The controversy surrounding Russia's alleged efforts to help elect Donald Trump isn't going away anytime soon, but there are some core questions that need to be addressed. We'll need to know, for example, whether Russia was responsible for hacking the DNC network and leaking private materials.
NBC News' report
on this didn't leave much in the way of doubt.
Many U.S. officials and cyber security experts in and out of government are convinced that state-sponsored Russian hackers are the ones who stole 20,000 emails from the Democratic National Committee and leaked them to the public just in time to disrupt the Democrats' national convention in Philadelphia.
The NBC News assessment was based on a variety of considerations, including geography, language, forensic evidence, motive, and history.
Similarly, ABC News ran a similar report
yesterday, quoting a security expert who investigated the hack. Michael Buratowski, the senior vice president of cybersecurity services at Fidelis Cybersecurity, said, "I come from a law enforcement background, and it's [about being] beyond a reasonable doubt. And I would say it's beyond a reasonable doubt" that Russians stole the DNC materials.
The New York Times added
this morning, "American intelligence agencies have told the White House they now have 'high confidence' that the Russian government was behind the theft of emails and documents from the Democratic National Committee, according to federal officials who have been briefed on the evidence."
Now, even if these reports are accurate, and Russian officials stole the Democratic materials, that doesn't answer the "why" question. Russia's alleged involvement is an important piece of the puzzle, but we'll still need to know the Putin government's motivation.
It's one thing to take DNC documents; it's something else to leak those documents at a strategic moment in the hopes of dictating the outcome of an American presidential election.
Six weeks before the anti-secrecy organization WikiLeaks published an archive of hacked Democratic National Committee emails ahead of the Democratic convention, the organization's founder, Julian Assange, foreshadowed the release -- and made it clear that he hoped to harm Hillary Clinton's chances of winning the presidency. Mr. Assange's remarks in a June 12 interview underscored that for all the drama of the discord that the disclosures have sown among supporters of Bernie Sanders -- and of the unproven speculation that the Russian government provided the hacked data to WikiLeaks in order to help Donald J. Trump -- the disclosures are also the latest chapter in the long-running tale of Mr. Assange's battles with the Obama administration. In the interview, Mr. Assange told a British television host, Robert Peston of the ITV network, that his organization had obtained "emails related to Hillary Clinton which are pending publication," which he pronounced "great." He also suggested that he not only opposed her candidacy on policy grounds, but also saw her as a personal foe.
Watch this space.