Foreign Policy

By last summer we knew that the Obama administration was aware of Russian hacking, but elected to do little about it. Now a Dutch newspaper, de Volkskrant, has revealed that the extent of the administration’s knowledge was not only wider than previously reported but also extremely detailed and timely.

“I know what you are doing” “So what, you won’t do anything”

Thanks to a  remarkable piece of espionage by the Dutch intelligence services, the administration knew the State Department had been hacked in November 2014. The AIVD and MIVD had penetrated “Cozy Bear”, a hacking organization based in Moscow that was operating as a front for the Russian foreign intelligence service, SVR. The Dutch were swift to tell their counterparts in American intelligence of Russia’s efforts to rummage around in America’s political institutions.

The Dutch could not only track what the Russian hackers were up to electronically, they could literally see them as they had broken into the cameras in the Cozy Bear offices. In addition, by 2015, the American NSA had hacked into the cell phones of top Russian intelligence officials.

Which raises the question, if the administration was so intimately aware of everything from the State Department hack to the theft of the DNC’s emails, why didn’t Obama speak up?

One theory is that they were so sure Hillary would win that Obama didn’t want to look as if he were ‘fixing’ the election for her. Adding credibility to that postulate is Joe Biden’s claim that Mitch McConnell refused to sign a bipartisan letter acknowledging the hack. Which if true would be yet another example of the Republicans putting party ahead of country. Meaning it’s probably true.

Additionally, the Obama administration never came up with a muscular policy against the Russians. They were aware of a vast amount of Russian propaganda sloshing around on social media, they did little to alert the public or take measures to stem the tide of disinformation. If Obama has a fault it is an excess of caution.

Normally the GOP would be able to make hay over the ex-President’s dithering. However, the Republicans are between a rock and a hard place. They would dearly love to use these revelations of Obama’s cautious response to Russian interference in American politics to denigrate his leadership abilities — you can imagine the headlines “Obama Ignores Cyber Threats to America” — but the more serious they make the charges the more they admit that the Russians interfered in the election.

So they have to downplay the Russian influence.

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