The former acting director of the CIA has called Russia’s meddling in the U.S. election “the political equivalent of 9/11.”
“We need to see this for what it is, it is an attack on our very democracy,” he said. “It’s an attack on who we are as a people. A foreign government messing around in our elections is, I think, an existential threat to our way of life.”
In an explosive story based on a leaked memo last Friday, The Washington Post reported that the CIA had concluded that Russia actively interfered in the U.S. election with the aim to help Donald Trump win the presidency.
In addition, The New York Times reported that Russia had hacked the Republican National Committee's (RNC) computer systems as well as breached of the Democratic National Committee, "but did not release whatever information they gleaned from the Republican networks."
However, the Times added that it was “far from clear that Russia's original intent was to support Mr. Trump."
The president-elect’s transition team responded by attacking the CIA about its assessments on Iraq’s nuclear weapons in 2003.
“[CIA officers] are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction,” the Trump transition team said in a statement. “The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history. It’s now time to move on and ‘Make America Great Again.’”
An attempt by any foreign government to intervene in U.S. elections is unquestionably alarming because not only does it jeopardize the integrity of the democratic process, but also sows doubts in the minds of future voters as to whether their vote actually counts.
The question it begs is why would Russia want to swing the election in Trump’s favor?
Russian President Vladimir Putin has always feared that the U.S. government has been looking for ways to overthrow him. He also fears that the growing Western alliance in the form of NATO is forming a new Iron Curtain.
At the same time, Putin prides Russia as a major geopolitical force and has been resentful of the U.S. government’s aggressive foreign policy in the Middle East.
Given Trump’s favorable rhetoric for the Russian strongman, and the many people in his inner circle who have business interests in Russia, Putin sees an American leader that he can work with.
Trump is a sucker for flattery, and the former KGB agent has possibly spotted a weakness that he can exploit in the years to come.
But it's important to take these reports with a grain of salt, as the Post noted that “there were minor disagreements among intelligence officials about the agency’s assessment, in part because some questions remain unanswered.”
Even more importantly, it adds, “intelligence agencies do not have specific intelligence showing officials in the Kremlin ‘directing’ the identified individuals to pass the Democratic emails to WikiLeaks.”
Morell was an active supporter of Hillary Clinton during the election and said that he was troubled by Donald Trump’s attack on the CIA following the reports.
He said that the CIA’s responsibility is to provide the president “with an objective, unbiased view of what’s going on in the world, and why it matters to them, and why it matters to the country.”
It’s certainly rich of the CIA to be crying foul over the Russian’s alleged meddling in U.S. elections, as the U.S. has a well-documented history of interfering in democracies around the world.
The CIA has admitted to its role — in publicly available documents — in toppling the democratically-elected Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953 and replacing it with an authoritarian monarchy that was favorable to the U.S.
While it's unlikely that Russia's interference may have changed the outcome of the election, even the possibility that it could have raises serious questions.
It's especially troubling given that it may have led to the election of a racist nationalist who will soon have in his hands the most powerful military on earth.