Several days after Wikileaks released an unflattering trail of Democratic emails that led to the ouster of DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, we are starting to get a scary picture of what the hacked emails might really represent: A Watergate-esque foreign interference in an American election. Franklin Foer writes:
What’s galling about the WikiLeaks dump is the way in which the organization has blurred the distinction between leaks and hacks. Leaks are an important tool of journalism and accountability. When an insider uncovers malfeasance, he brings information to the public in order to stop the wrongdoing. That’s not what happened here. The better analogy for these hacks is 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. This is trespassing, it’s thievery, it’s a breathtaking transgression of privacy. It falls into that classic genre, the dirty trick. Yet that term feels too innocent to describe the offense. Nixon’s dirty tricksters didn’t mindlessly expose the private data of low-level staff.
Watergate is smart and seemingly apt framing: Everyone knows Richard Nixon's attempt to undermine the democratic process on the way to securing an election was an illegal act that led to his downfall. But some striking similarities between Watergate and an ostensible attempt by Vladimir Putin to benefit one party over the other should be downright frightening to every American.
As Foer concludes, "This document dump wasn’t a high-minded act of transparency." Instead, it appears to be Russia tinkering with American democracy.