President Obama and various members of Congress have called for an investigation of Russian hacking and its impact on the 2016 presidential election. During the campaign, the Democratic National Committee was hacked, and many of its emails leaked via WikiLeaks -- an act that some elements within the CIA believe was part of a Russian effort to help Donald Trump win the election. While no reliable source is suggesting at this point that hacking actually altered the results of the election or that even a single vote was directly mainpulated, an investigation is still warranted. That said, there are also several critical questions that we, the American people, should be asking our government:
1. Doesn't the United States meddle in the elections and other leader-selection-processes of other nations?
There have long been reports of the United States meddling in foreign elections and attempting to change regimes. Earlier this year, President Obama had no qualms about using de facto scare tactics to campaign against Brexit. While we must defend ourselves against foreign hacking, if our government tries to influence leader-selection processes and other elections overseas, we should expect foreigners to do no differently vis-à-vis our own elections - and we should prepare accordingly. Our focus should be on protecting ourselves, not trying to inflame passions via press conferences and media stories that fail to mention similarities to our own government's actions.
2. Doesn't the United States hack and spy on foreign governments and foreign political entities?
I suspect we all know the answer to that question, but if the answer is, in fact, yes, then, as before, we should not be surprised if other nations are hacking our own parties' infrastructures. We should, however, demand that the parties responsible for conducting our elections do more to protect their informational assets. Which brings us to the third question.
3. How secure was the Democratic National Committee's email?
Were its members adhering to information security best practices? How well were the people in charge of actually protecting data that could impact our election delivering on their responsibility? With the Democratic candidate for President under FBI investigation for potential negligence with data, with cyber breaches in the news on a regular basis, and with it being common knowledge that various unfriendly nations have cyber armies that have targeted US interests on an ongoing basis, the DNC clearly had ample warning about the importance of information security. Did they pay attention?
4. Was it really the Russians who did the hacking, and the leaking of the DNC's emails?
WikiLeaks claims that the party that provided it with the DNC emails was not the Russian government or Russian agents. Was it really the Russians who did the hacking? If so, were they the only ones who did so? Were they the only ones who obtained the data? Were the hackers themselves hacked by others? The fact that the CIA believes that Russians hacked the DNC does not mean that Russian agents were the only ones who did so, and does not mean that someone else could not have supplied the evidence to WikiLeaks.
5. Is there evidence to back up any of the government's claims about Russia being the culprit, and, if so, can some proof be released to the public?
After a politically charged campaign, many people are rightfully skeptical of the CIA's claim -- whether or not it is true, it is certainly a convenient way to delegitimize Donald Trump's presidency and shift blame for Hillary Clinton's loss from the party and candidate to outside actors. Producing evidence would be of great value.
6. Why are we focusing on foreign hacking, and not on both the failure of the DNC to protect its data and the inappropriate material found in the emails?
Is there sufficient probable cause to investigate potentially illegal activity by the party leadership during the Democratic primary? Millions of people together contributed many millions of dollars to Bernie Sanders's campaign; if the primary was marketed to the public as being conducted with objectivity, but was not, aren't there potentially civil and criminal repercussions? Don't "we the people" deserve to know what went on behind the scenes?
7. Were Republican systems hacked as well?
If so, do we know if the hacking was done by the same parties? Is there evidence of such that can be released to the public?
8. Why aren't voter registration databases and voting systems considered critical infrastructure?
How are systems that are absolutely essential for maintaining democracy and freedom -- and which have been subject to attack attempts in recent years -- not of primary importance? As I have written before, it is possible for hackers to manipulate elections -- let's change this ASAP!
The bottom line.
The failure of the government to shed light on the aforementioned issues is continuing to divide the country. It is possible to preserve national security while simultaneously addressing legitimate concerns. Not every detail need be shared to restore confidence, clarify a situation, and prepare the public for the future.
The suggestion by a bipartisan quartet of senators yesterday that "recent reports of Russian interference in our election should alarm every American" is right, but, at present, it is not the Russians with whom we should be most outraged; we should be directing our anger and upset toward those who failed to properly secure systems important to our democratic process, and to those spreading distrust of election results -- without answering basic questions or providing a shred of evidence to support their claims. It makes no sense to be alarmed or outraged when foreigners act exactly as we should expect, and as our own government likely behaves; rather, going forward, we should anticipate hostile foreign actors' attempts, and be far better prepared.