Russian Election Malfeasance: Where's The Outrage?

Russian President Vladimir Putin takes part in the Business Russia Congress in Moscow on October 18, 2016.
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Russian President Vladimir Putin takes part in the Business Russia Congress in Moscow on October 18, 2016. The event is organised by the All-Russian public organisation Delovaya Rossiya. / AFP / POOL / Alexander Zemlianichenko (Photo credit should read ALEXANDER ZEMLIANICHENKO/AFP/Getty Images)

The views expressed are strictly those of the author.

A recent joint statement from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) states that the Russians are interfering with the U.S. presidential election, "The U.S. Intelligence Community (USIC) is confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from U.S. persons and institutions, including from U.S. political organizations." The Russian-backed hacking of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta's emails is but one example of their interference.

This is wrong for any number of reasons, but two in particular: it is an invasion of the privacy of a private citizen, and even more troubling, it is a blatant effort by the Russian government to undermine a fundamental American political process, that of free and fair elections.

The Russian government has issued some non-denial denials about the hacking of emails. Russian President Putin has admonished Americans concerned over who did the hacking, saying the content of the emails is what matters. This is specious reasoning. It ignores the outrageous behavior of the Russian government, and it also avoids the question of whether the content of the emails has been tampered with. If the Russian hackers feel it is OK to steal private emails, it is an acceptable assumption they may have doctored the content of the emails.

WikiLeaks is the enabler of this effort because of its willingness to post the emails. The more attention the hacked emails get, the more those doing the hacking will be inclined to continue with their malfeasance. Beyond the emails, there is concern that there could be interference with actual voting in some state polling places.

The joint ODNI and DHS statement added that "Such activity is not new to Moscow -- the Russians have used similar tactics and techniques across Europe and Eurasia, for example, to influence public opinion there. We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia's senior-most officials could have authorized these activities."

This is not only a problem for the United States, as the ODNI and DHS statement indicates, it has been an issue for the Europeans for some time. A recent New York Times article discussed in great detail Russian efforts to undermine the Government of Sweden's deliberations as to whether or not Sweden should join NATO. The Russians used disinformation to cause concern among Swedish citizens on what joining NATO would mean to them, saying things like NATO would secretly store nuclear weapons in Sweden, that NATO could attack Russia from Sweden without Swedish approval and NATO soldiers could rape Swedish women with impunity.

The European Union (EU) has accused Russia of supporting right wing nationalist parties in Europe, and Russia gave France's far right party, the National Front, an $11.7 million loan in 2014. It has also been reported that Moscow tried to influence the United Kingdom (UK) Brexit vote, encouraging the UK to leave the EU. This should be a dire warning for those who think Russian efforts don't amount to much.

There have been any number of thoughtful suggestions as to what the US Government should do in response to this interference. An article in Foreign Policy by former NATO Supreme Allied Commander, Admiral James Stavridis has a number of good ideas on how to respond. Vice President Biden suggested that the response may be more clandestine than public, while offering assurances that the Russians would know the U.S. is responding.

Outrage and concern over this issue should be on the fact that Russians are attacking our political institutions and our elections -- the backbone of our democracy. Political leaders of both parties need to come together, protesting Russian actions. As vice presidential candidate Mike Pence said, "There should be severe consequences to Russia or any sovereign nation that is compromising the privacy or the security of the United States of America..." This echoes comments made by others like Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA).

There has been a barrage of accusations that the presidential election process is unfair and fixed. These accusations should be aimed at the Russians. They are the ones who are trying to fix the election. Focusing on the content of someone's private emails, particularly if they may have been doctored, only plays into the hands of the Russians and their handmaiden, WikiLeaks.