By Lt. Colonel James G. Zumwalt, USMC (RET) ~
Just as important as knowing whether Vladimir Putin interfered with the 2016 U.S. presidential election is knowing, if so, why he favored Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton.
As to interference, a jury applying the standard of proof used in U.S. courtrooms on criminal matters – i.e., guilt beyond a reasonable doubt – would be hard-pressed to find sufficient evidence supporting such a claim.
Despite interference allegations made by unnamed CIA sources and despite WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange, who released DNC emails, denying Moscow had provided them to him, there is “not a single shred of actual evidence” yet to support these claims. In fact, Putin challenges the U.S. to produce evidence of same. (Even the Director of National Intelligence office overseeing all U.S. intelligence agencies acknowledges the CIA cannot prove Russian intentions.)
Questions arise whether culpability for the emails released actually rests on an intentional leak or hackers.
A leak involves someone physically taking data out of an organization, giving it to an outsider – i.e., an Edward Snowden or Chelsea Manning-type incident.
Hacking occurs “when someone in a remote location electronically penetrates operating systems, firewalls or any other cyber-protection system and then extracts data.”
As to Russian interference, we are getting mixed signals from U.S. sources. The CIA suggests the emails were hacked by Russians seeking a Trump victory.
Just like the Hillary email investigation, the FBI, however, keeps changing its mind. After meeting with lawmakers in early December, it reported it was not supporting the CIA’s “fuzzy and ambiguous” assertions that Russia “quite” clearly meddled in the election on behalf of Trump. The CIA later claimed, while agreeing Russian interference was involved, again without providing proof, the FBI disagreed with the CIA assessment it was to secure Trump’s win.
The CIA claimed, “[T]here is strong consensus among us on the scope, nature, and intent of Russian interference in our presidential election.” The statement, however, failed to point out what the director of the Department of Justice, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, would do – i.e., even if the Russians were involved, no material interference occurred.
Supporting the FBI’s assessment hackers were not necessarily pro-Trump was the fact efforts were also made, unsuccessfully, to hack RNC emails. However, not only did the RNC have a better security mechanism in place to prevent this, it also acted quickly -unlike the DNC after being notified months earlier by the FBI – to ensure adequate security.
In what seemingly plays out as a DNC comedy of errors, reportedly a Clinton aide accidentally typing the word “legitimate,” rather than “illegitimate” to forewarn Hillary campaign chairman John Podesta that an attempt to get him to change his password was really a phishing scheme, may have been a source for email hacking.
Sadly for the DNC, this was not the only example of officials unintentionally giving away information and enabling hackers to access their accounts due to naiveté of how to keep those accounts secure. Any hacker would have found such electronically challenged DNC users easy prey. Their in-house lack of aptitude on security matters, coupled with an apparent decision not to devote funding to exploring additional safeguards to prevent outside access, allowed hackers, Russian or otherwise, to exploit them.
Another factor, however, rules out Russian culpability.
A group of retired senior U.S. intelligence officials, including NSA whistleblower William Binney, finds the Russian hacking theory ludicrous. They argue an NSA monitoring system, put in place to flag remote data removal, would have detected hacking. Its failure to do so suggests data was not transmitted via a fiber network but, rather, downloaded to a thumb drive by someone with access to DNC emails. Binney, therefore, concludes it was effectively impossible a hack was involved.
Thus, the plot thickens, although the Russian hacking balloon sent up by President Barack Obama and other Democratic Party leaders, appears to be losing air.
Of note too is Obama’s sudden vow to seek revenge against Russia for these unsubstantiated hacking claims. He has ordered an investigation that, obviously, will not be concluded before he leaves office. Interestingly, Obama vows revenge on unsubstantiated claims about Russia when domestic terrorist attacks substantiated to be acts by self-professed Islamists have led him to caution us not to jump to conclusions about Islam.
The remaining question is, why would Putin prefer a Trump rather than a Clinton presidency? The prevailing thought is Putin felt he could work better with the former than with the latter, especially on terror.
Democrats’ view of Russia has changed. During the 2012 U.S. presidential campaign, Republican nominee Mitt Romney was chastised by Obama for suggesting Russia posed the biggest geopolitical threat to America. Obama claimed the Cold War was over and Romney was naïve. Time – and the 2014 Russian invasion of Crimea – proved Romney right.
Obama’s and Hillary’s naiveté has empowered Putin’s geopolitical agenda to make significant advances. With Hillary committed on so many fronts to continuing Obama’s legacy, including Russia’s enabling of its Iranian ally in Syria, it would seem Putin stood to gain more under the more-certain leadership of Hillary than the less-certain leadership of Trump.
In some regards, Trump and Putin have similar personalities, but that is not a quality necessarily portending of a cooperative spirit.
At worst, even if Putin were involved, what has been revealed to the American public is not Russian propaganda seeking to manipulate a presidential election. It is the release of unaltered American political campaign communications ensuring voters know who they really are voting for.
It is ironic, Democrats – who never questioned Hillary’s irresponsible mishandling of classified materials and a DNC appearing to have been responsible for its own irresponsible leak of campaign emails that may or may not have involved Russia – demanded a security briefing for Electoral College members before they cast their votes for president.
The fact is, Democrats’ concern now for security is just a last-ditch effort to undermine Trump’s victory; the fiction is that Russian intervention even matters.
A version of this piece also appeared on http://www.wnd.com/
FamilySecurityMatters.org Contributor Lt. Colonel James G. Zumwalt, USMC (Ret.), is a retired Marine infantry officer who served in the Vietnam war, the U.S. invasion of Panama and the first Gulf war. He is the author of “Bare Feet, Iron Will–Stories from the Other Side of Vietnam’s Battlefields,” “Living the Juche Lie: North Korea’s Kim Dynasty” and “Doomsday: Iran–The Clock is Ticking.” He frequently writes on foreign policy and defense issues.