In his testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, FBI Director James Comey confirmed what sane people have known for months: Russia did not hack the 2016 presidential election.
Both Comey and NSA Director Mike Rogers confirmed that there was no evidence that Russian agents ever manipulated or even attempted to manipulate vote totals—the commonly understood definition of what “hacking an election” would entail.
In spite of this, Democrats have pushed the “Russians hacked the election” narrative for months, knowing full well that a sizeable number of Americans would not realize that what they really meant was “Hackers with ties to the Russian Government hacked the Democratic National Committee’s email server and may have been behind a phishing link John Podesta stupidly clicked on.”
The sad reality for Democrats is that they have only their own incompetence to blame for the hacks that so thoroughly embarrassed them last year. Moreover, the hacking operation that successfully broke into the DNC’s server also targeted the Republican National Committee, but was rebuffed—indicating that this was not, as Democrats have claimed, an effort to help then-candidate Donald Trump, but rather to create general electoral chaos with no specific beneficiary.
As far back as September of 2015, the FBI was reportedly aware of a Russian hacking collective known as “the Dukes” effort to compromise the DNC’s servers. When FBI Special Agent Adrian Hawkins called the DNC to inform them of this effort, though, the DNC did nothing.
The New York Times reported that
[Hawkins’] message was brief, if alarming. At least one computer system belonging to the D.N.C. had been compromised by hackers federal investigators had named “the Dukes,” a cyberespionage team linked to the Russian government.
Yared Tamene, the tech-support contractor at the D.N.C. who fielded the call, was no expert in cyberattacks. His first moves were to check Google for “the Dukes” and conduct a cursory search of the D.N.C. computer system logs to look for hints of such a cyberintrusion. By his own account, he did not look too hard even after Special Agent Hawkins called back repeatedly over the next several weeks — in part because he wasn’t certain the caller was a real F.B.I. agent and not an impostor.
Because of Tamene’s refusal to take Agent Hawkins’ repeated warnings seriously, the DNC’s server was in grave danger and was eventually compromised and successfully hacked.
An examination by The Times of the Russian operation — based on interviews with dozens of players targeted in the attack, intelligence officials who investigated it and Obama administration officials who deliberated over the best response — reveals a series of missed signals, slow responses and a continuing underestimation of the seriousness of the cyberattack.
The D.N.C.’s fumbling encounter with the F.B.I. meant the best chance to halt the Russian intrusion was lost. The failure to grasp the scope of the attacks undercut efforts to minimize their impact. And the White House’s reluctance to respond forcefully meant the Russians have not paid a heavy price for their actions, a decision that could prove critical in deterring future cyberattacks.
The low-key approach of the F.B.I. meant that Russian hackers could roam freely through the committee’s network for nearly seven months before top D.N.C. officials were alerted to the attack and hired cyberexperts to protect their systems.
This indicates that the DNC wasn’t the only Democrat-controlled entity that did not take the hacking threat as seriously as it should have—the Obama Administration didn’t, either.