Reprinted from Reader Supported News
President Barack Obama, the CIA, FBI, and other government officials have so far "stopped short" of openly blaming Vladimir Putin and his Russian spy services of hacking into the computers of the Democratic National Committee and making public emails that show how the unrepentant former chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz and other pro-Clinton party officials worked to sabotage the presidential campaign of Senator Bernie Sanders. But, writes David Sanger in The New York Times, "private investigators have identified the suspects, and American intelligence agencies have told the White House that they have 'high confidence' that the Russian government was responsible."
According to Sanger and others in the mainstream media, the Russians similarly hacked computer systems at the Clinton campaign and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Did the Russians really do all this?
I damn sure don't know. Neither do you. Neither do the user-friendly reporters who happily provide an echo chamber for whatever their unnamed administration sources want them to tell readers and viewers. Neither do any of the shoot-from-the-lip commentators, classic Kremlinologists, and a Nobel Prize-winning economist rushing to tell us all the ins and outs of a Russian hacking campaign that has yet to be proved.
No one should doubt that Putin and his spooks regularly hack computers in the United States or that they would meddle in American elections. Nor should anyone doubt that Obama and his surveillance state regularly do the same in Russia and other countries around the world, as former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden and other whistleblowers have taken enormous risks to expose.
But, if Washington wants to blame Putin for hacking and leaking the DNC emails through Guccifer 2.0 and Julian Assange's WikiLeaks, American intelligence agencies should present their evidence to Congress or directly to the American people. Any conscientious journalist would demand that they do this, or at least highlight that his sources have offered no proof, though I would not hold my breath waiting for anything like that to happen.
The stakes here could hardly be higher. All governments lie, as journalist I.F. Stone taught us during the first Cold War, and the untruths, half-truths, and bullshit now get deeper by the day. This should come as no surprise. In my view, which does not appear to be widely shared, this is all part of the buildup to a new period of sustained confrontation between the United States and Russia, primarily in Eastern Europe and the Middle East.
Given the competition between the world's two leading nuclear powers to rouse popular support for their side in the new Cold War, ordinary Americans have every reason to remain skeptical of whatever our intelligence agencies may or may not say to reporters about who hacked the DNC computers and why they did it. This remains true whether the spooks talk directly to reporters or pass on their messages through other officials in the know, especially when the government fails to provide any hard evidence that the public can judge for itself.
Even the so-called "private investigators" from CrowdStrike, the cybersecurity experts whom the DNC called in to examine its computers in early May, have to remain suspect. CrowdStrike claims to have discovered on the DNC computers two different Russian hacking efforts, one by Russian military intelligence, the GRU, and the other by Russia's Federal Security Service. Circumstantial evidence suggests they may be on the right track, but their evidence has yet to undergo any comprehensive public investigation. In other words, the public really does not know if CrowdStrike is playing straight or playing us, either to boost their business or to go along with government intelligence agencies, with whom they work closely.
Where, then, does this leave us? A major clue will be how much the Clinton campaign continues to target the Russians. Clinton supporters would much prefer to shift the discussion away from how the party set out to sabotage the Sanders campaign, and talking up Russian hacking helps them do that.
The campaign has also started to smear Trump as a Russian puppet, a tasty tale that American spooks and mainstream media have joined forces to encourage. Trump has certainly supported Putin's views on NATO, Ukraine, Brexit, and a whole host of other issues, and his idiotic call for Russia to reveal Hillary's lost emails certainly provide some ready-made ammunition to use against him. It also made it more difficult to give serious consideration to some of the issues he has raised, as I've tried to do in previous columns.
But, as much as Trump and his campaign manager Paul Manafort have done business with Putin's rich Russian and Ukrainian friends, money-grubbing does not make Trump a Russian agent. New evidence might still emerge. But, unless it does, to suggest that Trump is the Siberian candidate, as Paul Krugman did, is simply a new take on old-fashioned red-baiting.
How vigorously will Clinton pursue the smear? It is still too early to tell. But if Russian-baiting Trump becomes central to her campaign, it will only add to a widespread belief that a Clinton presidency would significantly escalate the new Cold War, with all the dangers that entails.
Like many of you, I will still hold my nose and vote for Clinton, but only because I see Trump as a much greater threat, especially to Muslim and non-white minorities and to women. It will not be a happy choice.
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