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6 Problems With US Intel on Russian Hacks

Image: 6 Problems With US Intel on Russian Hacks

Tuesday, 10 Jan 2017 01:58 PM

By Leonid Bershidsky

America's intelligence-gathering bodies all agree that Russia interfered with last year's U.S. election by various means. But the public account of what happened is strikingly defective. The danger is that erroneous policy responses could result. As talk of retaliation escalates, getting the story right is critical -- both for the incoming Trump administration and also since Europe is now on high alert that Moscow may meddle in this year's key elections.

It's hard for someone who follows Russia and cybersecurity issues closely not to conclude from the declassified report that the intelligence services were under pressure in producing it. The narrative in the unclassified report is full of holes. One can only hope that the classified version has a good deal more chapter and verse.

The Russian interference story deserves to be known in much greater detail. Was it raw opportunism, a phishing expedition that proved unexpectedly productive? Or was it a well-executed, state-directed cyberwar strategy? We don't know, but the answer matters. A vicious circle of attack and retaliation could plunge U.S. politics into even worse chaos.

The report could also result in the erroneous attribution of cyberattacks by profit-seeking groups as Russian government meddling, and even in government action against journalists suspected of pushing the Russian line or spreading information stolen by Russian spies. Being in the ballpark here isn't good enough.

The intelligence services need time, and less pressure, to run a proper investigation. There's no rush; the 2016 election result will not be annulled. The post post-Cold War order may depend on getting it right. And, by presenting more complete findings, there is a chance that the U.S. intelligence community can even redeem itself.

Leonid Bershidsky is a Bloomberg View columnist. He was the founding editor of the Russian business daily Vedomosti and founded the opinion website Slon.ru.

 

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America's intelligence-gathering bodies all agree that Russia interfered with last year's U.S. election by various means. But the public account of what happened is strikingly defective. The danger is that erroneous policy responses could result. As talk of retaliation...
russia, intel, us, hacks, trump, problems
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2017-58-10
Tuesday, 10 Jan 2017 01:58 PM
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