ilham Aliyev came out earlier this month in Azadlyg newpaper, with reports of pressure on government employees to “like” President Aliyev’s Facebook page in the run-up to his 2013 election.
President Aliyev, who has repeatedly announced that, “our main enemies are Armenians of the world,” flew into an anti-Armenian tirade on Twitter a few months ago, stating that “Armenia is a country of no value.” He has also called Yerevan an Azerbaijani city, occupied by Armenia. The ANCA documents and, on a consistent basis, informs Congress, the Administration, and the media about Azerbaijan’s threats and acts of aggression against Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh. The ANCA widely circulates a fact sheet highlighting the direct correlation between the increase in Azerbaijan’s military budget and the number of ceasefire violations on the line of contact with Armenia and Karabakh (link provided below).
The complete text of the ANCA letter to the Special Assistant to the President Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall is provided below.
February 21, 2013
Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for
European Affairs on the National Security Staff
National Security Staff
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear Ms. Sherwood-Randall:
We are writing to ask the National Security Staff to perform due diligence in investigating the prospect of foreign fraud in relation to a public, Baku-based effort (see attached example) to manipulate the White House’s “We the People” petitions, a vital avenue for civic discourse with our President.
We have written on this subject to Ms. Valerie Jarrett, in the Office of Public Engagement. In our inquiry to her (see attached), we asked three vital questions: “1) Are non-U.S. residents allowed to sign White House petitions? 2) What safeguards are in place to ensure compliance with any citizenship, residency, or other rules related to participation in White House petitions? and 3) What systems has the White House put in place to guard against fraud and to protect this important arena for dialogue with our government from being abused by foreign entities?”
The White House’s responses to these questions would hold great meaning for our community and also for all Americans who are concerned about protecting our country’s internet-based communications against the possibility of foreign cyber-attacks. In the interest of safeguarding the integrity of American civic dialogue and the public standing of this important initiative, this matter should be publicly resolved by the White House in a serious and satisfactory manner prior to any petition response.
Thank you for your attention to our concerns.
Aram S. Hamparian
CC: Members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate