For much of the political world, the focus in recent days has been on the content of stolen Democratic National Committee emails, and the degree to which they prove hostility between party officials and their critics in Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign. As of yet, there's no proof the DNC "rigged" the process to help Hillary Clinton, but the ugly controversy has nevertheless led to the ouster of the DNC outgoing chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
But taking a step back, a related controversy, which is arguably far more serious, is unfolding. It's focused not on what the individual emails say, but rather, the theft itself
The DNC email leak ... remains under investigation by the FBI. "A compromise of this nature is something we take very seriously, and the FBI will continue to investigate and hold accountable those who pose a threat in cyberspace," the bureau said in a statement Monday.
NBC News' Richard Engel added
this afternoon that three leading U.S. cyber-security companies told NBC News "they have a high degree of confidence" that Russia was responsible for the leaking of the DNC materials.
As we discussed
this morning, the available evidence is raising questions about Vladimir Putin's government and its possible intervention in the American presidential campaign, but we're still dealing with unproven allegations. A growing number of experts appear to believe Russian officials were responsible for the hacking and the leaking, but the investigation has not come to definitive conclusions.
But while that probe continues, relevant details continue to raise concerns about the seriousness of the controversy. Yahoo News' Michael Isikoff reports today
, for example, that a DNC staffer who was researching Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort's ties to Russia's government found that her personal email account had been hacked.
The staffer's private account was targeted after she'd reached out to a number of investigative journalists abroad "who had been providing her with information about Manafort's political and business dealings in that country and Russia."
The FBI suspects that Russian government hackers breached the networks of the Democratic National Committee and stole emails that were posted to the anti-secrecy site WikiLeaks on Friday. It's an operation that several U.S. officials now suspect was a deliberate attempt to influence the presidential election in favor of Donald Trump, according to five individuals familiar with the investigation of the breach. [...] Current and former U.S. officials drew analogies to so-called "active measures campaigns," or state-sponsored operations designed for political effects. "The release of emails just as the Democratic National Convention is getting underway this week has the hallmarks of a Russian active measures campaign," David Shedd, a former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told The Daily Beast.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, added that lawmakers have been briefed on the intrusion.
"If the hack is linked to Russian actors, it would not be the first time cyber intrusions linked to the Kremlin and its supporters have sought to influence the political process in other countries," Schiff said in a statement
. "Given Donald Trump's well known admiration for Putin and his belittling of NATO, the Russians have both the means and the motive to engage in a hack of the DNC and the dump of its emails prior to the Democratic convention. That foreign actors may be trying to influence our election -- let alone a powerful adversary like Russia -- should concern all Americans of any party."