Dear Lawmaker: Remember that old movie The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming? Well, may I, your constituent, ask you to turn your attention away from all the current partisan bickering and realize that the Russians are already here and infiltrating who knows how many aspects of American life?
We’ve heard testimonies that the Russians dispatched gangs of Internet trolls to post fake news stories to influence our last presidential election. But what if Russian hackers are also working on ways to shut off America’s power grid or launch our nuclear missiles? What if they are funding organized crime to try to destabilize major American cities, or figuring out ways to disrupt our food supply?
Could you and your colleagues please knock off the distracting, never-ending partisan political fights (about everything!) and focus on the Russian threat to this country?
Thanks for reading this.
— A Concerned Voter
That’s the letter I’d plan to send each of my representatives in Congress.
It seems crystal clear that Russian megalomaniac President Vladimir Putin has had — and continues to operate — a massive Internet-based campaign aimed at destabilizing the United States.
He would like to see our democracy paralyzed, and then eliminated. He surely giggles over his nightly vodka as American news reaches the Kremlin and he watches the political paralysis his cybermeddling has created.
Only the foolish would believe Putin is done trying to manipulate the American mindset. Yet the focus on Capitol Hill remains firmly entrenched in other issues punctuated by partisan preening, posturing and finger-pointing, all with the apparent goal of getting face time on the evening news.
This is no way to tend to the nation’s business. I wish there were laws with teeth in them criminalizing political malingering and dereliction of duty.
Make no mistake: Our nation remains under attack by the Russians, not in the traditional military sense but rather on the nearly invisible cyberwar battlefield.
Just because our presidential election has passed doesn’t mean Putin and his band of Internet vultures plan to pack it in and find other ways to spend their time. Under Putin’s guidance, they are certainly focused on developing new ways to mess with America.
We are told the FBI is investigating. And there are two congressional investigations underway — one in the Senate, one in the House of Representatives — tasked with discovering and dissecting Russian activities surrounding our 2016 presidential election. How far did they go to try to manipulate U.S. public opinion? What did they actually accomplish?
And, perhaps most important, were any Americans colluding with the Russians to sway election results? Rumors of treasonous scheming have been rampant, obviously coming from operatives inside both major political parties.
It’s odd how these political propagandists don’t realize who the enemy is. The real adversaries aren’t Democrats or Republicans; they are Kremlinites under the direction of a despot with sleight of hand who desperately needs to distract his people from their own sad plight under his leadership.
While recognizing that social media did play a part in disseminating fake news, the study found, it was not a dominant source of news.
“Even the most widely circulated fake news stories were seen only by a relatively small number of Americans, most probably ‘rabid partisans,’” the study reported.
So, if the study is right and Russian attempts did not have a measurable effect on the presidential election, what is Washington, D.C., really investigating?
You bet I’m interested to know whether anyone in President Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with the Russians to influence the outcome of the election. I’m also interested to learn whether Hillary Clinton’s camp engaged in a post-election campaign of dirty tricks against Trump to make her a more attractive candidate should she take another crack at the presidency in a couple of years. And whether loyalists of former President Barack Obama’s have a plot to discredit Trump as he undoes so much of Obama’s legacy.
But what is most important now is our national security. It is clear that battles henceforth will not require armed soldiers marching through streets. Future wars may very well begin and end with shadowy characters sitting at keyboards launching subversive tactics to demoralize and defeat their foes.
Let’s hope the outcome of all these investigations isn’t simply an exercise in political drama that ends with no definitive answers. And let’s pray our leaders aren’t so mired in the past that they myopically focus only on high-priced weaponry systems as a means to ensure the nation’s security.
We need to strengthen our own army of keyboard warriors who can root out internet attacks before they do damage and, ideally, paralyze Putin’s cyberwar effort. We would all be safer for it.
— Diane Dimond is the author of Thinking Outside the Crime and Justice Box. Contact her at [email protected], follow her on Twitter: @DiDimond, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.