If an enemy, or their surrogates, can infiltrate and manipulate our electoral processes they can do the same with our national defense apparatus. In August of 2011, PC Magazine reported on a massive breach in that, and other areas, of vital importance to our way of life.
The magazine reported, “Operation Shady RAT, a concerted effort by a single hacker or group of hackers, penetrated multiple U.S. government agencies, the United Nations, foreign governments, and many technology companies and defense contractors, a McAfee report disclosed Wednesday. In all, the Shady RAT attacks took down 72 targets since July 2006, making it perhaps the largest concerted hacking attempt in history.” The infiltration lasted for two years.
Ten years later, the 2016 election has highlighted the absolute necessity to fully understand the forces that have been deployed against us. These include dark money, disinformation, moles, and the plethora of tactics that have marked, among others, Russian attempts to weaken democracy. There can be no compromise, nor partisan divide, when it comes to protecting our institutions and very way of life.
The President, as leader of the American people, should lead the effort to examine how our institutions may have been compromised if he truly believes in the values upon which the country was founded and upon in which it still depends on. He ought to be the first citizen to protect freedom and that means following any information that could expose those who wish to diminish the homeland. Regardless of the party in charge, and they invariably change over time, this is a freedom issue, too.
At this time other nations, also, are feeling the effects of Russia’s electronic warfare. There are persistent, and credible, reports of attempts to influence democratic elections in Europe. These activities are one reason why cuts to the State Department’s budget at this moment in history are ill advised. Some of America’s best information about foreign intentions comes through diplomats and reduction of the structures upon which they depend is dangerous.
Monitoring Russian spies was never limited to tracking down the agents who used to sit in cars near companies like Lockheed Missiles and Space in Sunnyvale CA, hoping to pick up classified information on sensitive microphones. It, also, involved tracking foreign business people and diplomats intent on harming us by stealing our secrets through compromise, bribery, and the sort of stuff about which Ian Fleming wrote. These efforts may seem quaint, today, but the principles that motivated them never disappeared.
It’s a truism, but with freedom comes responsibility and that responsibility means vigilance designed, among other things, to ferret out the malevolent and remove the stupid and negligent. Freedom is so fragile that it must be defended whenever threatened, sometimes, forcefully on the battlefield.
We can’t always pick that battlefield though we must be prepared to fight on it wherever it’s found. The wonders of instantaneous global communication and unlimited information that make the Encyclopedia Britannica look like a Classics Illustrated comic book carry new obligations unimagined fifty years ago. Our fighting men and women are the finest in the world. Their ranks must be expanded to include more cyber warriors and, as Commander-in-Chief, the President must enable that expansion concurrent with the building of more ships, planes, and tanks.
The House Intelligence Committee, in its Russia inquiry, has balked, so far, at fulfilling its responsibility to the American people to act in a non-partisan and dispassionate manner. The Senate Intelligence Committee, today, promised not to make the same error. The White House must support it, along with all intelligence agency efforts, to find out the unvarnished truth about the 2016 election.
Reckless, self-serving, efforts by the White House to isolate itself from the scandal only serve to cast shadows over the new Trump Presidency. That’s dangerous for the country and our allies, but it’s something the President can remedy, immediately, with a promise to make support for the investigations into Russia’s meddling a paramount part of his agenda.