Thursday, November 17, 2016


The evidence that Vladimir Putin and the Russians had a direct hand in the outcome of our 2016 presidential elections is building. Specifically, the Russians are being accused of first hacking and then revealing select information, but only about Hillary Clinton. They did this, the story line goes, because they wanted Donald Trump to win (as I wrote about here in July). Here's what we already know.


From International Business Times ...

US intelligence chief [NSA] Michael Rogers ... said during a Wall Street Journal conference on 15 November that Hillary Clinton's presidential bid was hampered by state-sponsored hackers who worked to influence the outcome of the 2016 election"There shouldn't be any doubt in anybody's mind – this was not something that was done casually," he said when asked about WikiLeaks' publications. "This was not something that was done by chance. This was not a target that was selected purely arbitrarily."

From Time Magazine ...

The U.S. intelligence community has publicly accused the Russian government of being behind the hacking and leaking of emails involving Hillary Clinton’s election campaign by cyber espionage groups Fancy Bear and Cozy Bear on WikiLeaks and other sites this summer. James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, issued a joint statement with Department of Homeland Security on October 7 declaring that they were “confident that the Russian government directed the recent compromises of emails” and that “these thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the U.S. election process.”

From the LA Times ...

[U.S. Republican Senator Lindsey] Graham, who has sparred openly with Trump, his former rival in the presidential primary, is proposing that Congress hold a series of hearings on "Russia's misadventures throughout the world" – including whether they were involved in "hacking into the DNC" ... "Here's what I would tell Republicans: We cannot sit on the sidelines as a party and let allegations against a foreign government interfering in our election process go unanswered because it may have been beneficial to our cause."

From Esquire ...

The [Russian] hackers, hiding behind ominous aliases like Guccifer 2.0 and DC Leaks, claimed their first victim in July, in the person of Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the DNC chair, whose private emails were published by WikiLeaks in the days leading up to the Democratic convention. By August, the hackers had learned to use the language of Americans frustrated with Washington to create doubt about the integrity of the electoral system: "As you see the U. S. presidential elections are becoming a farce," they wrote from Russia ... 

... Sitting comfortably in front of a giant banner that said russia calling! [Putin] answered an audience question about the hacks. "Everyone is talking about who did it," Putin said. "Is it so important?" The former KGB officer, proving his full command of U. S. political intrigue, suggested that the Democrats had "supported one intraparty candidate at the expense of the other." Any talk of the hacks being in Russia's interest, he said, was "hysteria" intended to distract Americans from what the hackers discovered: "the manipulation of public opinion." When the audience applauded, a smirk returned to Putin's face. "I think I answered your question," he said.


There are many ways to interpret these developments. In my international relations class today, as part of our discussion on the evolving nature of warfare, I brought up the issue of cyber warfare, and the hacking of our presidential elections.

I reminded my students that we began the semester with the goal of learning how to be objective analysts in the field of international relations. This is a methods and theory class after all. I reminded them of the dangers of being partisan hacks when it comes to national security, and asked them to take off their nationalist, religious, ideological, and party hats. We need to look at what's being presented as analysts. For the moment, and for the purpose of our thought exercise, we were not Americans, Republicans, Democrats, or anything else.

This is where it got fun.

Our foreign students, and those who lived in other countries, were the most annoyed with the suggestion that Vladimir Putin and the Russians interfered in America's presidential election. America is supposed to be the beacon of democracy, right?

After a nice fluid discussion, this became the working consensus: If the Russians did hack the vote, we shouldn't concern ourselves. In many ways, it's the roosters coming home to roost. The United States has meddled in, and manipulated with, elections in so many other countries we are now getting a dose of our own medicine. So, why should we care? 

But we have another problem: What does all of this do to America's leadership and prestige around the world? And what does mean for the future of global order?

There was another concern we had as "analysts": What happens now, especially knowing that Trump "owes" Putin.

This is an especially thorny consideration since it's clear that, when it comes to playing the international game, Putin is heads and shoulders above Donald Trump. Think chess player versus a checkers player. Then what happens when Trump realizes he's getting played the fool? And, believe me, he will.


There are additional questions involved, especially when we put our nationalist hats back on. But I had to start the lecture at some point, so we left that issue for another day.

I guess my question to you is: Let's say Russia did hack the vote, and helped Donald Trump get elected. Does it really matter? Most of us know the answer to this. Unfortunately, with the exception of Senator Lindsey Graham, there doesn't seem to be too many Republicans who care about the issue.

Let me be more blunt. For a political party that was once consumed 24/7 with national security being "potentially" compromised by email servers, the Republicans seem uncomfortably cavalier about all of this.

A disturbing turn of events, wouldn't you say?

- Mark

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