When did we become a country that politicized events so much that we lost sight of fact?
Let’s end the debate: It is a fact that Russia hacked and released the DNC’s and John Podesta’s emails as well as paid online sites to distribute fake news that was damaging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
In another blog post, I discussed how 17 intelligence agencies have reported that Russia was behind this gigantic cyber attack—which lasted over a year. Russian intelligence agencies committed a variety of cyber espionage on governmental, military, and political organizations. According to information released to the public, over 3,500 military and civilian systems were affected.
While their conclusions were published weeks before the election, intelligence agencies were very confused about the specific goals of the hacks. However, due to new evidence including the Russian bankrolling of fake news websites, the CIA came to a controversial conclusion—Russia hacked the United States with the primary goal of getting Donald J. Trump elected.
Trump and his supporters were outraged, and rightfully so. If you believe in a presidential candidate and his mantra, you would want to believe that he was rightfully elected—fair and square. They called for all the evidence to draw their own conclusions.
However, a lot of this evidence remains classified, and it probably always will. Intelligence agencies will not bring forth an explanation for how they reached their conclusions, because of one simple reason—they don’t want Russia to know. If Russia knows how they were exposed, it may be harder to track them in the future.
Nonetheless, some explanations have been given to the public. According to a cyber analyst of Fidelis Cybersecurity, a private company that also investigated the hack, the hackers used “Russian internet addresses, Russian language keyboards, and time codes corresponding to business hours in Russia, as well as sophisticated technology that resembled that of Russian intelligence agencies”.
Hacking countries to influence political elections is a common tactic used by Vladimir Putin. In May, Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, BfV, released a statement stating that Russian hackers had targeted Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party, amongst other governmental servers. In 2007, Russia hacked the former Soviet republic of Estonia and all websites and servers belonging to the government, banks and media came under fire. Similar attacks targeted political adversaries in Georgia in 2008 and the Ukraine in 2015 and 2016. The Russian government even went so far as to hack the World Anti-Doping Agency after Russia’s state-run doping program led to their disqualification from the track and field games in the 2016 Rio Olympics.
To believe that this didn’t occur is to deny oneself rational thought. The CIA, the FBI, and the fifteen other intelligence agencies—whose only purpose is to keep our country safe regardless of who is president—would not recklessly blame and infuriate Russia.
This cyberattack is a declaration of war; similar to a physical attack, its threat is large and massive. President Barack Obama understood that and issued an executive order targeting Russian intelligence agencies, shutting down their facilities in the US, and expelling 35 diplomats.
It was a tough move, but it seems that Russia is laughing and shrugging it off. After all, they still win. They have a few friends that will be entering the White House in a couple of months—Secretary of State Appointee Rex Tillerson, who has received the Order of Friendship, one of highest honors a foreigner can receive from Putin himself, and President Donald Trump, who refuses the intelligence of the national security agencies and speaks glowingly of Vladimir Putin. The Russians are also seeing a nation divided, where a substantial portion of the public has even turned against the findings of law enforcement and security agencies. This is what political uncertainty looks like, and that was Vladimir Putin’s real goal.
However, we can hope that Congress will work together to investigate the hacks, pass legislative sanctions that will be difficult for the incoming Trump administration to repeal, and ensure our public the truth about the Russians and their involvement in our political sphere.
“You are entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts.” — Daniel Patrick Moynihan