Fmr. CIA Acting Dir. Michael Morell on Russian interference: ‘This is the political equivalent of 9/11’

Suzanne Kelly interviewed former CIA Acting Director Michael Morell: Tell me about the significance of these allegations if they are true, what’s the overall significance to national security if Russia was successful in doing something like this?

I think the first point is it’s really interesting, and you said this earlier, this is not a new story. We knew back in October that Russia was meddling in the election. In October, the Obama Administration said publicly that Russia was interfering with the election and that the knowledge and direction of that went to the highest levels of the Russian government. This was, in my mind, the first time in American history that our government has accused another government of meddling in our election. This is huge. What was new in The Washington Post story, if its right—we still don’t know whether its right, and whether the rest of the IC agrees or not—but that the CIA believes the intent of the meddling was to help Mr. Trump and hurt Mrs. Clinton’s chances. That meddling went way beyond just stealing the DNC and Podesta information and giving it to WikiLeaks, that’s what’s new.

But what’s important to me is, it’s less important that they had picked the winner and loser, which I thought all along they had done. What’s most important is that they did indeed meddle. I think the implications of that are just absolutely huge, and I think there are three of them:

The first is, we need to see this for what it is. It is an attack on our very democracy. It’s an attack on who we are as a people. A foreign government messing around in our elections is, I think, an existential threat to our way of life. To me, and this is to me not an overstatement, this is the political equivalent of 9/11. It is huge and the fact that it hasn’t gotten more attention from the Obama Administration, Congress, and the mainstream media, is just shocking to me.

The second is that I agree with a whole bunch of people on the Hill, Democrats and Republicans, Sen. John McCain, that we need a bi-partisan commission to look into exactly what the Russians did and what we can do here at home to make sure that no foreign government can ever do this again to us. That’s why that commission is so important. The commission shouldn’t look into what is an unknowable thing – which is: did they affect the outcome or not – we’ll never know that. We’ll never know what the Russians did, whether it affected a single vote or not. But what we can do is figure out exactly what they did and make changes here at home as to how information is handled, how we protect information, and make sure they never do this again.

The third implication is we need to respond to the Russian attack. We need to deter the Russians and anyone else who is watching this—and you can bet your bottom dollar that the Chinese, the North Koreans, the Iranians are all watching. We need to deter all of those folks from even thinking about doing something like this in the future.

I think that our response needs to have two key pieces to it. One is it’s got to be overt. It needs to be seen. A covert response would significantly limit the deterrence effect. If you can’t see it, its not going to deter the Chinese and North Koreans and Iranians and others, so it’s got to be seen.

The second, is that it’s got to be significant from Putin’s perspective. He has to feel some pain, he has to pay a price here or again, there will be no deterrence, and it has to be seen by the rest of the world as being significant to Mr. Putin so that it can be a deterrant. [Continue reading…]

Stay informed. Click below to sign up for daily email updates from War in Context:

sign up now

Print Friendly, PDF & Email