Only we — not Putin — can truly undermine our republic
For someone like me, who’s warned about foreign espionage—especially Russian—for years, usually to little avail, it’s a pleasant change to see the mainstream media talk about so much Kremlin spies these days. It’s gratifying to witness the Obama White House, which downplayed and simply ignored Russian clandestine spy-games for almost eight years, suddenly pledge to get serious about it. That this sea-change is coming as President Obama is packing his belongings and therefore will have minimal real-world impact doesn’t mean it’s not welcome.
All the same, the emerging debate about what exactly Vladimir Putin and his spies did in 2016 to influence our elections is already politically toxic, fundamentally dishonest, and flagrantly partisan. As is now the custom in Washington, both sides are more than willing to ignore inconvenient facts when they get in the way of their preferred narrative about this year.
Therefore, without delay, we need a to debunk a few of the most pernicious falsehoods about the SpyWar events of 2016. The logical place to start is the issue of Russian “hacking” itself, which is being portrayed as a grand criminal conspiracy orchestrated by Putin personally, in the bowels of the Kremlin. All that’s missing is a cat on his lap to perfect the clichéd movie bad spy-guy image here.
That’s a flawed way to look at it, however. In truth, the vast majority of the email theft perpetrated by Russian spies against the Democrats was utterly normal signals intelligence collection, what the pros call SIGINT. Russians do it, we do it—in 2016 every country that can does it. Spies steal secrets, it’s what they do. Of course espionage is illegal basically everywhere, but everybody does it. Hyperventilating about it doesn’t help.
A century ago, when radio hit the world by storm—they called it wireless telegraphy back then—countries put their communications in the ether, and their opponents intercepted them: thus was SIGINT born. It quickly became the world’s most important form of espionage, and so it remains. Today everybody puts most of their communications on the Internet, so that’s where SIGINT professionals hunt for them.
Read the rest at The Observer ….