The 12 hackers who were discovered and indicted by Mueller/Rosenstein left clues. Detecting them wasn’t rocket science. We know Russia is perfectly capable of hacking the DNC server and leaving no trace. That they didn’t is what poker players would call a “tell.”
Michael Mukasey is on to them. In today’s Wall Street Journal, The Russia Indictments: Why Now? Mukasey seeks an answer to the key question: Why did the Russians do what they did, in the way that they did? Did the Russians want us to know they hacked the DNC server? He answers his own question, and it’s fascinating:
Despite the wide-eyed, golly-Mr.-Science tone in much of the news coverage, the indictment doesn’t portray cutting-edge Russian intelligence capabilities. The defendants all are said to be members of GRU, Russia’s main military intelligence unit. It is comprised largely of former special-forces types who are looked down upon by their more sophisticated competitors in the SVR, successor to Mr. Putin’s alma mater, the KGB. Their acts, as portrayed in the indictment, obviously were detected—in exquisite detail—by U.S. intelligence services. GRU’s phishing venture, although widespread, was primitive compared with the SVR’s capabilities.
Why would Mr. Putin, an SVR alumnus, give GRU a mission meant to be highly covert? Was this a serious attempt to swing the election to Donald Trump?
No, of course not.
At the time of the hacking, virtually no one gave Mr. Trump any chance of winning. Mr. Putin is a thug, but he is not reckless. It seems unlikely he would place a high-stakes bet on a sure loser. Rather, he likely sought to embarrass the person certain to be the new president, assuring that she took office as damaged goods.
Why leave fingerprints? If the only goal was to inflict damage, the new president would have been not only damaged, but also resentful. Even the person who happily posed with a mislabeled “reset” button in frothier days likely would have turned sour.
The point likely was not merely to inflict damage but also to send a warning. Consider the Justice Department inspector general’s report on the FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of an unauthorized and vulnerable email server. It found that the bureau had concluded the server could well have been penetrated without detection. Recall also that some of the people hacked by GRU agents were aware of that server and mentioned it in messages they sent, so that the Russians too were aware of it. The SVR certainly was capable of an undetected hack.
There are some 30,000 emails that Mrs. Clinton did not turn over, on the claim that they were personal and involved such trivia as yoga routines and Chelsea’s wedding. If they instead contained damaging information—say, regarding Clinton Foundation fundraising—the new president would have taken office in the shadow of a sword dangling from a string held by the Russians.
That would be the sword of Damocles.
Did the Russians want us to know they hacked the DNC server? I think Mukasey has it exactly right. Isn’t this a cup of sweet tea. If Hillary had won Putin would be in the catbird seat calling some of the shots in a Hillary presidency. He must have had something on Hillary while she was Secretary of State because in the Uranium One affair she practically gave him 20% of America’s reserves. As Mukasey says, Putin is a thug but he’s not reckless. He’s not stupid either. Hillary? She’s also a thug, and she’s reckless.