Oh, you mean THAT election hacking

Jack Nicholson is starting to smell a rat in “The Departed.”

Reporting on Monday by The Intercept appears to lay out how the Russians penetrated U.S. elections despite their consistent denials.

The reporting itself became a story, of course, with the naming of government contractor Reality Winner (yes, that’s her real name), who was quickly reeled in, but not quickly enough to keep her from pointing to a Top Secret report by the National Security Agency (NSA) from last month.

In that report, the NSA concluded that Russian intelligence “executed a cyberattack on at least one U.S. voting software supplier and sent spear-phishing e-mails to more than 100 local election officials just days before last November’s presidential election.”

For those of us who smelled a rat from late on the evening of Election Day, the reporting provides bitter relief. If this is true, then there can be no question that our election was hacked — and I can’t shake the feeling that the Russians did this less to put The Current President (TCP) in office than they did to deprive Hillary Clinton of the White House. (Reason: Vladimir Putin believes she revved up anti-Putin protests in Russia in the run-up to their 2011 elections, and he’s probably right; so maybe this was payback.)

For those Americans who cast their lot with TCP, well they continue to hold a more forgiving stance regarding the sanctity of our elections. Some of them even show up at rallies holding signs that say “Thank you, Russia.”

Where do we go from here? There are two paths:

  1. We can investigate the heck out of it and let the chips fall where they may. We should let our investigative services loose on the trail of finding out what happened. The investigative media, much smaller these days than it was in the Watergate days, is already on the trail and appears to smell blood in the water.
  2. Or, we can sit back and say “No, that can’t happen here and we’re not going to undermine confidence in our elections by investigating this.” At that point, I would submit that we may have given up our identity as Americans and allowed the Russians to take over. (I insert “may” in there, because anything is possible and we must study all the possibilities.”

Here are my own personal concerns regarding what happened on November 8. I went to a watch party to see the election returns come in. Everything appeared to be in place, and early in the evening the mood was festive. Then, at about 9 p.m. (10 p.m. on the East Coast as the major media markets were putting their first editions to bed), the battleground states began one-by-one, to turn from a Clinton lead to the other side.

States that were  presumed to be safely in the Clinton column began to turn — and all with ready explanations, we were told. She didn’t campaign in Wisconsin was a familiar one, but it didn’t explain how, so late in the evening, her perceived leads went kaput. Thousands of people in Michigan didn’t cast a vote in the  presidential race. Whaaaaaat??? There were explanations in Pennsylania, and in Ohio.

In the end, winning the popular vote by nearly 3 million meant nothing because 77,000 votes in middle America went the other way? Count me among those who believe that if the columns had been reversed, the Republican Party would have shut down the government until it could get some answers.

Even before Florida in 2000, I believed in counting all the votes. But in each of those states mentioned above, Hillary held a lead in the early evening, and exit polls had given no indication what  was about to happen. But the leads began to wither late and were finally gone.

Four battleground states, and the tides of the vote-counting went the same way in all of them? That seems far-fetched to me.

I can see why the Russians might have tried something like this, and they might have thought that they could tweak the vote here and there and go undetected doing it. If they had some kind of Republican help — and recall that The Wall Street Journal reported last month that the hacker Guccifer 2.0 privately sent Democratic voter-turnout analyses to a Republican political operative in Florida — then I think it’s fair to consider the election results tainted.

So, finding out yesterday that Russian intelligence may have been manipulating databases and election officials in the days running up to the election does not leave me with a lot of confidence in an election I have mourned as lost.

I appreciate the work of the NSA and other members of the U.S. intelligence community. If we are ever to get to the bottom of this, it is those folks who will lead us to the conclusion.

In the early days of The Shinbone Star I wrote that  TCP was making a bad mistake when he bad-mouthed the intelligence agencies. I wish I had marked that date.

Godspeed.

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