The WikiLeaks disclosure of material from Hillary Clinton’s paid speeches includes an April 2014 address to the University of Connecticut in which she admits to being under heavy attack by hackers.
Clinton told listeners that she was aware of near constant attacks:
At the State Department we were attacked every hour, more than once an hour by incoming efforts to penetrate everything we had. And that was true across the U.S. government.
And we knew it was going on when I would go to China, or I would go to Russia, we would leave all of our electronic equipment on the plane, with the batteries out, because this is a new frontier.
Unfortunately, as we recently learned from the FBI, Clinton left her electronic devices in lots of other places besides her official aircraft.
And they’re trying to find out not just about what we do in our government. They’re trying to find out about what a lot of companies do and they were going after the personal emails of people who worked in the State Department. So it’s not like the only government in the world that is doing anything is the United States. But the United States, compared to a number of our competitors, is the only government in the world with any kind of safeguards, any kind of checks and balances. They may in many respects need to be strengthened and people need to be reassured, and they need to have their protections embodied in law.
But, I think turning over a lot of that material intentionally or unintentionally, because of the way it can be drained, gave all kinds of information not only to big countries, but to networks and terrorist groups, and the like.
So I have a hard time thinking that somebody who is a champion of privacy and liberty has taken refuge in Russia under Putin’s authority. And then he calls into a Putin talk show and says, President Putin, do you spy on people? And President Putin says, well, from one intelligence professional to another, of course not. Oh, thank you so much. I mean, really, I don’t know. I have a hard time following it.
This last was a jab at Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who has portrayed his theft of national security documents as a blow for “privacy and liberty,” just as Clinton described.
Snowden did indeed make a “surprise appearance” during Putin’s annual town hall event in April 2014. The Washington Post transcribed the encounter, which went much as Clinton described. Her sarcasm was not misplaced:
“Mr. Snowden, you are a former agent, a spy,” Putin said in greeting him. “I used to work for an intelligence service. We can talk one professional language.”
Snowden, posing his question in English, asked whether Russia collected the communications of millions of its citizens in a manner similar to the U.S. surveillance. Putin responded by saying that such surveillance is conducted under the law. “You have to get court permission to stalk a particular person,” he said.
“Thank God, our special services are strictly controlled by the state and society, and their activity is regulated by law,” Putin said. Besides, he added, “We don’t have as much money as they have in the States, and we don’t have the technical devices that they have.”
Of course, given the many abuse-of-power scandals surrounding Clinton and Barack Obama, including some remarkable new revelations from WikiLeaks about collusion between Clinton and the Justice Department on the farcical “investigation” into her email server, maybe we shouldn’t be so quick to laugh at Putin’s assertion the rule of law is healthier in Russia. He’s full of baloney… but not nearly full enough.