The final leg of Clinton campaign chair John Podesta’s election experience was not a fun one, for Wikileaks dumped near daily batches of his purported emails. Some news organizations are now being forced to examine their reliance on these emails, both for questions of authenticity and because they were likely stolen by Russia. A secret CIA report reignited the dilemma last week, and U.S. intel sources now claim Vladimir Putin was personally involved in election-related hacks.
More information on Russian interference is dropping on the regular, including a Thursday report about a 2015 hack on Pentagon emails, so it’s clear that the government knew there was a problem. And yet, the issue wasn’t taken seriously, so an undeterred Russia kept hacking to try and get Donald Trump elected. Podesta is incensed at how the FBI didn’t take Russian interference seriously. He lets loose in a Washington Post op-ed:
The more we learn about the Russian plot to sabotage Hillary Clinton’s campaign and elect Donald Trump, and the failure of the FBI to adequately respond, the more shocking it gets. The former acting director of the CIA has called the Russian cyberattack “the political equivalent of 9/11.” Just as after the real 9/11, we need a robust, independent investigation into what went wrong inside the government and how to better protect our country in the future.
As the former chair of the Clinton campaign and a direct target of Russian hacking, I understand just how serious this is. So I was surprised to read in the New York Times that when the FBI discovered the Russian attack in September 2015, it failed to send even a single agent to warn senior Democratic National Committee officials. Instead, messages were left with the DNC IT “help desk.” As a former head of the FBI cyber division told the Times, this is a baffling decision: “We are not talking about an office that is in the middle of the woods of Montana.”
Podesta is particularly angry at how the FBI basically ignored the Russia thing, but the agency was so concerned about Hillary Clinton’s email server that Director James Comey publicized two investigations (the second one happening weeks before the election) that yielded no wrongdoing:
House Republicans who had an insatiable appetite for investigating Clinton have been resistant to probing deeply into Russia’s efforts to swing the election to Trump. The media, by gleefully publishing the gossipy fruits of Russian hacks, became what the Times itself calls “a de facto instrument of Russian intelligence.”
But the FBI’s role is particularly troubling because of its power and responsibility — and because this is part of a trend.
Clearly, Podesta’s calling out a double standard. The FBI prioritized matters related to Clinton’s email server over signs that a foreign power was meddling with the election. Clinton spoke out on Friday to describe the Russian hacks as inspired by a longtime grudge against her. And President Obama has promised action against Russia for the hacking and may address the matter in a Friday afternoon press conference.
On a related note, Reuters reports that the FBI is conducting a criminal investigation into a post-election hack of U.S. Election Assistance Commission, which is in charge of security standards for voting machines. A security firm discovered that the agency’s login information was floating around on the underground electronic market. Investigators currently believe that the hacker speaks Russian and attempted to sell login credentials to an unidentified Middle Eastern government.