Posted by Curt on 3 January, 2017 at 3:38 pm. 26 comments already!


Glenn Reynolds:

If there’s any single statement that President Obama probably wishes he could undo, it was his mockery of Mitt Romney during the 2012 presidential debates. Referring to Romney’scharacterization of Russia as America’s greatest geopolitical foe, Obama said the 1980s are calling and they want their foreign policy back.

Now of course, Democrats are up in arms about the Russians, sounding like madcap John Birchers from the 1960s. As Twitter wag IowaHawk noted, they didn’t get upset when Russia invaded Crimea; they didn’t throw down when Russia shot down a civilian airliner over Ukraine; but stealing John Podesta’s password via a phishing scam is apparently grounds for restarting the Cold War. Well, only one of these crimes constitutes a threat to Democrats’ political power.

It’s easy to mock the Democrats’ hysteria over all this, which seems mostly an inability to accept that they lost a presidential election they thought was in the bag. Instead, they blame a password-phishing scam that Clinton campaign chief Podesta fell for like somebody’s technologically challenged grandmother. (Another IowaHawk tweet: “Breaking: State Department expels 20 Nigerian diplomats after Podesta fails to receive $1 million wire transfer from nephew of General Okezi.”) And, partly to cover for Hillary Clinton and to delegitimize Donald Trump, much of the press has talked about “election hacking” in a way that suggests — entirely falsely — that the Russians were changing votes instead of (maybe) being the ones who copied embarrassing emails from Podesta and gave them to WikiLeaks. (I say “maybe” because some people, such as Ars Technica’s security editor Dan Goodin, don’t think that the Obama administration has made the case that the Russians were behind it.)

But there’s more to the story, and some of it is worth more than mockery.

Whoever stole Podesta’s emails (and if I were a betting man, I’d bet it was the Russians) was able to do so because of basic failures in email security. Those failures have been a hallmark of this administration — we’ve had several really major hacks by foreign intelligence services, including one characterized by experts as a cyber Pearl Harbor, and yet none created the hysteria that Podesta’s emails have. Clinton’s private, illegal email server was almost certainly compromised by foreign intelligence services, and if so, had she been elected president she might have been open to blackmail and manipulation.

So let’s look ahead: In the next administration, we need to pay a lot more attention to cybersecurity. People love to be online — Obama famously refused to give up his BlackBerry when he took office, even though experts thought it insecure, even with modifications. But anything that’s online is vulnerable to hacking. In Neal Stephenson’s futuristic novel The Diamond Age, all the really important people do everything, from correspondence to reading the news, on paper, in part because it’s more secure. That future could soon be our present, at least if we want to be safe from spies.

We also need to pay more attention to civil society, which all the post-election denial and hysteria aren’t helping. Of course Russia tries to manipulate our politics, just as the United States has historically manipulated the politics of other countries, most notably Europe after World War II, when we secretly funded moderate-left parties in order to prevent electoral victories by communists. (Some say we should be doing something similar  to stop Putin-allied parties from winning in Europe.)

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