We know we're going to be accused of alarmism, but please follow the logic. First, however self-serving it may be, the accusation of a Russian intelligence hand in the WikiLeaks dump of hacked e-mails from the Democratic National Committee is plausible. Famously, the e-mails reveal DNC staffers pulling for Hillary Clinton and against Bernie Sanders, prompting the resignation of the supposedly neutral body's chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz. The DNC had apparently been hit by Russian hackers, and Clinton campaign manager Robbie Mook is now openly charging that Moscow is trying to boost Donald Trump.
Last month, forensic firm CrowdStrike found two different Russian hacker teams had penetrated the DNC's computers. The Washington Post states that "cybersecurity experts" say the cache appears to have been turned over to WikiLeaks by Russian intelligence. The report points to the Russian military's Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU), which is believed to have created ostensibly independent hacker groups before. Most notorious of these was CyberBerkut, responsible for invading the electoral authority's computer network in Ukraine during the country's 2014 presidential race.
The entity that claims to have released the DNC cache to WikiLeaks calls itself Guccifer2, and claims to be Romanian. It rejects the claim of a Russian link, writing: "Shame on CrowdStrike." But a consensus appears to be emerging on the Russian thesis. An expert with another cyber-security firm, ThreatConnect, told WaPo: "Based on our analysis, we strongly feel Guccifer2 is linked to a Russian information operations campaign and is not the independent Romanian hacker that he claims to be."
DefenseOne website charges that Putin "weaponized" WikiLeaks to influence the US elections: "Considerable evidence shows that the Wikileaks dump was an orchestrated act by the Russian government, working through proxies, to undermine Hillary Clinton's Presidential campaign."
And despite Trump denials, numerous sources point to a Putin interest convergence with the GOP's fascistic presidential candidate. In Cleveland, Trump's campaign blocked a proposed platform plank endorsing military aid to Ukraine. More famously, Trump shocked the foreign-policy establishment by saying he might withdraw the US commitment to defend NATO allies.
Putin has lavished praise on Trump, last December calling him "bright and talented" and the "absolute leader of the presidential race." Trump quickly returned the compliment, saying of the Russian strongman: "He's running his country and at least he's a leader, unlike what we have in this country."
And Putin's Russia already has quite a track record of meddling in other countries' elections—always on the side of ultra-reactionary nationalists, and even outright neo-fascists. Putin has financially backed the campaigns of Marine Le Pen in France, the Golden Dawn in Greece, Attack in Bulgaria, and Jobbik in Hungary. (New York, July 25; Slate, July 21; NYT, June 7; Slate, April 28; CNN, Dec. 18)
His most successful bid (so far) was the election of the pro-Moscow government of Victor Yanukovych in Ukraine in 2010. Interestingly, leading Trump political advisor Paul Manafort, a veteran lobbyist for foreign dictators, was also contracted some years back by Ukrainian oligarch Rinat Akhmetov, a key Yanukovych supporter. (PolitiFact, May 2)
WikiLeaks mastermind Julian Assange is making no secret of his ill will toward Hillary Clinton. In a recent interview with ITV, he boasted that his next release will "provide enough evidence" to see her arrested—which would nicely answer the popular chant in Cleveland: "Lock her up!" Embarrassingly, Sanders supporters actually echoed that same chant at a protest in Philadelphia as the Democratic Convention opened. (WSJ, July 26)
Now, we're the first to admit that there are plenty of legitimate reasons for animus toward the ambitious, opportunistic, power-hungry dynasty-builder Hillary Clinton. But there are also plenty of reasons to suspect WikiLeaks' motives.
For starters, the DNC dump was done with their usual complete lack of ethics. In The Register's smart-alecky headline: "WikiLeaks fights The Man by, er, publishing ordinary people's personal information." The released e-mails apparently contain personal information on thousands of Democratic Party members, including their names, home addresses, phone numbers, and even credit card, social security and passport numbers.
As we've noted, WikiLeaks' famous 2010 dump of US diplomatic cables contained information that placed dissidents at risk under several authoritarian regimes. And they seem to be at it again. Just days after the coup attempt in Turkey, WikiLeaks released some 300,000 "Erdogan e-mails"—actually from top operatives of the Turkish president's Justice and Development Party (AKP). These also contain personal information on hundreds of thousands of AKP supporters. These people could now be targeted for reprisals by Erdogan's enemies. In fact, much personal information was released on thousands of women voters in Turkey, regardless of party affiliation. (World Post, July 25)
It should of course be noted that Erdogan and Putin are bitter regional rivals, backing opposite sides in Syria and nearly coming to war last year.
So is there a pattern of WikiLeaks serving Kremlin political ends? A commentary on Observer website calls the DNC data-dump a "clear attack by Putin on Clinton." It charges that by "stepping into the middle of our Presidential race," WikiLeaks "has outed themselves" as an "obvious Russian front." It notes WikiLeaks' longtime connection to Israel Shamir, a far-right open anti-Semite who boasts of his propaganda and intelligence efforts on the behalf of Alexander Lukashenko, the dictator of Belarus.
Lukashenko is more of an open fascist than his ally Putin, but Putin is now rapidly catching up—passing laws restricting the Internet, unleashing relentless aerial terror on Syria, unilaterally annexing Crimea and persecuting its minorities.
The DNC leak should be seen in light of a bloc of strongmen and dictators now emerging on the global stage. As Erdogan consolidates his dictatorship in Turkey's post-coup order, he is also patching things up with Putin and even softening his stance on Syria's Bashar Assad. Putin (with Obama's encouragement) has instrumented an unofficial non-aggression pact, dividing Syria with his rival.
This convergence may extend beyond the immediate region. The Brexit vote has set Britain on the road to reaction. There is frightening potential for a Le Pen presidency in France. Democratic space is rapidly closing in China, amid a new territorial expansionism. Even in the Philippines, a self-proclaimed death squad boss just assumed the presidency.
A Trump presidency, of course, would seal the deal on this New Order. He of course supported the Brexit, and is in turn supported by Marine Le Pen. (WaPo, Feb. 27) He has made plenty of admiring statements about brutal dictators (always with the escape clause of calling them "maniacs" or such). Kim Jong Un? Trump said "you have to give him credit" for the way he took control of North Korea after his father died. (FactCheck, May 24) Saddam Hussein? "He was a bad guy, really bad guy, but you know what he did well? He killed terrorists. He did that so good." (NBC, July 6) He also spoke dismissively about Saddam's use of chemical weapons against the Kurds: "Saddam Hussein throws a little gas, everyone goes crazy. 'Oh he’s using gas!'" (WaPo, July 6) He called the 1989 Tiananmen Square democracy movement a "riot" and praised the Chinese state's "strong" response. Then there was his intransigent defense of his tweet of a Mussolini quote: "Mussolini was Mussolini… It's a very good quote. It's a very interesting quote… what difference does it make whether it's Mussolini or somebody else?" (Meet The Press, Feb. 29)
It is not hard to imagine where we could be within a year: The planet divided by a combine of despots who give each other free rein in their respective infulence spheres while cooperating on the areas of mutual interest—smacking around immigrants, leftists, Muslims, sex deviants and commoners.
The bitter paradox is that this agenda may be abetted by the American left, which is now celebrating the DNC leak and glorifying its intellectual authors as heroes.
Way to go, WikiLeaks. Very well played.