Brave new cyber-spy world: From Moscow with love-hate
By Donald Kirk
WASHINGTON – Once upon a time, in an era that’s faded into the near-forgotten history of The Cold War, Moscow was the enemy, and those who believed otherwise were labeled “comsymps” for Communist sympathizers.
The phenomenon of “the Red scare,” meaning the fears inflicted by the specter of “commies” taking over the world, bedeviled liberals and leftists from Berkeley, Cal., to Cambridge, Mass. Accused of paying homage to Josef Stalin and his successors while undermining democracy as preached and practiced in the U.S., many of them had to defend themselves in congressional hearings and even court cases.
Oh, how times have changed. Nowadays the most famous proponents of Moscow are the president-elect, Donald Trump, and his incoming secretary of state, Rex Tillerson. These two gentlemen rank among the most visible exponents of global capitalism on earth, and they are said to be bosom buddies of the dictatorial leader of modern Russia, Vladimir Putin, a man who once served the KGB in the days before the downfall of communism.
Are Trump, with all his interests in real estate, construction and much else, and Tillerson, the one-time Exxon boss, really in danger of selling out the U.S. to the same basic power, communist or not, capitalist, maybe, that American presidents were staring down for decades?
At the least, they would like everyone to stop suspecting Putin of having infiltrated American civilization by a program of cyber-espionage suspected of having been a plot to destroy Hillary Clinton at the climactic moments of an election campaign that everyone was sure she would win. Trump has been beside himself with outrage, pooh-poohing any implication that Russian email hacking had anything to do with his success in amassing enough votes in the U.S. Electoral College to defeat Clinton even though she actually beat him by a wide margin in the vote count.
You can’t blame Trump for his annoyance over what would appear as another effort by the Democrats at showing how little he deserves the presidency. You have to hope, however, once he’s inaugurated on Jan. 20, one week from today, Jan. 13, that he will wake up to the real danger of cyber-espionage and be a little less inclined to defend his alleged friend Vladimir from Democratic charges. The longer Putin has stayed in power, the more anxious he has appeared to want to restore his country to the glory days when Russia was the central republic of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics with its claws extended from the Russian Far East to the central Asian republics and eastern Europe.
Trump’s contempt for claims of Russian interference in the American electoral process has given rise to another bizarre turn-around.
There was a time, not long ago at all, when American liberals looked with disdain on “the CIA” and other American intelligence agencies. Edward Snowden is still venerated for having exposed the nefarious activities of the National Security Agency, revealed to have been capable of monitoring just about anything said or written by anyone by electronic means.
Snowden now lives under Russian protection in Moscow — beyond the reach of the U.S. authorities who would love to jail him for just about forever.
These days, American liberals aren’t mentioning Snowden while reminding Trump of the need for intelligence and the duties of 17 different intelligence agencies to ferret out all the stuff that America’s enemies are up to. (I confess I had no idea there were so many different agencies — the only ones I can think of are the CIA, NSA, Defense Intelligence Agency and the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research. Well, maybe the list also includes the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration, who knows?)
It seems that everyone is telling Trump, we need Big Brother watching out for us.
Actually, the furor over Russian cyber-espionage has repercussions for Koreans too. In recent years we’ve been hearing quite a lot about North Korea hacking into the systems of government agencies and banks — and U.S. targets too. (Let’s not forget what they did to Sony Pictures after release of “The Interview.”)
In the ruckus over scandals surrounding President Park Geun-Hye, we may be sure anonymous cyber sleuths are doing their best to undermine democracy in South Korea just as they are in the U.S.
Donald Kirk has been covering crises on the Korean peninsula for decades. He’s at firstname.lastname@example.org