Is The DNC Hacking A New Cold War... Or Just The Continuation Of What Every Intelligence Agency Does?
from the even-the-US dept
Various degrees of hand-wringing (and hasty resignations) have greeted the news that our old Cold War foe -- the Russkies -- were behind the hacking of the Democratic National Committee's computers. (And the eventual embarrassment of those caught on unofficial record jumping on the Hillary Clinton bandwagon well before it became clear Bernie Sanders wasn't going to land the nomination.)
Certainly, Vladimir Putin gives absolutely no indication that he cares at all what the rest of the world thinks of him, much less the United States. And if the US government feels the Russian government can't be trusted, a) it's probably right and b) Putin will remain unperturbed. There are indications this was done to assist Trump in his presidential run, but I imagine it makes little difference to those handing down hacking orders -- just as long as it embarrassed US government officials and political leaders.
But if there's a high road to be had, the US government can't really claim it. As James Bamford explains in his commentary piece for Reuters, US spy agencies haven't exactly stayed out of world affairs, including local elections.
The United States is, by far, the world’s most aggressive nation when it comes to cyberspying and cyberwarfare. The National Security Agency has been eavesdropping on foreign cities, politicians, elections and entire countries since it first turned on its receivers in 1952.
If this sounds like the sort of things the NSA should actually be doing, then there's not really a problem. If it sounds like overreach -- aided and abetted by technological advances -- then there might be few issues, going beyond the hypocrisy of acting shocked when foreign intelligence agencies engage in the same tactics we do… like attempting to influence elections.
NSA operations have, for example, recently delved into elections in Mexico, targeting its last presidential campaign. According to a top-secret PowerPoint presentation leaked by former NSA contract employee Edward Snowden, the operation involved a “surge effort against one of Mexico’s leading presidential candidates, Enrique Peña Nieto, and nine of his close associates.” Peña won that election and is now Mexico’s president.
This is in addition to other US actions, including weaponizing centrifuge components in Iran and (inadvertently) taking Syria's leading internet provider offline. Every agency under the Defense Department's control plays a part in the government's undeclared Cyber War. Leaked documents show the NSA aspires to deploy millions of malicious implants in millions of computers, to better assist with the wide scale harvesting of data and communications it grabs from internet backbones located outside of the US.
However, the twist in the Russian attack is what was done with the information obtained.
What is new is a country leaking the intercepts back to the public of the target nation through a middleperson.
As Bamford points out, the US public is supposed to be outraged by the Russian-led hacking while ignoring similar efforts made by our own government. The DNC wants to enjoy its outrage, even if it was the DNC's own election-influencing efforts that got it into hot water -- the same sort of activity US government officials claim is so evil when the Russians do it. Russia may be a convenient villain but its actions are not so far afield from our own. The twist is the dumping of purloined documents in the laps of the US public, where they'd do far more damage than they would in the sole possession of the Russian government. Who needs misinformation when you can uncover damaging statements made by political leaders in assumed confidence?