Dear Representative McCollum:
I am writing in regard to your constituent letter titled “Defending Our Democracy From Russian Attacks”. The allegations, as I understand them, are that Russia hacked the email accounts of the Democratic National Committee and Clinton Campaign Chair John Podesta, and uploaded them to Wiki-Leaks, which subsequently released them to the public. Unfortunately your letter is a histrionic response to allegations that, if proven to be true, do not rise to any level approaching “an existential threat to our way of life”, “acts of aggression”, or “an attack on the American people”.
The emails demonstrated collusion between the DNC and the Clinton campaign to tip the primary election against Bernie Sanders. Like the Edward Snowden revelations, this information is in the public interest and I thank whoever obtained it, and I thank Wiki-Leaks for releasing it.
I would not characterize email hacking as a “cyber attack”. No equipment or systems were damaged. It is, rather, run-of-the-mill spying that goes on everyday. If the Congress wishes to investigate a real cyber attack, it should investigate the stuxnet virus launched against Iran.
Your letter also suggests that Russia manipulated sensitive political material and spread fake news. There is no reason to suspect that the hacked emails were manipulated, or in any way altered. The Clinton campaign has only said it would not comment as to the authenticity of the documents. There have indeed been fake documents created to damage Clinton, but they were not part of the Wiki-Leaks trove. These documents became fake news when they were picked up by supposedly reputable news sites like MSNBC and Newsweek and attributed to Wiki-Leaks. Please see Glenn Greenwald’s December 9, 2016 article in the Intercept for a more complete examination of the fake news phenomenon.
The Michael Morell quote in your letter is completely over the top. In equating the hacking with 9/11, is Mr. Morell suggesting a similar response? Are we to wage war against Russia? Rendition and torture those we believe to be responsible? Indefinitely detain them without charge or trial? Remember, this is the same Michael Morell who, as a foreign policy advisor to the Clinton campaign, went on the Charlie Rose show and suggested that we start killing Russians and Iranians in Syria to send a message to Moscow and Tehran. He is a loathsome warmonger whose counsel should be ignored.
Exposure of the truth is never a threat to democracy. The threat lies in excessive secrecy and the persecution of whistle-blowers and truth-tellers. I also find our democracy is imperiled by gerrymandering and voter suppression efforts such as voter ID laws, purges to voter rolls, discriminatory restrictions on early voting, and long lines on election day. In fact, it is my opinion that these contemptible efforts, in combination, cost Hillary Clinton the election; certainly more so than any two-bit email hack that would not have registered a blip had no wrongdoing occurred.
Mike Madden, U.S. Air Force veteran and current Vice President of Veterans For Peace Chapter 27
Mike’s letter was written in response to Rep McCollum’s letter at: http://mccollum.house.gov/press-release/mccollum-we-must-defend-our-demo…
Many of you have contacted me with concerns about Russian cyber attacks during the 2016 presidential election. I share your sense of outrage at these attacks and write to discuss my strong support for a swift and bipartisan response.
The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has determined with “high confidence” — the intelligence community’s highest degree of certainty — that Russia launched a state-sponsored cyber attack intended to influence the presidential election to the benefit of Donald Trump.
The White House has confirmed that “the Intelligence Community made very clear that [the hacking] was activity directed by the highest levels of the Russian government.”
When a foreign power launches cyber attacks, manipulates sensitive political data, and spreads fake news stories to influence who is elected President of the United States, it is tantamount to an attack on the United States.
Michael Morell, a distinguished leader at the CIA and the agency’s former acting director, said yesterday: “A foreign government messing around in our elections is, I think, an existential threat to our way of life. To me, and this is to me not an overstatement, this is the political equivalent of 9/11.”
There is a clear bipartisan belief that this Russian attack demands a response. For instance, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said: “I’m going after Russia in every way you can go after Russia. I think they did interfere in our elections and I want [Russian President Vladimir] Putin personally to pay a price.”
I urge President Barack Obama to respond against Russia proportionally, forcefully, and unequivocally. The United States must show President Putin and the world that tampering with an American election will be considered an attack on the American people. For example, President Obama could immediately recall the U.S. ambassador to Moscow and expel Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. In light of his government’s actions, allowing Russia’s ambassador to remain in Washington is intolerable and he should be considered persona non grata.
Unfortunately, Mr. Trump and his advisors appear not to take these Russian acts of aggression seriously. As a candidate, Mr. Trump repeatedly expressed concerns that the election would be “rigged” against him. Faced with the best American intelligence that the Russian government worked to rig the election, Mr. Trump has chosen to castigate the work of intelligence professionals who put their lives on the line to defend the United States.
The American people deserve a full public discussion of these Russian actions — an undertaking that requires a bipartisan Congressional investigation. I strongly support the establishment of a select committee, made up of Republicans and Democrats, to fully investigate Russia’s attack on our democracy and to conduct public hearings on this issue. A Congressional investigation will also help ensure that the federal government develops a strategy to prevent similar attacks from occurring in the future.
I take my responsibility to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States very seriously. That most certainly includes preventing foreign enemies from undermining the legitimacy of our country’s democratic election process.
This Russian attack on our democracy demands a strong, swift, and sustained response by the White House and the Congress. With the future of our democracy at stake, I will do everything in my power to protect the freedom we enjoy as Americans.
Betty McCollum Member of Congress