The facts are by now widely known, if still not nailed down with precision. On Friday, July 22, on the eve of the Democratic National Convention, a massive trove of emails purloined from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) by hackers was posted on WikiLeaks, the online bulletin board for leaked information founded by the Australian anarchist Julian Assange. Strong evidence rapidly emerged showing that the hackers were connected to or under the control of Russian intelligence. As the press picked through the mildly juicy revelations, the favoritism of the supposedly neutral DNC toward Hillary Clinton and against Bernie Sanders was put before the world to see.
The result has been a continuing maelstrom. Supporters of Sanders, already agitated for having to swallow the bitter pill of defeat, were inflamed. Backers of Hillary, embarrassed and chagrined, decried the apparent Russian interference in party affairs. It did not take long for the head of the DNC, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, to be unceremoniously purged from her position and for the newly cleansed DNC to issue an apology to Sanders and everyone else it had wronged.
There the story has paused, but it is hardly over. There are grounds to believe that the Clinton Foundation was also hacked and quite possibly Hillary’s vulnerable private server at her home in Chappaqua, N.Y., which housed her official emails during her tenure as secretary of state, including the 33,000 or so that she and her lawyers wiped from the memory because they were deemed “personal.”
The worry, of course, is that Russian intelligence has all of these, and that many more damaging disclosures of Clinton shenanigans are yet to come. Donald Trump, startling the world, has called upon the Russian government, if it did hack Hillary’s emails, to release them, with the obvious aim of injuring Hillary’s campaign and boosting his own. If that is indeed what happens, and WikiLeaks blasts new revelations onto the net on the eve of the elections in an October surprise, it could well propel Trump into the White House. That is exactly what Assange, who publicly favors Trump over Clinton, and who claims to have more of her secrets in his quiver, is threatening. The prospect has liberals wringing their hands.
A case in point is Franklin Foer, the former top editor at the New Republic and now a contributing editor at Slate. To Foer, the DNC email scandal is the sum of all his fears. “A foreign government,” he writes, “has hacked a political party’s computers . . . stolen documents and timed their release to explode with maximum damage. It is a strike against our civic infrastructure.” It is “trespassing, it’s thievery, it’s a breathtaking transgression of privacy.”
One cannot disagree. But how does this particular data breach, one is left wondering, differ from the leaks that Foer and other liberals routinely celebrate as the stock in trade of American investigative journalism?
Foer has a ready answer: What is especially “galling about the WikiLeaks dump,” he explains, is that it “has blurred the distinction between leaks and hacks.” Hacks, to Foer, are bad, conducted by bad people for bad purposes. The Russian hack, he writes, is the equivalent of Watergate: “To help win an election, the Russians broke into the virtual headquarters of the Democratic Party. The hackers installed the cyber-version of the bugging equipment that Nixon’s goons used—sitting on the DNC computers for a year, eavesdropping on everything, collecting as many scraps as possible.”