The Bottom Line on Russian Hacking

There has been much controversy about Russian hacking of email accounts related to the recent election.   The source of hacking the emails from the Clinton campaign and the DNC (Democratic National Committee) public was WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks head Julian Assange says that the information came from a disgruntled Bernie Sanders supporter and not from Russia and, while that may turn out to be the case, I think we can all agree that needs to be taken with the proverbial ‘grain of salt’. No matter how they got to WikiLeaks, US intelligence communities seem to be very confident that the original hacking originated in Russia. So what does that mean for us?

First of all, let’s be unequivocally clear and state what should be the obvious. Russian hacking (or hacking by anyone, frankly) of emails is a big concern and should be investigated to the fullest extent by our intelligence and law enforcement agencies.   And if there is confirmation that the Russian government or their agents hacked into emails of US citizens or organizations and then turned them over to another party (in this case WikiLeaks) then we should take strong action. The threat is no different than when North Korea hacked into Sony. The job of any government is to protect its citizens and their property, including protecting them from electronic intrusions. Sen. Claire McCaskill, interviewed recently, was not incorrect when she said such hacking if done by a foreign government was a hostile action. Who in their right mind would not want to know if foreign governments or their agents are hacking into electronic accounts of American citizens?

A related but separate question is if Russians not only hacked into email accounts but if they did so to influence US elections? And, if so what was the goal of the hacking and leaking information to the public? Unfortunately, the issue quickly becomes politicized and, as has become the state of American politics, and people line up on two sides if nothing else because there has apparently developed the feeling that you must oppose everything your political opponent says or believes.

At its core, however, I think the answer is obvious. The Russians would love to influence US elections. The Soviet Union and Russia, whose current President spent his career in the KGB–intelligence service of the Soviet Union, have been enemies for a century. Why would we think they wouldn’t dream of inserting themselves into US politics? Russia and the US have two different views of the world and two very different views of human rights and the rights of citizens. Though there is a big conspiracy theory that Russia was out to get Hillary Clinton, I have never heard the basis for why that was and have seen no evidence that Russia cared who won, but Thinking Man finds it very believable that Russia wants to undermine the legitimacy of any US election and to create doubt about the moral authority of the US when it talks about free elections, especially in places like Ukraine and the Crimea.

All of that said, here is the real question being asked, maybe rhetorically so in some circles: are the Russians responsible for shocking loss by Hillary Clinton? No. Not in the slightest.

We have seen a litany of reasons as to why the Clinton campaign think the election was stolen (because Hillary could not have lost on her own after being so heavily favored, is the unspoken assumption). It was voter fraud, and when recounts showed that wasn’t it, then the reason became ‘fake news’. And most recently, it’s the Russians fault. So much so that Nancy Pelosi’s daughter, who is an elector from California in the Electoral College, and Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta suggested that the Presidential electors needed to get an intelligence briefing before the Electoral College met because they are sure that would change minds.

But all of that is not only a sign of desperation but is like the criminal who says he went to jail because his phone was tapped. No, the criminal went to jail because he was doing illegal things. A tapped phone just let others know what he was doing. It didn’t alter in any way that what the criminal was doing. So it is with the Clinton campaign. We now know that Hillary directed her staff to change the heading on email to keep it from government investigators, for example. The fact that she did that is the problem, not that someone found out. If she hadn’t told her staff, in writing, to try to conceal evidence it wouldn’t have mattered if someone read her emails looking for evidence of a cover up.

Then there is the email from John Podesta, Hillary’s campaign chairman, in March 2015—the day after news came out about Hillary’s personal email server– that said “We are going to have to dump all of those emails so better to do so sooner than later.” If he hadn’t directed to dump the emails after Hillary’s email scandal broke, then there would be no issue. If the only emails that were hacked were about whether to spend campaign money in this state or that state, or what issues to emphasize during campaign stops, I don’t think they would have attracted much attention. Or similarly, if there were no emails from Clinton Foundation staff to Hillary’s State Dept. staff asking for favors for people who had made big contributions to the family foundation, then there would have been no public concern about bribe-taking and racketeering.

The bottom line is that the real issue is the outrageous behavior that are evidenced by the emails not the fact that the American public now knows what was going on. The validity and the truth of what they revealed has not been disputed. What the Clinton machine did is the problem, not that we know about it. If there were no evidence of criminal activity or of a potential compromise of classified secrets (like the naming of human intelligence sources) to be investigated, then there would be no reason for the FBI to be investigating or any concern about when they did it.

As an aside, what has been left out of the major news cycles have been the fact that other political campaigns and party organizations had their email accounts hacked, too. But those didn’t make the big news splash? Why? Well, because they didn’t reveal the kind of behavior that those from the Clinton campaign and the Clinton State Department did.

A classic tactic of anyone who is trying to defend something that is indefensible is some version of “well, it’s not what they did but how it was done”.   This is the Clinton version of that. If Hillary and her campaign had been forthcoming from the beginning about her emails, did not engage in a massive cover-up and if there had been no one asking for favors for donors of the Clinton Foundation then then the emails wouldn’t have been there for WikiLeaks to release.   No one in the Clinton campaign or at the Clinton Foundation has ever denied that the emails are authentic but yet they want to claim that the Russians changed the outcome of the election, not that their actions were responsible for the furor over the emails. In their moral world, there is nothing that would cause people to be outraged. John Podesta of all people, who wrote that the emails on Hillary’s server needed to be “dumped”,   asked for an intelligence briefing on the topic to be given to the electors and in several venues talked about how the Russians are behind Trump’s victory.

John, try just having the moral standing to do what’s right and then you don’t have to worry about your emails being published. People finding out what you did isn’t the issue, it’s doing something that is corrupt and wrong. See, that’s what is called character—doing what’s right even when no one is looking. That was the whole problem with Hillary and her campaign. But the candidate and the whole campaign was so tone deaf, and apparently so morally bankrupt, that they just can’t wrap their minds around it.

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