Two weeks ago, we were treated to the alarming news that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) notified 21 states their election systems were hacked by the Russians.
This was a twofer for the media as it confirmed the “Russia did it” narrative behind Hillary Clinton’s 2016 election loss, and it gave the weekend talking heads something to chatter about other than the NFL.
The alarm lasted four days, to the following Tuesday, when DHS reversed itself and admitted the Russians did not hack Wisconsin's election system.
Shoe #2 dropped on Thursday when the California Secretary of State rebutted the DHS claim and pointed out the DHS information was not just wrong but also a year late. On Friday, Texas declared it “determined conclusively” it was not targeted by hackers and asked DHS to correct its claims to the contrary.
Next time, DHS should hire the Geek Squad.
If Vladimir Putin is a religious man, he is praying that DHS keeps it up. DHS served up “fake news” so weak it was dead in one week. By comparison, the Czarist-era Protocols of the Elders of Zion is still going strong after a century.
This case will be unfurled in the future when DHS gets it right (I can dream, can’t I?) and catches Kremlin agent Boris Badenov Red-handed.
It's fun to have a laugh at a hapless bureaucrat’s expense, but these public misfires affect our foreign policy.
In today’s networked world, no news is “for local consumption only.”
DHS’s sloppy work allows the Russian government to highlight another example of the ongoing project by the secular, relativistic West to weaken Orthodox Christianity and Russian’s unique culture.
This is not overly-dramatic. In the U.S. “fascist” has latterly (since 8 November 2016) meant “Republican”; in Russia, it connotes a serious menace they have not forgotten. Russia lost about 14% of its population in World War II and felt its sacrifice in the defeat of (real) Fascism saved Europe from a negotiated peace with Hitler.
Russia has traditionally been invaded overland, to wit, the Mongols, the Swedish Empire, the Teutonic Knights, Napoleon, the Nazis. More recently it was menaced by Cold War NATO and the color revolutions. Its national security leadership now says war will be fought in the information space in addition to sea, sky, and land. The Kremlin assumes we are doing it the way they do it, only not as well.
It’s irrelevant if Putin believes everything he says; he probably believes much of it (and has a “public position” and a “private position”), and the Russian voters believe it, too. They might all be wrong, but this is politics, not a physics problem.
The Russians surely snooped on the candidates in 2016 because that’s what governments do. Putin may interpret our intramural fight over alleged Russian election hacking as the “provocation” to prepare the American people for sanctions and military action against Russia because that’s what he would do.
We cannot expect every bureaucrat to think of the foreign policy implications of his work, but slip-ups may make an adversary over-confident or, conversely, force his hand in response to a popular outcry. If the government gets it right, the U.S. will not be gifting Mr. Putin a bushel of whataboutism.
If Homeland Security had a year to get the word out, it had a year to get it right.