Concurrent to the issue of whether or not the Trump team cooperated with Russians in efforts to sway the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential election, there remains the core issue of how Russians were able to have the opportunity to meddle in the election in the first place.
Russian government affiliated hackers broke into the personal email accounts of top Democratic officials and used that as a pretext for a disinformation campaign against Hillary Clinton.
The threat of Russian meddling in our political systems has not gone away, and a new investigation from the Associated Press has unveiled a disturbing breadth to the threat.
In nearly 80 cases, the AP has found that the government did not notify U.S. officials that they had been targeted by “Fancy Bear,” a Russian government linked hacking operation. The AP could only find two instances of officials having actually been notified that they were targeted.
The FBI has reportedly had information about the hacks for more than a year, but even still, they did not notify most of those affected about what was going on. Former senior director at the National Security Council Philip Reiner, who was targeted in 2015 — and hadn’t been notified by the government — called the situation “utterly confounding,” adding, “You’ve got to tell your people. You’ve got to protect your people.”
The AP didn’t get any real public explanation from the FBI, but they did speak to officials privately about the matter, getting an at least partial explanation, although it’s far from satisfactory.
The AP reports:
‘A senior FBI official, who was not authorized to publicly discuss the hacking operation because of its sensitivity, declined to comment on timing but said that the bureau was overwhelmed by the sheer number of attempted hacks.’
That official added:
‘It’s a matter of triaging to the best of our ability the volume of the targets who are out there.’
The AP evaluated the Fancy Bear related target data itself, reportedly finding “more than 500 U.S.-based people or groups” who had been targeted. The AP reached out to 190 of those people or groups, interviewing 90 of them — and only finding two who had been notified they’d been targeted by the Russians.
Notably, a few of those spoken to by the AP were contacted by the FBI after their emails were released at some point during the debacle of the 2016 election. Only about one in four of those interviewed by the AP “were still in government or held security clearances at the time they were targeted.”
This is far from the first time that questions have been raised about the government’s handling of the Russian hacking threat during the 2016 election and beyond. Trump, in fact, has often used that talking point as a diversion from his own alleged crimes, although the fact that he won’t even stick to acknowledging the reality of the threat means his comments shouldn’t be taken seriously.
Besides denying his own team’s involvement in the situation, Trump has repeatedly suggested that it may not have been the Russians responsible for the infamous email hacks that pockmarked the 2016 elections. Thus, he’s certainly not going to be any help addressing the issues raised by this AP report.
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