By Perry Diaz
It was revealed a week ago that Russia was hacking at least eight U.S. government computer networks. It is not known at this time how the Russians were able to penetrate America’s top-secret government networks security secrets including the State Department, Department of Homeland Security, Pentagon, Treasury, Commerce, and National Nuclear Security Administration, which maintains the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile.
It all began when FireEye, a private cybersecurity firm, alerted American intelligence that the hackers had evaded layers of defenses. The hackers embedded their malicious code in the Orion software made by SolarWinds, the company whose software was compromised. About 18,000 private and government users downloaded a Russian tainted software – a “Trojan Horse” – that gave the hackers a foothold into the victims’ systems.
SolarWinds said that 33,000 of its 300,000 customers use Orion but only half of those downloaded the malign Russian update. FireEye said that only about a few dozens were exploited by the Russians –- believed to be that of Russia’s SVR, a successor of the KGB – which suggests that the hackers were highly selective about whom they exploited, just the highest-value targets.
Consequently, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) issued an emergency directive warning federal agencies to “power down” the SolarWinds software. But this only prevents new intrusions; it does not eradicate the Russian hackers who planted their own “back doors.” And removing the threat actor from the compromised networks will be highly complex and challenging. The harm is done. Like the attack on Pearl Harbor that triggered World War II, the devastating cyberattack on the government’s networks is devastating, to say the least.
Invasion of the U.S.
As one intelligence official said, the cyberattack is an invasion of the U.S., which could cripple the nation’s security defenses. Now the Russians know what our strengths and weaknesses are. They now know how Uncle Sam is going to defend the American people.
Earlier this week, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) likened the hack to “Russian bombers repeatedly flying undetected over the entire country.” This reminds me of what he said in 2012 during his presidential campaign. “Russia was America’s biggest geopolitical foe,” he said, which he was criticized by many including former president Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Madeline Albright who said, Romney had “little understanding of what is actually going on in the 21st century.” But Romney kept his quiet for seven years. In 2019, Albright apologized to Romney because she was wrong about Russia’s capabilities and the aspirations of Russian President Vladimir Putin in the post–Cold War era. Finally, the ex-KGB spy was exposed for what he really was, a snake, which reminds of a story of the farmer and the snake. The story goes: A farmer walked through his field one cold winter morning. On the ground lay a snake, stiff and frozen with the cold. The farmer knew how deadly the snake could be, and yet he picked it up and put it in his bosom to warm it back to life. The snake soon revived, and when it had enough strength, bit the man who had been so kind to it. The bite was deadly and the farmer felt that he must die. As he drew his last breath, he said to those standing around: Learn from my fate not to take pity on a scoundrel.
After the demise of the Soviet Union, Putin found himself jobless. He finally recovered from what he called the breakup of the USSR “the greatest geopolitical tragedy of the 20th century.” The U.S. in an act of magnanimity embraced poor Russia and helped her recover. Then president George W. Bush even thought of inviting Russia to become part of NATO in November 2001, right after 9/11. But things didn’t work out simply because Putin had a different agenda, which is not aligned with Bush’s perspective. Oh, well.
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump refuses to believe that the Russians have hacked the government networks. That’s like the late President Franklin Delano Roosevelt not believing that Japan had attacked Pearl Harbor.
Trump downplayed the severity of the massive cyberattack and instead claimed that China may be responsible for the attack instead of Russia, which he had refused to criticize ever since he took office.
“The Cyber Hack is far greater in the Fake News Media than in actuality,” Trump tweeted, adding, “everything is well under control,” and “Russia, Russia, Russia is the priority chant when anything happens because Lamestream is, for mostly financial reasons, petrified of discussing the possibility that it may be China (it may!).” However, the day before, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared, “We can say pretty clearly that it was the Russians that engaged in this activity.” Whom would you believe, the Grand Denier or his minion who announced that Russia was the culprit?
Trump’s denial has made it clear that he, until the very end of his presidency, has been protecting Russian President Vladimir Putin. There was no instance where Trump had criticized Putin. Not too long ago, Trump didn’t do anything when he received the intelligence report that Russia was paying bounties to Afghan fighters for killing American soldiers, of which 23 American soldiers were killed in 2018 and 2019. Russia denied the allegations; however, Trump didn’t do anything when it was brought to his attention, which of course he denied knowing about it.
After Trump lost the election on November 3, he shifted course in his presidential duties. Actually, he spent more time playing golf. He was also preoccupied in filing lawsuits for voter fraud, which he claimed the reason for losing the election. To date, he has filed 60 lawsuits of which only one – a minor case – had won in the courts. The Supreme Court for lack of merit and “lack of standing” rejected two cases.
On December 14, the Electoral College cast its vote: 306 for Biden and 232 for Trump. Biden has officially become President-elect. But Trump never lost hope of winning the election. He called on Republican lawmakers to vote against Biden when they meet on January 6, which is when the Electoral College votes are counted in Congress. It’s a quixotic attempt to win the election. It would take a miracle to overturn the election at the last step on the way to the presidency. And simply put, Trump doesn’t have the numbers to do it.
But Trump has one last card to play – his ace card – to turn things around in his favor. He will declare martial law, which he sees as the only way to stop Biden from being inaugurated on January 20, 2021.
At a heated Oval Office meeting on December 18 to discuss the election results, some White House staffers were so alarmed that they rushed to the press to sound the alarm. The arguments started when talk of invoking martial law was initiated. Michael Flynn, Trump’s pardoned former national security adviser, brought up the martial law plan on right-wing television network Newsmax last week and was invited to the White House meeting.
But in a tweet the following day, Trump dismissed the martial law discussion as “fake news.” However, two people familiar with the matter told CNN that the plan was argued in the Oval Office.
In the conservative base of Trump supporters, there are calls for using the Insurrection Act to declare martial law. Wait until his supporters of extremists and White Nationalists hear his dog whistle, which would ignite violence that would try to overthrow the government. These groups believe that will take place through a civil war and look to “accelerate the chaos, accelerate the coming of the civil war.”
America is under siege from without and from within. The Russians are just waiting from without ready to step in when the insurrection starts from within.