The Russian Hack

The Russian Hack: Does It Equal War? If Not, Why Not?


Leonard Zwelling

It has recently been made public that there has been a huge breach in cyber security and many parts of the federal government have had their secrets exposed, supposedly to the Russians. Let’s say for a minute that all this media hype is true and the confidential information of federal agencies and private companies have been made available to our foreign adversaries in the Kremlin through the actions of those adversaries. Why isn’t this an act of war?

There can really be only two reasons this is not damned near Pearl Harbor or 9/11. Either the federal government is unsure about who did this and what was done or we are doing it, too. If the news media is reporting on the hack and they are discussing it on Meet the Press as a fait accompli that this was done by the Russians, the first explanation seems pretty lame (see Wall Street Journal op-ed by former Congressman Mike Rogers from December 21). While all the American counter intelligence was focused successfully on securing our national election, the Russians popped through a back door and ran off with the gold. Why President Trump is loathe to admit that it was the Russians is a topic for another day. It seems that Trump is Putin’s bitch for some reason and will not utter a bad word about Vlad. More importantly the likely explanation behind why the U.S. seems to be doing nothing to counteract the Russian attack is probably that we too are doing this mischief and for all we know, the Russian attack was retaliation for something we did first.

This matters now because the traditional means of both spying and war have changed. Spying used to be a close up profession. Now it can be done at a safe distance. Even attacks are no longer limited to armaments. The U.S.-Israeli attack on the Iranian uranium-enriching centrifuges is but one example of what can be done over the Internet without the use of a single missile.

What the government does need to do is:

Let us know exactly what happened and how.

Let us know what the government aims to do about it and if nothing, why nothing.

Let the Russians (and Chinese, and Iranians, and North Koreans) know what the consequences of such attacks are likely to be in the future.

If this is just business as usual now, getting worked up in the media is a foolish thing to do. Both the Trump and in-coming Biden Administrations need to make clear to America and to the world what the rules are in this new world of cyber espionage and Internet attacks.

It will also behoove the Biden crew to beef up our cyber defenses because clearly they are not adequate just yet.

This attack, putatively by the Russians, is very serious and raises the level of the stakes of what goes on in cyber space. Convincing the country that we are ready for these attacks is the job of the Biden folks and it will be one of their first.

It’s clearly a new world of espionage and war. Defining what constitutes which is probably necessary or we all will wonder why our government seems to be doing nothing when we are clearly under attack.

2 thoughts on “The Russian Hack”

  1. Your op-ed reminds me of Winston Churchill’s definition of Russia: “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.” Russia remains “an inscrutable and menacing” land that plays by ONLY its own goals.
    Don’t you suspect that our intelligence agencies have already responded to “THE HACK” in some clandestine way? Biden understands international politics and war strategies far better than Trump ever imagined. Biden and his team are likely to be adroit in responding to Russia’s attacks. We are in a cyber war!

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