Three can keep a secret, if two of them are dead, Ben Franklin once said. That is how secrets are actually kept — if that’s the actual intent. NBC News reported last night that the CIA has begun mapping out a complex and proportionate response to Russia’s cyberwarfare and interference with the US election process. Lester Holt quoted anonymous sources in describing the goals for the attack to be “clandestine” and “embarrassing.”
Well … one out of two ain’t bad:
— NBC Nightly News (@NBCNightlyNews) October 14, 2016
It’s great to hear about a “super-secret group inside the CIA” and “top-secret documents” on broadcast television, isn’t it? It’s reminiscent of this scene from a taut espionage/military thriller about the necessity of operational security:
Whoever leaked this doesn’t have mission success as their first priority. They want to send a message not to the Russians, but to Americans, and it’s a twofold message. The first part is to reinforce the impression that the Russians have hacked into our electoral process and are manipulating voters into anger against the current administration. That could very well be true — in fact, it’s almost outside of all doubt — but these leaks are just another manipulation. There’s no other reason to put Operation Expose Putin As A Kleptocrat on the evening news except to inject the current administration into the election that will replace it.
The second part is an attempt to repair the image of competence in the White House. After all, assuming that these hacks are Russian intrusions meant to influence our elections, they aren’t the only clowns that snuck into the rodeo. The Obama administration has been hacked a number of times, with the biggest humiliation coming from the year-long hack at the Office of Personnel Management, which gave China all sorts of useful information about millions of Americans as leverage to blackmail or woo them into espionage, or just ruin them with identity theft. The leak about this operation is meant at least in part to give the impression that Obama & Co are finally getting serious about making our adversaries pay for their transgressions.
Well, let’s hope that’s true, but … doesn’t leaking the strategy for humiliating Putin allow him to, y’know, defend himself against it? That offshore cash may well be long gone by the time the Langley version of Wikileaks comes on line, and it’s probably been moved already.
Golly, if only someone had warned us a few years ago about Russia being our most dangerous geopolitical foe … who could’ve guessed, huh?
Update: OPM is the Office of Personnel Management, not “Professional.” I knew that, but just had a senior moment.