Michael Weiss is the co-author of the New York Times bestseller ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror. He is currently the Executive Consulting Editor of Coda Story and writes regularly about Russian espionage and disinformation campaigns. He lives in Los Angeles. (August 2018)
ISIS’s breathtaking reach into other parts of the world—including distant corners few experts imagined it was capable of penetrating—is now so pronounced that it’s possible to imagine a day when the ISIS media apparatus could be based outside the Middle East entirely. Equally, the organization may separate into various satellites in multiple countries, the way international newspapers establish foreign bureaus. If that happens, ISIS will become a virtually borderless phenomenon and the difference between “inspired” and “directed” will lose all meaning.
The notion of Trump in certain precincts of the media as a Manchurian candidate, a Russian asset owned and run by the Kremlin, is ridiculous to Burton Gerber, a thirty-nine-year veteran of the CIA. He says, “Trump is basically a man with low self-esteem, which he has worked against by being a bully and a narcissist… The Russians would never want to recruit him, just continuously have access to him and be able to influence him.” Gerber compares Trump to Harry Hopkins, an architect of the New Deal whom the Soviets cajoled because of his closeness to Roosevelt, rather than to Alger Hiss, whom the KGB actively recruited as a spy within the US government. “If you’ve got someone like Trump, an agent of influence,” he asks, “why would you then try to make him more than what he is? It would be irresponsible from an intelligence point of view.”