Blog No. 4: Lawyers Love Russian Hackers

If you’ve spent your career at the confluence of Media, technology and politics, like me, then the Russian hacking story this week is very disturbing to say the least.

Before we delve into this, in case you missed it, here is the link to the NYT story that has Foggy Bottom in an uproar:

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/13/us/politics/russia-hack-election-dnc.html?smprod=nytcore-ipad&smid=nytcore-ipad-share

The issue here isn’t about Dems whining, hell, they will always bitch about something.

The issue is the influence of the Russians in a very blatant and provocative way — directly influencing our democratic (with a small d) system of elections. Hacking folks and spreading their information is one thing — and I agree (for the most part) that if you don’t want something played back to you, don’t type, record or film it. But, and here’s the core issue, mis-information, false news, only hacking one side and not both, these are all part of bigger, more onerous problem.

“I don’t think anybody at the White House thinks it’s funny that an adversary of the United States engaged in malicious cyber activity to destabilize our democracy — that’s not a joke,” Josh Earnest, Obama’s Press Secretary said Thursday. “It might be time to not attack the intelligence community, but actually be supportive of a thorough, transparent, rigorous, non-political investigation into what exactly happened.”

Obama had a chance to smack Putin down months ago when the Sony hack and others you haven’t read about occurred. He didn’t, allegedly fearing retaliation from linkage to Assad and Syria (see how those dots are all connected really fast?). I’m not so sure Kerry convinced Obama to back off Putin because of Syria. Anyway, Obama’s now left a mess for Trump to deal with in Russia and Syria. Thousands of refugees are streaming out of Aleppo this morning, with apparently nowhere to go. It’s Europe in 1945 all over again, and it’s a damned mess.

Many folks inside the administration are advocating for a calculated and swift pro-active Cyber strike against the Russians. Cyber wars are very scary, and will have enormous consequences to financial markets, the power grid, and indeed in the long run our very way of life — a top element, no doubt, in Trump’s national security briefing packs which I assume by now he’s actually starting to read, or does Ivanka do that for him?

The FBI’s handing of this Cyber case with the Dems is nothing short of awful. In the end, Comey will likely lose his job as Dems scream for his head on a platter. The FBI’s substandard method of informing the campaigns of not only Mrs. Clinton, but also other Democratic Congressional candidates is nothing short of negligence. It just can’t be tolerated.

I had the honor of being a guest lecturer last month at American University’s Kogod School of Business (Thank you Professor Bellows!). My talk was on cyber security. Basically, what I told the students (all undergrads) was the biggest motivator for cyber threat is usually greed. That State-Sponsored Cyber terrorism is perceived to be greatly below the everyday threat of financial theft in most Cyber experts’ opinions. ISIS, The Chinese, The Russians, The North Koreans — all remain genuine threats to national security through their Cyber activities. Ask any executive who has been to any of these regional markets in the last 10 years, and they’ll tell you every time they come home, they have to either get a new phone and laptop, or minimally get them fully wiped and sterilized, their hard drives removed and the software rebuilt.

Clearly either Trump isn’t telling us the truth, or is ignoring what’s staring him in the face, the Cyber problem, exacerbated by “The Internet of All Things” is making the problem more pronounced. And Putin’s actions, while highly provocative, are only a small part of a bigger problem.

More Federal dollars are needed to shore up our aging Federal Networks. Consolidation into the cloud, and additional protections (password encryption systems tied to new media elements such as iris scanning, 10-pin readers, etc.,) are genuinely a problem.

Are we always going to get hacked? Sure, millions of times everyday. In my presentation, I showed the AU students a heat map of cyber attacks at NORAD. There was an audible gasp in the room. Some of them were scared. Hell, me too! It’s a big problem at State Dept., of that I can attest first hand. And with all this publicity this week, it’s only going to get worse.

What we need to do is ask if this particularly heinous act, I’m talking about the Russians hacking the DNC, which apparently did effect the outcome of many very close elections (again, note the hubbub about hacking of Dem Congressional members’ campaigns), is really being addressed. Trump’s rhetoric that the election was “rigged” turns out to be right — only now its clear the Russians rigged it for Trump. Let the crazies start developing conspiracy theories about ties between Putin, Trump and Tillerson — and you begin to see the issue.

There’s no doubt Hillary lost for a variety of reasons — Comey, email scandal, Bill’s closet of girlfriends, the sheer inability to reach older, white men. But the real reason Hillary lost is because Trump won 2,463 counties and Hillary won 456 counties. The vast majority of open spaces and territory in America where the jobs AREN’T is who voted for Trump. In gross terms --- Hillary got urban elites, and Trump got everybody else. She may have won 3 million more votes, but Trump won in the Electoral college, and in our system, that’s what matters. Ask Al Gore.

James Carville got it right. There was no economic message from Hillary that resonated with voters. Trump addressed the declining middle class and underprivileged--- the people who are falling behind. Clinton did not. The irony is that those same folks are the traditional backbone of the Democratic Party. Now they’ve clearly gone to Trumpville.

Will Trump’s lack of sophistication and knowledge of an ever- increasingly dangerous world be a problem for America? We shall see. Calling our CIA and NSA wrong and biased won’t help him. He’s going to use a lot of chits on the Rex Tillerson hearings with his own guys, never mind Dems.

I’m just not really impressed with how Trump’s conducting himself so far. He’s my president too, and I expect him to pick up his game, and cut the amateurish, silly stuff.

Still, Tillerson will get confirmed. But, the dye is cast, and there’ll be a long day of questions about Russian links, ties, and angles to Rex. Should be good political theater, but not much else.

Meanwhile, as my friend Bob said, the Russian are the Russians. He’s right. Still, I prefer to think about the Russians not like Dostoyevsky wrote about them, but more like Jackson Browne did in his song, “Lawyers in Love”,

Last night I watched the news from Washington, the capitol

The Russians escaped while we weren't watching them, like Russians will

Now we've got all this room, we've even got the moon

And I hear the U.S.S.R. will be open soon

As vacationland for lawyers in love.

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