Emails and Influence: Investigating Russia’s Attack on the U.S. Political System

October 31, 2016

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Revelations over emails are going to be roiling this election season to the very end. This is, in no small part, due to a series of targeted hacks and leaks that cyber-security experts and the U.S. intelligence community have attributed to Russia.

In this episode, we address this unprecedented Russian-directed information operations campaign targeting the U.S. presidential election and, indeed, the fundamental legitimacy of the American system of government. From email hacks to electronic voting machines, major vulnerabilities have been exposed and could change how we approach national campaigns forever, not just in the United States but in other democracies as well.  Think I am overstating it? See what you think by the end of this episode.

I gathered together an all-star group of experts to help me figure out exactly how this all happened, including Dmitri Alperovitch of Crowdstrike, Ben Buchanan of the Belfer Center, Shane Harris of The Daily Beast, Susan Hennessey of Brookings and Lawfare, Michael Poznansky of the University of Pittsburgh, and Benjamin Wittes of Brookings and Lawfare (who throws down the gauntlet for Sean Hannity). Have a listen!



Ryan Evans is the founder and editor-in-chief of War on the Rocks.

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15 thoughts on “Emails and Influence: Investigating Russia’s Attack on the U.S. Political System

  1. Info Ops?

    More like doing the media’s job for them

    Info Ops would imply the Russians have created a campaign and materials to intentionally smear the democratic party

    Hillary Clinton’s personal email server and her mishandling classified is her own doing

    The DNC emails are they own creation

    neither one of those were created by the Russians

  2. Let us make the assumption that the DNC and Podesta emails being published were, in fact, intercepted by and provide to Wikileaks by Russian intelligence.
    Both the server on which the DNC’s email traffic was conducted and the server on which Podesta’s email traffic was conducted were more secure than the HRC “home brew” server in the bathroom closet on which HRC stored Top Secret – Special Access Program information.
    It would then be a warranted conclusion that due to the extremely negligent behavior of HRC while she was Secretary of State the Russians, and almost certainly other intelligence services, were able to access some of America’s most protected national secrets.

    1. if you ask Clinton her server was more secure than anything the government manages, their is no way it was ever hacked…….

      yeah right, even anyone brand new to IT security knows that’s a joke

      any system can be breached, it’s not a matter of if, but when

  3. I am not sure that telling ugly TRUTHS really constitutes an attack on the legitimacy of the US election process. Clearly, a DISINFORMATION CAMPAIGN, would be such, but simply revealing TRUTHS seems more akin to just doing the US voters a favor.

    1. Digit:

      People have candid, ugly conversations behind closed doors in all political campaigns. Second, there actually have been things changed in some of the emails (disinformation). Third, information in the emails has been mischaracterized and misconstrued in some cases in English language reporting in Russian state-owned media outlets like Sputnik and RT. If you were a US citizen (not sure if you are) wouldn’t you be concerned over an adversarial foreign power actively and covertly working to swing the outcome of a national election?

      1. Kind of like what we (U.S.) have been doing around the globe for the last 100+ years? I’m sure some of our foreign readers could provide some fascinating thoughts on this subject…

      2. I am aware that candid ugly conversations occur all the time. Having said that, I consider the TRUTHFUL revelation of such conversations to be entirely legitimate and above board. I am unaware of any constitutional right or federal law indicating that politicians own words cannot be used against them. If you have proof that disinformation was given out, please refer me to that proof. And yes, I am a US citizen and retired military veteran, as was my father before me. Kindly do not try to wave the American flag in my face. What lies Russian sources publish are of no greater or lesser concern to me than the lies many of our domestic media companies tell. The audience is far bigger.

        Don’t get me wrong, I understand full well the need for certain information to be close held. For most of my career I was TS-SAR and SCI indoctrinated. I simply don’t believe that the American public needs to have the two-faced lies of their own politicians withheld from them. In fact, I think those two-faced lies should be exposed as widely as possible. And if Russia wishes to devote their resources doing the job our domestic press either is unable or unwilling to do, then more power to them.

        1. Digit: I am not flag waving. I merely suggest that as Americans we should all be disturbed by the fact that an openly hostile power is covertly working to attack our electoral process. You seem to think it is ok and that the ends justify the means. We clearly disagree on that.

          1. Again, I do not consider the release of TRUTHFUL documents to be an attack upon our electoral process. I do indeed believe that is OK and as for your assertion that I believe that the end justifies the means, it is correct only if you are alleging that I believe that truth trumps source AS APPLIED FOR OR AGAINST ALL CANDIDATES.

            I unequivocally have no problem with foreign intelligence services doing the job that our domestic press ought to be doing but is not. I regard a corrupt and partisan US media to be far more of a threat to the political process of this country than I do Russian intelligence services.

  4. It’s disturbing that the emails were hacked and it is easy to change content. It is private info, on private systems (vs .gov info on .gov systems).

    How much content was changed? A little? A lot?
    The overall theme of the email content seems to fit with what the media has (chosen) to reveal.

    Wasserman-Schultz denying voter info to her opponent. You might say ‘duh, obviously’ but her actions fly in opposition to her words, her hypocrisy is her own. There’s no stark revelation there since her opponent is the one who told the media what had happened.

    The only real change to this whole situation would be to produce an equal amount of RNC info and then compare.

  5. 1. I am more concerned about the U.S. mainstream media influencing the election with misrepresentations of what the candidates really said than about Russians.
    2. If you all are sure that the Russians are hacking then you must have enough evidence to stop them. Do you?