In the midst of all the tears—either from joy or despair—upon the unprecedented 2016 presidential election of Donald Trump, another piece of appalling news has been unveiled. The United States has disclosed shocking details about recent Russian cyberattacks against the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton’s campaign director, John Podesta.
Based on a report by U.S top intelligence agencies (C.I.A, F.B.I, and the National Security Agency), President Putin had directed cyber attacks during the election campaign, “aimed at denying Hillary Clinton the presidency and installing Donald Trump in the Oval Office” (NY Times). The report accused the Russian agencies of gaining access to U.S state or local electoral boards, Russia’s main military unit G.R.U for creating media personas to release emails of the Democratic National Committee and of the Clinton campaign chairman, and the RT (Russian English-language new organization) for being involved in the Kremlin propaganda operation to influence the election.
But what is even more shocking is that the report declares the Russian cyber attacks actually began long before Trump was even thought to win the Republican nomination; it is estimated that the Russian agencies had gained access to Democratic National Committee’s networks since July 2015 (N.Y Times).
Particularly, Moscow has been seen as a threat to the “American government, military, diplomatic, commercial infrastructure” due to its “highly advanced offensive cyber programme” (scmp). If Russia was truly involved with hacking the Democratic Party operatives before the election, this may be posing a new, controversial question upon the outcome of the U.S election.
As a result, Obama had ordered “the expulsion of 35 Russian suspected spies and imposed sanctions on two Russian intelligence agencies” (Reuters). These initiatives, conducted within the final days of Obama’s administration, shed light on the U.S- Russian ties, as if marking a “new post Cold War” while spurring debates in the Congress upon how to deal with Moscow (Reuters).
Meanwhile, along with Moscow denying any connection to the hacker groups referred by the report, Trump has also criticized the nation’s “intense focus on Russia.” Expressing the lack of any concrete evidence of the cyberattacks, Trump even noted past mistakes by the American intelligence agencies, recalling “weapons of mass destruction” as an example (N.Y Times). However, after directly meeting with the officials, Trump is now moderating his position, conceding that “Russia, China, and other countries” are “consistently trying to break through” their cyber governmental institutions.
As hypocritical as Trump’s words may be, this seems to raise a claim that the U.S presidency election campaign may have been unlawfully manipulated. The report by U.S agencies noting the various covert cyber operations (hacking into the Democratic National Committee’s computer systems) to denigrate Hillary Clinton’s reputation implies corrupt activities that have been occurring before the public’s eyes. Despite the fact that evidence of direct voting modification is not solid, the report nonetheless generates doubts by many and shows how vulnerable the U.S. government is in maintaining cyber-security
Moreover, the idea that Putin may have backed Trump is appalling, since Putin is notorious for undermining civil liberties with his authoritarian control. Trump’s inconsistency with his attitudes towards the allegations, it further raises questions about Trump’s qualification for president. In addition to the problem with Russia in Syria and Ukraine, this news is only causing more uproar in the public.
– Sammie Kim ’18 (Featured Image: The Daily Beast)