One aspect of the 2016 presidential race will truly puzzle historians. They’ll wonder why so much was made of Hillary Clinton’s potentially exposing confidential government documents through her use of a private email server, yet so little was made of evidence that Russia had hacked into the Democratic National Committee and the email account of John D. Podesta, the chairman of Clinton’s presidential campaign. Emails from the hacked accounts were released by WikiLeaks with the apparent intention of affecting the outcome of the U.S. election.
When burglars operating on behalf of President Richard Nixon’s re-election campaign broke into the DNC’s headquarters in 1972, it led to the huge Watergate scandal. But when a foreign power and longtime U.S. adversary did the same, according to U.S. investigators, there was barely a ripple of public indignation. Indeed, the Republican nominee Donald Trump openly cheered the hackers on.
Democrats in Congress have been demanding a probe into the hacking along the lines of the commission that investigated the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
Now, finally, President Obama is asking American intelligence agencies to give him a full report on what the Russians did and what was their intention. They better hurry because President-elect Trump is oddly dismissive of what intelligence officials say was a foreign attack on the democratic process.
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Trump told Time magazine in an interview published last week that he doubts the hacking occurred and, if so, he doubts the Russians did it. “I don’t believe it,” he said. “I don’t believe they interfered.”
Whatever Trump’s hunches are about what did or didn’t happen and who might be involved, he should be determined to find out. For a man obsessed with the threat of terrorists coming into the United States, he seems strangely accepting of foreign agents probing U.S. computer systems with the intention of disrupting elections and affecting the course of the nation.
Lisa Monaco, Obama’s counterterrorism and homeland security adviser, said Friday that President-elect Trump’s team should be ready to focus on the security of U.S. computer systems. She said they will “inherit a rapidly growing threat in this space across all dimensions.”
North Carolina’s Republican Sen. Richard Burr, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, sounded a more responsible note than Trump when he said Friday, that his committee, “has been, and remains, concerned about Russia’s actions.”
Obama’s call for a full report is an important step, but its value will be greatly diminished if he chooses to keep the findings secret. A democracy thrives on openness. The American people need to know if foreign agents are tampering with their elections.