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One paragraph that explains why Russia hacking the Democrats should bother everyone

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Zack Beauchamp is a senior correspondent at Vox, where he covers ideology and challenges to democracy, both at home and abroad. Before coming to Vox in 2014, he edited TP Ideas, a section of Think Progress devoted to the ideas shaping our political world.

A lot of the attention on the DNC hack has focused on Donald Trump’s response to it. Which, fair enough: Trump did imply that a hostile foreign power should hack his political enemy, which is a pretty scary thing for a presidential candidate to do.

What got a bit lost in conversation, however, is the most fundamental fact — Russia is stealing information about private American citizens and interfering in a US election. That is a big, big deal — and the following paragraph, from cybersecurity expert Matt Tait, explains why.

Tait is the CEO of Capital Alpha Security, a cybersecurity firm. He’s been looking into the DNC hack for a while now, and tweeting his findings. In a post on national security blog Lawfare, he arrays strong evidence that the hack and leak to WikiLeaks were a Russian operation.

The big takeaway in the post is that Russia doing this is really, really troubling. The fact that, through WikiLeaks, Russia released pretty detailed information about private American citizens should really bother Americans and the US government:

The DNC’s network security failures shouldn’t preclude a diplomatic response from the administration. How thin a veneer of deniability can Russia operate under before the United States becomes paralyzed and unable to respond? Does it matter if a foreign government is collaterally leaking personally identifiable information about voters? Will we stand idly by as a foreign government mass-leaks spreadsheets of donor financial information or the names, addresses and phone numbers of DNC LGBT supporters? Is it okay to let a foreign government interfere in a US election unchallenged? This is what’s at stake in Russia’s DNC hack.

This issue goes well beyond whether Russia wants Donald Trump to win the election — which, ultimately, nobody can really know for sure. It’s whether the United States government is willing, as a matter of policy, to allow a rival foreign government to interfere in its democratic process and violate its citizens’ privacy. That’s not a partisan question; it’s an issue of national security.

Tait details a number of ways the US could respond: Officially blaming the document leak on Russia, sanctioning Russian intelligence operatives, or even publicly reaffirming its commitment to NATO (something Trump, incidentally, has undermined) in a way linked to cyber intrusions.

I’m genuinely unsure that any one of those options is the right approach. But the basic, unassailable point in Tait’s piece is that the US government and public should at least think about responding in some way. The DNC hack shouldn’t be subsumed into “normal” partisan politics.

It’s a major international incident, and should be understood as such.

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