Leahy: How does traditional online marketing compare to what CA did?
Wylie: Traditional marketing doesn’t misappropriate tens of millions of people’s data, and it is not or should not be targeted at people’s mental state like neuroticism and paranoia, or racial biases.
Leahy: Why did the investors think this would work?
Wylie: Steve Bannon believes that politics is downstream from culture. They were seeking out companies to build an arsenal of weapons to fight a culture war.
Senator Patrick Leahy is up next. He brings up reports that CA was testing messages like “drain the swamp”, “build the wall”, and “deep state” in 2014, before the Trump campaign ever existed.
Leahy: What did the company learn from these tests?
Wylie: The company learned that there were segments of the populace that were responsive to these messages that weren’t necessarily reflected in other polling.
Leahy: Our laws prohibit non-Americans from working on US campaigns. Did CA follow this law?
Wylie: To my understanding, the legal advice memo on this issue was ignored. Many of the people who were sent to the US to work on campaigns were not privy to the memo and may not have known that they were violating US law.
Kennedy asks if any of the other CA data was obtained legally.
Wylie: The consumer data lists were acquired through contracts?
Kennedy: Did CA hack anyone while you were there?
Wylie: I have seen documents that refer to special operations.
Kennedy: Did CA get info from Wikileaks?
Wylie: Not while he was there.
Kennedy: List all of CA’s clients while you were there.
Wylie: There were PACs and various candidates. A network of PACs that were primarily financed by Robert Mercer, and then several senatorial and congressional campaigns, some issue campaigns, John Bolton’s PAC.
Kennedy: Did it work for Russia while you were there.
Wylie: We did not have a Russian client while I was there.
Kennedy asks for all the sources of data beyond Facebook.
Wylie: Experian, Acxiom, voter rolls. Smaller firms with niche data. Experiments on collecting other social media data like Twitter.
Kennedy: “Put Facebook aside for a moment. The justice department and FBI will get to the bottom of that.”
Senator John Kennedy: Professor Hersh, if what you’re saying is that the American people aren’t persuadable by advertising, I think that’s rubbish. I see kids walking around saying “dilly dilly” and they didn’t get that from nowhere.
Feinstein asks if the Facebook data set could have ended up in Russia. Wylie brings up the connections between Aleksandr Kogan and St Petersburg university. It’s worth noting that Kogan has denied any insinuation that his work with Russian academics.
Wylie: “The only foreign leader that was tested when I was there was Vladimir Putin.” The bulk of the message testing was about Russian expansion.
Wylie says he can’t say there was any connection to IRA, but that there was “a lot of noise”.
Feinstein: Starts with question about “information warfare” campaign by the IRA. What can you tell us about connections between SCL/CA and IRA/Russia?
Wylie: One of my concerns was the level of engagement the company had with Lukoil. CA made presentations and sent documents to Lukoil that made reference to its experience. Alexander Nix emailed me to say that he gave a white paper to the CEO of Lukoil. Research Alex Kogan was also working with a Russian university.
Grassley: If CA had kept the Facebook data and used it during the Trump campaign, what impact would that have on influencing the election.
Hersh: It is hard to move people. It’s easier to mobilize or demobilize than it is to persuade people. There hasn’t been any data released from Facebook to help us know what the answer is. If this had actually been effective, Facebook and CA would know from the data analytics. Repeats his skepticism of the efficacy.
Grassley just established that Wylie did not work for CA while it was working for Trump, which he acknowledged was true.
We’re moving on to questioning. Everyone gets 5 minutes, but I’m not sure if that’s 5 minutes per witness, or total. Grassley goes first.