Is Computer Hacking an Act of War?

We outsiders on the jury do not know what computer hacking the Russian government did or did not do relating to the 2016 election. The insiders on the prosecution team (FBI, CIA, other intelligence agencies) have not proven their accusations beyond a reasonable doubt. Given their comprehensively intrusive means and resources, we jurors expected a definitive case to be made, but it has not been made. In fact, the FBI completely bungled the case, not even investigating the hacking on its own and not even securing the relevant computers. But then the FBI under Comey’s conscious direction also bungled the cases against Hillary Clinton.

Despite this doubt, there are those who are convinced that Russia meddled in the election. Then there are those who themselves are meddling with the results of the election by claiming that the Trump campaign colluded with the alleged Russian meddling. These people, which include all sorts of established media figures, are using these accusations to undermine Trump’s presidency.

Another group thinks that Russian meddling is not only a fact but also an “act of war”:

“Sen. John McCain said Friday [December 30, 2016] that Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 presidential election amounted to an ‘act of war.'”

“Former interim Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairwoman Donna Brazile said Tuesday [March 28, 2017] that Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election was an ‘act of war.'”

Kurt Eichenwald said on July 17, 2017 “We had, we were subject to an act of war. This was not some little computer problem. This act of war has been done by Russia…”

Fortunately, the Pentagon does not subscribe to the view that computer hacking is necessarily an act of war. Back in 2011, they said it might be. Five years later [June, 2016], they were still discussing the matter:

“A cyber strike as an act of war ‘has not been defined,’ Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Global Security Thomas Atkin told the House Armed Services Committee. ‘We’re still working toward that definition.'”

Eichenwald says that the Russians want to break up NATO: “The entire purpose, American intelligence agencies know, is to drive a wedge and break apart the western alliances…We are in a war.”

We are not in a war, but the U.S. government has expanded NATO to Russia’s borders; and NATO has made wars in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Libya. The U.S. is busy introducing missiles into central and eastern Europe. The U.S. claim that these are defensive is disputed by Russia. The U.S. actions are preludes to war. They heighten the possibility of a war being started by some situation or series of events that the politicians cannot control. Various contingencies can occur in some lesser country in Europe or through the ignorance of leaders that trigger an escalation that cannot be limited because the institutions to limit it are not in existence.

Peace has to be constructed through institutions and worked on. Accusing Russia of committing an “act of war” works in the opposite direction, and especially when the hacking that was done, by whoever did it, was not life-threatening, not a breach of the peace, not like taking down an electrical grid or causing a chemical plant to spread poisonous fumes or causing airplanes to fall out of the sky or causing centrifuges to malfunction.

Eichenwald is so steamed up that he accuses Fox network of collaborating with the enemy: “…Fox is a propaganda network…They’re aiding and abetting those people we are currently at war with — the Russians.” These are all extreme contentions. He has not only unilaterally “declared” war against Russia but also accused Fox of housing traitors.

Rhetoric like Eichenwald’s creates an atmosphere of hostility toward Russia that makes it more difficult to secure the peace that should be our ardent desire.


7:49 am on July 17, 2017