Throughout the Cold War, the American intelligence community never had an asset that penetrated the Soviet Politburo, or the government's highest policy-making authority. We never so much as had access to a defector who knew how the Politburo worked.
If you were in college prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union, everything you were taught about the Politburo was a matter of conjecture.
When Khrushchev delivered his famous speech denouncing Stalin to the 20th Congress of the Communist Party, we had no asset who could obtain a copy.
Ultimately, we did get a copy of the speech because of the unique relationship between then head of counterintelligence James Jesus Angleton and the Israelis, who had their own assets among the Soviet satellite countries.
Congressional investigations in the mid-seventies led to exposés of the intelligence community’s violations of American law, including opening the overseas mail in the main New York Post Office, an operation run by Angleton himself.
The public exposure of the “family jewels” was followed by the Carter Administration, which sought to further reduce intelligence generally and human intelligence in particular.
Whether you attribute the hacking of the Democratic National Committee to the Russians or someone else depends on whether you trust not only those politicians who read the classified version, but also those who wrote the classified version.
I have two problems with the Russians-as-culprits theory. John McAfee, creator of the anti-virus program that bears his name, noted that if the Russians did it, they wouldn’t have left a fingerprint.
But more important, we must now believe that the intelligence community that decades ago could not breach the Politburo can now penetrate the innermost thoughts, motivations, and orders of the Russian president himself. Even the NSA has admitted it is not totally confident about the accusations.
Everyone spies on everyone, and everyone hacks everyone. President Obama’s petulant expulsion of Russian diplomats while Vladimir Putin invites American diplomats and their families to the Kremlin Christmas Party is a win for the Russian president.
Notwithstanding all the focus on the Russians, it is difficult to seriously dispute that the exposure of Hillary Clinton’s emails revealed a corrupt candidate whose personal server was designed to hide the relationship between the Clinton Foundation and her work as secretary of state.
Even if the Russians were responsible for exposing the emails, they did not invent the corruption they reveal.
Even so, Clinton’s partisans still foolishly maintain that if not for Putin, she would have won the election. This is the impression the current imbroglio leaves despite ritualistic denials. It is a thinly veiled attack on the legitimacy of Trump’s victory.
It’s time to stop questioning the legitimacy of the fact that Donald J. Trump is the president-elect. Russia makes a nice red herring. But nothing beats their caviar.