Editorials

Whether you love or loathe Claire McCaskill, Russia’s attempted hack is an outrage

U.S Sen. Claire McCaskill
U.S Sen. Claire McCaskill AP

Let’s not pretend to be at all surprised that Russia is still at it. Now we know they launched another cyberattack, this time on Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, and through her on our democracy.

Thankfully, this particular attempt was unsuccessful. But whatever your party affiliation, and whether or not you think McCaskill should be re-elected in November, let’s at least agree that Missourians should have the chance to make that call without the direction and misdirection provided by the kind of leaked emails that Russian hackers stole from the Democratic National Committee and used against Hillary Clinton .

In retrospect, we in the news business were wrong to run with material stolen by a hostile foreign power for the express purpose of subverting our democracy. This wasn’t the Pentagon Papers.

Yes, this information would have gotten out anyway, but without the imprimatur of legitimacy that we should never have given it.

That’s not because those efforts happen to have been carried out to benefit Donald Trump, the candidate that Russian dictator Vladimir Putin said openly in Helsinki that he preferred.

It’s because giving an unwitting boost to any such manipulations was a mistake we should not repeat.

At both the state and federal level, we need to be moving as aggressively as possible to head off the ongoing efforts that make future cyberattacks a certainty.

The Daily Beast was first to report that the attempt on McCaskill’s office was made last year, around the time Trump made his first trip to Missouri as president. In Springfield, he told his audience to vote McCaskill out if she did not support his tax plan.

Two years ago this month, Trump said at a news conference that Russia should hack and leak Hillary Clinton’s emails: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.” Unfortunately, both parts came true.

It was that very day that the Russians first tried to break into the servers at Clinton’s personal office, according to the recent indictment by the special counsel’s office that charged 12 Russians with election hacking. You know the rest of the story.

Trump is working hard to elect McCaskill’s likely Republican opponent, Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, whose spokesperson Kelli Ford said in a statement after news of the hacking attempt broke that “Russia is a bad actor and we should not tolerate or ignore their attempts to disrupt either American commerce or democracy. Senator McCaskill is fortunate that her staffer did not click on the link and give away her personal information and passcodes. This is an important reminder that scam emails and malicious phishing can target anyone.”

She’s right about that, of course. The hackers reportedly emailed her aides that their emails had expired. That’s the same phishing scheme that worked on Clinton’s campaign chair, John Podesta, two years ago.

McCaskill’s fellow Missouri Democrat, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, lamented that we’re not doing much more to safeguard our democracy.

“It’s almost like this is part of our political process now,” he said of the cyberattacks. None of us can afford to accept that. And regardless of party, we have a common duty to press our officials to protect us from attacks that are no less devastating because they’re bloodless and invisible.

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