If you have a computer and use the Internet read the following statement from candidate Donald Trump very carefully:
“When asked about documents stolen in a cyber attack on the Democratic National Committee’s servers, (1) Trump suggested hackers had also breached Clinton’s personal email server.
“By the way, if they hacked, they probably have her 33,000 emails. (2) I hope they do,” the GOP nominee told reporters, referring to Russia, who security experts suspect was behind the hack. “They probably have her 33,000 emails that she lost and deleted.”
He also addressed the country directly: (3) “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you can find the 33,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.” [TPM] [numbering added]
Let’s begin with Number One. The e-mails are a piece of the interminable GOP Benghazi nothing-burger which to date has yielded the participation of no less than 10 Congressional investigations; 252 witnesses called to testify, 62 hours of publicly available hearings, and 13 published reports – none of which indicate that Secretary Clinton did anything wrong. But, there is always hope in GOP hearts. A hope expressed by Trump, who offered ZERO evidence that the hack included Clinton’s personal server. He has no evidence her server was hacked – he just hopes so. Let that sink in a second.
Number Two: He hopes they hacked her server. Who hopes for someone else to be the victim of a cyber-attack? Does anyone really wish for the Russians or any other source to cyber-attack anyone in the United States of America? Is he really saying that he hopes a foreign power hacked one of our government officials? After 10 Congressional investigations, an FBI report, and every single published report exonerating the former Secretary of State of any illegal activity – Trump is still wishing for something, anything, to come to light which would assist his political campaign. This is Richard Nixon on steroids. This isn’t keeping an “enemies list,” or “taping Oval Office conversations.” This is actively seeking assistance from a foreign power (probably the Russians) to get results of cyber-attacks on the United States of America.
Number Three: Now witness the stretch in the Trump Tweet.
If the Russians, or some other power, has found deleted e-mails then Trump wants them “handed over.” On Twitter, Trump wants the e-mails handed over to authorities, but during the press conference he suggests that the media will jump all over the opportunity to publish them for click bait. And, all this without offering a single attributable FACT that the deletions are “illegal,” or that they would contain any information relevant to the investigations.
Worse still for Mr. Trump, there has been an FBI investigation and the security logs show NO evidence of any foreign hacks on the server in question. [NYT] [WaPo] Therefore, all we can say is that Mr. Trump is trying to perpetuate the Fox News mythology of “missing e-mails” and not-very-smoking guns. And yet more bad news for the mythologizers, the hacker who made claims about getting into Secretary Clinton’s e-mail server flat out lied. [PCWorld]
Let’s Get Serious
Mr. Trump’s anodyne platitudes and sweeping generalizations notwithstanding – there are a couple of things that he obviously doesn’t understand.
First, there’s cyber-war. He called American efforts “obsolete.” I suppose we might thank him for suggesting that our enemies could safely underestimate our capacity. However, all sides understand this is not the case. For a more in-depth report on Mr. Trump’s inadequacies in regard to the nature and effectiveness of the U.S. cyber arsenal please read this piece in the Atlantic.
Secondly, there’s the insidiousness of suggesting that any foreign power should be applauded for gaining access to U.S. information via cyber-attacks.
In August 2015, Russian hackers carried out a cyber-attack on the Pentagon. The attack shut down the unclassified e-mail system for the Joint Staff for about two weeks. No classified information was accessed, nothing was stolen, and only unclassified accounts were involved in the cyber-attack – thank goodness. [USNWR] However, we have to believe that there will be other, more sophisticated, and more egregious attacks to come. Is Mr. Trump suggesting that if the Russians found out something useful for his campaign they should turn it over to the FBI and the Press? – From the Pentagon?
In June 2015, we learned the Chinese had hacked the computers of the Office of Personnel Management. The agency estimated about 4.2 million federal employees were affected, including 1.5 million who are members of the U.S. military. [WSJ] Is Mr. Trump suggesting the hackers hand over any information which might be of any use to his campaign to the FBI and the Press?
Cyber-attacks aren’t playground dodge ball. Those who unsure of this proposition should read the articles in Wired, Business Insider, and Ars Technica on Stuxnet and Nitro Zeus. For a truly nightmare scenario, imagine an attack on the U.S. electrical grid. [The Hill] Just such an attack happened in Ukraine last December. [Wired] Is Mr. Trump suggesting that the Press might find it amusing to have the power go out in a major U.S. city during a campaign event for his opponent, Secretary Clinton?
The bottom line is that NO ONE, should be rooting for a cyber-attack, for any reason under any circumstances. NO ONE should be rooting for a foreign power to find a way into our secure information, our military operations, our personnel files, our electrical grid, our defense contractors, our banking institutions, our hospitals, our schools, or our retailing systems.