Zumwalt: Obama’s Russian Hacking Shell Game

TOPSHOT - Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) meets with his US counterpart Barack Obama on the sidelines of the G20 Leaders Summit in Hangzhou on September 5, 2016. / AFP / SPUTNIK / ALEXEI DRUZHININ (Photo credit should read ALEXEI DRUZHININ/AFP/Getty Images)

It is interesting that President Barack Obama, who during eight years in office has, historically, been slow to act on international challenges, has moved quickly to impose sanctions upon Russia for alleged interference with the 2016 election. He moves well before a detailed investigation into the issue can be concluded.

Compare the timeline for the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s unauthorized use of her email servers. In March 2015, it became publicly known that during her tenure as Secretary of State she utilized a private server for email communications rather than the secure government server. This act was clearly in violation of State Department protocols and federal record keeping regulations.

Upon learning Clinton also used her private server to send classified material, the FBI launched an investigation into it later that year.

In May 2016, the State Department’s Office of the Inspector General released an 83-page report on both the Department’s email practices as well as Clinton’s unauthorized practices.

Finally, in August 2016, the FBI finally released a report on Clinton’s email practices investigation, finding while Hillary was extremely careless, it was believed there was no basis for criminal prosecution.

From the time Clinton’s email scandal became public knowledge to the time detailed investigations were completed by both the FBI and State Department took 14 and 17 months respectively.

On December 4th, Obama ordered a CIA investigation into Russia’s alleged interference with the presidential election and now, remarkably, less than four weeks later, it would appear the investigation has been completed as he prepares to impose sanctions against Moscow. While Moscow demands it be shown evidence of complicity, none has been offered.  

How is it, while an investigation into Hillary’s email scandal took more than a year, one into possible Russian hacking has taken less than a month.

Of interest too is Obama’s claim he knew about the Russian interference for months prior to the election.  However, he failed to act due to his inability to decide how best to respond without “escalating tensions with Moscow and being accused of trying to boost Clinton’s campaign.”

The logic to Obama’s argument is this: Russian hacking occurred; disclosing it before the election ran the risk he would be criticized for favoring Clinton’s campaign; thus, he opted to do nothing (unsurprisingly) other than simply await the election’s result.

Since election day polls projected an 85% chance of a Clinton win, why—Obama apparently rationalized—should he bother interfering by giving the allegation a high profile? After all, pressing alleged Russian hacking claim might only disrupt Hillary’s victory.

However, totally unexpected to Obama, the severe negativity surrounding Clinton’s private server use as well as the damning content of her emails resulted in Russian hacking supposedly swaying the election in Donald Trump’s favor. Thus, only now does it become an issue!

It would now appear it has only been Clinton’s loss that has motivated Obama to press forward with allegations of Russian  involvement. The logical conclusion seems to be, therefore, had Hillary prevailed, Obama would not have raised the hacking issue, leaving it to Hillary to act, or not, against Moscow.  

While there are reasons why Obama may be unwilling to disclose evidence of Russian involvement, there are also reasons why none may exist.

Refusing to provide evidence may stem from a concern that producing it might disclose potential U.S. intelligence-gathering sources used to obtain it.

However, a group of retired senior U.S. intelligence officials—among them NSA whistleblower William Binney—claim a system is in place to monitor remote data removal that would have detected Russian hacking. Its failure to do so could only lead to one conclusion—a fiber network was never used but, rather, a thumb drive was to download DNC emails. In other words, it was an inside job.

But why would Obama rush to judgment against Russia, imposing sanctions for allegedly interfering with the US presidential election?  We have repeatedly been reminded by the President, in the aftermath of Muslim terrorist attacks in the U.S., not to rush to judgment linking the violence to Islam. Yet rushing to judgment is exactly what he has done here.

This raises a strong concern that perhaps, having overseen one of the worst political upsets in history and with his party clinging to a minority in both the House and Senate, Obama seeks to deflect blame. In an effort to salvage his legacy, it would not be surprising for Obama to seek to place responsibility for the Republican victory upon alleged Russian hackers rather than where such responsibility firmly lies—the Democratic Party he led.

Both during and after the presidential election, Obama has opted to play a shell game with alleged Russian hacking interference, refusing to play it up when a perceived Democratic win seemed inevitable, only turning to it afterwards to try to explain why it failed to happen. 


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